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Cindy's World | Updates - Moz. 1 | Mozambique | Being Veggie | Updates - Moz. 2 | Articles | Matapa and More | Updates - Toronto |
Updates - Moz. 1
This is from my first few exciting months - the first month of updates was lost to cyberspace when I accidentally hit the power button on a keyboard in an internet cafe in Maputo. Whose brilliant idea was it to put a power button on a keyboard??? Anyways, some of them have been recovered. The updates are in reverse order because that's what my fans overwhelmingly voted for. All 3 people who voted.
March 29, 2004
So the only problem with writing updates in various places is that it makes it harder for me to remember exactly what I’ve written already! Hope I haven’t repeated myself too often.
My apartment is still not as organized as I would like, but I don’t feel like cleaning anymore… and I don’t feel like dealing with marks anymore either. I had four classes today, and I put the quote “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” on the board for each of them and had them translate it. I said that it was the same for them… that I could bring all the information and exercises needed for them to learn English, but that I couldn’t make them learn. Interestingly, some of them really couldn’t grasp this concept. Anyways, I’m going to talk to the head of the department to find out what he does when most of a class fails a test. I really felt that the test was fair, but with so many failing, I wonder if I should curve it, or if I should just give them another chance. I can’t help wondering if I’m expecting too much of them.
I had another mouse incident today. I was getting an onion or two from my “pantry” (not really a pantry, more of a side room that seems built for I don’t know what… it has a big cement shelf), and I noticed this tail sticking out from behind an old water filter stored there. I tried to scare the mouse out, but he wouldn’t move. So I decided to just pack away all the food, in an effort to make him decide to move away. I was doing so when suddenly the stupid mouse came out of nowhere, launched itself AT ME, hit me in the stomach, fell to the ground and dashed out the door. I hate this little mouse. I screamed when I saw it hurtling through the air at my body. I don’t like screaming, I always feel silly afterwards. What exactly was it’s plan? I guess escape… but do you think it was smart enough to know that if it flew right at me that I would be so surprised I would be frozen and he would be able to escape? Hmph.
Anyways, I thought I would write a bit more about my trip, as I haven’t written too much yet. The trip to Blantyre was more enjoyable than the trip back, but it was still OK. I decided to take an alternate route back in order to spend a couple of days in Mocuba and visit my VSO friend Aukje. To get to Mocuba from Blantyre, I took a minibus (chapa) to the border (this was the first time I made a baby cry just by looking at her… she was so scared of the weird white person!), crossed the border on the back of a bicycle, and rode the bicycle into town to catch a ride to Mocuba. There was a little pick-up truck sitting at the corner, and my cycling buddy told me it was going to Mocuba… sure enough the guys (who I thought were the driver and passenger, but later realized were just the guys hired to load the vehicle) told me it was going there. I asked when, and they said “now, today”. And I said “Now, now”, or “later, now”. Apparently this guys definition of “now” actually meant in an hour or two, so I was right to ask. It was 10:30, and we finally got on the road shortly after 2. I was crammed into the cab of the truck (which they made me pay more for, and after turning orange from being in the back last time, and seeing some suspicious clouds, I paid), which was less comfortable than the back. Everytime the driver shifted into 2nd gear (which was a lot… the roads are not in good condition) he had to whack the gear shift into my right thigh. Everytime I thought I’d found a position that would escape the whack, I would promptly discover that it wasn’t so. Then, just as it was getting dark, the driver pulled over (interesting fellow… he would talk about me to the other woman in the truck, but he wouldn’t really talk to me) and said “get out the tire… get out the tire!” to the “ajudante” (helper). The left back tire was completely flat. Guess we hit one of those potholes a little too hard. Fortunately, this guy was prepared, and the tire was changed quite quickly. Shortly thereafter, on our way again, the headlights went out. And didn’t want to come back on. However, after about 15 minutes of crawling along this completely unlit dirt road, the headlights suddenly came on. The next time we stopped at a settlement, the driver and ajudante messed around with some stuff under the hood, and the lights stayed on for the rest of the trip to Mocuba. I spent three nights at “Hotel Aukje” where we ate a lot of chocolate (that I’d bought in Blantyre), and drank beer, and cheap cheap Malawi gin. I figured it was worth a try. We also had dinner with this really nice Dutch family that she is friends with. They have three kids, one of which is an adopted Mozambican. So, on Saturday, I caught the Mecula (big bus… slightly wider than your Greyhound variety, but it also has 5 seats in each row – 3 on one side, and small aisle, and then 2… and no bathroom of course), at 5 am, and slept most of the way to Nampula (it really got quite hot!). At one point I woke up, and realized the bus was stopped and there was some kind of problem. Apparently someone had lost a cellphone, and the driver thought one of the passengers had stolen it, so he wanted to search all of the passengers and their luggage if it wasn’t returned. A number of people got off the bus to let him search them, but the person next to me didn’t move, so I didn’t either. Aside from which the bus had already made a few stops, so I was certain that they weren’t going to find this cellphone. Saturday night I went to a birthday party in Nampula for a couple of volunteers, which was nice. They even had a Mozambican dance demonstration, which was cool (pics to be added to yahoo soon… I hope!). Then Sunday it was back home… this time on the Tanzaniano (with some more delicious veggie meatballs provided by Kate), which is really nice because they dropped me off right at my door.
Now it’s work work work, and sleep sleep sleep! Somehow sleeping on buses isn’t very restful. I also missed my guitar while travelling, so that should be fun. Now I think this update is quite long enough, so I’m off to post it!
March 28. 2004
Well, I’m back in good old hot Pemba. I should be cleaning my disgusting apartment, or my disgusting sweaty self, but I felt the need to check my email first, and so now I am writing a quick update as well, just to say I’m home and fine. It was certainly an interesting trip, and I think my whole body is fully jostled now. I will recover. And I have the proper visa now, so I should be able to get my work permit. Very exciting.
Ugh. I look at my disorganized apartment and vow never to leave it in such a state again. No more thinking I can mark 450 tests and collate the marks of 450 students in four days. It turns out it really can’t be done unless you really don’t need to sleep ever. Yeah. And that stupid mouse made a mess of my kitchen. I think I’m going to have to kill it. Maybe I’ll get a cat.
March 23, 2004
I missed Raye's birthday! I'm such a jerk. So here is a public apology, and belated birthday wishes to a great gal who'd better be having tons of fun in sunny Sudbury!
March 22, 2004
So I've had another interesting trip to Malawi. It's always an adventure here! And once again I was blown away by the scenery along the way. It's amazing. If I could describe the sights and the feelings on seeing these views... you would all start saving to come to Africa right away. There really is nothing like it. I think spending some time traveling in Africa would cure all kinds of spiritual ailments.
So... on Friday I took the bus to Nampula. First I stayed up all night on Thursday thinking I could finish marking and collating marks to send to the school before leaving. Not a chance. Very unrealistic expectations of myself. At four a.m. I had to stop to pack for my trip. Arrived in Nampula around 12:30, and had some lovely Borscht at Kate's. She is a cooking machine. A cooking machine who doesn't like to eat. Later she served me some absolutely delicious vegetarian meatballs. Incredible. Anyways, I tried to get my train ticket but was told I could only get it after the train arrived which was going to be in an hour. I had massive stomach pains at this time, and didn't want to hang around, so David and I got a drink and played a game of pool, then I went back to Kate's for a nap. After my nap I felt a hundred times better, and was ready to head out to a local barraca where David and the other Nampula volunteers were having a belated St. Patrick's Day celebration (complete with green beer). I only hung around for a little while as I was quite tired and planning on getting up at 4 a.m. to catch the train. I went back to Kate's and called the taxi people to arrange a pick-up. At 4 a.m. I stood outside Kate's waiting for the taxi. At 4:20 I called the taxi company. At 4:40 I called the taxi company again. At 4:55 I called the taxi company again and somebody finally came. At this point I had used all of my cell phone credit. We got to the train station in time for me to watch the train pull away. I asked the taxi driver if there was another way to get to Cuamba, and he told me to take a chapa to this place where I could catch a car. After a full chapa went by, he stopped a pickup truck heading to the place and I hopped in. Once I got to this market place, I hung around for a few hours waiting for a ride to Cuamba. Finally a couple of people told me that I would have a great deal of trouble getting a ride to Cuamba from there and I should take a ride to Ribaue and try and catch another one from there. So, these nice men booted an older guy out of the cab of a truck and seated me up front with them. So I talked to the driver and his friend (who drank beer, and bought me beer during the whole trip) until Ribaue. At Ribaue the driver bought me dinner, and after about an hour and a half, I caught a ride to Cuamba. Inside a big pickup truck (the kind with 4 doors). At 11:15 p.m. I finally arrived in Cuamba, called my super friend Sam, and crashed. The next morning I slept in (having decided that there was no way I was getting up at 4 a.m. to catch the chapa). I hung out with Sam for a few hours, and his friend Ngoro (from Zim), drinking rum and coke, and then we walked over to the market to see if I could catch a ride to the border. Which I did immediately, coincidentally with the same people I'd caught a ride with the night before. This time I sat in the back of the truck though. The road from Cuamba to Mandimba was surprisingly good, although it is a dirt road, and I have never been so dirty in my life. My face was orange when I arrived in Mandimba. When I got to the border, I immediately caught a ride to Mangochi, inside a lovely truck, with a nice Malawian man. Very comfortable. In Mangochi I waited about 15 minutes before being crammed into the front of a tiny pick-up. This was the least comfortable part of the journey. However, once we arrived in Blantyre I just had to pay the folks extra (too much, but what can you do) and they brought me directly to Doogles, where I showered, and ordered a veggie burger. Then I crashed.
Today I went to the consulate, again being told I did not have the proper documents, but it seems that that is being sorted, and I should be heading back to Mozambique by tomorrow I think. I hope to take a different route back and visit my friend Aukje in Mocuba. I also did a bit of shopping to pick up some things that we can't get in Moz (TVP!!!! Veggie stock!!!!). Very exciting.
So I am well, and enjoying my little vacation, and there will be more updates when I return to Pemba I think. Take care!
March 15, 2004
Argh. More testing frustrations. I took away several test papers this afternoon. After telling them repeatedly that there was to be no talking, and no copying, I started taking away papers from repeat offenders and telling them they were finished. It was so strange, because they weren’t even embarrassed by it. If I’d been caught cheating (which of course I never did), I’d have been so embarrassed! Probably one of the main reasons I never did it. One guy just plain refused to leave the classroom though. I don’t know what I’m going to do about it… my original plan was just to give them marks for however far they got before I took away their papers, but there were so many people cheating that I didn’t catch, that I’m not sure that’s fair. But at the same time if I’m not a bit strict on this, they’ll all try and get away with it next time. It’s distressing because I feel like I have to spend the whole testing time walking around, trying to keep an eye on 70 students, and continuously telling them to shut up. I was also quite frustrated with their inability to follow simple instructions. Several of the exercises were identical to ones we had done in class, and I gave examples on the test, and they still complained that they didn’t understand. I refused to translate into Portuguese on principle. At some point they have to start using that thing that sits on the top of their necks, right? RIGHT???? I hope I’m not being unreasonable. I honestly believe that the test was fair. But I also know that an awful lot of students did very poorly. Rui and I are both having this problem. We feel like we aren’t reaching them… like we are doing something wrong. He was quite amazed by some of the answers on his tests as well. I just hate feeling as frustrated as I did today. I couldn’t bring myself to do any marking tonight, even though I really need to! I’m off to play some pool to relax before hitting the hay. And a quick motorcycle ride to get there will be lovely for clearing the head. Thank goodness for friends!
On the plus side, my relations with the directors of the school seems to be slightly improving (even though I think some of them think I'm a bit incompetent...). Last week I was certain that one of the guys thought very little of me, but this week he is smiling and saying good morning. Who knows what that’s about. And I spoke to the director today about my trip to Malawi, and he says no problem… so I’m off on Friday.
March 13, 2004
Phew! I’m a little bit spacey today, and my desk is an absolute mess… so we’ll see how this goes!
School has had some interesting moments. I have a couple of discipline glitches that I need to work out, and as I still don’t know the rules of the school (which I have requested several times), I find it difficult. I’ve tried the Katimavik-like thing of talking to the students, but perhaps I’ll try it again. Sometimes they just act so young – fight over books, yell across the room, and bring petty problems to Teacher instead of trying to work things out on their own. And when there are 70 students and they all start talking to each other, it’s amazingly difficult to get their attention. Soon I’ll just start chucking people out of class. Also, I was giving an oral test this week to most of my classes (in hopes of motivating them to practice speaking more during speaking activities in class), and I realized that one of my tenth grade classes was cheating. I had a set of pictures which I asked them to talk to me about. Apparently they were discussing it in the classroom, and had come up with something to memorize and say. After 3 people said pretty much the exact same thing, I knew this was happening, and when after about 10 people said the same thing (I was debating whether or not a memorized speech was good enough) a girl turned up with the whole thing written on her hand… so I went in and cancelled the test. I should also mention that the sentences they had memorized were not very good. In this class I had also given a writing assignment, which I had already marked, and so I knew that several of the stories had been copied from books. We had quite the discussion over this, and since it was the first assignment for marks, I decided to give the copiers (and anyone who wanted to try and better their mark) a second chance. I felt it wasn’t fair to only give a second chance to the people who copied, when there were groups (oh yeah, this was a group assignment) who honestly did the work, but not well. I felt OK with this decision, although I tried to make it clear that this was a one-shot deal. I think some people feel I should have just given zeros to the copiers, but I preferred to give another chance. Anyways, that was disappointing. I was so sad when I realized these stories were copies!
This week is also the week of big tests… which I have written, but which I had a hard time getting printed, as the computer at the school was always locked, or finally, out of ink. So I paid to get a couple of them printed in a store, just to be sure. So I have to give 8 big tests (since I have 8 classes), and mark them all, and collate the marks for this first period, all before Friday, because I need to head to Malawi again to get my visa sorted. My contract has finally come out of the Ministry of Education, so I can finally get the right kind of visa (so back to Blantyre I go), and start to process to get a DIRE (which is a work permit). Damn, electricity just went off… better shut er down! Hope you are all well!
