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October 18, 2019

Cindy's World | Updates - Moz. 1 | Mozambique | Being Veggie | Updates - Moz. 2 | Articles | Matapa and More | Updates - Toronto |

Updates - Moz. 2

So this is the second part of my adventure in Mozambique. Interestingly, as I was rearranging this site, I discovered that if you cut and paste this page into Word it takes up 72 pages. I guess I've kind of written a book after all!

June 20, 2005

Right. This will be the last Mozambican update. Tomorrow I get on a plane and fly back to Canada (via Johannesburg and Paris). I guess I should feel reflective, but actually, I find I'm trying not to think about it too much because I get anxious, and hungry. I'm trying to leave all my "what the hell am I going to do now" worries for next week. It's surprisingly hard to do, especially when the first thing everyone asks you is "What are you going to do now?" Ah well.

So today I'm going to walk around town a bit and pick up a few more souvenirs. Then I'm going to pack things up a bit more, and then Gertraud (the Volunteer I'm staying with) and I are going to Simone's for dinner. I think it will be a very nice way to spend my last night in Mozambique and I'm grateful to Simone for the invitation. Plus, she's a great cook.

Tomorrow I will try and sleep as much as possible, although I haven't got a clock and that will make me nervous. Perhaps I should buy something that tells me the time. I've spent the last week not knowing what time it is, and going through cell phone withdrawal. I'm used to sending and receiving texts regularly, so I've felt pretty cut-off. Strange that leaving Pemba, which is really quite remote, should have me feeling more cut-off. It is definitely strange to be leaving.

Anyways, before this update becomes even more boring than it already is, I think I will sign off. The next updates will be entirely different I think. I have no idea what I'm going to do with this site, but I may just keep 'blogging'. I suspect the tone may change quite a bit.

June 16, 2005

Ok, just a quick update. I wrote one and put it on disk not realizing that none of the cafes here would let me put a disk into their computers. Understandable really. Anyways, I´m in Maputo until Tuesday, and then I´m on my way back to Canada. I should be on the same flights as Kate, so that will be really nice, although I probably should have asked her if she minded having a traveling companion before I made that arrangement! At any rate, in a week I will be reajusting to the Canadian reality and Mozambique will just seem a dream. It's a very strange thing to think about. Right now Canada seems so unreal and far away.

I've discovered that when I'm stressed without much to do, I eat. Not great for the figure, but good for the restaurants around here, I suppose!

June 7, 2005

I haven’t written an update for a couple of weeks for a couple of reasons. My plans have been rather up in the air, and I still don’t know my exact return date to Canada. I do know that I leave Pemba on the 12th though, and since the traveling I was planning to do has fallen through, I hope to be back in Canada in a couple of weeks! That’s a very strange thing for me to think about. One of the other reasons for the lack of updates is that I contracted a nasty cold last week that refused to go away. Normally I recover within a couple of days from a cold, but this one stuck around preventing me from fully enjoying myself. In other words – I couldn’t drink! It was a travesty. I even tried just drinking whiskey with no ice (some people swear it’s medication, but I’m afraid it didn’t help me much). In discussion with Angela (who is now living it up back home in Australia, and sending me lovely emails about all the delicious food she’s eating... argh), we decided that this was a full-blown stress cold. And why am I stressed you may ask? Well, allow me to fill you in.

Firstly, I have been trying to get this stupid curriculum finished, and it’s taken much longer than I thought it would. Finally today I got a resurgence of energy (the cold really took it out of me) and I’ve reached a point where I just need to edit, print, and collate. It was really important to me to finish this curriculum because it was something concrete that I could feel I contributed to the school. I couldn’t have done it without the lessons etc, that Elizabeth left, but I think between the two of us the Escola Industrial e Comercial de Pemba now has an acceptable English curriculum for the first three years. It’s on computer, and I will give it to the school in hard copy and soft copy, so if lessons go missing (as some of the handwritten ones that Elizabeth painstakingly wrote out have), they can just be printed out. I hope that it is used, I tried to make it as user-friendly as possible, but I haven’t got high hopes.

Secondly, I have to write reports for VSO talking about what I’ve accomplished here, and what the most ‘significant change’ I have done here is. My main problem with this is that the entire reason I have resigned and am going home early is that I have felt unable to achieve any significant change whatsoever. This is stressful because I find myself questioning where I went wrong, and what I could have done to actually achieve some of the objectives on the placement outline. So I have these constant debates in my head that go something like this: “I should have tried harder to do that.” “Yes, but in order to succeed you would have had to do everything yourself, and you were against doing everything yourself on principle. It’s supposed to be a collaboration.” “Yes, but maybe I was just being lazy and I should have done it anyways just so it had been done once.” “But it would have been so much energy to achieve that only once and it wouldn’t be sustainable, so why should you have put yourself through all that?”.

Thirdly, I have to pack everything up here. This means I have to say goodbye to some lovely people that I will probably never see again, including my cat. I also have to go through all of my possessions and decide what to take home, and what to give to who. I have to leave money with someone so that my bills can be paid, and finances are tight.

Fourthly, I am going back to Canada. Where I have no job, no money, and I’m not even sure where I am going to live. Of course I will stay with my Mom and sister for awhile and that will be lovely, but in the interests of my financial stability, I won’t be able to stay there too long. So that brings back that old stress: the-what the hell am I going to do with my life?-stress. You know the one.

So that’s where things are at in Pemba at the moment. I’m feeling a bit better, and I’m really looking forward to getting home and seeing everyone, but I’m nervous about it as well. Pemba is quite relaxed, and it’s going to be quite an adjustment, and I hate job-searching. There are things I will miss about Pemba too. My apartment would be so nice if it had running water. The view is spectacular, and the neighbourhood is interesting. Noisy, but interesting. The beaches are beautiful and the water is never as cold as Lake Huron’s warmest day. There are some really interesting people here, and sometimes there is a vibe when I’m walking around town that I really enjoy. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a comfortable, relaxed, not-in-a-hurry-for-anything kind of vibe. And sometimes I enjoy the way the children get such a kick out of talking to me. Sometimes they run up just to say ‘good morning’ and when I respond they laugh and run away. Then their friends run up to do the same. The streets always have a buzz of noise – talking, laughing, radios, children playing, which is annoying when I want to sleep, but it’s kind of nice to know there is so much social interaction going on. And it hardly ever gets cloudy or rains here. I have a feeling that in a few months I will really miss the Pemba climate!

Well, that’s how it goes.

May 24, 2005

Finally able to post this… I think…

May 20, 2005

I’m writing this today, but as my phone line has been down for the past week and a half, and I’m not sure when the technician will come (although I’ve visited the company twice and called already today), I’m not exactly sure when I will post it!

Happy birthday to Peter, and to Laura (wherever she may be???). Hope you have great ones!

So. Classes are over. No more classes. I’m very pleased about this, although now that I’m trying to fill in reports and think about what I’ve done, I’m feeling a bit down. I feel like I haven’t accomplished much here, and I’m wondering if I should have tried harder. Admittedly I have been quite slack this year. I just haven’t had the energy to really try hard to get things done. I can justify it by saying that I felt burnt out after last year, and that I had little hope of anything coming to fruition anyways, but a tougher person might have kept fighting and got more done. I’m feeling a bit guilty because once I decided to leave, I have really stopped trying to get projects started. I just decided to try and enjoy myself as much as possible in the last couple of months. Which I have done, although it meant going way over budget. Of course. I guess now I am realizing that I’ve got a few weeks left here, and not so much to do, and not so much money either! I will see how the work goes next week. If I get the curriculum done next week, then I will just need to sort out my apartment, and be a lady of leisure. That could be alright… Pemba isn’t a bad place to just bum around and hang at the beach. Just expensive.

There is another trip that I haven’t written about yet. Angela and I spent a weekend at Mareja, which is in the bush. It’s an interesting place. Historically it was a sisal plantation until the baroness who ran it after her husband’s death decided it was time to leave Mozambique. I’m not good at remembering dates, but I believe she left in the 70s. The house and the grounds were eaten by the bush until a wandering German count crashed his car on the front steps about 10 years ago. Since then he has been rehabilitating the house and grounds, and working on conservation in the area. It’s a community run project, and they bring guests out to spend the weekend. There are a few problems with the hospitality, but it is a very beautiful place and it was nice to see. Now I don’t try to compete with Angela’s entertaining story of the weekend, but I will say a few words about the problems with going to Mareja. First, the host himself is a bit scatty and so even though he requested we leave earlier than was convenient for us (Angela ended her class early), we then spent at least an hour driving around town picking up supplies and workers. The workers should have tipped us off that it might not be the best weekend to go to Mareja, but I suspect that they are always in construction out there. I had asked about the prices before going, because I knew other people had been invited out there and then surprised with a bill at the end of their stay. So when we arrived we were given the choice of two rooms, one of which was full of wooden knick-knacks so the wood smell was a bit over-powering. Guess where I slept? The beds are the local variety, so they are incredibly uncomfortable, and we had to bring our own sheets, mozzie net, etc. There are no curtains on the windows, so showering and using the toilet can be a bit of an exhibitionist experience. The food at night (they only serve 2 meals a day – breakfast and dinner) was alright although it was served cold, and with a good amount of grit in it. We made the mistake of asking whether the water we were drinking was boiled, and found out that our host does not believe in boiling water and we were drinking river water. I’m still hoping he was joking, although the stomach problems we both experienced would seem to indicate otherwise. Breakfast was… well I was pretty damn hungry by the end of the weekend. We got a tiny amount of scrambled eggs mixed with leftover vegetables, and all the rock hard dry toast we could ever want. The second day we were also served a miniscule amount of fried potatoes. Again I thought it was a cruel joke. We paid the same price for breakfast as we did for dinner. Our saving grace for the weekend was that I had heard of guests being hungry out there so we had brought some cookies and a bottle of gin and a case of tonic water. We unfortunately ran out of gin (with our host’s help) a few hours too early. I think if the count and his partner would properly prepare people for a weekend at Mareja, then it would be OK. Unfortunately they tend to just invite people out, give them sparse information, encourage them to go on walks, offer drinks (which may never arrive due to the host’s scatty nature), let them go hungry, and then present a bill at the end of the weekend. For example, in all the time we were being encouraged to go on walks, never once was it mentioned that there would be an added charge for it. We were not told that there was a difference in price in the rooms, nor that drinks would be charged (which didn’t matter because we brought our own and even shared with the host and never drank of his supply). Our weekend was further disrupted by the construction going on around us. The house which is being rebuilt has a beautiful view, and is really the only place to sit and enjoy the scenery and peace. However, they are currently building the roof so the peace was somewhat disrupted by hammering. I just feel that if you are going to expect people to pay for something, that you should properly inform them of what they are paying for. Anyways, it was beautiful, and I got to climb a mountain (which is actually an inselberg) which was beautiful. There is something about sitting on the top of a mountain and looking out at miles of African bushland in every direction. I won’t even try to describe it.

Well, I just called the phone company again. I hope they send someone, I don’t want to go another weekend without a phone. It’s irritating. And I want to use the internet!

May 2, 2005

First – happy birthday Dad, and happy birthday Tom!

Well… here’s a quick update to say… my time here is nearly over. After grappling with the decision for months, I came to the conclusion that my time will be better spent somewhere else, so I have sent in my resignation. Here it is…:

Dear VSO;

It is with some regret that I wish to tender my resignation as a volunteer at the Escola Industriel e Comerciel de Pemba (EICP). I would like to complete this semester, finish the curriculum development I am working on, and return to Canada in mid-June.

Obviously this is not a decision that I have made lightly, but one that I have considered for many months. As I outlined in previous reports, in particular, the VSO Second Report (Placement Review), I have encountered many difficulties in meeting placement objectives, and I have constantly questioned my value as a volunteer drawing on VSO resources. My experience at the EICP has certainly been a learning one, especially on a personal level, but I do not feel that the placement contributes to VSO development objectives in any sustainable manner. The current school environment is not conducive to collaboration and skills sharing, as most colleagues are over-worked, under-paid, and simply not interested in extending themselves any further than they already are. The school administration lacks direction, and although they request activities and projects, they have been unable to give the necessary support. I have made suggestions and expressed my concerns to the school administration, but the situation seems to be unchangeable for the time being.

My main role at the school seems to be to fill a teaching gap. The problems I outlined in my VSO Second Report mean that improving the quality of English language learning under the current circumstances is nearly impossible. It was also clear right from the start of my placement that my Mozambican colleagues have come to rely on VSO volunteers to organize AIDS or gender activities, rather than collaborating with the volunteer. My colleagues avoid getting involved in the organization of activities not because they lack capabilities, but because they lack interest. I believe that their reliance on the volunteers they have had at the school has actually kept local teachers from taking initiative.

I wish to express my concurrence with Elizabeth Longley’s recommendations in her VSO-commissioned report on VSO’s contribution to education within Mozambique. I agree that VSO’s resources are being misdirected by placing teachers in secondary and industrial schools, and that these resources would be more effectively utilized in the tertiary school system, in universities and teaching colleges.

The problems meeting objectives at the school has meant that the frustrations inherent in living in Pemba have been intensified. If I were able to feel useful in my work, then I could justify to myself the difficulties encountered in daily life; however, this is not possible in the current situation. The security situation in Pemba has become increasingly worrisome. It is no longer possible to walk anywhere after dark, in any company, and the sun goes down at 5:30 p.m. A VSO colleague in town has also been mugged during the day, on her way to work. There is no public transportation system, and taxis are highly unreliable and often unavailable altogether, not to mention expensive. It is expensive to live in Pemba, and the markets are often very sparsely stocked, which means my diet has suffered, and my health. Sometimes even water is difficult to come by, especially in my neighbourhood. The social life in Pemba is difficult as volunteers neither fit in with the local population who sees us as rich cooperants, nor the cooperants who make a great deal more money and have transportation. There isn’t a single colleague at the school that I feel I can trust, so there is no support within the school. I do not wish to suggest that the living situation is by any means intolerable. I could certainly withstand the conditions, and there are many good aspects to living in Pemba, but I feel that ignoring the fundamental problems of the placement and staying on just for the sake of staying on would be a misappropriation of VSO resources.

I have thought about this decision very carefully, and I am of the opinion that I am being underutilized in this placement. Although I could continue to do what I can until December (which would be the end of my two-year contract), I do not feel that anything I could accomplish in those additional 6 months would validate either the draw on VSO, or the draw on my personal and professional life.

I wish to thank VSO for the opportunity, the support, and the experience. While I am somewhat uncertain as to any contribution I have made to development at EICP, I have certainly benefited from the challenges I have faced here.


Cynthia Durrant

Anyway. Later I wished I hadn’t been quite so hard on the placement. I know the previous volunteers did accomplish things and I didn’t wish to diminish their accomplishment in any way. I have just simply run out of steam to fight to get things done. I honestly don’t know how Elizabeth did it, but I’m tired. And she stayed an extra year. So, with all kudos to her – I’m outta here. I’m really looking forward to moving on. The current plan is to return to Canada around the beginning of July, look for a well-paying job, and then consider my options for next year. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone back home, and eating some good food! The added bonus is that it will be much easier to adapt to the Canadian climate in July than in December.

So there we go!

April 13, 2005

Finally! Another update. It helps that I went away for the weekend so I actually have something to write about. I’m always more interested to write about my trips than about my daily life. I’ll try and include some of that as well.

So two weeks ago I dashed down to Nampula for the weekend to visit Emma and the other volunteers down there. It was fun, and the bus ride was surprisingly… well, I can’t say it was comfortable, but it was much better than it has been in the past. For several hours on the way to Nampula I had 3 seats to myself, and on the way back I had 2 seats to myself for quite some time. That makes quite a difference. Since I was visiting Nampula, there had to be some sort of project I could help Emma with (it seems to be a tradition… one time I helped her shape medals out of homemade playdough), so this time it involved baking a cake for the party the next night. We did it at Karen’s (a lovely Austrian woman). It was fun, and my only regret is that I never actually got to eat a piece, because at the party I served it all away! I then went out with some of the boys in Nampula which was also fun, until David got bonked on the head with a bottle. Apparently he was standing at the bar, and accidentally jostled the guy next to him, who took offence and showed it. David had a bit of a gash on his head which bled quite a bit, and the guy just ran out and into the neighbourhood. There are a number of guards and policemen who simply let the guy get away. As we were leaving, one guard just sort of smiled at me and said, “Just forget about it, these things happen.” That infuriated me. How can a person have an attitude like that? How is it ever appropriate to show displeasure by breaking a bottle on someone’s head? Anyways, David seemed to recover alright. The next night there was a big party for some of the guys’ birthdays. It was a good night, and I basically went straight from the party to the bus (at 5 a.m.) and came back to Pemba.

Last week at work was quite normal, athough short. Thursday was Mozambican Woman’s Day, so Angela and I took advantage of the long weekend to go down to Mozambique Island. It is a very historical place as it was once the capital of the country, and quite a slave-trading centre. There is a large fort, a palace, and the dirtiest beaches I have ever seen. Because the island is grossly over-populated – it could handle 4000 people but currently has around 15 000 inhabitants – you can imagine the sanitation problems. Most people use the beach as their toilets, and when you walk by later in the day in the hot sun, and the wind brings the smell inland… I nearly added my breakfast to the filth. The palace was interesting and had a good collection of period furniture, and it was interesting to see how different a museum in Mozambique is run. I think a western curator would be appalled by the lack of preservation systems. Also, I don’t know what it is, but it seems that the Portuguese had quite a thing for really gaudy chandeliers. You can see this in any of the houses that once had Portuguese owners, and there were a couple of impressive specimens in the palace. The other interesting thing is that as soon as you arrive on the island – after traversing the single-lane 3 km bridge (which according to the engineers working on it, is an engineering miracle in that it is still standing despite the massive corrosion on the columns holding it up) – some locals try to sell you beaded necklaces. This is interesting because the beads are found on the beach. They dig holes in the beach and sift through the sand for these beads, which have apparently washed up on shore from the several shipwrecks around the island. This means that these beads can be 400 years old and were likely used as currency in the slave trade. A multi-coloured necklace goes for about a dollar and a half. Angela and I stayed at a lovely hotel called “O Escondidinho “ (the little hidden one), which had a pool, and great food. I ate lobster au gratin every day. It was good. And the tuna… yum. The menu was limited and did not change, but what they did, they did well. The island is not very large, and we walked the circumference of it on Friday morning at quite a leisurely pace. One of the nice things about the island is that we were able to walk around with cameras and take pictures without feeling like we were in constant danger of being mugged. And Mozambicans seem to love having their picture taken, even if they never get to see the result. In fact, children and occasionally adults, would spot our cameras and request that we take their photos. It was very peaceful, and relaxed. And despite the fact that our room was likely once a cell for holding slaves, we slept very well in the silence. My neighbourhood in Pemba is rarely quiet, so I cherished that silence! We walked around in the morning, and then spent the afternoon lazing around the pool drinking beer. It was lovely. Then we had to come back. Now, the trip to the island was easy. We simply took the big bus to a t-junction near Monapo, and hitched the remaining 57 kms to the island. It seems that there are pretty constant lifts along that stretch, but we were even luckier than that and as we were crossing the road having descended from the bus, an air-conditioned 4x4 stopped in front of us and offered us a lift. They took us right to the hotel, which was fabulous. Although, surprisingly, we had to ask a local boy to help us find our hotel. Hence the name. The trip back from Isla was not nearly as easy. Actually, I was the most nervous I have been traveling in Africa. The basic problem was that the bus passes by the t-junction at about 6 a.m., and the other bus passes by the next intersection (Namialo) around 7ish, but the bridge from the island does not open until 5 a.m. So Angela and I got up at 4:30 and walked the 15 minute walk to the bridge in the dark, and got into a truck that was going to take us directly to the second junction so we could have a fair chance of catching one of these buses. The truck went across the bridge quite quickly (much more quickly than my margin of comfort would have allowed, but we made it), and it was looking like we would catch our bus. We were moved into the cab of the truck and the driver assured us that we would make our bus. Our mistake was believing him and not getting out at the first t-junction. Suddenly we found ourselves in downtown Monapo, where our driver informed us that he was no longer going to Namialo, but returning to the island. We transferred to the cab of another truck (white women nearly always get the cab for some reason… I think they charge us more for it) whose driver also seemed confident that we would catch the bus. Which we probably would have, had he not had to wait for that load of dried fish to arrive. Angela and I had a funny moment when I looked over and casually remarked “Oh, the steering wheel is held together with sticky-tape.” At any rate, we missed our buses and ended up standing at the junction in Namialo. This was something I really wanted to avoid because many people had warned me that Namialo was full of “bandidos”. We were immediately surrounded by young men trying to sell us outrageously over-priced biscuits and soft drinks, so when the big empty truck pulled up and called out “Pemba”, we hopped right on. I should mention that I’d heard that many trucks tell people they are going to a place and then leave people in another place, so I double-checked with the driver that he was indeed going to Pemba. One of the young men selling biscuits had told us that we would only be able to catch a bus in the afternoon, and neither Angela nor I relished the thought of hanging out in Namialo for hours on end. Of course, the truck was not heading straight to Pemba, but was in fact just dashing back and forth along the main strip looking for passengers. I was not comfortable with our situation, as at one point there were 4 passengers, me and Angela, a South African man, and a Zimbabwean woman, and about 7 touts crazily jumping about and yelling out for more passengers. I didn’t like our odds, and felt outnumbered, so the next time the truck stopped where we had got on, Angela and I jumped off. I told the driver to just pick us up when they were ready to actually go. The other 2 passengers also descended, and then the driver decided that it was, in fact, time to go. At that point 4 Mozambican passengers got on, and all but 2 touts got off, so we decided that we would give it a try. As normal as it is in Mozambique to travel in the back of a truck, I never want to be in that position again. The driver raced along the pot-holed curvy roads and I was in a constant state of anxiety. I wasn’t actually too disappointed when we reached Namapa (about halfway to Pemba) and we were informed that the truck was not going any further and we were dropped off. We had about 20 minutes of pondering whether we should call friends in Pemba to come the 150 kms and rescue us, but I had a bit of confidence in the travel system here, and suggested we wait a couple of hours to see if we could catch a lift. Sure enough it wasn’t long before Julio showed up and filled his truck with passengers to Chiure. I suggested we just keep going as far in the right direction as possible, so we hopped in the back until the driver invited us into the cab. Julio was very pleasant and told us that when he had left Chiure there had been two cars there waiting for passengers to Pemba. Julio drove slowly and cautiously, and my blood pressure returned to a more tolerable level. When we got to Chiure, we hopped into the cab of yet another truck (all but the second big truck were small pick-ups) and started the final leg of our trip. This driver was also nice and drove at a reasonable speed. He also dropped us off right at Angela’s house, which we were most thankful to see. Wendy immediately poured us the beer we’d spent the last couple of hours dreaming about, and we relaxed. I don’t remember ever feeling as uncomfortable while traveling as I did for that time that we were in Namialo. I wasn’t sure what to do, and I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone. I didn’t feel that way when I traveled to Malawi last year, and I generally felt that people were quite helpful, so I was very uncomfortable to be uncomfortable. So I recommend that people traveling to Isla go to Nampula afterwards instead of Pemba – it would be a great deal less stressful! Even better would be to have private transportation, obviously.

