Saturday, August 24, 2013

My how time flies...

23 August 2013

2nd trimester has come and gone and I am 3  months away from COS (Close of Service)!  My how time has flown.  It’s funny, I can’t imagine a time when I wasn’t thinking that.  Originally when I was thinking about joining the Peace Corps, 27 months seemed like SUCH a long time (as I’m sure it does to all volunteers – not to mention their family and friends), but I cannot think of a time when I wasn’t thinking “Wow, it’s already (insert date here)!” And, while I am certainly ready to be back home with friends and family, I cannot believe that I only have 3 more months here in Macomia.  I never imagined it would, but this place really has come to feel like home.  I wish I had time to get to know it even better.

As it has been sooo long since my last blog entry, I think I’m going to do more of a highlights reel of the things that have happened in the past 3.5 months.  I’m sure as I get even closer to finishing up my service, my posts will become more reflective and philosophical, but for the moment there are still a lot of happenings to report!

  • Teaching – 2nd trimester was a HUGE improvement over 1st.  I really enjoyed teaching, particularly my 11th grade English students.  I gave them much harder material and tests and they really rose to the challenge.  And I saw definite improvements in their speaking and writing abilities.  It’s going to be sooo difficult to leave them at the end of the year.  I really wish I could accompany them through graduation, at least as an outside source of help if not their primary teacher. Noções classes went well too, and fortunately the P.E. teacher is now back so my workload has diminished slightly.
  • English Theatre – Our English Theatre group is finally underway!  During the week of testing at the end of 2nd trimester, I held auditions for 11th and 12th grade students interested in participating.  We had pretty good turnout with 16 students and it was really hard to turn down anyone, but I chose a group of 10 really strong students (including 2 girls, yay!) to be the participants.  Last week, we sat down to write the play together and it came out really good.  It was entirely initiated by the students.  The overarching theme of the competition is “The choice is mine, the future is ours.” so we designed a play that shows some different choices available to students in terms of their education and how that will affect the future.  The play also sheds light on some of the corruption present in the Mozambican education system.  Again, it was all their idea! I’m merely there for support (and translation, pronunciation, etc.)  We’ll be traveling to Montepuez at the end of September to compete against 3 other teams.  Wish us luck!

  • New member of the family – We got a kitten because we have rat problems. It’s a boy, but we named it “Fofa”, which means “Cutie.” The kids love it.  We love/hate it depending on our level of patience at the given moment.

  • Music – Since the last time I blogged, my involvement in music here in Macomia has exploded!  I had been playing a lot of guitar with one of the 12th grade students, Zito, and we were able to perform at the Macomia Day celebration downtown.  Since then, I’ve recorded 3 songs with he and his group “Niggas Estranhos” – I explained to them that this term was offensive in the states, but here they just think it means someone who is involved in Hip-Hop and far be it for me to crush their dreams.  The group is made up of Zito, his cousin David (another 12th grade student) and one of my 11th grade students, Alfane.  Zito writes some beautiful songs and he and the other boys write lyrics to go with different instrumentals that you’ve probably already heard.  We’re working on 4 more songs to get recorded before I leave.  In one of them I rap(!)  I secretly hope we don’t manage to record that one because, while these ‘talents’ might be appreciated here with my high school students, I’m pretty sure it will just provide reason for laughing from all of you back home!

  • Radio – They started playing our music on the local radio station.  It’s community radio, but actually reaches pretty far – past the boundaries of our district.  One of the DJs also asked us to come down for an interview one weekend, which ended up being a two-night event! We had such a great time! It was fun to get my voice out there and be introduced to a new community.  Of course, the boys are ecstatic to be getting there name out there and feel famous.  It’s really fun to see.  The DJ actually asked me to come down and help him broadcast sometime.  He wanted to get a female voice out on the radio to encourage more girls to become involved.  I finally went down and participated last weekend and will probably do so again! I started off feeling very out-of-place, and I’m sure it was obvious to the listeners as well.  It was hard to know what to say and I just didn’t have the radio lingo down.  But by the end of the night we’d gotten into a good rhythm.  Lots of listeners called in and said they’d enjoyed the program and hoped I’d be back on the next night!

