Sunday, March 23, 2014

Catchup- Not ketchup

Taking advantage of the rain: washing my hair, clothes and dishes at the same time!
So, it's been a while since my last post on my blog... I don't presume to have offended anyone personally by not posting in a while but sorry all the same. For all of you who are interested in my comings and goings and doings and thoughts, I could be better about communicating with you. You may not have heard from me in a while, but I do think about you guys a lot. To all my friends and family, I haven't forgotten you; I love you all dearly despite being separated by half the world and about 18 months (As of March 2014 about 9-10 months to go here in Mozambique.)

The purpose of this post is to Ketchup Catchup (I miss hot dogs...) for the past 7 months that I haven't been updating.

In October 2013, I finished my first year as a math teacher! It was so great to see the progress of my students through the year we were together. I was so proud of my students' mathematical development and enthusiasm to enter the 10th grade. I wish I could have been placed as a 10th grade math teacher this year, so I could teach the same students, but I've got great group of 200 new 9th graders this year. (Plus, the old students always drop by my house all the time to ask about their Maths or English homework).
At the end of last year, one morning it was raining pretty early and I heard a commotion out front of the house. I came outside to one of my turmas standing litterally on my doorstep to escape the rain as they were working in the school garden. I had to take a picture! 

During the end of October, many of the Southern Mozambique volunteers met up at Praia de Tofo in Inhambane province to despedir (say goodbye) to the MOZ 17ers, who were about to COS (Close of Service- to complete 27 months of Peace Corps service ). Directly afterwards, I had a group of three MOZ 21ers- then in pre-service-training- come and visit me. We met in Xai-xai and traveled back to my site. That day, I met my three new room-mates; my cat had given birth to three kittens (on my bed).
The (now pretty grown up) kittens whose faces are from left to right: Nhemba (a type of bean), Richard and Nodoa.

Jamie and I during Thanksgiving in Meconta!
In late November, I as able to travel back up to Nampula to visit the North in all its beauty (and heat). We had an amazing Thanksgiving party thanks to the combined efforts of Jamie, Elizabeth and so many others. A Turkey was cooked... underground. cool, right?! It was great to see some fellow North Moz 19ers, Moz 20ers and JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) volunteers. Afterwards, Jamie and I went to Ilha de Mocambique, the old colonial capital of the 17th Century and major center of world slave trading.
Got to catch up with other Moz 19ers! Here is the old Lingua (Language class) crew from training! Rafael and Anneke

In December, PC saw fit to give Manjangue a MOZ 21er! I came back home from Nampula to meet my new room mate, Joe (I feel bad that I wasn't there to welcome him home; I was still in the North his first three days at site.)
My new room mate Jose (Left) and Joe either giving love or eating invisible cheeseburgers.
Not too long after the arrival of my new (and awesome) roomie, we experienced a falha (fault) in the education system here. The yearly provincial exams (the ones determining who goes on to 10th grade- a big deal) were deemed fraudulent. Versions of the tests and cabulas (cheat sheets) were seen being sold on the street and teachers were caught giving answers to the students. As a result, the school district invalidated the scores and elaborated a new test. Joe and I were volunteered to help with the exam process (grading, mostly). I mention this because I think it was a good thing for the Ministry to attempt to control the quality of education- keep the schools accountable. I do think Mozambique is seeing progression; slow, maybe, but Mozambique is pedra a pedra construindo o novo dia (stone by stone constructing a new day~ a line from the refrain of the National Anthem)!

We started the school year in February (late compared to last year due to changes in scheduling on a national level). I feel so much better about teaching this year, when compared to last year. My confidence and Portuguese has improved and I feel I'm better equipped to teach. I have a new group of 9th grade math students (about 150-200) or so and some of the same 10th grade English students from the previous year.
Our school opening ceremony. With some of the other professores.
This year (or, rather the 9 months that are left to me in Mozambique) are sure to be full of the same challenges, opportunities, revelations, and good memories as well as new ones! This year, I hope to start an English Theatre group with Joe as well as form a group to participate in the regional Science Fair. We'll see how it goes!!!
Dance party! :P
I've seen the error in my ways (with respect to my blogging pregiso- laziness) and hope to write more about things I've seen and experienced. Hope you can forgive my absence! Once again, to my friends and family- you know who you are-I haven't forgotten you in the least. Much love and abraços (hugs).

