Monday, January 31, 2011

Biology, Bean burgers, and Birthdays!

Biologia, Bean Burgers, and Birthdays!

Well, folks, it’s official. I really am a teacher in Mozambique! The schedule was finally finished last week on Thursday, and we started actually giving classes this Monday. I lucked out (although I don’t really know how much luck was involved when I mentioned wanting either Mondays or Fridays off about 15 times) and only have night classes on Mondays, so I got back to site after a weekend away on Monday morning. I was a little nervous, seeing as I have to walk right through the school to get to my house, and I was still a little unsure of the rules on not being present for the start of the day when you aren’t actually teaching. I clearly looked as nervous as I felt, trying to avoid eye contact with everyone. Fail. One of the teachers hissed over to me (that’s how you get someone’s attention here, have I mentioned that? Yes, I have actually hissed at a waitress to get her attention- guilty) and gave me a thumbs up. So was I good? Maybe. Still a little nervous. I put my things in my house and immediately went out to greet the other teachers, hoping that it would look like I was just strolling out of my house after sleeping in a little late. I found a group sitting under a tree, my director included. They all seemed fine, and when I mentioned I didn’t have class until night time, they all questioned as to why I was back so early. So, I’m cleared. I can get back to site Monday afternoon and be safe if I ever want to leave for the weekend.

Kaunda is quite the place when school is going! People were not lying when they claimed it would be full once school started. It is true. And I absolutely love it. Even if I’m not teaching, I can just hang out outside of my house and there are guaranteed to be teachers around. There are 4 buildings to my school, with 11 classrooms in total. The secondary school all meets in the morning (6:45-12), along with a couple middle school classes and primary classes scattered throughout the town (I think some meet in churches). The afternoon is mostly primary school and the rest of the middle school. The night courses, which is one class each of 8th, 9th, and 10th grade, meet in the only building with electricity from 6-11:45. I have morning classes Tuesday-Friday and I have the first night class on Monday and Tuesday nights. My schedule is pretty spread out, but even with 10 hours I feel pretty busy! As it turns out, it’s fairly exhausting to teach biology in a foreign language to students that don’t even speak that language!

My classes have been going pretty well. I feel that I am improving with each one. The first one was quite the struggle- participation is non-existent! I had a great class planned with lots of interaction… not going to work here. I adjusted accordingly, though, and the rest of the week went much better. I have yet to get any laughs, but I think that will come. 8th grade biology is mostly systems, so it is not too much theory, which I am glad about. I think that would be pretty challenging with these kids! They are still pretty little at 8th grade. There are several students who only speak the local dialect, and another handful that can’t read or write. So, I am glad that this year I am mostly just presenting information that they have to memorize. I am still going to try to make it fun and interesting, though! I tried to suggest that biology was SO interesting to my class this morning, though, and I didn’t get too much of a response.

I’ve been staying pretty busy when I’m not in the classroom. I usually “rest” from 12-3. I’m sure the whole community assumes I’m just sleeping (that’s what they do, I think), but I am usually cooking, reading, lesson planning, or something like that. Around 3 I usually head out to “passear,” which usually means just finding someone to talk to for an hour or so. I’ve been successful every day! Today is the first day I’ve allowed myself to just relax at home for the afternoon. I wanted to clean up before I leave for the weekend, and wanted to write this blog post!

Tomorrow I will head to Moatize for the big birthday weekend! It has never felt less like my birthday. I can’t stop sweating, for one thing, and I’m pretty sure my mom isn’t sending flowers all the way to Kaunda. But, I do have fun plans in store. All the Tete volunteers should be meeting up in Moatize for a little celebration. I’m pretty excited! We’ll see how “Hotel Moatize” (as we called it at Christmas time) functions now that it has a Mozambican man living in it! I’m sure you can read more about that in Audrey’s blog…

Some other interesting tid bits of my last week:
*The goat that would not leave my latrine. I had to find a crianca to help me get it out of there.
*The goat that got stuck in the iron barred door that I had closed as it was trying to get into my house.
*A drunk dial from my principal and counter part.
*The addition of a “menina”- one of the teachers arranged a student to help me with water. Everyone is convinced I cannot possibly do all this “work” by myself, so they went ahead and got me help. I’m sure I will come to be pretty thankful for it!
*The switch of the focus from the fact that I shouldn’t be sitting alone (finally proved them wrong! I do socialize!) to the fact that I shouldn’t be eating alone. In other words, the other teachers would love for me to cook for them.
*At least 4 more people who have told me they would like to run with me in the morning and made plans to meet me. No one has showed up yet.
*A cockroach playing my guitar. I woke up around 2 am to my guitar strings being plucked. Hm… It’s now dead.
*A fantastic trip to Zobue including, but not limited to, bean burgers, hummus, cinnamon rolls, goodies from America, a trip up a mountain, and fantastic company! Tete is on the map.

