Saturday, November 20, 2010
In this past term I have gone on a couple of trips with students…nothing really extra exciting, but I thought it might be nice to post some of the pictures. A note – for some reason, several students lately have gotten their own cameras (the "old" kind with 35mm loadable film) so they keep wanting to take pictures with "madame" (I guess for their future reference??). As usual, you can see more pictures at the flickr site (www.flickr.com/photos/lilnel65)
Trip # 1 – Form Three Class to Mombasa seminar about "Getting into University"
We left Marereni a little later than planned (not uncommon here in Kenya). As we were leaving town on matatu we passes two of the girls from the class. The matatu stopped to pick them. I was telling the students it was good that I wasn't driving because I wouldn't have stopped. They said, "No, madame, you have to stop". So of course I told them it would be a good lesson about being on time if we left them…I'm trying to be less of a time-conscious American but there are sometimes that it is hard. So – we are riding and of course they keep telling me to turn the music up (just like kids at home!). They really had a good time…many of them had never been to Mombasa. Here is a picture of the whole-group (sort of) when we arrived:
The trip went well except that two of the students left without telling us to go visit one of their cousins who lives in Mombasa. So, we went to lunch and they were nowhere to be found. Then, when we got back to the school (where the seminar was held) they were still not there. Long story…but they finally showed up later. When we got back to Marereni, one of them asked me for their "lunch money" since they had missed lunch. The nerve! I just looked at him and said that he needed to not talk to me right now (I was a bit miffed at their behavior!). All in all it was a good trip.
TRIP # 2 – Watamu Marine Park
I think I may have mentioned before that I am the club patron for the Wildlife (Environment & Conservation) Club. I am no expert in this, but I was available so it is. I arranged with this guy from a conservation group (COBEC) to make a trip to Watamu (a town on the Indian Ocean) not far from Malindi. Well – it took time to arrange and of course students kept waiting and waiting to pay for the trip. I told them that we had to plan it in advance….I couldn't just wake up one Saturday and say, hey, I'm taking 20 students to Watamu today. Before the trip, about Wed, I met with the ones who had paid (about 15-16 students) and told them that it had been arranged. I made sure they knew that we had to rent a matatu and that I would leave them if they didn't show up on time. Well, by Friday we had about 20 now who wanted to pay. Saturday morning – The students showed up on time! I think they began to realize that yes, even though I like them, I would leave them! By this time, we had about 25 people total. The matatu guy said they could all cram in the van (which really holds about 15). I didn't want to do it, but everyone said it was okay. So – off we went with the students crammed into the back of the van. I told my principal that I'd probably lose my job in the US if I took students in that manner. Nonetheless – we arrived and went on a small boat ride into the ocean, saw some fish, some of us swam, and later we went to a snake farm (yikes!). It turned out to be a good trip – the students are largely well-behaved but just act like "normal young people" sometimes doing or saying "silly things". My nephews may find it humorous that the last thing I said to the students as we were leaving the boat was "Everyone should make sure that they get all their stuff…their shoes, etc…before we leave the boat". Yes – I'm still they same Becky – ever trying to make sure things are on track. Of course, later in the day (much later), this guy Hajj comes to me saying, "Madame, I can't find my shoes". Of course, I'm wondering how it took him hours to figure that out??? *smile* Well – there was no way to go back and get his shoes…we weren't even really sure where they were. So – no shoes for Hajj.
Monday, September 6, 2010
We had to meet in Nairobi where the safari guy picks us and drives us to Masai Mara. We stayed at a kind of backpackers place called Upperhill Camp which was fine (kind of like staying in a dorm). The vehicle arrived early and included others who were also bound for our same "camp" in Masai Mara. One of the fringe benefits of traveling here is that you often meet travelers from all over the world. We were very lucky to get great tripmates in our safari van!
A couple, Tom and Fabiana who were so funny and engaging (a joy to be around). Tom is from Holland, Fabiana from Brazil, and they currently live in Italy. Yes, I've already told Fabiana that I would contact them one day to finally get my trip to Italy!
The other two passangers were Satya and Joakim. Satya is in the Indian military currently working with UN in the Congo. Joakim is from Sweden and works in someway related to Microsoft, but I think he is a budding photojournalist of sorts (if he posts pictures I'll try to get a link to his site which will be more impressive than my photos!). They were a great bunch! And of course, my companion PCVs are made of awesome!
