Primeiro, Bill Nye the Science Guy ain’t got nothing on me. Exhibit A can be seen in the below slideshow.

All apologies for the drought of blogging lately, events in Namaacha sped up quite a bit during week six (a welcome change) as the education volunteers began prepping for Escola Modela. And what is Escola Modela? Well I’m glad you asked, dear reader. Basically it is the most productive activity we have had throughout training.

Quick background: in the Mozambican education system students are arranged in turmas (think Hogwarts houses without all the color-coding and, you know, magic). Each turma has its own classroom and the professors from each discipline cycle through. Kids here are currently on summer break, so our turmas for Escola Modela are made up mainly of the Mozambican siblings of volunteers, who were bribed back into class with the promise of cookies and silly Americans. The education volunteers were separated into groups of five based on discipline, and two groups/disciplines are assigned to share a pair of turmas for the full two weeks of model school.

This means that each of us had to prepare four or five complete 45-minute lessons (for the Química kids, all in Portuguese). Certainly the biggest challenge I’ve had to date in Mozambique, and the most frustrating, but also most rewarding. Last week was a roller coaster. I prepared three killer lessons (intro to chemical reactions, temperature, pressure) each with fun demonstrations and activities (completely foreign to Mozambican students who are used to straight lectures and rote memorization). Unfortunately the limiting reagent in my lessons (ba-dum-chh, Chem joke!) is not the planning but rather the execution. Class número um was messy and rushed, but relatively successful for the first day. What I lacked in language clarity I feel like I made up in class presence / lesson creativity / being a generally awesome person.

Day two was just a complete shit-show. I got flustered early on due to exploding mercury thermometers, then my portuguese fell apart and I was a hot mess for the remaining half-hour. It was pretty hugely demoralizing to fall so short of what I know I can do as a teacher because I suddenly can’t string together simple sentences. I realize that there is a learning curve that I have to get through and while I’m working toward fluency it’s going to be ugly, but that class made the process ahead appear hellishly long and frustrating.

But then I took a refreshingly cold bucket bath on a scorching day and forced myself to suck it up and move on. Really it turned out to be a blessing, because the next day I went into class completely unstressed (since I had already hit bottom) and I knocked it out of the park. For seriously. My lesson was super creative and well organized and fun, the students really got into it, and I found a flow with my portuguese. Best of all, it was the first lesson in which I felt the students really learned the material, rather than just memorizing. I felt incredilblíssimo at the end of that 45 minutes, absolutely the best moment of Peace Corps to date.

And then that afternoon we had site placement, because the Peace Corps gods couldn’t possibly let me just be happy for a complete day. The entire Moz15 group was taken out to a basketball court where the staff had made a duct-tape outline of Mozambique with all the provinces separated. We were all given envelopes with our site info to open at once.

And home for the next two years is… Lichinga, Niassa Province. My first reaction: ffffffffffuuuuuuuuuck.

Niassa is the northernmost, least developed, least populated province in Mozambique, and I am one of only six volunteers placed in the province. Funtimes! Even better, the only details that Peace Corps gave me came from a security report which noted that the local police felt that crime in Lichinga had fallen sharply since the “gang that had robbed and terrorized” the town in 2008 was now arrested and in prison. Hot damn! It turns out PC Moz placed a couple of guys in Lichinga two years ago, but they were quickly relocated after someone was killed near their house.

Apparently my manly-manness impressed the Peace Corps staff so much that they felt I was the appropriate volunteer to be Mr. Pioneer. Maybe bringing the cowboy boots sent the wrong message.

Anywho, I definitely had my bitchface on for about an hour, but then I managed to get ahold of the internets and my Lonely Planet Mozambique guide to read about Lichinga, and I quickly began to feel better. It turns out Lichinga is the provincial capital of Niassa so it is a substantial city of about 140,000 with a hospital, supermarket, and even a cinema (ooh-la-la). It apparently has a wide variety of food available, including abundant fruit and vegetable options (which is rare most places in Moz). Even better, Lichinga is on a plateau so its one of the coolest places in Mozambique (average 24ºC). It is apparently a beautiful town/area with easy access to the beaches on Lake Malawi.

But that’s not all! A few days after placement I managed to corner the PC Security chief and interrogate him about my house. Turns out I have a roommate (Jonathan Brown) and our house is like whoa: two bedrooms, kitchen, living room, indoor bathroom (TOILET!!!), large yard, electricity, water spigot just down the street, and they’re putting in a fence. Also, apparently the mother of some ministry bigwig lives next door so there is high security in the area.

All in all the site itself is 5-star Posh Corps. The only real drawback is the isolation from other volunteers – the nearest Americans are four and eight hours away by chapa. Blergh. At least most of my favorite fellow trainees are also in the northern region, so we will see each other at regional PC conferences, and travel on long weekends is somewhat feasible.

Really, with a few days distance to research more and talk with people and rationalize, I now feel relatively excellent about site placement. It didn’t hurt that we spent a three-day weekend at the beach after the big reveal.

(Alright, I realize that this is an insanely long post at this point but it’s been a while and there’s only a little left so you might as well just finish reading, don’t you think?)

So yeah, dark and early Friday morning after placement the majority of trainees hopped a bus to Bilene (i.e. paradise) a little town on the coast of the Indian Ocean with the most insanely beautiful, blinding white-sand beaches you could imagine. Gor-geous. I spent two days lounging, swimming, and burning (but not badly), and two nights dance-partying and liver-killing. Funtimes all around.

Of course, I couldn’t possibly make it all the way through training without one classic idiot-Christopher move, and we’re getting close to the end of our time in Namaacha, so I decided this weekend offered a perfect opportunity. Bilene beach is technically not on the Indian Ocean, but on the far side of a small, relatively shallow salt-water lake separated from the ocean by a thin strip of land. A couple of friends and I decided to swim across the lake (really we could walk over half the way) to see the ocean and because I was both extra-brilliant that day and loathe to be blind when I actually got to the ocean, I kept my glasses on.

You are all smart people, so I’m sure you can guess where my glasses are currently located (hint: not on my face). Yeah, luckily I had a back-up pair in Namaacha.

Well, as promised many times, I have loaded a few more photos below for your perusal and enjoyment. I hope to post one more time before we leave Namaacha in a week or so. It sounds like Lichinga will have Internet so I should be able to keep up with this blog, lucky you!

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