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 again...in 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.

Driving and hitchhiking (originally posted March 14)

Please see the recently added addendum to this entry, below.

The highway that passes by our school is the only paved road in the area, connecting the town of Mambone to National Highway # 1. While sitting in the passenger seat of my senor director’s car, I realized that a safety hazard exists because this road serves as a dual purpose playground for kids / audobon. Since maybe only 2-5 cars pass each hour, the road is predominantly used as a footpath. These cross-purposes of the road make for some interesting close calls, especially considering that pedestrians do not have the right of way. Liberal use of the horn gives the pedestrians loitering in the middle of the street about 5 seconds to clear out or be smashed by the fast moving car. Hitch-hiking is pretty safe here because it’s not like the U.S. where just anyone can have a car. Only someone of significant means and social standing can afford to have one, and they are often willing to pick up a neighbor as a spare passenger on the way to town or even pick up a well-seeming stranger. As a muzongo, people are automatically less suspicious of me and more interested in giving me a ride, but that’s not to say that all or even most rich Mozambicans will stop to pick me up. In fact, last time I saw lots of private cars pass before finally being picked up by a semi-truck, and I had to pay (usually in a private car the ride is free). That was cool, I got to sit way up high and see the life that country music singers so often talk about.

ADDENDUM
There was what is called here an "infelicidade" or an unhappiness, which I will tell you about.
Having read Newsweek in the ambulance which was illegally giving me a free ride (ssshhhhhh!) to Vilanculos with my friend the Dr., I mused on economics and particularly an op-ed by yet another foolishly hardy liberal who accused Reagan of not being an economic conservative because of his combination of deficit spending matched with tax cuts--a.k.a. the Reaganomics that won the Cold War--I decided definitevly that I will return to my old job at First American if they will take me back in order to create a better business environment between the US and Brazil, which I imagine would be needed for us to get into a healthy market and ease some of the pressure from domestic slow-down. Fresh on my mind was the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, images which evidenced the epic proportions of a penchant for empire and related ambitions and topped off by the truly moving finale of the gold medal winner of old, legendary, running in air, which wet my eyes when I stumbled into a televised living room just in time to see it. I want to see more US ecomonic involvement abroad, I think our companies are cleaner than the competition, say what you will. I slept, opposite a girl whose broken femur had not healed correctly and had left her with a 3rd knee, I fancied that my Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) training helped me understand why, the traction brace on her leg was made to tight and held the bones too far apart. I was awakened by the Dr., our car was stopped and there was talk of a child who had been run over by a car. I got my shoes on and hopped out with untied laces. Again the WAFA fantasy that I might be able to know or do something but I was with a Dr. so of course I quickly realized that he was the only person necessary at this time. I watched, he put his hand over the child's stomach under the ribs and waited, maybe 30 seconds to a minute, while family and the distraught driver that had hit him looked on, and pronounced the child dead. Of the 3 black men in the family, one had eyes that spoke particularly loud of remorse, pain, and deprivation, through redness and wetness. The white man present, the driver, a Zimbabwean, was helpless, distraught, innocent and concerned. His family, wife and 4 small children, remained crammed in the 3rd and final row of the parked car, which was loaded and was full of vacationer's happy bags and disorganized bundles, so out of key with the current mood. While the child continued to lay, lifeless, on the carbon fiber trailer, the turned to what to do now. They had been on their way to the hospital in Inhassoro when they flagged down the ambulance. I tried to pass responsibility on to my friends in Inhassoro but they did not answer their phones, and reluctantly I gave up my shot at internet in Vilanculos to be the translater. Hospital, police station, hospital, scene of the accident, and court date set for the following Monday. I have to say that I enjoyed all of this probably too much, it was just so interesting and out of the normal, and my position was certainly enviable, since I had nothing to lose, was not facing jailtime with a child's life on my conscience, had not lost a family member. Anyway, overall I thought the police were very civil and efficient in handling everything, just that the civil court extorted a bunch of money from the guy to be held "in escrow" until the insurance comes through, I can't believe he'll ever get it back. I felt like a lawyer, and even right before we parted ways I read his insurance policy when he had finally won back his freedom and advised him as best I could how to interpret the policy and that he had to insist on them showing him the exception, since he was otherwise covered for this incident as I could tell.
The child had run out a driveway, clear across one lane of traffic and into the opposite lane while chasing a bicycle tire rim he was pushing with a stick (a favorite game here) and despite skid and swerve the car hit him. The driver says he was going 80km/hr and I could tell he wasn't drunk at the time, innocent. So just remember, when you're driving in Africa, use your horn like it was going out of style, even before you see the kids near the street.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Done with my vacation

Hey everyone...I just got done with vacation in Lichinga visiting my best friends from training and relaxing...by house/partying 5 days in a row. I'm sorry it's been so long and this entry will be entirely too short but it's for a good reason! I've been working on the scholarship project, finally, along with some other things like arranging funding for the Catholic University here (i promise to write about this university, the story of it's beginning is very interesting and I was told in person from the priest who essentially manages the school). Other news is that my school just got 30 computers from the south african company that does natural gas mining nearby (same company that built the school, hospital, road, power generator) and so I am going to try to be the obvious candidate for IT teacher, in which case my PC service just got a lot more interesting AND important. I also have done some reading on Mozambican land law, which is something very interesting I hope to write about at some time.
I will insert my draft of the scholarships information to be disseminated to all PCVs at mid/service. Not to blow my own horn or anything, but to date the only thing other pcvs have been willing to do for this project is specutative brainstorming and discussion, so what you see below is the result of things I do when I'm not writing the blog.

