Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy belated Six months

Six months! The mighty landmark, like a kyndey stone, did not pass easily.

The weather is finally cooling. After travelling to Maputo for a few days and visiting with other Peace Corps volunteers I was feeling weary from being away from home. But I was anxious about going back to site-- I was away for about ten days, by far the most amount of time I've spent away since arriving. I got back, and got sick, and had my first real slump since the robbery.

The are starting to feel normal here. I don't have to psyche myself up before going to the market anymore. I don't get freaked out by my colleagues any more. I have begun to settle into teaching. I even got a maid. So why the slump?

In starting to feel routine my life lost the buzz that surrounded it, the mystery that shrouded it. Every daily bother was a challenge. But now, daily bothers are just that, bothers. And my long term problems: integrating, making friends, dealing with homesickness persist, despite my life feeling more routine. Now that things are "normal" my problems have lost their glow, the glow that justified them. Now they are just problems, daily bothers that pimple any daily routine.

For two weeks or so my slump followed me around. I stopped playing the guitar, I mostly stopped exercising, I spent too much time in books and watching movies on my laptop. All of these choices, of course, jkust made things a little bit more slumpy. I wanted to update my blog, just to remember something, but niothing seemed special enough to mandate the effort.

What to do? Ultimately reason prevailed and I sought out my fellow volunteers for advice. As it turns out almost everyone in my group is going through this transition about now. I talked to a bunch of colleagues with the same inexplicable gloominess, the feeling of things losing their color. I travelled for a few days and visited people in my province, and when I came home I felt like I understood my situation on a wider scale.

And then things started to get better. My students even missed me, I had groups of students stop me in the halls to ask me where I had been. A bunch of people in town likewise missed me, in the market almost every vendor I stopped to talk to asked me where I'd been.

Little kids don't ask me for money anymore. Mostly they try to climb on me or speak shitswa to me (the really little ones don't understand that I speak anything BUT shitswa). I have people I've never met before calling me "Teacher Colin" as I walk through town. My relationships with my students are better than ever. I feel like I belong, except for the fact that my skin is fifteen shades lighter, I am twenty thousand miles from home and I can't understand what anyone is saying. Yeah, those obstacles persist.

A snapshot of my day. I am walking to class, just behind a group of my students on their way to the same class. They don't see me until I am walking right in their midst. I start walking faster. They see me and break into a run. We sprint for the door, I am in the lead except for at the last second one of my best and favorite students shoves me unapologetically with her elbow to get a step ahead. They all rush to their seats. One students lags way behind, screaming for me to wait as he sprints across the quad. I wait until he is five feet away then I slam the door. I laugh maniacally as half my students beg me to let him in and the other half urges me to keep him out for the rest of class. I let him in and write the date on the board like I always do...

I love my students. They mostly mean very well and are respectful. I have a few students whom I have fantasies about strangling, but only one or two in the couple hundred that I teach. They are always down to joke around, and one has to be careful in not letting them get too carried away. At the same time though joking around is fun, and as I walk across the quad I steal students' hats, fight in pretend karate, lie about my age (they have absolutely no idea), tell them I knew Tupac before he's awesome. I was walking home today and a group of my oldest students asked me if I would teach them how to fight. I said I couldn't because I wouldn't want to accidentally kill any of them, at which point they all leapt around laughing and shouting as teenage boys are wont to do.

In the classroom my lessons are finally starting to go well. I know I haven't really written about my lessons yet, mostly because it's hard to write about something you suck at. I didn't even really understand why my lessons sucked so much, but now that they are starting to shape up I can feel the difference in a huge way. They are picking up on my accent, I have begun to use a smaller, more precise vocabulary that they can grasp. Occasionally I go on long, crass rants in English about random things (the Healthcare bill, a headache I have that day, Mario and Luigi as unhealthy Italian stereotypes...) that they can't understand, and I think they are getting used to that too. They just look at each other with that "he's crazy" look in their eyes.

I have started an English club. Yesterday we did directions, wherein I blindfolded three at a time and their friends had to guide them, using only English, through obstacles to a prize. This immediately devolved into the "guides" directing their blind comrades into desks and walls, or grabbing them and shoving them to the prize before the other groups. A good time was had by all, and some of my students really tried to speak English off the cuff for the first time ever.

Oh, and my mom has sent me stickers. When I first brought them out there was a frenzy. I had to break up fights over stickers, had to stop students from grabbing them from my hand and running away. It was insane. I gave a student a sheet that had about a third of its stickers left and the other kids mobbed him and roughed him up, despite his having every intention to give them out (he was fine by the way, a little dazed). I can't yet tell if stickers have been a success in that I get more volunteers than ever in class, or if it's been a complete disaster in that I have awoken a dark, vicious bloodlust in my students. Either way it's one of the most entertaining things I've ever seen first hand.

I have been hording candy that my mom and Katie's mom have sent me, I shudder to think what will happen when I use it.

In short, I love my students and I love my job. At least for the time being.