Disclaimer

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

T-Shirts

Throughout my two years in Moz I have been adding to a file of photos on my computer. And today, in honor of it being my last day in Cookie-town, although not my last day in Moz, I have decided to share it.

But first, a little back story.

Most of the clothing that people wear in my town comes from two places: the tailor (who makes clothes out of capulana) or "calamadades." What are calamadades? Well, remember all those clothes that you donated to various charities? Well, the nice stuff stayed in America and was sold in thrift stores. The fairly nice stuff was sent to Eastern Europe. The okay stuff was marked "Africa A" and sent to nicer African countries like Kenya and South Africa. Then you have the clothes marked "Africa B" and they get sent here. Once they are sent here, the 100 lb bundles of clothes are sold to distributors for the price of the customs fees. These distributors then go to the villages and sell the clothes. And then what happens, is the random American walking around the village gets ridiculously excited every time she sees something that she recognizes, and asks to take a picture. Except of course when she sees the funniest/best shirts and doesn't have her camera.

But thats enough talking about myself in the third person. And here is my picture collection of the shirts that have made me giggle or given me pause when I have been lucky enough to have my camera on me and the person wearing the shirt hasn't thought me creepy for wanting a picture.


















Love from,
Steph

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Best Friends

Part of the challenge of Peace Corps is making friends.
The challenge doesn't lie in meeting people or getting them to talk to you, pretty much everyone does that (except the people who are convinced that America concocted HIV/AIDS as an experimental way to kill off all the poor people of the world, and that PCVs are actually the tireless grad students whose job it is to go into impoverished countries and take observations of how the experiment is going- but I digress). The real challenge is finding someone that you can trust, whose sole purpose isn't to take advantage of you. Too many times you think you have a friend, when they ask you for huge amounts of money or simply want to use your computer/modem/anything. Or even worse, you stuff suddenly goes missing. Not that this is always, and not that it is even most people, but being seen as a mega-rich outsider tends to draw out the bad seeds. So you just have to be careful. I am friends with other teachers, the director's wife, and other people around town, but Pam and I have one person who is our absolute best friend. Her name is Evette. She has never asked us for anything and always runs up for a hug whenever she sees us.

Also. She is 3 years old.






Sunday, October 20, 2013

The River's Song

Water is huge here in Cookie-town. This is mostly because of how the seasons work. Like we all learned in school the closer you get to the equator, the less you have the 4 changing seasons and the more you have the two water based seasons: wet and dry.

When I came here, I didn't understand the extremities that these seasons go to, So this year, I took pictures.

Way back in January (the height of the wet season), I walked to the river and took pictures. Now we are nearing the end of the dry season, so I went back to take more, if the same river, from the same exact place. I tried to get pictures to match as best I could. Spoilers: You should very easily be able to tell the difference between the January and Now pictures.














 And now people that depend on the river for their water supply dig wells into the river bed. But don't worry, with the new rains coming soon, the river will regenerate in a spectacular fashion!

Love from,
Steph

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Adelino's Story


I have met many people in my two years in Mozambique. Some I have liked, some not so much. My absolute favorite, however, is a 12th grader named Adelino. The other day, I asked him to write out a biography of himself. He did so, all in English, which to be honest is something I would struggle with if I had to do the same in Portuguese. And so, with only a few edits, I would like to share Adelino’s story with you.


Adeino Antonio is a young student who is very interested in his schooling. He was born in 1993 in Cookie-Town district in a very small village. (My town is the district capital, meaning that it is the largest town in the entire “county.” Which is a significantly bigger deal when there are no cars.)
He started school later, in 2001, when he was eight because the growth of poor people is slow. When he was 5 he was still a child and unable to walk to school. (In towns out in the bush, schools tend to be a couple of miles away. Malnutrition also causes extremely slow growth in children.) He was taken to work on the farm with his parents, and as a result he is dedicated to agriculture.

His father died in 2003 when he was 10 years old and studying in 3rd grade. The following year he didn’t go to school because he didn’t have anyone to help him. (There are school fees to be paid, as well as the school uniform and school supplies to buy. As a 10 year old Adelino didn’t have any money of his own so he would have to ask his father to pay for these things. With a dead father there was no one to ask). In 2004 his mother managed to get money and Adelino carried on with his studies. 

He finished 5th grade in Nauicio Incomplete Primary School in 2006 (Incomplete primary school- grades 1 through 5, complete primary school- grades 1 through 7. Smaller villages only have incomplete and the students need to travel to a larger town to complete the last two grades) Adelino and his mother sold peanuts and cashews to buy a bike for Adelino to ride to school, which was far from home. 

