Thursday, February 5, 2009

Back in Action

So, my first post back at the helm of this magnificent boat of adventure! I am pleased to say that my return back “home” was smooth, easy and very very comfortable – made so by the very plush and regal hotel I stayed at in South Africa (a huge thank you to the rents on that one!!). After arriving back in Mozambique without one of my pieces of luggage that was lost in the array of flight transfers from Albany to Johannesburg (there was one, by the way), I got home just a mere 4 hours later. In Mozambican terms of time, it was amazing. I was thankful that everything on the Mozambican end of things was as smooth as “buttahhh.”
So now I'm in Mozambique. Like I said I went back to Chibuto to see what the damage was to my house... and again, lucky for me there was none! I can't tell you hope much of a relief it was to get back to my house and find that all the doors and windows were unbroken and still intact. Though, I can't say as much for my potted plants; as they suffered hard at the hands of the malicious little gangs of children that roam my “suburban” neighborhood. All in all, life was good when I arrived back home. I was in Chibuto for about three full days when I was summoned back down to Maputo for my groups (Moz 12, for all you new readers) Mis-Service Conference. Basically it's a week of HIV/AIDS inspired seminars and sessions intermixed with physicals and dental appointments. What a week it was! I'll just say two things: and air conditioned environment and a buffet three times a day...! Seriously, what could be better than that?! We were all in climate controlled food comas by the first night. It was glorious.
In addition to the delectable cornucopias of food that were littered about the hotel, it was also a time to rekindle and reshape old friendships from training. It was a great opportunity to see everyone again and furthermore, to see how much everyone has changed in the last year. It really is amazing how a single year and the experiences experienced within that year can have such a dramatic affect upon people. It was great to see some with an increased air of self-confidence, some wisened by the hand of time, and some just a little bit less uptight and more willing to “go with the flow.” It is an exciting prospect indeed to think what this next year has in store for us all.
While my part of the conference ended, the part for the health volunteers continued on with seminars on perma-culture training. Since I was not ready to go home, I willingly succumbed to the requests of friends to crash with them for the remaining two nights despite me not attending the seminars and instead hanging out by the pool with another person in the same situation. After extending my vacation/conference for two days, it was just another day before now President Barack Obama was to be sworn in as our 44th President. With this monumental cornerstone in American history hanging in the very hear future, it was mutually decided by all that we would stay for the inauguration celebration at the US Embassy's public affairs office. We did and it was absolutely amazing! It was such a great experience to be abroad yet celebrating something so important to America. After the Embassy's soirée, we headed to an after party in honor of our new President. It was a big celebration with hoards of people, live Mozambican music, and people on stilts! It was a great celebration indeed!
The next day I headed back to Chibuto with the rest of the PCVs that extended their stay. The very next day I reported to the secondary school for work where we toyed with the new class schedule for the 2009 school year. After a lot of waiting and deliberation over who will teach what and when, the schedules were made. I wound up with a majority of my classes being of the 8th grade and one class of 9th grade. Now I wont go so far to say that I am pleased with this (as I was told I would be teaching 10th grade) but as I always say “you win some and you lose some.” Clearly this was one of those times I lost.
Now I am getting my footing back and swinging right back into the normal rhythm of Peace Corps Mozambique life. Every weekday I go to work and give class then I go home and hang out with the neighbors and/or a good book. When the weekend comes it’s usually time to head to the beach and have a little fun in the sun. At this point I can’t say that life is anything but great.


ps – I have a new address which isn’t terribly different than what it was. From now on, please use the following address for me:

Jonathan Bates
CP 85
Xai Xai

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Holiday Hijinks

I hope that everyone had a very happy Christmas season and a very exhilarating New Years, I know I did! As 99.5% of you know, I was fortunate enough to be in the United States throughout the entire month of December and a beginning of January 2009. I know life in the US doesn't exactly thrill anyone (because we're all here already) but I feel I need to chronicle all that was my amazing USA vacation away from Mozambique.

It all started with my trip from site to Maputo the third week of November. I was lucky enough to go down to the Moz 13 training as a PCV trainer. It was an amazing experience to be able to meet, befriend, and let go with the incoming group of volunteers. By the time that I got down to Namaacha (my old training village) they were already in week 8 of training, so they only were two weeks from being sworn in volunteers. I was down for their first week of model school and tried to offer the wisdom that I acquired during my previous 15 month stint as a volunteer. I left the group feeling that PC Mozambique was definitely headed in a very strong, mature, and positive direction.

