Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Year Two!

So Iºm slightly embarrassed that my last blog post was in August 2011. Oops! I will try, try being the key word, to update more regularly. I am back in Moz. after a wonderful 3week visit back to the states and am on the downhill of my two year service. Time is going really fast! I am still teaching-a lot more hours this year, thank goodness- and itºs crazy how much easier this year is compared to last year. I am already prepared for all of the students little tricks and Actually speaking Portuguese helps A LOT. For example, I came into one of my bigger classes-made up of nearly all 18+ boys and they were all yelling, running around, and  basically trying to test me and then after 5 minutes of teaching I looked around and everyone was dead silent. haha! I have learned how to be tough here Ç= I am also very involved after school with my secondary projects. We have started up our girlsº soccer team again this year and it is already going much smoother. I am working with the new p.e. teacher who is Awesome and really involved! We are also doing really fun things with our REDES group-group for girls- and have been getting a lot of outside interest from local women in the community who want to help work with the girls. This is Amazing because it means the group will be sustainable!! We are also starting a new English Club slash English Theater group which Iºm excited about. It is going to be slightly hilarious at first, because no one really speaks THAT great of English...but it should be a lot of fun! One of the projects iºve been working on for the past few months has finally come together-an English curriculum for my school. This year will be our trial run for the curriculum at our school, but we are also finalizing plans to start up an English program for people in our community-which will also be based off the 3stage curriculum. We have been talking about this for Forever but we are now in the financial planning stages-which gives me hope that it will actually happen haha! Iºm still running and have been teaching myself to play the ukulele in my spare time...itºs taking me a reallllly long time because I keep starting up and stopping. haha! Some very exciting news for my personal life-I am finally learning how to cook!! I think that it is a miracle. For anyone that knows me, or has lived with me, I am very disinclined in the kitchen and prefer to spend my time eating rather than cooking. But this is all changing! I have been using the toaster oven that my sitemate left me-itºs changed my life-and have been baking slash cooking up a storm. I hope all is well with everyone back home and that you are all enjoying the cold-ish weather. Iºm still sweating it out here Ç=

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I'll have the Big Mac Meal, please.

Had an amazing visit with the fam! Only low points were when a herd of wild buffalo came stampeding towards our car in Kruger Park and when there was a forest fire a few yards from our hotel in South Africa. hahaha. Mozambique was peaceful and calm-it was so wonderful being together :) Everyone here is obsessed with my fam- 5 of the brothers have taken up the roles of my family members, so every morning I am greeted with "good morning my daughter" (said my Bro Daniel).

The girls soccer team has finally picked up major speed. We have started playing against the Escola Secondaria da Moamba and the girls even have official team uniforms with our school's name on them (they are the boys old uniforms but hey, it's a start and the girls LOVE them). It has just been pretty amazing to see the transformation that something as simple as a soccer team has produced. While at first I had to fight every practice for a ball, space to practice etc, we now have the boys on our side. There are two boys who are actually helping to coach the team (the girls listen to them and do the drills so I am SO happy!), and the other boys come out every day to cheer on the girls during practices, which we now have 3times a week. 2 female teachers have also joined in and play with us during practice (I play now too which everyone loves. hahaha. They were so shocked that I could actually play) which has been so much fun. The other day while we were playing, I looked around, saw the girls and professoras playing, and seriously at least a hundred boys crowded around the sidelines cheering-it is crazy how the attitudes have changed. During our first 2 big games we lost BADLY (5-0 and 5-1) but it has only helped to motivate the girls, and the boys too (they want the girls to win!) and it's really cool to see so much participation. The one goal that we did score during our second game was really awesome-it made the entire game for the girls. Afterwards, you would have thought we had won the game because they were all so pumped! It's just really great because it's changed from something that I felt like I was pushing to something that everyone, girls, boys, teachers want to continue. Amazing :) We are also up to 4 balls (thanks to my mom's donation!) after our 1 and only ball exploded during a practice.

