Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Week 4 of School

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post and we are now into our 4th week of school.  I’m getting more comfortable with teaching and finally learning my student’s names.  I’m giving my first test this week, mostly about natural numbers, negative numbers, addition, and subtraction.  Teaching is still very challenging, but at least all my classes usually have an eraser for the chalk board, provided by one of the students.

Life is settling into a routine, which is extremely welcome after the past few months of no structure.  I teach only in the afternoons, Monday through Thursday, so I have time in the mornings to do lesson planning, workout, go to the market, and hang out with the neighborhood kids who aren’t in school.  (Kids here either go to school from 7am-12pm or 12:30-5:30pm, depending on the grade).  Since I teach only 8th grade I teach from between 12:30 and 5:30 pm.  The schedule is different depending on what day it is.  Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays I only teach 3, 45 minute classes per day, but on Wednesdays I teach three doubles in a row so I am teaching straight from 12:30 until 5:30. It is exhausting! I don’t know how full time teachers do it and survive the week.  It’s also really nice to have three day weekends.  It makes travelling on the weekends much more realistic and gives me a chance to really unwind from the week.

My evenings are pretty much the same as they were before school started.  We have visitors hanging out on our porch until it starts to get dark.  They play cards, listen to me play guitar, or just chat.  Once the sun sets they head home and I make some dinner.  Then it’s a quiet evening of reading, watching TV or movies on my computer, and playing cards with Emma.  I recently found a travel scrabble game in some of the stuff Lisa and Dan left so I’m pretty excited about that.

Two weekends ago I went down to Mabvudzi Ponte (Laura and Helen’s site) to visit.  It was a quick trip, but we had fun.  Matt and Jeff came over to celebrate Matt’s birthday and we ended up going out for a beer with some teachers from the school.  Getting back to Zobue from Mabvudzi Ponte is always an adventure since there isn’t much traffic on the road to Mabvudzi Ponte that connects with the main road that leads to Zobue.  I ended up getting in the back of a truck filled with goats, charcoal, and chickens for the 45 minute ride.  Sitting on a crate of empty beer bottles with the cool wind blowing in my face, I was loving my life.   
Three of the guys in the back of the goat-filled truck with me.

Some of the many goats I shared my ride with.

Other random life events in Zobue:
The other morning when I looked out into my yard I saw that the brick wall of the showerhouse we never use had fallen down! It must have rained so much that the mud holding the bricks together gave out.  Luckily our other brick walls are made with cement, not mud.
This is a side view of the showerhouse before the wall fell down.  This picture was taken when we first got to Zobue and the rains hadn't really started.  Was it really that dry and brown?

This is a front view of the showerhouse after the wall fell down.  Also notice all the green grass that has grown up since December!

Last weekend I went hiking up the mountain behind my house with my neighbor friends Albertina, Celia, Sardinho, and Jaime.  Afterwards Albertina invited me to her house to watch some English movies or listen to English music.  I wasn’t really sure what that would be like, but I accepted anyway.  We ended up watching Rihanna music videos with about 10 kids crowded around the TV and me trying to translate the lyrics to Albertina and her sister Sylvia.  Sitting in a house with a dirt floor watching Rihanna music videos—not an experience I ever would have had if I wasn't a Peace Corps volunteer.
It is definitely not a Mozambican thing to smile for pictures.  People here are all smiles until you want to take a picture of them, then they are all serious business.

This is me with one of my neighbors, Sardinho.  He is a 4th grader who comes over in the mornings and asks me to help him learn math and practice reading.  How can you say no to that?

Other than that, life continues on here.  I can’t believe it’s almost March! These two years are really going to fly by.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

First Week of School

I walk into my first class wearing my bata and the students immediately stand up and greet me with a chorus of:
“Boa tarde Senhora Professora.” Good afternoon Mrs. Professor
“Ola turma, como estão?” I respond. Hello class, how are you all?
“Estamos bem, dispostos para estudar,” they chant. We are good, ready to study.
“Obrigada, podem sentar.” Thank you, you may sit.

This is how I am greeted every time I enter a classroom.  The students are expected to be in the classroom before the teacher enters so as I am approaching a classroom, students start running to get in the door before I do.  I usually wait for a minute or so at the door before entering to allow any stragglers to make it in before I do.