General talking points

It is recommended that you encourage your students to seek educational opportunities in Mozambique rather than abroad. The reasoning for this recommendation is outlined below in the words of 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, so we have addressed that in the ‘international scholarships’ below.

Provincial Scholarships

Scholarships in Mozambique are centrally funded and provincially managed. The Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Technology allocates a certain number of vagas (vacancies) each year to the Direção de Educação of each province. These vacancies are usually earmarked for specific disciplines (e.g. 8 for Economics, 4 for Agriculture, 3 for Maths). Once the Provincial Gabinete de Bolsas de Estudo has this information, they advertise in newspapers and with palestras (a lecture style announcement made by local Direção de Educação) in the secondary schools. These advertisements outline the application process and also provide the data limite (deadline) for applications.

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

The applications are evaluated by a committee (of about 10 people for Niassa) and the award winners (apurados) are selected. 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. ________________We need more info here on the rest of the criteria, are there merit-based points for good grades? How many? As you noticed, the point system encourages award to women and rural students who have historically been underrepresented in the HEIs.

These students who win the scholarship must sign a contract before receiving funds and renew the contract yearly. This contract specifies that the student must return to and work for the province which provided the scholarship for x number of years. In the case of breach of contract, the matter is brought to the tribunal (the courts).

There are plans to open a National Instituto de Bolsas de Estudo in or shortly after 2009. The Instituto will ___________ and will also As of 2008, the fundo provincial de bolsas de Nampula ran out of money and is waiting to receive more money from the Instituto when it opens.

List of existing Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and school costs

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 HEIs are derived from student tuition fees, which makes them far more expensive to attend.

UP is traditionally an option for students who

From MESCT website?

History of HEI Reform and Scholarships in Mozambique

NISOME

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.

PROANI

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 impetus of the current system. $2 million were provided to 500 students for undergraduate scholarships for students in the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Gaza and Tete.

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.

International Scholarships

The majority of funding for study abroad is for post-graduate study rather than undergraduate study, which may complicate your student’s ability to find an appropriate funding source.

In Brazil and Portugal:

In English-speaking countries:

Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships:

A place to get started on the internet:

From the website:

The International Education Financial Aid Website, www.IEFA.org , 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.

IEFA.org 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 their database for the location ‘Unrestricted/Worldwide’ and 800 scholarships for all locations, including many scholarships to study in the U.S.

Fields include:

Award type (fellowship, internship, grant, loan, scholarship, tuition waiver)

Location of school or organization offering scholarship

Field of study (various)

Professional Development Scholarships

A common form of bolsas de estudo which you may hear about at site 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

Secondary School Scholarships

OVC and Acção Social

Distance Learning

Scholarships/Financial Aid at Catholic University

UCM was founded for the express purpose of addressing the structural injustice/imbalance of having the country’s only HEI located in Maputo, out of reach of the Central and North regions, thus guaranteeing that those qualified for positions in government would be predominantly from the south.

Most of the non-government funded HEIs 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 non-governmental HEIs do not run their own

scholarship schemes. UCM is adamant that the provision of

scholarships should not be a function of the universities

themselves but of specific institutions set up for that purpose. (P. 91Case Study)

RE: the above quote, why does the UCM website advertise the newly created ‘UCM Foundation’ as a means to attract donor contributions. Case study says as of 2003 UCM was trying to start a student loan system with banks in Beira. Was that successful? How many students attending UCM get scholarships from their local parishes?

SCHOLARSHIPS FROM UEM

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)

From page 89 of the Case Study, 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. how/when does one apply for a UEM scholarship and will they be displaced by the Instituto?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Many new posts, total disorganization

Hey all, so I finally wrote again but this time I'm totally disorganized and the worst is that i'm out of time and won't get to post pictures. sorry, better luck next time i hope

