Week 1 in Mongolia

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their head in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.”

Well, I’m in Mongolia! One more country to scratch off my map! My first week here has flown by, with so many adventures already, and I’m really loving it so far.

I arrived around 2am last Friday morning due to a delayed plane. Luckily, our vice principal was up to date with the news and was indeed there to meet me at the airport. After 27 hours of traveling I was exhausted, and there wasn’t much to see in the dark. Upon getting to the apartment building, though, I suddenly found another burst of energy, and of course decided to unpack. Why not?

My apartment is roughly the size of my house in Mozambique (minus Catia’s room). I even have running [hot] water and electricity! But really, I also have wifi, cable TV, a big fridge, an oven (not even a stoven), and a nice big bed that isn’t as comfortable as it looks. It’s quite the step up from Moz. There’s no air conditioning, but the government apparently turns on the heat once it gets cold. So far it’s been chilly at night, but pretty warm during the day, so I just sleep with my windows open. I also have a great view of the Zaisan Monument out my window, which is beautifully lit at night.

My first day in Mongolia was mostly spent setting up my apartment and exploring. There’s a grocery store, a KFC, a Pizza Hut, and a few bars/coffee shops down the street from us, which is very different from the far reaches of the IFP in Cuamba! We also have other shops, restaurants, banks, hotels, and clinics nearby. Walking up the 4 flights of stairs to my apartment upon my return, I met two returning teachers to the school. They invited me out to the nearby ski resort to watch a meteor shower that night, so we piled into the car with a Mongolian boyfriend and friend and drove about 10km out of the city to the mountain. From there we walked to the top, where there was a telescope and some Mongolian students, and sat under the stars, drinking wine and looking for meteors. I felt so lucky to have already found such welcoming people!

The next day I took a chance and headed downtown. I wandered a bit around the Chinggis Khan square (Genghis Khan for the rest of the world), got my phone card set up, and shopped a bit. I walked to and from town, a distance of about 5km, the whole time just amazed by the scenery around me. The mountains kind of surround the town, rising into the distance with the ger camps that are visible from a higher point. The skyscrapers give the feel of a city, but with the mountains all around and the river that passes through, I find myself forgetting that it is a city.

The rest of the week was spent meeting new people, shopping, hosting dinner parties, and with new teacher orientation. There are 12 new teachers at the elementary school, and maybe 6 or 7 at the high school. We’ve mostly had meetings about the culture of Mongolia or things like setting up bank accounts, but they did take us to a Mongolian cultural show that was really cool. They played music with traditional instruments, did some traditional throat singing, danced, and showed off beautiful costumes in bright colors. It was really touristy, but such a cool thing to see! I’ve also been setting up my classroom. It looks like I’ll have about 22 3rd graders, mostly Mongolian. I’m having a lot of fun decorating and deciding how I want my classroom to look. The first day of school is Thursday, so soon!

Today I had another interesting adventure. Joann, the vice principal at the secondary school, offered to take us on a hike to a nearby mountain from which we could see the palace of the president, which is tucked away in a valley. At 9am, a group of 8 of us set off. We walked for a while and eventually got to the trail. At the start of the trail were a bunch of “tents” used by shamans. They were really colorful because of lots of scarves attached. Apparently that is one of the places they have their ceremonies. After taking pictures there, we started climbing. The view was breathtaking, and I couldn’t stop myself from turning around every hundred feet to take a look (and a picture). Behind us, the city rose out of the floodplains and stretched to the ger camps that went up the far mountains. In front of us were these magnificent rolling mountains, light green with grass and sun. On the sides, the mountains rose quickly, partially forested and partially bare, but full of color. The height and the beauty and sun energized me and made the steep climb much easier.

Once we got to the spot we had decided to stop, Joann mentioned that there was another nice spot about 20 minutes onwards. One of the other teachers, her Mongolian friend, and I decided we would continue. We’d come so far it seemed silly not to go another 20 minutes for another great view. We had been following some gatherers who were headed deep into the mountains to collect pine nuts. They told us that if we only continued on a bit, we would come to patches upon patches of juicy, wild berries. Enticed by the idea of raspberries and strawberries, we decided to continue on with them until we reached the berry patch. It’s close, they assured us. Turns out close to Mongolians is similar to close for Mozambicans. We continued on the path that wasn’t really a path but some stomped down grass with trees in the way for another 30-40 minutes. Finally, we came upon a big clearing of boulders stacked on top of boulders. Here we are, they said. Turns out, there were some very delicious red currants and raspberries that we went on to pick. We shared our findings with them, they shared their biscuits with us. Not having planned to be out past lunch, we appreciated the food. They chatted with us (and by us I mean Karey and Anna who actually speak Mongolian) for a while, then left us with a bag of pinecones and went on their way. To get to the pine nuts, you peel back the pointy part and bite off the shell of the nut. They were so fresh!

Around 1:30 we decided we should head back and get some things done. Do we take the path that our guide had pointed us in, saying that it would lead to the road and risk finding ourselves on the president’s property, or should we go back to the path we came on, we debated. We decided that we could probably remember the way and would rather not run into a fence or an armed guard, so we headed back to our original path. Only thing is, we had wandered a bit and weren’t quite able to find the original path. Big piles of rocks don’t look too different from each other, and neither do fallen trees and grasses. We wandered in one direction, stopped to eat some berries and wonder if we were going the right way, wandered in another direction, stopped to eat some berries and wonder if we were going the right way, etc. This brought us way far away from the path and feeling a great deal of confusion. We were also exhausted, as we had run out of water and were climbing over boulders and fallen trees. It was like an obstacle course, climbing over and under and trying to avoid the mole holes.

IMG_3477

After a few hours, we decided to give up on finding that initial clearing and just head north down the mountain. We knew the city was in that direction somewhere, and we wanted to get down, but grew more and more frustrated as we hit more patches of boulders and giant fallen trees. We were also getting further away from signs of civilization. And we’d been walking over 3 hours with only berries as our sustenance. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, we heard human voices. We started yelling, and soon spotted two berry pickers in the trees. They offered to lead us back, saying it was only half an hour. What were you going to do if you had to sleep out here, the man wondered. What about the wolves? What about the snakes? What about the two foreigners who got lost and froze to death overnight? He had plenty of stories to try to scare us straight. In the end, it was a bit over an hour back. Turns out, we had wandered so far east that we had actually encircled the original mountain we climbed and ended up on the far end of the mountain to our left when climbing. We came out at the bottom—sweaty, dirty, exhausted, and scratched up—to find that we were on private property of these really fancy homes. Some official came and yelled at us, but let us go (his guard had to drive us out of the complex) once he heard our story. The berry pickers got in trouble for picking berries in the restricted area we thought, but later found out they were construction workers who had left their job at the complex. Either way, they were our heroes of today.

IMG_3487

Those breaks in the trees are where the giant boulders were (one on the right and one on the left). We hit at least 6 on our way down.

Overall, I’m glad I went. 9 hours hiking was neither what I had expected nor prepared for, and I could do without the scare and sore ankles, but it was truly an adventure and bonding experience. I now have a newfound respect for guides and berry pickers (it takes such a long time and effort!) and will not be wandering off trails in the woods for a while.

School starts on Thursday and next weekend we’re going with the school to a ger camp. It’s going to be an exciting week!

Mongolian word of the day: баярлалaa (by-art-la) means thank you

New Adventures

“The future always arrives a little before you’re ready to give up the present.”

My blogs really dropped off after my computer broke mid-Moz, but here I am again about to embark on another adventure! This time I’m off to a new country, continent, culture, and experience. In a few short hours I will be boarding a plane to Beijing, and then to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia! For the few of you who don’t know, I’ll be working there at the American School as a 3rd grade teacher for the next two years. I’ll be teaching all subjects in English, and about 85% of my students will be Mongolian. The others, as well as my colleagues, will be from all over the world! Despite being at an American school, I expect to dive headfirst into the language and culture when possible. I’ll even have the chance to work with Peace Corps volunteers in the country!

I’ll arrive in Mongolia in about 20 hours, yet I still know relatively little about the country and the city where I’ll be living. I know that about 60% of the population lives in the capital city (about 3 million people), and that Mongolia is the country of Ghengis Khan. I know they speak primarily Mongolian, and some speak Russian and English. I know they experience mild summers, bitterly cold winters, and lots of pollution. That’s most of what I know.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in my next 24 hours, let alone my next 2 years, but surprisingly I’m not feeling nervous. Maybe it’s because I’ve flown out of O’Hare 4 times already, not to return until months later. Or maybe I’m just so excited. I think part of it stems from an utter confidence I’ve discovered in myself, the confidence in my own ability to deal with any situation that might arise. I’m comfortable not knowing what to expect, and having no expectations both makes it more exciting and makes me less likely to be disappointed later on. I’ve become a very capable person through traveling, and it’s given me the ability to problem-solve with less stress. And I can only grow from here!

I’m ready to go, but, as always, part of me is sad about all the things I planned on doing but didn’t have time to do—camping, Six Flags, swimming with old friends, actually catching up to GoT… the list goes on. The future always arrives a little before you’re ready to give up the present. I wish I had more time to do all those things I wanted to do, but alas, time doesn’t stop. I’ve already got my list started for next summer. Until then, I’ll be adventuring in Asia. Stay tuned for more adventures!

IMG_3334

I have a lot more stuff this time around!

 

If you want to mail me postcards or quotes, my address is as follows:

Samantha Krueger

American School of Ulaanbaatar

Post Office Box 2365

Central Post Office

Ulaanbaatar 15160

MONGOLIA

 

Mongolian word of the day: Сайн уу (sain uu) means hello!

Watching Ivan’s Lesson and Mosquito Net Distribution

“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks around is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” –Einstein

On Sunday morning I received a text from one of my former students:

“Good evng trner!How hve u been these days? Me fine.i invite u trner to observe my lesson on wnsday at my school, on Wednesday can I be hopeful about?Ivan”

*Trner=trainer, what my students call me since I’m a teacher trainer.

We discussed my class schedule—Wednesday wouldn’t work because I teach all day, and Thursday I would have to return by noon in order to observe teaching practices. I suggested it might be better to wait until after my trip and the coming holidays. In response, I received this message:

“I AM VERY SAD TO KNOW IT. I HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT TO SCHOOLBOYS AND THE SCHOOLBOYS ARE ASKING FOR U TOO MUCH.PLEASE TNR OBSERVE MY LSSON BFRE GOING TO AMERICA.”

Well, lucky for Ivan, I felt the power of the caps lock and I decided, despite my busy schedule, to schedule him in for Friday afternoon. According to him, he taught two periods starting at 9am and had a friend who could drive me and would pick me up at 7am. So sure enough, I waited in front of the IFP at 7am. True to his Mozambican nature, the friend, another English teacher I’ve worked with a bit, picked me up around 9:30am.

“It’s only 20 kilometers. We’ll make it to his classes and I’ll have you back by eleven,” he said as we drove off into the bush, the mato, where most people cut down trees and carry them 5 kilometers on their heads to make a living. We drove past majestic trees that cut into the sky, grass houses that were shuddering in the wind, and calm people who stood and just stared. After about twenty minutes, I realized he had never been to the school before when we pulled into another school to ask directions. Straight ahead, they told us, so we continued on.

IMG_1208

At the second school we came across, they told us to turn into a VERY mato path. It was dirt that had never been smoothed over and was bumps the whole way. We kept driving, every once in a while asking for directions to make sure we were on the right path. We realized how far away it was when a man pointed at a mountain in the distance and told us very clearly that it was on the other side. Overall, it took us a bit more than an hour to drive 18 km (10.8 miles), but we did make it there eventually.

Behind that mountain in the distance...

Behind that mountain in the distance…

Luckily, as Ivan had failed to mention, his second class wasn’t until 11am. I made it in enough time to meet some of his colleagues and take a few pictures. His pedagogical director is another 6th and 7th grade teacher at the school. There are about 60 kids per class. Ivan is the first English teacher to work at the school, despite English being a national requirement for 6th and 7th grades. He and the other single teacher live right on the school grounds, and have very little furniture. I took some pictures, and headed into the classroom for Ivan’s lesson.

The school and some of the students

The school and some of the students

The first thing that struck me upon entering was the silence of the students. I’m used to the city kids who are loud and crazy and always talking. Here, the students just sat and stared, not even taking out notebooks or pens until the command was given. They stood up upon his entry and greeted him with your standard, “Good morning teacher, how are you?” and sat quietly as soon as he told them.

Once I had a seat I got a chance to look around at the classroom itself. It was a mud building with a thatched roof. The children all sat on narrow benches that resembled trees cut in half and polished a bit. The chalkboard was a piece of plywood that was framed. It was difficult to see, though the white marks from the eraser upon the dried mud were not. Almost all the children had books, which surprised me. I don’t know if that was because I’m used to children not having books or because I expected them to, being in such a mato school. Nevertheless, they were all following along with the lesson intently.

IMG_1248

Ivan did a really good job teaching the lesson, and it really showed me how he’s grown into his role as an English teacher at that school. Talking about school pictures, he brought in examples of pictures. He had the students repeat and translate and discover words to the point that he only used Portuguese or Makua to affirm what they said. He also used some of our classroom management techniques, such as “hands on your head” when he wanted them to stop writing and pay attention. He also brought it back to them in their school by asking who the roles (teacher, class leader, headmaster, etc) were there. It was clear the students understood the words!

IMG_1260

At the end of the lesson, he had the students sing their version of “Are you sleeping Brother John” to us. We left the class and sat outside to discuss the lesson. I remarked on how well behaved his students were, and his response was really touching—I really care for them and want them to improve, and they know that. He then realized he hadn’t officially dismissed them, meaning his students were just sitting quietly on their benches waiting for him to let them go. It was so different from the city, and so interesting!

We said our goodbyes and I made my way back. It really hit me on the way back what a cultural experience this was. Your average tourist, heck, your average Peace Corps Volunteer, doesn’t often get the chance to go out to the bush and see a primary school class! It was an awesome experience, and I really hope I get to see more of my former students teach!

Me and Ivan

Me and Ivan

Today was also an interesting day: distributing mosquito nets with my JUNTOS group. It was very organized for the first hour and a half: people would come in, mark their house on our map (so we can go back and check to see if the net is hung properly later), get their receipt checked and stamped by me, and receive their three nets. It soon got crazy though. People were showing up without receipts, they mobbed the doors and pushed their way into the place where we were having our event. It took us a good 20 minutes to get the building under control. Once we’d finished distributing, we literally had to make a run for it to a JUNTOS member’s nearby house with the nets for our group members. It was like a zombie attack: people were literally following us wherever we went, and kept finding ways through different fences and openings to where our group was. Finally we were able to distribute the nets to our own members and disperse the crowds. Thank god that’s done!

JUNTOS giving a lecture about how to use a mosquito net

JUNTOS giving a lecture about how to use a mosquito net

IMG_4201

Look at all the nets we got! (750)

Look at all the nets we got! (750)

Now onto the next adventure: Home!

Portuguese word of the day: Pendurar- to hang. We hung an example mosquito net from the tree.

French word of the day: fatigué- tired. I’m exhausted after today!

Makua word of the day: omattoni- in the garden.

Holidays, Travels, and Teaching

“So plant your own garden and decorate your soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” –Jorge Luis Borges

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write. My life recently has been quite busy! After the JUNTOS Workshop, I had to finish up my grades and the semester at the IFP and prepare French work for my students. Then I left for the JUNTOS handover in Chimoio! Because transport was difficult, this was a 3-day trip for me just to get there—a night in Nampula, a night in Beira, and finally Chimoio on the third day. It was fun, getting to see different parts of Mozambique! Beira is the second largest city in Mozambique, and is a big port city. We didn’t see much, but we got a small tour on the way to our hotel and later on walking around. It’s got it’s own Chinatown that is actually owned by China, as well as a giant abandoned hotel where a lot of people now live. It’s a very interesting city. Chimoio too is an interesting city. We didn’t see much, but it reminded me a lot more of the states than any city I’ve been in in Mozambique. Maybe it’s due to the large expat population and proximity to Zimbabwe…

Our JUNTOS handover went well. I think people taking the new leadership roles were pretty confused, but then again, so were we last year… Afterwards, I had the opportunity to travel a bit in the south of Mozambique and meet up with a bunch of fantastic friends who hosted me and showed off their sites. It was interesting how different some things were in different parts of Mozambique, including construction of houses (circular huts or bamboo shacks as opposed to mud houses with thatched roofs), behavior (more educated people and conversations, women wearing shorter skirts/pants), and transportation (lots of big buses, pretty regular chapas). It was a great experience!

The Old and New JUNTOS Leaders!

The Old and New JUNTOS Leaders!

IMG_3982

Afterwards, I met Caitlin in Maputo and we flew to Zimbabwe! We landed in Harare and made our way to a hostel, where we stayed that night. In Zim, they’ve used the American dollar since their currency collapsed. It was weird using dollars again! The next day we took a bus to Bulawayo, another big town, and then an overnight train to Victoria Falls. The train car had 4 beds and a sink that turned into a table… it was nice having a place to lay down compared to the Cuamba train! We made it to Vic Falls town around noon and checked into our hostel, then went to look for bungee jumping deals. Unfortunately we didn’t find any, but we did find great coffee!

