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: www.againstmalaria.com/eastafricacycle
You can follow their adventures at: www.travelpod.com/members/eastafricacycle
video

28/09/10

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.

26/09/10

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.

25/09/10

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

24/09/10

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

23/09/10

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

21/09/10

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.

20/09/10

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

14/09/10

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.

12/09/10

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

09/09/10

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!

07/09/10

“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...

06/09/10

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

02/09/10

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.

01/09/10

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.

Friday, September 3, 2010


John and Yvette's dive center at Tsene Lodge being advertised by actors in the production of the story of Laura Vicuña at the festival

more of my REDES group

kids from the primary school performing a traditional dance

my REDES group dancing at the festival of Laura Vicuña

Thursday, September 2, 2010

31/08/10

Our English theater group is encountering some problems, our play (which the kids wrote completely on their own) talks about the use of condoms which does not concord with the view of the catholic mission where our school is. I understand why the sisters are taking the stance they are, but it quite frustrating nonetheless.
The internet has been out for almost of week now, but is back (for the moment at least. Of course by the time I have things typed up to post or email it will probably be back out). So much to catch up on: the arrival of two English boys who are riding their bikes through Africa from South Africa to Kenya, the festival of Laura Vicuña, our mission’s namesake, and the riots in that started yesterday in Maputo and left two people dead (that may be inaccurate, it’s all through word-of-mouth), have started moving north up the country entering Gaza province, the one south of mine, has shut down transportation in the country (those chapas I love so much haven’t run in two days), and have all PCVs on “standfast” where we are not allowed to leave our sites.

30/08/10

Last week after my dad flew out from Maputo I stayed for a REDES (Raparigas Em Desenvolvimento, Educação e Saúde—Girls In Development, Education and Health) meeting. REDES is a PCV-run project that operates on two levels. There is country-wide leadership that organizes the annual regional conferences (booking venues, finding, training and paying facilitators, and writing the curriculum), provincial conferences, inter-group experience exchanges; applies for and manages the budget for all of these things; and represents REDES to the people who support us. Then there are the individual groups that are facilitated by a PCV and a Mozambican counterpart and meet with girls ages 13-25 on a weekly or more basis to do projects and discuss issues. Every group has its own focus, but the general categories are culture arts, and sports, volunteerism and community action, career preparation, and income generation, with an emphasis always on gender issues and HIV prevention. In a culture where girls tend to be given fewer opportunities, REDES groups and conferences create an environment where girls can have fun, increase their self-confidence, and learn skills which are all things that improve their quality of life and reduce their susceptibility to HIV. (For example, the self-confidence gained from REDES may enable a girl to negotiate condom use with her boyfriend. Or a girl who can make a living using the skills she learned in her REDES group, for example making bags, is less likely to engage in transactional sex—sex in return for any type of goods).
As Moz 13, the group before mine (I am Moz 14) prepares to leave, my group is making the transition to take over all projects. This REDES meeting was the handover meeting for the top country-wide positions, so I am now the National Financial Director of REDES. This is an incredibly exciting time to be working with REDES because the group, which was only started in 2005 by PCVs, has and continues to grow exponentially throughout the country. This is wonderful because new groups are popping up everywhere, including many groups that have no PCV, but are run by a Mozambican who was in a group while she was in school and has started her own group at the school where she is now a teacher. This of course is the ultimate goal—sustainability and Mozambican investment. But while this is a great achievement it is also a challenge because we have never before had to fund and communicate with groups that have no PCV representation. While in Maputo Anna, who is now the National Director, and I went with Moz 13’s leaders to meet with US Embassy’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) which is who funds us. Although we are a PCV-lead group and the Peace Corps recognizes us as a legitimate secondary project, we receive no funding from Peace Corps and all leadership is done in addition to the Volunteer’s primary project (teaching, in my case). The people at the PAO are wonderful and incredibly supportive of our project, even suggesting (and offering to pay) a Mozambican employee, which we hope to start this year. This will be the first time a position like this has existed but will be great for sustainability (as our leadership turns over each year), presentation with the Ministry of Education, and creating a network with the Mozambican-led groups. All of these developments are exciting and exhilarating, but also possibly overwhelming and we have to make sure we don’t grow too quickly.

29/08/10

Went to Quissico, the next town south of mine, this weekend for the annual Timbila festival. Timbila is the traditional xylophone-like instrument made from a special kind of wood. About 25 PCVs got together and it’s always fun to catch up with the people you don’t see often. the festival was huge, Quissico was just overflowing with people. What I liked about the festival was that it was completely Mozambican, it was not aimed at foreigners or tourists, but 99% of the crowd was Mozambican and it seemed to be a real point of pride for them. Honestly I didn’t love the timbila music. I found it too tinny and, like most Mozambican music, way too loud, but the dancing was spectacular and fun to watch.

27/08/10

Two major breakthroughs today. During the lecture I asked my students if they were understanding and a few of them actually said no! Then, at the end of class a student came up to me with his notes from yesterday’s lesson—he didn’t understand where a certain number had come from in one of the examples we had done as a class yesterday. I was floored. He had been studying! Not just doing the homework, but actually looking over his class notes with enough attention to realize he didn’t understand a very specific step in the example. I re-explained the example to him and practically floated out of the classroom.