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Sunday, May 20, 2012

March 2012

Feb. Extra! (I forgot Valentine’s Day)
We had school on Valentine’s Day and I got three valentines from my students (one was really romantic and mooshy) okay, I’ll fill you in on what it said: ‘A candle may melt and it’s fire may die, but the love you have given me will always stay as a flame in my heart’ and ‘When you love someone truly, you don’t look for mistake, instead you fight the mistake, you accept the fault and overlook the excuses. Love is not how you forget, but how you forgive, not how you listen, but how you understand, not what you see, but how you feel, not how you let go, but how you hold on’.  And I didn’t know what to make of that. I’m sure more than three (two girls, one boy) have a crush on me. I think this is both cute and funny. Unfortunately for them, that stuff is not allowed, and they’re waaaaaaaaaaaaay too young for me. But I can’t say I don’t like that attention and gifts. I use their admiration of me to promise me that they’ll do their homework and go to class. I’m sneaky.
After school, Emmanuel and I went for a walk on the main road. It’s Valentine’s Day and true, I don’t have a Valentine (although I got many offers…mainly all older men), but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit inside my house and not go spy on the social lives of my students. Live vicariously through others! And I was curious about who is dating who at school. (Don’t judge me, I don’t have television…remember?) Anyways, I discovered a lot of interesting gossip that night and caught many of my students by surprise when I went to the dance club with Christina, Nora, and Emmanuel. We did A LOT of dancing (I still can’t dance well, but Africans don’t care. They just like to see me dance at all) and afterward trouped up the dirt hill to John Hill neighborhood. There is a photo studio there and you’re not a real PCV or Liberian until you go out in your ‘finest’, dance like a dork, sweat a lot, and then go take a picture having no idea what you look like by that point. Valentine’s Day 2012 photo of the five of us is pure blackmail material and maybe someday I’ll let some of you see it. Maybe… :)
And there you have it. Valentine’s 2012. I also wrote anonymous prank-love letters to a few PCVs and left them in their mailboxes in Monrovia with plastic roses.

I did an Embassy stay on March 1-3rd. Ken Hasson and his wife, Lourdes, were the best parents away from home ever. Ken was a fisheries PCV in Ecuador where he met his wife. Knowing this, you can only imagine the number of hours we spent talking about ocean critters and fish. We ate some amazing lamb, and I got my milk and cheese fix. Fellow PCVs Nora and her site mate, Kaitlyn were also in town so we hit the embassy pool for some exercise….erm, tube floating. I also bought seasons 5 and 6 of How I Met Your Mother from a legit street dvd seller and watched them ALL with Lourdes. She also dyed my hair for me (yes, I’m still red :P I like it, so I’m keeping it) and on my last day in town went surfing with my fellow beach bum, Eric Sturgis. Toothless and I are really carving it up on Liberian waves and aside from the sunburn (I DID put on sunscreen, mom) I had an amazing time. It was a great way to relax and break away from site to clear my head and enjoy some lights, refrigeration (I ate so many ice cubes!), and air conditioning for two days before heading back out into the bush.

One of my fellow teachers James Kumaru gave me a woman chicken! Her name was Miss Nugget. Unfortunately, PJ thought it would be fun to kill her while I kept her tied for her first three days so she became familiar with her new home. And so my neighbors gained a free chicken for their soup the next day…and McNugget and Tater Tot were sad.  So I’m still on the lookout for a woman chicken…

As you may remember, there is no UNMIL or UN base in my area. As far as I knew, the only other non-Liberians working in my district was China Union. Until I met Henry Snider and was introduced to the Nepelle Project (http://niapeleschoolnutritionchallenge.com/donate/). Really great NGO work going on here and I was happy to meet Henry and the non-Liberians working with the project. Penelope Chester came from Canada to work on/check the status of the project and it was a real pleasure sharing ideas and information. Her project is doing an amazing job establishing sustainable farms at rural schools so that the schools can feed the students. I recommend their great work and like I said on facebook, since I do not yet have a project that requires funding, you can share your love with the Nepelle Project.

PJ got sick in mid-March. I debated even writing about him in my blog, but decided to (in fairness to reality. This blog includes the good and the bad). It was an internal blockage, rupture, poison…something internal that no matter what I did (Oral rehydration salts, pepto bismol, etc.) could not fix. He died not to long after. It made me horribly sad and put a huge reality check on life out here in Liberia. Life is not easy on animals, and there are no vets in the interior (one in Monrovia) and therefore, there was nothing I could do for him. Something that could have easily been fixed or operated on in the states was a death sentence here. I had PJ for about a month and a half….I can’t even imagine loosing Naw wei and I hope that never never happens to him. He’s my only best friend out here and source of laughter when he does goofy stuff.

