Late March 2012
Forgot to tell you about the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Reading Competition at the end of March. It was my school against all the other schools in Fuamah District. Contenders included Pentecostal, Golauunma, Dobli Island, Botoe Barclay, Nancy B. Doe, Gbandi Community, Lawana Public School, and Bong Mine Central High School. Of course we dominated and won by a landslide. :) Our elementary teachers attended a reading enhancement workshop in December to help the teachers teach the students to read and that letters have their own sounds. Along with bragging rights, we also took the top prize: a big ol’ clock for the school (which plays random Beethoven songs on the hour) and a chance to compete in Gbarnga the county capital in May! Go BMCHS! Honestly, I just hope we beat Salala. The PCVs there have been too awesome and need some friendly competition from Bong Mines to show them up a little. :P Look out, Salala! We coming-o!
April needs to begin with a few laughs, after all the first day in April is April Fools. I monopolized on that day by texting my Country Director and telling him the Sande (traditional bush school for women) allowed me to join them and I asked him if he thought our PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) would mind that I had some scarification done. I told him it didn’t really hurt much. He actually believed me and I was pretty impressed. The Poro (traditional school for men) and Sande don’t allow outsiders in. I’m not knowledgeable on this topic in the least.
Also on the funny note, some of you may have noticed my photo albums on facebook include a few funny clips of my student’s writing. Some of my favorite misspelling and other mistakes include these: “ Malaria is cause by men”, “Menstruation is an infection”, and Anjulie Shea’s student wrote “Weed in acid” for types of simple machines….I’m sure she meant wheel and axle. All of these make grading papers so much more fun. My friend Dani also sent me a funny text saying that she was near some small children in her town and she knew they were taking about toilet paper because they said ‘The white people use it to wipe poo poo of their butts’. I found this hysterical and told my mom who instead of laughing, paused and then asked “What do Liberians use it for?” To which I calmly replied “To wipe the rust from the lip of our soda bottles of course”. Aaaaand that summarizes up life here pretty well.
I took a trip up into Lofa to visit Dani and Anjulie (because I miss them and love them…they’re read this someday). Their site is called Salayea (Sa-la-yay) as opposed to Charlene and Kristin’s site Salala (which we make fun and call it Sa-la-lame! They tolerate this abuse). While in Lofa I was FORCED to eat toupurgee (the only Liberian soup I do not like because it’s bitter and has too much soda) and wasn’t feeling too hot before that and ended up with runny stomach (aka diarrhea). When I get home I will have a gastro intestinal tract of STEEL. :) We visited the school and checked out the trees and mountains. You know your site saw heavy war damage if there are bullet hole remains in the trees at your site. We made a day trip to Zorzor to shop as well. Zorzor has a Total gas station!!!!! Let me explain. Total is a gas company here in Liberia and has, until recently, only been in Monrovia. Total is like….mini America. They sell quality powdered milk (still not quite as good as back home), REAL chocolate, soy milk, crackers, all kinds of Pringles, American brand shampoo, international beers, and Lebanese bread. I need one in Bong Mines. So there are now mini america’s popping up all over Liberia so I can buy butterfingers without going to Monrovia (they’re still expensive though). They have Total in Zorzor, Ganta, Kakata and I think Zwedru may have one. Also in Zorzor we bought some lapas and local paintings (which I need more of so I can decorate African style when I go home).
Finished reading House On Sugar Beach! And I highly recommend it. It’s best to read after you’ve been in country for three or four months so you know the locations and understand the lingo better. I also HIGHLY recommend Blue Clay People as well. Loved that book about Liberia. The Darling was okay, great story, but I didn’t like the main character very much.
For my 25th Birthday: I slept, read, sat on the beach with my dog, and ate chocolate cake. It was stressful. :) I also got to enjoy ice cubes, carpet, hot showers, and air conditioning for two nights! I was planning to reach Robertsport to surf, but I wanted my board and dog to come along and my ride fell through. It worked out though because I got some care packages and care letters from my friends and family. HUGE thank you to my Auntie Barb and Uncle Tiny for the chex mix snack box and goldfish crackers. You knew exactly what I needed. It was also a happy birthday to my dad who shares the same birthday with me. He can tell me I’m old all he wants…but he’s older!
