Saturday, December 29, 2012

Some brimstone baritone anticyclone rolling stone preacher from the east says "dethrone the dictaphone, hit it in its funny bone, that's where they expect it least"

the beach at Inhassoro (that would be five minutes from my house)
In case you haven't heard, I made my way back to Sequim for a Christmas surprise . . . unbeknownst to my family and most friends (besides Aunt Mary who is the best secret keeper in the world) I traveled from Maputo to Johannesburg to Dubai to Seattle (flying over the North Pole) and arrived home on the 19th.

Being home has been wonderful (besides the whole re-introduction to dairy thing . . . it's quite possible that my stomach hates me more here than it did in Mozambique), but I think when I head back I'll definitely be ready for year two and all it holds. While I feel like I have a lot more things going on outside of my PC activities this upcoming year - LSATs, law school applications, figuring out my life, etc - I am very excited to jump into the school year and actually (more or less) know what I'm doing. We got a chance to look at the theoretical school calendar for next year and it even looks like (due to our PC calendar and close-of-service dates) I'll be missing some if not all of the national exams. Which makes me VERY happy as that was the part of the year that created a lot of unnecessary stress and general frustration with the system.

Since I generally fail at uploading pictures, here are some various photos from my year in Inhassoro. My two New Year's Resolutions are to 1) take more pictures  and 2) update my blog more frequently. Since I'll have to use my computer a lot more next year for LSAT/application stuff, I'm hoping that 2013 will be much more blog-filled than 2012.

Happy New Year!
Baby Portuguese Man-o-War

My first Yale shirt sighting in Moz - YAY!

Laurie and I are pretty skilled at Moz cooking

Transportation in Moz is not a walk in the park

Vilankulo is kind of pretty

Some students from chemistry . . . just chilling on my doorstep per usual

We do have animals in Moz!

I made it up to Pemba (northern moz)
Teachers' Day began with a morning exercise walk. Which was simultaneously awkward and hilarious

Preschoolers in my front yard

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Helter Skelter in a Summer Swelter

I think I’ve acclimated to the heat just a little bit. Either that or it’s still much colder than it was in January/February (didn’t have a thermometer at that point, so I can’t really offer any comparisons). The fact that I no longer look like I’m going to pass out every time I step outside is something I’m quite proud of. But of course, once again, I’ve failed at my updates, so here goes nothing (in list form, per usual):

1.     Thanksgiving was a close to America-like as it could have been. I hosted a PC Thanksgiving in Inhassoro and despite the many planning obstacles (turkeys are very hard to buy this time of year due to the fact they all have babies/are sitting on eggs. Not a problem I really dealt with in the States) I think it all ended up going fairly well. We spent the day on Santa Carolina, an island off the coast of Inhassoro that just might be my favorite place in the world, and had a 14-person dinner later that evening at my school’s hotel (I only have two plates in my house . . . and maybe a total of five forks/spoons, tj planning fail). The cook at the hotel had never cooked a turkey, I had most definitely never cooked a turkey, but we still managed to turn the non-genetically engineered (aka: skinniest turkey I’ve ever seen) turkey into a decent main dish. It was accompanied by just about every side dish you’d find at a Sequim Thanksgiving (Laurie even successfully made a sweet potato casserole using cassava). And we had five pumpkin pies – which means I had pumpkin pie for breakfast for the next three days. Just like the US. It was wonderful to be able to spend the holiday with friends, and was a welcome break from the hellish previous weeks.
2.     As those who stayed in my house over Thanksgiving can testify to, I kill one very large cockroach every morning. Why there is only one is a complete mystery to me – why not two one day, one the next? I’m definitely starting to miss the winter and it’s lack of bugs (in other news, dug two incubating sand fleas out of my foot the other day. Ew.).
3.     While the situation is more complicated than I care to write about in my blog, I have been having some difficulties at school throughout our national/provincial exam period. As the only chemistry teacher, I am responsible for everyone’s grades and the process has been a bit disheartening. The whole thing has been a rather depressing way to end the school year; luckily I had two bags of M&M’s to stress-eat my way through.
4.     Mango salsa has pretty much become my food staple. It is so delicious. And doesn’t even taste too much like bleach.
5.     It rained yesterday. Which doesn’t sound too exciting, but when it rains the temperature drops about 20 degrees and the humidity drops below 50%. It’s a beautiful thing. Plus, I was talking to my empregada the other day and apparently Inhassoro hasn’t had a real rainy season in three years and if the rain doesn’t start soon (and rain for more than a 24-hour period) a lot of people are going to lose their gardens (which in many cases are a large source of food for a substantial portion of the year). So my fingers and toes are crossed for a lot of rain (if it doesn’t happen soon I might end up doing Lagaan-style rain dances).
6.     Next week is my last official week of having anything to do at the school, we’re on our professors’ break from December 10th to January 9th. Still unclear as to what I’ll be doing/where I’ll be going . . . maybe Malawi? Anyways, I’m going to have a bit of free time, so any book recommendations would be greatly appreciated!!
7.     My current life plan involves taking the LSAT in June in Johannesburg and applying to law schools in the fall. Which is kind of crazy. But if anyone has any LSAT study suggestions (that are applicable to life in Mozambique with very little internet), I could use all the help I can get.
8.     Homeland is/was an incredibly addictive tv show. I may have finished the first season in 3 days. And officially can’t wait for season two to make it’s way to Mozambique.