No exciting stories about trip to Masai Mara. We did have an interesting short conversation with a guy at the cashier of a kind of convenience store at which we bought bottled water. He asked us where we were from then asked which state in America. Of course, I said Virginia and he immediately said, "Oh, I'd never want to live there". That wasn't an expected response so of course we asked "kwa nini?" (why?). He said, "Because Lorena Bobbitt lives there." Of course, Erin and I laughed and Caitlin (who is mid 20s) said, "Who is that?". Then he continued to tell us that he'd love to live in Utah because there you can have more than one wife (polygamy is still much practiced in parts of Kenya). Needless to say, none of us thought we'd be thinking about Lorena Bobbitt on this trip. If you want to see more pictures you can go to the flickr site that I gave above. There is also a video of a lion that walked right next to our van...that was pretty cool.
THE REST OF AUGUST -- Well, not much to tell. We had a PC Workshop at a nice sea lodge in Mombasa (Severin Sea Lodge). The meetings were okay but most of the volunteers loved the food and hot showers! I went home after that for a few days (to give my students some work to do) and now I am in Nairobi (first week of September) to help with planning for the next education group that arrives in October. I've been having lots of computer issues, so I am trying to keep up with posts, etc... but it's hard to do at times. I'll try to post some more pictures of school and students on the flickr site (maybe this week?). God bless!
Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I got back to my site on the Saturday before classes began. Of course I was dead tired from flying but I did get to fly from Nairobi to Mombasa and again stay at Lotus Hotel. I paid the extra $50 to fly instead of staying in Nairobi and then taking the long bus ride the next day (well worth the $50). Since then I've been trying to get back into school rhythm and have been trying to catch a rat that I think was in my room. But, other than that nothing exciting. We are getting two new rooms built at our school (yea!) so now our staff room is actually under the roof of the temporary classroom. We don't have walls yet, but we do now have a roof. I hope to take more pictures of my students this term and post more to my flickr site sometime within the term. Here are a couple pics of a few students:
Sunday, March 21, 2010
-It's a little surreal to be walking home from school in Kenya and hear Boy George from a radio passing by
-What will I do when it is pouring rain and I want to go take a shower or go to toilet? Wait? Get soaked? Carry umbrella?
-How many chapati is too many?
-I learned that students all over the world largely don't understand algebra
-I now know what its like to ride in a vehicle with the passenger behind you being an actual chicken
MORE WHEN I GET COMPUTER CHARGED
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Many of you have asked about my school day. It really is hard to explain, but I will give you some information. First it's easier if you understand the national schooling system in Kenya (of course I really don't understand it either, but I can give you a glimpse). About 7 years ago or so the government instituted free primary education for all kenyans. Now of course, this seems like something we would all support and probably should, but what happened was that all these kids who previously couldn't or wouldn't pay a nominal fee to attend public school (we pay in the US too, through taxes) all of the sudden flooded into the schools. It doesn't take an economics genius or any other genius to figure out that basic supply and demand does have its consequences. So, for example the primary school here used to have about 300 students. Now it easily has about 1000 students attending the same school...but of course there is a severe shortage of teachers. You know how few politicians think ahead on these things because I mean who doesn't want to support free education for all? [Aside, remember this when free university ed for all americans is proposed] So, at the primary school here there is about the same number of teachers but about triple the number of students. It is not unusual to see a classroom with 80-100 students. The other evening I was sitting outside across "the street" from me talking to an old retired teacher (he's known as Mwalimu Kombo) and he agreed that it is almost impossible to actually teach anything in the primary school. Out of the almost 1000 students he said that maybe 10 will score high enough on the National Primary Exam (KCPE) to go to a National School (which almost ensures you a better education). So, as things go, the education is "free" but there are definitely huge disparities (I think much larger than in the US). Essentially there are schools at various levels (national, provincial, district, public, private) that all are competing to get kids. The students have to take the KCPE after grade 8 and that one score determines if you can even apply to some of the better schools (now that's high stakes). Plus, there are some kids who do manage to score high but then can't afford one of the better schools. Then, after Form 4 (grade 12) they take the second national exam (KCSE) and that score essentially follows them around the rest of their life here in Kenya. It determines whether you can enter college and even the level of job that you can get. Kind of crazy to me.
Anyway - I tell you all this to say that Peace Corps of course places volunteers in public schools that have great needs. So, we don't teach in any national or provincial schools. My school is even "lower on the totem pole". It is not even a registered school. Basically after these last years of free primary ed there was a wave of students in the area with nowhere to attend secondary school. Most of them have scored way below the average on the KCPE and could not afford even to go anywhere else, so the community got together and formed this secondary school only two years ago. So, the school is one building that consists of two classrooms and that is it. There is no office, no staff room, no anything else.
