Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012 5:30 PM

I got my class schedule today, which will probably stay pretty much the same for the whole year.  I’m teaching Senior 2 Math and Computers.  I wasn’t necessarily thrilled at first.  I wanted to teach Senior 1 again, but after I thought about it a little I realized that it would be nice to stay with the same girls again this year.  Last year I didn’t even have enough time to learn all their names, so this will give me the opportunity to get to know them better, instead of starting over.  I think it is also better for them.  It took some of them a little bit of time to get used to my accent and stuff, so now they are already used to it.  I guess this is probably better than breaking in a new group of girls.  Also, with Senior 2 computers I can get them in the lab more for practicals.  The curriculum has me teaching Microsoft Word and Excel, so I want to spend a lot of time in the lab, because you can’t learn this with a blackboard alone.  This will give my computer lab project a lot of personal justification (if it ever gets off the ground, that is).  This also works well with the fact that I want to teach them proper typing (if I have time).  My schedule also has me with no classes on Friday again (after a little switching with other teachers).  This is good because if I’m going somewhere for the weekend, I don’t have to worry about teaching classes on Fridays.  As of right now, I have no idea when I’m supposed to start teaching.  I probably won’t start until the beginning of next week.  Some of the girls are still arriving and probably will for the next couple days.  And for Math, especially, I don’t even know what is in the curriculum, so I’m not yet prepared.  But it should all fall into place over the next few days.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

January 28, 2012 3:00 PM

Things are finally starting up again, problems are getting solved and created and life goes on as usual.  Yesterday we had our beginning of term staff meeting and a teacher’s development workshop.  The staff meeting was as long as it was late.  It started an hour and a half late but it only lasted a record hour and a half.  That was great!  But the teacher’s development workshop was long and drawn out and full of people who like to hear the sound of their own voice.  I guess overall things went pretty well.  I anticipated it taking up my whole day and it did.  Because it is a new term and a new school year there have been some changes.  One thing is that we got a new computer teacher.  Before there was Teacher Marion and me, but now with this new year the curriculum has changed a little.  Computers is now compulsory for A level students, which is Senior 5 and Senior 6.  Because of this change and teacher Marion being out on maternity leave, we now had a third teacher who was added.  He seems really good.  He is finishing his masters at a local university and he seems really eager to fix up the computer lab and make computers a subject that is easier to teach and more enjoyable for the students to take.  So I’m hoping he can help me with my grant proposal for more computers in the computer lab and he will also be a great way to keep that project sustainable after I leave.

In other news, my power was shut off again last Monday because the bill was not paid by the school (again).  I guess you could say they are getting better at getting it back on seeing as it came on today, so it was out less than a week, but in reality, I think it is better to say that they should get better at paying the bill.  They didn’t understand why the power company didn’t warn them before shutting it off, but I think the power company is wondering why they didn’t pay when they know they were using power.  But as I said with problems getting solved more problems are created.  My tap ran dry today (literally right after I realized my power was back).  So for now I have a few jerry cans full of water and I will probably inquire at school on Monday about where to get water.  Luckily, just by inquiring, it probably means they will again send the little old man to fetch me water every.  That makes my life easier, but I guess I’m back to bucket baths for now, at least until the rainy season starts again, which will hopefully be in the beginning of March.

Dry season here is pretty interesting.  In the mornings it can be as cold as 50 degrees, but in the afternoon it can easily go up to 90.  The extremes are a lot more emphasized in the dry season.  Whereas in the rainy season it is just fairly cool all the time.

Anyway, my students are supposed to be coming back today (probably as I write this).  Although I don’t yet know what I’m teaching (hopefully Senior 1 again) and I also don’t know when classes start.  It could be a couple weeks especially if I’m teaching Senior 1, because apparently the Senior 1’s aren’t coming back until February 13 (this is because they are the new students in the school).  So I guess I will go up to school on Monday and figure a lot of things out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18, 2012 3:00 PM--Tell Obama I Said Hi

People here are obsessed with Obama.  They love him.  Many people here realize that Obama’s father was from Kenya, but some people get these facts confused.  Some people think that Obama was born and raised in Kenya.  Some people even think he is from Uganda.  It’s interesting how much people can see Obama as the leader of the United States but then never understand that there are other African Americans in the U.S.  It blows their minds that America is not just full of white people (blond hair, blue eyes, etc.).  Ugandans also think that all Americans know Obama personally.  When they find out that you’re American, they will sometimes ask you to tell Obama “Hi”.  Sometimes the people here amaze me with the way they understand things or the lack thereof.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 13, 2012 11:20 AM

Most Ugandans understand English really well, because that is the language they learn in in school.  But there are many people, including little kids,  who pretend like they understand but they don’t.  If you say “hello” to someone as they pass by, sometimes they will respond with “I’m fine”.  I think this is mostly because they don’t understand English.  But this could also be because they think it is rude that you haven’t asked how they are doing.  So basically you could say anything to people walking by and it is not uncommon to get a response of “I’m fine”.

