Thursday, August 14, 2008

jump to conclusions mat

I walked into Oitava 2 on Monday, ready to do battle and was surprised to find 90 perfect angels staring back at me. At first I thought that it must have been my stellar teaching style but after a few seconds of thought, I realized there had to be something more to it. I went and talked to the teacher filling in as pedagogical director and my dreams had come true: he had yelled at them. Erin: 1. Unruly students: 0. It was honestly the most perfect class session in the world. I also found out the name and number of the student who had 'sassed' me and gave him a falta vermelha. I made a big show of it too by pulling him out in front of all the other students and marching him to the school office, borrowing someone's red pen and writing down his number and a big falta vermelha next to it in front of him. It wasn't hard at all to find out that it was him. I had already thought it was him and all the other students ratted him out. He had come late to school and his fellow classmates had even come specifically to find me to tell me that he was now at school and I could take action. I know that they only did it because they love to see drama. The student wasn't happy with me but I didn't care at that point.

I have found that I have a temper. I've never had any patience to begin with (for example, I was almost born in the car on the way to the hospital) and living here in Mozambique has been a good test of my patience or lack thereof. Nia and I submitted a pedido (a request) to the local government building to use the community stage for our Future Business Leaders competition on Saturday. I went and checked on it because it was taking forever to pass and surprise, surprise, they had lost it. Shocking. To make matters worse, when the man I was talking to called to check on it, he had a question for me and addressed me as 'menina.' Girl. At that point, I was so over talking with him. When we were done talking, I just mumbled 'obrigada!' in a very ungrateful way and traipsed out of the office. Passive aggression is my middle name. That's the second time they have lost a pedido. They lost Nia's when she was asking to paint a mural on a wall in the Vila for her JOMA group. I don't understand what's so difficult there.

I went to the Centro de Recursos (like a public library) to use their computer to print off certificates for the participants in our FBLM competition. I made the certificate and asked the lady for paper to print, giving her 5 mt to pay for it. I went to print it off and it didn't work because there is no ink. I then went and asked the exact same lady I gave the money to to print and she said 'yeah, there's no ink.' Why in the world would you give someone paper to print something off when there is no ink?! And when the other lady working saw that the printer wasn't working, she said 'oh, it's the cables. I don't want to mess with them. They confuse me.' I was like 'it's not the cables. You don't have any ink. Can I have my 5 mt back?' I asked that about 5 times and never got it back, so I just gave up. And then they said maybe it would print off if I used color. This one guy wanted to show his computer skills and took the keyboard and mouse away from me to make everything purple. I snatched it back from him and said I could do it myself. Even then it didn't work.

Planning anything here is frustrating about 90 percent of the time. We are figuring that out right now with this competition. People don't seem to realize that the money we are giving to the winning group to start a business is not our own money but the money from PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). One girl came to the house today and talked to Nia. She told Nia that someone had told her that the two American teachers have a lot of money and they are just giving it away. So apparently she thought that if she came to our house and asked, we would give her money. I was working with my REDES girls on making the capulana bags at our house Tuesday and a student told Nia 'wow, Professora Erin has a lot of money. She can buy all those capulanas!' Nia stressed to him that it wasn't my money but money from our organization. If the jump to conclusions mat from Office Space actually existed, people here would be professionals at that game. Example, if you are walking down the street with a male colleague, people automatically assume that you are dating and are doing more than just chatting. It makes me wanna pull my hair out sometimes.

I think we may have finally encountered the crazy man we had been warned about by our predecessors. I was alone at the house last week and this dirty man with no shoes entered the fence without asking first. That's a first clue that he's up to no good. And then when I noticed him and asked him what he wanted, he approached me quickly with a bag of leaves, asking if I wanted to buy them. No one approaches the doorway of a person's house. It just seems threatening to me now and against custom. He kept looking through the doorway into the house. I was pretty happy to have Timba there with me. I went into the house and shut the iron bars and told him I didn't want anything and that he could leave. The man didn't blink either, intensifying his creepy factor. Then, the other day, I was walking through the market with a bag of bread I just bought and he would not leave me alone, following me and begging for bread. He got to be a nuisance so then I turned to him and forcefully said 'DEIXA-ME!' and he left me alone. Yesterday, he was standing at the opening to our fence and I saw him first through my bedroom window. He just stood there, staring. Nia saw him and went out, telling him to go away. All he said was 'give me 10 meticais!' She shut the fence gate on him. If he comes again, I am going to tell him we are going to tell the police. I was talking to our embrigada and she said that he smokes something that makes him crazy. With the last volunteers, he asked for water and when the volunteer went to get it, he snuck in behind her and grabbed something from the house. So weird. I don't think he's harmful, just creepy and insane.

