Friday, August 28, 2009

Running in Pajama Pants

We have had our close of service conference and are now counting down the months and days until it’s time to leave Mozambique. The conference was great because we got to see all the volunteers from our group one last time together in Mozambique. And there were mini-pizzas, chocolate mint mousse, kabobs, cake, granola and cheese (cheddar and feta). It never fails to amaze me, my fixation on food options when they are available. But in terms of the conference, it makes me sad and happy all at once to think about going home. Mixed feelings were to be expected. There is a whole chart on what our emotional rollercoaster is supposed to look like throughout and after our service and so far, it’s been fairly accurate. Apparently, I’m going to be very depressed in a few months. Fair warning.

My students have been saying, “Senhora Professora, you need to stay!” or “why do you want to leave Monapo?” It’s hard to explain to them because they have never left their homes to go to a completely different country and culture. I just tell them that I miss my friends and family. I told them that I would come back one day to visit and I hope to live up to that promise.

Along with the usual questions of “why are you leaving,” there is another question that often follows. “What are you going to do with your computer? With your bicycle?” Many people have asked to buy my computers from me. I was considering giving my computer to the library project but I’m afraid that someone will just take it if I give it to the school. I explained to a school official that I was thinking about leaving it for use in the library by the librarian in keeping track of the book inventory and a library user system, but he just laughed. “No, you will give your computer to me.” Um. No. I will give my computers to people who want to genuinely learn and not use the computer to show off the fact that they have a computer. I will probably end up giving them to responsible students or a responsible colleague who could use it. I would never sell them. In terms of the bikes, the dog and weather got to them long ago. The wheels are rusted from being in the backroom and in his fits of lonely rage, when I left the dog in the backroom, he tore the seats off and chewed on them. Now, the bikes work as a protective buffer between the dog and my roommate’s art group supplies. He loves paintbrushes.

I'd say I spend a good percentage of my day trying to figure how to outwit the dog. He refuses to stay in the yard and while I’m washing dishes or lesson planning, I will hear “MUALAPUA!” and then a scream and running feet. Mualapua means dog in macua. They run like he is going to tear their face off but he usually just stands there, sniffing garbage or staring at a herd of goats. He has only chased someone a few times and it’s usually because they provoked him or because they are running, which in his mind means happy fun playtime. He was chasing a kid one time who was throwing rocks into the tree next to our fence to get maçanica (little, gross apples, in my opinion). I think he misconstrued it as the kid throwing rocks at him. Lo and behold, I look out the windows and the kid is running like a sniper is after him, running in zigzags with the dog trailing closely behind. He found refuge in the bar next door. I threw his sandals to him and told him not to throw rocks anymore. Lesson learned. The other day I was in my room and the children at the school next door were singing the national anthem before school started. Besides their little voices singing about “nossa terra gloriosa” (our glorious land), I also heard a goat stampede. The dog was chasing a herd of goats across the school grounds in front of about 500 children. How embarrassing.

I have a student, Hermengildo, who is an “indisciplinado.” That means he’s a class clown and jokes around a lot during class. I told him he plays bad, like my dog, so I named him after my dog. And now all of his friends call him that. It’s pretty funny actually. He came up to me the other day “Senhora Professora, everyone calls me Timba now!” He laughed about it though. I told him it was a compliment because Timba is pretty, clean and strong. I didn’t say anything about the dog’s fixation with and consumption of fecal matter.

It’s weird. You give a student a nickname and it sticks. One kid was literally hanging out the window one day. I called him a “passarinho,” which means “little bird.” Now everyone calls him passarinho. If he’s not in class and I ask where he is, the other students say, “he must have flown away.” I honestly don’t even know his real name. With 350 students, it’s hard to keep them all straight. I do love catching students not paying attention during class and surprise them by knowing their names and having them answer my question. “Senhora Professora, I didn’t perceive what you said.” They want me to repeat myself. If you know me, you know I hate repeating myself. I then say, “I don’t perceive why you didn’t perceive what I said.” That just tends to confuse them more and they stand there, staring at ceiling until I take pity on them and let them sit down.

After the conference and plates of food, I can feel the extra junk in the trunk so I’ve started running the past few days. I have decided, once I get home, that I want to try to run a half-marathon in the spring so I’m going to start training now. A full marathon scares me. That’s for people who wear really short shorts and have chips inserted into their Nikes that sync with their iPods to track their progress. I’m more of the “running in pajama pants, tripping on my shoelaces” type. I have plenty of ideas of what I want to do when I return home, none of which are concrete. I need to take the GRE for grad school applications and get a job or two to save money. I haven’t decided exactly what I want to go to grad school for but I’m thinking something along the lines of international development or something involving writing. Who knows. That might be a firefighter or ballerina tomorrow.

I have been considering applying to a program called JET while I submit applications to graduate schools. It’s a one-year teaching contract in Japan. I would apply for a position as an assistant language teacher that would start in July or August 2010. You work with a Japanese counterpart to help them in teaching English and supervise extracurricular activities. I have enjoyed working with youth in Mozambique and teaching English at the same time. Japan seems so beautiful and has a rich history, so it would be a great place to live abroad, doing similar work. It would be much different than Peace Corps because you actually get a paycheck and the living conditions are better. And I wouldn’t need to take a malaria prophylaxis that makes my hair fall out. And I’d learn Japanese. I’m down for a challenge though. It’s just an idea right now, but if I don’t end up doing that, I will surely find something else that sparks my interest and doesn’t make me shed like a Labrador.

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