January 29, 2013

The Good Life

I taught one 45 minute class today, and proceeded to play with and talk to adorable Mozambican crianças the rest of the day.  This is the good life.  I am beyond blessed to be in such a beautiful place with such beautiful people.  Here are some photo highlights of my afternoon.

They go crazy over the camera. They're like "take a picture of meeee!" and then they'll run over and look at it and giggle uncontrollably.  So freaking cute.

These were probably 3/4 of the kids that were at my house. They flocked from everywhere to get their pictures taken. :)

The one on my lap is my favorite.  I know I'm not supposed to have favorites...whoops.

Noqutenda.  She is my neighbor.  She is precious.  It melts my heart when I say "Tudo bem?" and she responds with "Tudo." :)

They were dancing to no music. So cute.

Valentina.  So adorable.


They know what's up. :) OHIO.  Buckeye for life.  These kids will be buckeyes fans within the next two years whether they like it or not.  Mom, start sending buckeye paraphernalia!

January 27, 2013

Has it really been 4 months?

That doesn't seem right. I don't know if it seems like too little or too much, but it definitely doesn't seem right.

But I made it through my first real week of school!  And tomorrow starts week 2 (should be 3, but 2 is way more realistic), where things get serious and we actually get into new material.

The rest of last week was definitely a learning experience.  The students here don't have textbooks.  We have a small library at our school that is open for a few hours every day that students can go to if they need to look at a book, but they have to use it in the library and leave it there.  It's good that they have a small library, because it can grow, but at the same time it's less than ideal to have large classes and no books. The lack of books makes their notes more important than ever, since their notes become their textbook.  So, therefore if I make a mistake, that's as good as there being a mistake in their textbook.  No pressure or anything.  Because there is so much information to give out to the students, many teachers dictate their information, repeating it slowly, many times, for the students to write down.  Well, that's great for Mozambican teachers that have fluent Portuguese skills, but for this  girl that poses a bit of a challenge.  Last week was my first go at dictating.  And it was definitely a fail at first.  My first turma told me that a student could read it for me, so I agreed.  Then they just complained that the student I picked can't read, blah blah blah, more and more complaints.  So the next turma, I tried that again.  I picked a student, and everyone had only complaints about the dictation.  The following turma, I tried again, different student.  When he wasn't doing much better of a job, I took back my notebook, took a deep breath, and read my notes.  The students all breathed a sigh of relief and they were just like, "No teacher, you need to read your notes, it's better." You can imagine my excitement upon hearing this.  I was preferred to some of these students that had been learning Portuguese since 1st grade.  Oh yeahhhh.  In my last turma, I just started out reading my notes.  They suggested that a student do it, but I told them, "No, I am going to be your teacher all year.  I have to learn how to do this.  If you have a question about a word,  ask me and I will try to say it again or write it on the board."  They accepted this.   There were quite a few laughs when I tried reading some words that are freaking hard to say, by both myself and my students.  There are some pretty big math terms that it's just like really? Are you serious?  But at the end of the day I thanked my class for their patience, and reassured them that it will get easier little by little (simultaneously reassuring myself of the same).  Overall, I'll take it for my first few days. It should only go up from here, and I'm so excited to know more Portuguese and be a better teacher.

I offered to have open hours for my students to come and ask questions on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  Since then, it is starting to become commonplace to be stopped by a random student on the street at whatever time of day asking if they can come over for some math help. 10th graders, 8th graders, my students, whoever.  And I can't and won't turn anyone away.  But anyway, Friday two of my students came over for some math help.  After about an hour of practicing a couple of different types of problems, they thanked me sincerely for my help and asked for problems that they can do at home to make sure they knew how to do them.  That was seriously one of the greatest feelings that I've had since coming to Mozambique.  They had wanted to learn, came and learned, and wanted to prove to both me and themselves that they were successful. So freaking cool.  I also asked the other students if any other teachers had any open hours for explanation and they laughed at me.  They told me that if you ask many other teachers for help they say they don't have time, and you have to figure it out by yourself at home.  So that was sad.  But at least apparently every student at the Secondary School of Messica knows that they can come over and get some math help.  So that's good. :)

