“Cheese, Gromit! We have cheese!”

Taking a day off this week felt strange. On Thursday we played a game in class—all of the students had to pretend they were at the market. They were divided into teams of two then half of the teams played the role of vendors while the other half were shoppers. We gave the shoppers lists of what there were supposed to buy using only English. The vendors were supposed to come with appropriate prices for whatever food they were selling. The kids LOVED it. When we said go the room came alive, everyone was in character and busy negotiating. It actually sounded like Lwangwa! I think it really helped to have our friend Mwaisemba come in and translate the directions. There was no confusion about what we wanted them to do. I think some of the girls were also very excited to have a handsome African man visit the classroom…

On Friday, after their exam, we had each student draw a picture of a farm and then write a story about it on the back. It works really well to do an activity like drawing on Friday afternoons because it’s not a lecture but it keeps them focused on class work. Plus their drawings are awesome so it’s definitely my favorite lesson. I think they also enjoy this different form of learning where everyone has an individual project. At the end I always want to keep all of their artwork but we are saving some of their work to send home to their parents at the end of the course. I think the farm pictures will be especially fun for their parents to see. Everyone put so much thought into their stories. One girl wrote about a farmer who had no wife and had to learn to cook for himself. I helped Umboke write his story very, very slowly, helping him spell each word and trying to figure out what it was that he wanted to say. He’s so bright and really sweet but just can’t write well at all. He wants to do well and is attentive in class and still doesn’t seem to be down on himself when he does poorly. Helping him one on one is so much fun and by far my favorite part of teaching. He was so happy when we finished his story. He had this huge smile and took my hand very tightly and said “Thank you Madame Hannah!” It made me cry. It was so awesome. It’s going to be very hard to leave all of our students. I’ll miss seeing them down at the soccer field or working around their houses when we walk to Lwangwa. It’s so fun to feel like we’ve become part of the movement of the village.

Another student that I have written about before but is just such a character is Yusuphu. He’s hysterical. Before the game on Thursday he and I were making each other laugh. He was trying to get me to give him more mandazi but then I was supposed to calm them down before Mwaisemba arrived. I was trying to so hard to be taken seriously but couldn’t stop laughing. I walked to the back of the classroom to compose myself and when I turned around Yusuphu was looking right at me with his eyes open wide while stuffing a piece of paper into his mouth. I rushed over to him to try and grab the paper and just as I reached out he wrapped his big lips around the last of it. I totally lost it and had to go outside I was laughing so hard. They’re all just so funny and they love to make us laugh. Frank is like a little Italian and always wrinkles up his face and yells random things in English. It’s funny to see even the quiet, serious students get riled up when we play competitive games. Sayuni was slapping and yelling when she thought the other team was cheating.

In other exciting news this week, Katelyn and I walked about 4-5 miles to Itete to visit the doctor there, Carina Dinkle, and pick up some cheese she bought for us in Mbeya. It was great to get out of Manow again and see the hospital at Itete. Carina was taking care of a feverish baby when we arrived and let us stand in and watch. It had an infected umbilical cord and since it still didn’t have a name the forms had to say “So and so’s baby.” She told us about all the interesting ideas and practices she had to work against coming from a western medical environment. There are things that the people she works with will never practice because they are different than what they’ve learned. She said one of the most frustrating is trying to explain to mothers of premature babies that it is better to wrap the baby tightly against their body than leaving them wrapped in blankets in the house. She told us about one boy she lost last year who had rabies. After he was bit by a dog his father took him to a clinic where all they gave him was a penicillin shot. When he brought the boy to her two weeks later she knew he would die. I didn’t realize that rabies makes an infected person hydro and photo phobic. All she could say to the parents was that they could keep him at the hospital and keep him comfortable. She was shocked when the parents took advantage of the last five days they had with their son. It was the only time she’d seen people anticipate death and really spend time saying goodbye. Usually, she told us, death or the process of dying, isn’t acknowledged until it has happened. It was a very interesting visit and fun to hear about her experiences after living here for two years.