  • Vacation – Eryn and I had a WONDERFUL vacation just getting to know our own province.  It started off rough – we went up north to Mocimboa da Praia and the roads were so bad that Eryn got sick.   That was an interesting experience.  It’s a very Muslim town and since it was the middle of Ramadan, we couldn’t even find a place to eat lunch!   Everyone was fasting.  But we enjoyed walking around the fish market and seeing another part of the Cabo Delgado coastline.  Then we went to Mueda, which was an equally awful trip: 30 people in the bed of a truck filled with cargo in the middle (thus the hottest part) of the day.  It took us nearly 4 hours to go about 100 km (if memory serves me correctly).  Mueda was….ok.  We did some good shopping.  We came back through Macomia for a night to do laundry and sleep in our own beds, and the next morning headed out to the beautiful island of Ibo!  The trip went very smoothly.  We hardly waited between cars and got a very comfortable cargo boat to take us out to the island once we reached the coast.  We spent a lovely 4 days there, just wandering around and eating delicious seafood and enjoying good cocktails at the chique tourist lodges.  It was a much needed break after an exhausting trimester.  After that, we headed straight to Pemba for some sand and sun!  The break was restful and we saw a lot of people.  It definitely rejuvenated us for this 3rd trimester.

  • Post Peace Corps Plans – Well, one of the biggest parts of my life these days has just been to think about my after Peace Corps plans.  In terms of traveling, my plan as of now is to fly to Portugal and spend a week there before heading back to Cape Verde for a couple weeks.  I should be home by Christmas!  And…thanks to some researching on my dad’s part and some soul-searching on my part, I decided to apply to law school before getting home!  I’d always intended to apply, but had planned to wait until next fall so that I could have some time to rest.  But I’ll be home for a good 9 months before school starts and by that time I think I’ll be ready to get going.  So…it’s happening!  It’s been a challenge due to our lack of internet, but I’ve got a good draft of my Personal Statement and resumé done, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for my letters of recommendation and for the actual applications to open.  I’ve actually had a great time doing the research.  There are so many incredible schools and opportunities out there!  I’ve been pleased to find that many schools have programs that focus on public policy or support work in the public sector, which is where I’m interested in using my law degree.  So…I’ll keep everyone posted as the process continues.  Keep your fingers crossed!

I’m sure I’ve skipped over a million other fun/exciting/mundane things that have happened, but this is already long enough.  From this point on, I’ve just got to take advantage of each day because, before I know it, I’ll be done!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A much-needed "rest"

First and foremost – Happy Mother’s Day to the most wonderful mother in the world (next week)! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you, but I guess I’ll have to make up for it next year J

We’ve just begun our second trimester of school here in Macomia.  After provincial exams and a few days of very painful “conselhos de notas,” we were able to take almost 2 weeks to do some traveling.  I met up with the rest of the Northern MOZ 19ers in Nampula.  There were there for In-Service Training, or “Reconnect,” which I did not take part in because a) I’d already done it in CV and b) I needed to be here to represent myself and Eryn as directoras de turmas during the conselhos de notas.  From Nampula, 16 of us rented a private chapa to meet the central and southern volunteers in a beach spot called Vilankulo in Inhambane province.  The ride down was probably the most painful 30 hours I’ve had so far in Mozambique – both physically and mentally.  16 volunteers + 3 Mozambicans + a cramped car + really bad roads + a 4-hour pit stop to repair the car + transit authorities out to make a buck off the foreigners + a distance of more than 1200 km = the recipe for an incredibly exhausting 10-hour road trip.  But…it was totally worth it.  We were welcomed by nearly 70 volunteers from the central and southern regions and spent a good 48 hours just being crazy and catching up and finally descansando cabeça after a slightly stressful first trimester.

We spent two days with the rest of the volunteers and then most of them headed back to start classes again, but since we’d traveled so far, we decided to stay a few extra days.  We relaxed on the beach, read books, cooked delicious seafood – we made a gourmet crab meal for 3 for about $8 – and just enjoying not being in a classroom or a car for a few days.  The beach was absolutely beautiful, and since we were staying at a backpackers we didn’t break the bank and we met some really cool people. All were sad to leave, but we had to get back to school so eventually it was time to make the trip back up.