Saturday afternoon, I headed to church around 3:00.  I had heard the previous weekend that  people gather at the church on Saturdays to say some prayers to Mary.  I assumed that they were talking about the rosary, and I really want to learn the prayers in Portuguese, so I figured that would be a good place for me to go.  I also got rosary twine in the package from my mom, so I had been making rosaries for about a week, and had about 10 to give away.  I was the first one at the church, and sat in the shade waiting for other people to show up.  A few minutes later, a couple of ladies walked up and offered me a smile and a "boa tarde."  I asked them if people were gathering to say prayers to Mary, and they told me that they were. I then held up one of my rosaries and asked, "are we going to use these?"  And I think I really confused them, because they weren't there to say the rosary.  Also I had like 10 rosaries in my lap so they were probably really confused about what this weird white girl was doing with all the rosaries.  They showed me the pamphlet with prayers to Mary in it that they were there to say, and I finally understood that we were on different pages.  So then I asked them, "Do you use these things to pray here in Mozambique?"  Because I still didn't know the word for rosary in Portuguese at the time.  They told me they did use them (and kind of looked at me like it was the dumbest question ever).  I told them that I made the rosaries and I wanted to give them to people that didn't have the money to buy them but would put it to good use.  They quickly said that they would each love to have one, so I handed out my first two rosaries.  They were so grateful that they started dancing around and praying and saying that God had delivered them an angel.  If that doesn't make you feel good, I don't know what will.  This scene replayed as more ladies came to join the small circle of us that was forming.  They asked me if I was going to come back every Saturday with a gleam of hope in their eyes.  I told them every Saturday I'm in Messica, I will come and pray with them.  They thought that was acceptable.  I also asked them where I can buy a prayer book in Portuguese, and ended up being lent one until I can buy my own from one of the ladies there.  It was super helpful to have in church this morning.  I ended up giving out all of my rosaries before leaving the church, and was asked to teach them how to make them next Saturday.  I have a feeling I'm going to need a lot more rosary twine...

This morning after church, I was walking out when I was stopped by the man who always does announcements at church.  He told me that a lot of the people at church were talking and they want me to be a catechist.  I looked at him like he was a little crazy and promptly told him I still don't know how to speak Portuguese very well.  He told me that it would be a great way for me to learn a lot, and people will help me.  Apparently they're starting these small groups on Saturdays to study the bible and catechism, and they want me to lead one of the groups.  I couldn't very well say no, so I told him to just tell me where I needed to be and when, and I would try my best.  He looked super excited and told me he would get my information next Sunday.  I don't know what God's going to do with this, but I'm not even nervous at this point.  I'm excited to get more involved in the church here.  It will be a great way to integrate while also being able to do what I came here for (besides the whole teaching thing).  I should've known God would provide something great, but I just wasn't expecting it, especially this morning.

So the rest of the morning was spent lesson planning, and then I took a nice little walk around Messica.  Walking around Messica makes me feel like a celebrity.  No joke.  There's people screaming random English phrases at me like "What is my name?"   There's also the ever so popular conversation that goes like this:

"Hi Teacher! How are you?" 
"I'm good, how are you?"
"I'm fine, and you?

...at which point it becomes an endless circle that you can either keep perpetuating, or just leave it at that.  There are also those people that yell things at me such as Mulungu, Branca, Professora, Teacher, Ana, Mana, and the list goes on.  There are also random people that act like they know me very well and get very excited when they see me, but I actually have no idea who they are.  Then there are the men that come up to me and without even asking for my name, cut right to the chase and ask me for my phone number. I've gotten good at waving my finger in their faces and saying "NAO!" and quickly walking away.  Creeps.   When I'm not walking with Sarah everyone asks me, "where's the other one?" which I find slightly comical.   But the best times are when I actually see someone I know while walking around and have a pleasant conversation with them, or when passing by smiling and offering a "bom dia" or "boa tarde," depending on the time of day.  Regardless of what happens on my passear's around Messica, there is almost a guaranteed story to tell Sarah when I get home.

Oh, Mozambique...

January 22, 2013

Ingrown toenails, packages, and Jesus

It's been an interesting couple of days. I feel like I've had more crises in the past month in Mozambique than the average Peace Corps Moz Volunteer and let me tell you why: I have the WORST luck. Seriously. It's bad.

On Thursday evening, I admitted to myself that the pain in my left big toe was not going to go away on its own. I had an ingrown toenail and texted the Peace Corps medical officer. They told me that the next day I would have to go to the clinic in Chimoio. Conveniently enough, I was planning on going into Chimoio anyway with Sarah to buy bikes. So Friday morning, we got on a chapa bright and early and headed into the city. I went to the clinic first thing and ended up sitting there for approximately 2 hours before getting back to see the doctor. Sidenote: all of the employees at the clinic know me...I think they expect to see me on a weekly basis. Anyway, the doctor dug out my ingrown toenail nonchalantly as I was grimacing in pain and almost passed out. It was lovely. Then he cleaned it out and sent me on my way.

