Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Start of School

Sept 16
Some of you have asked me about helping to sponsor school
fees for students here. ($24) per year. This is very possible, so
please contact either myself via email or call my mom because she will
be the one who will probably transfer the money here. I hope to get
something arranged in the next few weeks, so let me know if you are

The first week of school has been interesting, as the students are
only slowly trickling in. There are only about 40 of 150 right now,
but I am praying that they will be there next year. Besides from me
not knowing what I would be teaching until yesterday, I really enjoy
the time at my school. The walk is beautiful and the girls are eager
and ready to learn. I am inspired by them every morning because they
come ready to sing, dance, and say prayers, despite all the problems
they are facing. I am teaching both English and Science, and helping
with the sports and computer classes, and hope to have some
basketball poles up by this weekend. I am excited for what the school
year brings because already the kids are having fun in my classes. I
took them outside to classify and pick plants and they really enjoyed
the activity because it got them outside of the classroom. They did
not even want me to leave when the period ended.

At the same time, I know I will face many challenges, with students
and family members getting ill, or not being able to attend because
they have to help make money for their families. I only hope that I
can inspire them to succeed and go on to senior secondary school and
university. Everything else here is well. It is getting very hot and
it drains a lot of energy from me, but it will be ok! Ginobli is
getting bigger by the day and enjoying the package that was sent to
him by Mrs. Rivera. He is a good guard dog and can growl and bark
pretty loud for being so small!

Sept 20th
So this is it, what I signed up for. Many more of the students game
this week and the school is slowly starting to fill up with smiling
faces. The girls are happy to have me as their teacher, but there is
still a good deal of work to be done. I have to speak very slowly and
pronounce every syllable and even them they still have fun making fun
of my American accent. Instead of Bunson Burner, they would say
Brunser Bruner and Chest Tube for Test Tube. Needless to say, I always
have a reason to smile and laugh. I have been given many duties
because I am the first American they have seen in a long time. THey
seem to think I am super woman and can do anything, but I have to slow
them down and remind them that I face the same challenges of getting
things done, with the limited resources available.

This is has been a wonderful experience so far, but I have to
constantly remind myself why I am here so that I can get over the
rough patches. We had a good weekend in Mckenny at a swimming pool for
a friend’s birthday and it was nice to see of our fellow Peace Corps
Volunteers. Moments like those and emails help me get through those
hurdles. Also if you are ever at the store and think of something you
couldn't live with out, send it for me! haha Or if you come across a
battery operated fan....its starting to get really hot here and
without electricity. I would appreciate anything, if you can! Well I
will update you at the end of the school week and let you know how
things are coming. Keep the emails and letters coming

Friday, September 3, 2010

Deep Breaths

I hope all is well back in Texas or wherever you happen to be in the
world. Things here are well...hot! For being rainy season, it has only
been raining a little in the morning and sometimes during the night.
Today it felt especially hot and there is really no where that is cool
enough to cool down, so I just try to drink a lot of cold water and
look forward to the ice cold bucket bath at the end of the day. It's
been a odd few days...we have kind of been in a waiting limbo for
multiple things. The rest of our furniture is somewhere on its way,
school still doesn't have an official start date, and a journalist
that was supposed to interview us for the global post still has not
showed up. School has not started because children are not coming up
with the 24 dollars needed to pay their school fees for the year.
Times are hard and it is really hitting home where and I why I am
here. I think I am having a rough day or I am exhausted, but then I
look around me and remember that I have a really tough job ahead of
me. Of course I am always welcome to ideas or suggestions for projects
or ways I can make the best of my service here, so keep the replies

There is another stark reality here and that is the situation of
healthcare. Death is not uncommon and there are almost daily funeral
processions from what probably could have been very preventable
viruses or infection. A young girl from my school who used to come by
our house to help us out lost her mother the other day due to an
infection in her foot. This was very hard to take in, but at the same
time know it is something I must learn to face and cope with in the
next few years because I know it will not be the first or last time
for this experience. I am going to try my hardest in my field of
education, but I also hope that I can help empower locals to teach
about simple healthcare steps that could prevent things like this from
happening. Then again it is all dependent on prayer and support from
this and the international community.

