Saturday, September 5, 2009

Table of contents

2 travel stories from Lichinga
Driving (updated since March 14)
Done with vacation / Scholarship project progress
A honeymoon trip to Inhassoro
Community level Economic Development in action
Made a great friend in Inhambane City
Food, housing
Frustrating times
Cold Showers
My spiritual enlightenment and lampshading
The capulana
School atmosphere and African trees
Unplanned post
MP3s please
Newest insight about Africa
New photos uploaded
Why I love Mozambique!
My new phone number
White Devil
Ninja-ing lychee
Your Grandpa is growing up here
Africanized horseflies
Administering a test
Driving and hitch-hiking
Language classes with a charlatan
*Moz music 12/26, 1/4/08
Flooded out of my site 1/3/08
Brer Rabbit (o coelho) the African trickster 12/26
1st impressions of my site 12/26
New contact info / cell phones 12/26
Peace Corps cultural adjustment tips 12/26
My convo with Congressman Chris Smith 12/26
*Site Placement! Nov 30 , corrected 1/4/08
The freshman 15, Nov 30
The Chefe 11/30
Host family dynamics 11/30
My new NGO 11/30
The Chichi Bucket 11/30
Slaughtering a young dejected chicken/ Thanksgiving 11/30
*VISIT in 2009 or World Cup 2010, modified 11/30
Photos of my house 11/3
Photo of friends 11/3
Photo on flickr photo11/1
Rhymes with rabies 11/1/07Davidson profs offer advice - 9/23/07
Come visit me - 9/23/07
Highlights from PC welcome materials + MZ history lesson - 9/23/07
How to send mail to me - 9/23/07
Songs that evoke Africa – 9/21/07
*What I love(d) about Florida – 9/21/07, originally posted 8/23/07
My trip to Mexico – 8/9/07
*What people are saying about Africa – 9/20/07, originally posted 7/25/07
To do list while in Africa – 7/25/07
Interpretation of Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead – 7/24/07
Intro - 7/23/07

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Scholarship project / Bolsas de Estudo em Mocambique

Vou escrever em Portugues primeiro para o beneficio dos alunos de Mocambique os quais encontraram esta pagina na sua procura de informacoes sobre como procurar uma bolsa de estudo para continuar os seus estudos apos da escola secundaria. O documento esta em ingles, mais ate no Marzo vamos traduzir ao Portugues. desculpe, as tablas do documento nao sairam bem e havia de tirar...

Hey everyone,

So I managed to compile all of the information that I gathered during the last year in order to better inform high school students in Moz about scholarships for study after high school. I disseminated it during our mid-service conference to 60 colleagues who work all over the country and who will certainly be asked for help by the youth in their area (these kids know enough to ask Americans to help with the money for school since Americans have money).

Here it is, sorry I can't post it as a word document and the tables didn't show well in the blog so I had to take them out...

Advising your student: University study in Mozambique or abroad?
It is recommended that you encourage your students to seek educational opportunities in Mozambique rather than abroad. The rationale of this recommendation is outlined below by Conor Bohan, RPCV Haiti ’98 and founder of the Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP) which as of 2008 was Haiti's largest university scholarship program:

HELP only sponsors students at local universities and I would recommend anyone else think about doing the same for several reasons. My experience is that poor kids in poor countries are interested in leaving and sending them abroad at 18 makes it easier for them not to return. Secondly, education abroad is many times more expensive than local education, so there is much more bang for the buck when you keep kids close to home which means you can support more deserving kids. Additionally poor kids, being less sophisticated than wealthy ones, have a hard time adjusting to university life in their own country so the adjustments are often overwhelming abroad. Lastly, every country needs to develop its own university system and sending top students to local schools strengthens the local system.

That being said… If your student shows an intense desire to study abroad, as a counselor you will want to support your student in researching these possibilities, outlined in the ‘international scholarships’ below.
Acceptance at a university is a prerequisite for students applying for a government scholarship. Encourage your brightest student(s) to bater the entrance exam with an impressive score and try to use that score for leverage during the search for money. Both Universidade Eduardo Mundlane (UEM) and Universidade Catolica de Moçambique (UCM) have independent means to support students (see University-based scholarships, below), or perhaps a Mozambican philanthropist or local church will be impressed by the score. Go for it! Nothing in life is guaranteed (especially here), but your student won’t know until she/he tries.

