Wednesday, May 25, 2011


In my English classes we do a mixture of in-class tests and take-home exercises. I have one student who clearly (more clearly than anyone else) has a person as home who speaks English very well and does these exercises for her. For example, this is a sentence from one of her tests: “the buying local products impact country is rice, mangos” and this is a sentence from a take-home exercise: “Now the hospital is working directly with the government.” Last week I pulled her aside and told her that I know she has somebody else do her homework for her and the fact is that I can’t do anything to stop her from doing that, but she will never learn if she continues to do this and next year when she has to take the national English exam, she will fail because she hasn’t learned anything. I expected her to protest in denial immediately, but instead she got a look on her face that made me think she might actually stop this practice. I don’t really know what to do though. When it’s obvious the students just copied from each other, I underline the identical passages and give them zeroes. But I don’t know what to do in her case. I am positive that many of my other students are cheating, but I wouldn’t know because the people they are cheating from don’t speak such amazing English, so there is no way I can punish her for that. And honestly, as least she is trying—that’s a lot more than I can say for many of my students. But how to I convince her that it’s in her best interest to get lower grades and learn in the process? Or do I just focus on what I can control?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


This morning I headed up to Maxixe to go to the Bank of Mozambique to get the authorization form needed to make an international money transfer. The guy at the bank was very nice and helpful, but as he explained the entire process, I could almost literally feel my heart sinking lower and lower. In addition to the very long and detailed form to request authorization, I would have to write a letter and submit it to the Ministry of Finances, along with the invoice from the lodge. If they approved it, then more paperwork would have to be filled out and we would have to pay a tax on the amount being transferred. And the helpful gentleman told me the process would take 15 days, which here in Mozambique means that it would take a month or two. So with a sinking heart I went back outside and weighed my options. I contacted the lodge again and explained the situation to them and thankfully they said I could make the transfer to a bank account here in Mozambique, avoiding that entire headache. So I caught the boat across the bay to Inhambane where I went to an internet café (and the internet was working today, thank goodness. The only other two times I have gone to that place it hasn’t been) to type up a new transfer request and print it. But I am getting smarter, this time I printed double copies of two different transfer forms—one with the amount in Rand and one with the same amount in Metical, just in case.
Afterwards I went to the bank. I have become sort of a permanent fixture at the Barclays bank in Inhambane, kind of like when I was a little kid and basically lived at the ice rink. One of the ladies calls me daughter or sweetheart, and they all greet me by name and with a smile. I explained that I needed to cancel the transfer request from yesterday and instead make this new one I had typed. I asked the lady if it mattered if I did the transfer in Rand or Metical, was one easier? She told me that they were equally easy, but that a Rand transfer in Mozambique has an amount limit (which mine exceeded), so it would be better to do the transfer in Metical. Thank goodness I printed both!
And throughout this whole process, I think everyone I have dealt with has been really confused by who I am and what I am doing, because I speak English and Portuguese, I am not South African, I am not Mozambican, and I am doing business with a lodge that is here in Mozambique, but they are operated out of South Africa. I think the woman from the lodge couldn’t understand why I was having such a difficult time transferring to a South African account—because our email exchanges were in English, she must have assumed I was South African (as basically all of their clients are). The man at Bank of Mozambique couldn’t understand why someone who lived here in Mozambique needed to make a transfer to South Africa for a venue that is here in Mozambique. And the woman at the bank was confused that my passport is from America, but the bank we wanted to transfer to is in South Africa.
Last night I was feeling incredibly stressed, thinking about all the things I needed to do and not having gotten enough sleep. So I did the last thing I wanted to do, and the thing I knew would help the most. I shut down my computer and ate a slow dinner with the sisters and then went by the dorm and spent 30 minutes tucking the girls in for sleep. And it was so nice. I got to talk to Irmã Agnes, the director of the primary school, and she was telling me how impressed she was by Marica, my 12th grade REDES girl who is starting her own group in the primary school, and how important she thinks the concept of REDES is. And I got to spend time talking to Irmã Albertina, my director, who recounted funny stories from her childhood, including the time her sister tricked her into eating caterpillar.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The three judges with one of my students

The bench was really impressive. The reeds were woven together, making them stronger, and everything about it was very solidly built. It a coat of varnish, people in America would easily pay $100 for this how do we get it there?

