November, 2011- My travel abroad is limited with just some family vacation times spent in Spain, France and the UK. I did co-teach in Australia for two summers in the 1990's when I was an elementary teacher. I was able to host my co-teaching partners here in the US as well. Once I combined a 10-day trip to the UK with a visit to a school in Oxford that had a “keypal” relationship with my elementary school students. Perhaps from my experiences in Mozambique in spring 2012, I will have an opportunity to learn how people in Mozambique accept those with disabilities into mainstream society and I will be able to share what I learn with my students in the PSC-Special Education certificate program. In addition, since I am a Google sites user, I am excited about the possibility that as a group, we can develop this Google site to share our collective experiences!
Feb. 12, 2012- I have all my shots and meds, my mosquito net, walking shoes, rural area travel clothes and a new camera for the trip. What am I looking forward to concerning this trip? I was interested in what Jay had to say about the rural schools and how extremely large the class sizes tend to be. I am looking forward to learning more and what we might be able to bring to the schools from the USA in terms of class supplies or other teaching resources.
Feb. 27, 2012- Today I went to Virginia Avenue Charlotte Dehart Elementary School to meet with Ms. Patterson's first grade class. They are making a Flat Stanley for me to take to Africa, along with letters from each child to a school we might visit on our way up the coast of Mozambique. I made a display board to show the children so they could see a map of the country and some pictures I found of markets, the beach, churches and rural school. The children are so excited that I will bring back pictures and maybe artifacts from Africa to share with them! Who or what is Flat Stanley? Visit http://www.flatstanley.com/about and find out!
March 9, 2012- I am now all packed and have Flat Stanley nestled comfortably in my backpack. We took one last look at his school and he waved goodbye. He says he cannot wait to find out what school is like in Mozambique. We are taking colored pencils, paper, magnifying glasses, books, erasers, and various math manipulatives to the children we hope to visit in a rural school! We leave tomorrow morning at 11 am from Dulles airport. It will be a 17 hour journey.
March 11- 2012
This is the first day in Africa and we landed here on my birthday! Not many folks can say they went almost all around the world to celebrate being 61 years old! It was a long and hot flight from Abada- quite different from the cooler flight from DC to Ethiopia. But I sat next to a wonderful, helpful young man from China who stated that he was an engineer working in Maputo to help MZ build the infrastructure they need to mine their natural resources. He called himself Simon. Simon was helpful because there was another man two rows up who opened our overhead carry-on compartment where my backpack was stored to get into his backpack and each time forgot to close it. We were afraid we would hit some turbulence and things would come flying out on top of us. So each time this happened, Simon got up to close it, chuckling to himself.
I had some interesting observations of people interactions while flying from Ethiopia to MZ. Men were standing in the aisle, very close to one another. They seemed to touch one another's shoulders from time to time as if to affirm something that was said. Two women in the row in front of me wanted to buy perfume. They had an envelope of US currency. In order to make the transaction, they spoke English to the Ethiopian stewardess. Interesting, I thought... on this Ethiopian plane, US money and English seemed to be the necessary ingredients to make this "international" exchange happen between the an Ethiopian and Mozambican.
We were met at the airport by Amado and Naftal and a driver of the our bus named Pedro. They drove us to the United Methodist Guest house downtown, located right next to the largest United Methodist Church in Maputo. This two story building housed us all in five bedrooms and three bathrooms. We are very comfortable- 2 to 3 persons to a room.
After a wonderful dinner of rice, beef stew and various vegetables and plantains, we went to a UM Church youth gathering. The singing was so lively and quite entertaining with the hand movements and clapping. One girl who was an albino with a disfigured face seemed to be one of the featured singers. She sang superbly. It seemed that everyone celebrated her gift of voice. I was struck by the scene because in my Going Global First Year Seminar entitled Please Accept Me for Who I Am, I have my student research how other countries handle differences. In this case, it was clear that she was a featured singer, and well-deserved.
