15 September 2010

Winter that Refuses to Fall Gently into Summer

August and September have been topsy-turvy months. August brought the start of the final trimester and a string of canine-related incidents, while September brought the regional Science Fair and the dreaded arrival of summer heat. I’m holding out for October, which brings the end of classes, Halloween, and most importantly, my birthday. But first, here’s a rundown of August and this half of September.
One Saturday afternoon, Erica and I were walking to a nearby shop and suddenly heard a dog yelping as we passed an empty lot. We looked over and saw a group of young boys beating a stray puppy that was hanging upside down from a tree, tied from its back two legs. We immediately began furiously scolding the children, and set out to find a knife to cut down the unfortunate creature. Within a minute of reaching the safe ground, it died. Erica wisely tried using the incident as a teaching moment to tell these boys that even if the puppy was causing problems and stealing food, there are better ways to cull animals. The boys laughed amongst themselves as we walked away. When peoples’ lives are so difficult here, why worry about a dog?
That same day, our own puppy Shingove became listless and lost interest in food. He soon stopped eating altogether and was quickly reduced to a shaking frame of skin and bones. Erica’s family called several times with different tips and information, so with this guidance, we nursed our sick li’l pup back to health, giving him human medicine and food with a dropper and keeping him hydrated. Come Sunday, he was back to our romping, mischievous Shingove that attacks us as we do exercises; Monday morning, a neighbor girl came to our kitchen window to say that a car had hit our dog. Not just hit, completely ran over our dog with a velocity that should be illegal in a small neighborhood. The bizarre mix of foreshadowing and irony was almost too much, and it was certainly too much for a Monday morning.
On top of the dog drama, someone stole our shampoo, face wash, sponge, and razors out of our bathroom. And one slightly-off man started coming to the school to jabber English gibberish at me, while another slightly-off man started coming to the house to jabber Portuguese gibberish at us. Evidently, we are magnets not only for canine disaster, but also for theft and mentally instable individuals. Cool.
Yet just as I was beginning to slide into a jaded, pessimistic funk, a friend gave us a replacement puppy, and although it didn’t leave much time for the death of Shingove to stop smarting, our new puppy, Havu (Shangana for “monkey”), is adorable and oh-so-affectionate. One would think I’d learn to stop being so attached to cute puppies, but what’s the use? Why fight it?
Science Fair should have happened during the last weekend of August, but due to a few days of unrest for rising fuel and food prices in Maputo and other larger cities, we were forced to push it back a week. (Thankfully, there were no notable demonstrations in Chibuto, so aside from a brief travel ban and fluctuation in bread prices, we were unaffected.) In the date change, we lost the opportunity to have a sound system and one of our guest speakers, but everything else went pretty smoothly. Projects ranged from making electronic doorbells and motorized cars to making coconut oil to making juice… from a package. While that last one was a bit of a stretch, we were happy to have so many participants—50 or so students from around 15 schools in Maputo and Gaza Provinces. This is nothing by American standards, but in Mozambique, nothing is as easy as it seems it should be, and nearly everything that could go wrong often does, so it was a small miracle we pulled it off. Although we were absolutely exhausted afterwards, it was worth it.
As September slides downhill into October, I’m trying to get a few students mobilized to do some health presentations at school, and Erica has projects of her own at her school. We’re planning our final lessons; I’m in the midst of the reproductive system, and it is just amazing to me how students never tire of saying “vagina,” which by the way is Portuguese for (you guessed it) “vagina.” Even after classes end, we’ll have several weeks of grading national exams and the odious task of writing thousands of grades by hand that will extend into December. But since we have family coming in December and a possible venture into Lesotho in November, and since we are volunteers after all, Erica and I will be able to get out of some of it. Because volunteers without volition make for unhappy PCVs.
I hope those of you back home are enjoying the fall colors and brisk air for me. Once it gets hotter here and cooler there, I’ll see what I can do about sending some of our heat your way. There’s more than enough around here.