Sunday, October 31, 2010

Training: The Half-Way Point

That’s right: 5 weeks down, and 5 to go.

As I write this entry, it is currently thunder-storming, all over the
clothes I washed and hung up to dry this morning. It will be
interesting to see what I am able to wear tomorrow to work considering
my host-mom convinced me to wash all my pairs of pants. But in any
case, it has come to my attention that I have not made it clear what I
actually do here every day. It is simple- we have 4-5 hours of
language class and 3-4 hours of technical training each day between
7:30-5:30pm. In technical training, the half of us who are education
volunteers basically learn how to teach here in Mozambique:
lesson-planning, managing very large class sizes, how to combat the
rampant and often condoned cheating, student-centered teaching
techniques, etc, etc. In about two weeks, we will start our Model
School, where we get to try it all out in front of real Mozambican
classes. Even though the task seems daunting to me, I am getting
excited about being an English as a Foreign Language here because this
skill is extremely applicable and relevant to students and they often,
so I hear, enjoy it because all five countries that surround
Mozambique are English speaking. Next week I also have my first
Language Progress Interview where they will assess my Portuguese
skills and determine how much farther I need to go to ultimately pass.
Wish me luck because I will need it!

This past weekend, my host-mom was in the capital city singing in the
choir for a wedding. She has been practicing for weeks (and has
dragged me to many a practice session) and wanted to bring me, but we
aren’t allowed to spend the night out of Namaacha so I stayed here.
But, on Sunday when she returned, I got to go to the gift giving
ceremony, though at the time, I had no idea what was happening. That
is, until they had finished serving massive quantities of food, a
literal parade of people started giving the couple gifts- buckets,
pots, serving dishes, all the things you would need to keep a
Mozambican household. One guy would call out something in the local
language and then a group of women would stand up, all don matching
capulanas (multi-purposed skirt, cloth things that women here wear all
the time and use for literally everything), sing a different song, and
parade toward the couple, hand over the gift and one of the capulanas
that matched the one they were sporting. It was very cool.

Also very cool is that in the U.S, I am not very funny. But here, with
the kids at least, I am hilarious. It is great because not only have
they never before seen all my tricks and games (many American kids
have already seen them and are not as impressed) but also, there is
less of a culture here for being goofy and playing with kids if you
are an adult. So just the fact that I am willing to play cards, color,
play thumb wars, arm wrestle, or simply make goofy faces or let them
high five me for literally 45 straight minutes, is enough for them. My
host-mom’s cousin and her 2 and 4 year-old daughters have been staying
with us and I am obsessed with them. They are so cute, and think I am
this crazy lady who wears pants and doesn’t always cook with the other
women so at first they were scared of me. But one day, I spent 10
minutes teaching the 4 year old the different colors (in Portuguese of
course) and she was so proud of herself for learning something and
getting a high-five and a good job when she got it right. No one had
tried to teach her anything academic yet (yet at just four, she can
wash clothes better than me) because here, the culture is to let the
teachers to teach at school, because at home there is another skill
set to learn. And then I realized that I am going to have upwards of
300-400 students in a few months and their parents are going to trust
me to teach their kids something. Wow.

It has been quite hot here, and yet on Monday, it hailed huge
golf-ball sized hail for like 15 minutes and then went back to being
sweltering. It was quite odd. And then my host-brother told me how he
ate the hail and “it was very delicious.”

I officially have some house guests- rats. Apparently they are
entering through a hole in my roof and they scamper across the wood
beams into other holes that lead to the other rooms in my house. I
have also seen them rummaging through things on the floor of my room,
but they have yet to actually mess anything up (fingers cross they
won’t). I have set two kinds of rat-traps, one where they eat this
poison and then once they drink water, they die, and one conventional
trap that kills them right there on the spot when they try to eat the
peanut I put there. One night, my host parents chased a rat around my
room with a big stick trying to murder it that way. It was almost like
an episode of Tom and Jerry, and like the show, the rat won and
outsmart its attackers. Not sure if the poison has worked, but the
conventional one has not yet, but that is ok since waking up to a dead
rat is not something I am particularly looking forward to. So every
night, I just extra-tuck in my mosquito net and hope I fall asleep
before I hear them rummaging about my room.