After my week long bash with the new volunteers I had a 3 day bender in Maputo. Since there were so many Moz 11's that were COSing and a myriad of Moz 12-ers that were frequenting the capitol, it was of no surprise that my “pre-vacation vacation” was a bit messy. While in the capitol I hit up this new martini bar (how chic!), went souvenir shopping for Christmas gifts, took a walking tour of Maputo, hit up the PC office, and said goodbye to many a good friend that was honorably ending their service and setting off for the United States and beyond. All I knew was that if this was any indication of my vacation stateside, I was in store for an amazing time when I arrived in NY. Man, was I right.

All in all it took roughly 38 hours from my house in Chibuto to my house in Amsterdam, NY. Not too bad considering that the flight from Johannesburg to Washington, DC took up 17.5 of those hours. I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at 10 AM to Albany with a slight feeling of exhaust. Where was the first place I went after my intercontinental voyage and my 15 month hiatus from the US? Well the Cheesecake Factory, of course! What better way to say “Welcome Home!” than by going to a place where one entree can feed a family of 4 suitably. Really, I couldn't think of anything better...other than the trifecta of martinis that I imbibed upon my arrival. For the record, there is nothing like a good, quality drink when you have become accustomed to liquor from a plastic soda bottle. I thought that was what heaven must taste like.

My first week back home was dedicated to my family and my hometown life (if there was such a thing) in general. I spent a copious amount of time with my parents, my sister, my niece, etc. in preparation for all the other traveling I was set to do during my stay, so my benefactors wouldn't complain that I hadn't seen them at all. During my first weekend home I was blessed with my nieces baptismal ceremony as well as attending a riveting Tran-Siberian Orchestra holiday concert. Both events, of which were amazing in their own right. Other than exclusively visiting the fam, one might say “in addition to” visiting the fam, an extravagant amount of eating was involved. I'm not lying when I say I put the feed bags on and went to town. Unlike my little Mozambican chalet, my parents humble abode is always chock full of food. So what did I do? Tuned into Dr. Phil and ate myself into oblivion day after day, of course. My taste buds were thoroughly titillated with pleasure at the wide assortment of flavors they were constantly sensing. It was a battle just to get my hand out of the bag/box. That was until I saw an episode where Dr. Phil was “shrinking” aka publicly humiliating people who were obese and didn't stop eating...then for some reason it got easier.

A few days later I set out on what I believe to be the best part of my vacation, my little 10 day getaway to Rochester, NY. Since it was my place of residence the past 4 years of my life and my college town I had no problems finding a place to crash and rock the city for all it was worth. For the first leg of my trip I stayed with an old track and field/XC teammate, Spain buddy, and great friend. We went crazy being together again while also catching ourselves back up to each others lives. While at Christen's many a visitor popped in and joined the band wagon of fun. It was the perfect beginning for an amazing ROC visit. The second half of my trip was enjoyed at my Uncles apartment, that's right I had my own digs when I was really could not have gotten any better. During that time I saw just about everyone that I had wanted to see and got as crazy as I wanted to get/was expected. In the end I did get my fair share of Hazelitt Red Cat wine and garbage plates at Mark's Texas Hots and copious amounts of diner food at Gitzi's (thank's to Grandma and uncle Bill)...which couldn't have been more fitting. It's funny how the small things in life make us most happy and reminiscent. I left Rochester on a high note that will carry me through this next year and leave me anticipating the good times, scandalous lovers, and best friends that await me for my return to the 585.

I arrived into Amsterdam from Rochester after a series of delays on Amtrak's part that lasted a whole 10 hours. It wasn't the best nor funnest way to spend a Sunday but I met some really cool people and got a free ticket out of it which was pretty great. I got into Amsterdam where I spent Christmas and the few days after that hanging out with my best friends from high school, seeing old friends from high school, my entire family, and my lover. Now Amsterdam isn't what I would consider a “cool” nor “fun” place to be let alone live but the few days that spent there was actually fun. Whenever we went out in Amsterdam it was a high school reunion, which was interesting because it's always amazing to see where people have gone and what they have accomplished in the last time you have talked with them. Along with hitting up the nightlife in my home town, Dave and I did take some trips to Albany and hit up the scene down there. It was great to be able to go out with my best friend but also to be the person who I am openly and without remorse. One might say “refreshing.”