The return trip took us 5 days and approximately 10 different cars/vans/trucks/SUVs.  We were lucky to be able to stay with some PCVs on the way and had a night of relaxation (and yoga!) at a hostel in Nampula.  It was exhausting, but overall really fun.  We got to see a lot of the country, met some cool expats and some cool Mozambicans, and best of all got to catch up with friends that were placed far away.  A highlight for me was seeing Alexandra, my roommate from Cape Verde, albeit only for a day.  But it’s nice to know we have friends near and far.

And now we’re back to the grind.  I have to admit, I kind of missed my students! Classes went well this week and I’m anxious to get my English club started.  That might be all for me in terms of secondary projects, however, because I just found out that my teaching load is moving back up to 25 hours.  We lost a P.E. teacher during the break, so I have to cover 3 more turmas of Noções de Empreendedorismo so the teacher who was teaching them can teach P.E.

Anyway, not a very detailed update, but since I was getting online I figured it’d be good to post something.  Can’t believe it’s already May!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The road lined with cabulas

We are in the last week of our 1st trimester here in Macomia, and my what a trimester it’s been! I’m currently sitting in the front of a 9th grade classroom doing “vigilância” for a Physics test, which is what we would call “proctoring,” but here really is more like “vigilance.” The kids in the first few rows are staring at me with daggers in their eyes, waiting for me to stop paying attention for a few precious seconds so they can try to sneak a peek at their cabulas or cheat-sheets.  That’s because they’re the same kinds I caught with cheat-sheets during their History test on Monday, which meant I gave them a 0 on the exam and moved them to the front today to avoid having the same problem again.  They’re not even attempting to just do the test without the cabula, which is incredible to me.  If they spent half the time studying as they did writing cheat-sheets, they might actually do OK.  When proctoring on Monday, I caught a kid showing another kid his cabula for the following test.  Of course I couldn’t give him a zero on the test I proctored because it wasn’t for that test, but I did confiscate the cheat-sheet.  He had the gall to demand that I give it back to him! His reasoning was that it wasn’t for the exam I was proctoring so I had no right to take it.  I told him he had no right to cheat.

Today when I walked up the road to school, I saw that it was lined with an unusual amount of trash.  It almost looked like confetti.  Upon closer examination, I realized that it was just little bits of cabulas that had been torn up and scattered EVERYWHERE.  I guess that’s how you know exams are almost over.
These particular exams are provincial exams, meaning that everyone in the same grade in the province takes the same exam, probably a measure used in-part to prevent corruption in the grading systems at schools and also to make sure all the kids are learning the material set forth in the curricula.  This week classes were suspended so that all turmas of a given grade level can take their test at the same time and the teachers are divided between the rooms to vigilar.  Today I walked into the classroom to a collective groan from the students.  They kept saying “Teacher, you can’t proctor here. Go to a different classroom.” and “Estamos a pedir mudança!” meaning, “we want to change.” Well…good. My work here is done J

Anyway, no more ranting about cheating.   Life here in Macomia has been pretty good as of late.  We’ve gotten into a nice routine and my schedule is much easier because I’m no longer teaching Biology! I am now a professor of Noções de Empreendedorismo, or Notions of Entrepreneurship.  So basically, business!  I’m not going to lie, I really miss Biology.  I was learning so much and had gotten into a nice routine with my classes.  Plus, moving to 9th grade has been challenging.  But my schedule is certainly easier and while the students don’t take Noções very seriously, I think it’s an important discipline, especially in this province.  Jobs are seriously lacking and until some of this industry gets developed, entrepreneurship is a necessary route for many Mozambicans.  It’s important that they learn some of the basic concepts.  I think it will also present an interesting opportunity to teach some other important life skills.  I plan to host some sort of career fair, talk about job applications, and even doing a personal budgeting project (a skill lacking for even the more educated Mozambicans!).  So we’ll see how all that goes.

The last few weeks have been a bit of a mess because things just keep coming up – changing turmas and subjects, riots in the streets due to a cholera outbreak, cleaning the airport field because the president is coming, no class because it’s Good Friday, two weeks of classes canceled for provincial tests, etc.  In February, a bunch of the Cabo Delgado volunteers came to our site to celebrate my birthday, which was very fun.  It’s nice to be able to share our site with people! We’ve been to Pemba a couple of times for banking and just to enjoy the beach, and we’ve got a pretty nice little system down for traveling there too.  It’s much less stressful now.