July has been a month of serious traveling for me-had 3 conferences back to back..to back. The first one was in Maputo, were I helped to plan out our REDES conference (conf. for all of our girls groups) which was a cool learning experience to see the behind the scenes aspect of having a conference. I have been thinking more about if I want to try for a leadership position (just not sure because of the stress levels) since the volunteers of moz. 14 are leaving and my group will be taking over. Then I headed up to Maxixe in Inhambane Province (10hrs north of my site) for a Project Dev. Management Conference. It was fun because we all brought a counterpart (PC's word for a Mozambican that we work with on our projects) and there were only 20ish of us in all so everyone got a chance to really participate.

I briefly returned to site where the bacteria in my finger came back for the 4th!!!!! time. So horrible. This was definitely the worst that it's ever been-so bad that everyone at my site, who normally say that my finger things aren't a big deal, was like "OMG you need to go to a hospital" hahaha. Which is what I ended up doing-finger was doubled in size, with some lovely green lesions all over it. So, I got to experience my second surgeons visit which was a tad bit worse this time, since he didn't numb my finger at all before cutting out the spots. Quite painful. But thankfully, things are much better now and I am feeling confident that the stupid thing is going to stay away for good! So parents, don't be worried :)

I then continued to the REDES conference which was once again in Inhambane Province-in Barra. So incredibly beautiful. Our hotel was really remote and right on the beach. We stayed in little beach huts which were super nice and as always, the food was amazing! The conference was made up of 10 volunteers and counterparts with 2 girls from each group (120 people total). It was so empowering, not only for the girls but for us as well. We spent our days (conf. was a full week long) in sessions talking about topics ranging from sex and gender, to HIV, to planning for our futures. We also had mini sessions every day, my friend Peggy and I led one about Public Speaking which was cool to give the girls opportunities to speak in front of a group, confidently. We also had a time set up for 2 of the days for HIV testing-which for the girls that got tested was a Huge step. Overall, although very tiring at times, the conference was really great because it was a safe space for girls to discuss whatever issues they wanted to, and to feel proud to be a woman. I definitely left feeling proud- one the trip back to site some guy was trying to cut us in line for the chappas and I literally almost backhanded him, I think because I was on a power high. hahaha. It was also just really fun for the girls to meet other girls and woman who are self confident and who want to change the gender standards here in Moz.

Now it's back to the grind in Moamba. I'm still teaching and am starting a new project with two of the professores here to create an English Program for our school. Since I am the native English speaker, I’m the head of our group and will be in charge of creating a school wide curriculum as well as monitoring the classes of the other 2 professores to make sure that we are all on the same page. We'll see how it goes...

Hope everyone is doing great back home and enjoying Summer! We are ending winter here (I’m actually ready for it to be hot again, although I’m sure I will regret feeling that way as soon as the scorching begins) and I’m starting up on a new running plan. After my fam's visit (where I ate McDonalds 4 days in a row) I was thrown off my wake up early and run schedule (we slept in until like 9 ha-ha) and due to cold temps I found it easier to stay in bed than to run. Because of this, and the 3 confs(so much easier to pack when not including sneakers and running clothes)I haven't been running for seriously like the last 3wks. But, I have started again and am feeling pumped!

 I am hoping to make a visit back to the states in December of this year, so hopefully I will be able to visit with as many people as possible. Love you all :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Since my last post, i've completed meu aniversario (bday) and it was so wonderful! I got to hangout with my friends from PC in Maputo and also had two parties here in Moamba. Everyone was so nice to me-the bros threw me a surprise celebration during class and sang me songs (they learned the songs in English-of course it made me cry haha), accompanied by the guitar. Everyone gave me these awesome handmade (super elaborate) cards and little gifts that were really nice. I finally got to experience first hand the dramatic birthday cutting of the cake. It is hilarious. Everyone sings to you and takes pictures of you while you cut the cake (as if you were cutting a wedding cake-two hands on the handle) and you are supposed to look serious while doing it...

