Thursday, September 29, 2011


Coming back to Inharrime I needed to get to the edge of town to catch a bus, so I flagged down a passing car for that short ride. As I was shutting the door the driver said “I want to marry you” and I almost got right back out again, but I told myself to suck it up, it was only a two-minute ride. “I need you marry you, you see?” and he showed me his two ring-less hands. I just held up my hand where I wear a ring. “But it’s on the left hand so it doesn’t count” was his response. Creepy AND dumb, well that’s an unfortunate combination.
This morning a girl from my peer-advising group knocked on my door. She held out sunglasses and asked if they were mine. When I said they weren’t she said, “but they guy said they belonged to you.” I eventually learned that a white woman who had caught a ride and gotten out at our school had left these sunglasses behind in her ride’s car. Turns out they were Raquel’s the Spanish volunteer who lives here. She was happy to see her sunglasses again, and surprised that the guy came all the way back to return them through a chain of people and that they actually got back to her.
Raquel recently tried to change a $100 bill, but the exchange places in Mozambique don’t accept bills older than 2006 or something (when the bills changed and the president’s heads got bigger). I have a PCV colleague who is heading back to the states this week to support his father running an Ironman race, so we were able to get him to change it for Meticais and take it with him. But this happens all the time to people who come from America with perfectly legitimate dollars and find they are useless here.


Today I ran my first marathon! We (a bunch of PCVs) had been planning this marathon for almost a year now and it had been rescheduled and relocated numerous times, but it finally happened today in Guijá and Chokwe districts of Gaza province. The number of participants had also changed throughout the year, but today there ended up being four of us: Jenna, Anna, (both from Moz 14, my training group) and Joe, a Moz 16. We awoke early and were out at the “starting line,” the Guijá hospital gate, by 4:45am. Right on time, Ally and James (both Moz 15) pulled up on their bicycles to take our water bottles, chocolate, bread, etc—they were our support for the day. We expected them to leap-frog us: go to a couple places along the route and be there to hand out water, etc when we passed. But they biked all 26.2 miles right next to us cheering us on, taking pictures, handing us requested water, Gatorade, toilet paper, bread, and chocolate and, when it started raining and we all took off our ipods, singing to us. They were fantastic and a huge reason we all finished! And after the marathon James decided that he wants to run it next year, so Anna and I will get to be his (and whoever else runs it) water girls on bicycles.
We set off in the dark and got to see a beautiful African sunrise as we ran. The route had been planned by Jenna and was exceptional, we ran on a paved road for only a mile of the entire run. The rest of the marathon was on sparsely populated dirt roads/paths on which I think we were only passed by a total of three cars. I live in a fairly “urban” area, by Mozambican standards: a large town, an area where many white people pass through, directly on the national highway. So it was a pleasure for me to run on all these back roads, it felt like what I had envisioned the “Peace Corps Africa” experience would be like. One boy stood on the edge of his yard staring at the 6 white people passing, bewildered and half-asleep. We laughed that he would probably later wonder whether he had really seen us or not. The houses and terrain look very different in this region of Gaza than where I live and I loved getting to see them. The houses are made of clay and often painted with beautiful designs using different color clays. I was wearing a high-visibility yellow tank top and had lent Jenna my hi-vis t-shirt, and Joe was wearing a yellow shirt. Only Anna was wearing a light blue tank top, so when we ran past a man wearing a hi-vis shirt she stopped to ask him for it. He refused but it was a nice jersey, not just a regular t-shirt, so we weren’t too offended and ran on. We ran across a dam in a river where Jenna said there are sometimes hippos, but unfortunately none came out for us today. One truck pulled up next to us and offered us a ride. September 25th is a national holiday so in one small town we ran by the town monument right in the middle of their celebration. Right as we were about to pass they started singing the national anthem, so we stopped and sang with them (whenever the national anthem is being sung here one must stop and stand at attention). It didn’t feel great for the muscles, but they loosened up again after a few minutes.
At about mile 14 Valerie, Clancy, and Jen, three other PCVs, and Peter, a South African friend, met up with us in a truck, having left from our finish line in Chokwe. They drove along with us the remainder of the way and at a couple points Clancy got out and ran with us in her skirt and Chacos, including the last half-mile. That beer (accompanied by water and Gatorade, of course) we had after the run was one of the best I have ever tasted in my life. After a nice shower we went back to Guijá and met up with a ton of other PCVs who had come from all over Gaza province to meet up for lunch that day. A stiff knee, a sore hip-flexer, and some serious chafing, but definitely worth it!

