Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tourist in Uganda - Part 1

Invisible Children has planned several weekend excursions for the group while we are here. This weekend was our first excursion. We took a three hour trip to the Rhinoceros Sanctuary. While it should have been very relaxing it was not quite as nice as I would have hoped because I was rather ill. It was ideal, however, to get sick here – where it was very peaceful, we had no commitments and there were actual toilets (not just holes in the floor) and HOT showers! J

Despite being sick I was able to go on the rhino trek. We took a van out into the bush (about a 15 minute ride), we then hike a bit further, perhaps a mile, to get to the rhinos. The white rhinos are very docile animals and so we were able to get very close with 15 feet or so. Amazing! They are not the most beautiful creatures but it was still quite fascinating.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I am now a teacher at SSBS!

1) My classrooms - all S3 students take their classes here.
2) Another shot of the campus.

I have now taught 2 lessons. They have been successful enough. The students were attentive and seemed to be enjoying my new techniques and expectations. I began by having the students make free-standing nameplates out of paper. I am not sure if it is possible for me to learn all 150+ names in four and a half weeks but SEEING the names helps and the students, I think, appreciate the attempt. Some of the names , to give you an idea, include: Kidega Denis, Odokorach Erick, Ogenrwot Washington, and Lubangakene Denis. They all have an Acholi name and an English name – this does not make things easier. Next we played a game. I think they were happy once they got the hang ot it. In the beginning they were confused because they could not find this game in their textbook and they are used to just following the textbook.
During class they like to call out answers and chat with their neighbor (about the work) throughout class – that does not work for me so we will need to keep working on these expectations. Also, they are so eager to show me they have the correct answer. They complete all their work in their notebooks and are used to receiving a red check for each correct answer. This seems absolutely nutty to me – especially when I have 20 students at a time out of their seats shoving their answers in my face, requesting a red check. AHHHH!!! We are going to work on this – perhaps I can remind them that the most important thing is that THEY know that they have the correct answer. I do appreciate that they all call me “madam”. It’s so fancy and British. J I am so excited to continue working with them and Acire to see if we can increase the amount of learning that goes on in each class period.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sir Samuel Baker School

Today was my first day of school. I am teaching 3 sections of S3 mathematics (this is approximately equivalent to grade 0) that each meet 3 times per week for 80 minutes. My team teacher is Acire Simon (pronounced Ah-cheer-ay). He is a quiet and kind man who is married and has four children. I am hoping I get to meet the family because his two youngest are 1 and 3 years of age! So cute! I looking forward to working with him over these next 5 weeks as he seems as excited as I am to exchange ideas with an international teacher about teaching.

Some of the challenges that I believe we will be working to combat this summer include:
-Students dislike for mathematics
-Students thinking that they cannot do math
-Students arriving late to class
-Students not completing their work/reading for class
-Students not participating and asking questions
All challenges that we see in classrooms in the United States – so I have lots of ideas and Acire is excited to try new things, I believe.

The classroom setting is quite different. First of all it’s all boys. LOTS of energy! All the boys sit at wooden desks that look a bit like church pews with tables. 3-4 boys cram into a table that is made for only 2. They each have one book (this is amazing…usually students have to share one book among several students) and one notebook. They all write in pen. I have not seen a single pencil yet. They also LOVE getting a red check mark on their paper. It’s a little bit wild and I will need to bring some more structure to their independent practice just for my own sanity. Right now they will work on problems independently and when they get an answer will shove their notebook in their face and wait for the red check that communicates that they are correct. Did I mention there about 60 students per class? It’s utter chaos if they ALL have the problem correct at the same time. Thankfully with Acire and I both in the classroom we can each only have to deal with a 30-student pile up. Again…something to work on.

As for the rest of the school – everyone is SO friendly. The teachers greet us every day in English and Acholi. They get a real kick out of hearing us practice our Acholi – it’s clear that we are pretty horrible but they are very encouraging. I have gotten to know many and the atmosphere is much more relaxed. When we are not teaching, which is more often then not, the teachers relax in the staff room. Scrabble it the game of choice to pass the time. It is AMAZING how good they are. I have been too scared to play as of yet but may give it a go next week. They will have solid blocks of words, words that I often do not believe are English words until I look them up and find out, yep, it’s a word. Crazy, seriously crazy.

Needless to say, I’m loving the interaction with the people at my school and am really looking forward to getting to know them better. I feel so privileged to have this opportunity – hopefully I will be able to reciprocate the learning experience for my new friends.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

St. Jude's Orphanage

Today we visited St. Jude’s Orphanage. There were children there from newborn through 17 years of age. Generally children do NOT get placed in orphanages because it is customary for family members to take responsibility for children. One effect of this 20-year war, however, was an increase in the number of orphans. HIV/AIDS has also played a major role in the increased number of orphans, however, the number of HIV cases has decreased dramatically over the years. The visit consisted of us dancing and playing with the children. I let the children take my camera and take all the pictures they wanted. If I can figure out this blogging technology I will share some of their pictures with you. The children were all very attention-hungry which was very sad but we had fun together for the 2 hours that we were visiting. I left wondering, however, if we had done any good visiting. The children’s days are filled with meeting people and then saying goodbye.

