Model School and Road Trips

It’s been way too long since I last sent an email, I apologize! I have been so busy. The Peace Corps does not allow us to have any free time during training but I am glad to be kept busy; it means a lot less time to be homesick.

For the past few weeks they have been preparing us for model school. Every day we are divided up into Science, English, and Math teachers and we are made to design lesson plans.

At first, I thought this was useful, but now it is pretty pointless. We are currently designing lesson plans for classes with 5-10 kids. However, we will actually be teaching to 60-130 kids. (It depends on how rural our town is).

I guess it will be useful to practice my horrible Portuguese because for the past 3 weeks I have had the worst language tutor. I failed our 5 week language test – which just means I will be pulled out of model school and given more language class with a different tutor.

I just got back from site visits and if you have not looked at a map, Mozambique is HUGE! For training, we are about as south as you can get. But I traveled to the Gaza province and was right on the coast. The beach was gorgeous and the two days we were able to go, there was no one else on the beach. I got a beautiful tan and no, I do not miss the snow AT ALL.

The only culture shock I have experienced so far is the attention. If you are white, and especially if you are a girl, you receive so much attention. None of it is negative but if I walk down the street to the market, I will be greeted by everyone I pass. Good morning, good day,good night, how are you, where are you going, every single second. Everyone loves you here and it’s a little different where they are used to seeing white people since this has been the training site for about 5 years. But when I traveled to the Gaza province, I was cornered by a man for the 3 hours on the chapa (a chapa is essentially a ghetto taxi where they pile in as many people in a small van as possible) asking me to marry hie. He would not let it go even when we got to our stop and I was trying to get off. He grabbed my arm and tried to convince me to stay on the chapa and go to the church right now. Otherwise he was going to tell his family that all Americans are racist.

Most of the time, the men are joking and just think it is hilarious to make a woman feel uncomfortable. But for some reason I seem to attract the extremely serious men who get offended when I deny them and call me racists and say I hate black men. (Keep in mind that all of this is in Portuguese so there is a
chance I am misinterpreting what the men are saying to me – but most of the time I am pretty spot on). So far, all the volunteers I have talked to, say this is pretty typical. The majority of the men are harmless and will tease you to dance with them or try and get you to kiss them and would never make any other unwanted advances.

Moving on from that! I spent the last week in a town about 6 hours away from here. I stayed with a volunteer who has been here just over a year and has been teaching English. The best way to describe the volunteer, Shannon, is she is extremely integrated and has forgotten how to behave around other Americans. Her house has three rooms, one small room for a kitchen, dining, living area and two bedrooms. It was not homey at all and they only had two chairs and a table in the main room. She had electricity but an outside latrine that was not usable at night because of bugs. The cockroaches apparently get really aggressive once the sun goes down and literally attack you if you went to the bathroom.

She has a Mozambiquen roommate and boyfriend. She was really nice but not sociable and did not make us feel comfortable in any way. We bought all the food, which we were given extra money for, so that was not a problem. But she did not let us know that we were feeding her boyfriend and a few
other people. So we were constantly running out of food and buying more, which would be easy to fix in the states but here the market is a 20 minute walk and doing it in the dark is out of the question. This week was the first time I was hungry in this country.

We were able to see the clinic on Monday but not for long because they were extremely busy. Mondays are the designated days for women that are pregnant or with newborn babies to receive care. The only question I was able to ask was how many tests for HIV they give out per month. They give out over 300 tests and at least 25% come back positive. They do not keep track of who is coming in and taking them so it is possible that the same people are constantly taking HIV tests. HIV has a horrible stigma here. It is very common for someone to lie and hide the fact that they have HIV from their family and friends. IT is also very common for a wife to go get tested while the husband is away, receive treatment if she is positive but stop taking medication once the husband returns. A lot of the men work in South Africa and end up sleeping around and contract HIV.

Tuesday we spent the day at the beach and Wednesday we escaped to a different site. We met up with a group of other volunteers staying who were living in a small paradise. His house was small but beautiful and furnished by the school. He had three couches, a nice counter and running water. He even had running hot water! However, most of us will be staying in a house like Shannon’s, I am hoping I get a little lucky with at least having an American roommate. I think what I have found to be the most important is having a comfortable space that I can be American in and I can escape to.

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