March 29, 2013

6 months

I've officially been in Mozambique over 6 months. I feel like this is a huge landmark in some ways. I've (almost) made it through the first trimester of the school year. I have made it through the first three months at site which PCVs say are by far the most challenging.

I have to say that I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity to be immersed into another culture and learn SO much about Mozambique. Even 6 months in, I've noticed myself adopting a more Mozambican attitude of “go-with-the-flow.” I've stopped stressing out about teaching, and have accepted the fact that sometimes I'm going to look like an's inevitable. I've stopped showing up to places on time, and have started bringing a book everywhere I go. Messica is starting to feel less like the surreal backdrop of my life, and more like a home away from home.

That being said, my Mozambican life is taking off! There is hardly a time walking around Messica that I don't see at least 2 students in passing, and stop to talk to at least 1 colleague or person from church. I was walking home with one of the Pedagogical Directors of the school yesterday and he laughed at me for talking to everyone on our way, and when I was welcomed home to choruses of “Ana! Ana!” from my neighbors, he made a comment about how all the crianças here really love me. What can I say? :)

Like I said before, I'm almost done with the first trimester of school. It seems like it just started, but no complaints here to have a few weeks off of teaching. Yesterday was our last day of classes. Next week are provincial tests, and after that there is a week of correcting tests and calculating grades. Then the students have a week break, and us new education PCVs have our Re-Connect conference. Central volunteers will be joining with the volunteers in the South for our conference. I'm excited to see some fresh faces that I haven't seen since swearing-in in December!

For our last day of class before provincial tests, I decided to put together a very simple review game. I divided the class into two teams. One person from each team would start at the back of the room. I would read out a question and say “vamos!” The representatives from the team had to run to the front of the room and answer the question on the board. The first one to answer correctly got a point for their team. I didn't realize how into the game they would get. It got really intense...and really LOUD. I tried to keep it under control, but left my classes both Wednesday and Thursday with a headache and a hope that the students were learning as they were screaming and cheering on their teams...I guess we'll see. Lesson learned: take some ibuprofen before the next attempt at a review game.

Besides teaching and headaches, I've been working to get the music group (that I already mentioned a couple of blogs ago) started. Remember the saga of me walking for hours into Mato Messica and meeting the man that knew a ridiculous amount about traditional Mozambican music? Last weekend JUNTOS (Jovenes Unidos No Trabalho para Oportunidade e Succeso) held a training for Mozambican counterparts in Chimoio. So my musically talented friend and counterpart, Tobias Dzandiwandira, accompanied me to Chimoio for the training. I didn't really realize that the training was primarily training for the workshops that JUNTOS will be having for students regarding health and community issues in Mozambique. Basically the training included model sessions about things such as gender equality, HIV/AIDS transmission, diversity, etc., and most of the sessions were led by Mozambicans. Seeing as Tobias is a little older than the ideal Mozambican counterpart, I couldn't really see him leading any of these sessions for our students. He is a great counterpart for the music aspect of the group, but as far as the health/community/JUNTOS aspect goes, I slowly realized that he wouldn't be quite as ideal.

So after quite the insightful weekend and learning a lot more about JUNTOS, I got even more excited about the group. I talked to my school's director about the group, and he told me about a similar culture group that already exists at the school. He told me what professor leads it, and that I should talk to him about potentially joining the groups together. So that's exactly what I did. I found the teacher that leads the current culture group and talked to him a little about the group that already exists. They practice in the afternoon and are primarily a group of singing and dancing. They perform at community events on Mozambican holidays.

In talking to this other professor, I realized that it would be dumb to have two of the same groups coming from the same school. I told him about the JUNTOS group with the health aspect, workshops, trocas, etc. and he seemed very interested. I also told him about working with Dzandiwandira for the music, and he got really excited because Dzandiwandira is well known throughout Messica and Mozambique for his knowledge and experience in traditional music.

