Sunday, February 27, 2011


Yesterday afternoon we stopped by the Inharrime hotel, the main restaurant and bar in town, to get food to take back to Erin’s house so we could watch a movie. We were sitting in the main room when a really drunk guy came up and began to try speaking to us in English. He was pretty obnoxious but nothing out of the ordinary at first—a drunken Mozambican guy overjoyed to see four white girls. He really annoyed me when he welcomed us to Mozambique—this is my town, it’s bad enough that I have to put up with this here, but how dare you welcome me to where I have lived for over a year. I tried to put him in his place but that was just a mistake, he was too drunk, so I stopped acknowledging him and went back to my embroidery. He kept walking away and then coming back to lean in too close to talk to us or try to rest his hand on us. We kept telling him to leave and otherwise ignored him, hoping our food wouldn’t take too long. When our food finally came out he proclaimed “I will pay for your things!” but we just ignored him and tried to pay as quickly as possible so we could leave. When he saw one of us trying to pay he tried to physically stop her, but she ignored him gave the money to the woman working. In response he yelled “F*** YOU!” and threw the contents of his beer bottle at us (but not the bottle thankfully). At this point the two women working finally got upset and asked him to leave and apologized profusely to us until we left. Thankfully he didn’t try to follow us, but Yvette was ready with her brand new glass bottle of hot sauce, just in case he did.
I love this country and the people here. But there are a few things I really don’t like and this situation exemplified one of them. It is generally considered acceptable for drunk men, actually just men in general, to behave like that. That behavior is even expected in some ways. So the entire 20 minutes he kept bothering us and we clearly didn’t want him talking to us and we kept loudly asking him to leave, not a single person around stepped in on our behalf—not the two women working or many of the other patrons of both genders. I have encountered the same problem on public transportation many times, where a man is harassing me and not a single person present sticks up for me. The mentality seems to be just that “boys will be boys,” and in some ways I brought on this behavior by being a woman, being alone (as in not with a husband), or being a white woman.