A few weeks ago, we had a cooking lesson with our language group (5 of
us and our moms) to learn how to make a few of the traditional
Mozambican dishes. To complete the cross-cultural exchange, yesterday,
we taught our moms how to make American food. Sounds fun, yes? Word of
warning, it was actually what I believe to be a set-up by the Dinner
Impossible show on the food network. The mission: cook American brunch
on one coal stove without the proper ingredients, and in the face of 5
Mozambican women who obviously know how to scramble eggs better than
you. But despite the odds and in keeping with the show’s theme, we
completed our mission, and I must say that although it may have just
been because I am craving food that is not rice, our banana
pancake/crepe concoction, scrambled eggs, and hashbrown-esque potatoes
were pretty darn good.

Namaacha has an open-air type market called ShopRite every Wednesday
and Saturday. They have everything (well, the term everything is
relative, but you get the picture). My host-mom went last Wednesday
and when I came home for lunch she was sitting in the middle of the
floor with literally 300 coconuts, 200 potatoes, and 200 onions
surrounding her. She was inspecting each and every piece of produce.
Her ShopRite purchase would have put Costco to shame. But similarly, I
went to ShopRite yesterday to find a Halloween costume. What did I
find but an 80’s bright purple, teal, and pink track jacket. Paired
with running shorts I put together some sort of costume. When leaving
for our Halloween party, however, my host-mom, who like all
Mozambicans thought the crazy Americans were being weird again, did
not think anything too unusual of my outfit except to comment on how I
had mud on my shoes and needed to iron my jacket. I wormed my way out
of fixing either and made my way to the party. Happy Halloween to

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Spiritual Side of Namaacha and Other Interesting Thoughts...

Hi everyone!  Here are some more updates about daily life in Mozambique.  Miss you all!

My host-dad’s mom has been visiting this past week or so, and I don’t
think she knows what to make of me. At first I thought she only spoke
Shingana (the local language) but I soon learned that this is not the
case. As usual, I am just this weird guest in the house and she
doesn’t really get why I am there. Also possible, however, is that I
didn’t greet her appropriately or failed to perform another cultural
norm and thus it is my fault our relationship has not gone anywhere.
But nonetheless, and I think its only because she is here, the whole
family up and went to church on Sunday. And like the good Catholic
that Bishop O’Dowd High School taught me to be, I was partly told to
go and partly just went along with the flow. They had asked me the
first day at my home-stay if I went to church and seeing as I was so
overwhelmed, I don’t really remember, or perhaps I never even knew,
the answer I conveyed. But seeing as they don’t seem to go all the
time, I was sure I could handle the occasional Sunday morning mass,
that is, as would be expected, solely presented in Shingana. A few
things about the service: the music is beautiful- tons of a capella
singing throughout the service; the men and women sit on different
sides; and people totally get down and party in church in Mozambique.
People were dancing and singing and parading down the aisles, what
would be times of silent praying becomes a cacophony of everyone’s
shouted prayers, the preacher was obviously very passionate about
whatever he was absolutely yelling about in Shingana as I think the
whole neighborhood could hear him; some women were blatantly crying,
so overcome with the emotion of the service; and a host of “Amens”
could be expected at any time at any volume, from anyone. Overall, it
was quite the spectacle. My host-mom kept nudging me to present myself
when they asked for new people to the church to stand up and I am
afraid I insulted her by trying to politely decline. At one point,
however, the preacher was saying something (positive or negative I
have no idea) about Americans, and he made all of us (there were like
7 volunteers there) stand up, say our name, where we are from and the
name of our church. Here I had come upon a roadblock: Do I lie and say
a random name of a church? Do I say I am not Christian? Or do I say
something vague that is not exactly lying but not necessarily the
whole truth? I went with the latter and said, “My name is Ana (as I
will probably be for the next two years). I am from California, and I
do not have a church, but I like to learn about all types of
churches.” All were true statements and It all seemed to go over ok,
and if only they knew I was Jewish, or even what that was…

Random Sidenotes:

-In Mozambique, they drive on the left-hand side of the road: yes, it
is not that weird- plenty of countries do. But think about this: when
you are walking down the street, you automatically move right when
someone is walking towards you, and they go to the right as well, thus
you avoid each other. This is because we drive on the right side of
the road. So here, you have to move left when about to run into
someone, because if you instead, go right, you will hit them, because
they are going left. It is confusing and for me, counterintuitive, and
leads to many an accidental bump.

-Contrary to popular belief and American children’s book, roosters do
not just crow once when the sun comes up. In fact, they crow for about
three hours in the morning, starting at about 4am, and at random
intervals throughout the day.

