Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ann's three REDES girls who we took to the beach with us last week

The two littlest ones in the orphanage. The one on the left, I affectionately call "little devil" because, well, she is. And the one on the right, though you can't see in this picture, has a small bald spot because she found some used gum, chewed it for a while, and then got it stuck in her hair.

the Inharrime Girls at Casa de Mar


I was supposed to take the biggest german shepherd from the mission to my house in Namaacha next year. But when I went to speak to Irmã Lucilia about it this morning, she said we would have to change the plans because she thinks someone has been poisoning the dogs and she is worried about the safety of the mission. I had noticed that the dog I was supposed to take had appeared sick the past few days. The dogs are the only thing that really protect all the people on the mission (which at night is only young girls and a handful of women), in addition to all the electronics in the house, in the two schools’ secretary offices, and the computer lab of the high school. In addition to how sad it is that people would poison these dogs, it’s obviously quite worrisome to know those people are out there and plotting something.
Without going into too many details, I am sad and frustrated. I have a friend in my community and church who I trusted and thought that they valued me for who I am and as a friend. But recently I have felt that they were trying to take advantage of me because, despite the extensive time I have spent with them as a community member, they still have the conception that because I am white and American I have money and it is my mandate to come solve their problems. I went to talk to Irmã Lucilia about it and get her advice and she confirmed that this has happened before and this person is always asking for things. It’s not that they are a bad person or even that they don’t consider me a friend, but just that they also see me as a way to profit personally. I wonder how long I would have to live here for people to just see me as one of them, or will I always be different?

gettin my hair did. (it took me a good 10 minutes to untangle it afterwards)


The new science lab at the high school (finally built but not actually functioning) is built a little into the ground, so one can walk up to the veranda area and then jump down a few feet onto the porch. Thus, the windows of the building, at normal height when you are standing on the porch, appear to be at ground level when you are up on the normal ground. Which means they are the perfect height to serve as full-length mirrors for primary school children. Every day you can see large groups of kids dancing in front of these windows or doing other things and laughing at their reflections. For people who are too little to see themselves in regular windows, not that there are many glass windows in this country anyway, in a country where there aren’t many mirrors larger than a hand, this is probably the first time they have been able to see their entire body reflected.

Monday, October 24, 2011


We went back to Casa de Mar this weekend, this time with a few friends. Mary and Des weren’t there unfortunately, but friends of theirs who own a lodge in a town close by took us out there and picked us up. The beach was fantastic, as always, the weather was perfect, and I had a great time with friends. But it’s bittersweet knowing that this is one of the last times I will see them for a long time.
Today is the last week of classes, which means the last week with my REDES group, the last week with my English Club, the last meeting with my current events club, and the last time seeing a lot of these students.