So there it is! This probably won’t be posted until Monday, but I hope you all are doing well! I hope you are eating lots of cheese, wearing lots of sweatshirts, drinking lots of cold water, and sitting on lots of couches. Those are things I would like to do.

The song for the post is “Campus” by Vampire Weekend. It’s super catchy. That’s all.

Charcoal, Car rides, and Confusion - January 18th, 2011

What a week! I am nearing the end of my longest stretch at site without jetting off to Tete City for a day (or a couple of days…) to find the comforts of cell phone service and “take-away” food. Instead, I challenged myself to see how long I can stretch out my fresh vegetables and how sane I can really stay without any other English speakers or a cell phone I could call another English speaker with. Besides a quick trip down to visit Eden for an afternoon, I’ve just had the other professors, the criancas, the goats, and myself to talk to. And I’m doing fine! I’m not quite sure when I’ll get to post this, but here are some highlights of the last couple weeks:

*Tuesday: My first experience with a charcoal grill. We didn’t have power for a few days last week, which is normally no big deal… when I am stocked with bread and peanut butter, that is. I was looking at a couple green peppers, tomatoes, and onions, and no easy means to cook anything. The first powerless night I made a nice little “salad” by chopping up some veggies and tossing them with oil, vinegar, salt, Italian seasoning, and, I kid you not, folks…. Beef stock. I was seriously ready to eat my arm and found some of this on my shelf, so figured, why not add some protein? Disgusting in retrospect. But I ate it. The following day, between my tests to see if the power was back on every, oh, ten minutes or so, I was desperately planning what I could eat. At one point, I was convinced I could make it on some tomatoes and a few Jenny crackers (have I described these yet? They are delicious), but when I saw that my tomatoes were no good, I realized it was time to swallow my pride and ask for help getting my charcoal burner going. Another teacher helped me, and I was happily able to make some curried potatoes. Probably the most rewarding meal I’ve had in a while.

*Wednesday: Real ice cream. Not soft serve. Not gas station fudge pops. Ice cream. The other Tete girls and I go to this café about every time we are in the city, and every time we have asked if they have ice cream and been told no. It’s on the menu, but that doesn’t always matter at Mozambican restaurants. Well, they had it last week. It even came with a little cookie spoon. Audrey and I almost cried, it was so good. We may not have the beach or the parties of the other provinces, but let me tell you, sitting in an air conditioned café eating ice cream was about as awesome as I think a Peace Corps volunteer’s Wednesday afternoon can get. And of course, what would ice cream be (or any dairy for that matter these days) without the next morning stomach ache to follow? But so worth it.

*Thursday: Witnessing a full jug (and these are African water jugs… 20 L) of wine being spilled of a chapa. Enough said.

*Friday: Having the same conversation at least 5 times with the same person… 5 times in English and 5 times in Portuguese. There’s this hot-shot Mozambican (I have no idea what he does) that sometimes stops in my village and likes to buy people things. Last time he was there, I walked away with a soda and can of tuna to go. This time, he bought me a Fanta, and then offered to drive me up to Manje with some other professors “just to have something to do.” Since my day was pretty empty (shockingly), I agreed. Big mistake. There I was, this hot shot on one side, and my counterpart figure (a fairly arrogant English teacher) on the other side, riding up to Manje. Along the way, he was telling me how my Portuguese is like a tractor, and when I am not sure of what to say, I just need to say “no futuro” (in the future) or “normalmente” (normally), and people will understand what I mean. Apparently some Belgians that worked with Doctors without Borders did this and everyone understood them. Now, I don’t know about you, but this makes absolutely no sense to me in either language. Perhaps I heard it wrong? Well, no need to worry, he told me that story about every 10 minutes, and by the end of the ride, I have no doubt that that is in fact the story in its entirety. I was about ready to scream. In case I wasn’t understanding, he also explained it to me in English about 10 more times. But, I got a new capulana, more tuna, some candles, green peppers, charcoal, and matches out of the ride… so worth the headache!

