February 22, 2013

Hitchhiking around Africa...no big deal.

It's been too long since I sat down to write a blog. Things were just a little crazy last week because of the test and last weekend because I went to Catandica for the weekend. So let me just hit the highlights of the past two weeks.

The test. All in all, I'd consider it a success. That was the quietest I'd ever heard the rooms of the students. I had to kick 4 people out for talking during the test, but I have a heart and I took 5 points off (so basically automatically failing) and separated the students and let them finish them. The scores of the cheaters ranged from 2.5 to 4 out of 20. So...not very good. But 10 is passing here, so many students are happy with about an 8 or 9. Not very high standards. My average was about an 9-10 throughout the 4 turmas, the highest score being a 19/20, lowest being 2.5/20. Quite the range. But overall, I'll take it. I gave them the opportunity to correct their test and turn it back in to get points back (which is a great idea in theory but it actually is just a TON of work for me). It was an absolute disaster trying to explain to them how I wanted them to write it out. I think I explained it like 4 times and still had only a handful of students from each turma do them correctly. Oh well. I'm still grading the corrections and I kind of feel like I'm going to be grading them for the rest of my life. Yes, I'm being dramatic. But really, there are like 60 students per turma and it freaking takes forever.

Catandica. Seriously, last weekend was awesome. There about 10 volunteers that met up and stayed with the two awesome volunteers living in Catandica. Sarah and I headed out from Messica early afternoon on Friday and were super lucky and caught three awesome boleias in a row, making it to Catandica in about 3 hours. A boleia is basically a free ride...which you get by standing on the side of the road and holding out your hand to cars that pass by.  So...basically hitchhiking. (Yeah, you read that right, hitchhiking around Africa...who am I?) It's most PCV's preferred method of travel since chapas are extremely uncomfortable and you have to pay,  and sometimes in boleias you have the luxury of a seat belt.  We got our first boleia from “downtown” Messica to the EN 6. We could have walked, but it would have added 25-30 minutes to the journey. We caught our second boleia on the EN 6 in this nice, fancy, brand new looking truck. I had a functioning seatbelt and we talked to the driver about his visit to the U.S. a few years prior. It was awesome. He dropped us off at the intersection with the EN 7 up to Tete City (we would be stopping about halfway when we arrived in Catandica. He gave us bananas and told us how wonderful it was to meet us. After about 10 minutes walking on the EN 7, we got our last boleia with a Lebanese man and his Mozambican wife and son. They had a nice car with air conditioning! (SCORE!) So getting to Catandica was a success! We spent the weekend hanging out, eating great food, hiking, and getting to know each other. It was awesome to see some of my fellow 19ers that I hadn't seen since Christmas and to also meet some other fellow Moz PCVs. We got back to Messica on Sunday after 2 hours of waiting for a boleia, a couple hours on a bus, and one successful boleia right to our door. :)

Things to be excited for. There are lots of things that fall into this category. I'm a lucky girl. Including PCV gatherings, Coesão, beer olympics at a beautiful beach in Vilankulos, starting a girls' group in Messica, and the Mozambique version of “Sunday School” starting this week, there's a lot going on in the next two months. Further down the road I also have things to look forward to such as my family visiting me in the beginning of December, followed by going back with them to the states for a few weeks to spend Christmas and New Years with my loved ones. I know it may seem a little crazy to some people to already be excited about this, but I've been in Mozambique almost 5 months and they will be coming to visit in about 9 months. So I'm already over 1/3 of the way there! That's crazy. And awesome. And I'm so excited to show them everything and introduce them to everyone. :)

I'm settling into my routine here. My definition of normal is quite different than it was 5 months ago, but I like it. There's about one time a week that I have the realization that I'm actually living in Africa. Maybe I'll eventually get used to it, but as for now it's still pretty insane.

Also, update on my lenten sacrifice, I am still alive with no fan...for now.