The MOE (Ministry of Education) sent my school two new teachers this month. Aqwei teaches Chemistry and Francis Kollie teaches Biology. Great news, huh? Except that the MOE only gave them money for travel here and nothing for housing or food. These two are recent grads from the University of Liberia and (as of May 2012) are still not on government payroll. Nice, huh? So it’s been just a liiiittle frustrating as you can only imagine. Where will they sleep? How will we (the teachers who make small pay/are having trouble with our own pay) feed them? As a result of this trouble, the two teachers are not in Bong Mines very much and stay in Monrovia more. Which means our kids don’t get taught. This is supposed to be getting ‘fixed’ next school year so we’ll see what happens. Until then, I sometimes help out with Biology, but Chemistry is not my forte and can only offer support in that area…not teach. Once this pay issue gets fixed, I can see Francis Kollie being good counterpart material as he teaches the same topic and is not new to teaching, but new to BMCH School.

My Health Club is now on the radio! I got the idea when one of my  10th graders invited me to the station where he was volunteering to talk about HIV/AIDS. Afterward, I thought ‘yeah, maybe the listeners understood me and got the message, but this would be better understood by fellow Liberians…my Health Club should be doing this!’ and so I trouped off to find the radio station managers and ask permission and what was required. We secured Wednesdays at 8pm and I went off to inform the Health Club. I helped Victor and Sunday write a script about Malaria (since rainy season was coming) and we practiced it on the porch. We informed the school and friends to listen in and off the station we went. Victor and Sunday did a funny back and forth (Victor knew everything about Malaria and mosquitos and Sunday knew nothing and even thought that mosquitos were for eating) explaining (in Liberian English) what malaria is, how you can get malaria, what does it do to your body, and how can you treat/prevent it. After the skit, now that Sunday knew allll about malaria, he summarized the entire script in the most common dialect here, Kpelle. He’s a natural on the radio and I told him if he gets really good, I may email UNMIL Radio in Monrovia and appeal for them to let us be guests next year. UNMIL Radio is the most popular station here (along with BBC and Radio Monrovia). Victor and Sunday were nervous at first, but finished the program amazingly well and everyone was talking about the funny program from Radio Bong Mine 95.5 FM.

The Computer lab at school got a big makeover when I invited my friend, and RPCV, Thad to come out and help me ‘clean up’ the computers. Thad was doing response work in Kakata and now works there but not with Peace Corps anymore. Anyway, he’s so tech savvy is frightening and so I knew I needed to get him out here to help me set this future computer class stuff. We stayed in the computer lab for almost six hours (well into the night) with the VP and Principal working on the machines. We determined that 10 of the 12 desktops worked and by swapping some hard drives and other odds and ends, we got the 10 working well. We wiped Windows XP off of them and put fresh copies on to clean out any viruses and now, I’m just in the process of putting Microsoft Office on them.
After Thad left, and while I did set-up work on the computers, I had my new TA’s help me! I’ve got my VPI (Vice Principal for Instruction) Mr. Roland Cooper who is my teacher TA. Emmanuel, Benedict, and Esther are my 10th grade student TA’s. Mr. Cooper and Benedict have had some exposure to computers but Esther had never laid her hands on one before. So it was important that while I did boring and complicated set up work that they played around with WordPad (still installing Word) and become familiar with the keyboard. So they all set to typing up their own notes/lesson plans. Gasoline is expensive here … like $5.50 USD for one gallon. And therefore, I was happy that they were using the computers I was not working on to practice. I’m not sure how Administration will figure out the lab portion of this computer class. I’m a free instructor, but there is no way I’m paying for gasoline for the school’s generator.

Emmanuel and I often go to swim in the swimming hole. He learned how back in his village where there is water to swim. Most Liberians can’t. Christina is one of those Liberians. So we took the inner tubes and I taught her some basic stuff. After an hour or two she was ….sort of paddling around. :) I told her not to be frustrated; this skill is not mastered overnight by any means. During the same swimming trip a got bit by a nasty bug above my right eye. Ever had swelling on your face before? Well, it swells outward…because your skull prevents it from swelling inward. As a result I got to spend the next day looking a lot like the hunchback of Notre Dame (minus the hump). All the Liberians thought I was going to lose my eye and I couldn’t see out of it until 9pm. I’m fine now, and took some Benadryl which helped but made me supppper sleepy. And so I slept the entire day away. Time well spent if you ask me. :)