Two boys from the professional school sitting on the bench they made for science fair


Yesterday I googled the Barclays bank in Maxixe trying to find their phone number, and the third search result was an entry from my blog. It’s a really strange feeling to think you’re on the World Wide Web and suddenly start reading words that you wrote.
The REDES southern regional conference is coming up in early August, so I have been in contact with Barra Lodge, where we have had conferences in the past. For the price quotes and details I have been dealing with a helpful lady in South Africa. Dealing with someone who works in South Africa is very nice in many ways—she calls me when she says she will, she promptly emails me what she says she will, etc—but it is also challenging because I don’t think she understands what it’s like trying to do business in Mozambique. Monday she told me that the deposit needed to be made by today to keep the reservation. Fine, I would rather not run 90k north and back before my classes in the afternoon, but I signed up for this job, I can do that. But I don’t think she understands how difficult this is here. I asked for the price quote in Metical, but since they are based in South Africa, they quote only in Rand. A bank-to-bank transfer generally takes two work days, but a transfer from a Mozambican bank to a South African bank and from Metical to Rand is proving to be quite a process. Even though Inhambane is the provincial capital, any bank-to-bank transfers are faxed down to Maputo to be processed. After all of the paperwork and answering questions, I thought I had gotten everything taken care of, but after I had returned home and was teaching in the afternoon, the bank called and told me that I needed to go up to Maxixe tomorrow and stop by the Bank of Mozambique to get an authorization form and bring it to them, so that they could make the currency change in the transfer. Maxixe is 90k north of where I live and banks are not fun or simple, I am interested to see how things go tomorrow, plus I am not exactly sure what I am asking for. Then I have to take the boat across the bay to Inhambane which is about a 25 minute ride, depending on how high the tide is (and that’s after the boat actually fills up and leaves). Then I have to take this form to the Barclays in Inhambane and see what they do with it. Then I have to come home to teach in the afternoon. And of course, the most fun part of this entire trip is the traveling—I have gotten to Maxixe in 40 minutes before and once it took me 3 hours and 10 minutes. You just never quite know here.
This morning while riding through a lower marsh area at 6:45am, it was so foggy that I was able to look directly at the sun. Through the haze and my sunglasses it just looked like a moon.


May 12th is Nurse’s Day, so on Saturday night the hospital staff had a nurses’ party and Ann brought me as her plus-one. Everyone was seated in a large square and we got seated far too close to the head table which was a little awkward. The permanent secretary and the doctor were there at the head table and they had also been at the science fair—long day for them and me! After dinner the tables were moved aside for dancing which is essential and always fun in Mozambique. I got to meet a lot of Ann’s colleagues which was nice because I haven’t yet since our work sectors don’t overlap. The permanent secretary loves us and kept forcing us to get up and dance but we were secretly glad she did. And, it turns out the electric slide is a universal thing and the head table kept doing it! Their electric slide has an extra step in it at one point which kept throwing me off, but I felt pretty cool being able to dance in unison with all of those important people. At one point the permanent secretary told me I dance like a Mozambican—WOW, I can think of no higher praise.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Holding the paper, you flip over the cup. Then, once the cup is fully flipped over, you can hold just the cup, and the paper and the water within the cup will stay up on their own!

You make sure the paper covering the cup is airtight...

This was an eighth grader who participated. He had discovered this phenomenon and so showed up to do it for his experiment, but he didn't know how to explain it or anything. Turns out that in eighth grade, he hasn't actually learned the concepts of atmospheric pressure or anything that would have helped him explain what was happening. But so he covered a cup of water with a paper....