February 10, 2013

Dealing with Fred

As a student, you don't really put much thought into how long it takes to do things such as grade papers, plan lessons, and write tests. At least, I never did.  But let me tell you, it takes time to do all of those things.  Lots of it. Especially when you're doing them in a language that you're still learning/have only been speaking for 4 and a half months. It is quite the challenge.  I'm managing better than I thought I might, but it wears you down after some time. Frustration takes over and giving up seems like the better and only option...especially when you're working with some of the people I have as colleagues.

One of my colleagues...let's call him Fred...is a major problem.  He teaches the two other sections of 11th grade math to the kids on the letters track.  He is also the head of the math department for 11th and 12th grade. My first impression of him was when he was drunk at my Director's house.  He heard that I was teaching math and couldn't believe it.  He gave me a napkin with a limit problem written on it for me to solve. I kind of laughed and looked at him, and then realized he was serious.  He didn't think I could do it.  So trying not to start off on the wrong foot, I wrote the correct answer and gave it back to him. He kind of shrugged and didn't talk to me for the remainder of the time I was at the director's house.  That probably should have tipped me off to his attitude toward me, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I really wish I was wrong about him.

The second encounter I had with him, he decided he still didn't know I could do math, so gave me the 10th grade national exam and picked out problems that he wanted to see if I could do. Even with them in Portuguese, I succeeded in doing all of them (I was pretty proud of myself), though I was pretty ticked off that I had to prove myself at all...and again.  Even after this second attempt to embarrass me, I still gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Then things got worse.

The first week of school, Fred showed up at my house.  He brought me an old 10th grade exam and told me that I had to pick questions off of it to make a diagnostic test for the 11th and 12th graders.  This didn't make much sense to me considering I had already made my diagnostic test and I don't even teach 12th grade.  He then told me, "listen, I have other stuff to do, you need to do this for me.  Pick them out, type them up."  Okay, this doesn't make sense for multiple reasons. First, I don't know any of the curriculum.  How am I supposed to know what 11th and 12th graders should already know?  Second, how am I supposed to type up this test in Portuguese with no program to make functions, etc. on my computer?  Seriously, makes no sense.

I told him I had absolutely no idea what questions to pick because I didn't know what the curriculum was, so he then proceeded to look through the test and pick out the questions for 11th and 12th grade.  "I'm sorry, if it takes you approximately 3 minutes to go through and pick  out the questions, why wouldn't you just do it in the first place?!  Why do I have to retype the questions that are already typed up on the test?  Circle the questions you want to use. Write them on the board.  It's not rocket science!"  I didn't say any of this.  But I should have.  And I should have known his ridiculous demands wouldn't stop there.  I ended up telling him that I couldn't type up the questions, but I could write out questions for him.  It ended up being even more annoying because he couldn't read my handwriting and had to come interrupt my class to ask me about it when he had the freaking national exam with the exact same question on it with him.  

A few times since then I've told him that I'm not doing things for him because he can do them for himself.  Then he says, "you just don't want to do any work." False, dude. That's you.

So yesterday morning we had a planning meeting at the school.  I am supposed to be giving my classes a test this week, so Fred told me we need to give the same test.  Clearly, that meant that I would be expected to write it.  And I already decided that I'm writing two different tests for both science and letters.  So that's 4 tests of 40 questions in Portuguese in a day and a half.  It's been a stressful weekend, but now the tests are written.  I need to have someone proof read them, but I can tell you right now I'm not giving my test to Fred for him to proof read or otherwise.  It took me many long hard hours to write those tests, and I'm sure it would have taken him maybe one to pull some questions together from previously made tests.  Seriously, so infuriating.  He's not going to be happy with me, but whatever.  He can be held responsible for his own actions and not making his own test. I have to draw the line somewhere.