Last weekend we attended a meeting for JUNTOS, a program started by PCVs in Mozambique.  It’s a common secondary project for volunteers here.  You get a group of youths together around some sort of an art/performance idea (dance, theater, music, journalism, etc. – even debate!) and spread awareness and information about some of the more serious issues in Mozambique – HIV/AIDS, sexual health, gender equality, domestic violence, etc.  Lots of the Cabo volunteers came here to Macomia for the workshop.  It was very inspiring to participate in the sessions with the Mozambican counterparts. Sometimes the difficulties facing this country seem so pervasive that you start forgetting that you have to start SOMEwhere.  And it’s really nice that there are host country nationals working towards the same goals. Eryn wants to start a group here, and I plan to help as much as possible.  My sitemate, David, wants to start a girls’ group and I’m super down to help him with that.

Well, that’s about it for now.  It’s coming up on time for me to decide whether or not I want to extend.  I haven’t made a firm decision yet, but to be honest it’s hard for me to imagine spending another full year so far from family.  I’ll keep you posted once the decision is made and I know my homecoming date.  Thanks for all the e-mails and facebook comments, etc. etc. Oh, and Happy Easter!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A new year, a new start

17 January 2013

We’ve been at site for a little over a month now. Some days it feels like we got here yesterday and other days it feels like we’ve been here for years!  On the whole we’ve got few complaints.  There have been a few issues with security in the professors’ houses (break-ins, robbery, but so far it doesn’t seem like there’s been any sort of violence,  just people trying to get the valuables that are out in the open.  We haven’t had any issues at our house so far, though we’re not holding our breath.  We’ve got decent locks and also have started barricading our doors with heavy (and noisy) items so that if someone did try to get in while we were sleeping we would hear it.  Worrying about this kept me up every night for almost a week, but I’ve been sleeping much better as of late.

Aside from that our biggest difficulty so far has been in traveling.  Our site is a little bit hard to get to. There’s a lot of transportation, but it’s not very regular or reliable and fills up quickly.  We went to Pemba for Christmas and about 45 minutes from arrival, our bus broke down. So we spent 2 hours on the side of the road and when still no one had appeared to try and fix it, we decided to grab the next available vehicle.  The way back was worse.  We took 4 different vehicles, one with a driver that was trying to overcharge everyone in the car (and even stopped in the middle of a deserted road and refused to continue until he got everyone’s money) and arrived at site after dark, where we still had to try to find our way up the big hill to where we live. Fortunately, a nice Zambian man picked us up in his truck and took us up the hill. 

Other than transportation difficulty, Christmas was wonderful!  All of us 19ers stayed with some 17ers who treated us to delicious meals, wonderful stories, and even had stockings waiting for us on Christmas morning.  Christmas Eve was spent with a bunch of 16er health volunteers as well who had been staying at a cool little camping center by the beach.  We ate delicious American food and watched 80s music videos and enjoyed all being together.  I actually came down with some sort of throat infection on Christmas day, so I didn’t spend too much time partying or at the beach, but we had a great time watching Christmas movies and just lounging and eating cinnamon rolls…etc. All in all, not a bad way to pass the holiday!
We were back at home for just a day before leaving site again to go to a nearby beach called Pangane.  Everything we’d heard about it was true – beautiful, deserted, remote.  It was a long (and hot) ride out there, despite being only about 40 km from our town, and we experienced a bit of harassment by the locals once we arrived, but soon we were hanging with some of the 16 and 17ers who’d come up the night before and we ended up having a great time- ate delicious sea food and camped under the stars. Definitely worth the visit! 

New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet. Eryn and I stayed at site and went over to our neighbors’ house for a little while.  They’ve become sort of our “host family” here at site.  We helped Fatima bake cookies and talked to her husband, a French teacher at the school, and played with the kids.  We ended up coming home around 11pm because we were wiped, but we did manage to stay up til midnight to at least wish each other a happy new year before hitting the hay.