I headed over to the Peace Corps office where I found a large group of PCVs hanging out, much to my surprise. There was a meeting in Chimoio over the weekend for one of the secondary projects that a lot of volunteers participate in called REDES. I'm sure I'll write more about that later because Sarah and I want to have our own REDES group. When I was waiting in the office, I found out that there were about 15 packages waiting at the post office for Peace Corps to pick up, but that Peace Corps wouldn't be able to go until the following day to pick them up. Upon hearing this exciting news about packages, I decided that I probably had one (hoping beyond hope that I had one), so it would have been kind of dumb to go back to Messica just to turn around and go back to Chimoio to get a package. So my friend Anna kindly invited Sarah and I to spend the night at her place in Chimoio, and we promptly accepted. The rest of the day we spent hanging out, using internet, lounging in the A/C...you know...what we do when we're in Chimoio. We also got packages later in the evening. :) I got three packages, two from Jamie, one from Momma. Almost everything was there...the only thing that was missing was a 64 gb flash drive, which was obviously the most expensive thing in the package. Whatever, I was still excited to have actually received a package! That's one of the good things about Mozambique: your expectations are so low that if anything comes through it is super exciting!

Saturday, we got bikes. It was quite the task to pick out a bike that looked heavy duty enough to last two years in Mozambique in harsh conditions, but after about 2-3 hours of looking around at different stores, Sarah and I decided on bikes. We bought them, and then took them to a mechanic to make sure that everything was functioning well. By the time that was done, it was already afternoon. And I had to go back to the clinic to get my toe cleaned. Also, during this time was approximately when my eye started having some issues. This should be no shock to anyone because nothing is ever easy in my life. So I went back to the Peace Corps office, dropped off my bike, checked out my contact which was not the reason for my eye irritation, and then headed out to the clinic. A nurse cleaned out my toe relatively quickly and bandaged it well, and I went back to the office. Then Sarah and I headed back to Messica with the loot from our packages and the rest of the stuff we bought to take back with us (minus the bikes...Peace Corps staff is delivering those this week). We decided to try to boleia (hitchhike) home. We ended up finding a boleia pretty quickly once we walked outside of the city towards Messica. It actually worked out really well because it was a truck with a cover on the bed, so we sat in the bed, opened the windows, and had a lot more space than we would have in a chapa. The only downside is that the truck was going to Machipanda, which is right on the Zimbabwe border, so we were dropped off on the side of the EN6 with all of our stuff. Yeah, it was kind of a lot of stuff. And then we walked a couple of kilometers with all of that stuff to our house. But hey, the trip was free. So I was fine with it. Plus it was my first time boleia-ing and I was happy to have the experience.

So then Sunday happened. I woke up and couldn't open my eye. If I did open my eye, there was lots of pain. It was swollen, bloodshot, and sensitive to light. So I laid on my “bed” (blankets on the floor) legitimately all day listening to Gilmore Girls (what else would I do?). I'm pretty sure it was an allergic reaction to something, but it was pretty bad. Monday it was still kind of painful, but today, I'm pain-free and could even wear contacts again.

Monday was the real first day of classes. I had a full day of classes, three duplas (double bells). My plan for all of the classes was the same: introduce myself, go around and have them introduce themselves, go over classroom rules, and then have them take a diagnostic test so I can see what I'm working with. During the classroom rules section I mentioned a rule: Do your own work. Yes, in America we have people that cheat during tests, but oh man, it's a whole different ballgame here. I'm not sure if they didn't understand the fact that a diagnostic test doesn't count for anything, if they wanted to impress me, or what, but cheating was happening all over the place. And I was beyond pissed off. First problem, the students didn't think talking during a test is cheating. Um...what? Second problem, apparently they didn't realize that it is super obvious when their eyes are looking at their neighbor's paper. Third problem, when one student is doing work on a crumpled sheet of paper and two minutes later another student picks up said crumpled sheet of paper, pretty sure you're cheating! Seriously, after two duplas of this insanity going on, I was mad. Like, livid. So my third class got my wrath. Whoops. I even made them write down the names of the people they were sitting by on the back of the test so I could compare if they made the same mistakes. Yeah, it got very serious. During real tests if they talk, look at someone else's paper, or cheat in any other way, they will be kicked out and get a zero on the test. They already have been informed of this, and I'm going to be a stickler. Can't wait to kick out that first student and make an example out of him/her.

