Sunday, October 27, 2013

10/27/2013: Back to the Basics

I’ve had a couple of conversations with both people here and in the States and realized I should take a little time to back up and explain some of the basics of my Peace Corps service.

Let me start with “why are you doing Peace Corps?”
People often don’t think this question is nearly as loaded as it is. Why did I just leave all of my comforts from home, why did I just leave all of my friends, why am I away from my family for two years? I have the typical selfless reasons: I have the ability to help others, so why not do something? It’s my duty to serve in some form. Peace Corps helps teach and empower youth around the world and that is what is going to help make the world a better place. But as Peace Corps warns, and many people assume, you can’t leave behind everything for 2 years and not have a selfish reasons as well, when things are not going the way you want them, when your students are acting out or project aren’t being completed, there needs to be something from your heart keeping you going. I have wanted to do the Peace Corps since I was about 8 years old, and this is my chance to prove to myself that I can do it. I just graduated college, and just ask my dad, every year I have a different dream job = I have no idea what I want to do with my future, Peace Corps is a great opportunity to take a break and find some direction while still doing something any employer will like. Most important to me I suppose, I’ve always wanted to visit Africa and there doesn’t really seem to be a much better way to do so. I mean, I’m not just visiting; I’m living in Africa.
I’m not really sure if that explains exactly why I am doing Peace Corps, but it is as close as I can get to explaining my inner thoughts and feelings about being in Peace Corps, I honestly think just a lot of it was a sporadic decision to apply and somehow I ended up following through.

What is going on in Africa?
Right now I am not a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am currently a Peace Corps Trainee. We are living all together in a village outside of Maputo called Namaacha learning the language and how to teach our respective subjects. In Barrio (Neighborhood) A & B are the Biology and Chemistry teachers. We have teaching class together at the Biology Hub. About a 30-45 minute walk away is the neighborhood where the Math and English teachers live, they have their own teaching classes. While here, we live with host families to help learn the customs and chores of Mozambique. Come December, following our swearing in, we will all be split up around the country and sent to our sites where we will begin teaching. That is when my actual 2-year commitment begins. Until then it is just like being back in school. At least I have the friends and hang out spots to match the college life so we can unwind after busy days.
We’ve been learning a lot, some of it things that are fairly hard to deal with. Most recently we have been introduced to the corruption in the school systems here and many of the difficulties of teaching science here—technical heavy lectures, no labs, short classes, large classes—none of which are the most conducive to learning Biology. But we’ve also been learning a lot of Portuguese and have finally begun doing our practice teaching and making lesson plans in Portuguese. Some days I feel like I am not learning about Portuguese, but then I look at my Biology textbooks and my lesson plans that I understand and I realize I’m starting to learn the language! We’ve also been learning a lot about how to teach with limited resources and make the best impact we possibly can in our short time here. Though we may feel sometimes we aren’t making an impact of seeing any success, our country director said it best: “We are planting the seeds of trees of shade we may not be able to sit under.”

So here I am, living in Africa for 2-years, hopefully making some impact, but at the very least I am able to live by example. I am able to show up to class everyday and teach the best I can and make science as exciting as it should be to every student, and be an example to the girls that being 22 and unmarried and educated and working is a perfectly great way to live and should be part of their goals for empowerment.
I know I am in for quite the adventure, and hopefully my adventure makes a little more sense now.

So no more procrastinating, I have a Bible Study to plan and a lesson to practice and language exam tomorrow. Until next time…

Saturday, October 26, 2013


I share this blog with some who cannot see my Facebook where all of my photos are, so I have started a Photobucket. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I've enjoyed taking them.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