We are still trying to figure out exact details about our group, but it is in the works! Since the group that is already formed meets in the afternoons the students that have classes in the afternoons are not able to participate. In order to open the group to all students regardless of when they have classes, I've decided that I can lead morning practices, the other professor can continue to lead afternoon practices, and we will be able to join the two groups together on the weekends to practice as one group. We are going to try to add more instruments, with the help of Dzandiwandira, to the preexisting group, and have a traditional Mozambican music/singing/dancing group. I'm really excited to see what it turns into. I'm going to attend one of the afternoon practices in a couple of weeks, and then I'm looking to start my practices next trimester.

For the next couple of days, I'll be mostly hanging out at church. Today is Sextafeira Santa (Good Friday), so I will be at church for a few hours for whatever service they have planned. Tomorrow we have chatequese (basically Sunday school), and Sunday is Pascua! I will also be standing in as a Godmother for a 10th grader that is going to be baptized on Sunday, whose Godmother is in Maputo and can't make it up for the service. It should be an interesting next couple of days celebrating my first Easter in Mozambique! I pray that you all have a blessed Easter wherever you may be celebrating!

March 19, 2013

And then I had Malaria...

Saturday was my friend Joanna's birthday and Sunday was St. Patrick's Day, so clearly us Manica folk had some celebrating to do this past weekend. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes had it out for me.

Saturday afternoon, after attending my catechist group at church, I headed to Chimoio for the night. I arrived around 5 o'clock and made my way to my friend Anna's house, where the festivities would be held. After 2 very weak drinks of vodka mixed with a fake Sprite-like soft drink, I was positively, unequivocally drunk. I thought this was a little peculiar/pathetic, and chalked it up to the fact that I hadn't eaten anything since 11:30 that morning. A fun hour and a half later we ate dinner, and I started sobering up.

Approximately 10 minutes after finishing dinner, my stomach hurt. And not just a little bit. Also, my head started pounding. I also got ridiculously tired. I couldn't keep my eyes open. Everyone asked me if I was okay, and I just told them I was tired. I fought to stay awake for a few more hours because I wanted to talk to my friends that were at another Peace Corps gathering up in Zambezia province. Of course, they called right as I was laying down to go to sleep, but I talked to them briefly and it was awesome.

When I laid down to go to sleep, I covered up with a small fleece blanket that I figured would be plenty warm enough considering it's still summer here in Mozambique. When I started shivering uncontrollably, I knew something was wrong. I knew that only happened when I had a fever. Then I started putting the pieces together...headache, stomach ache, fever are all symptoms of what common and terrifying illness in Sub-Saharan Africa? Yeah, Malaria.

I waited until the morning to text Peace Corps Medical Staff because I didn't want to freak myself out too much, but I have to be honest, it was a miserable night. I slept a total of maybe 2 hours between everyone else still enjoying the party and having chills/sweats all night. I was convincing myself that it couldn't be malaria. I took my prophylaxis. I sleep under a mosquito net. I take the precautions I was told to take.

On Sunday morning, Peace Corps told me to take my rapid malaria test. We were told to always have it with us when we travel, and me being the rule follower that I am, actually had it with me in Chimoio. Pretty proud of myself for that one. Another PCV that had previously taken the test helped me with it because it was very confusing and the directions were not exactly clear. About 20 minutes later, I had the results: negative. I reported the results to the doctor and was told that I should start the Coartem (malaria medicine) regardless of what the rapid test said (I've heard from other PCV's that the rapid test is less than reliable). The only problem with that: I was in Chimoio. The coartem was in Messica.

So at around 11:30 am on Sunday I got on the chapa from hell. Seriously guys, it was bad. I had malaria. With it, a pounding headache, stomach ache, and to top it off, I was in an oven in the form of a mini-bus filled with 20 other Mozambicans. All of the windows were shut because God forbid Mozambicans have wind in their faces. It was miserable. I was in the row sitting backwards, so I was also feeling a little car sick. Icing on the cake, right? Longest hour of my life.