Another picture from the beach at Casa de Mar. There aren't many beaches left in the world where you can be the only person as far as the eye can see.

From Casa de Mar last weekend. The view from the front of the chalet where we stayed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


After leaving Namaacha and meeting up with Anna in Maputo, we headed together to her site, Hokwe. To get to Hokwe (and then Chokwe and Guijá, the other towns we went to after) you go up to Macia on the national highway and then turn in and travel a hundred kilometers inland—something I don’t do very often. A lot of Mozambique is situated along the national highway, including my town of Inharrime, whose main road is the highway. Few roads that lead inland are paved, so traveling inland is long, tedious, uncomfortable, and not something you do without a good reason. So today I ventured farther from the Indian Ocean than I ever have within Mozambique!
We went first to Anna’s hometown Hokwe, a tiny little town in the district of Chokwe. (Usually when I tell people my colleague is from Hokwe, they, never having heard of it, assume I’m an ignorant foreigner and correct me: Chokwe.) Anna had been in Maputo for medical reasons, so she needed to drop off some things at home and get her running stuff. Her town is the opposite of mine: no paved roads (granted, my town has only one, the highway), tiny, quiet, a short row of shops. In her town there is only one store that sometimes sells phone credit, as opposed to Inharrime where you can’t walk two steps without tripping over a guy selling. Every single person in town knows who she is though, and it made me wish a little that my past two years had been spent in a smaller town. I have been in Inharrime for two years and chapa drivers still assume I’m a tourist going to Maputo and vendors still try to rip me off. On the other hand, I can buy almost everything I need in Inharrime, whereas Anna must stock up each time she leaves. From Hokwe we left for Chokwe and then Guijá. I was struck by how different the landscape there looks, as compared with where I live. Inharrime has rolling hills and trees everywhere: mango trees, tangerine trees, cashew trees, orange trees, etc. Chokwe district is flat and mostly grasses and shrub brush. There are many rice fields there and during the drive a crane rose out of one and flew next to the chapa for about 30 seconds.
We arrived in Chokwe, which was a huge shock for me. Chokwe is a real town! It has a main street, paved sidewalks, streetlights, even a park with swings and a merry-go-round. But within minutes of being there we were reminded why the smaller cities are preferred by PCVs. A crazy man picked up a brick-sized rock and made as if to throw it at us. He just giggled as he put down the rock and watched us cross the street and speed away.
We crossed the bridge into Guijá, Chokwe’s small neighboring town. Guijá is a district capital and not as small and remote as Hokwe, but it is small enough for everyone to know the three PCVs who live there and as the two ladies in the market chattered excitedly about them I felt a small pang of envy again. We went to Jenna and Elisabeta’s house, where we met up with them, Joe, James, and Ally. Some good catching up and a large pasta meal to prepare for the marathon tomorrow!


