Monday, January 31, 2011

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!

1 comment:

  1. "Coach Hannah", I like the way it sounds! I'm glad you went for the protein, regardless. (•: