Food is awesome. It’s one of the main points of conversation between Peace Corps Volunteers. Great food were eating. Awesome foods were not eating. What we wish we hadn’t eaten (heres looking at you, rat fiends).
I got the chance to eat something delicious that I didn’t think I’d see again until after Peace Corps:
Pongo. pork. Pongo is the pigs name. Was the pigs name. I just call him delicious.
I made a long overdue trip to Chiure to once again enter Cabo Delgado, my forgotten stomping grounds from 2011. It was amazing to walk into the community and get stopped by people who recognized me and invited over for lunch before I ever made it to the PCVs house. I felt so welcome and was so happy to see that the town brought back great memories instead of terrible ones.
We went up to celebrate a PCVs birthday with a pig roast. The two PCVs there raised some pigs and one of them had to go. They chose Pongo, a delicious hunk of bacon and pork that they sacrificed for the greater good. It was an impressive and loud display. The 4am wake-up call was not something you could have slept through, Pongo made sure of that. But once the slaughter was underway there was no turning back, and the other PCV didn’t hesitate or drag out the event.
The pig was then cleaned and stuffed with potato, onion, garlic, pepper. A deep rectangular hole was filled with charcoal and the pig was lowered down to cook all day. In the end, the pig came out with some parts being cooked and some parts in need of frying. It was all delicious, have I mentioned that? I’ve never been part of a pig roast before, so it was an exciting weekend all-around. It was made even better by an adventure to some waterfalls on the Lurio River. We took a truck out to the viewpoint and then climbed down a cliffside to get to the waterfalls. It was a really fun spot to hang out and we attracted alot of attention that drew people out from the rocks and rivers to surround us and stare at us, which was kind of them.
I decided to keep on adventuring and went up to Montepuez to see another PCV site. This is a ruby and precious gem mining town/city and I was impressed by it’s size and conveniences. As the PCV there put it “it took me a year to realize it but, yo, I’m a city girl!” We explored the city and some ruins outside of town and were treated to some awesome matapa.
Afterwards I made a trip to…Angoche! I need to stop going there….never! The car that picked us up for Angoche is actually the boss of a PCV in Montepuez, small world. Another glorious weekend spent in that sleepy little coastal town with its never-ending mangrove forests and beaches and waterfront eateries.
I would write another blog post about the Ocean Fair, only…I have already done so. You can read it at the School for Field Studies website.
Or, to paraphrase that blog post:
” I organized a three-day Ocean Fair (Feira do Oceano) that took place June 7-9 on Ilha de Moçambique. I decided to approach the subject through both cultural and educational events in an effort to reach a wider audience. The events allowed for both locals and tourists to engage in conservation initiatives, be they educational, cultural, or a blend of the two. I believe that the Ocean Fair initiative was truly a big success. People of all ages participated in the events and said that they learned new things about the ocean and its importance.”
Let’s back track a bit.
You really don’t have a choice in the matter, since I have a lot to report back on and I haven’t updated this page in a while. We left off in May where I had taken a(nother) trip down to Angoche.
My birthday celebrations were great. We had cake, key lime pie, brownies. There was a piñata. Hayley and I tried to simultaneously take the first swing, broke the stick, and then decided to just focus on the tequila.
June began and suddenly there were children everywhere.
June 1st is Children’s Day here in Mozambique. Last year to celebrate this holiday we put on a Children’s Day Festival inside of the fort on the Northern end of the island. This year we ended up doing the same thing. Along with the volunteers from MOVE and Projecto Oceano, a great day of games and food and movies was held for all the little criancas that terrorize the island. It was cute in a way that made me think about having kids one day, and then it wasn’t so cute anymore and it got scary. I kid. No, really though, it was a good time for all those involved. Plenty of my students from the secondary school volunteered for the day and we were able to pull off a hectic-from-the-inside day that kicked ass and took names. I’m happy that the Children’s Day Festival was a success and that I helped out once again to make it happen.Kids are okay.Sometimes.
Madness. Mayhem. May.
The past month has been extremely stressful for me. Not that I think this is a bad thing, but rather I am stating it to remind myself that things weren’t always this way. Since December I have been formulating an event in my mind, and finally it’s execution is only a week away!
Feira do Oceano, or Ocean Festival, is a three-day event focused on Ocean Awareness and Education. Starting on June 7th, International Ocean Day, both local community members and tourists will participate in a series of events that draw their attention to the beauty of the ocean, the anthropogenic importance of it’s products (both tangible and intangible), and the role that we must play to promote a healthy, productive relationship between humans and the sea.
Beach clean-ups, trash-to-art (upcycling) stations, trash can installations, mural paintings, presentations, documentaries, movies, music, dance, art, seafood, and workshops will all focus on how to develop responsible behaviours as a community. Ocean-themed reading circles will be held to promote the library and an interest in the sea (with a touch tank and invertebrate lesson). A photo exhibit at a local cafe/restaurant will promote activism through art in the community and showcase the talents of students from the secondary school I’m teaching at.
Additional focus on malaria and water-born disease prevention will also come into play, though indirectly (hand-washing stations with informational displays, a focus on mosquito nets being banned from use in the oceans as nets).
The whole thing is starting to make my head spin. There are so many details to deal with, and so many obstacles to overcome. So far I have dealt with unsupportive departments, lazy organizations, greedy officials, unreliable transportation, unpredictable (outrageous) price quotes, and a slew of details surrounding electricity, communication, construction, permits, and so forth…I will stop now, there’s no need to get into greater detail and stress myself all over again.
Luckily, I have students that are excited to help and friends in the community that will help me see this event through to the end. Dozens of PCVs will be attending as well, and I know that if something happens, I can count on them to rescue an event from disaster.
Luckily there will be a very talented PCV at the Festival to capture everything on film, and I think that album and those videos will best describe the event.
Wish me luck next weekend!
April 25th was World Malaria Day. To celebrate my 1-year Anniversary of being Malaria-free, I thought it would be helpful to host a workshop at Projecto Oceano, where students and activists could learn how to make a homemade mosquito trap. These traps are easy to make, cheap, and not only attract mosquitoes AWAY from you but they also kill the mosquitoes as well. Win-Win-Win. You win because it is cheap. You win because it means less mosquitoes buzzing around your net at night. And you win because there are less mosquitoes in your life as the days pass by…this is a very greedy situation, but you have to be selfish when it comes to malaria prevention, because it’s all about you NOT getting bitten.
We started the workshop by discussing the disease and ways to prevent malaria. I was surprised to learn that many of the students attending the workshop had come down with malaria on multiple occasions. I also learned, though not surprisingly, that not everyone there uses a mosquito net when they sleep. It is well known in Mozambique that malaria is a dangerous disease that kills almost as many people each year as HIV/AIDS. So many people die each year from malaria, but this can be avoided by using mosquito nets. Unfortunately in my community, Ilha de Mocambique, the vast majority of the population prefers to sleep outside and without the protection of a mosquito net. It’s not that there is a lack of nets, but most of them end up being used to patch up fishing nets or replace fishing nets entirely. This is bad for us, bad for the ocean, but great news for those female malaria-ridden mosquitoes.
SO. I thought that, if people aren’t going to use mosquito nets but still say they don’t want to come down with malaria, that a mosquito trap might be more appealing to them. Ideally these would be used WITH nets, but hey, one step at a time folks. We built a trap and then discussed how it would be best used. What rooms would they left in? Inside or outside? How far away from the trap should you sleep if there is no mosquito net being used? After trouble-shooting some of these (and giving a quick chemistry lesson on the formation of carbon dioxide and a quick biology lesson on why CO2 attracts mosquitoes) we left the trap to be tested out in the Projecto Oceano room. We’ll see what kind of results we get and how those compare with the traps the student-activists will make. Each person who attended the session received the instructions in Portuguese and English to share with friends and family members and colleagues in school!
The trap is easy enough to make, here are the instructions and materials:
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 gram of yeast
1 2-liter bottle
1. Cut the plastic bottle in half.
2. Mix brown sugar with hot water. Let cool. When cold, pour in the bottom half of the bottle.
3. Add the yeast. No need to mix. It creates carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes.
4. Place the funnel part, upside down, into the other half of the bottle, taping them together if desired.
5. Wrap the bottle with something black, leaving the top uncovered, and place it outside in an area away from your normal gathering area. (Mosquitoes are also drawn to the color black.)
My computer has been down for the count as of late, and because of that I haven’t been writing much. For that, I apologize. But, there is good news for all in relation to my library project: It’s Done!
DONE DONE DONE.
The library is situated at the center of the island in a good secure space connected to Projecto Oceano, the education and empowerment NGO that I have taken to working with. Working alongside Jessica, we put together a cool, fun space where students and children (not all children go to school here, unfortunately) can access educational materials, books, card games, electronics, and internet.
The books are well organized and divided so that the younger children don’t destroy the educational material. Our space includes maps and a chalkboard for learning and language lessons. We have chairs and tables made of local materials and woven rope. 4 bean bag chairs made out of a cotton-paper-plastic conglomerate are set up on the floor and covered in cool capulana patterns, which Jessica has a keen eye for. 2 ottomans were made and covered in capulana that can act as tables or seats as well.
Our books are able to be checked out by members of Projecto Oceano for a short period of time. Four times a week the books are used to develop language skills with young children who primarily speak the local dialect, Makua. This is crucial for their future and ability to learn, as the education system uses only Portuguese in the schools.
I’m very happy with the outcome of this project and I am proud of the partnership between Peace Corps and Projecto Oceano. It ensures that the library will continue to grow and develop and reach the community in different ways as it does so.
So, after that, here are some photos that I also put on facebook:
Written: Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Well, it is amazing what can happen in a week or two. I’ll start with the bad, move on to the good, and then end this on a “hmm”.
School started out well enough. Our first couple days of classes (of the 2nd week) passed with the usual drama: changes in the schedule, changes in what subjects professors were teaching or what years or groups they were teaching. In one day I went from teaching 11-C in the morning to 11-B in the evening to 11-A in the afternoons. Each of the changes occurred after I had already taught 2 lessons to 11-C and 11-B. I met on Monday with Professor Puita, another English teacher for 11th and 12th grade students and a neighbor of mine. We’ve had drinks on occasion and always stop to talk to one another. I went by his house on Tuesday to deliver the 11th grade syllabus and found him inside, his kids watching the television and avoiding the afternoon heat. Wednesday I was without classes and so naturally found myself reading and napping throughout the day in various locations. Thursday morning, while walking to class at an absurd hour (I always walk to the far end of the island to read and stay cool around the school, otherwise I arrive miserable and covered in sweat), I ran into another professor and our school’s bookkeeper. I nodded politely and with the hand not carrying my coffee, took out an earbud. I asked them why they were out so early and if they wanted to continue on with me towards the school. That was when I learned that in the middle of the night Professor Puita had died. I was shocked at the news and unsure if I heard them correctly, had the news repeated to me. Apparently it was due to a fever that came on fast and hard. All anyone would say is “febre”. Was it from malaria? He seemed fine just a day before. Was he already sick from something else? It is hard to say since avoiding the subject of HIV/AIDS is a dark part of Mozambican culture. Then they took me into the hospital where a few other colleagues had already gathered. I was asked if I would like to “see Puita and pay respect” and of course I wanted to say goodbye, so I went to see Puita. I wasn’t expecting them to pull back the capulanas and when they did I kind of went blank and just thought to myself for a while about the differences between being away from people and with people, and how the physical and mental existences of people in other people’s lives and minds create a lot of questions that a philosopher might spend a good deal of time on. But I won’t. Life is short and weird. In any case, we spent the day at the hospital sharing our condolences and seeing off the funeral party. I wasn’t able to go on account of my back injury and so I went home and packed for Mid-Service Conference and thought about all the great people I would get to spend time with in Maputo.
Mid-Service Conference was a great experience. It was very motivating to hear people speak about their ambitions for the following year and about the positive ways in which they dealt with issues relating to gender, skin color, and cultural differences. Our sessions were mostly volunteer-led and that made them all the better. In the end I came out of them with some great ideas about implementing more HIV/AIDS prevention activities into the classroom as well as empowering community members to speak out on malaria awareness and education. (Thanks to Kyla and Mike for leading those discussions and activities!) I also received a very good response from PCVs in my group and in the group after us (there were Moz18ers there due to the flooding in Gaza province) about my Road Safety Sign/Mural Project, which I am trying to execute through Sara’s Foundation. Look for news and updates on that project as I receive them!
In addition I received about 150 new books to add to the library collection! These are all in Portuguese and will really help children, students, and adults to improve their reading skills and further their education. Besides plenty of books to aid with academic studies there are some great books in there that I can’t wait to discuss at Book Club.
Also, UPDATE: I met with Projecto Oceano recently and found out that while I was at Mid-Service Conference they removed the ping-pong table from their other room and it is now open to be used as a library space! This is excellent news since I am not sure when construction will ever finish at the original site and now we can work closely with top-tier students in the exact space I envisioned the library being in. I am so pumped about this because I know the students and young adults that work with Projecto Oceano and I am so confident in students like Naiza, a book reader in the Ler e Aprender program, that I have no worries about leaving the books in their hands after I’ve left Ilha.
Now, back-tracking to Mid-Service again. This was also a conference that got us to the capital to see a dentist and doctor and confirm we were not wasting away at our sites. As most of you know I have been battling with a back injury stemming from a motorcycle crashing into me. It has been about a year since the pain has begun and each day is a roll of the dice. Sometimes the pain doesn’t exist, sometimes it is a dull constant throb, sometimes a sharp pain travelling up and down my back and legs, sometimes it flat-out immobilizes me. I received a CTC scan in August and since then I have talked with the Medical office multiple times about receiving physical therapy. At the time I was told it was bad timing and that the budget had been all used up. It wasn’t until I made contact a 3rd time about my back that physical therapy became an option and this was directly before school began. I decided to wait for Maputo where I could receive some proper therapy and have further tests and consultations. However, I was not scheduled for physical therapy when I arrived (while others were) and after seeing specialists 3 times and receiving an MRI I am still unsure of what Peace Corps plans to do with me. I am also a firm believer that knowledge is power and therefore I am hoping to go to South Africa and see a spine specialist. My MRI results were not exactly what they had suspected and a further complication with my back seems to have been discovered. PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Office) here in Mozambique mentioned the need to consider Medical Separation. That is a stressful and worrying thing to consider. The last thing I want to do is go home right now. I am too excited about this year and all of my projects: the library, swim club, road safety signs, ocean festival, children’s day festival, science fair, English theater…there is so much to do! On the other hand this past year has been extremely stressful because of the injury and it is a constant battle to keep myself feeling healthy. I really hope that this can be resolved. I should hear about my options from PCMO by the end of this week, and I am hoping that they approve a Medical Evacuation to South Africa to see a spine specialist.