In my first class I introduce myself as “Professor Sienna.” I tell my students that I am from the United States and that I am here in Zobue to teach math for two years.  I talk about the rules of the classroom and what my expectations are for them as students.  I ask them to each stand up and tell me their name and I walk around and shake hands with every student.  Then I begin to talk about natural numbers, the topic of the day.

The chalk the school provides is incredibly dusty and breaks every time I try to write with it on the board.  It also runs out very quickly.  By then end of class I am writing with bits of chalk as big as my finger nail and covered in white dust.  I don’t have an eraser so I’m using a piece of paper to erase the board.  I have no idea if my students understood anything I just said, as most of them speak ChiChewa or Nyungue as a first language and some speak very little Portuguese.

I walk into my second classroom and it is dark.  There are only two windows in the whole room and the electricity is out so the sole light bulb isn’t offering any additional light.  The previous teacher had written on the board with oil pastel and my piece of paper eraser can’t really get it off (not that a real eraser would probably succeed either).  Not only can my students barely see their papers because of the darkness, they can’t really see what I’ve written on the board because the writing from the previous class is also still up there.

By my third class, I am exhausted, my feet hurt, and my voice is tired.  But I make it through, trudge home and put my feet up.

On day two I come to school prepared to teach two single lessons and a double lesson.  After my first lesson I find out the schedule has changed and I am actually teaching three doubles.  I have missed my allotted time slot with one of my turmas (classes) because it was earlier in the day and I didn’t know the schedule had changed. 

By day three, I am exhausted and can’t face talking for three hours straight.  Instead, I give a small test to see whether what I’ve been teaching this week has sunk in at all.

Teaching at a Mozambican school is challenging.  But there are lots of good things about it too.  The students are respectful and eager to learn.  They take initiative to clean the classroom (the second day I came into my second class and the blackboard was perfectly clean) and reprimand each other if someone is talking out of turn.  I started using some chalk I got in a care package and it is much stronger, lasts longer, and is less dusty.  I graded the tests I gave on Thursday and it seems like most of the kids are understanding the concepts I’ve been teaching.  So far, even though it is exhausting, I am really enjoying teaching.  Preparing and giving lessons is a lot of work, but I welcome having something concrete to do after two months of no schedule.  I am looking forward to this next week of class as a chance to get to know my students better and get more familiar with my schedule.  Hopefully, it won’t change again, but you never know.

This is part of 8F turma.  It's supposed to be about 55 students total.

The other part of 8F.  This is the dark classroom because it only has these two windows.

The blackboard in one of my classrooms on the day I was teaching about number lines.

This is part of the 8E turma.  These classrooms are lighter because they have windows on both sides.

The other part of 8E.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

End of Ferias

School is finally starting!  Starting Tuesday I will be teaching 8th grade math.  I have three classes that meet 5 times a week (three single periods and one double period) so I will be teaching about 15 hours total per week, Monday through Thursday.  I am very happy to have Fridays off. This last Friday we participated in the ceremony to open the school for the 2014 year.  Apparently it is traditional to plant trees around the school during the ceremony so we planted about 10 new trees.  After the tree planting (which started about two hours late as usual) we sat in on a three-hour meeting where the school director talked about the school, the students, and lots of other stuff.  There were representatives from the district capital of Moatize, but when it was their turn to speak it was raining so hard it was impossible to hear them over the thousands of raindrops pelting the metal roof.  Rainy season is definitely here in Zobue.  The internet and phone networks are in and out as well as the electricity.  I’m not really complaining though—the rain makes it much less hot.  I haven’t even slept with my fan for the past few nights.

In the meantime, life goes on in Zobue.  The other day I walked to the sunset rock with some neighborhood kids and saw a rainbow and the sunset at the same time.  It was pretty spectacular.

Today I went to the Nazarene church service.  The service is in ChiChewa, but Marcos Leme translates into Portuguese when I am there so I can understand.  There is a lot of singing, but overall the service is pretty similar to services I’ve been to in the states.  Except that half the congregation sits barefoot on bamboo mats and children run around freely, that’s a little different. The service only lasts about two hours, which I am glad of because I’ve heard of services here lasting up to five hours.

That’s about all I have to report from here—I’ll definitely post something in the next week or so to let you all know how teaching goes!