JUNTOS Workshop

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.” –African Proverb

Two weekends ago was the JUNTOS workshop for the Niassa province. As I’ve said before, JUNTOS is a youth group aimed on education youth and communities about topics such as leadership, self-esteem, puberty and reproduction, violence and abuse, communication, HIV/AIDS and sexual health, and income generation. JUNTOS stands for Jovens Unidos No Trabalho para Opportunidades e Succeso, or Youth united in the work for opportunities and success. It is an organization that I believe strongly benefits its members, Mozambican and American.

As the new Niassa coordinator of JUNTOS, I was one of the people responsible for planning the workshop. Event planning, as it turns out, is MUCH more difficult in Mozambique than the U.S. For one, none of the places to stay or restaurants have any sort of e-mail or website. You either have to have their phone number or go to them directly. Sometimes even calling them does not work and it is essential to go talk to them in person. Matt, the former coordinator, is closer to Lichinga and handled most of that while I worked on the curriculum side of things.

On Thursday July 3rd I left my house in Cuamba around 4am. After walking (and some running from dogs) to the chapa paragem, I managed to catch an almost full chapa to Lichinga. I was there in about 6 hours. I got a pastry and a latte at a café (a sign I was in the capital city of our province!) and waited for one of our Mozambican leaders. He picked me up and we went to the pensao. After talking to the Dona there and arranging to rent all 16 of the rooms the next night (for 36 people), we went to her mother’s house to inquire about food options. It turns out her mother was a cook and was willing to offer us a better price than the restaurant we had arranged with. Afterwards I did some shopping and exploring of Lichinga as I waited for Matt to get in. I even got a chance to meet up with one of my Mozambican friends from Cuamba who was going to the University of Lichinga.

The next day we got up bright and early and went to a stall in the market for breakfast. Turns out it was delicious and affordable, so we asked the man if he’d be willing to do breakfast for 54 people the next two days. He agreed, and with that, food was set!

We went to the bank and withdrew A LOT of money, then did our shopping and printing. When my JUNTOS groups got here, I went to meet them and lead them to the pensao. We got all the printing and shopping done in time and headed back to settle in. It being the 4th of July, we kicked off our conference by performing the national anthem for them (quite badly)… We did an introduction and taught them a cheer, and then they had sessions on self-esteem and leadership led by one of the Mozambican counterparts. She even used her group to perform a small play. Afterwards we headed out to the courtyard to eat a delicious dinner of rice and chicken stew and relaxed before bed.

The next day we got off to a late start because of a late breakfast. The Mozambican counterparts were great though and immediately started some games. We played Human Knot, which they had fun with, then went in to learn about sex and gender, puberty and reproduction, communication, violence, malaria, and diversity. I think the diversity activity was one of my favorites: the students stood on a ledge and jumped off if the statement applied to them. It was a lot of fun. We gave them their shirts and headed back to the pensao.

Human Knot

Human Knot

One of the IFP students, Esmeralda, teaching about puberty and reproduction.

One of the IFP students, Esmeralda, teaching about puberty and reproduction.

A Diversity Activity

A Diversity Activity

The Cuamba JUNTOS groups

The Cuamba JUNTOS groups

That night, each group performed something specific to their group, which was a lot of fun. We had a group that showed their photojournalism book, a group that sang, a group that gave a lecture on HIV/AIDS and demonstrated how to use a condom, and quite a few theater groups. My IFP kids did a hilarious skit where they were students in a class and the teacher was teaching the geography of Mozambique. One of my students was a map of the country. My other group did a skit about violence towards women. Being a group of all boys, I got a knock on the door asking if they could borrow a dress from me…

One of my students as the Map of Mozambique

One of my students as the Map of Mozambique

My bairro group performing their skit

My bairro group performing their skit

PCVs and Gelane

PCVs and Gelane

On Sunday things went a lot smoother. We started with some teambuilding games. Afterwards, one of my students taught about HIV/AIDS. He had a great game where someone in the middle was the person and he had others representing the immune system. He added people as HIV attacking the immune system as the others were all throwing a tennis ball and trying to hit the person. It worked really well! We also talked a bit more about leadership and self-esteem. We made a Self-Esteem Wall where they could write shout outs to each other and also taped a paper to each person’s back so they could write nice comments to each other. They LOVED it, and it was a lot of fun for us. We answered questions from the folder of questions and took the post-test (they took a pre-test and a post-test to measure change in thoughts) then headed back for a final lunch. Eventually we crammed 21 people in our chapa to head back home. It turned out to be a huge success!

