Sunday, August 29, 2010


Today in the middle of class a student raised his hand to ask a question (the same one who last week informed me that my bata was mis-buttoned). I eagerly called on him and he asked “what does ‘you are the best for cook’ [in English] mean?” I LOVE his speaking up in class, now we just need to get the comments math related!
While I was in Namaacha my host mother asked me about one of the girls in the orphanage who she knew when the girl had lived in Namaacha (there is a Salesian Sisters’ mission with an orphanage in Namaacha too). She asked how she and her sister Nora were doing. I was surprised, “we have a Nora, but I didn’t know they were sisters!” Tonight I asked one of the sisters and she confirmed, I was surprised, I had no idea! “You didn’t know?” she asked. “Did you know Mariazinha and Julia are sisters?” No! “Did you know Sheila and Angelica are sisters?” No! She then rattled off a list, turns out we have 8 sets of sisters at the orphanage and I had only known about 2 of them! It’s interesting because the sisters don’t act any differently with each other than they do with all the other girls, but maybe they actually see themselves as having 51 sisters, not just one.
I finally got someone to do my laundry for me once a week. I hadn’t before because I felt so guilty about my posh life here that I felt like I had to suffer somehow. I will just have to find a less time-consuming way to suffer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


When I arrived at the “junta,” the bus terminal in Maputo, this morning I was rudely reminded that I am not in the company of my big, intimidating father anymore, as I was immediately swarmed by rather rude and forceful bus drivers. I found the bus going to Inharrime, found a nice seat in the back by a window that opened, and prayed for other people to come fill the bus up so we could leave. You know the extremely old rickety buses you saw in movies about Africa back when we (I) were kids? That, unfortunately, was the bus I was riding, but it was fairly full, going to my town, and beggars can’t be choosers. When I told Anna, who I had come to the junta with, this she responded, “Such is life. Although the woman behind me is chanting in some stange language and rocking back and forth. Curious to see where this goes..."
I was exhausted from a weekend full of meetings and not getting quite enough sleep for many nights because I was trying to catch up with the people I don’t get to see often, so I went to sleep immediately. We left the city at 8am which was good, though the bus was far from full which I have never seen happen before and things that I don’t understand or am unfamiliar with here make me nervous. About every 45 minutes of driving we would pull over to the side of the road and the driver and the guy in charge of the bus would crawl underneath and do some fiddling, and they would refill something, perhaps gas or the oil? We obviously weren’t making good time doing this but I had already paid, was overjoyed to have the entire seat to myself (you are always basically sitting on someone else’s lap in the buses and chapas here), and I was in no hurry, so I just kept sleeping. At one point in my sleep I sensed something was different so I opened my eyes to see two ~15 year old boys had opened my window from the outside and were standing there looking at me with their faces about 12 inches away from mine. But at the same time I woke up and realized what was going on the ~11 year old boy in front of me gave them a disgusted look and firmly shut my window.
At 2pm we finally arrived in Chissibuca, only two towns and probably little over an hour from Inharrime, and the bus broke down. For a while everyone sat on it and waited because we had been waiting all day for it to start up again, but after a while it became clear it might not be restarting. I eventually got out and stood by the side of the road with my stuff trying to flag down a ride. Since I still had a few hours of sunlight left I decided to try to see if I could get a free ride, since I was pissed that I had already paid to go all the way home, plus from where I was it would have taken three separate chapas to get me home, just due to how their routes run. I wanted to go back and argue with the broken-down-bus conductor to get some of my money back, but I was afraid to miss a potential ride while I was fighting with him. Nobody was stopping for me, including all the white South Africans with tons of room in their cars. Eventually a large chapa from Maputo pulled up to me and tried to get me to get in but I said, “no I don’t have any money, I already paid for the bus home but now it’s broken down over there.” The conductor of this chapa told me to just get in and he would go work things out with the original bus conductor. Then surprisingly the original (broken down) bus’ conductor came over on his own accord and told me to get on this bus, he would take care of it, and pulled out money to give the new chapa. I was surprised and relieved that he was so unnecessarily kind.
I finally got home at 6pm, setting a new record for me: 10 hours to get from Maputo to Inharrime, a trip that takes less than 5 hours in a private car. The instant I arrived in Inharrime an adolescent greeted me as “senhora professora” and I thought, “yes I am home.” And when I got back and saw all the girls who hugged and kissed me as if I had been gone for years, it all didn’t seem so bad.