By the time I got home, I legitimately collapsed. The sun wore me out on my 7 minute walk home from the paragem (chapa stop). I took my first dose of Coartem, and spent the remainder of the day in misery, crazy chills, then when taking medicine to break the fever, crazy sweats. I slept for a few hours, watched a couple of movies, and then slept 12 hours that night. I woke up every 4 hours ridiculously cold, popped a couple more Tylenol  and within 20 minutes started sweating again. Monday morning I woke up feeling much better, but still pretty lethargic and sweating profusely.

The sucky part about being a teacher: when you're sick there's still work to do. When I realized I wouldn't be able to go to class on Monday, I had to plan something for my students to do with no teacher. Some Mozambican teachers just miss class and don't leave any work for their students to do, but I couldn't justify not having anything to give my students for one of their two math classes this week. I wrote out a note and assignment for all 3 of my classes, and also for my one class today (Tuesday).

I also texted the school director and told him that I wouldn't be able to give my lessons because I had malaria. He was pretty great about it and has been to our house twice to check on me (both times I had been in my room so Sarah told him I was sleeping). One of our other Mozambican friends, Otilia, was supposed to make us dinner last night, so I texted her to let her know that I wouldn't be able to come over because I was sick. She and her husband proceeded to come visit me last night and made sure to tell me all the things I should be doing to recover fully from malaria. They were also very mad at me for not going to the hospital. Whoops. My neighbors also came over to check on me multiple times, and some students came by to make sure I was okay. I'm being cared for quite well here in Messica.

Today, I have one more round of medicine to take, but I'm almost back to normal. I opted to stay home to rest today. One more day of peace before my crazy life starts again. Classes and grading Wednesday and Thursday, and back to Chimoio this weekend for the JUNTOS Training. Next week is review week for school, and then it's provincial tests and the end of the trimester.

Thanks for all your prayers over the last couple of days, but I assure you all, I am fine! Malaria sounds so scary and it IS so scary, especially for Mozambicans that don't have access to the prevention and medication that I am privileged enough to have as a Peace Corps Volunteer. But prevention is not 100% effective, and of course I would be the one to get it regardless of my precautionary measures. Just one more African adventure to add to the books. Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer. There's really nothing like it.

March 13, 2013

Mato Messica

Last Monday, I was talking to some of my students about the music group that I want to start  (I wrote a little bit about it on my last blog).  I was having my students help me try to find a Mozambican counterpart.  One of my students, Henriques, told me that he thought he found a good person to help me out with the group.  He is Henriques' neighbor, and apparently knows a lot about music and has a lot of instruments at his house.  I told Henriques that he should give him my phone number and tell him a little bit more about the group to see if he was interested. 

On Tuesday, Henriques came up to me at school and told me that his neighbor wanted to meet me.  I excitedly agreed, and we decided that Friday morning was a good time for the meeting.  Henriques told me he would come to my house to get me, since I didn't know where he lived and it's really hard to direct people here because there are no street names and no landmarks.

Two of my students hopping across the river.  They didn't
want to take both shoes off, so they took off one and hopped
from rock to rock.  So funny.
Fast forward to Friday morning.  Henriques told me he would be over at 7 am.  I got up around 6:30, got ready to go, and waited for Henriques to show up.  At about 7:45, Henriques showed up.  He told me it was a little bit of a walk to get to his I pictured about 30-45 minutes.  Not so much the case.  I left my house quite unprepared for the journey ahead of me.  I didn't bring my water bottle.  I wore flip flops.  I brought my cell phone.  I also brought my camera (because I was told by my students that there were some beautiful sights along the way).  So we set out from my house.  And walked away from town.  And kept walking.  And crossed some train tracks.  And kept walking.  And crossed a mini-river that was about 15 feet wide blocking the path.  And kept walking.  And kept walking.  And walked through some vicious biting ants (my flip-flopped feet were not happy...).  And kept freaking walking.  About an hour and a half/two hours after leaving my house, we arrived at Henriques' neighbor's house.

My students in front of Rio Messica.

