Sunday, January 04, 2009

Two years in text messages

I apologize for being so behind on updates! Before I do a big summary and reflection on my Peace Corps service I thought I'd do two years in text messages. My phone had a limited capacity to store messages, so here are the ones that kept me going, made me laugh and made me nostalgic over the course of two years. Editor's notes and translations are in brackets.

[Training in Boane, Beta and Megs and Sarah were my best friends in training and throughout PC]
Megs: Portuguese is eating my brain
Megs: omg. celine and her titanic song are playing loudly. where the hell am i?
Megs: and it keeps on going. it is like the energizer bunny of celines greatest hits.
Beta: my 16 year old neighbor just told me he fell in love with megan when she had them dissect a peanut, so who knows with repro
Megs: my bowels are in a special place.

[After getting to site, year 1]
Beta: oh no! its begun... i have started talking to myself.
Beta: I MADE A SHELF!! its the ugliest thing ever, but its such a rosie the riveter moment for me!
Caruso: in the fking matu. slowly crawling your way. eta 2hrs [stuck on the train for hours while we waited for him to show up in the city]
Kieta: hi sunshine! how are u? hope u are maintaining that beautiful smile of urs. i am well. i have the flu but still enjoying life. how is site?
La Nina: Thanks La Laura! Have a fabulous 2007 + merry (julian) x-mas tomorrow! (am writing you a snail mail letter right now) take care! -neens
Megs: I gave in and shaved my legs after 2mo. No more hairy beast.
Megs: Took an enxada and hoed moz style then planted delicious vegetais! Although ppl are very confused that we didnt plant corn. im getting v domestic. I
even sew now! And clean lots but we just hired a menina to cart agua! V.
exciting. [enxada=hoe, menina=girl]
Megs: Ha ha. Beans exploded in one of those crazy packages i received and i found
one a month later that had sprouted in a shirt in my laundry bag!
Beta: we just had the 9th person come 2 our house bcuz they heard we want to buy
buttons. fun joke, eh? how things going? giving my 1st acs tom. woo hoo! [acs
= test]
Megs: O Mozambique. Nossa terra confundida. [Our mixed up/confused land, variation
on the national anthem's Nossa terra gloriosa]
Beta: good times. i think we should suggest this acs giving thing 2 the us penal
sstem as a form of punishment.
Sveta: The daffodils are out. Im stuck in library always. Cons left for new
zealand. Miss you
Andrew: just finished the manticore. ace. need more deptford. stat. [evidence of the
PC system of book trading--they filter all across the country aided by text
messages and bank/shopping trips to the city]
Andrew: who is the libidonous lisel? which anima ends up davey with? who is the
woman he knew, who is the woman he didnt, the dead boy staunton? vamos ver.
[vamos ver= we shall see, still referring to the Deptford trilogy by
Robertson Davies]
Beta: yergh. in ur house? far too early in the day 4 mortal peril. [referring to
the crazy tailless scorpion on my porch that was the size and general
appearance of a lobster]
Megs: I gota fifteen cm centipede at the end of jan. Yay for tropical nasty
Sarah: ACPs really suck the goodness and mercy out of me... [ACP = midterm]
Sveta: Happy bday Laura! Miss you. Hope everything is well. Love always, sveta
Megs: I say soon, but ive been wrong before. Thats why im a pcv and no longer a
weather goddess. Im not even tvm's weather girl. [tvm = tv mozambique]
Megs: When I said yes to Africa i didn't sign up for 'freezing rainy mudhole' i
believe i checked the box for 'balmy subtropical paradise'. How'd they get em
mixed up? [Where megs and sarah lived it rained all year. weird]
Beta: sadly me plank was not 2 be found but cursed him 2 davy jones locker i did as
the filthy codfish turned tail & ran. so dirty. so dirty. [After "dirty man"
in the city kissed her]

[Life at site, year 2. Miguel=new PC neighbor]
Miguel: booze and fast women coming in the mail, but looking for a secure morada,
entao estou a pedir [trans: address, so I'm asking you. He didn't have a
functional post office, and i did, so we got his packages (sometimes)]
Megs: Yeah. Its a lil overwhelming those 1st few days when u realize that ur
reality now doesnt include logic. Special. [Reminiscing about getting used to
our lives in Moz]
Sarah P: I had a dream about you last night. I think we were surfing? Anyway i love
you and miss you lots!
Sarah: Hmm...dying rat in the toilet. What a great way to start the day! Think
i'll let Megs take care of it...
Megs: I just flushed a live rat down my toilet. [Ah roommates, I love getting both
sides of the story]
Megs: Ah. So romantic. Me and Sarah and our carvao. No energy and the dulcet tones
of sarah winding up her flashlight. What more does a girl need? [carvao =
Erin: Hey Laura! Ho are you? I hope all is well in sunny Africa! I have some
news! Chris and I are pregnant! So if all goes well we will have a baby on
Nov 1st! And we are very excited! (I was going to write you a letter but
this way you get the news sooner!) [Went out the next day, bought fabric, and
cut the pieces for a baby quilt]
Sveta: First spring day miss u
Erin: Had ultrasound yesterday All good - only 1 baby :) I started a blog - mostly
for your benefit: with u/s pics. :) Miss you lots!!!
Megs: O. My. God. That sounds very special. If you start to feel like you're in a
salvador dali painting just close your eyes and hope it goes away. [After Kim
and I painted our house turquoise with red floors]
Megs: Do you think i can put presidente de conselho on my resume? Would it look
impressive? [trans: head of a council that determines the grades for one
turma/class of students]
Erin: I just found out that I am having TWINS!!! Not one but 2 babies AT THE SAME
TIME!!! Identical twins so both will be the same gender! So exciting and
scary! [I was sooo pissed I had to start another baby quilt :)]
Megs: I had my last Hurrah at redes. I practically threw out my hip in the limbo
contest. Last branca standing but geeze. Call me VoVo. I'm old.
[Redes=girls conference, branca=white chick, vovo=grandma]
Erin: Hey Laura! We just found out that our babies are most likely girls! They
will confirm that in the next u/s, but I am looking at pink things!
Exciting! c u soon!
Unknown student: Desculpa sr prof, gosto muito d ti, sei k sou negro mas vamos
deixar apart, kero namorar consigo, apesar d n me conher, n digo meu nome so
vou me pronunciar dpois d me aceitar. sou aluno 11A2. RESPOSTA. [Excuse me
teacher, I like you a lot, I know I'm black but let's leave that aside, I
want to date you, despite you not knowing me, I won't say my name, I only
will after you have excepted me. I am a student in 11th grade class A2.
RESPONSE. ---Needless to say this kid never got an answer, and I still don't
know who it was or how how he got my number, and I didn't even teach 11th
Ioana: Hi laura how are you erin s shower was great wish you were there have a
happy summer in the colorful house bye ioana
Cons: Awww! i sure could use a chem girl dance off right now!
Megs: Proctoring exams is sooooo fun. Like a mouthful of dried fish.
Sarah P: Gotta love the lederhosen! Aging rock bands in general are funny but
austrian ones win. I love you and miss you! [In response to my text about
the concert video our local bar put on for us from their collection of
super random dvds]
Friend of Ibrahimo: Ola tudo bem eu kero falar contigo para ti dizer ki estou
apachonado por ti quero namorar contigo acerio. Dame a Resposta por favor.
[Hello, everything ok I want to talk to you to say that I am impassioned by
you and i want to date you seriously. Give me an Answer please. --Met the
guy (think 40 and balding) for about 2 seconds then apparently he looked
through Ibrahimo's phone without permission to find my number. He also
didn't get an answer]
Caruso: It goes faster when youre drunk [Text back from chris when we were stuck for
15 hours on the train that goes by his site on the way to malawi]
Miguel: blasphemy! go and rinse thy foul mouth! [When I told him to substitute rhino
(think grain alcohol) for real mexican tequila]
Miguel: the capim on the right side of my house is still there, so always look on
the bright side of life [capim=grass used as roofing material]
Miguel: ive already put in my order for the laura voodoo doll at the local
curandeiro. its actual size [curandeiro=witch doctor. I made old-jokes and
bald-jokes, and he made short-jokes]
Erin: Our babies were born last night! Anne Maria "Anya" (5lb 3oz) and Alyssa
Ellen Palmer (5lb 10oz)! They are both healthy and absolutely beautiful!
Zinubia: Por vezes me calo, fico dias, semanas ou ate meses sem dar sinal + em
nenhum momento apago em mim o imenso carinho k tenho pr ti. bj [Sometimes
I remain quiet, I stay days, weeks upto months without sending a signal
but in no moment do i erase in myself the immense fondness that i have for
you. xx --All the messages from Zinubia (daughter of the loja/store owner)
are classic examples of moz chain messages, which EVERYONE sends.]
Peace Corps: Cos ticket 0684971056397 departure 17 november at 10h45 arrival 15h45
nampula/maputo [COS=Close of Service, this is the way plane tickets are
now done in moz--u can just show up at the airport with your ticket
number scrawled on a post-it]
Zinubia: + 1 vez o coracao prova ser o cofre + seguro do universo, por este
preservar com seguranca e afecto a imagem d uma pessoa especial como tu.
Jumma mubarak [One more time the heart proves to be the coffer most secure
in the universe, for this preserves with security and renders the image of
a special person like you. --You can google jumma mubarak for islamic sms
Sveta: Miss u miss the sun miss sleep ah surgery come back soon
Zinubia: Salam. Tu es "Mel" em pessoa, "Amor" em coracao, "Vida" em alegria, "Anjo"
em Alma, "Rio" de Desejos e acima de tudo es uma pessoa muito amorosa.
Juma Mubarak [Hello. You are "Honey" in person, "Love" in heart, "Life" in
happiness, "Angel" in Spirit, "River" of Desires and above all you are a
much loved person.]
Sarah: Ok. Official college count: Obama 349, mccain 147. [Election night, PC
style, ie. via text message and shortwave.]
* Aqui *
* e *
.. ..
* *
o lugar onde guardo pessoas especiais como tu. bjs. Beto. [Here is the place where I guard people who are special like you. xx. Beto. Again, the standard chain mail text messages which guys (in this case a fellow teacher) unselfconsciously send to all their friends.]
Miguel: i realiz u mite b a bit preocupyd at th momnt, put we b havn a mato get
togethr amanha, woo! [mato=bush, amanha=tomorrow, sent on my second to last
day in Namapa]
Kieta: Hi family its Kieta. I want u to know how happy and honored I am to know u.
Finishing pc- sucessfuly is only the begining of ur great contribution 2 the
world. Be proud! Keep in touch. U r loved and wil 4ever be apart of my life.
Victoria: Mae ainda sta la em Namapa recebi a sms k devo chegar la voce ja vai
America entao se ainda sta la manda -me sinal pra poder vir sou Victoria
[Got this the day after I left site: Mom, are you still in Namapa I
received the message that I should come there you are already going to
America so if you're still there send me a message so that I can come
this is Victoria--I didn't get to visit victoria in Pemba before i left,
and i invited her to come stay with me while i was finishing work in Namapa, but she doesn't have a phone and her cousin didn't get her the message until it was too late. Heartbreaking message. She called me mom :(
Beta: Hey. Last night, no? I've been cooking pumpkin 2nite & thinking back on our
boane tgiving. Good times. Have a good trip home. I look 4ward 2 seeing u
stateside. [boane = where we had our training]