HIV simulation game

HIV simulation game

Kids writing nice comments on the papers on their backs

Kids writing nice comments on the papers on their backs

JUNTOS Niassa

JUNTOS Niassa

Woo JUNTOS!

Woo JUNTOS!

The Chapa back

The Chapa back

Some of the misconceptions they had during the conference surprised me, especially when they stuck to their opinions even after we gave them the facts. Some examples are as follows:
-Puberty and development are the same for everyone and are purely physical.
-Women cannot get pregnant on their period or before starting puberty.
-It’s equally easy to be a man as a woman in Mozambique.
-Women who have condoms are “easy”.
-HIV can be spread through mosquitos like Malaria.
-Violence only exists against women.
-Homosexuals don’t have any sort of real relationship
…and many others that I am now forgetting. I wish we’d had more time, but in the end I think they all gained a lot from it and met a lot of new people.

My group finally made it to Cuamba at 10pm on Sunday night. They were still super motivated though, and insisted on doing the cheer before leaving. My IFP kids all walked me to my house in high spirits before saying good night. It was a fantastic weekend, and I’m excited to see where my JUNTOS group goes from here!

JUNTOS

Also, here’s a website a few friends of mine posted on Facebook.  This describes how I feel about traveling… http://masedimburgo.com/2014/06/04/17-things-change-forever-live-abroad/

As for my words of the day, since we talked about sex and gender, they all mean woman/man

Portuguese word of the day: Mulher/Homem

Macua word of the day: Muthiana/Mulopwana

French word of the day: Femme/Homme

Malawian Adventures!

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” –Lao Tzu

The IFP is on holiday for two weeks, so Caitlin and I decided to go on a trip to Malawi. Our original plan involved a trip through Tete and Manica and making our way back to Mozambique. Once we realized we only had 5 days, we decided to only go to Malawi. We were going to spend a night in Blantyre, the financial capitol of Malawi, a night in Zomba, a mountain town, and two nights at a safari camp in Liwonde. Despite our planning, our trip ended up nothing like this.

Caitlin and I got to the chapa paragem at 5:15am. We easily found one going to Mandimba, the border town, which left by 6:30. We were in Mandimba by 9:30 and met a friend who helped us to change money and get a bike boleia across the border. It was strange sitting on the back of the bike while it rode the 10km to the border. We got our passports stamped and were on our way.

Right away we were ushered into a rather luxurious and spacious chapa, which took us to the crossroad town Mangochi. There, we navigated another chapa going to Blantyre. It was about 6-7 hours to Blantyre, so we relaxed and enjoyed the beauty of Malawi. It is probably the most beautiful country I’ve visited, from what I’ve seen. When we got to Blantyre, we were dropped off at Limbe, which is the chapa stop about 10k from Blantyre. We asked our driver where our hostel was, and he offered to take us there for 150 kw (about 15 meticais or 50 cents). On the way, he drove through a bunch of back roads, picking up a group of about 30 workers on the way and then dropping us off. As we approached our hostel, the driver asked for money. When I handed him 200kw, he told me it wasn’t enough and that I in fact owed 1500kw. He claimed that the gas was just that expensive, and that we were receiving special treatment. When we refused to pay it, he drove us to a policeman who was patrolling the street. After yelling at him in Chichewa and explaining his side of the story, I explained mine in English. In the end, the police officer yelled at him. Turns out if he wanted to charge us that much he should have taken the main road and shouldn’t have picked up the workers. In the end, we only paid 250kw, but it was not a great introduction to transport in Malawi…

We met up with Tania and got some delicious dinner. Afterwards we got a few drinks. We met a Malawian/British man named Roy who grew up in Malawi but now lives in England. We talked to him for a while and he introduced us to his Malawian cousin, Foxy. He tried to convince us to come to Mulanje, his hometown, rather than going to Zomba the next day. Eventually, being exhausted, I went to bed.

The next day we woke up and took a delightfully hot shower. We got some breakfast pizza and walked around a bit. At one point, everyone was lined up on the side of the street. Wondering what was going on, we stayed to watch. Turns out the new president of Malawi had just gotten married in Blantyre. He was parading through the streets, so we saw him and his new wife drive by! That was pretty interesting.

