Thursday, July 16, 2015

Maprizes for Students

School is still going here in Malawi, but term three is almost over. They have more of a year-round schedule here, so thre is only a six week break at the end of the year. I taught my last classes of the 2014-2015 school year already, and now all that is left is the terminal exams. I'll be giving those next week.

During my last Form 1 Physical Science class I gave awards to the students that completed every homework assignment. Seven students (out of around 87) came up in front of the class to receive their masweeties (candy) and maprizes. I gave them a pencil, a notebook, two candies and a big sticker of their choice. There were a lot of homework assignments this term so I was really proud of them for turning them all in.

I also used stickers as a homework incentive a few weeks ago. We were learning about physical and chemical changes. I told the students if they could give an example of a physical and chemical change I would put a sticker in their notebook. As I hoped, I had a higher rate of homework submissions than usual, and I was able to give out quite a few stickers.

Thanks for the stickers, Mom. I'm putting them to good use!

Back in PST Again

I’m so excited to welcome the new Peace Corps Trainees for the Education Sector! They arrived last month and started their Pre-Service Training (PST) here in Malawi. Here is a photo of them that was taken at the airport when they first arrived:

Some of the currently serving PCVs in my group were invited help facilitate the training for the new arrivals, including me! So a couple weeks ago I headed up to the Kasungu District in the Central Region and found myself back in PST again.

The house I stayed at in the training village had three rooms, with a mud floor, an outdoor kitchen and chim, and an outdoor straw bathing area. No electricity here, so I had to heat my bath water and cook over a charcoal mbaula. Which I learned how to do that week, with the help of my fellow PCV Tally, who was also facilitating sessions with me. She is a mbaula expert, and makes excellent peanut butter cookies over her fire. I plan on trying that back at my site soon. Here is a photo of my morning pot of water for coffee and hard-boiled eggs.

The Chichewa group near the house I was staying in let me sit in on their language classes a few days during the week when I didn’t have to facilitate technical sessions. It was nice to get a refresher, and I was able to pay more attention to the whys of the grammar rules instead of just the whats since I know more now. They were learning about how to answer basic questions about themselves like where they are from and where they live. That will be really useful for them because I get asked those things in Chichewa all the time. I can say, “Ndimachokera ku America mu mzinda wa California” (I am from America, from the state of California) in my sleep.

The week I was there was heavy on technical sessions, so Tally and I had a lot of work to do, along with the PC Technical Trainers Denis and Geoff. We worked with the trainees on Malawian curriculum and syllabi, lesson planning, teaching in classrooms with limited resources and student-centered learning. We also did a session on teaching English as a second language. Both Tally and I are science teachers at our sites, but really all PCVs are English teachers because we teach our classes in English. We provided tips on delivering content in a way that ESL speakers can understand, like making sure to speak slowly and clearly, writing things down and defining new words. As someone learning a new language myself, I know how important those concepts are. I often wish people here would use some of those methods with me.

Here is a photo of the trainees in the hall during a session. The facilitator is our Associate Peace Corps Director (APCD) for Education, Michael Kumwenda.

This was a really fun week to facilitate PST because besides all the technical sessions, we also had a luncheon. All the host mothers brought in lunches for the trainees to share with everyone, and the trainers prepared dishes to share as well. It was a basically a big potluck. There were so many dishes to try. Tally made chocolate brownies which were delicious. I also had nsima because I don’t get to eat it very often anymore. There were also cooked greens, potatoes, cooked cabbage, rice, beans and lots of other local dishes.

The trainees are a wonderful group. I had so much fun spending time with them, and I am looking forward to working alongside them as fellow PCVs. They find out their sites tomorrow and they will swear-in at the end of August. And the PC wheel keeps on turning...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Happy birthday 'Merica! :oD

We celebrated America's Independence Day at a pool!! It was so great...until the thunderstorm rolled in & we had to leave.

Left to right: Rosemary, Moniqua, Nate, & me :o]

Malawi vs Moldova: Pre-Service Training (PST)

Since we both started our training a year ago in June, the theme for this month’s Vs post will be comparing the trainings between our two Peace Corps programs.

Duration – My PST lasted from the 17th of June until the 28th of August, so it was just under 2.5 months

Living Conditions – For the first few days we stayed at a conference facility with private rooms, so I had my own toilet, shower and comfy bed. We got some training about how to live in the village, lots of vaccinations and info about security and medical stuff and some basic Chichewa lessons. After that I lived with a host family for the rest of my training. I stayed in a house with no running water nor electricity. But we did have goats and chickens and pet rats.

Sectors – In PC Malawi there are three sectors—Education, Environment and Health. Education PCVs teach in Community Day Secondary Schools. Environment PCVs usually work with issues of deforestation, invasive weeds and sustainable agriculture. Health PCVs volunteer at village health centers.

Intake Groups – In Malawi they have two PC intake groups a year. The Health and Environment groups arrive and train together. I think their group usually has around 40 trainees. They arrive in March and start their service in May. The Education trainees arrive in June and start service in August. The Education groups usually have around 20 trainees.

