Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bend It Like Encyclopedia Brown

We just finished the week of ACP exams in Monapo and we all know what that means. We got to play a little game I like to call “close your eyes and point your finger and you’ve got yourself a cheater.” We aren’t even talking about good cheating. Slick 007 cheating. Ocean’s 11 rig-the-deck cheating. No. This is the type of cheating where they see the teacher looking at them and throw their notebook back on the floor. Or the notebook is on the floor but they page through it with their toes. There’s also my favorite: blatantly sitting on the notebook. You can always tell because they might as well have brought a blanket and picnic basket. They don’t tuck in their shirts so that the fabric will cover any corner of the notebook that is peaking out. Also, they look slightly uncomfortable when you walk past them, give you a side-glance or are sweating more than what is seasonably acceptable. When I would yank a notebook out from under a student like the golden egg from under the goose, a look of shock and horror would appear on their faces.

“Senhora Professora! I didn’t cheat! I don’t know how that got there! That’s not my notebook!”

And then I joke that they were probably sitting on the notebook so they could see the board better. They continue to argue with me and the amazing thing is that they actually seem to believe they did nothing wrong. They are just that desperate to pass without doing any work. All of the teachers control the exams of other teachers. We just pass out the tests and keep an eye on them. The teacher eventually comes in and explains everything. I can’t help but feel sheepish when the teacher comes in to explain and I’m standing on a chair, looming over the students in my dark sunglasses, red marker in hand. The teacher usually appreciates it though and backs me up when the students try to complain to them that I’m actually marking down who is cheating and talking.

The students have this trick of not telling you their name after they cheat and not writing their names on the test,so that they can go to the teacher of that discipline later and say that they were sick that day and couldn’t take the test. I have found a good way to combat this problem. I steal from the students. They don’t tell me their name or are suffering from temporary Alzheimer’s? Fine. Osvaldo doesn’t get to wear his shoes on the long walk home. It’s virtually fail proof (unless I worked in a nursing home). When they want their shoes or their random personal belongings returned, they have to go and talk to the teacher. At the end of one test, my tote bag looked like a middle school lost and found.

They take two tests each day for ACPs and one day I controlled 11th grade exams, it was bloodshed. I was handing out “cheated” on tests like a shoe salesman getting commission. After the break between tests, I walked into the room to find a message scrawled on the board.

“Erin – you can not enter this classroom anymore! We are not asking – we are ordering!”

Frankly, I was flattered that they spelled my name correctly. Now if only they would stop spelling English as “Inglesh.” I was hoping for a skull and crossbones. Or at least a Mr. Ick. But alas, we can’t have everything we want in this world.

Life has been amazingly busy between planning a conference in the city and school. I have been dealing with a man who works at a venue in the city where the REDES conference room and food will be provided. I should have known what it would be like to deal with the man from this place (I will call him “half pint”) when one of the first things he asked me when I talked to him in January was “are you married?” I have learned that I just need to lie and say yes in hopes that it will squash the possibility of future discussion of the topic. The problem is that you can tell men you are married, but that isn’t good enough. They need to see your spouse as a conjoined twin at your side, like some warped TLC special, in order to leave you alone. Half Pint attempts to flirt with me each time I go to discuss conference logistics, making me want to shove his stubby tie halfway down the paper shredder in the corner of the office so he can sit there and think about what he’s done.

I went to stay at a friend’s house the other week in an attempt to get more accomplished and in the morning, as I was walking out to the road, I flagged down a chapa to take me to the center of the city. Well, lo and behold, Half Pint was behind the wheel of an SUV directly behind the chapa. He waved for me to come so he could give me a ride. I couldn’t say “oh no, thank you. I much prefer this smelly, dilapidated excuse for public transportation.” So I hopped in with my belongings strapped to my back. The bulk of the conversation went like this.

Half Pint: “I like you a lot.”
Me: “Is that a soccer field over there?”
Half Pint: “When I think about you, I feel frightened by how much I like you.”
Me: “Sporting is a Nampula team? Or is it Benfica? Or are they both?”
Half Pint: “Fright. I don’t know why. Strange, isn’t it?”
Me: “Soccer is a good sport.”
Half Pint: “I like you a lot. We should have dinner the next time you are in the city.”
Me: “I am married.”
Half Pint: “I sense that you are bothered when I talk about how I feel for you.”
Me: “I am married.”
Half Pint: “We should have dinner.”
Me: “I eat dinner with my friends when I’m in the city.”
Half Pint: “You are bothered?”
Me: “Yes.”

Yes, Half Pint is a true Encyclopedia Brown of female emotions. I feel like the closest I could come to him understanding that I don’t like him is by punching him in the face, and outweighing him by a good 50 lbs., I am fairly certain a sneeze would suffice in steamrolling the little feller. I just have to put up with it for another month. Until then, he isn’t charging me for the use of the microphones and sound system.

Speaking of dogs, Timba got his rabies vaccination. So if he bites a thief and they start foaming at the mouth, I can wave a piece of paper in their face and say it must have been something they ate. I was relieved to find out that it wasn’t our town veterinarian but a veterinary technician who was available. The man had gin on his breath but hey, he was a dapper gentleman in comparison with the other guy. I had to pin Timba to the ground while he shot the dog up. I couldn’t plaster the little guy down the whole time and he got up, snarling at the tech. I always love getting a front row seat to Mozambican men yelping like little girls. The man picked up his feet and ran like a collegiate marching band’s half-time show to our front gate and I had to talk to him through the door to have him drop off the paperwork later. Part of the injection ended up on the ground, which the dog promptly lapped up. This is Africa. Waste not. Want not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,

I stumbled upon your blog while just playing with words on google. My name is Erin as well and I will be looking for a job abroad within the next year. I enjoyed your blog.

I always hoped that children in others places would be better behaved than our children here. However, I guess they dish out the same mess in other countries as they do here. I teach a bilingual class in TX to 3rd and 4th grade students. I often talk to myself outloud b.c of all the things that I'm trying to balance (which makes me think that I'm on the brink of needing some mental help).

when you said that someone called you Irene it made me laugh b.c when I travel to mexico, there is always someone who can not pronounce Erin and calls me Irene. Your story of the man who just does not get that you are not interested in him also resignates with me. There are men here who do the same (they are often foreigners). But, I also remember men in Mexico who would come up to me and flirt even though I was clearly not interested and they confessed to having a family yet would still ask me out. Truly annoying. Well, I look forward to reading more. I would like to learn from your experiences and I hope that I will be as outgoing and positive as you are.

Erin Rosemond