Friday, November 16, 2007

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.


At 3:31 AM, Anonymous Amaryllis said...

This is great info to know.


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