Yesterday I traveled down to Namaacha to help with the Training of Trainers they are holding currently for the people who will be working with the new Peace Corps Trainees who arrive next Thursday! Since I have experience teaching math, I was asked to come down and work with the math trainer, who is brand new this year. Math as a division within the education sector was only created last year, when I went through training we only had English, chemistry and biology. There are little to no teaching tools or examples to use with the math trainees, so my job was to help create some of these. Peace Corps uses a teaching methodology called Community Content Based Instruction, which attempts to utilize local materials and concepts and help the students understand how the subject is both related to and necessary for their everyday lives. Needless to say, this is a little difficult to do with some math topics, but we were able to come up with a pretty good list of examples.
Being there and hanging out with all of the trainers was great because it was such a different environment from when I was in training. Partly because I was there to work with them, rather than be their student, and mostly because I can actually speak Portuguese now. A lot of the trainers are new, but some of them have been around for years and remember me as a trainee. My chemistry trainer is still there and as great as ever. He still remembers some of the model lessons and experiments I did during models lessons and told me, “when you came you never spoke at all and I was afraid you wouldn’t last here, but now I can see you are doing so well!” The trainers were practicing giving the lessons they will be giving the trainees in a short time, and during these lessons one trainer (who has been there for years, including my training) got a kick out of doing an impressively realistic impression of an American Peace Corps Trainee, complete with the accent, mannerisms, and all of the strange questions we would ask.
While I was in town I stopped by to visit my host family, of course. I have said this before, but it’s unbelievably better to be back in Namaacha actually being able to speak Portuguese. As one other PCV said during our COS conference, “I feel like I can finally be myself and express my personality in Portuguese.” Baby Anata is still pretty scared of me, but apparently she is shy around all strangers and at least she didn’t cry this time, she just did a fair amount of hiding behind her mom and peeking at me occasionally. She walks and runs now and is saying a few words. And the rest of the family is still great, my brother is excited to start primary school next year. And we are all excited to be such close neighbors next year!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Yesterday a couple of the younger girls tattletaled that the youngest girl had gone pee in her underwear that morning and hadn’t changed them yet. Since this is the same one who I caught peeing outside twice last week and thus this is becoming a health and hygiene issue, I told her to change her underwear and I would be checking later if she had.. (Right now as I am writing this I looked over at her I asked “what’s that in your mouth?” She shook her head no and ran behind me, obviously to spit it out. Then she ran back and said “look, I don’t have anything!” ) I found her 30 minutes later and she still hadn’t, so I reprimanded her and told her to go change. A few hours later she still hadn’t changed so I took her inside with me for a time out and to wait for the sister who had the keys to the dormitory to return from school. While we were waiting for the sister she fell asleep and I had another meeting, so I left her there sleeping. After my REDES meeting I saw her again, this time in a brand new clean outfit! “She changed!” I said to the Spanish volunteer who had been there while she was in time out. She rolled her eyes and said “yeah I know, I bathed her and washed her underwear.” One of the other little girls (the other one I caught peeing behind the building last week) never wears underwear. This afternoon I walked up to a group of the younger girls and these two proudly pulled up their dresses, “look sister Anata, we’re wearing underwear today!”
This morning we had our first Math and Science Club meeting. Only one student came to participate, but by the time we got to the more interesting experiments, a small crowd had gathered. There are few things better than watching kids get truly excited about and inspired by science. I did a small experiment where simple soapy water propelled our “boat” across a tub of water and each time there were ahs and shrieks from the students watching. Maybe, hopefully, I can get a couple of these kids really interested in science.

Monday, September 19, 2011


In December of 2009, during one of our first weeks in Inharrime, Ann and I caught a ride with a South African couple, Mary and Des. They seemed to be impressed by what we were doing here and told us that if we contacted them in the off-season we were more than welcome to visit their beach lodge. We contacted them once February of 2010 and again in early 2011 but never heard back from them, so we thought no more of it. Then last week I received a phone call. “Scooter?” a South African voice asked. “Yes?” I was thoroughly confused. “This is Mary from Casa de Mar, I have been trying to find your number for a year now!” She apologized profusely and explained that they hadn’t meant to dismiss us before, but they had gotten tied up and then lost our numbers. They invited us out to their lodge for the weekend since it is low season and they had only one other guest. We arranged to meet up Jangamo, the small town nearest to their lodge. Ann and I arrived before Mary so we got beers and waited at a place there. When a white woman pulled up in a nice car we assumed it was her, but we weren’t certain, it had been almost two years since we met her! She also remarked that we looked different, possibly referring to the fact that I was bald when she met us!
We had a wonderful time. Their lodge is breathtakingly gorgeous and they are really interesting and kind people. Casa de Mar—check it out. We got to enjoy nice dinners and conversations with them, and the scenery where they live is beautiful. Both they and the lodge remind me of how Tsene was with John and Yvette. It’s not over-developed at all, but placed in the middle of the bush with great care taken to disturb the surroundings as little as possible. At one point Ann and I were expressing our gratitude for their generosity and hospitality. Mary simply replied, “whenever my own children are abroad I pray to God that people there are taking good care of them as if they were their own children. That’s what I am doing.”


A few weeks ago an elephant showed up in Inharrime district and was destroying a number of houses and farms. People called on the police to help them and they called upon a South African man who owns a restaurant (the delicious one in Quissico I am always raving about) to come get rid of it. Once the elephant was dead it was a huge deal for the district. Almost all of the neighborhood chiefs got together for a ceremony to eat the most prized parts of the elephants and then, from what I could tell, each got to take some of it back to their neighborhood. It was the talk of the town for a couple days and some guys spent the better part of a day driving around town and out to my school with its head.