The Train to Vic Falls

The Train to Vic Falls

The next day we visited the falls. They were beautiful! We were only in the park for about 2 hours, but we walked along the falls, got soaked by the mist, and watched people bungee jump off the bridge! Afterwards, we took a stroll back to town, accidentally passing through the historic Victoria Falls Hotel, which was very much above our price range. It was very fancy! It was the 4th of July, so we made a burger and fries feast for dinner and hung out at our hostel. The next day we took a bus back to Bulawayo and then to Harare, where we stayed a night before getting on a bus to Tete in Mozambique.

IMG_1153 IMG_1185

It was interesting coming back to Moz after Zim. The people on the bus were VERY distrustful of Mozambicans. When we arrived at the border post, they announced that Mozambique was a dangerous place full of thieves, and that we shouldn’t take money or valuables off the bus. Funnily enough, Caitlin and I felt relief coming back to Mozambique. There was a lot more trash though as soon as you crossed the border…

We managed to catch a ride from Tete city to Angonia where we spent a few days at the IFP and even went into the English class. It was fun to see how Tania teaches her class compared to us. After, I spent a day in Zobue before making my way across the dreaded Malawi back to Niassa. In my opinion, Malawi is a beautiful country that is best appreciated from a private car and not public transport. I made it across Malawi to about 30km from the border on my own route by 3:30. The border closed at 6. I should have been at the border with plenty of time, right? Wrong. I got there right at 6pm because we had to wait for the minibus to fill up and then it broke down twice. Luckily the Mozambican border guards were awesome and let me across. I also managed to find a car pretty quickly that was going up north, so I made it to Massengulo in less than 2 hours.

Massangulo!

Massangulo!

I spent a few days in Massengulo, a pretty town a stones throw from Malawi, with Vanessa, a volunteer about to COS. We relaxed and cooked and watched movies. It was a nice welcome back to Mozambique. Finally I made my way back to Cuamba and the IFP. It was nice to be back and hear everyone shouting my name and greeting me again!

Being back in Cuamba has been great so far. We’ve got a new director who’s really cracking down on the unprofessionalism and corruption, which I think has been great. I’ve also organized my schedule so that I have Fridays off! My IFP students have been doing well in class and actively participating in our conversation club. Our highlight of last week was watching Youtube videos and playing Never Have I Ever (the switching chairs version). I found out my EGRA program has been continued by one of my JUNTOS kids, even though he has his own school and no help! I was incredibly touched when I found that out. I’ve also got my JUNTOS group ready to distribute mosquito nets next week and planning their English Theater play. My French class was happy to see me, telling me, “Madame Sama, we missed your smile!” when I walked through the door. They’ve also been very actively participating in French Club!

IMG_4065

EGRA

EGRA

This month I also started observing my students in their student teaching! I’m at a new school this year—Maguiguane Primary School—Observing 9 of my students. They have 40-60 students in their classes, but at this school they actually have desks and full chalkboards. My students are still figuring things out, especially classroom management. Turns out all of the windows are broken and some teachers don’t come to class, which means that a lot of kids will either be running past the classroom making a lot of noise or else standing at the (nonexistent) window making comments about the makunha in the classroom. They’re doing a pretty good job in general though, and I’m excited to see how things progress!

One of my students teaching

One of my students teaching

I’ll be heading home next week for 11 days for wedding and birthday festivities, yikes! I don’t know how I’m going to react to being back in the states, and I’m actually pretty nervous. People at home should be ready for me and my changes, including but not limited to me stating the obvious, being amazed by simple things like laundry machines and hot showers, not showing my legs above the knee, being more blunt than normal, and wearing a sweatshirt in 75 degree weather. Get ready, USA!

French word of the day: Une pêche- a peach. We’re watching a video where they talk about peaches.

Portuguese word of the day: a média- the mean or average. All my students want to know their média for the trimester.

Makua word of the day: ovoreiha- to get sick

JUNTOS Workshop and Other Fun Things

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” –Benjamin Franklin

Life has been busy and stressful for me recently. Last weekend (my birthday weekend!) we had our JUNTOS workshop. As the Niassa JUNTOS coordinator, I was in charge of planning and running the workshop, which has been quite the experience!

We decided to have our workshop in Metangula, my favorite town in Mozambique. It is right on Lake Niassa and has mountains which come right to the edge of the lake. Beautiful! To get there, however, is a full day of traveling for me. I left my house at 5:30am to get a ride. Unfortunately the car broke down, so I ended up getting into Lichinga around 5:30pm, about 5 hours later than I had expected. Luckily, my replacement coordinator and another volunteer were there to do all the printing and buying of materials! That night I stayed at a volunteer house in Nomba. The view was beautiful, but it was really cold!

