Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Desfilaring, Dialect, and Decorating

Well, it’s been a while. Since my last update, quite a bit has changed! For starters, I am now an aunt to an adorable little nephew. I was pretty worried that I would be out of range for the news and not know for a couple weeks, but I only was 2 days late in finding out. I am thrilled to meet the little guy in December! I last posted right before the last trimester break, so I have also completed a good vacation, the REDES conference, and the first 4 weeks of my last trimester of teaching this year. It would be impossible to include everything I want to share, but here we go!

Firstly, I definitely would like to talk about the REDES conference. Each volunteer that had a group was allowed to bring 2 girls and a counterpart. I picked my favorite girl, Madalena and one of my soccer stars, Osvalda, both extremely motivated and involved 10th graders. My counterpart was Celsa, the same woman I have been working with for the whole year. The conference was a week long, and the girls were kept very busy with sessions on self-esteem, healthy living, women’s rights, and more. The second year volunteers did a great job organizing and planning the conference, and the first year volunteers stayed pretty busy doing the “grunt work” during the conference. Personally, I led a small group of girls in many activities, reflections, and games. It was very fun! It was great to see the cream of the crop of Mozambican girls, as well as all the powerful Mozambican women that were helping us lead sessions. And oh my goodness, these girls were CHIQUE. I did not realize how much fashion I was missing out on in my little “one-horse town” of Kaunda. These girls came in wearing heels, and my jeans and chacos just didn’t really cut it. The first night in our small group reflections, we were all supposed to share something we were good at. The girls kept bringing up this word that I had never heard of. I finally asked another volunteer, and it apparently is a verb that means, literally, “to parade,” but basically, “to strut your stuff.” The girls put on all their fanciest clothes and mimic a fashion show, walking and posing like they are the hottest thing around. It was cool to see the confidence and sass, but this trend has not quite reached Kaunda yet. Regardless, I think my girls got a lot out of the conference and came back very excited about REDES. It’s too bad I’ll lose them next year, but I think they’ll be able to show the other girls what it means to be a “REDES girl” before the year is up.

Coming back from the REDES conference was a little hard for me. After seeing all the potential in these young girls, it was tough to come back to my school that seems, at times, to have no faith in its students. The first week of classes never goes too well, and sure enough, we only had about 20 students show up each day. In addition, I hadn’t realized how much I was missing out on by living in a town where local dialect dominates. I’ll admit I haven’t done a great job at learning the language (my lessons with that teacher fell through as he got super busy with other responsibilities at school), but it almost made me angry to come back to a place where I have never EVER heard my students speaking Portuguese to each other outside of the classroom. I have to make my REDES girls run laps if they speak dialect, it has gotten that bad. Even the teachers often will switch into dialect right in front of me, which I just don’t think is very fair. I know a language is a language, but I just feel like I miss out on a lot of personality of my students when I don’t understand how they interact just with each other when they are having fun. I had assumed it was like this everywhere, but after the conference, I realized there are many sites where this is not the case. Audrey came up to visit that weekend, and she even noticed that between the city chapas and the chapas to come up to my district there is a huge difference. On our chapas, no one speaks Portuguese. I know I can’t be upset about it, I’m just a little frustrated with myself that I didn’t make a better effort at learning the local dialect. Tack that on to the list of things I’d like to do better next year!

Don’t worry, though, coming back was not all frustration. After traveling a bit and seeing other volunteers’ houses, I decided it was time to make my house a home! I don’t know what I’d been waiting for. There was white paint left in my house when I got there, so I went to the City and bought some tint to make colored paint. I also finally got all the stuff I needed to install electricity in the rest of the house, and got to work. By the end of the first week back, I had functioning lights and outlets in all rooms! This meant I was able to move my stove and food into my spare room and actually make a kitchen! I used some wood from old desks stacked on some bricks to make little counters, and it makes such a difference! That weekend, Audrey came up and helped me paint, and I now have a bright green living room and sunny yellow kitchen. Since then, the wicker furniture I arranged to be done before I even left for break was FINALLY delivered, and so I have a nice love seat-2 chair-coffee table set that just makes my house a home. I love it. I’ve been kicking myself for all the empty days I spent back in December and January with nothing to do, but I just didn’t realize that people had cute houses! Now, after dark, I can cook dinner in my brightly lit kitchen and kick back and read on my little love seat as I wait for it to be ready. It is simply charming. I am thinking I will throw myself a little house-warming party soon (I know, 10 months later). Pictures to come! Another fun addition to my life is that my computer is functioning again! Another volunteer fixed it for me, so although it’s back to like it was when I got it, it works!