During today’s Txopi lesson we read prayers from a hymnal that I know in English and Portuguese. I think my brain was very confused, even more so than it normally is. We read the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers and the Nicene Creed. I obviously don’t understand a large majority of the text, but can pick out words like “father, sky, earth, body, first, people,” etc. But I still recite the Nicene Creed in English every Sunday, maybe because I don’t say it often enough or it’s too long for me to have memorized in Portuguese yet, so when I read it in Txopi I translated it into Portuguese and then into English. On the other hand, the Our Father has become some muddled mixture of English and Portuguese and I am unable to complete the Hail Mary in English, even if I start in English it becomes Portuguese by the end. Now I have another language to add to the confusion in my head!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Yesterday I called Barclays bank to find out if the names on the REDES account had been changed yet or not. I gave the guy our bank account number and asked him to read the names on the account to me. He read me my name and the names of the other two financial directors from my group, meaning that the name-change hadn’t been processed yet. No surprise, nothing happens too quickly here. Then he read a fourth name of a girl—and I have no idea who she is! One of the joys of an organization like REDES where leadership turns over annually and there is no institutional memory!
Today was a holiday, as it marked the 25th anniversary of Samora Machel’s death (he was the first president of the Republic of Mozambique and this year is Samora Machel year). It’s the fourth consecutive week that we have had a holiday and about two weeks ago it stopped being a nice break and started being very disruptive to everyone’s schedules. We went down to the lagoon for Jasmin’s first time and took three of Ann’s REDES girls with us. We had tried to do this twice before but had gotten rained out both times. The weather today wasn’t fantastic, but we were able to spend the day at the water and the girls had a great time.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Last week and today have been third trimester exams (they spilled over into this week because last Wednesday was teacher’s day). Since I missed Monday and Tuesday of last week for the REDES meetings, I wasn’t put on the schedule of teachers to control exams. It’s just as well though, because for any given exam either a teacher doesn’t show up, or one teacher has been put on the schedule twice during the same time. Controlling exams is frustrating and annoying when it’s not boring, though I think that students at my school cheat less than students at other schools. I caught one of my REDES girls cheating, which is frustrating. But as always when I catch a student cheating, I get the impression that I feel worse about it than they do. One of my colleagues caught a student with a cheat sheet (she had failed last year and was repeating and apparently the test was the same as last year) so he confiscated the test and wrote “fraud” and zero points on it. I was honestly pretty surprised to see someone so concerned about cheating, since a lot of my colleagues don’t even stay in the classroom while they are “controlling” exams. But the discipline’s teacher seemed pretty flustered by the situation when she passed by the classroom and told the student she would get the opportunity to retake the test. Now, when I control exams (as opposed to two years ago) I am much less strict because I feel like it would be unfair to the one class that has me, while all of their other classmates taking the same exam are using cheat sheets and talking to each other. I just try to confiscate cheat sheets before they can be used.


This afternoon I was sitting in my room working when I heard what sounded like gunshot. Since this is not the first time this has happened, I knew that a kid had thrown a rock onto my metal roof, from the sound it made, a rock at least the size of a fist. Annoyed, I went out onto my porch to confront the group of primary school students walking home. When I demanded to know who had done that, the group of kids all pointed to one girl. I asked her name and the other kids told me. I wanted to know her last name too so I could talk to her director tomorrow, but she wouldn’t speak and the other students didn’t know it. More annoyed, I walked toward her to find out her last name. And the little brat took off running. I was beyond annoyed. One, you’re really going to make me chase you? Two, you really think you can outrun me? Please. Once I caught her I grabbed her wrist and marched her back to the primary school to talk to the director (one of the Sisters at the mission). She wasn’t in the school so I turned and marched her up to the main house of the Sisters. By this point I had about 40 kids following us, yelling at her and otherwise generally enjoying the situation. As soon as the primary school director saw me with this girl she sighed, apparently this girl is a huge and constant problem in the school. Since we were in the Sisters’ courtyard and no longer at the school, I had told the primary school students who were following us that they couldn’t enter, but they kept edging closer and closer, trying to blend in with the girls who live in the orphanage and listen to their colleague get reprimanded. “There’s no meat here! Scam!” the director yelled at them, laughing. I’m sure this girl’s behavior won’t be any better in the future, but at least she and a good number of the primary school students know better than to ever try to outrun me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Last week I was sitting on my porch when an English colleague walked over with an exam and asked if he could ask me a few questions. I though, YES, finally! I am a native English speaker, the only one at the school, and in the past two years NONE of my colleagues have asked me for help or even to proofread their exams. And often their exams are rife with errors, which is really frustrating. This particular teacher’s English is quite strong, but I was still able to help him with a few doubts. One question read: “I would not be able to sleep if I _______ to bed right now” and the options were “go,” “had gone,” “went,” and “would go.” I told him it was “went” and he said, “yes that’s what I thought, but then I got confused because went is past tense, but the word ‘now’ indicates something happening in the present.” My completely unhelpful response was “hmmm, yes that is quite confusing…”
Turkey, the bird we eat at Thanksgiving, is called “peru” in Portuguese. With my current events group we were reading an article about the ambassador of Turkey (the country) returning to Libya. Whenever we read an article (written in Portuguese), we find it on my map (written in English) so that the students can get an idea of what they’re reading about. I asked my student to find Turkey on the map and he pointed to Peru, the country in South America. A few minutes of confusion and explanation followed.