The Instituto de Bolsas de Estudo
The following information was collected during a conversation in December of 2008 with Miguel Inácio, Director Geral Adjunto of the Instituto de Bolsas de Estudo (IBE) and a conversation with the Gabinete de Bolsas de Estudo of Niassa in June of 2008.
IBE was created in August of 2007 as part of the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC). The first Conselho Nacional de Bolsas de Estudo was in April of 2008. During 2008, IBE had a budget of 100 million meticais, of which 80 million was to be given as scholarship money. IBE will provide scholarships for all Mozambican universities both public and private; however, fewer will be provided for private schools as they are more expensive (currently, Universidade Eduardo Mundlane (UEM) benefits from government subsidies which greatly reduce tuition fees).
Many provinces inherited their current scholarship programs from international donor scholarship projects (which usually targeted only one province). As of the close of 2008, the provinces of Inhambane, Manica, and Maputo still had not set up provincial scholarship offices, but the IBE has contacted the Direcção de Educação of each province to ask them to form a commission that will manage the scholarship program as of 2009 by establishing criteria for the selection of candidates and by reviewing candidates. Because evaluation criteria are decided at the provincial level, the extent to which the review committee will value your student’s past academic achievement will vary by province. The scholarship is not necessarily merit-based.

Government Scholarships are managed at the provincial level
Scholarships in Mozambique are centrally funded and provincially managed. The role of IBE is to perform oversight of provincial level implementation by establishing norms/guidelines, monitor provincial adherence to those guidelines, and assist the provinces through technical training. IBE allocates a certain number of vagas (vacancies) each year to its delegação or commisão in the Direcção de Educação of each province. The Province then earmarks these vacancies for specific disciplines (e.g. 8 for Economics, 4 for Agriculture, 3 for Maths). The Province allots vacancies based on its own foreseen labor needs (e.g. upon graduation, the scholarship winner is obliged to work for the provincial government for 5 years).
Once the vacancies are allotted, they are advertised in newspapers, on the radio, and with palestras (a lecture style announcement made by local Direcção de Educação) in the secondary schools. These advertisements outline the application process and also provide the data limite (deadline) for applications. The deadline is usually in or around the month of January/February; however, please note that the student must pass the University entrance exam before applying for the scholarship. According to Miguel of IBE, the entrance exam for UEM is administered locally after the Segunda Chamada (I don’t know how/when the student is told the results of the exam). Explore options for submitting the application locally through the Serviço de Educação, Juventude, e Tecnologia in order to avoid the trip to the provincial capitol.

In order to apply, students must submit the following documentation:
· Proof of completion of grade 12
· Proof of acceptance into a Mozambican university
· Declaration of poverty (referral from the student’s Chefe do Bairro indicating financial need must be brought to the Conselho Municipal in order to have this document issued)
· Declaração historical: Similar to a cover letter, in which the student describes their education and work history. *CV not required
· Ficha de candidatura: This is an official form in which the student’s personal details are provided, along with grades and a report on the student’s behavior provided by the Direction of the school
* Currently there is no application fee

The applications are evaluated by a committee in the Direcção Provincial. The review procedure for Niassa is as follows: a commission of about 10 people in chooses the scholarship winners (apurados). The evaluation of applications is done using a point system, with extra points being awarded for female candidates, disabled persons, younger candidates (under 20) and candidates from rural districts, a.k.a. the matu. The point system encourages awards to women and rural students because they have historically been underrepresented in the universities.
These students who win the scholarship must sign a contract before receiving funds and must renew the contract yearly. This contract specifies that the student must return to and work for the province which provided the scholarship for a few years. In the case of breach of contract, the matter is brought to the tribunal (the courts).