On Tuesday I was in the shower when the water started sputtering. It began to come out slightly muddy, and then after a minute it stopped coming out at all. A slight annoyance, but it happens often enough that I wasn’t too surprised. The water never came back on that day though which was strange, usually it comes back on within a few hours. It never came back on and I found out that the whole mission was having problems. Ronnie apparently has some background in construction and plumbing, and he was running all over the mission trying to figure out what had happened and fix it (because of course there are no blueprints or anything, so nobody knows where or how anything is connected). We are lucky he is here because if he wasn’t, who knows how long it would have taken to get everything fixed (remember when I didn’t have a toilet for a couple months?). He eventually got it all fixed…almost. My room is in the same building as Ronnie’s and another room, but apparently on a separate water circuit, because when the water returned for those two rooms it didn’t return for me. Apparently my room is on the circuit with the guest hosts behind our building. So when the rest of the mission regained its water, I got only hot water in my shower (my sink only has one knob and it’s for cold water, so no water there). Scalding hot water. To take a bath that day I had to fill a large basin with hot water, and then wait two hours until it was cool enough to use to bathe. And it is just a bizarre irony to complain about having only hot running water in a country where few people have running water, and nobody has hot water. While Ronnie was investigating the water situation he saw many aspects of the mission he hadn’t before, and he expressed to me his concern about how low the quality of workmanship was at the mission. In general in this country, things aren’t built to last and the materials are poor quality. It makes me nervous watching men build classrooms out of unbaked cement blocks that I myself can break—what is going to happen in 10 years when they simply disintegrate?
At English club last week we were explaining how I am from the U.S.A. and Ronnie is from Canada, and they are neighboring countries. One student asked who a famous person from Canada was and I immediately replied “Justin Bieber!” and all the students said “ahh! Justin Bieber!” I think Ronnie must have died a little inside.
A few weeks ago two white South African guys started chatting up Ann at the gas station. They must have been particularly enamored with her because apparently they showed up at Erin’s house the next day (we weren’t there) to see if we were interested in joining them for coffee. Apparently it really is that easy to find out where the white person lives.
One girl from the orphanage watching me embroider asked me how I would get it back to the States, and I told her by mail. “What is the mail?” she asked. Turns out the mail system is a fairly strange and difficult concept to explain to someone. She was completely mystified by the fact that every single house in America has its own number and address.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Still adjusting to teaching 11th grade English. I am finding that the biggest adjustment is to the age difference, rather than the curriculum difference (and maybe that is because Alice, an English whiz (no seriously, she is published poet) has given me all of her 11th grade English lesson plans). My little 8th graders were too young to develop crushes on me. My 8th graders were a little more obedient (or scared), or perhaps I have forgotten how long it took me to train them. A couple times this year students showed up late, so I told them to sit on the floor (As is customary) and continued teaching. And they walked away. I was completely stunned—did they actually think they had a choice? After recovering, I called them back and informed them and the entire class that I didn’t ask questions, they were to sit on the floor when they arrived late, and anyone who would rather leave than sit on the floor was more than welcome to leave and never again set foot in my classroom.
I had a really great discussion with my REDES girls today. We were talking about completing secondary school—they all said they planned to and I believe that most of them actually will. The biggest challenges Mozambican girls have in completing school is when their families aren’t supportive, when they have to live away from home in order to do so (which more conservative families are less likely to allow), and when they get pregnant (the chances of which skyrocket when the girl is living away from home). But most of my girls have family living here, have older sisters already paving the way in 11th and 12th grades, or have educated parents. Last year all of my REDES girls had morning classes, so we would meet at 12:05 when their classes ended for the day, and this worked perfectly. This year they all have afternoon classes so we proposed to meet at 11am before their classes. But Mozambican punctuality is dismal. These girls genuinely want to be there and I have to forcefully get them to clean up and head to class at 12pm, but they cannot for their lives arrive on time. So after a couple meetings where girls showed up 45 minutes late, we have decided a new tactic. They are mostly in two classes, so we will meet on the two days per week these classes have agriculture class in the morning, so they are all already at school. Hopefully this will work.
We had our first two English club meetings this week—they were wonderful. Ronnie, the Canadian volunteer, came to the first one and I hope he will continue because having another native speaker is so helpful. And obviously these kids are some of the best students who want most badly to speak English well, so speaking with them and teaching them is a pleasure. I had the idea of each meeting discussing current events from around the world, so last night I went online to find some stories we could discuss. And I found this very difficult. Their world experience and knowledge is so extremely limited, it is hard to find something they can discuss. How to we discuss animal poaching in a land with few laws about that and where animals aren’t given much value aside from providing meat? I am sure that many of them have never seen an airplane, so how would we discuss a plane crash? They claimed that they knew what as earthquake was, but I have never heard of one happening here. WikiLeaks? They don’t even have computers. And I realized that they also wouldn’t know where many of the places we would talk about are, so I brought the world map I was sent last year. The map, as always, was a huge hit—it’s surely one of the first times they have been allowed to touch one and spend extended time just exploring it. So we talked about protests in Egypt and Libya and Sunni-Shiite conflict.
A few students from the afternoon section have approached me about wanting to start an English club for them (my current one meets in the afternoons, so is for the kids in the morning section). As soon as I get my schedule next week we will start one for the afternoon section too. And I talked to the director of the professional school across the street yesterday about starting one there. His response was enthusiastic but cautionary—that interest will be high and I may end up with more participants than I can handle. But my experience here is that interest doesn’t necessarily correlate with participation, so I am not too worried. I have one REDES girl who is in 12th grade this year and she is the only participant who doesn’t have classes in the afternoon section—thus she cannot attend our meetings. She is really wonderful—incredibly enthusiastic about REDES and always wanting to learn and transmit the messages of REDES, rather than just hang out, and she has really embraced her role as a leader/big sister (all the other girls are in 9th grade) in the group. Thanks to great suggestions from other REDES PCVs, I was given the idea of assisting her in starting her own REDES group at the primary school. She is extremely excited about this and has already talked to some girls about the idea and when they could meet. I have given her a REDES manual to prepare for tomorrow when we will go talk to the director of the primary school and she will explain what REDES is and why she believes it is important to have at the school. If this project is successful it will be great in two aspects. It will start a group in the primary school which REDES is trying to do more of, the younger you can get them, the more of an impact you can make. And it will also provide her with invaluable leadership and facilitation skills for life, as well as preparing her to begin her own REDES group where ever she ends up next year after graduation.
And I am still experiencing a lot of pouting, complaining, and offering alternative solutions from the 4 classes I don’t teach anymore, plus a lot of gloating from the 2 I am still teaching. And I feel a little bad but it also makes me feel good that I’m missed, even with all my crazy American idiosyncrasies.