My 12th grade REDES girl who also facilitates the primary school REDES group presenting a poem in French about Samora Machel at the last public holiday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


We have now recovered all but three t-shirts!
This morning I caught the two littlest ones in the orphanage peeing outside behind a building. This is a pretty common occurrence and they definitely knew they were in trouble as soon as they saw me. I caught the littlest one peeing in the garden last week too. Yesterday afternoon during my English lesson with the little girls, one of them was climbing on a 4-foot wall and toppled over the edge and landed on the other side on her head on concrete.. Luckily kids are resilient, so after a few minutes of crying on my lap and a reading of “Madeline,” she was ready to play again.
English theater is coming along really well. And the best part, we have five girls and at least a few of them speak very strong English (as opposed to last year when our sole girl’s English was mediocre). The only downside is that for the competition our group can only be 10 students, so we will have to eliminate quite a few of the approximately 16 students who show up regularly.

Walking some goats in the early morning haze. The babies are never tied up because they stay near their moms. But I and other PCVs are always so tempted to steal them because of this--they are just too cute!

Monday, September 12, 2011


Today I pulled all of my REDES girls out of class to talk to them about the t-shirt situation (with the school director’s permission, of course). They were all appalled by how many shirts were taken, but unfortunately weren’t able to give me any concrete information. None of them said that any of them took any, thus so far it looks like only girls from Ann and Erin’s groups took shirts. I believe them when they say they don’t know anyone else who took shirts. This isn’t to say that my group is simply made up of better people, but we have been a group much longer so they have a lot more at stake in the group and know me better. More importantly, they are a very tight-knit group and know each other too well for someone to have taken shirts without anyone else knowing.
We caught the little twat who stole my capulana on Saturday (Ann and I had brought a bunch of capulanas for the girls to sit on in a couple of the stations. Apparently one girl had taken the liberty to tied it around her waist, I saw her at one point and wondered why she was wearing my capulana. But I was too busy to do anything about it. Then she left wearing it). Luckily we had a video with her in it, wearing it, so Ann and I showed the video to our REDES girls and they were able to identify her by name. The stealing of t-shirts of inexcusable, but I can understand why they did that. But why in the world would a girl steal a capulana? That is one of the only things that people here have plenty of, and mine wasn’t even a new or particularly nice one. Again, she didn’t think she had stolen it, but only finally admitted it when Ann told her she wasn’t leaving until she heard her admit she had stolen the capulana.
My English lessons with the little girls from the orphanage feature one brilliant little girl who looks forward to the lessons and asks me every day if we will have one, and five of them who run away and do their best to be scarce during these times. But the one girl’s retention rate is impressive and it makes working with her incredibly fulfilling. Right now she is standing on my porch yelling “good afternoon!” to everyone who passes and occasionally runs in to knock on my door to ask how to say something in English
On Friday Anna, Naomi and I ran 18 miles. It’s a pretty incredible feeling.