And that’s my Mozambican life in a nutshell. Mango season lasts for the next couple of months, so come visit! Also, since it’s the season of Christmas/holiday newsletters, I’d love to hear what’s going on in your life – letters haven’t had the best luck making it to me recently, but send me emails, I’m going to have a bit of time on my hands!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

There's a warm wind blowin', the stars are out (The Year in Review)

·     Shockingly I now speak Portuguese (more or less). I’ve even stopped saying pero instead of mas (but is different in Portuguese than in Spanish) and am really trying to say ajudar instead of ayudar. It’s a learning process. Am attempting to learn basic Xitswa, but this is definitely an uphill battle.
·      In other news, my students now know what chill out means and use it on a semi-regular basis. They also know “stop.” Not quite as cool as “manda hollas,” but I’m working on it.
·      I am a Chemistry teacher (don’t worry, this fact makes me laugh too). While it’s only basic chem., it’s still something I was completely unprepared to do a year ago (plus most volunteers who are told they’re going to be science teachers end up teaching English anyways – still haven’t met anyone else who came as an English teacher and is now teaching a science). Still not sure how skilled I am as a chem teacher, but at this point if my students have finally realized that they don’t need to use their phone or a calculator to divide 7/14, I’m a happy camper.
·      I lived with a Mozambican family for 3 months. Really wasn’t bad (although they didn’t have Costco-sized jars of Skippy peanut butter – thanks Grandma and Grandpa!) except for the whole lack of personal space thing. Which I’m still not great at dealing with.
·      On a related note, I’ve eaten almost 12 pounds of said Skippy peanut butter. This is somewhat concerning.
·      I’ve survived three rat invasions and even managed to sleep during the last two. Also, cockroaches no longer scare me, but I hate ants with every fiber of my being – the other day I was washing dishes, turned around for 2 seconds and when I looked again the entire wall was covered in hundreds of migrating ants carrying their eggs. Ew.
·      Mosquitoes suck. And I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with whatever nasty long-term effects DEET causes. Also, putting bug spray on right after every shower is just depressing. But I’m fairly positive that malaria would suck more.
·      I still pretty much dance around the post office every time I get a care package or letter (on that note, I’d love some more letters – they only cost about one dollar to send, unless you’re Anna and somehow get the post office to send a letter to Mozambique from Boston with only one stamp).
·      I am on my way to becoming a master bagel maker (Vilanculos has cream cheese! A Mozambican miracle). And I know just about every possible sour cream substitute.
·      I’ve sat on a bus for a 27 hour journey, spent innumerable hours on a chapa with a broken seat coil poking me in the butt, and have become a discerning hitchhiker.
·      This past month (perhaps to make up for the fact we didn’t have electricity for 8 days) I started getting 3G in my house (not even sure if we have that in Sequim) – it’s not America-fast, but I did watch a short youtube video yesterday. Woah jeez.
·      I’ve made it to nine of the eleven provinces and been on more white sandy beaches in the last year than in the previous twenty-two. Sorry Washington, your beaches just aren’t quite up to Moz standards. Plus I would probably go into instant hypothermia if I stepped foot into the Pacific.
·      I just finished my first year of teaching and am now more or less free from school between the end of October and the end of January (minus some days of testing monitoring). Still trying to figure out what to do with this time so that I don’t go crazy, although I do have a number of Kindle books as an emergency back-up.
Per usual, I miss you all (as my parents’ google voice bill can verify). I hope the weather is beginning to get “crisp”, Starbucks’ chai tea lattes (grande-extra-hot-no-water) and pumpkin bread is as awesome as always, and that everything smells like cinnamon (this is my somewhat delusional idea of what fall in America is like, as this will be the second time I’ve missed it, please let me remain deluded). It’s starting to heat up here, although the weather granted us a bit of a reprieve this week – it actually got a little chilly (under 75 degrees) at night. But summer is definitely on its way . . . with all the accompanying joys of humidity, cockroaches, MANGOS, AVOCADOS, and drinking over 2 liters of water a day (I’m still working on this metric thing). As long as this eight days without electricity thing doesn’t become a trend, my trusty fan and I will most likely survive until March

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm A Racing Car Passing By Like Lady Godiva

Random updates:

I went to Mapinhane this weekend and went baked goods crazy with my friend Laurie. We made carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. And ate the rest of the cream cheese with homemade bagels (blueberry, sesame seed, cinnamon raisin). All without electricity and running water - go team Martha Stewart (and a happy-day-after-your-birthday shout-out to Laurie).

School was randomly shortened by two weeks. I could have dealt with this had I known at the beginning of the semester - but as of Thursday, instead of having 4 weeks left to teach a couple of lessons and give 3 tests, I now have 2 weeks. Awesome.

In case it is unclear, that awesome was written with as much sarcasm as possible.

Also, I taught my English students how to properly use the word awkward. I will consider my time here a great success if they manage to incorporate awkward into their everyday language. Like they currently use holla, busy, job, nice, etc. Life goal = to make "awkward" happen in Moz (a la "fetch" in Mean Girls).

That's Where We Wanna Go To Get Away From It All . . .

At the end of August we had our mid-semester week-long break which is usually devoted to yet another conselho de notas. Thanks to Aunt Mary, Katie (and unbeknownst to me Andrea) ‘s trip I was able to skip the hell that normally is conselho and travel around Southern Mozambique.