Monday, February 21, 2011


This morning I made my first announcement at the morning concentration before classes. My colleagues and director always think it’s pretty funny to invite me to say something, but I always decline. Last year one colleague was adamant that I make an announcement at some point. I smiled and told him that when he made an announcement in English, then I would gladly also make an announcement. My announcement today was that we would be starting an English club for students who enjoy speaking English and would like more practice conversing. Since there is not a single empty classroom in the school, I thought it would be best to meet on my front porch (literally 30m from the school) and go from there. So I asked the students if they were familiar with my house. And I am pretty sure, judging from the way all 500 of them and my colleagues laughed, that this had a sexual connotation. But you have to have tough skin to survive here and stuff like that doesn’t even faze me anymore.
Afterwards I was walking back to my house when the 12th grade English teacher walked by me and said “thank you for what you are doing! I think this project will be wonderful for the students!” Such a good feeling.
Yesterday my new English colleague sat in on my lesson. I have watched almost all of my colleagues teach at least once, but not a single one has ever watched one of my lessons, so it was nice. He speaks surprisingly good English and I think will be good to work with.


Last year when I was director of a class a couple times the student who was “chief of hygiene” came up to me telling me that certain students hadn’t brushed their hair. And a couple other teachers made comments too, so I asked one of my female colleagues to explain the situation to me. She called a couple students over to show me living examples of both brushed and un-brushed hair. I couldn’t tell the difference. The students shouldn’t be allowed in the classroom with un-brushed hair, but I didn’t pay much attention to it, mostly because I couldn’t really tell the difference, but also because I thought it was strange and didn’t matter. (It’s all a matter of perspective. At my high school, if our hair was wet, it had to be pulled back, it couldn’t be down and still wet. I am sure many a Mozambican would think that was strange…also they often can’t pull their hair back.) Yesterday afternoon I saw that Margarita, the 4-year-old, hadn’t brushed her hair, so I scolded her, grabbed a comb, brushed her hair telling her how it only took a few second and now it looked so much prettier, and sent her on her way with a pat on the rear. All of that happened so quickly that it was a few seconds later I thought to myself, “wow, that was weird.”
This morning my director asked to speak to me and led me to sit on a bench under a tree for a serious discussion. I thought to myself “am I in trouble?” I couldn’t think of why I might be in trouble, but one of the joys of living and working in a foreign culture is that expectations of right and wrong and good and bad can be very different. She explained that they had finally been able to find another English teacher for 11th grade (I had heard this from students at mass yesterday) and that they were going to give many of my classes to him, but they didn’t want me to be mad or offended, but they were planning for the future, as I will only be here this year. I assured her that I wouldn’t be offended and told her that I was more than happy to teach any discipline and any grade level. Apparently Peace Corps has a rule that PCVs can only teach during one section of the day (or either morning classes or afternoon classes, but not a mixture of the two) which is good because it protects the PCVs who are sometimes exploited and abused by their schools. But my school has always treated me fairly, so I told my director I was more than happy to have class during both times as long as it wasn’t too many hours, whatever helped the school the most. She and my pedagogical director were both incredibly grateful for my flexibility and availability. (Does availability work there? I just had to look up a Portuguese word in the dictionary to see what it is in English, but I don’t think it translates adequately.)
They decided to give four of the 11th grade classes to my new colleague and let me keep two, which will be good because now we can return to meeting 5 times weekly, which 11th grade English is supposed to. My pedagogical director let me choose which two classes to choose. For second cycle, 11th and 12th grade, the students choose either Letters or Sciences, and this is the focus of their studies until graduation. It is common knowledge at all schools that the Sciences students are either more intelligent or less lazy or some combination of the both—they are the better students. So I quickly chose the two Science classes over the four Letter ones. I did feel a little bit bad later though when I saw some good students from a Letters class who asked me which classes I would be teaching and seemed really disappointed to not have me anymore.
Apparently class #11 of tenth grade only has only five disciplines, because there simply aren’t enough teachers. They don’t have English, History, or Geography classes. I might be forgetting a few. This is an especially huge problem because 10th grade is a national exam year, so in October they will be expected to take national exams in every subject, including the ones they don’t have a teacher for this year. My guess is that, with such limited resources, the school decided to use them where they thought they would have the greatest payoff. Classes are arranged by age, so class #11 is the oldest kids, the ones who have failed the most times. It’s a shame to realize that they are just being given up on, but here where there are so few resources and so many students, schools don’t have another choice. Because of their strange schedule, this class doesn’t even have a single class on Thursdays, so my pedagogical director said he wants me to give classes then. He seemed to want me to give lessons more to the tune of “Life Lessons,” but I think I’ll give straight up History, Geography, and English lessons—these kids need to prepare for the national exams!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Today a young man originally from Inharrime was ordained a priest. Inharrime has never produced its own priest or nun before, so everyone was extremely excited and proud. The mass was held in town but the church is not big enough so it was outside, in order to accommodate all 700 people who came, many bringing their own chairs and a couple hundred people standing once all the seats had been taken. People came from all over the country, including Inhassoro, a town about 400km north of Inharrime, where this young man has been training for the past few years. I counted 24 priests, plus the newly ordained one, and probably as many nuns, though they were interspersed throughout the crowd and harder to count. Four hours was a long service, but at least it wasn’t hot and didn’t rain today!
I suppose one might say I am a pretty staunch feminist, so I certainly don’t expect men to lay their coats out whenever I near a puddle. But I do miss the small sense of chivalry that exists in America. I can’t remember having a door opened or held for me in the last 17 months. Not once has a man offered up his seat to me or another woman in my presence. And I can count on one hand the number of times a man has, when the space for walking is too narrow to allow two people to pass, allowed me to pass first. In general I guess what bothers me is not these inconsequential things, but they way women are treated here.