I will also add that my family likes to eat. Yes, we are a clan of eaters and because of this the scale said that I gained over 10 lbs in the short time I spent home. Now I'm not saying that I wasn't a fan of eating all of those delectable delicacies but I just wish there was a way to be like one of those widely despised people that eats everything and anything in sight and still retains their slim and slender body. Someone needs to get on that ASAP then forward me the info...I'll be waiting! All kidding aside, I just ate my face off because I knew that coming back to Mozambique would allow me to drop all my extra baggage and more. Let's hope my anticipations aren't for naught or you'll have a Jabba the Hut on your hands come December 2009. Holla.

After the busy Christmas season I headed down to the Tri-State area with Dave for a few days of quality time and to spend New Years in the city. A great time was had by all, even on New Years Eve where we were part of a car accident on our way to NYC. Just for the record, the driver was not drinking (for some reason unbeknownst to me, he doesn't like to imbibe alcoholic beverages). The roads were really slick with ice and while changing lanes we went into a spin out and subsequently slammed into a side rail and then a bridge. No one sustained injuries from the accident and we all managed to get out of the car safely as to avoid the on coming traffic. This all went down around 9:30-10 PM. By 11:15 we were in a club dancing the night away with porn stars. Although there were a few kinks in the plan, the end result of a kick ass New Years was a success. I had one of the best New Years to date for sure. I left Long Island a very happy man and somewhat ready to get back to Mozambique.

My last few days at home were spent with some high quality family time and filled with shopping for numerous necessities for my last stint in Mozambique. I left NY feeling amazing and nervous about returning to Mozambique. Now that I am back I am glad that I am here and doing what I am doing. Although I am excited for the day when I get to return home and start up a new life, I am determined to enjoy the amazing opportunity and experience that I have been blessed with here in Mozambique.

To everyone whom I saw, hosted me, held my hair back, was there for me, bought me a drank, and just made my visit home one of the best vacations ever – thank you so much! To all of those people whom I did not end up seeing – I'll be back so be ready! And finally to my family whom I adore so very much – without you and all of your endearing support in th past year and a half and for making my trip possible, thank you so very much. I love you all and cannot wait until we all see each other again!

Stay well and enjoy the cold.



Friday, November 14, 2008

Teaching Heaven

Last week was the first round of National Exams here in Mozambique. At the high school level, both 10 and 12th grades have national exams at the end of the school year. Last year, while in training I visited a PCV at her site and one of the things I was asked to do while on my visit was proctor some national exams. Since I was not a member of the faculty of that school I thought it odd that this new guy could come in and control some exams, nevertheless it was done. My experience there was much the same of what I experienced in my own classes when giving exams...mildly loud and full of cheaters. I am overwhelmingly happy to report that my school had its act together for these national exams. During testing it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop and there were 700 people writing the exams! You can imagine my astonishment to this phenomenon – I wasn't used to this! It was what I have always imagined testing would be like if I were a teacher in the States or Europe, but never did I expect this after my experiences over the past year. The students did little more than sit at their desks, keep their eyes on their own exams, and only talked when they needed more scrap paper or had a question. For that week, I was in education heaven and loved it.

Two days after the chemistry exam was written, the chemistry group was dispensed from further proctoring to start the grading process. If the process is long in the US, it's even longer here. In an effort to prevent corruption in the school system, the Mozambican government goes to great lengths to safeguard the integrity of these exams. The first step in limiting corruption starts with the exchange of exams with a neighboring high school. It just so happened that the school in which we switched with was the same school where a fellow PCV teaches. After the exchange takes place, the second step is done by the school direction which separates the pertinent student information which is located on the corner of the exam and gives every test a different alphanumeric code corresponding to that information. Think of a coat check system and you can start to get the picture. Finally that's when we get the exams, which we must sign out. The third step is going through every exam and putting a red line in every blank space (as to prevent professors writing in the answers). The fourth step involves a primary and secondary correction. Lastly, the fifth step involves two revisions by other officials. Only after this process is completed will the students get the grades. It's a simple process that takes an enormous amount of time. In the end, it is my belief that this process dramatically minimizes corruption that would otherwise occur if the system were not in place. Parabens!!