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I vaguely remember the day that I decided I could be a teacher. I think I was in my bed at my Dad's house and it was late at night. It was after I'd graduated high school and I'm sure it was a night in which my mind was swimming with preoccupation about what the heck I was going to do with the rest of my life. I'm pretty sure that my thought process was something like this: math teaching is a respectable career, it involves challenging kids' minds and abilities, it's constructive toward society, it's interesting and definitely worth while, there're good benefits... I imagined myself lecturing to a group of twenty diligent, inquisitive, sedulous, focused individuals as they assiduously wrote in their notebooks. I then thought to myself about having great satisfaction having taught the twenty students something; on any given day I could have stimulated their creative thinking, been a catalyst to their interest in math, science or inquiry in general, or at least given them adequate tools to progress in their own interests. I thought to myself "I think I could deal with this." 
That decision eventually metamorphosed to a transfer from my community college to university and then to a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics, and then to my joining Peace Corps. Here I freaking am, where I never thought I'd be. A teacher. A math teacher. I'm still super excited even though teaching isn't at all what I thought it'd be like. 

Granted, teaching in Mozambique is probably different from teaching in the US, but the challenges associated with teaching are not what I expected. Lesson planning and grading are time consuming, but to be a good teacher, you can't do it half-heartedly. Lesson plans must be delivered in a way that is concise (fitting in 45 minute intervals), appropriate for the level of the class' knowledge of the given subject, (which is all over the board in all my classes), engaging (if not interesting), and fitted to the prescribed national curriculum. However, actually getting in front of the room, talking about math while keeping fifty teenagers listening and engaged for 45 minutes is another story. Who knew that some young people are more interested in things other than mathematics?! #sarcasm

As the only 9th grade math teacher at my school, I'm given free reign of lesson planning and sequencing to the prescribed national program as well as most evaluations. The fact is that, when I came here, even without much experience, pedagogical knowledge, a fluency of Portuguese, or many teaching resources, I'm still an adequately equipped teacher in this country, having a college degree. Some of my fellow teachers are still studying to get theirs. Still, I wish I had more experience. Knowing high school math and explaining it are two different things. I don't think I'm a bad teacher, but these kids would've benefitted more from someone with a better pedagogy background. Shoot, I knew I forgot my Master's degree back in America.

My lack of experience aside, another host of challenges that most public schools here face can be summarized as a lack of resources. Picture your high school but without electricity, or other devices to do science experiments; throw away all the text books, graphing calculators, OHPs, televisions, digital projectors, Bunsen burners, probes, chemicals, beakers, computers and microscopes. Do away with free, convenient, regularly scheduled transportation to and from school, place the nearest copy shop 17km away** and shrink your school to four modestly sized three-room brick buildings with (either hot or noisy***) tin or aluminum roofs. Now, equip each of the three-roomed buildings with an old chalkboard and around 13 desks (max of four students at each desk) and fill that school with about 400 K-10 students and 22 teachers. That's what the secondary school of Manjangue is working with. Students in 8th through 10th grade must study biology, chemistry, Portuguese, English, French, math, agriculture, physics, history, geography and physical education- a pretty daunting variety of subjects, even for alunos(students) with ample resources with which to study.
Part of what made subjects like Biology and Math interesting to me was the inventive ways the teachers at my schools used technology, and tangible objects to make the subjects come to life. Seeing the graphs of quadratic functions change with different manipulations before my eyes or an animated representation of trigonometric values corresponding to angles on the unit circle on screen via a digital projector cemented the important concepts into my brain. Looking at cells through a microscope, and dissecting bugs made Biology relevant and interesting to me. If all I had was a notebook, a pen, and a chalkboard to help me learn biology and math, the subjects, no doubt, would loose their luster and vibrancy. It's hard for these kids to find motivation to learn this stuff when it's only drawn in chalk- when the lack of resources doesn't do justice to the depth of the subject. It's little wonder why, to students that have nothing but the notes they take in class to study that some don't even bother. 