I got a ride home from Maputo with two Spanish guys and one South African guy who are visiting Mozambique and who were going to Tofo so graciously offered me a ride home. Police controls are common here, and it seems they look for something they can get you with, so you are obliged to pay a bribe to continue. This is especially true then the driver is white. We got pulled over at a police control and when the policeman walked over I, sitting behind the driver, rolled down my window and greeted him as respectfully a possible with a big smile. When he cited the error I pleaded, “but sir please you must forgive him, he is visiting from Spain and has only been here for a day, so he has not yet learned all the rules.” Those were the magic words apparently because he responded “I want to go to Spain, I LOVE Barcelona!” These two guys were from Barcelona, jackpot, so we were on our way again. The guys were impressed. “No offense,” I said to the South African next to me “but people here tend to like you more as soon as they find out you aren’t South African.” He said he didn’t blame them. He is also from the Cape Town area and, in my small experience, people from Cape Town tend to hold the rest of the country, especially the Johannesburg area, with particular disdain.
At the second police stop I rolled down my window and cheerfully and respectfully greeted and policeman again. Hearing my Portuguese he immediately switched to Portuguese himself and asked how our journey was going and where we were headed to. I told him that the guys were going to Tofo, but I was going to Inharrime because I live there and I am a teacher there. Magic words again, he told us to have a safe journey. They guys in the car told me I was welcome to drive anywhere with them.
Unfortunately by police check number three my charm had worn off. But this policeman did something I have never seen in a year here—he wrote a real ticket. Rather than ask for money himself, he wrote a real ticket and instructed them to pay it at the Inhambane city (the provincial capital) police station. It was strange because in a rented car that they will have in the country for a few more days, and the ticket written only on carbon paper and not entered into any computer, there is no way to control that they actually pay the ticket.
And during the ride on the shuffle setting on their iPod, Merle Haggard came on. Wow.