Other than that this whole first month has just been getting comfortable at site, “passear”-ing, and  doing our best to learn some of the local languages.  We made a deal with a couple of students that we would pay their registration fees if they came over a few times per week to teach us Macua.  Beyond that, most of our time has been spent prepping for school to start. Eryn and I got lucky and they told us what we were teaching as soon as we got here – which for me was a bit of a shock because I’m teaching biology! But at least we had a good month to become comfortable with the material for the levels we are teaching. I’m not great with science, so it’s been a bit of a challenge.  I’m teaching cells, DNA, genetics, evolution, and ecology to 10th grade students.  The evolution and ecology stuff I’ve got down, but the genetics stuff is a bit more complicated.  It will be a challenge as well because 10th grade is a year they take national exams to pass from “primeiro ciclo” (8-10th grade) into “Segundo ciclo” (11-12th grade), which means they’ll be tested on material from 8th, 9th, and 10th grade…which means I have to understand all that material and help them review everything! But it’s a fun challenge and now I get to learn/review some biology concepts myself as well.  I’m also teaching 11th grade English, which I think is going to be really fun. They have class 5 hours a week, so we’ll have a lot of time for discussions/debates/projects, etc.

 All in all I’m teaching 25 hours a week, which is both more than Peace Corps technically allows us to teach AND about 10 more hours than I taught in Cape Verde, but our school is so hurting for qualified teachers that I can’t bring myself to complain. Plus, I’d rather be over-worked than under-worked.  I do hope to still have some time to work with the kids outside of school, either by starting a girls’ club or a music group or an English conversation group or something.  We’ll see how it goes…

I spent the last week helping with “matriculas,” which I guess we would call registration in English.  It was fun to meet some students ahead of time and see how some of the more bureaucratic aspects of the school work.  It’s interesting in comparison with American schools where the process would have been completed (digitally, most likely) months ago, but here class lists come out on the first day of school and professors don’t know what they’re teaching until the Saturday before.

School started this week and it’s nice to be back in the classroom and meet the students.  Most of my classes are supposed to have between 45 and 60 students, but so far the most that have shown up is 30.  I guess the first week here is kind of a joke, which is unfortunate because we’ve got a lot of material to learn! But up until now my impression has been that the students are pretty well-trained in terms of behavior and fairly respectful.  I’m going into it with a much more serious attitude this time around, especially in Biology class, because it’s easy to become nicer, but much harder to suddenly become more strict.  I’m also kind of enjoying the mix of teaching in English and in Portuguese.  I definitely feel more “in-my-element” teaching 11th grade English, but it’s nice to be able to converse with kids at a more intellectual level in my Biology classes.  Teaching a second language is always a bit limiting in terms of complexity of speech.  Plus teaching Bio is a great opportunity to practice and improve my Portuguese.

Let’s see…other things of interest…
Resources are certainly lacking here – 3 students to a desk, small chalkboards, and a “bell” that consists of a large piece of metal that the secretary hits at the end of each class and the start of the next.  Not to mention the teachers’ bathroom is a pit latrine (albeit very well-maintained).  However, the irmas have done a wonderful job building and running the school and so far the professors I’ve met have seemed to be very welcoming and hard-working. 

Well, as usual I’ve rambled on for too long, so I’ll sign off here. I hope all are well and in good health in this new year.  Wishing I could be home with my parents and Jenny and my grandparents who are there visiting right now!  Hopefully I’ll be home next Christmas, whether it’s to visit or to stay I don’t yet know! J

May the new year bring you much joy and peace.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

First Impressions

I’ve been at site for 5 days now and so far I love it!

Macomia is located about 40 km from the Mozambican coast in gorgeous green mountains of Cabo Delgado! Everyone said it was hot and dry, so I wasn’t expecting it to be green, but it is.  Looking out my bedroom window past the mud huts, I see a beautiful, lush mountainside stretching as far as the eye can see.  And yet the vegetation here has me very confused, because while the mountains are full of trees and bushes of a deep green color, the majority of the houses are surrounded by sand and palm trees.  It’s “tempo de fome” while we wait for the rains, so unfortunately the green does NOT translate into availability of produce, but the nuns at the mission have been giving us a steady supply of maracuja (passion fruit), mangoes, and bananas.  Can’t complain about that!

