Thursday, June 23, 2011


Came down to Maputo this morning. A relatively nice chapa ride until we got into the outskirts of Maputo, when the main road was out so we had to take a detour. Apparently everyone else was also taking this detour, so we sat at a standstill for about 35 minutes. Some very resourceful men were moving large block of concrete back and forth for cars that paid them sufficiently, to allow these cars to escape the girdlock. Tomorrow we head to Swaziland for a few days!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the weather is always changing rapidly here, often creating rainbows like this one. taken from the porch of my house two mornings ago.


This morning I think I saw a guy out on a run. I was really confused. I probably stared at him harder than everyone else always stares at me. He ran out from the bush onto the highway in front of me and at first I thought he was mocking me or joking around, but then he stayed in front of me until I turned around to return home.
I forgot to write about this. When I was in Swaziland, the hostel we stayed at was inside a game reserve. One morning I was running and looked over and there were six zebras standing in the grass about 30 feet away from me. I stopped to stare back at them and with the sun rising, the mountains in the background, and the wind blowing gently through the grass, the moment was simply breathtaking. But, trying not to ruin the moment, I racked my brain trying to remember if I had ever learned that zebras are aggressive. I hoped not, because it turns out they are pretty huge when they are standing so close with no fence in between you. Eventually I gave in first and continued on my run.

Buck (my brother) playing a game with the primary school kids


On Saturday morning my dad came by my room at around 8:10am and asked how my REDES meeting was. “It hasn’t happened yet” I responded. “But wasn’t it at 7am?” he asked. “Yes, it is” I responded. He looked at his watch and gave me a puzzled look. I didn’t even bat an eye when our meeting finally started at 9:08am. Today I was chatting with one of my colleagues in the middle of the school courtyard when she said, “wait you have something in your teeth” and reached out. I had no other choice, so I bared my teeth and let her pick out the piece of food right there in the middle of the school. My definition of normal has changed so much in the past year.
Last night I came across some yogurt in our town (which is pretty rare), so I wanted to buy it while I could. I checked the expiration date—04 Jul. I’ll be traveling later this week so I won’t eat all 6 yogurts before they expire, but I’ll get to them within a couple weeks after. The other yogurt I have from the last time I bought expires on 02/11/11. I just keep hoping that the date is written in the system used here where the day is written first, because this gives me another few months. As opposed to the American style of writing the date, in which case they expired four months ago. Oh well, I haven’t died yet.

This was taken at the Junta, the main bus terminal in Maputo which is just a large clearing where 5x the number of buses of all sizes that should fit into this space jam themselves in and men try to force you onto their bus by yelling louder than others and pulling the bags off your back.
In a rare moment of relative peace, a man arranges items on top of a bus as the sun comes up.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


This morning the REDES group from the primary school met and rehearsed the dance they will perform on the June 25th (Mozambican Independence Day). We were sitting over in the courtyard of the secondary school and a bunch of girls from the orphanage wandered over to watch, join in the dancing, or help with the choreography. Something was going on in the school, so a bunch of students were walking past, including some former students of mine and some students I know from English Club—they all gave me big smiles and waves. One of the little girls from the orphanage had crawled onto my lap and fallen asleep and one of the girls from the REDES group, mid-dance, looked over at her and yelled, “AAA, look!” The little one on my lap had a glob of snot hanging an inch out of her nose. Everyone laughed. Walking into town later a wedding procession drove past and one of my students was in the back of a one of the trucks, she gave me a huge grin and waved. And it’s times like this that I get incredibly sentimental and feel like I’m not ready to leave here. I finally feel like I have a place in my community and I know so many people and they know me and seem to genuinely like me.