Today was the big Inharrime Inter-group Exchange that we have been preparing for for weeks now. It was overall a good day, but with some very high highs and some pretty low lows.
Because there were 130 girls participating in this exchange, we had recruited many PCVs and colleagues from our schools to help us out on this day. We divided the girls into 22 groups for the purpose of painting (each group was responsible for a design) and the groups were scattered between 9 stations, to reduce the number of girls out on the highway painting at a time. Two of the stations were painting, to give them sufficient time, then we had jump rope (it was supposed to be double-dutch, but they didn’t quite get the hang of that), flower making, peanut butter making and eating it, discussing making the transition from secondary school to primary school, dancing the “Cha Cha Slide,” writing cards, and playing soccer. We had someone in charge of controlling time and signaling a switch every 45 minutes and had people distributed between all the stations. The restaurant made a HUGE pot of beans and had lunch ready for everyone when they showed up in three groups. Organization-wise, things went well. And or the morning, we had been able to keep people not associated with the exchange out of the soccer field and away from the wall.
At 1pm a bunch of men soccer players showed up at the field to play a game. We politely informed them that there were no soccer games today, since we had already arranged with the chief of sports for the town to have the field at our disposal from 7am-4pm. They didn’t respond as politely, so things got a little heated after. We called the chief of sports to come tell these guys that they were wrong and needed to leave, and we continued to tell these guys that there was not going to be a soccer game today. But Ann and I couldn’t do much to physically stop 30 grown men from entering the field, so I despaired a little—even though we were right, I thought we might lose this battle. But I had forgotten that I had 130 girls on my side. That’s when something amazing happened. Completely on their own, with no encouragement or instruction from any PCVs, the girls took it upon themselves to ensure that there would be no soccer game today. They began singing and dancing in the middle of the field. Then they took it upon themselves to steal the soccer balls from the boys and bring them to Ann. At one point a player, out of frustration, picked up his soccer ball and ran with it away from the group of laughing girls chasing him. Ladies and gentlemen, the birth of rugby. One of the head players with whom we were having head-on confrontations with most often at one point said “screw this, we’re just going to play.” All of the REDES girls responded by starting a chant “mark up the goal, I wanna play too!” and chanting, stomping and clapping in circles around him. And I don’t care how manly you are, having 100 girls chanting and circling you is pretty disarming.
Finally the heads of the soccer commission of Inharrime showed up. The players yelled to them to get us off their field, they had a game to play. The head guy responded “this team doesn’t even exist, we haven’t created the teams yet! There are no soccer games today, the field is theirs today!” Hah. Then the chief of sports finally showed up and he also said that we had the field until 4pm today. But just because the men were wrong doesn’t mean they were going down without a fight. There was a lot of yelling about where to have the games now and how we were messing everything up. Somebody suggested again (this had been suggested about 30 minutes prior) that they move to play at my school. People were okay with that, but then where would they play the second game? Trying to be helpful, I suggested they come back here since we would be done at 4pm. This started a whole new round of yelling about how it was too late by then. I kicked myself for trying to help and promised not to do it anymore.
In the commotion earlier, a hot-headed soccer player hit one of the kids provoking him. Luckily it wasn’t one of our girls, but a boy who had wandered in, since his sister was participating that day. Apparently his mom lives close because a few minutes later, amidst all the other craziness happening (girls singing and chanting, men yelling, us arguing) a furious mother came storming onto the scene. She demanded to know which player had hit her child and when she found him, she took off after him. The guy, being a spineless slug, ran away from her. The mother and a bunch of REDES girls chased him around the field for a while, but he then disappeared into the neighborhood/woods behind the soccer field. And we never saw him again. She talked to the captain of his team, but I couldn’t tell if he was going to actually do anything. And this guy had been one of our biggest problems today, so I didn’t have high hopes. As she was leaving, she politely apologized to us for intruding on our day.
Eventually all the commotion calmed down. The players left for another field and we were able to get the girls back to the stations. We were never able to get all the spectators out of the field after that point though. And only one soccer player pointed out that what we were doing that day was to make their field look nicer. I’m glad somebody noticed.
I was feeling great about the day. The wall looked good (thought it needs touching up) and everyone had a good time. Then I walked over to where Ann was sitting and it looked like she was going to cry. We had gotten shirts for the girls for today, we charged them 40 Meticais per shirt (a shirt costs 150 Meticais), thus Ann and I fronted the costs. There had been leftover shirts which we were going to sell to other people who wanted them, but apparently a bunch of the girls had untied the bags and gone through them, stealing about 40 shirts. Looks like Ann and I won’t be eating this month. We implored the girls who were still there to let us know if they knew who had taken shirts. Ann got word of one girl, so she went to her house to confront her and her parents. Then, we were sitting at the restaurant when a bunch of my girls ran in. They had gotten about a kilometer out of town when they had heard of a girl who had taken shirts, so they ran all the way back to tell me. So Ann and I set out on what would end up being, in Ann’s words, “the worst scavenger hunt of life.” We went to the girl’s house and she gave us two shirts, then told us her friends who had also taken them, but she claimed not to know where they lived. We were about to leave when her grandmother and mother asked to talk to us. They explained that they had no idea where she had been today and other days. Apparently she returns home every day after dark and says she was at a REDES meeting (her meetings are once a week and end at 1pm), she forged her mother’s signature on her permission slip, and stole the money to pay for her shirt. Her mother was so fed up with her that she decided to help us on our quest and ended up being out savior tonight. She informed us that her daughter did in fact know where her friends lived, so we set out to one, two, three, four houses. All of the girls blamed one girl who had taken the shirts, then distributed them to others. But Ann, their mothers, grandmothers, and I repeatedly told them that they were just as culpable, since they had ultimately taken the shirts without saying anything. We were really lucky the mother came, most of the conversing was done in Txopi. We recovered eight shirts that night. What upsets me the most is that not a single of the girls thought they were stealing. They kept saying, “I didn’t steal it, I took it.” Luckily there was a full moon tonight, since I had jumped up so quickly from the table at the restaurant and didn’t have a flashlight, cell phone, or even a single Metical on me. If you forgot about the circumstances, it was actually a really nice night to be out walking where there is no electricity, and we got to see a lot of Inharrime I’ve never seen before. I never knew before coming here that the moon can cast such strong shadows.