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Winding Down

Hello hello! I´m back in the city again, this time on short notice--peace corps sent out a text message that they want our bi-annual reports by next friday. To those 5% of volunteers (like me) who can´t get to internet at site or without traveling great distances were a bit peeved that we had ten days notice to do this, especially since we didn´t have the forms already (so we couldn´t drop them with someone heading to the city). I needed to turn in my passport anyway, as our visa expires a couple weeks before COS, unfortunate timing. Fortunately I had a fairly free weekend, so here I am in the city with Miguel (neighboring volunteer in Chiure, who has the same predicament), and having a nice relaxing 24 hours in the city--we decided to splurge on the nice hotel with hot showers, air conditioning and free internet, as we are the rich volunteers who spend no money because what exactly might one buy off the beaten path in our towns?

The year is winding down to a close, and I am starting to get a bit stir-crazy as I feel more and more ready to come home. There are now four weeks of class remaining, one if which is for exams, and two of which contain holidays, so we really are in the home stretch. A while back I finished the 10th grade curriculum and embarked on summarizing the 8th grade material. I managed to finish that up this past week, and will be skipping on to a quick highlight of the important parts of the 9th grade curriculum. This will require much more planning on my part, as I´ve never taught 9th, so I´ll have to figure out what info is critical, learn all the new vocab (plant bio so things like xylem, phloem, monocot, etc.), and be able to answer what ever questions they put to me. I´ll have to report back on how that goes. I think I´ll only do about two weeks of 9th, and then leave the last week for genetics exercises, which they will need to practice more, as they are a major part of the national exam every year. So far I am feeling pretty good about the level of preparedness of most of my kids. I have one turma that isn´t really putting in the work, but the other two are on track and firing answers back at me. I´ve been writing out a copy of previous years´exams every week, and been asking them to 1. sit down in a testing situation and do it 2. after doing it with no resources go look up the material they´ve forgotten, and 3. bring it to the first lesson of the week so we can go over it together. Then the second two lessons of the week i do my 8th, and now 9th grade reviews. Hopefully this will let the kids feel reasonably comfortable when they sit down with the real thing in November.

8th grade is also winding down to a close. I only have a few more lessons to go. They, as usual, have been having a blast with sex ed., and the only difficulty in this part of the year is classroom management--it takes all of my authority and strategizing to keep them in line and curb their natural inclination to laugh/cheer/clap whenever somebody asks a sex question, and i answer in a combination of science and push toward social responsibility (for example--encouraging the boys to respect the girls´ equal right to study, and not curb their education by impregnating them). This past week I got to do the same thing with my 10th graders, when they caught up with the 8th grade curriculum, and they got just as much of a kick out of it. Kids are really the same, the whole world over.

I´m trying to arrange for the health NGO to find me some teenager with HIV to come and give a testimonial to my kids in the last couple weeks of class. The goal is that they will be hearing from someone their own age, in their own lingo, and will really think about consequences, and the very real presence of HIV in Mozambique. Peace corps published an article in our newsletter citing a statistic that 17% of all Mozambican teachers were estimated to have died of AIDS last year. Many of my students will go on to become teachers, so they will need to think about the kind of behavior that we need to work on eliminating from the schools (number one in my book is teachers sleeping with students).

Once the school year ends we will have 10th and 12th grade Conselhos de Notas, which will determine who passes, and who takes exams. I find it ironic that some of the kids who have been working the hardest to prepare for exams wont end up taking them--if you have top grades then you are exempt from exams. Then we will proctor the national exams, following which we will need to grade them and do yet another Conselhos de Notas for the non-exam grades (8th, 9th and 11th). And this should bring me to the end of the second week of November, at which point I will spent a couple days packing, and then make my way to Maputo. I´ll have three days there to do lots of paperwork, and have the last medical and dental evaluations, and then homeward bound it is. I get on a plane two months from today, on November 21st. It´s strange how the time drags as it flies by. Someone once told me that peace corps has the longest 24 hour periods, in the shortest imaginable weeks, which sums it up pretty nicely.

I´ll hope to get back to internet at least once before i go down to Maputo in November, but I will be eagerly anticipating seeing all of you wonderful family and friends, and catching up properly on the last two years. Though I´m not really looking forward to being unemployed, homeless and broke. Anyone want to offer me a job? Thankfully I have wonderful parents, who I know will give me a generous grace period (how generous? they wonder as they read this) to get my life together.

Thanks are due to: Miss Marie for the song request on border crossings (the rest of you have been put to shame), Connie not only for the current letter (catwoman stationary makes me smile every time) but for keeping them coming regularly over the entire course of my two years here, Erin who astonishes me with her thoughtfulness in sending me a package when she has twins imminently due and a million other things to think about, Mme. Gaultier for her nice letter, though it meant i had to remember my French, and of course Mummy and Daddy, who keep sending me nice packages and letters.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Science Fair

I think I must be setting a record for number of blog entries in a small space of time! Iºve been in Nampula four times in the space of a month! So, back to my promise to write about science fair....

So, a week ago on Friday I packed up four of my kids: Mercedes, Ambasse, Anifo and Hortencia, three tenth grade boys, and one 8th grade girl, and the chem-fisica teacher Muela. Muela wanted to have a grand send off at the Concentracao (assembly), so we met at school, where my kids were shockingly out of uniform, and i was shockingly in flip flops, to give a brief talk and wave, before heading down to the road. Within the hour we were in a surprisingly comfortable car, where they seated us ONE PERSON PER SEAT. Wow. The livestock (about 20 goats) were even on top of the bus, so i thought we were living large. I really shouldn´t think such things, as it just sets me up for cosmic justice. After a little ways it became apparent that there were little holes in the ceiling, so the goat pee was soon pouring in. I had no idea that goats had such bladder capacity. My poor kiddos were squirming around trying to keep their projects you couldn´t open the windows our you would get more than just goat pee flying in. I had thought that I had seen everything in Mozambican public transport. Apparently not.

Slightly the worse for wear, we made it into Nampula, and walked on over to our rather nice accomodations at Hotel Tropical, where I had the first in a series of lovely hot showers. My kids had the rest of the day free to explore the city (two of the boys are city kids, and the other two had never been to Nampula). Anifo is from Alua, near Namapa, and I don´t know that he had ever experienced running water, or electricity not from a generator. It was fun seeing the excitement and wide eyed stares, as we drove through the city with multi-storied buildings!

The next morning was the fair itself, so we took ourself off to the Escola Sedundaria de Nampula. I was kind of shocked by their high school. It has multiple stories,tons of classrooms, and even has a gym! With lights! Amazing. So, we set up in the gym in a big arc. Each kid had his or her own table, plus we had an HIV information table, and a microscope table (the latter of which i manned through most of the fair--they had really good slides too, so i had fun showing kids how to use it, and explaining how it works, a lot of them were really blown away), and outside we had a display of HIV-AIDS posters that each school had put together. Throughout the morning the jury members walked around and talked to each kid about the project, and all of the visitors to the fair could vote on the HIV posters.

Although none of my kids won, Ambasse did get an honorable mention (his project was mixing baking soda and vinegar to produce CO2, collecting it in a condom (ie. balloon) and then adding a bug, which promptly died, showing that atmospheric oxygen is essential to life/respiration), and our HIV poster won Most Creative (honestly it wasnºt the most creative one, so iºm not sure how we won, but my kids were happy, which is what matters most to me). So then we had the afternoon off to hang out. There was supposed to be a tour of the university and med school, but apparently that fell through, so they decided on a trip to the museum instead. (That was the free time I used to write my last blog entry). The next morning we did some shopping around town, and went to the wood market, before catching a ride back to Namapa. Bizarrely there were no chapas at the bus stop, but we managed a connection to Namialo, from which we could try to get another bus. The best we could manage was a coca cola truck, with three of us in the cabin (Miguel was with us on his way back to Chiure), and the other four in the cargo area. Poor boys, I donºt think they were terribly comfortable. I didn´t ask them if it was better than goat pee. Tough call.

Overall, the trip was a success, the kids had fun, we made it to and back safely, and I think this will motivate Muela to keep things going next year even if my site doesnºt get another bio teacher. It was also the last time that I will see most of the PCVs who arenºt from my training group, so it was a nice opportunity to get in a last bit of quality time with some pretty cool people. Hopefully we´ll be able to keep in touch states side in the future. We probably won´t recognize each other though once we´re all properly bathed and dressed, and no one is wearing glasses!

I´m afraid this wasn´t the most excitingly written blog entry, Iºm rather distracted thinking about COS (close of service) conference this week! We´re all in Nampula now, and will be flying down to Maputo tomorrow (ice cream, thai food, hot showers, internet, yes!). I should be able to put up another update, and even respond to emails!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Malawi and Science Fair

Two blog entries within about a month of each other! Wow! Aren't you impressed by my worldly traveling? No? Oh well.

