Friday, June 7, 2013

A Break for Rafting - Barbara

We woke up in the Nile River Exploration Camp to the sounds of monkeys in the trees above us. Walking out of the tents the breathtaking view of the Nile was indescribable. As we started getting ready for our white water adventure the nerves were starting to creep up on us. Some of us were ready to go hard and wild down the rapids, while others were terrified of water. Yet we all got on the truck and headed to training. After a quick introduction to what lay head, five rapids level four and five in about three hours, we grabbed breakfast to-go featuring a fruit cup and eggs wrapped in chipati, and headed to the rapids. The most terrifying part of the day was the safety warning before we jumped into the water. The lead guide, Brian, told us of the horrors of the Nile and possibilities of injury. Though we were alarmed, our boat was more than ready for the challenge.
Tom and Ricky were lead paddlers on our raft backed up by myself, Katelyn, Diane, and Molly. Our guide Peter laughed with and occasionally at us, keeping the mood light. As he guided us to the first flat pool, he showed us what to do if we were to fall out of the boat or it was to flip over (which he made clear was more than likely).
We then headed down the Nile zipping through rapids and practically flipping over our boat at ever turn. Our boats tendency to flip over gained us the nickname Swim Team.
At lunch they cut fresh pineapple for everyone right on the river. The fresh tasty fruit was a perfect break in-between the strenuous rapids. It was so good that Ricky and Tom almost ate a whole pineapple each! My favorite part of the day was the end of the last rapid, The Nile Special so famous they named a beer after it, we jumped out of the boat and floated down the river taking in the moment.
At the end of the rapids Reginah, who elected not to join us, excitedly greeted us at the end. We then all enjoyed an outdoor cookout with everyone who survived the Nile. After being completely drained of energy we were all excited to get back to camp. Upon arrival, we promptly got a late dinner at the local eating establishment. Here we meet locals and travelers. It was great to talk to individuals working on various service projects or adventures throughout Africa.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 8: Flannagh

Thursday May 30, 2013 With Flannagh Fitzsimmons

Today was our last full day of teaching; I cannot believe that this trip is almost over! I am one of the English teachers, so today our lesson was on subject-verb agreement. This was my lesson, so it was amazing to teach! We started off writing sentences with errors, such as “The girl are running,” and we had the students correct the sentences. We taught about how if your subject is plural, your verb must agree and also be plural. We showed the students how to properly label and break down a sentence to make sure the subject and the verb agree and the sentence makes sense. It was amazing to see the students finally understand the topic! It was really rewarding that our lesson was effective. During the afternoon we had students break into pairs – one student being the subject and the other student the verb. They had to work together to make a sentence with subject-verb agreement and have it make sense. This was definitely difficult for the students because they are not used to working in pairs with their peers. This was a trickier activity for the students, but in the end they did really well and they understood not only subject-verb agreement, but how to work with their peers in a pair. This was one of the hardest lesson plans to teach, but it was extremely rewarding in the end because we were able to help the students! Tomorrow we have a half day and will be giving the students a small exam on grammar and structures of sentences! I can’t believe we’re leaving next week! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 7: Danielle Fortin

Day 7 With Danielle
Thursday May 30, 2013.

Today started off as one of the roughest days (teaching wise). Our first (science) lesson was central around atoms, neutrons, protons, and the different states of matter. The first two groups we taught went great! The kids were responsive and participated as much as they could, though they didn't seem to know much about our lesson plan. It was so rewarding to see the students learn something new. In the past it seemed that the students knew more about the topics we introduced then we did. This time, it was the other way around.

While most of the students didn't know all about chemical reactions and how particles react in the different states of matter, they (again) surprised us with how much they already knew. The students never cease to impress us with their understanding of scientific definitions. Their ability to recite definitions of atoms, protons, neutrons, and electrons was striking at such a young age.

After crazily acting out how the molecules and particles of the different states of matter react with one another we introduced to the students to static electricity. They were highly amused by the balloons we brought to class. I think us teachers, however, were more amused watching the students try and create static on their bald/shaved head. Most of the balloons were popped on the short hair of the students. It was fun to watch how excited they were over the static electricity they created. With the balloons they were able to “magically” pick up pieces of paper.

After the balloon activity, we moved onto bubbles! As an amateur photographer I quickly took the opportunity to capture as any pictures of the students as possible. I got some really good shots that I can’t wait to share.