On a brighter note, at church this morning we had anointing of the sick and communion! It was wonderful!  I was anointed and had a sip  of some special healing tea.  Maybe tomorrow my back will be good as new!  It was crazy how many people came to the celebration.  There was still no priest, but  it was okay because we still had communion and that was the part I was looking forward to the most anyway. I also bought a bible in Portuguese on Friday, so I was double-fisting it with my bible in English and Portuguese and trying desperately to understand what was going on.  And it helped!  Everyone keeps telling me I'm going to be fluent within a year, and I really hope they're right.  I really want to know what's going on.  My rosary twine is gone, and about 25-30 rosaries have new homes in Messica. Hopefully they will be well-used.  Their new owners were sure happy and I have  lots more people that want them, so I can't wait  to get my next shipment.  Also, there are a few of my students that I always see at church that I'm definitely going to be teaching how to make rosaries.  They could even make them to sell if they wanted.  :)

Lent starts this Wednesday, and I realized today that I won't be able to go to the celebration because I am teaching at the same time.  But regardless, I'm preparing myself for the Lenten season, and I've decided to give up my fan for my Lenten sacrifice (also pop and beer but those seem less impressive).  It's probably the biggest luxury I have, but I know I will be able to live without it.  There are other volunteers that live with no electricity in much hotter places in Mozambique, and also my roommate Sarah doesn't even have a fan.  So I will survive, but it will be difficult.  This might just be the most meaningful Lent I've ever had with one of the most difficult sacrifices, but I know that I'll be better because of it.

Something else that's noteworthy is that this week I will be getting a new neighbor from Moz 19!  Haleigh was living in Guija in Gaza province and due to the extreme flooding in her area, she won't be able to return to her community.  I can only imagine what she is feeling because most of her possessions were lost, and the progress she's made toward integrating in Guija is now all for naught.  But the good news (for me, at least) is that she's moving up to Manica province and living about a half hour away in Vanduzi.  I'm really excited to have another Moz 19er up here, and Haleigh and I went on site visits together to Chongoene, so I'm excited to get to spend more time with her!  Hopefully she gets here safely, and has a smooth transition to life up here in Central.

I can't think of anything else of dire importance to tell you guys, so I'll leave you with words of wisdom from one of my favorite people.

"Love cannot remain by itself -- it has no meaning.  Love has to be put into action and that action is service.  A mission of love can come only from union with God.  From that union, love for the family, love for one's neighbor, love for the poor is the natural fruit."
                                                             - Mother Teresa

February 2, 2013

"Multi-choice" Nightmare

Happenings in Mozambique never cease to amaze me.

On Thursday at the end of the school day, I came home very frustrated. My eleventh grade students were INSANE during my lessons in my last two turmas. They would just not stop talking, and I'm having trouble demanding their attention. It's just really annoying because I thought since I was teaching eleventh grade, they would want to be in school and learn and I wouldn't have disciplinary problems like this. But I was wrong. So I'm going to start kicking people out. Things are going to get serious. No cheating, no disrespecting me, period. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it...or at least until I get back in the classroom and chicken out. When I told my students that they would have to turn their homework in on Monday, they all jumped down my throat saying “what do you mean, Monday, we don't have classes on Monday!” Which was news to me...so I asked them what they were talking about and legitimately I had 50 students screaming the reason at me at the same time. Obviously I couldn't understand any of them, especially when I couldn't even hear myself think. It was so rough. It took all the patience I had to get through the rest of that turma. And at the end of the day, I still wasn't sure if we had classes Monday or not.

I got home and started venting to Sarah (poor girl). I told her about the no classes on Monday rumor and she told me she hadn't heard anything about it. We were both kind of hoping it was a lie because we are both already really behind in the curriculum due to the slow start of the school year and we have provincial exams at the end of the trimester to prepare the students for. She also informed me that we had a seminar the coming weekend on Saturday from 8-4. This was my reaction: “umm....WHAT?! Um what the heck could we be talking about for 8 hours...? Do we get lunch...?” And not surprisingly, she didn't know any more answers than I did. Oh Mozambique...

So Friday was a nice day of relaxing and planning for my unlikely lessons on Monday. I texted one of the Pedagogical Directors asking him if we had school Monday, and legitimately he texted back “I don't have information.” Okay, if the freaking Pedagogical Director doesn't know, we have a problem. So I took things a step further and texted the Director. He called me and explained that Sunday is a Mozambican holiday (Day of the Heroes) and normally when they have holidays on Sundays, they don't have school on Monday. He said it wasn't officially announced yet, but we weren't going to be having classes on Monday. I then asked him about the seminar and he confirmed that it was happening (and also that it was 8 hours long). I mean, it was helpful to learn what was going on, but I wasn't so stoked about the results of the phone call.

