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Monday, October 3, 2011

First Month at Site (sorry it's long...lots of stuff happened) :)

Ugh, It’s so hard to blog with a 13lb (or at least I think) puppy on your lap. Not to mention he’s teething. Yay. :) Okay, Sorry for not writing sooner. The honest reason is that I’m having lots of fun at site and have been waaay  to busy…and I haven’t charged my laptop. Okay, enough excuses, let’s get to the stories.
          First off, I am teaching 7th and 8th grade General Science, and 10th and 12th grade Biology. I started with 7th, 8th, and 10th. But the science teacher who is supposed to teach 11 and 12th is still gone. (surprised? And I’m really nice :) and like teaching the 12th graders.
          There was a PTA meeting the Sunday before school started. Most of the teachers came. The parents missed that memo. But we have a PTA so I can’t complain. The board is very nice as well and is very excited about Holly and I fixing the library. We had one day of school on Monday and then everything halted on Tuesday when Madam President stopped by on her campaign run. Holly and I saw many community members dressed up as ‘the devil’. They were all very creative and all the kids were terrified. Holly paid for them to dance for her. (Kid likes to play with fire, what can I say). I wasn’t feeling well, so I watched. There was much yummy street food and people to meet and our students took very good care of us. We managed to get our picture with the president. It’s not like she had her arms around us….she totally had her arms around us. Or that she shook our hands and we got to tell her where we were from in the States. I proudly told her I was from Wisconsin (she first went to university in Madison, WI) and Holly got to say she went to Harvard (Ellen Johnson got her second degree there). We also chatted up her granddaughter who was on the campaign run too. Robin is starting her last year in law school in London and certainly has the accent which threw Holly and I for a loop. We wished her luck, ate some rice and soup with our Liberian community members and headed home for the night. (p.s. when the president visits your town: 80 bajillion people turn up from nowhere, there is non-stop honking from the motorbikes, people probably get trampled, and everyone stands in the town’s center alllll day waiting for her to show up. It’s a really cool experience.)
          I took Naw wei to school the first week (hang on *pushes puppy off lap*) and the kids loved it. I used him in 7th and 8th to teach observation. I compared his color, shape, size, and features to the bread I brought also. They really loved the end of the lesson where I showed off Naw wei’s tricks (sit, down, shake) with the help of the bread. But every other day he stays at home while we are at school. He hangs out in the backyard with the ducks and chickens and tries not to squeal and cry too much when we return. Returning home to a puppy whose whole body wags fiercely upon your return home was new for me. I have to be honest. I really love having a dog.
          One of my students handed in his observation homework to me the next day and I read: “I observe the duck. I observe the duck puu puu in the yard. It only take a minute or a second for the duck to dirty the yard. I see it, I touch it, I smell it.” I really really hope he was touching and smelling the duck, or else I need to have a talk with my 8th graders…. :D Regardless, it was hilarious.
          I also did an experiment with my students the first week. Brought some beans, sugar, salt and water into class and had my students form a hypothesis. What will help seeds grow better? Sugar water, plain water, or salt water? Holly and I are teaching morals, discipline, respect and how to be a good student more than anything else. But for this experiment, I taught some critical thinking. :)
          We also sponsored our first student that week. Bendu is a wonderful new friend and a great 10th grader who is juggling 11 classes, housework, helping holly and I around our house, and being a mom to a 6 month old girl. This girl is tough. And we’re really proud to be helping her make high school graduation a possibility. Giving a year of education to a 10th grader is about $25. Money well spent. (I’m thinking of asking my American friends to sponsor a student for Christmas some time. *wink wink nudge nudge*)
          Charmin also passed that week. He left for the rainbow bridge to play with Parsnip on September 13th. He was three years and one week. :D I’m so proud of my parents and the wonderful vet clinic for taking the best care of him. He had a wonderful life and he and Parsnip will always be my favorite rats <3.Whenever I’m too sad and missing them, I’m happy to know that I’m always ‘carrying’ them on my ankle. I’m glad I got that tattoo last year. :)  Now my only pet is my puppy.
          We also headed to consolidation in Kakata. I put some pictures of Liberia on my facebook
          Week two of school: I called in on the local radio and gave a shout out to my students and told everyone listening how much Holly and I liked Liberia. …I really wish I had recorded it, but I’ll do that next time. Our house is now the after school tutoring center. :) We have a bench and a large number of students that show up. It started small, but now we’re going to need a table and more benches. :/ We’ve started to teach peer tutoring too. Our older students are really catching on to the idea. I have never felt more useful to humanity than I do here. My students know we care, and I love when they show up at my house and I explain an idea to them…they still don’t get it, and I re-phrase and explain again. I’ve seen so many little light bulbs go on this past month. It’s enchanting.
          Naw wei has made a new friend at site. :) His name is White Tooth. White Tooth has the markings of a Doberman and is a huge sweetheart. He cuddles with Naw wei, plays with him, and teaches him how to NOT die (which Naw wei really needs instruction on). They like to lie on the porch and try and grab each other’s ears while grunting. It’s pretty funny to watch. Another funny note about Naw wei: He gets hiccups when he’s excited. As in, after he eats, after he plays, when I return home from school, when I give him 10 minute belly rubs before bed (which he now expects and demands), when you play to much tug-o-war etc. He sits and looks at you, tail wagging and hiccupping. I can’t put into words how silly it is. He also likes to do battle with the snail shell (yes Liberians eat those too) on our porch. I DO have that on camera. :) He just tries so hard to get the snail shell to chase and play with him….
