Sunday, December 26, 2010

Random picture, but my picture-snapping brother is here. These are cachew nuts, after they have been detached from the cashew fruit. They are drying now, then we will be roasted and cracked open.

The three Inharrime girls at the lagoon in our town. This is the view you see from the highway as you are about to enter the town of Inharrime and whenever I tell people here where I am from, they always tell me that it's one of their favorite views in Mozambique.


Thursday my mom, brother, Erin, Ann, and I headed down to the beach at the lagoon to escape from the heat a little. Nice relief.
Yesterday Matt came to Inharrime to join us for the day and night. For the second year in a row, it seemed that Christmas Eve (notably the three hours we spent in Midnight Mass) was the hottest day of the year. But mass was beautiful again, and the youth from the congregation put on a small theatre telling the story of the birth of Jesus before mass. Afterwards we had a wonderful Christmas dinner with everyone from the mission and also the Salesian priests from across the street. We made Thai red curry and massaman curry and since we didn’t make them spicy at all (we messed this up at lunch), everyone really enjoyed them.
Merry Christmas. My second Christmas spent in Africa and, even with the heat, it was wonderful. The biggest perk about being here is not having to listen to bad Christmas music starting in November. We watched Love Actually and It’s A Wonderful Life to help get ourselves in the Christmas mood (and looked longingly at all the snow in both movies) because sometimes it hardly feels like Christmas here. As always, the mission where I live is an incredibly loving and warm house and there is no better place to spend a holiday like Christmas.

Buck (my brother) unloading the tractor

The view from the top of the tractor on the way to the farm

All of the families lined up to receive their things

We had to ride a tractor on top of all the stuff to get to the farm, which is about 5k away (and huge, about 80 acres)


Finally made it back to Inharrime after about a week in Maputo for REDES business, and then a few days in Pretoria finally just hanging out. I met up with Ann and Emma in Pretoria as they returned from a trip to Victoria Falls which they raved about. And Anna joined up with us because her brother, who was supposed to arrive in Johannesburg, got stuff in Dublin and she was sitting alone in Joburg waiting for him. It was nice to walk around Pretoria, it seems like a nice town, but it was mostly nice to get to hang out with Emma one last time before she left for America. Note: we stayed at 1322 International Backpackers and it was incredible, they were so nice and helpful, the ambiance (including a pool and outdoor lounging areas) is wonderful, and it is within walking distance of many nice restaurants and shops. Out at a bar one night young men kept walking up to our table and speaking to us in Afrikaans. We would apologize but explain we didn’t speak that language. So then they would say something in English…and we would have to apologize and explain that we still didn’t understand them. The blatant racism we encountered was pretty alarming, but we still had a great time getting to hang out with each other and especially with our dear Emma who we will miss incredibly.
This afternoon we went to the mission’s farm for the tri-monthly distribution of supplies to families that are part of the assistance program. Through a “godparenting” program (that you can support if you visit the mission supports over 600 kids and their families in the area. Today we handed out rice, bars of soap, and sugar to these families, I will post pictures.


While Anna and I were in Maputo working on REDES stuff at one point we had to go to the slummy part of town to run some errands and then catch a chapa out of town to visit one of Anna’s REDES girls since Anna is going to be in her mother’s wedding. We didn’t get harassed too badly which was nice, though walking around that part of town as two white girls is never fun. Actually, that’s where I got chased by the guy with the knife my first weekend in Mozambique, luckily that didn’t happen this time.
After running our errands we set out trying to find the chapa to Anna’s student’s house, but we weren’t having any luck. Searching for the right chapa, I asked a man on the side of the road, “excuse me sir, do you know where the Liberty chapa is?” He nicely but sternly corrected me: “Good morning.” This was incredibly rude of me to just ask him a question without properly greeting him first. I hung my head in shame, “Good morning sir, how are you?” “I am fine thank you. And you?” “I am fine too, thank you.” And then he smiled and told me where to find the chapa.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I have spent this past week down in Maputo working on REDES. We had a meeting with most of the national directors over the weekend to fill them on all of the changes we have made for this coming year which was good. We also have had meetings with many of our bosses this week and have learned many things and gotten a few reality checks. It felt like we were getting hit by a bus a few times, but not necessarily in a bad way, it was just the reality check we needed. So what I was hoping would be the start of my holiday vacation and a little R&R time in Maputo has turned into a ton of work and a pretty stressful week. But when you are working on something you are really passionate about it's different, so it has been stressful and busy, but in a good way!
Tomorrow Anna and I leave for Pretoria where we will meet up with Emma and Ann after their trip to Victoria Falls. I will get two more last days with Emma before my mom and brother get in and we return to Inharrime for Christmas.
Also, apologies for my absence on the blog, my computer recently crashed so I haven't been able to type recently. I will try to keep up during the holidays but I make no promises. Pictures will be posted after. Merry Christmas and happy New Years to everyone!


Erin, our new sitemate, arrived to Inharrime today--Welcome Erin! When she got in we talked to her school director a little bit and also her roommate (and Emma's former roommate) who is also an english teacher at her school. Afterwards we showed her around town a little bit, introducing her to the ladies in the market we like, the two who never called us mulungo or try to rip us off, as well as pointing out places where she can get certain things. After cooking our Inharrime specialties for her we walked her home so she could spend the first night in her own bed and helped her hang her mosquito net because, get this, I am actually taller than her! I am leaving Inharrime tomorrow until December 21st and Ann leaves Inharrime the day after which is a little unfortunate but it will also force her really get integrated and get to know people in our community.


Yesterday was Emma's last day in Inharrime. We "passear"-ed around town just so she could soak it in a little more, then went down to the beach on the lagoa in our town. After dinner we went to the hotel for a few last beers and there we ran into many of her colleagues and friends so she was able to talk to people for the last time. Today she caught a bus down to Maputo for COS (Close Of Service) stuff before she becomes an RPCV. Sad.
Last night at the bar two guys, probably around 18 years old, came up to me and said (in Portuguese) "good evening teacher, he is one of your students." First of all, I know every single one of my students' names--you are not one of them, second, you are at least 17 years old and not an 8th grader, third, is that seriously a pick-up line?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Last Wednesday, December 1st, was World AIDS Day. As with all holidays in Mozambique, people gather at the town monument in the morning for a ceremony.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hard proof of the benefits of double-digging, check out the roots on tht lettuce!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

As a going-away gift, Ann and I made a mobile for Emma that was very Inharrime-ish. It hangs from a paneira which is made in Inharrime from reeds that grow in the river. The shells hanging from it were all collected in Tsene (John and Yvette's place), and the pictures are on straw bags, again made in this area.

Me with my two host siblings, Aiton and Anata


One of my colleagues gave birth last November and thus missed all of the work we are doing currently last year. During a particularly tedious task this morning she exclaimed “this sucks! I am going to give birth every November from now on, just so I can miss this work!”
At the end of work today my director told all of the faculty that one colleauge’s mother had died, they would be having prayers and a spirit sending ceremony for her tomorrow, and if anyone needed to take the day off to grieve they could. I don’t even know this colleague and certainly don’t know his mother, so afterwards I went to talk to her to tell her I would have to miss tomorrow morning in order to return to the Migration office to pick up a document. She gave me a look like I’m a bit of an idiot, “didn’t you hear me say that we don’t have work tomorrow?” “Well you said that if anyone needed to take time to grieve they could.” She was perplexed, “well I suppose if people showed up to work I could give them things to do.”
After work today Ann, Emma, and I went out to Tsene for one last time as the three of us. Yvette wasn’t there unfortunately, but John and Deon, the dive master, were. The three of us prepared sushi for dinner which turned out wonderfully and John and Deon overcame their initial skepticism and ended up loving it. Deon also made braai (South African barbeque) which was delicious. Tsene is really one of the most wonderful places in the world. We didn’t touch the dogs this time though.