Anyway, regular life is going along. I had to deal with the electricity company again, but I believe I might have had a minor success this time. The problem is that my meter lives inside the locked veranda of my apartment, and since there is often no one here during the day, the electricity man has given up trying to read the meter and has simply been estimating my usage. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t decided to up my usage and if I hadn’t been away for most of January, knowing that there was no electricity in the apartment. Since December he has estimated my usage to be 400, and this month (for example) I have used about 120. Last month I went to the electricity company 3 times trying to sort this out, and I was told to pay the bill, but that my reading of the meter would be accepted and that the next bill would be zero. So I did. The next bill was the same outrageous amount, and they hadn’t processed my last payment and had even put a fine on there. I figured it was a timing problem, and I was so tired of dealing with them that I thought I would wait and see if they could get it sorted in time for the next bill. No such luck. The next bill again estimated my usage to be 400. So yesterday I went to the electricity company again, this time prepared to hang out there for hours and refuse to leave until I had something in writing, or until somebody accompanied me to my house to read my meter. At least the office is airconditioned. Also, since it was the middle of the month, it was not busy. The first woman I spoke to remembered me from last month and seemed surprised that no one had managed to come and read my meter yet. I don’t think anyone has even tried. The man I had spoken to last month had practically berated my for not having a guard 24 hours a day to open the door for the meter-reader. I was not impressed. So this woman soon returned from the weird room they go into to find the answers to questions and told me to write a complaint letter including the numbers. I now realize that this is a common stall technique here. They send you off to write a letter, because they don’t feel like dealing with the problem at that particular moment. I whined and said that I didn’t think a letter was necessary, that the problem was simple and that if they would just send someone to my house to look at the meter, we could sort it out. I said I didn’t want to have to come back to bother them again. She took my bills and delivered them to the weird room, and then told me to sit down and wait. So I did. After about 20 minutes, another woman emerged from the room and asked me why my house was always closed. I said that it was because I work and can’t afford to pay someone to hang out at my house just to let the electricity guy in should he arrive. She told me to come back next Thursday to get the corrected bill. I said that I had left a bill there once before that had disappeared, so I was a bit reluctant to leave without having something in writing saying that things would be sorted. Then she told me to come back on Tuesday. I asked her name, and wrote things down, and then suddenly she told me to sit down and wait, and she went into the little room again. When she came out she had two little books and she was writing the corrected bill. The corrected bill which she originally wanted a week and a half to do, took her less than two minutes to write. This is one of the things that frustrate me most about the people here. If given the choice between doing something now or later, they will always choose later, no matter how inconvenient it may be for them or anyone else involved. I also now understand why some ex-pats are so much better at getting things done than others. They have figured out the system. It can be done now if you are just persistent enough.

Other than that, there are 4 people that have started playing volleyball a couple of times a week which I am enjoying - although those of you who are familiar with my string-bean arms will have an idea of how great a volleyball player I must be. Still, it’s a bit of exercise, and it’s fun. I gave a test this week with absolutely abysmal results, so I will have to give them another one. I don’t understand it. Some of them seem to try, but are just incapable of figuring things out. Exercises that we have done repeatedly in class suddenly become incomprehensible when they appear on a test. It’s very frustrating.

I can’t think of anything else at the moment, so I’ll leave this update as it is, and try and post it!

March 28, 2005

Well, first off I must apologize to a few people whose birthdays I have missed! A super happy birthday to Noel, Marnie, and Raye. I hope you had a great day and that this year is the best yet!

Second, here’s a Happy Birthday for Nattie! No idea if she reads the site, but hopefully she has a good one anyways.

Things here are going well. When I say this, I mean that I am feeling good. I do not feel that my presence here is making the difference that I wish it would, but as volunteers we are told that we need to celebrate small victories and accept the fact that we may not see any change in the time we are here. Which sucks, basically. I want to see results dammit! However, the electricity has been a bit better lately – apparently we are now finally getting power from the big Mozambican hydroelectric dam Cahora Bassa (which powers all of Swaziland and much of South Africa – I believe). This means that the city is not being powered on generators anymore so the electricity should be a bit more consistent. It’s amazing how much of a difference having electricity makes. It gets dark quite early here, so if you don’t have electricity, there isn’t much to do other than sleep. And even that is hard when you don’t have the benefit of a fan. School is school. We had our evaluation meeting, where the teachers meet to discuss pass rates etc. Apparently they met with all the heads of the classes – which is good. My students, however, complain that I speak too much English in class. It would seem that they would prefer I teach them English in Portuguese. I don’t see that helping much, really. They have this technique of trying to improve people’s performance through public humiliation here. So they read out all of the students’ gripes to all the teachers in the meeting. Some teachers have apparently never turned up for class, or have given no tests. I’ve seen them do this with students as well, and tell the school population during an assembly of a particular student’s misconduct. They publicly post disciplinary issues for everyone to read – they put the names of the students who were expelled for fraud all over the school. I don’t know how productive it is. In my experience, students feel no embarrassment over being caught cheating, they tend to just laugh. Ah well. I had also arranged for some people to come to the teachers meeting at the end to talk about AIDS. I figured the best way to get the teachers to come to a talk about AIDS was to tack it on to the end of an obligatory meeting rather than trying to organize a separate workshop that no one would go to. It was alright, and some teachers asked questions, which I thought was good. They got a little bit raunchy – there is only one other female teacher so I think they were trying to embarrass us a bit, but at least there was some talking, and some questions answered.

So I’m still trying. I was invited to a meeting by another teacher, who is quite active in organizing extra-curricular activities. He asked me to attend so I could give suggestions about the organization of a workshop on cooperation and partnership that he wants to arrange for youth and various youth groups. I think it is a good idea, although I am slightly cynical about his motives. I don’t know why, and I will try and help as much as I can. My role, I feel, is often to just try and keep people from over-complicating things at times. Occasionally they want to attack things in what seems to be a funny order. For me, for example, it makes sense to decide how many participants you are going to have in the workshop and figure out what kind of materials you will need, before you start discussing location. One guy suggested finding a location first and then basing the number of participants on the location. In some cases, I’m sure that is how things need to be done, but in this case there are many locations around town that would work just fine, including the school itself. There are classrooms of varying size, and a gymnasium, so space shouldn’t be an issue. Then they wanted to have representatives from various NGOs participate in the whole two day workshop. I explained that the NGO people are very busy, and while they will probably be happy to lend support in their various areas, they aren’t too likely to want to sit and watch a workshop. One young man seemed to think it was the NGOs responsibility to make the sacrifice to be there. I felt that it wasn’t, but that they would be interested in reading reports about how the workshop went, and on any conclusions or plans put together by the participants. I said that it was this group of Mozambicans responsibility to do the workshop, and that every NGOs ultimate goal is to not be needed anymore, so they shouldn’t be depended on unless necessary. It was an interesting point though. It does seem that many people feel that it is the international organizations responsibility to get things done, and that the cooperants and volunteers that come here should work harder than anyone else.

Anyhoo… off to bed. Another early day tomorrow.

March 17, 2005

Sorry for the lack of updates lately folks. It’s been a weird month.

School is rolling along, although I feel a bit like I’m going through the motions. I have 2 classes with 80 students, and they are a nightmare. I can’t seem to keep order in the classroom, and they don’t respect my authority. I occasionally boot people out, and that helps, but sometimes it’s impossible to tell who the real trouble-makers are. I feel especially bad for the good students in the class who are trying and who would learn so much more in a better environment. Some of my better students from last year seem to have been affected by their classmates and are taking classes less seriously.

It occurred to me this week that perhaps my students didn’t know why I am here. So I gave a little speech to them, telling them that I’m a volunteer, and that means that my contract is for 2 years, that I don’t make much money, and that I left my family, friends, and way of life to come to Mozambique and try and help the Mozambican people. I tried to explain that that is sometimes why I lose my patience with them. It’s hard to feel like you have done all this to try and help people who don’t actually want help. My third year classes seemed quite understanding, but my second year class (one with 80) was awful. A couple of young guys in the back kept yelling out disparaging comments. When I said I would be leaving in December, one of them called out “Boa Viagem” (Have a good trip). It was so rude, but I didn’t think that booting the kid out would actually have done any good. Of course there are students who would rather have teachers that didn’t show up to every class, didn’t try and stop them from cheating, and who accepted money in exchange for marks. So I’m trying not to take it personally, but it still kind of sucked the energy out of me. I’d had a pretty good day up to that point. I’ll give the same speech today to the other 2nd year class and we’ll see how that goes. Probably more of the same.

On Tuesdays I’ve been going to ASUMO to play with the deaf kids. My sign language is not improving, but I’m having fun with them. I think they think I’m a little crazy, but they are really nice kids. They are mostly between the ages of 8 and 10, I think. Sometimes we play games outside (we did a modified version of duck-duck-goose), and sometimes we just let them paint pictures. We’ll do more organized crafts when we have more supplies. Virginia has secured a bit of funding to buy art supplies and balls.

Other than that… SMG is no longer part of the picture, so I’m getting used to being single in Pemba. On the plus side, I’ve had a lot more time to myself. On the minus side, I’ve had a lot more time to myself. I won’t go into any specifics, but I’ll just say that I’m sure it’s better this way.

There is also a lovely group of Australians and New Zealanders here. They are doing a mineral survey in the districts, which involves flying a plane loaded with sensory equipment in lines over designated areas. They’ve been very hospitable to us, which is great because they are staying at the Pemba Beach Hotel. They even let us come and use their washing machine! I used to think that hand-washing was more effective, but it’s not. I have clothes that weren’t smelling too good, but one trip through the washing machine and they were cured. Temporarily, of course.

Other than that, it’s been really hot. And humid. And it hasn’t been raining much in Pemba at all, which is a bit disconcerting considering it’s the rainy season. I hear it’s been raining a bit more inland, which is good. These cycles of drought and floods are horrendous on the agriculture here. The humidity is brutal some days. You just sit and sweat.

Electricity has been another issue. It’s still cutting off a lot, which is inconvenient. If they could just publish some kind of schedule and tell us when the cuts were going to be, then we could plan around them. Cook during electricity, charge cell phones and computers, etc. But no. Every time I start cooking or baking I wonder if the electricity will cut out at the worst possible moment. And sleeping without a fan on the really hot days is quite an accomplishment. My apartment is pretty good, it doesn’t get as hot as other peoples. I really feel for Angela and Virginia – their places can become quite oven-like.

I think that pretty much brings us up to date, but I’m going to post my friend Sam’s story here, because I think it is important. I emailed it to some of you, but it didn’t go to everyone, and I think it deserves a place here. You may remember the lovely Kenyan man who approached me on my first trip to Malawi as I was waiting at the border with malaria. He saw I was ill and came to talk to me and Rui and I ended up getting a ride back to Cuamba with him and staying at his house. He took the mosquito net of his bed to put it on the spare for me, and I stayed with him the other two times I passed through Cuamba. Of all the people I have met in Africa, Sam really embodies the African spirit of community. He is a well-traveled man with great ideals for the future of Africa. He has been working in Mozambique as a volunteer teacher through a volunteer-sending organization very similar to VSO. Sam has never married, partially due to his family responsibilities. Imagine supporting over 13 people before being allowed to think of yourself.

Subject: S.O.S!

Dear people,

I hope everyone is well wherever they are.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing of me. This
is an S.O.S because I need help, and need it
urgently!Where else can I ask for this apart from
within my family first?

I am writing this from Kisumu, in Kenya. I arrived
here yesterday night, having traveled from Mozambique
the day before. The purpose of my being here:to bury
my sister, Elsa, who passed away on the 6th of March
after a short illness.

And what makes this an S.O.S, since it is not the
first death in the family?

Elsa was the bread winner in her house:her husband
lost his job some 5 years back and soon resorted to
alcoholism. That means all the burial arrangements are
almost entirely on me, hence my having to travel from Moz.Further, Elsa leaves behind a boy, Eddy, who is doing form 2 in secondary school.That means I inevitably take over the responsibility of paying his school fees until he finishes his secondary school.If it was this alone, I would manage with a fair amount of ease. But that is not all.

In 2003, I lost two brothers. Peter died in Feb while Dave died in October of the same year.Peter left behind a widow and a two-month old, sickly baby, Roman.Roman mercifully died ten days after the father, but his mother is there, but just as sickly
and unemployed. I partly support her up to where I am able to.Dave, on the other hand left behind a widow and four children. Molly is his first born, and she finished O levels in 2003. She did not do very well and as I was struggling to find a college for her in 2004, she fell pregnant.Now she is a mother, at 17 and I feel guilty for this in a way. If i managed to place her in college immediately, maybe she could not have fallen pregnant.Now her future is almost ruined unless I can get for her a college and keep her there until she finishes.Doing this has not been very easy from out of the country.Molly's siblings are mercifully young, and I still have little to worry about from them yet as they are under the mother's care.Only, the mother is unemployed too, so partly a dependant!

In 2002, I lost my big bro', Henry.This is the man who made me into what I am today;my role model, and a close friend too.He paid my school fee from secondary school through high school until I went to college.Henry, whose wife Emmy had died in 2001,left behind Petite(now 16),Marvin(13) and Michelle(11), who promptly became my responsibility.I saw Peter through secondary school, which he completed last year. I am yet to place him into a college. Marvin joined form 1 this year, but so far his unle is paying his school
fee before I can take over. Michelle is in primary six this year.

In 1999, we lost Hez, the first death in the family, that openned the subsequent floodgates!Hez left behind a widow and two boys. She never even came home for the
burial of her husband, then suddenly last year she arrived home with the two boys. She is there, also unemployed and so a dependant too.

Dear family, I have struggled with all this for all this time alone, and managed fairly well within limits.But I have paid the dear price for it in the process. My personal life and aspirations in life were halted quite some time back, when I could not pursue them successfully and meet my obligations within the extended family.Now I have slowly begun to feel the effects. I have lost interest in many of the things that used to challenge or thrill me.I have sat by as my ambitions in life pass me by slowly. I hardly have
the motivation to do anything with gusto anymore. And slowly, I am becoming apathetic to everything.This is not the Sam I know; this is a total stranger to me!So I know that I need help, hence this S.O.S.
And what help do I need?First, I just need people to share all these with;people close to me, people who know me(even if just a bit!), and people who care.Then I need advice on how best to handle this.You people are too many to fail to come up with something
positive!I certainly need financial help, to be able to put the two school leavers to college, and also take care of the other two school-goers, as I still get respite from the young ones yet to join secondary school. Then, I desperately need websites or any other contact information of people or organisations that can help.And just for records, this information is NOT private and can be shared with anybody anywhere.
I have finished, good people. Please respond, and thanks in advance!


February 16, 2005

Well… here we go again. I haven’t been into writing the updates so much lately. It’s really damn hot here. I’m sitting here, by laptop/candlelight (another electricity cut… they are everyday nearly), and every single part of my body is sweating. Even my ears are sweating. It’s kind of disgusting, and I start to get itchy. So this will be a short update, as I need to shower. Also, the battery on this thing won’t last too long.

School is going. It’s nicer having fewer classes, although that beating-my-head-against-a-brick-wall feeling hasn’t lessened too much. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them that we use the verb ‘to be’ to express age, they will still write “He has 16 years” over and over again. The school now has a couple of plastic buckets which they fill with water, and put a couple of cups on. The water is filled from the tap, and the students just walk up, grab a cup, fill it and drink. Hundreds of students drinking from the same cup. Unboiled, unfiltered water. If I drank that water I would likely end up in the hospital!

I’ve also started working with Virginia a bit. I really wanted to do something working with younger kids, so now once a week I will go to her work (ASUMO – the organization for deaf people) and help her do activities with deaf children. I’m learning Mozambican sign language. It’s interesting because I used to know the tiniest bit of Canadian sign language and it’s funny how much more descriptive the signs in Mozambique are. For example, the sign for “woman” involves moving your fist from one breast to the other. To denote, of course, breasts. The sign for “girl” involves holding both hands at breast level with your index fingers pointing out and up. (before you ask, the signs for boys and men involve drawing beards… not whatever you may be thinking!) It’s a different kind of thing for me, and good to do something different. I am a bit appalled by the conditions at the centre though. I hope to be able to take my camera there some day and take pictures. They have so few resources, that even paper is hard to come by. The centre is on the same sort of compound as the parent association for people with disabilities (you can imagine how many resources there are for people with disabilities in this country), and there is a primary school. All children are integrated into normal classrooms, which has its good and bad points. It’s rare for the teachers to consistently sign during their lessons, even though they have been given training. On the plus side, there seems to be a number of hearing people that can sign, and the children are more integrated. Also, I occasionally have students sitting on the floor in my classes, but the primary schools seem to be even more crowded than the secondary schools.

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately about the effect I, or any volunteer can have here. There is so much inequality and corruption, and it seems like a lot of our resources are misplaced. Is it really important to teach English when there are so many people without water? So many children malnourished? Angela and I were talking today about the need for all NGOs and aid organizations to coordinate and create a strategic plan (and I do NOT mean anything remotely like IMF structural adjustment) to actually make a difference in a few key areas, instead of dispersing resources around the country in small pockets. There is enough aid money brought to this country to make sure that all Mozambicans have access to clean water, I’m sure of it. There are weird turf wars that happen between NGOs. There is a lot of money in aid. One anthropologist friend described Africa as the white man’s playground. It sounds harsh, but there is a least a grain or too of truth in that.

As Angela would say… just Moral Dilemma number four million three hundred and ninety-nine thousand that comes with living here.

January 26, 2005

Well, here goes. Another school year begins (sort of). Now I’ll try and write that update. I have left my notebook somewhere on my travels though, so I hope I don’t forget too much. At least I’m sure I’ll remember the highlights! I’ll just recap where I went, as I’m not sure just how choppy my updates have been.

Nampula: Dec 20 – 23. Spent a few days with Emma and João in Nampula. Did some shopping, went to Kate’s Christmas Open House, which was lovely, and watched Emma make beautiful Christmas cakes. Which I still need to get the recipe for. Watched a couple of movies with Emma (there is a video club in Nampula where you can rent VCDs), which was also nice. Then, on the 23, despite a rumbling in my tummy, and a rather uncomfortable start to the trip… I flew to Maputo.

Maputo: Dec 23 – Jan. 3. Arrived in Maputo airport just in time to do some quality thinking in the surprisingly clean airport bathroom. Was really pleased to be picked up by friends and taken to the apartment which was kindly being lent to me by someone who was currently staying at my place in Pemba. Nice place – with, thank goodness, running water and functioning toilets. And… HOT SHOWERS!!! Oh yes. After getting to know the toilet quite well the first afternoon and night, I finally emerged from the apartment on the 24 around 11 a.m., thinking that the stores might shut for the afternoon, and I would have no food for Christmas. Got a taxi, and went to Shoprite, which was a mad house. And I needn’t have worried because it was going to open late. However, I bought myself some vegetarian goodies, some Pringles, and, of course, some chocolate, and went back to the apartment. In the evening, feeling pleased with myself, I went out for dinner with fellow VSOers, Gertraud, and Felicity, to an Indian restaurant that had so many vegetarian selections I could barely contain myself. I spent the night in agony. Just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be anything left in me, I vomited, and then I decided it would be worth a trip to the clinic. So, on Christmas Day, I went to the clinic, and due to my low blood pressure, was put on an I.V. Which took hours and hours. Gertraud, Felicity, and Jim came to see me, and Felicity was even kind enough to take a picture to commemorate the occasion. Then I was given an injection for nausea so I could keep down the antibiotics. I hate needles. I’m also sure that the nurse hit a nerve because I could feel that injection for days and days afterwards. The blood tests had shown that I had a stomach infection, so with antibiotics in hand, I went back to the apartment to sleep and sleep. The 26 involved sleeping, and making a soup which was appetizing only because I needed to eat. Then I went out for a drink with Gertraud and others. On the 27, I think I went shopping with Felicity and Caroline. We were looking at clothes and bikinis, but we were in the expensive district, so I didn’t find anything that day. However, we did have lovely ice cream cones. Hmmm. Ice cream. The rest of the week involved some more shopping, having a bit of dinner with friends, and some more ice cream with Gertraud (who is lovely). SMG arrived on the 29, and we spent time wandering around Maputo, meeting up with friends, and recovering. He arrived with a bit of a nasty cold which he was kind enough to share a bit of. New Years’ Eve was lovely. We spent the afternoon with a lovely couple and their kids, and then the night with a small group of friends. Very low key, but nice. We also went to the cinema one night, where I forced him to sit through a romantic comedy (it’s not like there was any choice), which he endured with good humour. Then on the 3rd, I took public transport to Swaziland.

