Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Christmas break was great, but now it is back to reality and responsibilities, hmmph. We have just started our fourth week of school, so that means that now the kids are finally showing up consistently. Which is frustrating because I've been teaching some difficult stuff, especially in SS and the kids that are just now coming are completely lost. I've debated with just doing blow off stuff the first few weeks, but I can't bring myself to do it. Our class time is so limited as it is, and there is so much information to cover for the external exams that I have to teach material, there really isn't any time to waste. Talking about what I'm teaching, I'm currently trying to teach cellular respiration to my SS students. Struggle. I love them though because even though they think I am crazy and talking some weird science language, they are right there with me concentrating so hard and really trying to understand. I might have to explain it a million times, and it will definitely take awhile, but I am confident that they can get it. Regardless, prayers are always appreciated :)

With my JSS kids I'm trying to wrap up ecology with food chains/webs and we are coming into the different cycles (nitrogen, water, calcium etc.). I get a little frustrated sometimes because the JSS are the kids that have to do the work around the school which lately has meant making cement blocks for a stage that they are building. Because of this work they are often pulled out of class when I am teaching, especially one of my classes which is now so far behind. I don't have that many free periods so I haven't been able to make up the lost time. Today they made kids leave school if they had not paid their school fees, effectively ending school for the day because there were only about 5 kids in each class that had actually paid. Instead of getting frustrated with how far behind we were getting, I took all of the JSS 2 kids left (only 12 out of 150) and we went to the library. We actually have some really good lower level science books with lots of pictures and simple explanations of the things that they are learning, so we spent an hour and half just having them read the books and go through the pictures. They would ask me to help whenever they didn't know a word or didn't know what a picture was. It was really fun to try and explain to them how diverse life on Earth is and how even I had never heard of some of the plants and animals that they were asking about. I was really happy because these kids chose to stay and learn when they could have gone home. And it was really great because there were so few of them that we could laugh, be more informal and get to know each other better, all around making a positive experience out of a sucky situation.

I'm planning on meeting up with Cat to go visit Kim up in Rokupur this weekend, which I am really excited about. The Congotown Crew will be reunited! (We all lived next to each other in training in the part of Makeni called Congotown) I've been to Kim's site once, but only for one night, so it will be fun to really see the place. All of our sites and schools are so different, and I love going and visiting friends because then you get to see what they are experiencing everyday, who they talk to and where they go, which is really fun.

Overall today was a good day. After school I was going for a walk with my lapa tied (finally I have mastered how to tie the 2 yards of fabric called a lapa as a skirt without it falling down all the time), my hair braided, sucking an orange (they don't eat the whole thing here, only suck the juice) and greeting everyone in Krio and Limba. I realized that I'm finally starting to fit in here. Yeah I have a long ways to go, but you have to give credit to the good days, and today was definitely one of those.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Belated Christmas Post

I wrote this on December 27th when I went to the mission to update this blog but then realized that everyone had gone to Freetown and there was no internet. So it’s a little late, but better late than never I guess.

Happy Christmas!

A belated Merry Christmas to you all! I hope that this holiday season has been filled with fellowship, festivities and of course delicious food. What I would give for some cabbage rolls, Grandma Ellie’s corn and of course those chocolate covered peanut butter bits of heaven called buckeyes. Earlier this week my friends and I listed all of the holiday foods that we were craving, which I realize now in retrospect was slightly masochistic since none of those things are available here. Oh well, there will be plenty of Christmases when I get back to indulge in all of those holiday treats. Christmas in Salone was different, but still a lot of fun. We are currently in the throes of ‘festive season’ as they call it here, the time right before Christmas until New Years. This means that almost every day there are football matches, dances or ‘outings’ which is like a picnic with a DJ. On Christmas Eve, one of my PCV friends came to Kamabai and we went out clubbing in Makeni, ya know because that’s a normal thing to do to get a person in the holiday spirit J

On Christmas morning we went to church and it was so awesome to see everyone all decked out in their Africana dress and fancy hairstyles. Even the little kids were bluffing (showing off) with their twenty five hair clips covering their entire head and painted finger nails. After church I showed Cat around Kamabai, we got some food and then took a nap before we went to the football game. For Christmas dinner we had acheke which is a delicious medley of gari (ground cassava root), macaroni, gravy, onion, egg, potato, meat, mayonnaise, and ketchup. Acheke is different every time you get it. It can also include beans, cucumber, cabbage, lettuce, spam, or if you want the expensive kind, even chicken. The acheke lady in my town has a habit of not ever being at the table to sell the acheke so I’ve gotten used to just making it for myself and leaving the money for her. So if the whole going to grad school thing after PC doesn’t work out, there is always the option of opening up an acheke business. Also I realize that acheke might sound like a ridiculous combination of ingredients, but take my word for it, whoever created this culinary phenomenon is a genius, the stuff is really good. Anyways, the rest of the day was pretty chill, we hung out, read some People magazines (thanks Mrs. Cormier!) and just talked. A lot of our PC experience is pretty individual so when we do get the chance to meet up with other PCVs it is nice to just hash out some of the things that we’re all going through, and of course to share funny stories about cultural misunderstandings. There was a really big Christmas dance that night, but we didn’t make it because we were tired and both having some stomach problems. We had just gotten back from Bo, and it’s pretty normal that anytime we travel and eat food at a different place, there are going to be some digestive issues. That has gotten a lot better since we first arrived, but I don’t think we’ll ever be fully adjusted to the food here.

So, on the whole Christmas was great. I am happy I chose to spend it in my community because Kamabai is my home in Salone and the place where I feel the closest connection to people. Yes, I admit it wasn’t a traditional Christmas, but it was still fun, shared with people that I love and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter about the specifics of how you spend Christmas. What really matters is the presence of the Christmas spirit, rejoicing in the coming of Christ, being thankful for all of the opportunities and gifts He has bestowed on you, and wanting to share those opportunities and gifts with others. As long as that underlying spirit is there, it doesn’t matter your geographic location, because Christ is everywhere and in everyone. I love and miss you all and wish you a happy holiday season!