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The president of Malawi

We called Roy, our friend from the night before who was coming to Blantyre, and we went back to take a nap. When he got there, he took us to Blantyre’s shopping mall. Unfortunately the cinema had closed, but we had a good time at the bookstore, the Shoprite, and the Game, a store like Walmart. It was such a culture shock! We got some coffee, and then headed back to the hostel. After freshening up, Roy took us to this cool bar in a residential area. Turns out it used to be someone’s house, but it was deemed haunted, so no one can live in it. It was really cool! Afterwards, we went with him to a wedding reception of a family friend. It was really random, but a lot of fun! We crashed this Greek-Malawian wedding and had a great time!

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Coffee :)

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Caitlin and Tania with Roy in the haunted bar

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Tania and her new friend Ballz at the wedding

The next morning we took off for Mulanje with Roy. The mountain was BEAUTIFUL. Malawi in general is, but he was right when he insisted we go there. He drove us to his plot of land where he is building his future house. He was sad because a bunch of his mud bricks had been ruined the night before by the rain. We decided we would build him 100 each. He didn’t believe we actually would, even as we took off our shoes and stomped in the mud.

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The process for making mud bricks isn’t too complicated. First you dig up the dirt so it is pretty loose. Then you pour water on it and stomp it with your feet until it’s about a wet cement consistency. Next you pack it into molds of 4 bricks each and flip it over all at once to dry. This is as far as we went, but later on after the bricks are dry, they are cooked in an oven and then laid. Sure enough, we made 300 bricks in about 2 hours. It was a lot of fun for us, and very amusing for the passing Malawians.

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Us with our 300 bricks and the kids who were watching us

After cleaning up and a quick lunch, we headed up the mountain. We went to a place where there are natural pools, which were beautiful and so serene. Tania did fall in, but it was still a fun time! Afterwards, we hiked up to the waterfalls a ways up. Those were beautiful, and I think we all would have swum if it hadn’t been so cold! We went and got some dinner and drinks and met up with Foxy again.

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That night we stayed at Roy’s grandfather’s house. He was such a sweet old man, and very welcoming. They made us breakfast the next day before our next adventure out to the tea fields. We went to go see another waterfall on the other side of the mountain. To get to it, you drive through these gorgeous tea fields, which may be the most beautiful place I’ve seen in Africa. We drove around a bit, then hiked up to another waterfall. When we got back, the empregado had prepared a traditional Malawian meal for us of couve (chinese cabbage?), pumpkin leaves, chicken, and nsima. Yum! We took a nap on the couch and played some very confusing card games with some of the kids who lived in the house. After another drink and some debating, we went to bed.

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The next day Roy kindly drove us to Blantyre to be on our way. We got a ride with a man who said we would pay 3000kw (about $8.30) all the way to the border town of Chiponde. When we got to Mangochi, however, he decided he was stopping there and wanted to be paid the 3000. He escorted us to a pickup truck that wanted us to pay 2500kw to Chiponde rather than the 1000 we paid the other way. We refused both, so once again we were driven to the police. This time he agreed with our driver, and we agreed to pay provided he dropped us off at a place we could stay.

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We ended up staying at the Hot Pot Lodge were we paid 1500kw total (about $1.33 each) for a small guest house with a twin bed and a toilet. It was all pretty hilarious to us. We took off early the next morning for Chiponde, and were able to get an open-back chapa (pick up truck) where we rode for an hour and a half with 30 other people hugging boxes of fish and bags of onions. When we got across the border, we found a truck delivering cabbage and potatoes to Cuamba, so that is how we rode back, on top of bags of vegetables. We made some new friends, namely crianças on the way, and even a new Mãe who was selling us for flour, a metical, and a papaya. We made it back on Wednesday around 3pm, later than we had originally planned, but it was a blast! We did nothing we originally planned, but we wouldn’t change it for the world.  Now back to work.

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The most comfortable ride home.

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There are always kids looking at us…

Portuguese word of the day: Camião (Truck)

Macua word of the day: Wemela (to speak)

French word of the day: ingenieur (engineer, one of the options for my students characters)

Reflections on Six Months at Site

I’ve been at site 6 months and in Mozambique for 8.5 now. I can hardly believe it! I spent my 6-month anniversary at site proctoring exams and conversing with my students in conversation club. Since I love quotes so much, I thought I’d reflect on my first 6 months as a true Peace Corps Volunteer through a few quotes I feel sum up my experience.

