This is the first week I have taught my own classroom. Last week, I observed Mr. Hamumchemba, the head of the English department. So far, teaching has gone pretty well. The majority of the pupils are still confused by my American accent. I am trying to talk very slowly and clearly; this seems to help a lot. On the first comprehension essay I had the students write, there were lots of grammar mistakes and spelling errors. I am spending the first ten minutes at the beginning of each lesson addressing the most common mistakes. Today, we spent time looking at ways to reduce run-on sentences.
Students in my class are, for the most part, very well behaved. The only problem that has repeatedly arisen is an incessant amount of classroom chatter. I have tried to curb the talking using a variety of methods. So far the most successful have been to assign more homework and to stand quietly in front of the room. In both cases, the quiet students will urge the loud students to stop talking. Along with being noisy, some of the students in my class are goofy. One of the students informed me that her name was Nikki, and she wrote Nikki Minaj (the American singer) on her textbook. I was calling her Nikki until she turned in her book and I saw what she wrote for her last name. I had to make a class announcement that the students needed to write their real first and last names on their books in order to get a grade.
When I am at school and not teaching, I am either in the English department writing lesson plans or, I am in the library making sure the pupils do not ransack it. I am slowly starting to learn the names of the teachers. (This has taken some time because the teachers normally do not call each other by their last names).
I have been staying at Mukanzobo Cultural Institute. This has worked wonderfully for multiple reasons: it is close to school and the people are extremely generous. During the first week, the ladies at Mukanzobo made me delicious food. They cook using a traditional African method; they cook outside over the fire. Mable, one of ladies who works at Mukanzobo, is an amazing cook. She makes a variety of foods and serves them with shema (I think this is the correct spelling). Shema is pounded corn mixed with water; it ends up being the consistency of thick porridge. Another food that I have been eating a lot of are mangoes. The mangoes here are smaller than most of the mangoes back home, but they are more flavorful and juicy.
I have two Seattle companions in Chikuni: Kim and Madison -- both girls recently graduating from Seattle University. Kim lives a couple blocks away, behind the parish, and Madison is staying with me in Mukanzobo. I knew both girls before coming to Zambia, as Kim was in my teaching program and Madison went with me to Honduras. It is definitely nice having friends around. Lately, we have enjoyed walking around town.
This week has started out very well. On Sunday, Madison and I attended mass at Canisius (an all boys school). We were the only white girls in the whole church. After mass, Madison and I met up with Kim for a Sunday brunch -- eggs and bacon. It is amazing that even in Africa I am managing to eat well. After eating our delicious meal, we walked to the river. The river was gray, but there were still plenty of small, cheerful boys swimming and having a merry time. Along the river we saw herds of goats and cows grazing and crossing the river unrestrained. Overall, it was a very peaceful time with good weather and good company.
There have been a couple of major adjustments so far. Firstly, getting stared at is an everyday occurrence. Madison, Kim, and I -- the three white girls in the village -- constantly hear "magua" (white person) when we walk around. It is even worse when we leave Chikuni and go to a different village. At least in Chikuni there are other white people. Yesterday, I went to Mazabuka (one of the larger towns in the area). On the way we stopped at small primary school. It was lunchtime so all of the children were playing outside. As we drove up, all of the children stopped playing and gazed at me. I was sitting in the car for about ten minutes and the whole time the eyes of the children never wavered from my face.
Secondly, there is an array of delightful bugs/reptiles in Zambia: mosquitoes, flies, spiders, scorpions, and snakes. The only bug/reptiles I have not seen, thankfully, are snakes. Earlier this week, I was sitting in the kitchen drinking tea with Madison. I felt something on my arm. Thinking it was a mosquito I looked down. It was not a mosquito. It was a scorpion! I screamed, scaring Madison, and flung my arms into the air. Luckily the Scorpion jumped off without stinging me. After calming down, I squished the horrid thing with my shoe. Although the scorpion was not too large (it was a little bigger than a spider) I still hope it will be my only encounter with a scorpion while I am here. One experience was enough to last me a lifetime.
Besides the bugs and being stared at, I am having a wonderful time in Zambia. In two weeks Madison, Kim, and I are going to see Victoria Falls in Livingstone! I am very excited about this. Hopefully while we are in Livingstone we will also go on a safari.
Caught in the rain!
I have finally seen Victoria Falls -- one of the wonders of the world. This weekend, Madison, Kim, Gianpedro, and Febby (Gianpedro’s friend from Italy) drove to Livingstone. It was a weekend filled with relaxation, goofiness, and sightseeing. We arrived at our hotel, the Zigzag, around 5:00 pm on Valentine’s Day. Our hotel was a much needed luxury. After taking a hot shower, without having to heat up the water, we were pleasantly surprised that the hotel had coffee. Being a coffee addict, I was ecstatic. After thoroughly enjoying a delicious latte, Kim showed us her favorite Italian restaurant in Livingstone -- Olga's. Our first trip to Olga's can only be described as a feast. To celebrate Valentine’s Day we ordered a bottle of wine, and we jumped on our chance to eat pizza (each of us ordered a large one). The food was fantastic, especially since my normal Chikuni diet consists of cooked onions and tomatoes with a starch: potatoes, bread, or rice.
Our second day in Livingstone was, if possible, better than our first. Our hotel offered free breakfast of jam and toast, bacon, eggs and coffee. However, although the food was terrific, the highlight of this day was our trip to Victoria Falls. After paying 100 Kwacha ($20) we walked into the park. Immediately, as we entered, we saw groups of baboons. Apparently they are very common at the park. I was thrilled to see wildlife but was warned not to get too close to the animals. I learned that baboons are known for stealing tourists' bags and can be quite vicious. After passing the baboons, we could see the huge falls. It was breathtakingly beautiful and the pounding of water was extremely peaceful. Needless to say, we spent hours hiking in the park, getting soaking wet, and taking pictures. The most strenuous part of the day was hiking down to the boiling point which has a clear view of the bridge which separates Zimbabwe from Zambia.
After Victoria Falls our day was not finished. Everyone, except Gianpedro, went out on the water. As the sun set we danced and drank fruity drinks. Even in the wet season we were able to see some animals -- a crocodile came right next to our boat! It was also my first time seeing hippos in the wild. Overall, it was a wonderful weekend.
When we got back, Mable told us there was a four-foot cobra in the kitchen of the other house. Apparently one of the priests killed it with a broomstick. Madison, Kimm and I were all glad that we missed seeing that. Now Madison and I are paranoid that a snake will get into our rooms. Last night, I even looked under my bed to make sure that nothing was there. Oh Zambia!
At Victoria Falls with Madison!