A honeymoon type trip to Inhassoro and 1st cell phone bites the dust

I made a trip down to Inhassoro, the next big shore town south from Mambone on the National Highway. My friends Dr. Nilton, the only doctor in the district, and Geraldine, a French woman working for Oxfam, went down on Friday but I stayed in town until Saturday to teach and have some free time, plus the students were supposed to dig my latrine on Saturday morning but they never showed up. I lost my phone on the chapa (taxi). More on this at the end of the story. So when I got to Inhassoro I went to the market and bought some food and headed off in the direction of the hotel, following the sign at the main road. Well I was told it was somewhere between 3 and 7 kilometers, and I imagined there would be some kind of sign, no matter how crude, to indicate once I’d arrived. No sign. So I walked past it even though I was persistently asking passersby they didn’t know because it’s a new hotel and did not involve the neighbors in the hotel. Once I passed it I was informed that the place I was looking for was quite a bit farther down the path on foot, way farther, but that sure enough there was a hotel out that way. As it turns out, that was a different hotel and once again I found myself lost in a strange and beautiful land with that same uncertain feeling about how this imaginably dangerous situation would end but faith that all would be right soon enough. Eventually I was turned back around and made it to the hotel, were I was given food and wine and well taken care of. From there on it was a blast. We three went to a new friend’s house. His name is Scott, he is Zimbabwean and new to Inhassoro. He is building his house here and currently living with a friend. He has a Land Cruiser that doesn’t have any breaks because at some point the beach lodge employees left it on the beach at low tide and it was inundated. I wasn’t able to ride in the back of the Land Cruiser because that would have been against Peace Corps policy, but if I had ridden on the beach in the back of it at night with a beer in my hand and offroading over dunes the next day I imagine that would have been quite a feeling of youthful exuberant vacation. Please see the photos to know more about this trip. As for the phone, I know it fell out of my pocket in the taxi but it was gone when I went back to look for it and I only found out 5 days later that there was a witness who saw the lady who had my phone and wanted to help me get it back. She denied having the phone when we confronted her and so we ended up taking her to the police where it was my witness’s word against hers, he says she took him aside after she got out of the chapa and asked him to remove the SIM card from my phone. Not knowing whose phone and what have you, he did so and only minutes later did he hear about the professor who lost his phone and put 2 and 2 together. By then both the “finder’s keeper’s” lady and me were both back on the road, again in the same chapa. She’s what we call a malandra, someone who goes about in a bad way. The police interrogation was quite interesting, I couldn’t imagine how they were planning to get her to give up the phone and essentially the tactic was to flex muscles and say, “pretty please? We know you have it..” and that’s as it should be, an allegation is not enough to invade someone’s privacy. So in the end I’m mostly satisfied with the way the local police handled it.

Community Consultative Process close-up, 7.000.000,00 meticais!!!!!

There’s a centrally funded project where the government gives 7 million meticais to each district in order to run its own savings and loan type scheme with soliciting of proposals for rural development projects to be funded and then awarding funds as a loan to be paid back in x time. Thanks to Philip and his contacts, I was invited to attend the meeting for my district of Govuro where they decided where to give part 2 of this year’s loan money, 3.500.000,00 meticais, roughly $140,000.00US. The meeting lasted from 9am to about 8pm. Actually it started 10 or 10:30 when the District Administrator showed up fashionable late as usual. This was very interesting for me to see. The District Advisory Council which decides the grants is made up of important types from all over the district, including ex-military soldiers dressed in their uniforms even though the war ended long ago, and old guys and other random important people. I was surprised at how well they discussed and stewarded the funds but in the end they caved and gave the bulk of the money to where the head honcho people wanted it to go. The conflicts of interest were RAMPANT. Also, the “Technical Committee” picked a short list of about 15 proposals out of 120 and the rest of the District Advisory Committee essentially only discussed the short list. The rest of the proposals got a hearing that consisted of hearing the name of the person requesting and a categorical description of the project and amount requested. “John Doe. Fishing. 150.000,00Mts. Application DOA” after all that hard work. But this naming of names makes sense because they don’t have the resources to chase people down if someone uproots themselves and takes off with the money. So they make sure that someone in the committee can vouch for the identity and character of the person requesting the money. This process was interesting for me because the Mozambican Land Law allows for community ownership of land and thus relies on community leaders to do the negotiations with foreign investors interested in developing on the community land. Quite an investor’s nightmare since it ought to take so long, I think, but it does mean that the local community gets to benefit from the use of their land resources, which is only fair.

Making a great friend in Inhambane

First about Inhambane, it’s the capital of the province on a peninsula and on the landward side of the bay is another city called Maxixe. You take a water taxi between the two cities it’s quite enjoyable. My German friend Adi from my Frisbee team in Florida told me to get in touch with his friend Philip once I’m here since Philip works in Mozambique. Upon meeting Philip in December, I saw he was genuine friendly and very obliging, he tried to give my friends and I a ride from Inhambane to Tofo beach even though he’d only just met me but too bad his wife had the car. Talking with him more I learned that he’s working on facilitating the implementation of Mozambique’s land law, which makes him a great career contact since that’s the sort of work I want to do. When my site was flooded in January he called to make sure I was alright and monitored the news about the floods for my benefit like he was looking out for me, he seemed more concerned about keeping me informed than Peace Corps did.
My most recent trip to Maxixe and Inhambane made me feel like he’s one of the best friends I have here, hard to explain why. Most of the expats I’ve met are incredibly interesting people, but they have hard eyes and personalities that for example steel up under my searching eye like a fortress raising a drawbridge over a moat. Expats are guarded people, I’ve decided, perhaps I will change my mind. Case in point, you are likely to be in some way anti-social if you choose to leave your own society. During my stay in Inhambane, I was supposed to stay at Philip’s house with his family—his parents were visiting from Germany and his kids were just too cute, I could tell his oldest son doesn’t have enough time with other kids because he took me by the hand and took me straight to the playroom section of the house but not like a brat, just like someone who immediately accepted me as a friend without first putting me through any kind of scrutiny or wanting me to be other than myself, a lot like his father took me as a friend. Anyway that was great because I’m only just now figuring out how to interact with kids and they are such a delight to be around when they’re not crying or pooping a.k.a. when they are toddlers.
When Philip and I went out to get pizza, by chance we crossed some other expats, one of whom I’d met before when his band came to my school and did a 20 minute anti-AIDS songs performance. Soon enough I was in a car with perfect strangers headed to a house party in swanky Tofo beach. Never ceases to amaze me how disinterested and unfriendly hippies can be, maaan. Seemed like no matter which circle of conversation I tried to nudge into people were too caught up to notice me or welcome me in, such a cool crowd like Hollywood or something. Some guys at the party were musicians and DAMN were they good! But otherwise kind of a bust and I wished I’d skipped the party.

