Friday, November 16, 2012

South African Holiday

It's summer vacation in Mozambique.  As such, Dan and I are hitting the road for a
bit of South African adventure. Here is a sneak peek at our itinerary!  We will be flying 
from Lilongwe to Cape Town, renting a car, and making our way home over the 
course of several weeks. Traveling with us are Jamie, a fellow volunteer, and Drew, 
her boyfriend of seven years.  Expect pictures, stories, and more!

(I will be out of contact from November 19 to December 15)

Zobue, Mozambique to Cape Town, South Africa

South African Itinerary:  Cape Town (A) to Hermanus (B) to Storms River Mouth (C) to Pietrmaritzburg (D) to Royal Natal National Park (E) to Blyde River Canyon (F) to Kruger National Park (G)

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa:  Gardens, Penguins, Seafood, and Table Mountain

Hermanus, South Africa:  Self-proclaimed "Whale Capital of the World"

Hermanus, South Africa:  Also Home to Shark Diving

Drakensberg Mountains:  Hiking and Camping in Royal Natal National Park

Kruger National Park:  4 days on Safari

Back in Four Weeks!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Seven Wonders of Modern Zobue

This travel blurb is dedicated to Kristen Sloyer and Vikram Rastogi, who were fantastic guests, intrepid explorers, and model site visitors.  Thanks guys, and congratulations on your new site placements!

Site Visits:  November 2012


Zobue (actually spelled Zóbuè or Zobwe) is a town of approximately 8,000 people in eastern Tete Province, hugging the border between Mozambique and Malawi.  The town itself is small and unassuming-- the main stretch of road is about one kilometer in length-- and stretches from the border post in the east to the edge of town in the west.  After the hospital and Catholic Church, the town seems to fall away, and the landscape becomes one of expansive low vegetation, rocky outcroppings, and towering baobab trees.  Villages between Zobue and Tete City (127 kilometers-- 2 to 4 hours) are simple and sparse, giving Zobue an air of isolation and self-sufficiency.

Although Zobue seems small and unremarkable, don't be fooled.  Beneath its simple exterior is a town bursting with good food, culture, and good hikes.  The dedicated tourist should consider staying for at least two days (if not more) in this charming country town.

Weather and Seasons:

The Tete/Malawi border is known for its "fresco" weather and for its fertile soil.  A wide range of crops are available throughout the year, and most families own and maintain their own fields and gardens.  The rainy season provides natural irrigation between October and March-- the time period in which Zobue is most green and productive-- and the dry season hosts a short, brisk winter between the months of May and July.

Location and Accommodation:

Because Zobue is situated along a main corridor (Route 103 from Blantyre, Malawi to Harare, Zimbabwe), there is a healthy amount of cross-traffic and visitation.  Visitors will often stay for a night en-route to Malawi, and Peace Corps Zobue has hosted quite a few long-distances travelers.  Based in a safe and bustling bairro on the upper edge of town, Peace Corps Zobue boasts room enough for 8-10 visitors, six of whom can sleep in relative peace and comfort.  Accommodation is complete with bedding, mosquito nets, all-you-can-drink filtered water, and a free egg sandwich in the morning.

The Seven Wonders of Modern Zobue:

Though Zobue has been carelessly neglected by the likes of Frommer's and Lonely Planet, it deserves to have its own special travel description.  Inspired in part by our site visitors, who stayed for four full days in early November, I have decided to write my own description of Zobue, outlining the must-see aspects of our rocky little town.  Peruse and enjoy-- The Seven Wonders of Modern Zobue.

(Now with Printable Postcards!)

#1:  Quinta Monte Zobue

Located in the fields at the far end of town, Quinta Monte Zobue rests in the shadow of the Angonian Plateau.  Tables in the gazebo offer sweeping views of the foothills and exposed, weathered domes, including an opportunity to spot two of Zobue's famous international border markers.

Supply at this restaurant/hotel is occasionally limited, but visitors can reliably find good prices on chicken and gazelle.  The beer is usually cold, the nsima is usually hot, and their nightly projector show (music videos, Titanic, or old Kung Fu movies) is not to be missed.

#2.  Sunset Rock

No trip to Zobue would be complete without a hike to the fabulous Sunset Rock!  Arguably the best sunset spot on the entire Planet Earth, these domes are located in the hills of "No Man's Land" on the border between Mozambique and Malawi.  Quiet, peaceful, and warm to the touch, these black rocks are relatively isolated from the rest of the town and offer expansive views across the mountains of Tete Province.

#3.  The Nyau

Unpredictable and fierce, the Nyau are the cultural dancers of the Chewa tribe.  A lucky visitor might spot these dancers in the early evening hours, running armed and rampant through the bairros.  It is customary to flee before a charging Nyau, and "dancing days" generally result in general panic, excitement, and a town-wide game of hide-and-seek.  To find the Nyau, listen for drums, shrieks, and rattles.  As with animals on safari, a sighting cannot be guaranteed.

