Thursday, January 27, 2011


At announcements today our Pedagogical Director informed everyone that the Mozambican Government has raised the national security status to a code red, due to the heavy rains that have been falling for about a month now. He asked the students to relate this message to their families and neighbors, because very few people read the news or listen to the radio. The government has urged people living in lower areas to evacuate, to stock up on goods, and to be cautious around lakes and rivers. A young boy in Gaza province drowned in a river a few days ago, probably due to stronger-than-usual currents. The rains are supposed to continue for two months. I have been told that if they in fact do continue, that we will see flooding similar to that of 2000 when roads were completely washed out and many landmines dislocated.
Today was a great day of classes. Since we were studying parts of speech, I introduced my students to Madlibs. It is a strange concept for them to do something so unorthodox and, frankly, silly. But I think a few chuckles eventually indicated that they were understanding the game. Although at the end of one class a boy raised his hand and said “I got it!” When I asked him what he said “I fixed the text, don’t worry!” and showed me a paragraph with all of the correct words filled in. We’ll work on it.
I introduced a game called “Changing Sentences” today, unsure as to how it would go over. You begin with a sentence, for example “The Philosophy teacher is tall,” and you can only change one word at a time, so it went from “the philosophy teacher is good” to “the philosophy teacher is fat.” The problem with students here is there is absolutely no concept of “thinking outside the box,” they are always taught to give the expected answer, so it is difficult to get them to be creative. I told the class that they needed to change a different word in the sentence, so one boy stood up and said “The English teacher is fat.” I guess I set myself up for that. But the rest of the students loudly disagreed and one boy offered “the English teacher is beautiful.” It’s basically like the game Telephone where you whisper in ears, because by the end the sentence has completely morphed into a different sentence. When we finished the first example I circled the first and last sentences (“I love English class” to “they buy good mangos”) and got a collective and enthusiastic “AHHH!” from the class. It was a bigger hit than I could have hoped. As all the students were leaving one boy said to me in English “That was wonderful class teacher!”


Guy and Anat, two family friends since before I was born left today after a wonderful visit. I was partially named after Anat and here, where even sharing a name with someone is a big deal, being named after someone is a huge honor, so everyone enjoyed meeting her. They came to the mission on Sunday to see the afternoon dance party and meet everyone at the mission. Then Ann, Erin, and I took them out on the town in Inharrime for dinner and the one restaurant actually had something other than chicken as a dinner option! They must have known it was a special occasion. Monday through Wednesday we went to Tsene where we had a wonderful time hanging out with John and Yvette, lounging about, and where I basically embroidered for 72 hours straight and my hands kept cramping up but I discovered I love embroidering! Our first night at Tsene I cooked Thai massaman curry to everyone ALL BY MYSELF. (Anyone who knew me before I came here knows that is a huge feat!) I literally sliced every vegetable and did all the taste-testing by myself! And it was delicious!
Wonderful to have visitors, it’s always such a pleasure to share my new life here with people from back home.
One thing I am realizing that I miss is that I don’t have my students trained yet like I did with last year’s students. They don’t yet understand that I never make empty threats and when I tell them to do something like sit on the floor there is no discussion. Today I kicked out all 45 students of one class and gave every single one of them a bad mark for the day. I think now they are a little closer to understanding.
Tons of the girls from the orphanage have been sick the past week, at least 4 of them sleeping with high fevers at any given point. Irmã Lucilia explained that this happens every time they return from spending time at home, because in their homes they don’t have mosquito nets, often aren’t eating well, and don’t practice as good of hygiene.


I teach classes 1-4 of 11th grade, and on Friday one of the girls in training who is in 11th grade told me that classes 5 and 6 still didn’t have an English teacher. This upset me because they really need to learn English, but I said to Mary (my predecessor) that as much as I wanted to offer to teach the extra two classes, I couldn’t handle all of them and Mary agreed that I would go crazy if I did that, as much as I may want to. So of course this morning when my director approached me and asked me to take on these two last classes I readily agreed. It’s hard because the school literally looked and couldn’t find someone qualified to teach 11th grade and these kids really need to have English. But I did tell her that if I taught all 6 classes, I would only be able to teach each class 4 times per week, rather than the five times weekly that 11th grade English should meet.


