Saturday, November 10, 2012

Homestays, Homestretches, and (almost) Homeward Bound!

Wow, has it really been almost 2 months since I last wrote? Time has been flying more than I think it ever has in my life, and I suddenly find myself with just 2 measly weeks left in Kaunda. So what have I been doing the last 2 months? Well, quite bit actually!

The end of September was pretty busy with English Theater. This year I was the coordinator for Tete Province’s annual competition. This meant I had to invite schools, set up the location, organize food, and make sure everyone got to the competition. As far as logistics, Tete is probably one of the easiest competitions to organize, but the competition still was a stressful affair. At one point I thought our roster was full, and stopped inviting other schools… only to have schools drop out a week before the competition. This led me to calling teachers 3 days before the competition inviting them to come – which was, as I knew it would be, completely useless as it takes more than 3 days for even the most talented Mozambican students to come up with a ten minute theater piece entirely in English! The day before the competition, I headed into town to make sure everything was set up in terms of lodging, location, and food. I arrived at the bank to take out all the money (you have to pay for pretty much everything in cash here) – about 80,000 mets (almost 3,000 dollars). After waiting forever for the withdrawal to process, I watched with horror as the bank teller set 80,000 mets on the counter – all in 50 and 100 note bills – in front of a busy lobby of waiting customers. I could just picture alerts going around to all the pick pocketers in Tete City- watch out for the short white girl, she’s loaded!! But, it all came together, and despite one of the drop out schools showing up the day of the competition, it was overall a big success. My poor English Club got a little ignored the day of the competition with me running around, but they still had a good time and walked away very proud of themselves.

The day of the competition conveniently coincided with the day I was set to fly down to Maputo to take part in Week 1 of Pre-Service Training for Moz19, the new group of volunteers. This was my first time back in Namaacha since my own PST, and I was pretty excited to get to go, especially Week 1! The trainees were full of questions about everything Mozambique. It was really fun to realize the things we have become so accustomed to, and remember that at one point this WASN’T normal to us. Is it normal that no one speaks during dinner? Of course! Expect total silence. Can I wear shorts at my home stay? Not if you don’t want people staring at your pale white legs all evening. Why does my brother try to hold my hand all the time? Because people love holding hands here. Boys and girls, boys and boys, principals and teachers, it’s just the way things are. It was cool to feel like a quasi-“expert” on Mozambican culture. I guess that’s what 2 years will get you! It was also just such a wonderful thing to get to witness their optimism an overall excitement about Peace Corps. After failure on top of failure (with successes mixed in), it’s easy to forget the dreams you had coming into PC. Usually when a group of PCVs get together, it’s not so much to share success stories, but rather to vent about your latest frustration. But you do have success stories! Listening to what these new trainees hoped to experience in the 2 years made me realize I have, in fact, accomplished so many of my goals. I wanted to participate in Training this year for many reasons, but one was that I was hoping it would be a nice cherry on the top of my service, and that hope was fulfilled. I left at the end of the week with an overall positive feeling about Mozambique and with genuine excitement for my last 2 months at site. How great is that!?