International Scholarships
As in the US, students must complete licenciatura before applying for post-graduate study. The majority of funding for study abroad is for post-graduate study (“mestrado” and “doutorado”), rather than undergraduate study (“licenciatura”). This makes sense because developed countries hope to court and absorb Mozambique’s best talent, creating the “brain drain.”
According to Miguel of IBE, the IBE has the role of liaison between embassies offering scholarships and the students who are applying. In other words, the IBE advertises the vacancies and is also responsible for collecting the applications which are then forwarded to the respective embassy. I am not sure whether IBE is responsible for selecting the candidates or simply forwards all applications. Miguel lamented that the embassies announce the scholarships with short deadlines which do not provide IBE with enough time to advertise, and said IBE is working with the embassies to fix this. Ideally the embassies would make their support more predictable by agreeing to provide scholarships for say 5 years, with x number of vacancies each year. Here is an example of an advertisement of two foreign scholarships as advertised on the IBE’s website (please note that applications must be submitted to IBE in Maputo).

O Ministério da Educação e Cultura – Instituto de Bolsas de Estudo, torna público que estão abertas candidaturas para (26) vinte e seis bolsas Bolsas de Estudo para licenciatura e Pós-Graduação, oferecidas pelo Governo da China, para o ano adémico 2008/2009, nas seguintes áreas:
• Agronomia e Veterinária; Medicina, Farmácia e Estomatologia;• Engenharia Civil, Química, Mecânica e Informática;• Arquitectura;• Economia, Gestão, Tecnologias de Informação e Sistemas de Informação;• Sociologia e Psicologia.
Requisitos para Licenciatura
a) Ser cidadão (a) Moçambicano (a) Solteiro (a);b) Possuir idade compreendida entre 17 e os 25 anos;c) Ter concluido a 12ª classe (ou equivalente) com a média mínima de 12 valores; d) Apresentar cópias autenticadas e homologadas dos certificados da 10ª 11ª e 12ª (esta última traduzido para o Inglês);
As Candidaturas deverão ser submetidas ao IBE, até dia 28 de Março de 2008.

5 scholarships for: Engenharia Mecânica, Engenharia Eléctrica e Electrónica, Engenharia Química e Engenharia Civil, Tecnologias de Informação e Sistemas de Informação, at the Licenciatura level. As candidaturas deverão ser submetidas ao IBE até ao dia 14 de Março de 2008

A place to look on the internet:
I did not do enough research here. A good place to start would be looking for scholarships for study in Portugal and Brasil.
I found the following during a five minute google search—I’m not endorsing it.

The International Education Financial Aid Website, , is the premier Internet resource listing financial aid information for students who wish to study in a foreign country. At this site you will find the most comprehensive listing of grants, scholarships, loan programs and other information to assist students in their quest to study abroad. was created in January 1998. Since that time the site has developed a database of over 1,000 programs of financial aid for international education. Some resources are specific to the student's home country or field of study while others are more general.

As of July 2008, there were 220 scholarships listed in the IEFA database for the location ‘Unrestricted/Worldwide’ and 800 scholarships for all locations, including many scholarships to study in the U.S.
Search fields include:
Award type (fellowship, internship, grant, loan, scholarship, tuition waiver)
Location of school or organization offering scholarship
Field of study (various)

University-based scholarships at UCM and UEM
With the help of the UCM Foundation described on its website, UCM is able to provide financial assistance to some of its students on a case by case basis.
Because UEM is financed by the government and donors, tuition fees are greatly subsidized and represent only a small fraction of the cost of attending UEM. By contrast, the majority of the funding for Mozambique’s non-government funded universities are derived from student tuition fees, which makes them far more expensive to attend. This situation may change during the current structural reforms of UEM.
From page 89 of the Global Partnership Fund’s 2003 Case Study on Mozambique, we see that UEM has its own internal scholarship program with about 1000 spots awards are predominantly merit-based with some affirmative action. The Social Services Directorate (DSS) at UEM provides assistance for students in the form of subsidized accommodation and meals, mostly for scholarship recipients. It is rumored that UEM has a policy of reducing the overall financial aid package in correspondence to the number of classes failed or left incomplete during the previous school term. For example, a student who fails 50% of his classes will lose 50% of his financial aid.
Historically there have been instances where “Because of poor communications and labyrinthine bureaucracy, many students from the north or centre who gain scholarships to UEM find out too late that they have won them. By that time they have been taken up by better informed candidates.” (Case Study, p.33)