So anyway, starting from the beginning…we left Nampula at 7:30 on Saturday morning and began the drive up to Macomia, which was supposed to be about 5-6 hours.  We drove with our school’s representative, a Colombian irma (sister, or nun) working at the mission, as well as two other volunteers and their supervisor.  Additionally, our car was piled HIGH with all of our stuff (when we stopped by a mission for our supervisor to pick some things up, the irma who greeted us said we looked like we were driving the tower of Babel!)  We dropped the first volunteer off at her place with her new roommate and all her luggage and then headed to the second volunteer’s site.  Upon arriving at his site, we found that the keys left behind by his roommate didn’t actually open the door, so we left him there with his director and all his stuff to await someone to come change the lock.  We were already behind schedule, but this began a LONG trek up through the rest of Nampula and into Cabo Delgado on dirt roads or paved roads with holes and with 1(!) gas station on the way, which fortunately we were able to stop at to use the restroom and grab a few snacks.  Our Education Program Director was our driver for the day – and what a champ he was!  He drove the whole time with just the one stop and didn’t use the bathroom once or eat anything - and didn’t even complain!

We were very sleepy when the landscape started changing and turning into the green paradise that we’re in now.  Now, don’t imagine the Amazon rain forest or anything, but compared to the dirt/sand/desert that is much of Mozambique, the vegetation here is definitely to be considered paradise.  We even saw a baboon on the way, which is the first sign of “wild”life I’ve seen in Africa!  Upon arriving, we ate a nice dinner that the other irmas had prepared (right now there are 3 – two Colombian, one Spanish – but another Colombian is on vacation and will return soon, and a new nun will also be joining them from Spain in January).

 Our site mate was not kidding about the hike one has to take from the cruzamento at the center of our town, Macomia, up the hill to the mission, which is where the school and our house are located. It’s a pretty steady uphill of about 5-6 kilometers, and despite the greenery here, it is still very hot.

We’re lucky because we live in teacher housing, which means it’s by far nicer than the mud huts around us, but at the same time we have a community of teachers here that’s living in the same conditions (so we’re living at the comfort level of a Mozambican in our profession).  We have a large, concrete house (3 bedrooms) with a decent kitchen and a big center area that serves as a dining room and living room. Our house didn't have anything in terms of amenities when we moved in (we bought the stove, all our buckets for water, dishes, tudo!), but it did have beds with mattresses, a dining room table and chairs, and a coffee table and chairs.  All in all, incredibly comfortable.  I'll post pictures when possible, but at the moment my internet connection doesn't seem to be great here.

So far our neighbors have been so wonderful and helpful.  A female professor took me to the local market and lent us silverware, brooms, salt, etc. until we were able to buy some.  She also comes by a few times a day to check on us.  Our male colleagues have been very helpful as well, helping to unload our luggage when we got here and then last night we had like 7 people in our kitchen trying to change our lock because a key had gotten stuck in it.  It’s a little unfortunate because school just finished which means that most of them are going home for the holidays.  But some will still be around, as will the irmas, and it’ll also give us some time to get settled in.

We’ve worked out a water system with the water boy, who also happens to be my new Macua teacher!  He and his friends have started coming by when they’re done with work to practice their English, and I’m using it as an opportunity to learn some of one of the two principal local languages, Macua. The other most widely spoken language is Maconde, and I plan to learn some basic conversation pieces in that, too. We sat on the patio for about 2 hours today, translating and practicing basic phrases. Here are a few things I learned:
Moshelilya. – Good morning.
Salaama – Hello (notice the Arab influence!)
Muhamo? – How are you?
Kihamo, kai kiroutu? –  I’m well, and you?
Assante – Thank you ( actually Swahili, which is spoken by many here and has influenced Macua and Maconde a lot)
Kinote hati makua. – I am learning Macua.
Kini hanya Marina. – My name is Marina.

This zone is definitely a big change from the comfortable bairos of Namaacha, where we had our training.  People here live off of the very basics. Most live in mud houses, cook on carvão, and cart water for several kilometers every day.  Malnutrition is visible everywhere.  Yesterday, we went with one of the irmas to the hospital where she was delivering milk to a mother who was so malnourished she wasn't lactating.  Her 3-month-old baby weighed only 2 kilograms (less than 5 lbs!) and I was surprised to see that it was still alive. 