Emma’s goodbye party was today. At 7am this morning Ann and I met up with her and one of her colleagues who is also one of my colleagues (he teaches at both schools) and he drove us to her school so pick up the plastic chairs and tables and large cooking pots she was borrowing for the party. When we were loading the truck our colleague mentioned that there weren’t many chairs. “That’s okay, the men can sit in the chairs and the women can sit on the ground on mats.” (In traditional Mozambican families this is the norm, at meal times the father and older sons eat at the table, the wife, daughters and young children sit on the floor.) When I didn’t so much as crack a smile, he said “but it’s okay though, the women here like to sit on the floor.” No actually they don’t, Ann and I disagreed with him. “Well it’s just because of the clothes people wear, it’s easier that way.” Actually, Ann disagreed with him, it’s much more difficult to sit on the floor in a skirt. Later, once we had loaded everything into a very full truck bed he joked, “the girls will have to hang off the back.” He called us (Ann and myself) meninas which means girls and is incredibly offensive. I would have been annoyed by anyone here calling me that, a vendor or a person on the street. But for a colleague to call me that is absolutely ridiculous and I told him so. Having errands to run in town, and thinking that it might be bad for my professional life here if I tweaked out on a colleague, I excused myself to go into town and get away from that situation. Last time I ever do you the favor of typing out your exam for you, jerk.
Emma’s party was amazing. She gave a short speech at the beginning, her director gave a speech and her colleagues presented her with gifts of capulana. Afterwards everyone had plenty to eat and drink and eventually everyone started dancing—a fantastic party. Anna and Joyce came up to the party to surprise her and Donna and Luis came down too. A few times a couple of us female PCVs almost came to blows with a few of Emma’s male colleagues who have more traditional views on how to talk to and treat women, but Donna reminded us that he aren’t going to change a 30 year old jerk and for Emma’s sake we should just let it go.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Today we were doing statistics for the students in the school and I suddenly realized why my class (that I am director of) is so much worse than the others I teach. And I am a little puzzled as to why I didn’t figure this out sooner. I teach 5 different classes and am director of one of those. Of the 5 classes I teach, 4 are great, and the one I am director of is awful. The 4 other classes I teach have 17-22 boys and 20-25 girls. The one I am director of and don’t like has 28 boys and 14 girls. How did I not notice this throughout the entire year? And in case anyone thinks I am being unwarranted in my sexism, here are the statistics from my class. 14 of the boys passed (that’s 50%), whereas 12 of the girls passed (86%).
One of my colleagues is having a money problem right now. On Monday all of the faculty had their salaries deposited into their accounts with one mistake, the salary of one person (we’ll call her Susan) was deposited into another person’s (and Chuck) account in addition to this person’s actual salary. By the time they were able to track down what exactly had happened, Chuck had apparently spent all of the money, so now with Christmas approaching Susan is out a whole month’s paycheck. What boggles my mind is that Chuck is not actually a teacher but works part-time at the school, so he makes half as much as Susan and I do—how did he not notice that he had 3 times more money than he should and how did he manage to spend that much money in 3 days? I am lending Susan some money until this situation gets sorted out and she gets paid back because she, like most people here, have nothing to fall back on when something like this happens.


After work today Ann, Emma, and I got together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Just as Thanksgiving should be, we made more food than was possible to eat, and we ate until we were uncomfortably full. We made stuffing, cinnamon bread, mashed potatoes, ramen (homemade, not from a packet), apple crisp, ratatouille, and salad. It was delicious.
I had to go to the Migration office on Monday to get my one-year visa because mine from the previous year had expired and the one I got when I left and reentered a few weeks is only a 30-day visa. We showed up at 7:45am to be ready when the doors opened at 8am. But when the doors opened at 8am the only people they let enter were some workers and policemen. We asked what was going on and found out that the office had been robbed the night before. Hopefully the robbers didn’t find the American passport information for every Peace Corps Volunteer in Inhambane Province who is in the process of renewing their visa. We decided to leave and go eat breakfast and come back which turned out to be a good decision because after an hour of breakfast in one of the only air conditioned buildings around (delightful) we returned right as the doors were opening. I eventually pushed my way to the desk and when I told the woman why I was there, she told me I needed to go to a different window. I knew that I needed to get a form to fill out so I asked her if she could give it to me, but she told me the other person would give it to me. I went to that window and waited about 30 minutes. At one point a woman appeared but when asked, she said she was not the person, the person was coming. I asked if it would even be possible to do the process today (like had any essential equipment or forms been stolen?), she told me that the other person would help me. I asked if that person was here or hadn’t even arrived to work yet, she told me the other person would answer all of my questions. Eventually this person showed up, I got my form, filled it out, and waited with the other white people also getting one-year visas. All of the information had to be entered into the computer which would have taken a long time with a highly proficient computer user—in this case it took longer. Eventually I had finished the process for applying for a one-year visa, but then they have to ship all of my information to Maputo to be processed, and then Maputo will send the visa back and I will have to return to pick it up. The Brazilian couple in front of me asked how much time it would take to receive the visas. The woman responded that it would take time. Between all of us volunteers we have been told between one and three months. Since I will be leaving the country before I receive my one-year visa, I had to also request a form that would allow me to leave Mozambique and reenter without physically having my visa. I went to one window and asked for the form, she told me I needed to get it from the window to her left. I asked at that window, received the form, and tried to hand it back in at that window, but was told that I need to pay for it at the window to her right. I paid for it and she handed the form and receipt back to me and told me to turn it in at the window to my left. They sit about 4 feet apart and can easily pass things between themselves. I will have to return next week to pick up this form.


This week we have been preparing the 10th grade (10th and 12th grades have national exams, this year because our school only has 8th-11th grades, 10th was the only exam year. thank goodness) grades to be posted so that the students can see how they did on their national exams and, if they failed disciplines, which exams they need to retake during the second epoch. This is how 10th grade grades are calculated: there are two “pautas” (an awkwardly oversized piece of paper that has a class of students and spaces for their different grades in each discipline) so one person sits with each one. One student at a time, the president of the process reads from the pauta the grade the student received that school year in a discipline, and two people with calculators (two to check for errors) calculate and announce what 70% of this number is. A second pair of people with calculators type this into their calculators and wait. Then, one delegate from each of the 8 tested disciplines is present with all of the national exams for that discipline—this delegate reads the national exam score for that student aloud. The first pair of people with calculators then calculate 30% of this number and announce it. The second pair of people with calculators adds that number to the first and then announce that total: this is the student’s final grade. A third pair of people with calculators puts this final grade into their calculators and wait—they will calculate the average of the grades in the 8 disciplines and this is the student’s final grade for 10th grade. One person is has a sheet of paper for each student on which the year grade, exam grade, and final grade for each discipline is written. After the process is finished for one student the president reads to two other people which exams that student must retake and they write it down. Count the people—yep, 19. It takes NINETEEN people to calculate the grade for each 10th grader, which might be fine at a small private school, but my school has over 350 tenth graders. And does the process sound complicated? It is.
Today I think God needed a good laugh. In the midst of this process, it starts to downpour. Thanks to the metal roofs, nobody could hear anyone, so all 19 people are trying to yell and sign numbers to each other. I burst out laughing—better than crying, which is what part of me wanted to do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Yesterday I walked by the main maintenance and construction guy at the mission and when I greeted him he said, "oh, I have something to tell you. But it's okay, later." I figured it had something to do with the carpenter/handyman I had inquired after on Ann's behalf. I didn't see him again until this afternoon when he but right to the chase. His wife had a baby daughter two weeks ago and he named her after me. He liked my name and especially liked that it was unique. Wow. I'm pretty sure the number of Anatas in the world just grew by 150% in the part year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I feel like a am constantly reminded of how I American I am in everyday exchanges. Most of the time I feel my Americanness in relation to the notion of personal space. I constantly find myself edging away a little when my colleagues or friends are talking to me here, not because they are trying to be inappropriate, but because I just don’t feel comfortable standing that close to anyone. Taking someone’s hand to lead them to something or walk somewhere with them is very normal, but I always find I have some urgent itch that I must attend to with that hand whenever my colleagues grab mine, especially if it’s a male colleague. It just feels wrong to hold someone’s hand in the workplace, even though I know not in a remotely intimate way. Yesterday I was helping my male colleague with a computer problem. I received a text message so I checked it and after stuck my phone between my thighs to keep working at the computer. My colleague said, “we should put your phone on the desk so it doesn’t fall.” I though, no DON’T grab something that’s between my legs! I don’t think he was trying to be creepy or inappropriate at all, but he grabbed my phone and put it on the desk.
The terrible irony is that when I went back to training last week and was surrounded by Americans for the first time in a year, I was reminded of how Mozambican I have become in many of the ways that used to irritate me. I unintentionally cut in front of like 10 trainees at a bar once—hey, if you aren’t aggressive in this country you will never get served!
Yesterday I was waiting for my change in a store when I man walked in and placed a tiny puppy (could almost fit in the palm of your hand) on the counter. Normally I would coo over this cute little puppy, but after my recent bout of tick fever due to one of those cute little walking diseases, I stayed as far away from it as possible.
A few days ago a friend of mine posted a video from high school of a bunch of friends. Everyone in the video kept commenting on how funny it was, but since the nearest internet fast enough to watch this video is easily 6 hours away, I eventually had to beg someone to give me a verbal recap of the video so I could know what everyone was talking about!


