Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lesson planning, Latrine guarding, and Lame stories (at least you were warned…) -Feb 9, 2011

Wow, what a short week! It’s only Wednesday, but seeing as I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon, it feels already like the weekend. I have been going down to the city on Saturdays to shop, so pushing that up to a Thursday really cuts the week down. All of the sudden, I’m actually kind of busy! The past two days have been fairly full with lesson planning, teaching, and grading. I decided to collect my first homework assignment this week. I warned the students about it at least 20 times in each class, yet still had probably a 50% completion rate. I was expecting this… we’d been warned about it by every volunteer who came to training. Still, it was hard to not get bummed at seeing the number of students who just ignored the assignment. In one of my classes, I maybe had 10 out of 40 actually try. And who knows how many of those just copied it (hmm, they all have the same wrong answers, interesting…). I was feeling like kind of a failure, but then my next class seemed to take it more seriously. My teaching day ended on a high note, too, when I actually got the students to laugh at a joke. I’d been trying so hard to get at least a smile. Finally today when I did my usual “you have to do homework to pass” lecture, I also added my usual “and you all want to pass biology don’t you? Because it’s your favorite subject?” and they finally gave me some giggles. You have no idea how good that felt.

Since I wrote a longer entry just last week, I don’t have all that much news to share. I do have some interesting stories, though:
*Bank drama: When I was down in Moatize, I decided to hit up the ATM on the way out of town. Audrey went before me with no problems. I put my card in, enter my pin, and then wait. And wait. And wait. And finally see that the ATM has frozen, with my card and pin happily inside. Great. Eventually the screen unfroze and went back to the start, but my card decided to stay in. Since the bank wasn’t opened, this prolonged my stay in Moatize an extra night so I could go to the bank the next morning. The next day, I headed over with my passport in tow, ready to fight for the card back. I’m not sure if “fight” really ended up being the correct word. I just walked in, said the machine at my card, and they handed me the card that was in the machine- no question of my name, identity, nothing. At least I got it back, although I can’t say my trust has deepened in the Mozambican banking system.
*Menina drama: I wrote before about getting a “menina” to help me with water. Well, it’s been nice… when she shows up. I usually have to go out and find her and ask her to come to my house, which is just as much of a hassle as actually getting water myself. I am perfectly capable of doing that, though, so if she doesn’t show up I just head over to the pump. One of my students apparently saw me, and approached me later in the day asking if I needed a menina in my house. I told her I already had one, but she kept asking me questions and I thought she was telling me she wanted to see my house. Thinking she was just curious, I told her she could stop by the next day to chat at my house if she wanted. Sure enough, she showed up, and I explained once again that I did not need any help around the house. She kept asking the same thing, and I could not understand what she meant. Finally, I realized she was asking to live with me. I politely turned her down.
*Latrina drama: Living close the school is great, except for the fact that my latrine also lives close to the school. The school has bathrooms (bathrooms meaning outdoor latrines), but I don’t know how clean they are. Sometimes the other teachers ask to use mine during the day, which I’m fairly okay with. I was washing clothes the other day, though, and noticed a couple students coming out of my bath house (not my latrine). I asked them why they were in the bath house and not the latrine, and she told me that she only had to pee. Great. She didn’t poo in my bath house (that’s only the goats), she only peed where I shower… so much better.

Well, my life just isn’t that exciting, I’m sorry to say. I’m glad things are fairly easy and peaceful right now, but I do wish I had some funnier stories. Ah well, there’s always next week. J
Tomorrow I will head down to the city in order to catch the early morning bus down to Chimoio for the weekend. Fast internet, Shoprite, potential packages to pick up, Indian food, pizza, friends… the only thing that could get me more excited was if a Dairy Queen magically popped up in the middle of Chimoio with the limited edition Tag-A-Long blizzard toppings fully stocked. If wishes were fishes, right? Anyway, the song for the post is “Little Secrets” by Passion Pit. I’ve had this on my iPod for a while and just still can’t get enough of it. Enjoy!