Two days ago, we had our first rainfall. Some kids from across the street came over with some buckets to collect the water that was coming off my roof.  When I went out to greet them, the eldest hid around the side of the house, presumably because she thought I would get mad.  Instead, I brought out a bar of soap and helped her bathe the younger ones that had walked over with her.  It was a pretty precious moment.  We had such a hard rain yesterday that I too decided to take advantage and washed my hair in the shower-like pressure of the water coming off the roof.

Today, Eryn (my new roommate) and I got up at 4:30am to have breakfast before make the long walk down to the central market.  It was overwhelming and exhausting, but overall a good experience - we got everything we needed (and a few things we didn't), plus I got to practice my Macua! Fortunately we were also able to grab a boleia (free ride) up the hill with someone on the way back (even more fortunate because some crazy guy was dancing and following us).

Well…this entry is already too long, but the moral of the story is that I couldn’t ask for things to be going any better!  This is all SO much easier the second time around.  It seems like nothing is phasing me.  Of course, it helps that I don’t have to teach for another month so I’m free to do whatever I want :)

Missing you all and thinking of you lots during this Christmas season.  Sing an extra carol for me!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

From Cape to Cape

PST 2.0 is officially over and I am a volunteer squared!  The past few weeks have been so full of extreme emotions that I almost just feel kind of numb.  Our ceremony occurred yesterday late morning in rainy Maputo at the U.S. Ambassador’s house.  It was a lovely ceremony, complete with a wonderful speech by our volunteer representative and a song that we prepared for the occasion! We sang the classic “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” but I re-wrote it in Portuguese to speak to our experience here.  It all came together really well and was fun to see everyone all dressed up and excited for the occasion!

The last few weeks of PST were a whirlwind of model school, admin sessions, prepping for the ceremony, and of course soaking up our last minutes all together as trainees and with our homestay families.  While there were definitely down-sides to going through PST again, overall it was a really painless experience. My host family was great, the other PCVs are wonderful, and the staff here is awesome!  But at the end of the day, I’m ready to be done and get back to work.  We’re currently on our way to the regional capitals (South, Central, and North) for a 2-day supervisor’s conference.  Since I’m going north, I’ll be in Nampula.  After the conference, we’ll finally go to our sites! 

I will be living in a town called Macomia in the province of Cabo Delgado (hence the new blog name – Cabo Verde to Cabo Delgado)!  It’s a sizeable town that seems to be sort of a transit intersection.  There is a market and our school is brand new.  I will be living with another volunteer from our training group named Eryn, who is a science teacher. We’ll be living on a Catholic mission and have heard only good things!  We are “opening” the site for the education program, meaning there haven’t been any Ed volunteers there before, however there is a Health volunteer living there now.  I’m sure this will present some new challenges as we assist the school in opening its partnership with the Peace Corps, but I think it’s going to be a really rewarding experience.  And as I’ve had a year of experience already, I think I’ll be in a good position to anticipate some of the challenges we might face.  Since it’s a new site, we really don’t have any more information, so I’ll have to write another update after my first few days!

We should be all moved in and ready to go just in time for Christmas. As always, spending the holiday season overseas (especially in Africa) is a little bit hard.  It’s my favorite time of the year and I really miss friends and family back home. But PCV’s are great at planning wonderful events to distract from said homesicknesses, and Christmas will be no exception!  Eryn and I will be making our way to Pemba to celebrate with the MOZ-17ers and I bought some cinnamon sticks and cloves in the Maputo grocery store so I can make some delicious apple cider and curl up with some Christmas music (in the stifling African summer heat).

I wish you all joy and peace this Christmas! As the song says, I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