You might have noticed above that I said that the first round of examinations was completed. This statement implies that there is more than one round to be held, which is the case in Mozambique and most places in the world (including NYS). Every exam is offered in two rounds at the end of the school year and then once more during the second trimester. For the end of year exams, if you fail the first then you can take the second and hopefully get the passing grade needed to move on. If you are unfortunate enough to fail both rounds then you can repeat the grade or take the "extraordinary" exam later the next year. You cannot, however, enter the proceeding year without passing all the exams. On top of all of this there are two classifications for the certificate/diploma you can achieve: sciences (Mathematica, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) or "letters"/arts (English, Portuguese, Geography, History, Drawing). If you are going for the sciences certificate, for example, you must get certain grades on the corresponding exams and make the minimum for the others.
**Disclaimer: The preceding paragraph is everything that I have observed and taken in over the past year, some parts may be incomplete or simply not true. Obviously, this was not done intentionally but you get the gist.**

Along with the end of the first round of exams came a very bittersweet period of time for me here in Chibuto. Last Friday was the goodbye party for one of my two sitemates who finished up her service (COS-ed) earlier this week. It was difficult seeing her off and saying our "goodbyes" but in the end I was very happy for her that she completed her service and left on a great note! As she said, "It's my time to go and I'm happy with my service, so I can leave happy." It doesn't get any better than that. My other sitemate leaves Chibuto at the end of next week, which will once again be a very difficult time. It's like saying goodbye to my Moz family! As some would say, "out with the old and in with the new" which is a little too brash for how I feel but the implication is spot-on. While I must say goodbye to my 2008 Chibutense family, I will also be receiving two more PCV sitemates for the next year. Now it will be my turn to be what Meg and Alyssa were to me for the new Chibuto PCVs.

In speaking of the new group of volunteers, this past weekend was their site visits. Every new group of PC trainees is sent to current PCVs so they can get a glimpse of what life is like/could be like for them. I received 2 chemistry teachers and their stay was refreshing for both them and myself. It was nice to show them around my community, my school, the beach, and answer the array of questions that they had. Two of the days they were here were spent at the beach. The first beach day was a chance for them to meet the other area PCVs. It was a great exchange of information on everyones part. It is my hope that this trip energized and excited for their swiftly approaching service!

As I write this, it amazes me that I have a week and a half left in Chibuto before I head down to Maputo for training and then back home for the holidays. I don't know where the time has gone but I'm really excited to be coming back for a brief visit! Any questions regarding my visit can be directed to my email ( I'm pretty sure this will be my last post before I get back into the States so if I don't post before then than have an amazing Thanksgiving and I will see you all very very soon!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Under the sea...

I'll start this entry with the ever-so-gentle reminder that I'll be home for Christmas in less than 2 months! Time here (as I suppose everywhere) is moving at lightning speed. For example, the 27th of September marked MOZ 12's 1 year anniversary in Mozambique and on the continent of Africa. I am still flabbergasted that a year has past since I have arrived to this distant land. I know it's über cliché but it seems like I arrived only yesterday. OK OK, truth be told some days it does seem like yesterday and other days it seems like it has been a year or more. Despite how long it has felt like, we still have little more than a year left before we can celebrate our overwhelming success. Nevertheless, congrats to us for getting to this point!
So how did I celebrate my one year mark in Mozambique? Being the person that I am, I can never do things without fanfare and this most important anniversary for me called for a hullabaloo of sorts. For that, I celebrated by getting my PADI scuba diving open water certification in Barra Beach, Inhambane! Three of my fellow Moz 12 Gazans got their certifications about 2 months ago and have done nothing but talk about how amazing all the underwater fauna and diving is. Being the adventurous sort (I'm here, aren't I?) I decided that this was definitely something I wanted to do and was interested in. After Santa Claus (thank you!) delivered his generous gifts I headed up to Barra with another Gazan, David. We spent 4 full days receiving the theory and knowledge of safe diving and then put this into practice with 4 open water dives where we could practice our skills. Clearly I was not certified yet so our amazing dive instructor, Ina from Sweden, was with us. Some days we had another instructor from England, Lisa, with us so that gave us 1-to-1 instruction which was absolutely amazing. Just a plug for Barra Lodge Dive Centre: it's definitely worth the money and the individual attention is simply amazing. I have heard stories about surrounding dive centres and it sounds like they just don't compare. Definitely hit up Barra Lodge if and when you visit! I know that I'll be back again and again, and my Mother will be one of the people going back with me on a discover scuba diving course!
I left the long weekend a certified open water diver up to 12 meters but I plan on and can't wait to go back in a few weeks to get my deep diving certification so I can dive up to 30 meters. On my dives so far I saw a variety of sealife and fauna such as the world most poisonous fish, the stonefish. I also saw many octapii (sp?), which changes colors with the blink of an eye and to see then swimming and undulating their various color palettes is a sight to behold, lionfish galore, moray eels, giant clams, blue-spotted stingrays, the leaffish, crown of thorns starfish, blowfish, and the very rare frogfish, a relative to anglerfish, just to name a few!
The week directly after my scuba diving fun-for-all was slated as finals week at my school. However because the end of Ramadan fell in the middle of the testing schedule, all exams were postponed a week. This would be great, if the school direction told anyone that they were planning on doing this. Once again, I was out of the loop and learned only by showing up and being like "o que est a acontecer?!"/"what's going on?!" Ahhhh...this place never gets old. I love it. In the end, I had the week off to just hang out, do some reading, cleaning, and mild construction on my house.
Don't really have too much more to write on over here except that my group is finally not the newbie group as the new group of PCTs, MOZ 13, arrived just this past week. I wish them all good luck and a lot of fun in their training experience!
I miss you all at home and hope that everyone is surviving this rocky period of American economic history with a smile on your face. Remember that although times may be rough, there are always people and places worse off than our own. Not to mention that nothing lasts forever, both the good and the bad times. Things will get better.
Love you, and stay strong!
PS – can someone send me info on what is economically happening at home?? I hear almost nothing and what I do hear is incomplete and murky... Thanks!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Leo

