Friday, June 24, 2011

Mozambique Letter #4

Hello! Hello.

It seems that the gulf between here and there grows with each passing day making it harder and harder to summarise things. And yet, here is a chance to tell you all, I'm in front of a computer screen at last, so here goes a spontaneous composition.

Am indeed ankle deep in this Mozambique stuff now.

I'm halfway through the second semester of three in teaching 11th grade English. This week, took off on Tuesday, with my colleague agreeing to cover my Thursday classes. I left for tourist heaven: Vilanculos, with my good bud Priscilla. It's Priscilla's last month in country before she leaves our town of Machanga for her home in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She is a Mennonite Volunteer living at a girls' dormitory in Machanga. Machanga's quite small and we're the two muzungus there. Besides circumstances, we've built a really nice friendship! Time is forever widening the gulf of circumstances between us - family and friends, but fortunately, there are always new souls, kindred spirits that come into the picture. And what a blessing they are. I am happy to introduce her to beautiful Vilanculos and to Camila who is another volunteer and friend living here. Camila and I have really hit it off as well, so I was really happy for these two to meet one another and for us to spend glorious time here, eating, watching movies, and so forth. Every time I come here I end up having dinner with someone from Argentina, Spain, France...Always interesting company. And Camila's home is beautiful. She and I have similar attitudes about food, that it a communal aspect of friendship and comfort. In short, it's always great fun coming here.

Yesterday was Priscilla's birthday. We paid 2000 mets. (70 dollars?) to take a boat out with two nice couples, on out to the islands around Vilanculos. There is a reef around one such island that we went snorkleing in. After a great meal made on the boat and served on shore, and Priscilla learned to relax in the water (her first time snorkeling) it was glorious. I felt I was inside the aquarium with the water flow and all. Every look down into the water revealed a new kind of fish. And there's one I saw in the guidebook! Three colors! I floated into a giant school of them, and their indifference made me feel like a large fish, in strange incognito. Strange how such delicate flowers grow on the hard corral. I got a circular cut on my arm (a souvenir) that bled bright red. Where else can one get a circular cut? I told Priscilla I feel like in Machanga I'm pretending to be poor and here I felt I was pretending to be rich. The company dispelled this feeling. The two couples and crew greatly added to the adventure. One was a cute couple from the Canadian Rockies. He is a mountain guide and she a cook for geological expeditions in the Ukon. They asked me what Romania was like, and after gushing about it for some minutes I finished. "Thank you!" I said. Being here, I really haven't had a chance to speak about my time in Romania. My friends there became extended family and the country thusly became very dear to me. An opportunity to speak about it was a great relief. I was writing some letters to friends there some months back and finished realized for some hours I was there in Romania with them. It's amazing how imagination, technology, and mail can have that effect. And yet, as the days pass by, children grow up. My cousins' kids will be 10 before I've had 2 conversations with them. My nephew is already a toddler, those infant years behind him. So, while we remain connected, and imagination and cell phones shrink distances, there is still the chasm of distance that leads my path further from the home and the friends I know. But, enough nostalgia and contemplation. Back to our trip.

The other two were a German couple who had spent 6 years living in Virginia and the last 6 in South Africa. He was a Science teacher there. One of their children was born there and has thus dual citizenship.

It's amazing how much of the world has a connection to 'my' country.

So, best wrap this up.

About the snorkeling: it was like being a star floating among constellations. The fish seemed drugged in their responses to what was surely an alien invader. As I bumped and scraped against the corral trying to make like a jet flying (all of one yard underwater) amongst deep corral canyons, I realized how ridiculous and ill suited I was made for this terrain.

About Machanga and school: kids are learning. Rediscovering levity as I get comfortable in my teaching style. I've been playing games again as I used to with my kindergardeners in Romania. Everyone it seems loves games and candy. It's especially helpful with my night class. They get awfully antsy as the sun sets and it helps to have something active for them to do.

I'm hoping to take a cue from Prisicilla and move into the dorm on campus and eat what they eat/ live their conditions some. Really, isolated as I am in the teacher's compound, I feel comparatively wealthy, which is not my aim. With the boys, I'll be eating corn meal and beans everyday and have less privacy, but as trade off, greater integration, comaraderie, and hopefully initiative to see projects through that benefit them.

I'll let you know how it goes when next I check in.

Until then,

yours sincerely,


Friday, June 10, 2011

Mozambique Letter #3

Mozambique Letter #3

Ok...Hope you all got the photo links below available on my facebook page. All taken during Oct. -Dec. in Pre Service Training, time spent with my fantastic host family.