Universidade Católica de Moçambique (UCM)
Annual tuition fees (propina): 1,200USD, approximately 30,500mtn
When the Catholic Church hosted the 1992 peace talks and accord that ended the civil war, it promised to create a University in the Central and North regions for the express purpose of addressing the structural injustice/imbalance of having the country’s only university located in Maputo, out of reach of the Central and North regions, a situation which guaranteed that those people qualified for positions in government would be predominantly from the south. Following a 1995 government decree which allowed UCM to begin operations, UCM opened its University in Beira and has been rapidly expanding ever since (see chart below).
UCM does not have an entrance exam, anyone who can afford tuition can attend the university. Most of the non-government funded universities have what is called a ‘zero semester’ to prepare entering students for the rigors of their study (this semester can be skipped if the entering student has good grades coming in). UCM dedicates a whole ‘propaedeutic year’ to the same purposes.
The first step to applying is to sign up for classes during the período de inscrições. For the year 2009, sign-ups were from December 1, 2008 to January 9, 2009.
· Faculdade de Economia e Gestão, Beira (1996) – also Economics, IT, GIS (Urban Planning)
· Faculdade de Direito, Nampula (1996) – also Business Administration
· Faculdade de Educação e Comunicação, Nampula (1998) – also Social Work
· Faculdade de Agricultura, Cuamba (1999)
· Faculdade de Medicina, Beira (2000) – also Medicine, Nursing, Social Work
· Faculdade de Turismo e Informátic, Pemba (2002) – also IT and Tourism
· Centro de Ensino à Distância, Beira (2003)
· Faculdade de Economia e Gestão, Delegação Chimoio (2005)
· Faculdade de Economia e Gestão, Delegação Tete (2008) – also Accounting and IT

Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM)
The following information is from the Edital (course catalog) published by UEM for the 2009 schoolyear, allegedly available on the web at The UEM campus is in Maputo city. You must pass the entrance exam to enroll. You must pay a 250mtn fee for each discipline whose entrance exam you want to take (300mtn if for night school). The entrance exam can be done on a Saturday during the 1st epoca (15, 22, 29 of Novemer, 2008) and 2nd epoca (1-6 of December, 2008) at the following sites.

Maputo: Campus Universitário Principal da UEM; Faculdade de Engenharias da UEM, Cidade de Maputo.
Gaza: Escola Pré-Universitária Joaquim Alberto Chissano – Cidade de Xai-xai
Inhambane: Escola Superior de Hotelaria e Turismo –Cidade de Inhambane, Escola Superior de Desenvolvimento Rural – Vilanculos
Sofala: Delegação da Faculdade de Direito – Cidade de Beira
Manica: Escola Pré-Universitária Samora Moisés Machel – Cidade de Chimoio
Tete: Escola Secundária de Tete – Cidade de Tete
Zambézia: Escola Secundária 25 de Setembro – Cidade de Quelimane
Nampula: Escola Secundária de Nampula – Cidade de Nampula
Cabo Delgado: Escola Secundária de Pemba – Cidade de Pemba
Niassa: Escola Secundária Paulo Samuel Kankhomba – Cidade de Lichinga

At least two weeks before exams begin, the list of candidates and test-room assignments will be posted at the same location of inscription (with the exception of Maputo, where the list will be posted at Escritorios da Comissão de Exames de Admissão, sita no edificio do Centro de Informática da UEM – Rés-do-chão, Campus Universitário Principal).
The results of the exam will be are supposed to be posted on the web at but will also be posted at the sites listed above (with the exception of Maputo, where the results will be at Campus Universitário Principal da UEM, Escola Secundária Josina Machel do cidade de Maputo). There is no mention of when the results will be posted! If the results are posted too late, how will your student meet the proof of acceptance requirement for the provincial scholarship? Good luck.
The part of the Edital that discusses UEM scholarships was conveniently not available at the time of research.
For details on courses offered, please see the annexed statistics.