Our FBLM competition is Saturday and we are having the groups present their ideas to three local judges and then we also have performances of a couple music groups and a theater group on AIDS. It should be fun/stressful. We're both pretty excited to see it all through though. And then we are off to Ilha for the night to celebrate a fellow PCV's birthday. I'll post pictures next week of the competition for all to see!

Friday, August 8, 2008

yes, but a person who hunts hippos?

I have had a bad week of teaching. One of my classes is turning into demons. They are ridiculous! I do this thing where I try to get everyone to talk, in an orderly fashion, in english. Apparently, Oitava 2 is incapable of such lofty expectations. I had people standing up just to say 'When I grow up, I am going to be a such-n-such.' Well, of course everyone was chatting when students were trying to say what they wanted to be. I tried to remedy the problem by throwing kids out left and right. It got so bad that I threatened the falta collectiva...again. So I gave it...again. They are only allowed 7 absences from school in the year in order to remain in school. And then one kid said 'obrigado!' which means 'thank you!' Once I find out what his number is, he's getting a falta vermelha, which is pretty bad. I was ready to cry at that point but I didn't because you can't lose your cool in front of them. And plus that means they've won. So after class, I marched myself over to the pedagogical director's office and did what any self-respecting, frustrated teacher would do. I tattled on them. I talked to a head teacher and am currently arranging for a mozambican teacher to yell at them. They don't behave like this with mozambican teachers and that's what really frustrates me. Then again, they are usually afraid and timid in front of Mozambican teachers. Mozambican teachers, as a result of being overworked and never taught to make innovative lesson plans, usually just come to school with basic lessons that the students just copy and repeat like robots. If I were a student, I feel like I would appreciate a teacher who actually put effort and thought into lessons. Maybe that's just me. But all I know is that I've never wanted to turn around and flick them all off as much as I did yesterday.

I have been teaching them professions lately and that's been a trip. I gave them a list of possible jobs they might be interested in (electrician, teacher, doctor, nurse, driver, store owner, etc.) and then asked if they had any more titles they wanted to know the english name of.

This is how that conversation went.

Them: 'Pescador!'
Me: Fisherman
Them: 'Camponese!'
Me: Farmer
Them: 'Hippo!'
Me: Huh?
Them: Hippo!
Me: (in Portuguese) That's an animal.
Them: (in Portuguese) Yes, but a person who hunts hippos?
Me: (in Portuguese) You don't even have hippos here.
Them: (Shrug)

And then when I was going around the room and asking each student what they wanted to be, one of my students was just like 'CARRRRRRRRRR!' When I asked him to repeat it, once again, he just went 'CARRRRRRRRRR!' Oh, a driver? Yes. And then when I tried to get him to say 'I want to be a driver' I had to go over it syllable by syllable with him to get him to say it. And even then, he whispered. I dunno about that kid. Every time I look at him, he's picking his nose.

This is the board game that I made for students to practice their english. It has a bunch of Monapo landmarks and is appropriately titled English in Monapo. There's the Monapo Rio, the Mosque and Catholic Church, a herd of goats, women carrying a lot of stuff, a kid rolling a wheel and my personal favorite, a stuffed beyond capacity chapa at the chapa stop. The kids really seem to enjoy it, especially since the game pieces are pieces of candy. The winner takes all.

Here's an example of the bag that my REDES girls are going to start making. We will sell them for 50 MT, which is 2 dollars and then the girls can use 25 MT to buy another meter of material and the other 25 as profit. It sounds like women here will buy these so I'm interested to see where this leads. I am trying to get more and more ideas of things they could make that people here would use and buy.

