This Is Africa

It’s been 5 days since leaving Boston, but we’ve been in Mozambique for only a little over three days. This blog post is my personal recount of my group’s travels, paired with photos by my dear friend and colleague, Lauren Morrow.

Friday Night - Saturday Morning (March 3, 2017)

We left on Friday night with an overnight flight to London, giving us an opportunity to explore for a nine hour layover. After a six hour flight and about an hour waiting to get through customs, we hopped on an express train (fancy!) to Paddington Station, ate a delicious, full English breakfast, and drank Earl Grey tea (my favorite!) at this little Italian Cafe called Mimos. After traveling for so long and knowing we had so much rushing and waiting ahead of us in our travels, we went on a walk to Kensington Garden. There, we were able to stretch our legs, breathe some real air, and take a nap on a park bench, lulled to sleep by the fountains.

While Kate met up with a friend in the area, Kyle, Cassie, Lauren and I found a pub to sit down and relax in until it was time to head back to the airport. Lauren taught us all how to play Rummy to pass the time, and for the first time I didn't mind math. (Don’t worry, you’ll see a picture of all of us later on.)

Sunday, March 5th

We arrived in Mozambique at about 11am after a nerve-racking customs experience in Johannesburg. As our group moved through scanning their boarding passes on to the security checkpoint, something went wrong. My boarding pass would not scan, and the security guard did NOT care. And neither did the woman helping him. My whole group had already scanned and gone through, but I was unable to pass. Not another China experience! I was asked to go the other way, which I did, however so reluctantly.

I’m not sure how I looked on the outside, but I was freaking out. Deep breaths. You have friends with you this time. As my group moved quickly through the line to the right, I powered through the line to the left. Luckily, an older couple from Chicago were the only people in front of me, and saw my panic mode rising. They were kind enough to let me cut them, and I was able to get parallel with my group, finally making it through customs together.

Leaving the bitter cold of New England’s winter made the heat of Africa melt all over us. Cassie’s mother, Terri, was waiting for us at the airport and it was so good to see a familiar face after nearly three days straight of travelling. We got in the family’s "love van" and drove to their home in Matola, a large suburb of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo.

Feeling drained and already slightly overwhelmed, Terri encouraged us throughout the car ride to stay awake in order to beat jetlag-- something none of us were able imagine at that moment. But after unwinding, we headed to an orphanage to meet some of the children (and oh my goodness are the kids cute), she brought us to an incredible chicken dinner at the family’s favorite spot. There we were served half chickens (yes, you read that right) along with french fries, cucumber and onion salad, and a grits-like-side we referred to as the white substance.

Once we got home, we all took what might have been the most refreshing showers of our lives. And then, we planned. Our first training was Monday, and we had to wake up at 5:30am to be there!

Monday, March 6th Training day!

Now, if you don’t already know, Cassie brought 4 friends (all teachers, including me) to Mozambique to work in several schools and visit several orphanages, connected through her parents’ foundation, the Sunshine Nut Foundation, which you should read more about here.

I think we were all a little nervous going into this. We’d just travelled so far, and here we were, barely a night’s sleep in between, about to train teachers! We’ve been preparing all year for this, once a month and then nearly every other week leading up to the trip. When you love teaching, you feel comfortable in the classroom. You feel like you own the place, and it’s your job to make everyone else feel like they do too.

Well, the teachers came and they were eager to learn. We focused on things that we’ve all said just feel “normal” or “natural” to us; Things like crouching down to eye-level with a student, praising students for a job well done, or getting kids up and moving. Long story short, this was all stuff that these teachers are not as accustomed to as we are in the U.S., so it made the presentation really engaging, and they had so many questions! I think by lunch we were all feeling more confident and relieved.

By lunchtime, the teachers performed a beautiful, traditional Mozambique song for us. During this, they had us stand at the front of the classroom, and presented us with capulanas, the beautiful fabrics worn by women here as skirts, wrapped around their heads, or used to carry their babies. As they sang, women wrapped the capulanas around my, Cassie, Lauren and Kate’s waists, while a male teacher draped one over Kyle’s shoulder and chest. This felt like a ceremony, and it was a way that they thanked us for coming. For any of you who know me, it won’t surprise you that I nearly cried at the beauty of the situation. And for those of you who don’t know Lauren, she’s a cryer too. Despite all of the different ways we express ourselves, which we are all quickly learning about each other on this trip, we were all very touched by this moment.

Tuesday, March 7th

Today! It’s around 8:30pm here, and I’ve been writing since after dinner. I’ve been waiting for this moment, but there really hasn’t been one yet. We have filled all of our time here so completely, but it has already made us feel so full. Full of life, full of love, and full of excitement to keep going.

Today we actually got into the classrooms and the teachers from yesterday observed our lessons. This was an awesome time to be able to give a really active lesson to the students, and let the teachers see how excited they could get about something so simple as parts of speech :)

Kyle and I were lucky and got to teach a gym class, too, where we focused on Project Adventure team-building activities like the human knot. As fun as it was to watch the kids have fun, what felt the best was seeing the teacher writing notes on his clip-board throughout the entire 45 minute period. I think that when you fly to Africa to volunteer, a lot of times people wonder what good you’re actually doing. But seeing these teachers smiling and taking notes was such a good feeling-- just knowing that he’s going to try these types of activities when we leave!

Well, it’s getting to that time where I am wondering just how much longer I can actually sit in these sweaty clothes, something I don’t know how Cassie’s parents have gotten used to. That being said, I feel so blessed to have spent even a few days here in Terri’s home and with her. She has been so generous to all of us, and seeing the life she lives here has been both remarkable and inspirational. So thank you, Terri :)

Wednesday, March 8th

Today was our last day at the Christian Academy of Mozambique (CAM). On our way to school each day this week, we stop for bread from a lady who sells it on the street. It is always warm to the touch, speckled with charcoal, and delicious with every bite.

CAM has been an incredible and enriching experience. Today Kyle and I observed teachers in their classrooms, and many of them actually tried out the “multi-modal activities” we modeled for them in our trainings. It went so well! It was so cool to see these teachers excited to use some of the things we taught them about, and to see the kids enjoy it. One teacher, Walter, even made up his own multi-modal activity for Geometry! I enjoyed math for the second time! I think we are both going to challenge ourselves to make our own version of it for Language Arts.

After school, Terri took us to a little road-side shop full of the beautiful capulanas we have been seeing all of the women wearing. The shop was stiflingly hot, but the colors were fantastic. We each bought a bag ful to bring home, and Lauren was able to capture the beauty of the fabrics with her camera.

Tomorrow we are going to another school where everything will need to be translated into Portuguese. But more on that in a few days :) Thanks for reading. The past few days have been breath taking. I have already learned so much, as I feel I always do when I leave my comfort zone.

If you'd like to donate to the Sunshine Approach Foundation, click here.

#TeachingAbroad #africa #volunteering #sunshinenutcompany

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