Monday, November 30, 2009

If Elton John and Tina Turner had a love child…

The rains have stopped and I have been passearing quite a bit. Turns out there are stunning waterfalls an hour outside of town. You can climb mangos trees on the way and shake out the ripening fruit for a snack. Pretty much all around us there are verdant hillsides and stunning views into valleys. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice how beautiful my surroundings were until this last week… perhaps I was too distracted by sensory overload and culture shock to be able to register more than a ten yard radius from where I stood.

In addition to the sun coming out, last week was highlighted by Thanksgiving, the culmination of model school and, most exciting of all, the announcement of our site placements. Thanksgiving was on Wednesday (just because) and most of the meal was cooked potluck-style by trainees. People pulled off such miracles as garlic mashed potatoes, apple stuffing, mac n’ cheese, pumpkin and apple pies, rum cake and chocolate chip cookies. I foolishly decided to cook beans and was relegated to cooking over coals, fanning to keep them red hot and waiting three hours for the beans to cook, but they went over well. The one food item that was not touched by any of the 70 trainees was the giant bowl of xima (big surprise).

Before the feast they handed each of us an envelope inside of which was sealed our fate for the next two years. We opened them all at once in a flurry of excitement and each person placed their name on a map of Mozambique. Turns out I’m going to the same place I visited a few weeks ago and requested, so I am pleased. There will be many blog entries to describe my site as I get acquainted with it but here’s a quick summary:
one of a cluster of cement/plaster houses on school compound, lots of kids around, gas stove with oven, small refrigerator, electricity, nearby water pump, mango trees, teaching Biology at the agricultural high school, about 30 minute walk/5 minute ride from large town with a great market, school compound surrounded by farm fields, can walk to a large bridge over the Limpopo River, flat and inland (no beach or mountains), very hot in summer but chilly in winter, 2 hours by chapa to Xai Xai (provincial capital on coast), 3-4 hours from Maputo.

It’s a huge relief to finally know where we’re headed! Luckily we had model school the past few weeks to distract us for from the agonizing anticipation. Mozambican students are technically on vacation, but we lured them back to school by the promise of cookies, fancy certificates and the novelty of American teachers.

On Tuesday I gave my culminating lesson about gentics. We followed two heritable traits in the children of an imaginary celebrity couple. I let the students pick and ended up with a cross between Tina Turner and Elton John. I found this laugh-out-loud funny but the students didn’t seem to get the irony. I asked two volunteers to the front of the room and designated one as a sperm and the other as an egg (this they found hilarious). Each got to pick the alleles (drawn as different colored genes on big paper chromosomes) at random and then we combined them. In case you were wondering, the imaginary love child of Elton and Tina could roll his tongue and did not have hemophilia.

So… now it’s just a waiting game. I leave for Xai Xai on December 9th. From there I will catch a chapa to my site and move in. In the meantime I am trying to see the bright sides of host family life (e.g. it’s temporary!) and squeeze in as much passearing as possible, though now that the sun has come out it can be oppressively hot and muggy.

P.S. Have no idea about the postal situation yet. I’ll e-mail my new mailing address when I get one, but it may be a little while.


  1. Hey Clancy!
    I'm so glad you're happy with your placement. I can’t wait to hear about your new home!

    My paper on Mozambique is going well and I'm learning loads about the country and some of the challenges it faces. One of the topics I’m covering in my paper is the Great Limpopo Conservation Area. I’m wondering what the general feeling towards Transnational Conservation Parks is among the people you’ve met. I’ve been reading a lot that suggests that the communities near the parks are not too thrilled with the idea and it’s mostly the national governments that are pushing for the creation of the parks.

    It’s been getting cold here in Geneva. There was snow on the ground on the 1st of December, a great way to start the winter season. The heating in Sill house is still wonky, though I think they fixed the problem of some rooms being saunas while others were freezers…now they’re all cold and the thermostats don’t seem to do anything. We’ll see what happens. I might be spending a lot more of time in Lansing and the Library, both of which are probably a bit too warm.

    I’ve started looking past the end of school, which is exciting and really scary at the same time. Career services has a copy of my resume and I’ve been looking for internships, research opportunities, and possibly volunteer work. I really want to be outside most of the time, we’ll see what turns up.

    Miss you but glad you’re doing well,

  2. I'm glad you had a good thanksgiving. I wonder what the big surprise was. Maybe some exotic animal?