One of the teaching strategies that Peace Corps stressed ad nauseam during training is Community Content Based Instruction (CCBI), basically building classroom examples around the mango tree in João’s backyard rather than the Apple store at Johnny’s local mega-mall. A sensible idea overall.

If only I was a physics teacher, today I would have hit the CCBI jackpot, ensuring that my students mastered the hell out of Newton’s Laws of Motion. So here’s what went down: Sua Excelência Senhor Presidente da República Armando Guebuza is visiting Niassa Province this week, which of course means that classes were cancelled today as the school must send a delegation to the airport to greet Mr. Prez as he lands. Seeing as the airport is quite a ways north of town, the school arranged for transport in the Mozambican version of a schoolbus (a borrowed flat-bed 18-wheeler with a fittingly bright yellow cab).

Anywho, this morning John and I crammed into the back of the truck with about 200 standing students and we set off (f = ma!) Of course, there’s no automatic transmission for vehicles here, so every time the driver slowed down to shift gears then sped back up, 200 students and 2 branco professors would fall forward and back en masse (Inertia!) It was chaos, but of course that’s old hat for Mozambicans, so no one actually fell off and the kids had as much fun as Americans on a roller-coaster.

Arriving at the airport, we lined up on the tarmac with other representatives from pretty much every professional, social, or cultural organization in Lichinga, everyone trying to out-welcome everyone else. There were flags and home-made signs waving, as well as dance groups, drum circles, jump-rope, lines of military officers decked out in medals and AK-47s and everyone looking chique de matar (dressed to kill) in their nicest uniform or traditional costume. Obama should be sooooo jealous.

My favorite part: the Lichinga airport is usually dead, like rigor-mortis already setting in, one arrival a day if we’re super busy sort of dead, but we certainly can’t give Senhor Presidente that impression, so two prop planes were specially flown in today and staged to give the appearance of a bustling transport hub. Seriously, I saw them carefully arranging and rearranging luggage beside one of the planes, to get the best effect.

The big event itself was super quick. Guebuza landed, waved, hustled down the line of welcomers shaking hands and kissing babies and whatnot (sadly I wasn’t close enough for a shake or a kiss or a whatnot) then he hopped into one member of his waiting fleet of helicopters and flew off to tour the district. Fun times had by all. Except John, because unfortunately his camera was stolen out of his coat pocket as we were standing around. Doubly sad, that means we have no pictures of all the excitement.

In other news, a couple of weeks ago I attended the first ever Niassa Provincial Feira de Ciências, which was a delightful hot mess. Science Fair is one of the main secondary projects I want to take on at my school, but as this is my first year and I am still only 75% at best with my Portuguese, I was not up for taking charge of the event right away. Besides, this year the government has stepped up its own efforts to organize various fairs and mandated that all secondary schools participate, so I was wary of accidentally stepping on anyone’s toes, especially the Mozambican professor assigned to head things up at my school.

Then, two days before the fair, this professor asks me to help out a pair of students with their presentation. Translation – feed these students some sort of simple demonstration and basically tell them exactly what to do and say (it’s an alternative form of the Scientific Method). Not really ideal, but oh well, they were two of the best kids from my classes so I helped them out. At the fair itself, it seemed pretty obvious that the exact same thing had happened with pretty much all the other presentations (i.e. some professor said here, do this, this, and this and throw in a scientific word or two). The judging similarly eschewed any relevance to genuine scientific inquiry (two girls won second place by demonstrating how to make mayonnaise), but hey, at least this means the Feira I organize next year can only be an improvement. Also nice, the kids who won 1st place are in my class, so I am helping them polish their project and in a few weeks we are traveling to Nampula to participate in the Northern Regional fair, which should also really help me for next year.

I hope my snarkiness and sarcasm in describing a lot of my adventures here does not belie my true fondness and respect for Mozambique, most of the crazy/messy/nonsensicalness I encounter is endearing. Besides, I just finished watching all of The Wire (unquestionably the best, most depressing TV show ever), which is a stark reminder that Moz is no more screwed up and irrational than the US. At least this country has damn good excuses.

Some things, however, are harder to shrug off than others. About two weeks ago I found out that five girls in my turma, including my best female student, were transferred to night school for the heinous crime of teen pregnancy. At a teacher’s meeting prior to this the director of my school reminded all the teachers that we needed to be vigilant about kicking out the preggers girls so that they don’t “contaminate” the other girls by their example. First of all, I do teach Biology, so I’m pretty sure you need a boy somewhere in the equation for any “contaminating” to occur. Second, I don’t think derailing these girl’s chance at an education is an appropriate response to some unlucky sexytimes. Those who do actually go through the trouble to continue on in night school face class sizes up to 150 students and lessons canceled half of the week because there is no energy for lights. Completing secondary school while in the possession of ovaries is already hard enough in this country, adding more challenges just seems callous. Blergh, this is one of the only situations I have encountered here that has truly pissed me off, especially since one of the girls was Carla (the same Carla who’s mom just died). I’m sure anyone who knows my family can appreciate why this would be especially frustrating.

Hmm, I hate ending on a downer note. Oh I know, I’ll post pictures of the Science Fair and other randomness. Enjoy!

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