“Little by little, one travels far.” –JRR Tolkien

There is an expression in Portuguese that is heard a lot: pouco a pouco, or little by little (vakhani, vakhani in Macua). Although it is an expression in English, it is far more used here. I’ve found that if I want anything to get done, I have to do it little by little. A lot of times it feels like I am not accomplishing anything. Sometimes it is frustrating if something throws a wrench in my plans halfway through. Sometimes I get really excited about something and try to rush it, meaning it falls apart quickly. There have been a lot of frustrating experiences here, but looking back over all of them, I can see how far I’ve come, as a person if nothing else. Things move at a snail’s pace here. Meetings are pushed back until the following week. Classes are cancelled because a presidential candidate is in town. In the end, though, Mozambicans still get somewhere. As for me, I have learned that going little by little has allowed me to grow as a person and get to know the Mozambican culture a lot better.

“Today, give yourself permission to be outrageously kind, irrationally warm, and improbably generous. I promise it will be a blast.” –Sasha Duter

This was one of the hardest things I experienced when first coming to site. As an American, a traveller, a young woman in a foreign country, I tend to be pretty distrustful. I wanted to make friends when I first got to site, but I was so put off by all the people who were asking me for money, asking for my number, or just staring at me. I had never had that kind of attention directed at me before, and it made me uncomfortable. On top of that, it led me to mistrust the motives of almost everyone I talked to. By finally opening up and trying to be a kind and warm person (I still am careful about what I give, which I’ve learned from experience), I’ve been able to make some Mozambican friends and get to know some people outside of work. I even got invited to the baptism party, which was a lot of fun! Even though I got taken advantage of at times and I am still generally stared at and pursued in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable at times, opening up to people, asking questions, and trying to learn has brought me many more friends.

“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”

This quote is essentially about initiative, something I’ve always struggled with. I still find it hard to ask for things, or to put others’ opinions aside and go for what I want. While I still struggle with this, it is something I have improved in, mostly because initiative is something essential for a PCV and something lacking in Mozambique. In Mozambique, at least as a PCV, nothing will be done for you. YOU have to take the initiative to start projects, to find out when school meetings are, to meet other people. Luckily, I, at least, learned skills such as problem solving and making connections during my time in school; skills that are strongly lacking in Mozambique and that cause a grand lack of initiative in general. While I have found some motivated people, many just don’t know how to get what they want, or even exactly what they want. In the bairo near my house, for example, there is a big problem with alcoholism because people’s attitude is, “I can’t get a job, so I should drink instead.” That is why I started a JUNTOS group in that bairo: to try to encourage the youth to work and develop initiative and leadership.

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” –Albert Einstein

Being a teacher, this is one of my favorite quotes. It recognizes that everyone has skills or interests that make them good at something, yet it is not always recognized as productive in society. In Mozambique, students are often ridiculed in front of the class if they make a mistake. If they fail a semester at the IFP, they are kicked out. Mozambicans have a strong emphasis on perfection in every subject area. Without this (or good connections or money) they will not succeed in life. This quote is what I have trying to impress upon my students as future teachers. It is important to value the skills your students have and use those skills to motivate them to succeed. If nothing else (because class sizes of 120 can be difficult in terms of individualization), I am trying to encourage them to encourage and support their own students rather than ridiculing them. Or at least, show up for class…

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day: Begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a big one for me here in Mozambique. At first, I used to dwell over my days even days later. Every day here contains small frustrations, sometimes on the part of the country or the people, or sometimes they’re you making a fool of yourself. Sometimes the directors change your classes without scheduling you. Sometimes you trip and fall in front of 40 construction workers, 20 children, and about 5 of your students. The best thing to do is to leave it in the past and continue on to new days. Every day holds frustrations, but the key to living a happy life is being able to move past those and start the new day with high spirits.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” –William James

This is a big one, especially for a Peace Corps Volunteer. As I said in an earlier post, I didn’t join the Peace Corps in order to save the world. I knew that wasn’t realistic, and that would be a big weight for my shoulders. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t think I’m making a difference. I strongly believe that even influencing or knowing people just on an individual level makes a difference. It widens their world and yours, and helps you both to encounter a different culture. Those two things and the volunteer bringing their experiences back to the U.S. are the goals of the Peace Corps; change on a small scale, or little by little, rather than striving to end poverty.

My first six months at site have had their ups and downs, but overall it’s been a blast. I’ve started teaching in a secondary school and a teacher training institute, I’ve formed a JUNTOS group, I’ve learned about Mozambican customs and taken part in ceremonies and celebrations, and I’ve made friends with people from Mozambique, as well as the rest of the world. I’m excited to see what the next 18 months bring! Plus, Friday is my birthday!