Another challenge here is getting kids to believe that they can succeed in an academic environment despite the adversity. I can imagine that the kids aren't motivated, so they don't pay attention, so, they don't learn. Also, with a lack of emphasis on basic studying/ learning skills in the normal curriculum, a lot of kids don't know how to begin studying. Eventually they get discouraged and don't believe they're capable of learning, so they just don't study. Instead, they go to extreme lengths to elaborate cábulas (cheat sheets). The sad thing is that the practice is perpetuated by randomized provincial exams, and  lax proctoring during finals****. During test days, I turn into a hard-ass to discourage cheating at all costs. I get heckled sometimes by students, saying "Professor Nick, você controla muito!" (you're strict!) as though expecting students to write a test without cheating is a lot to ask. 
The kids are clearly capable of succeeding even with the challenges they face. I know, because, a lot of times, they do succeed. Without cheating! The trick is getting them to believe in their abilities, developing good study/learning skills and applying their knowledge in the classroom. 
As if difficulties at the local level weren't enough. Other frustrations in the form of beaurocracy and politics on the macro level cause frustrating disadvantages for students. The way my director explained it to me is this: as Mozambique is a poor, developing country, it relies a lot on international aide. But in order to keep the flow of outside help coming, the state needs to see a steady yearly improvement in grades to show that relief organizations' money and resource aren't being wasted. The problem? Schools must have 75% of their students pass to continue to receive support from the government. The school administration's jobs also depend on it. The number of students that honestly demonstrate adequate mastery of the subjects in their grade is vastly below this quota (like, 15% of my students were passing last trimester) so the teachers agree to "help" students pass on to the next grade. The downside is the students are passed without fundamental background knowledge and, what happens a lot is they just fall further and further behind. Disadvantage: students. Some of my 8th grade English students have a hard enough time reading and writing Portuguese, let alone a learning third language*.
The challenges that this 38 year-old country faces, vis-a-vis public education, are many. However, it seems to be improving. Not to mention, it's not all bad. The students are full of life- so much energy, intelligence, enthusiasm and creativity. Most of the time they're loud little boogers, but they're awfully lovable boogers*****. They're the future of this country and, in their own way, I'm confident that they'll each contribute to make it better. I dare say, they teach me as much as I teach them. 
A lot of people say that teaching is a thankless job, that a teacher doesn't reap the benefit of seeing the end result if his/ her hard work. I am beginning to understand the meaning behind this. It's up to me to do what I can while I'm here, until December, 2014 or so, and leave it up to my students to make the difference in Mozambique.

*-in Manjangue, as it is in a lot of Mozambique, the first language learned is the local language (Changana, at my site) and the second is Portuguese. Secondary schools push learning English and French in addition when some kids don't develop a proficiency in Portuguese.

** The pedagogical director used to have a copy shop down the street, but it stopped working in May. The closest one to me now is Chokwe and they charge 50% more per copy. :( I whine a lot. 

***the metal chapas make the room ridiculously hot in the summer, make comfortable accommodations for noisy bats and messy birds and amplify the sound of rain tenfold. On the other hand, they're cheap and low maintenance. 

****Provincial exams, in my humble opinion are illogical and a waste of time. They cater to a perfect world scenario where all students are learning the same things, in the same order, at the same rate, at the same time. The way they work is thus: teachers from schools all around the province elaborate tests for their grades and discipline and send them to the Ministry of Education. The ministry selects test questions, out the pool of all the tests recieved, and gives them to all the students in the province. A lot of times, the questions are too difficult, irrelevant to the subject, ambiguously phrased, or hard to understand. To counter this, the proctors all agree to "help the students". Here's an anecdote to illustrate what I mean. So, in July, at the end of the second trimester, I was asked by proctors to walk into each of the classrooms and explain the questions. Some bluntly asked me for the answers for five or six questions "so the kids had a chance to pass." Teachers, the authority figures and role models were telling kids that it's OK to cheat if it's a hard test. On one hand, the provincial exam is a joke, on the other hand, unscrupulous and non-constructive habits are reinforced where they should be vilified and discouraged. 

***** To try to make class fun, and keep the kids awake and attentive, I employ some strategies, one of them being humor. When I ask a yes-or-no question and an excessive silence ensues, I quietly suggest, for the kids, "sim, Professor Nick" or "não, Professor Nick." Now, it's a rare day when I go without hearing someone yelling a salutatory, "sim, Professor Nick!" One new development is the students, out of the blue, calling me Senhor Capitão Nick (Captain Nick). Makes me smile.