Monday, May 16, 2011


The Inharrime District Science Fair was today and it was a HUGE success. Unlike last year, the Inharrime District Delegate of Science and Technology organized everything for the fair, rather than me organizing everything—and for that reason it was much better. She was able to get to the other two schools in Inharrime (the professional school across the street and Erin’s school) more often than I had been last year, so I was hoping that this would increase participation from these two schools, but unfortunately each of these two schools had only two participants. My school, on the other hand, had 10 participants! Having a grown Mozambican woman in charge was better because she was able to do things I couldn’t—convince the district government to supply the students with paper and markers for their presentations, convince the district administration to allow us to use the town hall-type room, and get incredibly important people to come. Often the VIPs here don’t have the time or interest in things at the commoner level. When she told me that the Administrator of Inharrime was coming I didn’t believe it—but he did come, he walked around to every single presentation and listened to the students present their projects, and he stayed the entire five hours. Also, she somehow got the Provincial Delegate of Science and Technology to come! (Mozambique has provinces that are like states in the US, and districts could be compared to counties. So we had the equivalent of the town mayor and the State, let’s say, Attorney General.) It made me happy that these two incredibly important men came and showed genuine interest in the students and their projects, because these students don’t get that kind of attention often. Additionally, we had three judges: the Inharrime Chief of Police, the Inharrime Doctor (both of whom spoke at the Women’s Day Celebration on April 7th), and Irmã Albertina, the director of my school. A number of other local VIPs were invited and four of them came, most notably the Inharrime Director of Education (last year his predecessor stopped by for only 5 minutes). Last year, not a single teacher (other than my two colleagues who helped me organize the fair) from any of the three schools showed up. I was incredibly upset and frustrated—how are these students supposed to believe in themselves when their teachers and mentors don’t even care about them? I voiced this opinion to Irmã Albertina and when she agreed with me, I asked her to encourage the teachers from our school to go to the fair, since they would listen to her more than me. In the days leading up to the fair, anytime there were more than a couple teachers in the faculty room, I would go in and make an announcement reminding them how important it is for us, as educators, to show the students that we believe in them and support them and to show this support by going to the science fair. I think a couple of them wanted to kill me after the third announcement or so. But four of my colleagues (in addition to the one who helped me prepare the students) showed up yesterday! This isn’t a huge accomplishment, but it’s progress. Also, Erin had one colleague come and one teacher from the professional school came.
When one talks about a science fair in Mozambique, the definition of what constitutes as “science” or an “experiment” is very different from in America. Here, science is about creating things, or manipulating everyday things and there is a huge emphasis on practicality or usability. For example, a few of the projects that an American might find puzzling were: building a bench from local wood and woven local reeds, making shoes from local reeds, making cooking oil from coconuts or another local plant, making a candle from a local plant, and making black paint from local resources. And these projects tend to fare better with the crowds than your traditional science experiment, because people here are more interested in how they could cheaply home-make a candle from local and waste materials. Largely due to my tracking down every single participant in the weeks prior to the fair and pounding the principles of the Scientific Method into their heads and demanding that they use this structure to present their experiment, the students from my school generally had clearer and better prepared presentations. Students from our school ended up winning first, second, and third place! And the third place winner is a member of both my English club and English Theater group and my student.
Per usual, the fair started 2 hours and 20 minutes late. Perhaps a somewhat good thing because one participant showed up 2 hours and 18 minutes late. The fair began when the administrator arrived, walking from his house across the street. The schedule was read and then the coordinator gave a short explanation as to what a science fair is. After, the administrator gave a short speech and then people began to walk around and look at the presentations. The administrator, provincial delegate, and other VIPs walked around and looked at every single project and talked to every single student which was great to see. And the three judges moved from project to project intolerably slowly (in a good way) asking tons of questions and forcing the students to think critically and respond intelligently. After they had written evaluations about each project, the judges sat down to run their numbers and deliberate, while the girls from the orphanage danced. The three winners were then called up to address everyone present and give a short summary of their project.
The fair really couldn’t have gone better for so many reasons, but the biggest to me was how little I did and how much it felt like a community event. Science fair was first introduced to Mozambique through the PCVs and PEPFAR funding from the US Embassy in Maputo. But now we are trying to hand it over to the Mozambican government and, at least in Inharrime, we were completely successful in doing this. I could have done without some of the pomp and circumstance that comes with having the administrator and other VIPs present, but the fact is that this made it a wholly Mozambican event. And it truly did feel like any other Mozambican celebration—from the late start time, to the awkward waiting around, to the formal introductions and speeches.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The wonderful lady from the Inharrime District Department of Science and Technology who organized the entire Science Fair (second from left, in the capulana dress but not the hat). The Inhambane Provincial Delegate of Science and Technology (navy suit jacket). The Administrator of the District of Inharrime (khaki plaid shirt). The Inharrime District Director of Education (light striped shirt). One of my colleagues who teaches Portuguese and came out to support the students (woman leaning in to the right of the Director of Education).