Food, housing,

I can buy 25 oranges or tangerines for a dollar, the same is mostly true for bananas. The amount of the citrus harvest is just incredible. Since they are still the most accessible source of fresh food, I eat A LOT of oranges and tangerines. The local farms are all full of recently planted tomato, lettuce, onion, and other goodies and when I get my own house I’ll finally be able to cook to my own taste for a change. I’ll still get to eat typical food when I find an empregada (maid). That reminds me, I’ve been doing my own laundry by hand once a week for almost nine months. It is quite a chore, takes me at least 2 hours every time usually more up to 4.

Frustrating times

I'll run through a list of some of the challenges that, cumulatively, nearly broke my will to enjoy life here
1. Bank card. I hadn’t used my bank card in over a month and when I got to the ATM it seemed I had forgotten my PIN code but how? I only ever use 2 numbers. I must have changed it last time I used the bank and not taken enough note of it, so like me. As a result I was bankrupt during my trip to Maputo in March, for Regionals, and unable to buy the things I thought I needed (I stupidly went around a fancy store that is like Target of the U.S., picked all the stuff I thought I needed and found out at the register that they don’t take American Express. When I walked away, the realization that I didn’t actually need any of that crap on the check out table was a real liberation). I was told in Vilanculos that “the system” wasn’t working to make cards, try again later. Then while I was in Beira, 2nd biggest city, I spent two full days in the bank “waiting to hear back from Maputo” followed by “well you see, the system’s having trouble...” and in the end I was sent away without a new bank card. Shortly after I was talking with another PCV and learned that she too had PIN code trouble, the bank had forgot hers and she still didn’t have a new card. WHAT!? So it was the BANK that forgot MY pin code during its merger with Barclays? If I’d have known that during my two days in Beira I’d have pleaded my case a bit differently. Anyway shortly after back in the small city of Vilanculos I spent another whole day in the bank and at the close of business they finally gave me a card. I decided that if I work in Africa later in life it will be to fight the sort of idiotic inefficiency that keeps busy businessmen and women standing in line in UTTER unproductivity for hours on end.
2. Chapa drivers as kidnappers. Another funny thing about riding in the chapa is that you are at the mercy of the driver once you get inside. The worst drivers exploit this fully, not only in charging you up front for the trip in order to have money to stop for gas once you’re in the car, but also to make personal errands while the 15-16 passengers watch the minutes and hours of their day slipping through their hands like grains of sand.3. I’ve been waiting for my house to be built since December. It’s June 6th and it’s still not ready for me to move in though it’s REALLY close to being ready. Of the various problems that have interceded:- the original contracted builder got sick and went MIA before starting work, we ran out of straw to build the house 2/3 of the way through the walls—possibly due to shrinkage- the guy who was supposed to do the concrete floor drowned drunk in the river and was apparently paid in full before completing the work—all he finished of my house before his death was building the square foundation about two cinder blocks high and all around the house.

Cold Showers

I haven’t kept you up to date on my bathing situation. So there’s a shower in the Senhor Director’s house, it is a cold shower. When I get into it in the morning, sometimes a chilly morning, I need to put my hand in a few seconds, followed by three shallow quick breaths followed by a jump in with my head under the water while I rub the cold water on my chest and shake off the convulsions that my body releases to convey its displeasure with my decision to do this yet again. So I usually only take the one shower a day, even if my feet are smelly before I go to bed (Chaco’s). If it weren’t for hygiene and body odor I’d steer clear of the cold shower. Soon enough I’ll be taking bucket baths again in my own house.