Hey everyone! I'm reporting here from Mozambique with another update of my so called life (isn't that a TV show?!). I really don't remember when I last updated as I write my blogs at home instead of the ridiculously expensive telecommunications shop (which charges use per minute on a dial-up connection...really, how offensive!) Any who, onto the ongoings of my life abroad.

I know I have been talking a lot (as in the past few posts) about my secondary project, the Science Fair on both the local and regional levels. The end of July saw the realization of the Regional Science Fair which for the first year, went off really well. All-in-all I am pleased with the Fair. Of course, with anything at home and especially in Africa, there are problems encountered at every level of activity and planning. In the end, we had about 40 students from 10 secondary and professional schools of Gaza and Inhambane Provinces accompanied by 16 teachers (both American and Mozambican). What a success! It just so happened that my only student participating won the Southern Regional SF for the primary cycle (8-10th grades). Naturally, people suspected that I had some influence in the decision making process. Of course! The man that was running around like a chicken with his head cut off for 8 hours straight rigged a high school competition...come on people! Is there honestly anyone that pathetic?
The final stage of the Science Fair came and passed just a few weeks ago in the bustling metropolis of Maputo. My student and I, along with all the other winners and their respective mentors, traveled down to Maputo to be part of the National Science Fair Expo that is expected to be broad casted on TV in the next few weeks. I'm going to be a Mozambican television star...err, I mean my student is going to be famous!! Haha. I know that my student as well and myself was pretty excited about this amazing opportunity to showcase his adept mastery of biological concepts and phenomena. While down in the Big City we went to the Museum of Natural History and we even tried to get into the Geology Museum but there was an astronomical cover charge and a wait for the non-VIPs. They weren't even going to give us the first drink for free! Haha, I kid – it was just closed both days we tried to go. It was a lot of fun to spend the time with the students aka the crème de la crème of Mozambique as well as seeing some PCVs from the northern and central regions. It's because of students like that that I'm extremely hopeful and optimistic about the future of this great country.

The National SF Expo was directly followed by PSN (Peer Support Network) training which meant that I got to spend 8 whole days in Maputo. It was extremely refreshing to get away from site life and just change it up a bit. 15 PCVs convened for a 5 day training conference where we were acquainted with the ways and methods of appropriate and meaningful peer support. It was an amazing time spent with some of the best people I know. It really amazed me how such a large group could have such good dynamics. I expect that there will be very few ETs (early terminations) this next year (knock on wood), or at least I hope that's the case. Again, it was great to see PCVs from every region that I hadn't seen in 11 months! We rock guys and remember...“It's just the tip!”