The student who won first place. His project was making a candle out of a prolific endemic plant and other household materials.

(From the left) An eleventh grader from my school explains his project, "How to Make Black Paint" to the Administrator of Inharrime, the Inharrime District Director of Education, and the Inhambane Province Delegate of Science and Technology as another eleventh grade student looks on.

The VIPs of the Science Fair. On the left, the judges table with the three judges: Chief of Police Joana; Sister Albertina, Director of Laura Vicuña Secondary School; and Doctor Henriqueta (yes, all three judges were women!). In the middle on the platform, the Administrator of the District of Inharrime (tan shirt) and the Inhambane Provincial Delegate of Science and Technology (right, black jacket). To the right, local VIPs including the Permanent Secretary of the Administration, the Inharrime District Director of Education, and the Provincial Technical of Science and Technology.

At Science Fair. Three eleventh grader participants (and my students) help an 8th grader (the little one on the far left) prepare his project presentation.

I am "ralar"-ing a coconut. I am taking out the meat to make coconut milk...I have no idea how I would say that in English.

Starting a charcoal fire for cooking at Ann's house.

This gas station is on the national highway up near Vilanculos. I have been trying to get a picture of it for over a year now, but it would always sneak up on us too quickly! Note: make sure you can see what is written on the sign!

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Yesterday was a wonderful teaching day. We read a dialogue together about the benefits of buying locally produced products, and then the students split into groups to write their own dialogue about buying products made in Mozambique. When the students are working in groups I generally pass around to see how they are working, answer questions, and try to limit the amount of Portuguese being spoken. I did that for a little bit today, but then I realized that this class had really hit its groove—they were speaking in English, arguing about things in English, writing, and debating what to write, and my presence was only disrupting. So I faded back to my desk and just sat there watching all of them work so diligently and felt proud. At the end of class I allowed groups that wanted to to perform their dialogue for the class. Only all-boy groups participated which is frustrating and not too surprising, but I was really happy with what they had created. They had dialogues that made sense and one even had a student who disagreed in the beginning, so the other two convinced him as to why buying locally produced products is better for Mozambique.
In my English club there is one 11th grade boy who I know well from English theater last year. He is in one of the classes I dropped (remember I went from teaching every 11th grade English class to only two of them) so I hadn’t seen him much, but I didn’t think much of it. But today he explained that his sister had gotten pregnant (when a girl gets pregnant in Mozambique, she must switch to night school), so he had also switched to night school to accompany with her. Our night classes take place at the other school in town (Erin’s school), so about 3 miles from here and from their home. It might not have been entirely his decision, but I was really impressed that he would make that sacrifice to accompany his pregnant sister on what would have otherwise been a fairly dangerous walk every night (night school ends at 10pm). As we were talking I realized that his pregnant sister is the girl I wrote about a few months ago, who spoke fantastic English but I had noticed she was pregnant and thus was upset because I knew she would have to leave soon. I asked how their family speaks such great English and he explained that a few years ago they had a cousin live with them who is an English teacher, and he taught them a lot. I told him that he should encourage his sister to also come to English club, but he explained that during the day she is busy taking care of her other child.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I forgot one thing from our adventures on Monday. After our chapa broke and we got out to walk, we passed a man peeing on the side of the road. Any decent human being would have turned away from the road, but he wanted to look at us and get our attention (who wouldn’t, right?), so he stood there peeing facing and ogling us. This wasn’t the surprising part of the story though, this happens more often than I want to remember. What was surprising was then two police men came across the street yelling at him. Everyone in the vicinity watched, surprised. Ann and I didn’t stick around to see what happened, but I am sure he didn’t actually get arrested. Regardless, it was surprising and very refreshing to see the policemen reprimand him for his lewd behavior.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Today I needed to go to Barclays bank (which we don’t have in Inharrime) and Ann had to go to the ICAP office in Inhambane, so last night the two of us headed up to Chicuque, a small town outside out Maxixe. Becky, a third year extendee (who I visited on my site visit as a trainee, 16 months—or a lifetime—ago) just moved into her fourth house as a PCV and fifth house in 3 years, if you count her homestay during training. Her first house, which I visited on my site visit, was robbed three times, to Peace Corps told her and Stephanie (her roommate) that they had to move. They found another house in the city of Maxixe (a 7.5 Meticais chapa ride from Chicuque, where they teach). This house was nice, but they lived with the woman who owned the house and she was an incredibly unpleasant person. And then one day she surprised them—she was