March 8. 2004
First of all… big thanks to super generous people for giving help in various ways… I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but I do want to say that I am really grateful and so relieved to know that I will have a computer to keep me linked to the outside world! And I’m so looking forward to getting stuff from Canada! I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have encountered such generous people.
So what is new here? More testing, more frustrations. Sometimes I swear the students are determined to not understand me. Half of them sit there and sulk saying “I no speak English teacher… I no understand, I no understand” as I’m at the front gesticulating like mad and speaking as slowly and as loudly as I can (I really believe it would make no difference if I was speaking Japanese or English or Portuguese, the instructions are so damn simple…). I even gave in and gave instructions in Portuguese last week… and they still didn’t follow them. I was as generous as possible in the marking of tests. I discounted questions and gave half marks if they were even in the same ballpark. This of course means that while some people still managed to get 4 out of 20, some people got 21 out of 20, and now have heads bigger than the classroom.
I currently have tuna surprise in the oven… even though I made it, I expect a surprise as to whether or not it turns out to be edible… and a pot of water boiling on the stove. The kettle which I so loved is broken and now completely useless. I will buy another one, but this time I will get one in a store rather than a little hut thingy so I have more recourse if this happens again.
Good news… my pool game is improving greatly. I even beat my friend whose been teaching me. Some beautiful shots… it does help that the rules here are different. We count flukes, and if the other person scratches, you get two shots. The only problem is that the pool place is ridiculously hot.
What else can I say? The electricity and water have been pooping out more frequently lately, which is a pain, but not a huge deal. I only worry about my fridge, and miss being able to play music when the electricity is off. It was unbearably hot last night… somehow it seemed to get hotter after the sun went down.
Hey… tuna surprise a la Cindy is not bad. Especially with piri-piri (hot sauce).
Oh here’s something. My regular guard is on holidays right now, so I’ve contracted one of Rui’s guards (he has two… he only wanted one, but as they had worked together for Rui’s predecessor, they made an agreement to make less in order for both of them to have a job… I think that’s pretty amazing). Anyways, this guy is a bit of a character. He goes by the name “Commando” (not his real name), and he loves to talk. His Portuguese is pretty funny at times, but if you get him started on a story… it may never end. He’s a pretty good worker, and even shows the odd spark of initiative, even if he hasn’t solved the pet mouse problem yet (I’m not sure, but I think the damn thing is getting more courageous). Have I mentioned this little guy? Well, he’s either a big mouse or a small rat, I’m not sure. I think it’s a mouse though. He chewed a hole through my screen and scurries around the kitchen. Since I live on the third floor, I can’t help wondering how the hell he gets up here. Issa even sewed up the screen, and the damn thing chewed right through the patch.
Oh hey – I saw the biggest snail ever the other day. I walked right past it thinking it was a rock, and then I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, looked and jumped back. Snails kind of creep me out… especially when they are the size of small cats. I had no idea that snails that big existed.
Oh yes, due to the momentary functionality of my computer… I have managed to put a few pics up on yahoo at this address
photos So that is in answer to the requests from survey answers for more pics. I will try and add more soon!
March 4, 2004
Hopefully the computer will hold out long enough for me to write this! It’s really a fluke whether it works or not!
So, the conference. It was really great. I stayed with a lovely Canadian woman named Kate (thanks Kate!) who has been working in Nampula for a year and a half. She even shared some of her precious Tim Horton’s coffee with us! It’s funny the things that you get patriotic about. So the conference was about partnerships, and we talked a lot about working together and using human resources to get things done. It was good. And of course, we partied a bit. We had a lovely dinner, and hit the disco afterwards. I got back to Kate’s around 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. The disco was fun, and they kept playing Brazilian samba music (in homage to Carnaval which is on right now) everytime I thought I had had enough dancing. I got back to Kate’s around 6 a.m. Slept for a couple of hours, then got up and Kate showed me the best places to buy fabrics (for making clothes and wall decorations), and I picked up some peanut butter (cause it’s a bit cheaper in Nampula). Then in the afternoon, Kate, Emma (another volunteer from England) went clothes shopping in one of the second hand markets. This was tons of fun, and I got some great shirts. Emma has an interesting way of responding to the “Hey White Person” salutations – she has learned how to respond “Hey Black Person” in the same language, and to do it in a way where everyone laughs. I’m actually quite impressed at how early children around here learn to say “white person”. I think I’ve actually been getting more of it lately.
Anyhoo, Rui and I travelled to Nampula by way of Tanzaniano. These are minibuses driven by Tanzanians, who sometimes drive like mad and scare the shit out of their passengers. There were some frightening moments, however we arrive no problem, and due the almost complete lack of comfort (I’m telling you, Greyhound is like travelling first class), we were happy that the trip was as quick as it was. Also, Rui lost his wallet on the bus (only realizing it was missing after we had stopped at a restaurant), however, the bus driver found it, and saw that there was a phone number on a piece of paper in it, and called it (which was me) and Rui got it all back. So we decided to take the tanzaniano again after all. It is a bit faster than the mecula which has long stops everywhere.
So this week I’ve been marking and giving tests. I didn’t know it was possible to fail an open book language test, but some of my students have done so with finesse. “She’s is isn’t economist”. Gar. And this testing thing is a lot of work by the way. The worst is when the students who missed the test need to write it, and then I realize I have to write a new test so that they are on more equal footing with their classmates. I also only found out the week before the conference that I needed to have done 3 tests by the end of March (and of course I had planned one…).
Here’s something exciting! I received my first piece of mail this week! Thanks for the postcard Kristen, it was really great!
February 29, 2004 Happy Sadie Hawkins.
So first... here is the update that was locked on my computer for ages...unfortunately, this does not mean that my computer is fixed, it means that by a fluke it booted up again, long enough for me to transfer off all the stuff that I didn't want to lose. I had a computer guy look at it (thanks Mark) and he believes that I need a new hard drive. Dammit. At least I got off all the pics and stuff though!
January 29, 2004
Alrighty! Time for the school update.
So classes did start on Monday, although the classes were definitely not full, and the class lists weren’t ready. Nobody started really taking attendance until today. Boy, is that fun as I massacre their names. They seem to find it entertaining at least.
So 7 a.m. on Monday I trotted up to the school (trot being used quite loosely of course, seeing that I almost die every time I reach the top of the 96 stairs I have to climb) and gave my first class.
Oh wait… I haven’t explained anything about the school yet! It is called “Escola Comercial e Industrial de Pemba”. It is basically a high school where students can focus on one of 3 areas – Accounting, Electrical, and Mechanical. I’m teaching grades 8-10, as the upper levels only have classes at night, and I declined to teach at night (with good reason as my attempted bag-snatching last week proved!). Most of my classes are in the Accounting area, but I have one third year Electrical (ie. Grade 10) who have never taken English before and so are actually at an 8th grade level, and one second year Mechanical, who are in the same boat as the Electrical. It’s really interesting to see the make-up of these classes. There is 1 woman out of 70 in the Mechanical class, and a few more in the Electrical, but not many. The Accounting classes are full of women. This also means that I took the wrong course at Harborne Hall in Birmingham this summer, but I don’t think it matters a great deal now.
So… Monday. I found it a bit hard, because I actually had no idea what was going on. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be taking attendance, or not. I also saw that everyone was gathering in an area between two of the buildings, and that the Director of Pedagogy was arranging the students in rows according to their grade and discipline. I asked another teacher what was going on and he explained that every Monday and Friday they do this so the Director of Pedagogy or the Director of the school can give announcements, and also for the singing of the national anthem. This was the first time I heard the national anthem. It’s quite long, and it was sung without much enthusiasm, but then, I’m not sure how much enthusiasm is put into “O Canada” in our high schools. Then the students headed to class.
I went in the class, was greeted with “Good Morning Teacher” (the students stand and recite this at the beginning of each class), and we were off. I wrote the date and my name on the board, then I turned around, introduced myself, and asked them why it was important to learn English. This actually went quite well with this class (which was a first year Accounting), but by the time I had met all 8 of my classes, I had seen more blank expressions and received the answer (“para saber”… to know) more than I care to think about. However, not so bad. We talked a bit about working together to make the classroom environment good for learning (our expectations of each other), and then I started the first lesson.
The second class scared me. As I was waiting for the rest of the class to file in, I took out my water bottle and took a drink. A student who was already seated at the back immediately exclaimed, loudly and irritatedly “Ehhhh! You are going to drink water in here! You have to go out!” I didn’t quite understand, but after the class had started and the water thing had been mentioned by other students, I realized this was a problem, and I explained that I didn’t yet know all the rules and customs there, that things were very different from my country, and that they would have to be patient and help me find out the rules, but in a respectful manner. This class definitely had more attitude, and more “dudes” (those guys that think they are too cool for their britches) than any of the others. The other students, interestingly, let them know in various ways that they didn’t think their remarks were very cool. This, however, was the only moment in the week where I thought, “Good God. I’m teaching a couple of hundred teenagers… what the hell was I thinking?”. The rest of the week I felt good, and had some fun with some of the classes. It’s amazing to me how much each class has it’s own personality. It’s also clear that there are a good number of motivated students, and I look forward to getting into the swing of things enough to start doing extra-curricular stuff.
Today I actually had a bit of a heart attack as this man sat down next to me in the Teacher’s Room (where I was working on lesson plans) and told me that I was going to have to take over all of Elizabeth’s activities (and the woman was clearly a workaholic here and did tons of stuff), including the “Healthy Living Week” which requires contacting people to help set it up and get speakers, and write proposals to get funding. I tried to protest saying that I needed to get accustomed to things here, and that I didn’t yet know how things work here, and I would be happy to help out, but that I shouldn’t be in charge of such a project, and he told me just to imagine I was in Canada and do it the way I would there. Just great. Not that I’m opposed to working on this project, it just seems a bit quick. Ah well… I’ll just do what I can!
So, Monday I had classes from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., then from 2:10 to 5:25, however not a single student from the last class showed up, so I was able to leave at 4. On Monday all of the classes are doubles, so I have each group for two lessons in a row. Tuesday I have the same morning schedule, then 2 classes in the afternoon (from 2:10 to 3:45). Wednesday I’m done at 11:20, Thursday at 12:10 (but I have a break between 7:45 and 10:30), and Friday I’m done at 10:30. Some of the classes have up to 70 students, but I haven’t seen a full class yet. The classrooms are about the same size as a high school classroom in Canada. Students share desks. The class texts are kept in a cupboard in the control room, and I have 2 students help distribute them and collect them in each class. There are 27 copies of the grade 8 text, so obviously in class they share these as well. This also means that since students don’t have their own copies of texts, there isn’t much homework to be given. This isn’t bad though… at least there is a book! Poor Rui is teaching history and hasn’t been able to find out if there are any texts available or not. Imagine that! History without texts!
So thus far this week my daily routine has involved getting up at 5:30, doing a bit of yoga (I’m working on it… I left off doing it for so long that I’m basically starting over), drinking a coffee, having some breaky, maybe showering (on the colder days I couldn’t make myself do it first thing in the morning…), and trudging up to school around 6:45. Coming home at lunch… and then either napping, or eating and returning to school, and then coming home and napping. Today is the first day I haven’t felt the need for a nap… yet.
In the evenings I’ve been doing some planning, playing a bit with my guitar, and basically taking it easy. Last night I went up to Rui’s for dinner (which the empregada we share had cooked for lunch), and to watch a movie… unfortunately his laptop is a bit bipolar and didn’t want to play the movies last night. Then I was tired, I got his guard to walk me home, I chatted a bit on-line, and then went to bed.
Now here is an update that I wrote last week, and haven't put on yet...
February 19, 2004
I’m writing this on the computer at the school, which after a week of trying to get into the informatica room I’ve finally managed entrance.
Things are going well, although I’m still unsure of a lot of things around here, and I had a hard time convincing the director of school activities that I was not a good person to put in charge of “Healthy Living Week” as I don’t know how things work here, my knowledge of the language is not great, and I don’t know where to go to get things. He didn’t seem to understand that for me to be in charge it would be 4 times as much work as for someone from here to do it as I would have to find everything out that others already know. I explained that I would be happy to help, or even to be in charge with someone else, but that I wasn’t ready to head up the project myself. It’s pretty funny. I can see that basically he knows that nobody else wants to do it, and he feels he can unload it on me. I’m trying to be firm, because I really don’t think it’s right that it always falls to the volunteer to do these projects. The school and students will never take ownership of these things if they don’t take charge of them themselves. They seem to think that there will always be a volunteer here to do these things. Of course I want to be involved and I think it is a worthwhile project, but I feel like if I always have to take charge of projects formerly done by other volunteers, then I will never have time to start new ones, and then my placement here won’t be progressive, and in fact, the work won’t be sustainable.
My health is OK, although I gave in and thought I would see a doctor as my cough persisted for more than a week, and didn’t seem to be improving. I also developed a rash suddenly two days ago that started on my neck, but upon further inspection appeared all over my body. So I went to the hospital with Rui. That is something else. The hospital here is under renovation (which is a really good thing…). At any rate, I paid 1000 mts (which is minimal) for a consultation, thinking I was going to see a dr. I went behind the curtain, saw a medical assistant, who asked what was wrong… I told her, and she gave me a prescription for penicillin and aspirin. No examination or anything. I was a little nonplussed by this, and told my friend Beto, who made me talk to the Cuban doctors who live across the street from me, and who were having a beer at the little bar next to my apartment. They also found it strange to be prescribed penicillin for a cough, and told me to take aspirin, drink lots of fluids and buy a cough suppressant. At any rate the cough has lessened a bit. I’m sure the powder from the chalk, which is probably the most powdery chalk known to man, is not helping matters. On Monday I coughed in class, and a couple of students said “TB”, while others said “Mmmmm lunch.”. Smart asses. As for the rash, I remembered that I had started using a new soap, and that combined with the heat was probably enough to cause this irritation. So I switched soap again, and am applying baby powder liberally. There seems to be some improvement, although my face is not looking so good.