Site Announcements – Our site announcements happened about five weeks into our training. They led us all out to the field, blindfolded, and when we opened our eyes we were standing in a giant map of Malawi that the trainers had made out of rocks and sticks and other natural materials. For my site, they had made a mini Mount Mulanje out of rocks, and a little sign saying “Mulanje”. We didn’t get any other information about our sites, but since I was replacing a PCV I was able to contact him beforehand and get some information that way.

Site Visits – We had a two day conference with our counterparts at a local hotel in the Boma, then we traveled to our sites with our counterparts. I traveled with my Deputy Head Teacher. During Site Visit I checked out the school, local villages, the Boma, met the local PCVs and met the Chief. I also took my first bike-taxi!

Swear-in Ceremony – Our ceremony was held in the homestay village, then we went to a local conference hall for a small celebration. There was real cake and dancing, so it was a blast.

Going to Site – PC provided transport for us. We had three PCVs to a vehicle. Each vehicle had three mattresses and three bicycles on top, plus all our stuff inside. I thought it was really cramped, but that was before I had to take mini-buses on a regular basis. It is true what they said—PC transport is the nicest ride we ever get in Malawi : )

Duraion -
I left for Staging in Philly on June 1 and arrived in Moldova for PST on June 4. My swear-in date was August 13.

Living conditions -
Directly after arriving in Moldova, we were all taken to a college where we were greeted by PC staff and PCVs. We were given a quick security lesson with important phone numbers to put in our phones. Then we were separated into groups, depending on our training villages, and driven to our training host families. After not having slept for over 24 hours, i was exhausted, so when i got to my new host family, i took a shower (i actually had a semi-working shower there, which was located in the kitchen) and my host mom made coltunasi (a meatball/ravioli thingy) for me for dinner, and then i went straight to bed. Although we had a kinda shower, we didn't have a toilet, so i spent the summer using a squatty-potty, which can get quite stinky in the muggy summer heat. We had a HUGE garden with tomatoes, cucumbers, gooseberries, currants, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, apricots, and on and on; chickens (meaning fresh eggs...YUM!), a pig, a cat, and 2 dogs that were never unchained - 1 super sweet that loved to be loved; the other wanted to kill me. We had water pumped in from a well and intermittent electricity.

Sectors -
There are 4 sectors here: Health Education (HE), English Education (EE), Community Development (COD), and Small Enterprise Development (SED).

I'm a healthE (HE), and like all other healthE's here, we teach health education with Moldovan partner teachers in schools in rural villages. Most of us (including myself) teach Middle School, which here is 5th - 9th grades. A few others teach Primary and/or High School levels too.

EEs teach English with Moldovan partner teachers, usually in raion centers (the major towns throughout Moldova - much more urban than the villages where healthEs teach) Primary through High School ages.

CODs also usually live in raion centers and partner with local Moldovans to work on developing and improving their local communities.

SEDs also live in raion centers  partner with local Moldovan business partners to develop and improve small businesses in their communites.

Intake groups -
All 4 groups arrive together in early June. CODs and SEDs trainings are 8 weeks, compared to HEs and EEs which are 10 weeks. When we arrived last year, there were about 70-75 PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) - with 18 healthEs - all together, which we were told, was one of the largest intake groups ever in Moldova. This year there were a similar number of PCTs that arrived - with 17 healthEs.

Site announcements -
Our permanent sites were announced a month after arrival to Moldova. They drew a giant sidewalk chalk map of Moldova with numbers all over the map. Then they called our names out 1 by 1 and handed us an envelope with a corresponding number to the numbers on the map and a site name - Vasilcau, Soroca (Vasilcau is my village name and Soroca is the raion center i live in) for me. Inside the envelope was compiled information about our various sites - host family info, school info, partner teacher info, etc.

Site visits -
We had a 2-day training with our school directors at PC HQ before going to site. Then the last day of training, we went with our school directors to our sites. Once there, i went directly to my host family's, where masa (feast) was ready :o]

Whereas in my training site i had a kinda shower and a squatty potty, my permanent site was the opposite - indoor toilet, but now shower. Again, the water is pumped in from the well on the property. Like my training host family, my permanent home has a HUGE garden, chickens, cats, and dogs - which are allowed off the chain every so often.

After masa my host mom and her boyfriend drove me to the actual town of Soroca and showed me around.

The next day i was shown the way to walk to my school, where i met with the school director, vice directors, and one of my partner teachers (my other partner teacher was on vacation). My partner teacher walked me around the school, bought me ice cream, and walked me back to my host family's.
When my host mom came home from work (she's the director of the kindergarden), she walked me to the Mayor's office, health center, and post office - all on the same street right next door to each other.

We stayed at our future permanent sites for 3 days/2 nights.

Swear-in -
We (the healthEs and EEs; the CODs and SEDs swore-in 2 weeks prior) went back to the college for our swear in on August 13th. The news media was there and interviewed a lot of us. There were many speakers and congratulations all around :o]. There was also catered in food, which was delicious!

Going to site -
Directly after swearing-in, we left with our school directors again to move to our permanent site! EEK! and YAY!!