Funky days, Feriados (Holidays), and Full Classrooms- Feb 4, 2011

It’s hard to believe I am starting my 5th month here in Mozambique! Crazy. I’m happy to say things are going as well as I hoped they would be by this point, if not better. I really feel like Kaunda is a good fit for me, and I really do enjoy teaching. I don’t get the anxiety before teaching that I thought I would get and am even able to be myself in the classroom (even if the students just give me blank stares). 8th graders are just still pretty little! It’s a little deceiving since my school only goes up to 10th grade- the 8th graders seem close to being “done” with school. I have to remind myself of how young they are. I think of myself in 8th grade- with my full braces, cheerleading uniform, and extreme self-consciousness. Perhaps expecting my students to fully understand me when I talk about where the genetic material is located in a prokaryotic cell versus a eukaryotic cell, especially since I am explaining it in a language that is foreign to me and maybe a quarter of my students, is asking a little much. I’ve found there are other things I can emphasize, though, and feel good about it, such as making sure I tell them they are intelligent many times throughout the class. I also frequently say things such as “You all love biology” or “Biology is your favorite subject with your favorite teacher” hoping that those little sayings will stick, as well. Guilty. I’ve already found the students I think will really get to like. There’s one girl in one of my classes that I think may be the only one who has understood and completed my homework assignments out of all 5 classes. It makes me really excited to get the secondary projects started so I can have some more interactions with students like this girl!

Outside of the classroom, things are going pretty well, too. I had a really fun birthday weekend down in Moatize. My little town wasn’t as hopping this week now that the first week is over. Several teachers just weren’t here Monday or Tuesday, something to do with their money being delayed. Since they have to go to the city to go to the bank (as do I), this was apparently an excuse for not coming to work. Who knows. Regardless of their reasons, there are several periods that the students just don’t have a teacher. While this is not a good thing, it may actually work out well for me if I ever want to travel for the weekend- I can give my classes at other times if I have to miss any days of teaching. But anyway, many teachers seemed to be absent this week, and I’m thinking that’s what most weeks are going to be like. I have found a few social outlets, though. On Monday, I was in kind of a funk after such a fun weekend, so I forced myself out to find SOMEONE to hang out with. I ran into one of my favorite female teachers (secretly hoping she’ll become my “Monique,” for those of you who get what that means) and asked if I could accompany her to her house so I would “know it.” She gladly invited me over, and showed me her TV and satellite dish. She put it on CNN, and immediately asked if I understood it (it was in English). Although everyone in this town tries to speak English with me, they all find it necessary to ask me if I understand anything in English, like music or TV. Yes… I speak English… I understand it.  Anyway, I stayed there and chatted with her for a while, and it definitely helped me get out of my weird little funk. I think those are just going to happen every once in a while.

As I was teaching Wednesday, one of my students also informed me that Thursday was a holiday and we didn’t have school. Would have been nice to know. I was pretty bummed, since Thursday is usually my busiest day, but it turned out to be a pretty fun holiday! There was a ceremony and “cultural activities.” Everyone told me that things would start at 7. So, taking this into account, I planned to be ready by 9, which is when it would probably actually start. Well, 11:00 finally rolled around and they decided it was time to get things going. The first thing to do is read the agenda out loud, which is always one of my favorite things to hear. It’s 11:00, and someone starts reading “At 8:00, we will have this, at 8:30, we’ll have this person talk, at 9:00…” and so on. So formal. I hope no one notices my smirk as this is going on. It was pretty cool to see the cultural dancing, though, and afterwards I spent the afternoon hanging out with the other professors. I did have a beer at site for the first time, which everyone was pretty excited about. There were other female professors drinking, so I thought it was culturally acceptable. They were all shocked at how long it took me to drink one beer, too, so I don’t think I’ve gained a lush reputation. Sure enough, at school today, about every teacher I ran into, whether they were there or not, commented on how I drank beer yesterday for the holidays. Kaunda talks! It’s similar to how everyone in town knows I do not eat meat. Oh, living in a fishbowl, the joys. They were not judgmental about it at all, though. Rather, they seemed excited that I do something that they like to do, too. Whatever it takes to make me seem normal, I guess. Even so, I think I’ll save the drinking at site for the holidays. It was fun to just hang out for the whole afternoon with the other professors.

Another high point of the week was that, because I stayed out later than I ever have before (which was only 7:30), I got to really take a look at the stars for the first time- and let me just say- WOW. If you really want to see a full night sky, head out to the African bush. It was phenomenal. I’ve looked at them in Moatize, but that’s not nearly as isolated as this is. So, the song for the post is “Yellow” by Coldplay.

Well, as usual, I hope things are going well back home. Thinking of you all frequently!