Finally not sick anymore, it has been a nice week in Maputo. We have managed to eat Thai and ice cream the past three days so I couldn’t be happier! And other than a sketchy (though apparently negative) Tuberculosis test, the medical check-ups have gone smoothly (I guess I must have been exposed to TB in the past year because I have never reacted to a test before, but like I said, it’s negative). I got to see three volunteers who I haven’t seen since December 2009 (!) so that was exciting, though we only got to see them for a night, the way the medical schedules worked out. Maputo is always fun but I looking forward to going home tomorrow and getting back into real life at site.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Down in Maputo now, first for a REDES meeting over the weekend, then to run some REDES errands, then for our annual medical check-up. Due to a combination of all of the girls in the orphanage being sick after the holidays and staying up all night last Sunday (for the Superbowl) I got sick last week. The fevers, headaches and body pains were fine, but the lymph nodes in my neck swelled up a ton, making it incredibly painful and difficult to swallow for about 5 days. I was worried that this would continue the whole time I was in Maputo, preventing me from eating all of the good food here (which is basically the only reason for coming to Maputo), but thanks to antibiotics the swelling has gone down and I am feeling better and eating again.
Anna’s brother and his girlfriend are visiting from America so I got to meet them the other day. It’s always fun to meet people’s families and get a little taste of where they come from. Plus visitors from America also always remind us of how much we have changed in the past year.
Now it is time for our medical check-ups, so blood tests, collecting stool samples, all that fun stuff.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Teaching them the basics of American Football

Paz e Amor, Peace and Love

The Peace Corps' second goal: "Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served." Thus we attempted to achieve goal 2 at our Inter-group Exchange, via People Magazine.

After a particularly competitive round of "All My Neighbors," a game in which the middle person makes a statement about themselves and if it applies to you, you must find a new spot.

More pictures from our Inter-group Exchange. Here is one girl from my group and one girl from Ann/Erin's group.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lauren (taking the picture) said "pretend you're a lion!"

Us with all of the girls at the end of the day on Saturday. They had each made pictures for a contest the US Embassy is holding for the 50th anniversary celebration, so that is what they're holding.

During our Inter-group Exchange last Saturday a rainbow appeared and one girl asked me what causes them. Different girls spouted some untrue reasons and I laughed initially because I thought they were all joking around. But then I realized--they actually had no idea what causes a rainbow! And when I explained, they laughed at me, thinking it was another hocus-pocus explanation like the ones they had just offered up. So this is me trying to explain the science behind light hitting water. I think a few of them still don't believe me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


On the first test i asked: "please write three dreams for your future (using the form 'I hope/want + the infinitive')." Sandwiched in between "I want to be a doctor" and "I want to see a crocodile" one boy had written "I hope to kill you." Interesting.


In a chapa today suddenly the driver yelled, “somebody is smoking on my bus!” He slammed on the breaks and as soon as the bus had stopped he jumped out and ran around to the window of the smoker. He proceeded to yell at this man, telling how disrespectful this was and how he show throw him out and leave him on the side of the road. I was surprised. Although not many people smoke here, I have never heard anyone be so opposed to it. Also Mozambicans tend to be fairly non-confrontational and hard to anger, so I was surprised by his explosive reaction.
I just wish I could have a single conversation with a Mozambican man that wasn’t about whether I was married yet or have a boyfriend, how I needed a Mozambican boyfriend, how I couldn’t go two years without one, and asking for my phone number.
Like I said before, three of the classrooms I teach in aren’t quite finished yet. The windows they were missing appeared one Monday morning. Another Monday we found they had been painted. Today men outside were sawing pieces of wood and nailing them together, forcing me to yell over the noise to teach.
I ran into a student from last year and he rather accusingly asked why I wasn’t his math teacher again this year, but I explained that the school needed me to teach English this year because there was nobody else for 11th grade. I asked him who his math teacher is this year and he said that he does like him and it’s going well, the only problem is that he misses a lot of classes.