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Berry Tarts and More Curried Peas

I’ve decided to post twice this week. It’s Wednesday and I have the day off! We’ve set it up so each week on of us will take a day off each week and rotate through for the rest of our time here. Katelyn was off last week. For my day off I am cleaning the house, listening to the Talking Heads (And She Was), weaving mkeka, and eventually walking to Lwangwa for onion and to visit Mama Mwasamwaja (Mwakaje told us her brother died this week). Madame Katelyn and Mama Dot are teaching more on paragraphs today. The students will have to rearrange cut up sentences in the correct order to make a paragraph. They love puzzles so I think they will love it.

It’s week five, which means we are half way through our curriculum. On Friday, we will send home letters to all the parents or guardians just to let them know how things are going and to remind them about the scholarships we will award to the best girl and best boy. We taught TONS of past tense verbs this week. It must be so frustrating to learn all of the irregular past tense verbs in English. Some of the boys in the class are getting very rowdy. We starting keeping students after class if we hear them speaking Swahili in the classroom. I think it’s kind of working. They’re all trying to say things in English more often. I like to listen to Frank and Mponjoli trying to speak only English. They were telling me through the window during chai that in Tanzania they speak Swahili and that I needed to go to Morogoro to learn. It’s funny that they know where Swahili is taught to volunteers (the Peace Corps volunteers learn Swahili in a three month program in Morogoro before going to their individual sites).

Yusuphu is another boy in our class that cracks me up. We’re pretty sure he has some severe ADD. He just can’t stop moving and is always distracted. He has these enormous buck teeth and is just overall a really goofy kid. I almost starting crying I was laughing to hard in class yesterday. We were playing this game where we have everyone line up in two lines and then rotate through the line so each student must say the past tense of the present tense verb we give them. It helps them hear English as well as practice pronunciation (L’s and R’s are very difficult…we even saw signs in Tukuyu that said “Liblaly” and one of our student’s primary school teacher wrote her name “Grolia” instead of “Gloria”). We give candy (peepee) to the winning line. Anyways, Katelyn was working one line and I was listening to the other and it seemed like Katelyn was letting her line go faster so my line was freaking out asking for Katelyn to come back to their line. I though Yusuphu was going to pass out he was so worked up. He made this ridiculous face, opening his eyes really wide and shouting at the top of his lung “TEACHER! NO CHANGE! NO CHANGE!” His urgency and panic were hysterical. Even the good, quiet girls started slapping each other and yelling. Needless to say they love candy.

This weekend we went on a hike with Mwaikema “The Professor.” He’s a teacher at MLJS and the father of one of our students. He’s very smart and seemed very happy to show off his village. He was born in a house in the village along with his six brothers and three sisters. His father fought with the British in WWII and when he came home he decided that all of his children needed to be educated. We’ve met a few of his brothers (Freddy, who is the supervisor and the CO2 plant, and the Mwaikema that drove us to Matema). Another brother works for a tea company and lives in Tukuyu (but still has a very nice white and blue house here). His sisters are in all in Mbeya working too. He comes from a very interesting family.

We walked to the top of this small ridge where there were lots of cyress trees. Along the way he showed us some coffee that this man was growing and the tree that this ugly fruit grows on. It was an amazing hike. We could see Matema and the Livingstone mountains stretching down to the lake. He told us that they go all the way up to Morogoro. We could also see the villages that surround us, Ndembo, Lwangwa, and the one to the west that I can’t ever remember. Tukuyu is also to the west and actually not as far away as I thought. He said before the roads or when the roads were bad people would walk over the hills to the west to Tukuyu. The road is actually a longer route because it goes around the hills.

Yesterday after class, Katelyn and I went back to some berries that Mwaikema had showed us. I can’t remember now what they were called but we picked enough to make a small tart last night. Every time we make something new it is very exciting.

Another very exciting thing we heard this week was about another teaching opportunity. Our next door neighbor, Mr. Malanga, approached Katelyn and me about finding young teachers from the US who might be able to come teach at a school in Malawi. I asked him about art classes since I didn’t think secondary schools had many art programs and he said he would love to integrate it into the curriculum. He seemed excited about any additions we could make to help improve the school. We’re not sure of all the details but I was excited to think about returning and teaching art!