My spiritual enlightenment and subsequent lamp-shading

One day in March I was having a watershed moment. For the first time I felt like I was home here in Mambone. Started on a Friday when I went to the Catholic Youth group meeting (I subsequently stole the youth group’s newly started journalism club and transplanted it into the secular school, not very Christian of me). The meeting was held in the church and Irma Lourdes, the Brazilian nun who runs the group, started off the meeting by playing her Portuguese guitar (nylon strings) and leading the songs with a voice approximating the lead singer of the Cranberries. I love karaoke, I love to sing, and it was really nice to be in a sing-a-long for the first time since training when we sang American Pie by Don McLean. Then on Sunday when I went to church I felt like the people around me were neighbors and friends, many familiar faces, they were not Africans or them as they had been the Sundays before. The church suddenly stopped being their futile poverty-stricken pitiable effort at a grand church, it was in fact the nicest living room in town and quite successful at being a beautiful place to worship. It always had been, it was just my assumption coming in that the church must be in some way lacking in resources, or struggling or failing just because it is in Africa. Distinct and relaxing aqua-drab color scheme with just the right amount of daylight shining in through the slat windows, and an eye-pleasing altar in which the mortar follows its own natural lines like cracks in shattered glass, or like a castle. Under the altar and flowing down the stairs a Persian rug. I realized that day that if you could see God’s face right now, he’d probably look like the most annoying person I know, someone whose presence/appearance/mannerisms I find intolerable annoying. I live with two such people, my school director’s wife and the houseboy. That reminds me, I’m working on a screenplay for a sequel to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” it’s called “My Big Fat Annoying Wife” but I won’t sell the script unless they agree to cast my inspiration as the lead role since it is mostly based on her life. Anyway, like I was saying, the challenge of the Christian is to overcome hatred and anger and annoyance and find a way to love. When the houseboy sees me scrubbing articles of my clothing in the laundry basin with soapy water and then asks me, “You doin’ laundry?” I want to scream at him and call him captain obvious, but theoretically if I do then the one who loses is me. I think my thinking on this was guided by the guy who came to Davidson and talked about the recruitment people of the KKK. They find young kids and start by getting them to talk about how they hate gays, and from gays they change the topic to jews one day, and then after a few weeks hanging out they broach the subject of hating blacks and voila! The theory goes like this: by harboring hatred where I think it’s safe, like in hating fat stupid annoying retards who lack social skills, I’m allowing hatred into my life, negativity, bad things. Being a Christian means indulging this person and overcoming, finding a way to not only tolerate but find a way to enjoy their company. I spend so much time feeling overfull of love and I’m going around and looking for that “special someone” who could be loved for the rest of my life. Meanwhile all these people that aren’t that one person I’m judging them and thereby secretly hating them when I could be loving them. Each person I judge and hate ends up condemned and exiled from my life, chained to a wall in my spiritual dungeon, unable to bring me joy. At this point in the theory I realized how a monk or nun can live a life of celibacy. They don’t suffer the burden of burning love with no one to give it to—the romantic source of loneliness that drives so much of our culture, pop music, sitcoms etc., because they find a way to give their love to everyone…in theory. Interesting to contrast this with Buddhist celibacy, where the goal is to avoid getting tangled up in the bonds of the flesh and the world that is merely physical.Anyway, I’m not sure that I’m cut out for this love at all costs. For now I’m opting for a balance between love and hate in my life, because when I recently lost it and told the kid that he’s stupid, to his face and several times in a row until he understood and when I make it painfully clear (whereas before I’d only been crystal clear) that we aren’t friends and that I don’t want anything to do with him, he leaves me alone and then I have peace. The problem is that his presence is still around because I still live in that house, and once you decide to go ahead and hate someone it’s hard to ignore that person when they’re around. Like Pandora’s box just half-open, you watch out the corner of your eye waiting to see what annoyance they will do next in order to fuel the fire.

The capulana, plus What else could I carry on my head?

The capulana is a colorful piece of cloth about a meter long and half a meter wide. Thin. It is used by women for almost anything. Men have pants and shirts tailored out of them. Women, though..nothing they can’t do with a capulana. Babies slung on their back in capulanas, capulana as a skirt, as a shawl, as a towel, as a groundcloth to sit on when forced to sit on the dirty floor. OK I’m sure there’s other stuff but I’m tired been writing a while…I’ve seen many a women walking down the streets with one hoe balanced on her head—you could hardly imagine that’s easier and yet it’s done that way. Kids are trained from an early age to carry things on their head so that they get to the point where they can do it no hands. The most common thing to see is jugs of water, but some of the rest that makes its way onto the head is quite funny. They use a cloth folded into a donut shape on the head to make everything “easier”

The school atmosphere and African trees

One of the funniest things about school here is that it’s prohibitively difficult and expensive to use photocopiers. That means that when I’m giving a test I need to write it all of the questions on large A1 aisle paper with markers and stick it to the front wall with sticky tack so that all can see the test (I find this a better method than writing it out on the blackboard seven times). When I’m standing in front of the room trying to look intimidating so that they know I’ll punish them for talking during the test I sometimes have to laugh because they look like Prarie Dogs or Meer Cats, first sitting up all erect and attentive and then bending down over the test, each student in their own rhythm. Another thing I wanted to mention about the school is that the schoolbell is an old tire rim suspended like a gong. The guy who tolls the bell is a young guy, maybe 20, who rings it mercilessly loud with a metal hammer and since the bell is just outside of the library it sometimes scares the crap out of me because it’s the last thing you expect to hear when you’re in a library. The schoolyard has two trees that I esteem highly: one is the Baobab at the far end of the row of classrooms and the other is the HUGE shade tree of unknown species with a mysterious resilience that has allowed it weather the many cyclones it must have seen during it’s long life here near the Mozambican Channel. The Baobab is a folklorical African tree, a Lion King type tree, but really what it reminds me of is Keebler Elves. It’s like a deciduous cactus, apparently hollow inside of its massive trunk where it stores water for the dry season.
I'm trying to upload the photos now, not much luck so slow