Metangula is gorgeous!

Metangula is gorgeous!

The next morning we had some apas and sat down to plan some things out. My Mozambican counterpart and I got on a chapa around 11am to head to the lake and work everything out in person. When we got there, we went to the hostel we had rented out for the event, but found they had given some of the rooms away! This resulted in us running around town trying to find other hostels to host kids. In the end, we worked it out amongst 3 places, but it was quite stressful! We also went to talk to the district administrator. He made us wait for half an hour, then yelled at us for not e-mailing him first before he realized we weren’t using people from his district. He then shook our hands and let us go. Oh Mozambique…

The kids began arriving in the late afternoon. We split them up, let them settle in, and had some dinner. After dinner we were all exhausted, so we let them have some bonding time and rest. We spent the entire next day doing sessions. The topics were Self-Esteem, Leadership, Puberty and Reproduction, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Abuse and Violence, and a new section on Sexual Orientation and Identity. We played some games and had a blast! There were also a TON of questions that kids put in our question folder, which was great! That night I celebrated my birthday, which I had mostly ignored because of the conference, with a few drinks with friends near the beach. It was a lot of fun!

Group Hug!

Group Hug!

Diversity Games

Diversity Games

IMG_0845 IMG_0906

The next day we woke up and had some more stress as we tried to hunt down bread for breakfast. We finally found some, and the kids were able to eat and finish up sessions on the beach. Afterwards we drove to a beach they could swim in. They had so much fun! They were doing acrobatics into the waves, and a number just waded out and had a good time jumping into the waves. It was a long 8 hour ride back that got us home in time to crash, but it was definitely worth it going to the beach! We also gave the kids a treat and watched Lion King and Space Jam on the way home🙂

Me and My JUNTOS Group!

Me and My JUNTOS Group!

At the beach!

At the beach!

Other than that, we’re finishing up our semester here at the IFP. I officially finished my classes today for the semester, meaning I have the next 2 weeks off. I’ll be traveling a bit in Mozambique for our JUNTOS handover, and then going to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe! I’m definitely excited for that! My mosquito nets are also finally in to distribute to the community of Mendoça in Cuamba! I got 750 nets to distribute to about 250 families, and we’ll be doing follow-up visits to make sure they’re using them properly. My library project is going along slowly but surely, and our IFP crianças are as cute as ever! We even made a cake with them for Dia da Criança (Childrens day). These last few months are moving fast!

IMG_0622

Portuguese word of the day: Ciume (pronounced see-oom-ie) means jealousy. My JUNTOS kids kept saying it and I had no idea what it was!

Makua word of the day: Oloha- dream. I might get the word dream in different languages as one of my next tattoos…

French word of the day: Eglise- Church. The cathedral in Nantes burned down today L

One Trimester Down, Six Months Left!

“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” –Edward Teller

I’ve really dropped the ball in terms of blogging. I had been doing so well! Between teaching, secondary projects, and traveling I’ve been quite busy! Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last month and a half.

The new year with our new students is going along. The students have been working on Phrasal Verbs mini-lessons where they each teach 2-3 phrasal verbs to the class (a verb+preposition that changes the meaning; ex. Run into= to meet). Those have been going along, though they have trouble staying within my time limit. My students also did campaign projects where they each created a political party with a presidential candidate and ran for president of Paradise Land, the corrupt country of which I was the president. It was very interesting to see—many of their campaign strategies mirrored campaign strategies I saw from the presidential candidates last year. For example, they often promised things that were way too big to be possible (giving everyone a bike, building homes for people affected by flooding, free mosquito nets for everyone, etc.). They also focused a lot on patriotism and loyalty to Paradise Land without saying much about party ideals itself. The students had chances to ask the different parties questions too after their presentation, so it was a good way to see them respond under pressure! It was a fun project, definitely, and there was even a political party called Peace Corp! In the end, the political party Greenpeace won.

I had a fun time integrating the project with my TICs class by creating a number of votes for each party (as if Paradise Land had 25 million people) and using that data to teach addition of big numbers and creating graphs on Excel. It was really interesting for the students to see the numbers represented visually! Otherwise, my students in TICs are working on simple research projects. Since we don’t have much access to internet, students are creating their own surveys and surveying colleagues and community members in order to gain some data off of which they can draw conclusions. I don’t expect the “research projects” to be very professional by any means, but I’m excited to see what they come up with and what kinds of conclusions they are able to draw from their “pesquisas”!