We are wrapping up our first semester and only have a week left of classes. I have been giving out my exams and grading papers and just assigned my extra credit assignment. I have started doing this so that the kids can try and improve their grades on their own (instead of relying on the 3 tries system of my school). Grading my Formacao Humana class has been interesting-i'm pretty positive this one kid thought that I just wouldn't be able to read his Portuguese, so all of his answers were completely bogus. He promptly received a zero. haha. Since we are done with actually learning material, I decided to use our last classes to watch a movie in English. I chose Remember the Titans because I hadn't seen it in a while and thought it might be cool to show the kids what football is (prior to watching the film they would always talk about what a sissy sport football is) and also to promote discussions about racism, which the film highlights. I realized after watching the film with my first class that it really wasn't the best choice for helping the kids to learn proper English-the film is filled with serious southern accents and slang. hahaha. But I was pumped because I acted as translator for my class and it was actually really easy for me-a marked difference from my translation of Mulan a few months earlier.

Padre Pierre is back from the Congo (after 2 months away!) and it's really great to have him back. He has the kids at school behaving :) Also, he brought me back two capulanas which are really pretty (i'm going to use one to make into a dress and use the other one as a towel). Capulanas are seriously my new fav. material. They make amazing clothes, towels, sheets, baby carriers, etc. So great!

Once this week is over I will have my first experience with the schools grading system, which I have heard can be rather intense....so we will see what happens. After that I have over a month off. Not sure what I'm going to do with all my free time. But....the final countdown has begun...my family will be here in 18 days!!! South Africa here I come!! I have just learned from talking to other people here that apparently S.Africa is freezing. I had no idea. Looks like i'll be investing in a heavier jacket after all. I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to summer! Send some warm thoughts my way because (I never thought i'd say this) Africa is cold...ish

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Força!

Since arriving in Moamba, I'd heard a lot about this thing called peregrinacao (pilgrimage) and decided that I should participate since everyone seemed so into it. All I really knew was that people walked from Boane to Namaacha (where I lived during training) and that it was around 50km. This distance meant nothing to me since I had no idea how many miles 50km was. The reason for the pilgrimage was unclear to me-although I found out after the fact that it is a yearly pilgrimage to the Church of Fatima in Namaacha in remembrance of when Mary appeared in Fatima. This year there were 3,000 participants!! But back to the beginning…I gathered with a bunch of students, the irmaos and priests and piled into the back of a flatbed truck that the school uses to work in the machambas (fields). Let me just emphasis that the truck looked like it could fall apart at any moment. We took a back road (to save time) which no one uses anymore, probably because they don't want to die. haha! I was holding on for dear life and hoping that I would make it to Boane alive while the students were laughing, singing and dancing. We arrived in Boane and broke into smaller groups to start the trek. At first it was great. We were snacking on bananas, chatting, and I thought to myself, "This might not be so hard after all"… Big mistake in my thought process.

I was wearing flip flops for the journey (because everyone told me that wearing sneakers was the worst thing that I could do-something about hurting my toes??!) which shows how unprepared I was. We started the walk pretty late (5pm) and it immediately turned dark. After about 3 hours I was really starting to feel the pain and didn't think that the walk was so much fun anymore. I asked how much further we had and someone guessed "10km." Once again I thought to myself, "Okay, you can do this. Just 10km more". Another big mistake.

