Yep, I’m still alive.
Between the end of the trimester grading, testing and evaluations, these past couple of months have been tremendously busy. During the break I decided to take a trip to Ilha de Ibo, Pemba, then Ilha de Moçambique. It was such a wonderful and much needed break.
Ilha de Ibo.
While in Pemba I met up with several of the kids that would frequent my house in Balama and I took them to the beach.
In Ilha de Moçambique I met up with a bunch of American friends to simply have a good ol’ time.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve been coaching Balama’s basketball team but since they started remodeling the court we had to put practices on hold for a couple of months. During this break I wanted my girls to continue to become active in other ways than solely in athletics.
Remember that young, beautiful, brilliant girl who shaved off my beard last year? Welp, during her summer between 8th and 9th grade she ended up getting married. During this school year I noticed something was off. She was hesitant to respond to questions, started missing a day here and there and then finally stopped showing up all together.
I finally mustered up the courage to go talk to ask her family what was going on, they nonchalantly said “She moved out when she got married and now she’s a few months pregnant.”
My brightest student of fifteen years, Julianna, fell into the norms of Balama’s society. Menstruation here means that you are a woman that’s old enough to bare a family. It frustrates me, it bums me out, and it makes me feel defeated as a teacher. Not only Mozambique but this planet lost an intelligent future scientist.
Juliana’s story along with Julieta’s story made me realize that I had to do something more than just coach women’s basketball. I, along with my dedicated basketball player, Rábia, started a young women’s empowerment group.
In early May I was able to take four girls from Balama to a Raparigas em Desenvolvimento Educação e Saúde (REDES) Conference. I told Rábia to bring her 3 girl friends were around her age.
So off we go to Monapo, Nampula for the conference. This was the first time any of my girls had left the province of Cabo Delgado. A few of the topics at the conference were: HIV/AIDS, malaria, safe sex practices, emotional and physical abuse, premature marriages, how to start a business, and many others. So now the conference ends… time to go home and forget everything your learned right?….. NOPE!
I told group of girls to come over to my house the following weekend to start our peanut butter business. We made a total of 7 kilograms recently and every jar has been sold. The girls were stoked that this weird buttery thing made from peanuts would sell. From this peanut butter business aka Balama Butter we plan raise enough money to hold another smaller conference within our province in September. This will allow us to bring more girls into the mix.
Rábia, the 14 year old all-star, has taken up the task to teach all of the newcomers about what she learned during the conference. So every week at the end of our Balama Butter jam-out session Rábia has her own little session with the newbies.
I also make sure to talk to the parents about some of the topics we discuss to make sure they’re on board also and so far we seem to be on the same track.
I may have been late with Juliana and I won’t get across to every girl in Balama but if what I’m doing gets across to some of my girls… man, I’ll be one proud fella.
So that’s why I’ve disappeared off the map. Between teaching physics, hanging out with the girls, and talking with their parents, nearly all of my time is taken up but I’m loving every second of it. 😀
Impaka nihuku nikwawei! / Até outro dia! / Until another day!
PS I just found out they finished the basketball court…. Let the 4:30AM practices commence!