Two nights ago I slept at Ann and Jasmin’s house, so I went running from there in the morning. Ann lives near the other secondary school (where Erin teaches) so I ran past there and then out of town on that road, passing many students coming in on their way to school. At one point an older boy, probably 12th grader, was riding his bike into town down the other side of the road. When he saw me he swerved over to my side of road and rode straight toward me. I wasn’t going to move so I just hoped he wouldn’t hit my kneecap straight on. He swerved out of the way within 6 inches of me. Son of a -----.
Within the last couple days the price of phone credit went up. It drives me crazy. Phone credit here is sold in 20 Meticais, 50 Meticais, and 100 Meticais amounts (they are little stubs with the value written on it, and you scratch off a code on the back). I am sure it’s not the individuals in Inharrime who sell credit who are at fault, but Mcel, the phone company. But still the fallacy in their reasoning kills me. If you were selling me 50 smiley faces, then you could sell them to me for whatever price you wished. But you can ONLY sell 50 Meticais of credit for 50 Meticais!

The pyramid. Three of those girls are Ann's REDES girls.


September 7th is holiday in Mozambique, to commemorate the signing of the Lusaka Accord. My two REDES groups had been preparing dances to present at the town celebration, and I had arranged things with my colleague who coordinates that. He told me to show up at 6am, so I did, with my book. My REDES girls showed up around 7:10 and he showed up at 7:45. But it didn’t matter because all the important people didn’t show up until 8:15, thus the celebration couldn’t start until then. I was told that our school, Laura Vicuña, had been allotted 30 minutes for our presentations. In addition to my three groups who were dancing (the secondary school group had split into two separate dances) there were a couple students presenting two poems about Samora Machel in French (Samora Machel was the first president of Mozambique and this year has been named Samora Machel year), but 30 minutes was going to be plenty of time.
The students from primary school where Ann has her REDES group were presenting gymnastics, and some of Ann’s REDES girls were part of the presentation. Their presentation of awesome, especially the pyramid they made (I will post a picture). Finally it was our turn. Mozambicans are incredible dancers and they are continually dancing. But despite how great of dancers they are individually (actually, largely due to that) they are pretty awful at synchronized dancing in a group. Very rarely can you get everyone doing the same steps at the same time. One group danced a song, then a poem was presented, another group danced a song, then another poem was presented. This probably took about 12 minutes. When my third and last group went to the middle of the “stage” to present, my colleague said that they couldn’t present, there was no more time. I reminded him that we had arranged for three dancing groups and that we had been promised 30 minutes, which we were still way under. He said that the important people we saying they were tired and because it was already so late we needed to cut it short. I was furious—it was THEIR fault we had started so late. I don’t understand how someone can do that. They screwed up by being so late, but then they want to tell a group of 14 year olds they can’t perform the dance they’ve been working on for weeks because they messed up. The worst part was, of course none of them apologized, so I was the one who had to go explain to my group of 14 year olds that they wouldn’t be presenting their dance today. I was fuming.

My current events group finds on a map of the world the locations they have been reading about. I have really enjoyed working with this group, they have been able to have a couple very thought-provoking discussions.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Today we got together with from girls from Ann’s REDES group who volunteered to help us prime the wall we’ll be painting on Saturday. And since it was six young girls and three white girls, we had to deal with a constant barrage of crude men all afternoon. At one point a pickup truck with four young men pulled up next to us just to ogle. Ann told them to leave but they didn’t. I told them that if they didn’t leave I’d throw paint at their car. They just laughed. So I threw paint at their car. Not quite far enough to hit it, but close enough to make their eyes widen and make them stop laughing. They yelled at me as they drove away. Another truck turned around to drive veeeeeery slowly by us a total of three times.
When we were about halfway through painting, a men’s soccer game started on the inside of the wall we were painting. Some of them were harassing us and some of the girls, emboldened by Ann and me, yelled back at them. Then, as we were standing there painting, a small rock that someone had thrown hit Ann’s sunglasses. Another one landed next to me a little while later. I was annoyed but there was nothing we could do, there were at least 100 guys inside the stadium and who knows which one threw it. I was glad that Ann wasn’t hurt, but I thought that maybe if she had been nicked by it and had started to bleed, then I could have called the police chief on her personal cell phone and raised hell. It wasn’t until hours later that night that I realized, today guys threw rocks at us and we just shrugged it off, like boys will be boys. And not because it’s okay, but just because we don’t expect anything better from them. That’s pretty messed up.