10/20/2013: The End of the Honeymoon

Everyone else has gone down this road so I feel bad being yet another person stating the obvious, but it must be said. The honeymoon in Africa is over. It is still an unbelievable blessing to have this chance, but I’ve hit a wall. Life is just getting a little real. We are starting to write lesson plans in Portuguese without feeling fully prepared to do so. Our families are starting to be a little much—I love my family but me going into my room in the evening does not mean I hate you…It means I’m an American living in Africa without my family and friends.
Today was particularly hard to be away from home because it is my very best friend’s birthday and it became so real to me that I’m going to be gone for 2 years but life in America doesn’t get paused. It’s just a weird realization. Thank God for the people here. My Lingua group is the absolute best. We laugh literally the entire day but are also there to support each other when one of us just needs to say “Chega Africa!” And I am absolutely grateful to have a Bible study with some other trainees. Those girls really help me spend time with the Word and remember that we are here for a reason regardless of what is happening in America this is where we are supposed to be.
All that real stuff said…I have some funny stories now.
On Tuesday, we got domesticated in Namaacha. We had a cooking day with our maes where we cooked Mozambician food and American food. For our American dish we made stuffed peppers…well we learned fairly quickly that Mozambicians do not like their food inside other food, which I had kind of guessed from having eaten here the past few weeks. But WE enjoyed it. It was frustrating to keep being told by our maes that we don’t know how to cook when really we do, we just don’t know how to cook Mozambician food, but it was still a really great experience and I think just about everyone here thoroughly enjoyed the break from typical lingua class and the opportunity to learn some Mozambician recipes.
Sara crushes some corn meal 
Shredding some coconut

Nick sifts flour

Minha familia
On Saturday, We visited with a traditional medicine doctor on Saturday. He sacrificed a chicken and blessed us for good luck for the next 2 years. It was really cool to be able to be apart of such a honored and important tradition here in Mozambique.
Learning about traditional medicine
Preparing the sacrifice chicken
After the ceremony, we wandered to “Shopright”…there isn’t really a way for me to describe Shopright if you haven’t experienced it, so I apologize. But it is outside and it’s a bunch of little stands selling just about anything you think you need (capulanas, food, shoes) and things you don’t want (monkey hands and fish skins). But they have the BEST little alley of chicken stands that sell platters of ¼ chicken grilled, xima (also…hmmm…it’s like grits, but not also EXTREMELY filling. PS pronounced “chee-ma”), and tomato salad. Shopright only exists on Wednesdays and Saturdays so we go whenever we can to stuff our faces with the chicken. So, now I can tell my story after that introduction. My lingua class (consists of me, Salome, Sara, Joe, and Nick) plus a couple other friends walked to Shopright from the Peace Corps office…about a 45 minute walk, but it’s close to where we science teachers live (thank God). On the way, we passed my favorite bakery with the best warm bread…BEST BREAD. So I get some and we discover these little soy nuggets, so I stuff some soy nuggets into my loaf of bread and eat it. My friend then bets me a Fanta that I can’t eat my chicken platter after (mind you, I usually at home eat about a yogurt and an apple and that’s it and I haven’t eaten much more here) so I say “Challenge Accepted” well…I do. At the end, Sara still has a plate of xima so Salome…”If you eat Sara’s xima, I’ll buy you a second Fanta” “Challenge Accepted” so I do…well. My lingua group decides to go to Casa de Dois, a bar by the Science Hub. While we’re sipping our drinks my friend Joe whips out a pack of Maria Cookies (I guess they’re kind of like Trefoil Girl Scout Cookies only not AS delicious. And they’re fairly large. And pack has about 30 in them I think) “Jessie. If you can eat this WHOLE THING I’ll buy you 2 Hunter Ciders “Challenge Accepted” So now I’m sitting on promises for 2 Fantas and 2 Hunter Ciders!!! Although I paid the price big time. My stomach has been hurting ever since and my host mom keeps trying to feed me MORE FOOD and I just can’t. At all.

Needless to say, the honeymoon is over. Today I managed to wash my clothes in pouring rain while freezing and our power is pretty much hit or miss because the rains of come and I STILL haven’t figured out how the heck Mozambicans manage to stay so clean in the rainy season! But we have each other, and that’s enough for Africa.
Maria cookies

Greetings from Africa

Thursday, October 17, 2013

10/14/2013: Chega??

