Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm wearing long pants and a long shirt, but sweating. A lot.

Hi Mom,

I love you still and miss you too. It's such an adventure here. I'm
proud of you for making a Power Point for your students, you are very
hip. :) Book the ticket to Austria! Anytime after I'm back. I am so
eager for you and dad (though more eager for him, as you might guess)
to go visit.

There is a cat in the house here. His name is Chirpy. He's very
skinny, but well treated. He's got a hugely annoying meow.

So, I'm thinking I should start at the start in telling you about
things here, huh? So, my school is in a small (very dirt road, very no
stores, very full of nothing) village. The classes run from preschool
to senior high. The school was started by Godwin (whose computer I am
using and lives in the same house as me) when he came to visit this
village 10 years ago because his grandmother lives/ed here and, one
time, while visiting, he saw loads of little kiddos playing outside
during a time they ought to have been in school. He asked them why
they weren't in school and learned that a. school wasn't pushed in
this little village and b. there were no schools around. So, he quit
his job and started teaching a little class, then, needless to say, it
GREW and GREW. In the school now there are about 40 kids per grade in
gradeschool, 80 per grade in junior high, and 240 per grade in senior
high (HOLY COW). The classrooms are packed because they want to let as
many kids as possible attend, but, building-wise there's just no room
so they turn lots of students away. There are over 1000 kids in our
district alone that aren't going to school solely for the reason that
there is no school to go to and, for the record, my district is a
small, homely district. The kids are really great. When I was
volunteering in Guatemala, the volunteers there always commented on
how "well behaved the kids are" and, to be honest, I found them
lovely, but, normal impish characters. The kids here though are REALLY
well behaved. Perhaps due to the use of caning (I assume you know that
I've banned it from my classes and I'll assume you know that the
Africans are opposed to my ban) or perhaps due to the culture.

My classroom is in shambles. I'll see if I can attach a photo. But,
really, shambles. There are some actual decent cement buildings
started, but there is no money to finish them, so we stay. The roof is
tin and blows off during class. The rooms are all in a row with a
non-complete plywood board between the grades making it very, very
loud. The walls are half gone and the kids are squiiiished. The senior
high is in a nice (albeit hugely cramped as well) building, but we've
not gotten anything like that yet. Mom, I may be asking you to donate
at some point, just so you know.

I'll be teaching grades 4, 5, and 6 English. There is a teacher for
the classes, Lemuel, and he's a local high school grad, but he needs
some help. He's a sweet, very deferential character who cleans my seat
before I plop my butt down anywhere. His English isn't great and his
teaching is...not great either. He leaves class randomly every time,
he stops class to talk to one student about unrelated things, he asks
the students to leave class to clean up litter during class time, and
he only teaches very dull grammar. So, I'll be teaching grade 4 with
him watching and grade 5 alone. During the time I am teaching grade 5,
he'll be working on English homework that I've assigned him. (On that
note, I told him my plans and said that I'd be having him read a big
book. He asked how big and I made a gesture to indicate about an inch.
He said, "ohhhhh" in a slightly concerned way. Minutes later, on our
walk, he sheepishly asked me, "Madam Nix, does the book have pictures
in it?" I laughed and said, "Goodness, of course not!" and then he
told me that he's never read a book without pictures before. Whew! I
have him reading The Wind in the Willows and 1984 is next.) Then grade
6 he'll be the lead teacher with me checking his lesson plans before.
He is a nice guy and genuinely wants to be better, so I think it'll be

That said, I start tomorrow, so we'll see. Eep. I'm nervous, of
course, and planning the best I can (Godwin referred to me as
"bookish" today and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that.) and
have the full assumption that all my fabulous plans with be tossed
aside when I get right into it.

This week I am planning on a poetry unit for my 4th graders and the
start of a 3-4 week long drama unit for my 5th graders. That said,
I've not a clue how to teach drama. This is why I'm on the internet.
Googling - "How to teach drama to 5th graders" :)

I'm going to learn so much. I've no doubt that this will make me a
much better teacher and, also good news, I'm still loving it.

ALSO, my hair is falling out. I assume it's from the malaria medicine.
The confirm, it will grow back when I return, right? Also to confirm,
you'd love me just-the-same if I were bald, correct?

I'm eating loads of food. It's nice, but kind of all exactly the same.
I am already eager to go back to vegetarianism.

I'll tell you about Ghana next email, okay?

Please give Maya a good belly rub and dad as well if you're feeling romantic.

OH, also, I left a VM (I accidentally wrote BM there, thank GOD I
noticed it) for you. I have a hip, new cell phone. You can call me
anytime (after school hours please). The number is: 0249785798. I
don't know the country code though. It costs me nothing for you to
call me.  :)

This is a rambly mess.

Veritable novel.

Is there snow on the ground?


  1. Oh my god, this is SUCH a good idea for a blog. You are going to be famous. Also, can I call you too?? Or is only your mom allowed? I wonder how much that would cost me.
    I'm glad you're taking pictures. What town are you in? Is it actually Accra?

  2. Of course you can call! It would likely be a million dollars though. :) I am not in Accra. I'm in a tiny, nothing town called Sega. If you look on a map of Ghana and find Kasseh Ada, I'm near there. :) Love youuuuuuuu.