#4.  Malawi

With the nearest Malawian town located less than 8km away, a day trip into Malawi is a fantastically tempting option.  Among its many perks, Malawi offers good food, cheap Coke, and English-speaking residents.  The taxi ride between the borders is just one highlight of the trip, where the views of the countryside are usually glimpsed at 150km per hour to the tune of Chewa Rock.  After your exciting, ten-person taxi ride, don't forget to check in at the second border station on the Malawi side of "No Man's Land".    From there, you are free to explore the BOMA (central market area) and surrounding neighborhoods.  It's fun to greet people in English and to identify differences between Mozambican and Malawian culture.  Even better, it's fun to say that you've been to Malawi.

#5.  Abandoned Seminary and Other Hikes

For the long-term guest or adventurous visitor, Zobue also offers a spectacular suite of hiking options, from the precipitous climb across the "Back Zobue Spine" to the beautiful Seminary hike.  Visitors looking for a more in-depth experience should state their preferences to the proprietors at Peace Corps Zobue.  Hikes on offer include:

  • The Back Zobue Spine (5 kilometers to a series of cliffs and boulders overlooking the surrounding hillside)
  • The Seminary Hike (8 kilometers to a hidden, abandoned Catholic Seminary.  Spooky!)
  • The Village Meander (10 - 30 km through the countryside and nearby villages)
  • The Land Mine Prod (a 100 km march straight through the surrounding bush)

#6.  The Zobue Secondary School

A quintessential part of the Zobue Guest Experience is a quick side-trip to the Zobue Secondary School!  Just three minutes from the Peace Corps Zobue house, the Secondary School offers a glimpse into student life in Mozambique.  Visitors are welcome to enter the classrooms, take a seat, and receive a demonstration of Mozambican school protocol!  This is immersion tourism at its best.

#7.  Monte Zobue

The crowning jewel of the Mozambique/Malawi border, Monte Zobue is the ultimate Zobue destination.  Visible from more than 40km away, it is the world's only triple-dome mountain (located within the town of Zobue).  A hike to the top of the smallest dome can be done in fewer than three hours, and every local child knows the way. Longer hikes probe the depths of the cloud forest between the domes, so keep your eyes peeled for monkeys and parrots!  Proper footwear is recommended.

Congratulations on finding Zobue, Mozambique:  "The Best Site in Eastern Tete!"  Drop us a line, give us a call, or come explore with us today!


It's spring in Mozambique!

Spring rains bring this tuft of grass to life

The rainy season started with a few good rains in late October.  Within days, spring had unfurled across the countryside of Mozambique and produced quantities of new growth.  While our water supply hasn't completely recovered, there is now enough moisture in the soil to support seedlings and flowers.  A recent trip to the mountain yielded fresh grass, full sun, and thousands of beautiful, smiling (botanical) faces.  

New growth
Acacia:  In full bloom on November 3, then with fresh leaves on November 10
Flowers on the mountain
A "fireball," or African blood lily
Flowers on the mountain
Flowers on the mountain
Spring also means baby animals, like this baby praying mantis

End of the School Year

Two Teachers

After three full trimesters, 40 weeks of classes, five days of national exams, two rounds of divulgação (trimester grade announcements), and one giant, public, hand-written, grade-wide report card, Dan and I have made it to the end of our first school year in Mozambique!

While it has been exhausting and intense, it has also been wonderful and enlightening.  I now know that I do want to be a teacher and that I’m headed in the right direction.  While I prefer to teach the younger grades (second and third grade at the State College Friends School was perfect), I am thankful that I was selected to be an eighth grade teacher and not a teacher at the ninth, tenth, or second-cycle level.  My students are still young enough to be playful and sweet, and that is something that I really appreciate and take advantage of.

Dan, for his part, has learned that he definitely wants to go back to school and continue teaching at the college level.  While he enjoys his eighth and tenth grade students, I think that he misses “real” math.  He hopes to re-take his college entrance exams and apply to the University of Washington next fall.

Besides learning a lot about ourselves, we have learned a lot about the Mozambican school system.  It has taken an entire year, but I finally feel like I understand my school and the systems that are in place.  I understand what my role is, and in what ways I can make a contribution.  I feel capable, strong, and confident.  This year, I hit the ground watching.  Next year, I will hit the ground running.

This is what I have learned about teaching in Mozambique:

1.  Be strict.  It is better to start off strict and ease off later, rather than the other way around.  Classroom discipline was the biggest challenge that I faced this year, and it got much worse towards the end of the year.  Establish a pattern of behavior and response.

2.  Be fair.  Listen to your students.  You can’t constantly make allowances or amendments to your rules, but students appreciate a teacher who is fair and just.  Some Mozambican students have extraordinary home situations and need a little extra help.

3.  Make mistakes.   Nobody is perfect.  Mistakes help you iron out your methodology.

4.  Ask for advice.  The other teachers know better than you do.  This is their school and their country.

5.  Laugh.  It’s okay!

“To teach is to learn twice.” ~Joseph Joubert, 1842

Escola Secundaria de Zobue:  Zobue Secondary School

Inside the classroom

Dan teaching eighth-grade math

Meet our students!  Creating student ID cards for the national exams.