Universidade Pedagógico (UP)
Universidade Pedagógico is traditionally an option for students who want to continue their education but lack resources to attend one of the more prestigious 5-year universities.

Professional Development Scholarships
A common form of bolsas de estudo which you may hear about or be asked about by colleagues is awarded to a government employee in recognition of past achievement and a promising future. This could generally be considered as a promotion in which the funds for the scholarship are provided by the Instituto or branch of government which awarded it. This sort of scholarship is generally not relevant to our students.

Availability of Student Loans?
UCM tried to make arrangements with banks in Beira to benefit their students, but as far as I know this was not fruitful. The World Bank considered a students loan scheme in 2002 but rejected the idea as infeasible, preferring scholarships. Banks prefer secured loans so picture the following: parents with house, mortage on house, money for school. Probably not an option for our students.

Secondary School Scholarships
Although not officially considered scholarships, state aid is theoretically available for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) and Acção Social is the program which allows students without resources to enroll without paying matricula and go to school without an expensive uniform. Do you really expect the state to pay room and board costs for high school students?

Distance Learning
UCM is actively pursuing this method. Courses offered include history, geography, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, portuguese, and visual education. The courses last for 4 years for the bachelor’s degree and 5 for licenciatura (4 years of distance learning plus one full year on campus). Each academic year includes 4 mandatory “special presence” class sessions which take place over the weekends (never more than 4 days) where the student must travel to one of the cities as shown below.

UEM has a new program for distance learning but as of January 2009 the only course being offered was Gestão de Negocios (a 3 year course) and the courses are web-based and therefore require that the student have consistent internet access. 500 vagas in the 2009 course.

History of Scholarships and HEI Reform in Mozambique
This scholarship project was financed by the Netherlands and was praised by both the World Bank and the Global Partnership for its effectiveness. The World Bank modeled its pilot program after NISOME.
This organization operated in Niassa province and was financed by either Ireland or England, providing approximately 40 scholarships per year over 10 years.
Caritas Moçambicana/Espanhola
This organization also provided some scholarships (in Nampula province?) but gave control of their scholarships over to the government.
World Bank pilot scholarship
In 2002, the World Bank allocated US $60 million toward an overhaul of Mozambique’s higher education system. The majority of its reform efforts were targeted at UEM, which had become outdated and inefficient after years of top-down management and financing, as well as a substantial amount of time spent free from competition from other HEIs.
The overhaul also included a pilot Provincial Scholarship program which was the prototype of the current IBE system. $2 million were provided to 500 students for undergraduate scholarships for students in the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Gaza and Tete. World Bank project appraisal document of the Higher Education Project for Mozambique can be viewed at
Global Partnership Fund
A collaborative effort of several foundations (Ford, Rockefellar, Carnegie, John and Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation), this consortium does research and also provides targeted grants to improve quality of and access to higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their 2003 case study on Mozambique can be downloaded at:

Further reading (has link to IBE)

Instituto de Bolsas de Estudo
Martires de Machava 231 (close to Hotel Africa II)
Tel.: 21 48 88 25 or 21 48 88 26

Thanks for your interest and please if you find information to make this guide better get in touch with one of us!

Greg Harris (Moz 12)
Dan Milroy (Moz 12)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Greg the IT teacher with 23 computers at his disposal

