Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Note Worthy

Fidel Castro polo shirt sitings -----» 5

Osmin Bin Laden T shirst sitings -----» 3

Taliban bumber sticker sitings -----» 4

Number of anti american attitudes encountered ---» 0

Number of pro islamic extermist pro jihad mozambiquans ----» 0

Qual e a Çena????

lesson learned

He was the third vistor that day, "Acença" rousing myself from myn afternoon routine that I was trying, invain, to begin. "Acença" this time a little louder. "Um momento" retying the knot of my capulana, I have taken to changing out of my work clothes immediatly upon returning home. Whne I pushed open the screen door I was greate4d by the wide toothed smile of Davis, he looked like a sweet toothed diabetic in a candy store, gratifying a guilty satisfactrion. Davis is one of my favorite students, amibtions, intelligent, kind, most accurately likene d to a sponge - not the kind that is pilled and disengrated after one too many uses on stubbor pots and pans, but rather freshly unwrapped from its protective covering ready to absoard everything and take on the world. Offcourse his boyhood innocence, as I would have hoped, did not prevent the seeminly inevitable destination of all my friendships with men here. (I've tried to explain the meaning of platonic realtionships but the result leads me to believe that I am a complete failure as a teacher) Anyway, the story of Davis.

Two weeks ago I received a letter, slid under my front door, that had my name eloborately written on the front, the style of writing was foreshadowing for its fantasticaly dramãtic contents, confessions of undying love, and better yet a desire to present me to his parents as his esposa. While the formaily of the courtship was briefly flattering. His 'heartfelt' words only seemed to emphasize our cultural differences, further cementing my identity as Muzungo. I mean he doesn't even know my last name!

After a grueling conversation where he sate endearingly naive, his dark tear stained skin gleaming, as I explianed, in suprising clear portuguese, my idea of a student-teacher relationships, which is at most friendship. Then I had to dissuade him from switching schools and ensure him that he was not a disgrace to his parents.. (sounds like a plot to a spanish soap oprea) I couldnot help but take a bit of hpity on this boy, so fI left my hardline approach that has piereced the parade of pompous illintenioned suitors in the past, instead I found a honey coated tone to coax this impressionable student to understand the value of frindship. The whole ordeal was so dramatic, I had to stifile my laughter, it was as if i was breaking up with a long term boyfriend, but inforn t of me sat a 19 year old boy who i have known for 3 weeks... a bit absurd but i asure ~you this is just one of countlessstories female PCVs can recant.

So yes two weeks later was at my doorstep, per my request (as we had settled in to a comfortable friendship) to h~elp teach me portuguese. We began the lesson, but w~hen conversation lulled, and his material had run out, I accepted an invitation to visit a friend of his. The day was crisp reminscient of Vermont o fall, uincharistic for Moz, >I half expected to see mpale trees abalze and hear the whistle of a soccer refferee. (Instead I saw Mozambiquan~s bundled up in jackets, sporting varios types of hats, mind you it was a crisp 70 degrees!) Davis leading the way we turned lefot out of my house, with Zua in toe. We exchange the usual compliments with Donna Arminda, a sugar plum woman whoswe breast sag close to her belly button, the left starp of her dress is perpetually sliding down her thick arm, giving her a disheveled but matrinely look. Shem beamed and tried out her newly aprendou English greating, "good morning" Although it was afternoon I liet is slide, allowing my admiration to take precent over 'the grammar stickler in me' I am utterly impressed with this woman, rearing 4 children, working during the day, and continuing school at night ( I often see her studying by candle light) The womans day starts at 5 and ends at 11. Her situation is not unique the woman here have a resolute strength that I can only hope ot emulate after 2 years.

Next David and I passed a line of corn- every avaliobale space is untilized for subsistence farming, imagine suburban houses whose property is defined by corn husks and rice patties. The joys of practicality! Follwing the road out of Barro Seish exchanging compliments iun Portuguese and sena, we vered right at a small caminho, so small i had nver noticed it before, weaving are way through backyards as we buired deeper into this unchartered territory. Cement houses grew scarce, there is no order here, mud and caniço houses built in the same system that defines chaos. We arrive unbeknowest to me, at a 2 room half wood half cement house, a porch supported by discarded timber and covered with scraps of metal. Strangely radiated a homely feeling...

We were greatred timidly, I could tell they were wondeing what a whie girl was doing at their humble home, by a young mother laying on an esteara with her 3 children, the oldest was playing with the baby. Behind runing loses were goats, ducks, and chickens, my first thoug was this family is well off to have such an array of livestalk. An older woman, her face creased with lines thast indicated years of hard work and laughter. She sat akwardly upon a rickidy chair- waring a praire style dress, 2 sizes too big, with a rip in the seam that exposed her powerful upper arm. Her smile was mischevous, maybe it ws the missing front teeth? We began bater popa in portugeues- asking if Nelso was there... Then allof of a sudden with a gleam in her eye, the old woman belts out.
"He has gone to the neighbors to get medicine" in PERFECT English! I was bewildered, stunned, all i could do was whisper "?Como?" Did I just hear english from a woman who i was suprised she s~poke portugues.