Example Student ID.  Made using MS Powerpoint!  Very official.

Now that I have finished my first school year and I am beginning to consider my second, I am ready to think about the goals and improvements that I would like to make.  In terms of teaching, my goals for next year are as follows:

1.  Teach eighth-grade English (again)

I’ve discovered that I don’t really like teaching English!  English as a subject is nearly infinite, and I often feel like I am paddling frantically just to stay in the same place.  Many of my students have yet to actually master Portuguese, and, as such, my task (that is, building upon their Portuguese to teach a third level of language) seems nearly impossible.  I am looking forward to my second year, however, because I will be much more competent and effective.  Thankfully, English is a fun disciplines, and most students get pretty excited about it.  English lends itself easily to lots of games and songs, and for that I am grateful!

2.  Teach ninth-grade Geography

There is an opening next year for a ninth-grade Geography teacher, and I have requested to take the position.  I very much like geography (in this case, world geography) and feel like I would be a very effective instructor.  If my request is accepted, I will be teaching ninth-grade Geography in the morning and eighth-grade English in the afternoon.  Even better, I would “move up” with my eighth grade students.

3.  Start an English Club

Dan and I hope to start an English Club with a selected handful of ninth-grade (previously eighth-grade) students.  This club will be the starting point for next year’s English Theater group, and will offer extra work to help challenge some of our best and brightest students.

4.  Learn to Say, “No”

There are several projects that I hope to “graduate” next year, including REDES (to be left in the care of my counterpart, Inacia) and Informatica (to be left in the care of my counterpart, Sopa).  While I really liked teaching computers, I prefer to teach to large groups.  I also prefer geography.

This week marks the official start of summer vacation, which will last until January 14th.  And although our main responsibilities are at the school, this two-month respite does not mean that Dan and I will be idle.  Here are a few things on our agenda:

  • Blog Posts!  Pictures, information, pleas for money, and more!
  • South Africa!  Cape Town to Kruger in 18 days!
  • Northern Mozambique!  Dolphins, Seafood, and Rough Roads!
  • Mozambique Mosaic!  My photos make their way to Zobue!

 Stay tuned, and have a WONDERFUL SUMMER VACATION!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the name of Africa, Children, and Basketball

Dan is building a basketball court in the town of Zobue, Mozambique!

I'm excited to announce that Dan's basketball project (CABAZO) has been posted on the Peace Corps website and is now accepting funds.  The project has already raised $800 dollars, and we hope to reach $5,000 by the end of December.   Read on!

What is CABAZO?
Short for Campo de Basquetbol em Zobue, the CABAZO project aims to build a concrete basketball court in the semi-rural town of Zobue, Mozambique.  

Why basketball?
Basketball is a popular sport in the more affluent corners of Mozambique, but most village kids never really get a chance to learn how to play.  While the students and teachers have an abiding interest in basketball, the nearest court is actually 5 miles away (and in the adjacent country).  The CABAZO project hopes to bring basketball to Zobue and to start a traveling, competitive, after-school sports league.

CABAZO is based on the principle that competitive sports promote
  • A strong sense of self-esteem and personal achievement
  • Healthier lifestyles and healthier choices
  • Opportunities 

Why Zobue?
Zobue has been trying to build their own basketball court for years.  The town had already bought a patch of land on which they hoped to build their court, but were lacking in the necessary funds.  In their enthusiasm for the project, the local secondary school has offered to contribute half of the total value (mostly in terms of bricks, sand, and manual labor).  

When Dan first launched his CABAZO campaign at a school meeting in April, he received a standing ovation from the other teachers in attendance.  

Who is the target audience?
Working together with other teachers at the school, Dan hopes to start a after-school competitive league for eighth, ninth, and tenth grade students, as well as a recreational league for adults.  The secondary school also hopes to incorporate the basketball court into its physical education curriculum.  The goal is to provide a healthy recreational alternative (that is, a fun after-school sport) for teenagers at risk.  

What about me?
If you are interested in donating to the project, you can find more information on the website for the Peace Corps Partnership Program.  Every single penny goes towards buying cement, poles, hoops, and rims.  If, for whatever reason, we have extra funds, the money will be put towards paint, jerseys, and basketballs.  Here in Africa, every dollar counts.

Take a good look at these "Before" and "After" photos.  Consider the difference that your money could make!

From this little rascal, to the unshakable Shaquille O'Neal
From our neighbor Joaquim, to the unbeatable Larry Bird 

And, whether or not you choose to donate, please enjoy the following short video selection. From the 1980 comedy classic, Airplane, this scene shows two young Peace Corps volunteers as they try to "teach" basketball to an indigenous African tribe.

If you have donated, please let us know.  Your contribution is incredibly meaningful, and we want to thank you.  The neighborhood kids are making home-made cards for each and every one of our special donors!  Feel free to leave a comment below or to send a private email.

Thank you!  Obrigada!  Zikomo Kwambiri!