In the evening we were invited to the farm of the Olalobo family. We spent hours listening to their stories. They are a more affluent Ugandan family. Tom, the father, went into exile in the 70’s due to a change in government leadership. Many of his family members were killed at this time. He returned in the early 80s with his children to build a house on his family’s property. A few years later they fled to England where the children were raised. Now 20 plus years later they have returned, finished their house and are working to develop sustainable business plans to help the Acholi region. The visit was fascinating! During the war, Tom’s mother stayed behind refusing to leave. Many people used his partially built home for protection from the LRA. There was a barbed wire fence around the property which served as a deterrent because the rebels never wanted to be trapped anywhere. Their stories of close calls and their reflections on the current state of Uganda gave me a lot to think about.

This place has my brain churning a mile per minute.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Apwoyo Uganda!

Pictures: 1) View of from the front porch of Katharina's Hotel 2) The hole in the floor that serves as a toilet 3) My bed - thankfully I have not gotten Malaria yet! 4) The courtyard where we all hang out in the evenings
It’s been five days since I arrived in Uganda and already I am in love! This is a beautiful country with beautiful people. They are friendly, hard-working, and ver
y welcoming.
A lot
has happened so I will I will try and include some of the big things I’ve observed and/or experienced:

-Driving is crazy. There is a driving school in Gulu (where I’m living), however, I’m not convinced that there are any rules at all…except to stay to the left…if you would like.

-While there are many more white people in Uganda now it is still a novelty. Most times when I walk down the street I hear a chorus of “muno, muno, muno!” or “Muzungu!” – translation: White Person! I am learning Lwo (pronounced luo), the language of the Acholi people, the tribe that is common to the area of Uganda I am living. This is helping to better interact with the people. MOST people speak English as well, as it is the national language. But a greeting of “Apwoyo!” (Hello) or “Iri maber” (How are you?) really make the people happy and are great conversation starters

-We lucked out with our accommodations. Katharina, the owner of the establishment, spent a LOT of time getting the place ready for us. While the accommodations are still pretty basic, they are AMAZING for the typical Ugandan abode. I have my bed and bug net. I have my buckets (in case the water is low and so the showers do not work…sponge bath!). We have laundry service – this is the greatest thing ever since I do NOT have this in the States. Only challenge has been the toilet – it’s a hole in the ground…but I have overcome this challenge and am now a pro. (Sorry…this may be too much information for some)
-I walk a lot but for longer distances I take a Boda Boda…basically a dirt bike that serves as a taxi. More interestingly, it is most acceptable to ride side saddle (both legs hanging to the left). Thankfully I have also mastered this art as well.

-I begin teaching on Monday with my team teacher. I meet her tonight and cannot wait to tell everyone all about her! This week has been filled with training on Lwo, the history of the war in Uganda, Education in Uganda, information on Invisible Children, discussions around teaching practices, and wonderful meals!

-The food is surprisingly delicious! Many people disagree but I love food so of course I love this food as well. It is usually meet with a starch. Beef, chicken, smoke fish with matoke (pronounce ma –toke-ay and made of mashed plantains), posho (white starch looks kind of like mashed potatoes but feels more like dough), potatoes, and many others. There are also beans, many cooked greens, and delicious fruits. I drink ginger beer everyday – it’s non-alcoholic and tastes like really strong ginger ale but sweeter.

This is the best I can do for a summary so far. Once I get my teaching schedule, I am hoping that I will have more time to get to the Internet cafes and talk with friends and family. Sorry to everyone who has e-mailed or wanted to call. Definitely check this and I will do my best to respond to e-mails. Also, I have yet to take pictures in Gulu town - I will try and include those in my next post.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Required Reading and listening

Before my trip I was asked to read a couple of books and listen to and watch a few videos and news clips. I've attached the list below for those who are interested -enjoy. I hope they stretch your thinking as much as they did mine.
Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire
"How Not To Write About Africa" by Binyavanga Wainaina

"The Ethics of Global Aid: One Kenyan's Perspective" from Public Radio's Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Invisble Children

I am heading to Uganda to team teach with a Ugandan math teacher. I am scheduled to teach at Sir Samuel Baker Secondary School. This is an all-boy high school where many of the students are orphans due to war and disease. I have no idea what to expect in terms of content being taught and behavior but I am very excited. I know that I am going to learn so much from this experience!

Check out the Invisible Children website to see what the organization is all about, they are doing some amazing stuff.