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…)

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