Swaziland: Jan. 3 – 8. Big chapa from Maputo to Manzini. No trouble at the border, although no one had thought to tell me to take my bags off the bus, so when I got back on the bus, I had a momentary panic. However they were just sitting by the gate, so I grabbed them and took them back to the bus. Interestingly, as I was reaching for the bag, some official was preparing to open them to look through them, but when he looked up and saw my big white face (which as you know, isn’t literally big… I can practically wear children’s sunglasses), he sort of laughed and didn’t bother. This happened again, when about 40 minutes into Swaz. the bus suddenly stopped at some sort of inspection site, and everyone piled off the bus with their bags and stood in single file along the side of the road, in the blazing sun. When it was my turn to open my bag, the official just laughed and waved me past, making some joke in SiSwati that I didn’t understand.
The bus trip to Manzini takes you through one of the national parks (although I didn’t know this until later), so I was mightily impressed to see a sign along the side of the road asking pedestrians and cyclists to beware of lions and elephants. When I arrived at Manzini, I started trying to find my next bus to take me to the fruit market, where I would be able to call the hostel to pick me up. The official languages of Swaziland are SiSwati and English, so I started asking friendly-looking Swazis where I could find the bus to the fruit market. Ha. I should have mentioned that the bus “station” (which is essentially a parking lot behind a mall) was overrun with minibuses. There must be a hundred of these buses coming in and out at any given time. I don’t think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not very good at estimating these things. Finally I took out my little guide book to show the friendly man the name of the place I was going: Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Sondzela’s Backpackers. Apparently I was not pronouncing “Mlilwane” properly. Imagine.
Finally, I got on the bus and waited for it to fill. I only had a couple of declarations of love while waiting. Suddenly the bus stopped, and I was booted off, and pointed down a lonely looking road and told that Mlilwane was down there. I was a bit dismayed by the sign on the main road that said “Mlilwane, 4 km”. I didn’t see any sign for the backpackers, nor was there a phone, nor anything that would resemble a fruit market. There were some nice Swazi women there though, so I spoke to them, and they said it was much too far to walk, and that I should wait to see if I could get a lift. The scenery even there was spectacular. So I waited. In the blazing sun. (The sun does nothing but blaze these days). Then a woman got off another minibus, asked me where I was going, spoke to the other women, and said “It’s not so far, let’s go”. And she took one of my bags. In my attempts to pack as lightly as possible (thinking of chapa journeys...) I had packed my stuff into two small backpacks instead of my enormous backpack. Next time I’ll just take the big one. So we started walking. Fortunately for us, a pick-up with a fridge in the back gave us a lift to the main gate of the park, where I paid the entrance fee (25 Rand – Swaziland has its own currency, but it is set to equal the South African currency so they are somewhat interchangeable… within Swaziland. 1 Rand is about 3 200 meticais, 1 US dollar is about 18 000 meticais). There were ostriches (and a sign warning people to keep their distance from ostriches) at the gate. Then the truck said it would take me closer to the hostel, as he was going to the main camp. He stopped at a small road and pointed to some huts in the distance and told me to go there. I was a bit wary because there were a number of antelope, warthogs, and a couple of zebras right where I was getting out of the truck, but he assured me that it was safe. The only danger during the day is crocodiles, so you just have to stay away from the water.
So I walked down the road towards the hostel, wondering if I should get my camera out and take pictures. I didn’t, as I figured I could go for a walk later and do so. It was so beautiful walking along that little dirt road on my own, with antelope looking at me, zebras grazing, and warthogs… looking very much like Pumbaa actually. Then another truck came up and took me the rest of the way to the hostel. The hostel was really nice. It was quiet (most people being out hiking or doing activities), there was a pool (with an amazing view of the landscape), the food was good (although they only did breakfast and dinner), and the dorm was surprisingly quiet. I had chosen Swaziland partially to find some quiet, and I was just blown away by the scenery. I went to see the traditional Swazi dancing that the workers of the park do for the guests that night, and then the next day I had to go back to Manzini to get some money and see if I could find batteries for my digital camera. I realized that the money I had brought was not going to allow me to do everything I wanted, especially when I decided to stay an extra two nights. Manzini was a lot less scary without my bags, and I enjoyed wandering around some shops and eating a spinach and cheese pie.
The people staying in the hostel were really nice as well. I met a couple of English ladies, my age, who are traveling around Africa and doing volunteer work. They travel, volunteer for a while, and then travel some more. They’ve done some pretty interesting things, and seen so much. The staff at the hostel were also wonderful, and endured our questions about the Swazi culture with good humour. Swaziland has a king, who has absolute power. And 12 wives. He is actually given an opportunity to choose a new wife every year during one of the two important festivals of the year. All of the eligible and interested young woman dance before the king, and if he likes what he sees, he can choose a new wife. He must treat all equally though, and build a nice estate for each. There is a sort of head wife. Swazi men are able to have as many wives as they can afford, although some wed in the “western way”, which means they have chosen to have only one wife. Bob was an extremely good-humoured worker at the hostel who explained to me that the bride price for girls is calculated in cows, and so a man’s riches are determined by the number of cows he has. He also told me that an eldest daughter goes for about 18 cows. Bob joked that he wanted 7 wives, but he wanted them to all be career-minded women so he wouldn’t have to take care of them.
In the afternoon I walked with a few ladies from the hostel to the main camp to try and see the hippo feeding, but we were too late. I never did make it to the hippo feeding as the hippos decided to hang out in another pool for the rest of the week.
The next day I went on a game drive in one of the other national parks – Mkaya (also easy to pronounce… ha!). It was amazing. It was a drive around the park in an open-topped Land Rover, and the guide basically just drove around looking for animals. We immediately saw various types of antelopes, one of which is the second fastest animal in the world, and then we came across a giraffe. Then we continued on and encountered a group of elephants. I think there were 4 big ones, and 2 little ones. By little, I mean the elephant equivalent of toddlers. This was incredible. The guide turned the truck so we were going backwards in front of the elephants, directly in their path. He would back up, stop, and then when the elephants were too close, he would back up again. I think perhaps his definition of “too close” may have been tempered by growing up in Africa where personal space does not exist, because I could have reached out and touched an elephant, and I was in the back of the truck. When the elephant had far exceeded my definition of too close, I practically sat on the lap of the poor girl next to me… hoping to get out of elephant reach. At one point an elephant made a funny snorting noise that didn’t sound especially friendly, and we backed up some more to find that we had momentarily blocked the path to the mudhole. We then watched the elephants roll in the mud. They were so cute. The little ones immediately plopped right down into the mud, while the adults sprayed themselves for awhile, before deciding that total immersion was, in fact, the way to go. I have pictures, but unfortunately, I was not able to find suitable batteries for my digital camera (for some reason my rechargeable batteries are not holding a charge), so I bought a cheap regular-film camera to get me through the trip. I always think it’s interesting that you can buy a reusable camera for slightly more than a disposable.
After the elephants, we continued on in search of other amazing animals. We soon came across a herd of wild buffalo. The guide was quick to tell us that these are the most dangerous animals in Africa to come across while walking, as they are so aggressive. They are not bothered by the truck though. Then we found a couple of white rhinos wallowing in a mudhole. We were actually very fortunate because we also saw a lone black rhino that day, and they are hard to find. The difference between black and white rhinos isn’t actually their colour, but the shape of their mouth (black rhinos have a pointy mouth), where they live (white in plains, and black more in bushlands), and some of their behaviors (black are more aggressive). I hope I’m remembering these things correctly, even you aren’t even remotely interested!
We had a nice lunch (I ate salads and rice, but it was nice), and then we drove around some more. By this time I had a nice burn going, but I really didn’t care too much. My Dad will be happy to know that on my way to the park that morning (I had to take public transport to get there), as I sat waiting for the bus to fill, I thought, “I should get a hat”, and suddenly a woman appeared in front of me with 10 round-brimmed hats on her head. So I bought one. Not very pretty, but my head was protected.
In the afternoon we saw the hippos (hippos kill more people in Africa than any other wild animal – they aren’t carnivores, but they can be very aggressive, and they have ENORMOUS teeth). There was a crocodile, but it was hard to see, just barely floating under the water.
On the game drive (which was 330 Rand for the day), there was a really nice Brazilian/French family, and since they were going back my way, they dropped me off at the fruit market so I didn’t have to deal with the Manzini transfer. The next day I went horse-riding, which was interesting in that I remembered, as I was sitting on the horse, that I am quite a nervous rider. Very inexperienced, and I hate English saddle. I feel much more relaxed in a western saddle for some reason. My horse kept tossing its head around and diving for the ground, and chewing the bit, and I was nervous. In one hour, my butt was already sore, and I had blisters.
I went for a hike in the afternoon with an American Peace Corps volunteer (as an aside, Peace Corps is quite a bit more hard core than VSO. They make less money, and are in more rural placements. They have more conferences and contact with one another though). This lad was keen on hitting things (trees, bushes, rocks) with his walking stick for some reason. It annoyed me at first, but after we saw the snake, I figured it was just as well to scare things away. I was walking in front when I heard a rustling beside the trail and I thought, oh, must be a lizard. So I took a look. It was a small cobra, with its head up and its tongue flicking out, so my heart stopped and I jumped about a metre away from it. Adam saw it head back under a rock. When we described it to a park worker later, he said it was a spitting cobra, and that if I’d been wearing red, it would have attacked. So, don’t wear red while hiking. Good to know. There are signs around the park saying to beware of hippos (in the evening when they come out of the water to graze) and crocodiles, but nobody had thought to mention snakes.
Then we saw a crocodile in the water, about 50 metres away. My walking companion really wanted to see it move, so he threw rocks at it until he accidentally hit it in the head and it disappeared into deeper water. To his credit, he seemed genuinely remorseful.
The next day I decided to tackle Execution Rock, the highest point in the park. About a 2 hour hike up, and then back. Fortunately, there was a lovely Irish woman who was keen to go for a wander herself, as since my snake encounter, I wasn’t too excited to go off on my own. We signed in, took a map, and started following the trails to Execution Rock. Right. Our mistake was trying to follow the map. I’d heard that the trails weren’t very well marked, so we tried to use the map, and ended up going all over the place. Finally we just abandoned the trails altogether and took a road that wound its way up to the top. As we neared the top, we started hearing this strange barking noise. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I noticed something moving around at the top of the mountain. Baboons. Big ones. Then we were nervous, because apparently baboons can be quite aggressive as well. But we’d come this far, so we continued on. When we reached the top the baboons had moved on, although we could still see them in the distance, and we could definitely hear them. We also saw something running through a field that looked like a dog, so we think it might have been a jackal. The view from the top was spectacular. We were the only people around and we could see for miles. I had the impression that the scenery couldn’t possibly be real, it looked too much like the backdrop for a film. The way down the mountain was a bit quicker (imagine), but then, because I’m me, I fell. On the road. I slipped on some gravel and came down pretty hard on my right arm and hip. A sharp stone gave me a bit of a gash on my arm, and blood gushed out a bit, so we poured some water over it, and I bandaged it with a bandanna I was carrying. Yet another good use for bandannas – it’s even come clean! Apparently I turned quite pale, but I didn’t tell Elaine that it was actually lucky that I didn’t faint, given some incidents in my past involving the sight of blood and a sudden loss of consciousness.
Just a quick word about the game parks in Swaziland, because I think it is interesting. There are three game parks in Swaz. (Mlilwane, Mkaya, and Hlane – the one I didn’t go to, and the only one that has big cats – ie lions), which were created in the interests of animal conservation. The wildlife population of Swaz. was severely affected by poaching, and the rhino wars in the late 80s (where poachers used automatic weapons to shoot rhinos for their horns and leave their corpses to rot) decimated the rhino population. Even now the parks do not disclose their rhino numbers in the interest of security. Things started to turn around for the rhinos when, in desperation, a rotting rhino carcass was taken to the king’s palace in an attempt to draw attention to the travesty. It worked, and Ted Reilly (whose family was largely responsible for starting animal conservation efforts in Swaz.) was appointed to help draw up anti-poaching legislation. Swaziland now has some of the best anti-poaching laws in the world. The Reillys had already turned their profitable family farm into Mlilwane, and successfully reintroduced many species to Swaziland. The parks are run on tourist fees and on the selling of excess animals to other parks or zoos. They also sell excess impala and warthog for meat. This is a synopsis from memory, so I hope I haven’t been too inaccurate.
Anyway, the day after the hike was Saturday, so I was heading back to Mozambique. This time though, I was shelling out for a private bus service that takes you from backpacker door to backpacker door, and that can take you to Tofo in one day. By public transport you have to stay in Maputo for a night. In Maputo the bus (Bill’s Bus) picked up some different travelers, one of which was a lovely Australian woman, who was also my age. Natasha had been traveling for several months, and we immediately became friends.

Tofo: Jan 8 – 12. We stayed at a nice backpackers called Bamboozis. The only problem I had with this place was that it played loud music in the bar from morning until night, so there wasn’t any place I could sit in the shade and just hear the sound of the waves. That, and the backpackers was being run by backpackers, who in some instances seemed to find guests inconvenient, as opposed to, you know, guests. The food was good though. And Tofo is where I got to meet the whalesharks. Enormous plankton eating sharks – so harmless (like I would go anywhere near a carnivorous shark). I paid 500 000 meticais to go out on a boat for two hours, and to snorkel around a whaleshark. We saw 4 whalesharks in total, and I snorkeled with all 4. The beginning of the boat trip was scary though, because we had push the boat into the surf, and then jump in and power through it at full speed. It was completely worth it to see the sharks though. They were huge and graceful. They have a spotted back The other good news is that no one on our trip was stung by a jellyfish, and they told us that usually someone is.
After 3 days in Tofo, Natasha decided to accompany me to Vilankulo, as she had developed a cold that was preventing her from taking advantage of the amazing diving in Tofo. So we took the chapa into Inhambane (a very very crowded chapa), then took a boat across the bay to Maxixe, and caught a bus to Vilankulo. We sat on the wrong side of the bus, of course, so we sort of huddled under a towel for much of the trip in attempts to shield ourselves from… the blazing sun (you were wondering where it had gone, weren’t you). We were also a bit fascinated by the baby next to us who screamed every time the bus stopped. I’ve never seen a child so young with such a sad face.

Vilankulo: Jan. 12 – 16 We stayed at the Zombie Cucumber, which is a lovely backpackers, owned and run by an English ex-pat couple. Very easy-going atmosphere, and again… excellent food. We spent the next day wandering around a bit trying to get money. See, I had brought my MasterCard, and Africa doesn’t really like MasterCard, especially Mozambique. So when I went to the Banco Austral, which would normally be able to give me a cash advance (I don’t have a PIN, so I can’t use a machine), I was informed that they had been requested to send all their credit card machines to Maputo, so they couldn’t help me. They suggested I try one of the luxury hotels in the area. But, of course, the upscale hotels are a bit out of town… about 4 km in… the blazing sun. Fortunately, I spotted a passenger truck with the logo of a hotel on it, and the driver kindly assented to give us a lift out there, once he’d picked up the people he needed to get. A German couple got in, a stunning redheaded woman and her less stunning boyfriend. He questioned me about my work, and annoyed Natasha by asking me why I didn’t just quit. Apparently he had done a lot of traveling around Africa and had met many disillusioned aid workers. He seemed to have come to the conclusion (which many do) that all aid should just be withdrawn, and Africa left to develop at its own speed, in its own way. I have moral qualms with this, although sometimes I wonder if it isn’t the best way. My main issue is that many of the problems Africa encounters with development have been caused by the western world in the first place – including western-backed wars, so I feel we have a moral responsibility to try and right some of the wrongs. Anyways, that hotel was unable to help me with my credit card situation, however, we made our way to another place along that road that could help. So we decided to have a nice meal there while we were at it. And it was such a good meal, in such a nice setting, that we returned a couple of days later to repeat it.
We hadn’t had any luck booking a 2 day sailing trip to the islands, so we booked a dhow to take us on a day trip to the closest island. We went with another couple staying at the hostel (is there really a difference between a backpackers and a hostel? It’s easier to write hostel.), an Italian man and his Mozambican girlfriend. Nice people who were as unimpressed with the skipper’s sailing abilities as we were. The trip out was fine, we used the motor the whole way, and the water was almost glass-like in its calmness. We hung out on the island and as the tide went out and more of the reef was exposed, we snorkeled around looking at little fishies. The currents were quite strong, but close to the reef (which was the edge of the island), the water was calm. It was as the tide was coming in again that the skipper set up the sail, and told us it was time to head back. This was a more nerve-racking trip as we bounced along the bottom from sandbar to sandbar, and as the sail flapped around and occasionally nearly knocked us out of the boat as it quickly swung over. My sailing terminology is a bit lacking here, as the boat didn’t have a boom, just a rope. Would that be a boom-rope? We did a complete 360 at one point as the sail swung over, we hit a sandbar, and we all ducked. But we made it back to the mainland, determined not to take another trip unless the boat had a bigger motor. Everyone we talked to was surprised to hear that we were unimpressed with our skipper as he had a reputation of being very competent.
The 4 of us had planned to take a motor trip to the further islands the next day so we could go to the more famous snorkeling place, but when the guy turned up an hour late, saying that he was waiting to listen to the weather (nobody listens to the weather in Mozambique – he was clearly just recovering from a night at the disco… I never should have given him a deposit on a Friday evening), and we saw that his boat was exactly the same as the one from the previous day… we all bailed (har har - just for you, Dad). The water was quite rough, and after that show of unprofessionalism, we decided we didn’t have enough confidence in the business to put our lives in this guy’s hands. We spent our money on that second excellent lunch instead. Of course, the deposit never turned up.
So, on Sunday morning, Natasha and I parted ways, as she headed back to Tofo, and I headed to Beira… on my way home. I’m sure we’ll meet again though. The trip to Beira was extremely uncomfortable, as I had an enormous woman sitting on my left hip and crushing my left shoulder. When I finally arrived in Beira I got my bag that had been stored on the top of the bus, and Caroline (VSO in Beira) came to meet me and take her back to her place.

Beira: Jan. 16 – 19. We discovered when we got back to Caroline’s place that the fishy smell she had noted on the chapa was not, in fact, coming from other chapa passengers, but from my bag, which she had kindly carried on her lap from the bus station. The bag was soaked in fish juice, and the smell was disgusting. We immediately emptied it and set some things to soak. It was horrible. There is definitely sense in packing your clothes in plastic bags inside your pack. The bag itself still stinks.
It was raining in Beira, so we had a nice couple of drinks at Caroline’s and watched a movie on her computer. I love seeing other VSOs places, because everyone has their own priorities and their own ways of dealing with living here. Whereas my apartment is cluttered and hard to clean, Caroline’s is neat and organized. She also has running water, and a nice spare bed. Actually, everywhere I stayed on the trip not only had running water, but hot running water. Incredible. I spent a few days in Beira, shopping (obviously! Now that I was definitely flying, I wasn’t going back to Pemba without a few treats! Yay for balsamic vinegar!), and hanging out with Caroline, who was wonderful. We even did yoga with some of her friends, and went to the cinema. I love the cinema.
Then, despite the fear of returning, and the queasiness in my stomach… I got on a flight back to Pemba.

Pemba: Jan. 19 - ?. I got back to Pemba, and new-to-town VSO Lester picked me up at the airport and we went on a quest for my keys. There had been a few people staying at the apartment in my absence, so I wasn’t exactly sure where my keys were. Fortunately, they weren’t too hard to find, and it wasn’t exactly terrible sitting in the barraca and drinking a couple of beers while waiting. I was nervous about entering the house because I knew that the electricity had been off a lot (I was worried that my fridge would be disgusting), and there is always a fear that you’ll return and find your apartment’s been cleaned out. However, all was in order and the housekeeper had even cleaned out the fridge, so that was fine. The only problem was the lack of electricity, and since the neighbours had it, I knew it was a problem with the apartment, and not just the line. I finally got electricity the next afternoon, after calling the electricity company a number of times.
School. I went to the school on the Thurs. morning and was told that the timetables would be out soon, and that classes would start on Monday. I was impressed, because that would mean classes would start on time. I also found out that they had planned to give me 24 hours of teaching time, but I pointed out to the Pedagogical Director that that would leave me with little time for extra-curricular activities, so he said he would talk to the others. Which he did, and I did, and now I have… wait for it!!! 12 hours of teaching! I’m very excited about this because it’s only two levels, and so my stress level should be greatly reduced and I’ll have more time to work on projects, which I enjoy more and feel more useful doing.
Thursday night Virginia brought my cat back over, which was really nice. Sky has settled back in nicely (although she was immediately in heat again… argh!), although I know she had a nice time with Virginia as well. Virginia and I drank a bottle of wine, then we tried to call a taxi for her to go home. We couldn’t get ahold of a single one, so finally she decided to brave the rain and the dark with my guard’s accompaniment. The next night we decided to go for some dinner and a drink at the pub (I hadn’t managed to get much food yet, and there wasn’t electricity anyways). I once again called all the taxi numbers I had, and the land line, but I couldn’t get ahold of a single one. Finally I got my guard to accompany me to her place, and from there we thought the two of us would be OK to walk the 7 minutes to the restaurant. It was 8 p.m. Suffice it to say… we were mugged, and I gave them my cell phone. Although they tried to get hers, they didn’t succeed, and neither of us was hurt. I was very upset about it, but have become a bit more calm. Almost everyone I know here has been robbed at some point or another. I do not think it’s OK for this to be a normal part of life, but what can you do? I now know that it is not acceptable in any circumstance for me to walk without a Mozambican man’s accompaniment after dark. It’s preferable to not walk at all after dark, of course.
Today it’s Friday (I started writing this two days ago I think), and classes did not in fact start on Monday. Quelle surprise. The timetable actually only came out on Wednesday, and by then the students all assumed that all bets were off until next week. So next week it begins. I have had a meeting with my youth leader friend (Juvencio – remember him from Healthy Living Week?), who has an excellent project in the making that he wants my help with, so I’m a bit excited about that. More on that later.
So now I am just getting accustomed to Pemba life again. I made some decent fried rice on the charcoal stove last night, and I’m enjoying my computer. Lester was kind enough to lend me his old cell phone, so I don’t feel unconnected. The food situation here is sad (expensive produce, limited, and in poor condition), so I’ll be eating more canned food (which is also expensive), but that’s OK. And my cat is still lovely. I think that pretty much brings us up to date.

January 21? 2005

Just a quick update before computer battery dies... Am back in hot sweaty muggy Pemba. Classes may start on Monday, but that seems unlikely. Huge electricity problems here, and I have lost my cell phone. Well... I gave it to the guys with knives, so I didn't technically lose it. I happen to know that some scumbag has it. I'll write more later... nobody was hurt, so don't worry. Also, understand that everyone gets mugged here, so it's not really a big deal, except that it sucks that something so shitty is a normal happening. I wish I was still traveling though - that was way more fun than here. I'll write more about that too... it was really great.

January 13, 2005

Ok, just another quick check-in to say I'm well and having fun. I'm having huge e-mail difficulties though, and it appears that I have lost all emails received between the 6th and 10th of January, and I can't open any of the ones that seem to be in my inbox. For anything important, perhaps it's best to try my hotmail account (

Vilankulo (or Vilanculos, or Vilankulos, or Vilanculo) is where I am now, and it's beautiful. Its near the Bazuruto archipelago, and I'm hoping to do some pretty spectacular snorkeling here as well. Although it will be pretty hard to beat the whale sharks!

I'll update more later of course, but I hope you are having fun!

January 10, 2005

Look! I remembered it's a new year this time! So now I'm in Tofo, which is in Mozambique. It's got beautiful beaches, and great diving for diving people. I still find diving too expensive, but I shelled out to snorkel with whalesharks, and that was way cool.

Here's a quick list of animals I saw in Swaziland: white rhinos, 1 black rhino, elephants (mud-bathing! so cute, although they came closer than I would have liked...), giraffes, warthogs, antelopes of all kinds, zebras, a spitting cobra!, hippos, a crocodile, baboons (what a scary weird noise they make!), buffalos, many birds... that's what I can remember now. It was really amazing. I went for a 5 hour hike (which was up a mountain, so I was a wee bit sore the next day... especially as I fell and bruised my hip and cut my arm.). I also went horse-back riding, and remembered what a nervous rider I am. But it was really nice.

So I will continue my journey up to Vilanculos which is supposed to be very beautiful as well, and then to Beira, and from there I hope to fly back to Pemba. I'm just running out of time! I'm definitely feeling more refreshed though, and I am so glad I've been able to do this trip.

Hope everyone is having as nice a new year as I am!

January 4, 2004

Swaziland kicks ass. Am going to stay here until Saturday and make friends with zebras and antelope. Am also hoping to go on game drive to see elephants and rhinos. Am spending too much money. Internet expensive, so just to let you know I'm good! Hope you are well!

December 27, 2004

OK, first big apologies to Jaime and Paul! Happy Birthday! Sorry I missed it, but I will explain why shortly... Also, belated happy birthdays to David and Rui. Hope you all had good ones!

