Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fruit Has Returned

I wrote this entry about a month ago, before I came back for my visit to the US. Thanks to the feedback from my lovely grandmother and all the readers at Boca Woods Country Club, I realized that I never posted it. I will probably write a new entry after my three weeks in the land of free refills, crisp air, customer service, and broccoli have concluded. Enjoy!

The season of fruit has officially returned to Mozambique. And it is simply fantastic.
The season for litchi, which is the best fruit on earth, though extremely short-lived, only about a month long, and plagued for the first half of it with the Mozambican tendency to pick, sell, and eat produce before it is actually ripe, is the most wonderful month of the Mozambican seasonal produce calendar. Nothing can beat sitting on my front porch, sitting next to a big bag of litchi that only cost $1.20, people watching, and popping litchi after litchi after litchi to pass a Sunday afternoon. If you have never had a litchi, like me before I came to live here, try to find some litchi juice and watch your world transform. The reason we don’t get litchi in the US is that the season for them is so short and they are damn near impossible to transport before expiring, thus there can be no real American market for them. But apparently San Francisco is one of the only places in the US that could effectively grow litchi so I may have found my new profession after Peace Corps: amateur litchi grower and distributer, thereby positively affecting the lives of those consuming my product. I may seem to be over the top about litchi, but 1. They are that good and 2. Living in Mozambique, with the positive lack of new food options, can make a volunteer crazy about food.
Along with litchi, we are also entering the season for avocados, cucumber, mango, pineapple, more easily accessible bananas, and coconuts. Thus, I am back to a diet of cucumber, tomato, onion, and avocado salad sandwiches, and guacamole and pineapple or mango salsa on homemade tortilla chips. Delicious. But, because Gurué district doesn’t have that many coconuts, we also don’t have any lanha, young coconut. Essentially, what you do is find someone selling them, usually an 8 year-old boy who climbed the coconut palm or threw rocks at the lanha to knock it down, and for a measly $0.15, they cut a hole into the top of the young coconut. And then you get about 2-3 cups full of delicious, sweet, rehydrating coconut water. Then you hand the lanha back to the kid, and he breaks it in half, and, with the cap of the shell, you scoop out pieces of the coconut flesh, which at this stage in its maturity is super soft. It is the best snack ever, and I make a point to buy one whenever I see them when traveling outside my district.  
Aside from the re-inauguration of my favorite Mozambican produce, life is pretty monotonous here. I found some paint in my house the other day and gave the kids in the neighborhood paintbrushes and paper. They had a field day with it since it was the first time any of them, ages 2-7, had ever used a paintbrush and paint. Wow, things I take advantage as childhood staples are anything but that here. There is currently a drought going on in my region of Mozambique. It should be raining almost everyday, but it is currently raining once every 2 weeks. People are very concerned about the potential shortages of food and water that may result from the drought, and also worry about the impending deluge that may hit, ruining all the crops everyone is currently planting. I’m really hoping the rains start, thereby normalizing the lives of 90% of the population that exists on subsistence farming. The second cycle of national exams start next week, and then I begin my journey down the continent to Johannesburg, to catch my plane back to the land of clean, paved streets, peppers that come in a variety of colors, and onions the size of my hand.
I was thinking the other day about what will be different in America besides amenities and food. It weirded me out when I first got here that everyone says “Good morning, how are you” before you even begin to discuss making a purchase at the market or when you are simply passing each other on the road. But now, it is just part of my daily, even hourly, routine. And its kinda nice, as it provides a sure sense of community and neighborly-ness because it is considered rude if this conversational exchange is not undertaken. There were certain aspects of life in Mozambique that I was relatively aware of and prepared to approach before I got here: irregular electricity, no running water, different foods (that often make you sick), mosquito bites, practically resource-less teaching, different ideals, values, and roles for men, women, and children, Africa Time (nothing starting on time), etc. But clearly, I had forgotten to try to come up with the positive differences I would come across: always inquiring about the wellbeing of others, respect for your elders, forgiveness, not holding grudges, constant ingenuity in the face of obstacles, a slow pace of life (which can be frustrating, but I have been slowly trying to appreciate the value of it), general propensity to help (even if you don’t need it) and share all that you can spare, blatant trust and reliance on both neighbors and strangers, “little by little” being a core tenet of life, etc. And these parts of life here are even more felt and seen than the (more negative) ones I had initially thought would most greatly affect my day-to-day. Though I will say, with certain conviction and anticipation: genetically modified, diverse in color and type, massively large, easy to attain, and quick to prepare food, here I come.

Monday, November 21, 2011

1 Year Down

Well, I survived a year of teaching. Let Summer Break begin! I’m anxiously waiting to arrive in DC on December 15 for a three-week whirlwind trip in the US!

To sum up the end of the school year, I will say this. Mozambique has it right: smash the majority of your holidays into the last month and a half of school so that just when everyone, (teachers, students, administrators) are all antsy for ferias, holidays, to begin, you get a bunch of days off to facilitate the transition. October is the last month of school, and there are 3 big holidays:
1. Dia de Paz (Peace Day), which is celebrated by trucks ambling around full of soldiers holding AK-47s. When I asked why people were showing off their guns, my neighbors told me, “Well, its Peace Day.” Oh…Right….Duh…
2. Dia de Professores (Teacher’s Day), which is celebrated by teachers throwing massive parties and drinking a lot. There is also an unspoken holiday exactly one week before Teacher’s Day, to officially commence Semana de Professores, Teacher’s Week. So, really it’s a two-in-one holiday.
3. Dia de Samora Machel, which celebrates the anniversary of the death of Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique as an independent country. This year was the 25th anniversary and has been called “O Ano de Samora Machel, “ or the Year of Samora Machel.

After final exams, the students in 10th and 12th grades have to take the national exams to pass to 11th grade / to get a 10th grade diploma or to graduate second cycle, respectively. It is essentially 2 weeks of proctoring, grading, and corruption-prevention (i.e. coding tests before they are graded so teachers can’t read a student’s name at the top and give a biased grade and putting red lines through every empty space on the test answer book so that no one can go back and add anything later, thereby changing what the student wrote and improve their grade). With hundreds of students each taking 5-10 tests, it’s a lot of paperwork, the only solace of which is that Dia de Cidade de Maputo, Maputo City Day, is during this time every year, and because no one is working in the capital, apparently, we are exempt from work as well. But then, we get to do the whole national exam rigmarole again at the beginning of December because the exams are so difficult, the majority of students don’t pass, and they can take an easier version of the test at this time.