That’s all the news today I think. I still wish I could convey everything that is happening here. I did visit Emily’s blog from last year and saw that she posted photos so I will try to do the same. Also, if anyone wants to write to any of us we would love it! My email is quahan03@evergreen.edu We would all love to hear from everyone.

Matema Beach and a Trip to Tukuyu

“Competitors in conquest have overlooked the vital soul of Africa herself, from which emanates the true resistance to conquest. The soul is not dead, but silent, the wisdom not lacking, but of such simplicity that as to be counted non-existent in the tinker’s mind of modern civilization. Africa is of an ancient age…What upstart race, sprung from some recent, callow century to arm itself with steel and boastfulness, can match in purity the blood of a singe Masai Murani whose heritage may have stemmed not far from Eden. It is not the weed that is corrupt; roots of the weed sucked first life from the genesis of the earth and hold the essence of it still. Always the weed returns; the cultured plant retreats before it. Racial purity, true aristocracy, devolve not from edict or rote, but from the preservation of kinship with the elemental forces and purposes of life whose understanding is not farther beyond the mind of a Native shepard than beyond the cultured fumblings of a mortarboard intelligence.” (Beryl Markham, West with the Night)

I just wanted to share this quote from the book I’m reading right now. I am stunned by Beryl Markham’s descriptions of Africa from when she was a pilot in Kenya around the 1930s. She’s very funny and honest about her relationships with the place and its people. I also reread Alexandra Fuller’s book Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight a memoir about growing up in Rhodesia (just before it became Zimbabwe), Zambia, and Mozambique.

Anyways, we’re back from Matema Beach! Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) was beautiful. After a kind of uncomfortable night with our drunken guests on Friday we woke up and sped off along the bumpy road to Matema with our friends Martin and Neverson. Mwaikema’s brother, one of the men who plays mancala outside the duka every afternoon, borrowed someone’s land cruiser to take us. It was strange to reach the market where we shop for food and then turn right and continue out of Lwangwa. We haven’t walked past that turn since we arrived with Nancy.
The first night in Matema we stayed at the Lutheran Center, right on the beach. Katelyn, Dot, and I jumped in right away and laid in the sun until it was time for beer and chips maiai for dinner. (Martin and Neverson said they would swim “later.” We later discovered that Martin does not know how to swim so we gave him moonlit swimming lessons so no one would have to see.) We went to this very loud bar with dirt floors and sugarcane walls where Dot was excited to see two Masai men walk in. They were tall and slender and very proud. After dinner we all wandered back to our beach houses where we were met by a woman that worked at the Lutheran Center. She said our dinner was ready for us up at the lodge and were expected to eat and pay for it. So we all walked slowly back up to eat spaghetti with beef, tomatoes, and cabbage—a wonderful second dinner.
The next day, Saturday, we had to move to the house that is usually reserved for Catholic priests on their beach vacations (the Lutheran Center was booked by the Bank of Tazania for the weekend). It was actually really nice because we had the whole place to ourselves, each with our own room, for the same price as the Lutheran Center. The wife of the man who runs it made us three delicious meals and found us some papaya, watermelon, and big, ripe bananas.
In addition to not knowing how to swim we learned that Martin LOVES fish. He found a man who took us out in a dugout canoe to see the colorful fish in the lake. Lake Malawi is famous for having the largest population and variety of tropical freshwater fish. Although he was terrified the whole time, scolding us to stop leaning too far this way or that, he stopped a man in another canoe who was on his way back to the beach with a boat full of fresh fish, covered in leaves to protect them from the sun. We bought one large fish that looked kind of like a catfish and a few small, iridescent blue fish for lunch. Martin wandered away soon after we made it back to shore to find someone to fry them for us. That was probably the freshest, most delicious fish I have ever eaten.
While in Matema we also walked further down the beach to the village of Lyulilo, which is just at the base of the mountains that rise right up out of the water on the east side of the lake. Lyulilo is where they make a particular kind of pottery and we were lucky enough meet a woman, Terezia, who showed us how she makes perfectly round little pots. She learned from her mother with clay that comes from up in the mountains and has now made some of her own designs like a ceramic iron.
On Sunday, before we left the beach to return to Manow, Terezia’s nieces Victoria and Kisa came to visit us for the afternoon. We sat around and Kisa, who was about nine, played with Dot’s binoculars on the front porch. They stayed for lunch and then returned to Lyulilo.