Portuguese word of the day: Junho (June)

Macua word of the day: Khole (Monkey)

French word of the day: Comme si, comme ça (I’m ok. It’s my student’s favorite phrase)

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Reconnect Adventures through Nampula (and Cabo)

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” –Tim Cahill

On Friday May 2nd we began our two-week trip full of visits, conferences, and meeting new people; our first trip out of the province in nearly 5 months and the first time we saw friends from our training group. Because the day before had been a holiday, we had to buy our train tickets the morning of. The ticket window opened at 3:30am, but the line was already long when I got in it at 3am. Luckily I was able to get my ticket pretty quickly and could take a short nap before boarding the train around 5am.

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Mozambique is beautiful!

Although the train left at 6am, it did not get to Nampula, a city 330 km away, until 7:30pm. The 13.5 hours was quite long. I did, however, meet a very nice French woman who was traveling through Mozambique. I’m not sure how I keep meeting French people in my travels… she ended up spending the night at the same hostel as us and going out to dinner with us, which was fun.

The next day we headed to Montepuez, a beautiful town in Cabo Delgado in the north. The town is the second biggest town in the province, like Cuamba, and has 4 volunteers, as Cuamba does. We stayed with Jeanette, the first volunteer from our group we’d seen in months, Anna, her roommate, and their adorable new puppy. We stayed for 3 nights and spent a lot of time relaxing, playing with the puppy, eating delicious things (hamburgers, pumpkin curry, egg sandes), and watching Frozen. We had a funny exchange with some kids who we couldn’t see out of the window one night. We went to the fast food restaurant in Montepuez, which actually looks like a fast food restaurant in the U.S. As unimpressive as that may sound, we were in culture shock from the plastic tables and big hamburgers. It was a lot of fun!

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Giving the dog a bath

We also climbed the mountain in Montepuez. It was beautiful, but a challenging climb at times! We sat at the top for a while and looked out over Cabo. By midday on Monday, the house was cheia of volunteers. Nick, Salomé, Jordy, Jen, and Arden joined the 4 of us, so it was quite a full house! We celebrated Arden’s birthday with a giant tub of ice cream and a few drinks.

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The next day we left bright and early for Nampula to attend our Reconnect conference. It was strange thinking about the kinds of things that shocked me while we were driving. I hadn’t driven on paved roads for months and it had taken me forever to get anywhere in Niassa, yet here there were paved roads with drainage systems for the water. On top of that, the road had bus stops and cross walks. That just blew my mind so much more than the buying bras out the window, goats being walked on leashes across town, or the three marriage proposals I got on the way. It’ll be interesting going back to the states…

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Paved roads, bus stops, crosswalks… what is this madness???

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Nampula and Reconnect were really good. It was nice to hear about the struggles and successes of others in our group. It was so great to see everyone again too. On top of that we had some free time to explore the city, we got pizza and Chinese food, and we were able to take a hot shower! It was quite an exciting week!

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Acting out a play in a demonstration of an early grade reading program

On Friday after the conference finished, we headed to Ilha de Moçambique (in a very crowded chapa) for the Norte Forte Beer Olympics, a tradition of Peace Corps Mozambique. Normally it’s North vs. Central vs. South, but since there is a travel ban on the middle section of the country, north was forced to have our own. We competed in provinces. Since there were so few representatives of Niassa province, we were paired with “Team Others.” I think we got 3rd place, but it was still a lot of fun and I got to meet a lot of new PCVs. I also got to see Ilha for the first time, even if it was a very quick visit. I did jump off the pier, having to nervously navigate myself around sea urchins on the way out. It was fun.

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Bridge to Ilha

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Team Others Feat Niassa

On Sunday a bunch of us headed back to Nampula for the JUNTOS Leadership handover. There I got to see some awesome 21ers from the south and central who hadn’t been at our Reconnect and catch up. We did a lot of planning for JUNTOS, and I officially became the Niassa regional coordinator and one of the Public Relations people. It was sad to say goodbye and to head back to Nampula.

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The new JUNTOS Leadership Team

On Thursday we took the train home. This time it only took 11 hours. It was then that we found out that the school was not able to open the file with our grades on the flash drive we had left for them. As a result, they gave all our students the administrative grade of 13/20. I was very angry. Some of my students had gotten higher grades, which they deserved and were not reflected there. Some of my students did not take my class seriously and failed. If they passed now, what is to motivate them in the future? I went in to bring my grades and ask they be changed, but they were not.