Since my last post I’ve also taken on an additional 4 classes of TICs, bringing my total number of turmas to 6. I now teach more TICs than French and English combined! It’s difficult with these classes because, since the semester is almost over, they don’t really have time to do a research project. Their teacher has been sick for over a month as well, so they are starting really at the beginning. Back to teaching students how to click and move the mouse… at least this time I have some former experience to go off of. At the moment I’m teaching them what a thesis statement is and how to make folders. We shall see.

Aside from all my teaching, I’ve been quite busy. My JUNTOS group still meets every Sunday. We gave a lecture about Malaria to over 120 people from the community, and are doing a mosquito net distribution in the community. The 231 families we surveyed are currently short about 1300 nets if they were to have a net for each person in the family. Next week we’ll receive 700, so we can make a dent in that! We’ll also be teaching community members how to hang a mosquito net, how to properly sleep under one, and how to repair it if it tears. Hopefully this project will benefit the people! We’ll be doing house visits in July to make sure they aren’t using the nets just to cover their plants. My JUNTOS group asked to learn about puberty and reproduction, so that’s are next topic. It’ll get us prepared for workshop next month!

One of my JUNTOS kids teaching about Malaria

One of my JUNTOS kids teaching about Malaria

My Community Library is going along as well. My counterparts and facilitators have all left or are unable to make it unfortunately, so we are currently in a process of recruiting facilitators. However, I’m planning a training with the nearby church literacy program workers which I hope I can merge with my existing library. The children still come, and it’s encouraging that I can see actual improvement! Aside from those projects, I’m still running my French club, tutoring individual kids, and holding Conversation Club with our students. I’m pretty low on time.

Valdo is my favorite!

Valdo is my favorite!

May 1st was Dia dos Trabalhadores, or Labor Day in Mozambique. Having received our T-shirts the night before, Caitlin and I got dressed and got a ride into town to go see the parade. It was in a different spot than last year, so we ended up wandering around for a long time before finally watching it go by Brianna’s front yard. We found a colleague who drove us back, and we just sat outside chatting with our colleagues and tasting chicken parts (we’ve both tried the feet, but only Catia braved the neck!). Finally around 4pm they called us into the gym where we ate, watched our students dance and sing, and tasted foods prepared by all the different classes. It didn’t go on quite as long as last year, but it was a lot of fun!

The coolest float in the parade!

The coolest float in the parade!

Us Cuamba Crazies...

Us Cuamba Crazies…

Last week two friends from my group, Justin and Emma, came to visit us in Cuamba. We made tacos, climbed Church Mountain in the early morning, relaxed, and made a full on Thanksgiving dinner with REAL PIE! Made from scratch! It was all delicious. Before leaving, Justin and Emma visited and guest-spoke in our class. Our students loved them so much that they are still asking for them to come back!

Church Mountain

The view from Church Mountain

Thanksgiving on the floor!

Thanksgiving on the floor!

On Wednesday Brianna and I headed to Nampula to take part in the Malaria Task Force training meeting. She is the provincial rep for our province, and I’m on the curriculum committee working to develop malaria curriculums that PCVs can use during their service. We got to talk to some important people in Peace Corps and people in Mozambique who are making big changes in terms of malaria education, which was really interesting! We also got some much-needed time to plan in person. Overall it was fun and I learned a lot!

Malaria Task Force 2015

Malaria Task Force 2015

Brianna and I also decided to go to Ilha de Mocambique for another visit (I visited in early April) after our training finished. We caught a ride there and had a full 26 or so hours of relaxing on the pier, swimming, eating good foods, and hanging with friends. I got to catch up with a few volunteers I haven’t seen in a while (since I almost never leave Cuamba) and meet some of the newer group of volunteers. It was definitely strange to meet a lot of the newer volunteers, especially knowing that there is another group in training. It makes the time feel like it’s going by so much quicker…

IMG_0214

The fort on Ilha at moonrise🙂

IMG_3815

Today I got some important news—my COS (Close of Service) dates! I’ll be leaving site on November 21 (6 months from tomorrow—yikes!) and heading to Maputo for some last minute medical and paperwork business. I officially become an RPCV on November 26! Caitlin and I are already preparing our Europe trip and looking at tickets. That didn’t take long! We did have a minor freak out earlier though. Having the actual date we’re leaving makes it seem so close and the time go by so much quicker. I’m realizing how much there is left that I want to do and how little time there actually is. I’ve had quite my share of frustrations here, but at the same time there are so many things I’ll miss, and things that just aren’t possible to live again. Oh, but if only we could! I guess there’s no choice but to go on to new adventures.

