November 24, 2012

Model School, Thanksgiving, and Maputo

There is a lot to update about this week.  This past week was our first try at teaching in a Mozambican classroom setting in the form of model school.  The schedule for it was a big mess and changed about five thousand times, but when it was finalized, I was told that I would be teaching a class on Wednesday, one on Friday, and two this coming Monday.  However, when we got to model school on Monday there was an empty slot in one of the 8th grade classes, so I was asked to fill it.  I couldn't exactly say no since I was just observing someone else, so on the spot I went into the room and started giving the lesson that I had planned for Wednesday.  Surprisingly enough, I gave a lesson on slope of linear functions in Portuguese relatively successfully.  Yeah, I was shocked too.  I felt like my class Wednesday went a little worse, because I had time to psych myself out, and I could say the same thing about Friday's lesson.  But after my lesson on Friday, my students knew how to graph a function of the form y = 4 and x = 4, so I felt pretty accomplished.  I have two more lessons to give on Monday, and those are my last big assignments before I am done with training. CRAZY!

All of the PCT's celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday with our language professors, and lots of the Peace Corps country staff.  We had around 100 people total.  10 turkeys, lots of mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, salad, pumpkin pie, brownies (that I helped make), chocolate chip cookies, pecan pie, apple crisp. Yeahhhhh, it was a feast. And it was sooooooooo good. :)  Seriously, such a good day.  We had so much food left over that I brought home two huge tupperware containers of food so that my host family could have Thanksgiving dinner too!  They loved the food, and apparently now I have to teach them how to make the mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Today I went to Maputo with some other volunteers (by ourselves!), and it was a very long but successful day.  First, I bought the modem that I'm using to post this blog.  I can now use my own computer to post blogs and send emails, which is super exciting.  I ate pizza for lunch and bought a donut which was probably the best thing I've ever eaten.  I also bought capulanas for my host family for going away gifts, a surge protector, and I tried to find an external hard drive/external memory for my computer, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't exist in Mozambique (or it's way more than I would ever pay).  My external hard drive is doing crazy things and won't let me take anything off of it, or put anything on it, or do anything with that's fun.  But it's not the end of the world.  I'm going to put some media on the actual hard drive of my computer and call it a day.

So, it was a successful day.  Time is going so  fast now, especially since I'm quickly approaching the time where I will have to say goodbye to my new friends who will be in the northern provinces of Mozambique (days of travel away from me).  But I'm also super excited to be going to site soon, seeing where I'll be living, and getting accustomed to my new life for the next two years.  :)

Important things coming up:
December 4th: Leaving Namaacha and officially swearing in to the Peace Corps
December 8-9th: Messica! :)

November 18, 2012

Pictures and Site Announcements!

November 17th, 2012

It was an exciting week to be a PCT in Mozambique because this week we got site placements.  I found out that I will be going to a town called Messica in the Manica province of Mozambique.   I will be living with another PCT, Sarah, and will be teaching math at the secondary school (8th through 12th grade) in Messica.  We will be opening a site in Messica,  meaning that the Peace Corps has not yet had a volunteer in this town.  Apparently the town has wanted a PCV for a long time, but they never had the means to provide housing for a volunteer.  I am told that our house is "very nice," but I have absolutely no idea what that means.  I am also told that Messica is about an hour from Chimoio, which is the provincial capital of Manica, and also home to one of the three Peace Corps offices in Mozambique (which has air conditioning and wi-fi).  All of the volunteers that visited Chimoio for site visits only have great things to say about the city including that it's a lot more safe than Maputo and has two large grocery stores, which is quite reassuring.  I really have no idea what to expect living  or community-wise, considering we have gotten no information about Messica, but I am just so excited to get there and see what it's like.   

On Monday we start model school which is an opportunity to get in front of Mozambican students that volunteer to attend our lessons.  I will be teaching 4 classes of 8th grade math and giving 2 different lessons.  My first lesson isn't until Wednesday of next week, so I get a couple of days to watch some other lessons and make sure I have mine well planned out.  I probably should be more nervous than I'm feeling right now, but I've already practiced giving my lesson twice now in language class so I'm have a decent grasp on the Portuguese I need to deliver it.

Speaking of Portuguese, I found out that I scored an Intermediate-High level on my LPI practice,  which is good enough for me.  Intermediate-Mid and lower have language class every day from 1:30-5:30.  I'm a little sad that I missed out on extra language help, but I'm glad that my language is progressing.

We leave for swearing in to the Peace Corps on December 3rd.  Whoa, that's coming up really fast.  My host sister, Nucha, says she's going to come visit when I get to site and I really hope she does (even though my site is probably at least 20 hours of travel from Namaacha).  I really want to be the one to cook for her, heat her water for the bath, and do all of the things that she does for me now that she probably thinks I don't appreciate.  I love living here, but I'm ready to have some independence and do things my own way.

Tomorrow I'm going to church with some other PCT's, and then we're going to head to the cascadas (waterfalls) in Namaacha.  Time is flying by here,  but I feel like these next two weeks might be sluggish since I'm anticipating what comes next.

My house!

A chapa.  We fit at least 20 people in this thing.  4 people per row, 4 rows of people, and many times even more.

My host sister, Nucha, killing a chicken.  The other one my mae already killed.

My host nephew, Walmer.  Sorry, I can't figure out how to turn the picture, but you get the idea, he's freaking cute.

The beach at Xai Xai.  First time at the Indian Ocean.