Teaching the same lesson again today with a different class, I got another round of interesting questions. One student asked me if I liked a certain kind of dancing. I didn’t know what she was talking about, so she jumped up and demonstrated really quickly, before she could think about what she was doing. Everyone, myself included, laughed at this sudden outburst from this relatively quiet girl and she sat back down mortified (but maybe a little bit happy with herself). Another student asked, if I had the choice, would I live in America or Mozambique. I explained to them that I needed to return to America to return to university, but afterwards I wasn’t sure where I would be, and I would like to come back to Mozambique. One student, showing off his retention of new vocabulary (our current theme is Citizenship), said “maybe you can change your nationality!
Many of my students have seen me running, so one asked if I liked to run. I told them that yes, I did like to run, and in fact I ran 20 kilometers this morning (my marathon training program has a long run each week). One student thought for a second, and then got a smile on his face like “oh this silly American has no idea what she’s saying.” “No teacher” he said to me with a sympathetic smile. “Yes” I replied. “No teacher” he said, with the same sympathetic smile. “Yes!” I replied. “No teacher!” he said forcefully. I am sure he still doesn’t believe me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Our REDES group decorated our REDES bin that holds all of our materials and some other boxes and bins for our things. Here one girl has written "I choose the life of REDES"


Today’s lesson topic was question formation, so for the “motivation” activity at the beginning of the lesson, I told my students that they had 3 minutes to ask me any questions they wanted, without using the “wh-“ question words: who, what, where, when, why, or which. The first boy stood up and asked “are you married?” Everyone laughed and suddenly the ice was broken, you could see all of them thinking hard to formulate a question—they weren’t going to let this opportunity pass. I was asked if I had a boyfriend in America and like I always say here, I said yes. So another boy asked if I wanted a boyfriend here in Mozambique. I explained that I had one in America, and for me one was more than enough. Completely earnestly and seriously he insisted, “yes but what about here in Mozambique?” I was asked how old I am (I know “how” should have been included in the question words, but I didn’t want to complicate things) and so I finally admitted that I am about 2-4 years older than most of them. One student asked if I had been a teacher before coming here, and then he wanted to know if I thought teachers in America or Mozambique were better. One student asked when I would have kids and when I told them I didn’t want to, I think the collective response from the class was “eih?!” I explained that, should I decide to start a family, I would adopt children who were orphans. A couple students nodded at this, but I think most of them just thought it was a pretty weird idea.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011



There are five little girls in the orphanage this year who are too young to go to school, so they just run around like they own the place, wreaking havoc on everything in sight. Right now I am sitting in the main house of the sisters trying to work while they are all in here, one is rubbing lotion on my arm, one is running around with no underwear on and her dress inside out, one keeps trying to stuff the little biscuit one of the sisters gave her into my mouth and once she’s finished she keeps pulling things out of the trash can and telling me what they’re for (and I have to remind her that trash isn’t for playing with), one has my house keys hanging around my neck and if I’m not careful she’ll walk off with them, she also keeps going through my bag and finding new things she can help carry for me, and one has my Nalgene on her head and is practicing carrying it like that and I’m pretty sure she’s going to drop it and make a mess.

practicing their skit about women's rights

girls from the primary school REDES group dancing


I have one 12th grader in my REDES (Girls In Development, Education and Health) group (all of the other girls are 9th graders) who has really taken on a leadership role and acts as big sister to all of the other girls in the group. Wanting to tap into this leadership potential, I encouraged her to start her own REDES group in the primary school that she would be the main facilitator of, and I could help out with. Due to schedule conflicts, I was finally able to make it to my first of their meetings today. They have decided their focuses will be theater and dancing, so during their meeting they did just that. Their facilitator, my 12th grade REDES girl, had written a short skit about women’s rights so they practiced it. Then afterwards they danced with true Mozambican flourish and energy for a good 20 minutes before we sent them on their way. June 25th is Mozambican Independence Day, so they have decided to prepare a dance to perform at the town celebration.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

the last performance/event of the day was an arm wrestling competition between some of my male colleagues

the REDES girls singing. (i can't get the video loaded, sorry)

with some of my REDES girls after their performance

the littlest ones from the orphanage, looking less-than-happy at the start of a two-hour service

After walking about a mile down the road, the procession loops back to go into the professional school for mass