Malawi was fantastic....Megan and I had a fantastic time, and I can't wait to post the pictures when I have time (translation--end of the year). We started off with the train. We ran into two other PCVs at the ticked office who would be going as far as Cuamba with us before going further north in Moz to Lichinga, so we had some company right off the bat. We bought second class tickets, so we were pretty comfortable (3rd class=sardines, 1st class only exists certain days). The train was ridiculously slow (there were frequently people walking along side it), and the trip that should have taken 10 hours took 15. Oh well, if you had to be studk on public transport this was the way to go! We had a reasonable amount of space, could get up and walk around, buy cold drinks from the dining car, and all kinds of nice fresh things through the windows when we went through towns (i bought carrots, bread and avocado, yum!). We also made a bunch of friends, as the train was full of backpackers, particularly a German guy, Daniel, an English guy, Dave and an Australian woman, who we traveled with for several days. When we finally made it into Cuamba we staggered to a cheap pensao to crash until 3am when we would get up to find out next transport. Megan claims our pensao was a brothel based on the charm and ambience (or lack thereof) though there was no actual evidence of any such activities. There were mosquito nets and clean sheets, which is all that really mattered in the end. At 3am we met up with our new friends, and we hiked around looking for the bus stop (we were sent entirely the wrong way about four times), but finally found a car that got underway around 5 (after filling some tires, changing another, etc.). Our chapa had a really funny vibration, and I felt rather like i was in a massage chair, although my hindquarters went rather numb and itchy after a while. Gotta love public transport in mozambique, always something new. We made it to the border at Mandimba rather quickly (only about 3 hours), and were able to negotiate a reasonable price with the bicycle taxi guys (the interborder region is about 8 or 9 km) and change our Meticais into Kwatcha. The bike taxi was fun and Daniel took some pictures with his phone which he emailed to us--after the first border check he also switched places with his bicycle driver and he did the pedaling much to the amusement of all of us and all of the Mozambicans and Malawians going the other direction (lots of double takes and cackling). Malawi border crossing is lovely in that it is free and requires no Visa. Once we all made it through we found a very comfortable minivan to Mangochi which was our dividing point, from which Daniel and Dave went to Lilongwe and the rest of us went to Cape MacClear on Lake Malawi. We stayed first at a backpackers called Fat Monkeys and when that was full at another called Gaia house, both of which were very nice. The lake was truly spectacularly beautiful, and looked far more like a fresh water ocean than a lake, with turquoise water, coarse sand, picturesque islands, bougainvillea and great sunsets. We really just lounged on the beach for two and a half days doing virtually nothing, and ate some good meals. I read Amy Tan's new book, which my thoughtful mother had sent me, so life was pretty good. We eventually put our traveling clothes back on and boarded yet another truck back to Mangochi (this was the filthiest ride i've ever been on--so dusty we were almost black by the time we arrived). We killed sometime at a little museum, and spent the night there so that we could get to Liwonde national park early the next day. Malawi public transport is way more civilized than Moz--four seats means four passengers and not 5, 6, 7, etc (what a novelty!), and leaves around 6 or 7 am, so we actually got to sleep past dawn! We caught a nice easy minivan to Ulongwe from which we found yet another bicycle taxi for the 15k to the park. As usual we felt like celebrities as we were chased by flocks of screaming, waving children. We eventually made it into the park (abt 45 min to an hour bike ride, not bad), and caught the boat across the Shire river to the Mvuu Camp.

When we arrived at the camp we were informed that we were in the wrong place. They said to go to the lodge. No no no, we said, we can't afford the lodge, we booked ourselves some tents. No no no, they said, you've been upgraded. Oh really? And thus began our lesbian honeymoon, complete with matching bathrobes. Off to the lodge we went, where we were escorted off on our first safari activity, a boat ride up and down the river. We were instantly blown away by the hundreds of hippos and crocodiles, amazing birdlife, plentiful antelopes like impala, kudu, waterbuck and bushbuck, and of course, a lovely heard of elephants. The true magic of the boat trips was that you could get so close to the animals without frightening or antagonizing them. I didn't even need my zoom, and the people who had brought telephoto lenses were wishing they could zoom OUT more! After a blissful hour or two floating down the Shire (pronounced Sheeree) we went back to the lodge for a delicious lunch of thai curry, beautiful salad, fresh baked bread and flan. Heaven. By then our room was ready, and off we went to our luxury cabin in the woods with a balcony overlooking an inlet where the warthogs, crocodiles and birds came to lounge around. We had a gigantic canopy mosquito net, and two double beds with flowers strewn across them. We had a beautiful bathroom with HOT water shower and enormous tub, plus yet another shower outside on our back deck. Our front deck overlooking the water had armchairs and a hammock. We're peace corps volunteers, what? After our nice hot showers we joined the group for afternoon tea and carrot cake (it's a hard life i know) and prepared for our game drive through the park with our friendly and knowledgeable guide McLeod (gotta love the anglicized malawian names). We saw still more elephants, warthogs, impalas, etc., stopped for a sunset drink, and continued on with a spotter (and guard with emergency rifle) shining a spotlight to look for the nocturnal animals. We got some fun glimpses of hippos (they're nocturnal, so the come on land at night to eat), porcupines, brush tail hare, and a genet (cross between a cat and a mongoose). When we got back to the camp we waited in our cabin to be escorted to dinner (no walking around camp alone at night due to the wild animals who come visiting), where we had a lovely four course meal. The other guests were highly amused at having pcvs in their midst. Many of them had arrived on their private planes, and one was looking into BUYING a game park. We we re just a tad out of place.... :) Then off to bed we went for a fantastic night sleep on one of the best mattresses i have come across in an extremely long time. Bliss. In the morning we went on a game with a guide and guard, and learned all kinds of fascinating things about prints, droppings, vegetation and wildlife, before heading back for breakfast (fresh bread, omelets, sausage, fruit, etc.). Breakfast was followed by a nice long boat safari to see still more animals. We became so blase about them--oh just some more hippos...Then to lunch, a repetition of the game drive, with a trip to see a 900 year old baobab, which we could all fit inside. We then ate our last dinner and sadly contemplated our return to reality the following day. We managed to book a special morning drive into the closed off (though still enormous) reserve in which they are reintroducing species including cape buffalo, zebra, sable, eland and black rhinos, and we were lucky enough to see everything except for the rhinos. After breakfast we packed up, took our last hot showers, and the last few looks at the spectacular birdlife with many pretty little bee eaters. The lodge arranged some bicycle taxis to pick us up, and off we went back to the real world. We quite easily caught a chapa (called matolas in malawi) which was somewhat bizarrely full of swiss tourists. I think they were slightly appalled by our storage of money and cell phones in our bras. They obviously hadn't spent enough time in africa yet.

We spent a night in a fun backpackers in Blantyre where we made some nice American and Canadian friends, before catching a matola to the Moz border at Milange. Our last bicycle taxi took us home and into Zambezia province (not where we left moz from nampula). We were so relieved to be speaking Portuguese again--it had been so bizarre to speak english, and we had had to constantly keep our language-instincts in check. We were once again very lucky with transport and caught a ride with an NGO megs knows all the way to her town (alto molocue) in the same day (not possible by public transport, especially as it's down a horrible, long, dirt road). I then stayed an extra day with Megs and got to see Sarah, who hadn't been able to come with us, and had a very nice time visiting, seeing their town, and making yummy things like tacos, milkshakes and chocolate mint pudding (they asked which we should make, and i said why not all of the above, of course).

The next morning bright (or rather dark) and early found me back on another chapa to nampula, where i had yet more supreme luck to find my french ngo friend Manu heading back to Namapa in their nice car. And thus ended my spectacular vacation. It felt good to be home.

The title of this blog includes science fair, but i only have 6 minutes of my two hours left online, so that will have to wait. I'm back in the city now for our Regional Science fair which has been a blast. I'll have to put up the sci fair update when i'm back in the city the week after next on my way to our Close of Service Conference down in the South.

Much love to all of you, and keep those letters, emails, and radio requests coming (so far only my parents have requested songs for me to hint hint). Miss you all, but only 3 months left!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Off to Malawi!

Aren't you all amazed that only about a month has passed, and I am already posting yet another blog entry! What amazing internet accessibility! I may be using more in the near future as I will be traveling, and doing the tourist thing. This last trimester of school went reasonably well. I made my grading more manageable by never evaluating 8th and 10th grade in the same week (except for finals), which has kept my sane. There are only so many hours a day I can grade without screaming, and only so many times a week I can go beg my NGO friends to charge my iPod. Our Conselhos de Notas (aka Grade War) went reasonably well (ie. i didn't kill anyone, though I certainly contemplated it) and I managed to get through it all in four days since I had turned in a request to leave early with the director ahead of time (thank god, couldn't have survived another day).

My science fair went really well. In the end I had eleven kids participate, and I invited a bunch of NGO people, government people and school people to be on the jury (sadly the gov't had a last minute meeting, so they all bailed) and a whole bunch of people came and watched my kids present their experiments. Unfortunately the school decided to do a Limpeza/Cleaning--they make the kids haul water and wash down the classrooms, so our science fair was delayed a few hours (surprise surprise), but we did eventually manage to set up in a dry classroom. I'll eventually post pictures I promise....The jury picked four winners, three of my really bright 10th grade boys, and one of my 8th grade girls, so those four will go with me (and one of my colleagues, prob Muela who is a chem/fisics teacher)to the regional fair in Nampula in on August 9th (more internet opportunities!)which should be fun.

Things are going well with Kim, though she seems slightly alarmed by culinary interest in her ducks... She really likes namapa and is totally unfazed by the lack of water, electricity, distance to town, etc., so Custodio chose her well for us. We had a fun little birthday party for her this week, and she got a bunch of letters and packages, which was nice--nice for me too, because she got a bunch of tapes for her tape player, so I will get to hear some music that doesn't drive me insane like the Tirar Roupa tape she bought in our market :)

There's been some turn-around in our NGO neighbors, Mar and Maria are both long gone now, and Mar won't be replaced until the end of the year. Maria's replacement just arrived; she's a very nice spanish woman named Estibali, and I think will be a fun neighbor (she likes playing cards and gardening). Speaking of gardening, I now have a well! I paid a guy about 12 dollars to dig me a two meter well, which is full of water, and will let me expand my garden. I've started eating my green peppers, my japanese eggplants, enormous tomatoes, a few beets and a few carrots. In the expansion I want more lettuce, cabbage, herbs, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, carrots etc.