So Iºm in Maputo. I left Pemba last monday, and spent a few days in Nampula. On the 23 I flew to Maputo despite a rumbling in my gut. I spent all of Thursday in bed and on the toilet, once I arrived in Maputo. Friday I started to feel a bit better, went to Shoprite to get some food etc, and then out for dinner (big mistake... Indian food, good but can come with repercussions...) Spent all of Friday night in bed and on the toilet. This time I also vomited, so I vowed to see a doctor the next day. So, I ended up spending Christmas Day hooked up to an IV (I was dehydrated with low blood pressure), before I went back home to sleep some more. I was diagnosed after some blood tests with a stomach infection and given some good antibiotics, so today Iºm on my feet again, and shopping. and my appetite is back, which I think is the most important part! Would hate to spend the whole time in Maputo surrounded by food without an appetite. It has meant that Ive changed my vacation plans a bit. originally I wanted to go to Swaziland this week, but since I have to go to the doctor again tomorrow, I,ll wait til after the new year, and then see how things go. I definitely really want to go to Swaziland though, I just may change my Moz. travel plans bit. Will let you know though. So have tons of fun all, And Happy New year! Hope your Christmas' were all better than mine!

December 15, 2004 - PS!

Thanks to everyone who responded to my e-mail plea for help. It was really nice to get the different responses and reminded me that I am not alone, no matter how far away!

December 15, 2004

Well, we can see how well my resolutions are going, can’t we? At least my last update was so long, that maybe no one has had the courage to check the site again until now, anyways.

At any rate, since my last posting my volunteer motivation crisis reached drastic proportions. I even sent out an email to friends and family seeking advice and support.
Two things happened: 1. apparently there are some students wandering around town saying that I failed them and that they would like to beat me up a bit.

2.After all the first sitting exam nonsense, the Head of the Department and another teacher decided to rewrite the second-sitting exam behind my back without any of my input. They had no idea what had been taught throughout the year, nor what kind of level should be expected. They deliberately did not contact me, even though I was available. This made me very angry. I felt that it showed that the teachers and the school administration felt that exams were for passing students, and not for actually testing students’ knowledge or learning. So I began to revisit my objectives in being here, and the objectives provided by the school. I didn’t talk to anybody at the school about this for 4 days, because I wanted some time to calm down and organize my thoughts first. I found out about the exam change on a Monday, and I finally talked to the school director on Friday. He, of course, said he knew nothing about the exam change but assured me that the school was pleased with my contribution to the school, blah blah blah. There are a few things that I mentioned, for example, the rampant corruption, and that if the school was only interested in pass percentages and not in quality of education, then they didn’t need me. If they just wanted a teacher to fit in, then they didn’t need a volunteer. This is my main concern. I’m not really sure what I am doing here if they are going to cut off my work. Anyway, he said that the whole English Department needed to meet to discuss it, and that he would talk to the Pedagogical Director about it. On the Monday, after invigilating an exam (yuck), I asked the PD if the D had talked to him. He said no. I explained my problem to him, and then the D walked in as I was talking and we had a discussion. I explained that I did not think I should be involved in the correction of this exam. They said that we would arrange a meeting with the other teachers and that we must continue working. I said fine, just tell me when the meeting is and I will be here. Then the English exam let out, and I grabbed a copy of the exam. Utter crap. Not only is it all first and second year material (for a third year exam), but it is full of mistakes. There is an entire section on prepositions, but there are examples of misused prepositions in the exam. It was awful. The next morning, I went to invigilate exams at 7:45, and as I was invigilating, with the English Teacher 4, English Teacher 3 (Mr. Wood) showed up and asked about the meeting which apparently was supposed to be at seven a.m. I said that I had not been informed of a meeting. Argh. After the exam I asked the PD about this alleged meeting, and he said that the HoD (Head of Department) wasn’t able to make it, so he told me to talk to Teacher 3. Who is the annoying, creepy, often drunk guy. Fine. He told me that I shouldn’t be offended and kept trying to tell me why they changed the exam. I kept trying to explain that I didn’t care why they changed the exam, but that I was offended by the manner in which they did it. Finally I said that if I had to I would simply refuse to correct this exam, because I just couldn’t stomach the idea of spending hours correcting this crap. T3 kept saying that I had to correct the exam. He asked the PD to join us for a few minutes, and after a short discussion (during which the PD said that I could be excused from correcting the exam – Ha! Take that T3!) we agreed to schedule a meeting for the next morning (today) at 7 a.m. and T3 promised to bring the HoD. So, today. I arrived shortly after 7, and only the PD was there. At about 8:15, T3 and HoD showed up. Mr. Wood had not come by the school and couldn’t be contacted, however, he magically showed up as we were closing the meeting. So, the meeting. First the PD told his story, then the HoD told his side, then T3 was invited to speak, and finally I was allowed to speak. I explained my position again, and said that due to the manner in which the exam was written and due to its mistakes, that I couldn’t put my name on the corrections and that I did not want to be involved in any way. It was agreed that I would be excused from this work. They apologized for the lack of communication, and whatever.

So, my current plan is to try and reorganize the objectives for my placement. I have spoken to VSO, and I think I have some opportunity to move things around a bit. I hope. I would like to reduce my class hours so that I can have more time for extra-curricular activities, so I’m going to try and write up a proposal and a plan of activities for the year (but NOT Healthy Living Week!). Once I’ve got that settled (hopefully tomorrow) then I will go on vacation. When I get back, I may start trying to make a completely new kind of placement, and I will start talking to the Ministry of Education to see what can be done. I hope I’m able to arrange this. I think if I only have a maximum of 12 hours teaching time (only 2 levels), and am in charge of one class, then I will have enough time to work on setting up a Student Resource Centre (I think I can convince another teacher to help me with this), a Gender Club, and possibly an English Club. I also need to develop English resources, maybe work with the school library to set up a resource centre a bit better. Maybe I’m crazy. These things can’t be done. Sigh. I need a vacation.

Speaking of vacations. In my quest to find a place with good food, I actually considered going to Australia for 3 weeks. Turns out (quelle surprise!) that I can’t afford it. My poor credit card would melt. So instead I think I will go to Maputo for a bit, and then to Swaziland for a few days. Apparently there are some nice backpackers and some reasonably priced activities (horse-back riding! Maybe.). Then I will adventure my way back up to Pemba. Should I run out of time I’ll whip out old Trusty (MasterCard) and fly back to Pemba from the nearest airport (possibly Beira – surely I can make it to Beira). Maputo will satisfy my need for good food. That’s the current plan anyways.

So there we are. Still kicking.

December 2, 2004

Wow! It’s December! Hard to believe. Yesterday was International AIDS day, but due to the elections here, it isn’t being celebrated until Saturday. I believe there is a march that day. The elections seem pretty normal so far. It takes ten days for the results, and then we’ll know whether there will be violence or not. There is a lot of speculation about this, so it will be interesting. My personal feeling is that there won’t be any violence, but what do I know?

Work update… I have been into work every morning that the school is open to see if I could schedule the exam correction and preparation class, but the English marks were only posted Monday, so I haven’t had a chance. Despite the English exams being the first marked and calculated, they were the last to be posted. Apparently this is due to the Head of English not coming into work to sign the papers. Ah well. Finally they are up, and we’ll see how the students do on the next one. I’ve also been hoping to finish my next VSO report, but the Pedagogical Director hasn’t had time yet. We’ll see if we do it tomorrow. The only good thing about going into school for absolutely no reason, is that it makes me look good. They think I’m a dedicated teacher, which I am. Actually, I think that by Canadian standards I am probably just a mediocre teacher, but here just by going to work everyday I am considered a teaching machine.

So, let’s see. I had a really bizarre dream yesterday morning, that prompted me to go to the Pemba Beach Hotel for food and luxury excesses (yum). My mother and my sister and I seemed to be at my grandmother’s house. Only it wasn’t my grandmother at all, but in the dream she was. We were watching TV, and I was a bit obsessed with it, and couldn’t understand why we could only get TVM (TV Mozambique). Then my grandmother asked us to set the table for the Christmas dinner she was cooking (my grandmother doesn’t celebrate Christmas and I haven’t eaten at my grandmother’s since I was about 10), and to please choose placemats that matched the colour of the sky (which looked like the skyscapes in the movie Vanilla Sky). Right. My mother was not impressed, but for some reason I completely understood and dutifully started rooting through the piles of placemats in the drawers. Finally I found some lilac ones which seemed to match the sky. Then my sister brought over platters of food to show me. I was very excited by the beautiful food, and then my sister flipped over the platter to show me the food on the other side. At this moment the food began to fall off and I freaked out and tried to catch all of the food and carry it to the table. For some reason I understood that the food would only stick to both sides of the platter if it wasn’t flipped around and the proper dish was on the top. I recount this dream only to show what Angela and I have spent many hours discussing (or trying not to discuss). We have become obsessed with food. I don’t really understand why, because if I had the time and energy I could make some nice dishes, but then there are some things that just aren’t available here. Like sour cream or zucchini. And things that I eat on a regular basis in Canada are a bit too expensive here. Like cream cheese, or grapes, or broccoli and cauliflower. And I’m afraid to eat lettuce, so salads are mostly out, although occasionally I treat myself to a Greek salad (with feta!) at a restaurant. And it is more difficult here because due to the climate and frequent electricity cuts, the food in the fridge goes off quickly. There is no sense in buying green beans if you aren’t planning to cook them that very day.

Anyways, since I posted that bit about how much I will allow myself to spend in a week (remember the absolute max is 1 155 000), I thought I would write down some of the expenses that I generally have in a week (current US exchange is 19 000 for 1 dollar). So here is an idea:

Monday: 100 000 to Regina to buy supplies for cooking lunch and cleaning
25 000 for 1 litre beer (I don’t need to justify that do I?)

Tuesday: 45 000 for a latte (sort of) and a donut at the pastelaria
25 000 for a kilo of potatoes
35 000 for a medium-sized cabbage
60 000 for half a kilo of garlic (that’s good for a few weeks)
10 000 for couve (a green leaf vegetable)
10 000 for three big mangoes (mangoes are back!)

Wednesday: 15 000 for bread
50 000 for 2 L. beer
10 000 for water (probably stolen from neighbour… argh)
80 000 for 2 litres of juice
60 000 for a dozen eggs
10 000 for coke

Thursday: 100 000 to go out and play pool and drink a couple of beers

Friday: 50 000 to Regina to cook lunch etc.
50 000 for 3 litres of mineral water (when I don’t feel quite good, I don’t trust the boiled/filtered water)
35 000 for litre of milk
10 000 for coke at restaurant

Saturday: 100 000 for trip to beach and back (taxi shared with friend)
150 000 for lunch and beer at beach
100 000 for night out

Sunday: freak out that have already nearly gone over budget for week (1 130 000) and have craving for pizza but no cheese or tomatoes (like I would have energy to make pizza anyways!). Am also out of cell phone credit, and bread.
30 000 for kilo of tomatoes (make pasta instead)
15 000 for bread
80 000 cell phone credit

Some of the things that I didn’t buy in this hypothetical week:

cheese (75 000 for 10 slices cheddar, or 35 000 for round box of “La Vache qui Rit)
yogurt (90 000 for 6 little cups)
flour (25 000 for wheat flour, 20 000 for corn flour)

dried fish for cat (50 000 for a kilo)
dried beans (20 000 a kilo)
rice (10 000 a kilo)
onions (15 000 a kilo)
carrots (25 000 for half a kilo)
green peppers (25 000 for 5 or so)
papaya (10 000 for medium size)
chilis (5 000 for a handful)
bananas (10 000 a kilo)
canned veggies (33 000 per can)
tuna (33 000 per can)
pasta (15 000 for crappy spaghetti, 40 000 for good spaghetti)
apples (5 000 each)
cashews (5 000 for a handful)
peanuts (5 000 for big handful)
oil (35 000 for a litre)
sugar (15 000 for a kilo)

I don’t think it is unreasonable to want to go out twice in a week, but I guess that’s not why I’m here! Anyways, you can see that it’s not too bad, and that if I were more disciplined then I would eat better, but that it really is impossible to save money and eat well. Also, this assumes that I don’t need to replace any staples in this week like salt and pepper or other spices, or condiments (mayonnaise-40 000, margarine 25 000, peanut butter 50 000, jam 35 000), or coffee and tea. And there is no chocolate included in this week! Disaster! A chocolate bar usually is 35 000. I also find it interesting that I drink a lot of coke here, when I never drank coke in Canada. On a hot humid day, though, it really hits the spot. Sometimes water and electricity cuts make it difficult to boil and filter enough water so I resort to buying mineral water, which tastes much better anyways. Also, when I’m working and I stay at the school all day, I like to have a little snack there, which is usually a coke and a couple of samosas (12 000). Sometimes it’s hard not to get stuck in the trap of thinking… but it’s only 50 cents. It’s hard to keep things in perspective sometimes. This week also has a moderate amount of beer included, and no G&Ts. I also never go to the disco which is 100 000 just to get in.

Anyways, I hope that gives an idea of things here. I really should just go out less, and stay home, but then my phone bill would go up (due to increased internet use…) but I’m working on looking for ways to spend less. Of course with Christmas and New Years’ coming, it’s going to be a challenge! Fortunately I have a little extra money because I requested the advance on my End of Service Grant so that I could possibly buy a car with Angela and Virginia. However, it doesn’t look like we are going to find a car in our price range, so I may go for a little trip instead. My main criteria for destination is good food. I’m looking into it! I have thought of flying to Maputo and then traveling overland on buses and chapas on the way back, but that may be too much. We’ll see.
I would like to invite my faithful (and less faithful) readers to send me questions that they have about life here, or any comments they have. I try to respond to all emails, although responses can be delayed. I have accidentally let my hotmail expire, so hopefully I haven’t lost contact with lots of people! Guess that’s good for now… I’m also posting the articles I wrote. Hope it’s not too cold where you are, it’s really hot here!

November 24, 2004

Belated Happy Birthdays to Sandy, Fiona, and Sonya! So sorry to have missed the days, but I was thinking of you on your days!

Well… I have been severely upbraided (now there’s a strange word) for my lack of updates, so here we go. I do have a lot to write about, so I will give it a shot. I hear some people just print them off to read later, so hopefully they will forgive the anticipated length of this update. I can’t quite remember where I left off, and I apparently didn’t save it, so I will go back to Healthy Living Week (HLW). This was a very stressfull time for me. I was trying to figure out my classes around holidays that I knew about and those that came out of nowhere (the national ministry of education deciding that every school would do a march against AIDS on a Wednesday and somehow that meant no classes that day), write a final exam with a teacher who wasn’t coming to scheduled meeting times, and figure out how to organize this ridiculous week with students who weren’t coming to meetings and teachers who didn’t want to do anything, and a school administration that wanted it to happen as long as it didn’t involve any work on their part. Fortunately a young man from a youth organization (they call it 4H – for Head/Heart/Hands/and something else I can’t remember right now). He was amazing, if somewhat disorganized and occasionally absent.

Anyways, we managed to pull together a week of workshops/talks (abortion, drugs and alcohol, discrimination, and gender), theatre presentations (theatre is one of the major ways that is used to increase HIV/AIDS awareness here), competitions (poetry, literature, drawing, dance, music), and an afternoon closing ceremony event. We had even planned to show a film (although we hadn’t figured out how to darken the gymnasium sufficienly), but unfortunately the film guy’s equipment was all stolen. Then we found out that the President of the country was coming to town and that meant that it was to be a holiday. I’d scheduled 3 workshops for this day. I was able to reschedule one of them.

The week was filled with ridiculous little stresses… mostly fears that no students would go to these workshops, and the drugs and alcohol people showing up saying they planned to show a film, but that they didn’t have a car to bring their television and VCR. Great. Juvencio (the aforementioned young guy) managed to get some transportation but that is the kind of thing that happens here. Forward thinking is a little lacking. The end of the week was frustrating because we couldn’t agree on where to have the final “Show Biz” closing ceremony. This was going to involve music, dance competitions, a modeling display (a group was going to have a modeling contest by showing off different traditional clothes), some information about AIDS, and (hallelujah, just remembered to put on my glasses… what a difference) a quick theatrical presentation. We wanted to have it outside near the basketball courts so that passers-by would be interested and come and see and get information as well. Up until the day before the event, I had been told repeatedly not to worry, that electricity would not be a problem. On the day before a young man suddenly asked me, “So what are you going to do about electricity at the b-ball courts, teacher?” I nearly lost it. I questioned my young collaborators who said that it was merely a matter of splicing a nearby electricity pole, and that one of the teachers at the school (we are an industrial school with a stream in electricity after all) could do it no problem. Well, there was one problem. Said teacher wanted to be paid to do it. There is a conception here that any project that has to do with AIDS has significant funding behind it and everyone wants a piece of the pie. This was not true in our case and I was not willing to pay this teacher to help his school. That was very disappointing. And actually, it was not the first time we had encountered this attitude. The design teacher wanted to be paid for the use of his stencils. Give me a break. So, electricity. Another teacher, a young guy, probably the youngest at the school, was helping with some of the organization, and since he had had a similar event a few weeks before in the gymnasium didn’t see why our event couldn’t be held in the same place and basically railroaded us into having it inside. None of my suggestions were considered seriously, so I stepped back and let them organize away… which is actually the end-goal anyways. When I stepped back this teacher seemed to get a bit pissed off, but it’s never been my deal to stand in the centre of such events anyways… and he was so good that I let him at it. And he was good. Utterly disorganized, but at least he had the personality to keep things interesting and to keep the audience interested and alive.

(Hey! Just realized disgusting-thing-on-my-right-arm is nearly invisible! Hooray!)

I was amazed with the seriousness that the students took the competitions, and the dancing was great. I was afraid that somebody was going to choke on the gum they were maniacally chewing in time to the music as they gyrated and grinded (what was this day about again? Oh yes… AIDS… sexy dancing by 14 year olds is definitely appropriate), but they had obviously put a lot of work into it, and I was impressed. And the modeling people were very serious, and the people who won at the end almost cried they were so happy.

(OK, what the hell is this incredibly itchy bump on my left hand???)

So, then it was over. I had a headache, and I was exhausted, but I was allowed to escape. Until it was time to write the report. Which Juvencio did! I just had to correct it, add some information and my signature. Lovely. I also did up a budget to show transparency to our contributors (where the money we were donated actually went, with receipts attached). This was also to teach the people involved in planning… mostly Juvencio the importance of transparency for credibility. He was impressed as he realized that this sort of record-keeping would improve his credibility and his chances of getting support in future projects. And now… it really seems to be over. And while part of me wants to see if I can improve things next year, the other part wants to stay the hell away from it, and work on other projects.

So… aside from this project, I was planning final classes… which was surprisingly difficult as I kept getting differing opinions on when exactly the end of classes was. And these unexpected holidays wrought havoc on my lesson planning. Suddenly I wondered what happened to all those snow-day lessons that we missed, and how frustrated our teachers were by it. We just assumed that they would be as happy as we were for the day off. Now I’m less sure…

And the exam-writing. This other teacher irritated me so much with his not-turning-up when we agreed to meet that I finally just told him I didn’t have time to chase him around and that I would write the exam and let him know what’s on it. He said, “no, no, I’ll be here this afternoon” and I said, in my bitchiest voice, “Well, I won’t be, I don’t have time.” So I wrote the exam, and then I gave him several example exams, and some of the reading comprehension texts that we had done in class. It should be noted that I had already exchanged lesson plan information with this teacher a couple of months before this. I felt I had covered my bases and done my best. I was worried about his students, but that wasn’t my problem, was it? Ha. The week of the exams, which was several weeks after I had handed in the exam, Mr. Wood (his name translated from Portuguese) decided to complain to the school administration that I had written the exam without him, even though we had been told to do it together. He didn’t talk to me… he arranged a meeting with the Head of English and the Pedagogical Director. And then, the morning of the meeting… he went to Quelimane. He didn’t even come to the meeting (4 days before the exam). Apparently his sister was very ill. Anyways, I explained what had happened from my side, and then offered to meet with his students to see if I could prepare them a bit for the exam. This seemed a good plan. The next day I met with his students, and didn’t I find out that not only had they never done a reading comprehension text, but they didn’t even know that there were books available to be used. They were screwed, and yet there was nothing I could do. I tried to give hints and review some of the verb tenses, but I knew there was going to be trouble, and so did they. They asked me to come back the next day, but as I suspected, they were so tired from the exam they sat that day that they didn’t want to think about another. In the end… 1 person from that class passed the exam. It was a dilemma because surely they have to demonstrate some kind of level to pass the class, but at the same time it’s not their fault that their teacher didn’t, you know, teach them. Now I will meet with them again to correct the exam and prepare them for the second sitting, but I suspect it won’t be much better than the first. I suspect that when Mr. Wood actually looked at the information I had given him he realized that his students were screwed and that this was not perhaps going to reflect well on his teaching, and decided to panic. I have no idea what’s going to happen now, but I sense there will be more trouble yet. The marks have yet to be posted.

I forgot to write about the “Conselhos das Notas”(CdN). These happened before the exams, and before the marks were posted. A student must have over 8 in a non-exam subject (like English for 1st and 2nd year) to pass the year (marks are out of 20). They must have over 9 to sit the exam in a subject. In a CdN all of a students teachers can vote that any mark be raised up to a full point if it will help that student (for example, should they be failing only one subject or excluded from a single exam). I knew the rule and having already refused to change any marks prior to the CdN went in with my personal attitude decided. I would not contest any voting of my marks within the regulations. And I ignored other teachers’ corruption. Which was just as well, because every single other teacher was corrupt. Teachers arbitrarily raised marks 5 points to avoid confrontation, and yet refused to raise other marks. A teacher would say… “Oh, that’s my neice”, or “Oh, that’s Mr. Teachercolleague’s case”, and the mark would quickly be changed. One teacher was particularly insistent on my “helping” (this being the euphemism for changing marks) his sister (who I believe had 5 in my class). I refused as nicely as I could, even when he offered to pay. I said it wouldn’t be fair to her to pass her when she didn’t have the capabilities for the next level, and if he always took care of her marks for her than she would never learn to study. He said that was his responsibility. I told him to help her study, and that I would be happy to help students throughout the year, by giving extra explanation or work, but that there was nothing I could do at the end of the year. She knew she had troubles in English long before the end of the year, and she needs to learn responsibility. I was very alone in this thinking, although at one point I was impressed to hear one teacher (one of my favourites, although I believe he has his share of “nieces”) say, “stop saying that Mr. Teacher failed him, he failed by himself. We don’t fail students, they do it themselves and we have to stop talking bad about teachers in this way.” So there we go. I came out of it OK, I think.

One final note on work… I hate invigilating exams. I thought I could get out of it because teachers get paid extra for it and I figured the teachers would be lined up to do it. Hardly. I did 7. And I encountered 3 cases of academic fraud which really bites because it means the students receive a permanent smear on their record, and they fail the entire year (every class). 2 were a couple of girls who exchanged rough notes during the exam, and the other was a man who had brought an entire booklet of cheat notes into the exam which I found under his exam paper on his desk. I hated that. I would be a terrible cop. During the week there were 13 cases of fraud. What a waste. And it is really hard to invigilate exams when students are sitting right next to each other at the same desk (which is a big desk, but still).

