Friday, November 26, 2010


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


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


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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


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


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


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

Sunday, November 14, 2010


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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


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


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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


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

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


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


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