On a more positive note, our house is finally coming together and
Ginobili is growing up a little every day. He eats bowl after bowl of
food and gets into everything. This morning, I saw the biggest spider
yet, about 5 inches in diameter with big black googley eyes! When I
can, I will post pictures of our (now dead) friend. Other than that,
we are trying to rest a bit before school starts because that is when
it will be very busy. I am still waiting on the science syllabus and
then I can start making all my lesson plans. Again, I appreciate all
the emails that everyone is sending back to me! I hope to hear from
you all again very soon!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

week 6

Week 6
The most exciting news I have for everyone is….are you ready!? We got a baby, well a puppy that is! He is the cutest thing ever and we went with a good ol’ San Antonio name; Ginobli. A few weeks ago, we had told our host mama that we wanted to get a dog before we went to our permanent site; part for protection and part because we just wanted a dog. We didn’t expect to get him so soon, but our host mom found one for us a few days after we told her we wanted one. He is only a month old and now sleeps on a towel in our room. He’s a whopping 1.5 feet long, is tan with white paws and a white tip on his tail. He keeps us up at night by crying when he wants to play just like a really baby probably would….but he’s so adorable that the annoying whining is quickly forgotten. We tell everyone here he is our “Pikin” or child and they laugh when they see us carrying him in his towel to the training center. Animals are not coddled here like they are in the states, but it’s a cultural exchange experience all the way! We are definitely planning to bring him back to Texas with him when our service is over! Can you tell how attached I am already!? I will try to email pictures if I can ever get the attachments to load fast enough!
These past two weeks have been wonderfully exhausting, with the puppy, teaching summer school, and all the other new experiences that come with living in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I had very few expectations when I came in because I did not want to be overly disappointed, but instead I find myself pleasantly surprised. The summer school teaching is awesome and I am so proud of my students. It is so awesome to see my host brother and sister come home and actually WANT to study. They ask so many questions and make sure they are getting everything right. Most nights they are up until 1am studying or doing their homework. I gave one of my classes a writing assignment about what they wanted to be when they grew up and I could not believe some of the answers. My favorite was from a girl who said, “When I grow up I want to become the president because there are many suffering children and people in my country, who I want to help.” Another great one came from a boy who said “I want to become a doctor so I can help eradicate diseases and help people who are ill.” Mind you these kids are 13 years old, but set such high goals because they know they have to have to if they want their country to move forward in a positive direction. I cannot even begin to explain how much joy teaching these children gives me. I am also very excited to get to our permanent site because there will be lots of opportunities for secondary projects. I hope to start a service learning club so that students are self empowered to help in their community. We are only weeks from moving to our new home and about a week away from finding out where this will be.
I would like to share one more experience that really moved me. We went to the market to get a leash and make shift belt/collar for Ginobli. We were planning on making the hour trek back to our house so to not have to pay for a taxi. As we were walking someone approached us and asked us if we remembered him. We have met so many people that it was really hard to recall who he was. A couple of weeks ago we were in the mini super market and met this guy, (Victor,) who shared his own experience with a Peace Corps volunteer more than 30 years ago. The woman who taught him in primary school paid for his entire education and he could not emphasize how grateful he is to God for putting her in his life. She is an elderly woman and he wants to reconnect with her to thank her, so he had asked us for Our help. Of course, it would be almost impossible for us to do so, but we said he would try. Well he saw us again at the market and greeted us warmly. When he saw we were going to walk home in the rain, he offered to give us a ride home. His wife and beautiful kids were in the car and he told us that he tries to help Americans every chance he gets because of the difference this woman made in his life. This almost brought me to tears. It is an incredible thing to see such strong faith instilled from one person to another. I only hope that I can have the same impact on the people I come across here; as they have already had on me!

One last bit of exiting news, we found out where we will be living for two years! The name of the town (of 4000) is Magburoka and its in the northern part of the country. If you are looking at a map look for McKenny and it is a little south of there. Apparently our house has electricity, in indoor bathroom, and four rooms! We will also have access to internet fairly regularly so we are very excited. We are located on the Rokel River, not far from mountains, and only 2 hours from the capital and some sweet beaches. We will be learning a language called Temne and visiting our site and house this weekend, so look for updates next week!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Swit Salone

