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...


  1. Oh, Anna! It sounds like you are doing SO WELL! Bem integrada! Next time I have a rough day I'm going to think about you and do something awesome :-)