Our third group however, was the most disappointing. Throughout our entire lesson the students seemed to just stare back at us with blank expressions. It was so difficult in getting the students to respond and participate in our discussion. This made one of the most educational-lasting impressions on me. I secretly vowed to myself to not be that student that just sits and stares at the teacher- when I return to Lasell.

The second session of the day went way better than the first. We split into smaller groups, and discussed the human body. Using the diagrams and miniature versions of the body donated to Arlington, we had a very good afternoon! The students (again) surprisingly knew a lot about the human body, the brain, and the heart. We also were again, able to teach them new concepts and facts that they were sure to remember forever.

Just like every other day, on my journey home to the guest house, I was able to see the exact reason why I love not only this country but this village. I made friends with students walking down the streets of Bumwalakani. We asked each other questions, and they taught me many words in their language. I love how friendly the people are here. They are so willingly to say hi and wave back to every one of our greetings of, “Molembe.” I’m going to miss the friendliness and willingness to communicate with all of us Americans.

I can’t believe today was our last full day of teaching at the Bulobi school. It seems like we just started to get to know all of the students. I wish we had 10 more days with them, to teach them, inspire them, and hear their stories. Every day I spend here I fall more and more in love with the people, the surroundings, the language, the food, and the overall experience.

Do we have to leave??? 

Prof. Tom’s Notes 5/29/2013

Here’s the best thing so far: after the first full day of teaching (8:30 to 4:30, with a lunch break), the Head Teacher at the Bulobi School sidled up to me, and said, “The students don’t want to leave!” And she was right – the P7 students, about the age of our seventh graders, had to be told to leave. They had completed two full rotations of math, science, and English, and they clearly loved the personal attention, the interactivity, and the chance to learn. We had to shoo the other students away from the windows of their classrooms!
Yesterday we spent almost an hour trying to teach in metal-roofed classrooms during a pouring rainstorm (we all kept stopping, hoping the rain would let up, but it kept raining harder and harder). We have settled into a rhythm, with morning and afternoon class sessions, but we are all pretty tired by the end of the day.
Fun Lasell result: one of our students, who is quite shy, spoke up at our evening reflection several nights ago. I had asked, as part of the reflection, “What makes you uniquely you?” She had participated in a workshop I ran at Lasell earlier in the year, and she had a lot of trouble answering that question. But she piped up and said, “Now that I’ve been on this trip, I know the answer to that question!” She also said that she always had trouble speaking in front of groups, but after two days of working with the Uganda students she felt much more confident about speaking in public, and much happier about her abilities in general. 
 We can already see some results from our work. As our students get to know the Ugandan students, we are able to see improvement in their math ability, more clarity in science, and rapid strides in their ability to write and communicate effectively in English (students in public schools in Uganda are not taught in English until fourth grade, although they have studied English as a classroom subject since grade one). We have discovered that we need to add a significant daily reading component next year – that is one area where the Ugandan students really lag behind, both in terms of training and resources.
I have personally found the Bulobi School to be almost overwhelming, even though I visited classes there last year. Although I think our teaching is, actually, making a difference for the P7 students, the occasionally teacherless classes, the clear disparities in the students’ preparation and abilities, the total lack of school supplies, the absence of books – the whole scene has renewed the sense of challenge I feel about this rural Ugandan school and village. I know we will come back, and it will take several years to start to create a better “learning culture” here but, at least for a few moments, it seemed like an outsized task. Of course, as soon as I shared this with our students, they started pelting me with suggestions and helpful ideas (part of why I love undergraduates!), and then went back to preparing for the next day!!

After three full days of teaching, the Bulobi students still have to be told to leave at the end of the day. We are more than half way through our time here (it has flown by), and the experience seems to grow richer each day. Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 6: Ricky Hawkes