Classes have gone pretty well this week. I asked the students to tell me something they like to do, first giving an example myself. In my first class I said that I like to read and I don’t know if it’s related, but almost every single student said they like to study. Liars. So for the next classes I tried saying “I like to listen to music with my friends.” I don’t know if it was the reason, but the variation in responses varied greatly after, including “I like to sleep” and (from one girl in training with the sisters who is absolutely wonderful) “I like to help people when they need it.”
We had given introductions so I asked the class “does anyone know what you say when you meet someone new?” One boy eagerly offered the response “I like you!” Not what I was looking for, but also one of the most common responses I get when I meet people (men) here.


There is a shopkeeper in town who particularly loves us and always takes the opportunity to practice his English with us whenever we visit his shop. Earlier this week he invited us over to dinner. I excitedly asked if he makes Indian food and he said “yes yes, you must come.” So we set the date for Thursday night. When we showed up he invited us in and offered us boiled cassava and some rum and sat us down in from of the TV broadcasting Indian soap operas. We poured as little rum as was socially possible and then tried to shoot it each time he left the room, chasing it with the heavily salted cassava. It eventually became clear that he had already eaten dinner and the covered leftovers didn’t look like nearly enough for three more people. So we waited out one incredibly awkward hour and a half until we felt it was acceptable for us to leave. But those incredibly awkward moments are what make the whole experience right?
Today I wore my hair down and curly for the first time apparently because all of the girls in the orphanage were completely transfixed by it. They demanded to know how I had gotten it so curly, insisting that I had gone to the salon. I don’t quite understand their logic, because there isn’t a salon that could curl my hair within 100k, but they were positive I had had it done.
I generally like to dress nicely during the week for my classes, but on Sundays I wear something a little more comfortable and low-key. The past two Sundays I have worn a nice capulana skirt and a fitted shirt (note: not a t-shirt). A couple of the girls in training (11th and 12th grade) were talking to me today and said “you always look beautiful during the week, but then look ugly on Sundays!” (direct translation.) Gotta love Mozambican honesty. I assured them that I would be dressed to kill this Sunday.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


My first day of teaching English today, I think it went well. I want to review the very basics before we dive into the year, but I felt bad because there were three kids from my English Theater group last year and I could tell that they really didn’t need to review the present simple tense. This class was one of the new classrooms, down the hill from all of the rest. Like I said, they aren’t quite finished yet, so they aren’t painted, there are no windows, and the chalkboard wasn’t quite dry, so it kept coming off with the chalk when I wrote on it. After a double period with them I walked back up to the main area of the school only to find that everyone else had left. Not a single student was still at school. As this class was leaving school they ran into their teacher for next period who ushered them back to their classroom. Poor kids, they had the bad luck of getting the only two teachers who would actually still hold classes even when nobody else was—a Catholic Sister and me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Today was to be the first day of classes, but just as last year, the schedules weren’t ready yet, so no classes were actually held. We held concentrations before both morning and afternoon classes where general announcements were made and a story told. Three of the classrooms where I will likely be teaching aren’t actually finished being constructed yet, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
This year eleventh, ninth, and the higher numbered eighth grades have classes in the afternoon. Which was perfect because all of my students from last year either passed into ninth grade, or failed and are in the higher numbered eighth grade classes, so I will be able to see them often. Some students who came up to talk to me were upset that I wouldn’t be teaching them this year. That felt nice. And a few of my REDES girls found me to make sure that we would be continuing our group this year.
I talked to a few colleagues about my desire to start an English Club in the school this year, because I think the biggest weakness with the English learned in the schools is that emphasis is put on reading and writing, since a teacher cannot possibly monitor the speaking proficiency of 60+students. Often you find students who can write exceptionally well, but cannot hold a conversation. My colleagues who I talked to were extremely excited about this idea and also had a couple ideas for things they want to implement this year. But people often have huge ideas that never become more than that, so I hope this isn’t the case with these.