Moving on. I have been keeping a notebook of notes of things that happen each day to sort of help me when I’m writing. However, I think there is too much to catch up on, so I’ll try and write more updates in the future.

Ramadan. It’s over now, but it was on, and it was interesting. The little barraca under my apartment stopped selling beer, and my guard was fasting. People I didn’t know were Muslim were fasting. Things were a bit quieter, but otherwise that was about it.

At the end of October I decided to take off to Nampula for a weekend, just to get out of town. It was great, but an interesting trip. As I climbed onto the bus at 5 a.m. I was surprised to note that it was a bus similar in comfort to a Canadian one. Not only were there only 2 seats together on each side, but they reclined a bit, and there was leg room! Heaven. As the bus pulled away, however, I thought… that doesn’t sound so good. Hope we make it. Then I told myself not to think so negatively, surely the bus driver wouldn’t leave if he thought there was a problem. Yeah… where exactly did I think I was? The race-car style driving of the driver perhaps could have convinced me of his faith in the engine of his vehicle, yet a few hours this side of Nampula the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and passengers passed on the information that there was indeed something wrong with the bus. Soon we were on our way again, this time with the plan to stop somewhere to switch buses. Again, the speed of the bus almost had me believe that the alleged engine trouble was a false alarm. Until we reached Namialo (Namiala?), and I suddenly noticed that people were jumping out the windows. A woman literally climbed over me to get out my window as I rather timidly asked “what happened? What’s going on?” She barked at me to “just sit there”. My head was jerked back a bit and my bandanna went missing (almost every trip I lose a bandanna!). The man sitting in the seat behind me passed his child out the window (I believe someone caught the little tyke) and then he crawled over me out the window. When the panic was over (most people had already escaped the bus), I looked to the front of the bus to see the black smoke billowing in. “Oh”, I thought. “Of course.” The stupid driver actually overheated the engine to the point of black smoke. I deliberated walking up through the smoke (having complete confidence in my father’s past assertions that vehicles rarely explode), but decided I may as well just go out the window (I mean, how often do you actually get to try that?). I climbed halfway out, where the crowd of street merchants tried to help me by pulling on my legs. I said “Wait!”, grabbed my bag, put it over my shoulder and hopped to the ground. I walked around to the front of the bus where the only passenger I recognized was the loud woman who had been sitting in front of me and who had the rather annoying habit of horking and spitting down the inside wall of the bus towards my innocent (and sandal-clad) feet. She looked at me and asked me what was going to happen with their baggage. I said, “I don’t know.” She dashed off towards the bus where I could see that passengers were already fighting to get back on to retrieve their belongings. Then a chapa (minibus) pulled up and the “helper-guy” yelled, “Nampula”, and I asked, “how much?”, and when he replied “30 000”, I thought… good enough – better than waiting here, and I hopped in to the front, which was not uncomfortable. After about 40 minutes of filling the chapa (I saw a medium-sized bus with about 15 live goats tied to the roof), we were finally on our way, and I was relieved to see that this driver had an understanding of engine temperatures and drove at a reasonable pace in the late morning burning sun. The thing that affected me most about this experience was the look of panic in the other passengers’ eyes. I had never actually seen this kind of reaction in people before, and it was scary. I could see how people could be trampled in panicked crowds, and it showed me the latent violence that exists in people.

Couple of Nampula anecdotes: when I arrived I went to the café Aurora, which has some veggie food (very nice). I saw they had this orange slushie drink and quickly ordered that. I sat sipping it, trying to figure out why it tasted a bit strange, kind of like butter, I thought. Then Emma arrived and she ordered one, and this time the waiter asked her if she wanted it with sugar or salt. Aha! I had a salty orange slushie. As strange as it tasted, it was so hot that I drank it all. And Emma ordered it with sugar, only to be told that they didn’t have that. So she had a salty one as well. Just why did they waiter ask her preference? And did you know the miracle cure for an ingrown toenail? Emma’s boyfriend does. Put an onion on it. Slice up a bit of onion, and tape it on there. Emma couldn’t believe her eyes, but there it was. Gunk getting sucked out, and the toe healed the next day. Who knew?

And Kate. I have mentioned Kate before, but not given her the billing she deserves (or that her theatrical side desires…  ) Kate brought Hallowe’en to Nampula. I had completely forgotten that Hallowe’en was on it’s way until Kate mentioned that we had to pick up her pumpkin, “Jack”, on the way to the house party we were going to. Sure enough, she had carved a pumpkin with a multiple-personality (half-happy, half-sad), and it came complete with candle, and Kate in a costume. She had a cow hat thingy, which coupled with her all-black outfit and her priceless facial expressions created a devil impression. Or perhaps she was a devilish cow? No… she’s much too thin. More on Kate later, who I think is great. Great Kate.

Then there is the new store in Nampula: PEP. I actually stayed an extra day in Nampula just to shop there. What is great about this store is that it is like a department store in Canada. Are you ready for this? There are fitting-rooms. You can try the clothes on! And they had things like dish cloths and mini Licorice All-Sorts. So coupled with the PEP trip (I got NEW clothes), and the second-hand market trip (I got some newish clothes), I had a pretty successful trip. Not to mention the great company. It was great to talk to other volunteers, and I had a wonderful time chatting with Emma and Kate.

Then there was the ride back. I had decided that I no longer had any proof that the Mecula bus was any safer than the faster Tanzaniano, so I went back to the Tanzaniano. Unfortunately, I was one of the very last people to get a seat, so I was right at the front, and these guys were of the opinion that if everyone could still breathe, then there was room for another person. There was a rather large older woman next to me, who didn’t seem to mind half-sitting on my hip, but who was rather finicky about the man standing on her feet. I finally offered to let the man practically in my lap leave his bag on my lap, as it was light, and I thought I would be neighbourly. Not even a thank-you. He dropped the bag and forgot about it until I decided to forget about it too. The woman next to me practically admonished me for trying to be nice. When she fiercely poked the man standing on her feet for the fourth time, he suddenly said “Look lady, it’s not my fault that the bus driver crowded the bus”. And I couldn’t help thinking… “but you saw how full the bus was, and you allowed yourself to be crammed in anyways. Whose fault is this?” I pondered that for awhile until the man started standing on my feet, at which point I decided that it was all of our faults for not only accepting this situation, but for paying for it. Hello? McFly?

Then I arrived back in Pemba to the water problem. Lately there has been a big water problem in Pemba, and more specifically, in my apartment. As in, there is no water coming out of the taps. Once in awhile we get really lucky and it comes out for a bit and we scramble for the buckets… but sometimes it’s just a tease. Several times I have had to go to Angela’s for a shower before school (which isn’t all bad… the water actually comes out of a shower head at her place). I have learned that water truly is the most important thing. I have moral dilemmas because when there is no water, the only way to get water seems to be to give my housekeeper or guard some money so they can go and buy it off of someone else’s guard who is likely selling it without authorization.

Ho ho! Just scanning my notes and realized I had forgotten to mention one thing during the diatribe on work: one morning I was helping another teacher fill in marks on the pauta (the big chart they use to display the marks). I noticed a calculation error, and the teacher whose marks they were happened to be in the room. At first I didn’t realize why he wasn’t helping the other teacher, but then I caught a whiff of him. Oh yes… the cane spirit had been well-imbibed. I tried to explain that the calculations made after this one would be wrong as well as they included the wrong value. He seemed to have trouble, and I sure hope that can be attributed to his drunken state (which is permanent by the way…), as he is, of course, a Math teacher. And even better, his name, when translated, is Mr. Reason.

I also forgot to mention that I had dewormed myself before heading to Nampula, so part of the rejuvenation I felt after the trip could be attributed to that. I know you are wondering… and although I didn’t examine it too closely, I think there very well may have been dead worms in my poo.

Upon my return from Nampula, I made several resolutions, and here they are:
1. do yoga in the morning. (OK, the first 5 days I did great. But that was a while ago…)
2. drink more water. (this would be a lot easier if I had some water to boil and filter…)
3. read more for fun. (this one, surprisingly, I am doing very well at. I wonder why… Actually, I decided that if I always had a book on hand, then it wouldn’t bother me so much when I ended up waiting for people)
4. get organized. (Ummm… yeah.)
5. write down expenses, see where money goes. (this to try and control outflow. I’ve been writing them down, but the outflow has not slowed… sigh.)
6. do more housework. See get organized. (right. I forget why?)
7. write more updates. (I think this site speaks for itself…)

I will try and update you on these periodically… if I remember that I made them…

I also re-discovered just how weird it is to read an English book (like Bridget Jones’ Diary) and wake up to realize I’m in Mozambique. Very strange. I really enjoyed reading that book by the way, and am wishing that I had another like it to read. Currently I am reading “The Kindness of Strangers” by Kate Adie (at least I think that’s her name, can’t quite remember at the moment), and “The Fortune’s of War” by some lady. I’m reading both because the second is just too large for me to cart around.

Angela and I then took a trip to the second-hand market in Pemba. I was looking for plastic thingys for my fridge (an idea I had to organize my fridge), which I didn’t find, but Angela met the ants. She was quite irate that I hadn’t warned her about the ants, but you really just can’t believe that the bite of a teeny tiny black ant could cause so much pain. Apparently I wasn’t comforting enough in my consoling words of “Yeah, that’s gonna hurt for awhile”, and she felt the need to broadcast her pain to all the market in dramatic wails, hoping for some sympathy. Which she got, although she didn’t really understand it. I believe a couple of beers eased her pain though, and then the deep-fried goodness at the pastelaria.

Ah, the bank card. (can you tell I’m checking notes?) Before I went to Nampula, I realized that I had misplaced my bank card. Dammit. I called the bank at 2:55 (they close at 3) and after a convoluted discussion realized there was nothing I could do until Monday, but that if somebody tried to use it they only had 2 chances to get the code at which point the machine would eat the card. (well, not really eat it, but refuse to spit it out). I specifically asked if the card had been turned in, but the guy said no. When I returned from Nampula (SMG lent me money for the trip), I went to the bank to ask if the card had turned up and to cancel the card. I was informed that I needed to write a letter. Of course… one of these “Dr. Mr. Excellent Director guy, I grovel grovel grovel grovel, please cancel my card, thank you very much” things. So, the next day I brought a pen, a paper, my bank account number and card number etc., and took it to the bank so the teller could help me write it. She was less than helpful, but fortunately Juvencio happened to be there and he helped me write it. About a week later I went to the bank to take out some money, and the woman informed me that my card had been found. I waited for the director to come back so he could give me the card, and guess where it had been? I had forgotten to remove it after my last transaction, and the machine had timed out and sucked it back in. It was in the machine the entire time. Argh. I also couldn’t pick it up that day because they needed to take a photocopy of my identification which I didn’t have on me (because they don’t already have enough photocopies of my identification…). So I went back the next day to pick up my card. At least I didn’t have to pay for a new one, and I feel awfully silly, but why wasn’t the card found a little earlier??? Sigh.

Oh yeah! Congratulations me, I’ve been in Mozambique for over a year now. I officially arrived in Mozambique on November 11, 2003. I arrived in Pemba on December 22, so I will use that as another excuse to go to the Italian restaurant and eat pizza.

Another story (tired yet?). My housekeeper came to me a couple of weeks ago, and said that her daughter’s eye infection still hadn’t cleared up, so she wanted to take her to Mocimboa da Praia to see a traditional doctor. I asked her if she had taken her daughter to a doctor yet, but she said she had taken her to the health post 3 times, and they had given her tetracycline drops and told her it would go away. The health posts are staffed by technicians and nurses. I was not impressed with this traditional doctor idea. I asked her how much the trip would be and she told me it was 240 000 to go and return. Traditional doctors generally then get as much out of a person as they can, and can sometimes do more damage than they cure. I don’t want to say that they can’t cure things, because they have a lot of traditional knowledge that can be put to good use, but they can also be dangerous. I told Regina that I was refusing to support this trip in any manner, and that I would pay for her daughter to see a real doctor (which costs 300 000). I said that if the treatment worked then she could start paying me back, and if it didn’t, then she wasn’t any worse off. She was not pleased with the idea. When I returned later, I was even more resolved and told her that not only would I not support her trip, but that I would dock her pay for losing work. I became heavy-handed only because I was worried about the eyes of the three-year-old girl. Finally we agreed to go see the doctor. He prescribed different drops, and sure enough, the infection has cleared up. Regina was pleased, but this week she asked to go to Mocimboa da Praia because she is trying to track down a gold necklace that she sent to be fixed and that has never been returned. I happened to be sick on the day, and in no condition to argue so I said, fine, go, but I’m not giving you any money. The whole time she wanted to go for her own reasons, and just used the daughter as an excuse. But at least the girl is well now… until she gets reinfected from her playmates. Sigh.

Oh, when I returned from Nampula I had been inspired by Emma’s money saving, and thought I could do the same just by being more judicious in my spending, and keeping track of where my money goes. So I made a budget, and here is the breakdown:

Phone: 2 000 000 (although I’m trying to get that down by using the internet less)
Electricity: 700 000
Water: 100 000 (ha!)
Internet: 400 000
Guard: 800 000
Regina: 600 000
Extras (Issa and Regina): 200 000

So, if I want to save 1 500 000 per month, I can only spend 822 222 per week on food, going out, and cell phone credit. If I don’t save money, my budget allows for 1 155 555 per week. Last week I spent 1 467 000. I’m not good at this! (current US dollar conversion is about 1 dollar to 20 000 mts).

Holy crap! I’ve completely forgotten to mention the elections. Yes, we are in the throes of a national election campaign which is set to go to the polls next week. And this being a relatively new democracy with a violent past… we are advised to stay clear of all political demonstrations, and to avoid discussing politics. Basically just to stay low, especially on the days of the election and as the results are divulged. Some people are getting quite nervous, as there seems to be a chance that the current governing party may lose. It’s hard to say, because they are the ones with the money, so their campaigning trucks are fuller and louder (their guys get t-shirts and hats). Brief history… Frelimo is the current governing party. They led the war for independence. Renamo is the opposition, they led the revolutionary civil war, against Frelimo. Renamo has never won an election. That is about the extent of my understanding. There are rumours that many of the people campaigning for Frelimo are planning to secretly vote Renamo, but there is no way of confirming that until we go to the polls. Also, during the last election, there were cries of fraud, and I have heard (although all of my information is really hearsay) that there are to be UN observers at the polls, but not at the counting stations. I am sure there is a reason for this, although I personally fail to see the sense.

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that we are almost caught up… just one more quick story. Last week I went back to Nampula, this time to help judge at the Catholic University’s English Day event, led by Great Kate. It was fun. I was impressed with the organization (which was stupendous for a Moz. Event and made a mockery of HLW), and the participation of students. We judged theatre pieces, performance pieces, poetry, songs, and rap (thank God there were only 2). It was great to see what a well-organized event can look like and it’s always wonderful to see people take pride in extra-curricular activities. It was a relatively quick trip (disappointing only in that I couldn’t find the muesli that I’ve become addicted to and that is unavailable in Pemba), but well-worth it. Except that when I returned I did not feel too good. I felt awful in fact, and was convinced that I had malaria again. However, a trip to the hospital on Monday and a malaria test told me otherwise, and I’m feeling nearly normal again. I think I need to be more careful about what I eat and how I treat my body.

So there we are. I think that is more than enough for today (my back is having it) so I’ll see if I can log on and update!

October 23, 2004

Wow, I didn't realize it had been so long since my last update. And it's a hot beautiful day, so I won't be writing much. Classes are over, "Healthy Living Week" is over, and now it's just time to fight over marks and tell people that I won't raise their "brother's" or "neice's" or third cousin twice removed's marks just because they have asked.

I feel much better now, and I will write more later. I'm off to the beach. As to the header on the home page, we ate at Pemba Beach Hotel last night, and apparently in this case, "buffet" for Cindy signified stuff yourself until you can hardly breathe.

September 26, 2004

Well, I’ve decided that some of the work will have to wait, because I really feel the need to write instead. Part of the reason that I haven’t been updating is that I’ve been very busy, and very stressed. The past month has been quite difficult. I’m finding myself questioning the value in my being a volunteer here. There are several reasons for this.

One is that I am encountering many frustrations at work, and I don’t know if anything I do is making any kind of difference. I’ve been working on this “Healthy Living Week” project, which would be a lot more fun if I had some support of the administration of the school. The administration wants this project, but they don’t want to have anything to do with the organization of it. When I went to ask the Pedagogical Director about pushing the date of the event back a week because I didn’t have time to plan it, he told me that I shouldn’t be overburdened, but he didn’t offer to do anything to help me. This was after I had ranted about not having time because I was virtually on my own, that I had had malaria, and that I was now walking all over town (because I have no car or moto) in the hot sun with some sort of throat infection which may or may not require monthly injections of penicillin (depending on which doctor I talk to). When I went to ask these same people advice on how to darken the gymnasium so that we can show a film there, they spent 15 minutes not listening to why we weren’t showing several films in a classroom like Elizabeth did last year, until finally, in a desperate attempt to get a straight answer, I asked “So you are saying that you don’t know of a way to get ahold of a long ladder?”, AW (read on) said that it shouldn’t be a problem because we are after all an Industrial school. I asked who I should talk to (after getting no ideas from them) and they said that I was talking to the right people and to basically leave off the subject. I’m sure if I leave it with them that the gym will remain undarkened. There is one teacher in particular that I have absolutely no respect left for. And it happens to be the teacher who put me in charge of this project against my explicit wishes. Unfortunately he also seems to have a certain amount of power in the school, so I will be unable to indulge my fantasy of telling him what I think of his beer-guzzling, young-girl chasing, and smug telling-other-people-what-to-do-while-I-sit-here-doing-nothing-except-get-fatter, ways. I’m really frustrated also because Medicos del Mundo is giving a training course for teachers in being AIDS activists. It’s really important to reach the teachers in this because teachers spread HIV like crazy, and when teachers die of AIDS the already overburdened education system suffers. There is a reason that teachers with qualifications to teach kindergarten are teaching high school. Also, the best way to reach masses of young people is through schools. MDM is not giving any of the teachers any money to attend the course, but still the administration of the school put the afore-mentioned Ass-Wipe’s name along with the only other woman teacher. I don’t quite understand her story except that her name has been put on a number of projects, including a couple which I am supposed to be in charge of, but she hasn’t done anything extra-curricular that I have seen. She is quite young and this is her first year teaching, and she seems to be pursued by several teachers. I’m a bit suspicious that this is part of the reason that her name appeared next to AW (the new short form for Ass-Wipe). The good news is that there is one teacher in the school who actually does extra-curricular stuff, and seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and he is helping with some aspects of the project. He seems to be doing projects for the good of the students and the community, and not for ulterior motives. Very rare. I realize I am being very cynical right now, but this is what I am feeling these days. So finally I was getting the activities for this event in order, in addition to my final lessons and tests planned (which is a shitload of work to begin with), when on Tuesday one of my classes asked me if the following day was a holiday. I checked my calendar, and there was no holiday scheduled for September 22, so I said no. After class I went to the Pedagogic office to find out where this rumour was coming from, and was informed that indeed there were no classes the next day, because the Ministry of Education had planned that every school in the country should do a march against AIDS the next day. I can’t for the life of me figure out why we didn’t have a little more notice about this event, or why an hour-long parade required canceling all classes for the day, but welcome to Pemba where any excuse to not work works for all. So on Wednesday the concentration of students from local schools was scheduled to occur at our school at 7:30. I arrived around 7:15, and watched the students assemble. I was surprised to note that the school seemed to have managed to scrape up the money to buy banners for this event, when they had offered no financial support for “Healthy Living Week”, an event they so desperately wanted me to organize. After waiting for about 30 minutes wondering where the organizers of the event were and why we were just standing around waiting, somebody must have decided to get the show on the road, because we started walking. What a mess. The police seemed to be doing some sort of traffic control, but there were cars weaving in and around the students who tried their best to block the entire road. Many students scampered off at the first opportunity. Finally we arrived at Hero’s Plaza (there is a statue of Samora Machel in a park). The Coordinator for the centre for the fight against HIV/AIDS spoke for 5 minutes, and then the Provincial Director of Education spoke for 10. Nobody listened to them. Then the MC started suggesting that local theatre groups who use theatre to spread HIV knowledge take the opportunity to show their pieces. This would have been a great idea had these theatre groups been informed of this opportunity before the invitation via microphone. The MDM theatre group managed to pull something together, but it involved finding another locale, as the park was not at all suitable for this kind of activity. I spent the rest of the day doing work on getting things organized for “HLW”(Healthy Living Week… which is actually Semana Vida Saudável). I should also mention that the day before I had also learned that there was a strong possibility that there would be no classes the following Monday. This is tomorrow. I was seriously perturbed by this news because I had scheduled three workshops for Monday, which involved inviting people from various organizations to come and speak to classes. This also disturbs me because it is the end of the school year, and time is running short. Now the reason there may be no classes tomorrow (I’m still not sure if there will be or not), is that the President of Mozambique is coming to town as part of his farewell tour. Fabulous. I have decided that this is way beyond my control, and that I can’t be bothered to try and reschedule the workshops because it is just too ridiculous. Now to top off the week, I got a phone call on Friday from the nice man who runs “Mobile Vision” and who was going to show the film for the entire school on Thursday. Note the past tense. This man, whose house is two over from mine, was robbed, and all of his projector equipment and films were taken. This is this man’s job, and he didn’t have insurance. It is a shame because I think that what he does is really wonderful work. There are many guards sleeping on this street, and his is the third house to be robbed this month (I think). They actually broke in by putting a hole in the roof. We (the young guy from a local youth group who is the reason that this event is coming together at all) are looking into working something out to show a film with the help of some local bar owners who have a projector, but I’m not sure how that will work out. Finally, I am supposed to write a final exam in collaboration with another English teacher whose students will write the same exam. It took me a month and a half just to get some basic information out of him on what he has been teaching. We have arranged twice to meet to discuss the exam, and he hasn’t shown. I have decided to write the exam myself, and give him some examples of the questions. I no longer trust him to actually see the exam, as I am pretty sure he is enjoying some of his female students in manners that I prefer not to think about. At least his students are night students, so they tend to be over 18. Oh wait. I forget to mention that about two weeks ago I started asking people what was going to happen for September 25. I had seen that September 25 was a holiday, but since it was a Saturday, I wanted to know if the day-off would happen on the Friday or Monday, or if the work-week would be unaffected. I was told that Saturday is pretty much considered part of the work week and that there would be no holiday. Friday morning I arrived at the school and learned that there was an unofficial rumour spreading that there would be “tolerancia do ponto” that day. This sometimes occurs, and means that people can leave off work after noon. I only have one class on Friday afternoon, so I spent the day wondering if students would show up or not. About half of them did, so we had a class. Now, Juvencio (the youth group leader who is helping organize “HLW”) and I had planned to do some shopping on Saturday to buy supplies. I asked him repeatedly whether the shops would be closed due to the holiday. He was sure they wouldn’t be. Guess what? They were. I am never doing this project again. I have decided that I won’t even care if nobody else does it. I will work on other projects next year, but I won’t touch this one. I’m tired of getting no help in organizing a project in a country that I don’t know very well, and being constantly criticized for not doing it the way that it has been done. Plus, as long as I or another volunteer gets suckered into doing it, none of the Mozambican teachers do it. I think that more or less takes care of my work frustrations, you know, aside from the regular my-students-won’t-study-and-cheat-like-crazy kind of stuff.

