Sunday, 7 September 2014

Here We Go Again.

Once upon a time when I was 19 and a half, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran an article that featured a full-page photo of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. I can’t recall what the article was about or why it even struck me, but I remember promising myself then that, someday, I would see the Eiffel Tower in person.

The next day, I grew impatient for someday and got applications for scholarships to study abroad and for a passport. When I was 19 years and 364 days old, my passport came in the mail. On my 20th birthday, I got on a plane to Paris, France.

One thing you should know: I am lucky beyond what anyone has a right to be. And I acknowledge this. Through phenomenal work opportunities, scholarships/studentships, and great jobs that allowed me to save up money and happily wish me well on month-long sojourns and that all seemed to just fall in my lap, I have visited 15 foreign countries and now lived in six cities in four countries on as many continents in the past seven years.

When I arrived in England in September of last year, I fell in love with my fine medieval town of Norwich and the people I met there. So much so that I fancied sticking around to do my PhD there – the longest I’d be in one place since leaving my parents’ house at 18. Thanks for all the traveling, World, but I think I’ll just stay here for a while.

And the World laughed and said, You must be mistaken. You said you wanted travel. I’ll help you travel.

Which is how I found myself here, in Hong Kong, preparing to do my PhD in international media development over the next four years.

The Degree

Except that, oh no, I can’t stay in one place for that long. Four years in one place is just too much commitment for me, apparently. Which is why my PhD programme goes like this:

Year 1: Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
Year 2: Haimen Institute of Science and Technology, near Shanghai, China
Years 3&4: University of Westminster, London, with time spent doing research in sub-Saharan Africa

This particular dual-degree programme is a new endeavour by the universities involved. Though HKBU and Westminster are both known for their communication programmes and there are 16 other communication PhD candidates doing their degrees exclusively at HKBU, myself and my three colleagues – from Pakistan, the Philippines and China – are the guinea pigs to this very international and quite well-funded multi-university programme.

View from the top of the HKBU communication building
This programme is described as a hybrid between the American and British PhD systems – the American system being lots of classes and a short thesis, the British system being fewer classes and a long thesis. Which means we get the best of both worlds – lots of classes and a long thesis. This semester, we have 9 hours of classes and 12 hours of working as teaching assistants each week. This will mostly be the case for the next two years in Hong Kong and Haimen. The final two years I’ll be based at the University of Westminster in London focusing on my research and doing field work wherever required. Upon completion, I will have degrees from both Hong Kong Baptist University and the University of Westminster.

The City

My beloved town of Norwich was a small, sleepy community on the banks of the River Wensum, where, in the city centre, you wouldn’t see a soul after 7pm except in a pub, and you’d always carry an umbrella and a jacket because it rarely got above 20C/70F.

Hong Kong is not quite like that. They say it’s incredibly safe, because absolutely everywhere you go, day or night, there will always be hundreds of people with you. EVERYWHERE. My umbrella has now turned into a parasol to ward off the constant sun and a water bottle must be carried at all times to prevent dehydration.

Right now, I’m staying with an AirBNB host, which strangely harkens back to Peace Corps homestay – I’m cheap, so the room is barely larger than my bed, there’s no real designated shower area but just a drain on the floor beside the toilet, conversations with the housekeeper are via pantomime as I don’t speak Cantonese, and instead of chickens running around I keep accidentally tripping over the host’s pet turtle (including, awkwardly, in the shower). But as it’s in the Mong Kok district (ranked the busiest district in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records), I can step outside the building and find funky street food and fresh coconut with sugar cane juice any time of day or night.

This week (fingers crossed) I’ll be moving to my more permanent (read; one year) home, a three-bedroom, two-bath flat on the third floor I’ll be sharing with two local teachers.

Fun Note: I found it strangely difficult to find flats with kitchens. Even now, my future flat has just a sink, a microwave, a small fridge and a hotplate. Why is that, I asked a friend? Because it’s so much cheaper and easier to just buy delicious and healthy food everywhere that no one really bothers to cook. To which I responded, why have I wasted my adult life living anywhere else?!

The fact that a two-course meal with a pile of rice and a lemon tea costs less than $30HK ($4 USD) also proved extremely beneficial this week when my podunk Texas bank decided I didn’t need access to my money for three days and I had to survive off my emergency stash. I’m over that now.