My secondary projects and student groups are over for the year. My English theatre troop, 10 students who together wrote a 15-minute play in English about how drinking negatively affects your prospects for the future, came in 4th place at the provincial competition (out of 6…sad). But they were really great to work with and I am extremely proud of their English accomplishments as well as the awesome discussions we had about making good choices for a brighter future.

We had the good-bye party for my roommate last week, and me and the women of the neighborhood cooked for 12 hours to make the spread that fed 60 people. Gotta love Mozambican women, a group of whom came to my porch at 6:30am asking to peel potatoes. At one point, I think all the kids of the neighborhood ages 2-10 were standing around peeling the garlic. The food was delicious, the dancing hilarious, and a good time was had to despedir, say goodbye, to a great Peace Corps Volunteer, teacher, and friend. And now, on to a year of being the only mukunha (local language for white person) in the area…oh boy.

But other than that, life is pretty routine around here. I have, however, begun to see massive groups of goats and cows grazing on my runs in the bush. I turn a corner, and BAM, 30 cows or 30 goats are coming at me head on. Scary shit the first time around, but now, me and the 8 year-old boys who are herding the animals are buds.

Also, below, I have added the poems my girls group wrote together. They are corny as hell, but have some really positive and great sentiments that I hope they continue to strive towards, and they were really excited that their poems were going on the esoteric idea of the internet that I explained to the few who didn’t know. The un-bolded parts are my English translations.

Os Poemas de REDES

Rapariga Vencerá
Young Women Will Conquer

Tenho certeza que juntas venceremos a violência doméstica
I am certain that together we will conquer domestic violence
Tenho certeza que lutaremos contra o abuso sexual
I am certain that we will fight against sexual abuse
Tenho certeza que todas podemos acabar com a discriminação
I am certain that all of us can end discrimination
Tenho certeza que venceremos a gravidez indesejada.
I am certain that we will conquer unwanted pregnancies.

A Rapariga é capaz de lutar pelos seus direitos
A young woman is capable of fighting for her rights
A Rapariga é o futuro do caminho da liberdade
A young woman is the future of the road to freedom
A Rapariga é chave da oportunidade
A young woman is the key to opportunity
A Rapariga é linda de naturaliza
A young woman is naturally beautiful
A Rapariga preservará o amanha
A young woman will preserve tomorrow
Uma Rapariga saudável sempre têm força de trabalhar.
A young, healthy woman always has the strength to work.

Criança Livre
Free Child

Tu Criança és o que todos esperam
You, child, are what we all are waiting for
Tu Criança tens a oportunidade de dizer não a todos os males
You, child, have the opportunity to say no to anything that is bad
Tu Criança tens direitos de viver numa sociedade livre de todo mal
You, child, have the right to live in a society free of all bad things
Tu Criança és o tesouro duma nação
You, child, are the treasure of a nation
Tu Criança: a educação é a chave da tua felicidade
You, child: education is the key to your happiness
Tu Criança: se hoje choras, amanha sorrirás.
You, child: if today you are crying, tomorrow you will smile.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Picture Is Worth More Than 1,000 Words

The internet gods are on my side today and decided to load photos quickly. So here are some long overdue pictures!

My "students" (aka neighborhood kids) learning to write the alphabet on my porch.

Showing off their muscles. 

Doing the limbo at our girls group event at the orphan center. 

One of my girls group members showing a girl how to sew her purse. 

Showing off the work they did. Nice purses! 

Another of my girls group members leading the kids in a game. And lookin' quite fashionable in their purses if I may say so myself.

The whole group at the event! 

The bairro (neighborhood). 

We went to an abandoned tea factory the other day. Here, we see nature completely destroying and taking over the building. 

Back in the big city of Gurué: the bus that takes a 4 or 5 day trip from the north of Mozambique all the way to Maputo, the capital, way down south. I hope I never have to board it. 

The beautiful view of the sunset over the mountains from my house.

Monday, October 3, 2011

After randomly meeting some government officials that were visiting my old school, I was invited by the Ministry of Education to lead a training in the capital, Maputo, on a computer program that creates computerized school schedules. This will hopefully allow schools to start more on time at the beginning of the school year since they will not have to make the schedules by hand, eliminating many conflicts and expediting the process. Also, teachers will be able to have better, more convenient, less hectic schedules, hopefully encouraging a higher rate of teacher attendance. Overall, it was a 2-day workshop that I think will greatly help the schools and districts that had representatives present. Oh, and at one of the catered lunches, there was BROCCOLI (one of my favorite foods and one I have not had in over a year…)

I am currently attempting to teach some of the neighborhood kids, who should probably technically be in school but aren’t, to write their letters and am generally just allowing them to express themselves through art and drawing. But I am using cards that have pictures of words in English that begin with each letter. For example, “c” is for “cake,” but in Portuguese the word for cake does not start with a “c.” Inevitably, the kids were a little confused until I made my own, artist-impaired pictures and taped them on the cards. Also, the kids keep writing all the letters upside down or backwards, so if anyone has suggestions, I am all ears!

Yesterday, my two girls groups (about 15 girls in total) went to an orphan center as a community service project. It was a great day of theater pieces on childrens rights and not sleeping with teachers, teaching the kids to sew purses, games, and a panel with different women from the community who have different professions to answer questions the girls have if they want to have that profession in the future. My girls served as great role-models for the young girls and I think everyone had a great time. The only problem we encountered was when we were gearing up to get in the truck and head to the orphan center in the morning. Our battery was dead and wasn’t accepting a jump. So they jerry-rigged the car to start it and off we went. Without any actual battery inside the car that is. We did make it there without a problem, though, but then when we wanted to leave at the end of the day, we obviously couldn’t start the car because it was missing it’s battery. So someone jerry-rigged it again, and off we went. We had a great time in the bed of the truck toasting with the extra sodas, singing, etc. Until 1km from Invinha, when the truck died. So we schlepped all the pots, buckets, soda bottles, and other materials the 1km home. To most aptly capture the sentiment of the moment, I must quote my old roommate, Camille, “Nothing ever goes well in Mozambique, things just go better than expected…” By any American standards, the day did not go well, but it still exceeded the low expectations I have learned to apply to events here.

Amazingly, against all odds, the impossible happened last week:
I. Found. Strawberries. In. Gurué.
They were outrageously expensive for such a small quantity, but totally worth it. And the ensuing strawberry jam that I made serves a perfect compliment for our homemade peanut butter.

