Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quckly Coming to a Close (almost following the alliteration theme...)

Well, it’s September 20th. I’m about one week away from a day I sometimes doubted I would actually come to: The 2 Year Mark.

I’ve been browsing other blogs of my Moz15 colleagues, and it seems like everyone’s starting to reflect back on his or her service. “Things I’ve Learned,” “Things I Will/Won’t Miss,” “Things I Love.” How will I reflect on 2 years in Mozambique? What is a good way to sum up how I feel about the last almost 10% of my life that I have spent living in Kaunda? Although the title may be a little off-putting, bear with me as we enter into my 2 year reflection: 

“Things I’m Sick of”

I’m sick of the fact that it is already so hot when I wake up in the morning that I start sweating immediately, and that the heat seems to never subside… but because of this heat, I have been forced to get up so early to jog that I see the sunrise almost every day, something I know I won’t do back home, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of old “mato” men and women staring at me like the devil in running shorts as I come up to them on the road in the morning… but as soon as I greet them with a “bom dia,” they instantly break into the biggest smile in the world, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of cooking with the same 3 ingredients: tomatoes, onions, and garlic… but it has made me realize how to be creative with food, and how to really appreciate all the variety we have in our American diet, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of having nothing to do in the evening but watch Amazing Race reruns on my computer before falling asleep around 9 pm… but I realize I am more well rested than I have been since middle school, and as a result have maintained wonderful health the past two years, and for that I am thankful.

I was sick of living with no cell phone service, of never being able to talk to anyone that would truly understand me when I needed to vent… but because of that, I have learned how to productively conquer my problems. I regularly journal, and have learned the wonderful ability to let something settle before I freak out, and for that I am thankful (and I’m pretty sure my mom is, too).

I’m sick of not having enough work to keep me busy… but as a result, have read so many wonderful books, watched so many wonderful (and, okay, not so wonderful, but all the same entertaining) TV shows, done so many crosswords, and played guitar, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of my flat mattress… but after seeing many friend’s houses in town, I realize I am one of the lucky few to have a bed, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of bucket baths… but in the course of the last 2 years, I have had some of the most satisfying bathing experiences of my life (I know that sounds weird, but it’s true). There is nothing like pouring cups of cold water over yourself on a day that is so hot you can smell yourself sweating. I also know that the majority of my students do not have electricity to quickly heat up water for baths before school during the cold months, yet I can heat it up in 3 minutes, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of my latrine… but compared with other PCVs indoor “pour flush” toilets, where you have to pour water down them and they never seem to actually flush all the way, I am infinitely grateful for the fact that after I do my business, I never have to see it again, and for that I am REALLY thankful!

I’m sick of speaking Portuguese… but I now realize that I can sit and have an hour long conversation with someone, without any struggle, and walk away without a headache… something I couldn’t imagine 2 years ago! And for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of my school not taking itself seriously, and it taking at least 3 weeks after each break for the classroom to actually become full enough to give serious classes… but because of this, I have been able to travel the country and see some of the beautiful places in Moz, something that not many Mozambicans actually get to do themselves, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of teaching grade 8 curriculum to students that are struggling to read and seem to be at about a grade 2 level by American standards… but after 2 years in the classroom, I have realized how to cater to their strengths, and can see their wheels turning. I feel like they are actually learning with me now, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of teaching with no resources… but the students are used to seeing NOTHING in their classes, let alone being rewarded for good work. Because of this, I can walk into a class of 16 year olds and start putting stickers on their foreheads for participation… and they all start shouting out answers! I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have the same effect in a high school class in America… and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of trying to plan events where it is impossible to get anything organized more than a few days before… but I realize that in this culture, people just take things one day at a time. There is no stress about next week because no one knows what could happen until then, let alone next year. As a result, people seem much more content, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of anyone dying from heart problems related to stress in Mozambique, and it has maybe rubbed off on me, at least a little… and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of people asking me for food, money, or whatever else they think I have that they want… but I realize that if I were to ask someone else in my town for those things myself, they would definitely give it to me, as they would to any neighbor, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of every single person in town knowing every single thing I do every single day… but I realize it’s only because they are interested in me and want to figure me out. This “celebrity” has also made it so I can’t go anywhere without being greeted by name by every single person I pass, and has made me feel incredibly loved and safe in my community. If anyone messed with me, everyone would know it, and they all have my back… and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of being far away from my family… but I have been forced to find substitutes for my family here in Kaunda. I have my “mom” figures (the secretaries, Beth and Anabela, who always make sure to check in on me the next day if I say the littlest thing is wrong, like I have a headache), my “older sister” (Celsa, my friend from day 1, who although she is at a different place than me in life, is always there to help me out and treats me like her equal), my “older brothers” (all the male teachers at my school who I don’t hang out with THAT much, but still enjoy shooting the breeze with from time to time), my “best friend” (Veronica, my cool Maputo-grown pal who just really gets me and whom I love to just chat with), my “little brothers and sisters” (all my kids in REDES, soccer, and English Club, who I just love to joke around with), and my “children” (my turma, or the kids that have me as their homeroom teacher, who I am responsible for and who actually come to me for all their problems expecting me to solve them), and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of living life as a “countdown,” thinking how many days until I leave for the weekend, how many days until the next social gathering, how many days until I leave Mozambique for good… but as that final countdown is actually starting, I’m realizing that maybe I don’t want time to go so fast. Sure, I am excited to get back to America, but this place has become my home. Will I really never ever see this new “family” again? It’s a different sort of goodbye that’s coming up… one I’m not sure I’ve ever had to do before. I’ve said goodbye to friends who have moved growing up, to family members who have relocated across the country, to classmates in high school, to roommates in college… but I feel like there’s always a way to keep in touch easily or to see them again. What are the chances that I will come back to Mozambique anytime in the next 10 years? That anyone from here will ever travel outside of Moz, let alone to America? How will I keep in touch with a community that just got cell phone service a couple months ago? Will I still be able to speak enough Portuguese to call them? Will I never ever see my best friends for the last 2 years again? Are these the last few sunrises I will ever get to see in Kaunda, the last few sunsets I will ever watch from my back stoop, the last fresh mangos I will ever eat? I suddenly feel not so ready for that… and although it makes me sad, I know that means the last 2 years have been some great ones, despite every struggle and frustration, and for that I am thankful.