At first, I thought this weekend was potentially a weekend from hell (excuse my French). A cold has decided to take up residence in my chest and it makes life fairly miserable when I’m busy all day everyday. I didn’t want to do anything that was required of me. My language barrier with my mãe ruined all of my hopes and plans for the weekend and chores as simple as washing clothes here are actually secretly daylong workouts. I just took a step back and realized this is Africa, I’m in Africa and things are weird and sometimes I just sort of wander around having no clue what’s going on but I need to embrace it all.
Saturday was Dia do Profesor. We went to the Secondary School in Namaacha (at 6:30 am because they said there would maybe be a parade after…it’s Africa…things are random here and sometimes happen but sometimes don’t…it didn’t) to help clean the school with some students. It was pretty cool to be able to spend some time around a school and help with some beautification. I wish we had been able to do more.

Upon returning home, with my nose dripping all over the place and my head pounding, I was ready to crawl into bed. But my mãe was awaiting my arrival. It was time to learn how to do laundry. My God laundry here is a CHORE, legitimately, though I’m fairly sure my clothes have never been cleaner, they got quite the scrubbing and soaking thanks to my strong arms.
Sunday, I woke up feeling the worst I have felt since arriving here in Africa. Now, when I’m sick, I am 1. A big baby 2. Really grumpy and dislike people. But here, alone time is considered very strange. One doesn’t just sit in their room all day, sick or not. So my friend and I decided to follow through with our plan to make gumbo…cue language barrier frustration aka the straw that broke the camel’s back. We told my mãe many times that this was MY recipe and WE were going to make it. Naturally, I needed her assistance killing the chicken, and of course my other Bio teacher friends were more than willing to help me dissect said chicken. But after that, Salome and I felt we had the gumbo under control…but instead our food got cooked Moçambiquian style. I was fed up. I literally ran with my backpack and all of my books to the Science House (Biology Hub) to hide. And then I realized, my mãe didn’t know I knew how to cook. I don’t have the language skills yet to quite fully convey to her that I cook in America, it’s just very different so I need help with little tasks…like how the hell do I clean the intestine of a chicken and prepare the head for cooking?? But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to cook food. So really, I’m not frustrated with my mãe, I’m frustrated with myself and the slow pace of learning a new language.

…I’m still craving some actual alone time. But I’m about to have 2 years of plenty of alone time so I’ll enjoy having a family while I can.
It’s amazing how here, the simple things…like walking to the little gas station that’s super far away and buying a bar of chocolate with my friends and laughing hysterically the whole way, can make things seem a whole lot better. We’re all in the same boat, but at least we have each other.

I have some lesson plans that will just simply not write themselves and speaking too much English makes me forget the little Portuguese I do have in my head. So até já!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

10/6/2013: It's Happening

It’s been a busy few days. Yesterday we took a class field trip Maputo. I have to tell you, it is very overwhelming to be in a crowded city when you don’t speak the language. I was very happy to get home and try some Cider (turns out I like Cider when it’s made in Africa…) and relax in quiet Naamascha.
To unwind and get some exercise (let me tell you, a girl can only eat so much bread and rice before really needing to get out and do something about it), we hiked out to some waterfalls. Naturally, it is the dry season and none of us considered that they would in fact not be exciting, but we gave it a try. It was still gorgeous, and just absolutely refreshing to EXERCISE.
That isn’t the big news though, I don’t think.
I had a two-hour conversation with my Mae in PORTUGUESE. It’s happening. Very slowly but surely I am learning some Portuguese. It helps that my Mae has officially banned English from our house so I can learn it faster and will sit for 2 hours to have a 20-minute conversation while I act out verbs to learn and speak slowly.
Pouco a pouco. 

10/2/2013: I Officially Live Here

For our afternoon class, we experienced “Shop Right.” In Maputo, Shop Right is like a Giant or a Safeway. In Namaacha…”Shop Right” is an open air giant market that only exists on Wednesdays and Satrudays. It is crowded and hot, but it was great to see everyone and see the market. I got 2 capulanas—BEAUTIFUL fabrics used for EVERYTHING – clothes, rugs, drapes, towels, whatever.
That’s 1 reason I live here now.
Reason 2:
Chapa ride. Chapas are basically crowded van taxis. I thought rickshaws in India were nerve wracking…oh no. But the experience was hilarious and I now officially feel like I live in Moçambique.
I bought fresh, warm pâo…I’m addicted…and played with so many babies today. THE BEST. We even learned a secret handshake from some random kids on the street in the barro. Simple days don’t get better.
I’ve also never been so clean in my life. THREE BATHS A DAY! Cleanliness is muito importanté. 

