Oct 12, 2009

News

Life in my village is settling down to a bit of a routine—I go to school every day, and today I started teaching “for real.” The Peace Corps has a schedule that they want me to follow for the next few months, but it seems to me that their program is ill-suited to my village. There is not much need to get acquainted with the school if there is hardly any teaching for any of the classes. So I’m fumbling through some basic stuff for maths and science for 7th and 8th grade mostly, as 9th grade will apparently be taking tests for the next two months straight. I’m a lousy teacher at this point, but I figure the bottom is a good place to start.

I thought we had it bad in the States as far as tests, but this is a whole new level of crazy. If I understand correctly, in 9th and 12th grade you spend literally half the year taking one massive test. I think that speaks for itself.

Basic multiplication/division is still not very solid for any of the classes. That might be the first thing that I work on. One of the (very) few good presentations from training was from an older couple that did a flash card completion for the whole class with a little reward (bit of candy or something) at the end for the best student. Participation is a real problem—I think because the students are so unused to having a teacher in the class they get bored and want me to leave. However, I think with a little motivation (i.e., a bribe) they’d be more excited. Some mild public humiliation might be in order as well, maybe one of those progress charts with everyone on it.

I’m enjoying the country around my village a lot. I’ve been running or walking every weekday, and I’ve explored far up and down the riverbed. I’m not really integrating into the community very fast, but everyone in the village knows my name and I keep trying to use my Setswana when I get the chance. I don’t spend as much time with my family as I would like, because they often just sit around and drink all day with a rotating crowd of strangers who ask me for money over and over. “Mpha 2 rand! Mpha 2 rand!” (give me 2 rand!—my host mom sells gigantic cups of this “beer” powder mix that she cooks up for 2 rand, I think. It’s dank and foul stuff.) They don’t stop when I say “no,” either. It’s just “please, meneer,” until I leave. I’ve talked to my host mom about it and she didn’t seem to understand what the problem was. Apparently every American is assumed to be fantastically wealthy without exception (though the principal of my school makes 8.6 times as much as me—the equivalent of about $2400 per month). I learned a new phrase: “Ga ke banka.” (I’m not a bank.) Another PCV says that he just asks them for money right back, and 10 times what they wanted. I think that might be worth trying just for the entertainment value.

Not to say that I don’t like my family, in fact my living situation has improved a lot since last week. I now have a 20 amp circuit in my room so I can run stove, kettle, and computer all at once if I so choose. I don’t have room for the stove on my desk, so I keep it on the floor. A bit obnoxious but better than nothing. Just yesterday I cooked my first meal—a large portion of beans and rice.

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