Friday, November 7, 2014

Hot season is bug season!

Just a quick post about some interesting bug experiences I've had lately.  It seems like this time of year is definitely the time of year for crazy bugs--or else this week has just been unusually full of insect encounters.  Here is a list of some recent confrontations.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of these creatures because I'm usually too busy trying to kill them to snap a photo. Can you blame me?

1. At Quinta Monte on Monday we were sitting outside in a pavilion-style building with a grass roof when a huge bug started running all around the floor.  It looked like a combination between a spider and a scorpion, but instead of a curved tail it had two long horn-like things in the front.  It was maybe about 6 inches long. I didn't do anything at first, but when it started coming towards our table I got up, promptly took off my chaco, and started to whack at it.  Since it was so big it took a couple of good blows to finish it off.  It must have been an unusual insect because one of the waiters came over and took a picture of the corpse with his camera.  It happened pretty fast so I didn't get a very good look at it, but I think it may have been a camel spider.

2.  The next day Emma, Kevin, Amanda, and I were sitting at the table when someone noticed a large spider on the wall.  It was different than the usual daddylonglegs-like spiders that are constantly living in our light fixtures--those we have become so accustomed to that killing them seems unnecessary.  They eat bugs, right?  But this one was large, about the size of a half dollar, and flat.  In my memory it was hairy, but that could have been my imagination. Regardless, it warranted immediate killing.  It was up high in the corner between the wall and the ceiling so I gave Emma my flipflop so she could squish it (she's a lot taller than me).  She couldn't quite reach it so she got on a chair and hit at it with the flip flop.  What happened next occurred in the space of a few adrenaline-filled seconds and has become what I now think of as the great spider-killing relay of 2014.  On the first hit Emma didn't quite get the spider and it dropped on the floor, scurrying away under the table.  "I can't step on it, I'm not wearing shoes!" I yelled.  Emma quickly dropped the flip flop she was holding to me.  I caught it and lunged under the table to easily squish it with one well-aimed smack.  It was pretty soft and didn't need repeated whacks like the camel spider.  I looked up, laughing with relief, and saw that both Kevin and Amanda were standing on their chairs looking terrified.   "Your crossfit skills really came in handy there!" said Emma.  "One second you were standing next to me and the next second you were under the table." "Yeah, it was all a blur," I responded, "I was just acting on instinct." It was a spectacular example of teamwork at its best.  

3.  I feel like I kept my cool during both of the previous spider incidents, but I have to admit this next one freaked me out a bit.  It was Tuesday evening and we were sitting outside under a mango tree in Professor Batana's yard, waiting for dinner to be ready.  It was a bit windy and one gust blew a mango leaf down onto my shirt.  Except it wasn't a mango leaf.  I looked down and immediately sprang up, yelling some expletives as I tried to figure out what was on my shirt.  Once Professor Batana had calmly brushed it off of me I was able to inspect the object that had landed on me.  It looked like a flat caterpillar about 8 inches long with frilly stuff coming off of it.  The closer I looked the more it became obvious that it was adapted to camouflage itself against the tree trunk.  It was actually a wonderful specimen and I'm glad we didn't kill it.  I wonder if I'll ever see a caterpillar like that again. I just hope it doesn't land on my shirt the next time.

4. Those three stories are definitely the most exciting, but every day here there are new bugs that appear.  Just today a giant beetle the size of a quarter was hanging out with me as I worked out in our spare bedroom.  The other day a giant bug with super speed crawled up our electric water kettle before I smashed it with my flip flop.  The ants in our house are taking over.  They crawl in our dishes, in our water jugs, and all over our floors.  I've heard they go away once the rains start so I'm looking forward to that.  Maybe some of the other giant bugs will go away too.