selling the house and moving to Maputo. So Becky and Stephanie found another house, the house that Donna, another PCV, had lived in before she moved out of Maxixe. Their little house at the back of the landlady’s property wasn’t great, but it was only for a few months and the deal was that after Vic (another PCV) left, Becky would move into his upstairs apartment in the main house. When this time came, Becky’s school approached the landlady about moving Becky’s things. Her response: “oh bad news, I rented it to another guy.” So Becky was stuck in a small house that, by its nature, had no privacy and wasn’t very nice or convenient. Becky was eventually able to find another house back in Chicuque near her school and convinced Peace Corps to allow her to move back. So last weekend she moved in and last night Ann and I were her first guests in a very nice house that is finally back in a real neighborhood in the town she should have been living in.
In the morning, after a wonderful breakfast of apple cinnamon crepes (last night I made delicious Thai green curry and Becky baked banana-chocolate muffins for dessert), Ann and I set out for Inhambane city. We caught a Chicuque-Maxixe chapa, but after about 5 minutes they pulled over and started inspecting the wheel. We were only about a 10 minute walk from Maxixe as that point, so Ann and I just got out to walk the rest of the way. Before catching the boat across the bay to Inhambane city, we stopped at a restaurant to use the restroom. There was a young woman standing outside the bathroom who said I would need to pay 5 Meticais to use it. We have never had to pay before, but our malaria medications are a diuretic, so I just ran by her and said “sure, whatever!” But Ann, waiting outside, said, “when did they start this, because we have never had to pay before.” “You must pay 5 Meticais to use the bathroom” the lady responded. “You aren’t answering my question. We live here and have never had to pay to use the bathroom before, when did this system start?” “Everybody has to pay 5 Meticais to use the bathroom.” This conversation repeated a few times until the lady just said we wouldn’t have to pay. We weren’t trying to get out of paying, we just wanted to know when this had started! We concluded that either it was a scam and the restaurant doesn’t know the lady is there charging people, or she just isn’t too bright.
We took the boat across the bay from Inhambane to Maxixe. A man tried pushing in front of me so I channeled my inner Mozambican and pushed him back behind me. When we arrived in Inhambane city we split up to run our errands. I went to the Mcel (one of two cell phone service providers in the country) to buy phone credits. I walked in, asked for what I wanted, he printed them out, I paid, I left. Whenever something like that happens here—something so smooth and painless—it leaves me feeling uneasy, did I forget something I was supposed to do?
Afterwards I went to Barclays Bank to do some REDES banking stuff. Banks in this country are always an experience. The aspect that a westerner might find most frustrating is the difference in the concept of what a line is and how they work. In America you fill everything out, then you go stand in line where each person is behind the next. In Mozambique, you walk up and ask who the last person is. When they respond, you say “I am behind them” and then you are the last person. And then you can go fill out your forms, you can go chat on your phone, you can even go grab lunch! And when the person you are behind is up, then you are the next one. So the first couple times you go to a bank here, imagine the frustration as it appears you are nearing the teller (the one teller at a bank in the provincial capital) when suddenly people appear out of nowhere and step in front of you—because it’s their spot. But I have the system down now and I also have a lot more patience than before. And I had my GMAT vocab flashcards. When I got to the window I found out that the people at Barclay’s not only know my phone number and voice, but also my face, where I teach, and where I live. As I was waiting, two boys walked in who looked like they had just walked off the set of “The Jersey Shore”—spiked and highlighted hair, shiny sunglasses, an eyebrow ring, popped collars, big chains around their necks, brightly colored bracelets and rings, the whole shebang. It was strange.
Next I had to go to Millenium BIM, a different bank to make deposits. I had finally found my place in the very long “line,” when one of the tellers (that bank had two!!) stood up and explained that the system was down and they didn’t know when it would be back up. After seeing a couple people do this, I snaked my way to the front (I have no shame about some things anymore, in America I would have been afraid people would have thought I was being rude and trying to cut them). Since all I had to do was make deposits, I smiled and convinced the guy to take my money and sign my forms, and just enter the information in when system was back up.
Afterwards, Ann and I met up for a snack where they had tables and chairs outside. There were some men nearby being rude and crude in the way that Mozambican men can be, but we tried to ignore them. At one point one of them even took a picture of us on his phone, thinking we wouldn’t notice. Seriously, some of the men in this country are awful.