As seemingly all trips do, this trip begun with a plane delay. And since the airport in Vil is in the middle of nowhere, I was more or less stuck at the airport until they arrived. Which really wasn’t a problem, except for the fact that the last chapa to Inhassoro leaves at 5 pm. When their flight was scheduled to arrive at 1:45, there wasn’t a transportation issue. But the delay meant their flight was now scheduled to arrive at 4:30 pm. So I spent the time provided by the delay freaking out and calling random chapa drivers to figure out who would be driving the last chapa of the day and if they could reserve 3 seats – which wouldn’t have worked anyways because there ended up being four of us. In the end it all worked out, one of the guys who was also waiting for people on the delayed flight offered to take us back to Inhassoro in the back of his truck. Luckily it was a relatively warm night and Aunt Mary, Katie and Andrea aren’t used to the heat, so we didn’t all freeze to death. When they finally got off the plane, I went to give Aunt Mary a hug and Katie insisted on taking a picture, per request of my mom. That’s when Andrea appeared – I had no idea that she was going to be traveling to Moz too (a welcome surprise since I subsequently went shopping in her suitcase J ).

Since they were only in Mozambique for a little over a week, we hit the road running the next morning, traveling from Inhassoro to the island of Santa Carolina (the one that Bob Dylan wrote his Mozambique song about) on a fishing boat – it was a beautiful day, although they all claimed it was soooo hot (wahemba – Xitswa for liar, also useful classroom vocab). The next day we woke up and I took them all to church. I usually don’t go to church on Sundays because mass is mainly in Xitswa, which I still am very far from understanding. But I figured that was the best way to get a good picture of the community. It also meant that many of my students (those who hadn’t left for break) were able to meet my sister, which they were absolutely thrilled about (Andrea - the official count is 10 marriage proposals). We walked around a bit more of Inhassoro, saw the school, market, etc. It was a bit weird, but great to share a bit of “my town” with people from home.

On Monday we headed to Vilankulos, I was a bit worried about the chapa ride – for those who’ve tried this kind of transportation they know it’s not for people who care a lot about personal space, smells, or general comfort (shockingly I’ve grown used to it). We got a great chapa to Vil – only took about an hour instead of the up to four hours that it can take. Shortly after arriving in Vil, I took Aunt Mary and Andrea on yet another chapa to Mapinhane, during which a lady handed over her small child to Andrea, who held her for the rest of the ride. I tried, but failed, to get a picture, the lady was rather suspicious of my photo taking. In Mapinhane we met up with the ever-hospitable Laurie and Chris, two volunteers from my group who hosted us for lunch and showed us around their electricity and running water-free life. After having some awesome feijoada made by their empregada, we took a little tour of their school. Then we jumped into the back of a truck and headed back to Vil to enjoy the awesome-ness of the hotel’s infinity pool and swim-up bar. The next day we took another boat trip, this time to Magaruque Island where we attempted to snorkel (Andrea and I are woefully inept), saw angelfish, dolphins, and dugongs, ate popcorn, and just enjoyed the white sand beach.

I once again forced Aunt Mary, Katie and Andrea into a chapa – this time we headed to Maxixe. While there isn’t too much to do in Maxixe (unless you are like me and are awed by the existence of peanut M&Ms), we met up with another PCV Laurissa and headed to a capulana (fabric) shop. We also hunted down ice cream, had awesome hamburgers (I swear there might have been bbq sauce involved), and attempted to coordinate our trip to Maputo the next day. In my search for a taxi driver to take us to the bus stop, we found someone who was willing to take us all the way to Maputo in a private car. At this point, I’m fairly skeptical of anything that appears to be a “good deal,” but my fellow travelers were ready for a private car, something I definitely wasn’t opposed to either. So the next morning we set off with one of the slowest Mozambican drivers I have ever driven with, but we also got to stop at KFC in Xai-Xai (yay!!!) and in the end made it safely to Maputo without any noteworthy incidents (although I got stuck in the front seat and therefore felt as though I should probably keep a conversation going with the driver, which was quite the challenge seeing as I’m usually asleep after ten minutes in a chapa).

In Maputo I went to the dentist, we hit up various art markets, the Moz version of Wal-Mart (where I could probably spend a whole day), rode on tuk-tuks, ate a ton of gelato, had mojitos (one year without a mojito is a long time for me), found nachos (!!) and generally enjoyed the city – who would have thought that Maputo has one of the most beautiful train stations in the world? I’m pretty sure that Aunt Mary, Katie, and Andrea didn’t find Maputo nearly as exciting as I do/did, but the art markets there are definitely better than probably anywhere else in the country, so hopefully that made up for it. On Sunday, I woke up at the crack of dawn (actually the party in the bar down the street had just gotten started, so dawn was still a little ways off) to get on my bus back to Vil in order to teach on Monday and impressively managed to make it back to Inhassoro before my fellow travelers had even left Maputo.

It was awesome to have people visit, and now I know how to be an awesome travel guide – basically you should come visit <3

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I've been one poor correspondent, I've been too, too hard to find (but that doesn't mean you ain't been on my mind)

It has once again been brought to my attention that I am failing to regularly update my blog – I apologize for the oversight and therefore hope you will excuse the following random collection of thoughts and their lack of a coherent theme.