One of my salas (rooms) in which I teach math. Because of the high volume of students and limited space, students stay in one room all day while the teachers rotate between the turmas (classes) at 45 minute intervals. School days are divided into 6 tempos (times) reserved for the different disciplines and the kids have 5-10 minute breaks in between them.
My 9ª1 class shouting "hooray!"
Most of the windows are broken in the classrooms. A lot of the doors don't have latching mechanisms.
One of the brick classroom buildings.
My 9ª2 in front of my house.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Travel in Mozambique

I traveled, in total, 1200 miles over the past two weeks. Manjangue, to Chokwe, to Macia, to Xai xai to Vilanculos to Chimoio was the trip to In-Service training. I never thought 600 miles would have to be split into two days' travel (i.e. there is no conceivable way to make the trip in less time).


The experience has been typical of transportation in Mozambique. Chapas. Imagine an old, small bus with worn, poorly padded plastic-covered seats. Now imagine said bus in 80 degree weather with upwards of 20 people (mind you, the bus is designed to seat a maximum of 17 or 18 people- record number for me was 25. That was fun). Now imagine that crowded, hot bus traveling down a pothole ridden road, swerving, bumping bouncing and jerking for long periods of time. Welcome to the world of Mozambican public economy ground travel. They're cheap, granted (around 1 metical per mile traveled on average outside of big cities, sometimes more) but they take forever and are very uncomfortable. There are other forms of travel, sure. If you're on a main highway, or in a provincial capital, you can get on a machimbombo (big ol' bus). It's much more comfortable, affording the PCV-coined name maningue nice bus. These, however, can be expensive and very, dangerously fast. I've heard that they have a distastefully high tip-over rate. That could just be fofoca (gossip), though. You can also boleia (hitchhike), but that can be very tricky. With all the risks associated with climbing into a car with an unknown person/people and driving on a remote road, it's not uncommon to have a lead-foot driver driving at dangerous speeds or to be asked for a ridiculous amount of money for the favor. On top of all that, the driving culture here is very different from that in the States; few people seem to think that drinking alcohol while on the road inhibits driving abilities; an unfortunate fact that cost the lives of two PCVs last year. Also common is poor maintenance of vehicles, so break-downs are commonplace. Peace Corps has a policy of no travel at night as well as a prohibition on boleia-ing. No surprise. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, though. Sometimes you have no choice. Difficulty of travel in this country is an unfortunate reality. Most of the time, everything goes smoothly and you arrive at your destination. Most of the time.
I thought it important to blog about transportation because everybody here is subject to it. Mozambican and foreigner alike must endure lengthy uncomfortable chapa rides*. The infrastructure here is growing and, I'm sure that as Mozambique develops, the transportation will improve, but for now, everyone has to settle for Chapas (unless you can afford to take a plane,train or bus, which the vast majority of Mozambicans cannot). The difficulty of transportation in Mozambique has far reaching effects impacting the economy, food distribution, healthcare, public safety and education among other things.
As a PCV, the hardest part for me is the difficulty associated with seeing friends and loved ones far away. The thought of traveling so far and for so long makes distance seem worlds from the physical distance in kilometers. Solidarity and camaraderie are an even match for the time and effort involved to travel to see friends. Definitely relevant is the recent sacrifice given by a group of 16 northern Moz 19ers that chapa'd an 800 mile, 30 hour excursion (not including the return trip) to visit close friends they hadn't seen in months. You know who you are, Norte Forte. Love you for making the trip. All of you. It was so good to see you. Especially you, Jamie! <3

*If you know a Mozambican and you live in the south, odds are he/ she has family or a house in Maputo. Most teachers I know have moved from the city to the 'matu' (wilderness-roughly translated) to work. Lots of people work during the week in a small town and travel home on the weekends to see their friends and family in the big city, be it Maputo, a provincial capital or modestly sized city. Heavy and frequent travel is ubiquitous among Mozambicans. A five hour chapa ride becomes small beans after a while

picture: a typical chapa.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Update: So, I suck at updating my blog in a timely fashion. Mostly because, since I can't use my computer, I need a wifi connection to upload stuff. Good luck finding one of those near my site (pfffft.)So I'm in Chimoio, Manica province (about 660 miles from my site) for out 'reconnect' or In-Service Training (IST) Conference. Doods have free wifi, of which I will gladly partake. So, this blog is one I wrote a while ago about my site which has fully recovered from the floods. Life has moved on from difficult times to normalcy, finally. Now, people are laughing about it. Seriously. It's not surprising how resilient the community is and it speaks volumes about Mozambique, the way everyone came together and helped one another. Solidarity was a lesson from the floods that was a boring and redundant one that left everyone in the desks yawning and falling asleep. Needless to say, they aced the test. So, anyway, here's my blog:

