April 26, 2013

Blog About Malaria Month

April is blog about malaria month, and yesterday April 25 was World Malaria Day.  I'm not sure if you guys remember this, but just last month I had malaria and I wrote a blog about it.

Here are some startling facts about malaria in Mozambique (Stomp Out Malaria):

  • Malaria is the leading cause of death in Mozambique.
  • Malaria accounts for 29% of deaths, and 42% of deaths among children under 5 years old in Mozambique.
  • 100% of Mozambique's population is at risk of malaria.

Many in Mozambique and throughout Africa are not so fortunate to have the immediate access to medicine and healthcare as I was a short month ago.  When they fall victim to malaria, it could very well be a death sentence.  Please visit Stomp Out Malaria and get educated on the efforts by Peace Corps to eradicate malaria in Africa.

Visitors, Reconnect, and Beer

The past couple of weeks have been a little different than my usual here in Messica for a few reasons. I had some visitors to Messica, a week long conference in Chimoio with all the PCV's from my group in the central and southern regions, and took a weekend trip to the beach.

So let's backtrack to almost 2 weeks ago when the Peace Corps Country Director of Mozambique, Carl Swartz, took me out to lunch and visited Messica. Yeah, that was cool. My friend, Ryan, was also evacuated from his site that week to Chimoio, so he decided (after I pressured him a little bit) to come out and see Messica. He spent a day and a half with me and I was happy to have the company because my roommate, Sarah, had gone to Chimoio for a REDES (young female empowerment group) conference. I was excited to show people around my town and introduce them to my friends/colleagues. I got some compliments on how integrated I was, and although I still have a ways to go, I'm proud of how far I've come over the past 5 months (whoa...it's already been 5 months at site!?).

So last Monday morning, I left Messica for Chimoio. Many other volunteers had a two day journey to get to Chimoio, but I took a 45 minute chapa to get to the conference. Yes, you could say I have a prime location for the whole horrible travel situation in Mozambique. We stayed in a really chique hotel in Chimoio, conveniently located right next to the Peace Corps and about a 10 minute walk from the heart of the city of Chimoio. Hot showers, internet access, and good food were enjoyed by all. There was also the whole seeing my friends from the south that I hadn't seen in almost 5 months, so that was also super awesome. We used the conference as an opportunity to share about our successes and struggles at site and also swap teaching strategies/suggestions. It was all in all a very rewarding experience to realize all of my blessings in Messica, and rethink my teaching strategy for the second trimester. I've decided to try a few things differently this time around, and I'm hoping they will end up working a little better for me. We shall see.

After the conference, I headed out Friday morning for Vilankulos in the province of Inhambane. PCVs from all over Mozambique were meeting up for the weekend that would culminate on Sunday with the annual Beer Olympics. Beer Olympics pits the three regions of Mozambique against each other to fight for the monkey trophy (but mostly bragging rights). The most exciting part about the event for me was seeing my long lost best friends from training that came all the way down from the northern provinces (a 29 hour chapa ride...yikes!) to hang out at the beach for the weekend. The weekend was seriously just what I needed. I got to hang out with friends, enjoy some beverages, and watch (and cheer) as central clenched the Beer Olympics win and monkey trophy for the second year in a row. The first regional repeat victory. What. Up. Coesão!

Monday night I arrived back in Messica after being gone for a week. I have to say, it was very nice to be home, although I enjoyed getting away for awhile. On Tuesday, I went to the school in the morning, found out what I was teaching that afternoon, ran home and planned, and taught for 5 hours that afternoon. Right back into the groove of things. I was a little surprised at how easy it was to get back into the routine, but it's also a relief that Messica feels like home.

Basically, it's been a good couple of weeks, but I have a lot to work on now that I'm back in Messica. I'm looking to form my JUNTOS group (which has been a failure up until now...let's hope that gets figured out soon), planning the JUNTOS workshop in June (still haven't started...whoops), planning a rosary-making class, and trying to figure out how I'm going to teach my students how to factor when they don't know how to solve a linear equation. Challenges. Anyway, lots of work to do and all I want to do is watch How I Met Your Mother. Moz problems. So I'll be working on this stuff (with a little bit of HIMYM thrown in) and update you guys when there is something noteworthy going on. Until then, stay healthy, stay safe, and thanks for your prayers!

People throughout the world may look different or have a different religion, education, or position, but they are all the same. They are all hungry for love.” – Mother Teresa

April 7, 2013

Easter, Provincial Tests, and Women's Day

Since my last blog, things have been a little crazy with Easter weekend, provincial tests, and today's holiday, Dia da Mulher Moçambicana.

Easter was very different than what I'm used to, but was also really awesome.  I went to church on Good Friday and saw a live re-enactment of the stations of the cross which was also a processional to the church.  At the end of the stations started mass, complete with veneration of the cross and the distribution of the Eucharist.  I was both very surprised and very excited at hearing that we would have communion.  I also found out on Good Friday that there would be a service on Saturday night (the Easter vigil).  I showed up at the church on Saturday, and the service was very long but good.  It started with the traditional candle-lighting ceremony and lighting of the Pascal candle, and after 7 long readings, I saw the consecration of the Eucharist for the first time in many months.  It was crazy awesome.  After communion is when the dancing started.  I was tempted to join in and be that white girl making a fool of herself, but I decided to take a video instead.  I will try to post the video when I go to Chimoio in a few weeks.  I got home late Saturday night and went back to church early Sunday morning for the baptism service.  There were a few of my students and other acquaintances that got baptized, made their first communion, and got confirmed, so that was really cool to see.  We also celebrated the other parts of the mass, which was awesome because I got communion for the 3rd day in a row.  Seriously, I was on spiritual cloud nine.  It was awesome.  After church, I rested at home for a little bit before going to a friend's house for lunch.  Following lunch I returned home, took a nap, and then went to a party for someone who was baptized that morning.  I eventually got home at around 9 at night, Skyped my family, and went to bed.  So I spent about 10 hours of Easter weekend at church.  Mozambican Easter was a success!

