Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Let's finish.

This is weird. Blogging is one of those things I'm supposed to want to do--but since I've gotten back to the states I just haven't wanted to write the final one. Hmm. Anyway, let's do one last update about my feelings now. I do love feelings.

1) America goes really fast. Like, really really fast. I'm amazed at how scheduled everything is. There are some parts of me that got really excited about this because I have the organized-teacher brain. On the other hand, it also made me really frustrated. We have to be places on time? There are time limits for things? People really care about that? Oops. Where's the time to sit and reflect? Oh yeah, we waste that.

2) I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. I missed it so much in Africa but now when I go back I keep thinking, "We need all this stuff? Do we really? Why would I want that? Why would I even think about spending that much money on that thing?" I also missed the organization of Walmart, but since they've done remodeling, it just doesn't feel like home anymore.

3) I miss my kids. I miss their smiling faces.

4) People are really important. Africa taught me this in a big way. It amazes me that I've so easily reverted to American ways in regards to people. In Uganda, people talk for hours and I enjoyed those conversations. Here, I've started getting annoyed when conversations last over an hour. Actually, that's not completely true, but it's more true than I would like for it to be. I need to be African when it comes to people.

5) There are more bugs in America than in Uganda. And I just got my first sunburn of the summer--here. Yikes.

6) I miss the simplicity and lack of distractions. At the same time, I've really enjoyed having the ability to log into facebook multiple times a day just because I can.

7) Narcissism is a disease.

8) I went to Uganda thinking that God would show me more about a missional calling, or at least more about what he was going to do with my life. Nope. I know less now than I did before. God's funny that way.

9) How is my life changed? I'm not even sure that I know. I'm different than I was, I can feel it, but I really can't put it into words. At the same time, I'm also more like my old self than I would like to be. Does that make sense?

10) I've decided that I want to adopt. Children, that is. And some dogs. And maybe a husband--but I don't think you adopt those.

11) I feel like America puts everything into boxes and categories, including things that don't fit into boxes and categories. They even do it to God, which blows my mind. Africans don't do that because they realize that God is a big guy. You won't meet very many just-on-Sunday Christians there. Yes, many of them don't have their doctrine right, but they see God as someone who should be revered where many American Christians see themselves as the one who should be revered.

12) I think that I won't stop being homesick until I'm truly home.


14) The "muzungu" feeling hasn't worn off yet. I still feel like people are staring at me like they did in Uganda and they just don't say "muzungu". I realize that this isn't true (or maybe it is and I'm just more gorgeous than I thought) but I'm still incredibly self-conscious. For the first week I was back, I also had a fear of being in crowds. It was weird.

15) It's strange not to have to work for things. Getting things in America is easier than it should be, which is why we have a lot of spoiled people. I wasn't as annoyed with this until I came back and watched others whining about the most mundane things and being overly critical about things that don't really matter.

That's about all I can think of for now. Off to new adventures!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dude, I'm Tired.

Last day in Uganda: Lunch with Boyetts. Successfully/accidentally locked myself in bathroom. Watched Madagascar. Packed. Ate a good meal. Jumped in a cab with Rachael, Josh, and a strange driver man.

Entebbe Airport: Huge long line. One hour delay. Loopy Rachael. Cranky Laura. Power outages. Very Africa.

Entebbe Flight: Watched Remember Me, got depressed, napped, watched Pocahontas, got considerably happier.

Amsterdam Airport: Followed Josh around. Bad move. More long lines. Rachael giggling uncontrollably.

Amsterdam Flight: Sat next to Rachael. Colored some pictures. Stared at an Ethiopian baby with HUUGE eyes. More uncontrollable laughter. I think at this point, ALL sense was gone...


Detroit Flight: Talked with a delightful man about his further delightful family. Kept making accidental references to Africa. Oops.

Atlanta Airport: Fought crowds to the baggage claim, where Grace was already leaning against a piece of my luggage.