Time seems to move slow here, especially during our cultural learning sessions, which repeat points every 15 minutes or so. Language sessions do not occur daily either and because most people in Bo prefer to speak Mende and not the Krio we are leaning in class, it is difficult for us to fully engross ourselves in the language experience. The sessions I find most interesting are the immersion sessions. One day instead of having language class we went to the market to practice are Krio and bargaining skills with different vendors. I bought 2 yards of fabric for less than 2 dollars and was very close to buying a pair of high heels, (yes, in Africa….i cant reach the top of the chalk boards!) When I first saw the shoe sales man and he saw I was white, (Pumuy) He told me 50,000 Leone, (or about $12.50.) I got him down to 25,000 Leone, and tried the shoes on, only to find out that they were too small L Some vendors are unwilling to bargain with Americans because the assumption is that we have lots and lots of money. Our usual response is that we are volunteers and that we do not get paid…sometimes it works, sometimes they rip us off! The best deals occur when we travel with our host family and they help us bargain, (since they know what prices should be.)
I also really enjoy the sessions on post-conflict awareness. There are a lot of after affects in a post conflict country and I find it really important to know how to deal or even to understand why certain situations are the way they are. For example, the main modes of transportation here are motorcycles, (or in local terms Okadas.) They drive very dangerously, close to pedestrians, ignore most traffic laws and often do not even have legitimate licenses. Many of these drivers are former child soldiers who had no choice but to fight, (or die) in the war. As a result, their level of fear is fairly low and the reckless actions from the war now severely affect other parts of their lives.

On a much brighter note, food seems to always be ready when we get home from training and if we need anything our host brothers and sisters are always more than ready to help us. Our host family is so wonderful; since we told our host mama that we do not like spicy food or fish, she has not prepared any meals with either of the items! She buys us two loaves of bread every morning and we usually have PB and J for breakfast, and bread with laughing cow cheese for lunch, (if we see they are serving fish or spicy sauce for lunch.) We even came home one day and our Papa had brought us what he said was wine. We read the label and it was actually Brandy….very strong Brandy. We had to mix it with juice and are drinking it very slowly for those days that are high stress. Our host brothers, Kuba and Abdullay fill our large bath bucket daily from the well outside our house and it is usually enough for each of us to have not just one, but 2 nice cold baths a day!

This past weekend was quite eventful. On Saturday (July 3rd) we went for a beautiful hike up Kandie Mountain (which is really just a steep small hill.) It was nice because it was peaceful. Usually when we walk to our training site or to town we have to stop and greet people every few minutes. It sometimes takes a lot of energy to tell them our names, not to call us just “Pumuy” (white person,) ask “Aw di de,” (Hows the day,) “Aw yu slip,” (How’d you slee,”) and respond “A tel God tenki,” ( I thank God,) and then be on our way to our destination. This pattern usually happens 5 times on our 10 min walk to training, so just imagine an hour walk to town. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy they people here are so excited that we are here, but it was nice to have peace and quite, especially after a long week of training. It was great to see all the different kinds of rocks, butterflies, and listen to the birds and monkeys, (yes monkeys that probably become delicious tasting bush meat.) The heat was not so bothersome either because the higher we climbed, the more the wind blew on us. To top it off, we bought a water from the junction that goes into our town and it was ICE ICE ICE cold. Little things like cold water are always great improvements to any day. In the evening our fellow PCV Dane had a party at his house, or his family did. His host sister’s son turned one and there was quite a lot of drinking dancing and food. They slaughtered a whole goat for us and gave the American table a case of Star beer…AWESOME!

We came home and were able to check our email because our Papa has an internet modem. We also showed him how to use powerpoint because he wants to give presentations for the NGO he works for (HELP Sierra Leone.) Later that night, we missed a very heartbreaking game for Afric. Ghana lost in the last round of penalty kicks and now all the African teams are out of the world cup. Our host family, plus about 10 others, were watching it and we heard all the cheering and sadness from our room. We decided to relax and watch Finding Nemo instead because it was one of those days that we wanted to pretend we were at home in our atching a movie and eating popcorn. Though I have to say, popcorn is very cheap, easy to come by, and delicious here.

Fourth of July topped our weekend off as we killed or first, and probably only chicken in our time spent in Africa. We first held the chicken upside down for about 10 minutes to “put it to sleep,” then I put itshead over a stick of wood, put my knee on its wing, and held its body, as Carlos cut it neck off….though I think our chicken suffered a much longer death then he should have because the knife was not sharp enough. It was also pretty disgusting because the chicken keeps moving even after its dead and it had to hold it down until this movement stopped. We then had to put it in boiling water and pluck all the feathers up. Finally……..we pulled all the guts out, cut it up and gave it someone to cook…..LIKE I SAID NEVER AGAIN! Needless to say, we chose to eat the hotdogs, homemade tortillas, and bread …and did not like the taste of the chicken. I keep having flashbacks of the massacre in my head. The rest of the day was fun as we played games, eat and drank until we could not move, and sang our national anthem!

