Thursday, July 7, 2011

Catching Up!

Hi Everyone!

It has been about a week and a half since we last wrote, but lots has happened! I wanted to blog to catch you all up. Brace yourself for a long post! :-)

First of all, happy late 4th of July! It might have been our most patriotic 4th of July ever! We celebrated by making dinner and fresh mozzarella cheese with our PCV neighbor Jean. We had cake decked out with an American flag and patriotic window clings on our windows (Thanks Mom and Dad for the package!!) During dinner we got into some great conversations about why we love America! Absence really does make the heart grow fonder I guess. So...Happy belated Independence Day you good ol' US of A, and know that I mean it when I say "We miss you!"

And...some wonderful news - THE STUDENTS RETURNED!!! We were so happy to see them start trickling back on campus last Wednesday (no meeting, no announcement, students just started showing up! Some strange Ugandan nonverbal communication?! We aren't sure...) The break ended up being about two weeks, so not nearly as long as it looked like it might be. We are really grateful, and the students seem to also be grateful! There are actually now only 3 more weeks of teaching, then mock exams, and then the term is over. Since this is supposed to be the "academic" term, we feel we are scrambling a little to get all the teaching done in the time that remains. To make matters worse, classes were canceled on Friday afternoon so the students could clean their dormitories (which were supposedly in a "shockingly" dirty state - one of the tutors reminded us in all seriousness that "cleanliness is only second to godliness!"), and a small group of students was forbidden from attending classes yesterday and today because they were late for the morning assembly. So, for so many reasons, it will be a challenge to cover all the material with students before the term slips away from us!

I also started a secondary project of sorts - a drama club at a local primary school! When I visited it a couple of weeks back, the principal shared with me his passion for including creativity in the school curriculum. This excited me greatly as, in the experiences I have had so far, creativity is generally not encouraged in the Ugandan school system. So, we decided I would work with the p4-p6 (3-5th grade) boarding students on Saturdays to lead some creative dramatic activities and maybe even create a play with them. So, I embarked last weekend with my trusty assistant Ryan ;-) and had a great time with the children. It was nice to have some creative time and wonderful to work with the children! When we arrived, they spent the first 30 minutes or so singing and dancing for us, then we got to work with them on the drama activities I had planned. It went pretty well, though was challenging to get the students to come up with original ideas and they much preferred to just copy the one brave student (often Ryan!) who came up with an idea. Not unexpected, but hopefully we can develop some imagination and a willingness to be creative in the kiddos! I'm really looking forward to it. (Incidentally, when I asked the children who could tell me what the word "imagination" meant, not a single child knew the word!!!)

Another project I am working on is getting a "Math Power Hour" set up for the PTC students in the evening. My idea is to have an informal time twice a week where students who are struggling with problems or topics can come for small group/individual help. The college is constantly expressing concern for the mathematical proficiency of the students, so I thought this could be a great way to help address that concern and hopefully build relationships with students in the process. It's been a mess of Ugandan red-tape to get it started, though. (Another one of those times where the need is there and solution seem so simple, yet I can't seem to find a way to connect the two!! There seems to be no lack of those situations here!)

My first step was to talk to our Director of Studies. Although I had an evening time slot in mind, he insisted we schedule it for 5:30-7:00 in the evening. Then, I had to get approval from the principal and the math department head. The math department head was not fond of the idea, yet later approached me with a "new idea" he had that was really just my idea in his words, and insisted that I should get it started. (So thankful that a man could help this "unknowledgeable" woman come up with something valuable! grr...) Anyhow, when I finally got it all approved, I showed up on Tuesday to find no students! After fifteen minutes of sitting by myself a thoughtful student arrived to tell me that nobody would be coming since there was compulsory sports and games every day from 5:30-7:00. Nice. So....I am working on getting a new time and working my way through all the protocol once again. If all goes well, it will start tonight! I'll keep you posted!

*Each night I am going to start with a critical thinking problem. Here's the one for this week, see how you do - "Use any mathematical symbols and the number eight eight times to create a mathematical expression that equals 1,000." Any ideas?

We've also volunteered to help out with the upcoming Track and Field competitions! Although this is certainly not my area of expertise, it should be a fun way to support the students and continue to be more involved with them. Yesterday we observed the practice time and both of us about freaked out seeing the students "high jump" head first into a (way too small!) pile of dead grass. Neck injury, anyone? They're also throwing javelin (really long sticks), running, triple jumping, long jumping, shot putting, as well as all those other track and field events that used to make me cringe in gym class! :-) But it should be fun now that I'm not being forced to compete! There are regional, then national competitions, but for now they are just getting themselves ready. I'm excited to get friendly with a stopwatch and be a cheerleader for our kids!

Ryan's been busy with his computer classes (despite super frequent power outages as of late) and running open lab hours in the evenings. He is looking for a way to get involved in an economic development secondary project and is thinking about the clubs he hopes to get going at the start of next term. He's also been doing research into grad programs that he might be interested in post Peace Corps, so that's pretty exciting.

And...though it might seem like no big deal, we started getting fresh milk delivered to our door every morning! If you know how much I love milk, you'll know how exciting this is for me! So, at about 7 am each day a man shows up (straight from milking the college cows) with about a liter of milk for Ryan and I! We have a milkman! I love it! And...the milk is absolutely delicious! I don't know that I've ever had milk straight from the cow, and it is so fresh and really fun to get.

So...that's what's been happening in our neck of the woods. As always, we love and miss you all and think of you often. Keep in touch,


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