-You are allowed to show your boobs in public in Mozambique, whether
to breastfeed your baby, because you aren’t wearing a bra, or because
they are so big that they are apparently unable to stay in your shirt.
But, showing skin above the knee in public is practically prohibited.

-I have had 4 marriage proposals thus far. Not bad for just three
weeks work. And all have been from married members of my host-family’s
extended family.

-I got a terrible allergy attack today, and no amount of Claritin
could ameliorate it. After sneezing about 75 times in a row, Mama
Victoria told me that when I get home from school tomorrow, we will go
to church so I can get a prayer said for me so I don’t get sick. I’m
now thinking that going to that church service means I will be back
many a time over the next two months.

-Similarly, my brother Felix pretty badly burned his leg attempting to
transport some very hot water. Despite some trips to the local
hospital and a bandaged wrapped leg (I gave him some stickers to
decorate it, though), he will eventually be ok. The night that it
happened, however, the church house-visit committee paid us a call,
and as would be expected, there was some beautiful singing in
conjunction with an impassioned, shouted Shingana blessing on Felix’s
head. But it was cool to see the support of the community at this
level. And after the service, one of the ladies was attempting to chat
with me. She said quite frankly, “I am very fat, no? (I didn’t
respond). But your mom is not. Who is prettier?” Pretend I am pausing
here for dramatic effect. Needless to say I was speechless, but
managed to squeak out something about everyone being beautiful.

-If you do not take your malaria medications in the Peace Corps, they
can fire you. So, therefore, I take mine. Aside from vivid dreams, one
of the side effects is that you go from feeling normal one second, to
absolutely about to pee your pants a second later. No warning at all,
because on the “I have to pee” scale, you jump from 0-10 in an
instant. Me and my friends always joke about peeing ourselves, and the
other day, I thought it had finally happened. But nope, I was holding
the baby in my lap, and because they rarely put the one-year old in
diapers (I’m guessing they are expensive), it was him who peed on my
lap. All over my freshly washed only pair of jeans.

-In the town of Namaacha, there are thunderstorms. And they have tin
roofs, which significantly amplifies the sounds to a deafening roar.
But, when it really gets raining, I look forward to when the power
will go out because then, the blasting music from the neighborhood
bars will have to stop. And all I have to worry about is the next
day’s muddy walk to school. And by mud, I mean, the roads magically
turn from dirt roads into clay. Your shoes may get stuck in it every
other step, but don’t worry, they will wash your shoes when you get
home. The brand new running shoes I brought here are still sparkling

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Food Network and HGTV Mozambique Style

Hi everyone - I wanted to give you an inside look at my day to day life here with my host family.  Here are some of the highlights!  I hope you enjoy.

A glimpse into the food we eat here in Mozambique (or at least here at
my home stay)
1. Soup- we eat vegetable soup every day (95 degrees or
thunder-storming) at both lunch and dinner. However, it is delicious
(and allows me to eat some veggies)
2. “Salad”- and by that I mean cucumber and raw white onion with oil
(leftover from what the fish or potatoes were fried in recently),
vinegar, and a little too much salt. But it is fresh and somewhat
“green and nutritious.” Sometimes, when I am lucky, there is a tomato
cut up in there too, or perhaps a piece of carrot.
3. Soda- I have learned to be careful how I respond to the question,
“Do you like [insert whatever food item]?” because if you say no, you
will never see that food again, but if you say yes, then you will be
fed that food at probably every meal. I made this mistake at my first
meal with the family when I said that I do like soda because now I am
fed soda at every meal and snack, even breakfast. They get confused
when I say I don’t want any right now, but I do like it in general. I
know a day is boding well when I am served tea or instant coffee at
breakfast and not orange Fanta.
4. Xima (Shima)- a mashed potato look-alike that is actually just a
rather gross glue like substance with the consistency of a thick
paste. It is apparently chock full of nutrients but the texture throws
me off. But they serve it as a substitute for rice sometimes so it has
officially entered my diet.
5. Covi- cassava leaves in coconut milk over rice or xima- delicious
6. Matapa- ground cassava leaves over rice or xima- delicious
7. Cake, biscuits, bread, etc- tons of bread products all day, at all
hours, all the time. I never thought I would say too much starch!
8. Spaghetti- yes, we eat spaghetti a lot. But it is plain spaghetti,
no sauce, and served over rice, or fried potatoes. Did I mention that
Mozambicans like starch in their diet?
9. Fish- today, I learned how to debone and fry a whole fish. It was
pretty hard-core if I must say so myself. Cut off the fins, took out
the backbones, excavated all the innards, and chopped off the head
(because when asked if I liked to eat fish heads, I outwardly
politely, but inwardly fearfully, said no). As if to top the scene of
me sitting on the kitchen floor deboning a large bucket of fish, my
host father came in dangling a live chicken upside down. He asked if I
wanted to learn how to kill a chicken and then de-feather it to get it
ready to be “grilled.” I said I would watch him do it, and so it was.
No more Chicken Little. But it was definitely the freshest chicken I
have ever had.
10. Peanut Butter- Best Snack Ever
11. Powdered Orange Juice Packets- I said I liked juice during my
first few days so now I am not really allowed to simply have water
with my meal, I have to mix it with juice powder.
12. Oranges, Bananas, and Apples- very fresh and very good, except I
am not allowed to my peal oranges by hand. I must use a dull knife.
Needless to say, I stick with the latter two whenever possible.
13. Home-made French Fries- love them- just wish I didn’t know how
terrible they were for me because we eat them A LOT.
14. Pancakes- that’s right, I taught them how to make pancakes. Too
bad the stove does not emit constant fire so they burned and we don’t
have measuring cups/spoons so the ratios were off even with my best
approximations (they were quite doughy to say the least) but my host
family were troopers and ate them. According to my host brothers,
however, the pancakes were deliciosos.
15. Bleach- used to sanitize vegetables before we eat them (families
are mandated by the Peace Corps to do so) but, hello bleach poisoning.