The second reason I find myself questioning being a volunteer here, is that I think it actually doesn’t make sense to be a volunteer in a city that is filled with cooperants. Cooperants make a great deal more money, and they drive around in their nice 4X4s. The reason I think it makes no sense for a town with 40 cooperants to have 3 volunteers, is that the local population does not see the distinction. They see a white face and assume that we have the money and conditions of the cooperants. It is very difficult to make friends with locals because many of them are looking for ways to get a leg up (and who can blame them?), and think that they can take advantage of you. I sometimes think that when they find out that we have left our countries and our families and friends to be volunteers and live in less comfort, that they actually think we are stupid. In addition to this difficulty, the financial difference between cooperants and volunteers makes it difficult for volunteers to create friendships with cooperants. I simply don’t have the means to go to the same restaurants (because there really isn’t much more to do here than eat out or go to the beach), and I don’t have the transportation. I’ve never enjoyed inviting someone to do something and then saying, “Oh yeah, and by the way, would you mind swinging by to pick me up, and then bringing me home again?” Especially when these people live way across town. Part of the logic of being a volunteer is to give us the ability to better integrate into the community by not having a great financial gap between us and our colleagues. But it just doesn’t work here, and I find myself wondering why I am living with cold bucket showers (by the way, the definition of a bucket shower is that you have a bucket filled with water, and a pitcher which you use to pour the water over yourself), no transportation, and under constant financial strain, when there are cooperants in town with hot showers and satellite tv. At this point I am not finding these hardships character building, and have had to buy a belt to hold up pants that used to be quite snug. On a positive note, the other two volunteers and I have decided to try and improve our lifestyles immensely by trying to buy a car together. I no longer care if it goes against the ideal of being a volunteer, I want transportation. If I have a crappy day, I want to be able to drive to the beach and go for a dip. If I run out of bread, I want to be able to get to the bread shop. I want to be able to go out on weekends, and maybe even take a trip or two. I want to go to the market and buy vegetables without thinking about whether or not I can manage to carry my purchases home. It looks like we can get a car for about 3000 dollars, so we are working on that. I have decided to live in the moment and have asked VSO for the maximum advance I can receive from my end of service grant.

Alright, I seem to have encapsulated most of my frustrations into these two aspects… work and lifestyle. Logically, I know that if I weren’t here, that I’m not sure what I would be doing, and there are still a lot of really positive things about being here, but I thought I should share the frustrations as well. Plus, I needed to vent a bit more. So there it is. Of course I am missing my family and friends as well, and sometimes I wonder if it is worth it. I realize that this kind of development work takes time, and I need to accept that any affect we may have as volunteers may not show for a generation, but sometimes I wonder. Angela and I have talked about the “If one person is helped, it’s worth it” aspect, and I try to remember that. If one student learns that they can do something without cheating, or that they can organize activities, or that there are uncorrupt people in the world, then there is something. Right?

September 25, 2004

Just a quick message to say I'm still alive and well, although a bit stressed. I am never ever ever doing this "Healthy Living Week" thing again. They'll have to find another sucker next year. I'm not touching it with a 10 foot pole.

I'm also sad that I'm not in Canada today because two super people are getting married, and I'm not there. Congratulations Matt and Sonya, I miss you guys, and I know you'll have a great day and take care of each other. The best part about knowing that you two are getting married is knowing that you are both so great that you just might deserve each other!

Muitas Saudades.

September 8, 2004

Yay for good health. On the day of my last update I had tried to do too much, and I regretted it, but I recovered. And now, I am confident that I am malaria free, although a bit bogged down by work. However, the good news is that I found out I can give make-up tests after the end of classes, which is October 9 (so you can see why I am busy!) so that gives me some extra time.

I will give an update on “Healthy Living Week” later. It’s driving me crazy. However, there are some students planning stuff, I just wish people understood that I have no idea what’s going on. I’m trying, but it’s ridiculous.

Just to add to my busy schedule, I’ve been contacted by a group of Congolese men who are running a language school here. They have asked me to help them with their curriculum for English, and to lend my foreign name to help them get their license. They have offered me French lessons in return for my help, which is nice.

I wanted to write about Angela’s story. As you may recall, Angela is my entertaining Australian friend. She’s funny. And she has given me permission to use the phrase that makes her story work. Let’s see if you can guess which phrase it is.

So Angela has had gastrointestinal difficulties since she arrived to Pemba, but a couple of weeks ago, she became especially concerned when she noted some blood in her poo. Her organization provides her with health insurance that includes a hotline she can call in Australia, so she gave that a try. The nurse on the other end of the line was rather concerned, and talked to a doctor, who suggested that Angela get to a first world medical centre quickly. This meant South Africa. Angela thought this was rather extreme, so she suggested that she would take a course of medication that she brought from Australia and monitor the results. This was agreed, but the nurse continued to call Angela everyday to receive the poo report. At first Angela felt better and noted that the rectal bleeding appeared to have abated. However, this rehabilitation was short-lived, and she was soon spending extra time counting flowers on her shower curtain, although the offensive blood did not return. The Australian nurse then started talking about sending the air ambulance to airlift Angela from Pemba straight to Johannesburg. Angela thought this was an extreme reaction for a bit of diarrhea, however, the next one morning she was feeling just wretched, and added vomiting to her list of symptoms, and when the nurse called she was just about ready to accept that air ambulance. Then Angela suddenly received a phone call from a woman in Maputo who suggested that Angela would be brought to Maputo and not Johannesburg. We’re not sure how Grace from Maputo got involved, but she was extremely effective, and later called Angela to tell her that Dr. Ramon (Cuban doctor living in Pemba) would arrive at Angela’s house in 6 minutes. Angela laughed as nothing here takes 6 minutes. Angela had been informed earlier that Grace was sending Dr. Ramon. This was particularly funny for us, because Dr. Ramon was the doctor who diagnosed my malaria, and then forgot to give me medication for it (When SMG went to get my malaria medication, Dr. Ramon seemed surprised that he hadn’t given it to me - Angela had not been impressed with this anecdote). But sure enough, Dr. Ramon promptly arrived with his colleague the Cuban Gynecologist. Angela said her problem was not gynecological, but Dr. Ramon figured he would bring along his colleague just to cover all the bases. Dr. Ramon listened to Angela’s symptoms, and promptly diagnosed malaria. Angela was skeptical, as she had never heard of rectal bleeding being associated with malaria. Dr. Ramon took Angela to the hospital to get a malaria test, and promised to take care of her if it came up negative. Sure enough… Angela had malaria. During this whole ordeal, it had never occurred to us or the doctor or nurse in Australia that Angela might have malaria. And I had just been diagnosed with malaria myself. The lesson of this story is… when you are sick in Mozambique… talk to the doctor working in Mozambique. And get a malaria test.

August 28, 2004

So, in the end after spending about 36 hours in bed and still not wanting to get up, I decided that I did have malaria, and so I started taking medicine. I’m pretty lucky to get it this mild, that’s for sure, and I’m hoping that afterwards I’ll feel really great, because I’ve been feeling pretty tired for a while. So there isn’t much to update as I have spent the last few days in bed, watching a film now and again, but mostly sleeping. I feel pretty good this morning, although my stomach is acting up a bit. Could just be time to get rid of some nasties. So, I’m off to rest some more. Maybe start cleaning up the sty that my bedroom has become in the past three days. You needed to know all that.

August 24, 2004

Well, I have had an interesting day. I went to the hospital for a skin infection thingy (it’s gross), and was told I had malaria. But I wasn’t given treatment for malaria, so other, more western doctors have told me that it probably isn’t, that the lab just sees a white face and figures it is safer to say it is malaria than to have a white person die of malaria. That sounds extreme. However, I do now have some medication for the skin infection. Did I mention it’s gross? It’s a red round spot on my arm that appeared out of nowhere and got steadily more disgusting with tiny explosions of pus appearing around the edges. There appears to be some teeny-tiny little black dots in the middle of the red. It itches sometimes like crazy, and when it isn’t itching, it burns a bit. And it’s right on my forearm where I can obsessively examine it anytime I want to.

Back to the weekend. Saturday was a nice day. A Finish friend took me and SMG (Some Mozambican Guy – Rui’s code for boyfriend, which I think will work well for this site) to track down an errant bicycle. This is a bicycle that VSO bought for a volunteer up here, and hence belongs to whichever volunteer is current. When Rui left, it was agreed between Virginia and I that I would get the bike as she hates riding bicycles. Unfortunately, one of his guards took it upon himself to take the bicycle home with him. We’ve been waiting for weeks for it to be returned, so finally we took the other guard to first guard’s house, which is a 20 minute drive out of town. Of course, there was nobody home. However, I think the fact that we actually turned up at his house might have shown the guy that we were serious. We told his buddy (other guard) that if this bicycle didn’t turn up, they would both be put in the slammer until it was returned. This is a sizeable threat, as jail here is rather less than pleasant, especially as the police often take it upon themselves to rough up the prisoners a bit. Needless to say, we were really hoping that this bicycle would turn up. When we got back to town, we reiterated to Guard 2 (the famous “Commando”) that he needed to get the bicycle back, because even if we believed that he had nothing to do with its disappearance, he was also responsible and would go to jail, and that his name was being equally sullied by the whole ordeal. The idea was to scare the crap out of him so he could then scare the crap out of his friend. He then had the gumption to ask me (in his roundabout way) for money for transporting the bike. I said no. The good news is that the bike has been returned! Commando succeeded! Yay, Commando! I was actually really surprised because I was sure they were going to push us right to the limit and see if we really would send them to jail, and I was not looking forward to that day.

Then Saturday night there was a lovely party at the new Cooperacion Espanola (accents omitted due to keyboard laziness and insecurity over placement) quarters. It was very nice, and SMG and friends even played some music. Sunday was the day of excess with the entertaining Australian volunteer, Angela. We had a lovely breakfast at Pemba Beach Hotel, and then we lazed by the pool drinking wine all afternoon, while I beat Angela at Scrabble. There is still a certain disagreement over an uncountable noun, which I’m hoping a quick visit to the Scrabble website will clear up, but it was a lovely day.

Monday it was back to school and time to start yelling at students. I really mean lecturing, but it always seems like yelling afterwards. They don’t pay attention or participate during exercises and then they wonder why they fail the tests. Gar. I had a major motivation crisis yesterday actually. I almost didn’t teach because I was feeling so low and was afraid I would cry in class, but I made it through, and a G&T at Angela’s afterwards was a great pick-me-up. Now I’m just trying to plow through. More or less. I want to get these extra-curricular things on the go. It’s so frustrating that everything takes so much longer than it should.

So that takes us to today, which I have already mentioned, and so now I’m off to plan some classes for tomorrow. Nothing like preparing at the last minute.

August 20, 2004

I realize I have been most remiss in my updates lately. This is partly due to my frustration with my website, as it used to upload easily, and in the last month it has often refused to update. This both raises my phone bill as I repeatedly log on trying to update, and increases my frustration level. Also, I have been very busy with the end of the third “trimester” (there is still one more).

I’ve just done the calculations to figure out my statistics. In most of my classes, I have about a 20-30 percent pass rate. This is very very bad. At the same time, I can’t in good conscience pass students who can’t even answer the question “What’s your name?”. It’s difficult. I also have students with very high marks (not many, but they exist), so I know that my tests aren’t impossible. I even gave make-up tests to every class, but this seems to have served only to raise the marks of the people who were already passing. Argh.

Otherwise, things here are good. The weather is warming again, and I have three days off. This means that this afternoon I will go to the beach, tomorrow I will go to the beach, and on Sunday I am planning a day of excess at the Pemba Beach Hotel. This is the 5 star hotel in town that serves delicious food. I have eaten there twice and it is a real treat. So a friend and I are planning to treat ourselves to the buffet breakfast and the spend the day by the pool drinking cocktails and pretending we are women of leisure on vacation, while we rack up the bills on our credit cards…(I have recently found out that the Pemba Beach takes MasterCard!!! Woohoo! Maybe the only place in the whole country!). There is nothing practical or volunteer-like in our doing this. It is just about self-indulgence.

This morning the entire plan was to write an update, focus on motivating myself, and maybe watching a film. I love movies. I also have a few episodes of “Friends” and “Seinfeld”, and “The Simpsons” which can provide a nice diversion from reality.

Recently some friends and I have been tossing around the idea of making our lives here a reality television show. We laugh, but we are half serious that what we go through everyday could provide more quality entertainment than “Big Brother”. I have two friends here who had to supervise the renovation of their apartments before moving in (both international volunteers). I also have a friend who is building a house, so we have seen all kinds of characters. The people who put up the grills on the ladies’ apartments took over a month to do it, because they didn’t work together. The welding guy would come, but not the cement guy, so he couldn’t finish the work. Then the cement guy would come, but he wasn’t able to lift the grill without 5 or 6 other men. We managed to convince some people around to lift this grill, breaking off several pieces (such security) in the process, which meant that the welding guy had to come back. The carpenter built a lovely shelf for my friend and then a couple of weeks later she discovered that the wood he used was stolen from the university (which is how she hired him in the first place). We all have guards that don’t guard, and my house-building friend (who is a bit more than a friend now… and that provides some interesting cross-cultural conflicts in itself, as he is Mozambican) has workers that don’t work, and occasionally workers that steal. I have been yelled at for not giving a strange woman one of my apples, and when I brought the electricity guy here to fix the electricity last week, he informed me that he would like it if I had his children. I could apparently have two children and then leave them here with him when I went back to Canada. He asked me if I had a jealous boyfriend and I said yes. Apparently he didn’t believe me, because he later texted me telling me that he couldn’t get me off of his mind, and then seemed surprised to get a phone call from said jealous boyfriend (which was pretty funny). A quick trip to the bank is never a quick trip to the bank. The last time I was waiting for the ATM to come back on-line, a young pastor wanted to talk to me about God. He was a bit nonplussed when I told him I didn’t like to talk about such things. There is corruption everywhere. If I were to pin this country’s problems on anything, it would be corruption. Organizations get funding and while very few projects are realized, the director is building himself a nice new house. Democracy here somehow failed, and has become a weird system where representatives for each area are appointed by the party in power, rather than elected by the people. I don’t understand. My lack of knowledge in economics and politics leaves me frustrated trying to figure things out. The ex-pat community is interesting in itself. Most of the women ex-pats who came unaccompanied have Mozambican boyfriends, and there are quite a number of older women dating younger Mozambican men. This only becomes interesting if you understand that Mozambican men think women are old if they are over 18 (so why do you think that 25 year-old man is dating that 50+ woman?). These relationships are interesting trades. The men benefit from the white woman’s money and car, while the women benefit from having a younger local boyfriend. And in most cases, the man has at least one Mozambican girlfriend on the side. The men ex-pats also easily find themselves one or several Mozambican companions. There seem to be two extreme reactions on the part of the young woman’s family in these cases. One is to quickly send the girl away before this white man ruins her future by dating her and eventually leaving her after she has passed the good marrying age, leaving her with few prospects of landing a good husband, and the other is the encourage the girl to get pregnant as quickly as possible to try and persuade the man to marry her and possibly take her to a better life in his country. I hope I don’t sound unsympathetic in describing this, because I actually understand perfectly both reactions, and think that in this environment, they are very reasonable. Even a quest for tonic water (gin and tonics seem to be the drink of choice by ex-pats around here) can be an adventure here. At any rate, if anyone is interested in producing a reality tv show that takes place in what seems to be a slightly unreal environment, I’m sure we can work something out.

So, back to me. I took a quick trip to Nampula last week with my boyfriend (something about calling someone my boyfriend makes me feel about 16 years old). It was a fun trip, although a bit crazy, as it was for one night only. That’s like going from London to Ottawa (ON) for one night. What made it especially interesting is that all the buses leave for Nampula at 5 a.m. We woke up at 5:30 a.m. However, we jumped out of bed and dashed off to the bus stop, where we were informed that all the buses had indeed left, but that perhaps we would be able to catch something to catch up to them. So we hung out at the bus stop, and then managed to catch a chapa to Chiure, where we waited until we caught a ride right into Nampula. It was a really nice trip. We went to Nampula for a goodbye party for a VSO who has been here for 2.5 years, and who is taking her Mozambican boyfriend back to England with her. It was a great party as they are both very social and fun people. At about 1:30 in the morning we decided that it would be a mistake to sleep, as we had to catch the bus at 4:30 in the morning, and since we already had such a good track record of waking up, we thought it best not to risk it. Then we sort of slept on the bus, made it back, and were taken to lunch at the Pemba Beach by our American anthropologist friend. Interestingly, all American scholars in Moz are suspected of being CIA agents by other ex-pats. I think that is kind of funny. Also, there really aren’t many Americans (or Canadians for that matter) in Moz. At least not that I’ve run into. Lots of Scandinavians and Spaniards though. And Cubans. So that was a fun weekend.

Now, before my laptop battery conks out, I’m going to try and upload this and move onto stage two of my morning. Professional reflection with the goal of hopefully reinforcing my motivation to be a teacher. I’ll let you know how that goes….

August 13, 2004

Well, another birthday come and gone. And now I’m 28. Now, if I were Paul, I would wax all sappy and start reflecting on the meaning of life, but I’m not. And today I really don’t care what the meaning of life is. I wrote that just to freak Paul out. And I don’t even know if he reads this…

Birthdays are always a bit strange for me. A year ago I was in England doing a training course for teaching ESL in a tertiary environment. The wrong course, as I am teaching in a secondary school environment, but nevertheless it was informative. I had no idea what I would be doing in a year. And here I am. I had a bit of a party Saturday night to celebrate, and of course, in pure Mozambican style, my electricity cut off early in the afternoon so we had a candlelit party with no music and very little food. Lots of beer though. Some of it a bit lukewarm, but still beer. And some gin and tonic. I used to hate gin and tonic. Now I kind of like it. It seems to be the drink of choice for ex-pats around here. Weird. Speaking of which, my family may fall over when they read this, but I have lately been able to eat mushrooms. I still don’t really like them, but I’ve been able to get them down. Then I spent Sunday at the beach, with Lee and Emma (vsos in Nampula, and sadly, Lee is heading back to England this week). That was nice. Then back to work.

I have a cold now. I feel tired and a bit cranky. Probably not the best time to write an update, but I thought I should write a quickie to thank people for the birthday greetings.

I’m planning a quick trip to Nampula this weekend. I want to wish a very happy birthday to Marcy! Hope you had lots of fun!

Take care everyone, I’ll try and be more detailed next week!

July 24, 2004

Well, here I am again. Here’s hoping the site isn’t acting up again!

First I must lament the departure of my friend and colleague Rui. He was the other VSO in town, but because of personal reasons back in Denmark (although he is Portuguese), he had to leave. I will miss him terribly, as he was a great friend to me here, and we had a lot of laughs, and great girl talk.

There was something that I was planning to write about… oh yes! The lion.

Apparently, just outside of town the other day, a few kilometres down from Wimbe Beach (which is the main beach here, but which is 7 kilometres from my apartment) a person was attacked by a lion (last I heard, this person is still alive but was badly mauled). My friend Juma says that in the 20 years he’s lived here, he has never heard of a lion coming anywhere near this close to town. So, the area’s best hunter was called up, and he went and shot the lion. From what I hear, it was a male lion, about a metre and a half long or so. The lion was then displayed for a morning, before it was either chopped up and the meat distributed, or it was burned (can’t get any confirmation on either of these stories). My Finnish friend Saara actually saw the lion (dead). Anyways, this lion incident provides an excellent opportunity to talk about some interesting cultural aspects that I have recently heard about. Most people in town believe that this was a “magic” lion. This means that it was either a person who turned themselves into a lion in order to kill people, or that it was conjured up by a witch in order to kill people. I first heard about these beliefs a little while ago, as Juma (Mozambican friend) was telling me about a lion in Palma (even further north in Mozambique… almost Tanzania) who has reportedly killed 10 or more people. He explained that it was likely a magic lion, and also told me a story about a crocodile named “Maria” who was apparently also of this magical origin. I have heard of people being killed because it was believed that they were involved in this magic lion business, so it is taken quite seriously.

Wildlife update… I have not seen any African wildlife other than the enormous land snail, the dolphin, the geckos in my house (which Sky eats), and a couple of snakes (ugh). No elephants, giraffes, or lions. Although I did see a group of monkeys in Malawi on the side of the road. Big ones. Should I count the drunks at the barracas?

School update… ugh. Things move so slowly sometimes. I also thought I would try and be generous and give my students a chance to improve their marks by giving a make-up test. I told them that “make-up test” did not mean easy, but this does not mean that they studied. Sigh.

Cat update… I clipped Sky’s claws yesterday. Apparently the trick is to wait until she is sleeping on your lap and then gently clip the claws. My screen doors are thanking me, as is the skin on my forearms. She has also discovered that the mosquito net for my bed makes an excellent cat hammock. I also burned myself cooking her food yesterday. Sky has a nutritious diet of chima (cornflour porridge) with dried fish (which stinks to high heaven) and garlic (which is supposed to help with fleas). Chima cooking is dangerous. You basically mix the flour and water and then boil it until it gets thicker than porridge. Unfortunately, while it is bubbling away, it is also spitting little burning clumps of porridge at you. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a blister burn before. Sigh.

House update… empregada (read: housekeeper) is on vacation. I miss her. House is getting very dirty. May have to iron my own clothes. Sigh. (hey, there’s got to be some benefits to living here!)

Notes from home… got a phone call from Jaime (yay! Too bad it was 3 am here and I was zonked…), was reminded by a nice shoutout on Paul’s site that it’s been a year since I introduced him to Christine via e-mail (oh yes, who’s the best matchmaker ever? They are engaged and giddy…), had some fun emails from Jodi (in Indonesia), Raye (in Sudbury), and Trish (Toronto/Vancouver). Also found out that J-Lo and Ben are no more. What a crazy world we live in. Also, I accidentally cc’d a message to my family to a friend I hadn’t heard from in ages, but was extremely pleased and amused with his reply. May try that more often with people out of communication…

Am thinking that I ought to put another survey up, but am feeling too lazy. Please email me and let me know you are reading, or if you have any particular questions! Thanks.

July 19, 2004

Well, still haven’t been able to get the website to accept my changes. I don’t know what the problem is, but it is very irritating.

Things are going well, although it appears that my cat is bi-polar. Actually, I think she had the flu the first couple of days, because she mostly just slept and cuddled. Now she spends more time skidding around the apartment (hardwood floors) attacking anything that moves. She also has this adorable habit of clawing her way up my clothes to sit on my shoulder. When she decides she wants attention, she wants attention.