Since then, my camera and laptop have died. Sorry, but little I can do.

Well, what news, recollections, word play might I shoot out at this late hour?

Recollections from the month behind me.

1. Finally spent a weekend at the dormitory. They eat corn meal polenta with beans everyday. I asked one of my students as we passed - ¨rice and beans for dinner it seems!¨ His response: (in perfect English) "Everyday the same fucking thing!" It was tolerable for one meal. I can~t imagine it for lunch and dinner everyday of the week. Until this past week, they~ve been eating in the dark with no light bulbs for the cafeteria. At least the stars are pretty. On the upshot, they really appreciated my staying there. I headed with them in the morning out to the matu to chop wood and carry back. On Friday nights they play music and dance in the courtyard until it~s 9pm curfew and lights out. They~re very good dancers, cheering each other on.

2. Had a great time sharing games with the kids. They~re doing a talent show every Sunday now - which is essentially glorified Karioke, but you can~t hear their voices over the soundtrack. But, they dance and everyone cheers them on as they bustamove. People come up and put money in their pockets or fling packeted condoms at them that they got for free from the hospital. I heard about football players using condoms to hold their socks up. Rest assured. Mozambicans have access to condoms. Afterwards, I~m leading games - like hoops on bottles, frisbees at targets, knock the cans and limbo. The kids would answer a true or false question about AIDS and get to play. If successful, a candy their prize. Even something small and symbolic like this means a lot to them. These kids are very ready for a good time. Really, Mozambicans in general don~t get angry, and if they do, they~re always one break away from a laugh.

3. This past week was an all around success. I had one day that left me feeling like super volunteer. Up at 5 am to jog for 30 min. Home to sweep and mop out the dust. Pushups. Jumping rope. Meditation. To the garden to attack the enormous termite mound. Inside combs, like in a hive. I saved them. People asked - what for? I shrugged my shoulders - I don~t know! But they~re very cool. I had an audience as I whacked away at this five foot thing. Really, you don~t need to do much to attract an audience here. Later that day I got my peanuts (plentiful here) and sought out a neighbor with mortar and pestle. For 45 minutes worked at pilaring peanut flour. This requires sifting too. I am the integration king. And yes. It~s women~s work.~ Why don~t you get a woman to do that stuff for you? my neighbor asks? But, I did not come here to have servants. With no dependents, no maid, no money spent on beer, and little travel, my costs are low and I am left feeling in this poor community quite wealthy. I am going to try and start eating at the dormitory more and putting my money back into the school. With the kids I feel integrated; appreciated. The teachers have their own lives and duties. In the teachers community I can spend the whole day in my house, quite isolated. A visit can be bothersome. But, with the kids, I feel like I~m where I should be. We~ll see where this goes, but it~s already showing promise in my burgeoning relationships with my students.

4. Great classes. Getting my mojo back. In Romania in front of kindergarten classroom audiences I was a circus ringmaster, clown, and acrobat rolled into one English Teaching Machine. The children laughed. Applauded. I gave them stickers and candy and they loved me for it. On the streets, riding my bicycle they would call out, kids throughout many neighborhoods. Now I teach 20 year olds. Classes of 64/69. You can understand if I~ve lost some of my tap dancing confidence. Now that I know many of their names and can call them out when they~re running their yap when I~m trying to talk, I~ve regained some of that composure. I~m more cocksure. I can kid now that I can scold (effectively). Outside of class I~m having fun conversations with the high achievers and now, some of the lower achievers too. I~m beginning to reach more and more and it takes time.

Last one.

5. Food. No cheese, but coconut milk and papayas and peanuts galore. Everything is awesome with coconut milk in it. You grate the thing then pour warm water over the gratings and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Sooo good. Use it to cook in whatever. It~s good on wood shavings. Trust me. This past two weeks made tomato peanut curry with coconut milk and another night pasta with spicy peanut and garlic sauce. Mmm. Food. 11 year old Frisbee playing savant, Nandu who despite being the Superintendant~s son goes most nights without dinner, has learned if he hangs out long enough at my place, I~ll feed him. My revenge is I~ll teach the kid Englishuwhile I cook and maybe send him on an errand here and there. Good kid, that Nandu. And just nasty on the frisbee field. The kid doesn~t talk much, preferring pantomime when possible, but get him on the frisbee field and the kid~s all business taking on others twice his height and leaving them in the dust. Seriously. He~s better then me.

So. That~s the large and small of it.

Other anecdotes to come as they occur and internet access makes itself available.

So close this 140 am mass email. And off I to sleep.

Night all. Goodnight Jesse.