When I walked down to Mama Mwasamwaja’s on Monday she joked that she had waited and waited for me to come on Thursday. She prepared more green and white reeds for me to continue weaving. I really love visiting her. She takes my hand and shows me her yard and the peas she is harvesting. She gave my a bag full of peas to bring back up to Manow. I shelled the peas made coconut curry with peas, potatoes, and carrots. It as such a luxurious meal with Cokes too! We’re getting the hang of cooking with what we have here. I baked cookies for Ngwitika on Tuesday. It’s hard to think of gifts for people that show our gratitude. Everyone has done so much to help us.

Class has been going well this week. I taught the “Staying Healthy” unit on Wednesday. I think they really enjoyed that lesson. It was little bit of a break from grammar and vocabulary and it was related to them in a more direct way. They thought it was very funny when I demonstrated how to sneeze into your elbow.

Katelyn and I also had Ngwitika make us some new clothes this week. I have a new yellow dress like the ones our students where and Katelyn has a new loose sweatshirt. We wore them on Friday and the class loved it. They thought we looked silly but still liked our new outfits. We also had a surprise visitor on Friday night. Klaus Dinkle, the German pastor from Itete, came by to visit and to take care of some money exchanges (he bought the new fridge for our house recently and needed to be reimbursed). His wife, Karina, is the doctor in Itete and they’ve lived here for about two years. He’s very funny and talkative. He asked us what we missed most now that we’ve been here for a little while and we all said cheese. I guess they miss it too and he said we can find some cheese in Mbeya but they would pick some up for us the next time they go.

Yesterday we went to Tukuyu on the local bus that leaves from outside the duka, down the hill from our house, at 6 am. We had been told that we should walk 30 minutes to Lwangwa and take the bus that leaves from there at 5 am, but this was a cheaper and closer option. The ride there was fun, about 25 people crammed in a little metal bus with bench seats on either side so you are facing the other passengers. In the middle are piles of giant bags of beans, suitcases, and, near the back, chickens. We got to Tukuyu in about 2 hours. We immediately walked to a restaurant near the bus station where we had eaten on our first night in Tukuyu after arriving from Dar. They had no chips maiai, but we had chipati, sombusas (with meat!), sweet rolls, and chai. It was strange but this woman paid for all of our breakfast and because we were confused we didn’t really get to thank her. She left and I kind of thought maybe she said we had to pay for hers but the waitress wouldn’t accept money for anything.

Right after breakfast Klaus called to say they were also in Tukuyu on their way to Mbeya. We met up and he helped us look for a package at the post office that was supposed to be arriving for us from Ginny (one of the volunteers from 2009). While we waited two more wazungus (white people) walked in. The only people in the post office were 7 white people—more than we’ve seen since being here. They were Peace Corps volunteers teaching science in Tukuyu.

The ride home was less comfortable. We had a lot of groceries (cocoa, peanut butter, Africafe, peas, cucumbers, pasta, tomato paste, Blue Band, apples, chocolate cookies, and lots of fabric) that we can’t get near Manow. Everyone else had more luggage as well. The young woman sitting next to me got sick for almost the entire ride back which was not very fun for anyone on board. It was interesting because the older woman, or mzee, sitting next to her threw a kitange over the girl’s head so no one could see her get sick. Needless to say, we arrived back in Manow, hot, tired, and covered in dust but when we walked in, ready to shower, we realized we had no water. A pipe had broken in the middle of town, so there was no water at all, not just in our water tank. All three of us took sponge baths with just two pitchers of water each, in case the water wasn’t on again the next day. Half and hour after we had all finished the water came back on. So we’ll shower again after our hike with Mwaikema today.

There’s so much to say about what is happening here. I want to write it all but it’s very difficult. I want to describe perfectly the people I’m meeting and the situations I’m encountering as well as some of the author’s I’ve been reading. I’m having an amazing time and I’m starting to realize how much I will miss our students when we leave. I’m just trying to relax into it because the next six weeks are going to fly by.

“He cry cut penic with a dirty knife.”

This is another sentence a student wrote on an exam. Maybe she was trying to say pencil? I know it may look like we aren’t doing very well teaching English but many of our students are improving. Some of their sentences are just so funny I have to share them. We were practicing polite questions the other day and our oldest male student wrote “Can I take off her dress?” We couldn’t stop laughing.

Week three went very well. We taught object pronouns, prepositions (which Katelyn was very excited about since the students really struggle with this), capitalization, clothing vocabulary, and negatives (She does not go to school on Saturday). Every evening we divide up the next day’s curriculum so we each teach something different. Some days it is such a struggle to keep everyone’s attention and it can be really discouraging when you walk around to check their work and realize that nobody has written anything correctly, even if it is written on the board. On exam days (usually Fridays but Thursday this week because of the holiday tomorrow – October 14 is Nyere’s Death Day) we have an hour and fifteen minutes of review before we begin the exam. This week I decided to make a printed practice sheet for each student. It was just a third of a sheet of paper with a few questions in all of the subjects we have been practicing. I began review with each student working independently on the worksheet and then we went over everything, including the directions, on the board. Reading directions is the most difficult concept right now so we went very slowly. I think this review worksheet has been the best classroom tool and I can now understand why my teachers have used it in the past. It was so great to start class with everyone focused and QUIET! The other new thing this week was a listening portion of their exams. I felt so bad for some of them…they were so nervous to come sit with the teacher and answer questions. I reminded me of the oral section of Spanish finals in high school. We read them each a story and then asked six questions about the story. Some of them did surprisingly well!

After finishing the exam we had nothing left to teach for the week so everyone helped clean up the classroom for church on Sunday. They still think it’s strange but they all help pick up trash around the church with a sense of humor. Juma insisted, with a smile, that his wrist was hurt and then swept the whole classroom very slowly with his other hand. It was the first day the students really started to relax with us and we were all laughing and playing soccer. The boys were very funny teaching me useful Nyakusa and Swahili words. One of our smallest boys, Frank, kept marching around saying “Mama Dot, Mama Dot. I will see you on Monday. 7:30.” It was a really great day.

Outside of class I have been learning to weave mkeka, a colorful mat made our of dyed reeds. Mama Mwasamwaja, a respected mzee, or elder, is teaching me. I went down to her house near Lwangwa yesterday after I bought some green and white reeds. She laughed at me because I has purchased rough dirty reeds in my attempt to look like I knew what I was doing at the market. She’s so strange and kind of feisty. One minute she’ll be calmly teaching me or talking about different things but if I misunderstand her she gets very snappy. We were talking about when her and her husband lived in Ohio and how people there were surprised she didn’t have a thermometer. She explained how she used different parts of her body to test the temperature of different things she was cooking. She uses her elbow to test water for tea. I was supposed to walk back today because she was going to give me better reeds to take with me to Matema but it started to pour just as I got down the hill. I’m not sure what to expect on Monday but I hope she will not be too upset.

“She dies the book on table.”

(This was a sentence from one of our student’s exams. It’s pretty hard to teach the present tense of die.)

Week two has flown by. We taught household words, classroom words, possessive pronouns, and many, many, many “action words” or verbs. Each day when we introduce new words we have the students practice writing sentences individually in their exercise books. We ask them to make their sentences at least five words long and to use the vocabulary from class. All three of us go around the classroom and correct the sentences and pick the really good ones to be written on the board. Most of their sentences sound something like this: “I run to school every morning.” “She borrows a book from the teacher.” “We share our pens with the students.” We’re trying to emphasize capital letters at the beginning of sentences and full-stops (periods) on the line at the end.

 We’ve also been working on questions. They’re learning question words like what, where, why, when, how much, and how many. I try to explain that we use questions when we want to find out something we do not know. We want an answer that gives information. I’m also trying to explain that we use each question word when we want a particular kind of information. Where is used when we ask about a place or location (Where is the school? Where do we cook? Where are you from?). How many is used when we want to know a specific number (How many chipati can you eat? How many students are in the class?). They’re starting to hear more English. Dot’s been reading a book to them every day and asking them to write down the words that they recognize (again activities are difficult to explain so they catch on very slowly to what we are asking).

