Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rainbows are promises from God

Time is really flying in this corner of the world! I started teaching my SSS 1 classes two weeks ago, so I have a full load at school now. I am currently teaching 17 classes a week and approximately 420 young minds waiting to be molded by me MWUhahaha. I am really enjoying my SSS 1 classes thus far. The kids are older than my JSS 2 students (uh.. some older than myself) with the ages ranging from 14-24. Luckily, with age comes maturity and a greater appreciation for me being their teacher. Oh, and they also get my sense of humor… more so than the youngins. They don’t TRULY understand it, but they have figured out when they should smile and laugh with the reason why remaining a mystery. I’m trying to find the right words to explain my teaching strategies. Let me say that the students sit in the same room all day with the teachers coming to them, so just like any other child they lose focus easily. I have often just stopped in a middle of a sentence and started doing “karate” up and down the aisles grunting “hu ha hu ha.” Another way I get their attention is writing on the board and when I turn around I break out into song and dance. Acting like a monkey and tickling their armpits are also good strategies to get their minds back and focused on me. Ah, the freedoms of the classroom are oh so wonderful if you take advantage of them. : )
Besides just providing entertainment to my students, I have been going into other classrooms to introduce myself, talk about America, and just have random Q & A sessions. Teacher attendance is a little bit of a problem at my school, so when I’m walking around campus I’ll often walk by a class full of kids running amok. Here are some questions that were posed to me this week during my random classes:

“Do whites like to marry blacks?” – I think there was a hidden motive behind this question.
“What is the name of your best friend?” – I said Emily Fedor for the record, but added that I have lots of best friends. : )
“Are you married and do you have children?” – I said I don’t want either of those for another (at least!) 6 years. To that response they were a bit surprised, maybe because a number of the students already have a child(ren).
“How many religions are there in America?” – There are 2 here, Islam and Christianity, and ONLY those two.
“Do whites and blacks go to the same school?” – We talked about politically correct terms for “whites” and “blacks.” We also talked about the fact that everyone is equal in America and about diversity.

On Thursday, we had a talent show, which was uhh… very interesting. The “talents” mostly consisted of 12 year olds “rapping” in Krio and shaking their booty. I witnessed a little girl screaming “f*** the n******s” – I think she learned that from 50 cent who is quite popular in Salone as well as a bunch of other African American rappers. Besides the little Lil’ Waynes, there was one boy who “spoke” Chinese. He pretty much stood up and just said “ching chong” and another kid translated, “Good afternoon to you all.” After that performance, I thought it was an appropriate time to talk about being sensitive to other cultures. This is how I put it, “You’re proud of your indigenous language (Limba, Temne, Susu), right? You wouldn’t want someone to come and make fun of it would you? Then don’t poke fun at a language that someone else speaks.” I’m unsure if they really understood, but we’re slowly working on the golden rule – treat others the way that you would like to be treated.
This month I gave my first exam, which makes me a REAL teacher. The results were pretty good by Sierra Leonean standards. In two classes, the majority passed (around 42 passes and 39 failures). A failure is anything below a 50%. I told them that I purposefully made the test easy, because they’re still getting used to me and my English. We’ll see how the final exams go, eek! Grading 240 exams is a little exhausting, but fortunately I can have some giggles in the kids’ responses. One of my favorites was:

Q: What is the scientific explanation of a rainbow?
A: Rainbows are promises from God.
I gave a point for creativity on that one.

Also going on at school next week is World AIDS Day, so I’m going around to all 1,000+ students to teach a lesson on HIV/AIDS. I even made a poster! Then on Thursday I’ve organized a quiz competition with the questions coming from my lesson. I’ll let you know how the whole shindig goes!

In other news, I’ve discovered that I have bats in my latrine pit. Hopefully they won’t want to come up to say hello while I’m doing business in the office, if you know what I’m saying…

Thanksgiving has come and gone. For the holiday I feasted on… rice… but it had pumpkin on top of it so it was somewhat festive. I’m in Freetown this weekend with the other guys from my district and we’re going to have a pseudo-holiday dinner. We might even attempt pumpkin pies, wish us luck!
Christmas is quickly approaching, which makes me think of a funny Madina anecdote. I was talking about the holiday with one of my neighbors the other day. He told me that he had a teacher that went to America one time. The teacher informed his students that there are traditions in America that are very similar to that of Sierra Leone. While he was in Maryland, the traveler witnessed a man dressed as a devil dancing around with little children laughing and chasing him. I guess in Sierra Leone they have the children dress up as devils and they go around the town singing seeking money from onlookers. I told him that we usually call this devil “Santa Claus” and his magic is very mysterious!

Alright things are about to get REAL up in hurr…

I’m actually really excited for Christmas this year! Most of my peace corps friends will be getting together for the holidays, but I think I’m going to spend it in my village. I hear it’s a wonderful time of year with lots of festivities. I won’t have a Christmas tree and holiday ham (Emster - remember that time you shook my leg and said those words to me in Moss’s basement… still don’t find that funny…). I won’t have a stocking and I won’t be hearing “Jingle Bells.” I won’t be rolling my eyes with my brothers when my mom pulls out the video camera on Christmas morning like she does every. single. year. I don’t anticipate to be getting any presents this year. Thanks to my Uncle Tony and his students as well as my family and friends have been sending me a lot of wonderful items that I can give to people. No, Christmas won’t be the same this year, but I’m actually really okay with it. I think this year I’m happy to be giving and not getting -the true meaning of Christmas, right? So as you read this, I encourage you to think about how you can give back to someone this holiday season. With the mounds and mounds of wrapping paper that usually invade the living rooms of so many American families, I think we all lose sight of the magic of this day. Think about those less fortunate around you and remember to appreciate everything that has truly blessed your life. *Crossing my fingers that your first thought isn’t you new iPad* Give your brother or sister a hug that’s a little longer than usual when they walk in the door and say “Merry Christmas.” And when your mom pulls out the video camera smile for her sake and play along because she just wants her babies to stay her babies. And when your dad starts singing along with the Christmas carols try not to be too embarrassed. I hope you appreciate these small blessings this holiday season, because these are the things I will truly be missing.

Happy Thanksgiving and I’ll wait on the Merry Christmas because I’ll probably get to a computer before December 25th.

So the quote I’m leaving you today is in correlation with something I saw in Madina the other night. I was sitting on my neighbor’s porch watching as everyone poured into the mosque and the kids played in the light that’s only on for the 20 minutes of prayers. All of a sudden, I see a couple walking toward me and notice a strange light in the woman’s hand. As she approaches I notice that it is a light saber. Yes, a freakin’ Star Wars light saber that actually lights up!!! I offered her a couple of leons for it, but she needed the light to get home. I can now leave Africa a happy girl.

"Do, or do not. There is no 'try'." - Yoda