A Vida Começa!

“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” –Margaret Atwood

It’s been a fairly busy few weeks for us here in Cuamba.  After the start date of the IFP was pushed back AGAIN due to late results, we decided to get away for a weekend and went to a nearby site, Mechanelas.  Of course nearby is relative: their site is 90km away from Cuamba, but it took us nearly 4 hours to get there because of the roads and even longer to get back.  We stayed with one of the volunteers there, met some of their friends, went to a soccer game, and ate at the one restaurant in town as well as the market.  Even though it rained the whole time, it was nice to get away for the weekend.

On the way back, our chapa broke down 15km outside of Cuamba.  Because of this, it took us 6 hours to get home in total.  We were stopped at a small matu village where they hadn’t see very many white people, as we learned when we attracted a crowd of about 50 crianças yelling “Makunha!”  Being the teachers we are, we decided to use the opportunity to teach them some Portuguese and English.  It ended up being a nice morning, and we did eventually get home.


Caitlin teaching some Crianças 

The following week wasn’t too eventful: we had meetings at the secondary school about starting there, we had a rather inconclusive meeting about English lessons at the IFP, and we decided to hire an empregado, or a maid, of sorts.  He comes once a week and mops our floors, cleans our lawn, and does some of our laundry.  Originally we weren’t going to hire anyone, but we caved when we realized how hard it was to care for our lawn… and in paying him we’re helping him finance his education, so a win for all!

Last week we started classes at the secondary school.  I’m teaching two turmas (classes) of French, and Caitlin is teaching two turmas of English.  We both teach 11th grade—two doubles and a single of each class, which is a total of 9 hours per week.  Each class has about 80 students on the roster, though our classes tend to fluctuate between 55 and 70 actually present.  In Moz, the students stay in the same class while the teacher changes.  Both of my classes are in a building behind the main school building.  I have a chalkboard and a notebook, which is about the extent of my materials.  I also had to ask a lot of people to get any sort of books or curriculum guide…


It’s been difficult teaching French, which is not my first language, in a language I am still learning (Portuguese).  It’s been hard to separate the two, especially since they’re fairly similar.  It also doesn’t help that my students haven’t had the two years of French they should have had by now.  I taught some descriptive phrases and the verbs to be and to have.  When I assigned homework, however, only about 5 kids in each class did it… Other than that, I haven’t had too many behavioral problems, though I have taken phones away and made kids sit on the floor.  That’s embarrassing for them because they get chalk on their uniform.  I’m looking forward to next week and seeing what that brings!

We also are finally getting things started at the IFP.  We decided that I’d be teaching Language Use, which is a grammar class.  I only have my students here at the IFP for about 4 hours a week, which is kind of silly seeing how this is my primary job… The students didn’t get here until Friday, 2 weeks later than they were originally supposed to start. We had our opening ceremony yesterday, which was definitely interesting.

True to Mozambican standards, the ceremony itself started about an hour late.  They had us (the formadors) and some of the students line the driveway.  The students sang and danced as the Cuamba representative from the Ministry of Education approached (it ran on his time since he was the chefe).  When he got here, they held a traditional ceremony to bless the ground before having the actual ceremony.  For that, we all knelt around a tree while a curandeiro chanted and put an offering of corn flour.  Some of the teachers offered money.  It was short, but interesting.  Afterwards, we went into the gymnasium where there was the actual opening ceremony.  This one was not very interesting.  It was two hours of teachers getting awards, talks on statistics, and listing of rules.  By the end, most of the audience was falling asleep.  Eventually it ended and we went outside to take pictures.


Students lined up outside the IFP



Other than that, we’ve mostly just been hanging out with the crianças around the IFP.  One day we had a discoteca going with music and dancing.  Sometimes we watch movies.  Sometimes they just braid our hair while we do work. At this point, they’re comfortable with just walking into our house and hanging out, which can be a good thing and a bad thing.  Today we baked a cake with them.  Needless to say, they were in our house all day and the cake was gone by later that night…  I’ve made a few friends around Cuamba and started to plan my JUNTOS group: a youth group that encourages kids to stay in school and educates them about health. Next week I start teaching at the IFP, so I’m bound to get a lot busier!


Our Crianças with the cake we made


Braiding my hair is the favorite activity…

Portuguese word of the day: Custa muito! It means that it costs a lot, but it’s an expression Mozambicans also use for something that is difficult.

French word of the day: s’appeller: it’s the French verb for “to be called” and one of the verbs I taught in my class this week.  Je m’appelle Madame Sama!

Macua word of the day: Mwana (child) or Anamwane (children)


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