10/1/2013: I Have to Teach in This Language?

Day 1 of official Portuguese lessons. Umm…I have THREE months to not only be able to get around but TEACH…TEACH HIGH SCHOOL BIOLOGY in this language. Holy cow. So I borrowed “Mamãe, Você Me Ama?” – “Mommy, Do You Love Me?” – one of my favorite childhood books. Hopefully this helps?? We’ll see LOL.
Off to read “Mamãe, Você Me Ama?” and hopefully learn a little Portuguese so I can stop making a fool of myself.

9/30/2013: Carne de Caza e télé novella

I realized there is quite a language barrier right now as my mãe and I try and try to communicate. Today, the language barrier really showed. We had been told time and time again to not eat carne de caza—bush meat. I just assumed that it wouldn’t show up on the table. As I took my first bite of dinner, I said “qué?” “Carne de caza” “Oh não gusto. Corpo de Paz disse não carne de caza” “qué?” “Não carne de caza para me” “uhhhhh” – oh boy. Good thing it doesn’t even taste good! At least I got to finish my night with some quality télé novella.
Portuguese class starts tomorrow – yay! Hopefully this helps my language barrier. For now – the classic excuse for any volunteer will have to do… “Corpo de Paz…”

9/29/2013: Galinha

After our language test I had so many new experiences.
I have now had a galinha totally dissembled in front of me. I’ll let you guess what that is before I tell you.
My irmã, irmão, and I danced to “I Feel Like A Woman”. LOL! And my mãe and tia flipped through my entire picture book to meet my familia and amiagas at home.
I had markers for teaching, but I saw that Nina and Betou draw a lot but only had pens, so I have officially lost my makers – their eyes lit up brighter than the moon.
Nina discovered my camera, so Nina and Betou have been exploring.
Okay, I only hope I don’t have to eat the head of the galinha.

To Jordan’s “What is Love” post...

: big brothers around the world know true love. I gave Betou 5 goldfish and I have Nina 5 goldfish. He fed her 2 of his because she wanted a couple more but I had none.

Update on the last hour – I most definitely ate the head of the galinha. I think my mãe KNEW its strange for Americans because she was LAUGHING. But I ate it and PS. There is nothing like walking in the cold rain to take a cold bath.

Mark, Erin, Sara, Nick, and I went on an adventure to get to know Namaacha and the market and I came home to a study sheet from my mãe for my Portuguese. Pouco a pouco she keeps saying. At least I know she’ll help me study!

Now I’ll tell you. Galinha is chicken.

9/28/2013: Corpo De Paz, We Made It!

We have made it to our training village! I think yesterday, upon arrival, it did finally hit that I’m living in Africa for the next 2 years. Arrival was quite a treat. It was a beautiful drive and our families were all awaiting our bus, even though we could barely communicate, the excitement was evident.
My mãe, irmão, and irmã are so sweet. My irmão Beatou is 11 and Nina, my irmã, is 4. Spending the afternoon of my arrival with them gave me comfort in knowing that kids are the same worldwide. Adorable. And from the start, my mãe was set on teaching me Portuguese.
My first real Mozambique night was much better than anticipated. I had hot water and everything, and it was cold enough to buddle in my sweats to sleep—my favorite when I’m not sure of what’s going on. I still feel a little lost and confused, but I can only imagine it gets easier and I’ll start understanding as my Portuguese improves.
Pouco a pouco I’ll get there, I’ll know I’ve reached my goal when I’m not only teaching in Portuguese, but blogging in Portuguese.
Side note—let me tell you, you haven’t listened to country music until you’ve danced with your mãe to Taylor Swift dubbed in Portuguese followed by “Tell Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”.

Desculpa pelo meu atraso

I apologize for the tardy updates, we finally have internet here in our training village. I will share the posts I wrote during the past two weeks though.