I also celebrated Rosh HaShana with a small sample of expensive apples, honey from the side of the road in Sofala province, and homemade challah. Yum.

I saw a semi-truck throw “use a condom” pamphlets out of their windows at gatherings of passersby on the road the other day and people absolutely flocked to see what “prize” they might be able to claim off the truck. It was one of the most effective and quick condoms campaigns I have seen here and I was very pleased to witness it.

The dry and windy season is in full swing here, though we are hopefully nearing the end. Because it is as dry and windy as hell. Literally. Red dust is everywhere, in ever crack and crevice of our house (even 2 minutes after we sweep), our clothes, and our food. And with the end of the dry season comes the burning season. People are burning their fields to plant again as the rainy season starts, which is not only horrendous for their soil (which is another story completely) but also adds a layer of smoke to the dust-filled air, creating a special mix of allergens just for me.

But as far as seasons go, we are nearing the end of cabbage and lettuce season. And, we are entering bean season. You can buy beans all year round but now is the time when they are the freshest because they are currently being harvested. So everywhere you turn, you can see people slashing big piles of bean-stalks with big sticks to more efficiently release the beans from their stalked captivity.

To celebrate my one-year anniversary of being in Mozambique, I have been trying to come to grips with how much I have adjusted to certain aspects of life. The bane of my existence during training was having to wash my shoes every week. But now I can see how much more legitimate of a person I become when my shoes are not covered in red dust (mostly because I outsource this particular task to my cleaning, water-fetching kid). Who knows what the next year will bring.
And last, I got a ride home in an ambulance the other day. Only in Mozambique.

Side-note: I just tried unsuccessfully to load photos for an hour and a half. Will do so when I get better internet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Year (Almost)

As of today, I have been in Mozambique about 1 week less than one year. Weird.

But it has been a (mostly) positive experience, so I thought I would highlight the top 25 things that have made it so and that generally get me through the weeks.

Essentially, this is a compilation of all the things that scream “Moz” for me and that, after a year, I think it would be hard to live without.

1. Sampling one fried dough ball from each of the lady vendors that are in a row
2. The security given by mosquito nets (nothing can touch you! Whether or not this is true, it’s how I feel)
3. Sitting and people watching as a principal form of recreation
4. Recycling beer and soda bottles (you must bring an empty one to take away a full one)
5. The joy and cheers throughout the neighborhood brought on by the return of electricity after a power outage
6. The powerful, no matter how fleeting, hope that the sound of a fast moving car in the distance brings when waiting to essentially hitchhike
7. Buying 5 mangoes for a penny
8. Buying 5 avocados for a dime
9. The deafening yet awe-inspiring sound of rain on a tin roof
10. “We will never forget this, Teacher” and other funny and endearing things my students say
11. Manica Beer (Mozambique’s King of Beers)
12. All-Gold Ketchup (as close to Heinz as we can get here, and a savior of Mozambique’s notoriously soggy fried potatoes)
13. Magnificent sunrises and sunsets over the mountains
14. Southern hemisphere star constellations
15. Breathtaking scenery at every turn
16. Trucks that seem to be defying physics with such heavy loads of cargo and people, old motors, and drastically steep inclines
17. Being able to say anything I want in English and be relatively certain no one around me understands
18. Being greeted “Good morning, Teacher” at 5pm
19. Bejias (essentially Mozambican falafel)
20. Matapa (delicious mush of greens served over rice or xima)
21. The ingenuity of the toys the kids make for themselves out of trash
22. The exact maneuvering required to move two 20 liter water containers in order to not spill it all on the floor (and after a few hours in the water line, this is a most heart-wrenching experience, I know firsthand)
23. Attempting to take pride in the fact that I am always giving people around me a good laugh at the crazy things I always do
24. The Mozambican sky (I wish I were an artist so that I could, however vainly, attempt to capture it. But alas, I am not. And my camera is wholly incapable of seizing an apt frame)
25. The pre-K I am essentially running from my porch, as all the neighborhood kids come and draw me pictures everyday

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pouco a Pouco Vai Longe

That was our self-proclaimed mantra this past weekend. “Pouco a pouco vai longe,” literally translates as “little by little goes far,” or to us Americans, figuratively, “slow and steady wins the race.”

We climbed Mt. Namuli last weekend, Mozambique’s second highest mountain, at about 2490 meters tall, which happens to be right in our district. But, seeing as it is only an insignificant 15 meters shorter than the highest peak, and the other peak, though technically sitting inside Mozambique, can only be climbed by starting across the Zimbabwe border and Peace Corps has forbidden us PCVs from going into Zimbabwe during our service, I am going to go out on a limb and say I climbed the most accessible, tallest peak in the country. And it was hard. Damn difficult. So pouco a pouco we went.

It takes a day of walking to reach the base of the mountain, way out in the bush, past a diminishing number of brick/mud houses with straw roofs, children yelling at the white people, and family machambas (fields of crops like tomatoes and greens) as you get farther and farther from the city. But the views are absolutely stunning, reaffirming that I will bet anyone that I live in Mozambique’s most beautiful district. 8 hours into literally the middle of nowhere is where the queen of the mountain lives. Apparently, being the queen of the mountain is an inherited position. Once you arrive, you have to greet the queen, and bring her an offering, and then she will cook you dinner, let you stay on an esteira (reed mat) at her “compound,” and perform a ceremony to ask the spirits to allow you safe passage up the mountain. So an offering we brought. It included 2 kilograms of corn flour, a half liter of oil, a big ‘ole bag of gross dried fish, and a bottle of whiskey. Oh. And also 500 meticais a person. Apparently, though we brought exactly what our guide told us to bring, she was a slightly unhappy. Royalty… She then uses the goods in the ceremony and for your meals. So for two days I ate xima (Mozambican corn mush) and stayed away from the dried fish.

We spent the afternoon making faces and playing with the hoards of kids around, and inevitably, ogling the majestic mountain in front of us, that stared us in the face, as if to say, “Yes, I am freakin’ tall, and you signed up to climb me…idiots.”  The queen, who is also the chefe de localidade (mayor-ish person of this particular area of Mozambican bush), is relatively nice and friendly, and has about 10 houses in her little compound. They are all brick/mud with straw roofs. And there are tons of women of all ages, and children ambling around. But in the two days I was there, I saw no men. Our philosophy is that the young men are sent to the city to stay in the dorms to go to the nearest secondary school (an 8 hour stroll away), and the older men either don’t come back except to make more and more babies, or were working the fields all day. But we really didn’t quite get it and weren’t really sure what the gender politics were.