I have a shortage of teaching clothes, so I’ve been trying to buy some materials to get some made. Now I just need to find a good tailor who isn’t too expensive. This week I’m also trying to prepare for evaluations in classes, and for the conference next week. Planning always takes more time than I think it should. I’m so glad that I didn’t end up with more than 3 levels to teach. If I had another grade to plan for, I’d never have free time… and I really value my free time these days.
And now I will say that I will write a more proper update for this week sometime soon. I had a great week in Nampula. It was great to meet other volunteers, and I really enjoyed the conference, and I got some chickpeas with which to make hummous. And some clothes for teaching! Yay! Anyhoo... more later!
February 21, 2004
So the computer blow-job didn't hold... she pooped out on me again. However, I'm hoping to get ahold of a Windows 98 systems disk and get it taken care of this week... so here's hoping!
Still getting e+mails at Rui's though, so don't forget about me!
February 19, 2002
Wow. I don't know what came over me today, but I suddenly had this desire to see what the inside of my computer looked like, so I unscrewed three little screwies, and looked at some pretty things inside. It didn't look like what I expected, so I just blew in it, put the little cover thing back on and WOULD YOU BELIEVE MY COMPUTER STARTED WORKING?????? It booted up. I'm in shock. Some of you are probably thinking "Of course... blow into it... why didn't she do that in the first place?", while others are laughing your asses off, which is pretty much what I'm doing.
Anyways, this explains why some of you have just received e-mail messages that are over 2 weeks old (having been sitting in my outbox for quite some time. I'm going to log off now... more later, if the computer gods hold...
February 13, 2002
Alrighty. Computer still not fixed. Now that I work during the week, it’s harder to get things done! I’m also afraid to take it to just anyone, as I’m hoping someone will be able to fix it and salvage the files and photos that are stored on it. It would really suck to lose all of those.
School is going well, although I have to admit that I have my frustrations. The thing occupying my mind most this week is the general lack of books around here. It occurred to me that perhaps the reason students here are so far behind students in Canada is that in Canada we have books available not only for studying, but for reading for pleasure. Here that just isn’t available. Reading is good on so many levels, but books just aren’t available. Apparently Spain and Portugal wanted to donate books to Mozambique, but because (this is as it was explained to me by a friend – and in Portuguese, so forgive me if my information is off) the port is controlled by a large multinational, they were told they would have to pay import taxes in order to donate the books. So naturally they said… ‘No, we aren’t going to pay to donate books’ and that was the end of that. It’s so frustrating. It aggravates me too me when students seem unwilling to think. Some of them really want their learning handed to them, and when they feel like it’s too hard, they just shut down and stop trying. In a way I can’t blame them, but I still get irked. Their school supplies consist of bags, small notebooks, and pens and pencils. KDSS seems like quite the luxury now with its computers and well-stocked library… and French resource centre!
So… other than that… we have a conference coming up in Nampula for all the Northern Mozambican volunteers. So we have to miss some work to go for that. I have to write a letter to my director to request permission to miss work, even though VSO has already sent them a letter explaining the conference. Everything here has to be written and stamped. Oh… that’s another frustration. The school is a bit used to having volunteers I think… I think I’m the fourth. So anyways, they often don’t realize that I don’t know how things work, and I think they don’t realize how different things here are. I tried to explain to a couple of people that there were plenty of things that I didn’t know or understand, and that I didn’t even know I didn’t understand it because I didn’t know it existed. Nobody has really taken the time to give me any kind of orientation… they just wait for me to ask questions, which is kind of frustrating. I’ve been pretty much left on my own. ‘here’s your schedule, now go teach.’ I didn’t know how to fill out the class books the first week, so then it was marked down that I missed classes, when in fact I had given classes, but hadn’t filled in the form that I didn’t know existed. And nobody thought to tell me about it. I also have to write and plan tests, and the rules for doing so have been handed to me in Portuguese… and not an easy to understand Portuguese, so that is fun. These kinds of things I find exhausting right now, but I realize that it’s also because it’s culture shock time, and within a month I’ll be quite acclimatized and knowing what’s going on. I just have to persevere, and make sure I still have tons of fun.
I haven’t had much time to get bored at least. It seems like I am always busy doing something, so that is great. Last Saturday I went to a Mozambican friend’s house and she made matapa and we chatted and had a great afternoon hanging out at her place. During the week I haven’t done too much because I’ve been so tired and trying to get over a cold (when school starts and the germs fly, I always seem to get a cold… although the chalk here seems to be particularly dusty as well, and I cough most of all in class).
Tomorrow I am going bicycle-shopping with my guard. He was late this week, and instead of saying ‘sorry I’m late…’ he said… ‘I was late because my dinner was late, and then I had to walk all the way here, and since I don’t have a bicycle…’. Fortunately for him, my friend Beto (Mozambican from Maputo who has been living in Pemba for the last 2 years) was over, and Beto said… ‘just explain why you are late and apologize’ (but in a much nicer way than that sounds written down), and then Beto explained to me that this was Issa’s (the guard) way of telling me he wants a bicycle. He said it annoyed him when people did this kind of hinting instead of sitting down and asking to work out some sort of deal with their employer where the employer pays up front and reduces the salary for the number of months it takes to pay for the item. I said… ‘Holy Crap! That’s a good idea.’ I’d realized Issa wanted something from me, but I wasn’t sure what it was, and I didn’t want to just buy him a bicycle. Anyways, I talked to Issa about it and it appears that this is what he wanted to arrange all along. He also told me that after the bicycle was paid for he wanted to make a similar arrangement to buy a house, but I explained that I may only be here for 2 years, so I probably wouldn’t be able to help him out with that. It turns out that having people work for you can be a bit of a responsibility. Apparently Issa expects me to haggle over prices and help him pick the bike as well. We’ll see how well that goes. My haggling skills are… well, they suck. I always feel like I’m trying to be cheap.
Good news… I’ve now amassed enough spices and ingredients to make a decent cabbage soup. As I had a cold, I made soup, and it was good, if I do say so myself. I also managed to make a decent pot of rice this week. I did discover a couple of weeks ago that I can make a decent hummus here (Paul will appreciate the value of this), however I haven’t been able to find chickpeas since. Dammit. At any rate, I’m getting used to the food available here, and am finding that I’m not as badly off as I thought at first. Vegetables are ridiculously expensive at times, but at least I can get some. I wish peanut butter was a bit less expensive, but some things are necessary!
February 10, 2004
Hi there. Sorry for the lack of updates, but I still haven’t gotten my computer fixed up. I’m not sure when that is going to happen. However, I am not able to get my e-mail on Rui’s computer because he is such a nice guy. Thanks Rui!
At any rate, school is going well. I have 8 classes (grade 8, 9, and 10), and 26 hours of teaching a week. But then, one hour actually equals 45 minutes. Some of the classes are great, and some are less enthusiastic. The education they receive here is so different. My biggest class has 76 students but somehow it doesn’t seem so bad… the classrooms are about the same size as a classroom in a Canadian high school, and the students share desks and books (which are kept locked in a cupboard and are removed only for class time… there are 31 copies of the text). At least there are books! However, since students don’t keep texts, it’s difficult to give much homework… which I doubt they would do anyways. Some of the students are super motivated, which is great, but then there are some that seem to really want their learning handed to them on a silver platter. I’m also a bit surprised at their overall lack of teamwork. They don’t seem to want to help each other, or to work together. It was also driving me crazy that they wouldn’t tell me when they didn’t understand, but would just stare at me blankly, but then I remembered that corporal punishment is still in existence around here, so I have to train them to give feedback a bit. School starts at 7 a.m. (and I have a class at 7 every morning), and I only have afternoon classes on Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the week I finish at lunch time, which is nice, and gives me some planning time, although somehow as soon as I get home, I don’t feel like thinking about working anymore. Funny how that works.
Otherwise I’ve been enjoying Pemba… finally went for a swim, and it was amazing. On the weekends I really can’t believe I live here! It’s beautiful! And the view from my balcony is so great. I have a great view of the sunset. My biggest frustration right now is the lack of silence. There are always people making noise. It drives me a bit crazy. Dogs, people sweeping, whistling… oh! And the radios. There is a mania around here for radios. People walk around carrying radios to listen to them, and the guards across the street have a radio they listen to, and of course these radios have a terrible sound. Argh.
That’s about all I have the energy to write for tonight… got a bit of a cold, and I still have to walk home, so I should get a move on!
February 2, 2004
Happy Groundhog Day! Hope you had some good news... whatever you were hoping for. I hope Willie was in good form this morning.
So this is just a quick update to let you know that the reason I’m not responding to e-mails or updating my site as regularly is that my computer has pooped out on me. It is refusing to boot up and keeps asking for the system disk (which I don’t have), or telling me that it can’t read the C drive. It’s also making a funny noise, which scares me. I’m hoping to get it figured out sooner rather than later, but finding reliable techies around here can be a bit dicey. Apparently it’s a day for slang.
Anyways, there’s the distressing news! Otherwise things are very good, and I’m enjoying the classes, even though it’s taking some time getting used to working again! This getting up at 5:15 a.m. to get to work for 7 can be a bit rough! However, some of the students really seem to be enjoying the classes, so it makes it worthwhile. I also met a youth group here who voluntarily do things to try and spread knowledge and engage youth in worthwhile activities, which made me really happy. It was almost like meeting Katimavik-like minded people. Lots of wonderful people around, and I’m having tons of fun... don’t forget about me though, just because I’m not updating as regularly...! take care all, thinking of you!
January 25, 2004
Alrighty. It’s been raining off and on for the last few days, so the temperature has been a bit more bearable. Yay!
So yesterday I went to a “ceremonia da menina” for my empregada’s daughter. This is the initiation rite for girls becoming women. I don’t understand it all, I have to talk to my empregada about it and find out more details, but I’ll tell you how it was experiencing it not knowing as that might be kind of weird. Rui’s guard (who is called Commando – not his real name, but everyone calls him this) came to get me around noon so he could walk me to Regina’s. There are two reasons for his accompaniment… one being that I didn’t know where her house was, and the other being that I probably wouldn’t feel too safe walking through her neighbourhood unaccompanied. I just attract a lot of attention, and people assume that I have money because I’m white.
So I arrived there, was taken inside (there were men hanging out outside the house, but they are not allowed in during this time), and there were about 50 women sitting on mats or tarps on the ground. There were two buildings at Regina’s and between them they had rigged a roof over this open area and that’s where the women were sitting. Regina brought me a chair to sit and watch… she’d invited me because she thought I would be interested, which I was, and which I really appreciated. I wasn’t too comfortable about the idea of sitting on a chair while everyone else was on the ground, but I wasn’t sure if I had to be outside of things for some reason. Before I sat down a woman stood up and said loudly in Portuguese “Don’t you want to sit on the ground with us?”. So I said yes, took off my sandals and sat next to her on the tarp. This woman then sort of took charge of me for the afternoon. I think her name was Rejane. She translated for me, and answered my questions when I was brave enough to ask them. There were a number of older women there who spoke only Macua and no Portuguese.
So we sat there for a while, and then suddenly a woman came in carrying a 14 year-old girl on her back who she then deposited on the mat in the middle of this sort of circle of people. This was Regina’s daughter. She was covered in white paste… this is a cream thing they make out of a local something that is supposed to be good for the skin. Another woman brought in another girl, who she deposited in front of the first girl. They had capulanas over their heads. I don’t know why. At some point the capulanas were removed. The second girl sat in front of the first girl so the first girl could rest her head on her back. They sat there while the older women played drums and clapped. Sometimes a woman or two would get up and start dancing around (occasionally they would remove clothes to better show the shaking of their tushies). There was almost always a woman or two walking around giving “ofertas”. Regina seemed to have to do this almost constantly. She would walk around the circle throwing a coin, or a candy on each woman’s lap. Because everyone was wearing capulanas (sarong), they just let these ofertas fall into their laps and create little piles. Speaking of capulanas… after I sat on the mat, Rejane suddenly pulled out a “lenco” (head scarf) and tied it on my head, and then pulled out a capulana for me to put over the one I was wearing. She said that at these things women try to wear the same capulana, so she had an extra one for me to use. I then realized that when I arrived I was the only one (other than the crazy woman… more on her later) who didn’t have something on my head. Every once and a while the music would stop for a bit, and then start again. The ofertas just kept coming. I noticed that the front girl seemed to be crying for some reason, but I couldn’t seem to find out why. Then suddenly a woman came and booted her out to the edge of the circle and took her place as Regina’s daughter’s cushion.
When there were a few women dancing I was told that I could take pictures if I wished, so I took some of the dancing women, and then I took pictures all around the circle. I have found at times that when I start taking pictures it is necessary to try and include everyone or people might feel left out. In fact at one point I heard someone say… “you still haven’t got us behind you yet”, so I turned around and took another one.
Oh yes, the “crazy” woman. I had noticed her when I entered because she wasn’t fully clothed. For some reason, when women go a bit unstable here, they have a tendency to walk around topless. People sometimes yell at them, and sometimes just ignore them. I watched a couple of women put a capulana on this woman, but as soon as she started dancing she removed it. I referred to her as the crazy woman because that is how she was described to me. Rejane said “Do you see that woman dancing there? She’s crazy. But whenever we have one of these things she comes in and dances.” Nobody really seemed too bothered by it, and I thought it was nice that she was just welcomed like everyone else.
I forgot to mention that as time went on more and more women came. And one point I’m pretty sure there were almost a hundred women there. Also, suddenly the ofertas changed to capulanas, and I was presented one by Regina. The capulanas were placed on people’s heads.
