Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Mural

Last weekend we painted a mural on a blank wall outside the Peace Corps office.  It was so exciting to watch the wall gradually become more and more colorful.  It turned out beautifully!  The project was a collaboration between a current volunteer, Colleen, her Mozambican counterpart, Sam, and a trainee from our group, Tania. Sam designed all the images by hand and Tania, came up with the overall design.  The three of them worked incredibly hard to get the mural done in just over 2 days.  The rest of us came for two hours at a time, but they were there the entire weekend.  It is thanks to them that we now have such a beautiful memento of our training class that will be there for future classes to enjoy.

Getting there...

My biggest contribution was painting the blue skirt of the woman with the hoe.

Final Product.... :) 
Absolutely Stunning! Congrats MOZ 21 your legacy will be here for future PCVs and Community!
The final product!

Presents from home

Last week a package arrived from Alaska with presents for my host family.  Thank you so much to my mom for putting together the package and sending it off! The box included T-shirts for my cousin and dad, slippers for my grandma, a photo printed out and framed for my cousin and mom, a scarf for my mom, and toy cars and ponies for Pai and Laiza.  They all loved the presents and immediately put on the T-shirts.  It was the happiest I've seen my host dad since I've been here.  He was helping my brother open the package of toy cars and then got up and started putting them on display in the china cabinet.  He said, "they look so nice here. Now you can enjoy them until you are 20 years old." My host brother looked very sad and Laiza said, but when he is 20 years old he won't want to play with them.  We all laughed and my host dad took two of the cars out so Pai could play with them.  The next day, all the cars were out of the case and Pai was playing with them all.

I only have a couple more days of living with my host family.  While I'm excited to live in my own place soon and have more independence, I'm definitely going to miss my host family.  It is a very special experience to live with a family for 10 weeks and I will never forget them.  I hope I can come back to visit them at least once before I am done with Peace Corps.
Anchorage t-shirts!

Mae Gloria and Vo-vo Gloria.  Mom and daughter in law have the same name...what are the chances?

My cousin showing off his T-shirt and photo.

Laiza, Pai, and visiting aunt.

Sunrise Hike

A few weeks ago I was crazy enough to agree to go on a sunrise hike to the three borders.  We left at 3:30 am in order to get to the top by sunrise.  We were a little late so we ended up running part of it, but we made it to the top for the sunrise.  I was completely exhausted the rest of the day, but it was definitely worth it.  I'd say it was one of the best things I've done in Mozambique so far.

Lauren, Caitlin, Nick and me

The rest of the crew: Joe, Tania, Emma, Sarah, Brian, Fei, Sam, and Justin

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Butter and Rice

Last night I put butter on my rice and my host siblings Pai and Laiza looked at me in confusion and astonishment.  "Is that good?" they asked, their eyes wide.  "Yes, it's very good," I responded.  They continued to stare.  "Mom, she put butter on her rice!" they exclaimed to Mae Gloria when she came into the room.  "Yes, they do that sometimes," she said. "Do you want to try it?" I asked.  They did.  They got up to get the butter out of the fridge and proceeded to add it to their rice.  I said, "it's just like putting butter on bread, pretty much the same thing."  So then Laiza goes to the fridge and gets out the peanut butter.  I laughed.  "No, we don't put peanut butter on rice."  She put the peanut butter back in the fridge.  As they ate their butter and rice I thought to myself, I shouldn't have laughed at Laiza.  Putting butter on rice is probably just as weird an idea to her as putting peanut butter on rice is to me.  Pai and Laiza were willing to try the craziness of butter and rice.  Next time, maybe I'll try the peanut butter and rice.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Bata

In Mozambique it is traditional for teachers to wear a "bata" while they teach.  A bata looks very much like a white lab coat (see below).  You might ask, isn't it hard to keep a white coat clean in Mozambique? The answer is yes.  When wearing a bata you must be very careful not to touch anything or you will inevitably get it dirty and have to wash it.  Also, don't get it wrinkled or you will have to iron it.  I like the bata because I think the students and other teachers respect me more when I am wearing one, but I predict trying to keep my bata clean and wrinkle-free will be a struggle for the next two years.  Such is life as teacher in Mozambique.
 Deej, Maria, and me in our batas and ready to teach.