Today was opening ceremony day for all of the schools Mozambique. It was scheduled to begin at 8am, so at about 9am everyone settled into their seats for the ceremony to begin. The fabric covering that used to provide shade has deteriorated since the beginning of last year, so everyone prepared to be roasted by the sun. These ceremonies are generally fairly tedious, full of uninteresting facts and people not using the megaphone correctly, so nobody can hear them. A few interesting moments were when our pedagogical director accidentally called our school by the wrong name (he called it by Emma/Erin’s school’s name, the other secondary school in town), when one colleague’s name was couldn’t be recalled during introductions, and when a colleague trying to open a large umbrella to shield the guests of honor from the sun sent one of the spokes straight through it, much to the amusement of the audience. The faculty sat facing the audience and from this angle we could see the dark gray cloud quickly coming toward us. When it began to rain everyone ran away searching for cover, leaving the speaker addressing upwards of 20 people. And despite saying that they would have to cut the ceremony short due to the rain, they kept talking. One soaked colleague remarked that they needed to stop talking, I responded that if we took away the umbrella protecting them, they would be sure to end the ceremony quickly. Generally those ceremonies aren’t too fun—thank goodness for the rain.
Class lists were posted this afternoon and all 9 girls from the orphanage who are in eighth grade discovered they had been put together in the same class. At first they thought it was funny, but then they voiced concern that it might be a bad idea. It is a terrible idea. I assured them that when Irmã Albertina, the school director, returned (she was gone today) she would immediately change that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


On Friday night we had our goodbye dinner for Irmã Verdiana who transferred to another house down in Maputo. The good news is that I will be able to visit her, but I am sad because she is a wonderful sister and was a great friend to me this past year. I also found out that three of the girls in training won’t be coming back to our mission for various reasons. I just wish I had known because I never got to wish them goodbye.
Yesterday I headed into town to meet up with Erin, Ann, and Angela, a new PCV from Erin’s group who is our closest neighbor about 40k down the road. It has been pouring for a couple weeks now (a lot of areas are in serious danger of flooding like they did back in 2000 when Mozambique saw terrible floods. The irony is that we badly needed the rain, it hadn’t really rained in about 4 months prior, but all these huge downpours aren’t what we needed) so we took refuge inside Ann’s house for most of the day. For dinner we made Thai massaman curry and it was delicious! Erin gave me tons of English-teaching resources which will be helpful because I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. Due to the bad weather the power has been fluctuating and going out completely all the time. After being gone for so long, the first time the power went out I almost felt nostalgic, like when you smell a food that reminds you of home.
I walked home for church this morning and even at 6am it was sweltering. By the time I got home all of my clothes were completely soaked through, so I put them in a pile on the floor so they wouldn’t dirty anything else. After I got out of the shower I saw the pile move and a reptilian head poke out. I got ready to jump up on my desk in fears that it was a snake, but luckily only a lizard scurried out of the pile and into my wardrobe. I’m pretty sure it’s still in there.
The girls are back! I missed them so much and the mission is finally restored to its wonderfully noisy state. The past couple days have been spent on my front porch with the music playing and the girls hanging around dancing, playing, or napping.
There are four new girls now, so once all of the girls return it will bring the total number to 56 girls. When I remarked this to Irmã Lucilia she told me we will have 70 girls total this year! That said, please check out! You can sponsor a child for very little U.S. money per year, and I can personally attest that the money goals to an incredibly good cause.

My mom

Momma warthog and her babies

On our nature hike, with Zebras in the background

As you can see, the wildlife got very close to our cars on these drives

Buck, my brother


Monkeys...I should probably know what kind but I don't sorry.

We drove right up to these guy lying in the road. Literally. They were pretty mad about being disturbed.