While I'm strangely a bit homesick for Norwich (strange because I don't get homesick. ever.), I also know that getting decent pay to do my PhD research and travel the world more is a greater opportunity than I could have hoped for. So here's to another country, another culture, and another four years of putting off getting a 'real job' while getting to know people from across the world and feeling like the darned luckiest person on earth.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Concerning the New Home

Concerning the Flat:
Mary Chapman Court, Duke Street. Complete with resident swan.
I once tried to count the number of places I've called home and got up to six houses with family, three houses with roommates, four college dormitories and three apartments before I got bored and stopped counting. Regardless, this is the first "flat" I've had the pleasure to call home.

Mary Chapman Court is the student accommodation, primarily for grad and international students, settled along the river in the heart of Norwich city. In contrast to where I was living a month ago, the flat is a bit of a downgrade - farewell dishwasher, television, personal bathroom with a tub that could accommodate a small horse, etc. Not to mention I'm having to start from scratch with furnishings (curious how often that happens), so I have precisely one pot, one pan, plastic dishes intended for a garden party from the "Everything £1" store and no real personal items in my room due to luggage constraint. Then I think about where I was living at this time last year. And I really appreciate my little flat a little bit more.

While I was expecting a bit of a cultural shock with the living situation, it wasn't in the way I had foreseen - I have three Chinese flatmates. :) Miranda, James, Roy and I make our home on the third floor in 24A, and you can usually find one of two of us in the kitchen, usually cooking delicious and healthy Chinese fare. Or, you know, heating up microwave meals.

Pots, pans, furniture - pah. We all know what really makes a home.

 Concerning the University:

To get to the university (the "uni," as it's called here), I have a five-minute walk through the city center followed by a 15-minute bus ride to the campus.

The founders, it seems, tried to the find the most beautiful green, hilly, gorgeous piece of land alongside a small lake that you could imagine...

...and promptly dumped a mass of multi-leveled concrete on top of it. Apparently massive grey squares were all the rage 50 years ago.

That's okay, because somewhere along the way cement went out of fashion and it's covered in greenery wherever possible.

That aside, it really is a great place - not to mention accommodating. Not only does it offer a range of shops and banks and whatnot, the university union also houses a pub that offers drinks from open to close (for those really rough lecture days, it was explained to me), and on weekend nights doubles as a right proper nightclub that frequently sells out. 

On an unrelated note, the library is also open 24/7/365.

Also, we have a volcano.*

*not a real volcano.
Concerning the People:

I have yet to meet an unkind or unhelpful person here. On the bus when I first arrived, I immediately met Clive the postman and his wife, who felt it his duty to bestow his intimate knowledge of the city ("Nobody knows better than a postman, you know," says Clive as he taps the side of his nose, a gesture whose purpose still eludes me) and the surrounding area upon me, and then invite me to go fishing.

UEA, like any other uni, has a hundred different clubs ("societies") you can join - I bypassed the Quidditch team in favor of the salsa dancing society. Interestingly, these do not include sororities or fraternities. Moreover, all the societies are considered separate entities that do not receive uni funding and are completely independent of academics - meaning that the American football team is the same as the football (read: soccer) team is the same as the knitting society is the same as the horror film society. Bizarre, right?

One of the more lively groups is the international student society. The uni boasts more than 3,000 international students (of which, odd as it seems, I am one). My course alone is home to students from Kazakhstan, Colombia, Malawi, Mongolia, Guyana, South Korea, Switzerland, a handful of Chinese and Japanese, and me, the token American. On the bus going out with friends the other night, we counted the number of countries represented (six) and the number of languages spoken (seven). There were eight of us total.

There's a marked difference between making friends as a college freshman ("fresher" here) and as a graduate student - namely, that it's easy because grad students are nice and open and mature. 

Ironically, the very first student I met here was an American living two floors down who's spent the past three years living in rural Ecuador and is an avid reader, writer and traveler (I'm like, did I really travel 5,000 miles just to meet myself in male form?). It's amazing to be able to meet people from all over the world who are interested in the same things you are. After leaving the pub with a Brit and Brazilian from my course the other night, we realized we'd spent the past two hours talking about our respective countries' most ridiculous news sources.

And we liked it.
Represented in this photo (l-r): Brasil, Philippines, China, Malawi, South Korea, USA, Turkey, Colombia, Mongolia, Japan, England

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Concerning the Next Adventure

Hullo from Norwich!