Directly after PSN ended Foxie and I went back to Namaacha and visited my Mozambican family. I hadn't been back in about 9 months and it was my first time back so needless to say I was a bit nervous. Were they going to think of me differently, would they think my Portuguese had improved, what was it going to be like when I was the only foreigner in my bairro (neighborhood)? These were all the questions that were running through my mind as we approached the quaint mountainous village tucked in a nook made by the borders of Swaziland and South Africa. Well I can say that it was absolutely amazing! Yes, I'll admit at first it was awkward but then I just hoped into the same grove I has before I left. Not even 5 minutes after I walked in the door my mother screamed (not said), “Tome um banho, meu filho!!” (Take a bath, my son!!). That's when I breathed a sigh of relief that it was going to be just like homestay only this time I could actually have long conversations with my parents and have mutual comprehension of the dialouge.
While back in Namaacha I also met my xara (namesake). When I arrived at homestay, unbeknownst to me my mother was about 5 months pregnant. By the end of my homestay she was clearly visable and looked like she was going to pop soon. About 2 months after I left she gave birth to a baby boy. I was equally amazed that they wanted to name their new son after me. I thought they were going to name the child João (Joe-wow), the Portuguese version of John and what I am called here. Not a chance. Typical of my mother she wanted something foreign, “chic”, meaningful and beautiful so she chose the name Jonathan. Words cant really express how amazing it is. It's truly an honor to have a child names after me with my English name. When I go back for the christening I'll take pictures and place them here.
Oh and the best part is that the child has a really fair skin tone so the neighbors thinks that it's actually my child! It doesn't get any better than that, folks!!

Continuing with my marathon vacation, Foxie and I then headed up to Southern Inhambane Province to the beauteous villa of Quissico. Quissico is known throughout Mozambique for having some of the best views and amazing lagoons. On our way up, on a 6 AM bus, everyone was wasted. It was truly like the party bus. There were like 3 people on it over 30 and the rest, it seemed, were in Spring Break mode. It was a lot of fun. We were making good time until some drunk girl started screaming PARAAAGGGEEEMMMM!!! Which means 'stop the damned bus.' Apparently the wine had got to her and she has to use the bathroom and by bathroom I mean a bush on the side of the main road in Mozambique. I should also note that this happened at about 8 AM. It was classic and I loved it.
Also, this would be a great time to mention the money collectors knitted sweater at the bus stop. It was a disgusting pea green with gold yarn weave. On the front was a giant face of a puppy with the script “How much is that puppy?” Think of those nasty Christmas sweaters that many elderly people love to was about 100x worse than that. Naturally at 6 AM I was prepared for such a thing...and so it lead to a Barney song: “Hooooowwww much is the doggie in the window, woof woof, the one with the waggly tail...” Everyone just looked at us like the crazy foreigners, which at that time I'm sure it seemed we were drunk too.
So when we finally made it to Quissico 6 hours later, the Timbila festival was in full swing. (If you don't know what a timbila is google it!) We arrived at the PCVs house in Quissico and there were about 20 PCVs there. It was amazing to see so many people. We all dispersed in various dirfections. Some wen tot witness the timbila players while myself and 3 other OCVs headed down to the lagoons. We were told it was a 20 minute walk and the directions were to follow the “biggest road.” In theory it sounds like great directions but when the roads are similar in width, it gets a bit hairy. Well we walked for an hour (with the sun quickly setting) and never got to the beach. We did get to what seemed like a crocodiles nest...we decided that it probably wasn't the best place to go swimming. On out trek back up the huge hill, we encountered a gaggle of PCVs that had just been to the beach. We missed the oh-so obvious “right at the little goat path.” Nevertheless the festival was amazing and we had a blast. The next day I finally made the trip back home.

After a week of classes, I headed once again up to Inhambane Province for the second PC regional meeting. Since PC Moz (not to mention PC worldwide) took harsh budget cuts, the second meeting was cancelled but we Southern PCVs banded together and created our own meeting. This time it took place in Barra Beach, Inhambane. I can honestly say it has to be one of the worlds best beaches (or at least it seems so). We had workshops/sessions every morning then relaxed all afternoon. It was yet again, another great time. I had such a great time that I plan to return at the end of the month to get my diving certification!

4 weeks left!! Of the school year, that is. Nevertheless it's pretty exciting and I truthfully can't wait to be done teaching. This year had been really long (and sometimes feels extremely short) and I am ready for a break...that's longer than 4 days. Within these last 4 weeks a variety events are to transpire: I'm going to get my scuba diving certification, Moz 13 arrives, and I finish up teaching!!