In the exciting news of the moment, I am about to travel about for 15 dias. The original plan was to go to Vic Falls, but due to the mess in Zimbabwe they don't even want us on the Zambia side of the border, alas. There were four of us planning on going, but we voted to drop Zambia altogether due to the $135 entry visa, and just do malawi (free), so bethany (who was only really interested in zambia) dropped out. Then it was down to Sarah and Megan, who very kindly did all the planning as they get to internet, etc. more often. This week Sarah decided not to come, as she's been having nasty headaches for the last month, and thinks extended time on public transit would not be conducive to feeling better (she gets stressed very easily). Sad. Megs and I are going strong, and we will still have a great time traveling together. Our plan is to catch the train (4 am tomorrow, whee heww!) from Nampula to Cuamba, overnight in cuamba then catch a chapa, then the bicycle taxi across the border, then another chapa to Lilongwe, Malawi. Then we'll head over to Lake Malawi (aka Lago Niassa on the mozambican side) and spend a few days hanging out on the beach. Next down to Liwonde National Park where we will do a two day safari (including canoing) and hopefully (finally) see some of the animals that africa is famous for, but in which moz is sadly lacking. Then we'll head down to Blantyre, and cross back on to Moz via Milange. From there we'll try to get a chapa to Gurue in time for Bethany's birthday, and then to Alto Molocue (megs and sarah's home) to spend a day or two with them. After that I will high tail it back to namapa to start teaching again. The roads have been rebuilt in the last year so i should be able to get home from Molocue in a day (when megs and sarah came to visit me this time last year it took two days each way). Needless to say I'm ridiculously excited.

I apologize if this blog entry is a bit of a mess, I'm rather tired, and having trouble focusing on the computer screen (i wrote out over 3000 grades yesterday, and was so excited about the trip i didn't sleep well--not conducive to staring at a computer screen for two hours...)

I really can't believe I only have 4 months until i'll be coming home! Oh and my official COS date (when i will be on a flight home) is November 21st, so i'll even get home for thanksgiving like i wanted! There was intense competition for the november slots, and they finally worked it out. I'm soooo happy I got the date I wanted! Although I'm not terribly excited about being poor and unemployed. Seeing Erin's twin girls will certainly be worth the long trek home though!

Ok, can no longer think in a logical manner, must go eat, sleep and get ready to catch the train. Will try to update from Malawi!



Monday, June 09, 2008

I´m Not Dead!

Contrary to popular belief I am not dead, nor have I dropped of the face of the earth. I have just been busy at site, and I have my science fair meetings on saturdays, and it´s such a pain to travel 500km round trip to use with one thing and another I haven´t updated my blog in three months. Oops. Sorry. That is rather apalling, and I shall do my very best not to let it happen again. Especially since itºs so hard to organize/summarize what´s been going on. But I shall try...

Thank Yous are in order to:
Packages-mum and dad, grandma jon and marie, friend marie, caroline, the walshes (it made it after five months!), steve and ann hunt (french-portuguese dictionaries for our library, yay!), dave tammy and emily (book on CD FANTASTIC for sewing), sveta
Letters-mum, connie girl, uliana
Texts-Svet, Cons, Erin
You are all wonderful and amazing keeping me well stocked with goodies and news from home. Many heartfelt thanks...and keep those letters flowing!

So...whatºs been going on....

The first trimester of school went well. The grading killed me, but iºve started getting the hang of it. I just can´t give really ambitious assignments, or if i do, just make it a completion grade...Unfortunately i just can´t give my 10th graders the level of feedback that i would like to. With 130 in each class it´s just backbreaking grading even a simple test. Even writing the grades in my gradebook takes me about half an hour per class.... The first grading period was painful as usual (bitter fights about who is going to pass, with lots of circulating bribes and all sorts of petty behavior) but on the whole not too bad. At the end I even got to go relax at the beach for a few days. I went to stay with Tess, who is a new volunteer in Pemba. She is really cool, and we bonded right away, plus she reminds me a lot of Tammy so she has a nice homey feel to her--a small slice of family in Mozambique. Her house is amazing--electricity, fridge, nice furniture, and even occasionally running water, and is walking distance from the beach. Pretty ideal for a get-away. Alas I didnºt make it into town long enough to get to internet (iºm such a slacker, i know). It was a nice relaxing few days, plus i got to go visit Victoria, who went home to her family. I went and met her parents, and various family members, who were all very nice. She seems to be doing much better, and is supposed to be studying in Pemba once all her transfer paperwork is done, plus she has a job part-time in a restaurant. Her being sick was definitely even more of a bonding experience. Now she calls me mae (mom). I suppose itºs slightly odd that my ´daughter´ only five years younger than me, but thatºs life here!

Science fair meetings are still coming along well. The teachers usually flake out on me, but i have a core group of kids who come every week, theyºre all starting their own projects now, so hopefully we can do the actual Fair in a few weeks, and then in August i´ll take a few of them to the regional fair in Nampula. I try to bring at least something little to show them every week. This week it was a working lung model, other weeks it was pendulums, acid-base, static electricity, friction, conservation of energy, all kinds of really basic concepts that theyºve never seen actual demonstrations of. I like when the other teachers come because then I can bring a physics or chemistry (fisica ou quimica) experiment and they will explain the principles in Portuguese. If they don´t come then I wing it, and draw a lot, and gain random new vocabulary ;) Funny how I can babble on about a lot of things without even thinking, but then I try to talk about some new subject area, and I realize how specialized a lot of my vocabulary is. I can tell you hermaphrodite or hydrosphere but not necessarily something like butterfly (though actually I learned that one last week--borboleta).

Our house is looking rather good these days. Kim got the crazy idea to paint. I was slightly alarmed at being informed that someone would be painting our house the following day, but I rolled with the punches. The kid who painted our living room was wildly enthusiastic and got paint EVERYWHERE, so we decided we should really do at least the trim, and maybe the floors (old Portuguese style, they paint the floor and the first eight or so inches of the walls the same color). Kim was going to do her room, and I was initially resistant to having to move all my furniture, books etc., and generally rearrange my life, but I eventually decided my room would be rather sad if it was the only part of the house not freshly painted. Plus the paint and concrete of my walls had been flaking off in sheets , and certainly could use some attention. So Kim went and bought more paint (they even sell it in Namapa!), and we ended up doing our rooms in Bermuda Blue, which is a rather pretty pale turquoise. Thereºs no turpentine here, so paint gets mixed with….gasoline. Yes, we painted our walls with gasoline. It was a lot of work, but we did a much tidier job, than the kid had. We started on the floors, but Kim had bought the wrong paint….itºs supposed to be some special paint in a dull burgundy color. She bought….glossy….red…fire engine red. So now our house is rather eye popping, especially since half way through they ran out of red and we had to get more, but they couldn´t get more of the same red, even in the city… we decided to just go ahead and finish in a different red (more cherry than fire engine…). I felt rather like I was living in a fun house, but it was certainly way better once it dried enough for the furniture to go back, and we put down some of the woven straw mats. The living room is white and red, and our rooms are turquoise and red, which is a bit glaring, but looks rather good with my Japanese prints. Kim also has rainbow curtains in her room, and she says she feels like sheºs living inside a rainbow. To each her own. The best thing about the painting is that it really cut down on the critters. No more lizards running up and down the walls, fewer cockroaches and spiders, and only the crickets seem to have survived in bulk.

My garden is going rather well. The pots on my veranda are bursting with basil, sage, thyme, lettuce, Malabar spinach, plus I have carrots and beets on the way. Every time I throw on a bit of compost I have a hoard of tomatoes sprouting in every direction, and this last time I also got a watermelon (must be taken out now as it is trailing off my veranda) and an ata (breadfruit) tree! Iºm excited about the ata, which I will transplant outside, after which I will have planted from seed an ata, a cashew tree and a mango tree!
My outside garden is also doing well. We have eaten a ton of my volunteer compost tomatoes, and are just about to start having all the tomatoes, peppers, and then eggplants that I started from seed. We had a crop of Chinese cabbage, although someone stole my bok choi, and I´ve harvested the first carrot and the first beet. So exciting. I was rather depressed by our watermelons, which grew hundreds of nice looking watermelons, but even after MONTHS they havn´t ripened—still totally green inside, so iºm not sure what the problem is.

The market has started early this year. We can buy lettuce every week now, and cabbage is just starting (kim was baffled when I told her with great enthusiasm that it was about to appear, but then I made us an asian cole slaw, and she said WOW this is GOOD. Yup….) Oranges and tangerines also started months early this year, and I even got to buy grapefruit once (note that all of these are green, but oh well, you get used to green fruit). My market guys, Julio and Zito, take good care of me and make sure to get the best stuff for me, searching high and low (they buy from other farmers). The other day I didnºt go to the market, but they apparently had my favorite type of bananas (hard to come by), so Julio asked my next door neighbor to take them home for me as a present. So sweet. Itºs so funny how they all know my tastes now-iºve gotten used to people saying They have that kind of X that you like today!

So I am finally in the city. I ran out of ginger and other essentials a while back and itºs been killing me, plus I was way overdue for internet, so I made the trek here. Fortunately Megan is here too this weekend and had booked a room at the nice hotel, so iºm splitting that with her, and can use their lovely internet, take lovely HOT showers, and eat chocolate donuts (literally! Itºs amazing!). This morning I´ll finish my shopping once the shops open, then back to site I go. I´ll be back next month though. Megan and Sarah and I are planning a trip to Malawi in July. We wanted to go to Vic Falls, but with the present turmoil in Zimbabwe, we canºt even to the Zambia side of the border. Sad. I guess it means I just have to come back to Africa. Malawi should be fun though.

What else is new? We got a duck. Although I see Pate and Kim sees Pet. This could be problematic, but we shall see. Other than classes and exhaustive grading, Iºve been reading as usual, and sewing quite a lot (the two books on CD that I had were really fantastic). Now in my 10th grade Iºm teaching evolution, which is fun but a challenge, because I have to overcome quite a lot of preconceptions. Two of my nice Spanish neighbors (Maria and Mar) left, which is sad, but I suppose I canºt expect them to stay forever in Namapa. I still have Manu and Edita though, and theyºre lots of fun. Manu is French, and his mom and grandma came to visit a few weeks ago, so I actually had to remember how to speak French! It was horrible and awful, but I didnºt do tooo badly, and apparently manuºs mom told him my accent is now better than his—it would seem heºs spent too much time living in spain, and now speaks his native language with a Spanish accent, lol.