1.     The rat came back. Actually, I’m fairly certain it was a different rat, nonetheless there was a rat in my house for three days. I am quite proud to note that I was actually able to sleep during these three days (unlike the last time I had a rat problem and I didn’t sleep for a month). And this time I know that the rat was in my house during the day . . . and my lazy cat did nothing about it. The cat and the rat were in the house at the same time, I basically threw the cat on top of the rat and locked them into the house (which is all of 20x20) and the cat went back to sleep. Fail. The sticky trap finally caught the rat at 4:30 in the morning at which point I realized that I would not be getting any more sleep that night and that there was no way I was going to be able to kill the rat. So, I stalked down the compound’s guard (quite possibly waking him up) and had him kill the rat for me. When I explained my theory of how to best kill the rat (sticking the trap in a bucket of water to drown the rat), he laughed, took the rat outside, and stepped on the rat’s head.
2.     I was stung by a scorpion. Laurie and Chris had been in Inhassoro for the weekend – we made bagels and ate them with Vil cream cheese, pretty much my idea of heaven – and we had been talking about scorpions. Mapinhane (their site) apparently has a large number of scorpions, but I had never seen one in Inhassoro, so was fairly convinced that we did not have them. False. Went to the market the next day to buy a capulana (piece of fabric), grabbed one to open it up and also managed to grab a hold of a scorpion, resulting in my being stung on the thumb. Arm hurt for the next couple of days, had a fever, but wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was going to be. I now know that there are scorpions in Inhassoro. And some of the teachers think I am very “strong” because according to them how bad a scorpion hurts depends on the person. Not true, but I’ll take it.
3.     While I don’t blush as easily as my sister, I turn red fairly easily. My students think this phenomenon is hilarious because they, obviously, don’t blush. For a while, every little mistake in Portuguese would cause me to turn bright red. Luckily this no longer happens, but my students continue to ensure that I have cause to blush on a fairly regular basis. Last week one of my students stood up in the middle of class and declared his love for me. It was hilarious, awkward, and oh so uncomfortable as it was one of my classes composed of 40 boys (ages 11 to 23) all of whom started laughing and cheering (kissing noises may have also been involved). Anyways, while kicking the kid out of class (as well as a few others who were being especially obnoxious) I, of course, was bright red – a situation that only enhanced the laughter. Anyways, three classes after the incident, I think we’ve finally gotten over the incident . . . maybe.
4.     I’ve started taking Xitswa (the local language) lessons with the school’s director a couple times a week. It’s unclear how that’s going, but I can at least say a couple of Xitswa phrases if need be. I’m hoping to be able to understand enough at some point to actually enjoy going to mass on Sundays (which is said in both Xitswa and Portuguese, but the responses are all in Xitswa). Maybe in another year . . .
5.     On that note, I’ve been in Mozambique for almost exactly 11 months. Crazy.
6.     Eggplant season has started again and mangoes are right around the corner. Which makes me happy, but also sad because it has started to get more humid/warmer again. I’m hoping that this summer will be better because I’ll have the chance to slowly adjust from September to February, but due to the fact that I quite literally looked like I was about to keel over every time I stepped outside from December to February, I’m doubting my level of acclimation has changed that much. Also, it appears as though Inhassoro will be hosting Thanksgiving this year, so all care packages filled with pumpkin pie filling, cranberry sauce, and dried cranberries are welcome. J
7.     Another random fact, this semester I have one of my turmas (47 boys) immediately after their PE class. It is not pleasant and it’s just going to get worse throughout September and October. Ew.  

Miss you all and sorry I fail to update on a regular basis. Once school’s out I’m hoping to get a ton of photos uploaded.   

Friday, July 13, 2012

And on to Pemba

Day #4: Sucky bus ride and Alto Molocue
Buses in Moz serve as transportation for both people and stuff. Massive amounts of stuff. Of course, on my 4 am bus ride to Alto Molocue, I got stuck in the corner seat in the last row. Thankfully I had a window, but due to the amount of stuff (and people) in the aisle, I never left the bus. For 13 hours. It was pretty hellish as I also made the unfortunate decision to wear jeans – a good choice at 4 am in the mountains, but a very bad choice at 1 pm. This trip should not have taken nearly this long, but my bus driver drove really fast and stopped a lot, for very long periods of time. This allowed me a chance to become best friends with the Zimbabwean women next to me who are scandalized that my parents would let me move to Mozambique without first getting married (they were 30 and living with their parents) and really confused about why I was taking a bus instead of a plane (bus ticket = 40 dollars-ish, plane ticket > 400 dollars). Anyways, made it to Alto Molocue, stayed at another PCV’s house, made and ate tacos. Slept.

Day #5: Back of a truck, slowest chapa ever, Nacaroa
Left Alto Molocue at a semi-decent hour, Sam helped me find a boleai, leading to rumors that we are married (I was asked by the police at the checkpoint two hours outside of Alto Molocue if I was Sam’s wife. Mozambican fofoca is ridiculous). Anyways, my boleai was a seat in the back of a truck. Which normally would kind of suck, but was amazing because 1. I was really tired of sitting 2. Zambezia is beautiful. So I had a lovely 3 – 4 hour ride to Nampula. And then I made the poor life decision to take a chapa instead of boleai-ing to Nacaroa. While the chapa left in a relatively quick manner, I was crammed into the front with Mozambican guy and my large backpack, in a seat that more or less straddled the gearshift (awkward) and did not have a back. So while the guy next to me was pestered about his white girlfriend (me), I attempted to arrange myself in the seat so that I wasn’t being felt-up every time the driver needed to shift gears. The chapa driver decided to fill the car up to the max and we proceeded down the road at a roaring speed of probably at least 50 km/hr under the speed limit (unclear what our actual speed was because the speedometer didn’t actually work). When I finally got to Nacaroa, I had lost circulation in my leg and basically fell out of the car, much to the amusement of my fellow travelers. Found Katy, ate fried rice, discovered that I now had a reverse sock tan line due to wearing leggings while sitting in the back of the truck (win), slept.

