This past weekend Alex and I and our sitemate Sarah headed inland to visit our good friend Sara’s site, Mabote. After waiting about 4 hours for a car to Mabote to arrive (somewhat typical, as it turns out), we finally got onto a chapa minibus and bumped along the dirt road 120 kilometers to Mabote. The time for the Sara/h’s departure from Mozambique is quickly approaching, and seeing Mabote was on our list of things to do before Sara leaves there. Our visit to Mabote was made extra special because Sara’s dog recently gave birth to 9 puppies. So, we got to spend the weekend snuggling with a puddle of 2-week-old puppies, as they were learning to walk and bark and open their eyes. And any weekend full of puppies is a weekend full of smiles!
More smiles came last weekend, in the form of my Grandma’s pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. While October is my favorite month for all its Fall glory, we used the last weekend of September to kick-off America Fall, and crack open one of the cans of pumpkin that my lovely mother brought from America when she visited. The months of September and October look a bit different here than they do at home. Summer is beginning, the school year is winding down, the leaves are….still green…always green, and there isn’t a pumpkin to be found. This time of year brings with it extra ‘saudades’- the Portuguese word for the feeling of missing something- and having a taste of home was just what I needed to start my favorite month off right.
Last trimester, my students blindsided me just a bit with some pretty out of control behavior in the classroom. It was clear that the novelty of having a foreign teacher faded with the first trimester. So for this, the third trimester of the year, I have implemented a positive behavior plan and reward system for my students, and have found it to be a great tool for a large classroom. Each class period, my students can earn up to 5 points, 1 each for arriving on-time, being prepared, listening, working well with colleagues, and participating. In increments of 20, they can earn small prizes from me as a whole class. After the first few days of getting used to the new system, I have found that now my students police each other a bit more- if people are talking, I am no longer the first to tell them to quiet down and listen- and help each other out a bit more too- if someone forgot a pen, a colleague is quicker to lend them one so they don’t all lose their preparedness point. It’s a simple enough tactic and opens up a lot of opportunity for discussion about good behavior and for praise, which these students don’t get much of. I plan to start with this plan during first trimester next year. Today, my students passed their first increment of 20. The class ended with lots of cheers and lots of requests for candy as their prize.
The struggle recently has been with my health. This is, perhaps, a contributing factor to my lack of writing for the past month. For one, I have been busy playing catch-up after taking multiple medical trips to the capitol in the past 2 months. Also, it’s just hard to be honest on a public platform about something that is personal and difficult, but that’s what these posts are for: to share the ups and downs. Sorry guys, I’ve been avoiding you. On purpose. My ongoing health issues have been one of the hardest and most frustrating parts of my Peace Corps Service thus far…and I haven’t wanted to talk about it.
I have struggled with having to miss a week of work at a time to go to the capitol for one 30 minute doctor’s appointment. I have struggled with members of my community asking why I have ‘disappeared,’ as Mozambicans like to phrase the question when you are out of town for any length of time..sometimes even just half a day. I have struggled with my students wondering what is wrong with me/ thinking I am gone so much because I am pregnant. I have struggled with getting used to the Mozambican healthcare system (What’s HIPPA? Please, shout my private medical info across the whole waiting room. And when I’m changing into that gown? Yessss…it’s a great opportunity to further stare at my whiteness..) and navigating it in Portuguese. I have struggled with communication breakdowns between me and my Peace Corps doctors. I have struggled with feeling like an extra-needy wife (Shout out to Alex, who has been my substitute teacher, shoulder to cry on, listening ear, and generally attentive husband) . I have struggled with not being able to exercise because of these issues. I have struggled to stay positive and remind myself that nothing is permanent, even when it really feels like it is. Oh, and I have struggled with the actual health parts of the health issue: bad medication, body probs, and continued frustration and disappointment at not being able to figure out the problem.
Maybe the reason I am able to write about it now is that I feel like I am coming out of it. Slowly but surely, things are getting better. I am returning to my routine; my body is starting to feel like itself again.
So, here’s to health, to hoping this struggle is ending, and to continuing to look for all the little smiles along the way, which seem too small to mention but, as it turns out, are really what get a girl through.