Random sidenotes:
     1. My host father and I were discussing music artists yesterday and
just FYI, according to him, Justin Bieber is “very young and talented,
and so is Snoop Doggy Dog.” Thank you Papa Felipe for that…
     2. Something I think I will have to get used to is the amount of
“sidewalk” traffic here. The population is extremely young, I believe
it is something like 70% of the population is under 25, so needless to
say, there are a lot of kids running around everywhere. But in
addition, there are also a lot of animals roaming wherever you go. A
large pig frequents front yard area all the time, along with chickens,
roosters, turkeys, dogs, cats, and goats (baby goats are absolutely
adorable!). But, I did, however, see my first monkey today. It had a
leash around its neck and was tied to a tree. Most dogs here are
strays because, apparently, monkeys are the real pets.
     3. I decided to let my hair dry down for the first time the other day
and sat down to eat breakfast. Mama Victoria asked if I had a brush in
order to comb my hair. I guess curly hair is not presentable here.
     4. Mozambicans are extraordinarily clean. This is sort of shocking to
me considering nothing except the main road through the middle of town
is paved and thus as soon as you step outside, you are covered in a
thin layer of dust. But yet, your house, your clothes, and your
overall d├ęcor are expected to be clean. Mama Victoria is constantly
sweeping the floor (and by sweeping, I mean using this broom made from
unidentifiable tree fibers bound by a piece of rope), and mopping
after sweeping (and by mopping, I mean, getting on her hands and knees
to use a worn out shirt to scrub the floor). They even sweep the dirt
in front of their house (sometimes in cool patterns…). I am expected
to do the same with my room multiple times a day. Don’t tell her but
sometimes, I say I already did it. But I think she is catching on.
     5. I learned how to wash my clothes this weekend because despite the
all-pervading dirt/dust/mud, clothes cannot be at all dirty.
Essentially, you use three different buckets of water with varying
degrees of soap, and at each station you hold one part of the chosen
item of clothing in one hand and use the other to rather harshly rub a
portion of the item on that still hand. And I swear these Mozambican
women can get any type of stain out of any type of fabric- they are
pros; it is quite impressive. But perhaps I am on my way to joining
them, because after getting rug burn on my right wrist and dropping
two pairs of pants that were all ready to be hanged onto the dirt and
having to rewash them, I have been wearing my successfully hand washed
clothes ever since. This weekend, however, I have been told I am going
to need to wash my backpack and all my shoes. The thunderstorms and
concomitant mud did not let them make the cut this time.

Those are my updates for now.  Miss you all!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My First Week in Namaacha

Well, it has been one week since I arrived in Namaacha, 45 miles outside Maputo. Today, we came back into Maputo to buy cell phones, and I got an internet phone so I will be able to email and eventually (once I figure it out), connect my phone to my computer and use the internet on my phone through my computer. Email me if you want my number so I don't have to post it! I only have like 20 minutes at an internet cafe so I will try my best to give a small, though probably scattered account of my experience thus far.