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 3, 2012 9:00 AM--Christmas in Africa

I had Christmas down in Africa.  So a few days before Christmas Kelsey and I set out on a little journey to Rwanda.  We started by going to Kigali, the capital, on Thursday the 22nd.  On Friday before leaving Kigali, we went to the Genocide Memorial Museum.  It is one of the few tourist attractions in Kigali.  It was really interesting but a really sad thing to see.  Later in the day we headed out of Kigali and we went to Musanze.

Kigali Skyline

Musanze is a town right outside of the Parc de Volcans.  The Parc de Volcans is the only national park in Rwanda where you can see the mountain gorillas.  The next morning, Christmas Eve, we had to get up early to get to the park.  We had a tour operator picking us up at 6:15 AM so we could get to the park by 7 for a gorilla trekking briefing.  At around 6 we were outside our hotel waiting for our ride.  We waited until about 6:30 before I started getting worried.  I went back inside the hotel to ask the guy at the reception desk if he knew where our ride might be.  He told me that it was 5:30.  When I questioned what he was saying he told me that I wasn’t in Uganda anymore.  We were in a different time zone.  I almost didn’t believe him because Rwanda is directly south of western Uganda.  I was so skeptical that I asked the security guard on my way back out what time it was.  He pointed to the clock and said it was 5:30.  So as I went back outside laughing, Kelsey knew that things should have been okay.  We had been in Rwanda for almost a day and a half and we had no idea that we were in a different time zone.

So after we figured out our mistake and our ride came, we went to the National park.  We had our briefing where we learned about the gorilla family that we were going to be tracking.  Our family was called the Amahoro family.  In Kinyarwanda Amahoro means peace.  After our briefing we had to drive further out into the park to our starting point.  They say that you may be hiking for up to four hours to find them and once we find them we spend an hour watching them before we turn around and walk back.  For us it only took us about an hour and a quarter to find them.  Although the hike was pretty quick it was not the easiest hike I ever did.  There were points where we were knee deep in mud and there were also a lot of nettles which would get you right through your clothes.  But seeing the gorillas was worth it.  We got a really good view of them and we got pretty close to them too.  You are supposed to stay 7 meters away from them at all times, but I think at points we were even closer than that.  There was one silverback, a few black backs, some females and quite a few juveniles and babies.  The youngest one in the family was 5 months old.  I asked the guide if I could take him home and cuddle with him.  He said sure, go ahead.  But I’m pretty sure the rest of the family wouldn’t have been so happy if I had, so I refrained.

This one tried to come over and say hi to us

The 5 Month Old Baby (the youngest in the family)

The next day, Christmas Day, we left Musanze and headed toward Gisenyi, which is a town on Lake Kivu.  Lake Kivu borders both Rwanda and the DRC. 

When we got there we decided that we should have a really good Christmas dinner at the Serena, a really nice chain hotel in Africa.  When we went to have dinner we ran into a few other Peace Corps volunteers from Uganda at the Serena.  They gave us a few tips.  They told us that for 3000 Francs we could use the pool and the beach at the Serena.  So the day after Christmas, that’s just what we did.  We laid by the pool and got some sun.  They also told us that in Kigali we can stay at the Peace Corps office.  Unlike the Peace Corps office in Uganda, in Rwanda they have a dormitory at their Peace Corps office.  And any PCV from any other country can stay there for free.  So on Tuesday the 27th, when we went back to Kigali, that’s what we did.  After we dropped our bags off at the Peace Corps office we went to the Mille Collines Hotel, aka Hotel Rwanda.  It is what the movie was based on.  It’s sad to think that the only real sites to see in Kigali are related to the genocide

The next day we went back to the other side.  We crossed back over the border and came back to my house for one night before going to the Ssese Islands for New Years.

On the Ssese Islands we stayed on the biggest islands right outside the only town on any of the islands, Kalangala.  We stayed at the Mirembe Resort.  They had a beach, but you can’t go in Lake Victoria.  We also didn’t have the best weather while we were there.  So we ended up just hanging out doing nothing for a few days, which was a really nice way to spend New Years.