This is our first full day in Maputo. It rained over night and cooled things down. The day promises to be sunny but breezy. First we stopped at a money exchange and two students and Linda went into to get some meticais for our US dollars. Then we traveled on our bus to the UM Methodist headquarters to see where Naftal works.
On our way, we made our way through people walking in the streets and many cars and trucks. Interesting negotiations our driver Pedro had to make, dodging the people who were walking or riding bikes. About a mile off the main road we took a dirt road that took us past homes built out of tin, sticks, and cinder blocks. Running smack down the middle of this dirt road were electrical towers. So the electricity is there, running to the homes we see along the way. Just as it is in the city, vendors set up their make-shift stands or lay cardboard on the ground to sell wares along the route. They sell everything from food to used shoes and stuffed animals.
Arriving at Tsalala School
We pulled into the Tsalala School yard- a place that educates children in grades 1-7. Several cinder block buildings stood in front of us, a latrine, one that holds the office and another with three classrooms. Sitting beneath shaded tress were groups of children- about 25 in a group, with their teacher. The headmistress, Olencia came out of her office and seemed to organize a group of children to come forward to greet us. The children sang to us to welcome us to the school.
After our warm welcome, we joined the headmistress, Olencia, in her office. We learned that the UM Church is supporting the school, but promised money from a VA group was sent but somehow never got to the school. Later I asked Naftal about it and he said the money was wired, but to whom he does not know. The money was intended to buy desks. We gave Olencia a bag of school supplies, but the one thing she seemed most pleased to receive was a map of the US. She said she has to address geography, but they do not have globes or maps. They are also in need of chalk, attendance books for teachers and supplies like pens, pencils and notebooks for the children who cannot afford the supplies. She also shared with us the fact that in order for children to get their records sent on to gr. 8-12 school, they need to pay what is equivalent to $8 a year tuition. Before leaving her office, our SU students asked our faculty leader, John, if they could make a contribution. He approved the gesture and then she took us to a classroom that badly needs a chalkboard. She said she would get one in the city and bring it back to the school. We also learned that due to some vandalism, the desks had been taken. Children were sitting on the floor, writing in workbooks- leaning against the walls. In the room next door, gr 6 students were working in their math workbooks- doing algebra!
Outside grades 4 and 5 were all sitting beneath the tree, being instructed by their teachers. I was amazed to see the grade 4 students without their teacher among them. They were working quietly in their workbooks- it appeared to be a health lesson of some kind. I asked several children to hold our Flat Stanley for pictures. They laughed at our little laminated boy, but happily smiled for the cameras. My parting picture taken with the iPad shows the headmistress and children all looking at us- seemingly to be thinking "I wonder if we will ever hear from them again.."
March 13- 2012We returned to the guest house around 10:10 am and by 10:30 were on our way north to Xai-Xai. It was a 4 hour trip with a long lunch break around 2 PM. Long because it took quite a while for them to cook most of us hamburgers and serve cokes. The countryside reminded me of northwest New South Wales with the Eucalyptus trees and vast grasslands.
Market Day in Maputo. Again we saw vendors walking into town with their goods carried in baskets and buckets on top of their heads- or pushing carts filled with all kinds of goods to sell. Mama Bett took us on a walk up the busy city streets- about 30 minutes to where they sell cloth. Many in our group purchased cloth with bright and subtle Africa prints. Some of us were on the look out for African CD music, but we saw none for sale. On the way back to the guest house we stopped at a mosque. The education leader took us on tour of the education facilities but we were not allowed to come into the main area of worship. It was interesting, the religious leader said that they teach light religious studies- some from the Koran, some from the Bible. "There is only one channel- and it is the way to God."
Low growing trees dotted the landscape and as we approached Xai-Xai, homes changed from cinder block construction to traditional grass huts. Also, the land became more hilly.
March 14- 2012Our breakfast was lovely. The cook prepared omelets, chicken sausage, fried tomatoes and onions and lots of instant coffee.