So, upon arriving in Namaacha, I met my host family. Briefly, they are a family of 5. Zilda Victoria is the mom and she is awesome: so nice, so helpful, so patient with my slowly developing Portuguese, and great at teaching me how to cook like a real Mozambican, mostly starchy food and a whole lot of it. I would say force feeding guests is a norm in Mozambique, and I will be a guest for the next ten weeks so needless to say, I am fed A LOT. Felipe is my host father, and he owns the bread shop at the market so needless to say, we eat a lot of bread in our house. They have three sons, Junior is 1 (so cute but probably the most slobbery baby I have ever met), Samito is 6 (a kid after my own heart who loves to play soccer monkey in the middle and suck his thumb) and Felix is 9 (he is the man of the house- he does so much to help out Victoria and is an awesome older brother).

Our house is actually pretty nice: typical in Mozambique, we have a TV and a huge stereo but no running water. But believe me, do they take advantage of that stereo. We, along with all Mozambican families blast the top 20 pop hits at all hours of the day. I go to sleep to the tune of Usher and wake up at 4am, 5am, and 6am to the sounds of the roosters and goats.

One thing I have noticed through my first week is how friendly everyone is. Mostly its just curiosity of who I am but everyone is always outside cooking, doing laundry or pumping water, and of course saying hello and having quick chats with all passersby. I went to a birthday party on Sunday (for my host-father's aunt) and it was pretty similar to one in the states- tons of family, food, and drink (beer from a home-made cooler keg thing that pumper beer but did not cool it at all. it was borderline hot in temperature), and really the only differences were that people don't smile in pictures (to show how they are taking the situation seriously), they feed cake to the birthday person (like an American wedding), the lady next to me was openly breast feeding her baby, boob out and all, a flock of turkeys barged through the middle of the tables. But other than that it felt like a typical backyard bbq.

We started language class on Monday as well as our teacher training. My language teacher is named Dinis and he is hilarious. He is helping me implement the Spanish I already know into the Portuguese I am learning. We have already gone to "see" Swaziland (we couldn't cross the border but we saw through it) and a waterfall. By waterfall, I mean 2 hour long trek downhill to see a big rock with water kinda dripping over it. Followed by a 2 hour long trek back uphill. But, it is "the site to see" in Namaacha so, we went.

I have learned so much this week about Portuguese, Mozambican culture, and teaching strategies, it feels like I have been here for a lifetime. I am definitely enjoying it so far, and I'm sure once my Portuguese comes up to speed, it will be even better.

Because of the language and cultural barrier there have been a plethora of ridiculous moments between me and my host family. To name a few:
1. My host family always asks if we have things in America: do you have onions in America, do you have soup in America, do you have rice, pasta, eggs, etc? And I say yes, but we cook them differently (I am teaching Victoria how to make pancakes tomorrow and she will teach me how to do my laundry...). But, when they asked me if we have covi or matapa (soupy green goop that looks like actual shit but tastes awesome that you eat over rice) they are shocked and cannot believe it. Once they asked if we have sweet potatoes and I said yes, we actually eat them for a holiday coming up in November. When asked how we make it I said it was sweet, like a dessert. All this was in Portuguese and apparently they thought I always eat sweet potatoes for dessert, and sure enough, that night after dinner, they served me like 5 sweet potatoes and said "dessert." Needless to say, I ate them. Just an example of how nice they are and how much they want me to feel at home. Too bad I hate sweet potatoes.
2. One day, my host mom told me I needed to learn how to pump water. So we trekked up to the water pump, and let me tell you, pumping water is HARD. She made me do 6 huge jugs of water and kept telling me I was going too slow. Then we carried them to the house and when we got there, when I could barely put my arms above my head, I was told I needed to take a bucket shower so we could eat lunch. We take bucket showers before every meal here so at least 2-3 times per day. It was actually the first thing I did after getting to my house (after she offered profusely to help me bathe, which I heartily declined). No running water means either scalding hot or freezing cold water to shower with.
3. I showed my family pictures of my family the other day. Apparently my sister should be a model or an actress. I will give myself a point for familial association.
4. I taught my family how to play Go Fish. HUGE LANGUAGE ACCOMPLISHMENT, or at least I thought. I was super proud of myself. They did, however keep calling me "espera," tricky or cunning, because I could remember when they asked each other for a card and then I would ask them for it and keep on winning.

I must go catch a chappa (van that is kinda like super shuttle that they just barrel and squish as many people as possible into) back to Namaacha. We can't be out after dark!

I love you all and can't wait to get my phone up and running to keep in contact!