Yay! The internet just came back on, so I have just enough time to upload this before I rush back to Namapa! I also just bought ginger, so the trip was a success :) Much love to all, and don´t forget to request songs for me at bordercrossings at (canºt figure out how to do the at sign on the portuguese keyboard). Will try to get back soon, I promise. Plus you can always text me if youºre not sure iºm alive, or talk to my parents as they call me every week. Tchau tchau, ate a proxima!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

What's been keeping me busy....

So the new trimester started off with a few changes. The Mozambican Ministry of Education changed 8th grade science to 2 lessons per week instead of 3, last year i had seven turmas x 3 =21 plus being director of a turma which is +2, so I had 23 "hours" and 24 is the technical limit (tho Moz teachers teach extra for more money). Because of the new rule my school made me take more turmas, so I have slightly fewer lessons, but I have a ton more kids. I have five eighth grade turmas with between 77 and 100 kids, with an average of 90 each. And I have three tenth grade classes with an average of...wait for it....130 kids (no that's not a typo), and a maximum of 137 in my decima tres (tenth grade number three)....I thought I had a lot of kids last year with around 550, now I have about 800. Oy. The grading is really killing me, and I need to come up with new strategies, cause it's really stressing me out thinking of all the evaluations I would like to do.

I just found out at the conference (from a fellow PCV who has a very organized/on top of things school) that they are changing the 10th grade exam (national exam they need to pass at the end of the year) so that it is all multiple choice/scantron and will be graded in maputo, so no grade corruption in the school. While nice in the last respect, we have no way of knowing how they are going to set it up, so we can't really prepare our kids, and all the plans we had for practicing for the exam need to be drastically revised. Though I won't feel as bad giving more multiple choice tests to my 10th graders....

The other big stresser this trimester was Victoria (the girl who lived with me last year, who came back to transfer but they're making her wait until the end of this trimester). One day during dinner she just collapsed and every minute or so had some strange type of convulsion that looked like she was being shocked in the chest with some voltage. Weird, and scary, but we managed to get her to the hospital where she stayed for the next five days. So, then running back and forth between school (i was giving a 10th grade test) and the hospital to check on her, bring her meals, bring her water (we even carried it on our heads!) to drink and bathe, etc. She's ok now, but she'll have to go eventually to the central hospital in Nampula for some more sophisticated testing.

Other things occupying my time....
I'm ridiculously excited about my science fair club. I started it off as a Ciencia Practica (practial science) club, and to my surprise several of my fellow science teachers were enthusiastically participating! The first meeting two of them came, the second meeting three of them came (7:30 on Saturday mornings!!!) and yesterday while I was at this conference they were supposedly running a meeting without me! The first week we did a basic baking soda vinegar experiment, the next week pendulums, the third week the mathematics of pendulums, yesterday they said they were building a circuit for the kids, and next week I want to teach them how to use a microscope (our school has a basic light microscope!)--I even found some little microorganisms in our water, that will hopefully stay alive until then! So things are going really well, and I'm very optimistic about the group. It really helps having tenth graders--they're a lot more motivated and interested than the 8th graders, and have slightly more experience with critical thinking.

There's also a group of boys who just through self initiative started a "Nucleo" (nucleus) to coordinate groups of students to to HIV skits, community clean-up, a radio program, etc. I was really blow away by their ability to come up with this by themselves, and will be doing my best to help facilitate and help them with access to resources. We showed them our life skills manuals along with the peace corps girls REDES and boys club JOMA manuals (all in portuguese) and they were really excited. There's also a JOMA training in nampula in April during the school break, so I'm going to try to take some of them there for some capacity building. We shall see how things go....

That's mostly what's going on. My garden is booming--already eating cucumber and pumpkin/squash, and my watermelon and tomatoes are setting fruit! Other seedlings are popping up to. Very exciting. The best thing I brought back with me was my beautiful new ipod. Thank you everyone who gave me accessories and itunes gift certificates. Watching a movie or an episode of scrubs is a fantastic way to decompress, and my FM converter makes my shortwave radio (which uses practically no batteries) into great speakers! Having more music has really made grading a lot more bearable. The ipod battery is also pretty impressive. I use it quite a lot, but only really need to charge it (at my ngo neighbors) about once a week.

That's the main news of the moment. Keep the letters coming. Miss you all but this year is flying by, so I'll be home before you know it!


Friday, March 07, 2008

March Regionals

Hi Everybody! I'm back in the city at last for our regional conference. I'm afraid I don't get to town too often to update, but I always seem to be ridiculously busy on weekends!

I think I'll start off with some thank yous....
Packages--the wonderful Walsh family! I just got the package you sent in October!! Apparently it was held up in customs somewhere, but it did arrive intact! I have been greedily enjoying the contents...mmmm...ravioli...pretzels....apples...oh the joys of trader joes. The enclosed letters were also very nice, though it was funny reading about plans to get together in december after the fact, and now i can't make fun of kat for not successfully writing to me, alas :)
--Grandma, Uncle Jon and Auntie Marie for the wonderful Valentine's package! The marshmallows are very yummy, though one whole bag was sacrificed to rice krispie treats which we devoured enthusiastically!
--Mummy for helpful sewing stuff
Letters--Thanks to Lisette for her nice note, though for future reference my local address will get things to me faster, and thanks to Amey Upton, Jacob Schatz and the Sunday school at GPC for their nice note. They're doing research into Portuguese-French dictionaries for us! 11th and 12th graders here study French, but even the teachers don't have dictionaries--the lucky ones have English-French dictionaries, so they try to double translate back to Portuguese
Books--Many thanks to Mary for the 4 huge mbags that I received in February, and to GPC for all the books that mom has forwarded to me--I'm not sure of the numbers yet, but I'm sure we're now upwards of a thousand new books in english, including about 8 eng/port dictionaries and three or four english grammar exercise books. I've been spending a lot of time in the library with our librarian organizing the books. So far i have five categories: reference materials like dictionaries and grammar books, and the novels/stories divided into Advanced, Intermediate High, Intermediate Low, and Beginnner. My number one priority is making these materials accessible to the kids, so I'll be working on ideas for expanding use and access. Our librarian is really proactive and interested in running a training session (on things like card catalogs.....) for the school librarian who has no training. I set aside some books for the school library if we ever manage to get it organized--at the moment they don't look after the books, and they all get stolen, but I'll have a meeting with the Director to start problem solving. I may also apply for some grant money to get good quality shelves for the district library and maybe a new roof (the beams look more like thread from all the termites). So, to all of you who have expressed interest in our projects, and all who sent books, thank you! The kids and also the english teachers are already using and enjoying the new books!

To be continued tomorrow.....

Friday, February 01, 2008

Finally a new post, I know!

I am deeply ashamed of myself for not putting up a new post for MONTHS! Not even when I was in the states with 24 hour internet for 5 whole weeks! I really am a bum. But here I am, back in Nampula, and ready to write a hurried entry....

To continue on after my last realy entry, I went down to training in November, and had a great time meeting the new Moz 12ers. That was the week when they started model school, doing 45 minute lessons at the secondary school where training is held, so I got to observe the new Chemistry and Biology teachers in action. I tried to give them constructive and encouraging feedback--including which of the vocab they used was actually portuguese and not spanish :) --and had an especially fantastic time hanging out with the other pcvs from my group who were also down at training. I had access to all kinds of exciting ingredients that we don't get up north, and made lots of fun things like lasagne. We also hosted the Thanksgiving celebration, for which I made butternut squash cake and brownies (the trainees were practically swooning, and thanking me with tears in their eyes!)

From there I rushed back home to Namapa for just three days to pack up, and prepare the house for my new sitemate Kim. Then back I flew to Maputo, then to JoBurg, and finally on to was so exciting, I watched 7 movies on the plane (more than i had seen in a year) and ate the FANTASTIC airline food (how my standards have changed) which included TOMATO, CUCUMBER, CHEESE, BUTTER! Sigh....

The month at home was a wonderful recharge, full of great family and friend time, and an obscene amount of eating. Ever since i got back to Namapa I have been hearing "Voltaste mais gordinha!" (you came back fatter), which is a compliment here. There were several people I didn't get to see (including my Laura!!!!), which was sad, but I did manage to jam in a lot of people, places, activities and meals.

Three weeks ago I got back to Maputo in time for our Mid Service conference, at which I saw my entire training group, many of whom I had not seen for over a year. We did lots of catching up, along with watching tons of House (so addictive) on various peoples' laptops. Sadly our wonderful CD Dave is retiring and is off to the states this week, but our new director Christine Djondo seems very promising.

After a week in Maputo (without internet, alas!) I traveled back to Nampula (flight 15 hours late, got into the city at 2am, and there was no electricity, so i couldn't use my hostel reservation (how would i find the room?) and had to talk my way into the nice hotel (with generator).

At long last I arrived in Namapa and had the chance to get to know Kim, my nice new site mate. She's from Chicago (our students here informed us that's where 50 Cent comes from...oh the things you learn in Africa!), and wants to be an ESL teacher, so she's a good fit for teaching English in Namapa! We've been cooking creatively with our sparce ingredients, and getting to know each other bit by bit. My brother would approve of her music taste including Stone Temple Pilots and Portishead :) I'll write more indepth about her in the coming months.

We worked busily at school through the last few weeks, putting togther turmas (the groups in which kids have all their classes), arranging the schedule (a nightmare i don't even want to think back on), and finally starting classes. This year I have 8th(again) and 10th (genetics, evolution and ecology), which will be fun. I am not looking forward to grading though, because I have about 200 more kids than last year. Last year i only had 7 turmas, and they were all 8th grade (about 80 kids each). This year I have 8 turmas, 5 of which are 8th, and the other three of which are 10th, which have 120 kids per class. Oy. They're going to be seriously packed in like sardines, with a lot on the floor!

I just received a ton of books from Mary, and am just starting to receive the batch mummy put together with the fantastic help of GPC, so thank you thank you thank you everyone who contributed. We will be plowing ahead on our library project, and everyone here is really excited.

So much more to write, but no time, alas. Take care, lots of love to all. Keep the letters and texts coming!

ps. no time for proof reading, so forgive me if this is incoherent.....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Hey everybody, so I am offically 100% (with the possible exception of mental processing) back home in the good old U.S. of A. I'll be doing some serious blog writing in the weeks to come, but at the moment I'm just too lazy. So if you would like to talk to me without the usual complications of irritating time delays or international phone me! Home number 730-790-8449 and cell 703-819-1497 (same as before I left). Also if you have plans to come to town and/or would like to suggest a road trip between now and jan 10, let me know!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanks Ganesh

As I am a horrible, ungrateful friend, and have TWICE forgotten to thank Ganesh, he gets his own blog posting. I did in fact get BOTH of the post cards, the one to Maputo and the one to Namapa, and was THRILLED. When did you move to Germany!? Oh the things I miss....