The truck with the statue of the Virgin Mary and huge speakers for the people to lead all of the songs

recap: 24/05/11

May 24th is the day of the Blessed Virgin Mary and since Salesian Sisters call themselves Daughters of the Holy Mary, this is one of the biggest days of the year here. There are no classes, instead all of the students from the three schools (the secondary school, the primary school, and the professional school across the street) are expected to come and we march in a procession down the national highway for about a mile (with police out there controlling the passing traffic), all the while singing celebratory praise songs, and then march back. After the procession, mass is held for everyone and following mass, many different performances. My REDES girls performed “Hail Holy Queen” (“Sister Act” style), I will attach the video if possible.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Yesterday I was playing Scrabble again in my English club, this time with different students. I wasn’t sure how the game would go because these students are only in 10th grade, thus their English is understandably not as good. I did the first word to give an example, and explained how their subsequent words would have to use letters that were already on the board. One student took all of his letter pieces and started laying them down into what didn’t look like a word, so I thought, oh no, he totally doesn’t understand the game. I reminded him that he couldn’t just put the letters down at random, that he had to make a real English word. He responded “but isn’t ‘erosion’ a word?” Wow. Yes. I felt chagrined and like a bit of a jerk!
One thing that I think Americans have the most trouble adjusting to in Mozambique is the fact that there is no concept of personal space. Now I hardly even notice when a person bumps me as they pass or sits down “next” to me and basically sits on my lap. But what I, and many other PCVs, find most disconcerting is how often people reach out just to touch us. Like the way you reach out to gently poke Jello, just out of curiosity and to watch it jiggle, I get touched like that all the time. Anytime I walk past the primary school kids (and they walk directly in front of my house, so this is daily) one of them will inevitably reach out to touch (not grab, just touch) my clothing. This morning on my run I ran by an eighth grade student who participated in science fair and as he was saying hi to me he reached out and touched my arm. This afternoon in class, one of my troublemakers was making a lot of noise. Not wanting to disrupt the class, I simply moved closer to him and put my hand on his desk as a warning. But then he reached out and touched one of my fingers, catching me completely off guard. And one of the Mozambican women we work with for REDES is constantly (when she isn’t hugging us) stroking or grabbing our faces and running her hands through our hair.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


On my morning run a passed a group of kids in walking toward school in their uniforms. A couple of the boys were incredibly rude and disrespectful, yelling out “mulungu” at me repeatedly and yelling all sorts of other things in Xopi in a jeering manner. When people do stuff like this or call me mulungu, it’s pretty annoying and frustrating—how long do I have to live here and how much more public of a position do I need to have in your community for you to recognize me and see me as a part of your community? But for students in the school where I am a teacher, this is flat-out unacceptable. So I ran past them going out and coming back and pretended I didn’t hear them, just smiling and saying good morning. And then I got back to the gate of the school I stopped to wait for them. My director was coincidentally already there so I told her, “how wonderful, I am waiting for three very rude boys who I was going to bring to you anyway to be disciplined, and you’re already here!” So I waited for them. When I finally saw them coming they didn’t cross the street to come into the gate and I realized that they weren’t students at my school, but at Erin’s (and they were going to arrive at their school at least a full hour late). “SHOOT! If I had known they weren’t students here I would have just hit them when I ran past them!” My director laughed and said “even if they were students here, you should have just hit them—BAP, BAP, BAP—and I bet they never would have done it again!”

The students with their completed Scrabble board.

