Thursday, April 29, 2010

Korean Food..the cure for what ails me

So, without getting into too many details, I have been experiencing some intestinal issues the way I did when I was in the Peace Corps. Now it is different because I don't have crazy drunk Peace Corps Volunteers to discuss poop stories with. My problems have been going on for over a week and since it is just chronic and not explosive, I haven't gone to the doctor yet although I did de-parasite myself thanks to the local pharmacist just in case. I have been eating rather well--lots of fruits and veggies straight from the farm, but I think my body is just getting used to it. I boil things, wash them with bleach water, and drink bottled water (omg, freaking out because I can't filter or boil for this entire year! I hate buying water but here it is a must).

A few days ago I made some doenjang chigae (Korean soybean paste soup) and I seem to have cured my problems. I sent myself three huge containers of Korean pastes in February. They finally arrived here from Luanda thanks to the dean of ISCED who brought them down for me. Bless the Lord for my Korean food. I think it has cured what ailed me ☺.


I am very proud of my students for their communicative abilities in spoken English. Many of them went to Nambia or Zambia during the war and did their schooling there. But I am having such a hard time with their writing abilities. I think what happens a lot in education in Africa is that because of historical challenges (war, colonialism, poverty), countries here try to speed through the development process.

I think I am a writer (don’t just judge my ability with this blog for goodness sake) because of the critical thinking and writing ability I have developed since I first started reading and writing—age 4 or 5, I think. After a secondary and primary education that included very minimal writing, my students were “taught,” to different degrees, about how to write a book report in year one here at ISCED. They had other basic reporting assignments throughout the next 3 years. Then, after finishing their coursework they are expected to complete a “dissertation.” Yeah, I wrote the correct word. This work is the most detailed thing, including quantitative research and methods and analysis. In the US, we do this for a Phd. I haven’t even written a paper like this “dissertation” before, thank God. So, how I am supposed to get these learners to write this thang!!??

I don’t often believe in lowering expectations, but when you are faced with so many complications and hurdles (teacher shortages which lead to over worked teachers, no materials, little class and practice time) I really have to rethink it. When you keep the same expectations and continue to fail and regress, what has to change for it all to get better?

What does it mean to be a teacher?

I experienced K-12 in US schools. My mom was a great extracurricular teacher at home when I was a kid. I also went to college and grad school in the US system. My view of what a teacher is is influenced by all my educational experiences. I remember when I was in Spain, I really hated a lot of the classes I had because they were mostly lecture and I never got to know the teachers. I rarely spoke to them during or after classes. To me a teacher wants to empower students to succeed like all of my teachers did.

Right now I am teaching in a country with a very developed tiered system (heirarchy). In this system, the chief is always right and no matter how ridiculous the mandates, those under the chief must do as he or she says. What also happens is that things don’t happen unless the chief pushes people to act.

This has facinating implications for the classroom which, in my opinion, includes teachers empowering students. It seems really difficult for teachers to make their students too good, because that would mean the students would be better than the teachers are, better than the “chief.” Teachers can’t admit that they were wrong, or are challenged by something. I am forever wrong, and am always learning.

What a culture clash! I gotta write this better so I can apply for that Phd already.

Was Michael Jackson a N&%$#*?

This was one of the questions given in response to an elicitation lesson I observed in the teacher training high school in town. I guess the answer would depend on the person you asked. I will hopefully be working on an English Club with these kids, so I will add the definition and history of this word to my to do list.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Literature Lecture

The English department was approached to do a lecture about English literature in honor or the day of the book or something like that. I helped them get some ideas together. In the end, we didn't even know who would show up but a bunch of students did. It was really great to see the Angolan English teachers struggling to give the presentation in Portuguese! I guess it means they are used to doing everything in English.

Professors Sonia and Délcio, of the English Department get their powerpoint presentation ready

I think the news was there filming the powerpoint for some reason.

Professors Sonia and Délcio as well as Head of the Department, Professor Castilho reviewing some material before starting.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

IECA Evangelical Gym Celebration

Evangelical Gym
Originally uploaded by mozakisha
One of my students invited me to his Congregational Evangelical Church a bit outside of town a few Sundays ago. I wrote about it on the blog. The Pastor of the church, Pastor Canjila, invited me to come to a celebration the following Sunday. I wasn’t sure what it was, but since he offered me a commemorative orange polo (Dad, I will give it to you when I get back) I thought I should go.

