All work and no… SOME play :)

22 10 2011

It’s been awhile. Sorry about that, but I’ve actually been busy working (not too hard)!!!  🙂

 I thought I’d let you all in on what’s been happening over the past month or so. The Monday before school would finally start on Tuesday I got a gall bladder infection. Typical Bailey right there. Here I’ve been bored out of my mind, waiting for school to begin, and when it does I go down and out for 5 or 6 days. Anyway, I was picked up in a Red Cross ambulance and taken to the local hospital, the Drs did an ultrasound and a chest x-ray and diagnosed me with a gall bladder infection. They gave me a few meds, and I was headed back home, still in lots of pain but with what I needed to get better. The next few days were rough. The infection made me feel really sick so I was rarely out of my room, but when I was everyone would ask “Ishi ki?” (Are you ok?) I got lots of visitors from the school and lots of calls from my doctors making sure I had food and water and was doing alright. So I recovered from that, and the next Monday I was on the job!

I finally met the right person who would be able to help me get into ALL of my 5 schools. He works at the Woreda (district) Education office, and works with all 5 of my primary schools, along with the Secondary School (grades 9 and 10) and the Preparatory School (grades 11 and 12). He took me around town to get familiar with each of the campuses and to meet the directors of the schools. Everyone seemed excited to work with me; that was encouraging. The next few days I spent devising a plan of action and some documents I would use for observations and interviews.

On Ethiopian New Years, I met a guy who works for another Woreda that includes all of the 80+ village schools that surround my town. He is in charge of putting on trainings for teachers, so he asked me if I would “help” him with a methodology training he had coming up. I said I would. It took a lot of prepping to put together, but when Sunday rolled around I was ready to go. He said he would be by at 1half (7:30am) to pick me up and the training would start at 9. He showed up at 8:10, we had coffee with a lady in my compound, and were finally out the door by 8:30. The ride out to the village school took about 40 minutes, but I wished it had taken longer. The driver was going way too fast through the mountains on the terrible dirt roads and it was freaking scary, lol. The teachers were coming “by foot from the villages” so the training didn’t get started until after 10. We finished up at about 4 after taking an hour break for lunch. It didn’t go as well as I would have hoped, but it went better than I had planned. I learned a lot, and the teachers said they did as well and would like me to do more trainings for them.

When I got home, I was exhausted. I popped some popcorn and crawled into bed and started to play Monopoly on my iPod. A few minutes later I got a knock on the door. It was the Principal of Selam Primary, my main school, saying we had a program to go to… I said ok, and we were out the door.

The program was a social get together with faculty from Selam School and a few other high up administrators from the Woreda. Apparently they have these socials quarterly, and each member pitches in some money and they have food and drinks at a hotel/café. I impressed a few people by eating the local food and speaking the local language, and made everyone laugh when I said “Yikirta, aydalin, sagiba” (excuse me, I don’t want, I’m full) to the principal when he told the waiter to bring me more food. They danced later, and I avoided it as long as I possibly could, until I was literally dragged out to dance by a few of the women and my principal. It wasn’t so bad 🙂

Ok, so for the past two weeks, I have spent every day in the primary schools. I have been observing English lessons and it sure has been interesting. I have seen some good things, but have also seen some things that have made me want to scream and run out. I truly understand why I am here now. The way the children are being taught English sometimes makes me cringe. They are like English language robots, speaking with no tone or emotion and saying ONLY what they are supposed to say. There is no opportunities for the students to use their imagination and be creative 😦

I am basing my observations on the Ethiopian Ministry of Education’s English Language Competencies for English Teachers. This includes creating a positive environment, managing behavior, activating prior knowledge, using a variety of assessments, using many strategies to include all students in the learning process, using listening, speaking, writing, reading, grammar and vocabulary for the acquisition of English, and more. I have been more than welcomed into the schools I have been into so far. Most of the teachers want to know immediately after the lesson is finished how they did and what they need to improve on, although that is not what these observations are for just yet. It is encouraging to knnow that they know the yneed to improve and that they WANT to improve. But for now, I am only collecting data to see where the gaps and needs are for a majority of the English teachers in my town. Based on these observations, later down the road, I will put on trainings, workshops, set up a model classroom and teach model lessons for the teachers to help them improve their English teaching.

I also have this project developing in my mind and in my dreams! Most of my schools have great rooms for libraries! BUT, the ONLY books they have are textbooks and resource books! Ahhh!!! Can you imagine going through life with NO fictional stories?! What I would like to do is set up an English corner in my school libraries, but I need books. If you would like to help me out with my project let me know and we’ll see what we can do 🙂

So what else has been going on? In the past couple of weeks I have received FOUR packages from my family and one from my friend/teammate, Amanda Pierson!! 🙂  One package took 3 months, the others took 2-3 weeks! With the contents of the packages I have been able to add flavor to my water, straighten my hair, read Janet Evanovich’s new book “Smokin’ Seventeen”, play games with the kids, flip pancakes MUCH easier, cook and bake (love this!!!) some things that were impossible before and much, much more!!! I’m blessed to have such a wonderful, supporting family and great friends 🙂 I’m still waiting on some packages and letters sent from some great friends back home as well. Can’t wait! By the way, I LOVE to write letters, so if you want a letter, send one to me and I promise to reply 🙂

I have also had the opportunity to skype with my family a few times since being here. It’s so wonderful to see them as I talk to them, and it is much cheaper for them to skype than to use a phone card. That way they can save up their money to come visit me here!!! 😀

I often find myself sitting in a café for a couple of hours late in the afternoon with my Peace Corps Volunteer friend, Kevin, talking about things we can’t have, like bacon (my mom actually made possible!!!), doughnuts, tv’s with American Football and running water.

Last weekend, Kevin and I tagged along with a few administrators from the school out to a nearby village for a gigantic Ethiopian Orthodox Christian celebration. There were thousands of people there. We were in the village of Abara Hatsbera, which is one of locations of the famous rock hewn churches of Tigray, Ethiopia. We watched horse races, nearly got trampled by a hoard of Ethiopian children who were being swatted by big sticks by the crowd control army, got sweet visors commemorating the event, and saw some beautiful scenery from the hill which the famous church sits.

I have had a lot of fun with the children that inhabit my compound. I have posted quite a few pictures on my facebook page. Check it out by searching “Baileys Peace Corps Experience” on facebook!

I learned a few weeks ago that my town is getting an Environmental Volunteer in December when they finish training. I am super excited about it, and should know who it is in the next few days! I can’t wait to show him or her around town and share all of the fun facts about my town, like where to buy flour, oranges and pots, where to sit in the afternoon for a drink, and who to know that will invite you to drink tea every time they see you around town.

Well, I suppose that is enough for now. Let me know if there is anything you are dying to know about my experience here.

Miss you all very much!!! ❤

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