This morning, I got up and ate a hearty breakfast in anticipation of an 8 hour day with no sustenance. Sarah and I made our way to the school, and talked with the other professors who were waiting for the seminar to start. We asked them what the seminar was about and they told me something that I had a hard time believing: multiple choice tests. I actually almost laughed thinking that we would be talking about multiple choice tests for 8 hours. But I shouldn't have laughed. I should have known that since I'm in Mozambique, it indeed takes 8 hours to explain how to write a good multiple choice question, the different types of multiple choice questions, etc. About an hour in, I was out for the count. I've never really taught before, but I've taken enough multiple choice tests in my life to know how questions should be written. Apparently that's not the case for all of my colleagues. They were chalk-full of questions, doubts, and comments. Seriously, guys?

After about 2 hours of riveting 'multi-choice' information, we were allowed a break. Upon announcement of the duration of the break (5 minutes), there was an uproar from all of my colleagues. In that moment, I thought I was back in my turma on Thursday. It was a slightly comical and slightly horrifying realization that it's not just an issue of my students being easily riled up, but more of a cultural norm to not let things you don't approve of go by unnoticed.

After our slightly longer than 5 minute break, we were back in for 2 more hours of (repetitive) information. At least 30 minutes of the two hours was debating whether or not it is better to use arrows or lines to indicate parts of diagrams. I'm not kidding. If you know me personally, you know how I was feeling at that point. And if you don't, I can paint the picture a little better for you: I was hot, tired, frustrated, and hungry. So not the happiest camper.

A little after noon we broke for lunch, which the school provided. We waited around for about a half hour before it was delivered, and when it arrived, things got pretty out of control. It was literally like my colleagues hadn't eaten in weeks. Sarah and I stood back and watched the madness unravel. Then one of our colleagues grabbed a plate and handed it to me and handed another one to Sarah. So we were in on the madness. I got one of the last pieces of chicken (score!) and my xima and headed outside to sit and eat Mozambican-style (with my hands). When I sat down outside, there was some chaos going on inside. Apparently the people that made the food didn't bring enough plates even though they were told the right number, so there were a fair number of people that weren't able to eat...one of the Pedagogical Directors being one of them. Oh man, bad day for the cooks. Eventually it all got sorted out, but there was a lot of yelling, and it was a little uncomfortable there for awhile.

After lunch, we went back into the classroom and started up with the seminar once again. Yes, I know you're shocked, but we were still discussing multiple choice questions. It lasted for about an hour longer, and then 'closing remarks' from professors, Ped Directors, and the people leading the session lasted about a half hour. Finally at around 3:30, we were free (Praise Jesus)!

Then Sarah and I decided to go on an adventure with our Ped Director, Jorge. He has a car, and he took us to Manica to walk around and hang out. When we got to Manica, he asked us if we'd ever been to Machipanda, which is further west on the EN6, right on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. We told him we hadn't, so he decided he needed to take us. So we continued on our excursion to Machipanda, which is located in the Chimanimani Mountains and absolutely beautiful. The drive was great, and we went all and the way up to the Zimbabwe border, but didn't cross. We're going to hike up the mountains on the border sometime and hopefully I'll step into Zimbabwe at some point. :) On our way back through Manica, we got some money out at the bank, stopped to buy some homemade peanut butter, and got some pastries at a bakery that Jorge pointed out to us. Then when we got back to Messica, Jorge took us a different way to our house and past the place in Messica that produces lots of wood for Mozambique (Yes, Mom, I finally saw it...good job doing your research). So it was a successful excursion and I enjoyed exploring Machipanda, Manica, and Messica.

So today was a little rough at first, but it got a lot better as it went on. Tomorrow I am going to church in the morning, and then Sarah and I are re-doing the schedule for the school...again. Apparently we got more teachers, so it needs to be redone. Oh joy. I'm going to be the most patient person in the world in two years...