from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Peace Corps Week!

Its Peace Corps week! Don’t forget to send some love to your PCVs across the world! (Ahem, it is Girl Scout cookie time....)

Being a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) differs across the world, even vastly within each country. 

Here is a little look into my daily life! 

5:00-6:00 the wild life orchestra wakes me up--its actually an amazing thing to hear (just not when you are trying to sleep). The sounds of chickens, donkeys, cows and dogs echo around my village. I am trying to figure out what they are saying--they make beautiful crescendos and fade away. 

6:00-I check to see if I have water--the oh so precious water of life. If I have none, I usually grumble and go back to bed. If I have a good flow I decided I can go for a run. I have now mastered the art of guessing how soon my water will be out based on the flow. If the flow is mediocre I fill my bath tube while I put on my running clothes. 

7:00-Run is done, bathing has happened if there is water-if not...its baby wipes and baby powder to the rescue. I make coffee and eat oatmeal all while walking around in my delicates in the vain attempt not to sweat. It usually fails. Somewhere in this I look at my leftovers--no mold is a success so I don’t have make lunch. Depending on the mold status I will either keep it for dinner or throw it out. 

8:00-I walk 3K to school, which is about a 30-45 minute walk depending on how many people I run into on the way. I have no electricity, so I tote my computer/other electronics with me to charge. 

830-2:00-I hang out at school. I work the the guidance and counseling department, so if there are classes I help teach or plan lessons. I also get a lot of reading in... On Mondays I go to the clinic and help weigh babies. Its the cutest thing ever! Tiny babies don’t realize that I am not their mother...but kids about 3-5 years old are scared of me. Frankly I would be too! This strange white person trying to weigh them/measure them! 
Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a PACT club at school, so I go to school later and stay later. 

Somewhere in the afternoon, I walk the 3K back home again. Sweating all the way. Once I am home, I open up every door or window possible to air out my oven of a home and put on as little clothes as possible while still remaining decent. 

Dinner is usually a pasta based dish. My thought is that if there is mold, just heat the crap out of it to kill far its worked. The produce man comes once a week to Lehututu. In his visits we get: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, occasionally bell peppers and carrots, apples, occasionally mangos and bananas. As you can tell, I have a very diverse diet! But I have to say, the mangos are TO DIE FOR. 

At about 8:00pm it is dark so that means its time for me to lay in my bed and read or watch movies on my computer. 

Night time in Lehututu can get exciting! The dogs on my compound bark at anything....and bats fly around my room. If they land on my mosquito net I spray them with doom and curse them...but I think they have learned to stay away until I am asleep. 

Now, you might wonder what I am actually working on!

As a Life Skills Volunteer, I am attempting to teach the kids at school this vague topic called “life skills” but, in reality, I try to focus on Peace Corps goals 2 and 3 (refer to previous blog post for PC goals) of cultural exchange. I think that if I could accomplish one thing in my service, it would be critical thinking. And if anyone has tips on teaching critical thinking, I would love to know. 

So,what is life really like? My day sounds pretty romantic--yes? In reality. Peace Corps is hard. Its really hard. At times I feel like I have a mood disorder. Kids and adults in your village make fun of you, ask you for money and things constantly. Your favorite student will come and talk to you, but in reality just want 10 go from an instant high to a low in a matter of seconds. Its stress because you haven’t had water for a few days. Your heart breaks for the villagers who are starving, but you can’t give them money because thats not sustainable. Or for the drunk man passed out under the tree. 

There is a different concept/notion of caring in Botswana, I feel like most of my co-workers care about me, but it is expressed in different ways than in America. Thats been a hard adjustment. At times you feel like screaming--just listen to me and care! But you can’ you carry on in silence. Or other times, just want a hug or an affectionate touch--but thats not done here. 

I try to find a joy in every day, something small like the sunrise or sunset. My neighbors dogs running to greet me. A small kid being nice to me. The tuck shop woman's always warm greeting to me. My dinner or lunch not being molded. 

But you know what. I wouldn't change it for the world. It truly is the "toughest job you will ever love" 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ms. Frizzle

There are times every once in a while that you are suddenly struck with a realization--as if a lightning bolt came out of the sky...or in the cartoons a light bulb goes off in your head. Today was one of those days. 

Growing up, I had never particularly valued my education. I valued my education, but I didn’t VALUE it. All my life I floated along, going from grade to grade, then college, then I worked, then I went back for a Masters on my own dime. My Masters was when I started to “get more bang for my buck” perhaps it was because I was older, doing something I loved or signing the student loan papers...But today was when the lighting bolt hit me. 

The storm has been brewing for a few weeks now...and the lighting struck today. 

I am placed at the Junior Secondary School--its like 8th, 9th and 10th grade rough equivalents in US schools--but its oh so different. The education system is taught in English. My students are coming from Setswana, Sekgalagadi and a few more languages spoken in their homes. Students start “learning” English in form 2. I do not mean to insult the teachers, but the students only have a loose grasp on English--there is no real comprehension. Teachers teach in “chalk and talk” where they write on the board and read it. The students do a so-so job of memorizing statements and then putting the pieces together on exams. 

Three weeks ago I walked into my first classroom. I have never taught students this age before. Frankly, I was anxious...but I walked in and I did it. And you know what--I freaken loved it. For those who don’t know, I teach Guidance and Counseling classes aka self awareness, safe sex, goal setting...all that good “life skills” stuff. Today, I was back in the classroom. What did we do, you might ask? We made paper airplanes. Yes, thats right, paper airplanes. We were talking about self awareness and the kids were having a hard time identifying their likes and dislikes. I have them put down their pens, we made paper airplanes---everyone had a blast and then we related that fun activity to our likes. Granted, I am sure the other teachers won’t appreciate the 40 new paper airplanes that are floating around school....Or the time three weeks ago when I taught the kids how to play “Kingdom, Wisdom, Condom” and the students ran around point at their crotch yelling condom....

(Ahem, Lighting bolt) So, This I Believe. Education--not just going to school. Education is participatory, inclusive and fun. Lessons are tied to an activity that encourages the students to act--more around--be engaged--push their minds. Classes are all infused together--so when a student learns about the government structure in Social Students he will think about that when writing his business plan in Business Studies--Or channel Langston Hughes from English class when doing an Art piece. 

This is my mission. When I teach, I want the students to feel my excitement. Most importantly, make the connection between our activity and the lesson. As a side note, I also try to channel Mrs. Frizzle (yes, from the Magic School Bus) when planning my lessons. 
So damn. I have been lucky. So lucky indeed to have an education, that has given me the power to think critically, grow, fail--get up again, freedom, dreams, and most of all understand the POWER that an education can have on a person. 

So a thank you, to all my inspirational teachers throughout the years:
Mrs. Taylor-1st grade and Mrs. Bullard, in the 3rd grade at Broadmoore Elementary (she was like our own Mrs Frizzle) and Mr. Hull--8th grade Louisiana History at L.J. Alleman Middle School. Now, Mr. Hull scared the crap out of me (and every other student) however, he taught us, and he taught us well. Still to this day, I could recite Louisiana history backwards and forwards and the plight of the Acadians coming down from Nova Scotia area (shocked and awed right??)

And of course-I have had some pretty awesome professors over the years. But that’s a later post...