Like HIV, IT viruses seem to have high prevalence hereI'm looking forward to my trip home in mid-December, where i will try to find a FAST and safe computer to download my photos onto either the yahoo flickr photo account or direct onto the blog. My photo card from my camera has a trojan virus, I didn't even know that could happen but it burned when my photo card urinated and, when i put it into a computer with antivirus, the computer was not happy.
Did I mention that my school was given 31 computers and that 22 of them are for students to use that that I am the only teacher at school qualified to give the IT lessons? That's pretty exciting for me, since IT is so important and I think I will be able to win a lot more interest from the students than i did in my English classes. I had some problems such as convincing the school admin to put the protective fabric over the hard drive tower under the table, rather than over monitor on the table, and the windows in the once library study room now IT room are venetian style slats of glass that open and close like blinds, allowing the dust to come in during windstorms, of which there were several.
Anyway, the two of the computers have a virus, kxvo.exe, and I'm not enough of a computer nerd to fix them...yet. I'm doing lots of reading from windows help and today on the internet to try and become a computer guru as quickly as possible. Hopefully I'll even be able to learn something about hardware before the beginning of next year. If you are a computer nerd I would like to have your advice about what I can do to secure the computers, how to set up workgroups and etc. Mostly I need good virus removal programs that might remove viruses from flash drives and prevent new flash drives from infecting my computers (a "condom" if you will).
In other news, I recently made a bike trip with two friends to the old Mambone, the site where the Muslims and later Portuguese used to run their trade operations at the mouth of the Save River. There are no buildings there to be seen, it's just a beach but a beautiful one at that. I also got a ride with my friend Dr. Nilton who was going around to visit all of the hospitals in our rurul district, all the ones in the interior, far away from the beach and to the West of the national highway. For the first time I really had my eyes opened about what rural means in a rural context: it means the wilderness. Especially in one of the main destination towns, named Jofane, there's literally nothing there but the straw roofed homes and the health station, built by Save the Children UK after the 2000 floods, unfortunately its about 8 km to the nearest water source so I don't know why it was built where it is. The rest of the small communities seemed equally isolated but at least they were, you know, on the way to Jofane, so that my surprise upon reaching the destination was a shock. Not that it's all bad out there, there was a site named Matata that was on the river and I immediately thought of my grandfather's friend Norm, who likes to watch birds. There was a huge ledge where the river water made an ever-fresh swamp, FULL of birds, and nice views around, including a farm which made use of a water pump from the river to bolster production. After the day in the back of the Land Cruiser I was bruised considerably...on my ass, it hurt to sit down. I got to buy the front leg of an impala type animal for about $5 and the front leg of a wild pig (not a boar but a wild pig with squiggly tale) for a little over $2. The pig was already missing its head (the best part) and one hind leg when we saw it tied up on the back of a bicycle the middle of nowhere or to be more clear on a dirt road no less than half an hour by fast moving car from the national highway.
What else I'm up to...making a handbag out of palm frongs with my local language teacher, whose helped me get much better in the local language, i can assist conversations now and stammer out some words now and then. I can fix my bike tire by myself now, whether a patch or replacing the tube. I also fixed my 200 liter water tank from which the nozzle had shot off, that was quite a project since I could not fit my hand into the barrel far enough to hold the nut on the inside of the tank. In short I could say that so much of the things I own are pirata (junk) and so Iºve gotten better at McGuyvering things.

Monday, September 29, 2008

1 year anti-anniversary

so sept 27th was the one year anniversary of saying goodbye to my family, definately the longest i've been apart from them that is quite a challenge but other than that things are still going well here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My favorite songs!!

Download these or look for it on youtube.

artist: Lucky Dube
song: Remember me

This song is great because he is singing to his father who left his family and never came back. Many families have a similar situation and many children are growing up without a father, but this song is beautiful because the voice of the singers singing "Remember Me" can haunt the man who has left wife and children behind in the backcountry exactly where he feels its safe to hide from that sort of troublesome worry: in the bar. Lucky Dube is way popular and I picture a men in bars all over Johannesburg choking back regret and maybe, even planning to send some money back home as promised to their forgotten family.

Artist: Malaika
Song: 2bhobho

a bit more electric than i'd remembered. You'll feel it, how light and happy and cheerful it is, that's about how I feel about my life here, I'm still loving it. Just did a field trip with my journalism kids (ten of them) they met kids from another school here and, miraculously, the whole thing went off without a hitch. That is VERY unusual. Case in point, last weekend on the way to the English theater competition my chapa full of students broke down 3 times (it was overheating) and then we got sardined into a new chapa for the 6 hour bumpy ride and arived late.
I've been looking for the name of this song for about 9 months now and finally got the name of the song from a South African guy who runs the new internet cafe in Vilanculos.