So, I go to school usually about 7am and go to the primary school where we have a small room that serves as our office/staff room. There are very little resources. Most of the students don't have books so you can teach something but if you want to assign problems from the book then you either have to write them all out by hand and post it up on the wall with masking tape and the students can all copy into their notebooks. Or you can just leave the book and the students will copy problems sometime during the day. The schedule is very loosely done. In Kenya the students stay in one room all day and the teachers move from room to room. Of course, in this case we don't even have a desk in the room in which we could maybe keep stuff there to use, so again you really don't have many resources. I don't teach at the same time every day so it is a little confusing. They just made a chart with available times and then starting kind of randomly filling in classes. For example, today I taught the Form 3 Math class twice (2 lessons in one day) and the Form 2 class once. I teach 6 lessons for each classs in a week. The other weird thing to me is that sometimes the teachers just decide to teach extra lessons whenever they feel like it and the schedule allows. So, for example, if a teacher isn't there that day or just doesn't show up for class (yes, that happens) then another teacher might just go to the class and say, okay, now we will do more physics or whatever. Also, the students are supposed to be "on campus" from 7am-5pm. Classes end at 4pm, but a teacher might just decide on the spur of the moment to have their class stay and attend another lecture from 4 - 5. So, I sometimes don't know who is teaching what or when. It's only been two weeks so I'm guessing I'll figure out the schedule soon. The actual teaching part for me is great. I'm glad that I have lots of experience. I don't know how a novice with no experience would fare in this particular situation, but that's probably one of the reasons they sent me here and not to another more well established school. So, I teach 2-3 lessons a day. Then, during the other times I get ready for class and/or answer student questions or sometimes do an extra lesson if the class is "free". I'm trying to involve the students in working together to solve problems, etc... and it's going okay but it is a little difficult when you can't make copies of papers, you don't have paper, you don't have chalk, the students don't have paper, or many other things that might occur on any given day.
But, as usual I figure that if I can get the students' thinking, then all of that other stuff doesn't matter (wishful thinking on my part??). I know that some of you would like to help out and I will let you know as time goes by. One thing the Peace Corps doesn't really want us to do is come for two years and supply the school with lots of stuff and then that stuff disappears when we leave. We are trying to come up with plans that are more sustainable for the school. So, give me some time to learn the school and students and I'll let you know what we can do. All in all, I love the teaching, but that's not unexpected. I hope I can report some inspiring stories someday of things happening here at Marereni Secondary. At the very least, I'll be able to help them think about math.
Okay - battery is down to 59% so better go. Blessings.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
- I try not to go to the outhouse much after dark because there are big roach type bugs that sometimes appear -- yikes!
- I rode to Malindi last week on a matatu (like a 15-seater van) with probably about 20 people stuffed in and two goats under the seats
- In Malindi it is a tourist type place (many Italians and Germans visiting the resorts/beaches) so there are these "beach boys" who walk around and try to get you to pay them to take you around the town. I successfully told one in kiswahili that I wasn't a tourist, I was a teacher at a secondary school and right after he simply said "kwaheri" (goodbye). So, that was a victory.
- My Form 3 class (like grade 11) is mostly boys and very inquisitive. I like that class a lot. One of the boys said he wanted to be president of the US just like Obama. I said, well, you can't because you were not born in the US. He and several others were a bit confused because they said that Obama is a native Kenyan and he's president, so why can't they be? (Many Kenyans consider Obama a native Kenyan and even say he was born here. Anyone want to research that one?? *smile*) So, I told them that his father was Kenyan but his mother was american. And one of them asked suprisingly, "You mean an american woman is allowed to marry a kenyan?". It's really interesting the things that they do and do not know through experience.
- Another day about four boys were helping to go get this bed frame that I had to have made. As we were walking they asked lots of questions. One asked about if I had kids, etc... I said, no I never had kids. So, he innocently says, "You mean you're a spinster?". So, of course I laughed and said, well, yes we usually don't use that word in the US, but yes.
I hope to share more soon. It's so hard to explain the "town" but essentially it is a small village on the main Malindi-Lamu road so it is easy to get to by bus/matatu. So, that is good. But, it is very simple. People live in mud-houses and have dirt floors. At any given time (even at night) you can hear burros (donkeys) milling around outside and baying loudly sometimes. There are at times goats and chickens walking through my "front yard". But, you get used to it all.
I'm trying to attach a few pictures. I'll take more as time goes by. For now, kwaheri.