So, thank you thank you thank you. You are awesome.

The last few months...

Ok ok, I know it’s been AGES since I last posted, so many apologies. I suppose I had better back track a bit….

I mentioned that I had a student living with me. Her story starts at the end of last trimester, when I was grading finals and realized that I didn’t have hers. It then became apparent that she had missed the whole finals week and had gone home to Pemba. I, along with several other teachers, was concerned and we found out that the aunt she’s living with is psycho, and for some unknown reason went and told the school that Victoria was pregnant and had run off (not true). So, she went home to her parents in Pemba, and her dad obviously didn’t want her to live with her crazy aunt anymore (who also poisoned her kittens, forbade her from going to the library or PE, and from going anywhere without an escort). Her parents scrounged up the money for her to board with the nuns here, but on the way back her money was stolen, and there was know way she was going to be able to get that kind of money again (equivalent of about 45 dollars). So, my large 2.5 bedroom house seemed like the obvious solution. She’s a sweet kid, and was helpful around the house so it ended up working out well. I also got to hear all the (mostly distressing) school gossip, and learned a lot about Macua culture. My community was thrilled, because they all hyperventilate at the idea of me living alone. Everyone was always asking her “tudo bem la na America?” (everything alright in america, as apparently my house=America), and asking me “como esta a sua filha?” (how is your daughter?). They were all shocked that she actually likes my cooking. Food with herbs and/or spices is generally NOT acceptable to the Mozambican palate. Fortunately her dad works in a restaurant in Pemba, and she has grown up with strange foods to compliment the excessively bland Mozambican cuisine, so she enthusiastically ate my Indian/thai/Chinese/Italian/you-name-it standard fare. Victoria stayed with me until the end of the trimester, and then went home to Pemba. In January she will ask for a Transfer to another school district so that her dad can rest easy with her far away from the crazy aunt. My filha (daughter) has left me. Sad.

The trimester went well, with my kids ridiculously excited about the Reproductive System, surprise surprise. They did some great skits about STDs—the kids are very dramatic, and had a great time acting out painful symptoms and dressing up as pregnant girls, etc. They also made up some great songs—made me wish I had a video camera. The trimester is really kind of a blur in my mind because it went so fast. I then had a few weeks off in which I went to Nacala with my best friend Nelson, and then to Ilha with the new Spanish and French ngo people, who are really cool, and already close friends.

In not so happy news Nelson left for a better job--the district administration still hasn’t started paying him even though he’s been working for more than nine months, and he discovered it would be at least another six months before they get their act together…and there might not be back pay. So now he’s working for an ngo down in the central region, which seems to be a lot more promising. Ah well, no more speaking English for Laura, at least until my site mate gets here.

Oh, so I had malaria. I always take my prophylaxis, but it’s not 100%, so when I went I went to get treated for what I thought was a strange allergic reaction (my face swelled up like a marshmallow), it turns out I had malaria. It really wasn’t bad, low fever and a bit tired, but I felt pretty normal. The Spanish doc thinks my symptoms were mild because of the prophylaxis. Despite my malaria I still had to work---proctoring 10th grade exams, so exciting. And then I had a site visitor, which was fun and she was really cool, though I felt bad that she was there for one of the most boring teacher duties—exams and then coping grades onto the big grade sheets we use in Conselhos de Notas.

This week did not go so well. Monday and Tuesday from 7am to 5pm with one 15 min break for lunch I graded 10th grade bio exams. Each exam must be graded twice but my fellow bio teachers goof off a lot, so I did the first grading of ¾ of the tests myself. At the same time we were starting Conselhos de Notas, our bitter grade determining council. Conselhos was a bit calmer than usual because most teachers were grading exams, and would wander in and out, so there we never had all ten teachers yelling at the same time. So mon and tues were exhausting and frustrating, but normal. Things took a downward spiral Wednesday. It started fine with the Director giving a nice speech about how they would not tolerate corruption on the exams. Each exam has a code and the names have been removed, so no one should be able to tell whose paper is whose. In theory. In practice all the teachers know exactly whose test is whose, though how I am not quite sure. So after the director left the teachers all pulled out their lists of students they want to help (ie. relatives, kids who paid them, or girls who slept with them), and my department chair started writing in answers on students exams to bump up their grades, and then did the second correction using the new answers he had written in. When I protested he started going on about how I had only come here to bring down African kids, and I want them all to fail. Not a fun argument. I went to talk to the director and he said he’ll do something about it, but nothing happened. Around this time we were starting the Conselhos for Victoria’s turma, which brought in another problem. The teachers all get mad at me when I wont raise somebody’s brother’s/ cousin’s/ nephew’s grade, but I have my own personal rules for grade changing—if a kid did all the work but has a 9 and needs a 10 I’ll bump him up, but if he cheated on my tests, or if he didn’t do any of the six make-up tests I offered this year then No Way Jose (pronounced with a J and not an H in Portuguese, by the way). So, I make enemies. Usually this doesn’t bother me too much, but this time, some of the teachers started suggesting that since I was bringing down their kids they should bring down mine. Victoria. There were a couple teachers set on failing her just to spite me. Since she missed her finals the second trimester because of the crazy aunt her grades were lower than they would otherwise be, so it was a near thing. Fortunately there are a lot of teachers who like Victoria because she’s a genuinely good kid and hardworking, so she ended up passing, but it was a very near thing. By the end of her turma my stress level had peaked, and I decided it really wasn’t worth going insane watching teachers make a mockery of our testing and grading, so I just packed up my stuff and went home for the rest of the week.

My ngo friends have been very sweet cheering me up—Mar, Edita and Manu randomly took me along to the cotton factory yesterday and we had a lovely childish time jumping around in a warehouse full of cotton. Then we went home and watched dvds on Manu’s laptop. Today they have work to do in Nampula, so they brought me along for a day trip. So now I definitely feel recharged. Now it’s the home stretch. Tomorrow I come back to Nampula (no ride, so will catch a bus) and then Sunday I fly down to Maputo to help out with training. I’m one of the few pcvs from the north who gets to go down because of the expense of flying, so I feel very fortunate. I’m really glad that I will get to meet the new trainees, because otherwise there are a lot who I would never meet unless they were sent north. I will also find out this week who my sitemate is, and have the chance to talk to her and give her our house keys. Exciting! I was supposed to go back to Nampula Saturday, but I managed to convince them to let me stay another day so I’d get to stay for the thanksgiving celebration, which they do on Saturday in training—the northern pcvs are doing thanksgiving on Thursday, so it they hadn’t moved my travel date I would have missed ALL of the thanksgiving celebrations. Very un-cool. Fortunately PC staff is lovely and understanding, so I’ll get my turkey. Then Sunday back to Nampula, Monday back to Namapa, which gives me three days to get everything ready for my site mate—making sure we have water, charcoal, etc., leaving notes (which knowing my obsessive compulsive streak will probably be indexed and cross referenced), and talking to my friends and neighbors to have them help her out and keep an eye on her. Then Friday back to Nampula to start the three day trip home……

So, that’s all now for now folks, but I shall be seeing many of you in just over TWO WEEKS!

The usual thanks:
Grandma for happy packages, including sewing supplies for my girls, and science fair books which will be GREAT for next year.
Letters from the oh so fabulous Laura, Cons and Chen, my regular correspondents.
As you know I think you are all AMAZING.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A real post at last!

So, here I am back in the city! Amazing to think there is only one more week of classes and then just determining final grades! I never had time to describe my last vacation, as this is my first trip to town since mid august,s so here is a summary of my trip with fellow northern PCVs Heath and Bethany...

From our regional conference in Nampula we went to Gurue in Zambezia province and spent about four days there-and baked lots of brownies. Gurue is beautiful and cool, up in the mountains amidst tea plantations. We did a day hike up to the waterfalls and threaded through paths of bright green tea leaves, snacking on fresh local tangerines as we walked. Some kids even followed up and down the mountain with their herd of about 25 goats!

From Gurue we spent an afternoon in Quilemane, the capital of Zambezia, with one of our PC language trainers. Ana Karina was so sweet, inviting us to stay in her home,and preparing the local specialties, including Chicken Zambeziano-grilled with coconut-which is one of Moz's best dishes.

Then down across the Zambezi river. The bridge was bombed in the war, so for now there is a ferry until they one day finish the new bridge.... The ferry is fast except when they run out of gas like they did when we got there, a frequent occurence. We then cut through Sofala province, by Gorongosa national park on our way to Chimoio the capital of Manica province. The terrain is so different--dry grasslands and for the first time in months I couldn't see a single cashew or mango tree! Granted the chinese logging industry has stripped entire provinces of hardwood. I was most struck by how much open, ininhabited space there was--my province is so densely populated you cant drive five minutes without seeing a mud house.

In Chimoio we saw lots of freinds passing through and ate the best pizza in Mozambique in a restaurant owned by an Italian woman--Chimoio also has a cheese factory! Then a day in Sussendenga, which included a wonderful evening with some ex-pat protea-SA national flower-farmers who made us feel right at home.

Then off to Vilankulo in Inhambane province, our ultimate destination. There we had som more good food, and saw lots of friends, as transit is so much easier the farther south you go. We even went snorkeling and saw thousands of fish of all shapes, sizes and colors, from black white and yellow angel fish to big fat red ones. Note my extensive knowledge of fish :)

And then the four day overland trip back to Namapa....with a bus each day from Vilankulo to Chimoio then to Quilemane then to Nampula and finally to Namapa. The worst was Quilemane-Nampula, as there werent any seats even though i got there at i got to stand/crouch for the first 8 hours, end then got a seat at Alto Molocue for the last five. Ah Mocambique...

So there it is in brief--an exhausting trip but well worth it to see friends, get to know other parts of the country and eat well, which of course is always one of my priorities.

The last trimester has been fun, teaching the Reproductive System, and oh boy do my kids have a lot of questions! I'm looking forward to the next and final week, when my kids will present their final bio project, skits on HIV, interviews of community members, etc. I was so happy yesterday when Dr. Maria told me that more of my kids have been coming in to take HIV tests since I taught sexual health and community resources. Now I know I've got some of them thinking!