We had 27km to go. I thought I was going to die. haha! Throughout the walk, I experienced feelings of physical pain that I never knew were possible. I was literally forcing my body forward. Every part of my body hurt, I had huge blisters on the bottoms of both feet (which popped halfway along-thank goodness- it actually felt better afterwards), and was just plain exhausted. The road to Namaacha is completely uphill (with two downhill exceptions) and is known throughout Moz. for its "mountainous" terrain. By the end of our 7hour walk the people in my group were literally pulling each other along. It was actually really amazing to witness the way that everyone came together. Instead of complaining, everyone encouraged one another the entire time. Literally no one complained. At all. Even though everyone was limping…The walk was also filled with singing, which really helped :)

Another thing that kept me motivated was the stories everyone told me about "Adams” the previous volunteer from 5 yrs ago. Apparently he had a lot of struggles! A lot of people here have the unfortunate misconception that Americans are unable to complete hard physical challenges so it was nice to show everyone (all the people that had acted shocked that I was going) that I could actually do it. We then spent the entire weekend at church activities-which were all jam packed. During the services it started raining and was pretty cold but everyone kept singing and dancing :) To end the weekend, we had a candlelight processional throughout Namaacha. Unfortunately, I could still barely walk so I went home early and passed out. haha! I got to stay with my host family, which was so wonderful!

Random story concerning my host family…The day after I arrived, I was scolded for not using the Vaseline that they had left out for me. I had no idea what they were talking about but obeyed when they told me to lather my entire body in Vaseline in order to make the aches go away. haha. I have no idea why-but it actually worked! I felt a lot better afterwards! So bizarre.

Lastly, I would just like to express my admiration for people that run marathons. Like I seriously don't understand how it's possible!? Oh and ps. 50km converts to 31miles J

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bring in the Cake!!

Back from the Reconnect Conference. It was so wonderful to hear all the amazing stories that other volunteers had to share-I left feeling ReMotivated! It was also really fun to get to go out with everybody in Maputo! We went out to an art gallery, danced to live jazz music, went shopping, got ice cream, and ate lots of delicious food! So fun! Unfortunately, I managed to come down with a pretty nasty stomach bug (my two roommates also got sick, which made for some pretty interesting times-shout out to Pegs and Michelle!) but still continued to eat because the food was too good to pass up. haha! When I returned to Moamba, everyone made sure to point out how Gorda I had gotten (before I'd left I was given a scale to "help manage my weight" haha this is the smallest i've been in years so i'm not overly worried). I am definitely going to have some pretty thick skin by the time I leave! Which reminds me- I'm not sure if this is bad or not, but i've started saying "yes" when people ask me if I have mosquito bites on my face. I'm just sick of explaining what acne is and if they are going to keep assuming it is mosquitoes I figure I might as well just go with it :)

I've started teaching the 3rd yrs and I Love it! I am also teaching Formação Humana (Humanities Class) which is ALL Portuguese! It is still super intense for me-I have to write out everything i'm going to say beforehand so that I don't blank out during class. But I think it will be a great opportunity to strengthen my speaking skills! I have decided to make this a laid back, experimental type class since there really isn't a curriculum and i'm the only one teaching the class. I want to break from the traditional Moz. (teacher centered) style of teaching and make it more of a group focused atmosphere. We will see how that goes...On the first day of class, we did a trust building exercise with a blindfold. So funny! My first class totally didn't get it...but by the 3rd class it was a huge success. So I think I just need to keep trying activities out even if they don't succeed at first.

This past weekend I celebrated my first Easter without my family (also my first Easter without an Easter basket...) which made me a bit sad but luckily Páscoa is a big deal here, so I was kept very busy. I tried to explain to everyone things like the Easter bunny, dying eggs and Easter egg hunts but everyone just looked at me like I was crazy. Here, everything was centered around the church. Which was actually really refreshing. On Good Friday everyone went to a 3 hour service (mainly spent kneeling and rising while praying for various causes) and then went through the stations of the cross. On Saturday there was another 3 hour mass (at 10pm) for people that were being baptized. Then on Sunday the women came decked out in their finest capulana dresses, while the men wore suits. I was fashionable in my new green capulana dress :) haha. During Lent, the church stopped singing joyful music and stopped playing the drums. For Easter, all the music came back and it was awesome! Everyone was singing and dancing in the pews-loved it. After mass I went to a baptismal party which lasted all day. We sat around cooking, eating, drinking, and chatting. I ate SO much food. Something very typical of my overall experience here in Moz. is that they had ME bring in the HUGE baptismal cake (in shape of a bible). Thank goodness I didn't drop it...