Today, I taught one 45 minute class. Afterward, I was writing out my plan for the rest of the trimester when three 10th grade students stopped by my house to get some math help. We sat on the porch for about an hour while I helped them do some problems. When we finished, they asked me if they could talk to me about Jesus. Seemed a little out of the blue to me, but I have no problems with talking about Jesus, so I was like sure, why not. They proceeded to ask me if I have accepted Jesus as my Savior, blah blah blah, all those things that come in a conversation when someone is about to tell you the whole gospel. I told them that I'm Catholic, that Jesus is my Savior, and that I already know and love Him. I don't know if they didn't believe me or what, but they just kept pulling out different verses from the bible to try to convince me how much God loves me. Some of the passages I couldn't understand very well seeing that they were in Portuguese, so I told them to wait a second, and I brought out my bible. We started looking up verses in both bibles and reading them in both Portuguese and English. They shared a few more verses with me and then asked if I had any verses to share with them. I picked out some of my favorites including Proverbs 16:9 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (which is not popular here, so I thought they would enjoy it). I read the verses to them and they repeated after me, practicing their English. The Corinthians verse inspired me to bring out some Christian music, so I played Love Never Fails by Brandon Heath for them. They loved it, and they said that they're going to come over more often to hear more Christian music in English. I told them when I get better at speaking Portuguese, I'll be able to translate the songs for them so they'll be able to understand what's going on. It started out as a very weird encounter, but turned into something beautiful. Faith transcends the boundaries of language and culture and unites us all. Pretty freaking sweet, if you ask me.

January 18, 2013

The school year has begun!

The first week of school.  It sounded so daunting at first, but in reality: not so much. 

The first day of school: I was super anxious before the first day of school on Tuesday.  I taught first period in the afternoon, so I left the house super early in order to arrive on time. I brought my bata which is a white coat that all professors here have to wear while teaching, and materials for an activity that I wanted to do in class.  When I got to the school, there were a few other teachers around, and random students scattered as well.  I started talking to some of my colleagues who informed me that we were not giving lessons that day because the list of turmas had just been posted the night before, so none of the students knew their turma, classroom, etc.  So I sat around talking to colleagues for 2ish hours and never even entered the classroom.  All that anxiety for nothing.

The second day of school:  Well, I didn't even end up going to the school the second day, because Sarah went to school and saw that there were little to no teachers at the school, and also little to no students at the school.  So after waiting around all morning in anticipation of teaching again, I got a call saying that I shouldn't even bother going to the school.

The third day of school:  Clearly, I didn't know what to expect.  I was scheduled to give three double periods in a row which seemed a little daunting, especially when I had yet to give a lesson.  I was kind of hoping that it would be a repeat of the two days before with no lessons given, but to no avail.  There were probably 10-15 students in every class out of the 40-50 on the roster.  I didn't want to launch into the rules/give the diagnostic test while I didn't have all of my students, so I decided to try to do some impromptu reviewing of what the students should have learned in 10th grade.  I don't necessarily know the 10th grade cirriculum, but I tried.  I had been told by many of my colleagues that most student's levels of math are very low, but in my experience the students just needed to brush up on some of the material, and I think they actually did very well considering it was their first math lesson after a couple months off of school.  Overall I consider the day a success, even though I stumbled through some concepts and didn't speak flawlessly.  My students could understand me relatively well.  When I didn't know a word, I asked them and they told me.  I felt comfortable with my students already and it was my first time meeting them.  I think that's partly because there was only a fraction of the students there and I could be a little more personal and friendly with them.  I hope the promising start that I had continues throughout the rest of the trimester and the year!

January 14, 2013

Ceremonia de Abertura

So this is how today went:

Woke up at 6:45 and got ready for the day.

Left my house at 8 o'clock to walk to the Ceremonia de Abertura (opening ceremony) of the primary and secondary schools in Messica, which was at a church that is approximately a 3 minute walk from my house.  The ceremony was set to start at 7:30 am, but we were told it would probably end up starting around 8. Upon arriving, there were approximately 4 other people at the church with us, none of which was our school director who obviously had a large role in said opening ceremony. So we waited.  And met a few people.  And stood there awkwardly while everyone was conversing in Portuguese.  And talked a little bit about the school system in the U.S.  And continued to wait around awkwardly.  And then met a guy named Innocent that was from Zimbabwe and spoke excellent English.  And then waited around some more.  And then around 10 o'clock, the ceremony actually started.