I like to spend some time in Mozambique

We’re more than halfway through training and time is actually going by really quickly.  Training is going well.  There are definitely going to be some issues here that I did not face in Cape Verde.  For example, the role of women here is still very much that of the submissive wife.  The culture IS changing and people are working to protect the rights of women, but the fact is that most women do not work outside the home or machamba (farm), so they depend on their husbands for everything.  Which unfortunately means that husbands can take advantage of their wives.  Polygamy is common and most men have more than one woman or family.  Additionally, domestic violence is a huge issue.
Another serious problem that I didn’t face in Cape Verde is HIV/AIDS.  The rate in Mozambique is extremely high – I think it’s 14% nation-wide, but estimates for urban zones and especially zones close to the borders are upwards of 30%.  Almost 1 in 3 people!  Here in the south people claim it’s high because many men work in the mines in South Africa, where there are a lot of prostitution rings.  They get infected there and then come home to their Mozambican families on leave and spread it here.  It’s an extremely sad reality, but fortunately there are a lot of programs in place to combat the disease and the myths/misconceptions/stigmas that come along with it. I’m excited to be able to get involved in that kind of work.  I think the number one problem is female empowerment.  It’s really all linked: if a woman doesn’t work and can’t provide for herself, what power does she have over her husband? It becomes much more difficult for her to leave him if he’s cheating or even to ask him to use a condom.  Who’s going to put food on the table?  But of course it’s much more complicated than that and I’m sure the more time I spend here the better I’ll come to understand the issue.
I did get a wonderful opportunity to visit this organization called AMODEFA (Asosiação Moçambicana para o Desenvolvimento da Familia).  They provide services on reproductive health, family planning, and even do house visits for people living with HIV/AIDS.  But the COOLEST thing they do is run this group of youth activists who are so wonderfully awesome.  One of the girls spoke with us – she was 16 and had been an activist for 3 years.  She talked about how she used to be shy and had trouble talking to her peers, but after a time in the program she gained confidence and now isn’t afraid to advise her peers on issues of safe sex and healthy relationships and even to confront them is she feels it is necessary. It was so touching to see a young girl with such conviction, self-confidence, and passion!  The activists meet twice a week and share stories and debate important issues, as well as planning different assemblies and activities in the community.  I am hoping to be able to go to one of their meetings this next week because I was just so inspired by their energy and intelligence.

the road to my house

my room

my little sister, Felizmina, helping me wash clothes

the local market, held twice a week

visiting the cascatas

me and some other V's on ilha
As for the other aspects of training, I’m loving Portuguese and getting closer to my host family, as well as the other volunteers.  Some guys from my first language group and I formed a rap group – Gato Preto – that’s been performing for some of the “fun times” during our HUB days (when we all get together for sessions).  We’ve been requested to write a special rap for the Homestay Celebration during the last weekend of training. What’s that? You say you didn’t know I could rap? Well…there may be a lot you don’t know about me… ;)
I’ve been playing a lot of guitar, too.  Yesterday I sat outside under a tree and some kids came over to listen, so I taught them the one song that I can sing in Portuguese – “Eu não sou da sua rua.” Fortunately it’s really simple and they LOVED it! I guess I’ll have to learn some more. I want to get a little drum too that I can cart around and bang on while waiting for rides and whatnot.
Last week we went on site visits.  I went to one of the northern provinces, Nampula, and stayed in a little village called Carapira.  It was wonderful! The volunteer I stayed with is really chill and nice and lives close to a bunch of other wonderful volunteers.  We actually got to visit 3 sites, all of different sizes, different living situations, different school situations, etc.  The 3rd was Ilha de Moçambique, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and supposedly a “must-see” for anyone that comes to Mozambique! It really was beautiful – just a little sleepy island with white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.  And oddly it didn’t seem too touristy at all.  Plus I got to eat some delicious shrimp curry with coconut rice.  The north itself is very different from where we are here.  It seems a bit poorer, and definitely more rural.  They also seem to speak less Portuguese.  Where I was, the local language was Macwa and many of the people who lived there spoke very little Portuguese.  I’m actually really excited for the possible challenge of having to learn some of the local language!  There is also a lot of Muslim influence up north.
Anyway, that was a nice break from training/homestay, but now I’m back and feeling refreshed and really valuing the time I have left with my host family.  I realized I’ve learned a lot from them and just in general life doesn’t seem so difficult this time around.  Before leaving for site visits, we did a “practical” exam, where we had to prove to our professors that we knew how to ralar coco (shave out the insides of the coconut), pilar e pinear amendoim (crush peanuts, and then sort out the remaining “flour”), wash clothes by hand, light charcoal, and iron our clothing using a charcoal-heated iron.  It was so bizarre and so fun, especially since the test was interrupted by one of the craziest rain/wind storms I’ve ever been in! I only started taking my camera out this last week, so I’ll put up a couple pictures, but more are soon to come! 
Well…that’s more than enough for an update on my life.  We find out our site placements on Wednesday, so I’ll try to post something then and let everyone know where I’m headed!
Até já!