The waterfalls of Namaacha!

November 11, 2012


November 8th, 2012
My site visit was freaking awesome.  I left Saturday for Chongoene.  We boarded a chapa from Namaacha to Maputo at 5 am, and when we got to Maputo it was a little crazy.  We were dropped off at Junta, which is basically an insane chapa terminal with chapas departing for many different cities and people EVERYWHERE trying to sell you things, shoving things in your face, etc.  Luckily, the volunteer that I was staying with (Michelle) was visiting training for the week, so she was traveling back to her site with us.  That made me a little less nervous about the whole traveling around Mozambique thing.  In Junta, she led us to the chapa that was headed to Xai Xai, the provincial capital of Gaza.  We had to wait about 45 minutes for the chapa to be stuffed full of 20 people, and then we headed out.  Let me stress again how uncomfortable chapa seating is.  Luckily, our ride was only about 3 hours to Xai Xai.  Some other volunteers had rides that were up to 14 hours long. No thank you. 
After arriving in Xai Xai, we did some shopping and ate lunch (I had pizza -- it was delicious).  Then we boarded yet another chapa to get from Xai Xai to Chongoene, which only took about 45 minutes.  Michelle lives right on the school's property in a little house, which is both good and bad.  Good because the school is so close, bad because you have next to no privacy.  We were like a tourist attraction for the week.  All  the kids of the town were not shy about coming onto the porch and gawking into the house, checking out the white people in town.  It was cute at first but got old really fast.   Another thing to mention about the house is that it had an outdoor pit latrine/bathroom.  This was not particularly interesting to the other trainees there, but I have been spoiled with my indoor bathroom and toilet, so it was a new experience for me.  When taking a bath my first night in Chongoene by candlelight, I accidentally put the candle too close to the toilet paper and ended up starting a little fire.  Whoops.  I put it out, but it was definitely a memorable experience of tomar banho-ing for the first time outside at night.
On Sunday, we went to the beach at Xai Xai, so we took a chapa into the city and then had to catch another chapa to the beach.  The chapa to Xai Xai was fine, but on the chapa to the beach, there were so many people trying to get there that we ended up standing for over 20 minutes on the chapa.  That was an experience.  I was all up on people I'd never met, and that's completely normal in a standing chapa situation.  It's just something to get used to.
The rest of the week, we stayed in Chongoene.  We met the director of the high school,  some students, and many other community members.  One thing I love about Mozambique is that whenever you meet someone here or whenever you go to someone's house, it is customary to serve your guests tea or a snack/meal of some sort. Even though Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, they want to give what they have to their guests and treat them well.  It is the most important thing to them.  Sometimes it can be a little much, especially when you've just finished a big meal or you just want to quickly stop by, but overall the gesture is one that means a lot and should be appreciated.  We were definitely shown much hospitality in Chongoene and I absolutely loved it.
The past week has been a great break from training.  I got to cook some American food, get out and see more of Mozambique, and get some travel experience without the guidance of the Peace Corps.  I missed my host family, but so far the site visit might have been my favorite part of training.  Just seeing how Michelle interacts with her community and how much she knows about Mozambique makes me so excited to jump in and get my hands dirty.
So now that I've seen a volunteer's actual site, I have a much clearer picture of things I might want for my own site.  We have interviews with Associate Peace Corps Directors on Monday, and then we find out where we are placed on Wednesday.  Training has seriously flown by, but I am so anxious to know where I'll be spending the next 2 years!

November 2, 2012

Quick Update

There are some exciting things going on over here, so I thought I'd write a quick blog to keep everyone informed.  First, we have site visits this week!  I leave tomorrow morning at 4:30 am to travel to Gaza province to a place called Chongoene to stay with a current volunteer and two other trainees for 5 days.  The idea is to get a feel for the site that the current volunteer lives and be able to have a better idea of what we might want/prefer at our own site.  This is super exciting for many reasons, but the biggest ones are the fact that we get to eat whatever we want for 5 days, hang out and see what being a PCV is really like, and get to see what other parts of Mozambique actually look like.
Also, today we had our LPI, which is a language proficiency test, and we also had our round robin test of the technical/safety/medical/cultural information we have been learning since we got here.  I have to say that my LPI went surprisingly well, and my round robin left a little to be desired.  Overall, I don't think I'll have any problems.  This was a practice round, and we take the tests again at the end of training.  From the results of this test, they will probably change around language groups to make sure everyone is still  matched up with people at compatible learning levels. 
This week we also had our practical activities test, making sure we know how to do things like shred coconut, grind peanuts by hand, light a charcoal stove, etc.  I am the only girl in my current language group, so all the guys thought it was super amusing to tease me about the fact that it is most important for me to know how to do all of these things because it's "women's work".  The worst offender was my actual language instructor, because he actually lives in Mozambique and those are his personal beliefs.  He doesn't know how to do the things that we had to do, and he doesn't see anything wrong with that.  I am lucky because in my house, my host nephew Nando does these things with no problem, and in no way thinks that he is losing his masculinity because of it.  That day was certainly a learning experience.
Also, yesterday I got my first letter from the US, which is super exciting.  I was starting to get super frustrated with the mail system, but know I know that it IS possible to receive mail.  So that's exciting.  I just have to learn to have patience with it, which is difficult.  Mozambican time is all out of whack though, so the mail system shouldn't surprise me at all.
That's about all I have to say for now.  I'll be sure to update when I get home from site visits and tell you all about Chongoene. :)