 Today was Friday so after their exam we sang songs and did puzzles. They’re all pretty sick of “The Ants Go Marching” but today we did the “Hokey Pokey” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and had so much fun! Are of their personalities are starting to come out and it’s really fun to sing with them. Everyone laughs really hard when Madame Hannah, Madame Katelyn, and Mama Dot shake their hips in the Hokey Pokey.

 The one thing we really started to struggle with this week was discipline. We’ve been told that they respond well to discipline because that is the environment they are used to from their primary schools. It’s hard to be strict while also being yourself and laughing with them. I think it is especially hard because Katelyn and I are so young. Juma, our oldest student is 19! We’re working on making sure they all use polite English conversation (asking to use the restroom, saying thank you for tea, and calling teachers by their names instead of “Teacha!”). Clean up went much better today which is reassuring.

 Dot has been commenting on the rhythm here. Everyday the roosters crow, then the sun comes up and the church bells ring and people start moving around — tending their fields or animals, running to class, or carrying large bundles of corn on their heads down the hill to the mill. We’re fitting into that rhythm and waving to the people we see everyday. On Thursday, yesterday, that rhythm was completely drowned out by the rain. We woke up surrounded by a fog so think we couldn’t see the church. Everything was white. All of our students were in class but it was very difficult to teach. The rain echoed so loudly on the tin roof of the church. The students and the teachers were shouting to one another throughout every lesson. They also hated seeing the fog blow in the windows and doors of the church. As the day went on, the rain got harder and harder so instead of keeping students late for not arriving to class on time we dismissed everyone at3:00. Some of our girls walk from Itete which is about 10 km away and there was so much rain we began wondering about the safety of the roads if we kept them any longer.

 At the end of everyday we ask one student to carry the empty bucket that held the chai back to the dining hall. Yesterday we asked this little boy Zabron because he lives in the same directions. He didn’t have an umbrella so I offered to walk with him holding our umbrella. Poor little Zabron, he started leading me through this banana field in the pouring rain (I mean POURING with wind and mud and water rushing down all the hills) and I just kept slipping in my floor length skirt and trying to keep up and hold the umbrella over his head. Finally, I start wondering if he’s just going home instead of to the dining hall so I try to explain that he can take the umbrella until tomorrow and I will bring the bucket back. He looked at me very confused and wet and points to the dining hall. I hadn’t realized that he was taking me a back way. We both laughed at my being so clueless and he ran ahead through the muddy field carrying the five gallon bucket. We were both soaking wet as we walked back home.

 Today, Manow is still in a cloud and the rain has not stopped. Our students from Itete were not in class and a few trees have fallen down. It’s the strangest thing. I’ve really never seen so much rain at one time. It covers up the sights and the sounds of a normal day here. It gives me a feeling of isolation and solitude, there is only one sound, rain on the tin roof. Last night, with the power out, I went back and forth between feeling comforted by the stillness and uneasy because you could not hear or see anything besides what was in front of your headlamp. The rain gets so loud that it feels like it is filling every space. There is only rain.

 Our diet here is good but without much variety. We eat lots of starches (chipati, mandazi, rice, potatoes, uji) and lot of avocados, tomatoes, onions, beans, and bananas. We rotate all these food around and try to invent creative ways to combine them. One highlight from this week was Mr. Mwaikema bringing us some of his honey still in the comb! It is such a treat. Dot also baked cinnamon rolls using coconut milk because we want to give some to Mwaikema as a thank you. Katelyn and I also ran into our student Erick’s father again on Tuesday and he has invited us to dinner tomorrow night. We’re very excited to meet his wife who makes the chipati for our class everyday!

 Tomorrow we need to walk to Lwangwa to pick up bread and shop for food for the week so let’s all hope the fog clears tonight!