The next day, the queen performed a rather uneventful and unimpressive ceremony with some corn meal and whiskey to grant us permission to go up the mountain (I think my expectations were way too high), after which, she introduced us to the man that was to guide us up the mountain. And then off we went. And I almost did not make it. Obviously, there are no trails or switchbacks. You are literally climbing a rock face, at many times using your hands to pull yourself up using jutting rocks or a short reedy plant as leverage. And then on the way down, we often crab walked and slid on our butts it was so steep. The perils of the process definitely crossed my mind more than once. But as slow-going as it was, we made it. Oh, and the queen’s guide basically ran up the mountain in flip-flops. Thanks for the shot of confidence, man.

And the third day, we walked the eight hours home, this time past an increasingly denser population as we returned to the city. Though densely populated is probably misleading. At one point, about 5 hours from the city, we talked to a few kids who had screamed and ran to us from their machamba. We asked if they went to school, and they promptly told us that there isn’t one there for them to go to. There was a primary school near where the queen lives, but that is over 3 hours away, a bit of a daily commute for a 7 year old, who also has machamba, water-fetching, and of course, your general playing duties everyday. And there was also a primary school about 2 hours from the city, again about 3 hours away. We had, just by chance, come upon some kids who truly exemplified the main problem and massive conundrum of the Mozambican bush. These particular kids live 3 hours from the nearest primary school (which are free and ostensibly accessible for all children), smack in the middle of the two nearest ones, and so they can’t conceivably go. I kept on walking after that with an added twinge in my heart.

But, I was able to cross something off my Mozambique bucket list. As I will be the sole Gurué district volunteer next year, I had to represent and conquer the mountain. And seeing as the mountain is visible on clear days when I walk to my new school in the morning, it was just going to stare me in the face everyday, asking to be climbed. So climb we did.
 And the walking begins...

 Mt. Namuli in all it's majesty

 Our feast (eggs, fish, and xima)

Our accomodations 

Finally at the top! With our guides Avelino and Celestinho 

And Happy Lusaka Accords Day everyone! Yes, this week in Mozambique, we are celebrating the day when the Portuguese colonists and FRELIMO, the main Mozambican political party, signed an agreement that the governing of Mozambican would be turned over to Mozambicans after a transition period. Oh, and the inexorable war for independence that ensued soon after.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Ramblings

I am the only female teacher that teaches in the morning, 10th, 11th, 12th grades. There are only 3 female teachers that teach afternoons, 8th and 9th grades, and two of whom will be leaving after the school year ends. This inevitably makes for some interesting dynamics at meetings. Most of the other teachers are un-creepy, so I really have no problem with it. But, it just gets me thinking how male-dominated the work force is. There is not really sexism here that says, “a woman isn’t capable of (insert whatever skill, profession, etc)” but there is a sexism that mandates women to be the primary, and really the sole, caretakers of the home, cleaning and cooking, and the kids. And because of the significantly long time it takes to complete any household chore by nature of no running water, pre-prepared foods or other niceties, this is a full-time unpaid job for most women. Those who do have a job (out of necessity or just education), usually have a younger sibling, niece, nephew, or other relative living with them to do most of these jobs around the house, since the wife/mother has less time to complete the tasks. It is very common for teachers to take in a family-member or two, pay for school and provide food and shelter in exchange for housework. Hence, the average Mozambican household has like 8 people or more in it. If you have any semblance of means, you are expected to spread the wealth to family, friends, and neighbors. In this sense, the great lengths and care families go to for each other is inspiring. But in the sense that you are supposed to turn up the volume of your music and TV so loud that everyone within a mile radius can hear it, because, naturally, that’s what it means to share, makes your neighbor (me!) not so thrilled. You win some…you lose some.

The other day, a boy wearing a shirt with my school’s emblem on it entered my house without asking. He sat on my couch and scared the shit out of me when I walked into the living room a few minutes later. He started talking about how he just wanted to talk to me, how he needed some help for a sick sister, how he wanted to namorar (hook up) with someone, and then he was just rambling. Aside from how him being in my house uninvited, the mention of namorar made me, as a teacher and him an ostensible student, rather uncomfortable and annoyed. I didn’t know this kid, but I told him if he needed money, I wouldn’t just give it to him. He could do some work for us, like getting water, and we could help him out. Then he incoherently rambled some more. Sometimes, I think I don’t understand people because they mumble their Portuguese, but this was different and I really had no idea what was going on. Finally, we apparently came to some sort of understanding because he left saying he was going to find his sister. My neighbor then came up to me, apparently eavesdropping the whole time (but not helping…), and said that the boy is mentally ill. I thanked my neighbor for explaining this, but it got me thinking. I know that the mental hospital (I believe there is one in all of the northern half of the country) is currently full and that there is nowhere else or nothing else that addresses the needs of the mentally ill.

There is a guy in Nampula city that thinks all white women are his girlfriend, so he sneaks up and kisses you and before you can even register what happened, he is off. Peace Corps knows about this guy because so many of us have been attacked by the kissing man (myself included), and tried to get him a space in the mental hospital, but alas, there is no room, and thus nothing, or so we are told, that we can do.

It really gets to me, the lack of medical care. You hear stories about seriously ill two-year olds that die, and it is almost a relief to the family, because the baby was a burden on the already burdened family. And I can’t blame them. There is no support for the mentally ill, the disabled, the gravely ill (or sometimes even just the moderately ill), etc, especially if you don’t have money, and many times even if you do have some. You can see a doctor for free but any services will cost you. If an HIV positive person wants it, all kinds of HIV/AIDS support in many capacities can be made available (though if they consistently stick with it is a whole other battle). But any other disease is simply just dealt with as best as possible, which often, with no one to blame, is not “best” at all. And beyond just happening to have an extra pair of glasses in my house to give to a kid with bad eyesight in my class, there is nothing I can do. Yes, I can be nice to the mentally ill kid who doesn’t understand the many social norms, since I’m sure many people are not, as mental illness is not always understood here. And yes, I can employ the kid across the street who has turrets (undiagnosed of course, as I am clearly no doctor and he has never been to one about it) to sweep my yard and clean my floors because I know many people wouldn’t want to employ him. But beyond that, I am helpless. Seeing warmhearted, loving, fun people with no running water, no electricity, a one-room mud house with sticks and leaves as a roof, makes me think and makes me upset a lot of the time. Having students sit on the floor with no desks and a cracked chalkboard, using notebook paper to erase chalk, breaks my heart. Many aspects of life in Mozambique make me think and wonder and downright angry much of the time, but this one, lack of medical care, is by far the worst. Yes, the roads here are horrendous. The state of education leaves much to be desired. The standard of living is pretty low. Water and electricity are not guarantees. Corruption in schools and the police are pretty routine occurrences. But the vast extent of the spirit and ingenuity of most people here should indicate that great things are just on the verge and will indeed manifest. Except all this propensity for goodness and greatness is stunted when even basic medical needs are not consistently being met.