The song for this post maybe a cliché, but is my all-time favorite Beatles song, “In My Life.” I’m sure my emotions will continue to follow a roller coaster through these last couple months… but here’s to 71 more days in Mozambique, whatever they may bring!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Safari, Sherry, and So-Longs

Hello again, friends and family! Today is Sunday of Labor Day weekend, and I imagine America is enjoying the last real weekend of summer. I sincerely hope everyone is eating lots of barbeque, corn on the cob, and ICE CREAM! Here in Kaunda (and yes, I will post this from my site thanks to my fancy new internet modem that goes with our new cell phone network and allows me to get on the internet in my bedroom), I am spending a lazy Sunday catching up on grading, lesson planning, and yes, blog post writing.

So what’s been going on? Since my last update, I feel like I have had quite a month and a half! As I mentioned, my mom came over to visit at the beginning of August. It was great! After meeting her in Johannesburg, we went to Kruger National Park in eastern South Africa where we spent 3 days spotting elephants, lions, giraffes, hippos, and maybe leopard eyes at night… but that is up for debate. The lodge was beautiful, right outside the park. In the morning we could sit on the upstairs deck and watch elephants coming to the river, and at night we were treated to wonderful South African meats (which I ate- I am now a ravenous meat-eater, if you didn’t know!). From there, we flew on to Cape Town, where we spent a few rainy-ish days wandering the city doing all the good tourist stuff. After Cape Town, my mother braved the left side of the road and drove us to Hermanus, known for its whale watching. We took a great “cliff hike,” and saw many whales out in the ocean. From Hermanus, we hopped on the Garden Route and stopped at Knysna, another nice touristy town, and ended up in Port Elizabeth after stopping at one more elephant park along the way. All in all, a great trip and a wonderful way to spend some time with my mom! I think she enjoyed herself, despite my insistence on only eating or staying places where we could watch the Olympics.

After such a great trip, getting back to site was a stressful occurrence. I lost my Mozambican SIM card in South Africa, and was just overall worried about going back to loneliness after vacation. My mom gave me a good pep talk (even though she ended up being the teary one upon saying goodbye… or maybe that was both of us), and I was able to by a new card in Tete City before going back up to site. Good thing I did, too, because upon arrival, I was met by some upsetting news and was happy to be able to call someone for support.

When I leave site, I generally leave Harriet at my director’s house, where his wife takes care of her. Generally they just keep her tied up the whole time, but since she’d been running free lately and I really didn’t want her to spend that long of a time on a rope, I told them it was okay to let her be free.

 As soon as I got to site, one of my students ran up to help me carry my bags. We chatted a bit, and I asked him, “And my dog, she’s still alive?” kind of jokingly. “She died!” he responded, with a huge smile. “You’re kidding, right? You are lying?” I asked him. “No, she died. A car. Okay, goodbye, Teacher.”