I showed up on the first day back at school to begin teaching, only to find out 5 minutes into my lesson that my schedule had been changed. I no longer had any 11th grade classes. It was another week until my schedule got finalized, so I didn’t start teaching at the secondary school again until this week. I am now teaching 2 classes of 10th grade French. The students have never taken French before, so they are starting from the very beginning. It was interesting: my students are significantly younger than my 11th grade students. It’ll be interesting to see the difference in maturity levels.

Overall my time has been somewhat frustrating since I’ve gotten back, but I’m getting through it one day at a time. I’ve got about 3 weeks left before the end of the semester at the IFP and my birthday!

Portuguese word of the day: significação— meaning. I use it a lot.

Macua word of the day: Khole—monkey

French word of the day—riz—rice

Springtime in Cuamba

“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.” –Osho

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here in Cuamba! I’ve hardly noticed the time flying, especially considering I’ve now left the U.S. over 7 months ago. It seems strange to me that on this day last year (as I was writing this, May 1) I was finishing up my time in France on a train to the south of France to enjoy one last vacation… Needless to say, there hasn’t been much traveling here in Mozambique. This weekend we depart for Nampula for our reconnect conference with Peace Corps and the JUNTOS handover. I’ll finally get to see some of the awesome people I haven’t seen in ages! I can’t wait :)

As for life in Cuamba, it is going. My JUNTOS group had a large decline after two weeks of inactivity, but we are finally pulling together and trying to put together our big play that we will perform for the community. We talked about Malaria last week for World Malaria Day, and then the next day we talked about making connections and professional relationships. I’ve got some very interested students. We just need to work on the participation and involvement of girls in the community!

Two weeks ago was Easter. I spent my second Easter away from home, and it was by far the most unique Easter I’ve had. I had been invited to a baptism party, so at 10:30am I packed up and headed to the Catholic Church in the bairro near our house. I got there just as the baptized were processing out of the church and followed the crowd to the house. There, the 4 baptized family members were sitting on a reed mat while people sang to them and gave them money. I didn’t bring any money to give, so I did feel a little awkward. They greeted me, however, and led me to a table in the back under a reed roof. I could tell they were giving me a place of honor because 1) I was sitting in a chair at a table instead of on a mat on the floor; 2) I was sitting with all the men; and 3) I was served first. They brought me a GIANT plate of rice and chicken. I thought it was to pass and share, but it was all for me! Needless to say, I couldn’t finish it.

Later on there was dancing. People were constantly staring at me, but few dared to come talk to me until I took out my camera. Then I became a highlight of the party! I stayed for a while, then headed home where I had an untraditional Easter dinner of soup as we watched Hercules. I also got to chat with the family, which was nice!

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Last week were the provincial exams, or the APs. As teachers at the secondary school, Caitlin and I had to proctor them. There were many frustrating things about this: For example, the exams are not at all written with the students in mind. The paragraph the 11th grade English students had to read was about renewable resources and had an exercise that was not at all related. The French exam seemed to be purposely trying to trick the students. Not something you want on a provincial exam… not to mention all the spelling errors!

The other frustrating part is the accepted cheating and corruption on the exam. When I told my classes I had a zero tolerance policy for cheating, I had students crumpling up papers and trying to hide them, writing answers on bits of eraser they passed back and forth, and sitting on their notebooks. To them, it was completely normal. That blew my mind, not to mention that it was almost encouraged by the teachers. For example, when I came to clarify answers on my French exam, the proctor was out in the hall on his cell phone. The philosophy teacher came in during the exam I was proctoring and gave away some of the answers. That was so frustrating to me. But is it my place to change it? Moral conundrum…

A few weeks ago we climbed the hill near our house.  Even though we had to fight our way through a thicket to get there, the view was completely worth it.  It was beautiful, and it really gave us a perspective for Cuamba.  Plus, there are ruins of an old portuguese chapel at the top, which are just gorgeous.  Here are some pictures:

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The hill we climbed

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Chapel at the top

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See the cluster of buildings on the right?  That is the IFP.  See that small tree in the far left-hand side of the frame? That is the end of our driveway, ½ a kilometer away.  It is, however, 1/14 of our daily walk…

May 1st was Dia dos Trabalhadors, or workers day. The day started off with all the teacher trainers, along with workers from all kinds of fields, gathering for an address at the town square. Afterwards, wearing our school shirts and school capulanas, we marched down the street a kilometer or two in a giant parade. Even though it was just people in the back of pick up trucks, some acting things out as if they were on a float, the crowd was more spirited than any I have seen at a parade in the U.S. They were loving it! It was a lot of fun to be a part of this aspect of culture.

