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May 24, 2005

Settling Back into Life

My life in Philadelphia was busy before I left to come to Africa.  It seemed like every moment was consumed with something: work, school, exams, packing, moving, last minute travel arrangements, finding an apartment for the fall, trying to spend as much time as I could with my dearest friends.  With all of that, I was left feeling like I was being pulled in a million directions.  I was always thinking about what was on my to-do list and was infrequently really IN the moment.  I usually pride myself on keeping a balance in my life, but I was stressed out in the last weeks in the states!  (Special thanks to Alisha is needed right here….for ALL her help with pretty much everything on that stressful list!!!)

And now... I am light years away from those stresses.  I do not have to worry about bills, rent payments, cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, or fitting in too much in a single day.  What I can focus on is my job here.  To try to be a good teacher.  To try to be a good mentor for the female students at the vocational school.  To try to even help to motivate the other teachers at the vocational school.  It is refreshing in many ways.  It feels like this life here instantly puts life in perspective.  There is time for talking to people face to face, there is time for an afternoon nap, there is time to passear (to wander and socialize).

I feel quite fortunate in my return.  When I first arrived, I spoke very little Portuguese and as such had a lot to prove to myself and to the other teachers and students.  Now, with my return, they have effortlessly welcomed me with "open hands" (as they say here) to the school and as a member of the teacher’s council.  I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Felizberto, the new director of the vocational school, for making me feel like I have never left the school.

After little discussion, it was clear what my place at the school would be for the next few months.  I am going to be teaching the 3rd level of English, teaching computer classes, and running a girl's club.  I am most excited about the girl’s club.  There are not any female teachers at the vocational school, nor were there any other than me when I was here before.  I always managed to step in just before or just after a catastrophe before.  However, it was not a set part of my week.  Somehow it never seemed as practical as the many other tasks at the school to sit and chat with the young women.  Now, it feels like I have the chance to really dedicate myself to them.  The young women here, aged 15-22 or so, for the most part have not had many positive female role models.  Most likely they have not even had a female teacher or principal.  Yet, at this point in the development of Mozambique, they have so much potential and so many options in front of them.  But there are many problems, too.  Most likely, a few of them will have to leave school because they get pregnant or are going to get married (even at 15 or 16 years old!!).  I hope that our meetings together can assure them that they are the lucky ones to have this educational opportunity and encourage them to utilize this privilege.  I am going to try to not plan too much so that these meetings can go where THEY need them to go.  I have no idea what it is like to be in their shoes.  I have no idea what their struggles are really like.  Hopefully they will allow me to get a better glimpse and to at least try to broaden their perspective, too.