Now for some R and R with Megs and Sarah in the city, and then back home to Namapa...

Next time I promise an update on the last trimester, including the student who came to live with me. Sweet girl, and I'll tell you all about her later, but for now a bit of suspense :)

The usual groveling thanks to:
For packages--Uncle Dave, my friends at OlympiaWest, Erin, my brother, my Grandma and my mummy
For letters--my parents, Laura and Connie of course, and a bunch from Chen
Emails--my lovely Sveta, Tammy, mummy, etc.
You are all amazing!

To answer Ganesh's question, my gmail is Oh, and it just occurred to me that you can all {or rather one per week} make song requests for me on Border Crossings, that I will hear on shortwave! I forget the phone number, but its on their website. Its a DC number, and they take calls when they broadcast 15:00 universal, which i think is something like 10 am at home. Or email

Take care all of you, and I will see you in December-i fly from JoBurg December 2, and dont come back until Jan 10th!


Sunday, September 23, 2007

I´m Alive!

Hello All! Yes, I am in fact still alive, though I realize it has been quite a while since my last update….I haven’t left Namapa since mid August, and I probably wont get to town until late October when we finish classes. I am using internet in Namapa `mesmo´, courtesy of Maria, the Spanish doctor, and my new friend. Today we made lasagna. Wow. She also has a fridge, so I drink cold water in her house. Also wow.

Its amazing how lazy I have become, and how foreign internet seems. Here I am, at liberty, using internet, and I probably wont use internet again for another month, but I can´t think what to write. There´s just too much to say, and too little time, so I really say nothing at all. I promise I´ll draft a good long blog entry for next month, all about my travels, and the end of the school year, etc. But right now, I feel bad using my neighbor´s took me about an hour just to read all my emails etc.

By the way, you should all use gmail, because their chat function is awesome! Iºm talking to Constance right now!

Miss you all, and see many of you in two months!

Love to all,


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The People in my Life

After seven months at site I received my FIRST visit from other PCVs. I get the fewest PCV visitors (note that ive had lots of fantastic staff visits, because our pc moz staff is ridiculously amazing) because I am a)isolated (only one PCV is within a days travel) and b)not in a tourist location (the only Volunteer North of me is on the beach, so she gets tons of visitors even tho she is FAR.

So Megan and Sarah earned a special place in my heart for traveling two whole days to my site and two whole days back to Zambezia just to see me. It was fun getting to show off Namapa--walking to the market, the river, the brand new pastelaria (bakery!) and to just spend time curled up in my house cooking Thai food and chatting.

However, I think Im glad I dont get a lot of visitors, because it made me feel like a stranger in my own community. Usually as I walk through town I get choruses of Bom Dia Senhora Professora! Salaama! and Ola Dona Laura! etc., but walking around with Megs and Sarah we were mostly stared at, looked at suspiciously, asked for money, oh and my friends in the market wanted to take a photo to Remember this Day FOR EVER. LOL. The day after they left people kept coming up to me and saying I saw you walking yesterday with two white girls! I felt like a stranger, or like I do when Im traveling away from site. It was a strange feeling.

I have been requested to provide some character sketches, so here goes:
The Local Government
The District Administrator-Our district is so lucky because he is amazing. Very hard working, friendly (loves Peace Corspa and is always chekcing in on me), respect ful (calls me Doctora Laura) and in the words of the nuns here ''a good person even though hes a muslim'' LOL
The Secratario Permanente- (number 2 in the district govt) also hardworking and friendly and calls me Minha Filha (my daughter)
Nelson-works in the Admin and is my best friend and next door neighbor. Its great, we speak English, play cards, read Newsweek, and scheme to get DVDs of things like Pirates III. Poor guy, all the teachers hate him because they are jealous that I hang out with him instead of them. Its going to be odd going home and not being chased by every male within 100k LOL.
The School
The Director-very sweet, also loves PC, though prefers teachign to being in charge so he may go back to Nampula next year.
The Pedagogical Directors, Jaaz, Diolintino and Valdimiro-all very nice and hard working though only Jaaz has been a Ped director since the beginning of the year (lots of movimento) Im kind of glad one of the others left because he was always trying to get me to drop my bio classes (mid trimeste!) and teach English.
The Teachers-
Dino-Chem teacher sho makes me laugh calling me the Portuguese equivalents of My Passion and Fluffy and tells me how much le loves me.
Nunes-Sweet, non-assertive (NOT typical among Moz men) Physics teacher. Hes just adorable (Im taller than a bunch of the guys--ah malnutrition...)
Rafael-philosophy teacher who likes to wax on with the grand debating flourishes, friendly and a lot of fun.
Hilario-geography teacher, very giggly. And the list goes on....
Generally good natured and humorous, though virtually all (inluding the married ones) have made it clear that they would like to get me drunk and/or seduce me. They are very amused and somewhat miffed by my refusals. A few teachers who I won't name make me angry by proving the rumors we heard coming in about the Moz education system including;
--the ones accepting goats/chickens for grades
--the ones who write the lesson summary every day and leave without teaching
--the one who gets pissed at me for teaching Bio during his 3rd period class when he doesn't show up until 5 minutes before the end of class
NGO Neighbors
The Ukranian Dr. Oleg, always tring to get me to either drink whiskey (at 11 am!) or eat Plumpy Nut, a French product designed for malnourished children--hes convinced that im losing weight, but im not i promise! he is now on a well deserved month long vacation home (i requested caviar)--he hasn't taken a day off this year including weekends, he is ALWAYS in the hospital. Pretty amazing that he's been in Moz for 20-30 years (through the war), though he says where else could he practice such interesting medicine without having any of the Admin/paperwork hassles of the Western world.
VArious other Drs and logistics staff-all very nice, occasionally give me rides to town, and let me charge my phone with their generator
The guards-Ibrahim, Orlando and a few others, very nice guys who keep an eye on my house (Orlando chased down a thief) and they are the ones I am doing my big garden project with--beets carrots and herbs next month!
The Market
I walk in to hear Ola Dona Laura! Temos beringela para ti! as they know I love eggplant. I bully them into tracking down farmers with carrots or leaving things on the plant until they are actually ripe (a losing battle i am afraid, tho i am now used to green tomatoes eggplant and peppers, I think I'm more appreciative of these things now because I know that between Jan-May I won't have ANYTHING green in the market. Ah how my standards have fallen...I used to be such a picky girl. My buddy Zito works hard to track stuff down for me and raises the prices of things i like so they'll still be there when i get to the market (then the price goes back down for me).
The Students
How do I even generalize about them? There are so many! I think I know about 100 names (out of almost 600 with transfer students) and Im workin on more now that I dont have to focus on Portugese. I have some who thrill me with their love of Biology, many who beg me to teach 9th grade next year (ie. move up with them) and somewho I just cant describe how sweet and funny they can be. Granted its not all smooth sailing. In the 2nd trimester i caught 101 cabulas (cheat sheets or notebooks) which just makes me want to SCREAM. And it makes me want to cry when its the girls (and sometimes boys) who either cant speak Portuguese or cant read and write. i don't know how i can help this group of kids--even cheating theyll fail cause you cant pass a test if you dont understand the language the questions are written in. Some challenges i can rise to meet, but this one defeats me. Suggestions?

Ok, this is getting rather long, so will continue later, but here are some quick thanks;
Letters from Lauren Walsh (who sent me STICKERS just as i was running out, you are amazing!) Mme. Gaultier-mail from paris to the bush! Very exciting, but now I have to remember my French well enought to write back coherently...., and of course Connie the faithful correspondent (with the exception of Laura and my parents she puts you ALL to shame).
Packages from Mummy and Daddy (of course) drink mixes definitely hit the spot as the weather starts gettting hotter again, my old lax training buddy PFC Chen, who sent me MREs (army rations) wheich are paked full of all kinds of fun things (M and Ms, wow) and are very much appreciated. He seems to think that PC sounds tougher than boot camp, LOL not sure id agree. Many many thanks and I'm going to have way too mucb fun with the chemical heating pouches...

Right now I'm at our Regional conference in Nampula, and after this I am off on the overland trip through Zambezia and all the way down to Vilankulo in Inhambane with Heath and Bethany....Oy not looking forward to five days on a machibombo/chapa onthe way back...i think my posterior is going to regret this.

That's all folks. So much love to all and keep the letters coming! Only 4 months till I see you all!
ps. Did you know that some cockroaches can FLY!? Very Heart of Darkness--The Horror!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ah city life...

So I am out of Namapa for the first time in two months, though it doesn´t feel like I`ve been out in the mato (bush) for so long! Probably because I have friends and projects to keep me occupied, and i usually feel far too busy to make the effort of getting to the city. Happily this weekend I got a ride with an NGO neighbor, so not only did is sit in a comfortable car (with a SEAT BELT, so exciting) for only 3 hours, but I can buy TONS of stuff knowing I have a spacious ride back--unlike my usual machibombo (bus) ride crammed into a space that would make a sardine claustrophobic. I was persuaded by my friend Megan to stay in the nice hotel, and I wasn´t too hard to convince as a hot shower (or three) is hard to say no to, and I can afford it even with my peace corps salary because i only leave site every few months and there´s nothing to buy at now I am CLEAN and happy, and about to go to the sunday market (furniture, jewelery, fabric, and tons of random other things)--another advantage of having a ride is not having to leave at 5am! When I got here yesterday I happily spent a fortune at the south african grocery store (apples! cheese! FRESH GINGER!). What else should I be chatting about? Somehow I don´t feel to rushed to say everything, because I´ll back for our regional meeting in only a month--when did i month become such a trival space of time without internet? When I next write to you it will only be four months until I come home for christmas! Present requests? Anything African you are dying to have?

More thanks to Connnie girl for another TWO letters (oh boy does she put many of you to SHAME). I also got a letter from Mme. Gaultier yesterday, which is lovely but means I have to remember how to speak French.....alas my French has been absolutely devastated by Portuguese.

A couple blog entries ago I got a comment from an unknown reader applying to PC, so a special hello to you too! and to anyone else who I don´t know out there! I´m very happy that you are reading, and I hope you find it helpful--this was one of the reasons I started the blog in the first place, as my best source of information as a potential PCV was through peace corps blogs. Everyone´s experience is totally different, and my life is very different from the blogs i read (even the mozambican ones), but I think it still helps get the feel of it. So don´t be afraid to say hello, and good luck with applications!