Soccer is coming along! Finally have an official school roster (15 girls) and am working on team uniforms. The girls are pumped :) I think that we are probably going to get killed when we actually play the other Secondary School in Moamba, but I think it will serve to motivate the girls to Actually practice. haha! We have some girls on the team who are naturally talented and during practice I  have started to see actual strategies and passing-so I'm feeling pretty hopeful about what the girls will be able to accomplish!

So excited for my family to visit-can't wait to spend a week with them in South Africa (Krueger Park) and then show them around Moz!! If anyone wants to send me any wonderful presents- i'm sure my fam wouldn't mind bringing them along (haha). On that same note, I've heard that sending packages from the Post Office and buying the flat rate box actually works. I talked to a volunteer who has received All of her packages! Also, don't forget to write that it's to Irmã Kaitlin and that you are sending "school supplies"...this all helps to minimize theft. Okay, that's all for now...i'm off to make a snack of banana, peanut butter sandwiches (showed them to my roommates and they LOVE them!). Love everyone so, so much and hope all is well back home!!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's been how long??!

I have been here for over 6 months! FINALLY I feel like everything is starting to come together :)

A month ago, I was feeling really unsure about myself and about my peace corps experience as a whole. Thankfully, things have picked up incredibly since then. Throughout the past month, I've been doing some Serious soul searching and because of that was able to remind myself why I joined the peace corps in the first place. I think that hitting a rough patch was really essential in my growth as a volunteer (and as a person in general) because it provided me with the opportunity to Really stop and think: Why the heck am I doing this? haha. And I have found through a renewed interest in the whole integration process-which at times can definitely be a struggle- that I am doing what I want to be doing and that I am really am lucky to be living out this crazy adventure :)

Firstly, I would like to announce that I am finally healthy. haha. No more weird finger cast. I am still running (can't believe it!) and am battling my fear of dogs. They are just so freaky looking! School has been out for a week for a break in between semesters and it's been pretty quiet with all the kids gone. I am actually excited that they are returning today. This upcoming week I will also start teaching the third year students (equivalent to 10th grade) who have up until now been off working. The whole process reminds me of a mini-internship program. The kids go to 8th, and 9th grade and then for 10th grade start out working in whatever field they've chosen (ie. electric work, carpentry, agriculture, etc) and then finish up the year with regular classes and then graduate. After graduating, instead of going to university (which is really hard because of costs) they use their internship experience to find work. I am just excited because now I will have more hours and I actually really love teaching. I am finally learning how to effectively control my classes and am super proud of how well my students did during the first semester. My school has this (kinda bogus) rule that students are allowed 3 (!!!) retests-because they don't want kids failing, and thankfully I had very few students who had to take more than one test. Also, my turma (which for a while was making me want to scream/cry) is now behaving themselves really well. Thank the lord :)

Soccer is still in the beginning stages-mainly because the girls HATE to train. They only want to play. "Teeeeaccchher let us play. Only have little time" is something that they are constantly yelling. haha. But I am just happy because we have SO many girls who are interested and seeing them loving their 2 hours of play time a week makes up for the headache of communicating with 40+ verrrry excited teenage girls (Sozinha, I might add). Also, in my gender class I showed Mulan, which was a HUGE hit. haha So fun!

The U.S. Ambassador (Leslie Rowe) of Mozambique came to visit me at my school. She was really, really nice and it was really cool to see her interact with all of the students. I was very proud of my class that got the chance to ask her some questions-they all pre-prepared (I made them. haha) questions in English and when it came time to ask the questions I could tell that they had really spent time making sure they knew what to say. Everyone was really blown away with how good their English was and it definitely meant a lot to them!