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Parade!

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Us with our coworkers

After the parade, I stuck around town in the afternoon. Apparently, however, the IFP had a big banquet commemorating the 5 year anniversary of when it opened. Must have been interesting! I came back at night and had been hearing music, so we decided to check it out. We came across a full out talent show with dancing (modern and traditional), fashion shows, and singing/lip syncing. It was a ton of fun, and all our students were psyched to see us there! We saw other sides from some of our students, and our director had a great time dancing!

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One of our students singing

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A play by some of the students

Overall, the past few weeks have had their ups and downs, but, as always, life goes on!

Another blog post coming soon!

Portuguese word of the day: Trabalhador (worker) and May 1st is Worker’s day

Macua word of the day: Okhala (the verb ‘to have’, which can also be used to greet people)

French word of the day: Travailler (worker. It is close to Portuguese…)

Teaching and JUNTOS

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” –Steven Furtick

I had a conversation with a friend tonight about how we felt like we weren’t really doing much compared to the other volunteers. You see a lot on facebook or on blogs (like this one, I guess) and it makes you feel like you’re life isn’t as exciting as everyone else’s. Everyone wants to brag about their successes and share them with the world. It feels good and is absolutely something people should do. We just sometimes need to remember that life is not a competition, and even when we feel we are not making a difference, we are. My quote of the day for my students was ““We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if that drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” –Mother Theresa. I find this to be such an inspiring statement, and it aligns with one of my philosophies about life: that even a small or seemingly insignificant action makes a difference. I have had some tough days here, and I believe I am reaching one of the points in my service that will be mentally tough to get through. Hopefully I can find the strength within myself to continue, and I hope all my fellow volunteers can as well, because we are making a difference.

I have now been in Mozambique for 6 months. It seems so long, and yet so short! We are just coming to the end of the first trimester (finals are next week) and I am just getting my JUNTOS group started, yet it has been half a year since I’ve seen my best friend, hugged my mother, pet my dog, driven a car, swam in a pool, eaten bacon, used free wifi that actually worked pretty well, been in a shopping mall, lots of things I once took for granted. It is strange to think about all together, but individually the lack of any of these things has not hurt my life too much. Sure I miss my family, friends, dog, and home comforts, but it has been much easier to adapt to life in Mozambique than I would have thought a year ago. If I’m going to be completely honest, the things I miss most are paved roads and regular supplies of different kinds of cheese…

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We made corn starch goop with our crianças…

Teaching is going well, though I cannot emphasize enough how different it is from teaching in the U.S. or France. I have found the lack of resources and time to be particularly frustrating, especially with exams coming up next week. The way students here have final exams is through a provincial exam, which makes me nervous. My students are a year behind where they should be in French, plus a few weeks due to my late start date at the secondary school. There is no way they are prepared for the test, but I have done the best I could. My job is to teach them French, not to prepare them for a test which does not accommodate for the challenging learning environment in northern Mozambique. Teaching at the IFP, where I have more resources, smaller class sizes, and more interested and dedicated students is going much better. I hardly ever have discipline problems and my students show up to my study sessions. We have done plays and I have them presenting vocabulary words as a kind of first step to teaching. In June they will start teaching lessons, so I am excited to observe them in the actual classroom.

Two weekends ago was the JUNTOS Training of Trainers. It was held in Metangula, which is a town in northern Niassa on the lake (Lake Niassa/Malawi, the 3rd largest lake in Africa). It was probably the most beautiful town I have visited in Mozambique: the mountains that came right up to the lakeshore, we drove through the mountains for an hour and a half to get there, it was gorgeous! To get there, however, we took busses which took about 9 hours total to get there and had to stay overnight in Lichinga. Coming home, the roads were just terrible: dirt roads wrecked by rains. It took us 9 hours to get 300km. Just the sight of the lake though was probably worth it. That and the refreshing cold weather we experienced! The training was a really interesting experience: we did sessions on leadership and running groups as well as sex ed, HIV/AIDS, and malaria prevention. Some of the conceptions of the Mozambicans, such as my counterpart who believed the first woman got HIV from having sex with a dog, were really interesting to hear. They had a lot of questions, which was awesome. It showed that they were learning, and that what we are doing is actually needed. I am excited to work with my own group and hopefully educate them and change some perspectives!