Portuguese word of the day: Padrão means pattern. I’m trying to teach a 10 year-old how to recognize patterns and sequences in Math…

French word of the day: Le beau-père, La belle-mère: father-in-law and mother-in-law, but literally translated they mean beautiful father and beautiful mother. Isn’t that poetic?

Macua word of the day: Hirima means heart, or coração

Agenda of a Mozambican Meeting

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere.” –Albert Einstein

For any of you who were wondering what a typical Mozambican meeting is like, here’s your typical agenda (which can be applied to anything, though today’s topic was interdisciplinary teaching):

  1. Wait for the chefes (the important people) to come.
  2. Stand up to greet them.
  3. Sit and listen to a short (but not all that short) speech about how this is important for the government and you are important for the government and the future, then stand up as he leaves. Lucky for him, he only has to stay so long.
  4. Be greeted by all the other chefes and hear a short speech that doesn’t really say anything…
  5. The facilitator (one of the chefes) will introduce a colleague who will then introduce a topic. He will use good questioning techniques to begin his presentation, and unfortunately be thwarted by the fact that, just like in a classroom, no one really wants to respond to the questions.
  6. The Chefe will “teach” by lecturing, only including the audience by having them complete almost-completed words (ex. “recursos de comun…. Comunidade.”)
  7. Participants will ask fairly close-minded questions and then chefe will not fully answer them. (ex. What do we say to men who demand money after their wives helped us do our community project? Answer: we do what the community wants us to do.)
  8. Everyone will be split into groups in a really vague manner and won’t be told where each group is meeting.
  9. Give people 30 minutes to eat their snack of an egg sandwich and pop.
  10. Once in your group, go around the circle and share everyone’s ideas. (Ex. What animals are raised in your community? Goats, Chickens, Cows, Ducks…)
  11. Discuss ideas for over an hour without getting anywhere.
  12. Discuss options we won’t choose just because they are options, then argue about them (not everyone has cows, you know…).
  13. Talk in circles.
  14. Make a draft of our poster by first labeling it as Grupo 2 and drawing annoyingly straight lines using some sort of straight edge.
  15. Realize we don’t really understand the instructions and have them explained 15 times. Then still discuss exactly what we’re supposed to do.
  16. Run out of time and go over when copying the draft hurriedly onto papel gigante.
  17. But first, spend 30 minutes trying to explain to the one member who doesn’t understand.
  18. Start on a new topic after your allotted hour and a half has already finished.
  19. Finally break for lunch, and then sit outside since lunch isn’t ready.
  20. Decide to start presentations since lunch is delayed.
  21. Have a group present their work, then let other participants tear them apart for entirely unrelated and unimportant things (the draft wasn’t exactly the same as the final poster).
  22. The chefe will conclude the debate by re-explaining the points we understood and using English to try to seem impressive (It is time!)
  23. Take an hour-long lunch break, even though it is already 2:10pm and you are supposed to end at 4.
  24. Return to the unproductiveness of before, adding some more confusion with a skit about a car that has nothing to do with anything.
  25. Skip the rest of the presentations because we’re almost out of time.
  26. Bring that first chefe in again to give a closing statement to thank everyone (and scold them a little). We applaud even though we hated the experience and just want to get out of here.
  27. Fugir (make a run for it!) when you finally get out 30-60 min late, though not before the light has to be turned on because it’s getting dark!

While interdisciplinary teaching certainly is an important topic and I quite enjoy creating curriculums and lesson planning, it is difficult to work on the same level as 8 Mozambican school directors who have never used or considered this approach to teaching. Especially when they consider themselves to be above me and don’t value creativity in the classroom, it can lead to a frustrating day. Luckily my roommate and I know how to make light of the situation through lists and such!

Other than that, things are going pretty well! My JUNTOS group is planning on distributing mosquito nets, painting a mural, and participating in Peace Corps English Theater. They seem excited! I’ve had a pretty consistent attendance of 30-35 at my French club too. Also, I’m a new member of the Malaria Task Force’s Curriculum Committee, so I’ll be helping write curriculums to teach about malaria. My students are still excited and curious, and I’m looking forward to where the year goes from here. It’s already moving fast!

Portuguese word of the day: A tese (thesis statement- what I’m teaching in my technology class)

French word of the day: Rendez-vous (meeting between friends. It’s so elegant!)

Macua word of the day: Ebuku (book)