Moamba has finally started to get semi cold! I have actually been sleeping UNDER my sheet. So, so, so excited about that! It feels similar to the beginning of fall in Georgia (except for around 1-3 when it's still hot enough to wish it was appropriate to wear a swim suit and nothing else) which makes me really happy. Everyone here thinks it is SO cold-we're talking heavy winter coats, scarves, boots. It is hilarious.

I am also very excited because I have finally started making Real friends. My Portuguese is now good enough (don't get the wrong idea, i'm still quite terrible) that I am able to have real conversations and I have found myself really laughing with people like I would back home :) I just think about how I felt 6 months ago when I could barely say, Hi my name is Kaitlin and now i'm actually going out with people and having A lot of fun-with all the communication in Portuguese. Kind of mind blowing for me. A major step up in my Portuguese came this past week when I went to a week long conference in Maputo for new teachers. There were about 20 of us and we spent 8 hours a day in meetings (all in port) and I actually understood pretty much everything that was said! Even gave a presentation in front of the group. I think it helped that they were all super supportive!

For anyone that has seen my facebook updates-the wildlife here is getting rather intense-with bats, amphibians, and more insect encounters than I can count. But, I think it's just another part of the experience that is making me stronger.

I am REALLY excited because in only 2 months my family will be here.!! Can't wait! I am pretty sure though that the community is even more excited than I am. I hope my family is ready for the paparazzi experience that is bound to occur (minus all the cameras of course. haha).

Also excited for the weeklong conference that is happening at the end of this week (16th-21st). It's our reconnect conference for education volunteers in the South and we are staying at Kaya Kwanga. It's the resort-like hotel that we stayed at our first two nights in Mozambique-so I'm really excited to get to go back! Everyone back home get ready for some serious skype dates. I want to see everyone's beautiful faces :)

Okay, I am going to go because I have lots of laundry to hand wash. Continue calling/texting/packaging and I hope that things in the US are going wonderfully for everybody! Love y'all!




Friday, March 18, 2011

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars"

Wow! This has been a crazy week! I am writing from Maptuo where I am staying while recovering from a finger surgery (result of a skin bacteria infection. gross.) that I had earlier in the week. The craziness really started last Thursday, when I accidently electrocuted myself. oops. haha. I was making french fries on our hotplate-esq-stovetop and made the terrible mistake of eating my salad while doing so. I ended up stirring the oil in the frying pan with my metal fork and the result was me a few feet back and the fork on the opposite side of the room-after receiving an intennnse shock. I really wish someone had been there to film it bc it was a weird experience! After that, I noticed I had some bumps on one of my fingers...which I wrongly assummed were just some bug bites. By Sunday night I was sick with chill/fever and came to Maputo the next morning. I ended up in a clinic in Maputo where I had surgery to remove the spots on my finger. It really felt like I was in a scene from an African documentary-really old looking hospital room with a few roll beds. I was really impressed with myself though, because the surgeon only spoke portuguese and we were able to communicate perfectly fine! Super exciting :) After the surgery they wrapped up my hand in a ridiculous cast and even made me wear a sling. When I returned to Moamba on Wednesday everyone FREAKED out. haha. Everyone was super worried-just because the bandages make it seem WAY worse than it actually is. haha. Now i'm wasting time in the peace corps office catching up on some tv (except I can't figure it out because it's a really high tech one so it's stuck on this one channel with weird alien shows. haha) while I wait for my (hopefully) last medical apointment.

This post is kinda doom and gloom but this has pretty much all i've been up to this past week. haha. Hopefully something more exciting will happen next week :)  I love everyone a lot and hope things are going great back home! Also, don't forget to keep the letters/packages coming :)

PS. The title of my blog post is a quote from the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (sent to me by the lovely Jessica Applegate). I am kinda obsessed with this quote right now because I feel like it is really representative of my time here in Moz. (so far). My Peace Corps journey really is a rollercoaster ride-with some of the highest highs and lowest lows i''ve ever experienced in my life. This quote helps me to remember to enjoy every single moment-even the tough ones-because it is in these moments that I have the (sometimes forced) opportunity to learn more about life and myself.