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.