She was born in MOz- but her husband was killed by RENAMO during the war. She fled with her children to zimbabe, they live hand to mouth, literaly eating what they had the capacity to grow. But this woman was more than a survivor she quickly7 learned English and got a job ina small bar, making enough to suport her family. She returned to MOçcambique becasue she recieved a small piece of land (how remains unclear) anbd now is staying with her borthers first wifes family, (families homes are an open door, no questions aske, no matter how distant the relations~)

We sat and chit chatted, a mixture of English Portuguese and Shona, dialect of descended from Bantu tribes near zimbabwae. (Well i only partcipated in the English portuguese part).-

I walked away from that conversation awe struck. I have only a cliche to offer... never judge a book by its cover.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Teacher Chelsea"

Its official i am a teacher... one month of teaching i think cements my new identity, and if i ever feel insecure about my status, all i need to do is walk out my door and i am greeted by a chorous of voices ranging for the pre pubscent shriek to a fully developed baritone, all saying the same thing "TEACHER", off course lets not sugar coat it, I also hear Mazungo, which means whitey or foreigner. I havent come up with a witty unoffensive response to that one, suprising, i know, im open to suggestions.

So i have found myself shying away for the blogs, feeling insecure in my ablity to capture my feelings and find the right words to do justice to this experience. Also i find it difficult to differniate what is important to talk about. Everything in my life has become so routine, its difficultfor me to remeber that this is not the reality, not even close, to the life's of my friends and family in the states. But I suppose the first step to feeling at home, is falling into a routine, so i guess, what i mean to say, is im progressing. But of course my routnine in Moz. is punctuated by the frequent lack of necsities.. ie i can not count on anytthing, i wake up each morning hoping that the water will run, and we wil lhave electricity... always keeps me on my toes. the frequent deprivation is not a complaint, rather i see it as a way to remeber the simplicity of life, and never to take thins for granted, and off course the opposing emotion comes hand in hand-- im grateful for each shower i take and cup of tea i drink. (Update I have given up coffee, ive been over 5 months with out it! if you told me a year ago, when i was working on the MoveOn campaign I could survive a day without 5 cups of coffee i would have laughed at you, with my latte in hand).

I've been struggeling with images of children in my village. They live in mud houses with out electricity, they wake up early to sweep the yard, carry 25 lbs of water on their 6 year old heads. They are with out toys or material possessions. But somehow my attention is always brought to their bright shinning eyes that radiate with a simple joy of life. I would like to think that its not that I lack compassion but rather, have changed the framework, the standards, in which i validate life.

I recently wrote this in my journal "With bare dirty feet, skinny bodies clad in clothese two sizes to big or two sizes to small, they run through the streets, dig through my trash pit, yelling in joy, using mother nature as their toy chest, this snap shot of children in my village has never envoked a feeling of neglect and pity, but rather reminded me of the power of generosity, love, and care."

A little more about school:

To envision my school, think of a prarie style house... the classrooms are all next to each other in a long row, 18 classrooms. but the hallway is outside, the doors open up to a veranda type thing that stretches the length of the building. Ie i have to go outside to get to my next classroom, although it helps keep the rooms cool, also makes it painfully easy for kids to cut class.

I arrive at school at 6:45, all the students line up infronot of the teachers, the teachers stand on the elevated veranda, and they sing the national anthem, no joke the anthem is literally 10 minutes long, and if the asst. principle isnt satisfied the first time they sing it agian! this country does not like formality... then they students mosey, walking quickly doesn\t exist here, to the classroom. first thing i do is call roll, easy you would think, but when you have 70 students, and you cant pronounce their names, it proves more difficult, and time consuming. its my nightmare the 10 minute attendance... so now we're 15 minutes into class time.

As for the actualy teaching i love it! Students think im crazy, I make the stand up, act out vocab words, bring in endless props, visual aids exc. My latest trick is using a hacky sack. when i want a student to answer a question in throught the hacky sack at them, saves time, and keeps everyone engaged and on there toes. Over all im enjoying my job. feels good to like what your doing. thats for sure.

Hard Knock Life... the good the bad the ugly.

1. zua, my puppy, proudly brings home different parts of animal carcus everyday, and deposits them at my feet like a proud daughter. The most revolting was an unidentfiable tuft of hairy skin, that smelled as if it had been rotting in the hot african sun for days (which it probably has)

2. I have had 4 ant infestions--- woken up with little ants crawling all over my body-- in the past two weeks. Try getting rid of a creepy crawly feeling and going back to sleep after that one.

3. Its been raining here for the past 3 days, and when in rains in Moz. life stops. Its like a killer snow storm in NYC. Its a liscense to stay in your house and do nothing, and you dont even have to call to break plans, its expected. beautiful!