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.