Then the girl was suddenly carried back into the house, the music inside stopped and music outside the house started. A bunch of the women got up and went outside. I asked what was happening, and Rejane told me that there was a group of men dancers outside and that some of the women were going to watch. The rest of the women were waiting for lunch to be served. Regina came over and asked me if I would eat, and I said “No thanks” thinking for sure it would have meat in it. Regina said “Eeeeee.” And made a face at Rejane, who then said that it would be bad if the older women ate and I didn’t, so I should just have a little. So I said OK. She said it was beans and rice. When the food came out I saw it was beans with some sort of meat and rice. I figure since I haven’t seen any cows around up here, but I have seen an abundance of goats, that it was likely goat meat, but I didn’t ask because I figured Regina had forgotten that I don’t eat meat and I didn’t want to remind her and embarrass her or cause her extra work at that point. I was taken through the house to a table and given a chair, a plate and a spoon. Everyone else ate with their hands on the mats. I just ate some of the beans and rice and tried to avoid the bits of meat and fat. I asked Rejane what I should do with the coins and candy (because I felt guilty taking money from people who had so much less than myself) and she said “you don’t want it?”. I said “I don’t need it… can I give it to someone?” and she immediately grabbed it and added it to her own. She then explained to me that I had to take the capulana and use it in my house because it was an oferta from Regina. She told me I could give her back the one she had wrapped on me when I arrived because her mother had bought it and she could then return it to her.
Then we went outside and watched some of the singing and dancing there. There were probably 200 people standing outside watching this. The women would occasionally dance with the men… the dancing is very hip-oriented (for men and women)… it’s hard to describe. It’s quite suggestive, although there isn’t a lot of actual touching between the men and women.
Eventually we went back in, Regina’s daughter was carried back in, and the drumming started again. Then Regina told me that Commando was ready to walk me home now and I should just take a couple more pictures before leaving. So I took one of her with her daughter, and that’s when somebody noticed that the picture appears on the back of my camera after it’s taken, and everyone had to see it. Then I had to take more pictures and show people. Then we went outside and Regina asked me to take pictures of the men dancers. Rejane had told me that they had been paid to come and do this for the three days of the ceremony. I was a bit reluctant to take out my camera in this huge crowd, but I felt I had to for Regina’s sake, and I also felt that nobody would steal it in this kind of context. It would have been a very ugly thing indeed. I definitely attracted a lot of attention though, as of course I had to show the men dancers the picture after it was taken.
So then Commando walked me to Rui’s (as he was late for work at Rui’s, and it wasn’t too far out of the way on the way to my place). He had lots of people yelling stuff at him in Macua and he explained that people were saying things like “Oh – you’re doing well if you’ve got a white woman as a wife”, and basically teasing him that I was his wife. When we were almost to Rui’s, Commando asked me to take a picture of him, so I did, but I tried to explain that I didn’t know when the pictures would come out, because I haven’t figured out how to get them developed yet. He didn’t really understand that digital cameras are a bit different, and I didn’t try to explain all of the reasons it would be difficult for me (I don’t have a CD burner, so I can’t bring them into a place on CD to have them developed, even if the store has the capability of doing it).
Rui and I decided to go out for dinner, and had Commando walk us to the restaurant (it was dark). We went to the Portuguese place (with the good fish) and I had some great fish again. And chocolate mousse for dessert. Hmmm. Then we walked around the corner from the restaurant to the place where the taxis hang out. This is a well-lighted area, with several taxis and drivers around and a few people hanging out. We asked the price of a driver and started to get in the car. As I was just getting in, I suddenly felt pressure on my purse… I put my hand on it (the strap was over my head on my shoulder, and then suddenly I was lying on the ground. A man had grabbed my purse, yanked it down hoping the strap would break and he could run off with my purse. Instead the strap held and I hit the dirt. Or rather the pavement. I stood up and watched him run away for about 50 feet as other people watched and made some exclamations, and asked if I was alright and if he took anything. Once he realized no one was chasing him, he stopped running and just sauntered off. I just sort of stood there and marvelled at the fact that this was the one time I had anything valuable in my purse (my camera), and that the strap had held, and that my reaction had been to hold onto the purse. Rui and I got in the cab, we dropped him off, and I went home. My guard was working last night, so I felt OK going home, otherwise I might have hung at Rui’s for a bit. At any rate I slept alright and I don’t seem to be bruised.
So that’s the main update. Now I know… no purse at night, even if you are planning on taking a cab!
I went to the school for 7 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, but I was the only teacher there, and on Thursday there were few students, and on Friday none. Then I just spent the rest of the day doing whatever. I met with the other English teacher Friday afternoon and we exchanged some classes so I wouldn’t have to teach at night (which after my incident last night I am very happy about). It was really funny that people kept asking me why I couldn’t teach at night. This other teacher asked and I said, “It’s the same reason that Elizabeth couldn’t teach at night… I can’t walk home at night!” He accepted this, but made a face. A little while later though, he said to me… “you are living in Baixa where Elizabeth was?” (I nodded) “You can’t walk with a bag after 4 p.m. from the school. It’s not safe.” And he wanted me to teach at night????
Ah well. So I have my schedule now. Mondays and Tuesdays are a bit brutal as I had to take on some afternoon classes to get rid of the night ones. So I have 8 classes on Monday. I start every morning at 7 a.m. I teach 26 hours a week, although an hour is technically 45 minutes. I’m not supposed to have more than 24 hours, but I felt I couldn’t complain as the other teacher has 30.
So there we are. Another massive update! I think I’m going to have to start a new page of updates!
January 24, 2004
Just a quick update, as I’m not supposed to be online today….
I just wanted to say that in regards to mail… the mail system here is very unreliable. Apparently anything thicker than an envelope with a letter and a picture or two might not make it. Sometimes people have been able to receive bigger things like books, but it’s kind of a crap shoot, I think.
Things here are good… I will try and write more for tomorrow.
January 21, 2004
Well, things are definitely moving again. A little too well. Hopefully it will regulate soon.
So I went to the school yesterday and today. It’s been interesting. I arrived yesterday and the first thing the director told me was that classes had begun the day before. I was a bit concerned, but later realized that this was impossible as there were no timetables out yet. Apparently it is quite normal for people to say things that are clearly not consistent with reality here. People are still saying that classes started Monday, although everyone knows that no one has actually had any classes yet. I tried today to be very clear about asking when classes would really start, but I was told that I could come and teach tomorrow. I said “And will there be students?” And I was told yes. However, if I talk to other teachers, or to volunteers, classes won’t really start until Monday. So now I feel like I have to go to school everyday and be prepared to give classes, even though classes won’t actually start until Monday. It’s a very strange thing to get used to.
Elizabeth also headed off to Maputo this morning to start her temporary contract there before she heads back to Scotland. She was very helpful and left all kinds of information for me, so I’m really glad there was this cross-over time. She’s done some amazing things here, which is exciting, because it makes me feel like things can get done. I know she worked really hard though, and I feel a bit unused to that at the moment J. I keep telling myself… you were a Project Leader, you can definitely work 25 hours a week plus extra-curricular and planning time. That’s nothing compared to Katimavik! Yet it seems like a lot!
The school has also put night classes on my schedule, which I have protested. It is not practical for me to give night classes as I can’t really walk home at night alone, and reliable transport here is too difficult to arrange. Elizabeth has just instructed me to be firm, so that is what I am going to do.
Other than that, not much to share… I’m working on some additions for the site, and I welcome suggestions… the survey should be back soon also!
Oh yeah – here’s an interesting tidbit. Those of you who know me well, know that I have always hated pineapple. Well, ever since I was brought a fresh pineapple juice in a local restaurant instead of whatever it was I ordered, I have love pineapple! I went back to that restaurant every day that week to drink that juice. Fresh pineapple (which has recently come into season, although not in this province) is fabulous. It’s so sweet and juicy. I don’t think I could stand the canned stuff still though.
Also, I’m not sure I’ve mentioned how I get drinking water here. I have a large water filter, and I boil water and then filter it. Well, that was exciting. It’s kind of pain, because it’s better to let the water cool first, but as long as you keep on top of it, it’s not so bad.
Take care all… hope it’s not too cold up there! J
January 19, 2004
So here we go… the marathon update! What a couple of weeks I’ve had. It’s been interesting to say the least. I’ll try not to forget anything, but I imagine that will be difficult. Incidentally, this update will contain some gastrointestinal details, so prepare yourselves. The more squeamish of you may wish to skim read certain parts. I feel, however, that as stomach problems seem to be such a part of a volunteers life, that I must not spare you or my dignity in sharing these stories.
So… January 5. Got up at 4:15, to get to bus stop by 5 a.m. Picked up Beth (former volunteer on her way out) on the way and got onto the mecula (bus). The bus then got very crowded. People standing and sitting in the aisles, stuff everywhere. Fortunately our taxi driver had taken us to the first place the mecula picks up, so we had seats. This did not mean that I didn’t have some strange man’s butt in my face for most of the trip, however. We met these super nice Peace Corps volunteers from the States (obviously… being Peace Corps) who were working in Malawi, so they told us a bit about their experience and the differences between Malawi and Mozambique. They had been in Mozambique on vacation. The night before this trip I had suddenly started feeling very strange. Very uncomfortable in my whole body. I was craving pizza however, so David, Rui, and I went and got some expensive pizza and ate it. When I got home (just in time), the pizza excited my intestinal track rather quickly, but then I felt OK. I went to bed, and when I woke up (at 4:15 a.m.) I wasn’t feeling great, but not too terrible. At any rate, I survived the trip, cramped and warm as it was. It took about 8 hours, and we had one stop of 15 minutes along the way. On bus trips here, wherever the bus stops in a town, people run up to the bus selling things to the passengers through the windows of the bus. You can buy hard-boiled eggs, bread, sandwiches, grilled chicken, mangoes, bananas, and all kinds of things. Other than that scheduled rest stop, sometimes the bus will just stop along the highway somewhere and people will go behind a bush to do their business. Or rather, the women will go behind a bush, the men will just get off the bus and face the other way. I do not drink a lot of fluids during bus rides…
So when we got to Nampula, David, Beth and I headed over to the apartment where David was staying (as his apartment wasn’t ready yet, he was staying in a current volunteer’s place, who happened to be back in England for the holidays). That’s when my head started hurting. I lay down, and didn’t really get up other than to move to the living room to watch a film later. My head just got steadily worse (I tried Aspirin, and Paracetamol to no avail), and I head bouts of a little bit of fever (really low though… 37.6-38.6). And for some reason, the bottom of my feet really hurt – as if I had been walking all day. The inside of my feet felt hot, but the outside felt cold. This continued through the night, although at one point in the night the fever broke and I started sweating, so I thought it was over, and that I really had just had this flu that was going around Pemba. However, the next day… Tuesday, I felt worse. My head just kept hurting more and more. It was like a migraine that wouldn’t go away. I wanted a quiet dark room. Around 10:30 I decided that I did want to have a malaria test, so David walked me to the hospital. The hospital was about 3 blocks away (if that), and it was the most painful walk of my life. Any time I moved semi-quickly, my brain felt as if it was going to explode and send bits of my skull in all directions. At the hospital I paid for my consultation, saw the nurse who weighed me (am I really the only volunteer in Mozambican history to gain weight?), took my temperature (with a mercury thermometer under the armpit), and took my blood pressure, saw the doctor (who asked what was wrong, looked at my eyes, listened to my heart and lungs, looked in my mouth briefly and then left without saying anything), and then I sat and waited for somebody to tell me something. Finally I asked the nurse what I was waiting for, and she said… “I don’t know”. Then a bed in the observation room became free, and I lay down for a long time before somebody suddenly came in, stabbed my arm with a needle and took some blood. After ages… 1 o’clock came and went… we could hear the nurse talking to other patients (also getting malaria tests, I believe) about the fact that the doctor was MIA, and that test results were ready. Finally, the doctor returned… I had a brief consultation in his air-conditioned and therefore freezing cold office, where I was told that the malaria test was negative, but that because I am taking Larium, the test may not be accurate and as my symptoms were consistent with malaria, that I had malaria, and so he prescribed malaria medication, which he assured us was available in the hospital pharmacy. The hospital pharmacist looked at the prescription and said no… we don’t have that. So… now it was 2 o’clock, and I was heading back to this apartment (which by the way, has no running water), without the medication. David walked me back, which took ages… or at least it felt like ages… and then he went out in search of medication. Fortunately, since we’d been in the hospital so long, the shops were opening again (they close from 12:00 to 2:00 or 2:30 for lunch). David returned with Halufantrine, Paracetamol, Tetracycline, and Vitamin C… all prescribed by the doctor. I took the medication and slept. Later David tried to get me to eat… I ate a little, but everything tasted metallic, and eating was hard work. David made sure I took the medication at the right times… at 3:30 and 4:30 a.m. for some of the doses). I vomited about an hour after the second tetracycline dose, but it wasn’t terrible.
By the next morning the headache had abated a little, although I was still downing the paracetamol as soon as permitted. I was even able to take a bucket shower with some heated water (I couldn’t imagine throwing cold water on my body). Now it was Wednesday, and David was making all the arrangements for me to go to Malawi the next day… because my visa was about to expire, and that was going to be a big problem. VSO agreed to fly me closer to the border so I wouldn’t have to travel overland with malaria. Rui arrived in Nampula because he also had to go to Malawi and so he was to travel with me. By Wednesday night, David was feeling crappy enough that he was convinced to go to the hospital for a malaria test, where he spent 3 hours, and was told the same thing as me. However, he was prescribed Fansidar. I don’t know why the difference, except that I had taken my Larium a full week before the treatment, and he had only taken his a couple of days before. So, now that David had taken care of me during the worst of my malaria (I was feeling much better, and had eaten a large dinner... right after vomiting again… although strangely enough, vomiting actually made my head feel better), I was now leaving during the worst of his. I felt terrible about that. However, Rui and I had to catch the plane to Cuamba at 7:30 a.m., so we went to the airport for 6:00. The flight was OK… although we unexpectedly landed in Lichinga first (which if you see a map is not at all on the way to Cuamba), and the plane was small… maybe 21 passengers… and I watched the pilot pick up a map on a clipboard and a ruler and look out the window… then look back at the passengers to see who was watching… and there was a bit of turbulence. Also, as I was ill, I forgot to swallow enough during take-off and I felt something pop in my left ear, and felt stuff run down the back of my throat. Blech. When we finally got to Cuamba (the smallest airport I have ever seen), Rui and I begged a lift into town, and then we searched for a pensao (which is a guesthouse… or hostel for lack of a better comparison). We found one, ditched our stuff, and then went for food. I then crashed. My head was hurting and I had a nasty earache as well. The rest of the day was a write-off for me. Rui went exploring on his own and found out how we were to get to the border, then came back and then went and got me some food (omelette and fries… vegetarian options in Cuamba being limited…).