Traditional Mozambican instrument, mbiri.
Upon arriving, Henriques immediately set out for the machamba (field) to let his neighbor know that we were ready to talk about some Mozambican music.  Upon arriving, Tobias (Henriques' neighbor) went straight to the house and brought us out some of his prized mbiri's (a traditional Mozambican instrument).  He played us a few songs, and I was absolutely blown away at how well he could play the instrument.  We continued to talk to us for about an hour/hour and a half about music, the group I want to start, and anything else we thought of.  It was an extremely enjoyable music, and I am going to learn SO MUCH about Mozambican culture and music from Tobias.  I could not be more excited to work with him, so I really hope he can come to the training later this month, and it all works out.  The only problem is that he lives freaking laaaa. So, that might be an issue, but I'll deal with that problem when I get the group started. I can't even believe some of my students make that walk 3-4 times a day...ridiculous.  I also can't believe how spread out Messica is.  It's absolutely insane.

Playing with the mbiri. My student, Felizardo is on the left.  Henriques is on the
far right, and Tobias is between  Henriques and I.

We took a different route on the trek home (one where we avoided the ants), but it still took us about an hour and a half to two hours to get back to my house.  My students were late for their afternoon classes (whoops), and I got home dripping with sweat, dehydrated, and absolutely exhausted.  About an hour later, Sarah and I were on our way to Casa Msika which wasn't a very long trip for us (about 7km) to meet up with a bunch of the other volunteers in the Central provinces of Mozambique.  We spent the weekend relaxing by the pool, speaking English, taking showers, and enjoying each other's company.  I also ate a hamburger and it was AMAZING.  Oh, the little things you take for granted in America.

On the walk home.

My students on the train tracks.  They wanted to
walk back on the train tracks as a short cut...I
negared (denied) that right quick.

March 3, 2013

Yesterday was weird. Today was weird.

Here's what happened...

So yesterday, we were planning to make a new schedule for the school because we've gotten so many new teachers. This is the schedule that is supposed to be staying for the rest of the year, so it is really important. I didn't really know if it was going to happen or not considering all the false “making the schedule” days we've had. My colleague that was helping us called me and told me he'd be over at 9 to start working on the schedule. So obviously he didn't show up until 12. And he showed up with a bottle of whiskey. Apparently the first order of business was popping it open, but we had nothing to mix with said whiskey and I was NOT about to drink it straight up. Gag. So he went on a run to the market and bought himself 4 Manica's (in total 2 liters of beer) and bought Sarah and I each a coke. I was supposed to leave to help with the Catechist group at church at 2...yeah, so that didn't happen. Anyway, as I made the afternoon schedule, the afternoon annexed classroom's schedule, and the morning annexed classroom's schedule, my colleague worked on the morning schedule. He still hadn't finished when he left our house around 6.

After the Catechist group was done meeting (I felt really bad that I didn't go, it was just impossible when we had so much work to do on the schedule), my co-leader called me and told me he was going to stop by my house. When he got to my house, some of my students also happened to be walking by. I greeted them, and they started talking to me about church, and later about our class. I asked them if they're learning anything, and they promptly answered with, “Yes! We are learning so much! Are you coming with us to 12th grade?” So that was a booster for my confidence. We also talked about the fact that a lot of people here think that women are incapable of doing math, and I told them that I was proving them all wrong. They nodded in agreement. So yayyyy women who can do math! Power to the people! They told me studying math was very courageous, which I don't know if I necessarily agree with, but I didn't counter it. It was just a really good conversation. I felt bad making my Catechist counterpart wait, but I'm really happy I got the chance to talk to some students and get some feedback (and even happier that it was good feedback!).

Then I talked to my Catechist counterpart and broke the news to him that I'm actually going to be missing these Saturday sessions rather frequently. I told him that I really want to go when I can make it, but the weekends are the only times I can travel and see other volunteers. We also have conferences and other school functions on the weekends, so it really is just bad timing for me most of the time. He told me to just let him know if I'll be there or not and it's completely fine. I'm really glad I have such an understanding counterpart. He also told me that there was a mass and meeting after for Catechists at the other church the next morning. He gave me very shaky directions on where to meet someone to walk with me over to the church (which I'd never been to because it's the one on the other side of Messica that I for awhile didn't know existed). He told me to leave my house at 7:30 and start walking there.