After Maputo we headed to South Africa for our safari before my mom and brother headed out. Between leaving someone at the border and having to turn back to retrieve them, a flat tire and subsequent bus switch, and slow driving, our roughly 602k journey took 15.5 hours. Like I said, travelling here is always an adventure. We got in too late to make the big five night drive we were scheduled for that day, but fortunately spots opened up in one the following night. We left our lodge at 4:30am the next morning for our guided tour of Kruger. We had a wonderful guide and throughout the day were lucky enough to see Impalas, Wildebeests, Jackals, Zebras, Warthogs, Monkeys, Giraffes, Elephants, Buffalo, many different birds, Hippopotamus, and Lions. Everyone always wants to know which of the “Big Five” animals we saw, thus we missed only Rhinoceros and Leopards. The cool thing about Kruger park, as opposed to a zoo or the smaller game drives is that the area is huge and the animals are wild, this can also be the problem though—because the animals are wild and there is a lot of area for them to explore, you aren’t guaranteed to see all of them. The last morning we had a nature hike with an incredibly knowledgeable zoologist who could tell us about every single plant and animal we saw, and pointed out leopard tracks where one had passed within 20m of the cabin where we slept. We were able to get fairly close to a herd of Zebra which is actually kind of scary on foot!
A woman working in a store asked us where we were from and found out it was our first time in South Africa. “Have you gotten robbed yet?” she asked us cheerfully. Luckily we made it out with no incidents however.
Back in Maputo I was able to get some REDES work done and then, since our meetings had been cancelled, I headed back to site earlier than I had expected. As we were waiting on the side of the road we saw a 20+ car caravan drive past and in the middle a hearse like I have never seen before, with the back made entirely of glass so you could see the coffin inside. Ann and knew it had to be someone important, considering that all of the cars in the procession were police cars or really nice cars, we later found out it was Malangatana Ngwenya, a famous Mozambican artist. “He is the Picasso of Mozambique” a man explained to us. Opening ceremonies for all schools should have been today, but they got moved to Monday because he will be buried today.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Finally back in Inharrime, last night I spent the first night alone in a room since December 7th. And don’t get me wrong, I love people, but it was such a relief.
This post and the following will be out of sequence which I apologize for, but I have news I felt couldn’t wait. I went back to work today, it was great to see all of my colleagues again and they all wanted to know how my holidays with my mom and brother had been. I got to work at 8am like I was supposed to and hung and around and did some reading. Our pedagogical director addressed the entire faculty and explained that the schedules weren’t finished yet, so everybody was still waiting to find out when they would teach and when. I helped a math colleague write some semester plans and then, having nothing else to do and knowing my presence had been felt, I went back to my room because a month of being on the go had taken its toll and I needed to clean. At 12 my director knocked on my door and said, “I thought the pedagogical director had told you, you are teaching 11th grade English this year like you had wanted.”
I had spoken to my pedagogical director last year and had intended to tell him that I was fine teaching whatever discipline, but would like to teach English if the opportunity arose. I think he may have understood it that I didn’t want to teach math anymore and only wanted to teach English, which is slightly frustrating. But I think I did them a favor anyway because second cycle (11th and 12th grades) teachers must have extra qualifications that first cycle (8th, 9th, and 10th grade) don’t. Last year our school only had one teacher qualified to teach second cycle, but it worked out because our school only had through 11th grade. But this year we expanded to 12th grade as well, without hiring any new faculty, so I think they would have needed me to teach English regardless. My English colleagues happily welcomed me to the “English team” which was nice. And as of now, I am no longer teaching math which is a little sad. We’ll see what happens though because I am the only person named to be teaching 11th grade English, but there are eleven classes of 11th grade and 11th grade English meets five times weekly. So that’s 55 hours per week, twice the Peace Corps limit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One of my host brothers

My host mom and baby Anata



After a wonderful week at Tsene we headed down to Maputo for a few days. Since my visa is still not ready I had to apply for another declaration to be able to leave the country and come back in. Getting it was a process, as are all things in this country. I went in on the date that they had written on my receipt to return, but of course the visa wasn’t ready yet and they acted annoyed with me that I was there already. When I asked for another form the woman asked what I did with my other one and I explained that the woman at the border from South Africa had kept it (like she was supposed to). The woman responded, “well why would you leave and come back in again?! You are on holiday, you should have left and just stayed out, rather than leaving and coming back in and leaving again!” I wanted to tell her where she could put her opinion on how I should spend my vacation, but instead I went out looking for a place to copy my receipt because, although they needed a copy, they had no copy machine there. So on the morning we traveled down to Maputo I had to run north to Maxixe to pick up this form since, on the other day I was there the power was out in the whole city and they weren’t able to process my form. We eventually made it down to Maputo—traveling in this country is always a process. When we eventually got to the Junta, where all the buses drop off in Maputo, we walked to where the taxis are and I started talking (in Portuguese) to one guy about where we were staying. He didn’t know it initially so we called the hotel and had them to explain how to get there. After we knew where we were going and put our bags in the car I asked him how much it would be (which I realize I should have asked first). He told me twice what it should be and even when I informed him that I knew what the real price should be and we weren’t paying that he wouldn’t budge. I told him to open the trunk and take our bags out, we were taking a different taxi. He sneered at me “all the taxis here are going to charge the same.” I smiled back at him and waved my phone “don’t worry, I have plenty of numbers of taxis who won’t try to rip me off.”
We spent one day in Namaacha visiting my host family which was fun, now they have met my entire real family. And baby Anata, Anatinha, is a full 5 months old and so healthy and always smiling. Unfortunately my four year old brother wasn’t there, he was visiting family actually very close to where I live. But I got to see my mom, Anatinha, my grandmother, my eight year old brother/cousin, and another cousin. A lot of the living arrangements have changed since I left, one other brother who is three is living with Anna’s host family (cousins of mine) on the far side of Namaacha now so I didn’t get to see him. But it was a wonderful visit.