          I also got mail from my mom and dad! Thank you for the pictures! My neighbors now know what you and the cats look like. I also got to explain ‘dishwasher’ and ‘oven’ to many of my new friends. Oh, and my fellow volunteers are teasing me because my house looks ‘midwestern’. *sigh* I also got mail from Wendy! Thank you! Your reply is on the way. :) Lisa! Clemens! Thank you for the letter! :) It made me laugh and I think I may have to hang it in my room somewhere. I really like hearing all the cool stories about what you are all doing back home. And to all of you dragging your feet: just write the darn letter! :) So I can send you one in return… postmarked from Africa. P.s. If you remember, include interesting newspaper clippings. I have BBC, but I still like to read them.
          Week three in school was manners, behavior, and ‘how to be a good student’. I made my 7th graders all write me why doing your own homework was important (after a bunch of them copied homework) and then I got five copied ‘do your own work’ essays. Was NOT happy about that. Since there are two of us, our students are really catching on, and they are amazed when we actually do what we say we’re going to do. But they are quickly realizing we also really care. And they are asking for help.
          I informed administration about the wonderfulness of Ultimate Frisbee. They are asking if I will start a staff team as well as a Jr and Sr high team. :) That will kick off later next week.
          *we interrupt this blog to bring you another funny homework story* Apparently, tooting, along with taste and touch is one of the senses we use to observe the natural world. This makes so much more sense to me now. :P It was a spelling error, but I love it. Next time I don’t know what something is…I’m going to toot on it.
          Once upon a time, while sitting on the back porch listening to the little radio, it decided to whig out. The frequency wouldn’t hold. Stephanie looked at Holly. “Maybe the batteries are dying? I wouldn’t know….there’s no way to check them.” Holly said “Don’t you lick them?” There was a long pause in which Stephanie stared at Holly with a raised brow. “No…Holly, I do not /lick/ batteries.” ---This is what I have to live with for two years….ugh. :)
          On Saturday I made French toast…and I’ll say it, I think it was better than most French toast I’ve eaten in the States. I also can now fry some wicked awesome potatoes and I made homemade spaghetti sauce from scratch that weekend. I’d never made it before. But I found a bunch of fresh tomatoes in the market and …wow. It was that good. Our school’s reading room had a seafood cookbook….we took it. What use is it in the reading room?!? Holly fried prawns (cause they are all over here) and those were really good too.
          I wrote a BUNCH of letters that week. Someday you will see them showing up in your mailboxes O.o I also called my sister in Amsterdam. Costs a lot, but I love her so it’s all good. <3 I love to tell my friends here that my little sister in studying in Europe. I’m happy to know she is having fun. ^.^
          And then the Chinese visited us!!!! Yay! :) They came by on the weekend with fish for us but we were in Kakata. So they dropped by our house to let us know about poker night. O.o (YAY) and that we are always welcome at their compound. They also agreed to teach us Chinese. I’m actually pretty happy about that. Poker night all in Chinese ^.^ (don’t worry, I’ll take pictures). I also asked them if they would take us fishing with them next time (I saw them fishing off the road one day with their little rice hats). They said yes, of course. Stay tuned for a photo of me fishing in the rice beds with the Chinese wearing a rice hat. They also told us that the community branding us as ‘china women’ was a sign of our beauty. *raised brow* We’ll see what other cute lines they throw our way. :) They also commended us for living it ‘rough’ with no TV or electricity. I think they almost feel bad for us. Little do they know, this is one great adventure for us.
          Week four: our principal returns from Monrovia and we are happy to see her well again. USAID drops off more books for Holly (she’s excited). I start running early in the morning with the dog (I’m competing with Krista for title of ‘most likely to get the Bruce Lee body’), my 12th graders keep trying to get me to go drink palm wine with them (I will give in at some point…they also wrote their phone numbers on the first day’s attendance sheet…the three girls didn’t though…odd, right?), my mom had a great birthday in South Dakota and didn’t invite me to watch the bison roundup with her and dad, my sister had a great birthday in Europe and I made my tutoring students sing her happy birthday from my porch, I roasted marshmallows (purchased in Monrovia) with my neighbors and talked for hours, and I’m afraid to admit that mayonnaise is becoming a staple food for me (I suppose there are worse things…).
          I’m in Kakata right now, headed onto Monrovia tomorrow to catch up with my besties from Lofa county who I haven’t seen since PST. I did some shopping today. Bought a used t-shirt that reads ‘Wisconsin, cutting cheese for over 100 years’ Yeah. Totally awesome. :) Oh, and daffy duck boxers. I’m starting a collection. Used clothes shopping here is so fun. You never know what kinds of things you will find. I also bought a general science textbook today. Good use of $4 dollars. Now I have a great book to lesson plan with.
          Now, I’m just looking forward to some cheese and ice cream tomorrow, playing ultimate Frisbee with my students, letting them kick my butt at football, carving a gourd with my neighbors, seeing all my fellow volunteers again for IST (in service training), and thanksgiving dinner with the US Ambassador in November.


  1. Awesome! It is so fun reading your blog. I will get right on writing you a letter. I love writing letters. :) Where do you use the i-net? Do you have it at your house?

  2. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favour:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Liberia? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Liberia in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and a original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Calle Valencia, 39
    28903 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com, where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

  3. Dear Stephanie,

    What a wonderful surprise for me today when I have got your letter from Liberia on my mail box. Thank you so much for helping me in order to complete my collection of letters. Thank you again too for your kind explanations about this country. If you wish, I invite you to visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com, there; you can see the picture of your letter.

    I wish you good luck with your work in Liberia; I hope all the things will improve for the Liberian people in the next future.

    I promise you to follow your blog by time to time, because I will learn a lot of things about Liberia.

    Stephanie, I send you again my best wishes of health, peace and happiness to you, your family and friends. Take care of yourself

    Yours faithfully

    Emilio Fernandez