Seems as though the adventures continue, just in a much different setting. While I'm not planning on continuing this blog beyond this post, I just wanted to take the opportunity to share a little bit about my newest home (and try to convince as many of you as possible to come visit!).

My path has led me to Norwich (pronounced "nor-itch"), Norfolk, a few hours northeast of London in an area known as East Anglia. I'll spend the next two trimesters working towards my master's degree in Media and International Development at the University of East Anglia here, and spend my final trimester out there somewhere in the world putting it to use.

So here's really all you need to know:

Concerning the Flight

* I had a brief stopover in Edinburgh (pronounced "ed-in-burro"...apparently they like to add and delete syllables on a whim here), Scotland. The highlights here included: 
     1) Flying over during the day and seeing lots of big, old castles, lots of big, old churches and lots and lots of sheep.
     2) the Scottish accent. I simply CANNOT HANDLE how cool it is to listen to and possibly asked a few too many questions just so the wonderfully friendly Scots would keep talking.
     3) A man about my age wearing a kilt in the airport. Complete with boots and a popped-collar polo. The jury's out on if he wore it in the traditional fashion.
     4) THIS:

     Why yes, this is an advertisement for an all-redhead flight to an all-redhead festival. Guess where I'll be this time next year? Reconnecting with my long-lost equally genetically mutated brethren.

Concerning Norwich

Picture every stereotype of a British town that you can. Welcome to Norwich.

Red telephone boxes? Check.
Tiny streets bordered by countless tiny, adorable stores and cafes with ancient-looking fronts, large chimneys and slanted, tiled roofs? Check.
Churches older than the whole of my country around every corner? Check.
Fish and chips (and sometimes just chips) stands and cafes? Check.
Ubiquitous and charming old pubs always whose names always seem to be decided by a roulette-style matching of adjective and noun always accompanied by "the" (i.e., "The Loddon Swan," "The Walpole Arms," "The Armored Pig," etc.)? Check.
Zebra (pronounced like "Debra") crossings? Check.
"Living, keep right."
Cobblestone streets? Double-decker buses? A 12th century castle, for goodness' sake?! Check, check, check.

...and this is ALL within about a 15-minute walk from my flat. Not to mention two shopping malls, a movie theater - sorry, theatre - a puppet theatre and a theatre theatre.

The stores in the central all-pedestrian area go beyond and all seem to cater to the most eccentric tastes - there's the Top Hat Costume Hire, The Rasta Room, a store that seems to sell exclusively Dr. Who merchandise, a store that seems to only sell frozen dinners (appropriately called "Iceland") and a store that seems to merely serve as a congregating area for Dungeons and Dragons-style board and card games.

Another perk? The obligatory campus security introduction went something like this: "Norwich has less than half the crime of other cities in England, and UEA has less than that. If something happens to you, it's probably because you're doing something stupid and you should stop. But we're here 24/7 just in case. Oh, and you really should consider locking your doors when you leave your flat."

If that's not enough to tempt you, I'll simply leave you with these:

Mind your step. You never know when a British-style street fight will break out.

Norwich Castle, built by the Normans circa 1100

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Next Frontier

Hello. My name is Valerie. And I'm a bloody coward.

Three years ago I got on a plane with very little idea of where I'd be living or what I'd be doing for what I thought would only be two years. Though it was a tearful farewell...well...I was too excited to ever reconsider or second-guess my decision. And I haven't really looked back at all.

Except now. Since looking back is now looking forward.

I'm terrified.

Venturing into the great unknown with almost no preparation (remember, I was on a plane to Turkmenistan the week before I got to Moz)? Exploring strange new places and meeting strange new strangers? Forcing myself to learn another language in order to survive on a daily basis? I'll take it!

It wasn't any sort of bravery that brought me here in the first place - it was part boredom, part wanting to see more of the world, part wanting to have a job in my field without having to cover dog and pony shows as an entry-level reporter at a local paper.

...But what happens now?

Nine-to-five desk job with hour-long morning commute? Sterile grocery stores where finding a box of Corn Flakes suddenly isn't the highlight of my week? Getting in trouble with police for standing on the side of the road and waving my hand in an attempt to get a free ride to the other side of the country? What happens when I go from being "whoa, a white girl!" to just another white girl? When having a college degree is a given instead of a specialty? When every day isn't a constant challenge just to get by? Will all the personal growth I've experienced over the past few years slowly melt away along with my Portuguese?