Thank you Buck for all the great pictures!

Buck working on college applications at the beach and Erin reading


After a wonderful Christmas at the mission we headed to Tsene Lagoa on the 27th (happy birthday Mama!) for a week. Still my favorite place in the world. It just has a calming effect on your soul, both due to the wonderfully beautiful setting and scenery, and because John and Yvette are such amazing people. I will post pictures. One day we walked down the beach to Zavora (about 8k) for lunch one day which was fun because there are a bunch of lodges there, thus the beach was full of people, some of them our friends. But seeing all the people also made me so glad we are staying at Tsene, where we have the whole beach to ourselves.
Almost every night we (my mom) prepared some or sort Thai or other Asian dish which everyone loved, often trying it for the first time. And everyone got to try rolling their own sushi.
On New Year’s Eve we had a potjie, a traditional South African stew outside, and then we headed down to the beach for a bonfire and to bring in the New Year.

Christmas Lunch


Two stories I forgot to include from Christmas. There is a mentally crazy boy who used to be a student at my school and still hangs around the mission grounds often. He was actually a student when Mary was here and worked with her on a music project, so he went crazy only recently everyone around the school and mission still knows him very well. On the evening of Christmas Eve, as we were getting prepared to head to midnight mass he wandered onto the mission and, seeing all the activity around my house (my mom, brother, Matt, Erin, Ann, and I were all staying in the building where I live) was hanging around on the front porch. I sent Matt to ask the sisters to help us get him to leave but they kind of laughed it off. Part of the problem with the whole situation was that he responds best to Irmã Albertina, the director of my school, thus his former director, but she had left already to attend mass in the bush. So I went to talk to them and tell them that I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him there, but they all laughed off the situation, saying that he’s harmless and would only try to enter the house if the doors were left open. (At times he believes he lives here and once, when someone was cleaning and had left the door open, he had wandered in and was found sleeping in one of the beds.) I kept saying, I understand that he is probably harmless and I am probably overreacting, but I am still not leaving for church for three hours knowing he is sitting on my front porch (and in the back of my mind this whole time was the story of a fellow PCV who was robbed last year, his door kicked in and house ransacked, while he sat in Midnight Mass about 100 meters away). I talked to every single sister with the same outcome, they were getting annoyed because they thought I was overreacting and I was frustrated because nobody would actually do anything to help me. So I played my final card: “okay” I said to the head sister “like I said, I don’t feel comfortable leaving my house alone for three hours knowing he is hanging around it, so my mom isn’t going to be able to go to Midnight Mass with us, she’ll stay here at home.” It worked like a charm and they had him outside with the gates shut behind him within minutes. He actually followed us to church because during the time when I was throwing a fit, he fell in love with Erin and tried to kiss her. Matt reprimanded him for this so he didn’t try it again, but the 5 of us also actively created a physical barrier around Erin for the rest of the time he was around. He sat behind us in church but when it became clear that we were in it for the long haul he wandered off.
At the end of mass something fell from the ceiling and landed on the floor in front of the altar. It was the biggest cockroach I have ever seen in my life, like 5 inches long and 2 inches tall (for those of you who watch “How I Met Your Mother,” it was a Cockamouse!). Slightly bewildered from the fall, it wandered aimlessly around the front of the church for a little bit and you could feel everyone in the congregation tensing up, anticipating that it would head toward them. I personally was calculating how offended other churchgoers would be if I jumped up on the bench with my shoes on. But to everyone’s great relief it eventually scurried into the nativity set and stayed there until the end of mass.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My host grandmother and baby Anata

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Anata and Anatinha

Verbal updates to come asap but wanted to post some pictures while I can. Yesterday we went to Namaacha to visit my host family, this is a picture of my real mom, my host mom, and little Anata (or Anatinha as many people call her) on my back.