Sunday, January 16, 2011

The End of Isolation

That’s right. My month of being the only American in town is now officially over. My roommate (she is absolutely fantastic and also a teacher at the secondary school), the health volunteer who lives on the opposite side of town (also great), and another teacher who works at a school about 15km outside of my town (again, also great) have all returned from visiting their families in the US for Christmas. They are all from last year’s training group, meaning they have already lived in Mozambique for 1 year and thus can show me the ropes. It is glorious.

 Since we are in the southern Hemisphere, the students have been on summer break since about November-ish. Officially, the school year starts January 17, but in Mozambique, that doesn’t have any bearing on when teachers will begin teaching, students will begin showing up to class and learning, and school will in actuality commence. Students at my school are still registering, and everything is still getting figured out. However, in true Mozambican fashion, we randomly ran into a colleague in town and were told about a school meeting on January 14 at 8am. So, naturally, we show up at 8am on January 14. Of course, the meeting was 8am on January 13. Great. Now we are the assholes who missed the meeting. But again, had we not run into the other teacher, we wouldn’t have even known about the meeting, so now we just feel guilty instead of blissfully oblivious and ignorant.. Instead of going to the meeting that we were expecting to be in that morning, we used a computer program that we all get a copy of during training to create the school’s class schedule. We did this because if they had to do it by hand, it would take days (even with the program it took my roommate and I almost all day), and by being in charge of it, we could give ourselves the best schedules possible. Sweet. Currently, I am teaching English to all the 11th grade humanities students (for 11th-12th grade, they get to choose the humanities, science, or engineering tracks). So that is four turmas, during the morning school session. All Mozambican students are broken up into turmas, like classes/groups of students, in which each turma is assigned a classroom and the teachers are the ones that move around. So the kids stay with the same other kids all day. But of course, “kids” is a relative term here, as I very may well have students older than me. But 4-5 turmas is an average workload for an Education PCV so I am happy. And I would have an early day Wednesday and have Mondays off (meaning I can travel more). But, for the past few years, the two volunteers the Peace Corps has at my school (me now being one of them) have also team-taught TIC (basically, computers). At my school, only the 11th graders take TIC, but we have to teach all of the 11th grade turmas during the afternoon session. All 11th graders take all their other classes during the morning session, and TIC in the afternoon session. Yes, of course the Mozambican school system has to make the scheduling as difficult and illogical as possible, don’t worry. Additionally, we will split up the turmas into three groups each (so that there are only 1-3 students per computer, and not 4-6, and thus they can actually get some hands-on practice and learn something). Therefore, we will have to teach the same lesson 18 times each (36 total) over the course of a week. So, needless to say, teaching TIC kinda sucks. But it is a good skill for the students to learn and beneficial in the long run the more familiar the more people are with computers here. Apparently, however, over the course of the whole academic year, we pretty much only cover the parts of the computer, turning it on and off, opening and closing a program, and basic typing skills. But considering probably none of them have ever even used one before, it’s a good start. Don’t worry, apparently I am qualified to teach computers though I don’t type with my fingers on the right keys and clearly do not know the correct names for all the parts. Again, in true Mozambican fashion, we were in the computer lab making the schedules and only successfully turned on two of the computers (there are maybe 25, of which, apparently, 12-13 used to be working on any given day). Our theory is that a power surge may have fried the wires. So, unless they get new energy box things for each computer we won’t be able to teach TIC. Bummer (note sarcasm). And the schedule will most likely change at least once or twice before school even starts and a good 3-4 times more before the end of the first trimester. So who knows.

In other notes, I have now been officially initiated into the Peace Corps world of petty theft: both my roommate and my flip-flops were stolen off our porch in broad daylight. Lame.

Additionally, mango season is now definitely in full force: one of our friends (and I say “our” referring to this Indian man who owns a tea plantation nearby that was/is friends with the other volunteers here in Gurue, and thus I claim him as my friend to make myself feel better) has a mango tree and he has delivered two free shipments of about 30 mangos each to our house. So what can you do with 60 mangos? Well, we have now made an unnecessary amount of mango-ginger jam (thanks to the roommate) and an unnecessary amount of mango sorbet (thanks to me).


Oh and I would like to point out that I am currently a walking Peace Corps contradiction: My bedroom light is broken: I changed the light-bulb, but I think that there is some sort of electrical problem which I attempted to fix by unscrewing the flap around the switch until I realized I had no idea what I was looking for and thus just put it back on. So here I am sitting in the dark (it is 4:30am), typing on my computer while my empregada (maid) sweeps my yard with a broom made of reeds and mops my floors with an old shirt. To add

Another new development in my bedroom is that the roof also now decided to start leaking, meaning that every time it rains (namely every day), the foot of my bed gets soaked. This point of the room is at just the perfect place to make it so that no matter where I move my bed to avoid the leaky roof, some part of it will still inescapably be caught in the cross fire. Awesome.


Whenever I walk anywhere, I inevitably and almost constantly get pedir-ed, basically I get asked for something: “Estou a pedir pao” (loosely translated to “Can I have your bread” if they see I have bread) or “estou a pedir pasta” (can I have your purse?) or, the most frequent offender, “estou a pedir dinheiro” (can I have some money?). I mostly ignore the requests and only if I’m really annoyed do I make a snooty comment back. But by far the most quintessentially Mozambican moment I have had: I was sitting at home, minding my own business, reading my kindle, and I get a call from a number I don’t recognize. There is a lot of noise in the background when I answer it. I finally make out what the person is asking, “Estou a pedir dinheiro.” Seriously? Did I really just get a pedir phone solicitation? Yes, yes, I did.

And also, one of the lojas (shops) in town had skim milk!!!!! (most of the time, there is full-fat milk or cream, but there is always sweetened, condensed milk that can be thinned out with water if a recipe calls for milk, or another option is powdered milk). My roommate and I bought them out of this extremely rare item here in Mozambique and I bought some terribly stale cornflakes and have been enjoying cereal with bananas for every meal since. If you didn’t know, most people lament the high cost and unavailability of cheese in Mozambique; I however, lament the loss of cereal.

1 comment:

  1. YAY!!!! I'm so excited that your fellow PCVs are back in Gurue! Yay for not being the only Awkward American around!!!! Despite the chaos of the school scheduling/starting it will be nice to devote your time to something with structure (albeit very loose and unpredictable)! YAY! (Can't you tell how excited I am?)

    And I think I'm with you, I might last longer without cheese than without cereal...although I have not been put to the test.