With Grace: Listened to lots of loud music. Demanded to stop by Dairy Queen, where I finally got a blizzard. Had real salad for dinner. Wandered aimlessly around Target, amazed by its aroma. And now she's giving me more cooking lessons.

I plan on doing one more wrap up/this is what I learned blog, but considering the amount of sleep I'm running on, this will have to come in a week or so. America, however, is so far so good.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bouncing on the Nile like Baby Moses

First order of business: I have not been bombed. I am, in fact, alive and uninjured. However, I am also in Kampala, the city where the bombs are. But we'll talk about this more later.

Let's go back to Sunday for a moment. I was kind of depressed, which is why that blog was short, but Sunday was definitely interesting. We went to the 7-hour-long ABIDE graduation, which was SEVEN HOURS LONG. Maybe you understand the message I'm trying to convey here. The great thing is--well, let's back up a second. On Saturday night, Rachael and I hung out with "mom and dad" in their room just for fun. We found a long-dead mouse in a computer bag and played dress-up with Kathy's closet. I decided that, just for kicks and giggles, I would wear Kathy's traditional Ugandan dress to the ceremony the next day. Fast forward back to that long ceremony I was just talking about. I was dressed in a long wrap skirt, poofy dress top, and large scarf/wrap thingy. I looked like a giant pink and gold cupcake. All the Americans laughed at me, but when we arrived at the ceremony, all my Ugandan friends gave me hugs and said, "Rora! You look SMART!" which means, "You are one smokin lady in that dress mmm-mmm!" The bigger the better here I suppose. Unfortunately it was VERY hot in that outfit and ants were crawling all up in my clothes. But in that time I read a book, wrote a card, and jounaled a lot. Seven hours. Seven.

Then I managed to break a poor Ugandan boy's heart. Rambo from Bible Baptist, who liked walking me home from church each Sunday, came to the house that evening wanting my picture. Then he didn't want to leave. It was really sad. He kept saying "I like you, I like you" and I kept saying "There are many nice girls in Uganda, many...I will pray you find one..." He was really sweet, but.....anyway....After he finally left I got a massive headache and missed the final World Cup game and was in an absolute haze as everyone was leaving and saying goodbye at 12:30 am.

Monday was really sad. Rachael and I actually had to say goodbye to Daddy Dale and Mama Kathy and there were some tears. I will dearly miss that family, they've meant more to me this summer than they know. We left with the ABIDE leaders for a long trip to Kampala around 11. This was after we heard about the bombs and watched some terrible footage on the news. Comforting, right? On the way up, some zebras crossed the road. First zebras I'd seen in Africa. We arrived at Red Chili guest house around seven, exhausted and covered in dust (gotta love dry season). Rachael and I went to the guest house's restaurant and waited an hour and a half for sandwiches. And we were extremely uncomfortable because there were so many white people in there--we felt really out of place and small. I'm turning into an African.

The next morning we woke up bright and early (I was slightly brighter and earlier than Rachael) to go white water rafting on the Nile. We hopped on the rafting company's bus, which came to pick us up at the guest house, and went on an hour and half ride to Jinja, the source of the Nile. Once again, we were surrounded by white people and I felt really out of place. The boys were bound and determined to do the "Wild" course, which was hilarious because we had three Ugandan guys with us who were not very accustomed to water. Oh my. We also had Laura Love, who is not in any way/shape/form a thrill seeker. Then we had Big J, our guide, who was not very sympathetic to anyone. On the first class 5 rapid we hit--yeah, that's the biggest class you can raft on short of death--one of our Ugandan guys and I went under. I was terrified out of my MIND. When both of us came up, he was laughing and I couldn't speak, which is funny because I'm the certified lifeguard and he's not a swimmer. On the second class five--the biggest rapid we hit--I opted to go on the safety boat because it wasn't supposed to tip. Nope, we went under. My thought right beforehand was "I would rather get a shot than do this"--and I hate shots. I have never been so scared....ever. I think I swallowed about a gallon of the Nile while trying to get air. When we went to lunch right after that, one of our Ugandan guys claimed that he had a headache. He found some guys to take him back to the bus and I tagged along (a chicken move, I know, but my heart was still pounding for a good thirty minutes after the last tip). Therefore, I spent the rest of the day with some Ugandans, had some really good conversation, and wasn't scared at all--except when we got chased by Ankole cows and I stepped knee deep in mud. I also tried my first jackfruit, which tasted like candy. When our rafting group finally got back, we found out that they hadn't tipped again all afternoon. Great.