Friday, May 16, 2008

Unplanned post

Hey guys, whatºs up? This will be free blog entry since i donºt have anything particularly planned. biggest new news is that i was introduced to new friends at site who bring me right back to college days hanging out with internationals, except difference is they are talking about their work in Mozambique and i learn heaps by listening tothem. in short, working here is a constant battle against the most ridiculous of obstacles and working conditions. Africa dares you to try and get something done, go ahead, make itºs day. The one friend is Dr. Nilton, who turned 25 yesterday (a real doogie howser) and he is the only doctor in the district. we hang out a fair amount now, probably more than iºd like to because when iºm hanging out at his house i feel like iºm back inthe U.S., what with normal spacious interior and English spoken on tv and by us. he even gets MTV and reads Menºs Health. I think he might be more American than me. The other firend is Geraldine, she is fromthe Basque country between Spain and France, way exotic. She has a cute French accent and lots of experience working as a short to long term consultant in Africa and all over the place. her stories are great.
School is tough, iºm too much of a disciplinarian but i'm teaching 8th grade and i guess thatºs about half of what it means to teach that grade. problem is a canºt loosen up around them because as soon as i do they think its ok to start acting like little punks again. iºm having anger issues. my favorite is the night school, a lot like the sitcom 'Night Court' which you might remember fondly as i do, though i was 3 when i saw it and understood nothing. the teachers hang out in the teachers lounge and bullshit to avoid going home, i guess, and the lessons themselves go SO MUCH BETTER because the students are adults and i can treat them more like equals. i can joke, they laugh at my joke, then we get back on task. one false move with the kids and they go out of control and there goes the rest of the lesson. The little children here, who are still in the rye-field, those kids are just plain beautiful, but...8th graders. iºm working on it, got to be more positive.
Also, my house is coming along. I guarantee you it will flood in the first medium to hard rain, no matter how many Mozambican engineers tell me 'no ha de entrar agua' which is 'water wonºt come into the house' just a simple assertion, repeated again and again despite the laws of physics, by the builders. Iºm in Maxixe now buying some stuff to make it more livable, like an electric hotplate. Write to me!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Send me MP3 cd's

You wouldn't believe how bad the American music that makes it over here is. Some dumb Avril Lavigne songs, James Blunt...worst of all is that so many people REFUSE to believe me when I tell them that actually, Linkin Park sucks, you just don't know it because you've got nothing to compare it to. So please send me CDs at my address here,

Greg Harris
C.P. 16
Vilanculos
Mozambique

I recently bought an MP3 player and speakers that hook up to it, I promise I'll share your music with others here. later,

Greg

My newest insight about Africa

The thing about Mozambique and probably Africa in general. It's easy and enjoyable to live here, but nearly impossible to get anything done. This has been a big challenge for me recently, as I've got more of a sense of urgency having seen a quarter of my time here gone by already so now i'm trying to get stuff done. All I have to show for so far is some work I did on finding info about scholarships for our students. As it turns out the Provincial Direction of the Ministry of Education is essentially the only place a student can turn to for a scholarship and with interest so high students loans are unfeasible. So there's only one thing to recommend for my best students, grit your teeth and push on the bureaucracy and hope that, in the end, their scholarship package and subsequent payments will get done. There's about 50 scholarhips for the whole province, i think they're awarded yearly.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I just added a bunch of photos

Hey all,

I just uploaded a bunch of photos of my recent (and not so recent--I finally got to some fast internet here in Beira) travels, just follow the flickr photo link to the right if you want to see them. I regret that I did not bring the CD with the best photos taken by my kids at the journalism conference. I also got 2 amazing photos by our trainer, a veteran photo-journalist working out of Chimoio named Sergio Silva, but they are hard copy you'll have to wait till i have them scanned. He was a great guy, full of gripping stories. After all, he worked as a photographer for Save the Children during the war and you can imagine that working in that kind of environment he's seen, and photographed, a lot.
Hopefully I can fill in some gaps for you in some subsequent blog entries...basically the first trimester is over and I'm starting a photo-journalism group with funding from Peace Corps and I'm in the process of hopefully getting some more funding.
Call me sometime!!! You've got my number on this blog. Else write an email, or send me something in the mail, that address is on the website too. later my friends

Greg

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Why I love Mozambique!

