Wednesday, November 20, 2013

House-Arrested Development

Provincial elections are today and as a result all of us are on lockdown for the day. So since I’m stuck in the house faced with laundry and lesson planning I thought it would be a great time to write about site placements.

Last week was the most stressed I’ve been since I arrived in Africa. After arriving from site visits we all had a long weekend of relaxation to look forward to with ample time to wash the pile of dirty clothes we accrued over the week--OH WAIT, I was thinking about an alternate universe where I have enough hours in the day. Let me start over.

After arriving from site visits we all had a long day of classes and then an entire weekend of permagardening to look forward to. What’s permagardening you ask? Well, I couldn’t tell you because I was so tired and hot and over it Saturday morning that I hardly paid attention. It has something to do with sustainable vegetable gardening and composting. Probably useful information but half of my group spent our time deliriously doing ridiculous activities like fruit ninja with real fruit and machetes, mango baseball and chasing chickens. Let me just say that real life fruit ninja is much more fun than the app.

The following week we were all supposed to be planning to teach model school (basically kids are bribed with food to come be our guinea pig students for a week), but with site announcements on Thursday everyone was on edge. My week went about like this:

 Lesson plan. Panic. Lesson Planning and panicking. Try to think of ways to make genetics fun. Realize that’s pretty much impossible. More panicking. Get sick. Puke for 8 hours on the hour. Spend the day dying in bed in a concrete house that’s kin to an oven in the African sun. Recover and lesson plan some more…also more panicking because site announcements are tomorrow!

When the day finally came to find out where I’ll be living for the next two years, we had our long day of core classes and they of course waited til the very end to hand out our site packets. We all lined up on the sidelines of the basketball courts outside of the school. On the court was drawn in chalk a giant map of Mozambique and all of its provinces. They handed us our envelopes and we all stood there like kids on Christmas Eve waiting to open them.
And the verdict is………

PANDA! In Inhambane province in the south, which is affectionately dubbed the Peace Corps Playground because of how close all of the volunteers are placed together. I am actually really close to a lot of great people, and I have a roommate and a site mate so I’m very happy with my assignment. I am teaching technology, which is not what I expected to be teaching or feel prepared for at all but in the Peace Corps there’s no way to know what you’re actually going to be doing until you’ve already done it. Also, I had a long conversation with one of the volunteers I’m replacing and he says that technology teachers are seriously needed in Panda so I’m happy for that. Also they apparently have a state of the art computer lab that was recently donated to the school so I’ll actually have computers to teach with, which is a serious advantage and a rarity here.

Some other things about my site: it’s kind of in the matu (bush, middle of nowhere, etc.) but only an hour and a half away from 2 beautiful beaches and an hour away from a large city where I can get things I can’t find in the markets. My house has electricity and is in a neighborhood with all of the other teachers at the secondary school. We have a latrine and a yard and I fully intend on having a dog, a chicken coop and a pig that I will fatten up over the next two years and have as barbeque at the end of my service. It’s also apparently very safe and the community is very welcoming. Overall I can’t wait to be there and settle in to my new home!

That’s all for now, I’m going to continue demolishing a bag of Jelly Belly’s that my family sent to me in a care package with two of my friends.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Two Words: Chicken Burrito

Site visits were this week, and it has been a cluster of events and emotions. Everyone going north of central Moz got to stay overnight in Maputo in a hotel that would probably have not met my standards a month and a half ago but now seems luxurious…mainly because of the HOT SHOWERS! Staying in the capitol has other perks too, like pizza and burritos and gelato and crunchy peanut butter and cheese and wine and the best coffee milkshake you can find anywhere! So yeah the perks mostly revolve around food and I think I ate more on Saturday than I ever have in my life. It was beautiful.

What was not beautiful was me on Sunday morning because we had to wake up at 4 AM to catch a ride to the airport and board a plane (if you can really call it that) to Chimoio. My host volunteer Jamie met us there in the PC office and after running some errands in the city we headed to Sussundenga. Both of these cities are in the province of Manica in the center of the country. It’s about an hour chapa ride from Chimoio to the lovely mountain town of Sussundenga. About halfway through the chapa passes through the market of a smaller village and you can buy produce from the vendors as they come up to the windows and try to entice you with their enticing selection of onions and tomatoes.

 Poor skinny dogs of Sussundenga.

The first full day in Sussundenga was nice because I basically got to see all of it...and because we had some delicious french toast. We walked about 6 and a half miles going around the lower half of the village and hiked a bit up into the mountains to look at the amazing view. We passed through all of the local mercados (markets) and at one of the clothing stands I found an ADII shirt from Baylor. Basically Africa is the end of the line for your clothes that got donated but never sold in America. They call them calamidades (literally calamities) and they’re pretty awesome sometimes.

The next day we walked around the top half of the village and I got to see the new secondary school and another gorgeous view. We ended the day eating dinner with a local family there. We ate rice and beans and I must say that you haven’t had rice and beans until you’ve had it here. Mozambicans definitely know how to cook beans.

I left the next day for Chimoio to overnight there with the other volunteers since we had such an early flight the next day. We spent the day in the city which was surprisingly nice. I don’t really like big cities, even in the States so I couldn’t see myself living in one here but after visiting Chimoio I really don’t have a preference one way or another. Despite it being urban we met a lot of nice people and the volunteers placed there seem to love it and feel at home. I also felt a lot safer than I expected to feel in the city. Also it helps to have pizza and soft serve ice cream available on command. Overall there were things I liked and things I didn’t about both sites, and I still have no strong convictions on the type of site I should request. Honestly I’m just ready to find out where my new home will be for the next two years!

Mountains in Sussundenga

On the way back from our lovely site experience we had a handful of headaches at the airport and then in Maputo at the Peace Corps office and basically had to hike across Maputo luggage in tow in order to catch a chapa back to Namaacha today when we were expecting to have another night at the hotel. But that’s Peace Corps for ya so whatever. As soon as I arrived back home I was tackled by my niece and nephew (who I recently learned are really my half brother and sister) and my sister Lidia and then Mãe. As soon as I saw them I was overwhelmed with how much I had missed them. I am so happy to be here, home with my family. And they made me my favorite dinner, Matapa!

So now I’m exhausted and we of course have a long day of core classes tomorrow, which I of course will not be paying attention to since we find out where our sites are this week.