The ceremony itself was not what you might expect of an opening ceremony. It started with the planting of some trees symbolizing the new school year.  Sarah and I were told by our new friend Innocent that they normally don't water the trees, so they will probably die in a couple of weeks.  Awesome symbol of the new year there.  After the planting of the trees, we went inside the church where the ceremony was taking place and sang the national anthem of Mozambique.  Then the teachers were introduced.  So, of course Sarah and I had a special introduction and had to get in front of everyone and introduce ourselves.  You can probably guess how much I enjoyed that.  I must say, I've memorized my introduction,  so it's not so bad anymore. :)

Anyway, after introductions, there was a LOT of talking.  It started with the presidents of the schools reading off some important school rules.  Then it moved to the directors reading off some more information.  I missed most of this because there were no microphones, there was a lot of background noise, and they were speaking in Portuguese.  I'm actually surprised that I got any of it.  After the director's speech, it was time for community members to stand up and voice their concerns about the school and how it's run.  Afterwards, the directors got back up and tried to defend their actions/clarify certain things.  And so this continued, until everyone felt satisfied and/or too hungry and uncomfortable to care anymore.   I must say that people got super passionate, and I was a little afraid of a riot breaking out there for awhile.  Then there were closing remarks, and at about 1:30, the ceremony ended.

The director then told Sarah and I that we were going to have some refrescos (drinks).  So we got into our pedagogical director's car, and he took us to this incredible site in Messica that I didn't know existed.  Apparently Messica has many hidden treasures that I don't know about.  Anyway, this place was a gorgeous fenced in property with a bar/restaurant and cafe that are opening soon.  Apparently it's still being built and they are adding many more buildings to the property.  There is also a huge library that is privately owned on the property.  So we met the owner, and obviously we're going to become best friends.  He said when the restaurant opens he would like to serve some American food there, so he would like Sarah and my suggestions.  Discovering this place was definitely today's greatest success.

When everyone else arrived, we sat down at tables and were served cheese or ham sandwiches and pop/beer.  So clearly, the first question on everyone's mind was 'do these white girls drink?'  And I made the mistake of saying that I drink sometimes.  My colleague at my table told me that he doesn't drink. And then he continued to try to shove beer down my throat for the next hour until I finally agreed to have one.  The problem was that I hadn't eaten since 7:30 in the morning (a hard boiled egg) besides the small cheese sandwich.  So that's how I got tipsy after the opening ceremony with lots of my male colleagues... (Sidenote: Sarah and I were the only females at this 'reception'...)

While I was drinking my beer, Sarah and I were conversing with this colleague of ours.  He asked us which one of us was older, and I told him Sarah was older.  He proceeded to insist that we were lying.  I asked him why we would lie, and then he asked me how old I was.  I asked him how old he was, and he informed me that he was 30.  I told him that I was 21, and that's when he told me that all women lie about their ages.  I insisted that I wasn't lying, but he would not take that as an answer.  I asked him how old he thought I was, and he said, "hmmm....probably about 31."  Duuuudeeee.  Not cool.  No way do I look 31. I was brainstorming ideas on how to prove my age to him, and then I remembered that I had my passport in my purse.  I showed him my date of birth on my passport, and he was still insisting that I was lying although at that point he kind of had to admit defeat because my passport clearly doesn't lie.  It was an extremely frustrating and weird conversation.

And then things got weirder.  He was wearing a ring on his finger, so I asked him if he was married.  Evidently, that was a mistake.  He told me that he was not married.  And then he asked me if I was married. When I told him that I wasn't, he proceeded to give me the third degree about getting married in Mozambique, dating Mozambicans, etc.  And proceeded to tell me that he is going to come back to the U.S. with me.  So that was awkward.

Let me just say that I've been told by at least 10 Mozambicans that when I go back to the U.S., I just have to take them with me.  What is assumed by this is that we will get married.  So that's always an extremely awkward situation because how do you nicely say, "no way in hell is that happening..."?

Yeah, so that was my day.  School starts tomorrow.  I am teaching one 45 minute class, and I think I have a pretty decent plan, but I'm still pretty nervous.  I'm just going to go in there and try to be confident and pray that they understand what I'm saying.  But any and all prayers are appreciated.  :)  Let's see how this goes...