Once upon a time….TIME! (see, you’re catching on. :) Don’t understand? You need to read Feb 2012) Stephanie moved to Bong Mines on August 24th, 2011. She didn’t know anyone there and the house wasn’t finished yet. She sat with the neighbors, gossiping and conversing, trying to fit in. They asked her a lot about Naw wei, her puppy who had come with her. She joked that he was only pretty special to her and that she would need to throw him a birthday party next June on his first birthday. The neighbors roared with laughter! ‘Can you believe?’ They said. ‘Celebrate dog birthday?’. Stephanie laughed too, happy to have her new friends. Three months passed. A few random people stopped her on the road to inform her that ‘I’m going to Naw wei’s Birthday Party’. What started out as a joke is now common knowledge. Everyone seems to know Naw wei’s Birthday is coming up in June and they rightfully expect a party, plenty of rice, and good music. Stephanie has been obliged to follow through with what she though was a funny JOKE. *sigh* She is now preparing for the largest party of all time for a dog in Bong Mines and probably the history of Liberia. Naw wei has informed them he would like some chicken bones and a woman for his birthday. Stephanie’s neighbors have convinced her that the party needed Naw wei Birthday t-shirts. And so, t-shirts have been designed by Stephanie and are in the process of being printed by her friend Justin. Oh boy, this party will be crazy. Look out, June 16th, 2012. Naw wei’s Birthday Party is coming….and we expect over 200 people. The End….for now.

The BMCHS Health Club put on its first live drama performance for the student body. It was about equal rights for boys and girls when it comes to going to school and personal hygiene. In the first drama, there was two families ‘bad family’ and ‘good family’. Bad family believed that sending their girl child to school was a waste of money. She needs to do wash and cook anyway. Good family who sends both the girl and boy child to school and share the house work had to convince Bad Family that educating your girl child is very important too. They wrote these dramas all on their own and ran their own drama practices. I’m pretty proud of their commitment considering they are working as volunteers. The students at school found the dramas comedic and fun and the Administration (who was certain my idea of a student-run health club would fail) quickly asked when we would come and perform again. :P

I’ve decided I need (not want….NEED) a water gun. For two main reasons: 1. Wake up sleeping students in my class 2. Keep pesky children away from my house. If you are able to assist in this, I would be very grateful. Please note that I’d like the water gun to be pressure pumped, hold at least one liter of water, and shoot at least 20 feet (the pesky kids run fast). I promise to only use it on those who really deserve it and will never shoot them in the face.
Oh, and just an update on mailing stuff. All mail is pretty safe to send except expensive stuff. The only real risk is the rats finding the chocolates or snacks before me. So if mailing any foods, try and spare a Tupperware container to protect them. Besides, I have use for the containers. I don’t like sharing my food with the ants.

Naw wei is busy making babies and baby Naw wei’s all over the neighborhood. As a parent, I’m a little late with ‘the talk’ and find it awkward when I catch him in the act. The upshot is that because he has plenty girlfriends, he doesn’t ever hump people or objects (thank goodness). He’s also turning into the neighborhood ‘bossman’ as my neighbors say. The male dogs that used to kick his butt are now getting their butts kicked. Payback’s a …..female dog. :) And now he’s leader of his mini neighborhood pack of buddies. And like I told you before, I know allll about it because I do porch sittin’ since there is no TV watchin’.

I got Mail!!! From Ashy: thanks for the Valentine’s card and candy! From Lisa aka Shmee Shmah: thanks for the letter! From Kate and Karl in Japan: thanks for the card!! From Wendy: Thank you for the funny letter! From Taylor (the bestest sister ever): Thank you for the letters! From Mom and Dad: Thank you for the box with dog treats (Naw wei approves), body wash (I approve), and periodic tables (my happy 10th, 11th, and 12th graders HIGHLY approve). Respectively, responses have been sent out…they’ll get to you in due time.

Peace Corps Liberia and PSN (Peer Support Network) are all working hard to prepare for the much expected LR3. Last year, me, and 21 others came to Liberia as LR2 and now we’re getting ready for the nearly 38 new volunteers coming on June 8th. We’re excited to receive them and need to make sure everything is ready for them. LR3, if you’re reading this, we can’t wait to meet you! Hope you’re finished with your packing and ready to jump on the plane!

April post coming ASAP. :) Thanks for reading and poking me in the ribs to update when I get busy and forget. <3 

1 comment:

  1. It’s never too early to think about the Third Goal. Check out Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir. Oh! If you want a good laugh about what PC service was like in a Spanish-speaking country back in the 1970’s, read South of the Frontera: A Peace Corps Memoir.