A week later I packed up my four best twelfth graders to take them down to a Career Expo in Monrovia. I thought editing and writing MY resume was a pain….imagine teaching it to four Liberians who’ve never done one before. BUT we finished, printed them, found our professional dress, and practiced our interview skills and headed to City Hall. At city hall they got really great workshops on Entrepreneurship, Interview Tips, and How to act on the job and keep your resume (they all say CV here) updated. Then there was an event hall packed with employers looking for new workers. They got to drop their resumes and find out about different opportunities for jobs that they never would have otherwise. One of them actually got hired from this event. I was really proud of them and I have a better idea what companies are hiring. Because you tell your students ‘go to school for a better future’ but we never tell them what they should focus on because we don’t know what Liberia’s looking for. What jobs are vacant? What subjects are key to Liberia’s growth? How can I prepare my student for that type of job/career path?
I also stopped by to see the NEW Doe Palace Training Center in Kakata. Man…. It’s nice. There is an all new dorm building complete with electricity, air conditioning, refrigerator, hot showers, couches and wifi. LR-3 (the next group of PCVs) are SPOILED. Doe Palace also has an auditorium hall for lectures/movies (I vote the ladder), a main building for offices and cafeteria (with amazing cooks and food!). Palaver huts coming soon. So I enjoyed the A/C and made some COLD powdered milk and ate it with M&M’s from the Kakata Total gas station, yum! The resident dog of Doe Palace (named Peace Corps) had puppies not too long before (maybe April 16th) and so I got to see the cute 6 balls of fluff that are currently (on June 16th) running all over the grounds and making friends with the new LR-3 trainees.
I returned to site to give period exams to find out that one of the teachers charged $20 (Liberian dollars) for an exam that he didn’t even print…he wrote it on the board. Test fees are $15 Liberian dollars and that cost goes to cover the expense of printing (printing in Kakata because all the photocopy machines in my site have been broken for over 8 months now) TIA. The test fee applies to each subject and was agreed upon by the PTA. Anyway, my best friend and student Emmanuel refused to pay the 20 dollars and gave him 15. The rest of the class paid the 20 dollars and didn’t argue at all. Liberian students are scared. Scared the teacher my do something to affect their grade if they refuse. They believe they do not have any rights in the school. This….made me very vexed. And so I whipped up a stellar motivational speech with lots of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr quotes and stomped back into their class and empowered them to make a stand against these injustices! I asked them if they were going to allow their children to be used by the school system when they became parents. They were all quite shocked. I think they were surprised to find a teacher who cared so much. I also took the information to the Vice Principal and he was happy I did. I know the teachers have a hard time with pay business, but that doesn’t mean they can make the students (who are already very poor) suffer even more.
Chichipoole means gossip here. And lots of that was happening the night the chicken stealing business went down. Here’s what happened. I have two roosters. McNugget and Tater Tot (or Mr. White and Mr. Brown to my neighbors). Every night they come home at dusk and walk into the shop from the front porch which I leave open for them. They settle atop their respectable chicken baskets or sometimes share one and cuddle. I then lock the door for the night. Day 1: McNugget comes home on time. Tater Tot doesn’t show up. I lock McNugget inside and tell myself Tater Tot will come tomorrow. Day 2: McNugget comes home at night. Tater Tot finally shows up dragging a thick rope tied to his foot. He goes inside the shop and I think someone has just tried to rouge my chicken. I cut the rope off him. Day 3: McNugget comes home at night. Tater Tot is late. My neighbor tells me that she thought she saw him a few houses down in a different chicken basket. I investigate. It’s true! I find Tater Tot and take him. The woman there says it’s the man in the house’s chicken. I tell her she’s wrong. I put Tater Tot in the shop. The man shows up asking for his chicken. His story: They woman in the house there *point* sold it to me two nights ago. Translation: That woman stole my chicken and then sold it to this fool who believed her when she said it was hers. Result: I kept my chicken, he got his money back, the woman was rather ashamed, and my neighbors laughed over much Chichipoole.