That night Rachael had a great experience. I tease that she has the bladder the size of a walnut, and on the way back to Kampala she was desperate. The bus driver pulled over to the side of the road so people could "su-su" and she discovered that the Ugandan version of a rest stop equals squatting on the side of the road, no bushes, with cars whizzing by. Thank goodness I brought a skirt out to give her a bit of protection.

Today we left Red Chili and went to Matoke Inn, which is the AIM missions guest house. It feels a lot like a grandma's house and it's just nice to be able to sit and reflect. There were indeed three or four bombings in Kampala on Sunday and Monday, and we're just praying that they don't target the airport--that would be problematic. I'm planning on just staying in this house, so I'm not really worried about being involved in any violence while I'm here

Tomorrow we step on the plane, which I'm actually getting really sad about. I'm a little bit scared to go back to America because I've just started getting used to things here.

On the other hand, my promised bowls of cereal DO sound pretty nice.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Osibe gye, Mbarara

Let's keep this short and sweet because it's kind of sad. Today is my last day in Mbarara. On Thursday I said goodbye to all the kids at Bible Baptist and on Friday I said goodbye to my kids at Nkokonjeru. Yesterday I said goodbye to the marketplace (thank heavens) and today I said goodbye to the GETS girls. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to my family here--Daddy Dale and Mama Kathy and my little brothers--and I'm not sure how I'll keep it together then. Then again, I'll also say goodbye to all our rodents.
Tomorrow we're heading to Kampala (the capital city). On Tuesday we'll be rafting the Nile. Then we'll step onto the plane on Thursday.
At least I'll still have Rachael.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's Almost Time

It's kind of hard to believe that there are only eight days left for me in Uganda. On July 15th, I will be stepping on a plane and heading back to good old America. How do I feel about this? I'm not completely sure. Right now, I'm a little sad, but also seeing that it really is time to wrap things up. In fact, I've seen a few signs that tell me "it's time":

1) I've run out of interesting book to read to the kids at Nkokunjeru. A few more weeks there and they would be bored with me.

2) Joel and Jill Skinner left last weekend. That was just plain sad, because they are really fun people and it's just not the same without them here.

3) We slaughtered one of our pigs for Joel and Jill's going away feast. It's quieter without him.

4) The Ugandan family that lives on our compound just got a rooster that crows at 6:30 in the morning.

5) We found another rat in the kitchen.

6) I've been about pushed to my limit with "'Ay muzungu!" You'd think I'd be hardened to this, but I haven't. Because I'm a woman, whenever I hear a man say it I just feel like a piece of meat. Muzungu itself is related to a word meaning "wanderer" or "one who walks around in circles". I understand, though, that this is a common problem for missionaries in lots of other countries.

7) I have almost developed an addiction to coffee---not good.

8) The two discipleship programs Rachael and Josh have been working with are ending this week.

9) I'm running out of clothes. I've thrown out two or three shirts already and need to get rid of some others....

10) I finished up piano lessons today.

11) I'm having serious Disney withdrawals and there are roughly 80 notifications on facebook that have accrued over the last week that I can't look at.