This week has been incredible. We started teaching in the summer school and the kids absolutely love every lesson. THey are so eager to learn and because they are so used to just copying straight from the bored without any movement. They are always raising their hands to answer and even to come to the board. Imagine how excited they were when we did a mad lib exercise. Teaching is why I am here and it is the most rewarding experience I could possibly ever imagine! I will defiantely give more updates on the rest of the summer school soon.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Week 4 Sirra Leone

I want to thank everyone for their personal responses to an email, those truly do keep me going and motivated everyday. I will try by best to respond individually, but it may take some time, so have some patience with me! A lot has happened in one week and I am so happy to be able to share these experiences with my closest friends and family. When I first came to Sierra Leone, I had a long list of things I thought I would miss from home, (you all the most,) but I have to say some of those things changed quite a bit. I thought I would always miss hot showers, but now I find my self counting down the hours until I can enjoy a nice cold bucket bath. If I am not sitting under the breezy Mango tree, or on the porch when it is raining outside, I am usually drenched in sweat...I thought Texas was hot. Just imagine x 2 with NO AC (something I do miss.) Except, it seems that local Sierra Leoneans do not sweat and when its 85 degrees outside they feel cold. Who would have thought?It is all part of the experience though, and feel blessed to have the opportunity to be here.

There are a lot of giant spiders here that I have had nightmares about...but apparently not even kids are scared of these bugs because my host sister killed one with a broom and picked it up with her hand to get rid of it, (while I was freaking out in the background.) Besides all the creepy crawlers though, I feel as though I am on the island because I am surrounded by palm tress and fresh fruit, which is awesome!! Our host family is wonderful and we are having fun just teaching them and learning from them. We introduced the kids to UNO and probably play it every night, and have learned how to cook and do laundry with out electronics! On the fourth of July we are having a celebration with all the trainees at our site. I volunteered to put some games together, but also signed up to kill and cook a chicken...Ill let you know how that goes!

On top of all the funny things that happened this week, I really felt a tremendous sense of purpose because we had the opportunity to teach at junior secondary school. I had so much motivation because the children were so eager to learn and I was, (to my surprise,) able to teach a successful English class. Many students did not have notebooks or even a desk to sit at. I know these are problems that are out of my control, but what I can control is being a role model, especially as a female, for students who have to work at the age of 7 and barely have enough to survive. I can control what I teach and give these children the chance to make a better life for the families. I cannot wait until this LONG SLOW training is over and I have my own classroom and set of students!

Again, I am so happy to share all of this with everyone, and will try to post some pictures as soon as Iget a USB. Please continue to write me back...I promise I am reading them and keeping everyone's words in my hearts. I love and miss you all so much and cannot wait to see you in a short few years!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Journey Ahead

When we applied to Peace Corps almost a year and a half ago, (I believe it was December 2008,) I never imagined I would be getting ready to travel to Sierra Leone and teach middle and high school youth for two years. I remember learning about Sierra Leone in my African Politics class and reading about the civil war and the devastating tragedies of the country along with the struggles it faces in rebuilding, especially within the education sector. I am excited that we will be the first volunteers to return to the country since the war started nearly 15 years ago, but also know that it will also be a challenge to start projects and community relationships from scratch. I have an overwhelming amount of emotions and ideas of what this experience will be like, but have decided that having no expectations is the best thing that we can do to prepare for our journey. I am at the point, with less than two months before we depart, in which all the work we put in to applying, volunteering, and waiting, has lead to a sense of accomplishment. (Trust me it has taken a great deal of patience and WAITING.) As I frantically think about everything we have to pack, put into storage, and the loans we must defer, I am calmed by the fact that on June 2, we will be departing on a journey that will change, test, and humble our lives forever, while also reaffirming our mission in life; to serve others.

To close here is a quote that helped bring us together and keesp me passionate about everything I do in life. -Sarah

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
-Father Pedro Arrupe

Monday, April 12, 2010

7 more weeks to go!

okay, I can't believe its almost time to leave. Still need to figure out all these student loan paperwork, and we haven't even started to think what we are going to pack. Just taking it one day at a time, I'm trying not to think how it's going to be because my thoughts are only going to prove me wrong once we step off the plane. Almost every weekend from now til june is already booked. Planning a huge send off party at the end of May, stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

We have been invited

Yesterday we received our official invite to join Peace Corps. We are leaving June 2, 2010 and heading for West Africa to Sierra Leone. We are excited and scared at the same time, because we don't know what challenges are ahead of us. We are willing to sacrifice everything to go and serve others who need our help. We are committed to serving our country proudly, and will do everything in our abilities to accomplish our goals. We jumped over the next hurdle, and we have plenty of others to jump. We have ton of paperwork to fill out and plenty to do before we leave. I can't believe it's already been a year and a half, where has the time gone. We look forward to new adventures and long lasting memories.