Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today I went to the craziest, most hilarious aerobics class ever. It made me so happy to be in Mozambique. Let’s back up a moment and appreciate the fact that there is a gym in Maxixe. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen here. Located on the main road, you might not realize it’s a gym at first glance. One might be fooled by the large neon “Laurentina” beer sign, but rest assured, it’s a gym slash bar. From 5 am to 9 pm six days a week, you can come and work out on a handful of machines that more or less work. There are also daily Caporeira and aerobics classes. And afterwards (or before) you can grab a drink at the “fitness bar.”

I like aerobics classes, so I was curious to check out the daily class. About 15 mins past the start time, right on African Time, the instructor enthusiastically jogs out of the “fitness bar,” turns on some bumping techno music, and an aerobics class like I’ve never seen before begins. Becky and I joined a small group of girls, and followed our instructors lead as he grabbed a wooden pole, held it above his head and started jumping around. For the next 30 minutes, we jumped and flailed our arms to some awesome disco tunes.

I always wondered what a Mozambican work out video would be like, and what kind of motivational sayings would keep you going. I didn’t expect to hear “You are now one step closer to achieving that bikini body you’ve always dreamed of!” in Portuguese. I don’t even know how you would say that. This guy just kept repeating “Bonita! Bonita! Bonita!” And it was not enough just for him to yell it, he wanted confirmation. Him: “Bonita?” Me: Bonita!. There were also a few “mais forcas” and the attempted English “you must not reduce it” (I think referring to the speed, because he was on turbo speed the entire time). The hopping part finally ended, there were a few variations on abdominal exercises, and some high speed stretching, before he called it a day. We all confirmed it was a beautiful class, and he headed back to the bar. I move on to do some weights, and I see him standing above me, Laurentina in hand, asking if I will be back tomorrow. Ummm…without a doubt!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I spoke too soon in my last post about a few things. First, the house is not such a fortress, as it turns out. I feel like all I am ever writing about are break-ins, but I have one more to report. One night when we were not there, and while our guard was I can only presume to be sleeping, some guys took off the metal sheet that is our roof, and climbed in through the hole in the roof. So that was pretty much the last straw with the Chicuque house. We are now living with a Mozambican roommate in a nice house in Maxixe. This new house has a TV with speakers and 2 stoves and a huge refrigerator and freezer and is a 2 minute walk from pizza and ice cream, but it’s still a really tough adjustment. I don’t like living in the busy city. Even though there are kid neighbors here, they are not as cute as my Chicuque kid neighbors. I can’t sit around the house here without my new roommate thinking I’m being antisocial. Oh well, I’m thankful that I’m still able to teach at the same school and I feel safe in our new house.

Secondly, you know that super cute doggy in the last post? A week or so after we moved into our new house, she disappeared. Asking our new neighbors if they had seen her, they replied with a nonsympathetic ‘Oh, she either got stolen or run over by a car.’ Haha, silly Americans that care about pets! So in summary, I am 0 for 2 on dogs in Mozambique. I need to stop.

In exciting news, my parents came to visit! It happened really quickly. Just as I was thinking they were never going to get around to visiting, they bought plane tickets and 2 weeks later, I was picking them up in Swaziland! This was my 3rd time in Swazi (I’m kind of obsessed with the place) so I feel like with this visit, I had perfected the Swazi trip. We stayed in the wildlife sanctuary in Mlilwane where we went hiking and horseback riding. We did a day safari thing in Mkhaya where we saw a 4 day old baby rhino, got super close to a bunch of elephants and even saw the elusive black rhino. We also used the rental car to our advantage, and did a lot of craft shopping, to my dad’s delight. We spent the last night in the cutest bed and breakfast ever. After 5 days of tranquil, beautiful, easy transportation Swaziland, I thought my parents were ready for Mozambique. We took a bus to the border, had lunch with my host family, and we boarded our first chapa. It is one thing to describe a hot, overpacked, legs crunched up chapa experience, but it is another to experience it. My parents had a pretty legitimate first trip as we sat in the back and watched them repack the dozens of crates of eggs and sacks of rice and then the people over and over again before leaving. From the capital, we took the fancy bus where you are given a snack box back to my site. Having my parents come to school was really fun. Everyone was excited to meet them and practice English with them. I gave a test one day. I thought my parents presence might discourage some of the cheating efforts, but no, they were able to see the many cheating techniques in practice. After one thorough day of teaching, we were ready for break, so we went to Tofo beach for a few days. Unfortunately, it rained a lot, but they did get at least one nice beach day before heading back to my site. I taught a little bit more, we visited my neighbors and friends in Chicuque, and before I knew it, 2 weeks was over and I was saying goodbye to my parents for another 6 months. Overall, it was an incredible trip and I am sooo happy they were able to visit and see for themselves what my life is like here. And I am very proud of them for trying new things (thank you dad for not spitting out the young coconut), the great attitudes they had the whole time (even when certain park employees won’t let you our certain gates because you don’t have your pink slip and you almost miss your safari) and their immune systems for not getting sick. Even if they whole trip had gone horribly, it would have been worth it just to be with my parents after 1 year and 8 months of not seeing them.

