Sorry in advance for the length of this post! I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again…
The past two weeks were immersion for us. I went with a group of 4 other trainees to stay with two current volunteers at Primary Teaching College (PTC) in Kabulasoke. We traveled by matatus (kind of public taxis) and it was an experience. A matatu is essentially a van that drives people to and from cities. There were 21 people crammed into our matatu! I am constantly surprised by the things I see in this country (Like watching a man sitting on a boda boda—motorcycle that is kind of like a taxi—strap not one but TWO goats around his waste so he could take them home). It was pretty awesome to see how current volunteers are living. We had electricity, except for one night, and running water. Even though the water was freezing, I can't even begin to explain how amazing it was to take a shower! We also had the opportunity too cook for ourselves all week, using a gas stove. Over the whole two weeks we made spaghetti, grilled cheese, baked potatoes, soup with dumplings, burritos with salsa and guacamole, and salad. I also baked a cake and attempted to make monkey bread...Ugandan style. Baking is so much harder here because we have to make an oven using two large pots over the gas stove. It works pretty well, it just takes about three times as long.
The purpose of immersion was to give us a good idea of the type of work we'll be doing when we get to site. We had opportunities to teach and to observe student teachers in the field. I loved all of it. I really hope that I will be placed at a PTC when I get to site. I've basically been teaching pre-service teachers, ages 18-22. I co-taught a methods lesson with another volunteer and we had so much fun with it. We taught about cooperative learning and the use of role play in the classroom. We had the class (about 40-50 students) role play different topics for us, with the purpose to teach through acting. At first it was hard to get lessons started because the students would just stare at us and they didn't really want to participate but after a while they had no problem answering questions. By the second week, I taught an English lesson on Reading Comprehension by using a main idea frame. I used a P4 text book (about the 4th grade reading level) to use a story for students to fill in their own main idea frames. I was shocked at how many struggled to read the material. It is discouraging that most of these students will rely on lecture and rote memorization when teaching in their future classrooms because it is the only thing they know. I taught a total of 8 times, each lesson to four different streams (classes) of students. My favorite part was when I was concluding the methods class and I asked the students what they had learned. One girl told us that our lesson inspired her to be creative in the classroom. It makes me hopeful that students enjoy what we teach them and will want to try our methods in their classrooms.
It’s pretty common to be late to class. During one of my English classes students kept coming in late so at the end of class we had a little extra time and I called all of the latecomers up to the front of the class. I had them sing Old McDonald to the rest of the class and act like chickens. It was hilarious to see a bunch of Ugandan students act like chickens and cluck in front of all of their peers. They’ll definitely think twice about being late again…
We also had language lessons during the second half of immersion. Herbert, my Luganda instructor, came to stay with us for most of the second week. I had language several hours a day for about three days...it was pretty intense. One of the days the other trainee who is also learning Luganda was sick so I had language by myself. I did conversational Luganda with another trainer for about an hour. An hour of speaking nothing but Luganda...I was pretty proud of myself!
I have four weeks left of training before I swear in on April 21 (Happy Birthday Dad!). This next week I will have my practice Language Proficiency Interview (LPI), which assesses how well I am doing in my language. Basically I have to talk about various scenarios and situations in Luganda. The following week we will turn in our qualifying projects, secondary projects we plan to implement when we get to site. I'm planning to do a life skills/girls empowerment club where we make beads out of paper. (For those of you who have heard of the Ugandan beads that women make, that is what I will be doing. Anyone interested in buying the necklaces please let me know). After turning in and presenting our qualifying projects we find out where our sites will be and get to visit them for three days. I'm so excited to know where I will spending the next two years and what exactly I will be doing. The following week we have our real LPI and if we don't pass then we have to retest in three months. The next week we swear in and we're off to our sites...as official Peace Corps Volunteers! I can't believe the time is going as quickly as it is and that I've almost been here two months.
I'll end on a positive note...While visiting the student teachers teaching in the field, I was standing outside with the primary students during their break. Many of the little kids don't have much exposure to muzungus so they would dare each other to get as close to us as possible. I finally turned to them and outstretched my arms. After a while they worked up the courage to touch my hands and then I had a crowd of children huddled around me feeling my skin. I turned my hands over so my palms were facing up and the kids went crazy. They would rub their palms to mine as hard as they could then immediately check to see if any of their skin had turned white. This went on for about 15 minutes. I'll post pictures as soon as I get the chance, but it was a pretty cool experience to see the kids interact with us. It definitely made me miss being in the classroom and I'm going to try and teach at a primary school when I get to site. To emphasize the difference in American versus Ugandan schools, the P1 classroom, about the same level as Kinder in the states, had 67 students in it. 67 tiny bodies were crammed into desks, some students we standing off to the sides, and some were sitting on mats on the floor. Like I've said before, never again will I complain of a class of 30!
Hope all is well, I love and miss you all so much! If anyone is interested in sending my goodies, email me and I'll give you a list I've been compiling of things I've been missing here. I haven't gotten any letters but once I get back to RACO there should be mail waiting for us, I know some of you have sent things and as soon as I get them I will let you know. I love hearing how everyone is doing. Will update soon!
(My given name meaning “gift”)
Side Note...I heard the Macarena playing on the Ugandan radio the other day.