Completely new experiences are always worth the risk. Even if things go horribly wrong, at least you'll end up with a lesson learned and some great stories. But do I have the courage and motivation to go back to what I already know, and try to make the best of it? Do I have the guts to sleep in my high school bedroom (still adorned with Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter) while waitressing tables and filling out countless applications for jobs and schools? Am I brave enough to start at whatever entry-level position I can find, no matter how mundane it might seem?

I know life in the States has so much to offer and that - especially now - I'll do everything I can to make the most of it. I also know how many times I complain about the guy sitting on top of me in the chapa not wearing deoderant, and the criancas chasing me up the street shouting "muzungo!," and arriving at a big project meeting only to find no one else came because it was raining. Moreover, I know I'm going back to an incredible system of support from family and friends that I've sorely neglected over the past two years, and I can't wait to make up for lost time and see how much they've changed and grown.

At the same time, I'm giving up a job that I could see myself doing for life. I'm quitting a beautiful culture and a simpler way of life that I've finally come to understand and even adore. I'm moving out of my own three bedroom house with a yard full of cherimoya, guava, papaya, grapes and passionfruit. I'm acabar-ing being able to constantly improve my second language. I'm leaving behind some of the people on which I depended on a daily basis. Once again, I'm ending a relationship to move continents.

So bear with me. Be patient when I start every other sentence with "In Mozambique..." Don't laugh when I ask where the bucket is to take a shower. Correct me when I use "negar," "ja," "conseguir," and "epa!" in daily conversation. Don't judge me when I use half a bottle of oil to fry an egg. Remind me that people still like me even though I don't get three marriage proposals a day.

I've put off returning long enough - even signing up for another year in a new province. The easy, cowardly thing to do would be to just go to another country and see what trouble I can get into there. But I'm going to try to be brave. I'm going to say farewell and boldy go where I've been before. I'm going home.


Africa will bewitch you, a boleia once told me. I don’t remember the when or where or why, but I remember him saying it and I remember chuckling to myself. I remember it was the dry season where even the rivers are brown, unquestionably over 100 degrees out and we were clunking down the road with the windows down for lack of air conditioning. You would have to be bewitched, because no one in their right mind would willingly stay in a place like this.

And yet here I am.

Back home, I would never be in such a situation. Riding in the air-condition-less beat-up car of a guy who just picked me on the side of the road through a land that was abandoned due to drought. In the States, things are clean, they’re efficient, they’re organized, they’re safe. They’re everything Africa is not. And that’s where Africa gets you.

Africa is gritty. Most of the time, it’s really not pretty. It’s not here to impress. It’s here to be survived, through whatever means possible. In the cities, there are layers of bureaucracy. Outside of that, you wouldn’t know there was a government. Concerning how you live your life, there really are no rules. There’s no FDA to tell you what not to eat, no Surgeon General to convince you to stop smoking, no guard rails on cliffs, no fences around wildlife parks. If you decide to do something dumb, there’ll be no one to stop you and no one to sue afterward.

As such, you can get as close as you dare to the hippopotamus in the river behind your house. You can eat rats on sticks. When you go hiking, you can make the trails. You can cannonball into the water off of a random boat you find anchored in the middle of the lagoon in the middle of the night. You can wander where no one’s been before. And no one will know or care. It’s just you, your imagination and – hopefully – your common sense.

It’s gritty and it’s dangerous, but you’ll never feel more free.

But, it’s not complete chaos. There’s probably more people looking out for you in Mozambique than anywhere in the first world. In the States, when you fall on hard times, or need to get to the hospital in an emergency, or need to locate a resource, there are organizations, entities, programs to help you out. Here, there are friends and family – which are essentially one and the same. When you hit rock bottom, you move in with a relative who – no questions asked – will take care of you and give you all the tough lovin’ you can take until you’re back on your feet. There are no firetrucks or ambulances – there are neighbors who will share with you if they have the means. In cases where the police simply aren’t sufficient, mob justice does more to deter crime than any jail. And when you’re too busy to take care of your own kids, it doesn’t matter – there’s 20 other kids in the street who will look after each other and the younger ones. When you want to see where a road goes, there’s no Google maps. You have to ask someone or go down it yourself to find out where it leads.  