Day #6: Nacaroa
Katy had to proctor an exam in the morning, so I walked with her to the secondary school and dropped off our dead cell phones with the nuns on the way (Nacaroa’s five hours a night of electricity decided not to work when I was there. Apparently they ran out of fuel for the generator?). I walked around the market a little to buy veggies for our nut roast taco salads and stuff for hummus. My attempts to buy bread failed because they had just run out (in Nacaroa there is a guy who makes bread in a giant clay oven in his backyard), so the guy told me to be back at 9. I of course knew this meant 9:30 – 10, so I went back to Katy’s house, caught up on my celebrity gossip magazines and headed out around 10 to go back to the bread guy’s house. The bread still hadn’t gone into the oven, so I sat around and waited. And am now pretty much best friends with Nacaroa’s bread guy. Also, another Nacaroa accomplishment was that I lit the carvao fire for cooking by myself. In under ten minutes. Without the use of gasoline. Victory. Despite the fact that I definitely appreciate the fact that Inhassoro has electricity, I envy the fact that Katy does not have any neighbors who enjoy blasting their music at all hours of the day and night – the neighbor behind my house is currently going through a 5 am LMFAO phase.

Day #7: Boleias and Pemba
The next morning we headed out for Pemba. Nacaroa doesn’t have a chapa stop, but is basically right on the main road, so Katy and I headed that way, hoping that we would look pathetic enough with our large backpacks that some kind soul would let us ride in their car. We finally got a ride part way to Pemba that was in a super chique car with air conditioning and everything . . . but afterwards we ended up stranded. So it took about twice the normal amount of time to get to Pemba. When we arrived in Pemba, I tried to book my bus ticket back on Sunday, however there apparently aren’t any buses that leave on Sunday. So I booked my ticket from Pemba to Vulanjane (the crossroads to Inhassoro) for Monday, arriving on Tuesday. This bus seemed a bit more organized and because I was booking my ticket so early, I managed to get a front row window seat. Then we headed to Christina and Ellen’s house (lucky for Ellen she was actually visiting the US at the time) and explored a bit of the city and Wimbe Beach, which is about a 20-minute walk from their house.

Day #8: The Beach
Katy had to leave on Sunday morning, so we headed to the beach for most of the day on Saturday. I was attempting to even out my bizarre reverse sock tan line – an endeavor that was not successful (it seems to be a reoccurrence of my high school self’s ever-present shin guard tan line). It was still much warmer in Pemba than in Inhassoro (where it’s been hovering around 60 degrees some nights . . . embarrassingly enough I’ve started wearing long johns to sleep. This will be a problem when I move back to the states), so the water felt amazing and it was just wonderful to not be sitting in any type of moving vehicle. After spending pretty much the whole day at the beach, all of us (at this point poor Christina had collected more PCVs, there were 5 of us in total) headed back up to the house where Eric – who had just returned from a vacation in France with his family – shared a massive amount of AMAZING cheese with us. It was so good, and made me really want a 5-pound block of Tillamook cheddar cheese.

Day #9: The Beach (again)
After Katy hit the road, the Lona, Eric and I headed down to the beach again in search of seafood. Our trip was unsuccessful (although we would later find lobster), so we ended up walking along the beach and through Pemba, finding soft serve ice cream along the way of course. The rest of the day involved another beach session (and the continuation of my inability to get rid of the reverse sock tan line) . . . and then I got sick. Luckily, this was just the headache kind of sick, not the I-ate-bad-food kind of sick, because I had a bus to catch at 4 am the next morning.

Day #10 and #11: THE BUS
I got on the bus from Pemba to Maputo at 3:30 in the morning and began a journey of epic proportions. Nothing really exciting happened – but it took 27 hours to get from Pemba to Vulanjane. And it kind of sucked. Not as much as Maningue Nice sucks, but it was still icky. Luckily I was able to sleep on and off for most of the trip, subsisting mainly on tangerines and bananas since I was still not feeling all that great. The people I sat next to weren’t even too bad until the last guy. Who kept falling asleep on my shoulder. But the most exciting/scary part of the trip was that when I paid for my ticket, they accidently left off a zero when they wrote out the ticket – the destination and origin were correct, the price was just off. In the US I really don’t think it would have been a problem, I had obviously purchased the ticket. But they freaked out about it about halfway through the bus trip, at one point even told me that they were going to have to kick me off the bus. In what was basically the middle of nowhere. If I were Mozambican, I’m pretty sure that I would have been kicked off the bus. However, finally they got in contact with the Pemba office (after I had a panic attack for a good hour or two) who confirmed that I had purchased the ticket for the correct amount. So, on Tuesday, at about 7 am, I finally made it to Vulanjane, got a chapa into Inhassoro, and made it back home . . . only to find out that I didn’t have electricity or water because one of the wires had split when the mission had moved the generator. Fun stuff right there. Luckily my empregada had already swept my house free of all of the bees that had been killed by the guard’s baygon sweep the day I left.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

On the road again . . .

After conselho de notas I escaped with some Italian friends to Gorongosa National Park – one of the only places in Mozambique where you can still see the wildlife that Africa is famous for. After years of war and mismanagement, Mozambique is working to restore the parks and hopefully rebuild the wildlife population. So, early in the morning I woke up ready to go camping for a few days in the park before beginning my trek to the northern part of Moz. Since it’s winter here the days are relatively short and I woke up before sunrise to get things ready. (Backstory: I have a bees’ nest close to my house that has become increasingly active) As I was getting ready a couple of bees were buzzing around the lights, coming in through the gap in my roof (see rat story). It wasn’t that big of a deal until all of a sudden my house was full of hundreds of bees, all swarming around the lights. So I ran outside, awkwardly standing in the doorway to my house as a couple of Mozambican women who were getting water stared at me. I got the guard to help me spray Baygon (a crazy toxic bug spray that will probably eventually give me cancer) and cart all of my stuff outside. Luckily no one was stung and as of today the gap in my roof is partially filled in, which is cause to celebrate since I've been trying to get it closed for 6 months.