This school is the equivalent to middle school in the USA. It too was built by the United Methodist Church. The headmaster explained that there are 17 teachers and the government pays their salaries but the church is responsible for the infrastructure. The main classroom building was built by the Virginia conference. However, there are stick buildings for two classrooms that have a tin roofs. He explained that a cyclone came through the area in January and tore the buildings apart and they just had them repaired. My sense is that this school is a bit more financially supported than the elementary school that we visited since they had more buildings and chalkboards on each classroom front wall and twice the number of teachers with just about the same number of students. The most fun we had was visiting with the students, first in the classroom and then in the vocational center. John asked students what their favorite subjects were and one said "entraprenureship" and all the rest said English.
March 15- 2012
Our guest house in Chicoque was once an elegant home by the waterside. I think there must be 6 or 7 sleeping rooms or areas. There is a large diningroom- certainly big enough to seat the 12 of us. Waiting for us in a conference room were many different health professionals- nurses, general doctors, a surgeon, a dentist, a physical therapist and even a doctor from Cuba. This female doctor has been sent to MZ for three years to work in the hospital and she has been in MZ for just three months. We learned that the MZ and Cuban governments have made a partnership to train health professionals and it is a priority to train health professionals to send to rural areas. Nurses who finish grade 10 and pass qualifying examinations can be trained at the "basic" level in two years to be a nurse. Then there are different levels of nurses, depending on the amount of training received. It appeared to me that they mentioned training is done primarily in Maputo for doctors. But down the road from where we are staying is the Center for Hope, a counseling center for this province.
Our lunch was incredible. The women of the United Methodist Guest House made a variety of baked dishes: Tuna & peas lasagna, redfish, rice, shredded potatoes fried in a pan, green beans and carrots. They also served a bean-based soup that has some kind of green vegetable that I did not recognize and carrots.
March 16- 2012
In the morning we left Chicuque for Maxixe to take the ferry to Inhambane. The ferry was waiting for us, but it took 25 minutes to fill out with about 70+ passengers. The day was calm, sunny and hot so the ride was smooth and uneventful. We walked to the central market to look for items to bring home. Amamdo taught us to bargain- listen for a price and do not pay any more than we are comfortable spending. Most of us purchased small wooden items, or cloth. I purchased some small paintings that reminded me of village life, and an African-print shawl.
We were met by the head of the mission Julio Vilanculos who greeted us and took us into our the Cambine Guest House. The home was re-furbished by the Virginia Conference and has a huge modern bathroom. He then offered a prayer before we had lunch. Chicken, rice, potatoes...
After lunch we walked the grounds with Amado to visit the school where he went as a youth. It is for grades 8-12. There are five classrooms, a library and several areas where students can gather under shelter.
From there we walked over to the the vocational school. We were met by the headmaster of the Vocational School - his name is Massicame. The building was built by the VA Conference. Again, the government pays the salaries of the teachers, but the church is responsible for the buildings and supplies. The school has an agriculture and woodworking emphasis. We saw where they raise pigs, ducks and chickens.
Next we went to the seminary and met 1st through 4th year seminary students. They greeted us with song, just as we were greeted at the young person's retreat last Sunday when we arrived in Maputo. There was a question-answer period. John asked the seminary students if there was a country that they would like to visit, where might it be. I was impressed by a young man who wants to study in the UK- at Oxford. Another girls said she wanted to visit Burundi since there was a visiting professor at the seminary from that county. Our culminating activity was to go outside an use sickles to learn how to cut the grass. That was a terrific interactive activity- just like yesterday when Lauren learned to wrap her cloth as a skirt.
We ended our tour at the orphanage. Again, the children greeted us in song. The head of the orphanage, Maravilha, told us that there were just over 60 children in residence. The biggest surprise was hearing about how children have gone on to college or training centers. The other surprise was how children were looking out for one another and two young boys seemed to be the ones to organize the "group" gathering- leading them in song. Lauren, Jolene and others seemed enjoy holding and playing with the toddlers. It was hard giving them back to Maravilha when it was time to go back to the guest house for dinner.