Of course, this has driven me crazy at times over the past two years. When teachers don’t show up to class because they simply don’t feel like teaching and there’s no real accountability, it’s enough to drive anyone crazy. But it is awfully helpful when your boleia breaks down on the road home after a beach weekend.

That attitude has been infectious among PCVs and pretty much anyone you befriend along the way. I've always prided myself on being as independent as possible and never asking for help. But here, I'm okay with being dependent, because I know I'll just pay it back - or forward - in some way. People stay at my house that I’ve never met before they showed up at my door. My Chimoio family includes a married couple that doesn’t hesitate to offer their house, car or other resources to us PCVs; a Lebanese businessman that refuses to let us pitch in money for the near-weekly BBQ nights at his house; my adopted Canadian father that makes sure I never lack anything – including parmesan cheese; of course, my site mates, whom I see more than I ever saw my family in the states. We’re connected only by the fact that we’re strangers in a strange and difficult land, and we need that support system.

Africa might be considered wild and "undeveloped" by some standards, but in some ways I think that's exactly the way it should be.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Khanimambo Jesus!

I am not Catholic by any stretch of the imagination.

But somehow, Catholicism has been a surprisingly prominent part of my Peace Corps service, even before joining the Catholic University. The Portuguese started converting Mozambicans to Roman Catholicism when they arrived in the 1500s. Around 28 percent of the population currently follows Catholicism to some degree, according to the CIA World Factbook. You can find mission compounds for various orders in almost every town, which often run schools and orphanages with an effeciency that makes NGOs green with envy.

I personally encountered this on my second day in Moz, I was woken up far too early for being so jetlagged to Mama C chanting “Igreja! Igreja!” at me. As I had been studying Portuguese for a grand total of three days, it was not until Junior brought me to the large steepled building that I connected the word with “church.”
In Chokwe, as part of that much-preached “community integration” I attended every church I was invited to. And after a few Sundays of shouted group prayers, live exorcisms, mandatory dancing with hands on head, etc., I found myself willing retreating to the comparatively familiar and drastically calmer rituals of the Catholic mass.
Somewhere along the way, one of the Brazilian priests got my phone number and for a few months I taught basic English lessons to Padres Armando and Jose, two of the most chipper and friendly Catholic priests you’ll ever meet.

At the university, it’s inescapable. Every meeting starts with a prayer and every major gathering includes a mass. I once walked into my office to find a plastic bag of twenty 3-in plastic Virgin Marys (actually intended for the pastoral head and food science teacher in the office down the hall). In the communication department alone, Sister Esperança teaches Portuguese, Brother Bambo teaches Ethics, Father Juliasse teaches Methodology and Father Jorge teaches Theories of Communication. Since they’ve fixed the projectors to point directly above the chalkboard in some classrooms, there’s now a crucifix smack dab in the middle of every PowerPoint presentation.

I’ve seen some pretty cool Catholic churches.

National Cathedral, USA

Notre Dame, France

Sacre Couer, France

Catedral de Segovia, Spain

Catedral de Santo Domingo, Peru
But Moz churches are a little different.

Catholic church, Chimoio

Catholic church, Namaacha

The structures themselves are incredibly simple. Painted concrete, exposed lights, clear glass windows (when there are windows), and pews made of 2x4s, with a few inches of wood across your upper back and, if you sit up straight, a few more across your lower back. The pews on the sides don’t have backs, and some of the mothers sit here so their babies can stay in the capulanas on their backs. The older ladies sit on reed mats at the front to stretch out their legs.
The altar is usually a wooden table covered with a white table cloth. Unlike the gilded statues in some churches, there’s usually nothing behind the altar but wooden chairs for the priests and a wooden cross. In the Namaacha church, there were blue paper die-cuts sticky-tacked to the wall in an arch that read “Adorai o Coração de Jesus.” For the congregation’s wardrobe, anything goes. Shiny silky pink prom dresses, blue jeans with sweaters, capulanas, t-shirts from Huntington’s Science Camp in 2002.