The visa situation for PCVs in Mozambique has been a nightmare this year. The prices of both 30-day and one-year visas went up from last year, the government changed the system so that we are renewing at a provincial level rather than all in Maputo, and of course nothing happens in a timely fashion in this country, so the payments for our new visa didn’t arrive to the provincial capitals before our old ones expired. My one year visa expired the Friday I was supposed to go down to training (in a different province) so I ended up having to go a day early, going to Namaacha, where Mozambique borders Swaziland, with a few other PCVs who were in the same boat, leave the country, come back in, and upon reentry buy a 30-day visa. The nice part of this process was getting to see some PCVs who live up north and whom I haven’t seen since training ended last year and who I won’t see again until our Closing of Service conference. Now that I am back at site I have to go to my provincial capital on Friday to actually get my one-year visa, which my fellow PCVs have warned me will be a bit of a nightmare, though I am hoping that by the time I go (since most of my colleagues have already been) they will have gotten the hang of things. And Emma and other PCVs from her group had to go to Maputo this week to renew their visas, I am not sure why but I am glad I don’t have to travel that far.
While being stared at all the time can get old, there are certain perks to being a celebrity. In Xai-Xai (about three hours south, basically halfway between here and Maputo) there is an Indian restaurant—incredibly exciting because this is the ONLY variation in menu you can find outside of Maputo. When I went there a month ago I made friends with the owner and, when he found out where I live, said that he has a friend who drives up to Maxixe (thus drives through my town) about once per month and he could send Indian food with him when he did. I excitedly agreed and gave my numbers, though I regretted it later, thinking that he would never actually follow through on that offer and I had given my number out to yet another creepy man here. Today he called me and said his friend was heading my way this afternoon, did I want Indian? YES! So this evening Ann, Meagan (a PCV who is a teacher in Vilanculos), and I feasted on delicious Indian food in the comfort of Ann’s beautifully painted house. Meagan thanked me for the hook-up, I replied, “It’s because I have white skin, you’re welcome.”


Yesterday I went over to Ann’s and helped her paint her house. Her house is made of reeds and, like most people here who have reed houses, she had a layer of cement put on the inside about 5 feet up the walls. But since this cement layer is only about 2cm thick and made from the really awful quality Mozambican cement, it’s more of a formality and won’t do much in terms of security. The one bonus is that it gave us a paintable surface. The other drawback of Ann’s house is that there aren’t many windows, so it is very dark inside. The cheerful pink and yellow we painted did wonders to brighten up the house, both literally and figuratively, we just had to be careful not to paint too forcefully, otherwise the cement would crumble away under our brush.
I got a ride back out to my house from an interracial South African couple. I was completely blown away and happy to see that. It was probably naïve of me to think that the South Africans we get in Mozambique are an accurate representation of the whole country, but they certainly made it seem like you would never in a million years see an open interracial couple.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


In Maputo it seems like all of the chapa drivers and “cobrador”s (the guy who collects the money from passengers) know each other, as they are constantly leaning their heads out the window to yell at each other as they pass by. When chapas get really full a handful of people inevitably end up with their rears sticking out of window (that is when they can even get the door shut, of course). This morning a chapa driver pulled right up next to our chapa, reached over, spanked the cobrador’s butt which was sticking out the window, laughed and drove away. Hence why I can justify eating the delicious samosas that have been sitting in the sun and heat in the market since 9am—that’s not what’s going to kill me here.
In a ride on the way home today the guy pulled over in a small town and said, “we are going to wait a few minutes sorry, they are preparing something for me.” Ten, then twenty, then forty minutes ticked away until finally two guys came walking out with a pig that clearly been killed and gutted in those forty minutes.
I finally got back to the mission after a week of being away and was devastated to learn that almost all of the younger girls from the orphanage will be leaving for the holidays in the morning! The mission is going to feel so dead and empty without them for the next two months. Julia, 9 years old, is one of the most delightful girls and easily one of the brightest, and I actually met her last December when I arrived because she had had Malaria and thus didn’t leave when all of the rest of the girls did. I told her that she needed to get sick again so she could stay here with me. Without batting an eye, she smiled and said “if God wishes.” I was hanging out with them in the dormitory as they all excitedly packed their bags, lying on one of the beds. At one point Margarita (the three year old) addressed me as “Mana Anatinha,” putting my name in the diminutive. I laughed and asked her who was bigger, she or I. She climbed up on the bed, looked down at me and with a huge grin said, “now I am, Mana Anatinha!”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


This week I am down at training for Moz 15, the new group of Volunteers who are beginning their sixth week of training and being in country. The first few trainees who I met immediately said “oh Scooter, I read your blog!” and one trainee eventually said “I think everyone read your blog…” The new group is great, I love them. It’s nice coming during week six because they have settled into life in Mozambique and aren’t shell-shocked anymore. At the same, time my measly one year of experience as a teacher in Mozambique just makes me an expert and wealth of knowledge in comparison to them. This year, for the first time, there is a group of math teachers, five guys, in addition to the biology, chemistry, and english teachers. When my technical trainer for chemistry saw me for the first time today and found out that I am teaching no chemistry and only math he said “I trained a runner to compete in the Olympics and I trained them to run the 100m dash and then they showed up and found out they were running the mile.”
After all of the sessions were over I met up with my host mother’s boyfriend/father of their two kids who gave me a ride to their new house which they just moved into on Saturday. They had just begun construction on the house last year when I was still in training, but I had never seen it before. Their new house is difficult to get to and pretty small, but it is cozy and warm and you can tell that everyone (my mom, her boyfriend, and my 4-year-old host brother) is so proud to be living in their new and very own house. The house is completely painted and furnished already (they must have done that all ahead of time) and has electricity and running water in the sink in the kitchen. Baby Anata reportedly loves to eat and she is looking beautiful, big, and healthy and slept the whole time I was there. Since we only finally sat down to eat at 9pm I had plenty of time to talk and catch up with everyone, including my 14-year-old sister/cousin who lived here while I was here but has since moved to Inhambane province to assist in the caretaking of an uncle and who I hadn’t seen since I left last December. It was wonderful to see them so happy and proud to be in their new house as a family.