Hey all,
I notice in looking back on what I've written so far that I probably have not sufficiently communicated how much I love this place. For starters you've got all these things that are pleasing to the eye. For example, unspoilt nighttime skies with shooting stars through a milky way that is just clear as day across the sky. Roads and walkways with texture brought about by erosion, nature is everywhere here, even in urban areas. The tall weedy grass does what it wants and people don't so much concern themselves with cutting it just because it's there. Clothes on children that testify to having lived themselves out to the point where you could hardly call that shirt a shirt--this reminds me of Ulysses drinking life to the dregs. The taxis I ride in are full of character and are utilized to the maximum possible. Once the car is full of people it just feels right, utilizing the resource and appreciating it in this way. Another thing is that in a world of few distractions and diversions the people around you become most important as your source of enjoyment in life. People have sincere interest during conversations, and I feel like the simple "good morning"s of passersby can replace a longer conversation in the states because they were spoken with such interest and sincerity and even enthusiasm. I'd say that is the main reason I love Mozambique, is the interpersonal relations. Worth highlighting is that I used to be scared of children, but now I love them.
And lets not forget that although I may be hungry for fresh produce at times, my ego is not all that hungry here. I get to be an important person, and enjoy status here as a result of my background, so it sometimes seems I'm more welcome than the average person to talk to head honchos in the community like Sr. Padre Amadeus, the head of the Catholic mission, or for example my namesake Greg, a South African guy who built a gas pipeline from Pande to Mambone and married a Mozambican woman and now lives here.
Another reason I love it here is because there's a lot of opportunity to serve others who are in need. I've not yet got to do that very much but now that I'm feeling well adjusted I'll be working more on outside projects other than school teaching.

Friday, March 21, 2008

My cell phone and new postal address + cell phones in Africa

My new cell phone number is +258 84 239 5736 .  
Of that number 258 is the country code and 84 is the prefix for my cell provider.   I hear skype is a cheap way to call me…
Please SEND ME MAIL or carepackages at my local mailbox, but nothing to fancy and under contents please write "school supplies".
My postal address is as follows:
Greg Harris
C.P. 16
Vilanculos
Mozambique

On the subject of cell phones, I’d just like to say that the use of cellphones here is more widespread than you could possibly believe. It’s exceedingly rare that I make a friend who doesn’t have one. That doesn’t mean everyone has one, but it seems like most people have one.
The December 8th 2007 issue of the Economist gave out the annual “Innovation Awards” and gave one to Mo Ibrahim, founder of CelTel, for the promotion of mobile phones in Africa, showing that it’s possible to build a multi-billion dollar industry in Africa other than mining or oil.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ee-see-quensoo-o-cha (it means White Devil)

Whoever wrote the 2nd Ace Ventura movie definitely spent some time in Africa. This is one of the funniest cultural adjustment things for me. As an American I find it hilarious when children and occasionally youths up to adults who see me passing by say “moo-zoon-goo” at normal conversation audible level, if not a bit louder. Muzongo is the word for white people here, and since there are few of us it definitely has connotations. In other words, just picture if in a rich white suburb I saw a black person walk by and said audibly, “a black person! What’s he doing here?” In America we think these things and we do double takes but racial sensitivity prohibits most people from blurting out “honkey” or “darkey”.
Better still is when I’m in a crammed taxi and someone speaking the local language will say something about “muzungo” and of course I’m the only one around, so if I demonstrate my displeasure or say something to indicate I’m aware they act surprised and think that perhaps I speak the local language (again, Ace Ventura). Then I think they realize that they’re not the first person to call me muzongo. People have been quick to assure me that the origins of the word go back to “mu-lu-wanga” or something like that as spoken in Zulu of South Africa. When the first whites arrived there, as in America, they were friendly and so the origins of the word mean, “a good person”. I doubt if that’s what people are thinking when they call me muzongo, though I’m not sure exactly what they are thinking. I think its just standard labeling and distrust of foreigners being expressed with a word.

Ninja-ing lychee fruits

In Mozambique, it’s not stealing if you see fruit on the ground under a tree in your neighbors yard and take that fruit. If you take it off the tree, that’s stealing. Also, the word ‘ninja’ is synonomous with ‘thief’ so if someone steals and you shout ‘ninja’ in the street people will know what you mean.During training my classmates and I were perpetually teased by the prospect of the impending fruit season. Most of all was the lychee fruit, perhaps the most delicious of fruits and also, as it turns out, elusive for us. As training was drawing toward a close, the lychee were ALMOST ready and my 4 classmates and I all knew and loved lychee and were driven into a lychee fever. Walking to our group sessions we would pass private yards with big trees with ripe red lychees hanging, but in the market no lychees were to be found. We were jones-ing so bad and, well, we did what we had to do, once in broad daylight and at other times in the cover of the night. Once we got back to someone’s room to gorge ourselves on our stash we’d always reach the bottom too quickly no matter how many lychees we ninja-ed, and we’d be left wanting more, which is how it should be for a fiend. During the last week we could finally buy them in the market and that I did, I ate a ton of them. It was a happy time for me.