And I also threw in this random picture of the market in Monapo. It's dead at the time in the photo but come dusk and the fisherman returning from the ocean, you've got yourself one bustling market.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I've got a fever...and the only cure is more duct tape

I have this problem of Timba always jumping on me and then snagging my clothes with his nails. One would think that I would be an expert at patching holes by now, but no. Instead, I've taken a liking to duct-taping my clothes. I feel that there are two plus-sides to duct-taping clothing. First, it mends the problem (no longer exposing any thigh in a culture where that's unacceptable unless you're a lady of the night) and second, it gives you that ragged, rugged look that screams 'Don't ask me for money! Look, tape is holding my clothes together!' I also don't wash my tennis shoes for the reason that I'll get asked for them and they're brown. Effective, yet brown.

I have been going jogging with Timba every morning lately. Know what's crazier than seeing a white person around here? Seeing a white person running with a dog on a leash. When people see me approaching, they stop what they're doing, face me completely and stare, mouths open. When I see children doing it, I stare back at them with my mouth open and that usually gets them to laugh. I can hear them saying things in Makua but I have my iPod on so it drowns out their comments and laugher; not to mention, my out-of-shape gasping for breath. Mozambicans love it when I punish my dog too. He does his jump and leap against me and I'm trying to break this clothes-destroying habit of his, so I knee him. Hard. He usually falls down in a pile on the ground and learns his lesson for about a minute. I did this yesterday morning and a man was laughing so hard!

This morning, I was walking back toward our house when all of a sudden a gang of dogs from a house came up on Timba and me. They were all growling at him and seemed ready to rumble, drawing a crowd of Mozambicans who stood there, just watching. I picked Timba up so they wouldn't try to fight him and kept walking. At that moment, I found out what was funnier than a white girl running with a dog on a leash. A white girl carrying a dog. They started laughing SO hard. I felt like the Paris Hilton of Monapo. I really want to take the dog to the market one day, wrapped across my back like a small child in a capulana, to see how everyone reacts to it. I already tell students that he's my son.

Students here believe anything you tell them. Nia told a bunch of students Arnold Schwarzenegger is her uncle and is coming to visit next year. Apparently, they got pretty excited. I told some students that Jean Claude Van Damme is my embrigado and it took 'em a minute to process what I'd said. Nia and I got a few students to believe that white people only bathe once a month. They're extremely gullible, which makes it fun to play with their minds sometimes. One student always draws pictures for Nia. He's pretty good at drawing and he came to the house the other day with a picture of me with Timba. He drew me with cut-off jean shorts, a catana (a sharp sword-like knife) and what appeared to be a powdered wig on. All that was missing what a coonskin cap and a burned out trailer behind me. Needless to say, he captured me perfectly.

I have had SO many people ask me lately why I'm not married. They are like 'how old are you?' When I tell them I'm 24, they don't believe me and think I'm older. 'But you are tall!' Tall equals old here. I have no idea where they got that from. I tell them I don't plan on getting married or having kids for a long time and that completely rocks their world. Why would someone DO that? When they ask me why I'm not married, I tell them a husband equals more problems. It's actually partially true if you think about it. I was reading a Reader's Digest my dad sent me and there was a fact in there from the University of Michigan that said that a husband creates seven more hours of housework for a wife each week. No, thank you.

I bought capulanas (the traditional cloth for women in Mozambique) for my REDES girls for a solidarity thing. They were pretty fond of the idea and when we walked out in the community with them on, everyone got really curious about what we were doing. We went to the market to buy more capulanas to start making more things to sell. They're pretty stoked about that idea. There's such a lack of innovation here and I would love to get them thinking of things they could make here that people would be interested in buying - something that doesn't already exist in seven other stores. My dream or big goal is to get them creating items that produce income and something that can provide money for them to continue their education or at least lead good lives. It's so hard to get them to think of new things! That's one of my biggest challenges with teaching and being a leader of this girls' group.

That's it for this week. I'll end on this quote I read in that Reader's Digest my dad sent and it gave me a chuckle.

'At what age do you think they tell a highway it's adopted?' - Zach Galifianakis