Last night Emma, Joyce, and I were lucky enough to attend the Marine Ball in Maputo. One of the times I was down in Maputo last month one of the Marines I am friends with had mentioned that we should come. We were excited about it until we found out that tickets are way beyond the budget of a Peace Corps Volunteer. Only rarely in life is being female an advantage, but this was one of those moments because the Marines offered to sponsor us for the Ball, an offer we happily accepted! Emma and I got to sit at the same table as the Ambassador which was both exciting and intimidating, and we got to meet a number of nice and interesting people, many of who are RPCVs.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Wow, is it November already?
Classes ended last week so now begins the not fun two months of grading, national exams, grading national exams, and final grading.
Today I utilized my elite liberal arts education to make name tags for all of the faculty at my school to wear next week while controlling the national exams. It actually wasn’t bad at all, and I like to think that I was building sustainability because I let my colleague do all of the work on the computer and I just helped out when necessary. It was a huge test of patience too (which I aced!) because watching someone operate a computer at what seems to you a snail’s pace without interfering is quite difficult.
When I had finished making all of the nametags someone walked in, picked up a nametag, and, in typical Mozambican fashion, immediately told me I had done it wrong. I smiled and patiently demonstrated how to arrange the nametag correctly.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


First day back at work today after missing the last week. Turns out that my director hadn’t told anyone where I went or why (I left in a hurry Sunday morning) so everyone just thought I had gone on vacation or something. I was a little annoyed. Since I had missed the last week of classes one of the guys in the secretary’s office had collected the kids last test corrections for me. I received them this morning so I sat down and began to furiously correct them and update the grades, since this should have been finished last Friday (though to be honest only a few of my colleagues were actually finished grading). The idea of sitting and working quickly and quietly without chatting or taking breaks is a bit foreign here. my colleagues kept commenting, “wow, you are concentrating so hard!” I just smiled at them and ended up finishing my work by early afternoon.
One of our colleagues got married over the weekend. All of the faculty at the school had pitched in to buy a really nice gas four-burner stove with an oven, so today after work we all piled into two trucks to deliver it to his house. In true Mozambican fashion the stove was presented with lots of singing, clapping, and dancing. Afterwards a couple people gave small speeches and the new couple thanked up. My director thinks it’s funny to single me out to ask if I have anything to say in situations like this or morning announcements with the students, but I politely said no.
As I was writing this it sounded like all 52 of the girls from the orphanage ran by my house, I have no idea what they were doing down here at 8pm. As they ran by my window basically every single one of them yelled, “tchau Mana Anata!”
November 1st, first day of the hockey season. Good luck this season whockey, I’ll be checking your scores as often as I can. Go U Bears!


After a week in Maputo we had recovered enough that the Peace Corps doctor allowed us to go home to Inharrime. We got a ride from a Portuguese man who has been living in Mozambique (Maputo) for the past 19 years. When he found out that Ann lives in a reed house his reaction was, “Get out! Really?! I have to see that!!”
When I got back to the mission I saw my director who welcomed me back and asked what I had ended up having which I thought was strange because I had texted her as soon as our blood test results came back. Turns out that “tick fever” without one of the letters is a slang way of saying you have an incredibly high fever. Apparently she had been slightly appalled by my language, but thought it was hilariously funny and was showing everyone at school and the mission my text.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Margarita, "chique de matar" (dressed to kill)

my REDES group dancing to "Waka Waka" at the end of a wonderful meeting

Isaura wanted to learn, so I taught her how to take a picture using my camera. She took this picture of Margarita and while taking it madly yelled, "Stop eating the horse!!" (see below video)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Like I said yesterday, Ann and I are down in Maputo due to tick fever. We will be here until Thursday at the earliest which is sad because I wish I had known that last Friday would be my last day with my students. Also I have been pretty nauseous for a couple days so I haven’t been able to full take advantage of being in Maputo (in other words, all the good food).
A few weeks ago my bike was stolen. From the way it was stolen (from inside the mission, which is very secure, and between 6pm and 8pm) it was apparent that whoever stole it was a person from within the mission. The bike resurfaced about a week later, one of the guys who works at the mission called me and said he thought he had found my bike. A boy (about 17 years old) who does yard work on the mission had it, though it had been stripped of all stickers and the bike rack that made it easily identifiable. He claimed he had bought it from someone in town the day after it was stolen from the mission, though he said he didn’t know the person who had sold it to him. Initially I just believe him, but the more I talked to other people and the more I thought it, I realized his story didn’t make much sense. And nobody else believes him, everyone else (because this has become the main topic of gossip around the mission) keeps telling me he’s lying and that he’s the one who stole it. I have asked 8 Mozambicans who I really trust and they have all told me that it is impossible for him to have bought something in Inharrime (not a huge town where everyone pretty much knows each other) and not know the person who sold it to him, especially something as big as a bike. The head sister at the mission wants to fire him saying “a bike today, tomorrow a car” and I understand that, but I don’t want it to be because of me. What we have done for now is put the bike into a neutral location and told him, you have until the end of the month to find the person who sold you the bike, if you don’t then we have to believe it was you who stole it. He said he had tried finding the person without success, but I find that hard to believe. Since we know it had to have been someone on the mission who stole the bike and they are all talking constantly (Mozambicans love to gossip), it’s impossible that he wouldn’t have heard by now who it was. We’ll see what happens. What has made me really happy about this whole situation is the fact that all of the other people at the mission (Mozambicans) have fiercely stuck up for me and taken my side, telling me to just take the bike back and that the boy stole it. I was a little afraid that people might not necessarily have sided with him, but have wanted to stay out of the situation, simply because he is Mozambican and I am the foreigner. But it was nice to know that people value me enough as a friend and part of the community now that they handled the situations as if it had been between two Mozambicans.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On Friday night Ann and I made homemade ramen as a surprise for Emma because she loves ramen. This was her response

This is the hail


In Maputo right now. Ann and I, being the Siamese twins we are, managed to get tick fever together. On Saturday we both became covered with small red bumps that looked like chicken pox and although we have both had chicken pox before, my brother managed to have chicken pox twice and in Mozambique, anything is possible. The good news is that we aren’t highly contagious, just feverish and covered with little red bumps.
Just now we were sitting in the Peace Corps office when we heard the some terribly loud noise on the roof. Looking out the window we realized it was hailing! Apparently it hails in Mozambique. Hail the size of nickels.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Matt, the leader of JOMA (the co-ed/boys equivalent to REDES, our girls’ group) quoted a line from my youth that I had said after I tried switching from playing on boys’ hockey teams to girls’ for the first time (and decided it sucked). I had said “Boys are stupid, girls are mean. Stupid is better.” He said this after REDES pulled their second successful prank on JOMA. Score: two- zip.


Today I was sitting on my front porch grading exams and listening to music while Margarita and Isaura (see video and picture) colored when an 11th grade student came over to talk to me (my front porch is about 30 yards from the school which has its advantages and disadvantages). I knew him by face, I have talked to him a few times before and helped him with math homework. “Teacher, I really need to learn English!” He explained that he does well in English class and can thus write it pretty well, but he has trouble speaking. And he is interested in studying in South Africa after he graduates from here next year, but he has to be able to speak English for that. Due to great interest and participation from colleagues and students during English Theater this year, I will be starting an English Club at the school next year (there is only one week left of classes) with the aim of improving students’ conversational English, so I told him that. I lent him a Portuguese-English dictionary and children’s book in English and told him to try reading it, and after we could discuss it and I could help explain what he didn’t understand. His concern is legitimate; many of the better post-high school options are outside of Mozambique (South Africa. This used to include Zimbabwe but I don’t think so anymore). And I really want to help, I just don’t know how to go about it.
I called a friend from home to wish her happy birthday (happy birthday Scam!) and during our conversation she asked if I can tell that Portuguese is starting to take over my English. “Your blogs are funny to read” she said “because sometimes you’ll just kind of use the wrong words.” I thought that was a very nice and delicate way of phrasing it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My toilet got fixed today! Better late than never!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Today was the last day of final exams for this trimester. When I walked into a 10th grade classroom I heard two boys call me mulungo so I called them to the front and said to them “this is incredibly rude and disrespectful, but I know I can’t make you polite at this age, however I can make you regret saying that.” So I made them sit on the floor facing the class and take the exam like that, which was a little mean because it was a Design exam and a long one, 90 minutes.
In the afternoon on my way to an exam the teacher for that discipline specifically told me that the kids couldn’t use scratch paper, so when I got to the classroom I told them that. He came around about halfway through the exam to answer questions, as is the norm, and one of the students complained that they needed scratch paper. “Well why didn’t you get it out before the exam started?” he asked. Thank you, thank you for making me look like the jerk.