I realized that I've written about many things: floods, training, friends, family, trepidation preceeding my whole PC experience, but I haven't said very much at all about the biggest part of my life in Mozambique: My village and my job! For those that don't know, forgot, haven't read my blog before or didn't quite hear my garbled cell phone/ Skype utterance of a certain African toponym, I live in the village of Manjangue, Gaza
(pronounced: mahn-jahng-gee).

If you travel to the Province of Gaza, there is nothing more attractive to tourists than "
Praia do Xai-xai," the beach outside the provincial capital. There are other places to go, like Bilene and Chongoene, but the bulk of the well known Gaza places are on the beach. Going inland, there are modestly sized cities like Macia, Chokwe and Chibuto, but like in most of Mozambique, the majority of the towns in Gaza are smaller farming villages. My village is no different. Going around 17k Northwest from Chokwe is Manjangue (it's the chapa stop before Barragem and Chinhacanine; if you hit a fork in the road, you've gone 5k too far).
Picture a relatively flat lanscape full of verdure where
Machambas (vegetable crops) and livestock are ubiquitous. Women and girls, working the fields, gathering water, cleaning the house or clothes, cooking and tending to other "Dona da Casa" duties (oftentimes with an infant securely capolana'd* to their chest or back). Crianças (small children) can be seen, usually in ragged, unkempt clothes, during the later afternoons and evenings terrorizing the streets, running around, playing with toys, sticks, bald tires, bicycle wheel rims or sundries they picked up from a trash pile. The only (mostly) paved road is the main one that interconnects the small agrarian communities and Chokwe. The rest are packed dirt and sand-unless it has rained, then it's maningue matope (really friggin' muddy).
It's become my home. I love it here. I have a job, a family, friends, a kitty, a pretty reliable supply of bread from the market (upon which I eat gobs of delicious peanut butter), electricity(!), and, normally, great cell phone service (important for communicating with other big parts of my life;) ).

I live within spitting distance of the school and cater-corner to one of the communal water spigots, where I always find three to seven women with children speaking in Changana about the
mulungu** that is fetching water should find a student or a woman to get water for him.

This trimester, I taught 9th grade math (4 different
turmas (classes)) and 8th grade English (just one turma). I have approximately 260 students and work in the classroom around 19 hours per week (not really- more like nineteen 45 minute classes- exactly 14.25 hours). Since I'm the only 9th grade Math teacher at my school, I get a good deal of freedom in my lesson planning, which is based on mainly the Mozambican ministry of education's programa de ensino (teaching program).
Saying that I have a new respect for all my high school (and middle school) teachers would be an understatement. With ten weeks or so of teaching under my belt, I have a small taste of what challenges educators face- the least of which is grading (the thing I though would be the most work). I hope I can live up to those to who I owe my education in some measure. Needless to say, my lack of experience being a handicap, the kids are further disadvantaged by a stark supply of resources. No textbooks, few printed materials, a small notebook, pens and pencils for personal use and nothing but a chalkboard in a dank, aluminum-paneled classroom with broken or missing windows. Students are assigned a
turma, a cohort of around 40-60 of their peers, and a classroom in which they spend six 45 minute time slots (either in the morning or in the afternoon) as teachers rotate in and out of their salas (classrooms). The weather is often very severe; class can be difficult to sit through with 35 degree heat, heavy rain, or gusty winds blowing dust in everyone's faces. It's hard enough on a teacher to teach in such conditions, but, many times, with a lack of resources, time to study, and, personal expense (Chapas into and out of town, buying of tests, etc.) on top of a monotonous learning environment, it's no wonder that a 50% score on homework or tests is considered 'positive' or 'passing'. However, many students overcome these incredibly daunting circumstances and do learn! Around five of my math students received above 90% on their trimester exams- I have to brag :P.