Site Visitors

This past week Emma and I hosted two visitors in Zobue, Amanda and Kevin.  Both Amanda and Kevin are part of Moz 23, the newest group of volunteers to arrive in Mozambique.  They are currently in training in Namaacha and will begin teaching in February.  This week the members of Moz 23 traveled to different parts of Mozambique to get a sense of what life is like for volunteers in the field.  It was fun to host Amanda and Kevin in Zobue, though it seemed a bit surreal.  It seems like just yesterday that I was the trainee visiting a seasoned volunteer, but now I AM the seasoned volunteer imparting my 'wisdom'.  Though most of the time I still feel like I'm figuring out how to live here, having these guests made me realize that Zobue has become my home and I'm more comfortable here than I realize.  

Emma, Kevin, and Amanda enjoying Chipotle-style burrito bowls on their first night in Zobue.

Kevin and Amanda arrived in Zobue Sunday evening.  On Monday we walked to the market in the morning and they went to the school with Emma in the afternoon.  For dinner on Monday we took them to Quinta Monte for grilled chicken and fries.  They enjoyed the view of Mt. Zobue, the beer, and the chicken.

On Tuesday, Kevin and Amanda got to help me with my Livro Aberto reading program.
 On Tuesday evening, we went to the home of a fellow professor for dinner.  We made hamburgers and they made chicken and fries.  It was a delicious meal.  It was fun to spend time with Professor Batana and his family.  Unfortunately, I have no photos of that meal.

On Wednesday, Kevin, Amanda, and I got up at 5 am to hike Mt. Zobue.  The idea was to get up before the heat, which was a good idea since Wednesday was a scorcher.

We made it to the summit by 7:30am!

View of Zobue and the border marker.

Ant highway!  This was literally the most ants I've ever seen.  There were hundreds of ants crawling along a highway lined with the bodies of dead ants...Mozambique has some crazy inset life!  See below for a video of the any highway.

On the way down the mountain, we ran across a field that was actually irrigated! It was the first example of irrigation I've seen in Zobue so I had to take a picture.

All too soon, it was time for Kevin and Amanda to head back to Maputo.  It was very fun having them visit and I wish them the best for their Peace Corps experience.  I can't wait to see where they end up in Mozambique!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Livro Aberto

In the past few weeks I've been working on developing the program for the Zobue Community Library, also known as Livro Aberto Zobue.  Livro Aberto means Open Book in Portuguese.  Since the beginning of October we've been able to do community library programming where the children actually get to choose books to read and read them independently.  It is very exciting for these students because many of them have probably never touched a book before, let alone new books with lots of colorful pictures.  Right now we are holding the community library program from 10-12 on Tuesday mornings.  We've settled on a schedule that has worked well for the past few weeks.

First, we start with a Bom Dia (good morning) song.  This activity helps settle the kids and introduce them by name.  Second we go over the alphabet.  Our goal is for all the students to know the names of the letters.  

After practicing the alphabet a few times we transition to our letter of the day.  We learn about the sounds of the letter, how to write the letter, and we draw a few things that start with that letter.  
This week our letter of the day was the letter F.  In this photo I am asking the students who has seen a formiga (ant) in their house lately.  It is ant season here so almost everyone should be raising their hands.

Next, I ask for volunteers to name other words that start with F.  This week we came up with words like faca, final, Francisco, and falta.

After going over the letter on the board, the students write down the words in the notebooks.
In this photo I am helping a students write the letter F.

Children working on writing their letter Fs.
After the writing and drawing activity, we do a little song and dance to get the kids moving a bit.  They love this song because they get to jump around and be silly.

After a quick break it is time for read aloud.  
Here I am reading the book David Vai a Escola
 Finally, the last activity of the day is independent reading.  Since we have students from 5th grade and students from 2nd and 3rd grades, I have each 5th grader find one or two younger students to read with.  After washing hands (very important before touching books) the children can choose books to read.
Reading time!

A 5th grade student helps a younger student read a book about colors.

The Nao David books are a big hit.

So far the reading program has been going really well.  It will be challenging keeping it going during the holidays, but I hope to start up again when school starts again next year.  My goals for next year are to train community members or other teachers to help run the program and perhaps expand the program to more days. I am so thankful for the opportunity to develop this program in Zobue.  Photo credits to Kevin Nguyen.