Day 6 With Ricky 

So as you can tell so far, Africa has been pretty exciting. Each day, everyone had woken up excited and ready to go. This morning was not the case. From around 3 a.m. till morning, the cow next door was continuously mooing. Most of us didn't get much sleep, and were a little grumpy. It’d didn't take us long to switch gears and get excited for the day. Today was our first full day (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.), and it was the first day we were teaching the boys as well as the girls.Our first lesson at the school went really well. Katelyn, Danielle, Molly, and I taught the kids about the water cycle. We used the game Hangman to introduce the topics to the group and used white boards to explain the different steps. At the end of the lesson we taught them how to play 7-Up, which they loved.We came back to the guest house for lunch, which was a relief. As fun as the kids are, sometimes it’s nice to just get a break. Some of us used this time to take a short nap while others read and relaxed. Around 1:20 we started back up to the school for the afternoon classes.
When we got back to the school, the kids had a little more recess time left. Flannagh Lead them in a game of Simon Says, which they loved. For the afternoon class, we decided to have the groups play jeopardy to give them a review of what they already learned. It started out a little rocky, but the kids eventually started to catch on and it became a fun and engaging exercise. At the end of jeopardy we played Four Corners with them, a game where one person counts to ten and they have to choose one of 4 corners and run to it. The counter then picks that corner and the people there are out. The kids LOVED this game. It’s fun to see how excited they get about us playing with them. At the end of the day when we walked back to the guest house, not one person in our group had a free hand. Everyone was holding the hand of at least one of the students they taught today. They walked us back to the guest house, we said our goodbyes, and we all went inside to relax.
As we talked about our day, we all agreed that the boys are a great addition to the class.  Most were outgoing and funny and they all seemed excited to have us here. For the rest of the day we all hung out and got to know each other better by sharing stories. For dinner, we had pasta and meat, which is sort of a delicacy here. People made jokes about how they hoped it was the cow the kept us all up last night. After dinner we had our daily discussion questions, which help bring all of us a lot closer together. As the night wound down we went to sleep one by one with the same thing on our mind:

Please Don’t let the cow Moo all night.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 5: Shelly

Uganda Day 5

Today was a hike…literally. How many people can say they’ve climbed a mountain in Africa? I know I can, after today. For our “free day” we decided to go on hike and climb Mount Nuscu (pronounced Noo-Soo) which is approximately 5 kilometers (3 miles) high. At first, not all of us wanted to go because we had a long day and night yesterday, and if we wanted to go on the hike, we had to be up and ready to leave by 8:00. This sounded pretty dreadful to many people, including me because this meant waking up and being ready at 7:00…which sounded pretty dreadful to many people. However as the morning progressed, one by one more people were waking up. By 8:15 EVERYBODY was dressed and ready to go. The first picture you are looking at is before our hike and the second picture is the aftermath of our hike.

            According to Lena and Tom, when they visited a couple of years ago, and climbed Mount a Nuscu, it took them longer to come down (3 hours) than it did to climb (2 hours). But for us, it took us about 3 hours to climb and 2 hours to come back down. On our way home, I found out that our tour guide, Rasheid, who was amazing by the way, was lying to us the entire way. Every time we would ask him how much longer, he would say, “30 minutes” but it was actually an hour. “Rasheid, you’ve been lying to us this whole time?!” I asked when I found out. He giggled sheepishly and said, “Well I didn’t want to scare you guys. If I had told you 2 hours, you guys might have been scared.”
            He was right because after first 15 minutes, I (and I’m sure other people) wanted to turn around and go back home. So that was a good trick. Thanks Rasheid. This was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my whole life. I’ve walked 20 miles for Project Bread’s “Walk for Hunger” two years in a row, but those 40 miles combined was nothing compared to climbing that mountain. I am not a person who likes to do physical activities but I was determined to come back to America and say that I climbed a mountain in Africa.
            It was a hike…a blazing hot, sweaty, stinky, painful, and at times dangerous hike. Along the way we saw many people, chickens, goats, cows, and cow poops, like every else that we went. The higher we climbed the steeper and more dangerous the hills got. At some points I feel like we were literally walking on the edge. Have you seen “Taken 2”…the scene where the daughter had to climb out of window and walk on the ledge to climb into the room next door? Well that’s how I felt, the higher we climbed. In my head, I kept picturing myself tumbling over the edge. Two seconds later I heard a crash behind me. When I turned around I saw Jessica sliding down below. She must have lost her footing or the ground below crumbled because one second she and Lena were behind me and the next she was lodged two feet down in the bushes. Thankfully there was a small tree and she grabbed a hold of its branches. Lena quickly went down to check on her and Ricky (who was ahead with everybody else) came over to help her. Amazingly Jessica only had a scratch or two on her legs and arms and big rush of adrenaline.

            I think from that moment on, things (and people) started going downhill. It was a slip-and-slide the rest of the way. We had to really watch our steps and hold on to the branches nearby. It was amazing to see how high up the mountain people lived. I asked Rasheid, “How do people get food and buy things, if they live this high? Are there markets up there?” He said, “They have some but not many. They have to go down to the market in the village when they run out of things. If they have a lot of people living in the house, they have to go often. They go on Saturday, Monday, or Thursday, depending.”