So even though it's sad, I think this week is definitely feeling like a close. It's also been a pretty entertaining time. Really good things that have happened over the last week:

  • Rachael, Emily, and I have had some good quality time with our "family", the Hollenbecks. Dale said that I would be a really fun daughter (then went on to make fun of how I still like Disney princesses), has spent nights up talking with us, and said that he was really glad we were at his house. Micah, the oldest and hardest son to crack, has started actually taking interest/concern in us. Zach actually asked me to do homeschooling with him because he thought I was fun. 
  • I beat Micah at Settlers of Catan. 
  • I've had quite a few laughs at school. On Monday at Nkokunjeru, I gave the kids an assignment to write about their family, favorite things, and future dreams. One kid said "My favorite thing is teacher Laura and for me my future dream is to be a teacher like teacher Laura." Other kids talked about how much they liked mangoes and had future goals of going to America. On Tuesday, I was looking at Religious Education exams at Bible Baptist, and one kid wrote: "Q: What are commandments God has given us? A: Do not lie, do not bet, do not cut off your firiends head." Then a teacher broke out stickers in class and all the kids when CRAZY. Today, I read Aesop's Fables to the kids at Nkokunjeru and asked them to try to figure out the morals. I had answers such as "Don't hide your axe in the bush." and "Do not take off your jacket."
  • In the middle of church at Bible Baptist last Sunday they put a very familiar American song into the sound system. It was a bluegrass version of "I'll Fly Away"--banjo, twang, and all. It was hilarious. We had the entire church singing along--"I'll fry away, oh glory, I'll fry away...." One thing I LOVE about Bible Baptist services, though, is when the kids go up front and sing songs in Runyankole. It's really beautiful. 
  • I've spent a lot of time at the Boyetts' house over the last few weeks. This means internet, banana bread, coffee, and movies...oh yeah, and the missionaries. Actually, I've really really enjoyed getting to finally spend time with Mike and Susan. Mike is really intelligent (and an avid coffee drinker like my father) and Susan is one of the sweetest people I've ever met.
It's been a sweet, precious time. I thought the majority of my learning here would be about the culture, but I've found that my biggest lessons have come from the missionaries themselves. Missionary life here is a struggle in different ways than I thought it would be. It's the little things--being called muzungu, having people constantly in and out of their houses, not being able to go for Sunday drives, not having good movies to watch--that are the real struggle. It's day-to-day perseverance in a place where you are cut off from your native culture. It's a lot more than that, too, but this blog is long enough already. 

So next Friday, I plan on waving goodbye to matooke and posho and saying hello to Cap'n Crunch and brownies. Mmm mmm good.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I feel that the rat issue should be closed before any other subject is addressed: as of the day after my last blog, Rodnina was found in the laundry room, tailless and mysteriously headless. Where the head went, we are not sure, but at least one of our rats is officially dead and GONE.

Now I can talk about the last few days, which I spent in Rwanda. Rachael, Josh (the third intern here from Covenant), Jason (an intern who is here with AIM), and I decided to go to Rwanda with Dale for three days this week as a retreat/learning experience/why not kind of trip. It was a lovely six hour drive with our "chauffeur", Ben the Ugandan/Rwandan. I found that the farther south you go from Mbarara, the more hills appear. These hills are AMAZING. They are huge, rolling hills covered in tufts of green. By the time we reached the region of Kabale, I was just blown away, because not only had the hills gotten bigger, they were also cultivated with patches of fields all the way to the tip-top. I can't imagine what the calf muscles on those farmers look like.

Rwanda was even more beautiful, as it is actually called "The land of a thousand hills". It took us a while to get through the border, but when we did we immediately noticed a difference. Rwanda is a lot more organized than Uganda and the people there don't hassle you nearly as much. Plastic bags are not allowed there (they will actually take them away from you if you try to bring them into the country) so it's cleaner and smells better (no burning plastic trash). The roads are paved for the most part and the dirt roads are far smoother than the ones in Uganda. We stayed in Kigali, the capital city, and it was far cleaner than Mbarara. The boda drivers (as in motorcycle taxis, and they are called "motos" there) actually have helmets and even have helmets for the passengers, which you definitely don't find in Mbarara. The people even looked different, which I was not expecting. I came to the conclusions that Ugandans are just really hardcore, which is why they are left safe. Later I decided that this isn't really true at all.