Another English Theater picture


Anna, the national coordinator of REDES (girls in development. Education, and health), Emily, the national curriculum and training director, and I, national financial director, headed down to Maputo this past week to present our budget proposals for the coming year. We met first with Ruben, the Peace Corps Mozambique Country Director for feedback and suggestions. It’s interesting because although the REDES project was started by PCVs and is currently run by PCVs, it receives no funding from the Peace Corps (though they are incredibly supportive of the project). As the project continues to expand exponentially, and the near future of Peace Corps Mozambique will likely include a youth development sector (in addition to the two that exist currently, education and health), we are all trying to figure out where REDES is going and what it will become. The meeting with PC was helpful and informative and afterwards we headed over to the US Embassy to meet with Jennifer, the representative from the Public Affairs Office who is absolutely wonderful and one of our biggest supporters. Another productive meeting and now we just revisions to make in the next month or so.
After a few blissful days in the land of Thai food, ice cream, and skim milk I headed back to Inharrime today. Every time I travel in this country I give thanks for the fact that I am as slender, short, and agile as I am, because even as is, the buses and chapas in this country were made for children and are incredibly uncomfortable. When I got on the bus the man collecting money yelled at me “mulungo!” for me to pay. I turned to him and lectured, “you can call me branca (white) if you really want to, sister is okay, senhora (ms.) even better, amiga too, but not mulungo, that’s just rude.” Not willing to let me have the last word he goes “what about teacher, is that okay???” Smart aleck.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

my group at the English Theater competition


Today in class I felt an oppressive, physically heavy feeling settle on me and realized, oh no, summer is back. It literally went from spring to full, hot, miserable summer overnight.
This week is final exam week. I hate it. Aside from dying of boredom every test (only 4 per day, but still not much fun), teachers are randomly assigned to classrooms and I hate being with students who aren’t my own, mostly because they aren’t afraid of me the way my own students are. All of my colleagues say they take cheating very seriously. Some do take it very seriously and some don’t. With my own tests with my own classes anyone caught cheating receives a zero, but with other teachers’ classes it gets tricky. They are all cheating. If cheating means using any information that didn’t come from your own head, from a cheat sheet, to looking in their notebook, to looking at their neighbor’s test, to whispering answers back and forth—they are all cheating. So what I do now is I try prevent cheating, tell the people using their notebooks to close them, take the cheat sheet from people who have them. With the really blatant cases of cheating I make a mark on the test and when I give it to the teacher responsible I tell them that the tests with marks are those of people who were cheating, then they can decide to do what they want with that.


After getting tired of hearing Emma, Ann and me talk incessantly about how great Tsene (John and Yvette’s place) was, our friends demanded we set up a weekend so they could see what all the hype was. A group of 9 of us spent the weekend there. John and Yvette, amazingly generous as always, gave us an amazing deal and everyone loved it. Jenna turned to me on Friday after only having been there a few hours and said, “okay, now I get why you guys rave about this place.”


Natalia, the Spanish volunteer at the mission, left today! I can’t believe her year here is up already! I kept trying to convince her to stay, but to no avail. I will really miss her, she has been a great friend the past year and it’s always nice to have someone who thinks similarly to vent to about going-ons at the mission.
A young man came to my class today and asked if he could talk to me. Since I was in the middle of a lesson I told him not then, but during the interval between lessons. I assumed that he was a student because students are constantly coming to my door to ask for homework/exercise help in the middle of my lessons and act completely surprised and rebuffed when I say no. After class he found me and, in very good English, said that he was recording music and was needed a woman’s voice and was wondering if I could sing on some of his tracks. I politely told him thank you, but I was too busy. And like many things in my life here, I was completely confused by the entire exchange. Had he only asked me because I speak English (and at this point I am only assuming that we would have been singing in English since we conversed in English), because I am white and therefore a celebrity, or because he had heard I sing?


Last weekend I rode down to Xai-Xai in a large semi-truck. During the 3 hour drive I saw 3 different primary school girls (I knew by their uniforms) who appeared to be about 9 or 10 year old dance provocatively at the truck as it passed. It wasn’t that they were playing with friends on the side of the road, but they were pointedly dancing at the truck as it drove by. Since I have been traveling in this country for over a year now and have never seen this before, I seems that it cannot be a coincidence that I saw it while in a semi-truck. I know that truck drivers in Mozambique are considered a high-risk population for HIV transmission, but is it possible that some truck drivers actually stop for these prepubescent girls? Why else would they be doing that? The thought is horrifying.
I went to buy apples and when I asked how much they were the woman told me 10 Meticais. Knowing that this price was wrong I scolded her for trying to overcharge me because I am white and started to walk away. “Wait! They are only 7 Meticais!” she called after me. “I KNOW they are only 7!” I responded. “I’ll give them to you for only 6!” It may sound stupid, but I was really excited about the 1 Metical I saved on each of those apples.
After I wrote about two girls from one class I teach sitting in on the lesson for another class, they came back a few days later to do it again. And then today three girls from the other class showed up to yet another class I teach and asked if they could watch the lesson. I am still completely perplexed and I also don’t know how to deal with it. Part of me doesn’t want to call on them when they know all the answers—of course you know, you’ve already been taught the material! But then again should I punish the few students who seem to be genuinely interested in the material?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Internet is fast today! This is the Inharrime central market, though the picture is taken on a Sunday morning at 6am, so nobody is out yet. Normally there are literally hundreds of people just milling around

Been too busy lately writing the REDES (girls in education, development and health) budget proposals for the coming year to write blog posts, but here are some pictures of my REDES group

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I apologize for the lack of blog posts, the internet has been horrendous for a while now. The internet at the mission has been out for weeks, I went to the other place in Inharrime that has internet, it was down. I went to Xai-Xai last weekend (a large city) and the internet was down in the whole city. I came to Inhambane city today to do banking and the internet was down in the first place I went to, but I found another place and it’s working for now!
Went down to Gaza province this past weekend to meet up with Anna, the National REDES Coordinator, and Emily, REDES Curriculum Coordinator for this coming year so we could work on the budget proposal together. It was not too fun but we got a lot of work done. Emily’s latrine is very small, not much bigger than a porta-potty in the states, and in this small space is a chicken that has made her nest right next to the “toilet” and sits on her 7 eggs there. It is difficult to describe how incredibly disconcerting it is to go to the bathroom with a chicken staring at you from a few feet away.


Today is the one-year anniversary of our (Moz 14) arrival in country! One of the fastest and most eventful years of my life. Moz 15 has landed and begun their orientation and training, welcome and congratulations to them, though none of them are on the internet right now.
One of my favorite things about the past year is all of the interesting people I have met. In America people are less likely to start a deep conversation with someone they just met. Also, as much as I loved them, the last 8 years of my life didn’t exactly expose me to lots of different kinds of people (a 700 student boarding school in rural Indiana and a 1700 student liberal arts college in Maine). I love teaching here, I love learning about myself here, and most of all I love meeting new interesting people here. I’ve met the French couple cycling from Cairo to Cape Town on a tandem; the guy who works in the cooking oil factory in Inhambane and told me about how they get all their crude oil from Argentina and while most of what they produce stay within the African continent, they have buyers in England and Switzerland; the Portuguese and French couple who decided to move here when the economy tanked; the two Algerian men with a huge Algerian flag painted on the hood of their truck who drove all the way down to South Africa for the World Cup and then drove back up, hitting as many countries as they could, the Kiwi who was hitching through South Africa and Mozambique and when a lodge offered him a job as a dive instructor for a few months he thought, sure why not; the American who is spending his study-abroad semester in college living in Mozambique with his sister and coaching swimming at an expat schoo; the man who, upon finding out I am American, put on Neil Young and proudly demonstrated he knew all the words; the light-skinned Mozambican (probably Arabic descent) who kept talking about how reverse-racism is such a problem here, how he is constantly overcharged because his skin is lighter, but also how stupid the blacks are and how when he was growing up his parents never let him play with them and it’s because of this he doesn’t speak any African dialects; the man who works in Maxixe but who family lives in Chimoio (find them on a map) so every Friday at 4pm when he gets off work he drives there to spend the weekend with his family, the rotund pastor who translates the bible from English and Portuguese into local dialects for a living, the two British boys cycling from South Africa to Kenya raising money to buy mosquito nets; the Rasta man from Zimbabwe who just hangs out at the beaches now; the truck driver who loves hunting and fishing and told me all about his different expeditions; the guy who happily bobbed his head grinning to the song “Two Princes” (Just Go Ahead Now) by the Spin Doctors (an American pop song circa 1997) every time he played it, which was about 8 times; the European guy (I forget which country exactly) who ended up working at a hostel in Swaziland, at least for the time being; the guy who tried to convince me there were lions around Inharrime, I just hadn’t seen any yet; the Angolan woman who went to Portugal to escape the situation in Angola, met a Mozambican man and married him, and has lived here since; the Irish guy who has lived in Malawi for two years and his two friends visiting him, and the Namibian guy with his mini guitar who was taking the year to wander around Africa. But even the people who don’t have some funny “story” are interesting. There are the white people here who instantly identify themselves at Mozambican and there are the white people who say they are Portuguese, but quickly follow it with “but I was born here and have always lived here.” There are the occasionally unfriendly people here, but generally Mozambique is full of friendly people, and quite a few too-friendly men.