Day #1: Gorongosa
We all headed to Gorongosa – about an 8-hour drive from Inhassoro – and set up our tents only to find that the only food source (a restaurant) inside the park (the nearest town was 3 hours away) only has buffets on the weekend. And the buffet was 700 mets a person . . . which is approximately 10% of my monthly income. For one meal. Needless to say I had a momentary freak-out, after which we convinced them to make us sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Drove around a bit and saw the ruins of an old Portuguese cotton factory, warthogs, various types of antelope, and baboons. Next week I'll post pictures

Day #2: Gorongosa
We left in the morning for a drive to the town of Gorongosa (to get real food) and a drive up Mt. Gorongosa to hike to the waterfalls. The drive was super bumpy, but we made it up the mountain (oh how I dream of the US’s paved roads) and the walk and waterfalls were gorgeous. Plus we saw pineapple fields – though I’ve known for a while that pineapples grow on bushes, I still find the plants hilariously awkward. Plus, they wrap the pineapples in hay as they grow so that they don’t get sunburned. I don’t see many other non-Peace Corps Americans in Mozambique so was surprised to learn that the other guy on our tour was from Maryland . . . apparently NASA just installed some kind of equipment in the park. Unclear. We made it back to the camp and made s’mores with the rest of the marshmallows that had been sent from the states (you can’t get marshmallows in Moz). They were awesome. If you have any desire at all to send a care package, please include s'more supplies. You'll be my favorite person.

Day #3: Gorongosa and Chimoio (Mozambique’s Independence Day)
On our last day in the park we went on a game drive, not really expecting to see much since the park is definitely still in the rebuilding phase. BUT WE SAW LIONS!!! There were either 2 or 3 female lions and a male lion. It was very exciting. We also saw a ton of monkeys, warthogs, impalas, and baboons. But weirdly no elephants (that is one of animals that most everyone says they see in Gorongosa). Even if we hadn't seen any animals, just driving around that area of Mozambique was awesome as the plants and terrain are completely different than what we have here in Inhassoro. After the game drive we headed out and the Italians dropped me off at the crossroads for Chimoio where I stayed with a PCV and celebrated Mozambique’s Independence Day with spaghetti, cake and pumpkin pudding. I caught a bus at 4 am the next morning . . .

Conselho de Notas

As an industrial and commercial school, my school has different breaks than the secondary schools where most PCVs work. This is both a benefit and a detriment – conferences aren’t scheduled during our breaks (because no one else has them) which gives us more time to travel. However this also means we have to miss school for PC conferences. We aren’t usually able to travel with other volunteers, but this almost always guarantees that the volunteers will be at site when I pass through. Over the last month, Estrela do Mar hasn’t had classes and after making through the much dreaded conselho de notas, I fled Inhassoro to visit some friends up North – spreading New Girl episodes and the Hunger Games movie as I went. But that’ll be the subject of the next blog – this one is dedicated to the joy that is conselho de notas.

Conselho de notas is something I had been dreading for a while. Most of the secondary school PCVs miss the first couple of conselhos due to the PC conference schedule. Since we’re on a semester system instead of trimesters, I am not so lucky. There was a mid-semester conselho in April . . . but the school forgot to tell Zach and I about it, so we missed it (and thanks to Aunt Mary’s visit in August, I’ll miss it again. Halleluiah!) But there was no missing this end of the semester conselho. In the US computers take over most of the functions of a conselho de notas, which is to verify that the grades have been recorded correctly in about 4 different places – namely by reading aloud columns of numbers while the teachers attempt to check that all the grades are correct (with between 20-50 students in each of my turmas, each of which have three different grades to be verified, I will probably have nightmares about numbers being shouted at me in Portuguese until I am old and gray). Anyways, the first part of conselho is just making sure that everyone calculated their averages correctly and properly copied them in the various books. Then we get to the fun part – reading each student’s grades, assigning them a behavior grade and, if needed, discussing whether or not any of their grades should be changed. This time the discussion wasn’t too heated because students can only fail at the end of the year. I imagine that the end of the year conselho will be pure hell . . . I really don’t want to change my grades as I feel that if you put forth pretty much any effort in my class (and don’t cheat) you’ll pass. If I can understand chemistry in Portuguese, my students should be able to as well J

Basically it was three days of this craziness after which everyone led me to believe that I was done for the semester. Luckily I didn’t escape right away, since when I went back to the school at the end of the next week (to check for the tenth time that I did not have to do anything else before traveling), I found out that I had to sign all of the grade sheets and that a number of my grades had been changed by the directors to improve the school’s pass average. Actually, I feel kind of bad for the directors of my school. They talked about how they weren’t going to change grades, but the reality is that if they don’t achieve a certain percentage (which is almost impossible with the insane curriculum we are given) the district will say that the teachers have stopped teaching and close the school down. So, while I know this is not a battle I can or want to fight, I’m worried about how it’ll affect my students’ ongoing lack of motivation – if they can fail the assignments and still pass the class are they going to make any effort at all?