capolana is an indispensable piece of female Mozambican livery; pick any average street in any average town in Mozambique and you'll see five or six women wearing a capolana and lenço (bandana). They are large pieces of cloth, usually tied about the waist, serving like a long skirt. Vibrantly colored and varied in design, an American might call it a sarong, but its known uses far exceed that of a garment. Mothers use them to carry babies. Other uses include padding to stabilize and ease the weight of heavy objects carried upon one's head, to dry oneself after a banho (bath), secure loads to motor vehicles, wrap lunches, provide shade from the sun, to serve as a floor mat to sit on, so as to not dirty the capolana that you're already wearing... The list goes on. I use mine as a cat bed, sofa cover and dirty clothes hamper. Even have a couple of shirts made from the material. They also look pretty cool hanging up in the markets or on your wall as a decoration.

mulungu is a word in Changana that means "white person." Mozambique, being an (arguably) ethnically homogeneous place -I.e. most white people aren't from around here- the word is used liberally and without consequence. I don't like the word and, whenever I think the situation is appropriate, I politely discourage its use when in reference to myself. With my American schema, any word that serves to generalize a group of people demeans individuality and obscures an individual's good intentions. In my case, I feel that it negates my intention of trying to become part of the community, placing me in the same category as stereotypically branded arrogant bigoted white tourists with lots of money. It is a hamper to inclusion and gives me an antithetical image to that which I would much like to have to my Mozambican brothers and sisters. It is clear to all that see me that I'm not from around these parts, but words spoken in any language that reinforce prejudice, and bolster a 'them and us' attitude are something I think the world, Mozambique included, could use less of.


Another sunset

My house! I have it on easy mode here. :P

My school!

The view from the back of my house. An abandoned
palhota (hut).

My family here. Sansão, Olinda and family. Also pictured: Sasha the

Some of my 8th graders working hard in their

Sunset again.

Miro took this picture. He's a dork.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Flood Adventure

The following is my account of the Floods in the Manjangue/ Chokwe area. Sorry that it's a bit long. :P

