It’s been a while since I’ve had a blog post, not counting my cooking posts, because for the last month I really haven’t done a whole lot. Despite the complete lack of activity, I feel like this time has not been wasted. I have learned a lot about myself. I learned that hunger is a powerful force, pretty much the only force that was strong enough to make me walk the 30 minutes into the village every couple of days to buy food and spend some time with my host family (I really do love them, they’re just so far). Cleaning has become a legitimate form of entertainment; I learned that all those years as a kid being forced to help scrub down the house during “spring cleaning” would actually come in handy, as I routinely spend close to 15 hours each week scrubbing our white tiles, in a constant battle against the red clay that surrounds our house. Thanks mom. I learned that I actually like cabbage, or at least have gotten to the point where I am so desperate for veggies that finding cabbage in our district capital has been the highlight of more than a few days during these last 10 weeks. I have learned that even after sleeping 10 hours at night, I still have the capacity for a mid-morning AND mid-afternoon nap.
At some point over the last 10 weeks the excitement of getting to site wore off, and the days became long, hot, and boring. Especially when almost all the other volunteers in my group started school a month ago, I was feeling very ready to begin working. Kathryn and I joked that we would even be happy to have pointless school meanings, just to give us something to do. But of course, as it goes, the grass is always greener, or you always want what you can’t have or whatever.
On Thursday, a week after we were told meetings would begin, we finally attended our first school meeting. We woke bright and early, and I excitedly put on a full face of makeup for the first time in months. We made the 2 minute walk from our front door to our school’s front office, and were excited to see all of our colleagues, after having grown accustomed to the silence on campus these last two months. Our meeting began promptly an hour after it was supposed to start. Turns out, the topic of this meeting was what improvements to our school our director and pedagogical director should bring up at some municipal education meeting next week.
While some teachers had practical requests, the suggestions quickly became slightly unrealistic. Several professors jumped on the idea of selecting a faculty representative who would go to another country and buy a school car. It was suggested that we need trampolines for the gym. Many professors spoke of the need for a faculty lounge with couches and larger TVs so that the professors can rest in between giving lessons. We sat through this meeting for more than two hours, while literally every single professor in attendance had at least one suggestion. Eventually we had a break, while waiting for our director to arrive from Nampula city for the next meeting to start. Once he arrived, we filtered back into the meeting room and had the exact same meeting for another two hours. Kathryn and I were growing increasingly disinterested and hungry. Even though this was more or less expected based on what other volunteers had said about typical meetings in Mozambique, we both left pretty annoyed and frustrated. We were told to come back tomorrow to plan our first week of classes.
All was good and well Friday morning, we planned on attending our short planning meeting, meeting with the Peace Corps safety and security staff who were stopping by our site, and then heading off to Nampula city to meet our friend Eléonore for a few days in the city. It had been a couple of weeks since I had been to Nampula, so I was excited and looking forward to a few days away from site. Due to a complicated series of unfortunate events, these plans were completely shattered. Between an inexplicable SIX HOUR meeting that included the reading of a list of prices of every single IFP in Mozambique, an argument about whether the students should pay for teacher’s phone credit, and no less than four retellings of our director’s trip to Boston, and Peace Corps completely blowing us off, I was forced to postpone my trip into the city until late Saturday afternoon. Luckily I was greeted by Eléonore at the Chinese restaurant in Nampula with a cold beer and a spring roll, and the frustrations of our first three days of work melted away.
I returned to site Sunday afternoon well rested, well fed, with a ton of groceries (it’s avocado season in Mozambique!) and a box of wine, refreshed and ready to start my first day of classes. The science department head is incredibly helpful and supportive, and gave me very detailed lesson plans for the first week. For my first lesson, I just had to give a pre-test and read off the topics we will be covering this semester. Not all that difficult, but I was still a little nervous to get in front of the class and teach in Portuguese for the first time. Regardless of my language skills, my students were very interested in my introduction and listening to me talk a little bit about Peace Corps and America, and sat for the pre-test more or less quietly. When it came time to read the syllabus for them to copy it down, they did request that another student read it out loud rather than me because they were having trouble understanding my Portuguese, which was a little embarrassing but at least they asked politely?
Either way, I survived my first day of classes without any major hiccups, and am really excited to begin teaching, meeting some of the 450 students who have arrived on campus and who will hopefully want to be my friend and help me practice Portuguese. I’m only teaching 3 hours a week for now because the pedagogical director who makes the schedule thinks we need to “learn the ways of Africa” before we take on more classes so I’ve still got a lot of free time, but hopefully I will also soon begin to work on secondary projects like EGRA (Early Grade Reading Assessment) at our local primary school and a science club with the students at my school!