Mozambique is hosting the 10th All-Africa Games (African Olympics) starting next week, and it has been big news about all the money foreign governments and other bodies have given to the games. And though I think hosting the games will be great for Mozambique, as far as tourism, potential revenue, and publicity, I believe the $250,000 donated by the government of Mauritius alone might have better uses. No, throwing money at a problem here will not fix it. And I’m not really sure what will. But, money, in the right hands, and in the right programs, probably can’t hurt. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

And the Point Goes to...

As the original theme of this blog was Annie versus Mozambique and I have kinda trailed off on this effort, I thought I would bring it back in the epic (yet, not so epic) battle of Gurué, my old site, versus Invinha, my new site.

Distance Traveled by the Average Student to Attend Classes Everyday: Point Invinha
-Yes, at my new school, kids come from all over the bush, super far away, by foot, many by bike, and a select, rich few, by motorcycle. For my first day of survey, a few students wrote they live in neighborhoods up to 20km away. Now that is some dedication to the normally sub-par education most students receive here in Mozambique if I have ever heard of some.

Quality of Teachers: Point Invinha
As opposed to my old school, we have to wear our batas, (the teacher lab coat uniform, I even got yelled at for not buttoning mine on a abnormally hot day) and teachers show up on average 50% more than they did at my old school. This means, that I am not the only teacher teaching during the last two class periods of the day and my students don’t resent me for my consistent attendance, Yipee! We have teacher meetings I am actually informed of and teachers can even be found lesson-planning in the teacher’s lounge (crazy I know). 90% of the teachers are young, this being their only first to fifth years teaching, and they are enthusiastic. It really is rather refreshing.

Quality of School Grounds: Point Invinha
-I am provided with chalk! And garbage cans! And every student sits at a desk and not on the floor! (granted, they share the desk another student, but at least there are enough desks to do so in each class). But no, they do not have books, so, per Mozmabican usual, the whole of the learning that goes on is from chalkboard to notebook.

Cute Children: Point Invinha
-All my neighbors have children under the age of 8 and they are adorable. You only have to say Tia Ana to me and I melt. They always bom dia me and come to play, I love it. Also, a student dropped off 2 one month old puppies on our porch, and we have been babysitting for a few days, so the neighborhood kids have not left their perch on the porch, playing with and holding the puppies. Cuteness abounds. The kids also love to play with our turtle, aptly named Cargado (turtle in Portuguese) who lives in our compost pile. (sometimes I even surprise myself by the true things I am able to say about my life here).

Availability of Food: Point Gurué
-You really can’t buy much in Invinha, so I try to get a ride to the city a few times a week to buy things, print, etc. Its mostly just a time-consuming hassle, but by no means impossible.

People I Know and Like: Point Gurué
-I still keep up with my student groups in Gurué twice a week and offer tutoring once a week since they all complained to me that their new teacher does not explain very well. They are always happy to see me in the city, I think only because they liked me as a teacher but not that I made them do work and try. What a concept.
So with a score of 4-2, Invinha wins. It is a great town and a great school, and really the only thing holding me back are my old students. But I’m sure the new ones will be just as awesome as time goes on, once they get to know my teaching style and get used to the crazy white lady in front of them.

In other notes, it is the dry season here and hasn’t rained in months. Thus, it is also building season. Everywhere in the bush people are putting mud-ish goop in molds to make bricks and adding on to houses or building one from scratch. The poorer people use more mud to hold the bricks together, and the richer people use cement and even build brick ovens to heat the bricks and “make them strong,” or so I’m told. If you are super rich, you put a layer of cement on the outside of the bricks, case in point, my house.

I went to Mass at the beautiful church on the hill on Invinha the other day and had dinner with the nuns that run my school. Bishop O’Dowd High has trained me well. Luckily, I chose a day that was doing Mass in Portuguese and not in Elomwe, the local language, so I could pretend I wanted to follow along.

I also finally got a bed in my new house. It is made of bamboo and relatively comfortable. But as luck and Mozambique would have it, the guy I contracted to make it, misread his measurements, and made it exactly one foot too narrow and one foot too short for my mattress. So it's an interesting squeeze.

And as no blog post is ever truly complete without a funny English class moment, here is mine of the week. Since we have been reviewing parts of speech (because they are in 11th grade and don’t know the difference between a noun and a verb) I wrote a MadLib on a big sheet of paper and we filled in the missing words as practice. I asked for a plural noun and a student said “child.” When asked to make that plural, he correctly responded “children.” Good job, student! But, when I placed this word upon the paper, I realized, we had just created the sentence, “My hobby is collecting children.” Oops. Especially because there is a legend in the neighborhood that this certain creepy Portuguese man who lives in the city steals children. My bad.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mark and Debbi Take on Mozambique


We have been home for a week now and we are still processing all the sights and experiences we encountered on our trip to Africa. First let me say that it was an amazing trip and how wonderful it was to see Annie for the first time in 10 months. She guided us through her new homeland with ease. From amazing meals (chocolate pancakes to homemade tortillas to musafaca (a traditional zambezian dish of lentils, rice, coconut milk and spices) to her mastery of Portuguese, each day in Mozambique offered insights into Annie’s daily life. We shopped in the local market, drank local beer, collected water each night, visited her classes and even took bucket baths! The countryside was full of many different landscapes and housing options.

We then spent 3 days at a private game reserve bordering Kruger Park in South Africa. We observed the " big 5" as well as numerous other creatures and birds. The baby elephants and observing leopards mating were just 2 of the drive highlights, fabulous meals rounded out our stay at Idube Lodge. Have you ever eaten ostrich?

On to Cape Town,  a very beautiful city. The picturesque waterfront and surrounding areas reminded us alot of San Francisco. The 2 ½ hour drive to the Cape of Good Hope was beautiful with baboon and ostrich sightings as well as stop by a penguin habitat. Baby penguins are a close second to baby elephants on the cuteness scale. There are amazing gardens at Kirshtenboch in the center of a residential area of Cape Town.

