Friday, August 15, 2008

Week 2: Settling In

Aug 9 – 15; 2008

Saturday morning we got a bus with Jo & Marek into the city. The plan was to be dropped at the old Portuguese fort on the waterfront, walk around a bit & be picked up again later. We choose the Lebanese restaurant we ate at last weekend as our pick up point – which turned out to a bit too adventurous as the streets aren’t so clearly marked & we didn’t have a great map. We walked along the “marginal” or main waterfront – lots of beautiful old colonial buildings (mostly banks or government offices), many of which are under restoration. The waterfront itself has just been developed – it is possible to walk all the way around on a big wide footpath. There is a huge curved sandbar that hooks around to form a partially enclosed bay – this is called the “ilha” and was our original destination for the day. Jo & Marek talked us out of it as they said it was just beach & a few restaurants with not much to see. It is a night-time area so we may go back for early evening & explore then.

We really enjoyed our walk (we separated from Jo & Marek when they decided to go into the museum at the fort) & felt very safe. We saw lots of cool buildings & took a few photos (not so many – we thought we’d play it very conservative on our first trip). Just when we were starting to feel a bit lost in getting to our meeting point, we found Jo & Marek & together we were able to ask for directions & a very nice man took us to the street we were looking for.

The trip in had taken us about 30 mins – the trip home MUCH longer as we got jammed in traffic. However, we felt that it had been a much better thing to do than sit around the apartment all weekend.

Funnily, that’s precisely what we did on Sunday – had a lazy day at home. We sorted out the cupboards a bit better & feel a bit better adjusted to the small space. Bill tried to watch a soccer match with Man. United, but it wasn’t on any of the sports channels. Our TV isn’t up & working yet either, but that isn’t causing us any grief at all.

The rest of the week has kept us busy with school – meetings every day & trying to sort out rooms ready for school on Monday. Supplies are a bit frustrating – Bill was disappointed by the chemical supplies & it is obvious the kids haven’t done much lab work. Everything (we hope) has been ordered, but of course school supplies have to be shipped here in Containers. The port is full of ships waiting for their turn at coming in to unload (a year or so they can wait..). Once they land, they then have to wait for customs (an indefinite time). The school currently has FIVE full containers at various stages – some in boats, some waiting for customs etc, dating back more than 18 months. We heard that one has just been cleared so the container should arrive early next week (transporting the container to school is the last challenge). No one knows what will be in it but everyone is hoping it will be stuff for them. A container holds a heap of stuff so I hope there is something for everyone.

Some stuff has been a surprise – no shortages of basic (& not so basic) stationary supplies, although the school has run dry of laminating film. Bill & I are keeping quiet about our personal stash. New textbooks are in containers but there appears to be no limits to printing or photocopying (although there are only 2 photocopy machines). Certainly while we wait for stuff to arrive, some things will be a challenge.

The school is also in the process of building a new classroom block which should be open in about a month. Although neither of us will be teaching in the new building (remember the furniture for the building is also in a container somewhere), the reassignment of rooms will make thigs better for both of us – at the moment there are 4 science teachers using 2 rooms, only one of which is a lab. When people shift over, it will free up a room (that Marek & I are currently sharing for maths) which will be converted to another lab. I will get a room of my own (I have 4 rooms and a different room for homeroom!)

The apartments for teachers are still making progress (although they may also be waiting for furnishings in a container). We definitely have settled better into our place & although we will be very glad to have a bigger place, I think we will cope until we do.

There has been a blurr of social events this week as the returning teachers had mostly all returned by Monday. So there was a welcome back barbeque on Monday night, another barbeque to meet members of the board on Friday night and on Thursday afternoon there was a “gardeners” vs “teachers” football match. The turnout for people wanting to play soccer was big enough that it looks as if it may become a weekly event. Bill moaned about getting too old to play but he plays 100% effort all the time and as he hasn’t played since early June, he felt tired! Others were complaining of stiff muscles etc so I think he is doing OK. After the soccer match 2 buses of teachers went down to a bar at the ilha – the sandspit with the bars & restaurants on it. The bar was a marine sports bar (big game fishing I think) and it was attached to a marina. The view of the city at night was stunning (but we didn’t take cameras as we didn’t know how safe it would be). It was a fun night & we caught the early bus home so it wasn’t particularly late either.
So – a much less “exciting” but more “normal” week for us. The returning teachers are friendly and are a good mix of ages and nationalities. We are slowly getting to know everyone’s names. Despite living so close to the other teachers living on campus, it has the feeling of being private, even when we eat our meals outside. It feels as if we are developing a routine to our life.

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