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


  1. Boa Sorte on the Portuguese Test!!!!! Your Halloween story reminds me of when I was in Brazil and me and some girls got dressed up for Halloween. My host mom literally could not look at us with out cracking up. We tried to explain the holiday, but the explanation was just lost on her. I think she just concluded that Americans are ridiculous.

  2. ANNIE. THIS IS ANNIE L. holy shit i spent all my time on the internet reading your blog. things sound absolutley amazing.
    thinking of you a lot!!
    p.s im getting tefl certificate in india and maybe will teach in africa... yeeee!!!