Friday, March 4, 2011

Testing, Tryouts, and Tasty treats! (February 24, 2011)

Well, I don’t know when exactly it happened, but at some point, Kaunda started to feel like home. Perhaps it was when one of my classes was interrupted by a student sent by another teacher just to inform me that there were avacados for sale for the first time. Or maybe it was when I was hanging out with some of the teachers one Friday night and witnessed them all devour some cooked pheasant pieces that someone brought by, reminding me all to well of my roommates and I devouring Panera’s baked goods that Teresa used to bring back to the house on Friday nights. Or maybe it was when I started to feel comfortable asking the students to do anything for me- I asked a few who stopped by asking me soccer questions to go and get me some water, and a few minutes later, I had another girl come by begging for another bucket because she wanted to go get some for me, too. Regardless, I’ve started to really love my community and am glad to be feeling so positive about everything right now!

As we say here in Mozambique, things “are walking”- classes are in full swing, I am definitely feeling like I have friends in the community, I’m holding soccer try-outs next week, and my house is getting a little more full every day. I am nearing the end of another long stretch at site, and it was way more bearable than the last time I spent this long at site without leaving. I’m heading back down to Moatize for the weekend, and although I am really excited to see the Tete girls again (and to be back in cell phone service), I’m not as anxious to leave as I used to get. I’m still excited to see what civilization is like again, but I don’t have as much of a count-down mindset as I did at first. And that’s a good thing! Here are some highlights of the past couple weeks:

*Lunch with the Peace Corps Regional Director for Africa. He was touring several African countries and it was interesting to hear how Mozambique compares with other countries. Apparently in Zambia, all volunteers co-teach with a Zambian teacher in the classroom. Also, we’ve heard this before, but apparently the Mozambique program overall is a little less rough than other countries’ programs. Most other African volunteers live in much more rural communities… like Kaunda…
*The start of local dialect lessons. Another teacher is meeting with me twice a week (for free) to teach me the language. So far, we’ve just learned greetings and a little bit of how verbs work. If we keep going at the rate we are, I should have a pretty decent vocabulary after 2 years – I’m pretty excited about that! Still, sitting in a classroom getting local dialect phrases translated into Portuguese so I can understand them just blows my mind a little.
*Learning the phrase for “wedgie” in Portuguese. This wasn’t even intentional. I was sitting at one of the little bars Friday night with some professors, and one of them was standing up (and had a pretty bad wedgie) so another one commented “Hey Carlos, your pants are meeting,” to which I couldn’t help but crack up.
*Mozambican cooking lessons with one of the fellow professoras. Not that I have any real interest in learning how to make cooked pumpkin leaves and xima, but I figured it was a good opportunity to start hanging out with women more. Plus, cooking in Mozambique kills a good 4 hours from start to finish, so it was a nice way to spend a Sunday. Her husband is the somewhat-condescending “counterpart” figure, but he wasn’t home for most of the time, so it was nice to just get to chat with her. Sure enough, when he got home, it took about 5 minutes before he felt like he needed to lecture me on article agreement for feminine/masculine nouns. As if I haven’t ever learned this before. Grr.
*Opening up the world of English speaking with other professors. They ALL want to learn English. Until now, I’ve been pretty insistent on speaking only Portuguese, but now I’m feeling comfortable enough with my language to start humoring their attempts at English conversation. When I sneezed today, one of the professors thought he was being so polite as to declare “My God!” for me… I corrected him that it is actually “God bless you.” This also brings up some pretty interesting topics. I have translated Eminem songs, explained that no, Westlife isn’t really popular in America anymore, nor were they ever that popular, and been able to answer that it is, in fact, a lie the condoms contain the HIV virus. Lucky me!
*Successfully making both granola and hummus. I’ve been thinking about these for a while, and finally got all the stuff together to make them. Delicious! I also made some pitas to eat with the hummus, and then topped them off with cucumbers, tomatoes, and some parmesan cheese. It’s funny- I wonder if some of the things I used to buy back home I’ll start to just make for myself, like these things, or tortillas, or pasta. They really aren’t hard. I’ll get back to you in 3 years on that one.
*My first biology test. Out of all 5 classes, I had 4 students pass (and to pass you just need a 50%). I thought I would be a little discouraged, but I’m surprisingly not too down about it. It was not a difficult test, and they all admitted to not studying, so I don’t feel bad. I am looking at it more as an opportunity to show them that they will actually need to prepare for tests in biology. I also caught probably 20 cheaters, and it felt good to show them that they can’t get away with that stuff in my classroom. I am giving them the opportunity to do corrections for homework, so hopefully that will help them get a little closer to passing my class. I talked to another teacher, and he explained that it’s not bad for them to fail, that many of them should not be moving on to the next grade if they can’t even read or write. “Students of the farm,” is what they refer to them as. I feel guilty, but I’m here to teach, not to just advance students that do not deserve it. Hopefully the scores improve as they get used to me, though.
*The start of sports. Yesterday we had our first “sports department” meeting, where they mostly discussed where they were going to put the various fields and courts. I’m anxious to see how basketball goes in the absence of baskets, but I’m hopefully going to get something worked out with Audrey and Helen’s technical school to get the welders to make us some hoops. When they told me I was in charge of sports, I assumed I’d just be playing a bunch of pick up games. Apparently, though, we have actual tryouts next week that I am judging! Or so they say… we’ll see what actually happens. I hope I don’t sound cynical already, but I do know that people in Kaunda talk a little more than they act. For example, my fence gate that was supposed to be built like 4 weeks ago just started being built today. But I’m still super excited about it!

Well, that’s about all I’ve got for now. Not sure when this post will actually get posted, but hopefully fairly soon! I hope, as always, that things are going well back home and that spring is starting to find you all. The song for the post is “Take it Easy” by The Eagles, just because it’s a happy song that always puts me in a good mood. And I’m in a good mood now!


  1. Hannah, I am so happy and proud of you! I love your enthusiasm and the way you write such fun posts giving us little tidbits of funny and frustrating things that happen in this new life of yours. What a woman you are!! xxxxxxxxxxxooooooxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Grandma

  2. Had a good laugh when you mentioned Teresa bringing home Panera! Too bad she doesn't still work there!