We met a Venezuelan nun who has lived in Mozambique for 11 years now. Like many Spanish speakers I have met since being here, she was hard to understand because she basically just spoke Spanish, but she was very nice and gave us a ride to another market area. In this market they have lots of used clothing—quite literally all of the clothes you gave to Goodwill 10 years ago. Every once in a while Ann and I would exclaim, “hey I used to have this shirt!” it had rained earlier that day, so to walk down the narrow alley between stalls everyone had to straddle puddles, cling to the posts of stalls on either side, and jump from one side to the other. At one stall I asked how much the shirts in the back were and she told me 10 Meticais each, so we went in. A boy across the alley yelled over to the woman in Bitonga, the local language in Inhambane city. The thing about communication is that in some cases, the words aren’t actually that important. The boy yelled something mulungo 50. The woman responded no, 10. He had clearly said “make sure you charge the mulungos 50 for those” and she had responded “but I already told her 10.” I turned back to the lady and said “you know I am hearing all of this right?” She smiled sheepishly and told me the boy was foolish.
We got a ride part of the way back with an upper-class Mozambican man who had studied in Fargo, ND at some point. Talk about an adjustment. He told us that Americans should travel more, because they tend to have no concept whatsoever of the greater world. And I totally agree with him. But then when he found out we live in Inharrime, he started hating on Inharrime, saying things like “what can you do in Inharrime, you must be so bored, there is NOTHING to do there!” Ann and I got really defensive—don’t bash on our town! And we have a great time in Inharrime actually.
Afterwards we met an Israeli guy who is here working as a consultant for Mcel (phone company) who is actually staying in Inharrime. He usually just hangs out alone in his hotel room, so he was overjoyed to have the three of us join him for dinner and show him the hot spots in town (that was sarcasm, there are only a couple places you can get food here).
Today was Inharrime day, so it was a district holiday. So there were some people at the restaurant who had very clearly been drunk since Friday night—and had no intention of stopping. There was also a group of about eight girls around 10 years old. And sure, the restaurant is one of the only places in town with a television or to socialize, it always upsets me when I see things like that. I wonder where their parents are and why they don’t care that their young daughters are hanging out in a bar on a school night. And I also remember that in females in Mozambique, the HIV/AIDS rate starts to increase at age ten—because that is often the age of sexual debut—and it gives me the chills.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Yesterday, while writing the date and topic on the board as always, I paused and had to check my watch for the date. One student, trying to be helpful, yelled out “SEX!”
Today a bunch of girls were hanging out in front of my house and at one point Margarida pretended that she was crying. Her 7 year old sister said to her, “don’t pretend cry. When a child fakes crying, one of her mother’s breast gets cut off!” “EXCUSE me???” I responded. “What?” she responded, surprised, “you’ve never heard that before?” I verified with one of the sisters later—yes, apparently that is a saying here. She explained that it’s used to scare the children from fake crying—“because nobody wants to see their mother with only one breast right?”
A lot of people at home ask me about Mozambicans’ reactions to world events. But sadly, often there is no reaction because nobody reads the news or has TVs here, so they aren’t aware of the uprising in Egypt or the unrest in Libya. But everybody heard about Bin Laden. And since I am American, everyone wanted me to verify that the news was true. One colleague asked me, “are you Americans happy now that he was killed?” I told him that I couldn’t speak for all Americans, but I didn’t think it was good to be happy when anyone died.
Last week I met two Swazi guys and they brought up the royal wedding. They couldn’t get over the fact that both parties had invited ex-boyfriends and girlfriends to the wedding. “I just don’t understand your culture!” one of them said to me. (Ditto, I thought.) I pointed out that they are British whereas Erin and I are American…so not exactly OUR culture. “Oh, but all…” he responded, with a wave of his arm.
Yesterday I got to talk to Irmã Albertina for a long time and 9/11 came up. She laughed when I told her I was in 9th grade when it happened. She told me about how she was studying as a novice in Rome at the time and was riding on a train when some American tourists, thinking she was American or spoke English, ran up to her and began asking “is it true?? Did you hear??” It’s incredible to think that even halfway around the world, a non-American can say where they were and what they were doing on 9/11.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Today, during a lesson on the present continuous tense, I had drawn cartoons on the board and asked the students to write sentences describing what was happening in the pictures. I am no Da Vinci, but the cartoon stick figure very clearly had a jug of water on its head. Carting water here is not just a huge part of life, it’s an inherent part of life, as much as eating dinner or going to school—it’s something everyone does. One boy raised his hand and said “teacher, I don’t understand what’s happening in that picture.” “Seriously?” I asked him. We talking through it: he is carrying something…what’s inside the thing he’s carrying…it looks like a liquid, what liquid might he be carrying. “Ahhh!” the kid finally got it. Let me correct myself—carting water is a huge and inherent part of women’s lives here.
Pencil sharpeners are fairly expensive here, so a lot of kids will use these little razor blades to sharpen their pencils. And especially since my students are older this year, occasionally one will pull out a 6” switch blade to sharpen their pencil. There was a time that would have been weird or highly illegal.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


