Saturday, June 25, 2016

Another good day in Malawi

Life as a PCV is full of ups and downs. It is easy to complain about how hard it is to be here, living in less than ideal conditions, thousands of miles away from my loved ones. If everyday was difficult, I don't know how long I would last here. Thankfully, there are good days here too, and they keep me motivated and feeling like what I am doing here is worthwhile.

This blog post is about one of those good days. This particular day happened last year when I was still teaching Biology (and I forgot to post it), but it's also a good representation of what it's like for me as an Education Volunteer in Malawi.

I arrived at school a little before 7:30 and started preparing for my first lesson. I had a double period of Physical Science to teach. We are learning about the three states of matter. I brought in a lot of materials to use for demonstrations, like a jar, a cup of water, a box of matches, a bottle filled with beans and a stick of incense. The incense was to demonstrate how gas molecules move freely and do not have a fixed shape or volume. When I lit the incense, the class got really excited. When I was finished with the demo, I asked if I should put it out, but they said no because they liked the smell. At the end of class, they asked if I could bring incense to our next class too!

Later in Biology class we were finishing up our unit on respiration. I went over the four adaptations of respiratory systems for their functions, and then asked the students to work in groups and tell me how each adaptation applied to the specific respiratory systems of humans, fish and insects. I have tried activities like this before, and they have not gone well, but today the students all worked quickly and efficiently to complete the activity. After class, I saw students going up to copy the diagrams and make sure they copied down the answers to the activity. That made me feel good.

I noticed that a few of the students were milling around outside about half an hour later, and I asked if there was a teacher in their class. They said no because the teacher had just given them notes to copy, and they were finished. I had a couple videos about respiration in fish, so I took the students in groups of 10 to another classroom to watch the video on my laptop. Afterwards, they thanked me for showing them the video.

I didn't have anymore classes to teach after that, but I decided to take advantage of the free time to work in the library. I am the Co-Librarian, and we just received a large shipment of books that needed to be arranged. While I was there, a few students dropped by to chat, teachers came in to borrow books for their classes, and I talked with a teacher about how she can use the new books for her subjects.

By 2:45pm I was ready to head home. I said goodbye to the teachers and then headed over to the market to buy some bread and potatoes. On the way I greeted a lot of people, as you do in Malawi. When I got to my house, the neighbor kids asked if they could draw with me. I said no because I was tired. And I was. But after I went inside, changed clothes, made a quick lunch and read the news a bit, I decided to invite the kids over. We sat on my porch, drawing with crayons, reading my Chichewa book, and listening to Yusef (one of the kids) singing.

Some of my "iwes" aka the neighbor kids that keep my home life busy and interesting

Then we went to check on the garden (Note: the photo above is more recent, so the garden looks a lot different than when I originally wrote this blog post). I let the kids pick a few cucumbers and radishes, much to their delight. You would think it was candy-- they were so excited! They helped me weed a little bit, and we put the weeds into the compost pile. Then I grabbed the leftover sugarcane I had bought yesterday to share with them. I wasn't sure how to break it, but no worries-- the 9-year old used a machete. (I spent the whole time fretting she would cut her fingers off, even though the children wield knives when they are three years old here). As we sat munching sugarcane, I was just overcome with this sense of contentment.

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