So… Friday morning at 4 a.m. we headed off to the chapa stop (Rui had arranged for a local lad to accompany us there so we could find it safely), where we boarded a chapa (Rui made sure I got a window seat), and headed to Mandimba (after we cruised up and down the street until the chapa was full) which is at the border with Malawi. Now I had thought (naively), that I was being flown quite close to the border to avoid long overland trips… the chapa ride took about 2 hours. When we arrived, we made our way to the border. Now this border is quite interesting in that the Mozambican immigration office is about 6 km from the Malawian immigration office. So you have to go to the Mozambican office, get a stamp, then get on the back of a bicycle driven by some local kid, who takes you to the Malawi side, where you get your other stamp. Now here’s where it gets interesting for me. I had been told by VSO that I only needed to cross, get my stamp, and return. The Mozambican border guy informed me differently. He told me that they didn’t issue new visitor’s visas at this border crossing, and that I needed to go to the Mozambican Embassy in Blantyre. So I couldn’t leave the country that day, as I would not be allowed back in. I was very impressed that I had just sat in a crowded hot and bumpy chapa for 2 hours, and was going to have to return and do it again the next day. So… I sat and waited for Rui to take his bike trip into Malawi and return. As I was sitting there, a man came over and started talking to me. He said “you don’t look so well.” I said “malaria”… he said “ah… first experience?”, and then he explained that he was a Kenyan volunteer with Skillshare in Cuamba, and he offered to take Rui and I back to Cuamba in the university vehicle that was coming to pick him and his colleague up. He also offered to have us stay at his place in Cuamba. This was Sam. So when Rui returned, we went and found Sam, and had a lovely ride back to Cuamba, and a nice night at Sam’s place. I rested for the afternoon, ate a bit at dinner, and slept the night away.
Still taking paracetamol as needed.
So Rui walked me back to the chapa stop Saturday morning at 4 a.m. so I could start my trip to Blantyre. I’d had to return to Cuamba because I had left my stuff at the pensao, and I didn’t have any money. Rui gave me what he could afford (leaving himself just enough to get back to Pemba). This chapa ride was slightly more comfortable than that of the day before as I had my whole butt on the seat this time. However, it had rained the day before, so the road was worse. So I headed to Malawi. At the border I was surrounded by bicycle guys who wouldn’t leave me alone until I chose one guy to take me, and I had exchanged some of my Meticais (Moz. Currency) for Kwachas (Malawian currency). I picked a guy who wasn’t as pushy, thinking that would be nicer. However, once I got my stamp (and the border guy had voiced his disapproval that my colleague wasn’t with me today, and informed me that I must not marry another white person), and was almost to Malawi, the bicycle guy suddenly stopped and demanded 8 times as much as we had agreed on. I said I wasn’t paying until we arrived, and that he didn’t have a right to change the price midway through the trip. When we arrived, he demanded twice as much, but I only paid slightly more than the original agreed on price. As soon as we got to the border a man said to me in Portuguese – “this truck is going to Mangochi”. Now, since I was unprepared for this trip to Blantyre… I actually had no idea how to get there, and hadn’t even looked at a map of Malawi. I said “I need to go to Blantyre”, and buddy said “no problem, from Mangochi the minibuses go to Blantyre.” I said “OK”, and went and got my passport stamped and filled out the Malawi entrance card. The Malawian official is a bit shady, but I had been warned of this by Rui who had had to bribe him to get back to Mozambique the day before, so I gave him as little information as possible, and lied about how much money I had. Then, I got in the back of this small pick-up truck, and headed to Mangochi. This bit of the trip cost 250 Kwachas (110 Kwachas = 1$US). When we arrived in Mangochi (I’m not really sure how long this part of the trip was… maybe 1.5 hours?), there were minibuses heading to Blantyre right there, so I hopped in one and started the next leg of the trip. The countryside in Malawi is beautiful. In the pick-up truck I was constantly stunned by the scenery. We were driving through green mountains, and we even saw some rather large monkeys (or chimps, or baboons… not sure which) along the side of the road. This part of the journey was much longer, with more stops. I finally arrived in Blantyre (after switching minibuses in Limbe) around 1:30… I think. I don’t wear a watch here, as it could attract unwanted attention. As the minibus was entering Blantyre, this Malawian man sitting next to me suddenly asked… “Where are you going in Blantyre?” and I realized that I had no idea (here you have the value of buying those Lonely Planet guidebooks). I said I figured I was going to the centre of town to find a place to stay and to be able to find the Mozambican consulate. He said “OK, I will help you.” He told me what stop to get out at, and he walked me around town until we found a place I could afford. His name was Bornwell. So I stayed at a place called “Doogles” in Blantyre. I stayed in a dorm room for 550 Kwachas per night. It was a nice place with a bar/restaurant attached, and lots of backpackers passing through. I put my valuables (camera, mobile, some money) in the hostel safe, and took a shower (running water!!!!), and headed out to the bar as a man there had made me promise to come out and have a drink with him after I’d bathed. This was Fred, a very friendly older man originally from Zimbabwe. I was persuaded to have a couple of brandy and cokes (despite the antibiotics… I know it’s terrible… but I’d had quite a long day…), and I chatted with Fred and his friends. Fred was very nice, and I never felt like he had any ulterior motives in buying me drinks and wanting to take me to another bar to show me some of Blantyre. But first… I ate dinner – a veggie burger! I was pretty damn happy. A lovely curried veggie sweet potato burger with garlic fries and a bit of salad with bean sprouts. Heaven. I also met this lovely South African couple (he’s South African, she’s English, but married him so now lives in South Africa) who were on their way to Pemba, so I gave them my info. Anyways, Fred and company took me to another bar that wasn’t very happening and we chatted, but then I got pretty tired and they brought me back to Doogles. Also – first day completely paracetamol free!
Sunday - Now one of Fred’s friends, Roy, told me he was going to meet me for breakfast on Sunday and take me to Zomba (another town in Malawi), but he didn’t show up. So the next day I hung out a bit, and talked to people. Everything is closed on Sundays, so I didn’t do much but hang out, sleep a bit, and eat. I also paid a hostel worker 50 K to do some laundry. A couple of English med students who have been working in Malawi for a bit were staying at Doogles, and during one of their forays into town got mugged (for the second time in their Malawi experience). It sounds like the Malawian police are a bit more helpful than the Mozambican police, but there still isn’t too much that can be done. It just sucks. Had muesli with yogurt and fruit for breakfast – yum! I also discovered on this day that one of the showers had hot water! Maybe the best shower of my life. Sunday night I met some South African working in Malawi who seemed to make more money than they really knew what to do with. The leader of this pack had me call Mom on his cell phone (which must be outrageously expensive, but I figured… what the hell… plus, it’s her birthday) and later took me with his friends to the casino in Blantyre. This was a strange experience. This guy kept telling me how money didn’t mean anything, and that he wasted so much money. He played blackjack at the casino and was betting the max (20 000 K) on every hand. When I got too tired, I caught the first opportunity to return to Doogles and get some sleep. That was a weird evening. This guy kept saying “I blow 1 000 000 Kwachas at the casino in one night. Do you know how many mouths that would feed? Money doesn’t mean anything.” I had no idea how to respond to this.
Monday – Got up to head to embassy. Took a mini-bus up there, asked a few people for directions, and finally found it. I had hopes of getting my visa and heading back to Mozambique, so I’d packed up all my stuff and brought it with me. Yeah. We all know how well that went. I got to the embassy and was told that in order to get a visa, I needed a Letter of Responsibility from my organization, and that this needed to be stamped by immigration in Mozambique. I was a bit frustrated, and went off to find a phone to call VSO Mozambique. Instead I found the Canadian Consulate, and thought… hey, maybe they’ll let me use their phone to sort this out. They did, although they weren’t too happy about it, and informed me that they don’t usually allow that sort of thing. At any rate, the director of VSO Mozambique was very quick to get things sorted. I went back the the embassy after I ate lunch and drank a beer, to discover that it was closed until 2 p.m. I waited. When they opened I was told the fax from VSO had arrived, and that my visa would be ready the next day. But first I had to see the Consulate. So I met the head honcho guy, who just wanted to clarify some information that had been a bit skewed, and then I went back to Doogles, after first stopping to call VSO again (super expensive in these bureaus… $2 a minute!) and not quite having enough money for the call. At Doogles I got more money exchanged (Rui had given me dollars), and I turn around and see… Beth! I was very happy to see a familiar face. Beth is travelling around Southern Africa a bit before heading back to England. At any rate, she had gotten a lift to Blantyre, and this person was heading back to Mandimba/Lichinga the next day. So I met this driver… Rebecca from Virginia. I have a lot of respect for Rebecca. She is the only person from her organization working in all of Africa (she is in Public Health and does HIV/AIDS education stuff). She is younger than me, and she has the best attitude – very positive. She also drove from Lichinga to Blantyre and back. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that they drive on the left side of the street here? Yeah. And they drive quickly. I was super impressed. So I got a ride back to Mandimba with Rebecca on Tuesday after getting my visa sorted. It was another beautiful trip, and we made it to the border just in time. I think we were the last people they let through. We had visions of being stuck in Malawi, or worse, being stuck between Mozambique and Malawi! It was really close, but we made it, and stayed in a nice pensao in Mandimba. The only problem being that my room had obviously been sprayed with insecticide quite recently and it had that burning throat quality to the air. However, they heated up water for taking a shower, which is really nice. Hot showers are kind of decadent here.
So on Wednesday morning I caught the chapa back to Cuamba, where I hooked up with Sam, met some VSO’s in Cuamba, and Sam arranged a ride for me to Nampula for the next day, as the train only leaves Cuamba every other day, and wasn’t going to head out again until Friday (it goes from Nampula to Cuamba one day, and returns the next. On Mondays it stays in Nampula for repairs… apparently there is only one train). So the next afternoon (after lazing about all day) I got a ride to Nampula. It was another beautiful trip. I wish I could describe the scenery, but I don’t think it is possible. There are these weird mountain things in that area that seem to sprout up out of nowhere, and they look so cool. Especially when the sun is rising or setting. So, after about 6 hours of a rather bumpy ride (most of the roads are dirt, and it is the rainy season), we got to Nampula. I was pretty happy. I originally planned to go back to Pemba on Saturday and decided that it wouldn’t make much difference if I returned on Sunday, so I stayed an extra day, and picked up some stuff from Nampula (spices, toiletries) that I thought would be cheaper there than in Pemba. Also went to the Nampula pool with Lee (Nampula VSO) and David. The pool was nice, although it was a bit concerning that we couldn’t smell any chlorine whatsoever… Saturday night David and I had a lovely dinner of matapa, chima, and I had vegetarian moussaka that was awesome, and then I got a terrible back ache, and when my alarm went off at 4:15 I decided that an 8 hour bus trip was not the thing for a bad back. So I stayed in Nampula on Sunday (even though that meant that I was going to miss the school’s opening ceremony on Monday morning) and spent most of the day moaning, taking drugs, and sleeping. I had short periods of a small fever, but I never took my temperature, so I’m not sure what it was. Now for the graphic intestinal news… I may be one of the very few people who get malaria and don’t get diarrhoea. No… instead I get massively constipated. After that first Sunday of not feeling great, I didn’t have any movement for 6 days. I wasn’t eating tons, so I wasn’t too worried, but on the following Saturday night I had the weirdest poo of my life. I won’t describe it other than to say it was weird. And yes I looked – when you haven’t pooed in 6 days you get kind of curious. After that I was back to my regular habit of eating lots every day, but not pooing nearly enough. By Sunday in Nampula I tried yoga, and even tried drinking salt water to get things moving. Even that didn’t work. I couldn’t eat because I really had no room left in my stomach. Very disappointing movements indeed. However, I was feeling better enough on Monday morning (which is today!) to get the bus back to Pemba at 5 a.m. Now it is 7:30 pm and I have had more successful movements today (and I even satisfied my ice cream craving…. Although my stomach doesn’t seem too pleased), but I’m still not at my best. I don’t feel quite right yet. I’m all the more displeased with this because my stomach was actually quite good until I got malaria. I’d had very few problems since arriving and I was quite pleased with myself.
Now for some side notes… it would appear that there is a bit of a cholera outbreak in certain parts of Mozambique. Apparently it is a bit normal for this time of year, and it isn’t too surprising considering that Mozambicans go to the bathroom pretty much wherever (it is well-known that many people use the beaches of Ibo island and Mozambique island, and in fact some of the beaches around Pemba as public toilets) . David has a television (one whole channel) and we saw a children’s program that explained to children how to avoid cholera by washing hands before eating and after going to the bathroom. It was a bit weird to see that.
Elizabeth is still here, which is great because she is giving me lots of helpful information. She has also just shown me our horrendous phone bill for December. Argh. I’m going to have to be a bit more careful! I will only use the internet in evenings after 8 p.m., and on Sundays when the phone line is cheaper. My internet days are Monday, Wednesday and Sunday, so those are the best times to catch me on-line!
I will go to the school tomorrow and hopefully find out when I will start teaching (which I’m actually quite nervous about!), and I also hope to get a post office box tomorrow… so I will have an address soon!