REDES photos!

Check out the REDES Flickr site (address at right) to see pictures from the last two Inter-group Exchanges, including pictures of the painted wall!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Today is Teacher’s Day in Mozambique, so there are no classes and most schools have a celebration for the teachers. I am about to head home after a long but successful handover and planning meeting for REDES. I am no longer the National Financial Director of REDES! It was a great learning experience for me, but it was a second full-time job which was stressful and difficult to juggle. I am really happy about the PCVs who are taking over the national positions, including my successor, they are an incredibly competent and driven group.
The robbers also stole the passport picture of the PCVs who is taking over as financial director of the central region, something we need for the bank to change the names on the account. She is currently out of the country, so I was afraid that this hitch would pause the entire name changing process, kind of a big deal since all the current financial directors (whose names are on the account) are leaving the country in about a month. Luckily Peace Corps keeps a picture on file of all of us that they snapped the first day we arrived in Mozambique, so I was able to take that picture back into the bank yesterday.


Last week 8 PCVs were staying together at a colleague’s house when three men with machetes broke in and demanded to be given all money and valuables. One male PCV was injured when he was hit across the back by the broad side of the machete, leaving a large welt. Reports were filed with the police and a guard was hired to make the house safer. Four nights later four PCVs (two who were there the first night) were staying in this same house because it’s near an airport and they were traveling. The same three men waited for the exact moment when the door wasn’t fully locked, knocked out the guard, broke in again wielding their machetes and took all valuables and money again. A situation like this is particularly terrifying because it’s clear that in both situations these men were watching these PCVs for a while, waiting for the opportune moment to break in. Even more terrifying is how brazen they were, marching into a house with multiple male PCVs, and then returning a few days later. It was an incredibly traumatic experience for these PCVs and we are all doing what we can to support them.
Definitely not the most terrible effect of these events, but the one most pertinent to my life was that the REDES central region checkbook was stolen, including three unused checks inside. As the men were leaving it appeared they rifled through the bag, discarding what they didn’t want, thus many of our REDES receipts were collected on the side of the road, dirty and out of order. I went to the bank immediately that morning to cancel the stolen checks. We weren’t too certain that these guys would know what to do with a blank check, but we were nervous since they had stolen the entire book which was full of examples of how to fill one out and the necessary signature. Since the entire book had been stolen we didn’t know the numbers of the stolen checks, but the lady was sympathetic and helpful and, using the amount of the last check from that book we had written, was able to figure out the numbers of the checks that were stolen. I also attempted to flag the stolen checks so that, if these guys tried to cash one of them we would hopefully find out their names. The people at the bank didn’t seem to understand exactly what I was attempting to do, and it was made even more complicated by the fact that I was in Maputo, but the checks were stolen in a different city and would probably be cashed there. By the end I had convinced the man, but we’ll see if the system is good enough to notify someone in Maputo when a marked check is cashed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I’ve been teaching origami to kids in one of my gender groups which include many former students of mine (both math and English) and some of my REDES girls. We always hear about different learning styles, but it’s fascinating to see these kids learning such different things in drastically different settings. It’s intriguing to watch students who pick up English instantly who are absolutely unable to fold paper so that the ends are even. Or my students who really struggled in math who are incredibly precise in their folding. Or even last year, watching some of my better students struggle with Sudoku, while other students got it immediately.
I had a great meeting with my current events clubs today! During the first time only one girl came, so I got to talk to her one-on-one about everything. She didn’t know what a couple words meant (missiles and budget, for example) so we got to discuss topics outside of just the news articles, and I felt like I was able actually make her a more knowledgeable person.
With the second group, the students all had physical education in the afternoon and thus were in no hurry to go anywhere, so after we had finished discussing the news articles, they turned to the world map and started talking about it and asking questions. I told them the story about how Iceland and Greenland got their names and they thought that was hilarious. They asked me if it was true that people in America didn’t have housemaids like here. I explained that throughout the world, it is common in low-income countries for people to have hired help, since the cost of labor is so low. But in places like America, the cost of labor is high and the cost of machines that do the same labor (washing machines, dishwashers, etc) is comparatively low, it’s not as common. I didn’t even begin to try to explain how so much of the labor in their lives (that maids do) doesn’t happen in America, like carting water, lighting charcoal fires, etc.

Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Photo Contest

Check out winning pictures from Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary Photo Contest, they are fantastic! (make sure you click on all the different sections)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The 9th grade girl from the orphanage who got pregnant and left a few months ago just called, her baby daughter was born yesterday! I don’t know exactly where she lives, but she lives in a suburb of Maputo so I am hoping to figure it out since I will be living fairly close next year.
English theater is going well, we finally decided on the 10 students who will perform in the competition (including three girls, up from one last year!). It’s frustrating to have to exclude dedicated and hardworking students, but we had a large number of 12th graders who hadn’t participated in the past year, so at least that choice was easy. And one of my English colleagues finally showed up today! The two teachers who worked with me last year were great, but neither of them teach at my school anymore and I hadn’t been able to get any of my new English colleagues to actually show up to a meeting yet this year (though every day they would promise me they were coming).

My primary school REDES group

Ann's REDES groups

The t-shirts from the last Inter-group Exchange in September (the ones that were stolen)


Today Ann and my primary school REDES groups had an Inter-group Exchange (our fourth here in Inharrime, my fifth total, and our LAST for the year!). Ann actually has four groups at the primary school, so there were 56 of them and then 8 of my girls, which is the group that I assist my 12th grade REDES girl facilitate. This girl, Marcia, is phenomenal, she is incredibly passionate about REDES and dedicated to the two groups (one she participates in and plays a big-sister role in, one she facilitates). The morning began with Marcia leading all the girls in REDES and girls’ empowerment songs, and also welcome songs for when our two guest speakers arrived. Then we had a question brainstorming session in preparation for the two guest speakers. While we waited for the guest speakers to arrive my group presented two dances they had prepared, and then a large dance party ensued. At the Inter-group Exchange in September all of the girls had learned the “Cha Cha Slide,” so all 69 of us danced it together. Then Ann’s girls taught mine how to sew bows out of capulana, so each girl got to make one to take home with her.
The two guest speakers were a nurse and the director of the primary school where Ann’s groups are. They answered all of the girls’ questions candidly and really stressed the importance of an education and waiting to have children. The girls responded really well to her and Marcia and Ann’s two facilitators did a great job of keeping everyone animated. After the guest speakers we paused for lunch. After lunch Ann’s girls taught mine how to make earrings (the same earrings my secondary school group makes) and each girl got to make a pair to take home with them. You can tell the girls had a good time because we could hardly get them to go home at the end of the day!

The signature REDES clap

Girls listen to the guest speakers at our Inter-group Exchange on Saturday


Welcome to Moz 17 who arrived in Maputo today!
I caught the two littlest girls from the orphanage outside the front gate today. I reprimanded them for being out there alone and brought them back inside. Marcinha proudly lifted up her skirt to show me her underwear. She wasn’t wearing shoes but oh well. The other one wasn’t wearing underwear, but at least she had shoes on!
This afternoon a few of my 11th grade students stopped by my porch to hang out. One of them had a bandage on his head so I asked what happened. He grinned and responded “they caught me with the boss’ daughter.” He told me that now that I wasn’t their teacher anymore, he could be my teacher. “What don’t you know teacher?” he asked. I told him I know everything. “I can be your Txopi teacher!” He asked in Txopi if I could speak Txopi and I responded in Txopi “I speak a little Txopi.” The group of students here squealed and yelled in amazement.