*Saturday: My first teacher meeting. Of course, the meeting started over an hour late (was I expecting anything different?) and then proceeded for at least 5 more hours. Not exaggerating. My director introduced me to everyone, and then started to tell a little anecdote about my first night here. How nice, right? Well, the story was about how I was confused as to which was my latrine and which was my shower house, so I had to run around with my flashlight looking in each one. Cute story, Director, thanks for telling all my future colleagues about that.
I also can’t talk about Saturday without mentioning the fact that I was accompanied on my evening jog by 5 barefooted criancas. For the whole time. Hilarious.
Oh, and it was also mentioned at the meeting what each teacher will be teaching. I am only teaching 5 classes of 8th grade biology (10 hours a week), but also co-heading sports at my school. I tried to convey that I would like to teach more, but my principal told me I already have up to 25 hours with the FIFTEEN hours of sports I’ll be doing a week (!?), so I’ll apparently be pretty busy. Who knows. I’m a little bummed I’m not actually teaching more, but I have been thinking about it quite a bit (what else is there to do in Kaunda?), and I think that it will be pretty nice. I will hopefully still keep busy with all the extracurriculars, and that’s really where I’ll be able to build relationships and have an effect. Seeing as few of these students even complete high school (my school only goes up to 10th grade), what they learn from me outside of the classroom will probably be more important than my biology lessons. Sour grapes, maybe, but I think it will be a fun year.

*Sunday: Realization that my mother’s teachings followed me to Africa (as if I didn’t already know this). I spent the day deep cleaning my house thinking how necessary it was to have a clean house for the start of the school year. Thanks, Sherry. My house actually looks pretty cute, now! I hopefully can post some pictures. It’s amazing what an extension cord can do. I was able to move my table into the center of the main room and put my little stove on the floor so there is actually room to sit at my table. I also hung some awesome pictures up (thanks, family!) and hung a capulana on the wall. It actually looks like I live there! So much more fun to come home to.

*Monday: My “first day of school.” This was really just the opening ceremony, which was extremely long and hot. I got to plant a tree for being the “newest” professor,” which was pretty cool. I also realized that I lucked out in terms of colleagues- there are lots of women professors, some of whom are also single (but most have kids). They are all pretty cool and one even asked if she could run with me in the morning! We’ll see if that really happens, but it was nice to think someone wants to hang out with me.

*Tuesday: My “first day of school” x 2. This was actually a pretty emotional day for me. For those of you that know me, you probably are aware of my fairly… obsessive compulsive tendencies. Well, Mozambique is not the place for these tendencies. I arrived way too early, again, and was told that the schedule still wasn’t ready. I was still supposed to be there, though, but no one seemed too concerned about telling me what I should be doing. I was getting very frustrated, especially seeing as I had no idea when my first lesson would actually be and I wanted to be prepared for it. All the teachers were telling me different things, but eventually someone helped me get started on working on lesson planning in the absence of classes. Apparently this week is “mostly for planning.” Might have been nice to tell me this earlier…

*Wednesday: My “first day of school” x 3. “We are giving lessons today!” everyone kept saying. Again, I’m just wandering around feeling like an idiot. “Don’t you have first day lessons to give, Professora?” Well, sure, but I have no one to give the lessons to… the schedule still is not done! It turns out that because I don’t have a class that I am the equivalent of “homeroom teacher” to, I still am off the hook for teaching. Please just say that from the start! My Type A personality cannot handle this! But, again, it all worked out because I could spend the morning working on lesson planning, and have another free afternoon. Which is where I sit right now. Tomorrow, the schedule may or may not be done, but even if it is, I’m just supposed to give a “Presentation of Professor” lesson… at least that’s what I think right now. We’ll see come tomorrow! Friday, I will head out of Kaunda and back into civilization. I think I’ll be ready!

Well, thank you for reading this incredibly long post. I certainly hope I get to post it! I hope things are going well back home. I can’t believe I am almost done with my 4th month here! It’s amazing how time can still feel like it’s flying when every day just seems to crawl by.

The song of the post is “Run Around” by Blues Traveler. Maybe I can make this symbolic by saying that sometimes I feel like my school is “giving me the run around,” but I really was just listening to this while I was lesson planning the other night, and it just put me in a good, productive mood.

So, that’s it! Hopefully positive stories of teaching to come soon!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pictures! In random order, sorry.

 My bedroom- cluttered, of course. It's actually clean right now, though. Hopefully soon a bed frame will be added.
 Bath house.
 Christmas cookies.
 These are the criancas. And where they sit. And watch me.
 My house!

 Mexican food
 Mountain behind my house.

 Wall of encouragement


Happy New Year!
I hope 2011 found you all well. Down here in Kaunda, 2011 got off to a pretty good start. School finally starts one week from today, and I am pretty ready! Much to my surprise, though, the days have been filling up pretty well. Many of the teachers are moving back into town after their holiday trips, so it is nice to have some people around. I find a group of people to talk to every day, and I know my Portuguese is improving drastically as a result. I’ve also explored my village a little more. There is a mountain that I am pretty sure I can get to, and I’ve gotten close a couple times. It started to get a little sketchy, though, in the sense that I was starting to picture myself getting bitten by a black mamba snake and dying alone under the African sun, so I decided to wait until someone visits me to try to do the whole trek!