Here’s something strange that I’ve been meaning to mention. I’ve been trying to figure this out, and today a plausible hypothesis has been put to me by Elizabeth. For some reason, since getting to Africa, my body odour has changed. And not for the better. In Canada I could sweat without stinking. Honestly. But here, the minute I sweat – I can barely stand myself. I could take 5 showers a day and still stink. I was wondering if it was something I was eating (perhaps the peri-peri?) or the water… but Elizabeth has suggested that it may be the Larium. I like this theory as it means that it really isn’t my fault, but if it is true, it means that I will smell like this for 2 years… and I’m not sure how I feel about that! I now believe it is the Larium however, because due to the malaria, I didn’t take Larium for a week there (I was told not to take it with the Halufantrine – which by the way we looked up in David’s travel book and it has a warning in there saying not to take it unless nothing else is available… just great….!), and I didn’t smell so bad. Now I’m taking the Larium again… and it’s not pretty.
There – this was the update of updates. Not only did you get a trip to Malawi in this, but bodily functions. How lucky for you! My Dad asked me not to keep the negative stuff from him, so there you are.
I have to say that despite everything, I really enjoyed the trip, and it really made me want to travel around Africa a great deal more. The people are so kind and hospitable, and the scenery is incredible. I never really felt uncomfortable even when I was on my own, and I met some amazing people. It’s really phenomenal and I wish everyone could come and experience Africa. (well… the good stuff… not the malaria for example).
Alright… time to upload an update, and download some e-mail! Hope you are all well!
January 17, 2004
Well, I'm back in Nampula. It's been quite a trip - I'll head back to Pemba tomorrow and start preparing for work. I don't know how I'll do it... I feel like I haven't worked in so long. I'll have to find my work ethic and dust it off.
Once I get back to Pemba I'll write a proper update detailing my trip and illness. Right now I'm just hanging out, doing some shopping (Nampula has a lot more stuff than Pemba) and visiting other volunteers. So this was just to say that I'm still good, and I promise there will be a better update soon! take care all!
January 12, 2004
HAPPY BIRTHDAY APES!! (hee hee - I'm far enough away to call you that) Hope you have a good one!
Still in freaking Blantyre. I think I would almost rather have malaria than deal with Mozambican bureaucratic red tape. It's unbelievable. With any luck I'll be on my way back to Moz. tomorrow. I can only hope... for some reason I'm dying to get back. I don't know why... Malawians are super friendly, and I've met some lovely people... I just want to get back. More later, this is expensive!
January 11, 2004
So Happy Birthday Mom! Hope you have a good one. I would call, but I'm in Malawi (Blantyre) so I really don't know how I would go about doing that... also, my mobile doesn't work here, and since I'm hoping to head back to Mozambique tomorrow, I don't want to buy a new sim card to make it work here.
So just a quick update as this is costing money. It's been quite a week, so once I write up a proper update it should be good! Tons of stuff to talk about... including... malaria sucks. Seriously. Malaria sucks hairy donkey ass. (sorry Christine, still can't do it...). But I'm fine now. I was never in any danger or anything, just a lot of pain, but now I'm good. Can you believe it? Two months in Mozambique and I get malaria. Grrrr. More later! take care, cindy
January 4, 2004
Hey everyone. Just a quick update. I’m going to be going for a little trip this week, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to access e-mail or add updates for about a week or so. I’m going to Nampula for a few days, and then probably on to Malawi to sort out my visa situation. I was given the wrong visa from Washington, but I think that was because I didn’t have a work contract (which they need to issue a work visa), which I still don’t have (it’s at the ministry of education somewhere). So I have to leave the country before the 11 of January and reapply for a new visa. Apparently Malawi is the place to go for this up here, even though Tanzania seems closer. It’s supposed to be an interesting trip anyways, and it means I get to see more of this country, and a bit of another. So I’m not really complaining! So, just as this summer I was able to say “I have to go to England”, I now get to say “I have to go to Malawi”. I know… life is tough.
So we leave Pemba at 5 am tomorrow. All of the intercity transports leave super early in the morning. Not a problem though really… the sun comes up at like 4:30 here (and sets around 6:30 p.m.). It makes sense to try and arrive at your destination before the hottest time of the day, but these buses still aren’t renown for their comfort. Hot and crowded with plenty of stops is about what I can expect.
So not much else to tell you… the electricity has been quite good lately, and the water as well. It has been running at least enough every day to fill the cistern, so we haven’t had to go without bathing or anything. Good thing as we sweat so much every day that if we didn’t shower we would be truly unbearable. Personal space would certainly become more of an issue…
So thanks for reading, hope you are having tons of fun!
January 2, 2004
Wow. 2004. Hard to believe! New Year’s Eve was great. One of Rui’s coworkers invited us over for drinks, so we went and met a bunch of people and drank and ate and conversed. Hospitality is big here, so the host of the party kept telling us to make ourselves at home, that his house was our house, and that we should eat and drink and eat and drink… it was really nice. Of course, I ate potato salad and fries as the rest was meat. After midnight we lost Rui to the drink (or he lost the battle), and David and I headed to the beach to see what was happening there. There were people everywhere. People were sleeping on the beach, and then as the sun came up people just started running into the ocean. It was cool to watch all these people wandering around. I don’t think people here really sleep on New Year’s. It’s a big thing here, everyone spends the next couple of days asking people if they “entered” well into the new year. Then we caught a ride in the back of a pick-up truck back into town. The main beach here is about 7 kms from town, so we take a lot of taxis, and that was the first time I’ve actually managed to flag a lift. Since then we’ve been recovering… more or less! It’s so hot here… every morning the sheets are just soaked from sweat, and after a shower I have about 5 minutes before I start sweating again… if I’m lucky. It really is beautiful here… I’ll try and upload some pictures soon… I’m having some trouble with that, but I’ll get it figured out.
Also, in the interests of saving my phone bill (I have to pay for each minute on line), please start e-mailing me at the following address… firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll update my link and send out an email as well. It’s connected to outlook so I’ll save a bit of phone line time using that.
Not too much else to tell… Being here really makes me realize how much we waste in Canada. Every time I take a bucket shower I think about how much water we use. Oh, and somebody needs to set up a viable recycling system in this country. In fact, a garbage system overall would be good. There is seriously opportunity to improve everyone’s lives here with a good garbage and recycling system. Right now, and I’m not kidding, there are just piles of garbage in various spots along the street. The smell can be something else, and it’s just so unpleasant! It’s hard to take pride in where you live if you are surrounded by garbage.
December 29b, 2003
So I wrote the update before logging on and finding out that two very good friends and wonderful people got engaged on Christmas Eve. So here's a big congrats to Christine and Paul - you are both great, and I'm glad that you are great together! I'm sure you'll make each other happy forever and I'm so glad you've got each other.
December 29, 2003
Holy crap. Have I mentioned yet how hot it is here? I really think I might be melting. The funny thing is that in all this heat, I can’t get enough spicy food. Loving the spice. They always bring you this stuff called piri-piri at restaurants here, and it’s basically just spice. Sometimes it has more flavour than others, but it really just adds heat. And I’ve been eating tons of fish. There really is little else available for me. I had some great fish last night. Probably the best fish I’ve ever tasted. I still don’t like prawns though.
OK, so we’ve had a nice week. We’ve gone to hang out at the beach just about every day, which is nice because it’s a bit cooler with the breeze off the ocean. It’s really beautiful here. The only problem is that everyone seems to be getting sick. Beth (one of the volunteers who is leaving Pemba) has had malaria all week, and David’s been fighting something off, and the rest of us have just had little bouts of diarrhoea (but not to worry Noel, I’ve got it all under control). I think it’s mostly the change in climate and water, but it is a bit annoying. David and Aukje came up and it was really nice to spend time with friends over Christmas. We had a nice time, even though the hostel that they stayed at was less than comfortable! Things here are a bit over-priced for Africa, and this pensao that they stayed at was so hot and stinky. They kept spraying insecticide every day and the fumes were brutal, and the mosquitoes lived on! It was a bit brutal so we spent most of the time at the beach.
So mostly we’ve been very relaxed… having a nice vacation. I’m going to find it so hard to get into the swing of working – I haven’t really worked in months!
Thanks to everyone for the Christmas wishes, and I’m sorry to those of you who tried to call… I haven’t been in a lot, and I know it can be hard to get through. But I was thinking of all of you, and I hope you are all having a wonderful time!
December 23, 2003
written Dec. 22
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAIME!!!!! (I tried to call, but I don’t know where you are!)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAUL!!!!!
Dammit. I thought I would have internet access today, but I don’t!
So here’s the update… our last week of training ended with a lovely party that we, the volunteers organized (well, we told to organize it, but nonetheless…). We all cooked something, invited the VSO staff and all the people who gave us sessions, and drank lots of beer. There was tons of food, and it was good. I made roasted veggies and a curried split pea thingy. It was OK. Then on Saturday we recovered, cleaned, and three of us in my house had to switch houses with a family from Madagascar who were less than friendly. Then on Sunday Rui and I flew up to Pemba. The flight was fine, although because it was a small plane I had to check my guitar and I worried about it for the whole voyage. There was some beautiful scenery out the window though, and the guitar did arrive in one piece. Thank God – I think it will be my sanity during these electricity-free nights! It’s quite nice to sit on the balcony and play guitar into the night. Hope the neighbours don’t mind!
So I’m here in Pemba. It’s gorgeous. I can see the ocean from my apartment (which is quite large for one person… 2 bedrooms, 1 big balcony, and a terrace area out back). The electricity is off and on – we’ve only had it for a couple of hours today I think, and the water has only trickled for a while this morning as well, but no big deal. It’s not so bad – Elizabeth (really it’s still her apartment – she’s the person I’m replacing) has a guard that comes every night and he does odd jobs like fetch water, or cook rice on the charcoal stove when the power’s out, and 3 times a week she has an empregada (housekeeper) as well. I do believe I will keep them on as she seems to have a good system worked out with them.
So yesterday we arrived, dropped off our stuff and headed to the beach to have a drink. It’s so beautiful. The ocean is a bit churned up with seaweed because of the rainy season right now, but otherwise the beaches are lovely. Then we came back, lit some candles, and sat outside for a bit, I played guitar a bit, and then called home, and went to bed.
This morning we did a lot of walking around… I saw the school where I will be working and met the director. The school is about a 15 minute walk from here… all uphill with a part with 96 steps. Buns of steel are on their way. We also went to the internet service place and I got a contract for 3 months (US$70), then we wandered a bit more, and came back to the apartment. Later I got some groceries, and let me tell you – Maputo was a mecca of foodstuffs compared to Pemba. There are very few vegetables available at the moment due to the rainy season, and I was able to buy a can of peas. Otherwise it’s potatoes, onions, mangoes, papayas, bananas, and pineapples for produce, and not much else.
Now it’s Dec. 23, and the internet still isn’t working – dammit. I bought a cell phone today – so yay! It’s just really handy to have, people text each other like crazy over here, and it’s really cheap to do so. So that was 1 700 000 mts. So here is my contact info…. My land line is 0258-72-21280, and my cell phone is 0258-082-663385 (I don’t know if the 0 before the 82 is necessary if you are calling from overseas or not). I’m supposed to charge the cell phone for 12 hours before using it, so let’s hope the electricity stays on for a while! It rained today for several hours – of course, right about the time I was supposed to go meet Rui – but it was so lovely. The air was so heavy this morning that I could barely move, but when it started raining I could breathe again. I got completely soaked walking to meet Rui, but it was nice. Now I’m dry and cool and content with life. A couple of volunteers from Nampula are coming up tomorrow to join us for Christmas (2 from my ICT group – David and Aukje), and since it will be David’s birthday tomorrow, and Rui’s the next day, there should be some good partying going on. Oh yeah.
Portuguese update… I’m making phone calls to the internet people to complain about my lack of service, and they seem to be understanding me, so that is good. I just wish they would speak a bit slower sometimes!
December 17, 2003
written December 15-16
Wow. My head is just swimming. The weekend in homestay was amazing. We went to a more rural area called Macie in Gaza province, and the people were so welcoming and fantastic.
First I’ll start with the trip up to Macie. We were meant to leave Friday morning at 7:30. So we were all ready, hanging out outside waiting for our chapa to turn up. Eventually, at around 10:00, we found out that the chapa had been waiting outside the compound since 7 a.m., and the driver had just never bothered to come in and say he was there, or to check and see if people were waiting for him. Anyways, we were finally on our way, racing up the highway (as is the custom), when we suddenly pulled over in the middle of nowhere. At first we figured the engine had just overheated, the driver put some water in the radiator, and we figured we’d be on our way again relatively soon. This happened around 11:00. We did not get on our way again for quite some time… in fact, that chapa didn’t end up taking us all the way to Macie, as it was toast. Eventually the owner of the chapa company and a friend of his turned up in two cars to take us on our trip. We got back on the road at around 2:00 p.m. I think. We were all in good spirits, played some cards, wrote a story (which I will put on another page for your reading pleasure), talked, hung out. Fortunately there was a nice breeze so we weren’t baking too much. We did dream of beer and food quite a bit though… (all we had were a few biscuits which tasted like sawdust and cardboard…. Mmmm) Now I feel I must remind you that there are 11 of us, as the second part of our journey involved cramming us into these 2 mid-size cars. Very cosy. Of course, the car I was in (with about 2 square inches of seat space) had some lovely fumes coming in, so we had to have to window open and the wind was not so fun. However, the good news is that we got to just outside of Macie around 3:00 where we met up with the coordinator of the homestay at a bar and enjoyed some refreshing beverages. Heaven.