Friday, September 5, 2008

"Post-apocalyptic" has been the word

There are two memorable quotes/insights from way back in training that I want to share. The first is from Dan: "The only running water I've seen is coming out my asshole."
The next is more profound, it was the adjective used by Michael, perhaps the oldest person in my group even though he's only 29 or was at the time. He used the word "post-apocalyptic" to describe Namaacha and I think it was pretty spot on. Any old city you visit here has splendid ruins of the Portuguese colonial rule, many of them are now in dis-repair but still constitute prime real estate. Thus it is not uncommon for me to enter what would seem to be a normal bathroom, and then use the manual flush method to get my turds under the water level of the bowl. In other words, you dip a bucket into a barrel of water and then pour that bucket into the bowl and voila, most of your poop is gone down the drain. Did you know that this was possible? I did not, and I still catch myself in a state of amazement now and then. Another thing that makes this post-apocalyptic is the pot-holes, but let me not go into that too much. I, for one, am a big fan of the post-apocalyptic architecture aesthetic as all of these buildings and rooms and ruins have SO MUCH CHARACTER just like the taxis and bicycles and whatever else you want. To hell with fresh paint jobs!

Two travel stories from Lichinga

Hey everyone again I feel like it has been a very long time since I wrote. Let me start by saying that life in general is great. I’ve become a passable teacher and I will tell you my secret…my saving grace…I make fun of my students when they are disobedient in order to make them feel small and allow them to appreciate that I am, in fact, older and smarter than them. I’ve also gotten to a point where I can be silly in a way that suits me every once in a while and they like that. For example my Dad sent me a box full of random goodies that can be obtained at trade fairs (calculators, bouncy balls, hacky sacks, flashlights, calendar/notepads and other colorful trinkets) and I gave these out as prizes to my students who had improved their grade the most between 2nd trimester and 1st test of 3rd trimester. As you can imagine the situation sometimes got out of hand, what during the distribution, so I took to shooting wily students with the rubber band handgun trick, which people don’t know here. I also gave a calculator or two to the customs guys at the post office, who inspected everything that was sent, slowly, commenting how random it all was, and insisted that I really ought to have a receipt for everything in the box (which was impossible, since the stuff was free) before asking me all sly “So how much do you think all this stuff is worth?” As in “So how much money are you going to give me?” In the end I didn’t give them any money but did thank them for their “comprensão” after all I am using my personal savings while teaching your kids, scum-bag. Peace Corps had promised us a raise in March but I hear it is coming up short. Speaking of money, see my blog entry on local pedidos.