January 10, 2013

Don't volunteer to make the schedule...ever

For the past couple of weeks, I've been kind of an emotional wreck. I don't really know how else to describe it. I keep apologizing to my roommate for being such a freak, but she says she hasn't really noticed...which makes me feel like I've just been an emotional wreck since meeting her back in Philly. So that's great. Anyway, I have already enlightened you all to the ever-so-pleasant experience that followed from my back problems. After a week of being pain free, the back pain returned in full force a few days ago. I promptly texted the Peace Corps medical officer, who told me that I should take ibuprofen and sleep on the floor for a week to see if that helps. So on top of stress about the impeding school year (with curriculum and everything about teaching unbeknownst to me), medical problems galore, and just in general doubting my abilities to live in Mozambique for two years, I was about to lose it a couple of days ago. Luckily, I have a pretty great support system both here in Mozambique and back in the states. Talking to my friends here, I quickly realized that I am not alone in my feelings of “what the hell am I doing in Mozambique?” Also, upon further examination of my wacky behavior, I realized that the malaria prevention that I've been taking for the past three and a half months of which I'd previously shown no side effects has a kind of personality altering side effect. It just makes you kind of a crazy version of yourself. So when I realized that all of this crazy might not be my fault, it made me feel much better about the situation.

In other news: I found out that I will be teaching 4 sections of 11th grade math. Curriculum here isn't exactly the same as it is in the U.S., so 11th grade math includes a little of everything: mathematical logic, algebra, trigonometry, logarithms...yeah...should be fun. Of the 4 sections I'll be teaching, 3 of the sections are the exact same, and one is a similar class, just at a slower pace. I will teach for 15 hours every week. I teach in the afternoons. I have a loaded schedule teaching 6 classes on Mondays and Thursday, and teach one class on Tuesdays and two on Wednesdays. If you guys can do the math: 6 x 2 + 1 + 2 = 15. No classes on Fridays for me. :) Yay!

To be fair, Sarah and I made the schedule for the school. The whole school. Yeah, it was a mess. We started working on it on Monday, and just finished today (literally working on it for four days straight with hardly any breaks...). We were told by other volunteers that it was a good idea to volunteer to make the schedule for a few reasons:

  1. Peace Corps supplied us with a program that can make schedules, and otherwise the school has to do it by hand...which is a huge pain.
  2. We can determine our own schedules.

So clearly, at the beginning it sounded like a great idea to make the schedule. When we brought home all of the papers on Monday to get to work, we honestly had no idea what we were getting into. We thought the program was fun to use and we were really excited about it. Then we brought the schedules we were oh so proud of to the school the next day, and promptly learned that we couldn't print anything from the program we had been using. So we set out on the daunting task of transferring everything to excel by hand before printing it. So there was a whole other day of mind numbing work on the computer. When we returned to the school and printed the schedule, our pedagogical director told us that we needed to change it...like basically re-do the whole thing. He gave us a bunch of stipulations to follow that we hadn't had in the first place. So by that time I was pretty frustrated, and then sitting at home for 6 hours redoing the whole thing didn't help my frustration level. By 11 o'clock last night I was practically crying from being so tired of the freaking program and messing with the near-impossible puzzle. And then there left the daunting task of recopying everything back into excel to print it. Mozambique, man. Sometimes it's rough. Finally at 12 today, we printed out the schedule. And I haven't heard anything from the school since then, so I'm crossing my fingers that we're done with it for good. But yeah, seriously regretting volunteering for that task now. If we have to do that again for every trimester I might cry...

I do feel bad for all of the teachers though because while we were doing all of this crazy work on the schedule, even today they didn't know what grades/classes they would be teaching or know anything about their schedules (some of which are pretty rough...). In Mozambique, school is set up differently than in the U.S. In most schools, there are not enough classrooms to have everyone at the school at the same time. At our school in Messica, there are 13 classrooms on the school's property, and then there are an additional 4 in an annexed building that is about a 20 minute walk from the school. So in the morning, 9th and 10th graders have classes. Then, in the afternoon 8th, 11th, and 12th graders have class. Then, for all of the people that can't go to school during the day because of jobs or whatever else, there are night classes of every grade.

Also, classes are set up a lot differently than in the U.S. They do not change classes like a typical high school in the U.S. Here, students are assigned to a turma (homeroom). They are with these students all day, every day, all year. Each turma is assigned a classroom. The professor's move classrooms, the student's don't (which actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it). They don't have the same classes in the same order every day. They have between 8 and 10 subjects for each grade, so obviously that wouldn't be possible. Therefore, as you can imagine, scheduling is a freaking mess.