I noticed something interesting when my dad was here: nobody harassed me. On the Mozambican scale my dad is very tall at 6’2” (I am about the same height as many of my male colleagues) and he is much bigger built too. No matter how confident I have become here in my surroundings, my Portuguese, or my manner of dealing with people, I am still a fairly small-build white girls, and that’s all anyone here sees. When my dad and I were first approaching the bus terminal (a large open space jam-packed with buses and people) I warned him that we would be swarmed by people trying to get us on their bus, since we are white. I told him brace himself for that, keep a good hold of his bags—I have had people forcibly try to take my bags so they can put them on their own bus—and I would do all the talking. When we arrived and got out of the bus ONE man came over and asked where we were going, and when I told him we didn’t need help he left us alone. I was completely shocked. In many other situations, especially in Maputo city, where I would have normally been swarmed by vendors and such because they see blinking dollar signs above all white people, nobody approached or harassed us. It was nice!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Each morning and afternoon before classes all students and teachers congregate for 15 minutes of announcements, singing the national anthem, prayer, etc. This is the afternoon congregation; there should be about 800 students present but of course punctuality is not a Mozambican strong point.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


My 4 year old host brother.


Tonight Anna and I were at a restaurant when a couple Mozambican men at the table next to us started conversation. They asked where we were from and when Anna told him Alaska he got a huge smirk on his face and asked her, “so can you see Russia from your house?”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My host brothers, always very well behaved when food is involved

My host family, including baby Anata, and my dad and me.

Baby Anata!


Got to eat Thai food (YUM!) in Maputo last night before my dad left today. Hi visit was wonderful; time passes quickly here and I feel like his trip just flew by. The taxi driver nicely laughed at me today when I tried to get out of the car with my seatbelt still on. I haven’t worn one in so long!


Some days teaching will be better than others, today was not one of them. Today in one class of 44 students only two had done their homework when I checked. In another class of 45, only 4. And 40 students sitting on the floor just doesn’t work. I will have to figure out another system.


Some days teaching will be better than others, today was not one of them. Today in one class of 44 students only two had done their homework when I checked. In another class of 45, only 4. And 40 students sitting on the floor just doesn’t work. I will have to figure out another system.

Monday, August 16, 2010


After speaking to a class today I asked if anyone had questions and when one student raised his hand I got very excited because they very rarely ask questions. “Yes?!” “Your bata [white lab coat that teachers wear here] is buttoned wrong.” I looked down and sure enough I had mis-buttoned my bata by one button. Shoot.
Yesterday the students in my first period class had been dead to the world, so I made them all stand up and dance around for a minute to wake up a little. When I do stuff like this they actually think I’m crazy. Today when I walked in they greeted me so loudly that my ears rang so I joking said that at least they were already awake today and we wouldn’t have to dance to wake up, but they responded “no! We want to dance!”
During the 20 minute break in classes a couple of my students came up to me with a battered picture book of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” and asked me to explain the story to them. I have no idea how to say troll, or monster even, in Portuguese so that was difficult to explain, but I began to relate what was happening on each page to them. A lot of students are very interested in English, plus anything the white teacher does is a spectacle, so by the end of the book I had a large group of kids around me listening to my rendition of the story. And apparently I remember a very different version than the one I read to them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Today after a homework check in one of my classes I was left with 6 students sitting at desks (the only 6 students who had done the homework) and 36 sitting on the floor. Come on guys.
English Theater group met for the first time today in preparation for the provincial competition we will attend on September 18th. I had anticipated that interest would be pretty high, since many of the kids enjoy speaking English here, but I was still pleasantly surprised when 16 students showed up. Many students here love speaking English, especially with a native speaker like me, and it is also an incredibly useful skill to have, as all 6 of Mozambique’s neighboring countries speak English as the national language, including South Africa which is the most developed country in the southern half of the continent. Also all three of my English teaching colleagues showed up to the meeting which was another pleasant surprise. And it was good to have them there because even though I speak English, obviously, the students have difficulty understanding my American accent, so occasionally they had to repeat or explain what I had said. Unfortunately we will only be able to take 10 students to the competition, but I hope all of the students will maintain interest and help with the writing and acting out of the play.


A frustration today. I am most of the way through the first of a double period this morning when the maintenance guy asks if he can speak to the kids. He has a list of all the kids who didn’t do the cleaning work they were supposed to last trimester (in Mozambique the students are responsible for sweeping the classrooms, doing the yard work on school grounds, etc. and we have specific days when students are supposed to come to do these things, but usually many don’t show up) and tells them that if their name is read they have to leave school and come back this afternoon with a hoe and they aren’t allowed to return to class until they have done so. After he was finished reading the list I had only 22 of my 45 students left sitting in the classroom. I didn’t want to teach new material with so many students missing, so I thought on my feet and we spent the second period playing Hangman and Sudoku together. First trimester this really would have frazzled me, but now it doesn’t surprise me at all. I taught two more classes of kids today, in one of them most of the students were present so I was able to give the lesson, but in the other there were too many kids missing once again, so we reviewed old material and then played games.