Oh, and I found out I am done on Nov 22!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I am still here! Just got busy with I don’t even know what for a few months. This is what I’ve been up to:

- Schooling. This year teaching is going really well. I like most of my students. They still cheat like crazy, a fact I’ve chosen to ignore to save my sanity. I’m pretty pumped about my new proctoring technique. I bought some big sunglasses and I sit in front of the room and stare straight ahead. No one can tell where I’m looking, so it really freaks them out.

- Took my best little kid buddy to get tested at the hospital and he’s HIV positive. This led to a series of frustrating mornings waiting at the hospital and a realization of how horrible the healthcare is here. I’ve been trying to work with his grandma to make sure she understands what is going on and can take care of him the best she can.

- We got another puppy. I know I really should not be a dog owner, but after a series of security incidences, I don’t want to be told ‘well if you had a guard dog, maybe that wouldn’t happen’ anymore. So our house now has a fortress-like wall around it, and little Lucy Pa is ready to bite the head off anyone who tries to get in.

- David came to visit. We took Mozambique by storm. He came to my school and saw me teach (he can vouch for me that I actually do work from time to time), and then we went to lots of beaches. We swam with the whale sharks in Tofo, relaxed and sang ‘Just Around the River Bend’ while canoeing in Linga Linga, and took some fantastic model shots on the deserted island of Santa Carolina.
- Now I’m just getting my stuff organized for a busy next few months. We’re doing science fair again at my school this year. I’m hoping this time around I get to just sit there while my counterparts do all the work. We got a donation and I’m going to buy some awesome lab supplies that we can use. I am also starting to go to the hospital to do artsy craftsy stuff with kids while they’re waiting around forever.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Year 2, week 1 teaching….SO much better than Year 1 week 1. I was looking over my lesson plan notebook from last year, and it was embarrassing. So difficult to read. I wrote out every little word I was going to say and it included things like ‘We are going to have a lot of fun with science this year!’ and ‘You need to help me by telling me when you are not understanding-there is no such thing as a dumb question.’ So different this year. I walked in and was like ‘Listen up. I talk; you pay attention and don’t look me in the eye.’ Ha, I’m kidding, that would be really mean. But I did try not to smile much and talked about rules and left out all fluffy things like ‘science is fun’. And maybe it’s just because it was week 1, but the students were so quiet and all of them were paying attention! I don’t know how much longer I can keep up the really strict act though, because they are so small and cute! Maybe another week or so before nice Professora Stefania comes to class…

We had a real break in, more than just spices, right before school started. When we were out of town, someone broke my window, bent back the grate, and climbed on in. They absolutely ransacked my room and took the most random stuff ever. Luckily I had all my important electronics on me, but they took my good America toiletries and America trashy magazines and America work out videos. And rice and margarine and all but 1 box of matches. So that was disturbing. I really do not think Mozambicans appreciate the same ‘bikini body’ that those work out videos aim to achieve. What a waste.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Best December ever. This blog is going to take the form of a timeline.

November 29-December 1: I arrive in Nairobi. I was jumping-up-and-down-excited to see David when I got off the airplane. We spent a couple days in Nairobi, which is a lot like America. Shopping malls, Christmas decorations, chain coffee shops, sushi, heaven.

December 1-7: We drove to the Mara (that’s what the cool kids call it) where David does his research. If you ask David, he’ll tell you he camps out in the middle of the bush and you’re supposed to feel real bad for him. There are tents, yes, but there’s also a Philoman, the amazing chef they stole from a resort to cook for David and his campmate, Jeff. Philoman makes the most amazing salads with roses carved out of tomatoes as garnish. We also had chicken fingers with dipping sauces, calzones and garlic cheesy bread. Clearly, I was a little bit obsessed with the food. There were animals too. I went along for morning and evening hyena observations, which were awesome. David and Jeff schooled me in the ways of the hyena, the smartest animal ever. We also saw lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and tons of antelope type things that I can totally differentiate between now. My time in the Mara culminated with a rocking Christmahannakahkwanza party. Including an amazing and carefully selected dance mix, jello shots made in the water quality researchers’ new sample freezer, and a photo shoot Tyra would be proud of, some have called it ‘the bush party of the year.’