Another fun aspect of training was that I got to see my host family again! I was honestly kind of dreading seeing them. I was dying to see my sisters, but called them when I got there and learned they were studying in Maputo and would not be in Namaacha that week. Bummer! Not sure if I ever wrote about it, but the end of my home stay experience with my “mom” was actually not that positive. My last week of training, my dad moved home and the whole dynamic changed. Then, the day I left, my mom took off for work without even saying goodbye! I was offended at the time, but now after knowing more about the culture, was REALLY offended. Not saying goodbye to someone is a really bad thing to do. So anyway, I was not that thrilled to go see my mom, but I knew I should do it. I figured my sisters would have called her to let her know I was there, so one afternoon trudged down my old road to go visit. At first I thought I must not remember where my house was- it looked completely different! They had painted the outside and there was a car in the driveway. Behind the car was a woman, and as soon as she looked up a huge smile spread across her face. “MANA ANA!!!!!!!!!!!” she screamed and ran up to hug and kiss me. She invited me inside to the beautifully remodeled house and proceeded to ask me question after question about how I’ve been. She told me she’d been trying to call me for months to invite me to their wedding at the end of November. My parents were “traditionally” married, like many Mozambican couples, but were apparently making it official with a church wedding. She filled me in on the family- my sisters are both living in Maputo, one studying civil engineering and the other electrical engineering- just like they had hoped to do when I was with them as they finished 11th grade! I am so happy for them. My dad wasn’t home at the time, but she called him (“Your daughter is here! Come home!”) and he eventually arrived and we ate some crackers and drank some soda. It was a wonderful visit and I am so glad I stopped by. Apparently my mom’s not saying goodbye was probably just a fluke and she really did like me after all.

After a great week in Namaacha, I returned to site for the “homestretch.” Before I left, I knew final exams would be coming up… but little did I know that they would be the day I got back to site! I thought I had another week of teaching, but thought wrong. We would have exams as we’d had them all year, on an exam schedule, but this time we got to write our own. I had one day to write the English final that would be given to all the 8th graders the next day. Well, so much for the sentimental feelings I had about my last days in the classroom. Apparently they had already happened! It all was fine, though, and the students did pretty well on the exam despite any preparation with me in the classroom. The rest of the year was spent proctoring other disciplines and calculating (and changing so I would have a high enough passing percentage) final grades. And then it was done! 2 years of teaching, just over. I am sad to not give any more classes to the students, but ready to be done with the Mozambican education system… which brings me to today.

We just finished the week of the first round of National Exams, a week I’d rather erase from my memory of Kaunda. I could write a whole blog post about the frustrations of the week, and maybe I’ll do that soon.  For now, let me just sum it up by saying: corruption is rampant, and it is really unfortunate that no one seems to see the negative effects on society as a whole.

So here we are! This coming week I will be busy correcting National Exams. The next week I will meet up with some other PCVs for my 3rd(!) Thanksgiving in Mozambique, and then it will be the last weekend at site. I plan on visiting all my close friends that weekend, and also inviting the ladies I am closest with over for a clothes extravanganza. How I ever ended up with this many t-shirts is beyond me, but they are not travelling back with me. I am hoping it doesn’t cause a big uproar, but I’ll be gone before they can complain too much. I expect to continue feeling the roller coaster of emotions until then. On Wednesday I was almost in tears walking home from visiting with Celsa for a bit because I was so sad to be leaving. Thursday I was actually in tears because I was so mad at the stuff going on at school. Just now I walked outside with my buckets to go get water and 2 of the annoying children yelled to me to let them go get me water… a fitting apology after 2 years of harassment, which also gets me a little choked up. I just am hoping time doesn’t go too quickly the next 2 weeks- I want to fully enjoy my last days in Kaunda.  November 26th I fly down to Maputo for a week of Close of Service processing, and then on November 30th, I become an official Returned Peace Corps Volunteer!

From there, I begin my COS trip. I guess I have never mentioned it here (although most of you either know from me - or my mother, more likely) that I have been dating another volunteer for basically the whole time here. Anyway, Ian and I are traveling to India (with a day layover in Abu Dhabi) for 2 weeks, then Thailand for a week, and then heading back home! I will arrive in Portland, to greet my new little niece (who could be arriving any day now) and my family on December 23rd. After a week there, I will finally get to Midland! Just in time for a New Years celebration. Will it really be 2013?!

I hope you are all well back home. I imagine winter is rolling in, and colder days are coming. Just think of me here, sweating in the 43 degree C sun. You can convert it – that’s hot! – and you will maybe feel happy to see snow. Grass is always greener, right? The song for this post is Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” Not sure why… just feels like a good song for the ending of things. Okay, stay well!