Brian giving a math lesson about negative numbers.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Escola Modelo

This week is a big week. It is when we finally get to try out our teaching skills on real students. Since school isn't currently in session, Peace Corps organized a model school for students and community members interested in taking extra lessons in math, physics, chemistry, biology, and English.  There are three grades of classes offered: 8th, 9th, and 10th. During this model school I will teach four 45 minute lessons in Portuguese about basic organic chemistry.  For some reason, the entire 10th grade chemistry curriculum is organic chemistry. It seems a bit complex for high school because I didn't have organic chemistry until college, but we are starting with the basics and going from there.  I had my first class on Tuesday and I was definitely very nervous, but it actually went really well.  One down, three to go.  This week is a great opportunity to gain confidence in teaching and classroom management.  We also get to observe other volunteer's lessons in order to get ideas and give feedback.

Secondary school in Mozambique operates differently than high schools in the states.  Instead of the teacher staying in one room and the students changing classrooms throughout the day, the students stay in the same classroom all day and the teachers move around to their various classes throughout the day. This means that the students have all their classes with the same group of students.  These groups of students are called "turmas." The turma I am teaching for model school is a group of about 15 students ages 14-16.  It's nice to be able to start teaching with a small class size since my turmas in Zobue will be about 55-60 students.

Teaching in the Peace Corps wasn't my first choice, but I'm actually really enjoying preparing lesson plans and giving lessons.  Doing it in Portuguese is an extra challenge that makes it even more interesting. I can't wait to get to site and start teaching!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Site Placement!

Yesterday was the big day.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a combination of nerves, excitement, anticipation, and anxiety.  Not when I went to college, not when I graduated from college, not when I found out I was going to Mozambique, not even when I left for Mozambique.  When we were about the get our placement envelopes I felt like I was either going to throw up or burst into tears.  But it’s over--now we know our site placements and can begin to prepare for what is next.  And good news, I’m so happy with my placement!  I’m sure it will have its challenges, but as of now I’m just excited to get there and begin to settle in.  Too bad we still have two weeks of training.  Hopefully December 7th will be here before I know it!

I will be teaching in the town of Zobue in the province of Tete.  The town is right on the border with Malawi and in the mountains (yay!). There is great hiking just outside our backdoor.  Sounds like the perfect site for me!

I'll be teaching 8th grade math and my roommate Emma will be teaching English.  The house is four bedrooms, complete with a fridge and reliable electricity.  We'll be replacing a married couple named Dan and Lisa Spencer.  As luck would have it, they happened to be the visiting volunteers this week so we got to meet them and talk to them in person about the site. Tonight they had us over for dinner and showed us pictures of the town, school, the house, and the people.  Lisa kept a great blog throughout their service so if you want to learn more about the town and see lots of great photos check it out:

The town is right on the border with Malawi so we’ll be going there a lot for items you can't get in Zobue, like peanut butter. Apparently you can even get a PO Box there because it might be cheaper and more reliable than Mozambican mail. I’ll keep you posted on that.

Here is a map of where Zobue is:

If I am reading this map correctly, Zobue is located at about the 't' of Mt Namuli, right on the border of Malawi.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


How do you compare development between countries? Do you compare average gross income? Education level? Life expectancy? Comparing each one of these factors individually doesn’t give you the whole picture of what is going on in a country.  For example, say you have country A and country B.  Country A has an average life expectancy of 50 while country B has an average life expectancy of 65.  Based on that information, you might say that country B is more developed than country A.  But what if the mean education level of country A is 7.3 years of school while country B’s mean education level is 5.1 years of school.  By this measure, country A seems more developed than country B.  So, how do you compare the development of these countries?  How do you compare development of neighboring countries, or countries around the world?

Luckily, some smart statisticians have come up with an index that allows us to compare countries based on multiple factors.  They decided that in order to get a general idea of the development of a country we should look at the three big issues: health, income, and education.  A lot of things go into making a country healthy, educated, and economically stable.  For the population of a country to be educated it needs enough teachers to teach, buildings to hold school in, roads for kids to get to school, books and supplies so kids can learn, and the kids needs to have enough free time from chores or work to actually go to school, among other things.  For a country to be healthy it needs doctors, medical supplies, clinics, hospitals, public health workers, health education, and access to services, and probably a lot more.  The index that combines all these factors is called the Human Development Index and combines life expectancy, means years of schooling, mean expected years of schooling, and average income.  If a country has good scores on all these factors they are probably doing pretty well development-wise while a country that scores low on any of these factors probably isn’t quite as developed. 