Lots of love to family and friends. Let me know what you want to hear about, because next time I will be in the city for THREE DAYS so I may acutally get to answer questions properly. Plus I´ll try to draft a more comprehensive blog entry about site. Maybe some character sketches?

Miss you all! xx Laura

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Em final

(Drafted May 19)
Today I bought lettuce in my market. I was stunned. I may become spoiled by such luxuries! To celebrate this very special day I broke out the packet of Italian dressing that the Wonderful Walshes had sent me and made a very exciting lettuce and tomato salad. Those of you who are familiar with the fact that food is a central focus of my life will not be surprised that one of the things that I profoundly miss are grocery stores. Ah, those beautiful aisles of luxury and abundance where you can find everything to make anything. Sigh... The South African grocery store in Nampula doesn´t quite cut it--for example, the last few months butter has been out of stock (and more tragically ginger!), so it´s kind of a random grab bag.

My clubs are flourishing. I am getting more and more kids every week, and hae been begged to make my english class longer. It´s really rather funny what the kids want to know ex. How do you say "tirei cabelo" which means i pulled out hair. Um ok... My Science Fair group is going reasonably well. I started with a lesson on the Scientific Method, which they´ve never heard of and ahve been demonstrating little experiments (plant growth, heart rate, pendulums, acid-base rxns, etc.) let me know if you have good ideas that don´t require any resources! The tricky part is getting them to start producing their own project ideas, totally alien concept so we shall see....

Tomorrow I have the first meeting for my new girls group--when some of my meninas learned that i make a lot of the clothes i wear they asked for sewing lessons, so they are bringing fabric and we shall make skirts. Maybe I´ll be able to turn this into an income-generating project for the girls, and even expand the group to other topics. One of the other PCVs in Nampula has a really cool club--FBLM, Future Businesss Leaders of Moçambique, and she has all kinds of guest speakers (local business owners, and even ppl from the city) come to talk to the kids about developing businesses. This is HUGE in communitites where virtually everyone is an unemployed subsistence farmer without ideas of how to do anything else.

I´m working on getting more girls in my SciFair group, though it presents a few challenges. Two of my girls (good students who participate enthusiastically in class--not typical) asked me to go talk to their families into letting them participate. One said her Aunt refused because she is an angry drunk (used my suavest Portuguese to convince her!), and another with a traditional Muslim mama--I have convinced her it´s a fab idea but she still needs to consult and get permission from her nephew (husband died last year) before she can give it the all clear. I´m still hopefull...

Itºs such a satisfying feeling when my projects are going well and the kidds give me their endearing enthusiastic smiles.

Granted it´s not all smooth sailing--I still rant and rave (internally) about all of the formality and bureaucratic bullshit--there´s always some reason I have to write up some totally pointless document and then there´s always something totally pointless missing = Laura has to do it AGAIN. Argh. Other irritiations include teachers not showing up. Someone in the office complimented me the other day on the fact that I always show up for class (my response: uh´s kind of my job...). Another day I get to Turma 5 and the Chefe (head student) give sme a long list of kids #s and says that the Hist prof says I have to kick them out of my class. Why? I enquire. Apparently they came to his class during roll call (by #, not name, too many kids!) and then left. His punishment was having them kicked out of MY class. Needless to say I abjectly refused, as I´ve never heard of a stupider punishment. The kids are in my classroom to LEARN, and I´m thrilled that they show up, so there´s no way in hell that I´m going to kick them out of Biology for cutting History. Coincidentally this is the same prof. who claims to have 90 goats that he has accepted from students in exchange for grades. Ah Moçambique....

(June 9th)
So, I finally ran out of rain water, alas, but I was able to arrange for a guy with a bicycle to bring me water from the villiage pump, so I don´t have to kill myself trying to carry water on my head. I´m always slightly ashamed that kiddos Emily´s age and younger can effortlessly carry huge water containers on their heads and I can´ pathetic. Usually I donºt carry much of anything actually as my students are constantly insisting on carrying my books or my groceries. It will be strange goign home and not having a loyal following who greets me every 10ft. as I walk through town--Bom dia Senhora Professora! and now Salama! (iwth giggles) as they know I have a grasp of basic Macua, and some useful phrases such as Umpaca mehlu, or See you tomorrow--and shove people out of my path who are rude enough to get in the Senhora Professora´s way! How shocking!

This entry is getting rather lengthy...Tudo bem here in my town (in case you were wondering I have the rare and glorious priviledge of using the NGO internet IN MY VILLIAGE!). People have sent me all kinds of generous packages with yummy things to nibble including Trader Joe´s ravioli (cheese! swoon!) and smoked salmon (oh-my-god-mummy-you-are-amazing) along with a delightful supply of marshmallows to roast. My most recent package was from Sarah Pettit, which included People magazine and the New Yorker (perfect blend of frivolity and quality!) along with a 7 page letter (!) (puts many of you to shame....) a human body book with pictures that my kids are utterly blown away by--theyºve never imagined seeing photos of blood cells, or intestinal walls (pics taken INSIDE a person! wow!) and a nice eng-port picture dictionary, which the kids in my english class are going to LOVE. You people are really amazing, and keep me going strong with all the letters and packages. Keep those pens moving!

Special thanks again to the Walshes (Saints I tell you, I can´t get over how my cupboard bulges with glorious things like vegetable biriani, gnocci, ravioli and chicken soup!), and to Grandma, Jon and Marie for antother lovely box of goodies.
Letters from my Laura, Connie girl (from New Zealand!), and Nancy McCulloch, along with a save the date magnet from Erin and Chris (the only thing magnetic in my house is the door jam, so I see you guys every time i go in and out :)
Many thanks also to Caroline, whose birthday books were forwarded via mummy. Just read the first of the books (Carry me Down) which was great!

Ok have rambled on quite enough for one entry. Much love to all of you and keep the letters coming...we´ll see how long my stamp collection lasts tho i think i can buy more in august. I´ll be having a relaxing weekend (after grading 560 notebooks during the week...) and tomorrow will start working on a new garden with the help of a neighbor--I provide the seeds, he does most of the labor, and we both win, hurrah! Maybe I´ll be eating beets and carrots in the coming months!



Sunday, May 06, 2007


This entry may not make much sense because I am exhausted! It is 3:30 in the morning. I wanted to update this last night but the computer wasn´t working loading Blogger, so now is my last chance--at 4 I will go to the bus stop to catch the Mecula bus back to my site....and hopefully get back by 9ish. I am in Nampula right now, and really lucked out with where I´m staying. I came down Saturday to do some shopping-internet-seeing friends, but the bus took FOREVER and despite the fact that I left my house at 7:30am, I didn´t get here until around 4pm, at which point it was really hard to get everything done, so my friends decided to stay an extra night, (rather than go back the next morning at 4am!) as some of them were staying too. I had planned to stay in a cheap pensao, but it turns out that if there are four of us it breaks down to the same price to stay in the nice hotel, who would have thought? So I got two nights in a comfy air conditioned room, hot showers, and (as you can see) free internet, when it´s working. Pretty sweet. It was really nice to see some friends, trade some books, and buy important things like granola! oats! spices! flip flops (in three months have worn my last pair almost completely through...)! Alas there was no fresh ginger to be had. Next time. It will be nice to get back to site and the slow mato pace. Though I have a distressing amount of stuff to take back, as i always buy too many heavy things (soy sauce...), and there was a heavy package for
Mary in the Peace Corps office chock full of books for our town´s library, so I have to lug that back with me too ;)

We are two weeks into the second trimester now, and I have taught two lessons. I should have taught 6. On monday the school was still doing Conselhos de Notas (the epic grade battle, "but she´s my girlfriend/wife/friend/niece/cousin, you can´t fail her!"), so there was no school. On Tuesday I got to an abandoned school to be told that all the teachers are in Namialo (130km south) at a teacher meeting....found out later they are putting together a national employee database. Wednesday no one showed up. Thursday more teachers in Namialo, friday no one showed up. And the following Tuesday was a public holiday, so only a third of the kids showed up on Monday. Argh. Taught the itty bitty classes with only 30-40 kids, and the following lessons wed-fri I had most of my kids, and I managed to switch the schedule around to make sure all my turmas got both lessons. Oy. I´m teaching nutrition now. It´s heartening teaching a subject that is really important that they just don´t know! It makes teaching feel really important. Though it´s a little harder to harp on the kiddos to eat their green vegetables when they don´t grow half the year (too hot!). But I think they got that different foods have different essential nutrients, so they should vary their diets, etc. I´m having them do a week long homework assignment in which they write down everything they eat, and mark which nutrients each food has (carbs, protein, vit and min, etc.). I hope this will make them connect what we learn in class to their lives, and I´m also just curious to see what they all eat....I know some of their families can´t always afford food, but I would like to see what they do actually manage to buy/grow and eat.

So my garden is failing. That lovely watermelon growing in the picture is dead. Eaten by the horrible biting ants that infest my yard. My squash withers on the vine, and two of my three basil plants died. Alas. The combination of really poor soil, fiery hot sun, and vicious ants were not conducive to growing even tho I water twice a day. Plan B. I bought some basins, had a neighbor ride his bicycle to the river (5km) and bring me back some good river soil. So I drilled some holes in the bottoms, put in my transplants and seeded more herbs, and a batch of heatwave lettuce. They were all sprouting happily when I left, and my guard will water them, so I have high hopes for returning to thriving plants. If not I´ll figure out a new solution. That´s what Peace Corps really teaches you. Try something, it flops. Try something new. Also flops. Don´t get discouraged, keep going until it works. Lots of creativity and lots of patience.

I would like to write more, but I have to walk over to the bus station (right around the corner from the nice hotel). Special thanks to everyone for their nice birthday wishes. I had a nice day, opened presents and cards, got phone calls, and my radio request station just happened to play the request I had emailed in the week before! Just got to read all the nice emails and facebook messages now, so thank you. Also a very special thank you to the Wonderful Walshes, who sent me a spectacular package jam packed with delicious things (asian soups, gnocci, dried peaches, hot tamales, wow!), which also arrived by some miracle at my post office at site in SIXTEEN days! Who would have thought that was possible? So thank you very much, I feel very loved and very fortunate.

Love to you all, will post more next time i´m in town in 4-6 weeks.