I live in my own house now, that is the biggest development that makes my life so enjoyable nowadays. My school director and I butted heads pretty severely while I lived in his house, which was miserable. I did, however, get started on a screenplay which I think will be a big hit. It is a sequel to the film, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” called “My Big Fat Stupid Wife” and did I mention how argumentative and irritating their houseboy “empregado” was and still is? But that’s all in the past, and now I just ignore my only neighbors to the greatest extent possible. Once I get outside the school, there are some neighbors that I do go and visit or say hi to. My favorite is the little kids, who say “dTah-dtah” (the d and t are lost in each other) which is their imitation of “boa tarde” or good afternoon, and they sound like teletubbies and make me smile immediately when they say it while getting all excited and waving. One of the biggest rewards for me is that I’m not scared of kids anymore like I was in the USA. I still don’t know how to hold a baby or change a diper, but I’m not scared of babies or toddlers anymore. Kind of like that treatment for arachnophobia where you overcome it by being COMPLETELY SURROUNDED by the thing you were scared of. Most of the women that you see around town are have a baby in tow on their back. That’s another thing…the capulana…I haven’t adequately described how wonderful it is. The capulana is a measure of one meter of colorful fabric which the women wear for skirt, maybe sown into a shirt or cut into a headwrap. To carry a baby in a capulana, you first bend over and lay the baby on your back, then you wrap the low end of the cloth under the baby’s butt (leave the legs hanging) and high end at about baby’s neck or head and then put one end of the cloth over your shoulder and the other end of the cloth under the opposite armpit, then tie in a knot in front. The babies look as comfortable as they could ever be, utterly content.
Two good travel stories I can share is from my week-long trip to Lichinga. What a party! And these are definitely my stories, as anyone who knows me well would be able to tell. Anyway, I had been developing feelings for a nearby PCV who was one of my best friends even from day 1 or 2 of training. Since her last name is also Harris, we were always in the same groups. I thought something might happen between her and I but enter a beautiful girl on summer break from App State (NC!), not Peace Corps, she had rafted up with some Peace Corps girls in Malawi and was now tagging along. Well our eyes were locked for the first minute at least of our conversation and I was feeling love at first site, but also in denial of it because I was already into the pangs loneliness pretty deep at that time and really would have preferred not to be distracted from a sustainable relationship I’d been working toward for some time. I talked to her too much and then accepted to go with her to Lake Niassa where she and the others had gotten off of the ferry that goes around the lake between Malawi and Mozambique. The ferry is called the “Ilala” and when I saw my friends get off that ship I would have sworn they were being redeemed from Bob Marley’s bottomless pit (they’d traveled second class, or steerage, the other white people had all stayed up on the top deck and enjoyed privelages like a place to lie down or use a nice bathroom and drink water during the more than 24 hour ride). This girl had not had her passport stamped, no one had, and rumors had her worried that she would have problems upon leaving the country if she did not have the stamp showing that she had returned to Mozambique. She did not speak good Portugues. She didn’t hardly know anyone. She was scared and oh so alone. OK, so when I went to get up with her at 4am in the bitter cold, my sweater and passport were in my bag which Rachel Harris was using as a pillow. I couldn’t bring myself to wake her up. So I used my survival blanket as a shawl and we went for the 3-4 hour ride out to the lake. It was so nice, though I tried not to notice or not to get swept up in my company, because I did not want to feel guilty when I got back home and saw Rachel, who I wasn’t even nearly dating at the time (thanks, a lot, Catholic upbringing, for my guilty guilty conscience). When we got to the customs office, luckily we were given a chance to explain our request before the guy asked to see both of our passports. Of course I didn’t have mine, I didn’t need it stamped, so I’d left it in Lichinga. So the guy calculated the fine for her to pay, she had been in country illegally for two days so…$2,000Mt (about $80USD) and it was difficult to play hardball when he could have been a jerk about me not having my passport but with a combination of displaying how frayed our nerves were and how scared we were of having messed up and been illegal and in the end after I asked him to show me the fee schedule where it outlines the fees for this specific situation he dropped the fine to a very reasonable $200Mt or so, which was, as I could see on the wall, the actual processing fee. But I want to point out something here and that is that people in Mozambique are great. He could have been a real jerk about my not having a passport as I am required by law to have it at all times but he’s a human being, he’s a good guy, he’s really only asking for the big sum of money because…why not? Maybe she would have happily paid to get the whole thing over with.
At the end of the trip, another damsel in distress appeared. This time it was Rachel, who wanted to try and get on board our flight if possible since it had originally sold out and forced her to get back to her site a few days late. As it turned out, check-in was a madhouse and Samantha and I (all 3 of us were good friends since our intensive language learning class together) decided to wait it out since, after all, we had confirmed reservations and would rather peacably enjoy company than elbow someone in the face for 1 hour while waiting in the 20 puppies per one tit check-in line. Eventually the tension in the line grew to fever pitch and I became aware that missing the flight was now more than just a possibility. We got in line and about half an hour later the engines started and the plane took off..without us. The First Lady had commandeered about 15 seats for her and her entourage to get back to Maputo. Tough luck, peasants. So we had an adventure trying to get things sorted out. The next day, we were back in the lines trying to get an ear of one of the 4 incompetent people in charge of check-in. Samantha had recommended that if Rachel and I pretended to be married (same last name) this might up the chances of her getting on board the flight. In the end, I think I deserved an oscar for my work as the wounded husband. I just want to travel with my wife, we’re teachers, etc. etc. and one kind soul behind the counter eventually just gave her a boarding pass. On the tarmac, someone came on board and tried to make her deboard the plane because there must have been some kind of mistake (the 2nd time I’ve seen this happen on my 5 flights in country, the first time it happened to me and 2 others) well WTF, man, then you shouldn’t have given her a boarding pass! She stayed on board it was fun. OK, you had to be there.