I sat in on a colleague’s lesson today and he told the students who hadn’t done the homework to raise their hand. He then walked around to each of these students (7) and said “why didn’t you do the homework?!” while slapping them very hard a couple of times on the head. From the way everyone acted it was clear that this wasn’t just a show for my presence, but a regular occurrence. He wasn’t checking the notebooks or anything, only hitting the kids who offered themselves up for it by raising their hands. And I wanted to be like, kids! Please tell me you’re smarter than that! Just don’t raise your hand!
During my lessons the kids are to put all their pens and pencils while I am explaining a concept or we are working through an example problem together, then afterwards there is (always) time for them to copy. Despite this, students always try to copy when they think I can’t see them. But when I tell them it is impossible to listen and write at the same time they agree with me “no teacher, it is impossible.” Today I saw one boy in my peripheral vision writing when he thought I didn’t see so I broke off a little bit of chalk and kept talking. When I saw him pick up his pen again I turned and fired the piece of chalk at him, nailing him in the forehead. Problem solved.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

East Africa Cycle

When I first mentioned Pete and Tom, the two British boys cycling from South Africa to Kenya, I didn’t have their information so I said I would write about them again when I did. They finally tore themselves away from John and Yvette’s (very hard to do) where Tom was diving and Pete was working for his keep for almost two weeks and continued on with their journey. While in Vilanculos they had found Twix bars which I had mentioned where my favorite candy bar, so they sent a few bars back down to me with Steve, the Kiwi (apparently that’s what people from New Zealand call themselves. I learn so much about the world here) who Tom and Pete met on their ride and who actually got a gig as a dive master in Zavora (our nearest beach, where John and Yvette are) for the next couple months. But back to Pete and Tom. As they ride they are raising money for mosquito nets and at a couple stops along the way also meeting up with their people to distribute the nets they have raised the money for.
You can check it out and support them at:
You can follow their adventures at:


Today during 3rd period two students from the class I would be teaching last period asked if they could come watch the lesson. I was confused but I let them in and didn’t want to address it because it would have completely disrupted the class. After the lesson I asked them why they had sat in on this one, did they have to leave early and were planning to miss the last period? No, they said they just wanted to. During their real lesson they kept trying to answer all the questions with huge grins on their faces because, well, they had already been taught the material. One of the girls is in my REDES group and I asked her again at the meeting today why they had wanted to watch the same lesson twice today, she said they just did. Just when I start figuring out my students they go and do something that completely throws me off.


A man was talking to me and asked if I was American. When I said yes he said “you only sort of look American, you kind of…” I rolled my eyes and waited for the you-don’t-look-american-because-you-don’t-have-blonde-hair-and-blue-eyes comment I get all the time (and living with Ann, who has bright blue eyes and light brown hair, and Emma, a classic Norwegian, doesn’t help). “You also look Bolivian.” I’ve gotten a lot of nationalities, never gotten Bolivian before.


I recently revamped my REDES group here and it has since been a huge success. Before I had tailored the group for the girls of the orphanage, but this meant that the meeting times were not conducive to most students of the school who live outside because they had to walk home in the dark. Because I felt like the girls from the orphanage where wasting the opportunity and taking advantage of me, I completely changed the group, meeting at times that were better for girls who would have to walk home after and inviting student from the school. It has been a huge success. I took five of these new girls to the conference a few weekends ago, stressing that this was also a huge responsibility because after the conference I needed them to be the animators for the rest of the group, relating to the other girls the things they had learned at the conference, as well as generally getting girls excited about going to meetings and participating during the meetings. They have gone above and beyond my hopes. The first meeting after the conference was an absolute pleasure, watching these girls excitedly describe every second of their weekend. They also, without any prompting, brought up some of the topics from the conference and posed thought-provoking questions to the group about them, starting wonderful discussions. We have begun to make earrings which we will sell—a project that teaches them a usable skill, as well as walking through the basics of income generation and how to design a profitable income generation project. We are hoping to continue the electronic interchange with the group from Brazil, though that is not a huge priority for me until the group is more firmly established. Future plans include a lot of career planning sessions, from inviting the Inharrime chief of police and doctor (both women!), a nurse, a sister, and others to come talk about the path they took to get there, to visiting places like the institution for formation of health (hospital technicians) in Inhambane.
At a meeting this past week one of the girls brought up my dancing, referencing one of the many spontaneous dance parties Ann and I started at the conference, some of them to music, many of them not. The girls had been asking why I wasn’t making earrings too and I told them that it wasn’t my project, but theirs. When I promised I would bring music to the next meeting one of the girls got a huge smirk on her face and said “at the next meeting teacher we can make the earrings and you can just dance for us.”

Monday, September 27, 2010


My studens think I am crazy, I've gotten over this. Today they just wouldn't remember a relationship so I repeated the rule "an inscribed angle is equal to the corresponding arc divided by 2" about 9 times. Most of the students started to giggle by the end and I told them, "you guys are laughing, but in 3 minutes I'm going to ask you what the relationship is and you will have all forgotten." "Oh no teacher!" But I did and they had. So i repeated the relationship another 6 times or so. They might think I'm crazy, but by the end of the lesson at least most of them had learned the relationship. And for those students who still hadn't, I have no idea what I can do and I told them this. "Should I have repeated it more times?" I asked them. The class emphatically responded "NO!" I am sure all teachers have encountered this--no matter how many times you say something or how explicit you are there are still students who will misunderstand your instructions. Like 20 minutes into a 45 minute period today when the students are taking am open-note test and you ask one student why he isn't using his notes and--despite the fact that you said three times at the beginning of the period that they could use their notes and that all 44 other students in the classroom have their notebooks open on their desks--he looks at you completely and asks, "we can use our notes?!" For the third time since I've been here a Mozambican, this time some of the older girls from the orphanage, say a picture of me and said "oh you look so pretty in this picture, before you had all those scars on your face." I responded "these aren't scars, they are freckles (no, I don't actually know the word for freckle in Portuguese), I have had them my whole life, I always will, and I happen to like them." "You like those things?" one of the girls asked and when I said yes she scrunched her nose and said "oh." I responded in English and stormed off. There are some days when the tactless brutal honesty of Mozambicans is just too much to take.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Internet out again, so back to writing blog post by thumb on my phone which is less than fun. I was waiting for one of my classes to settle down at the beginning of class today, especially one pocket of commotion among a group of girls. I crossed my arms across my chest and have them a I'm-slightly-annoyed-but-really-it's-your-own-time-you're-wasting-and-you-guys-are-the-ones-with-a-test-tomorrow look. One of the girls was using her 6" rules to sweep something to the front of the classroom and out the door. It was a hairy spider with a body the size of a quarter and legs twice that long. The class laughed at me when i said "oh my GOODNESS!" and made a face. I asked if they had found it dead in the classroom or if they had just killed it, but one student assured me "oh no teacher, it's not dead!" REDES (girls in development, education and health) is the girls' group that I always mention--I have become very deeply invested in the project, I have my own group at site and also recently became National Director of Finances. REDES is the largest secondary project (all Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide have a primary project--mine is teaching "science" in the secondary school--but we are also very strongly encouraged to have a secondary project) in Mozambique, so large that i could foresee it becoming a primary project for PCVs in a youth/gender development sector in the future. JOMA (young people for change and action) is what developed as a result of boys wanting to participate in REDES groups, and volunteers wanting to have a group that targeted behavior change in boys. JOMA is gender-neutral and i think there are huge benefits to addressing social change through young males and a co-ed group, but I also believe that in a male-dominated society like Mozambique's, a safe place for girls to learn and develop, such as is offered by REDES, is invaluable. A few weeks ago a few fellow make PCVs, the new leadership team for JOMA, informed us, the new leadership team for REDES, that they would be initiating a prank war against REDES (I think they are bitter that they are only the second-largest secondary project here). We told them to bring it on. The pranks have begun and although they are not quite blog-appropriate, I would like to assure my readers that the score is REDES: 1 (or 2, depending on how you count), JOMA: 0. Those boys were foolish to think they could take on a group of girls, especially the strong, independent, feminist girls that the leadership roles of a Peace Corps girls' group would attract.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