Surprise guests this week… but this one brought cheese! Seriously, there is this American art-history grad student (Alex) doing his thesis on Makonde art, and he’s stayed here before, although he wasn’t expected until August again. However, he had a nasty dose of malaria and decided to come back from the Makonde plateau (which is remote) and fatten himself up again by getting as much comfort food as he could find. So I came home from work one day to Alex standing in the kitchen surrounded by cheese prepared to make macaroni and cheese. Yummy. I had decided not to buy cheese for the rest of the month because I somehow managed to spend almost my entire month’s salary in the first two weeks of July, so this was a great surprise! And the mac and cheese was delicious.

Also! I finally got my case from Canada – so treats from home have arrived! Thanks to my family for getting the stuff together, and to Roy and Marcia for getting it to Pemba! Amazing. We all had Tim Horton’s coffee last night!

As of yet the teacher’s class (me teaching English to my colleagues) has yet to start, because I have yet to have a single teacher turn up for a class. I will try again this week, and if no one shows, there’ll have to be some rethinking done. I also discovered this week that having a cat sleeping on your lap makes marking abysmal tests less stressful. Despite her bouts of psychosis, I think Sky will be great for my health.

July 16, 2004

If I can get this stupid site to upload my update, I'm sending out a request for postcards. I have so far received 3 postcards from Kristen (thanks!) who on her cross-Canada bike odyssey has remembered to send me some notes, and one Christmas card from my Mom and sister (thanks!). Trips to the post office to visit the spiderwebs in my post box are a bit depressing, and I have a big thing on my wall for displaying postcards etc, that looks quite barren. So if you can spare a dollar or two to send me a postcard, I would be most grateful!

OK - let's see if this site will update...

Still not working… so here’s another word about the gender group project. It seems that the gender centre, which has a couple of rooms at the school now, with three desks and three chairs (nice!), is going to serve as a kind of guidance office. Great. Because I am a fully qualified guidance counselor prepared to deal with student conflicts of all kinds, in a foreign country. Perfect. In case you are wondering, my thermonuclear dynamics study is coming along nicely as well.

July 13, 2004

OK. The updates are getting fewer and farer between, but that seems to make sense to me. As I get more into a routine, there is less to write about really. I’m back at work, and am having the same frustrations as before. And extra projects. And the Elizabeth legend lives on. Now I am also heading up the gender group. Since there is only one other woman teacher, it became us. My first task was to explain to a group of students how I managed to get all the way through high school and university without getting pregnant. There were 9 pregnancies in the school last semester. It is a huge problem. I tried the old “if you aren’t mature enough to get ahold of a condom (which are free at the GATV – a support and voluntary testing facility) then you aren’t mature enough to have sex” story. That made me feel old. I was not at all prepared for this meeting. I arrived at the school to see a notice advising all the girls of the school to meet at 7:50 in room 3. So I asked someone if I should go, and they seemed surprised that I hadn’t been invited. I turned up, asked the guy in charge if I could watch, and he said… “actually, I need you”. Right… that’s why you went to the trouble of informing me of this meeting. Then he told me, in front of all the girls in the school (who turned up) that it was my responsibility to get things going with the gender group and to empower the girls of the school. Then he made me talk, and a whole lot of crap came out. A whole lot of crap that I’m sure these girls have all heard before. I also explained that teenage pregnancy does in fact happen in my country. I don’t feel even remotely qualified for this task, but I figure I can lend support and if I can find some good self-esteem building projects (because teenage girls are notorious for having high self-esteem….) then we’ll have something to work with.

Anyways, I got a cat. It happened sort of suddenly. I was telling someone how I was thinking of getting a cat to get rid of the mouse problem, and they said they knew someone who was trying to find a home for a cat. So I thought about it, and thought… surely there is no harm in meeting the kitty? And she is so cute and loveable that I decided to take her. She is really affectionate. Except when I am trying to bathe her to rid her of fleas. Is there a scratch-proof way to do this? Because I don’t think so. I think she actually sprouted extra claws just to cling more effectively to my skin and clothing.

Guess that’s about it for now!

June 30, 2004

So, I have a confession to make. I’ve been a bit addicted to the internet in the last couple of weeks, so I’m actually terrified of my phone bill. One day I expect to come home and find it blocking the pathway up the stairs. They deliver the bills directly to the house here, and basically just deposit them through the door jamb. I don’t know what possessed me to start reading the recaps of ER on, but I became addicted.

The good news, is that it’s tangerine season now, and I finally tried one. I didn’t get all excited about tangerines, because I somehow thought they were pretty much oranges, but actually, they taste more like giant clementines, so now I’m pretty happy about their current abundance. I’ve also found a good recipe for a pizza crust that isn’t too too difficult to make. As I was kneading the dough yesterday I was thinking how there are dozens of former Katimavik participants who never knew that I found their homemade bread efforts inspiring. I never once made bread while with Katimavik. I have also found the easiest chocolate cake recipe in the world, and it so happens to be vegan. Weird.

I’ve had some guests come and go in the last couple of weeks, so that was fun. Last night their was a bit of a jam session (guitar, drum, and singer/dancer) on my back veranda. I don’t think the neighbours minded too much, I saw some of the kids just dancing along. My guard seemed to think it was pretty funny.

I’m a bit off today. I had a really weird nightmare last night that involved a giant black man-eating shark. I think I will describe it and if anyone has any brilliant interpretations, please let me know! I’m at a loss. I was standing on a veranda of some sort, looking at the sea with my friend. Suddenly we noticed that there were a few flakes of snow falling. He said that wasn’t good and suddenly got suspicious about looking at the sea, and pointing at a black spec off in the distance and asking other people what it was. Nobody really paid attention until the black spec revealed itself as a giant shark and started chowing down on nearby swimmers. This happened off in the distance. People near me were distressed, but reacted as if this was something that just happens now and again. I was shocked as nobody had ever mentioned this problem to me before. My friend just sort of shrugged and said something along the lines of “I knew it”. Suddenly, we were down at the beach looking at the now dangerous water. It must have been a bay because we were looking at a bunch of young men (boys really) that were lined up on the shore on the other side. They were close but the water between them and us was dangerous. Men (I think in uniform) were trying to force the boys to enter the water. The boys understandably did not want to. Then I noticed that the men were beating the crap out of the boys so that they were bloody when they entered the water. Nobody but me seemed to think this was terrible. They just stood idly by watching. A couple of boys entered the water and were promptly and bloodily gulped down by the insatiable shark. One boy struggled fiercely not to enter, so suddenly the guards (ah ha! Guards!) showed him that they had his mother and were going to throw her in the water if he didn’t go in. They didn’t really wait for a response and just threw her in. Then there was a voiceover (does anybody else have voiceovers in their dreams? I don’t have any idea whose voice it was) that said something like “Ah, but they forgot about the power of woman, and this woman knew the secret”. The woman started singing in the water, and the shark seemed to calm down. At least until she got out of the water. Then there was a time-shift, and the shark was hungry again (no idea what happened to the woman), and I was sick of the whole situation and went to hide (with some other woman who was also nervous) in some apartment. However, I was so nervous because of this shark, that even though we were on the third floor and over land, I somehow felt like the shark would come up through the floor to get me. I kept trying to get higher in the room and as far away from the floor as possible. Then I woke up and couldn’t sleep anymore. Weird, eh?

So now that you have been fascinated by the strange nocturnal workings of my subconscious… I can’t really think of anything else to write.

In case I don’t log on tomorrow… Happy Canada Day!

June 22, 2004

Special Congratulations to Noel and Jaime! Happy Anniversary! A whole year already. Only about 75 more to go!

Two days ago I was having a motivational crisis. At least I thought I was. I was absolutely dreading going back to work and giving classes again. I was questioning what I was doing, and whether I was cut out to be a teacher. Now while it has not been resolved whether or not I have an aptitude for teaching, I am rejuvenated. I went to the school yesterday, not knowing what my timetable was, but semi-prepared to teach in whatever time I was expected to. So, of course, when I arrived, I was the only teacher about, and it quickly became obvious that classes were unlikely to start yesterday. Turns out it was an exam day, so I ended up envigilating an exam with some of the students from my most undisciplined class. As we were waiting for the exam to arrive, one of the students suddenly asked me why I wasn’t going to teach them anymore. I just about danced a jig, but I tried to mask my delight by semi-nonchalantly replying “Oh yeah? I haven’t seen my timetable yet. Who have you got?” From there, the day just got better and better. They have, in fact, taken the industriel classes away from me! There is a very tiny part of me that feels I have failed in some way by not rising to the challenge and continuing teaching these 2 tough groups, but it is very tiny. The rest of me is hula-dancing around my living room – WOOHOO!

I didn’t realize how much a change in my schedule would affect my outlook. I’m down to 20 hours of teaching a week, plus the teacher’s class, which I now feel I have the time to prepare. I have only two mornings a week when I need to be at the school at 7 a.m. (and neither is Monday!), and I have some morning and some afternoon classes. Not bad! Somewhere in Scotland I know that Super-Elizabeth must be snorting “lightweight”, but I’m just excited to feel good about work again. (not that I am in anyway inferring that Elizabeth is a snorter… I’m quite sure she’s not, but since she’s left and I’ve been faced with filling her shoes or at least trying to rip her shoes off the ground so I have somewhere to put mine, she’s taken on a sort of super-human-volunteer persona. Sometimes I even picture her with a cape…)

So today I went back to the school, all like “Bring it on!”, only to find out that the students really have no intention of turning up this week as it is the first week of the semester. I realize I should have expected this by now, but part of me thought “surely that only happens the first week of the year…?” However, another week without work is not so bad. I shall relish it in fact.

I am currently taking the opportunity to read “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck. I have read the first two sections, and may I recommend that EVERYONE find a copy of this book? It’s great, and has prompted a revival of some self-reflection that has fallen a bit by the wayside in the past few months. I haven’t read the chapters that focus on religion, but I think the first two sections (Discipline, Love) would benefit anyone who took the time to read and think about it.

So I’ve just been interrupted by a visit from the FedEx guy. No, I didn’t get a delivery. He asked me to do a translation for him a few weeks ago, which I did terribly, and so in conversing with him at the bank the other day, he decided to copy and give me a CD (Sade), which he was dropping off. That was interesting. I also found out that his daughter is a student of mine, which he seemed reluctant to tell me. He said “don’t give her marks! Just push her!” I had no intention of bumping up her marks, but fortunately she’s a pretty good student anyways. He also told me how the students complain that I only explain things in English, which is a common complaint and is not entirely true. The truth is that there seems to be little improvement in their comprehension when I speak Portuguese, so I don’t really see the use in it. The more motivated students who pay attention get something out of me explaining in English. I don’t know. Something about that workshop with the American guy made me realize that I seriously need to lower my expectations. If a class of 50 learns anything in a second language… it’s a start. Especially with limited resources. Speaking of which, the school has just gotten 18 computers for the IT department. Up to this point students have been studying how to use computers without actually having computers. This seems very exciting to me, and a huge development. I hope it is a sign of more good things to come!

June 17, 2004

Happy Birthday Georgette!

I swear that one day I will be better at remembering birthdays. I’m terrible. Please forgive me, those of you who have been missed… I will try better next year!

So. I go back to work on Monday. I’m not quite sure where my holidays have gone, but it always seems to go that way. It’s been nice, although I still haven’t spent much time at the beach. I really need to work on that. It has been pretty chilly though. While the water is warm, it’s quite cold once you get out and the wind hits you.

My new project is to try and make my apartment a little nicer. I’ve decided that I’ll feel more at home if I can get the apartment to look a little less run-down. There are a couple of problems with the plumbing, which I don’t think will get fixed, and which sometimes cause an unpleasant odour, but at least I can try and make it look nicer. The plans are… curtains for the bedroom to block out the light from the port – which is unreasonably bright and far-reaching. These curtains will also hide the ugly closet and bring some colour to the room. Now I just need to find a way to hang them. The problem being of course that the walls are cement, so I need to borrow an electric drill, which is not something that everyone has hanging in their pantry. I also need to find some wood to make a curtain rod. Shouldn’t be a problem… bamboo abounds. The next thing is that I want shelves for my closet, or a dresser. I’m tired of living partly out of my suitcase. This could be more difficult. That pretty much takes care of the bedroom. For the spare bedroom… because I occasionally have guests… I would like to put a decent mattress on a macua bed (which is a cheap kind of bed made here out of wooden legs and a kind of rope that is woven to create a supporting surface. Surprisingly difficult to describe. I think I will post a pic on yahoo later). Once I have that, I would like to put some kind of flooring in the bathroom and kitchen. I really think that will make a huge difference. Right now they just have bare grey cement floors. Not very warm and welcoming, although quite functional. I mustn’t forget to mention my couch. I seem to have the most uncomfortable couch I have ever met. Something must be done about that. So these are my super-exciting home-improvement plans. I will keep you updated as to their progress. Knowing my penchant for procrastination…. It may be a while.

Now I’m just trying to mentally prepare myself for going back to work. Mostly this involves not thinking about work for some reason. I can’t help thinking that this semester is going to be ridiculously busy. Between my classes, the teacher’s class, the Healthy Living Week, and hopefully starting English Club… I’m not exactly sure where my free time will fit in. I must try and be more organized and a little less lazy. I have to admit that I haven’t exactly been efficient these last few months. However, I have big plans to do better this semester. Guess I’ll have to do some thinking about work this weekend after all. Sigh.


June 5, addendum

Good news folks... I've succeeded in shrinking and uploading a bunch of photos. I can not take credit for all of them however, as some of them are Marc's. Please take a gandar...

June 5, 2004

Well! June is here. Hard to believe. And it’s so cold at night that I now have 2 blankets on my bed! (admittedly they are thin blankets). During the day it is still warm enough in the sun to lay on the beach, so I am hardly complaining. It’s kind of a nice change.

So this week I was fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am on holidays to hitch a ride with Medicos Del Mundo (a medical organization from Spain not unlike Doctors without Borders) to the islands. I went with Beto (Mozambican guy who does logistics for the organization – my friend), Alex (technician from Maputo… he installed radios in the the hospitals and was along to install solar powered lamps in them this time – the reason for their trip), Marc (a Spaniard who is studying in South Africa), and Anna (an Italian who has been working in Maputo). Marc and Anna are doing some traveling together on their way to Tete where Anna has some work to do.

So the Quirimba Archipelago. First it’s a couple of hours in the 4X4 along a deteriorating dirt road. We entertained ourselves by half-heartedly looking for elephants (apparently occasionally spotted along this route), lions, and the elusive baby baobab. Baobabs are enormous trees, and I have no idea what they would look like before they reach that size. I will post a pic on the site. They are incredible to look at. As a side note, I’d read about Baobabs in “The Little Prince”, but I think I thought they were created by the author. Now that I’ve seen them, I understand the sort of otherworldliness that they have. We also spent a great deal of time heckling the driver (Sandra, a doctor with MDM, who wasn’t going to the island, but was doing some work in some other towns near the boat launch) and joking about the luscious feasts we would have at the resort hotels and pizzerias on the island. We were taking along a tent and a cooler of food… there are no luxuries on these islands.

In Quissanga I hung out reading a book while the MDMers put up lamps in the health centre and maternity in Quissanga until the tide came in and we were able to depart for the islands. Travel to the islands depends entirely on the tide and the winds. When the tide is out, it is really out and you can’t go to the islands. On this day (Monday), it was quite windy, so the trip out was… well… as my Dad can attest, I am not super comfortable in a boat in rough water, so I was a riot. The boat was a motor boat, probably about 17 feet or so. I could be very wrong on this. It was not very big. However, the plan was to go to the island of Quirimba where Beto and Alex had about half an hour of work to do (yeah right… like anything here can be done in half an hour), however, when we arrived at Quirimba (which is truly an idyllic place… turquoise waters and flour-like white sand beaches… I have never felt sand so fine before), it was decided that we shouldn’t risk hanging around as the tide was already on its way out. We continued on to Ibo, and arrived safely despite the boat scraping along the bottom a bit and most of us moving to the front to balance it out. We were wet and cold. We unloaded, and went to the hotel (which isn’t really a hotel, but some sort of retreat for EDM employees… the electricity company – which is kind of funny since the island has no electricity). However, the hotel was much nicer than I expected, and there is one restaurant that prepared rice and chicken for us. I opened a tin of vegetables, and one of tuna to go with my rice. There was quite a lot of joking about the chicken and the fact that after it had been ordered a dog had suddenly stopped barking. Then, the lack of electricity (and the generator of our hospice was on the blink), and the toll of traveling from 5 a.m. took it’s toll and we slept. I need to mention that my first impressions of the island were of extreme calm. The moon was so bright that it actually illuminated the streets and cast shadows, so I could make out quite a lot of the crumbling buildings in the dark.

The next morning we got up and ate a lovely breakfast of coffee, cookies, sandwiches and apples. It was the best breakfast I’d had in weeks. Then the MDMers went to work, and the foreigners went sight-seeing. It was the 1st of June, International Children’s Day, so the first thing we saw was a group of people standing to attention and singing the national anthem as the Mozambican flag was slowly raised. It was children singing of course, which made it more entertaining as they seemed to be competing to see who could sing louder, and at times there were two anthems going at different tempos. Because the island is small and calm, we felt quite at ease walking around with our cameras and took lots of pictures, and enjoyed showing them to the children on our little displays. As soon as I figure out how to diminish the size of pictures on this computer, I will post some! They take too long to upload with the size they are. So we passed by an old church, a fort, and had an interesting time bartering for silver jewellery. There are some traditional silversmiths on the island so Ibo jewellery is recognizable and well-known. I bought two pairs of earrings for about 4 dollars.

We were planning to accompany the MDMers to Matembe, another island, but the wind was too strong and we returned to Quirimba instead. This trip was bumpy until we entered the Mangrove (at least, I think that is what they are called) forest. It was surreal. These trees grow in the water, and there is a passageway amongst them. It feels like a river because the trees shelter the wind and the water is calm. Then we emerged into open water and rough waves again until we arrived at Quirimba. The foreign contingent swam a bit, and rested in the sun (the wind nearly froze us when we got out of the water), and Marc collected some beautiful shells along the beach. I should mention that he is studying Marine Biology and delighted in inspecting dead things on the beach. Oh yeah! He also spotted a dolphin on the ride out the day before, but I didn’t see it. As the tide got frighteningly low, I went to check on the working men, and found them on the roof of a tiny hospital putting the finishing touches to the solar panel. I was, of course, quite the source of entertainment to about 12 local children who stood unabashedly staring at me and talking in their local dialect, which I believe is similar to Swahili. Beto and Alex descended the precarious looking ladder, packed up and we returned to the boat. We headed off, and passed the first shallow danger without difficulty. Then it got dark, and we were wet from the waves splashing into the boat and cold. Really cold. I joked that it would be a great embarrassment for me, a Canadian, to die of cold in Mozambique. I was actually shivering, and I was afraid that the goosebumps might become permanent. That would be really attractive. In Portuguese, the expression for goosebumps, literally translated, is “chicken skin”. In reviewing some of the pictures I also discovered that I need to get a bit more sun. I’ve been in Mozambique over 6 months, and am still shockingly white.

We were fortunate that it was a full moon, and it shone brighter than any other moon I’ve ever seen, so at least we could see where we were going. The other concern on this particular boat trip was that somehow the driver had forgotten to load the extra gas can. I think we finally arrived on Ibo on fumes, but we made it. We practically kissed the ground… once we’d waded through the water to land. Time for cold showers from buckets, and another rice dinner. Anna and I were sitting outside our rooms waiting while Marc showered, when Alex walked up to the well (which is in the middle of the compound, if I can call it that), picked up the well bucket (remember it is dark, although the moon is quite bright), tossed it in the 30 foot well with the air of someone who does it everyday, and then started feeling around for the cord attached to the bucket. It would appear that someone had neglected to secure the cord, and the bucket and cord were now floating 30 feet below us in the well. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and I laughed at poor Alex for some time. It was exactly the kind of thing I would do. Beto returned from ordering our meals (I ordered fish, the only options being fish or goat), with a small flask of cheap whiskey, which was deliciously warming. Poor Marc already showering, didn’t believe us when we yelled for him to use water sparingly… there was quite a lot of bantering going on, and people were rarely serious. However, the water sufficed, and we all felt quite revived after cleaning up. Our meal arrived, and I was surprised to note that my fried fish was somehow colder than my beer (of course there is no fridge, as there is no electricity). I still don’t know how that was managed, but I managed to get down most of it (the fish, the warm beer posed no problems). Then it was sleepy-time again.

The next morning I was feeling supremely lazy and slept in a bit. I awoke, cleaned up, had some breakfast (was amused to note that the bucket had been retrieved and was now well-secured with a new cord), and wandered over to the hospital to see what these guys were doing. I took some pictures of the hospital which I will also try to post. There are 4 small hospitals on these islands, and all four are staffed by nurses or health technicians. There isn’t a single doctor in the area. Cleanliness is shocking by Canadian standards, and in some rooms the smell is… unpleasant. The walls are spattered in various fluids, there is dust on the floor and some of the tools (?) utensils (?). And of course needles soaking in some kind of disinfecting fluid. It would not be good to get sick in this area. A baby had been born the day before (on Children’s Day… surely a good sign?), so I was allowed to visit and take a picture. Then I had to take a picture of just about everyone, as they thought it was very cool to look at the screen. The building that houses this particular hospital is quite old (a few hundred years), and the walls are very hard cement and extremely thick. This meant that the cords leading to the lamps had to be secured along the walls instead of simply passing through them. I felt for them as I watched them bend several tiny nails while trying to nail little metal holder thingies into these fortress like walls. For those who are wondering about the usefulness of solar-powered lamps… the solar panel charges a battery which then runs the lamp. I think it is quite clever, and am overall impressed with the work that MDM does. They build stuff and train people, and do things that actually make a difference.

At around one in the afternoon, we packed up the boat and headed back to the mainland. It was another chilly and wet trip, but not too bumpy, and this time I even saw a dolphin! It was swimming along right beside us. Of course, it disappeared as soon as I took out the camera. We landed in a different place from our setting out, and Anna and I changed to dry clothes. We sardined ourselves back into the Land Rover (which has a snorkel device and can drive through water… very cool! I would love to see that), and headed back to Pemba along the potholed road which somehow seemed worse than it was two days before.

I regret to inform you, that this is not yet the end of this seemingly interminable update. I went to the university the next morning for this workshop, and discovered that the American expert had somehow boarded the wrong bus in Nampula and ended up in Quelimane – a few hundred kilometers in the opposite direction. The workshop was scheduled to start the next day. I was impressed with the university. It is bright, clean, small classrooms with desks set up in a circular fashion for seminars, and a well-organized library.