Classes start on the 15th, but the 'official opening' of the school year is on the 14th. I'm not quite sure what that entails, but it should be interesting to see what happens. It is coming up so quickly, and I really have yet to start preparing due to the scheduling situation. Today we briefly met in our respective subjects and 'discussed the curriculum.' Basically, this entailed copying the mandated objectives and procedures onto a different sheet and submitting it to the pedagogical directors. I thought I would get a little more information than that, but I'm learning to roll with the punches. I have the 11th grade math book, so with that and the list of things I should be covering, I will hopefully be able to get some plans together. This weekend, I am planning on writing out my lessons and studying the vocabulary that I will need to give an effective lesson. I'm thinking that I have a good review activity to do the first day though, because I'm stealing someone's lesson from model school (thanks Anna Derby!).

I know by the time Tuesday rolls around I'm going to be super nervous. Luckily I only have one class on Tuesdays. For right now, my nerves are under control and I'm feeling more or less capable of doing this...crazy, I know. But that feeling could probably change by the time I finish writing this blog...stupid Lariam.

For now I will leave you with something that spoke to me today. It was one of my New Year's Resolutions to read a devotional by Mother Teresa every day called “The Joy in Living” and reflect on it. Today's reading really struck a chord with me, so I'll share it here.

“To students: I pray that all those young people who have graduated do not carry just a piece of paper with them, but that they carry with them love, peace, and joy. That they become the sunshine of God's love to our people, the hope of eternal happiness, and the burning flame of love wherever they go. That they become carriers of God's love. That they be able to give what they have received. For they have received not to keep but to share.”

This just explains so perfectly what I hope to be doing over here in Mozambique. So here's to sharing my love, my knowledge, and all I have with everyone I come in contact with here. Whether they are Mozambican, Zimbabwean, Portuguese, Brazilian, American, or anything else, may I carry God's love to them. I know that they've most definitely already shown His love to me.

January 3, 2013


Happy New Year, everyone!

I wasn't sure what to expect with a Mozambican New Year's celebration, but it turns out that Mozambicans party it up just as much as Americans on December 31st. I spent the 31st in Chimoio with seven other PCV's. We went out to dinner and I had some pretty fantastic pizza. Then six of us continued to a bar, where I enjoyed one beer while being harassed by a very very drunk Mozambican. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Then we went back to my friend Anna's house (there are approximately a bazillion Anna's in PC Mozambique, which is rather obnoxious most of the time...) and ate cake and ice cream and played bananagrams while waiting for midnight to roll around. At around midnight, we had our own countdown that we have no idea whether or not was accurate. But who cares? We made our way out to the street, made noise with pots and pans, and set off 10 firecrackers. I did not partake in the lighting of the firecrackers, but I did almost have a few heart attacks courtesy of them. It was a pretty mellow New Years Eve, but as many of you know mellow is just fine with me!

New Years day was quite an adventure. We decided to wake up early to watch the ball drop live via internet at the Peace Corps office. We got to the office with a little time to spare and set up my computer to watch the live feed. We watched live footage of Times Square for about 10 minutes, and about 30 seconds until the new year, my computer decided it was a good idea to shut down completely with no warning. Luckily, one of the other volunteers there, Lisa, was on the phone with her mom, so we still counted down with all of you on the east coast to the new year. :) After we watched the ball drop, we watched a few hours of classic youtube videos to really ring in the new year right.

Then it was time to make our way back to Messica. My friend, Anna, that we were staying with in Chimoio decided to come back to Messica to check out our place and make a traditional New Years meal with us. Other PCV's from our province were also passing through Messica, so they also came over to celebrate the new year. The problem with getting to Messica on New Years Day was that there weren't many chapas going back and forth due to lack of people traveling. When we got to the chapa stop in Chimoio, there was one chapa to Messica waiting (while there are normally about 3 or 4), and the chapa that was there was completely empty. So we got in, thinking we had no other choice and began to wait. After about 20 minutes, two other people had showed up. So at that rate, we would have sat in the chapa until the next day waiting for it to fill up. Luckily (kind of) there was a guy there who was hitting on me that decided to help us out. He told us that there was a chapa going to Manica that was almost full, and that we could just have them drop us off in Messica which is on the way to Manica. I investigated the situation, and it turns out that the guy wasn't crazy, and they agreed to drop us off in Messica. So yay for creepy guys who turn out to be helpful.

