Well, it’s a new year. I settled on a resolution I think both my parents will be proud of: Flossing regularly. Funny how such a simple thing you should do every day is easy to ignore in countries like America with readily available dental care. Liberia? Not so. Therefore I’ve taken a better interest in taking care of my teeth before so they don’t fall out or I get my first cavity. :)
And for those of you who noticed my facebook page, I bought a used surfboard in Monrovia in late January. My happiness level has skyrocketed. ‘Toothless’ as he has been named, was your average surfboard, owned by an expat living in Liberia. Now, surfboards circulate rather well here. Expats serve shorter terms and the boards are always up for sale. This one fell into my price range and I was in town and able to pick it up. The fate gods were kind to me on that day. I’ve surfed a bit in Australia, Fiji, and Robertsport (Liberia) but I’m certainly not ‘good’ by any standards. But this is all about to change. As a young ‘grommet’ with ambition and my first board, I will be spending free time floating offshore Monrovia looking for the perfect swells and carving some waves. It’s crazy how serious I am about this. I’ve taken to yoga in my house in the mornings to stretch out, and the gorgeous swimming hole at my site is now my mini training center for paddling practice to work out my back and arms. Naw wei finds me quite boring when we go swimming there and I do laps. :)
Period 4 of the curriculum from the Ministry of Education touched a lot on health. And so I taught my 7th, 8th, and 10th graders about Malaria, Typhoid, STDs, and HIV/AIDS. I noticed that when I teach a topic that they know a little about already and that effects people they live and care about, more hands go up in the air and they ask me the most bizarre questions. Some of the information they get from the street or their friends is horrid. So if you remember back in December, when Becka came to my site with her volunteers from Kakata to teach HIV/AIDS and family planning, they brought with them a large box of condoms. They were left in my care so I could start a health club on campus (coming up later). I so, I taught condom use (which was highly indorsed by my principal) to all my students. Everyone was required to put a condom on a banana following these important steps. 1. Check expiration date 2. Open carefully, do not tare 3. Squeeze air from tip 4. Roll condom on penis 5. After sex, tie condom and bury it in a hole or put in toilet. Step 5 is pretty important since if you are not disposing of them well, the kids will find them and use them as balloons…. Teaching condom use was a big hit and necessary as I did some undercover gossip checking and heard that some of these kids are having sex before sixth grade even. Leading to teenage pregnancy and the reason my 10th grade only has 6 female students in it. 2 of those girls do not have a kid yet. That same day I taught 7th and 8th how to use a condom, I lead 10th on their first science dissection ever. (I didn’t want to believe me when I said that students in America do this a lot in high school) I had been teaching them about flatworms, roundworms, and segmented worms are a few of the species of those that are parasitic and found in West Africa. I’ve officially scared them into wearing their flip flops (called slippers here) all the time not that they know about hookworms. But creepy parasitic worms aside, we dissected earthworms. This was a little harder than I planned because finding the worms were the hardest part. It’s the middle of dry season and any and all worms are buried too deep in the ground. But after school one day, Naw wei and I went on walkabout in the bush to find some swampy areas. If you could only see his doggie expression as I spent 30 minutes digging in the muck. But I found two good worms. There are no dissection tools or pans. So we used printer paper, pins, and razor blades (that are commonly used to cut their hair). Some of the girls refused to enter the classroom and one of them screamed when I took the worm out. (I had to restrain myself from laughing or holding it too close to them) But some of the guys really got into it and everyone was rather amazed that the dissected worm looked the same as the diagram from the textbook I brought to class. They loved the hands on work and we’re planning another dissection in period 5 or 6.
Dat true, Dat lie! Is the name of my student’s new favorite review game. I’ll explain. I first heard these expressions at the water pump while I was fetching water. Two little boys were having an argument over what their sister had said about someone. And it went like this: ‘Dat true!’ ‘Dat lie!’ ‘Dat true’ ‘Dat lie’ ‘Dat true-o’ ‘Dat lie!’ back and forth. I giggled. And then used the expression in my true/false review game. Liberians never pronounce th’s properly. That is Dat, This is Dis and them is Dem. To any English teacher, this is frustrating. I read them a true/false statement and they must respond with Dat true or Dat lie, and if it’s a lie, they have to make it true. They really get a kick out of it when I use the expressions too. ‘Miss Stephanie can speak Liberian English’.
My Kpelle class class is going well. Winnie is teaching me all kinds of useful phrases such as ‘Nga le seyaseya’ I’m going on walkabout, and don’t chunk that rock at my dog. Yeah, that’s common here. Naw wei’s just doing his job protecting the house and people get him all upset when they pick up rocks. My kpelle book is almost complete and I can’t wait to sit on the ol’ ma’s porch and gossip in kpelle for an afternoon. And speaking of the kpelle tribe, I now know what their wood carved masks look like from my Embassy Home stay family who has a wall of local masks from the different tribes. I will be buying one at some point.
I have a List. The List. My students now fear it like the plague. But it keeps amazing order in the classroom and I can teach with more orderly and respectful students. :) It is the Poo poo latrine cleaning list. All students who break rules get to clean poop at the end of the period before they can take their period exam. I know it’s harsh, but it works and those students who fall onto the list get snickered at by their classmates who I constantly warn can also end up on the list. It’s a win-win. They receive a punishment for their behavior, the toilets get cleaned, and I have to try not to smile at their expense when they’re whining about the smell.
My site-mate Holly got transferred to teach in Nimba county in January. It’s not the same without her and Momo the glutinous kitty cat. But I’ve been able to adjust to life alone, I just got a new puppy. His name is PJ…short for Pepper Jack because my fellow PCV in Lofa dared me to name him after cheese. Anyway, my neighbor’s two year old daughter Angela calls him ‘pee-pee’ which is hilarious. PJ is a pot-bellied pup and him and Naw wei are best buddies which is good for Naw wei since Momo left. He really liked her.
I got a cold mid-February. WTF? Right? It’s 88 degrees out (at least) every day and I have a cold. Stupid. But I normally get a cold around this time of year so I guess the fates just couldn’t cut me any slack. What’s funny about it was that my mom who’s living back in Wisconsin had one at the same time…at least she had the snow as well. Luckily, it didn’t last long but having both a runny and stuffy nose in hot-o Liberia wasn’t too much fun.
My butter pear tree in my yard (the only fruit-bearing property I own) is almost ready! A few have already started to fall, and they are A-mazing. Emmanuel and I sent a small peeking (aka small child) to climb the tree and chunk (toss) some of the ripe ones down. My teachers are happy because they will be eating all of the ones I can’t eat. And I will be eating guacamole until I drop.