After we fed the remaining REDES girls and sent them on their way this morning Ann, Erin, and I headed about 150k north to the town of Massinga where there is a gas station that has dstv—thus we would be able to watch the Superbowl. We met up with 17 other PCVs there and spent the day and night hanging out (they had gone to the beach in the morning but we didn’t make it in time), catching up, taking naps, and getting to know some of the new volunteers from around the province. Eventually we headed to the gas station for the 1:30am kick off, piling all of our bags in various corners and finding places on the floor, on empty beer crates, and in chairs we had brought to sit for the game. One volunteer remarked that it felt like a “lock-in” that one has in grade or middle school in the states. Although some people were asleep face-down on the floor after a while, a core of us made it through the whole game. Unfortunately the commercials weren’t broadcasted here, but we got to see all of the game and things like the halftime show. It was only the second time in 16 months that I have heard the American National Anthem, so I was disappointed that one of the verses was forgotten. But it was fun to share the experience with so many other people and to watch American football after so long, though many of us agreed that it made us miss America badly. The game ended at 5am which is right when it became light enough for us to travel, so everyone headed out in their respective directions to return to work.


Today my REDES (Girls In Development, Education, and Health) group had what is called an Inter-group Exchange with Ann and Erin’s REDES group. This is a fairly new concept and the idea is that it is a chance for all of the girls in a group to participate in a day of REDES activities outside their normal group meetings. Each Inter-group Exchange should include two of the following three components: (1) an informative guest speaker or fieldtrip, (2) an exchange or teaching of skills, (3) a community service or action project. For this particular Exchange we decided to bring in a local nurse from the hospital as a guest speaker. She has two children and has now decided to return to high school to complete 11th and 12th grades (she had through 10th grade only before, she is in 11th this year) so that she has the degree and could possibly become a doctor in the future. The second component we chose was an exchange of skills: my group, which is more established, taught Ann and Erin’s group how to make the capulana earrings we sell and a how to dance a dance they performed at a school festival once.
In some respects the Exchange went really well and was a huge success. Throughout the day we had a number of different activities and I think the girls really enjoyed all of them. We played an icebreaker game known as “all my neighbors” in The States that the girls got really into and were all shrieking and laughing and getting really competitive about. We taught the girls how to throw a Frisbee and incorporated a name game into this activity. We had a great brainstorming question where we came up with questions to ask the guest speaker once she arrived. We had chicken parmesan and cabbage salad for lunch and a couple of my girls told me after that I am a good cook, big praise from a Mozambican. We taught the girls how to throw an American football and have some great videos from that. We did as activity called “my best qualities” which encourages the girls to think about their own best qualities, hear about those of others, and they get to make and keep a bead bracelet. Throughout the day we had free time during which the girls got to just hang out and read Ann’s gossip magazines from the states. They all watched Harry Potter in Portuguese while we prepared dinner and then the girls who spent the night got to watch The Little Mermaid in Portuguese before bed.
The girls from my group were good about helping explain to the other group how we went about constructing this earring-making project; how you must survey the demand of the product and how when you begin an income-generation project you start with negative money because you must first buy all of your supplies. My girls demonstrated how to make the earrings (each earring is a bottle cap covered with capulana cloth) and girl made an earring and got to keep that one. (We sell them for 20 Meticais per pair and they make great gifts!! Hint, hint). Outside later my group performed their dance to “Waka Waka” which basically consisted of them bickering the entire song about what the correct steps were and then one girl spinning too hard and knocking herself over. We got it on tape and although it’s not what anyone planning the Peace Corps 50th anniversary activities can use, it generally sums up life here with my REDES group and brought me to tears, I was laughing so hard.
And then there were the frustrations. Our guest speaker never showed up. She is one of Ann’s colleagues at the hospital and Ann confirmed with her multiple times this week that she was good to go for Saturday. Ann called her multiples times on Saturday and when she talked to her she just said that she was waiting for her husband to come home to watch the baby. Ann stopped by her house (which is about 300m from Ann’s, where we had the Exchange) three different times that day. I was incredibly frustrated because they girls seemed excited about her coming to speak, and had been really enthusiastic about what questions they would ask her. And I was pissed at her—she never called us or stopped by, it was only after Ann tried all day and it eventually became 5pm that we realized she wasn’t coming. The other frustration—I invited 4 female colleagues from my school, an active woman in my church, the local doctor who is a woman, and the Inharrime police chief who is a woman. Not a single one of them came. And what is most frustrating is that I don’t know what we could have done differently. We typed up formal and officially stamped invitations to the doctor and police chief. I reminded my colleagues multiple times throughout the week and even ran into one the morning of the Exchange and confirmed that she would be coming. Of course many of them had reasons they didn’t come, but there is always a reason to do or not do something. I was frustrated because Inter-group Exchanges are supposed to community-based. We (REDES, as well as Peace Corps) are always working toward sustainability, so REDES events must include involvement (even better, be led) by community women who feel like they have something at stake in the project. No matter how much fun the girls had today, three American girls leading all of the activities has two drawbacks: it makes less of an impression than Mozambican women doing the same, and it also ends when we leave the country.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I finally got my visa this morning, though it seems like it might actually have killed the woman working at the Migration office to smile or be friendly about it.
At the beach yesterday I was telling Erin how frustrated and sad I was because one of my best students is pregnant. I was really looking forward to teaching her this year and getting to know how her English had gotten so good. In addition to being one of my most active participants during class, she also was the student using obscure words like “sailor” during Madlibs. I was telling Erin that it was too early in the school year to be able to work around the situation and I wondered how long it would take for people to notice. Today she wasn’t in class and the director of that class had written “pregnant” next to her name, so I guess she is gone. I hope she is able to continue night classes at the other school and perhaps she could even return here this year since she looks pretty far along. It’s so disappointing to see talent like that going to waste and it’s so frustrating not being able to do anything to help. And the unfairness of simple biology drives me nuts—she didn’t get pregnant on her own and I guarantee that the person who got her pregnant is still attending or teaching at my school.
Tonight I was in my room when I heard someone calling from outside. When I went outside it was an older woman and three young girls, she told me she was looking for her third-grade grandson—he never came home from school this evening. I took her up to the main house of the sisters where we found two of the girls-in-training who are teachers at the primary school. They knew who he was immediately and recounted how today he hadn’t been feeling well or something, and was acting strangely. Because of this, his teacher let him leave school an hour early. When everyone else finished for the day they encountered him still sitting outside the gates of the mission. When they told him to go home he didn’t respond so one of them gave him a piece of bread, but he didn’t want to eat it and only stuck it in his bag. Apparently he eventually left and nobody has seen him since, and the two girls don’t think it’s likely that he went to a friend’s house since he tends to be a solitary kid. The grandmother assured us that she would come back in the morning to let us know whether or not they were able to find him, so I hope she does, and with good news.


