Monday, July 18, 2011


After an incredibly interesting and serendipitous adventure (as traveling always is here) we made it to Maputo and then Johannesburg. We got to meet us with John and Yvette from Tsene and it was wonderful to see them again after so long. (Some terrible things involving terrible people have happened at Tsene recently). When we approached the ticket counter at the Johannesburg airport the gentleman behind the counter asked where we were going and Erin enthusiastically responded "South Africa!" The man gave her a weird look and Ann quickly interjected "Cape Town!" Cape Town in gorgeous. The cable car up Table Mountain is closed for maintenance from July 18th to the 30th, so we went as soon as we got in yesterday. It was a beautiful day yesterday--stay tuned for pictures. Two days until the GMAT.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I found out today that one of the girls from the orphanage (in 9th grade) is pregnant and has left. It’s hard to describe, but it’s one of the most devastating feelings I’ve ever felt. Not only is her life going to be so different and so much more difficult now, she left what has been her home for years now and is one of the most stable, caring, supportive environments I have seen in Mozambique. Apparently she was about six months pregnant; she had gotten pregnant while she was with family over the holidays. She lied and told the sisters that her family needed her at home, but the sisters suspected and made her undress and they found out. She was one of my REDES girls. I feel like someone’s kicked me in the chest whenever I think about it. Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised, almost every Mozambican woman I know has children. But she felt like a sister to me.


On Friday Buck and I went to the ATM to withdraw money. We did a transaction and didn’t receive an error message, but no money came out either. It was 5:20pm so the bank was closed, but I asked the security guard to call someone from inside, because I had heard voices inside the building when I was at the ATM. Both the guard and my colleague who happened to be there told me to just do the withdrawal again. Repeatedly. I told them I wasn’t doing anything again until I knew for sure that the first transaction hadn’t gone through. I went over to the window of the lobby and started knocking on the glass until I got someone’s attention. He gave me a look like “stupid tourist” and indicated that the bank was closed. I indicated that I understood, and then pointed to the ATM. Rather than coming over to me he just stood there, so I started yelling my problem to him through the glass. He gave me an exasperated look and walked outside to talk to me. I explained what had happened and he explained that since we had asked for an amount that ended in 50, rather than 100, it hadn’t worked because the machine didn’t give in 50s. I asked him why the machine gave the option if it wasn’t possible. He just stared at me. He promised me that the first transaction hadn’t gone through and to just try it again. Then I asked his name. He laughed. No really, I told him, I wanted to know his name. He laughed again and then told me his name and asked why. “Because I am going to check my bank statement, and if there are two transactions on July 8th—even though you promised me there wouldn’t be—then I will come back here Mr. ----- and we will need to chat.” He laughed, but when I smiled an assured him I wasn’t kidding he looked a little nervous.
This afternoon my pedagogical director knocked on my door which was strange since it was a Sunday afternoon. “Do you have any of those things your girls’ group makes?” he asked me. Apparently there was an exhibition for the schools in the province and they wanted to send the earrings my REDES group makes and sells to represent our school. His timing was bad; my dad has bought every single pair to take back to America as gifts or to sell for us. But moments like this frustrate me. Our REDES group gets ZERO support from our school, and in fact I face a certain amount of opposition when it comes to REDES (though some of that is more to do with my administrative position than my group). We meet outside my house or in the library after it’s closed because our school has no space to give us. We receive no materials, funding, any other type of support from the school, or barely any recognition—everyone still refers to it as “professor Anata’s group” which drives me crazy. And the REDES conferences, which happen during school breaks, are difficult—if you remember last year I couldn’t go until the second-to-last-day, and this year is still up in the air. But despite this lack of support for our group, when something like this happens when it makes the school looks good, suddenly the school is a huge fan. At one point last trimester I was called in because the provincial direction of education wanted to know what kind of extra-curricular activities our school had. I run every single extra-curricular activity at our school outside of athletics. Again, I receive no support whatsoever from the school, and we are rarely even recognized. Until it is beneficial for the school.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