So that's where the story from today starts. I did as he said, left my house at 7:30 and followed his directions. I had absolutely no idea where I was going – shocker – and called him when I got to the police station asking if I'd passed it. He told me that I must have passed it. So I started walking back the way I came from when I ran into some of my students that are also Catechists and asked them if they were going to the church that's “la”. They told me that they were, and told me I should walk with them. So I gave up on whoever I was supposed to meet, and decided it would be best to just go with someone who knew their way around Messica. We went down some crazy weird sand paths that I would NEVER be able to pick out again, and eventually (after about 20 minutes) got to the main road. We walked further along the main road, and then took another maze of sand paths until about 15 minutes later we got to the church. We got there around 8:30, so total walking time was about 1 hour. The church was a little smaller than the Catholic church on our side of Messica, but it was similarly set up. Upon arriving I realized that there was a priest there! And then I got really excited for my first real mass in Messica. :)

Mass was really good, besides not knowing what was going on half of the time because it was in Shona. I was a little disappointed that even the readings were in Shona, but I read them with my English bible, so at least I understood-ish the message from today. Mass was focused on the youth, and there were some teenage kids that actually acted out the Gospel (which was really cool) and they also did a really cool version of the Our Father when they sung part of it, and then a student would come in and preach a little bit about how we can apply the prayer to our lives. I was secretly super proud when one of my 11th grade students would participate in the parts for the I did something to inspire it even though that is definitely not the case. Anyway, at least 5 of my students were involved in the mass, which was really awesome. It was also just really awesome to witness the consecration of the Eucharist. When you see it every week, you kind of take it for granted, but I hadn't witnessed it since Christmas so it was a big deal for me.

After church, all the Catechists made their way to the health center that is run by the Brazilian nuns that live here in Messica. Our meeting started around 10. At around 12:30, I was done. I didn't know what was going on, and I was grasping approximately 0% of useful information being shared. To be honest, I don't even think there was very much useful information being shared anyway. I asked when we were going to be ending the meeting, and I was told at 1 o'clock. 1 o'clock came and went. Let me remind you, I left my house at 7:30. I had eaten a piece of bread with peanut butter on it before leaving my house. And after more than 4 hours of sitting not knowing what was going on and an hour walk, I was seriously so hungry. Then came the migraine due to hunger. At 2 o'clock, I'd had enough. There was another woman that was leaving to go to Chimoio, and I promptly followed her out of the meeting, and walked with her back to my house, arriving at 3pm. Welp, there went my Sunday.

From now on I think I'll stick with the church on my side of Messica. Oh also, random sidenote, I was asking the lady I was walking with home about the population of Messica, and first she said 2,000 (which is wayyyy too low) and then rethought it and said 20,000 (which seems like way too much). So I've come to the conclusion the population of Messica is somewhere between 2,000 and 20,000. That should clear it up for all inquiring minds out there. :)

Another week of teaching is coming up. I'm settling into my routine pretty well at this point. There are only three more weeks of new material, one week of review, and then provincial exams and the end of the trimester. Crazy!

This week, I'm going to try to find a Mozambican counterpart to help me start a music club at the school. There's a Peace Corps initiative in Mozambique called JUNTOS (Jovens Unidos No Trabalho para Opportunidades e Sucesso - Youth United in the Work for Opportunities and Success) which basically unites kids that are interested in similar extra-curricular activities and allows them to learn about something they like to do while also teaching them about other important and relevant issues in the community, within Mozambique, etc. So my goal is to form a music group since there is a lot of interest over here in music, and I also enjoy it. I've heard from a few different students that they like to write songs and want to write music in English, so that might be another aspect of the group. I would also like to help write songs in Portuguese, and learn some Shona. Overall, I'm really excited about the group, but my first step is to find a reliable Mozambican who will be able to help me organize performances within the community, and will ultimately want to keep the group going after I am back in the U.S. I'm praying that I can actually make this happen!