November 24, 2013

The Spirit of Giving

Last Saturday I went to the market in the morning and bought some flip flops.  When I arrived home, I used capulana scraps that I had to cover the straps of the flip flops, and put a flower made of capulana in the middle.  My host sister in Namaacha taught me how to make them, and I decided to try to make them for a few people for Christmas.

After sewing the flip flops, I decided to make them for someone else as a gift, so I returned to the market to buy another pair in the afternoon.  The same man was selling flip flops because I returned to the same stall. As I chatted with him, he asked why I was back so soon, what did I do with the other pair of flip flops.  I had a picture of what I’d made on my phone that I’d send to my mom, so I quickly showed him my handiwork.  He gasped and called out, “São tão bonitas, pa!” (They are so beautiful!)

Just as he exclaimed how beautiful the flip flops were my friend from church, Bernadette, walked up.  She wanted to know what we were talking about and I quickly filled her in and showed her the picture.  Bernadette agreed that the flip flops were tão bonitas and she said that she wanted a pair.

It was then that I got a business proposition. 

“You have to make me more of these so I can sell them!  People will want to buy them!  They are so beautiful!”
“But I can’t make money off of these, sir. “
“That’s fine, you can just give them to me!”
“No, I also don’t have time to sit around and just make you flip-flops all day.”

…then an idea popped into my head.  I recalled that awhile ago, Bernadette had asked me if I had any work at home because she was looking for a job.  She was still standing there, so I looked over at her.

“Bernadette, can I teach you how to make these capulana flip flops?”
“Yes, mana Ana I would love learn how to make them, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to!”
“Trust me, if I can make them, anyone can make them.”
**Everyone laughs at the white girl that can’t sew**
“Okay, this is what we’re going to do:  we’re going to take two pairs of flip flops, and I will teach Bernadette how to make them.  Then she can bring them back and you can pay her for the work she’s done and you can give her more flip flops to sell.”

And that’s how I took two pairs of flip flops to my house (for free!) and set up a lesson to teach Bernadette how to make them.  Last Wednesday, she came over and we each made a flower and each covered one flip flop.   She loved how easy they were to make.  I gave her supplies, instructions, and the flip flops and she took it all home to finish the other pair.

On Friday, I got a call from Bernadette. 
“Mana Ana, I noticed when I was in your house that you and Mana Sara don't have a fridge.”
“Nope, we don't.”
“Well I have an extra one at home that I was thinking that you could borrow.  We aren't using it now and my husband says it’s okay if you take it to your house to use it.”
**stunned silence**
“Would you be interested in using it?”
“Yes, Bernadette, we would love to use it!  That is so nice of you!  Thank you!”
“You can come see it on Sunday afternoon.”
“Okay, we will call before we come.  Thank you again!”

So this afternoon, Sarah and I went over to Bernadette’s house and checked out our soon-to-be fridge.  It is huge and glorious and I am so grateful to her for offering to lend it to us.  Now we have to arrange transportation for the fridge to get to our house, and someone to come put coolant in it so that we can use it…hopefully all before Thursday when we will be hosting Thanksgiving in Messica.

I am so happy with this series of events.  Bernadette will hopefully be able to make about 25 meticais (just under one dollar) from each pair of flip flops that she makes.  She told me today that it took her about 10 minutes to make one flip flop, so that means she could make about 3 dollars an hour.  Not bad for someone who has been looking for work for months.  Hopefully she will teach others how to make them as well and be able to share the business with others struggling to make ends meet.

It is such a blessing to know people that give passionately without thinking twice.  They are such an example to us all.  Bernadette didn't need to call us and offer her fridge, but she did it without thinking twice.

My favorite thing that Mozambicans say that I've heard more times than I can count is:  if I give what little I have, God will only rain down more blessings upon me.  If people in the United States were as hospitable as Mozambicans and had this same philosophy, there would be no homeless, hungry, or lonely.  Everyone would feel the love that comes from being welcomed into a home.  I’m so grateful that I get to see this love firsthand, and I know that I will never forget it.

November 10, 2013

Site Visitors and National Exams

Last Sunday we received a visitor in Messica from the most recent group of Peace Corps Mozambique trainees.  I was there myself a year ago, and it’s extremely hard to believe that I’m one of the “experienced” volunteers these days.  Our visitor’s name was Ellery, and she will be an English Teacher.  Their group will find out their site placements this coming week, so that’s super exciting for them! 

So our job was to show Ellery the life of a volunteer.  Sarah and I were super happy to be able to show off Messica, what is said to be the best Peace Corps site (from other PCVs too, not just Sarah and I). 