Padre Jorge and Brother Bambo, who both teach in the communication department

And then there’s the actual worship. Of course there are no hymnals. Instead, one single voice in the choir starts, a capella, and establishes the melody. Others in the choir pick it up if they know it, and by the second line most of the congregation has joined in. Then the maraca-type instruments start, and then the drums. If you’re at a really fancy church, they might also have an electric keyboard that chimes in around now. By the third line, everyone is clapping, swaying, and singing together. If the song really heats up, a few of the ladies might let loose the celebratory Mozambican yell that I can only equate to what you hear on Xena: Warrior Princess. There’s no such thing as a bad singer in church here. You just belt it out and it’s beautiful.

Most of the songs and the sermon are in Portuguese, but every church has a varying level of the local dialect. In Chokwe, the Brazilian priest would give the sermon and was immediately followed, line by line, by a Mozambican translator into Xangana. All the readings from the Bible were done first in Portuguese, then in Xangana. Missionaries are the absolute best at integrating and adapting to new languages, and Catholics are the most die-hard of all. The only book I’ve ever seen in Xangana is the Bible. Those people are determined.

In Chimoio, a slightly more metropolitan setting, most of the service is in Portuguese, but the songs go back and forth. Some of the melodies are distinctly African. But at least once a mass I’ll get chill bumps when I hear the melody of “How Great Thou Art” or “Great is Thy Faithfulness” with words I can’t understand and accompanied only by drums. Sometimes I sing along in English anyway.


The offering is much more enjoyable – and sometimes downright entertaining – than the services I’m accustomed to. Of course, there’s a few people who stand alongside the priest in front of the altar with baskets waiting to receive the coin and small bills (no envelopes here!) that people give. But then there’s also the procession. Usually it’s led by girls in matching capulanas doing an orchestrated dance down the aisle, stepping forward, raising hands, bowing, stepping back, spinning, all together. After them comes the actual offerings – the ones which must be carried on heads: 25 kilo bags of rice and beans, baskets of vegetables, bottles of oil, boxes of bolachas. They actually bring in the best of the harvest. And on really good days (usually Easter or Christmas), there’s also the lucky kids who gets to drag in the goats. Just try to give them plenty of space. And watch where you step when you leave. But everyone is still belting it out, dancing going down the aisle, and you just kind of want to jump in like a congo line and join in the praise. Just ahead of the goats.

Though there’s still the excessive amount of standing and kneeling, the mass is one of the most beautiful ways to experience Moz culture. So much so that you can’t help yourself but worship.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012


This fountain is the bane of my existence and the embodiment of everything that is wrong in Mozambique.
It is a moldy, stagnant, bacteria-and-malaria-breeding eyesore in the midst of a lovely grove of trees. But that’s not the problem.

I walk by this festering fount daily. One day a few months back, however, I noticed as I passed that it had been drained. Finally! I thought, no more disease-ridden water reserve. It’s about time.

When I passed a day later, city workers were painting the inside of the fountain blue. That’s nice, I thought, people won’t even notice the lack of water.

The next day, the faucet was on and the fountain was filling up. Ever the optimist, I thought, well, maybe somebody finally decided it’s worth the upkeep and will actually maintain it for a while.

The fourth day, President Guebuza came to town. His caravan of tinted, black SUVs passed rows of cheering citizens and a beautiful, sanitary, fully-functional fountain.

The following day, President Guebuza and his troop of important government officials left. The fountain was turned off. With the exception of cigarette butts, doomed insects, empty plastic bottles and malaria-laden mosquitoes, it hasn’t been touched since. It has returned to its original state.

Unfortunately, this is what I see as one of the biggest flaws in the Mozambican culture – the obsession with empty appearances.

It is the reason why my school has sanitary hands-free automatic soap dispensers mounted on the walls that have never once held soap.

It is the reason why people will eagerly agree to attend a meeting set for Tuesday though they know they’re going out of town for a week on Monday.

It is the reason why school directors will give speeches on women’s rights but turn a blind eye when teachers blatantly sleep with their students.

It is the reason why the government education department shows glowing grade reports to international donors, after local teachers have spent the past week adding points to tests so 80% of their students don’t fail as they should.

It is the reason why so many people die of “an illness” rather than the super-taboo HIV/AIDS.

It is the reason why nothing ever changes – because it’s so much more pleasant to make things appear better to those outside than to do the work to actually correct it on the inside.

It's certainly not a problem unique to Mozambique. But it is something I pointed out to my journalism students. Maybe someday they'll start asking questions and someone will realize the regular people who see and live next to it on a daily basis are much more important than the big-wigs that occassionally pass by.