On Wednesday, January 23 at around 1:30am, I was awakened with significant pounding on my front door; my neighbor, Sansao and a colleague, Professor Lito, had heard from people fleeing from the town of Barragem 5km away that the water from the Limpopo river was rising quickly. "Nick! Nick! Acorde! Agua esta a vir!" ("wake up! Water is coming!") But before I could reach the front door in my sleepy, dazed state, they had already gone down the road shouting to all within earshot to wake up. In a confusion, I turned on my lights and, for lack of any alternatives occurring in my sleepy mind I called the Peace Corps Safety and Security Officer, Alfredo. Upon informing Alfredo about the warning, he seemed to become as confused as I was. Peace Corps, along with myself and Alfredo, my school colleagues and the rest of the community were all caught completely off guard by the happenings; I was incredulous as to what was going on. Apparently, the heavy HEAVY rains caused an automatic release of water from the dams in South Africa into the Limpopo; the lesser of two possible calamities- the alternative: a breach in the dam.
Having heard little to no information, Alfredo advised me to follow my fellow teachers and community members to higher ground in case the hoopla was an actual red alert. In a renewed confused and flustered state, I began to pack my most important, useful and prudent belongings given the possible emergency. I decided that only bare essentials would be necessary, so, of course I grabbed my guitar, iPad, Zune(digital music player) and my computer (God help me, I grew up in the 21st century). Also, I thought it important to bring along clothes, money, my PC med kit, (Yes, Dr. Isadora, Indid remember to bring my Malaria Prophylaxis*) several bottles of water along with my cell phones, flash lights, and a spare battery charger. I distributed them between a backpack and a duffel bag. My load was kind of bulky and I was looking at my guitar next to my backpack and duffel bag ready to go when I had to make a difficult decision: should I save my guitar or take my emergency bag with me. I tarried, pacing back and forth in indecision until I was rallied by my colleague, Professor Sousa yelling at me to hurry up, at which point I hung Aurelha (my guitar- Jamie gave 'er the name :) ) in her case on a clothes hanger about five feet above the ground, grabbed my stuff, and left. I hoped to god that my poor guitar and kitty would be alright- Inhalete was nowhere to be found and Prof. Sousa had a sense of urgency about him. I was wishing, while walking the kilometer through ankle-deep mud and water to higher ground, that this was all some crazy over reaction; if Peace Corps didn't know about it, it couldn't be so bad. We arrived at the other primary school building located on a hill slightly south of Manjangue proper- the evacuation point used during the year 2000 flood- where I was able to meet up with my fellow community members and exchange our sentiments of disbelief, and speculation about the flood. Professor Sousa had brought a casteira (straw mat to sleep upon) and some blankets, so about four of us sat down and drifted to sleep under brilliant starry skies amidst the sound of livestock, car engines, and humanity. I wondered what would come of everything- What I would tell Jamie and my parents, if everyone I knew would be alright... I drifted to sleep. We woke up at sunrise and wandered down the road to see a sight that my imagination had belied the night before: a vast body of water had taken the place of the green landscape that was there 24 hours prior. I was like, "holy freakin' crap!!! There wasn't lake here before!!!" I proceeded to call Alfredo and confirm that there was, in fact, a flood here. He told me that he was working on getting a boat in to my site to evacuate me. I relayed that to my neighbor, Sansao, and my fellow teachers who were intrigued by the notion of a boat escape. Sansao suggested evacuating his 4 kids with myself (three of his own and one of his recently deceased sister). I was SOOO down, and so was Peace Corps, fortunately! We proceeded to wait several hours under the hot sun before we learned that a boat evacuation wouldn't work because there were mud bogs along the way, and the farthest they could advance was a little ways outside of Chokwe (17km away). So, we (Sansao, his 4 kids, the two Maputo natives and I) walked around three km before we gave up the ghost. Arriving at a road that, to my understanding, was to be the boat accessible point. The boatsmen had no luck. Sansao** talked with the guy in charge of the boat; the attempts seemed in vain, so we were instructed to make our way to the cuartel da 8a brigada, a whopping 7 km away under the sun. Having no alternatives, we all started walking.
The kids were amazing. We only had to give Miro (the 4 year old) a piggy back ride a few times. The water I brought turned out to be a godsend- by the end, we had just enough to hydrate every burden-laden man and child for the trip. We definitely needed every drop. We walked there and stayed the night thanks to Alfredo's and Sansao's negotiations with the chefe of the brigade. We had Spaghetti and beans for dinner (weird combination, granted but it was freaking delicious, considering the fact that none of us had eaten much that day). We got word that they were going to try to make the boat rescue work again; this time, through a canal that Sansao** remembered that runs through the countryside North of Manjangue. We'd have to hike the 7km back to the school, where we spent the first night. Blah. We set out around 5:00am and were lucky enough to get a boleia (ride) from a pickup truck that was passing by. We made it back to the school and noticed that the waters had receded significantly. The truck gave us another ride to a place where people were crossing the flood waters to the main road (from Barragem to Manjangue). We waded through waist-deep water (Miro on his father's shoulders) and reached the road. I almost lost one of my chinelos (sandals) but it was luckily picked up by a lady crossing the river and given back. Upon reaching the road, we marched along about 5 km to Manjangue, at which point I was able to reach my house; the water had receded almost to where you wouldn't have guessed that there was ever a flood. I found my house laden with about an inch of mud and everything in disorder by the flood waters. Having a raised foundation, the water protruded only about three feet above my floor and didn't affect anything hanging on the clothes hangers, walls, or on the bed. I could just imagine my house filled with water hours before, all my things floating as jetsam in the murk. I was ecstatic to find Inhalete alive, and meowing incessantly. It wal like she was saying "wtf just happened and where were you?!" Poor thing must have been in the house the whole time. If the water level had climbed much higher than it had, she might have been a goner. I had to sit and pet her for a few minutes. I grabbed some books, my pictures, my guitar (luckily, still hanging up and unaffected by the water) and my cat and left the house.
We all started hiking along the road towards Chokwe looking for an INGC (institução nacional da gestão de calamidades) car, that Alfredo had helped to dispatch, which would give us a boleia back to Chokwe. it finally found us, hot, thirsty and tired on the side of the road. At one point it had to ford about a quarter-kilometer stretch of very deep flood water (almost waist-deep) that had enveloped the road. The INGC truck was a burly, raised Land Cruiser with a snorkel (kinda wants); it had no problem going slowly through the water. We got to Chokwe to find it flooded and teeming; everything except the elevated main road was under about a meter or two of water. An incredible amount of people was wading around in the muddy water, passing to and fro. People had taken refuge on the rooves of buildings and the military was there with the INGC. I noticed that there were many stores that had been broken into and few food sellers to be found. The sight was shockingly surreal; it was Chokwe but immersed in a lake with no cellphone credit vendors to be found****. We didn't have to wait too long (close to an hour) for Alfredo to come to Chokwe with a driver in a Chapa da Paz, as we called it in PST-a white, raised Land Rover, clad with the Peace Corps symbol and a snorkel only slightly smaller than the INGC's. We all took pictures of the devastation out the windows; the road had not been clear for ver long, judging by the level of the water and the debris in the road. We drove about an hour to Macia where we dropped off Sansao, his kids and the two college kids. I thanked him profusely and he, with his kids boarded another chapa for Maputo. We unfortunately couldn't spare the room all the way to Maputo because the MOZ 18ers had to be evacuated from Macia as well but at least everyone was together and safely away from the flood zone. I couldn't take Inhalete to Maputo because the hotels don't permit animals so I left Inhalete in the capable hands of Mike and Marissa's neighbors that gave her shelter, food and water. I was sad to leave her, but was happy that she would survive; at least she was better off there than she was in Manjangue. Directly afterwards, I rode back along with three 18ers, Alfredo and the driver to Maputo, where we checked into hotels and awaited further instruction. It's now been under two weeks week since then. I've since then heard that Guija, another nearby site belonging to another MOZ 19er as well as a health volunteer, was still unaccessible by road. I got word that people have already moved back into town and that there's electricity but, ironically, no water; the public faucets are not working yet. I am wondering about my community, Chokwe and their near future. Will we get to begin school again in a timely fashion? Will students come to school at all when there are crops to be re-sewn? How badly will the ruined infrastructure, disease and lost crops affect the people in Gaza province? When will there be potable water again soon in Manjangue? I can't help but recognize that, although I was affected by the flood, It seems like everyone else was affected to a much greater extent. All my belongings (that I deemed very important) were saved, but not everyone was so lucky. Sansao's house was broken into- to add insult to injury- and a majority of his and his family's things will have to be replaced. He told me he'd have to start over again like he'd done about 12 years prior. My fellow PCVs in Guija and Chokwe will have had more significant flood damage and, therefore, more to replace. I feel like I was very lucky in the whole situation; I suffered minimal loss and the help of Sansao, my fellow teachers and Peace Corps was amazing.
This was simply a bad situation; a flood, lots of people in rural communities, poor communication to the public on the part of official sources, less than great infrastructure and no formal emergency evacuation plans for the community. What's worse, it seems like the recuperation of all that was lost will be slow; some lost their home, livelihood, their belongings and worse. Although, it wasn't a final judgment or a reckoning day. I know that the people in Gaza will return to business-as-usual and carry on with their heads held high.