Moving on to more recent and more frustrating events: provincial tests.  I wish I could effectively explain to you what a GIGANTIC mess provincial tests are.  I just don't think it's possible.  Basically, every province in Mozambique writes tests that are distributed and given province-wide to standardize the curriculum and see how the students are doing. In theory, it doesn't sound that bad, but in actuality it's awful.  The first problem is that the school has to print all of these tests, organize the tests, and not let any of the professors see them before the tests happen.   This is because lots of the teachers are corrupt and will sell the tests to students.  So I got the job of helping the Director print all of the tests and get them formatted correctly because he knew that I would not sell the tests to my students.  I didn't really mind this job, but the tests were so disorganized that it was kind of a mess.

Another problem with provincial tests:  you don't proctor your own exams.  There is a week set aside for only taking provincial exams (which was last week) and all of the teachers are assigned to proctor tests in disciplines that they don't teach.  They can't proctor their own discipline or own classes, because they would be able to help the students and tell them the answers in order to better the results.  It's really screwed up, but it's a reality in Mozambique.  So at the beginning of last week, I was trying to figure out how I was going to proctor other people's exams since I couldn't necessarily take points off like I would for my own students if they were talking, cheating, or looking at each other's tests.  I decided that if anyone was doing anything inappropriate during the test, I would write down their numbers (each student has a number associated with their name to make taking roll easier), and turn the numbers in with the tests to the Pedagogical directors with a note explaining what happened.

The test that I proctored on Monday was in a turma that I teach.  That was good because I already knew the students, and they already knew me and how I expected them to act while taking a test.  I also knew their names/numbers, so it made it much easier to threaten them. :)  On Tuesday, I proctored the English test in one of Sarah's turmas.  This was problematic for one main reason: because I speak English.  All of the students were asking me for help (for me to tell them the answers).  So that was a problem.  There was also another problem.  One of the students was talking, so I walked over to him and asked him his number.  He ignored me.  I asked him again.  Still ignored me.  I put my paper down and told him to write down his number.  Still ignored me.  I took his test away and waited until he wrote down the number to give it back to him.  I walked away and the two students next to him started talking.  I walked back and asked why they were talking, and they informed me that the other student hadn't written down his own number (meaning he had written down the number of one of the other students in the class).  I immediately freaked out on him, and told him how unfair that was.  I then read the number out that he had written down so that person would know, and wrote down the name of the student from the front of his test.  I was so frustrated.  SO frustrated.  But I smugly smiled to myself when the student turned his test in and walked out of the room, and the other student was waiting for him right outside the door and started yelling at him hardcore.

The rest of proctoring went better, but there were definitely some instances that I was laughed at for being so strict.  I also heard a lot of "she really watches us" and "she really controls the exam."  These kids can't get away with what they normally do during exams.  It's impossible to stop them from looking at each other's papers, but if I can get them to stop talking and treating the test like a group/open book exam, I'm going to do so.

Another problem with provincial tests...the quality of the questions.  The math test was on Thursday.  I went right after my students finished with the test to pick them up to grade them.  I was looking through the test, and there were at least 4 questions that either had typos in them, or that had responses that made no sense.  I presented my concerns to the Pedagogical Directors and they said they had to report it to the ministry of Education.  I have yet to hear a result and I'm supposed to hand the tests back this week.  I can't really give them a score until I know what to do about the 4 questions that didn't make any sense.  I graded all that I could....but it's just a mess.

That brings us to today.  Today was a Mozambican holiday, Women's Day!  It is a very important day for the empowerment of women here in Mozambique.  All the teachers that are women (we have an impressive 11 or 12) bought matching capulanas and had dresses made to go to the praça and afterwards travel to Garuso to eat lunch and celebrate.  I made everyone a capulana flower from our capulana to wear in their hair, which everyone loved.  We met at the praça at 8, saw a bunch of performances of singing and dancing, and eventually left for Garuso at about 12:30.  In Garuso, we went to a hotel where there was a buffet lunch and a pool, and basically just hung out for the afternoon. It was fun, and I'm really glad I went and got to know my female colleagues.

The back of one of the Women's Day shirts:
Mozambican woman for gender equality and empowerment of women.
All the ladies before the walk over to the praça.
The Director of the school joined in the dancing.  He is really
supportive of Mozambican women, which I think is pretty rare.
We're some of the lucky volunteers.
At the praça.
Dancing at the praça.  They tried to make me dance....I laughed at them.
My 8th grader friend, Danilo.
So Mozambicans never really look at the camera....I don't get it.
Anyway, here are some of my female colleagues and our matching dresses.
The pool in Garuso.