This past weekend we went to Cambine, which is one of my favorite places in Mozambique, I can’t remember if I talked about it, but we celebrated 4th of July there. It is about 10 miles off the national highway which is huge here, you can tell instantly that you have left the highway. It was founded by the Methodist church there and as a result all of the buildings in the town are made from sand-colored stones I have never seen anywhere else. Between the buildings and the lush rolling hills you could be convinced you are in 19th century England. It is quiet, calm, and beautiful—just what I needed this weekend. Saturday night we planned to have a feast, so we went during the day into Morrumbene, the nearest large town, to buy fresh shrimp, crab, and fish as well as vegetables.
I asked woman how much she was selling her pile of sweet potatoes for and though I knew the price should be 10 Meticais, she said 20 Meticais, probably because I was a white person she didn’t recognize. When I told her I wasn’t a tourist and I knew how much they should cost, she turned to the women she was with and they switched to Xitswa (the local Bantu language there) to discuss it. One friend gave her very explicit directions with a lot pointing. The woman took two sweet potatoes out of the pile and told me it was now 10. The pile was still pretty decent so I paid for it. After, she reached into a bag and pulled out two sweet potatoes that were almost the same size as the two she had removed from the pile originally and gave them to me as a “bacela.” “Bacela” is the word for a little extra that a vendor gives you here when you buy something, especially if you are a regular customer, for example the woman I buy vegetables from in the market always gives me an extra small onion or tomato, or when you buy a cup of cashews on the street you ask for a “bacela,” an extra pinch of cashews, to be thrown in. Back to the original story, I didn’t really understand the rationale behind what she did, but I took it anyway.
That night for dinner we had shrimp and vegetable tempura, many different kinds of sushi, Thai yellow curry with shrimp and vegetables, carrot cake, and cheesecake. I felt uncomfortably full in the best way possible.


At morning announcements today one of my colleagues told this story. “A woman was carrying water on her head in a container that was not incredibly sturdy or well-secured, but she hoped it would last until she got home. The container made it some of the way, but inevitably it fell to the ground, spilling all of the water.” He asked the students, “will the woman be able to gather the water and put it back into the container?” No. “When is the proper time to fix the container? After it has already fallen to the ground, or in the beginning?” When the students responded that after the container had fallen it was too late to fix the problem, but instead the woman should have corrected it when she was first securing the container to put on her head, he explained that school is exactly like this example. If your skills and knowledge are not sturdy, you will eventually inevitably fall, no matter how far you make it initially. But the time to make corrections is not after you have already fallen, by then it is too late. You shouldn’t wait until after you have failed an exam to go ask the teacher for help or extra credit. The time to get help, to properly secure everything, is at the beginning, so you have a strong and not feeble base to work from, because after you have already fallen it is too late.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ann and me at the beach during some downtime during the conference

a theater session

Sandra, my counterpart, and Laura leading the group in a thank you song for ICAP

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Three of my girls, Mauria, Mercia, and Anacleta

More of the Island Game, with one of my girls, Mauria, front and center

The Island Game, a game in teamwork, planning, and strategy

ICAP giving a presentation on the risks of multiple concurrent partners

Two of my girls doing the trust/falling game

The counterparts for the groups leading a song

Laura, one of the girls from my group who I brought to the conference


Received terrible news from home this morning. While there is really nothing anyone can do anywhere, for the first time since coming here I really just wished I could be at home. Cam, we are praying for you here (I have all the Salesian priests and sisters of Inharrime praying for you), you are one of the strongest people I know, so if anyone can get through this you can.


This past weekend the REDES project (girls in development, education and health) had its first provincial conferences in the three provinces of the southern region—Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane. We wanted to have provincial conferences to allow more girls to participate (due to the huge number of REDES groups that now exist in the southern region and to budget limitations only two girls from each group could attend the regional conference, while five girls from each group came to this conference), to make the extra-group activities semi-annual, rather than annual, and to allow individual groups more time to demonstrate what they specifically do. The conference was only Friday evening through Sunday morning, as opposed to the 5 full days that the regional conference is, but we felt that it was still a success: that the girls enjoyed themselves and learned a ton. It was also a nice chance for me to get my feet a little wet as the financial director, though we ran into some obstacles between the bank not switching the names on the account, and being on standfast (meaning I couldn’t travel to a city that has the bank we use) due to the demonstrations around the country. So a fun, though exhausting, 48 hours.
Saturday night we had FAMA REDES, where each group was supposed to present a dance or small theater to everyone. But we were having technically difficulties so only some songs would play. On my cd the only cong that would play was “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, so Ann and I rocked out and led probably the first-ever country dance party in Mozambique.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


One of my students showed up in class today for the first time since I had had the final exams from last trimester graded. I had all the finals graded by July 12th. I had just assumed he had dropped out. I want to ask kids like that, why bother? When I walked over and handed him his exam all of his classmates started laughing as they realized it meant he hadn’t shown up to the last two weeks of classes last trimester, nor a single class yet this trimester. I still have two students who I haven’t seen since I graded their exams.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

(from the left) Pete, Steve, and Tom trying to fix my toilet or otherwise being helpful!


“Folha” literally means leaf but, like in English, it can be used to refer a sheet of paper. During morning announcements yesterday my director was reprimanding the student on how dirty the school was, especially with all the “folhas” on the ground. It is a frustration of mine that the students, when sweeping their classroom, simply sweep papers and whatever trash is on the floor onto the sidewalk outside their classroom. So I agreed with my director that these papers needed to be picked up, until I looked around me and thought to myself, “there’s really not that much trash here this morning.” The director told each student to pick up three “folhas” and put them in the trash, so all 300 or so student picked up 3 tree leaves and put them in the trash can. And my mind flashed back to a time during training when I watched a woman walk around her yard picking up leaves and putting them in a trash bag, while stepping around an old bottle and a chip bag which she ignored. And the time during the REDES conference when we had a trash pick-up contest on the beach and we said no to the girls who came walking up with armfuls of sticks and brush and one of the girls very earnestly asked, “but why? This is trash.” There are some cultural aspects of Mozambique that I love and adopted instantly, there are some that grew on me with time and experience, and there are some that I will just never understand, no matter how long I am here.
At about 2pm on Monday the two (only) cell phone providers in the country suspended text messaging in hopes of weakening communication throughout the country to prevent more demonstrations from being organized. When we were first warned by Peace Corps a week ago that demonstrations might begin on September 1st, one thing they told us was which radio stations to listen to, should cell phone service be cut. And at the time I thought it was strange because although the government owns one cell phone company and large shares in the other, it would be a strange move on the protesters part to destroy cell phone service—it certainly wouldn’t help their cause. But now I realize that what Peace Corps was anticipating wasn’t that the protesters would destroy the cell phone network.

Monday, September 6, 2010

my bathroom...


