Thursday, January 11, 2007

So many things have happened in these past few months that I might
have to write more than one blog entry to fully explain everything.

In November my sophomores took their national exams (similar to
ACT/SAT here). Every time I give a test I always have at least ten
percent of my students that cheat. I thought that surely for the
National Exams (since they even hire security guards with guns to stand outside the classrooms where the tests are going on) no one would cheat and if they were
caught then their tests would be canceled. The ministry also sends in teachers from other schools to supervise the exams. As it turned out, the
night before one exam I saw a few of the teachers come to the school.
When I asked them what they were doing there, they said they were
coming to do lesson plans and write notes for their students that
weren't taking the national exams. These were teachers that hardly
ever teach so I was pretty skeptical. What they did is go to the place where the national exams were kept and got a copy so they could go write down the answers. The next day the same teachers that I saw night before gave some notes to the security guards and then later during the test certain students (that had probably paid the teachers before hand) asked to go out of the classroom to excuse themselves and then got the notes from the security guard.

A few weeks ago I found out that the ministry has assigned us a real principal. We currently only have an acting principal who has no degree just a lot of teaching experience and he is mainly the cause of most of the school’s problems. The new guy is coming from a nearby village and I have heard that he is really strict (in other words he likes teachers to teach and not just go to the staff room and wait for our late breakfast and then leave). I have also heard that he doesn’t put up with teachers sleeping with students or beatings for no reasons. He hasn’t arrived yet but he is required to come or else he will lose his job.

Concerning my classes...I was able to finish the syllabus in all of the classes that I teach. In one class, my junior’s chemistry, I was even able to cover two topics from the senior syllabus. It is amazing what happens here when you actually enter the class on a regular basis. On my last day when I informed my students that I had finished the entire syllabus everyone clapped and thanked me. I was one of the few teachers that actually finished the syllabus. One of my students asked me if I was going to come back and teach here in TZ in 20 years. When I asked him why would I return in 20 years he responded that around that time he will plans to have children that will need a good science teacher and would I consider coming back and teaching them. I was really suprised to hear this. Another student told me that his dream (similar to how in America a lot of people dream of opening a restaurant or business; a school here is one of the best businesses you can have) was to open up a high school and hire all mzugu (white) teachers because it would be the best school since all the teachers would actually teach their required classes and do extra activities with their students. I had explain to him that it would be an almost impossible task since PC only normally never puts more than one volunteer at a school and it would be very hard to attract whites to come from America or Europe to live here and teach for an extended period of time.

The last few months when I was supposed to be “teaching” I was basically given an early vacation. I went to school everyday as usual with my box of chalk and notes ready to teach even though most of the time I ended up just sitting in the staff room with the other teachers and pigaing stori (telling stories) and singing songs. During this time one of my classes were taking their national exams and so this caused my other class to do all the required work (chop the wood for the school kitchen, fetch water) which meant they rarely were in the classroom ready to learn. My school provides a late breakfast and lunch for all the teachers everyday so the teachers come for the free food and then leave after lunch. I had a reality check a couple of times because I am getting paid to come and socialize with people. I doubt I will ever have a job back in America that has so much flexibility.

All of the principals in the nation just recently all met to address problems in their schools (beatings, principals stealing school money, teachers sleeping with students etc). I was very unhappy to hear that they spent most of the time complaining about how the government doesn’t pay them enough money. A good number of them steal school funds and use it for their own needs (a bigger house, car etc) so I was really surprised to find this out.

My counterpart just recently had a baby girl. A lot of people in the village used to think that we were sleeping together, since they can’t figure out why else I normally spend so much time with her (friendships here are rarely with the opposite sex unless they are for sleeping together). As it turns out the baby came out whiter then normal (she has the same color of skin as me right now). African babies normally come out light and then get darker as they age but even my counterpart said that this baby was really white. Not many people have seen the baby since it was just born but I am not for sure what kinds of conclusions people are going to draw concerning me and my counterpart once they do.

I’ll give you one funny story to end on a lighter note. When I first arrived here in country I used to think about how much childhood here must suck since very few families have enough money to buy toys for their kids. Kids normally are really creative here and use stuff in their environment to make toys. Kids normally wrap a bunch of plastic bags together with rope and then have a ball. The other day I saw some of my neighbor kids running around with a flying baby bird tied to a string that they held in their hand. When I first saw them I thought it was one of those electric flying birds like you can buy in America but I couldn’t figure out where in the world they would have bought one here. So instead of the fake plastic toys they get the real thing here. During training one volunteer said that a few kids came up to him and tried to sell some real baby monkeys that they had captured and put in a plastic bag.

I am currently in the capital city right now visiting doctors and dentists. Today I had my physical and found out that I have only lost 5 pounds from the time I came to TZ so evidently I have gained back some of that weight that I lost before. I surprisingly also had a significantly lower blood pressure and pulse than before I came here.

A few weeks ago when I was in the capital city, I had a chance to do something that I never thought I would ever get a chance to do in my life. I visited the new MALL (built my South Africa) here in the capital! Yes you heard me right TANZANIA now has a freaking indoor, air-conditioned and all MALL! I was so excited I wanted to take a million pictures but due to the high security level I was unable to. It is only about a fourth of the size of Oak Park Mall but it’s still a freaking mall in TZ! They currently have a South African grocery store and South African version of Target (that doesn’t have nearly as much stuff) but hopefully more smaller stores will be added soon.

I also had a chance to visit the University of Dar es Salaam (the best and largest university here in TZ). It is a really nice campus (comparable to a junior college back home) on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. As it turns out the school was built by funds provided for by President John F. Kennedy. Evidently he was good friends with Mwalimu Nyrere (the first president of TZ after colonalism). I think it might have been more of an effort to combat socialism in TZ since Mwalimu tried to develop a socialist system here. I will have to write more about the socialism in TZ later.

I know you want to hear stories about my trip to a few words it was AMAZING...but I will have to write a blog entry about it later.