Yesterday I debuted my new Scrabble game during English Club. I played with three 12th graders whose English is fairly advanced, and we had a blast! They really enjoyed the game and did much better than I expected them to. The only aspect of the game they struggled with was that conjoining letters/words have to also be words. It was a great way for them to exercise their vocabulary and, in a few case, learn new words with my help.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Some anecdotes from the two weeks when I wasn’t writing.
I had explained to my class that I would be leaving next week, and when I returned it would be with my dad and my brother. One boy raised his hand and asked “does the teacher have a sister?” All the boys in the class laughed.
A few weeks ago Ann went to the primary school near her house to introduce the idea of REDES (Girls In Development, Education, and Health) to the director and to ask if she could start a group there. I have met this director before and was very impressed by her, she is energetic and seems genuinely invested in the students’ activities. She was enthusiastic about the idea of REDES and told Ann to come back the next day; she would have a list prepared of girls who were interested in participating. When Ann returned the next day she had a list of 85 girls! So now Ann has four REDES groups and meets with one per day, Monday-Thursday. Which brings the total number of REDES groups in Inharrime to 7—mind-blowing.
We were reviewing how to tell time and I had written that 11:45 can be read as “a quarter to eleven.” One student raised his hand and said “shouldn’t it be a quarter to twelve?” When I said yes and thanked him he got a big grin on his face and said “Oh, I am too clever!”
I sneezed one day in class the entire class in unison said “bless you teacher!” Even if their verb conjugation is poor, at least they have manners!
Margarida (the three year old) has been helping me with my Xopi! During my lessons my tutor will have me read through to practice words and phrases in Xopi and then he will verify in Portuguese what I just said. But I was skeptical that my pronunciation was actually any good, I figured that he was humoring me because he knew what I should be saying. So one day I was studying Xopi and Margarida walked up, so I started saying things to her in Xopi, and she excitedly repeated them back in Portuguese! And if she can understand me then that means I am at least close to pronouncing things well. So now we do this often and it’s great practice for both of us.


Finally back at home, my dad, brother and I went to church this morning. And it’s so nice to know that, for once, you aren’t the person everyone is staring at!
We were planning to just spend the day hanging out at the mission and joining in the Sunday dance party with the girls, but then Irmã Albertina, my school director, asked if my dad could drive the truck for them. During Lent each class in the school was supposed to plan and present a theater piece or song about, and today she was taking the winning group to the beach for the day. They had arranged for a man to come drive the big flat-bed truck to take everyone out there, but he never showed up. I am glad my dad was able to help because the kids had a really wonderful time at the beach. There were 23 of us in total, 16 students, 3 aspirants, 3 sisters, a brother from across the street, and the 3 of us. An event is not an event in Mozambique without tons of food, so the sisters had packed two large pots of chicken rice, bread rolls and bologna, sodas, and tangerines—more than enough for everyone. And everyone just had a great time until it got so late we were afraid we wouldn’t make it back before dark. They brought and set up a volleyball net and my father remarked to me, “I have never seen people be so bad at something and enjoy it so much!” They definitely don’t practice often. Despite it not being a very warm day, they had a great time playing in the ocean, and at the end of the day had bought tons of fish to bring back to the mission.
When we were at Zavora beach, I was passing through the lodge when I ran into four people I know who work for different facets of the Inharrime government, including the chief of police. She was excited to meet my dad again and then told me that later this month the first lady of Mozambique will be coming here to Inharrime, and that Ann and I should go with her to meet her!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I apologize for such a long hiatus! But I have my computer again and I am back at home in Inharrime now, thank goodness. I went down to Swaziland last weekend for the Bushfire Music Festival with other PCV friends. We froze our butts off each night when the sun went down, but we had a great time—the music was generally good, or at least entertaining, we met lots of interesting people, and we ate tons of delicious food.
In Maputo after I got to meet our new country director for Peace Corps, and then we had a REDES meeting, the first pre-conference planning meeting for the 2011 southern regional conference. On Thursday I was able to convince people to eat Thai with me at lunch and then again at dinner—great day!
Yesterday my brother and my dad arrived! This morning we headed to the “junta,” the hellhole where all the chapas and buses leave from Maputo. Immediately upon seeing three white people, every chapa driver in the vicinity saw dollar signs and came running over, trying to forcibly get us into their chapa. But we were able to get into one that left fairly quickly and didn’t make too many stops, so that was lucky. My dad and brother each had a backpack, two duffel bags, and an instrument, I had a backpack, my purse, and two rolled-up, full-size tennis nets. As we got off the chapa in front of my school, relieved to finally be home, we looked down and realized…we were one bag short! Buck tried running after the chapa but to no avail. So I ran into the mission and found the driver and, after clearing it with the sisters, we took off down the road after the chapa. Since we had delayed so much in leaving, we weren’t able to catch up with the chapa for about 40k, but we did eventually, we got our missing back, and everything turned out okay. Thank goodness!