Today was a national holiday, Heroes Day (also Emma’s birthday!), so we headed to Tofo beach for the day. Also Chinese New Year, so another reason to celebrate. We stayed at Becky’s house, the third house she has lived in and I have visited her in. It continues to rain daily, but at least we had some good weather at the beach.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

During the celebration for Laura Vicuña

Sunday afternoon on my porch

Remember all the rain I said we've been having? This is what it has done to our main street in town which runs down a hill


Teaching is going well. As I am sure they are learning to understand my American accent, I am slowly learning to speak their English. Bich is beach, thankfully. When a student said “I want to do the teacher” I smiled and responded “you want to be a teacher? That’s wonderful!” One student said he must bite in order to become a better fighter. I wasn’t sure if it was a Mike Tyson reference until another student told me he meant to say “beat.”
Today we celebrated the death of Dom Bosco, the founder of the Salesian order. Ronnie, the new Canadian volunteer who will be here for a year made lasagna for everyone for dinner and it was fantastic. They made everything, including the lasagna noodles, for 70 people which is really impressive. He kept apologizing that he had run out of sauce and vegetables, so it wasn’t as moist as it should have been, but I still thought it was delicious.
The two French bicyclists on the tandem who I met a number of months back emailed to say that they had successfully completed their bike trip from Cape Town to Cairo. They are now back in France and trying to readjust to life there, though their life now is “a little bit more African than before.” Here is their blog address to read about their adventure.


Last Ann, Erin, Becky, and I got together to cook and hang out. I made Pad Thai and it was delicious! Not just okay, but we’re in Africa so our standards are lower, it was actually delicious! And for dessert I made Thai sticky rice with mango (a bit modified because we can’t actually get sticky rice here, but it still turned out delicious!).