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6 11 2010

So it’s been quite a hectic, exciting, and stressful past 4 days.  Wednesday was the final day of our internship teaching.  I went into the class with what I thought was a great lesson plan to review all the material I’ve taught over the last 3 weeks.  However, upon arriving to class, I discovered that several of the students that normally show up to class weren’t there and in their place were brand new faces I’d never seen before.  You can see why this causes problems.  I went in with the intention of review material previously learned.  In addition, when I walked into class several of the students tried to walk out.  In my best Kiswahili I instructed them to return to class and sit down.  Some listened to me and reluctantly returned while others proceeded to run away.  I wasn’t going to take off running after them and chase them down because I feared that more students would try to leave… Anyway, such are difficulties when coming in as a “substitute teacher”.  I’m sure many of you remember those days when a substitute teacher would come into the class. As a student, you see a giant bull’s eye on their head and think that you can torment the teacher and basically have free reign of the classroom.  I now have a profound respect for anyone who works as a substitute teacher.  For the previews couple classes I just kind of stood there and took it, but I finally wised up and wasn’t going to take crap from them today.  I spoke in the best Swahili I could muster to make sure my point got across that no students were to disturb the class or leave before the period was over.  As I started to go through the review problems I had prepared, it was apparent that not much of the material stuck with the few kids that I taught it to previously.  Again, there were some kids who had no issues at all who had been studying on their own and then you had the kids who can barely understand English and just happened to be trapped in the room when I walked in to teach.  After about 60 minutes of the 80 minute period, I was ready to give them my final review question.  At the last minute though, I said “screw it, they aren’t getting anything out of this” and wrote a question un-related to math on the board.  I said to my class “clearly we are done learning math today, and today is my last day teaching, so I have one more question for you.  Please write, in a complete sentence what you want to do after you finish high school.”  For the first time all day the room went quiet as the students digested the question I had just posed them.  I suppose it’s because not many people ask them what they want to be when they are older, or at least at this school they aren’t normally encouraged to think about the future very often and what they plan to do.  This exercise served two purposes.  First I was interested what these kids planned to do since a most of them seemed like they didn’t want to be there anyway.  And second, it was good practice for them to write in English.  Some of the responses I got were really surprising to me.  When everyone was done writing, I called on several individuals to stand up and read their sentences aloud to the class.  One kid said he wanted to be a doctor, another girl said she wanted to be an engineer, another wanted to be a pilot (which is surprising considering in Kiswahili the word for ‘plane’, ‘bird’, and ‘helicopter’ are all the same), and one kid actually said astro physicist.  This was the first time that the kids actually cared about the assignment I gave them. As class ended, I said “Thank you all for letting me teach you for the past 3 weeks.  Hopefully one day you sir can fly me to America, one day you young lady can build my house, and you sir can fix my broken hip when I am old.”  They all started laughing and begging me to stay.  It was probably one of the best moments I’ve had since arriving here in Tanzania.  At the start of the class kids were literally running out the door to avoid being in my class and now they were begging me to stay.  For all the difficulties I had at my internship school, it was great to leave on a high note like that.

Then yesterday we had our final written language exam.  I think I did really well, but we only need a 60% or higher to be able to move to site, so I don’t think there should be any issues there.  It is such a relief to be done with the formal written part of the Kiswahili training.  Now I can just practice speaking with my family when I get home rather than having to hit the books.

Finally today, the day all of the PCT’s (Peace Corps Trainee’s) had been waiting for arrived.  We had a big ceremony, traditional African dancing and all, to announce where we would be spending the next two years of our life.  The Tanzania Country Director as well as a handful of other people from Peace Corps in Dar es Salaam came to give us the official news.  It turns out I will be placed in Iringa at Ismani Secondary School.  If you’re not familiar with Iringa (I wasn’t until this afternoon), it sits in southern Tanzania and is a launch point for many safari’s for the game reserves in the south.  This amazing for a couple reasons.  One, since it is a staging site for safari’s that means it caters to tourists.  That means they have tourist food.  I’m talking ravioli, pizza, burgers, and coffee shops.  Apparently there is a huge bookstore in town with a nice little coffee shop inside.  Various things like this really got me pumped up.  However, I’m not actually IN the city, but about 20 miles outside (apparently it’s a pretty easy bike ride, so Mike, I may need you to ship me my road bike; I’m sure the shipping charges won’t be too bad).  The road from Iringa to my site though is all paved, so getting to and from down shouldn’t be too difficult.  Additionally, the weather there is baridi (cold)!  Yes, it gets pretty cool there in the winter season.  I’m pretty pumped about that because being here in Morogoro, I am sweating constantly.  I will have my own multi-room house there with a ‘private compound’ (not sure what that means but I’ll be sure to post pictures when I move there).  It sounds like I may have running water next to me and electricity at the school.  If i don’t have electricity at my house, I may look into getting solar panels installed (it’s not as expensive as you think; many other volunteers have done it).  The school that I’ll be at has about 600 kids.  Around 200 of them are girls who board there.  So, with 600 students, take a guess at how many teachers?  If you guessed 3, you’d be correct.  As of now, there are exactly three teachers there to teach all subjects.  You do the math.  Some kids are not being taught all the subjects.  Apparently the head of school has worked with Peace Corps volunteers before and is extremely helpful, so I’m hoping that’s the case.  In addition, since there are only 3 teachers and they need help teaching almost everything, I’ll be teaching math and most likely one other subject, yet to be determined.  Again, we don’t move to these sites until November 24th, so I won’t have too many more details until I actually arrive there.  Anyway, I’m going to stop writing now because I’ve got to do laundry and pack for Mbeya tomorrow.  This next week I’ll be in Mbeya (way deep south) shadowing another volunteer who is working at a technical college.  There are 4 trainee’s going to shadow in Mbeya, and apparently there is a place in Mbeya that serves “the best damn cheeseburger I’ve ever had” according to another volunteer.  I’m looking forward to just enjoying the shadow experience, seeing another part of the country, and decompressing after stressing about the final written exam and my site placement.  Also, I want to try and save some battery on my computer so I can attempt to listen to the MICHIGAN FOOTBALL game today vs. Illinois.  GO BLUE.




2 responses

10 12 2010
Shirlee Wyman Harris

hi glen,
your mom sent me your blog because i’ve been dying to know how you’re doing and what africa is like. i’m hoping to go to tanzania or kenya next fall, so i want to hear all about your experiences. if you remember correctly, i was one of the counselors at fhs and worked with your mom. much success in this amazing endeavor. please keep me posted.

take care,


6 11 2010
Eileen Hengel

Good luck glenn! This is amazing and it sounds like you are doing well. Ashlea and I need to come visit you. I’ll be thinking of you when you trounce Illinois 🙂

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