December 7-15: Sad to leave Kenya, but excited for the rest of our trip, David and I took the overnight bus to Kampala, Uganda. There, we went white water rafting on the Nile. I didn’t really put much thought into this before doing it; I think if I had had a clear understanding what ‘Class 5 Rapids’ really meant, I might have backed out. Our raft flipped over like 4 times (when we practiced getting back in the raft pre-trip, I thought this was a precautionary safety drill, but no, quite a practical skill). So that was terrifying. Then we went to the Budungo forest because we wanted to go chimp trekking. Through some bad information from Sharon, the crappy travel agent, we ended up out of money in the Budongo. With some begging from me, and attempted sweet talking from David, we got to go chimp trekking. You don’t always see chimps, but we were determined to. After 3 hours of walking around with no poop, calls or anything, the guide turns to us and she’s like ‘are you guys ready to go back?’ David: ‘we’re fine!’ She looks at me, ‘are you getting tired?’ David: ‘we never get tired!’ Even with that kind of dedication, still no chimps 4 hours later. It’s a good thing I never get tired. After that, we went to Entebbe, a small town on Lake Victoria. It was beautiful and we ate at the best Chinese restaurant where you could lounge on lawn chairs and sing Christmas music at the top of your lungs. If you’re ever in Entebbe, New Chinese Garden. Look it up.

December 16-18: The 14 hour bus ride seemed soooo much longer during the daylight. Back in Nairobi, we spent the last couple days just chilling out. We went to a movie theater (oooohh and awww here!), ate really good Ethiopian food, went market and souvenir shopping, and revisited the sushi restaurant. My last night, we hung out with some friends, played some cards, and overall behaved ourselves. J SO many great memories made and incredible sites seen. Thanks, DSG!

Are you still reading? Because my December-o-fun has not ended just yet!

December 18-30: My aunt Terry flew into Maputo the same time I flew back from Kenya, so we met up at the airport. Such a great feeling seeing her bright smiling face! We spent a couple days in Maputo before heading back to my site. I’m going to skip over the hellish details of our transport on this particular journey, because it got worse. In Chicuque, Terry got to meet and fell in love with my favorite constantly dirty neighbor kid. We were only at my site a couple of days, but it was great being able to show her what my life is sort of like. For Christmas, we headed to a really nice beach resort in Vilanculos. It was beautiful and relaxing and a wonderful way to spend Christmas. Con: We had a really nasty Christmas Eve buffet. I don’t know who was doing the buffet planning menu, but all of the dishes had fish and potatoes and cream. But the host was nice so we had to pretend to like it. Terry is really good at lying through her teeth. Not to mention sneakily making unwanted food disappear. Our last fun adventure was Swaziland. Terry got a real taste of traveling in Mozambique at its worst. We got on a bus at 3 in the morning. I noticed after we started moving that the sides of the bus would shift going over every bump in the road. Upon closer inspection, the vehicle was barely hanging together. The windshield was cracked all over, and on the super bumpy road, was shifting back and forth a good 3 inches each way. To ameliorate the dilemma, the bus guys started shoving rolled up newspaper in the ‘problem areas’ and taping the windshield together. Now on top of that add chickens, a worm, body odor and hacking crying babies and you can imagine how excited we were when we arrived in Swaziland 17 hours later. Once in Swazi, we stayed in the Manzini Nature Reserve, one of my favorite places ever. You can walk around and see zebras, impala, and tons of other smaller animals in the most gorgeous lush setting. We also went on a day safari in another park where we saw tons of rhino, elephants, giraffes and hippos. And I’m not supposed to tell anyone how 2 young gentlemen tried to pick us up one night. That never happened.

And so concludes my Best December Ever. It would have been wonderful to go back to the States and spend Christmas with my family, but I’m really happy and appreciative that I was able to take this time and travel and see more of this spectacular place. The annoying girl on the rafting trip said it best: “Africa is the coolest country ever!”

Friday, November 20, 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve written. We’ve been done with school for a while now, and have had about a month of ‘wrapping up.’ National exams, correcting of exams, grades, etc. Lots of long days that would have been so much shorter if we would embrace the magic that is excel. We have computers and people that know how to use them here at our school, but everything is done by hand instead and checked over like 5 times before its finally recorded. I was at school 12 hours straight yesterday just reading off grades. That’s about 8 hours longer than my normal work day. And I have become very accustom to my half work days. The real world is going to be rough after this.

In other news… We had a couple girls from the new group of volunteers come visit our site for a few days. It was really fun to meet some new people, and it gave a lot of perspective on how I’ve changed over the past year. I have become way more lax about stuff like bleaching my veggies and boiling and filtering water. And pretty disillusioned and negative with a lot of things happening with the school system and different NGOs here. On the plus side, I am really proud of Portuguese progress and the fact that I can reject marriage proposals in 3 languages.

At the end of the month, I leave for Kenya! I am so freaking excited for this trip! David’s picking me up from the airport, and we’re going to spend about a week at the reserve he works in. I have been promised champagne hot air balloon safaris and a christmahanakwanaka party. It really doesn’t matter what we do, I just need a break from Mozambique and need some quality hang out time with David. Then we’re going to take the bus to Uganda and go white water rafting and go see some more animals. When I get back from my trip in mid Dec, I’m meeting up with my aunt, Terry in Mozambique. We’re going to do some traveling around and have a fabulous Christmas. It is going to be a wonderful month.

I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving and takes some time to think about all we should be thankful for. And eat some pumpkin pie for me!