Just a few weeks ago, as most of you know, I celebrated my first birthday abroad, the mundanely big 2-3! Yes, I have entered into the realm of the “mid-twenties,” which is a bit unsettling. I had people over to my house and had an afternoon of drinks and tapas followed by an evening of more food, copious amounts of cake/desserts, and dancing. It was a good time. I'm just thankful I didn't have a complete melt down like most of the birthdays celebrated here have at one point. Now that my birthday has come and passed I can now concentrate on what lies ahead in the final stretch of my first year of service not to mention working off the grotesque amount of weight that was gained from the 7 cakes that were made for me (even though I shared ALL of them!).

While in the spirit of joyful jubilations and ceremonial celebrations, I would like to say a few things to the soon-to-be newlyweds, Mattew and Megan Wukovitz. The first is that I am so happy for both of you and even more happy that you found your respective soul mate at so young of an age. We could all be so lucky to find someone that truly cares for us the way we care for them...what an amazing gift! The second is that I am truly sorry I couldn't be there to celebrate your big day. You don't know how melancholy missing it has made me. Nevertheless, I hope your wedding is amazing, beautiful (if I know Meg and her artistic abilities, it undoubtedly will be) and more than anything else, memorable. I hope you both, your family, friends, and especially the NAZty's have an amazing time; and just remember that I too am celebrating you both across the seas in Moz the entire day! I would like to wrap this up by saying that I hope (and expect) that you both have a very long and happy life together and I'm proud to call you both such great friends. The only question I have now is, when the hell can we expect a “Future Naz Alum”?!

Finally, I would like to end by giving a huge THANK YOU for all your birthday wishes, calls, cards, packages, and yes, Facebook posts. I really appreciated all of them and I can't wait to see you all in less than 10 weeks!!

Muito amor,

PS - Sorry no pics. Internet here sucks.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oh the things you miss (and experience) while away.

I would first like to start off by saying Happy belated Independence Day, Happy 21st birthday to my dear little sister with big responsibilities, and a very Happy 43rd birthday to my amazing Mother. The summer months are always a happy thing in my family as my siblings birthdays are in June and July, my mothers is in July, and mine follows in tow the following month to wrap up the summer. I'm sorry I couldn't have been there to celebrate with you all, especially Leslie on her big 2-1, but Jonny is checked into Moz and on his adventure.

Yeah so the internet is finally back in action in my community and it's the talk of the town, well the internet and the newly paving stoned streets! (we now have 2 streets that are all laid by hand...oh the exciting on-goings of Chibuto!) Finally the end of the second trimester has come and now it's time for the tri-annual debate over grades. Now that I have one done, I am much more prepared for this and not at all nervous. I've gone to great lengths to make this as smooth as possible as well as taking care to do everything so it only needs to be done once and thus not spending an extra 15 hours at the school. That means that I can have some down time like all of my students. Speaking of students are at a much different level than most of my colleagues students, or so it seems by m y observations. More than once I was asked “ Oooooo teacha! What are you doing for the break?!” because apparently I am expected to have some extravagant travel plans as an American teacher. So I responded that I was simply staying put in Chibuto with some possible trips to Xai Xai on business, and wouldn't you know they were absolutely appalled by my apparently mundane response! Which of course I was appalled at the fact that they were appalled at me for staying in here are 15-18 year olds telling me of their plans of a refreshing and relaxing holiday in Maputo (the dually chic Gazan getaway and capital city of Moz) and I was staying in town. I was befuddled because I was truly (as were they) expectant that the exact opposite was to occur. It's little surprises and pleasant realities like that are some of the best moments I have here. It made me appreciate my site and my location more because I am positive that this is a rarity among the general Mozambican 9th grade population.

