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.


  1. Oh, Anna. I am so sorry about your bad luck! Think of it this way: You're getting it all out of the way first!
    Sounds like your first week was rough, but manageable! I have no doubt you'll be an excellent teacher.