Name: Mary McAlpin
Home Town: Hartland, Wisconsin
What she did before Peace Corps: Finished college with her teaching degree, and worked part time as a line therapist for children with autism
Program Sector: Education
Number of months spent in Uganda: 26
Host Organization: Jinja Primary Teachers’ College (PTC)
Site location: Wanyange Village, Jinja District
Language spoken at her site: Lusoga
Mary lives about a 10 minute taxi ride from Jinja Town and she is working with Jinja PTC (Primary Teachers College). “The first term is taken up mostly by semi-final school practice. This is the 2nd-year students’ first chance to try teaching in classrooms, so it’s pretty rough. My job is to go around and supervise their lessons and give them constructive feedback. Second term is our serious teaching term. For the past two years I’ve been teaching science topics. Third term is again a teaching practice, but it’s the final grade for student teachers, so they are serious.” Mary’s PTC is not like most PTCs in Uganda. “Most of the tutors at my college do their job, which isn’t the case at other PTCs. Additionally, my students are receptive to my new and crazy ideas, like my TOD [Tutor on Duty] week with my crazy contests, and my silly songs I sing in class.” In addition to Mary’s primary project, she has also worked on a secondary project with a fellow volunteer, Maggie Lannoye. The project is called “Little Libraries”, where they put small libraries in at 6 local primary schools. “My job this term is to follow up and supervise the teachers’ library lessons, and give them teaching ideas.”
Being so close to Jinja, Mary has many food options. In her trading center, there’s milk every day, fruits and veggies, fried fish at night, meat, etc. Otherwise, she can get anything she needs in Jinja Town (including milkshakes!). As for water, there is a tap one house down from her house. This is where she can get all of her water.
If there is one thing Mary’s likes most about her site, it is the people. “My students at the college are super fun to teach once they’re used to me. This term I get to teach Special Needs, which I love and have a passion for. Also, through Little Libraries, I get to work with teachers who have been teaching for a while, and it’s fun to work with teachers who know what they’re doing. Also, it’s great to see students who put all of their energy into teaching creative, innovative lessons and try their best to make their classrooms a learning environment.” Mary’s favorite moments at her site occurred during the week that she was “Tutor on Duty”. “I did many things to give them positive incentives to behave well, like the ‘model student of the week’ and the ‘cleanest dorm’ award. I had so much fun that week--it was during the 4th of July, so the theme for trivia was America.”
Even though Mary really enjoys her site, some of the best things about her site bring up some of her biggest challenges. “I live so close to Jinja town, it takes willpower to stay away from the temptations like milkshakes and pizza. This causes me to be broke. Also, I have a really good relationship with my counterpart, and for some reason this causes people to become jealous. Logistically, for some reason, the town will turn off our water randomly for days at a time, with no warning.”
Mary’s community is interesting because it is very progressive and unlike many local villages in Uganda. “I’ll find women wearing tight jeans, and the salons around me are blasting new American music that even I haven’t heard yet. I’m in a highly Muslim area, which is nice, because it’s a lot of stay-at-home moms and fathers that come and go. In general, it’s a very women-rich area. There’s a local man who has a pet monkey. I have some pretty educated neighbors, and their children will speak English really well with me. People look out for each other. “
Mary also has a really close friend at her college, Immaculate. She is also Mary’s counterpart and they work on many projects and activities together.
This morning me and Kelsey got up and Kelsey made us banana pancakes. They were amazing! After eating we got ready and went to her morning classes. She had two double lessons starting at 9:20. A double is typically 80 minutes long. So the first lesson was Senior 5 Chemistry and the second was Senior 6 Chemistry. Kelsey's class sizes are pretty small by Ugandan standards. She has 6 Senior 5 students and 5 Senior 6 students. This is because these are the upper level classes and they are science classes. Once students get to such a high level in school they choose either a science or arts track and very few students choose science because it is more difficult. So I attended her lessons with her today. She was teaching lab pratical lessons so the students were doing experiments. Kelsey often teaches praticals because the other teachers won't do it and the students really need the information for their exams.
|One of Kelsey's student doing his lab work|
After Kelsey's lessons were finished we went back to her house where she made us lunch. Even though I was enjoying spending time at Kelsey's house I had to leave. Kelsey's place is probably one of the most “village” sites I've visited. She is pretty far out there, but it was nice to see her place again. But I had to make my way back down toward Jinja to get to Mary's site today.
I arrived at Mary's site just after 4 PM. When I arrived I found out what Mary's plans were for when I visited. She had gotten a chicken and that she was going to kill it for us to eat. This is a very Ugandan thing. If you go to a Ugandans house and they don't cook some form of meat, it is seen as really rude. It is as if they don't really want you there. It is also very customary for someone to kill an animal when visitors come. So Mary figured that because I was visiting, she should kill an animal.
|Mary and her chicken|
A couple weeks ago Mary learned from her homestay brother how to kill and clean a chicken. She went to visit her homestay family for Easter. Mary wanted to practice her new found skills and this is why she wanted to kill us a chicken. So shortly after I arrived we went behind Mary's house for her to kill the chicken. We ended up with several children watching and helping Mary clean the chicken. One of the neighbor kids always kills chickens for her family, so she was very helpful in cleaning the chicken. This girl was about 7 years old.
Now Mary is cooking the chicken and making mashed potatoes for dinner. She also invited a couple ex-pat friends of hers over for dinner. So for the rest of night we are just hanging out and eating. Tomorrow I'm going with Mary to a primary school where she is observing her students from the PTC teach the primary school kids. After that I'm heading to Entebbe.