While on the topic of school and my job I should tell you all that the First Annual Chibuto Science Fair was held the 28th of June and it went off with a hitch! I am very excited to say that it was a good time for all involved and a great experience for my students, the public that came to view the projects, the school direction, and myself. In the end I had four participants that did projects on which type of soil was best for a high yield of black eyed beans to a description and model of
the function and role of the diaphragm in respiration. They had time to explain their posters to the public in a general viewing session then each one got in front of about 30 people and explained their posters again. At the end they fielded questions from the judges which consisted of a physicist, biologist, and chemist. Words cant express how proud I was of them for doing this. They had to think critically and go through the steps and repercussions of cause and effect. Now this might seem like a fairly rudimentary thing for kids in America but that's because the art of critical thinking/cause and effect is instilled and taught to us from a very young age. Here, they aren't taught these intellectual skills and thus don't know how to formally critically think in an educational setting. They also had to publicly speak, all for the first time. Again this is something just not done here. I think its pretty fair to say that this is something that would be and is very difficult for any high schooler no mater of country of origin. For these and a myriad of other reasons I am so proud of my students here! I have two boys going to participate at the regional level to compete against all the other winners from 15 other secondary and professional schools at the end of July (in 2 weeks!). Let's hope Chibuto can get to the National level...Go Chibutian Shining Stars/Estrelas Brilhadas!! (yes, that would be our mascot...the shining stars, fun!)
This past weekend a vast majority of the Southern Mozambican volunteers gathered to celebrate our nations independence on the beaches of Xai Xai. It was a nice and relaxing time with all 17 of us there. It was good to see some people I havent seen in a few months and just a good time to get away before stressful grade debates occur. I must say that my two favorite times over the weekend occurred while I was in bed. The first was when I woke up, rolled over, and the doors were open to the veranda where there was a beautiful view of the Indian Ocean coupled with a gentle warm saline breeze. The second involved hanging out in the same bed with Sharonda, Katie, and Megan just shooting the breeze while waiting for the Advil that never came. Nothing refreshes you like a weekend at the beach! I'm thinking that I may need to get a house in the Hamptons or on the Cape when I get back in country just to satiate my weekend excursion palliate. Try it, you'll see what I mean.
I will make it official here so if you miss it, well it's not my fault! Thanks to my amazing and dear parents...I'll be home from December 2nd to January 5th! I have a tentative schedule that allows me to spend time in the 518, 585, and Long Island/NYC. I am so excited to get home and see people and have them see me because lets get serious for a hot minute, I look damn good! OK now that I got that arrogant tid-bit out of the way, if you want to get together while I'm home, I would loving nothing more than to meet up. Any who, enjoy the rest of July and the next time you'll probably hear from me is mid-August.
Now that I am looking to the future I would just like to say that I am very sorry that I will not be present at the wedding of two of my very special and amazing friends, Matt and Meg, August 16th. You guys don't know how much I want to be there to celebrate their special day. I'll be toasting to them all weekend's already in my planner.

With that I will sign out and say goodbye. Miss you all and t-minus 5.5 months!!
- Jon

Sunday, June 1, 2008

“Good drinks, good friends, good vibrations”

I recently had to take what I am calling a “mental health break” from my school, job, and site. It was just getting to a point where I couldn’t deal with anything that was thrown at me…even the little seemingly insignificant things. That’s when I decided to go up to a place called Vilankulo in central Inhambane province. I had heard it was quite a distance from my home and I didn’t care despite knowing that. I packed up and left the next day. Since it was a holiday I didn’t miss classes that Thursday but I did skip out on my classes on Friday, no worries though – it was an extended weekend for my colleuges as well as a vast majority of the students. Well Samantha and I got a lift aka we hitched it (which is so thrilling bc in the States I would NEVER do it but here it’s become a free way to get between points A and B) and got a ride in like 3 minutes flat with someone that was going past our stop. It was an air conditioned car and the man spoke English…it was great and it only took 6 hours to get up there. The way back took 14 hours on public bus…think Greyhound but at 35 mph for 600 km.
Well we got up there and so many people from the central region were there it was just really cool. It was good to catch up and hear about how their lives have been for the past 5 months at their new found homes. I spent three nights there and it was a well needed break from the monotony of my life here in Chibuts.
As a second stress reliever I decided to throw a party at my house. Just a reason to get together, a reason to have a reunion. I also wanted people to come and see my site. We had fun cooking and just hanging out together. I believe a dance party occurred as well. We may be in the bush but we still know how to have fun. Also, I think people got a new found respect for me and the distance of my home from my actual town and school. All in all it was a good time. Now we're looking forward to the next Gaza Gathering at my friend Paul's site about 3 hours from here. Good times!
While on the theme of breaks and vacations, I am excited to say that I will be home in the USA for about a month. I'll be coming in very early December and staying until about the same time in January. At that time my parents will be coming back with me on a great vacation touring South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Mozambique. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I know my parents are really excited to not only see the great continent of Africa but to also see and experience the place I will have called home for the past year and a half. I’m optimistically looking toward the future and it’s looking pretty damn good.

Ate o proximo!