In the classroom, the last trimester has been pretty fun so far. I’m teaching the reproductive system, which has been a riot. I got my first round of applause from one class as I demonstrated the “sperm meeting the egg” with little cut outs and my hand drawn female reproductive system. They were so embarrassed at first, but they are getting more comfortable. It’s a little awkward teaching it to my night school students, many of whom have babies at home (or on their backs in the classroom), but it’s getting better. I’ve been really trying to add variety to my classes and have found most of them going pretty well so far. I have learned a lot since the first weeks of school, and am excited to get even better next year!

Extracurricular-wise, this trimester has taken off running. I had the impression that the third trimester would be the least busy with clubs, seeing as many of them had big things during the second trimester. This has not been the case, and I’m not complaining! I find myself busier than ever, which, as most people probably know, is just how I like it. The English Club has finally transitioned into the English Theater group that it is supposed to be, and it’s been a blast and a half! I recruited one of my favorite colleagues to help us come up with a play idea in Portuguese, and then spent the weekend translating into English. There is a lot of work ahead of us to learn the whole play, but the kids are just GREAT. After spending a year finally accepting that no meeting would ever be on time and that you could never expect anyone to show up without a reminder, I have had to go back to my old standards of punctuality for this group! It’s just so cool to see these kids show up every week, sometimes twice a week, without any prodding from me. As I mentioned before, most of them are 10th grade students who I have never even interacted with at school. They just want to learn English! There are only 12 students in the group, but every meeting I have at least 8 show up, and lately it’s been close to everyone. I know that doesn’t sound that impressive, but at my school, it is phenomenal. It’s mostly 10th graders, and predominantly boys, so that’s a nice change from all the estrogen of REDES and soccer. And after spending a day teaching the male reproductive system to 8th graders, it’s nice to hang out with some motivated 10th graders for a couple hours. Our basic play premise is a 3-part theater, the first scene promoting abstinence, the second safe sex, and then the third is about talking to your parents about sex and HIV/AIDS. I’m pretty excited to see it come into fruition, and so are the students… which is what it’s all about! My REDES girls are also still meeting regularly, and are currently busy working on a play (my grandfather would be proud!) to put on at school about early pregnancy. After a pretty big lull in the soccer near the end of last trimester, those girls are also showing up again. I’m on my 6th soccer ball of the year, and am hopeful that the one more I have waiting to pump up will get us through the end of the year. They average about 2 weeks of hard play, longer if I don’t give it out every day, so we’ll see. A big thank you to my mom and grandma for sending them all the way to Mozambique!!

So, I don’t have many complaints! My life is fairly worry-free. I’m happy teaching, have found awesome students to work with, have great new friends both at site and away from site with other PCVs, have an adorable house that I can be proud of, and wonderful friends and family back home, many of whom I’ll be seeing (either here or in America) in just a few short months! Although some days are more challenging than others, it’s nice to step back and know that when I look at the whole picture, life is very good. And, as my father would put it, “that’s a good thing.”

The song for this post once again has no significance to my experience, but is "American Girl" by Tom Petty. Just so much cooler to listen to when you are out of the States. Hope everyone back home is healthy and happy and ready to start the new year!
Try clicking on this to see pictures:

1 comment:

  1. Oh,Hannah!! You are awesome! Love your post, your little home and most of all you. Henry is the sweetest little baby - he will steal your heart, too. So looking forward to December.