Friday, June 1, 2012


This past week has been the final exams for most subjects (I did them the week before so that I could proctor all of the chemistry tests), meaning that I’ve been spending my days walking up and down rows of students making sure they aren’t talking or cheating. Which is somewhat entertaining for the first day or so. And then it sucks. Because I actually watch the students to make sure they aren’t cheating, the turmas all freak out when they find out I will be proctoring their tests. Which is amusing and then just annoying. But here is an entertaining conversation that I’ve had with pretty much every turma:

(Backstory: I have just taken away someone’s test and given them a zero for cheating. Also, I go to mass every Thursday with the kids who live in the dorms)

Student: Senhora Professora, você não reza? (Senhora Professora, don’t you pray?)
Me: Silence (attempt not to have this conversation for the twentieth time)
Student: Senhora Professora, você não reza?
Me: Rezo para as almas dos alunos que estão a cabular. (I pray for the souls of the students who are cheating).

The cheating continues, so their Catholic guilt apparently isn’t as strong as I had hoped. And one girl tried to convince me that taking away her test was a sin.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Tale of Potholes

This Friday I was lucky enough to get a ride to and from Vilankulos with a local restaurant owner. I had been debating whether or not to go to Vilankulos this Friday – I really didn’t need to buy anything, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to go next weekend. Plus I had at least one care package at the post office (turns out I had two, thanks Aunt Arlene and Uncle Arnie and the Hall Family!). My mind was fighting a war between the cost of an up to eight-hour round-trip chapa experience (last week I was in an 18-person chapa with 19 other people and over 20 cases of tomatoes. For four hours) and the potential benefit of care package chocolate (I obviously have too many econ major friends). But when I found a ride, the debate obviously was weighed heavily in favor of chocolate J Unlike a chapa, which rides a bit higher off the group (one of the only benefits of this mode of transportation), this car was rather similar to a Subaru-y car – aka it sits very close to the road. On a normal road (in the states anyways), this isn’t really a problem – but on the EN-1 between Vulanjane and Pambarra and the road from Inhassoro to Vulanjane are both filled with potholes. Actually I’m not even sure if the word pothole adequately describes the holes that line the EN-1, I swear there are a couple that I could take a bath in. Anyways, for the 45-minute drive to Vilankulos, I feel like I’m living in some sort of video game or obstacle course.
Recently I had reason to hope that road repairs were underway – rumor has it that a natural gas company is coming to Inhassoro and that they are helping to enlarge our one lane road to the EN-1. This past month a construction project sign appeared as well as mounds of sand along the road. While I know next to nothing about road construction, sand did not seem to be the wisest choice – but I was still hopeful that the road would be expanded and that the game of vehicular chicken would finally be over. As it turns out, this sand is simply being used to smooth out the sides of the road to make it pretty for the president’s visit to Inhassoro next week. A couple million mets are being spent to line a 15km stretch of road that the president will probably never see (he will be traveling by helicopter). As a point of comparison, I’m pretty sure most Mozambican teachers make about 5,000 mets a month. The sand will last until our next rainstorm (which hopefully won’t occur before the president’s visit).
In other news, I’m only a couple of weeks away from finishing my first semester of teaching – only three more semesters to go! Also, Inhassoro now has an airport, so it has become even easier to visit me – I’ll be the girl taking a bubble bath in a pothole :)

Friday, May 11, 2012


Vilankulos, Inhambane

Bus broke down on the way to a conference . . . 2 hours later we boleia-ed with a lovely Zimbabwean family

I finally found a Mozambican wearing a Yale shirt!!!

Students . . . please note the Yale shirt :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Need to step up the blogging . . .

So, as some people love to remind me, I’m a bit behind on my blogging – my apologies.

This last month or so has been a bit interesting – my students have taken two tests each of which involves a process that is equally amusing and exasperating. The tests start with me instructing all students to put all of their belongings in the front of the classroom, they can have one pen and a piece of paper, this reorganization of the classroom takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Then, once everyone has stopped talking, I put up the “papel gigante” on which I have written the test, and then begin to walk up and down every aisle trying to stop people from cheating and talking – most of the time this does very little good. Despite my repeated warnings that cheating will result in a zero, I find students sitting on top of their notebooks, with notebooks stuffed down their shirts, and blatantly looking over the shoulder of the person in front of them. While these efforts to cheat are rather disheartening (especially when they result about 4 people per class receiving zeros), I really can’t say I blame them for trying. A good number of the other teachers either leave the classroom during tests or sit in front of the class working on corrections. I’m not saying I manage to catch all the cheaters, but I really do hope that my students are perhaps starting to learn some study skills instead of spending most of their time writing tiny sheets of paper with what they think will be on the test.

My school is on the semester system, so we have a long break in June/July, but we also had the week before Easter off. I got a lot of correcting and lesson planning done during that time, but I also travelled down to Mapinhane where Chris and Laurie are teaching to celebrate Passover. While the hard-boiled eggs used during the Seder may have been decorated Easter eggs (dyeing brown eggs is much more difficult than I expected), it was a great first Passover – complete with a care package matzo ball soup mix and the lucky discovery of walnuts in a grocery store in Vilankulos.

Also, last week was the “Reconnect” for my PC group, Moz-17. All of us in the Central and Southern regions of Mozambique met up in Chimoio for a week to discuss our lives at site, secondary projects, and how integration into both our community and the school was going. It was great to see everyone again, and the food was pretty good too (there were doughnuts!!). On our way to Chimoio we caught a bus at the crossroads to Inhassoro that was headed to Beira – we would get off at Inchope and then catch a chapa the rest of the way to Chimoio. As luck would have in, the bus broke down about two-ish hours away from Inchope, fortunately it ended up breaking down at a gas station. We waited for about two hours for the bus to get going again . . . Some of us even joined in the efforts to push the bus in order to give it a rolling start, all to no avail. So I went and spoke with a lovely Zimbabwean family that stopped at the gas station on their way back home. Not only did they give all five of us a ride, but the car didn’t actually have seats for all of us, so the mom held one of the kids on her lap and three of us crammed into the back (let’s be real, it was still much more comfortable than a chapa). It was so nice of them to give us a ride all the way to Chimoio – I might actually be sad not to be able to give rides to hitchhikers back in the States.  