This was our last full day in MZ. We had to travel 9 hours by bus back to Maputo. So after breakfast we left by bus, stopped shortly by an KFC for a bathroom break and lunch and made it to the central market by four in the afternoon. I will have to honestly say I really hate the process of haggling for a price to pay for an item. Many young boys and men use their broken English to say, "For you madam, I give you cheap price." They even try to stuff things into your bag. Lenzie has a technique - she thrusts her hand forward and says "No" forcefully and then power walks away. After dinner we debriefed and came to the conclusion that all the girls and women on the trip hated having to bargain, but Donnie didn't seem to mind. It seems to me that they generally understand that he means business when he says he is not intersted.
The type of items that people bought tended to be necklaces, bracelets, paintings, bowls and African masks. I just purchased small items to give to my daughters and grandchildren, and cloth necklaces for the ladies I work with at SEHD.
In our debriefing, Donnie said he had a wonderful experience, but he was not interested in returning. Mark, our nursing student, said he would not mind coming back for a short time with a delegation of nurses. John would like to teach at the seminary for a short while, and I would love to work in a school and teach English. Everyone agreed that it would be hard for someone like Mark who would need a translator familiar with medical terms and procedures.
March 18- 2012
This is our last morning in Maputo. Breakfast at 8 am and church at 9 am. The United Methodist Church is next to the guest house. It is a large church- I would say holding over 500. It was fairly modern with wooden pews, but the cross at the front of the church, carved of wood, looked like twisted rope with forks at the horizontal beam's edges. The cloth on the alter and lecterns were of the purple lenten colors that we find in our churches back home. Today was the last of a 3-day men's conference so those men made up the choir. The men wore dark slacks, shirts and ties, navy jackets with some kind of emblem on the front pocket. I knew the service would be long by US standards since I was told by Amado that the service would last two hours. John and I hoped we would be able to leave by 11 am to meet our students for a light lunch and then go to the airport by noon. We were first seated near the front with other visitors to the church service. However, the pastor told the lay leader that John and I were honored guests so we were moved to the right side of the church and seated right up front by the men's choir. Soon after we were seated, a member of the men's conference sat next to John. He spoke impeccable English and served as a translator for John who in turn whispered to me what was happening during the service. The music sounded so familiar- Methodist hymns sung in Portuguese and local African languages. Toward the beginning of the service, guests were asked to introduce themselves. John offered greetings from people from the VA Conference who had come to the church in previous years. I said my name, my position and the university name, and then offered greetings from my church, Arcola United Methodist Church. Later in the service, the lay leader invited people with special prayer requests to approach the front of the church. Their requests were written on pieces of paper and read by the lay leader. After the prayers were read, several women kissed one another on the cheeks. Later in the service when the offering was given, the children and teens were called to the front first. But before they approached, one young lady began a song and the congregation joined in. Then when all had approached and put coins in the basket, the women were called to do the same. When each time a group was called to offer their gifts to God, a member would choose a song and begin to sing it. The men followed the women and then the guests were called to make their offerings. I think the women guests were waiting for John and I to start singing, but when we did not, they began to sing. For this I was most grateful! However, another man from the church approached me after I sat down and said, "You look like an angel. I will call you to make the final offering prayer." I said I would do so and then I asked the "translator" if he would translate. He said there was no need, the people would understand. After the men's conference group gave their offering, I was called to the front. I thought about the trip and what made the most impression on me. I thanked God for the blessings of the day, for the loving people of MZ, for the children in Tsalala, Tinga and Cambine who obviously want to learn, for the nurses and doctors who have the hands and hearts to heal, for the children of the orphanage who have the voices to sing, and for the people who work in the fields who bring food to the table. Praise be to God.
March 19- 2012
The plane ride home required three separate flights over a 22 hour period of time. Needless to say we arrived very tired, but certainly not grumpy considering the memories of a wonderful adventure that played over and over again in our heads. Flat Stanley certainly had memories of all his school visits, too. He told me that he cannot wait to tell the children in Miss Patterson's first grade class all about it!