We spent our time in Swaziland at Cabrini Ministries, run by the two wonderful Sisters Barbara and Diane. On their mission grounds they have a primary and secondary school, a clinic, a hostel for 126 orphans, a boarding house for students, a clinic, a police house, and many staff and volunteers. After being here long enough to have seen some poorly organized and operated organizations, it was incredibly heartening and inspiring to see such a well-run organization that is making tangible improvements in the lives of the people in their community.
As part of the health care program, nurses do visits to the homesteads of HIV positive people who don’t or can’t go to the clinic for treatment. One of the nurses is fairly new and doesn’t know how to drive yet, so my dad drove him that day, allowing us to spend the day visiting these homesteads and seeing more of the country. Their mission is in what is called the “low veld” and it is just a dry, barren, desolate land. I had never considered before how much the surrounding environment has improved my mental state here, but the environment there is fairly depressing! We drove for kilometers and kilometers, each time turning onto an even “sider” side road, none of which were paved (even the road the mission is on isn’t paved). At one point during the day my dad stopped and said the nurse would have to walk the rest of the way because he was afraid the car would get stuck in the sand and there was no space between the brush on either side to turn the car around. The people on the homesteads were bewildered to see us, but a couple of them expressed their overwhelming gratitude to the nurse, us, and the Cabrini mission that people cared enough to come all the way out to treat themselves or their family member who is too sick or poor to travel to the clinic. At one point I had to go to the bathroom so I asked the nurse to ask the woman we were visiting (at none of the homesteads we visited did people speak English) if I could use her latrine. The nurse laughed and told me they don’t have latrines, they just go in the bushes, so I asked him to ask her if I could use her bushes. I know my experience in Mozambique has been quite limited, but I have not encountered people not even having latrines here.
The second day we got to two out with two men who work at the mission, setting up tents for homesteads with a person with Tuberculosis, allowing this person to live separately and reduce the chances of infecting other family members. What malaria is to Mozambique, Tuberculosis is to Swaziland, and as they have recently begun focusing on testing for Tuberculosis, they have been recording rates higher than anyone was aware.
I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on many meetings while I was there—nurses meetings, clinic staff meetings, childcare staff meetings, etc. As I said before, it is wonderful to see just an organized and efficient organization in operation, and to see all the compassionate and dedicated people at work.


Sunday morning we left the mission early and went to Namaacha to visit my family and my new host sister, baby Anata, who had been born only Saturday afternoon. My three host brothers were there and though they were a little shy of my dad initially, 45 minutes later they were chattering and climbing all over us. The youngest boy who was barely speaking when I left in December is now chattering up a storm. Two host cousins, one Anna’s host sister who also lives in Namaacha, and another I had never met before where in the house to help out with new baby and the two American guests. They are both named after their grandmother who also lives there, so we had three Lalitas bustling around the house, and they cooked us a fantastic dinner, clearly pulling out all the stops for my dad. Baby Anata is beautiful, surprisingly light-skinned considering her parents (the family is probably overjoyed by this, lighter skin is considered more beautiful), a ton of hair for a day-old baby, and six fingers on each hand. The extra one was only the beginning of a finger coming from the pinkie, but had no bones in it so each was tied off with a string to eventually fall off (which they did that Friday when we returned). Apparently both baby Anata’s father and brother had had this same thing. I felt bad showing up when we did (but was incredibly relieved we hadn’t come a day earlier) because my mom was in a lot of pain and incredibly tired so we didn’t see too much of her.
The next day we spent walking around Namaacha, where I pointed out to my dad the mountain where Mozambique, Swaziland, and South Africa meet, all the places where we had classes and sessions during training, where the best bakery in town is, etc. A few families who had hosted friends of mine (other volunteers) recognized me and asked how I was doing and how “their” volunteer was doing and when they were going to come back to visit. It is interesting being back in Namaacha and seeing it now through more experienced eyes. I found it is much nicer, more developed, and beautiful than I had thought when I was living there.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Just returned from a week of traveling with my dad. We went to Namaacha first where he got to meet my host family and we got to meet baby Anata who was born only the day before we arrived! I will post pictures as soon as possible. Then we went to Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland to visit am old friend of my dad's who is a sister there and doing amazing work. More stories and pictures to come. Always good to be home and to greet the girls and sisters and everyone acts overjoyed in greeting each other, as if we haven't seen each other in years.