So then we arrived at the meeting place in Macie where our families were waiting patiently for our arrival. Basically the families had drawn our names out of a hat, so after they sang us a lovely welcoming song, they called out our names and we grabbed some provisions provided by VSO (water, food stuffs, tp) and headed to our homes for the weekend. I stayed with a very nice woman named Candida and her fiance Texeira, and his daughter Cidra. (I’m not sure on the spelling of those). Anyways, fortunately they lived quite close to the meeting point, as along the way Candida informed me that she had malaria and that although she was over the worst of it, she wasn’t at full speed yet. Candida is 25 years old and she thought it was pretty funny that I was older than her. Upon arrival I was invited to take a shower (running water, hallelujah), and then I was served a meal of rice and fries and cucumber salad. She was not super impressed to learn that I was vegetarian, but it was fine. That evening we had a couple of visitors… oh yes, I should mention that everyone in the family spoke Portuguese although their language is Shangana. I was very happy that they spoke Portuguese and I had some great conversations over the weekend. So, we had some visitors and then went for a walk. We met up with one of the other volunteers and her host mother, and went for a drink at a bar, where we ran into another volunteer, the electricity went out, and then we headed back to the house. The electricity came back on, and they put in a tape of a novela called “Mulheres Apaixonadas” and watched some of that until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and went to bed. I shared a bed with Cidra the first night (she’s 20), and the second night Cidra was away so Candida shared the bed with me. I think she thought I would be afraid to sleep on my own for some reason. On Saturday I was awakened by various noises several times (rooster, music, rooster, and that fucking rooster), until I thought it was late enough to get up. I looked at my watch, which said 6:50. I thought… no way it’s that early (it was so bright out, and I’d heard so many noises for so long), so I looked at the other time (which is set to Ontario time) which said of course 11:50. I thought… “dammit! How embarrassing that I slept in so late!” I quickly dressed, and went out to say hello. Candida has a hair salon in the back yard so I went over to say good morning to her and her client and tried in some pretty terrible Portuguese to explain that I hadn’t intended to sleep in so late… anyways, I didn’t get over the disorientation of that for awhile. After I watched several women have their hair done, Candida and I went for a bit of a walking tour of town, and stopped by the market to get some vegetables. Then we went back to the house and made matapa. Well, my contribution involved peeling garlic, drinking beer (Texeira has a little bar next to the house, so the beer flowed often over the weekend), and taking pictures, but I think I provided moral support… Matapa is made of cassava leaves which are ground in a mortar and pestle with garlic, and then cooked in a particular way with ground peanuts and coconut milk. It is amazing. I couldn’t get over how good it was. It took so long to make, but it just tasted soo good. I salivate just remembering… The rest of the day was a lot of hanging out, some of the other volunteers dropped by with their families, and we chatted. It was a pretty hot day. In the evening Candida and I went to visit a couple of her friends, which was really nice. I didn’t always understand everything they said (they also have a habit of switching from Portuguese to Shangana in mid-sentence and then switching back again), but it was really interesting. At the second house we visited their were a couple of kids eating their dinner outside and there was this one little guy, who was smaller than Chloe… he looked like he should have been 18 months except that his coordination with eating was so good that I asked his age. The woman there said “He’s 3, but he’s always sick the poor thing so he doesn’t grow well”. After we left Candida explained to me that the little guy’s mother had died and had passed on her illness to her son before she died. Although Candida didn’t say what the illness was, I’m certain that it was AIDS. Particularly since she then went on the explain that the two women we had been talking to were “rivals” (ie they shared a husband… polygamy is quite common), and that the woman who had died was their husband’s lover so now they were caring for the little guy. Here if a man has money, he often has several wives. It’s a matter of practicality really, but it still strikes me as so sad. Women aren’t too empowered over here… So after our visits we went back to the house and watched some more of the novella and talked about AIDS, corruption, and other such happy subjects. It was great to talk to her about these things and get her perspective.
The next day (I think one of the hottest that I have ever experienced) we went to church (of course), and the other volunteers and I had to stand at the front and introduce ourselves to the whole congregation. My family was from the Catholic church. In the afternoon VSO had arranged for a minibus to take us and the families to the beach for a couple of hours so we did that, and then we were headed back to Maputo.
This time David and I weren’t taking any chances – we bought water and beer for the ride (imagine that, the Canadian and the Irish being the alcoholics of the group). Later on a couple of others decided that they also wanted beer, so we asked the chapa to stop at a bar so we could stock up. This chapa ride was far more relaxing… J When we got back to Maputo a few of us went out for some food and a few more drinks. If there had been a karaoke bar, I’d have been hogging the stage. Small favours. Yesterday’s sessions were a bit rough to sit through, but I made it.
So now we have a few more days of training, and then we head off to our placements. I think I’m flying on Sunday or Monday, I’m not sure which, but I will be sure to update as soon as I can and send out my address and phone number as soon as I know it! Thanks for reading!
December 9, 2003
written December 8, 2003
Alright, I’m afraid you all are just going to have to keep up with the updates because if I keep writing this much each time, there’s no way I’ll be able to archive them all on the site. I’ve already lost many of the first ones to cyber-nirvana.
So, news over the last week…. Not too much to tell. I have successfully, and completely on my own this time, opened a coconut. Oh yes. And people asked me why I wanted to come to Mozambique! Mangoes are in season now, and they are amazing. I can’t even tell you. Oh, here’s an interesting observation. The mosquitoes here are harder to kill than their Canadian counterparts. They are smaller, quicker, and smarter. However, (knock on wood) I haven’t really been bitten. Actually, the only one in our group who seems to be getting attacked is Aukje from Holland. Apparently she is a tasty Dutch treat.
I was going to mention the street names here in Maputo… for example, our little compound is just off of Avenida Vladimir Lenine. The Central Market is just off of Av. Karl Marx, and we have Av. Mao Tse Tung and Av. Ho Chi Min. We just all think that is interesting.
Alright, don’t let this alarm you, but two of our group were mugged this weekend. They (2 women) were walking on a quiet street Saturday afternoon, and Pascale answered her mobile phone. Four men surrounded her and Rosa, took their bags and her phone and ran off. They were unharmed, just shaken. This is the kind of opportunistic crime that happens here… and it happened exactly as we were warned it would. Neither of them was carrying too much money (for this very reason we avoid carrying more than we absolutely need), but they did lose Pascale’s apartment keys, which was inconvenient to say the least. As I sit here, I’m debating the value of putting this story on the site. I don’t want this to reinforce negative stereotypes, or scare people in any way, but at the same time, this situation is a reality here. There is a huge gap between rich and poor here, and seeing the difference has to be creating major frustrations for people who spend their whole lives just surviving. So this kind of crime happens – an opportunity is spotted and taken. It has not increased my concern over walking around town at all, simply because I have been taking all the precautions I can think of (and have been advised to take), and I pretty much try to be ready to hand over whatever I have, should this happen. Of course, I hope it won’t… but it’s better to be prepared.
Along the same unhappy lines… we had a talk about AIDS today. Because of the severity of the epidemic in sub-saharan Africa, VSO has an initiative called RAISA (Regional Aids Initiative of Southern Africa) which calls for all volunteers placed in Southern Africa to somehow deal with AIDS in their placement. The problems this disease have caused are so numerous and there is so much work to be done in this area… it’s overwhelming. So many young people are affected. There is a pamphlet here called “Positive Life” (in Portuguese) which was written to encourage people living with HIV to take care of themselves, and there is a quote on the cover that says… “There are only two kinds of people in Africa, those infected by HIV and those affected by it”. I think I may have heard this quote before, but it seems to sum up the scope of the issue. The campaign being run in South Africa calls for people to spend one minute of their lives in the fight against AIDS. Can you do that?
Next week’s update should be interesting, as we go into home stay for the weekend. This means that we are billeted out to families for the weekend. It will be a huge learning experience and it is such a great opportunity. I’m really looking forward to it, but I am a bit nervous. These are not families in the rich side of the scale, and I’m not really sure what to expect. A current volunteer has shared a bit of her experience, and she said the whole family slept in one room, although the man slept in the living room during her stay, and they gave her her own bed. She said that they spent most of the time cooking which will be interesting. This will also be my first real test of my Portuguese, which I have only been using sporadically.
December 1, 2003
written:November 30, 2003
Well, it’s been a good weekend. I’ll go back to Friday (the day of my last update, and incidentally the day I got soaked by a passing chapa on my way back from the internet café). So Friday a few of us went out to a bar where a jazz band was playing. It was nice. Then a bunch of us went to a more dancy-type bar. The music there was not my kind of music, but it was a really friendly relaxed atmosphere. People don’t really go out in Maputo until 10:30 or so, but they party all night. I got back around 3:30, but I think it is common for people to keep going all night. I just wasn’t into the music, and I was tired!
Saturday I bought a guitar. David came with me (he’s a much better player than I am), and we used a very scientific method of choosing the guitar -- I got the cheapest one in the store. There is quite a price difference, the one I bought came to 3, 990 000 mts including a soft case, and the next guitar up was over 7 million (which is almost a month’s salary for me!). It’s a Cataluna (Spanish name, made in China…). Not a super sounding guitar, but I think Katy and I will become great friends and learn to make beautiful music together.
So then Saturday afternoon (I had to get the guitar in the morning as all the shops close around 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and don’t open on Sundays), I went to a function organized by the Dutch embassy for Dutch people in the area (Aukje from Holland invited me along). It was a Santa Claus party – very strange to experience culture shock of one culture while in another. I was a bit weirded out by Santa’s helpers, but it was neat to see. Then I got back to the house in time to watch “Gone with the Wind” which was playing on TV… all 5 hours! Then a couple of us watched “Bridget Jone’s Diary” again. Gotta love it.
Today, a whole bunch of us went downtown because there was a concert set up in front of city hall. It was a concert in honour of World AIDS day, which is tomorrow… December 1. The headlining band was this group from Liverpool called “Reece”. I don’t expect to hear much of them again, but you never know. Otherwise there were a number of Mozambican groups first. In between bands a DJ played a bit, or the MC talked, and at one point they had a couple of people living with HIV come on stage and talk. The main push seems to be to get people to get HIV tests. The number of people that are likely living with HIV and don’t know it is staggering. I’m sure I will be ranting about this some more later, so I’ll leave it for now…(go to www.46664.com for info on the big concert in South Africa and the campaign - it's quite interesting... Nelson Mandela gave his prison number to the campaign... he said that for the years he was in prison he was supposed to be reduced to that number, and now many people are in danger of being reduced to numbers because of the AIDS epidemic) Of course the concert was supposed to start at 2, but nothing really got moving until well after 3. Maybe closer to 4, I don’t remember exactly. It was a beautiful day – not too hot, and with a nice breeze. I also realized today, as I was drinking a beer in the square, that a tall can of beer here is cheaper than a chocolate bar. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by this. Anyways, Reece was rocking the crowd and then of course… the power went out. The whole block went black. We’ve only had a couple of blackouts at Parque Oasis, and the power came back on both times within 30 minutes or so, but we didn’t hang around tonight to see how long it lasted. It just seemed so perfect that that was how it ended. So we headed to the chapa stop and waited for one that wasn’t too crowded. Sometimes you see a chapa go by with people’s butts hanging out the window. I’m determined to never be that person.
So because the power went out, I got back just in time to talk to Christine who called with impeccable timing! And for her sake…. GET BACK TO WORK AND WRITE THOSE DAMN PAPERS!!!
Tomorrow it’s back to Portuguese lessons, starting at 8 a.m. If these lessons weren’t happening in the house that I’m staying in, I don’t think I would bother getting up! Ah well.
By the way, I’ve made popcorn three times this week… sans air popper. I’m becoming quite professional at it now, I only burnt the oil to the pot the first time.
November 28, 2003
Phew. So there isn't really much to update. We spend most of our time in boring Portuguese class, where I sometimes pay attention and sometimes practice playing cribbage on David's palm pilot. Addictive. I'm going to install it on my laptop and I'm determined to be able to beat Dad at cribbage by the time I return.
So I decided to write about food today. I just had a veggie burger at a local restaurant run by Indians - it is the best veggie burger ever - it seems to be made of beets and sweet potatoes and I don't know what else... but yum.
I opened my first coconut yesterday - well, a Mozambican walking past took pity on me and cracked it for me. But it was almost only me. Now that is also addictive. Tres yummy. We found a market that is a bit closer to where we are staying, and shopped around. It was awesome, papayas, mangoes, apples, custard apples (that seems to be what we think they are, they are the ugliest fruit I have ever seen, but yummy), lychees, oranges, apples, bananas and avocadoes. Cashew nuts and peanuts also abound here, and people sell them freshly roasted on the street all over the place. I got some not so good ones once though - not fresh. Vegetables are also around, lots of cassava, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and of course, chilis. I haven't cooked with chilis yet because of my tendency to burn my fingers... I'm also eating a lot of bread. We buy it fresh every couple of days so it's really nice. Every morning I eat some bread with peanut butter, have some coffee (instant... but it's not terrible), and some juice and some kind of fruit. Then I pretty much eat like crazy all day. I don't think I'm going to waste away here, that's for sure.
So that is the update for now, not too much exciting going on. We are planning to eat at the fish market tonight. You walk through the market to the restaurant, and on the way you buy your fish. You take it to the restaurant and they cook it for you. Of course it takes forever for your food to come (things do move really slowly here), but that's gives lots of time to drink some beer. The local beer "2M" is pretty good. It's light, but not bad.
Ok - I've edited the survey a bit, and I believe it may work like this. So scroll down and give it a go!
Oh yeah - and regarding pictures, I'm working on it, but it's not so easy! So far I've got only one uploaded to yahoo pics, and it's not very good. The problem is that a floppy disk only holds about one photo, and my laptop isn't internet connected yet, so it's a pretty complicated practice. Once I get some uploaded, I'll post the link here. So sorry for the delay, but there will be photos at some point! this is where I have one photo in Cindy in Mozambique. I will add more soon... I hope! http://photos.yahoo.com/cynthiadurrant
November 24, 2003
So here’s a new tactic. I write the update on my laptop before I go to the internet café, and then hopefully I will have more time to respond to e-mails.