My house is starting to feel a little more like home. I made some little decorations and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of some pictures and other décor from my parents via Janet and Luc, 2 volunteers that were back in the States for the holidays and graciously offered to bring some things back for me. I’ve been asking around about getting some furniture, too, and I’m pretty sure once school starts and the town is back in “full swing,” I’ll be able to get some. I just want a table to sit at! Dinner time is my least favorite time of day. It’s dark outside, so I usually just stand in the middle of my living room/kitchen and eat as quickly as possible.

I should also mention that not once, but twice, have I had to shoo goats out of my house while I am writing this.

I’m still figuring out the social norms for women in my community. All the women teachers stop by my house to converse with me, and comment on how I am always sitting alone. This is totally not true and fairly irritating. I leave my house multiple times during the day, but none of the women are ever out to see me! Every day this week I have sat for a few hours with other teachers. Unfortunately, though, they are all men! I’ve seen other women with them a couple times, so I know it’s acceptable, but usually I am the only girl. It’s a bummer because if I want to be social, hanging with the men seems to be my only option unless I want to invite myself over to some woman’s house and help her cook. Perhaps when I get to know more women I will do that, but for now, the men it is. I try to be careful though; I only drink sodas and make sure to never have it be just me and one guy. The group dynamic seems pretty safe. Yesterday, a group of them walked me around to see where all the teachers live, too, so that was nice. I just want to find some female friends! I am just in a weird place because although I am a woman, I don’t quite have the same responsibilities that the women here have; I don’t have a whole family to cook for, I don’t have children to watch, I don’t have gallons of water to carry every day, Hopefully with more time, I’ll find my niche.

My counterpart figure returned from holiday yesterday. He greeted me with the traditional “Wow, you’ve gotten so fat” that most Mozambicans like to give me, and then today came over to comment on how dirty my house is (it’s not.) Ah, great to have him back. Luckily, without him around I have found lots of other “friends” to talk to! I have a feeling I’ll be hanging around with the younger teachers more as opposed to him. He’s nice enough, just very intimidating and doesn’t seem to respect me that much. Time will tell.

Well, I wish I had some more interesting stories to tell. Next week I will find out exactly what and when I’ll be teaching- I’m anxious to know! As of now, my most exciting moments consist of things like realizing I had packed a second box of dental floss. Similarly, though, my most upsetting moments are things like realizing that a goat had pooed in my bath house. Although I’m anxious for more excitement, I wouldn’t trade the dullness for worse low points, that’s for sure!

Tomorrow I will head to the City for the day, which is hopefully how I’ll get this post up! I have quite a few errands to run and will meet up with Audrey and Helen and also Janet and Luc to get my American goodies! Can’t wait. I do enjoy my relaxing time at site, but four consecutive days of having absolutely nothing on my agenda is about the max I can take. So, tomorrow’s trip is needed! After that, I’ll come back to just a week more of empty days before things really start to take off. Can’t wait to share more details of that!!!

I miss you all. The song for this post is another Rolling Stones pic- “She’s a Rainbow.” Great song, plus there are rainbows here almost every day! Puts me in a good mood.

Garlic bread, gifts, and good company! (Dec 30, 2010)

Bom Dia!
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and is gearing up for a fun New Years! I survived my first Christmas away from family, and I am surprised to say that it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be! Of course I missed home a lot, but the Tete group celebrated Christmas very well. We ate a lot of good food, played games, watched Christmas movies, and talked a lot about our families and Christmas traditions. It was a great weekend, and I am so thankful that I had such a good group to spend the holidays with! Besides the fact that I don’t think there was a moment spent not sweating, it actually did feel like Christmas down here in Africa. Audrey even made us all little stockings and we stuffed them with market treats and candies. We also did a White Elephant gift exchange, so it was nice to have something to open Christmas morning. For dinner, Audrey made lasagna from scratch, which we paired with some cheesy garlic bread and a nice salad. We also cooked up a pheasant that the neighbors gave us. It was FANTASTIC. Definitely going to be repeated any time we have any reason to celebrate together.
I’m back at site now, and my town is pretty quiet and empty. That’s alright, though, because the end of boredom is in sight! In just a few weeks school will be starting and I know I will be wishing I had free time again. So, I have spent the last few days making little decorations for my house, reading, working crossword puzzles, hanging out with the goats and cows that wander through my yard (and through my house if I’m not paying attention, I kid you not), and playing guitar. I know I will have to make a couple day trips down to the city over the next few weeks to get food, too, so that breaks up the time pretty well. I’m hoping I can talk people in to coming and visiting me at site, too! Too bad I am still lacking chairs and lights in my house! With time, I’m sure…
Well, sorry this post is a little short! The song for this post is “Glad Tidings” by Van Morrison. This song always puts me in a good mood, and just seems good for the new year! I am looking forward to 2011- it will be a year full of challenges but also will hopefully be very rewarding! Happy New Year to all!