Words really can’t describe our 3 weeks in Africa..It was a trip of many eye opening contrasts…..we have many photos and anecdotes to share….
Now off to Florida to celebrate Arthur’s 90th birthday!


Debbi does an excellent job of briefly describing our three weeks in Africa. The travel and experiences were an eye-opening look at poverty and prosperity and included many things that I will never forget. Seeing Annie with her students was inspiring and a powerful reminder of how much I love her. The trek through Mozambique  (from the cities, to the mountains, to the coast) at first created a kind of culture shock but developed into respect for the people who can live and, in some cases, thrive without water coming into their house and living on $1 per day.  I am proud that the United States sends volunteers to help these people. I asked other Peace Corps Volunteers if other countries had programs like the Peace Corps and the only other country was Japan.

The traveling to and from Africa with 18 hour plane rides and even longer travel periods were exhausting and difficult.  The bodily system changes with added medication for malaria and concerns about the drinking water created some uncomfortable times but both Debbi and I faired rather well.

The pleasures of the luxurious safari including lodging and meals were great. The 12 hours of driving in the bush and, of course, the animals made that experience very special. It was amazing that our jeep could pull up in front of wild animals and it would not faze them. If they were sleeping they might open their eyes and look out, but then would just go back to sleep. The leopards mating just continued their activities as jeeps from the lodges pulled up (not more than two jeeps at a location at a time) and pulled away. The rangers have radios and tell each other where the animals are located. However, we were just lucky to see a zebra and giraffe. 

Cape Town was, again, a slight reverse culture shock because it is a cosmopolitan city with lots of tourists and restaurants. The coast line was beautiful and baboons were plentiful and acting out for the tourists. There are signs all along the highway saying “Baboons are wild animals, do not feed” but they seemed to get along by stealing food from motorists who stop to take pictures of them. The government has hired Baboon Tenders to chase the baboons from the road and make sure tourists don’t harm the baboons or visa versa.

I look forward to sharing more of our adventures with you.

I need to thank:
·      Debbi for helping me through the travels. I could not have made it without her.
      Annie for going into the Peace Corp and giving me an opportunity to visit somewhere I never would have gone. I will never forget these experiences and you made it possible.
      Emily and Mike for sending us off from D.C. and welcoming us home after traveling for 25 days. I felt like I was home when I reached your home and it was a good thing because I literally passed out the first night back.

     Enjoy and keep smiling. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Goodbye City Life. Hello Mato.

I have officially said goodbye to city life. I now live in the mato (aka, the bush).

About three weeks ago, our house was broken into. Nothing was stolen and no one was hurt, but the resulting attempted break-ins with the stolen keys along with other incidents that have happened to previous volunteers in my town made Peace Corps feel that moving us out of the city was necessary. I now live 15km outside my old town of Gurué in the small, small, small, (emphasis noted?) town of Invinha.

I moved in with one of my best friends, Allison, who is finishing her Peace Corps contract at the end of the school year (December). I will be either commuting back to the city to continue my old classes and/or taking over some classes of the overworked teachers at Allison’s school for the next four months. Then, next year, I will replace Allison as the Invinha volunteer.

Though I am not happy to be leaving what was my home for 8 months, to be leaving my students who I have come to really enjoy teaching, to be adjusting to a new site, new neighbors, new coworkers, everything, Invinha was my first choice if a move was necessary. Being here, I can still commute to the city (and by commute, I mean, essentially hitchhike) to work with my girls group and English theatre troop, and keep in contact easily with people in Gurué, all of which are extremely important to me.

Invinha is a small town that pretty much exists because of the secondary school. About 25 of the 35 teachers live in a teacher’s neighborhood, and the only food that can be bought in the “market” is onions, tomatoes (maybe), coconuts, (maybe), sugar, oil, and other extreme basics. So I have to go into the city to buy the “luxury” items, like rice and wheat flour, that I will inevitably want. My house is pretty much the same, concrete with a tin roof, no running water, and a water-dump-flush toilet. The pump I get water from is about 2 houses away, which is awesome, but I will have to learn a whole new set of water-pump politics (whose turn it is, when I can go, etc etc), which shall be interesting. There is no cell service, so we have a landline phone, circa 1992. It is pretty legit. So I will be slower answering emails and not very able to respond to texts unless I happen to be in town. My house is also on a dirt road that goes between Gurué and the next big town, which means, lots of dust gets EVERYWHERE whenever a car or motorcycle drives by. The people-watching, therefore, is more than excellent from the porch. Also on the positive, I brought my big refrigerator (YAY!), and Allison has a dog. So I am now the proud owner of 2 trash-eating, dust-covered, chicken-chasing, absolutely lovely, loving dogs.

And the best part of the Invinha Secondary School: it is a Catholic school run by nuns. Yes, thank you very much Bishop O’Dowd High, my Catholic education is certainly coming in handy…in Mozambique. But I do like me some Mozambican church music, and, because it is a Catholic school, the classes are much smaller, the community is much tighter, and the demographic makeup of the students is either RICH or literally taken from the bush (making for some interesting interactions). But the school and town are much smaller and more supportive than my previous big city livin’, so it will be good. Or so I hope.

I think I always wanted to live in a small town in Mozambique, and Invinha is pretty darn great. No, I would rather not move, but if I had to, Invinha would be it. Though the fact that I LITERALLY live in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but the sporadically-placed mud house and subsistence farmers between me and the possibility of purchasing bananas and eggs is pretty daunting. It shall be interesting.

We have begun making our own peanut butter from the roasted peanuts in town. Skippy and Jif here I come.

The only truly legit grocery store in the entirety of the north of Mozambique, ShopRite (a South African chain) burnt down a few weeks ago because, apparently, they weren’t paying the workers sufficiently. So the workers burnt it down. Now where I am supposed to get my spices, oats, and shampoo? Granted, it was 8 hours away on a good day, but still…it is pretty sad.

And finally, I helped with a WONDERFUL girl’s empowerment conference last week connected to my girls group. We talked about many things from HIV/AIDS stuff to public speaking to nutrition to women’s rights, and study skills. For all you camp people, imagine Camp Kesem or UniCamp but with more of an emphasis on condoms, periods, and why not to sleep with teachers. Seriously though, it was amazing.

 Me and my girls at the conference.

 New brothers. 

 My new home.

The Gurue crew at the Provincial Science Fair.

 Third-place winner! My student! (sweet Obama shirt- CHECK!)