We met some very nice missionaries, Fiona and Chris Turrely (I probably didn't spell that right, and I officially apologize), who gave us dinner and got us settled into a guest house. Then we got our first taste of the effects of the genocide as we watched a film called As We Forgive, which addressed how hard it is for the victims of the Rwandan genocide to forgive the perpetrators.

The next day we were hit full force by the reality of the genocide at the Kigali Memorial Center. In the beginning part of our tour, we walked through several memorial gardens, passed a wall of names, and walked around several mass graves--giant slabs of concrete that covered bodies beneath. Inside, we went through the stages of the genocide. Now I'll give you a history lesson: There had always been a rift between the two main tribes in Rwanda, the Hutus and the Tutsis. When colonization hit, the Europeans used this rift to their advantage, made connections with the Tutsi ruling class, and issued identification cards. After they left in the 1960's, the Hutu power took over and many of the Tutsis fled the country. There were several sporadic killings of Tutsis by Hutus until tension escalated in 1994, when the planned genocide began. From April to July, over a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus (which is a lot considering that there are were only eight or nine million in the population to begin with) were slaughtered by a trained Hutu army. Finally, the killers were taken down by the Rwandan Patriotic Force; some were arrested and others fled to neighboring countries. Cleaning operations seem to have been successful, but giving grief counseling to an entire nation of people who lost family members has been a very difficult task.

The hardest part of the memorial was realizing that these were real people. There was an exhibit with actual clothes, photos, and bones of people who had been killed. There were testimonies of survivors remembering those who had died. The last exhibit showed photos of children who had been killed. Underneath each picture there were plaques about the children--their favorite food, favorite game, personality traits, and the way they had been killed (machete in the head, thrown into a latrine, smashed into the wall, etc). With each picture, I was seeing faces of the children in my classes here in Mbarara and I was heartbroken. Afterwards we went to a church memorial. The priest of this church had hidden 5,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus inside and then run to the Hutu army, who came back and murdered everyone inside. The clothes of the victims were laid out on the pews, there were still some bloodstains on the wall, and outside were open mass graves that you could walk down into. By the time we were finished, I felt about twenty pounds heavier.

Lunch was an extreme contrast. We went to the first mall that I have seen since being in Africa, and I had my first frappuccino in a month and a half. There was even a huge supermarket there that looked like Walmart and had Backstreet Boys music playing over the intercom. Talk about cultural confusion. I heard a Casting Crowns song playing somewhere else and I kept thinking "We're still in Africa, right...?"
Since the genocide, there has been a huge increase in security, so walking around the city was actually really nice and hassle-free. The boys made sure that we went to dinner at a restaurant with a TV so that we could see the Spain vs. Portugal game *rolls eyes*.

On the way home the next day, we ran out of gas, waited for about half an hour for Ben to go to someone's house on a boda to see if they had some diesel fuel, and had a really interesting experience in someone's backyard pit latrine--but hey, this is Africa. I also had the strangest "I'm home" feeling when we reached Mbarara again.

So, my impression of Rwanda: clean, organized, and breathtakingly beautiful. Also broken and painted with sadness. Rachael and I realized that nearly everyone there who was our age or older had probably been drastically affected by the genocide, having lost someone, been related to a killer, or been betrayed by a neighbor. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in daily, palpable fear of someone coming after my family with a machete. I also can't imagine having just one member of my family brutally murdered, much less my entire immediate family. It makes me think about how precious life actually is.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Really Long Blog About Rats and Schoolchildren

I have two topics up for discussion today: critters and school. You would think these would be two different categories, but they definitely intertwine. Well, maybe not that much.