Life has surprisingly become rather routine here – bugs no longer really bother me (although the large number of ants might eventually drive me crazy) and I’m back to taking bucket baths (it’s cold!!). I love the fact that I don’t have to wash my clothes anymore (yay Rosa!) and am currently putting together plans for an epic Moz/Johannesburg/Kruger trip in June. Miss you all (and I’ll try to be better with the updates)!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Photos - Church and School

The Catholic Church

Estrela do Mar - My school


I love to read. In fact, I’m kind of obsessed with reading. While I’ve always know, as least theoretically, that a lot of people do not grow up with books in their homes, I’ve never really thought much about it. However, Mozambique is one of the places where very few people have books in their homes, or really any access to non-academic books. My host family in Namaacha had a bible and Xangana to Portuguese dictionary – which actually was probably a lot of books for most families. Part of the problem is how expensive book are, I went into a bookstore in Maputo where paperback classics translated into Portuguese were about twenty US dollars, which is a crazy amount of money to expect people here to pay for a book. Finding books in Portuguese is another part of the problem and this is combined with the struggle to find Portuguese books that are relevant to people in Africa.

A program called Books for Kids – Africa provided each volunteer in my group with 50 children’s books, all of which are in Portuguese and written for an African audience. The books are awesome and most are quite beautifully illustrated. Zach and I have divided our books between the preschool in our front yard and the youth center and this past week I started to go into the center to sit with the kids and read. It was awesome! Probably around 40 kids passed through over the 3-ish hours I was there, some stayed for 10 minutes, but some just camped out for an hour or two. I helped a couple of kids with their books, one girl was reading one of the very few English books that the center has (the content was a bit too much for her understanding, but it’s still good for her pronunciation). I’m going to try to be at the center a couple of times a week so that kids get a chance to use the books and hopefully really learn to enjoy reading – sounds corny, but I really cannot imagine growing up without access to books. Even if Sequim’s library felt small at times, it’s looking pretty ginormous from here.

Anyways, if you or anyone you know has any interest in sending kids books in English (they can be new, used or pretty much anything in between) to Mozambique, please let me know. I’m hoping to be able to expand the school’s library (which currently consists of only about 50 or so textbooks) as well the youth center’s. The English books are wonderful for the kids’ pronunciation and will hopefully really help with their pronunciation and comprehension, as we don’t have any English textbooks either in the library or the classroom.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Helicopter Parenting . . .

Kids definitely are not coddled here in Mozambique. While they are obviously well loved, parents here just don't worry nearly as much as they do in the States. I frequently see five year olds that have their infant siblings strapped to their back with a capulana while their parents are off at work or doing some other household activity. But the most blatant example of this is when the preschool students (the preschool and I share a front yard) leave for the day. In the States, there would be crowds of parents waiting to pick up their kids . . . but here the five year olds attempt to help the three year olds find their way home from school. This surprisingly usually works out fairly well, but sometimes has sad results.

The other week, Zach was basically given a 3 year old girl to take to the mission . . . but the preschool had already ended. And no one knew who the girl was. She didn't speak any Portuguese and when asked in Chitswa where she lived, she just shrugged. Anyways, I ended up watching that girl for about two hours or so, until the mission's empregada carried her home. Apparently her parents finally found her the next morning.

This week I was walking from the school to my house for lunch and I ran into another little girl who was about three years old and was just sobbing. It was really sad, and I couldn't just keep on walking. So, guessing that she either leaving or going to the preschool (they have an afternoon and a morning class), I grabbed her hand and started walking towards the compound. She continued to sob, so then I just picked her up and continued to walk down the hill. At home, this would probably be cause for concern, and I still kind of feel like I'm stealing a child, or that someone is going to run after me. People definitely gave me some odd looks, but no one said anything about the fact that I was walking down the hill with a child that obviously was not my own. Luckily, the preschool teachers did know who this little girl was, she had just gotten lost on her way from home to school and I can only hope she also made it back home!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lions and Tigers and . . . Landmines? Oh My!

As I traveled to Vilankulos last weekend to post my other blogs, I was reminded of yet another thing that is different in Mozambique. The length of the (only) one lane road leading into Inhassoro is lined with red and white striped poles – which I had never really given a second thought about until the other day when, in the middle of grading, it felt as though we were having a minor earthquake. I was a bit confused, especially as they continued over the next couple of days. But then I met a couple of employees of the de-mining crew that is living in a camp outside of Inhassoro. Apparently the mini “earthquakes” that I had been feeling for the last week are so were actually exploding landmines. The road between the EN-1 (one of the main roads in Mozambique) and Inhassoro apparently cuts directly through what (to me, anyways) seems to be a fairly large minefield. Although, thankfully, I have no frame of reference for the size of “normal” minefields - so my judgment might be completely off.

While it’s obviously great that Mozambique is dealing with the problem of landmines, it’s a bit petrifying to think that the entire road that my chapa barrels down to get to the EN-1 is even more hazardous than I previously thought. These landmines are also one of the more salient reminders of the fact that Mozambique underwent a devastating civil war that ended less than twenty years ago and that, as a stable independent country, Mozambique is still fairly young. I try and remember this when teaching/the education system frustrates me.