In 2007 Adelino left home alone for a small village called Gracio where he wanted to study in 6th grade, but he didn’t study the first two months because he didn’t have all proper documents so the principle would not let him attend classes. Then he went back home, where his mother made local wine (an alcoholic substance make from corn powder and yeast called Kabanga. Absolutely disgusting, but everyone here seems to like it) and sold it in order to make money to pay for the documents. Adelino organized all the documents that were asked for and began 6th grade.

At the end of 2007 he finished 7th grade (Not sure how he did this- possibly the school just combined 6th and 7th grade, or he managed to get through both of them in one year, Adelino is a smart kid, I wouldn’t doubt it.) and sold his bike. He worked with his mother making wine from sugar cane, which was a small profitable business at the moment.
With that money, Adelino came all the way to cookie-town alone to pay school fees, but on the way home he lost them (aka they were stolen, so that someone else could go to school without paying the fees) He had to return to cookie town to buy the documents again. He started secondary school in 2009.

There were more problems when he began his studies in Cookie-town because he didn’t have anywhere to live. He stayed with other students from around his home town. Then his uncle bought him a small plot of land in Cookie-Town and two months later Adelino built a house there by himself (land is not expensive here. Even the poorest people that I have met have rights to the land that their house is on. Many students, even those that live with family or friends, have their only separate tiny house in the backyard. It is the American equivalent to buying a cellphone). However in 2010 the house was badly damaged and Adelino was barely able to rebuild it. 


The rest of Adelino’s story is very modest, so I think I will tell it myself. Adelino has participated in all the PCV activities that have come through, since the girl that I replaced started the English Theater group. That means: English Theater, The school newspaper, Science Fair (where he won the Cookie-Town level and went on to the Provincial Fair) and more. He is at our house almost every day to ask questions about English, which he is determined to speak better then Portuguese. He has extra text books that he uses as well as novels that my family has sent over. Thus far his favorite has been James and the Giant Peach. In fact, he is so good at English that some of his teachers make him do their homework for university (if you want to hear an angry rant, ask me more about that). He also corrects my spelling whenever I am writing things down. Despite still being in high school, he is paying(well, I’m helping) to take extra computer classes so that he is more competitive for University. He is going to graduate with honors at the end of this year. I am determined that he will go to university, and will help him as much as I can.
And so that is Adelino’s story.
Love from,
Steph


Photo Shoot

Sometimes in Moz you get very overwhelmed by everything: the cultural differences, the food differences, the weather differences, ect ect. And then something happens and you realize that despite it all, some things will always be the same.

Like when one of my fellow teachers came over and asked me to take pictures of her baby, including 3 costume and location changes. Poor adorable Antonio wasn't nearly as excited about the prospect as his mother.














Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Library Update

Okay people.

The library sage continues.

The small library that I ran last year has officially been abandoned. First because the vast majority of the books were stolen during the national exams last year (there weren't enough desks so the kids were told to write on the books instead. And then declined returning them). Then it was because the library was being used as a class room, because there aren't enough classrooms. They have been building more for over a year now, but they still aren't complete. Moral of the story: No more library at the high school.

Lucky for me, when my despair was the greatest, Pam showed up wanting to work on a library project also. She had a slightly different focus- primary school and early literacy, but books and libraries are books and libraries. So we went searching. I had heard rumors about a library at the primary school (no one would tell me outright because they wanted me working at the high school library) so that was the first place we checked. And there was a library!

As you can (kind of) see, there are two rooms. One that locks with the single bookshelf (and the librarian, who can kind of read. Almost) And a study area. All those boxes that you see? Books. Hundreds of books that have been donated or provided by the government. And they are sitting around boxed up. It was depressing, but amazingly hopeful at the same time. This was somewhere that we could make a difference.
But first Pam and I had to jump through a lot of hoops. We had to have permission from the primary school director, as well as from several people in World Vision (the NGO in town that built the library). The program that I got books through changed their theories for Pam's group, so she had to go through a lengthy application/training process to get her books. As well as go through even more meeting with the Primary school and World Vision. But at last we succeeded.

The first thing we did was buy some beautiful bookshelves with the help of the money that you lovely people helped raise to buy the books. Well, in reality we commissioned the bookshelves from a carpenter and then waited 2 months for him to build them.  In July Pam got all her books, and I got the last round of mine. The bookshelves finally were finished, the paperwork all in order. So we brought the books over. And it was beautiful:



You can observe now that there are (slightly) more students using the books!
But don't worry. That's not the end of the project- Pam is working on a grant to get paint for the walls, and we are going to start having story time with the primary school kids. The long term goal that Pam has been trained for is to institute a tutoring program where high school kids teach the younger kids how to read.  But by that time I will be safely back in America. Which almost makes me sad.

Until I remember Hamburgers :)

Love from,
Steph