"Rain fell like judgement across my judgement across my window pane. Said it fell like judgement but it was only rain." - Greg Graffin of Bad Religion from the song "Only Rain"

*Dr. Isadora is the Mozambique Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO). She, during our PST, heavily emphasized to take our weekly malaria prevention medicine (Larium) at all costs. As if the threat of getting Malaria wasn't enough, PCVs in this country have to take all possible measures to prevent getting malaria under pain of MEDSEP (Medical Separation- The termination of the relationship between a volunteer and Peace Corps based on medical grounds) or even ADMINSEP (The termination of the relationship between a volunteer and Peace Corps based on grounds of breaking rules, being an idiot, or doing harm to the overall mission of Peace Corps).

**-Seriously, Sansao saved the day. He communicated with all the people involved because I wasn't confident enough in my own Portuguese comprehension and communication to make the wellbeing of six people and myself dependent on my understanding of what was being said. Better left to native speaker. Also, Sansao's idea to look for the canal brought us much closer to being extracted.

***-After having communicated so much with Alfredo, my pre-pay phone service had run out at this point. In Chokwe, as with in most cities/ towns, you can always find several men, women, boys and girls wearing a yellow tunic and a fanny pack selling small pieces of cardboard, with codes on them. This is how most people in Mozambique buy phone credit- instead of monthly plans, there are credit-and-call systems. It was a severe deviation from normalcy, that there were none of these vendors- a sign that everyone in Chokwe had been caught unawares or didn't heed any warning.