Around Manow

Finished the first week of class! It seems like so much longer that we’ve been here! We’re so busy all the time! Every morning the church bells wake us up at 6:30 am and we have to jump up, eat breakfast, take our doxycycline, and get ready for class, which begins at 7:30 am. The bells ring at 7:00 too, warning us that we better hurry up. There are no available classrooms at Manow Lutheran Junior Seminary so we are teaching in the church which is about 100 feet away from our house. We have 26 girls and 14 boys in our class and they all seem very smart. We are planning on making a few seating changes for Monday though.

It was so exciting to meet all of our students. They’re all so cute and generally well behaved. They all have such distinct personalities. Bliss, one of the smartest students, has the sweetest smile and he comes to class with a briefcase and a ceramic mug for tea time. Yusufu has really big buck teeth and after we taught body parts he kept coming up to me saying “Teacher, teacher, what is this called?” and pointing to his nostril or his bellybutton. Believe and Gloria are twin albino girls and they are by far the smartest in the class. They can’t see very well and Sayuni, the girl that sits in between them, helps them take the correct notes. Frank and Erick are the smallest boys and they both have so much attitude but do pretty well in class. On Fridays we are supposed to have the students help clean up the floors and the area outside the church. This was the hardest concept to explain. They all looked at my like I was a crazy person when I started picking up garbage. We also had Frank help the girls scrub the floors and all the boys laughed at him and called him a woman, so we made a couple more boys help too. It’s hard to understand what is culturally acceptable and how our actions are challenging what they are taught. We want to have Mwakaje help us to explain that we want EVERYONE to help clean up the classroom at the end of the week and that we want to keep our environment clean.

We just finished grading our first exam on colors, opposites, days of the week, months of the year, before vs. after, numbers, family relationships, action words, and have vs. am. There is so much material that we fit in to each week. We’re all still figuring out how repetitive we have to be with everything. It helps to repeat the same thing in the same way multiple times and to have the students repeat it as well. We’re also pushing the students to answer questions in complete sentences. It’s so exciting when you see improvement but also very exhausting. When we come home at the end of the day we all continue repeating our sentences and then asking each other “Do you understand?” It’s also very difficult to teach something when you don’t speak their language. I know the constant exposure to English will help them learn but it can be very frustrating trying to explain a new game or concept using only a language they don’t understand. You definitely learn to be patient and it’s so much more rewarding when you finally see their eyes light up!

Teaching before and after was the most exciting for me. You say it one way and ask if they understand and they say yes…but they clearly don’t. So you say it the same way again, using your whole body and pictures and everything…and they still don’t understand. Then you have to come up with an entirely different way to explain it and the whole time they’re laughing at you for looking silly or making weird sounds or whatever! I started teaching before and after with birth years. Mama Dot was born in 1938. Madame Hannah was born in 1990. Bliss was born in 1998. Madame Hannah was born before Bliss but after Mama Dot. When that didn’t work I just used numbers alone and drew lines and arrows demonstrating before and after. Their exam scores make me feel like they’re finally getting it. I just keep trying to remember what my old Spanish classes were like and what made things easier to understand.

Today we went to the market in Lwangwa, which is about a mile and half away. We went to the market on Wednesday too to pick up bread from Mama Mwasamwaja and we didn’t do very well bargaining. It was too exhausting to go from class to the market. Today we did much better and came home with enough potatoes, tomatoes, flour, and bananas to last us a week. We can get avocados and passion fruit near the dining hall in Manow. We’re not eating as decadently as when Liz was preparing our meals but today we made guacamole for our plantain chips from Lwangwa and roasted some potatoes, onions, and mysterious root vegetables.

So far Manow has been very welcoming. I get nervous sometimes about whether or not I’m being friendly enough or behaving the right way. But when you go out anywhere or walk around the village you make friends all over the place. Katelyn and I went on a walk to the carbon dioxide factory about three miles behind our house and met our student Legina’s father. When we made it to the factory this man asked if we wanted to meet the boss or see inside and the boss turned out to be Erick’s father (also the wife of the woman who makes our chipati). Everyone is connected and you just have to walk around to feel like part of the community. We are so respected as teachers here which is an interesting idea to get used to. We’re slowly settling into our role in the classroom and in the village.