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I am also excited to be the next Niassa coordinator of JUNTOS! That means I get to plan this year’s workshop in Lichinga and run the training next year. Handover is coming up right after our reconnect in Nampula next month. I’ll be working with Science Fair in Mozambique as well, and may start a REDES group (woman’s empowerment group). We’ll see! I’ve also got my first Mozambican party coming up this weekend and no secondary school lessons to plan for a month since it’s just finals, correcting, break, and conference, so I’m looking forward to what’s to come!

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Making personal flags!

Portuguese word of the day: Sautaque (accent)

Macua word of the day: Nyuwo (formal you, its just fun to say!)

French word of the day: beaucoup (a lot)

Vakhani, Vakhani (little by little)

 “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

I can’t believe it’s already mid-march and I’ve been in Mozambique almost 6 months.  For some reason, it doesn’t feel like it’s been as long, especially when compared to how I felt being in France for 6 months.  Maybe it’s because I’m only in my 4th week of teaching…

Teaching has been going well.  The IFP and the secondary school are two completely different worlds though.  As I said, I have 83 students in each of my classes at the secondary school, both classes with multiple students with learning disabilities.  They are in a room with windows that don’t close all the way and only a blackboard, which is hard because the students’ learning depends on them copying down what I write correctly.  I do not have access to a copier, so all of my tests must be written out on the blackboard.  While I am writing them, I am also trying to check to make sure my students are not cheating off each other, as they are crammed 3 into a desk made for 2.  Today I gave an exam.  Out of all my students, I gave 27 zeros for cheating.  At the same time, I think I am a different kind of teacher for them: I allow them to make up half the credit by rewriting the test with correct answers, I try to get them involved in activities that get them moving, and I show up to class 100% of the time, unlike some Mozambican teachers.  I’ve also started a French Club of sorts.  I sit at the library on Monday and Friday afternoons and invited my students to come with questions or just to study or practice speaking french.  Surprisingly, I’ve had a good amount of students show up! Granted, a good amount is about 20 out of my 166 students, but still!

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An activity I did to teach my students body parts

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Part of my French Club (they got really excited to learn I could put their picture on the internet)

At the IFP, my teaching situation is completely different.  I have only one class of 33 students.  All are respectful, and most are eager to learn.  I have a VERY wide level of ability in my class, but the students all do their work and copy down the information when asked.  They are also a bit older and more mature (in general), so it is possible to have a more easy-going manner in class.  While I can’t print/copy, I do have access to a document camera and a smartboard.  I have not yet tried giving a test, but I hope there will be less cheating… I am quite enjoying teaching though!

I’ve also started a JUNTOS group, or a group focused on educating youth in HIV/AIDS, other health topics, staying in school and education, and using community resources through a medium of art.  We have not had any lessons or lectures yet, but we’ve gotten a group of kids together and actually had a lot who showed up! We played games, got to know each other, and introduced the objectives of the group.  It was a bit difficult, especially since many of the kids are still learning Portuguese (they speak the local language, Macua), but I’m excited to see where the group goes!

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First JUNTOS group meeting

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Games at our JUNTOS meeting

Last weekend we celebrated Caitlin’s birthday, AKA the Festa de Cátia.  The day started out with some of our crianças bringing her a “cake,” which was really a sheet of ice decorated with flower petals.  They also brought her flowers and a bracelet, and helped us decorate our wall.  We had a nice relaxing day at home, then headed into town for dinner at Nelley’s house, a French girl who lives in Cuamba.  It was a lot of fun (though we did make a lot of pasta…) and after we went to our one “discoteca” in town.  It was a fun night!

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Festa de Catia dinner

The other big news is that yesterday we got a cat!  We inherited him from Alexis, one of the other volunteers in Niassa who will be leaving in a few months.  His name is Willie.  He ranges from being super cuddly to scratching us… but we’re hoping he warms up to us soon! He also spends most of our time either in our bathroom or outside where we let him roam around… he found his way back though, so that’s a good sign! I’ve never owned a cat before.  I’ve definitely confirmed that I prefer dogs, but I’m sure I’ll warm up to him soon!

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Portuguese word of the day: Bastante (enough)

French word of the day: Mes cheveux (my hair): for some reason my students can’t remember this…

Macua word of the day: Omwene (king)

TED Talk of the day (back thanks to Caitlin for giving me lots of downloaded TED Talks): http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion