Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sunday afternoon dance party. I swear, the kids here are born already knowing how to dance.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


May first is Labor Day in Mozambique. Noting the irony that it falls on a Saturday this year, I asked if we would get either Friday or Monday as a holiday. It was explained to me that because it fell on a Saturday then no, we don’t get a holiday from work, but if it had fallen on a Sunday then we could have.
One of the nice things about teaching five math classes is that I get five chances to get my lesson right (this, of course, is also the downside). Today was the introduction to our new theme, equations, and although the kids have seen them before in 7th grade math, I like to start from step zero because that’s where some of my kids are. I was trying to show them how equations exist in everyday life, we just need to translate them into the language of math. For example, the phrase “I had 7 oranges but dropped some and now I only have 2. How many did I drop?” can be written in math 7-x=2. I try to keep in mind that when I do fun and different stuff like this, it is completely brand new to my students and they probably think I am a little crazy. So the first lesson I just really did not do a good job explaining this concept to the kids, and when I asked them to all write five phrases, first in Portuguese and then in the language of math, they either couldn’t do it or used my exact phrase with different numbers. But the second time around with that lesson I had people writing phrases about having to distribute 10 oranges between 5 people and (to the class’ amusement) having started with 20 cigars but having already smoked 14. Progress is progress.
One day Ann was walking the 2+ mile walk from her house out the mission where I live. A car of white South Africans pulled over, rolled down their window and said, why are you walking? She explained that she lives here and she was going to visit a friend who lives about two miles out of town. They accepted this, rolled their window back up, and drove off. Thanks for the ride.

Monday, April 26, 2010


First day of the second trimester today, nice to get back into the swing of things.
My two friends just had their house robbed for the third time, so they now have to move houses. After the first two times they were given the option to leave but they very bravely and admirably decided that they had been at their site for well over a year and were now a part of their community, so they didn’t want to have to recreate that in a new place with only a few months left in their service. But enough is enough, so now we are just all hoping that they will be able to stay at the same school at least, especially since they only have two trimesters left here and having to switch schools now would be a nightmare.
There are many used clothing markets in Mozambique, and Africa, filled with all the clothes you donated to Goodwill 10 years ago. Literally, all the clothes come from Europe and America, with all the brands you recognize. The Africans refer to these used-clothing markets as the “dead mulungu” (mulungu is the word for foreigner) markets. When asked why, it was explained that it was assumed that all the clothes in the markets where from dead mulungus, because why else would someone give away perfectly good clothing?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Inharrime crew, Ann with her girls and me with mine.

The girls from Laura Vicuña who came with me to the conference.

Beach trash-pick-up, one of the afternoon conference sessions.


Thanks to all of my colleagues showing up to work on time and everyone working hard, we were able to finish grades yesterday. We had a meeting Thursday, but my director very graciously allowed me to miss it to go to the REDES (Girls in Development, Education, and Health) conference instead. By leaving early Thursday morning I was able to make it down to Xai-Xai in time to start the day, so I able to be at two full days of the conference.
The conference, what I saw of it, was wonderful. The girls from Moz 13 who spent months planning and coordinating all the logistics and the conference was incredibly well-run, they left big shoes for us in Moz 14 to fill. It is difficult to verbalize the feeling inside when you see 50 young girls learning new things, enjoying learning new things, excitedly participating in activities, and feeling incredibly empowered and enabled. Especially in a country like Mozambique where women are often treated like second-class citizens. From what I could tell, the girls at the conference had incredible week, from the all things they learned and did, to the new friends they made.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Last night I was playing the guitar. Two girls were helping me sing the chorus, one was accompanying me on the unplugged piano, two girls where ballroom dancing, and two girls where dancing as if it were a Shakira video.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


As I understand it, one of the girls from the orphanage who is in the 8th grade won mvp for the football (soccer) tournament that took place over break.
As far as I can tell, honey can’t be found in stores here (at least outside of Maputo). Luckily for me, honey is produced somewhere near Inharrime and sold on the side of the road in various containers. So last week I bought honey in an old gin bottle and finally settled down to use some today. Four dead bees came out first. When I asked if this was normal I was told “of course! That means it was really fresh!”
Today during a faculty meeting one colleague asked for advice because he was encountering a speech defect in a student that he had never seen before. His student pronounces his “F”s as “P”s, thus his continent becomes Aprica, etc. My of my other colleagues quickly quipped “that’s too bad, instead of having [faith] he has [feet].”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


This week, I suppose since we are working through our break, all the faculty have been fed snacks and lunch courtesy of the mission. After lunch in the orphanage dining hall we headed back down to the secondary school, but rather than returning to the classrooms where we had been working, everyone loitered outside. I asked what we were waiting for. My colleague seemed surprised, “well we just ate, we need to digest! You can’t do anything right after you eat!” I laughed, “but it’s not like we are doing anything physically strenuous, we are just using our brains, I don’t think that will upset our digestion process.” They just shook their heads at me.
On Sunday Irmã Albertina and I were helping one of the girls going to the REDES conference get ready. As she was getting dressed she began to step into her skirt but Irmã Albertina rebuked her, “that’s a skirt, not pants!” The girl looked a little shamed, as if she should have known better and put the skirt on over her head. I asked, “you can’t step into a skirt like this?” “Oh no, you only put pants on like that. Skirts and dresses go on over your head. You mean you step into your skirts in America?” She was appalled. I told her I had no idea how most Americans got dressed, but I had always stepped into my skirts.

Monday, April 19, 2010


This morning I went out running by myself and returned with 7 running companions, a group of 4th grade boys on their way to the primary school at the mission to do yard work. Nobody runs here, they just stare and laugh at the foreigners when they go running.
Today all the teachers had to come to work to do grades. Our school has about 1600 students, and the teachers who are here this week are doing extra work to compensate for one of our colleagues who just had a baby, one who is really ill, and the rest who work at both our school and the other school in town and will be only at the other school this week since it is much larger than ours. This is the grading process for each homeroom class. The grades for all (in the case of 8th grade) 11 disciplines has been written out for the 45 kids on individual sheets of papers, in the homeroom book, and on two “pautas” (the impractically large ~2x3’ pieces of paper). The faculty split into groups of 5 people and one person reads from one of these the grades in each discipline while the other three people follow along on the other places that have grades to make sure they all correspond. Once this is done, everyone goes back through all of the grades, one person reading aloud again, this time writing over everything in blue pen. After this, the pencil is erased. Then, based on the students grades and missed classes their behavior is rated very good, good, or sufficient (there is one below that but I am not sure what it’s called). And then for each student it is written whether they passed or not (a student is allowed to fail only one “sciences” discipline and one “letters” discipline, but they can’t be the two core subjects, math or Portuguese. So if a student gets below a 10 in either math or Portuguese they automatically fail. I didn’t know this. It makes me wonder why some of my students don’t try a litter harder in math). After this, statistics on how many males, females, and overall students passed in each class are taken. And then on to the next homeroom. Our school has 38 homerooms, today my group did 3.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


And so begins the process of grading for the first trimester. Although most schools have at least one computer nowadays, all schools still use the traditional system of writing out all the grades in the homeroom book and on ~2x3’ sheets of paper called “pautas.” The process is incredibly tedious and time-consuming because there are so many students and every single grade is written out about 4 different times in pencil, and then afterward rewritten in blue pen.
In Mozambique the grading scale is 0-20 and 9.5-20 is passing and 0-9.4 is a negative score. At our school (and I believe this is common) the lowest grade a student can get for the first trimester is a 7. My director explained today that this is to hopefully encourage the students that if they just tried a little bit harder they would be able to pass, and then for the second two trimesters it’s up to them to make the grade. I am not sure I agree with this reasoning, but it does make sense.
My bike is a piece of shit. I wasn’t expecting to find a Specialized or anything over here, but the one I have is really pretty shitty. The back wheel wobbles and thus rubs once during every rotation, the shifting is questionable, and there is another rubbing somewhere I haven’t been able to identify. The problem is that there aren’t bike stores or anything here, my friend who has a friend who sells bikes just called me anytime one would show up in town. Today I was riding back to the mission from town when a group of four 10 year olds ran at my bike, I think trying to scare me into crashing. When this didn’t work, one ran up behind me and jumped on the back rack, breaking it and bringing me to a stop. I got off and ran after him telling him that if he came near me again I would beat him. I was a little shaken up by this, I didn’t quite know how to feel about it because nothing like that had every happened to me in Inharrime before. Most people know who I am, and most of the kids I see are respectful and my students always seem genuinely pleased to see me. But perhaps this didn’t happen because I was a foreigner, but just an easy target. I was female and alone and plus I looked really weird, I was wearing a helmet. I don’t think anyone here knows what they are, people kept politely telling me they liked my hat.


Today was the last day of classes of the first trimester, so in each of my classes I introduced the kids to Sudoku. I drew one on the board and then explained the rules and we solved a bunch of squares together. They seemed to really get into it and enjoy it and with some coaching they were able to solve a few. The thing that is difficult about Sudoku and the point I don’t think I was very effective in getting across to them is that you can’t put a number just because it could be there, you can only put a number when you are absolutely certain it cannot go anywhere else. I gave them two puzzles and told them they could solve them over break if they wanted, for extra credit in the second trimester. So we’ll see.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Today in my double blocks we did a faction numbers “game.” Really not that fun, a lot of math, but I called it a game in an effort to entice the kids. I assigned each letter of the alphabet a fraction value and first names used addition and last names used multiplication. Working in groups of 4 or 5, they had to determine the value of each person in their group’s first name and last name, and tell me who in their group had the first name with the greatest value and the last name with the lowest value. So not really all that “fun” or much of a “game,” but I suppose it’s all about delivery and I think the kids enjoyed doing something completely different from normal school. Plus they got to work in groups, I played music, and they got to boast about whose name had the highest value.
Natalia tested positive for malaria today but luckily she seems to have a very weak case of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This is the view of Tsene Lagoa Eco Lodge, the four white buildings, from the other side of Tsene Lagoa. Anyone who comes to visit me will be taken to this piece of heaven!

Pegasus (Emma’s horse) and Lil’ Lad (mine)


Yvette and John own 9 horses (I think, possibly more) and Yvette took Emma and me out riding twice and was incredibly patient with us as we were both novice and timid riders.


Today we arrived in paradise. When Emma’s parents were here visiting they spent some time at the Dolphin lodge at Zavora beach and got to know John and Yvette, the wonderful couple who, along with some other people, own and run Dolphin Lodge. Since then, Yvette and John have been gracious and generous to invite Emma, Ann, and me to their own Tsene Lagoa Eco Lodge to spend some weekends. I was finally able to go this weekend but sadly Ann wasn’t able to. Their lodge is situated about 8km south of Zavora beach on Tsene Lagoa and just over the dune from the ocean. It is secluded, peaceful, and breathtakingly beautiful, in addition to the fact the John and Yvette are the warmest people on earth and amazing cooks. They treated us like their own children and we enjoyed a weekend of relaxing and just taking in the view, watching rugby, swimming in the ocean, playing with their dogs, riding their horses, and snorkeling! It was my first time snorkeling and I loved it. I saw yellow fish with black stripes, orange fish with a white fin, yellow fish with a black dot, and many beautiful plants.
This is the view from our front door of Tsene Lagoa. Lagoa Poelela is over the first ridge in the distance and the Indian Ocean is over the dunes to the right.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


This afternoon I stopped by the primary school because I needed the signature of the director. Noticing she was the only adult there, I asked where all the teachers were. She told me that they are all in teacher formation classes to get certified in the morning, and then come straight here after to teach in the afternoon. So until they arrive, she is alone with the 6 classes of kids and shuttles back and forth between classrooms, giving them exercises and such to keep them occupied until their teacher arrives. I said, "I had no idea! Tomorrow I'll have to come help you. I could teach them songs in English!" I was joking. Next thing I know I am being dragged in front of 45 second graders (mortified because my shoulders weren't covered, I was wearing a tank-top, I hadn't planned to actually enter the school), "this is Professora Anata, she is going to teach you guys a song in English!" So I taught them "Head, shoulders, knees, and toes." It was a huge hit.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Monday of last week something happened with the energy in my building, for no apparent reason. The light in my bedroom, the porch light, and the light in the hallway wouldn't work, but the light in my bathroom, the light in the bedroom across the hall, and all of my electrical outlets continued to work. Today at about 4pm the lights began to work again. I imagine I will finish my two years here still completely perplexed by many of the things that happen. The internet has been out for a number of days now. But just wait unti you see pictures and hear about this part weekend!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Happy birthday Buck! I can’t believe my baby brother turned 17.
Yesterday I received a map of the world in one of my six packages. After “laminating” it with clear packaging tape, because the word “gentle” doesn’t exist in Mozambique, I brought it into my Life Group class today. It was a huge hit. For a lot of them it was probably one of the firs times in their life they had seen a map, and I am sure nobody had ever let them get right up against it and touch it before. We talked about the 5 continents (still weird for me), the equator, Africa and Mozambique, and Portugal and how Portuguese is spoken in Angola, Brazil, and Mozambique because of people coming from Portugal to colonize those areas. Afterwards I just let the kids look at the map and some of them really got into it, pointing out to each other the countries they knew and finding the map of Mozambique out of all the world’s maps at the bottom of the map. One girl was helping me carry the map as I walked from one classroom to another and she asked me what the lists on the back were for. I showed her how, if you didn’t know where on the map a country was, you could find country on the list and then use the coordinates, for example, Mozambique is in box H-11, to find it on the map. She thought this was incredible and began to excitedly show other kids how to do that and they were soon trying to find all sorts of countries.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

One of the Easter baptisms. (Thank you Ann for the wonderful picture!)


It wasn’t until someone was watching me grade exams yesterday and asked me about my students that I realized that all my best students are boys. The average grades for my five classes are around 10 (out of 20), but I have 8 students who consistently score above 17 on all of their exams, and they are all boys. I am frustrated but at a bit of a loss as to what to do because I certainly don’t favor either gender in my teaching, nor do I want to, and so I have no idea what I what do differently. But in a country where girls basically get the shaft, it is very likely that, at home, my female students are doing all the housework while my male students have are given the opportunity to study. But I am at a loss as to what I can do about it.
We did group work today in class for the first time and it turned out wonderfully, much better than I expected. I had put it off until now because I was afraid that 45 kids working in groups in a room not quite big enough for 45 students would be complete chaos, but the kids were working well together, consulting their notebooks for similar examples, and all contributing to the exercise. And having to grade only 70 exercises, rather than 225, is just wonderful.
Two kids came late to class, after all the others had already formed their groups, so I told them to work together. But the girl said “I don’t want to work with him, he doesn’t brush his hair.” I thought I had misheard or wasn’t understanding and when I finally comprehended what she had said I was caught so off-guard that I responded in English, “I don’t care.” I was surprised because it’s not to say that the kids here don’t poke fun at each other, but many of the things that a kid would get ripped apart for in an American school is ignored here because of the general level of poverty of everyone. Sure, he wore that shirt yesterday and it’s ripped, that’s because he doesn’t have any more shirts. And sure he smells like he hasn’t bathed today (or yesterday or the day before for that matter), but that’s because water is damn expensive here.
I received 6 pieces of mail today! Little pink and red hearts literally burst out of a couple of the packages because they were in fact Valentine ’s Day packages. The postmarks for the packages were January 12th through February 16th. But better late than never!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


April 7th is Mozambican women’s day. A women’s day celebration for the town was scheduled for 7:30am at the plaza in front of the Inharrime government building and surprisingly started at 8:15am! Like all things Mozambican, there was lots of singing and dancing. Then a bunch of different, most likely important, people spoke and flowers were placed in the symbol of Mozambique. Unfortunately it was all in Xichopi so Ann and I didn’t know what was going on the entire time. Afterwards they played music behind the government building and offered free HIV testing to anyone who wanted it.
When I left I met up with the truck coming from the orphanage and Natalia, Idurre (the Spanish volunteer before Natalia who is back now working on another project), and I took the girls down to the lagoon for the day. The 50 of them sitting in the back of a flatbed truck sang loudly the whole way there. We had packed a lunch and afternoon snack, so we just spent the entire day there swimming, napping, and playing. As far as I can tell the lagoon never gets any deeper than two feet, so basically it is a mile-wide kiddie pool. Not great when you actually want to swim or cool off (the water is always pretty warm), but perfect when you’re trying to keep an eye on 50 young girls.

Monday, April 5, 2010


The way the Mozambican school schedule is set up, we had final exams last week but then we still have two more weeks of classes before the trimester ends. So you may be wondering why kids would even bother going to class these last two weeks then, and what I have been told by other volunteers is quite simple, they don’t. I think that because I have the youngest of the young kids, my attendance will be better than, say, the 11th graders, but I am still planning my lessons to keep the kids occupied for two weeks without covering any new material. It actually works out okay because most of my kids are failing so I will use these two weeks to give lots of exercises and group work to give them the opportunity to boost their grades.
I have gotten so accustomed to the power going out every day, multiple times per day that I often forget that this didn’t used to be normal for me. Now I have learned to keep everything as charged as possible and always have a backup plan when breakfast is coffee but your electric water boiler is useless. And I know I shouldn’t complain because many of my friends have no energy at all, but expecting to have light and then having to grade 90 exams by candlelight is literally a headache.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Thanks to the many packages I have received from friends and family, I was able to prepare a little goodie bag for all 53 girls in the orphanage today. While the girls were inside eating lunch Ann and Emma helped me hide/distribute them around the courtyard. Then before the girls left after lunch I told them that in America our parents would hide eggs or other candies and we would have to find them, so outside there were 53 bags and each girl had to find the one with their name on it. Lovely chaos ensued in the courtyard, all of the older girls helped the younger ones find their gifts, and everyone was so appreciative.


Twelve of the girls from the orphanage got baptized tonight during Easter vigil. Because of the larger crowd, mass was held outside which was a huge blessing because it was a hot night and would have been sweltering with all the bodies inside that small reed church. It was so fun seeing all the girls all dressed up in their best dresses and with their hair all done. Margarita (the 3-year-old) was wearing a beautiful white dress and Irmã Albertina said, “you look like you’re getting married! Who are you marrying?” and Margarita said “Mana Anata!”
The baptism ceremony was beautiful and powerful. All of the girls’ godparents, some aunts and uncles and some godparents through the orphanage’s sponsorship program, came for the ceremony and to visit them at the orphanage. The girls were so excited to have their godparents there and to be the center of attention for once. All day today whenever a car would pull up all the girls would go running out to it yelling, “it’s my godparents!”


The beauty salon. With Easter coming up and 12 girls getting baptized there was even more hair-doing than normal.
Mozambicans never miss an opportunity for theater, so for today’s Holy Thursday mass a group of teenagers actually acted out the Stations of the cross and the whole congregation walked around the Salesian technical school’s campus, stopping at each station. I have never seen anything like that and I thought it was wonderful, especially for the girls who found it fascinating.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


It was finalized last night that I won’t be able to attend the big annual REDES conference. It is scheduled for the one week between the first and second trimesters which is the only time it could be since we are supposed to bring two girls from our group to the conference and pulling girls out of school for a week isn’t quite justifiable. But the problem is that this is the time teachers do all of the grades (keep in mind this is a HUGE process with over a thousand students and all of the grades been entered by hand). In previous years the break has been two weeks long, so the grading could happen the first week and then the conference the second week, but this year the school schedule changed. I asked if I could finish everything before hand, but the problem is that many of the teachers at our school also teach at the other secondary school in town, and since the other secondary school is even huger than ours, they will be working there that week. I think that also they don’t want to let me miss that week because they know for sure that I will show up and work hard, whereas they can’t be as sure of some other colleagues, and we will already be short teachers. I understand and there is no one to be mad at, I am just incredibly frustrated and disappointed. I spent two weekends planning the conference, so I was incredibly pumped up for it and looking forward to how good it was going to be.
And someday. Someday. I will learn not to believe a Mozambican when they tell me something will happen quickly and not last long.


This week is final exam week so we haven’t had any classes, instead the students take two classes per day. Eighth and tenth graders take two exams in the morning, there is a short break, and then ninth and eleventh graders take two exams in the afternoon, and the schedule is such that at any given point, all the kids in the school are taking the exam for one discipline. Teachers are randomly assigned to control the tests so I am seeing some new faces. This could possibly be fun in other circumstances, but here where I am the only white teacher in the school and some of these have possibly never even spoken to a non-Mozambican before, it’s a bit of a pain because they have to test how far they can push me and how much they can get away with. A couple of times I heard something as I was approaching the classroom so when I walked in I asked, “does anyone here know my name?” Eventually one brave soul would raise their hand and answer. And I would respond “yes, my name is Professora Anata. It is NOT mulungo. Understood?” At this a couple of boys would giggle until I glared them into silence.
As the classes are so large and the ability range is so great, some kids will finish their tests in the first 15 minutes, while others are still scribbling as I grab their tests away from them after an hour. These kids who finish early are generally bored out of their mind and spend the next 45 minutes looking for something to entertain them. And that is usually me, the strange white lady with a funny accent. So I have to be careful to not register any facial emotions whatsoever, or all of the class will look around to try to find what I was looking at. This was rather difficult today though when I saw one of my students, bored out of his wits, having a thumb war with himself.
Mail is once again coming to Inharrime! The rumor amongst PCVs is that America and South Africa were having a little spat and thus Johannesburg was holding all American mail for about a month. We are all still missing a few packages, but after over a month of no mail at all, it’s nice that it’s moving once more.