September 3rd is Laura Vicuña day, she is the patron saint of our secondary school and the entire mission is usually referred to as the Laura Vicuña Center. We were scheduled to begin the festival at 7am, but then the day before we were informed that the government had designated today as the day for a national peace march. So at 6am my colleague who also lives within the mission and I walked to town for the peace march. We waited until 8:30am; still nothing had happened. The police chief has passed by earlier and said she would be back, but she wasn’t sure who was going to lead the peace march, since the administrator and other town leaders were out of town. By 8:50am apparently my director was fed up with waiting, so she piled everyone affiliated with my school—students and faculty who had turned out for the peace march—into the large mission truck and we headed back to school to start our festival. Thus, we “started” two hours later than we would have otherwise, and, since this is Mozambique, we did not start right at 9am by any means. The festival opened with a mass, followed by a theater about the life of Laura Vicuña, followed by presentations from students. One of my REDES girls recited a poem in French, some students performed a song they had written specifically for this day and our school, and our two REDES groups performed dances. There was a male faculty vs. female faculty soccer game, but I wasn’t able to play because I had to stay to coordinate the music for the REDES groups. The last event of an otherwise good festival was the student-faculty soccer game. And at the end of a day that had passed with few problems…a student’s head collided with another person’s head and he was rushed to the hospital with his head bleeding and one fewer tooth.
Yesterday I ran 16 miles (okay I had to walk some of it, I hadn’t run anywhere near that far in too long). I get the impression that often when I tell my students how far I ran, they just don’t believe me. But today one of the girls in my peer-education group saw me run past Chongola, the next tiny little town up the road where many students at my school live. It’s about 7 miles away so suddenly there was proof that I wasn’t just an idiot white person that doesn’t know how far a kilometer is! Instant respect from all of the kids in my peer-educators group.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Monday morning Ann and I showed up at the administration building for our meeting with the administrator and or the head secretary. We sat down to wait and heard some singing outside. Ann checked it out and said “I have no idea what it is, but everyone from the hospital is there.” After we had waited for a while, a nice woman (the same one from last week) came over and said that we would have to wait a little longer, because the administrator was going to take part in the ceremony outside. It turns out it was National Blood Donation day, so, as with all Mozambican holidays, people came to the town monument and there was a ceremony of placing flowers followed by speeches. We have a brand new town monument which is really beautiful. After all of that was finished we finally got to meet with the administrator in his very nice office. We discussed the mural and then he told us to go talk to the chief of sports, since our mural will be at the town stadium. The chief of sports has been really nice and helpful, he is arranging with the police to help guide traffic that day (the wall we are painting is directly on the national highway. Great publicity, but yikes!) and he was helpful with designs. We are going a little crazy trying to figure out getting all the necessary supplies, getting 150 people fed that day, and making sure nobody gets hit by a car, but it will all be worth it!
Tuesday was the end of Ramadan (sorry I don’t know what this is called). In southern Mozambique at least, most shop owners are of Middle Eastern descent. Many of them have been here for generations and are definitely “Mozambican,” but they are clearly not completely ethnically African. They are also all Muslim. Thus, on Tuesday, as far as I could tell, not a single shop in town was open (and by shop I mean real cement building with a door, luckily all the little stands were still open, because these are run by the ethnically African Mozambicans).
At Irmã Dolorinda’s request I have started English lessons with the littlest girls here in the orphanage. They don’t retain too much from lesson to lesson, but everyone gets a huge kick out of when they say “good afternoon!” Once, a girl got too excited and said “good sisternoon Albertina!”
This afternoon I was sitting on my porch when a student from the primary school passed me and said “good afternoon Sister Agnes.” I laughed. Sister Agnes is the director of this girl’s school. She is also black, wears glasses, and always wears her nun’s habit.