We were doing a reading comprehension lesson last week and the text (which I got from the official Mozambique 11th grade English textbook) had the word “aeroplane.” Because the neighboring countries are all former British colonies, the English taught there is British English. So we have flavours and use colours, etc. And it wasn’t until we were reading the text during class and I got to the word “aeroplane” that I realized: wow, I have no idea how to pronounce that.
Last week during an English Club meeting we got onto the topic of men’s treatment of women. Especially when you spend time with the younger generation (as in America and any culture, I would imagine) you get the impression that times and attitudes are changing. Sometimes a kid here will say something, for example: that he wants to have a few wives and everyone laughs, but you get the impression that they are all aware that this isn’t accepted by everyone anymore or even that it’s a “naughty” thing, said to get a rise out of people. This goes for a lot of topics—women’s education, family size, sexual promiscuity—regardless of their personal opinions, there is an awareness that the world is slowly changing. So when treatment of women comes up in English Club, it’s no foreign subject, especially since my English Club kids are great and fairly progressive in terms of education and life views (and yes, sadly all of my English Club participants are boys…that tends to be how things go here). Ronnie was talking about how, at a public event recently, he had seen something that had made his blood boil. He had seen a group of teenage boys walk up to a group of teenage girls sitting on a bench and, after a short discussion, the girls got up to sit on the ground, allowing the boys to sit on the bench. Of course, all the boys in my English Club know that this is “wrong.” (And, due to the overload of information pumped into Africa by aid organizations, everyone here can tell you the “right” answer—whether it’s using a condom, using a mosquito net, or having one girlfriend—but saying the “right” answer doesn’t mean they actually want to change the way they live their lives.) So nobody at English Club was cheering for the boys in this story. Yet…the idea of this situation making somebody’s blood boil (and Ronnie got physically upset as he talked about this situation and all the others he sees on a regular basis), was completely lost on them. Sure it might not be right and those boys won’t be able to get away with that kind of behavior for too much longer, but that’s just the way things are here, and nobody would ever get upset seeing it.
After a wonderful dinner in town (at Inharrime’s finest restaurant, of course) with Anna’s parents who are here visiting her, on Friday we headed up to Vilanculos for beach olympics. I believe there were around 40 PCVs from all over Mozambique there which was awesome and so fun, because some of them I hadn’t seen since we left for our sites in December of 2009.
As of last night, the Laura Vicuña mission has a boarding dormitory for female secondary school students. Since there aren’t enough secondary schools in the country, many schools have these boarding places for students to stay when they travel from far away to attend classes. For my school, many students live Monday-Friday in little shacks that are made from palm leaves and might be two meters by two meters, and then on the weekends they go home to their families. In addition to the health and safety concerns associated with these slums (students live in groups of these little shacks), there is also a huge pregnancy rate, as would be expected. Since I first arrived here in December of 2009, there have been talks of having one of these boarding dormitories, but nothing had been realized yet, and so I assumed it probably wouldn’t until next year. But last night the first two girls arrived. Irmã Lucilia will move to live in the dormitory with them which will be an incredible test of patience, especially at the beginning when the girls aren’t used to standards of living that the sisters expect and live by.

REDES News Release

The Peace Corps website posted a news release about REDES yesterday, the link is below!