Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First Impressions

The first couple of days at site were so hot and humid. Luckily I’m living about 5 minutes from the ocean, so there was a tad bit of a breeze. But I was still pretty much miserable (living in Sequim this summer with its highs of all of 70 degrees did not really help with my acclimation). However, little by little, I’m moving in and was able to spend the entire day yesterday cleaning and organizing my new little house (the weather finally cooled down a bit). I now have an electric stove (basically 2 hot plates stuck together) and combined with my electric teakettle, life is pretty good. I’ve even gotten over the fact that I will be killing 3-4 cockroaches a day – and my aim with the nasty bug spray has drastically improved (however, I am especially happy when I wake up in the morning and the cockroaches have flipped themselves over on accident, it’s the little things).

I’m living on the mission compound about a 5-10 minute walk from the school where I’ll be teaching. In my town there is a market of vendors as well as a more “supermarket”-y store which has some of the essentials that cannot be purchased at the actual market (like oatmeal, so happy to have real breakfast foods again). There are a number of hotels/lodges in my town and although it’s definitely not the most touristy town in the area, right now is the peak of tourist season (most of Moz’s tourists are from South Africa or other neighboring countries), so there are a number of tourists throughout town. This also means that every once-in-a-while, when neither my neighbor PCV or I feel like cooking, we can find a place to eat (the resort affiliated with my school has pizza with sauce and real cheese . . . so delicious). I am living on the same compound with, but about 3 doors away from another volunteer from my training group, Zach, who will be teaching English and computers at the tech school. 

More about my school. For the next two years I’ll be teaching chemistry at Estrella de Mar, a commercial and industrial technical school that goes from eighth to tenth grade. Rumor currently has it that chemistry is only offered to eighth graders, so there is a possibility that I’ll only be teaching one grade. In Mozambique, students (or at least those in towns/able to move to town during the school year) can attend either technical schools or secondary schools. Estrella de Mar (like many other Moz secondary and tech schools) has a dormitory for students who live outside of town to stay in. Tech schools tend to have smaller class sizes and are focused on providing students with practical skills for a job after graduation. Due to Inhassoro’s location, this school’s curriculum is centered on the tourism industry. The school is run by the Church (I think?) and is partnered with an Italian NGO (maybe two) that support a recently opened resort in Inhassoro. The hope is that the students will move from the school to jobs as resort employees. In order for the students to gain more practical experience, the other PCV at my site (Zach) and I might be working with a couple of other teachers to organize after school English groups that would emphasize the accumulation of conversation skills necessary for work in the tourism industry.  

However, school is on their summer/holiday break right now . . . and it sounds like it doesn’t start again until the beginning of February. So I have a lot of time to finish getting organized and brush up on my chemistry skills!! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beginning of Life in Inhassoro

Moved into my new house on Monday and am living in the mission compound about a 5 minute walk away from the ocean. My house is only one bedroom and a bathroom, but there is running water (cold) and electricity, so my life is feeling pretty swanky. The weather has been miserably humid and I wake up every morning at about 4 am to the sound of mangoes falling on my tin roof. It's mango season right now, and although I know I'm going to be sick of them by the end of the season, right now I am obsessed. Mangoes and oatmeal is quite possibly the best breakfast food ever (although I'm in Vilankulos right now and had a waffle with syrup . . . I miss real breakfast food a lot).

Visited the school where I will be working (it's a technical school focused on preparing students to work in the tourist industry) and it sound like I definitely will be teaching chemistry. So I've started studying the materials left behind by the other volunteers (both of whom also taught chemistry). Teaching chemistry is going to be a major challenge, but should result in the significant improvement of my Portuguese.

Thus far my town seems to have just about everything I need . . . except the internet. I'm contemplating purchasing a modem, but for now I just have email and a bit of facebook on my cell phone. Please keep/start emailing me updates . . . school doesn't start until the end of January, so I am looking for things (besides chem studying) to fill my time! More updates later!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Confirmation Mass. Finally the Last Week in Namaacha.

I went to the Catholic Church in Namaacha with my host family during the first two weekends of homestay. But, for a variety of reasons including the fact that mass is usually two to three hours long and Sundays are my only free day all week, I have been successfully avoiding mass since the third week. Maybe not the best choice for my soul, but rather necessary for my sanity.

However, this weekend was my host cousin (I think?)’s confirmation, and I told her that I would attend. My mae informed me that we would be leaving the house at 8 am. Which meant I could sleep in, because last weekend when I did my laundry, my host aunt woke me up at 4:30. Before the sun was up. Anyways, I was shocked yesterday when, at 7:45, my mae was ready to go. We never ever leave or get anywhere early (which has been an ongoing struggle for my obsession with being awkwardly early to everything). So my mae and I set off for church, arriving at about 8:30. Which turned out to be a problem because mass started at 8. And since it was confirmation, the church (which is probably twice the size of St. Joseph’s) was completely packed. My mae sent me upstairs (which I later found out is the area for the old people and babies) where I stood. Through a 99-person confirmation and the resulting four hour mass.

Luckily, my electrolyte imbalance and dehydration that had resulted from my case of “Pre-colonial-southern-African-leader’s Revenge” (similar to Montezuma’s Revenge) had finally resolved itself. Otherwise I probably would have passed out. I stood next to this really nice nun (which gives me hope for the next two years of living on a Catholic mission), who shared her program with me.

In Mozambique, right after the collection, during the portion of mass when the gifts are being carried to the altar, they have a number of people carry items of food to the altar as well. I imagine that this food is being donated by the congregation, but I don’t actually know. Anyways, in the States this procession is usually all of four people and during the two masses I went to earlier in Moz, it was about 10 people. However, because the Bishop was there and it was confirmation, the procession yesterday was about 30-40 people. I zoned out a bit during this part, but the nun elbowed me and said “that goat looks fresh.” At first I thought that my Portuguese skills (or lack thereof) had just massively misinterpreted what she had said, so I asked her to repeat. Turns out my Portuguese was correct, and at the end of the procession, two men were carrying (a fairly large) live goat up to the altar. Where they presented it to the Bishop and then quickly carried it back outside.

After mass, I went to study for my final language test. And split close to a gallon of neapolitan ice cream with three other people. It was amazing.

I’m in Namaacha until the morning of December 8th and then will be heading to Maputo for swearing-in at the US Ambassador’s residence. After that, I will be at a supervisor’s conference until Monday when I finally move into my new house. I am so beyond ready to be living by myself (I have a site-mate who will be living about five houses away). Then it’s on to a month of intense chemistry cramming so that I can start teaching chemistry (in Portuguese) in the middle of January. I’m a little/a lot freaked out about teaching chem, but it’ll work out in the end (and will be great for my Portuguese skills). Prayers for the rapid accumulation of chemistry knowledge would be appreciated. I hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday season (and that finals are going well)! Miss you all!