Your Grandpa is growing up here

I think it’s about time I wrote something about school, seeing as I’m now about 2 months in. Get this: some of these kids walk 7 km or more to get to school, and where grandpa did it in piles of snow these kids do it in sweltering mid-day tropical heat.
And before Grandpa can matriculate, he has to work in the schoolyard and clean the school grounds of the high grass that has accumulated over the summer break. They show up with a hoe and then have to turn the grass over with a hoe in order to kill because the school doesn’t have a lawnmower. Once the grass is dry it is gathered in put into heaps, again by students, and burned at night by the night-watchman, Sr. Joao. I have some photos to explain the process and will try to post.
The results is a surprisingly beautiful landscape where lush green grass grows up in the place where tall weeds used to be, as though Dr. Greenthumb had been used. Since I had to get used to giving orders to these kids, I was one of the overseers of this task during matricula. I did alright as a boss, but one day I was giving particularly large portions of grass per student and I swear there were about 15 kids all leaning on their hoes eyeing me and thinking of mutiny, I just barely managed to keep control and get them to go back to work.

Africanized Horse-flies

You saw those images from save the children and Sally Struthers and the kid with the flies on his face and you thought to yourself, “that poor child, so starved he hasn’t got the energy to swat away the fly”. What you failed to realize is that the fly you saw was no ordinary fly, but an extremely aggressive and agile Africanized horse fly. When I step out my door in the mornings, I have between 5 and 10 seconds to enjoy the morning before a horse fly or two or three arrive to begin the indy 500, again, around my head. After years of living here people grow thick skin or at least they tame the nerves in the skin that cause one to flinch at horseflies. In church I see flies alight and hang out on first one person’s head, then another, then another, trying to distract people from the light and the way, and they miraculously do not swat at the fly, not unless it’s really being a jerk and all up in their face as Africanized horseflies sometimes do. Nevermind about that time when I was scaling some fish for lunch, so many horseflies I felt like a beekeeper. Heebie jeebies just thinking of it.

Administering a test

So I was advised that cheating tends to be a problem here. I took lots of precautionary measures but from what I can tell hardly anyone was cheating. The funniest precaution was clipping on sunglass lenses over my normal glasses to control the room. I was trying to keep my tough guy persona, so crucial during the first few weeks, and not smile but you try and keep a straight face after you clip on your terminator glasses and the kids all bust out laughing.

Language classes with a Charlatan

I started taking local language classes with a guy who turned out to be a charlatan. I thought he was the same guy who taught the local priests (several people had recommended I find “that guy who taught the priests” but when I thought I’d found him I was wrong. I did not make much headway during our lessons, and neither did he when he tried to hussle me for a table in his house at which he could plan lessons, or food, etc. He’s a really nice guy, but seems to be too accustomed to depending on the kindness of strangers, which gets annoying, so luckily school starting was a good excuse to discontinue our lessons indefinitely.The priest in the local church gave me an old manual for Portuguese to Ndau study, and the book is really helpful. The Bantu languages are very interesting. I have a will to learn the local language within the year so that I can really reach out into the community during year two.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Music that is popular here (Recommended and not recommended)

My favorite song, and the song that I want you to buy on iTunes, is by a South African band named Malaika. I can't find the actual title of the song which drives me absolutely NUTS but I'm guessing it is the song 'Muntuzu (2 Bob)'

Songs that I hear EVERYWHERE and ALL THE TIME
DJ Ardiles - Foto . This song was WAYYY popular
Nelson Freitas featuring Kaysha – Deeper. This song is a passada that is, a song for a close slow dance, complete with cheesy sexy lyrics in English.
Marlene - Esse Marido e meu 'that husband is mine (hands off!)'
Liza (or Lizha) James - Wo kala nbuya
Akon - "Nobody want to see us together"

Popular Artists:
Lucky Dube, South African Reggae
Jimmy Gulglo
Mabulo Hlamalami, I think the name of the song is ‘outra vez’
Phil Collins

Popular not recommended:
James Blunt (‘you’re beautiful’), Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, mention rock and they will say, ‘yeah, The Scorpions (the 80s band that played, comicly appropriate in this cyclone prone area, ‘Rock you like a Hurricane’),

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Flooded out of my site

Hey all,
The big news is that I was evacuated out of my site on January 2nd due to Peace Corps Security Officer's concerns about floods at my site, Nova Mambone. You might be able to read about it on the news. Heavy rains in Zimbabwe drain in several rivers including the one that i live right nearby, and the road has been flooded in a few places. I'm hoping to write more about this at length tomorrow if i can get back to internet. Basically, though, a lot of the homes on the north side of the main road have been flooded and so people are out of their homes. The road was built in 2000 or 2003 or something, but it was designed very poorly and the experts didn't listen to the local people, including the Catholic priest at the mission near my house (who is very upset at the way things turned out). Basically, the road acts as a dam and keeps the floodwaters from passing through to the south side of the road, so many of the homes AND FARMS on the north side of the road are more prone to flooding as a result. It's plain to see that the road is to blame. At one point where the water was spilling over the road i observed a whirlpool on the one side, and on the other a 2 ft diameter concrete drain pipe spraying like a firehose into the lower lying south side of the road. the pipe was designed to alleviate the floodwaters, but the builders decided to skimp a little on the water management infrastructure and now that those builders have been paid and left its the community that bears the costs of their poorly executed project. I will need to do some more research into how this all came to pass. for photos see my flickr.com link to the right.