Sunday night, we hung out at home because it was rainy and, let’s be honest, there’s not anything crazy to do in Messica on a Sunday night.  Monday morning we woke up and Sarah headed to the school to check the schedule for National Exams.  We had requested a few weeks early not to proctor exams, and miraculously, they actually listened to us!  Sarah returned about a half hour later with the news that we would only be correcting exams (had no idea what that entailed at the time) and we had the day free!  Yay!

We took Ellery to all of the sites: the market, calamidades, Otilia’s house, the modista, the school, etc.  Everyone was super curious to who the other muzungu walking around was, so we introduced Ellery about 7 bajillion times.  On Monday night, we received some guests in Messica.  The site visitor from Chimoio, Steven, and my friend Anna who lives in Chimoio came out so that Steven could see a more rural Peace Corps site than the city of Chimoio.  We walked around Messica for a little while and made a delicious dinner of pizza, salad, garlic knots, and chocolate chip cookies. 

On Tuesday morning, we woke up and went to Manica to go on a hike.  Our plan was to hike Mount Vumba, the source of central Mozambique’s bottle water supply.  Sarah and I had been by the Vumba plant before in Manica, but we had yet to climb the mountain.  There were 6 of us (3 visiting trainees, 3 volunteers) that wanted to go, so we headed to Vumba to ask permission to climb the mountain.  After the guard led us to an office, we talked to a man told us that we needed to write a formal letter asking permission and the director of Vumba would have to sign off on it before we were allowed to climb.  I was the lucky winner elected to write the pedido, so I got to work and about 5 minutes later had something decent enough to turn in to the director.  Unfortunately, the director had left, so we were stuck either sitting there waiting for him (which could have taken hours and/or days….literally), or killing time in Manica.  After deciding on the latter and walking approximately 30 feet outside of the compound, we got a call saying the director had returned!  It was a Mozambican miracle!  So we turned right back around and headed to the office again.  He granted us permission to climb after doubtfully asking if we would be able to chegar (arrive). He sent us with a guide, which turned out to be a great help as he filled up our water bottles at the source of the Vumba water and showed us lots of cool stuff that Vumba uses for water purification.  When we got to the main source of the water, it was gorgeous but didn’t have a great view of Manica, so we chose to keep climbing for about 15 more minutes to see the city from the top of the mountain.  So worth it.  The view was absolutely beautiful and the breeze was glorious.  After a nice cold beer and some chicken for lunch, Ellery and I headed back to Messica.

Wednesday morning we were beckoned to the school bright and early to sit for quite some time with nothing to do (surprise, surprise).   Eventually we were called into the director’s office to help with the process of correcting National Exams.

Let me tell you, it was a process.  National exams are given at the end of 10th grade (to progress to 11th grade) and the end of 12th grade (to graduate).  The 10th grade exams are free response, while the 12th grade exams are multiple choice.  Since the 10th grade exams are free response and there are way more 10th graders than 12th graders, 10th grade exams are much harder and have much longer of a correction process.

The 10th grade exam grading process:

1.  Coding the exams.  The same code has to be written on the tests, and the part of the test that is detached with the students’ names.
2.  Cutting the exams.  The students’ names have to be cut off the tests because if the grader can see the students name on the test, they will be able to raise their grades, or write correct answers on the tests.
3.  Locking the exams.  All empty spaces on the answer sheet must be locked.  This means that you have to go through each test and scribble or draw lines through the empty spaces, so that it is noticeable if something has been written after the student turned in the test.
4.  Correcting the exams.  Twice.

So guess who was responsible for numbers 1-3 for all of the 10th grade tests for every discipline?  Sarah and I.  There were a few other teachers helping as well, but what a long and tedious process that could be avoided if the school system wasn’t so corrupt here.

The 12th grade grading process is much more straightforward.  The tests are basically done on scantron sheets, so each test must be graded twice.  I am also on the team for grading 12th grade tests, which we will hopefully finish up tomorrow.  The rest of the week will be spent compiling 12th graders’ grades and recording them on pautas and in the computer.

And I thought provincial exams were bad…

Luckily, I won’t be around to deal with the second round of national exams this year or national exams at all next year.  Thank God for small favors.

In other news, 3 weeks until some lucky Brandts and a Vanvolkinburg are in Mozambique.  Can’t wait to see this.  Can’t wait to hug them.  I. JUST. CAN’T. WAIT.

…And everyone else in Messica is pretty excited as well.