The next morning I returned for the workshop. There were about 6 teachers there, and one of them is not even a teacher of English, but was participating to add another number to the group. The American arrived in a full suit complete with a tie clip. I have never seen anyone in a full suit in Pemba. I was wearing jeans as it was a cold morning. The workshop itself was interesting… focusing on methodology and different learning styles and strategies, however, I have to admit that I have my doubts as to the usefulness of this kind of workshop. I feel the US Department of State could put its money to better use by organizing workshops for teachers that teach ways of dealing with the reality they are faced with. And modeling the teaching. Get into some actual classes, see what it’s like, and then show Mozambican teachers how they can do a better job. At one point, during a break, I explained to Fife (workshop guy), that I understood the theory of the different intelligences, but that I was having difficulty imagining how I could implement it in a class of 76 students. He responded that yes, that was rather impossible and then explained why he didn’t believe in big classes. While I completely agree with him that large classes are unacceptable in language learning, this doesn’t really help me, or my colleagues. I also explained that most of the secondary school teachers that I knew had no pedagogical training, and therefore any talk of methodology was new to them. I think his workshop was catered to university teachers, but I really feel that it is important to improve lower education so that higher education can then be improved. If students receive a poor primary education, then they aren’t prepared for secondary education. If they then receive a poor secondary education…. How can they then be expected to do well in university? One of the university teachers explained that they are now working on problem-based learning, which is great, but these students have not ever encountered this kind of learning before, so of course they are floundering. Then, most of the afternoon of the lecture was spent talking about the history of the English language. Interesting… but useful? I’m not so sure.

So that’s the update for now. Am having a lovely time hanging out with Marc and Anna, who are continuing on their trip soon. This week the plan is to plan classes and get to the beach as often as possible. I know the time will fly, so I must get as revived as possible before the second semester starts. It will be a busy time as I need to start the teacher’s course, and really get on the ball with this “Healthy Living Week”. By the way, I collected the questionnaires that I had randomly given out to students and teachers (I handed out 100, and got back 44) to test HIV/AIDS knowledge. Here are some of the stats on the answers.

Question: Can we be infected by HIV if the man withdraws before ejaculation? (Answer: yes)… correct responses out of 44: 18.

Question: Can two virgins contaminate one another when they have sexual relations? (Answer: yes… can have contracted virus in other ways)…. Correct responses: 36

Question: Can Lesbians be infected with HIV? (Answer: yes) correct responses: 21

Question: Can we contract HIV through oral sex? (Answer: yes) correct responses: 12

Question: Can we use a plastic bag if we can’t arrange a condom? (Answer: no) correct responses: 38

Question: Can we rid ourselves of the virus by having sex with a child or a virgin? (Answer: NO) correct responses: 34… 10 people said yes!

Question: Have you already had a voluntary HIV test? If no, why not? Responses: 13 people admitted to having had a test. 9 people said no because they don’t suspect anything, or have no symptoms of HIV. 8 people said no because they are afraid, either of hopelessness, or discrimination. Several said they felt they weren’t old enough for a test, and a couple of people said that they just simply didn’t want to know.

Question: Do you know anyone who is living with HIV? Responses: 17 yes.

May 28, 2004

OK, in my supreme jerkiness, in not writing for quite some time, I have missed some more important birthdays… so here are some more belated wishes…. HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAURA! Hope you had a good one in the windy city! HAPPY BIRTHDAY PETER!

Things have been quite busy here with the end of the semester. It has been interesting. Due to disorganization, I never really had a “conselho de notas” which is probably just as well. I had one teacher ask me to raise marks, but I told him that motivated students were welcome to come and request extra work to raise their marks. He didn’t really have an answer for that. Another teacher tried to tell me that he had “a case”, but I just double checked the mark and said, “No, this is the mark she got”. I could tell that he didn’t want to explicitly tell me why he wanted that particular mark raised, so I pretended ignorance as to what he was asking. However, I am now on vacation! Woo hoo! Except that someone scheduled a workshop for English teachers right in the middle of my vacation that I am expected to attend. Ah well. In the end I don’t really have any travel plans so it’s not a big deal.

My other current frustration is that there is one teacher at the school who insists I think of him as a father figure, as he was a father figure to Elizabeth. And every time he sees me he tells me how wonderful Elizabeth was. One day he told me that within 6 months she was speaking Macua fluently. The next day it was down to three months. Now, while I am certain that Elizabeth was volunteer-extraordinaire capable of juggling many large projects and able to learn several languages at once while simultaneously dancing down the street balancing a 25 gallon bucket of water on her head and teaching 1032 students perfect English… I’m a little tired of hearing about it. I’m sure Elizabeth will forgive me for saying so.

Oh yes. I also have a bit of a housekeeper situation. In that she wants more money, but seems to want to work less. I was planning to raise her salary a bit with mine, however, I am ticked off that her way of asking for more money is to first stop doing a good job and then complain about having too much work to do for the money. Apparently if I raise her salary the workload will somehow become more manageable. The problem with this logic is that it isn’t in fact… LOGICAL. Either the workload is manageable or it isn’t. I can’t seem to convince either her or that guard that I cannot pay them the same as the other expatriots who drive around town in their 4X4s and eat out 5 times a week. I had a “meeting” with her and the guard, and she actually said that I was like their mother, and they were like my children asking for money. Oddly enough, I did not come to Mozambique to mother a 40 year old woman with 6 children of her own. Argh. I have also decided not to advance her or the guard any more money for their houses. First of all, it’s not nearly as easy for me to shell out a million meticais whenever I feel like it as they think it is. Secondly, I’m not comfortable giving out an advance that pretty much ensures job security for them when I’m having enough trouble getting them to work as it is. And if they’ve already been paid for several months, what’s going to make them keep coming back? So I’ve suggested that instead of my advancing them money and then taking it off their paychecks, that I take it off their paychecks, and then pay them a lump sum later. They can’t seem to grasp that it is essentially the same thing, in a different order. Somehow they think they will be losing money my way, and getting money their way, and that just disturbs me more.

Yes… I seem to be a bit frustrated these days, but never fear. A vacation and some quality beach time will set me right again. And a couple of well-timed cervejas probably won’t hurt either!

May 20, 2004

Wow. It’s been a busy week, so please forgive my lack of updates! This was the last week of the semester, so once again I was bogged down with marking tests and compiling marks. I still have some marks to compile (and man, are they bad), and next week we have my first “conselho das notas”. This should be interesting. From what I can understand, it is basically about putting the marks from all the different classes together. All the teachers who teach a certain class (group of students) get together and write up the marks. Then they possibly discuss making changes to help a student pass. There can be a certain amount of corruption involved obviously, so this should be interesting. A teacher today told me that since it is my first time, I should just be quiet and accept whatever decision the other teachers make. We’ll see about that.

Anyways, after next week, I have two weeks holidays! Woohoo! I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I might take a short trip somewhere (my finances aren’t really going to go very far…), but otherwise I think it will involve a lot of beaching it! I definitely need to get out of town a bit though.

I feel like there was a lot I wanted to write about, and now I can’t remember! It’s cooled down quite a bit now, especially at night. I even wear a sweater and require a blanket at night! I bought a big bucket this week, because I’ve been having water problems, so now of course, the water runs almost constantly. However, I had some guests this last weekend, and it was pretty embarrassing to run out of water, and I don’t want to go through that again.

I also have some exciting news! I’ve just found out that VSO is going to increase our allowance starting in July, so that will make things a lot easier here. It’s not a huge raise, it works out to about a million and a half, but it will definitely make a difference.

I’m really enjoying my new computer. I love being able to watch movies. Now I just need to get some! I’ve been borrowing from Rui and Virginia.

I received a phone call from Christine and Paul the other day, so that was really great. I was having a cocktail at the Pemba Beach Hotel (5 star… normally way out of my price range but it was a one-time VSO volunteer bonding moment). It’s always so strange to think how far away we are when we are talking.

Tomorrow I have been invited to the beach with one of my classes. This should be interesting since currently more than half the class is failing English, so I’m sure I will be most welcome. They invited all the teachers, and I asked one guy if he was going, and he said no, because he didn’t want to get beaten up. I thought that was funny, but then I realized that I might not be too popular myself. Ah well… I’m not sure that not going will make anything any better.

Guess that’s it for now. For those people who thought I was nuts to run after Mr. Thief… you are right, but please note that I wasn’t alone. There was speedy Fidel and a less-than-speedy policeman right behind me. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy… yet.

May 13, 2004

Whoops. These updates are getting fewer and farther between… sorry about that. It’s the end of the semester, and I’m working like crazy. I feel like I have a lot to write about, and that’s part of why I haven’t written! This will just be a quick update to say I’m alive and well, and that tonight I’m going to watch a movie on my new computer. Woo hoo! I’m very excited about this. I think it is so cool that it made it all the way over here from Canada. Obviously I had a lot of help getting it here, for which I will always be grateful.

Maybe I’ll write a bit more. I’m starting to get into my role as a teacher more. It’s interesting to me that I’m doing this. For years I said I would never be a teacher. They aren’t kidding when they say “Never say Never.” I’ve had to eat that word so many times now… Next semester is going to be very busy. I’ll have regular teaching duties, and planning, but I’ve got several projects in the fire that will really keep me busy. This “Healthy Living Week” is probably going to kill me alone. I’m also going to start teaching teachers, and hopefully start an English club for interested students and teachers. These are kind of fun things, but time-consuming.

I’m also getting to know some of the other teachers a bit more. A couple of weeks ago it was “Dia Internacional do Trabalhador”. (Internation Day of the Worker???) So there was a bit of parade, an incredibly long ceremony where a few hundred people stood baking in the sun for no apparent reason (they really don’t know how to be concise here… short and animated would have been so much better than long and boring), and then a few teachers went to Murrebue (which is a lovely beach about 15 minutes from Pemba). I was the only female teacher, although this didn’t stop me from getting a bit smashed. It’s a good thing I’d made a pasta salad to bring along, as otherwise I would have been drunk and hungry. (Nobody expects the vegetarian! Surprise is our greatest weapon!) I was persuaded to bring along my guitar, which I played a bit, and allowed others to play with. It was a really nice day.

We also have a new volunteer in town. Virginia from London (England) is here to work with ADEMO, which is a social organization. She has the fortunate task of not only learning Portuguese, but learning Mozambican sign-language as well. I don’t envy her that! So Virginia and I went to “Ladies Night” at the Pemba Beach Hotel. We were a bit surprised at the price when we arrived (although considering it is a 5 star hotel, we shouldn’t have been…), but it was another great night that somehow ended up with me losing the little food I managed to scarf. It turns out that proliferous amounts of wine mixed with prawn cakes (for someone who never eats prawns), can cause a certain… well, rejection.

Next news… poor Virginia was here for 2 weeks before she got robbed. She had just bought a kettle and was walking back to Rui’s (she’s staying with him until they are finished renovating her house), when she was grabbed by a guy and relieved of her new kettle. She pushed him off when he started searching for money, and miraculously, he ran off.

At least I was here 6 months before I got robbed. Yes, it finally happened. The worst of it being that it was only two days after Virginia’s incident, and she was with me. There were four of us, including our program officer (hereafter referred to as Fidel) from Maputo who has come to check up and check in on us. It was about 7:30, which is dark. We had just gotten into a taxi, and I had my bag on my lap, when two hands reached in the window and grabbed my bag. I said “Fuck!” and tried to grab it back, but wasn’t fast enough. Fidel said “Get out”, and I opened the door, jumped out and started running after the guy while I shouted at a nearby policeman that this rather suspicious-looking man running with a bag had just robbed me. The three of us (me, Fidel, and the policeman) ran after the guy, me in front until I lost sight of him. Fidel and the policeman continued on for awhile but there was no luck. It was dark, and it seems he hid himself in a corn field. We went back to the restaurant where we were, and talked to the guard there, who said that this thief was well-known, and had even been in jail. People seem to think he has killed people as well. We aren’t sure why he was released, but we were advised to go to the police. It’s funny that that didn’t really occur to us as we know that the police are rather ineffective here. Anyway, we went, and I gave my report, detailing what was lost. Fortunately, the most valuable thing was the bag itself. Being a nice Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack. Dammit. Also, I had just borrowed the 2 “Moulin Rouge” DVDs from Virginia to try out on my new computer, so I feel pretty bad about that. At least I know the guy didn’t get any money or documents. The police station was an interesting story. As I’m giving my report, another policeman arrives (brandishing a pistol like it was a watergun – waving it about) with two men that he says are part of a group of three that included my thief. One of these men tries appealing to the policeman, offering him some money, saying he didn’t know anything about it, then suddenly he starts appealing to me, crying and saying it was his first time. He was bawling a bit, and the policeman who was taking my report told him to shut up, and when the guy didn’t shut up, he walked over and kicked him around a bit. It was like being in a really bad movie. Then the policeman who chased the thief with us (he’d kept on after we gave up) arrived and said he saw the guy running some more, and almost had him, but as he didn’t have a gun, the guy got away. Finally, I was told to come back tomorrow to sign the declaration. I went back today, but I’m pretty sure that’s the last I’ll hear of that. Everyone seems to know who this thief is, but they seem incapable of capturing him.

Anyhoo, that’s the update from here. I’m not really any more worried than I was before. I kind of expected that this might happen sometime, although it still really pisses me off. The guy had perfect-timing. Argh. Thank goodness for the fact that I always keep my valuables (cell phone, money, documents) hidden on my person in the handy-dandy purse that Kate gave me (thanks Kate!). That’s about it, I think. Take care!

April 24, 2004

Another quick update while I take advantage of the electricity. It’s been going off a lot lately. My freezer was completely defrosted this morning. I think I have to buy less food more often to avoid problems. The soup I made on Tuesday was garbage by last night because of the electricity cut-offs.

So I did go to the doctor. I now know that the trick is to pay for a special consultation, and then you get to see a real doctor. I even had blood tests. Which I had to pay for, but at least I know I had an infection and not something else. So then I was given a prescription for really expensive antibiotics. For my medical minded friends… I’m taking Clavamox, tirotricina (lozenges), and, of course, paracetamol. They prescribe paracetamol for everything here. I only take that when I feel really bad though. I’ve also managed to do something to my back. I’m not sure what, although I think I may have lifted a bucket of water badly and strained a muscle. It’s a bit better this morning, but it’s one of those pains where it feels like if I could just crack it the right way it would stop hurting. I’m missing my chiropractor now…

So, due to the lack of electricity, I even used the charcoal stove last night. It turns out that I’m really not very good at using charcoal. It took a very long time to get it hot. Ah well… I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity for practice!

Other than that… I taught my students the English version of “Frere Jacque” this week. I was teaching Present Continuous and thought… Perfect! “Are you sleeping?”, and “Morning bells are ringing”. We have an affirmative statement and a question! When I taught it to my first years, they loved it so much that I decided to teach it to all my classes. I even got them to do it in a round, and then they really got into it and started drumming on desks and even dancing. It was fun. Sometimes it even sounded pretty good.

Phew. The electricity went off without me noticing, and my computer crashed before I had time to save this document, but fortunately not much was lost.

I started reading a new book today. It’s “Swahili for the Broken-Hearted” by Peter Moore. It’s really fun and makes me feel a bit embarrassed about my paltry updates, but I’m really enjoying it. My problem with writing travelogues is that I have a terrible memory. This guy seems to remember everything.

At any rate, I did think of a couple of other things that I’d meant to write about and hadn’t.

I have had a couple of theological interactions. On the minibus from Blantyre to Milange last month, a young man was speaking with me when he asked me where I prayed. This is a fairly common question which I generally try to avoid. When I am unable to skirt the question however, I feel it unnecessary to lie, and I flat out told him that I didn’t. He was flabbergasted. He couldn’t understand how a person could go throughout life without God or religion. Apparently he had never met anyone without religion before. I stole an answer that another North American in Africa had shared with me. I said, “I’m a good person, and that’s all that matters.” The poor guy couldn’t quite wrap his head around that one, and he asked question after question. He wanted my address so he could correspond with me and understand my opinions. I was alarmed and told him that it was not in any way my intention to change anyone else’s views, but that I was quite happy with my own. I did not give him my address. This month I was meeting with some of the young people from Aro Juvenil (a youth group) and suddenly (perhaps not so suddenly as it was Easter weekend) Juvencio (who seems to be the leader) asked me if I prayed. He too was at a loss to understand my lack of religion. We were briefly sidetracked and then he decided that we would discuss it more at another time. It always surprises me that religion is so pervasive here. I guess I expected that the more native beliefs would be stronger, but here they have somehow fused their traditional customs with Christian or Muslim beliefs and rituals.

As an aside, Easter passed without notice. Friday afternoon was a holiday, but that was about it.

I was surprised to see that my guard was reading a Portuguese version of the New Testament the other day, and asked him if he was Christian. He said no, he is Muslim, but he reads the New Testament to remember stuff. I think he is mainly practicing reading. Due to his economic conditions he was forced to stop studying at school after 8th grade (I think he said 8th), and he reads anything he can get his hands on to practice.

I think I forgot to mention Mozambican Woman’s Day, which was this month. April 7th, to be exact. The reason I forgot to mention it is that although it was a holiday, and there were some banners around town, I never did see any of the ceremonies or anything. Hopefully there will be more to write about next year! Rui and I were invited to go celebrate with some of his colleagues, but in a very Mozambican fashion… that fell through somehow.

I borrowed Rui’s guard today to put together my bicycle. He has now taken off the wrapping and I have fully discovered how ugly my new bicycle is. I don’t know who designed the decals, but for some reason they thought that in addition to exclaiming in enormous letters the brand name of the bike (BINGO!), writing JUMBO OVERSIZED TUBING with a flaming soccer ball was both attractive and appropriate. All I can say is thank goodness I didn’t get the electric blue one. Sparkly brown is much more pleasing.

April 18, 2004

Well. I’ve been upbraided for my lack of updates… so here is a quickie. Yes, I am still alive. Not too much going on… I’ve been working. Everytime I think I’m getting on top of things, I realize that the work just never really ends. Ah well. If it wasn’t challenging, I wouldn’t like it.

I’ve got a bit of a cold. Being sick here sucks, because everything you read tells you to take every small illness seriously, but then if you go to the hospital, (which is the only way for me to come close to seeing a doctor), a medical assistant prescribes penicillin and aspirin, and tells you nothing. If my glands weren’t so swollen, I wouldn’t even think about it. Gar. I hate being sick.

Otherwise… I bought some rat poison for the mice (note the plural now), but the other day I found a cat hanging out on my balcony, so now I’m afraid that this cat will eat the poison, or the poisoned mouse. Is it true that cats know? And last night a dog hit us on the motorcycle. I’m not kidding. I was on the back of my friend’s motorcycle, and out of nowhere a dog ran into my foot. Stupid stupid dog. My foot is now bruised, the foot rest thingy on the motorcycle is now bent backwards, but the dog ran off after yelping. We couldn’t find it. Apparently this happened to my friend last year, but fortunately we weren’t going very fast this time (his foot was a bit more bruised than mine I think).

Oh yes! I bought a bicycle yesterday. I just tried to buy the lightest one I could find, and it turned out to be the cheapest. Hope that doesn’t come back to bite me in the ass. I just didn’t relish the idea of lugging a heavy bicycle up the stairs to my apartment. The only problem is that bicycles get to Pemba disassembled. The store that sells them sort of puts them together, but you need to hire someone to finish tightening everything up and tuning it up… but this particular bicycle doesn’t come with the tools needed, and nobody in the store does this. Everything here seems to be more complicated than it needs to be. Have I mentioned what I had to do to get a bank account? I needed to get the school to write a declaration (which had to be stamped… everything here needs an official stamp). Then I had to write a letter (thanks for your help Rui…) addressed to the director of the bank (oh mr. Excellent bank director guy…) saying I wanted an account and have it nicely typed. Then I had to fill in the forms, give a notarized copy of my passport, and give them a photo of me. A photo. This is for an account… this does not involve credit of any kind.

I think there was something else I was going to write about… maybe about the school? I can’t remember right now. Next time, perhaps. Here’s something that made me chuckle a bit. When I was in Mocuba a few weeks ago, Aukje and I watched the movie “Cocktail”. As the finishing credits were rolling I thought to myself “Wow, this movie makes me want to go someplace tropical…”. Yeah. Then I burst out laughing as I remembered “OH YEAH! I LIVE in a tropical paradise!” I’ve got to get to the beach more.

April 1, 2004

Another new month… time sort of seems to be flying here! Until I talk to my niece on the phone and realize how much she is growing. Sigh.

Anyways, a couple of interesting things that I’ve forgotten to mention. I was in the teacher’s lounge one day (a couple of weeks ago) doing some marking I think, and a teacher suddenly said to me, “Oh, the sports department wants your help with something.” And I said… “OK… what exactly?” And he said somebody would talk to me about it. The next day I happened to see a list on the school wall of people in the sports division, and it appears that I am somehow in charge of “girls in sports”. I laughed out loud as I stood there by myself looking at my name (“Cyndy” - all of the other teachers have full names, but I am just Cyndy). I have no idea what that means, or how that happened. Today one of the Phys Ed teachers talked to me and said how they had missed me during these meetings, and I said “But nobody talked to me about this… how was I supposed to know?” I just kept laughing. I still have no idea what responsibilities are associated with being in charge of “girls in sports”. It does appear, however, that I’m stuck with this title as I think I would look very bitchy if I refused. Part of me thinks I should just on principle (nobody even asked me!), but then this may be a way for me to get to know some of the other teachers. I think they just assume that I have all of the same qualifications as Elizabeth, but the truth is that she had qualifications in gender issues that I don’t have. A couple of more teachers have asked if I would be giving English lessons to teachers, so I have to start thinking about that soon. I’m not sure I feel ready to take on more stuff, but these people really don’t want to wait! Here I am just trying to get used to being “teacher” and they want me to start doing all this other stuff!

The other funny thing was that I was told a couple of weeks ago by the school director that I needed to go introduce myself to the Provincial Director. So I went to his office about 4 times before I left for Malawi (always missing him), and then again twice this morning. Then at 10:30 (I had a class starting at 10:35), I was called to the school director’s office and told that the PD was waiting for me. I said “But I have a class…” and the director said… “Just give the students a little work to do while you go, he’s waiting for you and if you don’t see him today, who knows when you’ll meet him.” So I had to quickly think of something to leave for the students to do, put their Chefe da Turma (Class President?) in charge, and dashed off to meet the Director. He talked to me for 5 minutes, welcoming me and telling me to not be shy about bringing concerns to him. Then I dashed back to school to try and regain control of the class. They weren’t too bad, and the Chefe da Turma was actually getting them to do work, so that was something. He was correcting their work, which was nice, except that his wasn’t totally right to begin with. Ah well.

I’m definitely feeling a bit refreshed after my trip… I’ve even started doing a bit of yoga again, and it’s not quite as hard to get up in the morning. I’m trying to get tons of work done this week, but it’s really never ending. I don’t feel as bad about the classes. I don’t know how I’m going to drill the information into them that they need to know, but at least I’m chugging along. I told all of my classes that I should never have spoken Portuguese with them because it made them all lazy. I also told them that I wasn’t going to speak any more Portuguese with them anymore. We’ll so how that goes. I told them that I understand what it’s like to take language classes and I told them that I I had French all through high school, and that I’d always wished I’d worked harder. Well... we'll see how that goes. Suddenly I feel all the frustration of all my high school teachers....