Let's begin with critters that have been in our home (and by "our home", I mean the Hollenbeck's house that me, Rachael, and Emily have now taken over). In our living room, we have some wicker furniture that isn't exactly new. After being here for a few weeks, Rachael noticed that bites were beginning to cover her arms where she had laid them on the furniture. And these weren't pretty, round mosquito bites. These were lumpy, nasty looking bites. Kathy thought that there may be some bugs in the furniture, so we decided to varnish it in hopes that the creatures would die. A few days after they were varnished, when we finally thought they were gone for good, Kathy started getting bitten. So yesterday we decided to take more action. Kathy and the boys sprayed about two cans of Doom all over the furniture. When they shook it out, literally hundreds of little black bugs fell out all over the floor. Rachael was only *slightly* grossed out.

Other than that, there aren't that many bugs here. Unfortunately, we still have rats, and yes, I meant that in plural. We're not sure where the rats are hiding, which means they're really good at it. Yesterday Kathy pulled all the innards out of the oven and found nothing but rat poo when she was hoping to find and destroy a nest. Today there was a run-in with Rodney in which Micah ended cutting the rat's tail off with the end of a broomstick, but he didn't actually kill Rodney (whom we might actually need to rename Rodnina). And as a tangent from rats in the house, I found a baby rat--little, tiny, pink baby rat--crawling across the dirt floor of one of my classrooms today. I don't know how it got there as there was no nest. I picked it up (really grossed Emily out) and threw it out, but it still didn't die! I'm becoming more and more amazed (and slightly disgusted) at the durability of these creatures.

Now that we're on the topic of school--kind of, I invite you to walk in my shoes for a moment. This week I've tried to do a lot more reflection and observation on the schools I'm working in. Something I've truly learned while being here is to observe carefully before passing judgment on certain practices, and that is what I'm trying to do in class rather than simply saying "Oh, this is really different, it must be bad". So close your eyes--well, don't do that, then you won't get anything out of this experience--and pretend that you have really curly hair, are dressed in a skirt, and are walking towards a concrete building that I fondly know as Nkokunjeru Primary School.

I look towards the white (and dirty) walls of the P5 classroom. The white iron-bar door is open, and I can see the children's faces through the barred windows of the classroom. I hear them whisper excitedly--"Teacha Rora, she's coming, Teacha..." I enter the classroom to look over about forty mischievously smiling faces. The teacher's desk is empty--I wonder where Joy is this time. Out for the whole day? Just the period? Will I have the entire hour and twenty minutes to myself? I say "Good morning, class." They reply "Good morning, teacha." "How are you?" "We are alright, thank you teacha." They look tired this morning, so I make them do a few stretches before sitting down. I pull out my book--today we are reading The Gruffalo. I have one of them read the title and ask if they have ever heard of this creature. They say no in unison. The kid on the front left row has a gaping hole in his crimson sweater, part of the school uniform. Teacher Joy shows up unexpectedly and sits in the teacher's desk as I begin. I read through the rhymes of the story (they are being exceptionally quiet today--is it because loud-mouthed Evas is gone or because their actual teacher is sitting in the classroom?) and stop at the end of every page to ask questions and see if they are keeping up. They answer the questions "yes" or "no" in unison. They are doing well today--is it because the teacher is here, the story is simple, or the plot of the story in involves a trick that makes it closer to their culture? By the time I finish with the story, the teacher needs to go over her own lesson and I don't have time to give them the assignment I was excited about, and the only creative assignment they might have for the whole year. Bummer. The newspaper-covered notebooks will have to be filled with more copied lessons, but at least today was easy. On other days I had the whole class to myself and it was hard. Every time I turned my back, kids changed seats and swapped notebooks. When they gave me the answers to their comprehension questions, all the answers were exactly the same. They whispered things about me in Runyankole and I heard the word "muzungu" passed around, even though they know my name. Those days are harder.