As of 2013 there were 187 countries included in the index.  Mozambique is number 185.  For perspective, the United States is number 3. Peru is 77.

Why does Mozambique score so low on the HDI?  The biggest reason is education.  As of 2013, the mean years of schooling is only 1.2 years.  During the civil war many people were not able to go to school so the country basically lost a generation, both in lives and in education.  While Mozambique has made tremendous progress since the civil war ended, the education system still needs a lot of improvement. According to a report by USAID, the male adult literacy rate is only 60 percent.  Education for women is even worse: only 28% of adult women can read. 

I will be teaching high school students, but I hope to start an early reading program to help children, especially girls, learn to read and foster a love of reading.  For the complete USAID article click here:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Journey to Nampula

Hello! I am back in Namaacha after a week of travelling north to Nampula.  I traveled with a fellow trainee named Rayna and we had a great time.  On Saturday we took a Peace Corps car to Maputo and checked into the Hoyo Hoyo hotel.  Not as nice as Hotel Cardoso, but we were excited for flush toilets and showers.  We had the rest of the day to explore Maputo.  Basically, we ate.  I had pizza, gelato (twice, once with a crepe which was amazing), thai food, yogurt, chocolate…etc.  On Sunday morning we left the hotel at 4:30 to catch our flight north to Nampula. 
Jeannette, Erin, Maria, and I elated over our gelato, crepes, and chocolate sauce.

We arrived in Nampula at about 9 am and then took a chapa (kind of like a bus, but way more crowded) to Ilha de Mocambique, where we met our host Saranya.  Ilha has a lot of history because it was the first place the Portuguese landed in Mocambique.  It was the capital of Portuguese colonial East Africa until 1898.  It has a very European feel because a lot of the original Portuguese architecture is still around.  It is a great vacation spot for anyone wanting to relax and enjoy some good food and beautiful beaches.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Mozambique's fastest growing tourist destinations.

Rayna and me on the pier at Ilha.

A satellite dish on top of a grass-roofed hut. Welcome to Moz.

A woman carrying water in front a good example of Portuguese architecture.

We spent two days at Ilha and then took a boleia (basically hitchhiked) back to Saranya’s site, a small town called Carapira.  We took three forms of transportation to get to Carapira.  First, we took a rickety pickup truck jammed with about 25 people across the bridge from the island to the continent.  Then we climbed in the back of a big truck transporting barrels of gasoline with about 20 other people.  I was sitting with my back against a drum of gasoline and next to a woman with an adorable baby boy who kept grabbing my finger.  A woman next to Saranya asked for her phone number and called her later that night to make sure we got home ok.  Mozambicans are so great.  The last form of transportation we took was by far the nicest.  We hopped in a brand new truck heading west to Carapira.  We got to sit in the cab this time which was super comfy.  That’s the great thing about boleias—sometimes you luck out and get a ride that is much faster and more comfortable than a chapa, all for free!

In Carapira we toured Saranya’s school, toured the hospital, had lunch with other visiting volunteers from a neighboring town, and observed some events at the school, such as a review session for an English exam and conselho de notas.  Conselho de notas happens at every school at the end of every term.  It is where all the teachers get together and read off grades of students in their classes.  It is also a time for the teachers to discuss particular students and decide if they should pass or not.  Corruption in schools is a huge issue in Mozambique and definitely the subject of a future blog post.

Saranya's backyard


Overall, our trip was exhausting, but I was so glad to get out of Namaacha for a bit and see the life of a real volunteer.  The northern part of the country is extremely different from the south.  While the south is mostly Catholic, the north is predominantly Muslim.  While the south has decent infrastructure, the north has close to none.  The poverty in the north is much more extreme than in the south and while education isn’t great in the south, it is even worse in the north.  Also, almost everyone speaks Makua, the local language, instead of Portuguese.  Rayna and I had an interesting experience on Ilha when we were sunbathing at the pier. A guy came up in his dugout canoe and started asking us what certain words were in Portuguese, such as sea urchin and fishing line, because he only knew them in Makua.  We had to tell him we didn’t know because we’d only been speaking Portuguese for one month!

On Monday we have interviews about site placement and on Thursday we get our sites! I can’t believe that in 5 days I will know where I am spending the next two years.  I can’t wait!