Since the demonstrations began last Wednesday things have been a little more tense than normal here. Many government officials have spoken out against what they called riots in ways that I didn’t completely support, but I was too afraid to post anything too opinionated. I think my director put it most eloquently this morning at morning meeting. She spoke about how the way some of the demonstrators behaved was both wrong and counterproductive, such setting fire to a car or destroying a store of people who have nothing to do with the government—this does nothing to help your cause and only hurts those people whose property was destroyed. However, speaking out when you disagree with something is both a right and a duty of the people, and when people do this accurately and maturely then it is the duty of the government to respond to the appeals of the people.
There are many perks to living at school, today while I was eating lunch I saw one of my colleagues who I have been trying to track down for a couple days so I ran outside to talk to her. Of course the drawbacks: intending to go outside for only a couple minutes, I found myself sitting under a tree with three 11th grade students helping them through math exercises.
After classes I met up with the two cyclists, Tom and Pete, Steve, an Australian who they picked up along the way, Yvette and her two daughters because Tom and Pete needed a few things from here (they left some bags here while they went to the beach) and I needed a lift into town as my bike has a flat tire. Matt, who lives in Panda, two hours inland into the bush, needed some permission slips for next weekend’s provincial REDES (girls in development, education, and health) conference, but he has no internet access and his town doesn’t even have electricity. So I put the slips he needed into a large envelope labeled with his name, “voluntario do Corpo da Paz,” and his phone number on the front, and went in search of someone going to Panda. I found a guy sitting in a pickup truck and very sweetly asked if he could do me this favor. He said sure, but could I buy him a soda? I told him that once Matt had the envelope in his hands he would buy him a nice cold soda. The guy (who turns out to be Matt’s next door neighbor) was nice enough, but very adamant about his soda, so I ended up having to call Matt in front of him to confirm that he would indeed be receiving a soda when he got to Panda.
While I was in town I received a call from my director: I needed to come immediately, water was coming out from my room. I was mortified—am I that huge of an idiot that I left my room with the water running? I hurried back to the car and found Yvette and we rushed back to school. So rushing in fact that Yvette got pulled over on the way there. I stuck my head and pleaded to them “my room is overflowing water and I need to hurry back to shut it off, please, please, please let us go.” Perhaps it was because they know me or perhaps it was the panic in my voice, but they told Yvette to leave her driver’s license with them and go take care of this and then come back. When I arrived in front of my house I saw the two other Spanish volunteers who live in another room in the building sweeping tons of water out the front door—how was it possible that there was that much water?? When I unlocked my door and ran into my bathroom I was only slightly relieved to discover that I hadn’t been an idiot and left the water running, but that the hose to my toilet had broken and was shooting water all over the bathroom. I called our main maintenance guy but he was in Maputo, so I found the next best handyperson and ran up to the bakery where Pete was, who Yvette said is very good with tools. Soon Yvette (who stopped the water running for a good 15 minutes by just sticking her thumb in the hole to plug it as we tried to figure out how to turn off the water coming into my building—turns out the thing is broken. You can’t turn off the water coming into my building), Steve and Pete were all quite wet and trying to figure out how to stop the water from shooting everywhere (Yvette commented enviously on how great our water pressure is here. It’s a little easier to appreciate when it’s not flooding your bathroom though). My room, which is generally quite tidy and nobody ever enters, was quickly a flood of both water and people either trying to help or just watching. As I looked in at five people in my bathroom I looked up and saw four pairs of my underwear hanging from the drying rack, but Jade, Yvette’s daughter, quickly swooped in and got them for me to put in a less public place. Eventually Tom and Yvette’s daughter, who we had left in town in our rush, showed up and Tom started mopping up the inches of water. I kept apologizing and thanking everyone profusely and everyone so graciously acted like they were happy for a little excitement in their day. Thanks to a small lip between my bathroom and bedroom the only water that got into my room was tracked on people shoes, but it flowed freely into the room behind mine where all the medicine is kept, and from there into the hallway and out the front door. Luckily nothing was damaged by the water. The handyman and Pete eventually got a new hose with a valve on and screwed it firmly shut. So the problem is not solved, but water is not coming out anymore. Tomorrow is a national holiday so I don’t have a toilet until Wednesday, but luckily there is nobody staying in the room across the hall in my building currently, so I can use that one. Never a dull moment here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


September 3rd is the day of Laura Vicuña but we celebrated today because my director knew that if the holiday were a Friday nobody would come to the festival, but instead leave for the weekend. The festival kicked off at about 8am (impressive, since it was planned to start at 7:30) with a procession down to the concrete stadium seats and basketball where the festival was held. The day began with a full mass with six priests which surprised me although I guess it shouldn’t have. After mass was the theater production of the life of Laura Vicuña, an extremely pious girl born in Chile who grew up in Argentina with Catholic Sisters there. When she learned that is was a sin that her mother was living with a man to whom she wasn’t married, Laura asked God to forgive her mother and said she would offer up her own life in exchange for her mother’s salvation. She died not shortly after.
After getting the seriously stuff out of the way the festivities began. My college was the MC for the day and began with this joke: “how do you call an elevator in China?” (in English this is the equivalent of saying “what do you call an elevator in China”) this was followed by a number of fairly offensive suggestions by students and faculty until he revealed the punchline: “the same way you call an elevator in Mozambique! You just push the button!” I thought the joke was pretty funny, though I was surprised that anyone knew what an elevator was, the only one (and literally only one) I have seen is in Maputo. Afterwards followed presentations by representatives of each of the grades that varied from dances to poems to jump-roping. My REDES group danced, some students danced and sang, there was a French competition (students in Mozambique learn French beginning in 9th grade), the list goes on. At about 1pm everything finally ended and everyone went up to receive their piece of sweet bread before heading home. I saw my student who cannot read or write and asked him “how is it that you never come to classes, but you manage to come to the festival?” His colleagues laughed at this.
Yesterday demonstrations started in Maputo as a result of the price hikes (averaging about 50%, so they really jumped ridiculously) of food, fuel, and transport. It’s hard to get accurate news here, and I am not sure how much I would say even if I had accurate information, but it seems things got out of control on both sides, leaving civilians dead. Today the demonstrations had moved up into Gaze province (the one south of mine) and there was fear that they would spread up or spring up throughout the country. Ann and Emma both happened to be down in Maputo for medical reason this week and have been confined to the hotel since the demonstrations started. One of my colleagues has also been stuck in Maputo for two days now, even though she has her own car and isn’t even depending on the public transportation (which has been suspended). Being overly cautious the Peace Corps has told us which radio stations to listen to, should cell service go out, and to have extra money and food on hand, but it is hard to tell if these problems will travel as far north as I am.


At the end of class today a student asked if they had homework and I said “no you don’t since I know that with the festival tomorrow none of you would do it.” A boy in the front row perked up and asked excitedly “we have a festival tomorrow?!” Everyone laughed at him, he has clearly not been to a morning announcements (at 6:45am every morning we concentrate for 15 minutes for announcements, singing the national anthem, and prayer. It is mandatory) in over a month since we have been preparing for the festival for that long. i asked his colleagues if anyone could tell him what the festival was for and what time is started. A helpful girl said “it’s the festival of Laura Vicuña and it starts at 12pm!” This time everyone turned and laughed at her—we have been explicitly told many times that the festival starts at 7am. Really guys?
I was biking back from town yesterday riding into the traffic when a truck coming towards me honked and pulled over, so I turned around and went back. “Do you speak English?” he asked. “Do you speak Afrikaans?” When I said no he asked if I live here. He said “well… you see…I...” That 15 second pause I have become so accustomed to here. “how can I see you again?” “Really?!” I asked “I thought you needed help! That’s all?” “Well you see in this life we have only…” Mozambicans can be quite long-winded, so I politely said goodbye and left him there talking.
A few weeks ago Pete and Tom, who British boys cycling from near Durban, South Africa, to Kenya met some PCVs in Xai-Xai. Since then they have been basically riding from each PCV to the next as they make their way north along the coast. I had met them at the Timbila festival last weekend and made arrangements with them when they said they wanted to make their next stop in Inharrime. I will need to properly update this when I have all the facts, but they are fundraising as they ride to distribute mosquito nets to people who need them in high-malaria areas. They have a blog too that I will post when I have it!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This picture was taken at about 9am, so by 11am, midway through the festivities, there were about twice as many people there.

The mass which began the Festival of Laura Vicuña with not one, not two, but six priests.

A scene from the play of the life of Laura Vicuña: her death.