23 March 2011

March´s Pocket Full of Mumbles

Erica and me with students at a ceremony to commemorate Mozambique´s first president, Samora Machel.

Kids helping us with the messy task of de-feathering chickens.

Our new sitemate!

January drag-g-ged along, and I somehow suddenly found myself in the middle of March. February came and went, and was a transient month in general: we went to Maputo for several days to have our mid-service medical check-ups (clean bill of health, no parasites that I know of) and our friend from Cape Town came to visit us for a few days. This visit coincided with a two chickens leaving their lives, ones we had purchased, butchered, and de-feathered with the help of our empregada for a tasty little dinner festa. My fan went out, a victim of certain dogs who like to chew on electrical wires. And my internet phone left my life, lifted on a chapa in Maputo. It’s almost as if with just 28 days, February is an unanswered question, lacking those last few days to punctuate the month and let it form any solid conclusions (aside from the obvious conclusion that any electronics I own in Mozambique will inevitably be stolen or broken). Mozambique is an excellent study in time and its passing. Too bad I don’t have any Proust lying around.

In the theme of comings-and-goings, I suppose I could say that March came in like a lamb, since it was ever-so-slightly-cooler for a few evenings, but those happy dreams of an early winter died as the mercury rose, and March is going out like a lion, devouring us in an unfortunate heat wave. We fled to Xai-xai for a day trip one weekend with our sitemate Vivienne and her visiting boyfriend; we cooled off in the water, bought souvenirs on the beach, and ate oysters. It was a nice day. One of our Mozambican friends just bought a car, so we’re hoping to hitch a ride with him to the beach sometime again in the near future, because it sure beats hopping aboard an overstuffed, overheated chapa, and Chibuto is an insufferable oven in this infernal heat.

School is going well. Since I’m teaching the same material as last year, I have minimal lesson-planning to do, and I have a much better grasp on how to use my classroom time. That is to say, I have realized that my students absorb precious little from the two 45-minute lessons we have each week and study less, so I teach fewer concepts and pack more practice problems into their short lessons. Classroom management has also drastically improved, thanks in part to the classes’ daily behavior grade, which I dramatically erase and re-write based on my whims and their noise levels. It’s still exhausting, with larger classes of 60-70 students this year and an inconvenient schedule that leaves me little time to run into Chibuto for internet and errands, but I’m enjoying it more. Also, we have a new director, and having new leadership is motivating other teachers to shape up a little and actually show up for class, thereby minimizing the chaos of hundreds of students running around school in the mid-afternoon. That’s always a plus.

Science Fair is starting, and since Erica and I are coordinating the project on the national level (Erica as President, me as Financial Coordinator), we are taking the backseat for our local and provincial fairs and having our colleagues plan and facilitate the meetings and fair events. Erica’s school has had volunteers and Science Fairs for the past several years, so there’s no good reason for us to get suckered into doing it when other people actually have more experience with it and would rather just sit back and watch us work. This frees up more time for me to work with Geração Biz, a Mozambican peer-education health program. A few of my more charismatic, energetic students have started coming, which has contributed to a good group dynamic, and we’ve settled on a regular schedule. They are studying the reproductive system and have learned Duck, Duck, Goose, among other things, and I’m overall very pleased with them. We’ll have a training for them in April, and hopefully afterwards they can begin planning presentations and skits to present to their peers. With Science Fair and the ongoing development of our local Cultural Center (slowly, slowly taking shape), Geração Biz is by far my favorite project and what I will be most proud of accomplishing outside of the classroom when I leave.

Now that we’re well into 2011, Erica and I are beginning to think about the end of our time in Mozambique. We are planning when we will go home (early-mid November, hopefully?), how we will get there (renting a personal chapa to Maputo for us and our homeward bound animals), what we will do when we get there (crash in the Big Apple for a few days), and what we will do in the long run (be impoverished grad students). I’ve become interested in public health for the last few years, in water sanitation and availability in particular, and am looking into different programs and thinking about where I would like to be and where I’d like to study. It’s bizarre, because with the never-ending application process, the unexpected year delay, and the idle transition months, applying for and finally joining the Peace Corps has been the saga of almost the last four years of my life, and all of a sudden, the end is in sight. “The end” is still seven and a half months away, but in the context of the last 45 months, it’s definitely approaching. I’m really ready for the next chapter in my life, but if I’ve learned anything in these last few years, it’s been to enjoy where I’m at and not wish away my time. After all, that’s the stuff life’s made of.