So we told the cobrador (chapa guy that tells the driver when to stop) that we needed to get off at the paragem (or chapa stop) in Messica. When we got closer to Messica, the cobrador asked me where we wanted to be dropped off, and I was super confused because I had already told him at the paragem. He pointed in two different directions and asked me “la” or “la”. I was quite frazzled at the sudden questions when I thought that I had been abundantly clear about where we wanted to get off. All of a sudden, Sarah tells me that we passed the street that we needed to turn down to get to the paragem. After a few seconds of being like “umm....what are we gonna do?” I decided the first order of business was to tell the cobrador that we wanted the paragem that we had just passed. He just sighed and looked at me like “how could you be so stupid, you white girl?” and said, sorry, we're dropping you off at the other paragem of Messica. And I promptly told him that I had no idea that there were multiple stops in Messica. So then he proceded to think I was even stupider than he thought possible. When we got out of the chapa at the stop he asked if we wanted the stop by the Catholic church and I said yes, so he pointed in the direction of the Catholic church. But he was pointing in the opposite direction from the church I've been going to. So I started arguing with him telling him that the Catholic church was the other way. Then a nice man in the chapa promptly told me that Messica has two Catholic churches. So I learned quite a bit about Messica from this little mishap, including the fact that Messica has multiple paragems, and multiple Catholic churches.

After the chapa left us standing on the side of the road a few kilometers from home, it started raining. So there we were, three white girls with large backpacks and other bags walking along the N6. Soon, the light rain turned into a full fledged storm. We saw an empty building not far from the road, so we made our way towards it and took cover inside. It turns out it was home to the new water office of Messica. There was a man inside who was guarding the building. He told us that we could stay there and keep dry as long as we needed to. He also showed us a back path that was a shorter way to get to town. Conveniently enough, it was a mud pit by the time we were able to start making our way up it, and the only shoes I had were flip flops (my other shoes broke on New Years Eve). So we waded through the mud up the path we were shown periodically asking people we passed if we were following the path toward the market. About halfway through the walk, I wiped out and got all muddy - of course...because that's my life. Eventually we made it home after about a 45 minute walk. It was quite the adventure, but I was happy to see the rest of Messica, which until then I didn't know existed. A few hours later, our other friends showed up and we made a wonderful New Years dinner. It was great to have some people at our house and show them around Messica a little bit. The consensus was that Messica is super cute and all of the people are very friendly. :)

Also on the first, Sarah and I found out that the administrative boss of the secondary school, Chimoio, had died. We weren't told exactly what the cause was, just that he had been sick. He was the first person that we met in Messica. He got in the car with us when we were just arriving and helped us move into our house. He was also there every time we visited the school in the past weeks. So this news was absolutely shocking, and pretty devastating as well. We were told that his funeral was this morning, and that we could meet at the school at 7AM in order to ride to Chimoio where the funeral would be held. Obviously Sarah and I felt that we needed to go, so we went to the school this morning at 7. Around 7:45, the car showed up, and we made our way to Chimoio with about 20 other colleagues.

I really didn't know what to expect from a Mozambican funeral, but it was very different than what we're used to in the states. First, we went to Chimoio's house for a blessing and some singing. Then we all piled in many flat bed trucks that were stuffed to the brim of people. Not kidding, probably about 40-50 people in each truck. We then made our way to the cemetery. There were so many people in our procession - I would guess about 300 people. There were more blessings and speeches at the cemetary, given in both the local language and Portuguese. After this, there was more singing, and eventually the burial of Chimoio. They actually lowered the casket into the ground and buried him as we were all standing there. Then people planted flowers and other assorted plants around his grave. We eventually all piled back into the truck and returned to Chimoio's family's house. Then we washed our hands, and took turns entering the house and shaking the hands of all of the sobbing relatives of Chimoio. It was so sad. I really didn't know what to do with myself. When everyone was done paying their respects, we went back to the truck and headed back to Messica.

So that is how my New Year has started. It has already been the most interesting year of my life, and we are three days in. I can't wait to see what else God has in store for me in 2013, and throughout the rest of my Peace Corps service.

Tomorrow Sarah and I are going to the school to find out officially what grades we will be teaching and to help make the schedule. So with my next blog update, I should have more information on those things. For now, all I know is that school starts on January 15th, which is actually coming up really quickly. That's really scary. Prayers appreciated because I have to teach math in Portuguese...it's gonna be rough.