Mom and Dad in Cape Town


Friday, July 29, 2011

Can You Say Science Fair?

So apparently, given practically no help on account of my lack of knowledge of scientific terms in Portuguese, my students can still churn out amazing science experiments fit for a science fair. The best included: making ethanol in a banana tree root, making sunflower seed oil, making a lever that moves with electricity, making a homemade alarm system, and using local plants as a “remedy” for stomach pains. It was a great day, with 26 participants from two schools, my girls group doing activities about the biology of and preventing HIV, and 71 people getting tested for HIV. A lot of students came to observe and hopefully something was learned and some nerdy, science fun was had.

5 of my students, the winners, went to the provincial science fair at our provincial capital, Quelimane last weekend. And one of my students, who is also in my class, came in third place! It was a great weekend, giving the kids a chance to travel, meet up with other high schoolers, and compete in an intellectual competition, which is a rare occasion here. I am super proud of all the participants!

After a half dozen different internet connections and a half dozen photo-upload failures (leading to my delayed posting), I have decided that photos of the science fair are apparently not going to make it online at this time. Maybe soon!

Also, my parents have indeed arrived here in Mozambique. They will be updating my blog with a post of their own soon with their experiences, observations, and photos!

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Beginnings for the Start of Winter

We learned in training about what our options and resources are for
our students with disabilities, learning or otherwise. The answer?
There are none.

If a volunteer had the knowledge, training, and resources to diagnose
something, I guess, then more power to him or her to help these
students. But I, like the vast majority of other volunteers do not
have that ability. By the time students reach the 11th grade, which is
the grade I teach, if they have a learning disability they have most
likely dropped out because there is no support. Basically, it sucks. I
have no way of knowing if one of my students has a learning disability
but even if I did, I honestly don’t have a realistic way of helping.

Though it is not a “learning disability,” there are plenty of students
with poor eyesight and no glasses. So how are they supposed to see the
board? (The board being the only form of textbook and thus ostensible
reference or study material they have.) I have one such student. He
rarely comes to class and when he does he can’t see the board even
from the front row and while squinting. But we know he’s a good kid.
So my roommate and I decided to take action. We talked to him about it
and he said he has trouble coming to class because when he does, he
goes home with horrible headaches from all the squinting. So we gave
him an extra pair of glasses we had at our house that we thought might
work. Obviously, they are not a perfect prescription but he has been
wearing them for the past two weeks and hasn’t missed a class. He is
working extremely hard, has no more headaches, and thus also has the
ability to actually see what is being written by the teachers,
allowing him to, and what is that word again? Oh yes, LEARN. This
could be something that potentially significantly changes or improves
his life. I’m super excited for him and to see how this affects his
academic performance, self-esteem, you name it.

On a slightly more embarrassing note, I was locked out of my house the
other day while de-fleaing and de-ticking my dog. I was sitting on the
porch with no shoes on and no keys when the front door slammed,
locking me out. Luckily, I generally keep my phone in my bra and
therefore I could call my friend who has a spare key at her house on
the other side of town. But I still had no shoes. And though it would
not be at all uncommon for someone to walk around with no shoes here,
my feet are definitely not Mozambican-ized and weathered enough to
withstand the piercingly hot and rocky terrain. So I can now add
“asking the neighbors to borrow shoes” to the list of the crazy things
the white girl does.

I find it interesting that a lot of Mozambicans find me more strange
when I do the same things they do everyday, like lets say, grate
coconut, cook on a charcoal stove, sweep my yard with a reed broom, or
even (and how dare she!?) walk to town to buy some vegetables, than
when I do something totally new and different to them, like have a dog
that lives in my house, read a book on my porch, or offer tutoring to
any student who wants it. I guess they expect me to do things that are
weird and crazy, so it amazes them when I do something they are so
accustomed to. The white teacher cooks dinner!? Who knew…?

We started teaching computers this week in addition to our other
lessons. After putting it off for a trimester and a half, we could not
do so any longer. According to our school director, we have “enough”
computers that are “working” to service the 11 classes of 60 students
each. And by “enough,” I mean, we have 11 computers. Yes. 11. For 660
11th grade students. And by “working,” I mean usually about 8 are
working on any given day out of the 25 that make-up the computer lab.
So if each class is divided into three subgroups based on ability,
then two students share each computer. But hey, two is better than
six. Computer class is mostly only a chore because the ratio of
computers to students means we have to repeat each lesson no less than
33 times throughout the year. And the lessons are super boring because
the vast majority of students have never used a computer before. So we
started with the parts of the computer, how to put your hand on a
mouse, how to click a mouse, how to double-click a mouse, and what the
basic buttons on a keyboard do. It is enthralling… The upside of it
all is that though it may be semi-painstaking for us to teach, I am a)
practicing a lot of Portuguese everyday and learning new vocab, and b)
the kids are extremely excited and attentive during lessons because
using a computer is new and cool. The faces and reactions they had
when we actually let them turn on the computers for the first time
were priceless. They more frequently show up on time and have even
been known to ask for more during the last 5 minutes of class when we
had tried to be nice and end class early. Every teacher’s dream, I

Finally, it is lettuce season. And therefore, the season for SALAD!
With actual lettuce. Not just any salad with whatever veggies I can
find and use to pretend I am eating salad, but an actual
semi-romaine-like-lettuce salad. And so now the next task is homemade
salad dressing.
And, as a last side note, I had to use a blanket last night for the
first time since training. Hello, winter in one of the coolest regions
of Mozambique!

Also, according to my student, I am “heavy calm.” Thanks?

Monday, June 6, 2011

A New Addition

Yes, we adopted a puppy. And he is awesome.

Our friend’s dog had puppies two months ago, and we promptly reserved the cutest male of the litter (we don’t want to have to deal with pregnant dogs or puppies…) and he was finally handed off to us about a week ago.

His name is Bowzer and he is currently learning how not to pee in the house and the standard dog commands. We are planning on teaching him the dog commands in Portuguese so that ostensibly the neighborhood kids can also tell him to sit and stay, meaning they will hopefully not throw rocks at him as is the fate of most Mozambican dogs. I have also recently become truly obsessed with my cement floors, since they make cleaning up after a non-house-trained dog quite easy.

In other news, the unit we are doing in class is “Made in Mozambique,” aka buying local products. In order to introduce the unit, I brought in a grab bag of items from our house and we played a guessing game about which items were made in Mozambique and which items were not while simultaneously learning new vocab. It was easy to find food items that were grown here, as most produce is, but finding packaged items not imported from South Africa proved more difficult. The three items I found in our house that were actually manufactured in Mozambique were beer, cigarettes, and condoms. Telling? I think so.