Now let me take you to my experience in a classroom at the Bible Baptist school--one that is actually very common in schools here. The P2 class was taking their midterm math exams today, as was the rest of the school. Teacher Cissy--who is actually a very nice lady--picked up her long switch. She began walking around the classroom looking at every test. She would pick through each one, find a fault, accuse the student loudly of something, either being lazy or copying or not thinking about what they were doing, and then switch them hard on the rear a few times. One little boy she grabbed by the arm and kept shouting, "What does it mean to 'take away'?? Don't you know it??" She switched him until tears came out of his eyes and he was too stunned to actually answer the question.

Let's examine these situations a little bit. Actually, I'll just go over things in the schools that I'm trying to weigh and judge:
  • Teachers either not coming to class, coming to class really late, or leaving a class alone. This would be a huge fault on the teacher in America, but these kids are a lot more indepenent than American kids. A lot of times, a teacher has to spend half the lesson copying large amounts of text onto the chalkboard and the rest of the lesson is spent letting the students copy the text in their notebooks and then reading the text over and over and over and over. Sometimes the teacher will just leave when there's nothing for her to do. Teacher Joy is very hit and miss, even though she's a really nice lady.
  • Schools having very few resources. American schools often complain about not having enough money for this or that, which can be legitimate, but these schools manage to scrape by with so little. They have blackboards (which can just be boards painted black), chalk, chunks of foam for erasers, a few old homemade posters here and there, desks, and concrete walls. The kids bring their own supplies which are a pen, ruler, compass, and really cheap notebooks. They have about one school uniform each. Actual schoolbooks are a rarity. AND YET--would money actually make much of a difference in this situation? I don't know. The kids at Bible Baptist are better educated, but have less books than the kids at Nkokunjeru. I actually think this has to do with smaller class size and having teachers that care more about them.
  • Creativity. Students never receive assignments that challenge them to think creatively. There are no art classes or creative writing projects. They learn the facts, the culture, the essentials. But how can they incorporate creative assignments when it takes so long--an hour and twenty minutes per class period per day, actually--for them to learn the necessary facts? Lessons are made up of repitition and memorization because the kids can't take books home, and even if they could, I doubt the lessons would change. Yet they still receive 60s and 70s on their exams.
  • Discipline. This is the biggest issue that I wrestle with because it has two sides. The traditional method of discipline in school in the past has been beating. This was recently banned, but it's still widely practiced even in the government schools. It's said that in Uganda if you don't beat a child, he won't turn out well, and in some ways I do have to agree with that. In the classes I've been in, the students have worked much more efficiently when a stick was out and would become lazy when it wasn't. But I'm really uncomfortable with tears and screaming in the classroom. Kids here are really tough, but I think that beating them makes them a lot more shy and soft spoken and doesn't train future leaders. I've been wracking my brain, but I've had the hardest time trying to come up with a better way of doing it. You can't have parent-teacher conferences. The principal is not going to deal with disobedient kids. Detention won't work because school doesn't get out til five and no teachers want to stick around after that. Making them work during breaks won't make the work turn out any better, and teachers aren't going to stick around during breaks to watch them then either. I'm still working on a cultural alternative, which is hard because the only thing that seems to work so far is fear.
There are a lot more in my journal, but those are the biggest ones. This week has not been easy in school, but I've been learning a lot. Honestly, there are things in both American and Ugandan classrooms that could be valuable for everyone to observe. For example--they do a lot of group recitation here and it actually works really well, but I haven't seen it much in American classrooms past second grade. They are also ridiculously resourceful. Trying to figure out how judge the best of both worlds, however, is the difficulty. I have to catch myself in thinking, "In America, we do it this way, and it's far more efficient..." because that isn't necessarily true. Teaching here is very cultural, and I have to respect that.

Oh no. Kathy just screamed in kitchen.

Rodnina must be back.

Ok, let's end this. Thanks for taking a moment to step in my shoes. The purpose of coming here was to learn--and now my head is full.