For the entire second half of my run this morning I had at least part of a rainbow in front of me. A few times it was a complete semi-circle. And a couple times I swear it was a triple rainbow, is that possible? Gorgeous.
A little while later I was sitting at my desk working when either a very tiny mouse or medium-size cockroach ran across my floor. I’m pretty sure it was a mouse. Shoot. When you poison a mouse, they tend to crawl into some difficult-to-find-or-access corner to die, so you’re left trying find them once they start to stink. I bought rat poison this afternoon, but I am afraid that it won’t die until after I leave for a month on Thursday, and then it will just rot in my room for a month. I suppose it wouldn’t smell by then though…so maybe that’s better.
Yesterday afternoon Ann and I ran some errands and then got a beer at some outside tables near the market/center of town to wait for Buck. We usually sit and drink a beer at less-public places, but on a Friday afternoon it is totally acceptable for us to be seen drinking beer, so I suggested we sit outside. I immediately regretted it. A group of girls standing about 10 feet away from us kept staring at us, talking about us and laughing. I reprimanded them and told them they were being really rude. That shut them up. Then a truck pulled up with a woman in the cab who wouldn’t stop staring at us, even when we called her out on it. We reminded her that here in Mozambique we always greet each other first, and then if she doesn’t have anything else to say, it’s rude to just stare. There were some girls in the back of the truck, one of whom took a picture of us with her phone. When I saw her taking the picture I yelled at her. Ann got up and walked over to them, demanding to see her camera. After she deleted the pictures and scolded the girls she came back. “That is so annoying.” I said, “This is OUR town, who do they think they are? And I would have expected that from guys, but from girls? Ugh, so rude, you should have just chucked the phone across the street.” Ann laughed, “and that’s why I went over there and not you.”
While Stephanie and Sarah were here at one point a coin fell on the floor. And when I picked it up I found myself hit by a sense of nostalgia, sentimentality, and a little sadness. Apparently the pennies have changed since I left America.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Today after an exam two students came up to me and asked me in English “teacher: ‘my sister and her husband has’ or ‘my sister and her husband have?’” “Have” I responded. “HAHA!” one of the boys exclaimed and punched the other one in the arm. If only I could get all of my students to be that inquisitive and excited about English.
Last Friday we played Jeopardy in class, since it was the last class before exams, so I didn’t want to teach any new material. For those of you who have been reading since the beginning, it was the same Jeopardy game I tried with my eighth graders last year (the one that multiple Mozambicans adamantly claimed was at an 8th grade level and the students should know the material. This was before I understood that people here will often say what you want to hear or what they want to believe, whether or not it’s true). If you remember, it failed MISERABLY last year. So I tried again, the same questions but with eleventh graders, and in English. They loved it. The game was a huge success. Not surprisingly I wasn’t able to get everyone to participate, but a couple students (even girls!) participated who have rarely spoken all year. For one of the classes, my colleague who I had asked to cover my classes for me while I was gone hadn’t known I was back, so he came a class period early and gave a lesson. The Jeopardy game took two periods (each class had a double period on Friday) but I didn’t want to make this class stay for three periods. So after the second period I told them they could leave. Instead, most of the class said “no teacher! Let’s play!” So I told them whoever wanted to come back after the break could continue to play, and about ¾ of the class returned. The answers weren’t as flagrantly and tragically wrong as they had been last year—thank goodness. One question was “what country originally colonized the United States of America?” When the boy answered incorrectly, another boy said “really?? Come on, what language do they speak in America?!?” I like his critical thinking. Another question was, “who is the president of the USA?” Before Friday, I would have been confident saying that every man, woman, and child in Africa knew the answer to this one. Many times people here refer to Obama as “our president.” But this particular boy didn’t know—his answer was “Akon.” The answer to another question was Michael Jackson. Because the boy answered so enthusiastically, I jokingly asked him if he could dance like Michael Jackson. Before I knew it, he was up in the front of the classroom with sunglasses and a hat on, shirt tucked into very high pants, and busting a move.

Monday, July 4, 2011


This weekend we celebrated the America’s Independence Day in Inharrime with a bunch of other PCVs and friends. We did a potluck and barbeque (NOT a braai—what South Africans call it—on this weekend!) and enjoyed a lot of good food.
On Sunday Stephanie and Sarah headed to Tofo Beach to enjoy the beautiful Mozambican beaches everyone raves about. On Friday I was able to buy 2 kilos of fresh shrimp on the street in town for roughly $7. We had a pie crust leftover from the weekend, so we used a can of blueberry filling that my mom had sent, and for dinner last night we had Thai shrimp green curry and blueberry pie! Mozambique or no, it was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in my life. But I look forward to the day when I can buy shrimp in a store what is already de-shelled, or coconut milk that we don’t have to make from scratch.
This week is final exam week for the trimester, so rather than giving lessons I am controlling exams this week. At one point one of my colleagues stopped in to ask if there were any questions (it was his test), as is customary. As he was passing around the classroom, he stopped and kissed two of the female students on the cheek (they were 11th graders, so roughly 18-20 years old). Publicly and showily. I wish I knew what I should think of something like that. Perhaps he was being funny, because it is within the range of acceptable behavior here. Perhaps he is sleeping with them and everybody knows and nobody cares. Perhaps he wants to be sleeping with them. I could live here for years and still be very confused by things like this.


Before my dad left, he, my brother, and I traveled down to St. Phillips Mission in Swaziland to visit the two wonderful and hard-working sisters who run it, one of whom is an old friend of my dad’s. As I said last year when I visited, I have been here long enough to have seen many poorly run (or downright corrupt) organizations, so seeing such a well-run organization like theirs is very refreshing. They put us to work painting and we were happy to contribute and be kept busy each day. My body appears to have fully acclimated to the heat here in Mozambique, because I froze my butt off every single day and night in Swaziland!
My brother, Buck, and I were dropped off at the Swaziland/Mozambique border on Thursday morning. We walked through and stopped outside the gate, waiting for the next bus to pass. A car of people who had been going through immigration at the same time as we had pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride to Maputo, so we happily got in. We hadn’t discussed where they would drop us off, and I was in a fairly big hurry—I needed to go to the Peace Corps office to write up and print out a document, then take this document to the bank before it closed at 3pm, then get to another bank before it closed at 5pm. Few people actually drive into the actual city of Maputo, so I was prepared to catch a chapa from the outskirts of the city which is fine when you aren’t in a hurry, but can take forever on a bad day. They asked me if I knew where the French Embassy was. I did know AND it is only 2 blocks from the Peace Corps office! Since they were Swazis and didn’t speak any Portuguese, the odds of them successfully finding the French Embassy on their own were low, thus they were incredibly grateful for my help! One transfer, 8 transactions at one bank, and 5 at another, I enjoyed some delicious ice cream, the highlight of going to Maputo.
We have two family friends who met up with us in Maputo, both around my age. One had been studying abroad in Cape Town this semester, and her sister had come to visit and then travel with her around southern Africa. We met up with them in Maputo and then headed home to Inharrime the next day. The ride was fine and uneventful…except that the kid sitting on Sarah’s lap (one of my friends) peed on her. And then, after another passenger saw and berated the mother for not controlling her kid, he later peed on the floor next to Sarah’s feet (and a little on them).