The Catholic secondary school near where I live had some big festa last weekend that I went to mostly for the free food and Mozambican church music (so pretty). I got to meet one of the two bishops that oversee my province of Zambezia. And get served pig. No, not pork. I say pig because a platter was brought to me with a roasted pig’s head on it. To not offend, I asked for a little, and was promptly given a humongous piece that was 99% pure fat. Lovely. We also went early to help set up for the “banquet” luncheon, and were put in charge of making the potato salad. Apparently, according to the nuns, I did not lather on a sufficient helping of oil or mayonnaise. Sorry I’m not sorry.

We fired our empregada, cleaning lady, because she a) does a terrible job cleaning the house and b) steals from us. So out she goes. But now we will be doing all the chores ourselves (except we will outsource clothes-washing because I am terrible at it and really have no desire to improve). The only chore I am really not looking forward to is sweeping the dirt in front of my house with a reed broom. One of the girls in my girls group asked me the other day during our meeting if I had a broom. I said yes, and she told me I needed to do a better job sweeping. Apparently you are not allowed to have leaves fall from your trees in front of your house. But maybe I will learn how to make cool patterns in the dirt like all the Mozambican women. Definitely a useful and applicable life skill.

And finally, I have an abscess on my left bicep. Did I know what an abscess was before coming to Mozambique? No, I did not. It is quite unattractive and prompts the majority of Mozambicans to make a comment. But hey, at least they have stopped commenting on my infected-mosquito-bite-ridden legs. But no, random Mozambican stranger, I do not know why I got an abscess and nor do I want to go to the local hospital to get it drained (I know, gross). I am just hoping it doesn’t get worse so I don’t have to go to the Peace Corps doctor to get it taken care of. Just add it to the list of weird skin infections that are the plight of Mozambique.

My girls group had an exchange with another girls group this weekend. True to form, 8 girls showed up at my house at 7:00am on Saturday, when we had found out at about 6:58 that the guy we had asked to drive us has malaria and thus cannot take us anymore. So, we went to the road to wait for a truck to drive by with enough space to take us to our destination. We were very lucky and got a ride after only a few minutes. As my friend always says about Mozambique, “Things do not go well. They just go better than expected.” But, we had a good day of playing games, cooking lunch (tacos and pizza with homemade cheese!), and doing some activities about gender and HIV/AIDS. Overall, it was a great day. And I will never fail to be impressed by the work ethic of Mozambican women. We said, hey, let’s wash the dishes and 4 girls jumped up and completed the task. I said, hey, we have to walk to the road and wait for a ride, and the girls took it amongst themselves to carry all the food, pots, and pans, and even a crate of sodas on their heads. 

The Crew  

 My students!

Showing off their tortilla making skills 

Cooking Time 

The new Man of the House, Bowzer

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Miss America- What Do We Miss from America?

A few weekends ago, we hosted some other volunteers for the weekend. We woke up Saturday morning to the startling surprise that someone had cut the mosquito netting on our window, reached through the bars, and stolen exactly 5 iPods and 2 sets of iPod speakers, that we had, admittedly, rather stupidly left on the table under the window. But still, there were people sleeping on the floor in this, the living room, highlighting the lidrão’s (thief’s) tremendous gall. Furthermore, this was the first time we had ever moved the table to that spot. Thus, the thief was conceivably watching our house until we went to bed so he could commit this crime. Creepy. But, we all decided if we had to have our iPods stolen, we would rather it have been done in this manner so as to avoid any confrontation that could have ended a lot worse. But also, needless to say, the rest of the weekend, and my life through now, have been quite music-less.

The theme of the weekend was Miss America, dress as something or someone you miss from America. Just to demonstrate the types of things Peace Corps Volunteers pine for, the costumes included: a traffic guard signifying pedestrian-right-of-way (though pedestrians compose the vast majority of Mozambican traffic, the bigger vehicle always has the right of way here), the food network (me!), family members, live music, microbrews, spayed and neutered pets (my friend’s dog recently gave birth to her litter of puppies my friend’s very BED), the 80s and 90s, and theatre. Other too abstract of options that I wished I could have been but didn’t quite no how to go about transforming into a costume: critical thinking and problem solving skills, being called by my name and not “Hello my sista,” punctuality, and the ability to say what I truly would like to say. Oh, and the unanimous decision was also that we missed the ostensible ability to replace stolen electronics quickly and effectively.

I have recently begun planning a science fair at my school. I have about 10 kids who are doing experiments to be judged at our local fair and the winners will go on to compete at provincial and potentially even national fairs that other Peace Corps Volunteers and Mozambican teachers are putting on. One 10th grade girl told me she wanted to make charcoal out of sugar but she needed sulfuric acid. Needless to say, I will do my darndest to get that for her, though I honestly have no idea how to help her realize her project. Because, I’m an English teacher. So here I am, using my English literature degree to help high-schoolers do science experiments. But I do honestly believe that providing the students with a forum and outlet to think critically, independently, and above all creatively is an extremely rare occurrence here and thus more than worth my time. Thank you Redwood Heights Elementary for beating the scientific method into me every year.

An update on furniture:
-Our wicker couch recently broke and despite our best efforts, we have been unable to fix it. Now, in a country without bulky waste pick-up or the dump, we are currently unsure of how to dispose of it. And thus it remains rather sadly and forlorn in our house. We are open to suggestions for disposal.
-I recently bought a new mattress in the (now failed) hopes that this would ameliorate my Mozambique-induced insomnia. Now one of my favorite Mozambican memories will always be paying a guy less than 75cents to carry it on his head for the 20minute walk to my house.

An update on seasonal produce:
-It is now tangerine season. And no, I have come to the realization that there is definitely not a maximum to the number of tangerines that one can appropriately consume in one day. Addiction #1.
-And roasted peanuts have arrived in Gurué. Addiction #2.

An update on Mozambican “white” noise:
-One of the most apparent differences to me between where I lived in training and where I live now has been that the neighborhood that surrounds my house I have been living in for the past 6 months did not have a single rooster. That is, until last week. And now I believe there are like 7. I swear, until I moved to Mozambique, I didn’t realize that roosters didn’t just crow once when the sun came up like they do in movies and children’s books. Any time of day or night is apparently prime time for rooster crowing. Who knew?