I had a really nice weekend. Friday was Sandra (volunteer from Germany)’s birthday, so we went out for dinner at a place called Mimmo’s. Not the cheapest place, but the food and atmosphere was nice. The pizza was good, and they have a dessert drink called a Don Amarula which is amazing. It’s amarula with ice cream. Mmmmm. Saturday morning I was meant to go guitar shopping with David (Irish volunteer), but we accidentally walked by Mundo’s (which is a hot bar for ex-pats) where they were playing the Rugby World Cup which David had forgotten was on, so that was the end of the road for him. I found the music store on my way back to Parque Oasis and found that guitars are about 3 million. I didn’t have time to try any out, so I have to return. They are mostly Washburns. Then I had a really nice lunch with Marcia and her colleague Jen from CIDA. We also took a trip in the chapa to the central market, which I was happy to visit again. From the way the market was talked about, I had thought that it would be overrun with people and chaotic, but the central market is actually quite quiet. And although we were followed by some young kids a little bit, we weren’t harassed at all. In the evening a number of volunteers and I went to a dance show downtown. It wasn’t really what we expected… we thought we were going to see traditional dance and music, and the show was actually modern dance – very interpretive kind of stuff. We all enjoyed it though. Then we went for a drink, then home. Not really a bunch of party animals! Maybe next weekend…. A couple of people went out on Friday and really partied it up, so they’re going to give it another go this weekend.
Yesterday I watched 3 movies with Aukje (from Holland) on her laptop. I wish I’d thought to upgrade my computer to play DVDs and write CDs. It was really nice to watch movies. We watched “Br
November 20, 2003
Hi again! Finally another update. I think I can only budget about one update a week for the next little while. At least until I get my internet set up on my computer.
Things are going really well. I°m eating really well, and the weather is
great. The Portuguese lessons are a bit basic for me still, but it°s good to have the practice, and I°m also finding out that there are a lot of differences in Brazilian Portuguese.
Yesterday was a municipal election here, so everything was closed and most people had the day off. So we went to the beach! It was windy, and there is a lot of garbage on the beaches around here, but it was really nice to see Maputo from the other side of the bay, plus the sun was shining and we had good company. It°s so much fun to go around town. We take these little buses called chapas to get around. Basically they are like privately owned little vans that they cram people into for a small price. They work on established routes so they are easy to take. We (the volunteers) figure that this system would never work in the western world because westerners need personal space too much.
I°m getting really excited about going to Pemba. Everyone I meet says that it is so nice up there - the beaches are beautiful. I can°t wait. We are supposed to leave Maputo on the 22 of December, so it°s not for a while yet. I did find out that I will be staying with the current volunteer for a few weeks until she leaves, at which point I take over her apartment. That will be good, but also a bit weird I think. I also found out that almost all of the volunteers have an empregada (housekeeper). I look forward to that. Right now I am handwashing all my laundry. I°d forgotten just how fun that was - and how hard on my clothes!
It°s funny because so many people walk around with cell phones here. It°s not a good idea to make it too obvious, because they are a hot commodity and might attract a mugging (which has happened to many volunteers, but although crime is high in Mozambique, violent crime is not). Most of the volunteers have cell phones too. Everyone text'messages constantly. I don°t know if I will get one or not, I will see! Our security briefing was interesting actually. They have a security person from the British High Commission come to talk to us, but she is used to dealing with ex-pats who make money, and drive around in 4 by 4s. She has been here 2.5 years and never taken a chapa. We definitely live in a different world from other ex-pats, but of course the problem is that most Mozambicans can°t tell the difference from looking at us. So we just have to use our common sense. Most of the security tips were the same for anywhere you would be in the world, so it°s not difficult. Don°t worry Mom!
We have two new volunteers with us from Kenya. They are very nice, and I think it is really neat that they are doing this. The one guy has left his family in Kenya (with their support) to do it. I°m sure that will make things quite hard on him, but he°s a pretty positive person.
What else have we done? I feel like I°ve been here so much longer than 9 days! And I still can°t think of all the things I°ve done!
It is pretty dusty and muggy in the city - we really felt the difference when we went across the bay (we took this little ferry - it was a bitbumpy, but normal).
That°s about all I can think of for now! I hope everyone is doing well I love getting e-mails, and I swear I will respond as soon as I can! take care - have fun!
Also ' thanks for calling Dad... I should have said that the weekends are fine too. CiCi calling cards can be used to call me, and my family has my number, but it is difficult to get through at times... not because of the Mozambican lines so much as the ones at the place where we are staying. They don°t seem to transfer through to our phone, and the people who do answer the phone don°t speak English... so that probably adds to the problem! take care all...
November 13, 2003
Dammit! I just wrote a whole bunch, and then hit the stupid button on the keyboard that shuts down the computer. Why do they put that there?
ARgh. So I'm here! Yay! It's so great - I'm having a great time. We are
staying in a very nice place - a compound where we each have a little
house (kind of like a cottage), and our own room. We also do our own cooking - so we did our first shopping yesterday. That was very stressful! The currency exchange is hard to do, and confusing because one US$ equals 24 000 meticais. Anyways - we are all millionaires now,
because we got our first advance on our pay, which was 8 million meticais per month. It sounds like a lot, but really it isn't, so we
will have to be careful about spending. A pound of cheese was about 150
000, but a kilo of bananas about 10 000. Beer is cheap - 12-15 thousand.
So I could buy 3 beers or one pint of yogurt... what will I choose????
The trip was fine - I had a couple of moments when I was wondering what I was doing there - especially in Johannesburg as I was cat-napping on my ridiculously heavy carry-on. But as soon as we got here, I felt better. There are currently 9 volunteers training with us - 3 from England, 1 from Ireland, 1 from Holland, 1 from Germany, 1 from the Phillipines, and 1 from Portugal. We are expecting a couple of others next week to join us - I think they are from Kenya. All very nice people of course, and very excited to be here.
We had our first national meal last night, which was really good. They put prawns in almost everything, but I just eat around them. The coconut rice was also great. I won't starve - I'm pretty sure of that!
The weather is nice - sunny and warm with a nice breeze in the shade. We have a pool in our compound which is great. Maputo is on the ocean, but the currents are very strong, so it seems there is no swimming around here.
We start our language training next week, so we are all looking forward to that. I haven't used much Portuguese yet, because we haven't had much contact with non-English speakers, but I'm sure it will happen soon. I definitely have some brushing up to do anyways!
What else can I say? Thanks for the e-mails folks, I will try and respond as often as I can. It may be a while before I update again, I
will be setting up my internet access soon, and then it will be morefrequent, I just have to figure it all out! Things are very different here, that's for sure. I really think it's going to be great though.
By the way - the time difference is 7 hours for those of you who were wondering. So Mozambique is 7 hours ahead of Canada.
November 10, 2003
I'm in London - all is well although my baggage is super overweight. Shouldrs hurt. Flight wa good, hotel OK. Fly to Joburg in 2 hours. Almot had a heart attack in check-in line - cant believe i'm here. Hrrible keyboard. What else can I say - I'm actually on my way!!! Thank to everyone who saw me off - it was really nice and low key - perfect.
take care everyone - I will update as soon as I can. Have fun!
November 7, 2003
OK - can I just mention that I'M LEAVING TOMORROW!!! This is crazy. My bags are packed, but they are heavy. It's the books and stuff, though, not the clothes. I really haven't packed many clothes!
I need to thank some more people for supporting my trip: Peter and Sandy, Kristen, and Karen. I really appreciate it. I also have a big thanks for Rob, for helping me out by displaying my stuff in the store, and ordering in my books for me.
So, I have to get my ass in gear because we're heading to London today to have dinner with my Grandmother, and then so I can visit with Sonya and Matt tonight. So, a big thanks to everyone who has offered support -and my next update will be from Mozambique! (if I don't have a heart attack first...:) )
November 5, 2003
So, I figure, sleep is overrated right? It turns out that a non-drug-induced restful night is a bit elusive these days. I wonder why? Hmm.
So here is an interesting story. A very nice man read about me in the Kincardine News, and he tracked me down so he could connect me with his daughter who is currently in Mozambique, and to give me a donation. All you cynics out there pay attention! There are definitely nice, generous people out there who will go out of their way to help people. Thanks Roy!
I'm enjoying my last few days here, trying to see everyone I can and make the most of my time. Of course, I still have packing to do, but it's getting there. I feel almost ready. There are a lot of little things I want to get to, but I think they could all be done quickly if I would just get on top of them, so I'm feeling OK.
November 3, 2003
So I had a great weekend. It's always so fun to see old friends and find out that we get along just as well as ever. My face hurt from laughing. Thanks so much for the fun Laura and Julie!So things are coming together. I'm starting to believe that I will get almost everything together that I had hoped to, so that's something. I've also had some ideas on things I want to add to the site, so that's good. I really don't think it is that interesting right now, so any suggestions are welcome as well.
November 1, 2003
1 WEEK!!! It's official. In 7 days I will be a nervous wreck about to take the longest trip of my life.
So I'm off to Lansing, Michigan for the night. Julie and I are going to meet up with Laura, which I'm really excited about. Nothing like going away for 2 years to get people to make seeing you a priority.
Not much else to say - and it's hard to type around an increasingly heavy two-year-old.
October 31, 2003
Happy Hallowe'en! Even more importantly, happy birthday to Fiona, and happy birthday to Sandy!
I also want to thank a few people who have donated money to support my trip. I really appreciate it! Thanks Dad, Georgette, Joe & Chris, and Ron! I also want to thank my Mom for supporting me (and putting up with me!) for the last 2 months, and my sister and Chloe for the same.
As you can see, Paul answered the survey enough times that I decided to change the format - if only to keep him from filling my inbox with survey answers. By the way, if you want to check out Paul's site, go to www.paulroyston.com.
8 days to go - really really hard to believe!
October 30, 2003
9 days! My visa arrived yesterday, so that was exciting - I'm legally allowed into Mozambique now. The only problem is that we requested (and paid for) a multiple entry visa, and received a single entry visa. I don't know if I'll be able to fix that once I get there. I'm sure there must be a way - it'll probably just cost more!
In a weird way I'm starting to feel a bit more calm. A bit. OK - part of me is still ready to freak out at any minute... but at least I've gotten most of the stuff I planned to, and it looks like I'm going to get to see most of the people I wanted to before leaving, so it's all coming together.
As an aside, despite the many responses from famous people that I don't know (thanks for stopping by Cameron aka Pauly), the results of the survey are inconclusive at this time. More on that later.
October 29, 2003
Well time sure is slipping away! I'm having a hard time deciding what to pack. I can only take 25 kilos so that limits things a bit. How do you pack for 2 years? I had all these lists of things to do before leaving, but there are a lot of things that are not happening. I think I'm getting the most important stuff done - or at least most of it.
My sister has chickenpox, which is really fun. She is pretty sick and we're just waiting for Chloe to show signs of it - so far nothing, but it could take up to three weeks! The crappy part is that now I'm a bit of a pariah because people are afraid I'll carry it and they'll get it from me. Thank goodness I've already had it, if I got sick right now it would be a catastrophe! (no hyperbole there...) Well, it would definitely "suck large" as my dad so eloquently put it.
October 23, 2003
Argh. I'm having a less-than-stellar day. I was contacting the airlines to find out how to bring my guitar with me to Mozambique, and they were less than helpful. Right now it looks like I would be better off to take my chances and try and buy one there rather than take this one. Excess baggage costs would be hundreds of dollars - which I don't have. Gar. So if anyone has any secret tricks please let me know! I'm also having a really fun time trying to figure out my student loans. I really wish there was just one place that organized these things. I've been shuffled between my bank and the OSAP office.
OK - enough venting. Time for chocolate. But first - I'm going to try and insert a survey here. Paul thinks I should put more recent updates at the top of the page, rather than entering them one after the other in a normal consecutive manner. So I will ask what you think, if in fact, anyone reads this page!
I would prefer to:
October 22, 2003
My stomach gets a little more unsettled with each day - but in a good way... I think!? It's definitely great to have friends in town - Jaime, Noel, and Scott came over today and it was great to see them. I'm really glad to have this time before leaving - I know I'm really lucky in this respect.
Things are going well - lots of people are expressing support, and I really appreciate all of the well-wishes. I feel a bit weird about it, but that seems to be the norm lately!
My thought processes aren't functioning at maximum capacity either. I'm used to being able to think about a few things at once, and to just get things done. Right now I'm lucky to remember to finish one thing at a time. I sure hope I regain my ability to focus before it's time to start teaching!
October 21, 2003
My plane tickets arrived today. That makes things feel a bit more urgent. This past weekend I visited with Raye, Paul and Fiona, which was fun. I had a great time, and then I suddenly started thinking in the number of days left rather than weeks, and my stomach dropped about 4 feet. Yes, my calves and stomach are now friends.
I'm trying not to think about the fact that I am leaving everyone for so long, but at the same time I'm trying to prepare myself to go. It's a weird situation - I feel like there are so many things I need to be thinking about, but it's so overwhelming that I can only allow myself to focus on a couple of things at a time. Highly inefficient. Argh.
October 15, 2003
Well, my article appeared in the Kincardine News today. It's not exactly accurate, but at least it gets the word out a bit. I have to say that I'm not any more comfortable being the interviewee than the interviewer. I was definitely having a less than eloquent day during the interview. Ah well.
It's such a weird feeling. I'm not sure how to get prepared for this. There are some practical things I can do, but somehow it doesn't seem enough. I'm sort of pulling the procrastinating trick. I think I'm leaving things for the last minute because I'm not sure I'm ready for it to feel real.
October 7, 2003
Just got a phone call from VSO - looks like my departure date is November 8. A month from tomorrow. That helps make things feel a bit more real. I have a hunch that it won't really feel real until about 6 months from now. I'll be walking down the street in Pemba, and I'll stop and think - "Hey! I'm really here. This is actually happening. Huh." And I'll smile and continue on my way.
It's so exciting. I have so much to do! I wish I could be sure to see everyone I care about before I leave, but my financial constraints are... well, very constraining. Some day I'll get my financial act together, but it won't be any day too soon, that's for sure.
Well, I think I have to go do a happy dance now... I'm going to Mozambique!