This is what I had been afraid of. I unlocked my house and headed over to the director’s house to see if it was true, and sure enough, just one look at my director’s wife’s face and I knew. She told me she had been taking good care of her, but she ran out the street one day and was hit by a semi. It was apparently only 4 days before I got back. I couldn’t really ask more questions as I knew I would start crying, and I had a hunch that crying was not something that would not be acceptable for the death of a dog in Mozambique. This was confirmed when people proceeded to bring up how my dog died in any type of conversation I had in the next few days. Besides a few colleagues who recognized that this dog was like my child, very few people seemed to think it was anything more than just something that happened. While the first week was rough, and I still miss Harriet, I have come to terms with the fact that she did live a much better 8 months with me than she would have otherwise, and I am very thankful to not have been there to witness it. A goodbye was coming in November anyway, but I am very sad our time together was cut short.

Despite the loss of my little companion, third trimester was already in full swing and it was time to get back to work! One of my colleagues had attempted to give some of my classes while I was gone, but between his busy schedule and a lack of participation at the beginning of the trimester, I had a lot of catching up to do. It felt very good to get back to teaching, though, and I think the students were really happy to have me back. Because of the provincial exams taking up the last 3 weeks of the trimester, a 2 week break, and me missing the beginning of the new trimester, I had not given actual lessons since June! It came right back, though, and I have been working hard to make these last classes I give in Mozambique good ones.

Secondary projects continue to struggle, but exist. My REDES girls keep asking when we are meeting, but as soon as we plan a meeting, they don’t show up. I have given up on forcing soccer practices for the girls, but am happy on the occasional day when they decide they want to show up to go out and play with them. And English Club, anticipating the English Theater Competition at the end of September, has started rehearsing their theater piece, although they often claim they have too much homework to come to practice. While this situation would normally get me down during my time in Kaunda, I have settled into a nice “last 3 months at site” mindset, and I have to say… it’s pretty nice. The pressure is gone! Sure, I want my projects to function well, but at this point, I can’t force it. The students are busy, the schedule is hard for them to find time, and when you look at the big picture, my secondary projects have been a success! The REDES group, for example, exists, and I truly believe will continue when I am gone. It’s struggling to meet regularly right now, but the girls who take part consider themselves part of the group, have learned what it means to be a REDES girl, and have two other Mozambican women teachers that they know support them. At this point, I’m okay accepting that and waiting for them to take action. Sometimes I feel guilty, but I don’t want to spend my last 3 months being disappointed that they don’t show up every week… I’d rather admit that finding time to meet has been difficult this year, but the group exists. And hey, if it means my evenings are free to relax, that’s okay with me! What happens next year is up to the girls, and the new volunteer(s).

So that’s the other big news… Kaunda will for sure be getting at least one, if not two, PCVs for the next two years. I’m thrilled. It’s a great site for a volunteer, especially now that communication is not an issue. It’s a pretty small site for two volunteers, but I’m sure they will figure out how to make it their own if that is the case. I just hope the school has work for them! I keep thinking every evening “wow, I can’t believe in less than 3 months I will just leave forever.” And then one day it hit me “Wow, in just over 3 months, one or two more people will be arriving here to live for 2 years, in MY house!” I guess it won’t be my house anymore! In terms of the school, the pedagogical director (the one who actually deals with scheduling, etc) that I worked under has been transferred, being replaced by two teachers who I strongly approve of. They don’t really drink and are very organized, something that will be really good for the school. It will be interesting to learn (hopefully the volunteers keep blogs!) how Kaunda is running in years to come.

That brings me pretty much up to date. This has been pretty much a newsy post, but maybe I’ll think of some profound things to write about in these last few months - no promises, though. I hope life continues to be wonderful back home. I did set my alarm for 3:45 am this morning to check the Michigan score at half time, but was disappointed. L It’s early, though, and I just feel lucky to be more in the loop this year now with internet access! I leave Mozambican soil on November 30, so I am in the homestretch. On Thursday, all of Moz15 heads down to Maputo for our “Close of Service” Conference. I’m hoping it will be both informative and a good chance to catch up with our training class, almost 2 years after arriving in country. I will hopefully get to upload some pictures of my vacation from Maputo, too, where it won’t take as long as from here!

Oh, and I know at this point 2 years ago I was going crazy reading blogs from PC Moz as I tried to figure out how to get ready to leave at the end of September. So, if any Moz19 future PCVs are out the reading this, know you are coming to a wonderful place! Don’t stress out too much about packing (easier said than done, I know). After visiting the surrounding African countries, I can honestly say that Mozambique is the friendliest country in this part of Africa. Enjoy your last few weeks at home, but know it will not take long for Moz to feel like home!

On that note, I will wrap it up. The song for this post is “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty. Happy Labor Day, and enjoy the last few warm weeks of summer!