He picked me up early in the morning and transported me to the multi-use pavilion. The location is usually used by Lubango’s Basketball team for games. When we entered, the place was decked out with puffy table decorations and flowers. It felt very Catholic to me, with all the pastors wearing those black shirts with the white square on the collar. The salt and pepper haired head of the church, who came down from Luanda, was wearing a big red robe like a cardinal. He also spoke in a monotone like the Pope. The Boy and Girl Scouts were also out with a vengeance. They were dressed for the celebratory occasion with safari hats, khaki safari shirts, shorts and knee high socks, fanny packs, blue beanies and yellow handkerchiefs, badges on their shirts, and water bottles, rope, and battery operated light bulbs attached to their belts. They guarded the doorways and showed people to their seats.

The main purpose of the ceremony (which ended with a terrifying confetti fire cracker) was to welcome the new provincial head of the church here in Huíla province so maybe the preaching wasn’t supposed to be inspiring. I wasn’t impressed. Salt and Pepper kept repeating that if you accept Jesus you won’t be sick anymore. He said that if you are sick for longer than 6 months, you need to change your life. I don’t agree with this kind of message, but that getting a good sermon wasn’t the reason for my presence. (I get good ones from US podcasts.) I was bout to represent!

So, I was sitting in the VIP section and those sitting next to me started to stand up as their names were announced on the speaker. They included a minister of the government, a general in the Army, the head of the hospital in Lubango, among other church officials from all over the country. The applause for all of these nobodies was typical. Guess who brought down the house, though? “Akisha, the American professor from ISCED,” that’s who! The praise and attention I get simply from being a foreigner shouldn’t amaze me anymore, but it does.

It was pretty cool seeing over 1000 people singing and dancing and waving their Bibles over their heads, even if it was in a gym. I am glad I went. A lot of my students are Christian, more so than I knew of in Mozambique.

You know, one of the promises I made to myself if I was going to come to Angola was that I needed to go to church. It has been hard since Sunday is the only day I really don’t have any responsibilities, but I have a commitment to go. When I spoke about how dry the sermon was, that is one of the reasons I have had such a hard time going to church when I am abroad. I don’t seem to get anything out of it, and people always have these expectations of me as a foreigner. I just leave as dry as I came. I don’t ever hear a decent message. Maybe I am supposed to be in church for a different reason; perhaps to affect someone else. It’s not about me.

Rainy Season

This is from when I first moved to Lubango, Late Feb/March 2010 and got into my apartment.  It rained nearly everyday like this!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My new place

I have moved into my new apartment on the 4th (or 5th if you are American) floor of Prédio 4. The building is just a 7 minute walk to my school and in the center of town. I can see the governor's mansion from the back balcony. There is a cute cafe right below me, but this being Angola, the prices are similar to Starbucks in the US...but the coffee is pretty good. The school provided me with so much furniture it took up a lot of the floor space. After a little moving around I think I am satisfied with the results. I need to put up before and after pics because these pics are from the day I moved in. Now, all my photos are on the walls and it feel like home. Here are some highlight pics:

Christ the Redeemer Statue Lubango is famous for. The is the view from my front door.

Dining room and living room. I love the balcony.

My new kitchen

View of the mountains and small neighborhoods on the outskirts of town.

View of the street from the back balcony at sunset. Yep, it looks like this every evening.

The largest bed in the history of the world. My school is really trying to impress me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

It has been really hard to find places to make friends here so I don't have any. The other English teachers are great but they all have families with young children so they don't have much time to take care of their loser colleague. Anyways, because I have no friends I was determined to do something for Easter, even if it meant inviting myself. So, one of my students wrote in his journal that he went to an Evangelical church so I asked him if I could go for Easter Sunday. He agreed and would pick me up Sunday morning early...7:00am! First of all, I was eager to see how long the day would last if I started at 7. Evangelicals tend to be long-winded. Secondly, I hate to wake up early, so this was going to be a challenge. And thirdly, I really didn't think he would come that early so I knew I didn't have to wake up but just in case, I had to.

Sunday came the alarm sounded at 6 am and I woke up at 6:30. Then I waited around until 9:30 when I got a call to say, "Miss, I just want to see if you are ready." Isn't that funny?! I wanted to say, "Are ya kiddin? Get your butt over here." But instead I said yes with positive Easter energy and went down to meet him.

The service didn't last forever, as I expected. My student made lunch for me and I was home by 2pm. However, there were many highlights. Here is my list:

  1. Out of maybe 800 people in the church about half were children under 8. No wonder people think I am a freak cause I am so old with no kids. They are everywhere!
  2. There was a baby with a bib that said, "Don't blame me, I just got here."
  3. The digital camera age has hit with a vengeance. I was amazed that everyone and their mother had one and was recording the festivities. This digital thing has really changed the way photos are taken.
  4. My student that brought me to church is the head of the choir and band. He had the whole church singing "Manda fogo sobre mim" in english, "Send your fire over me." Everyone kept looking at me and smiling. I am going to think that they did it just for me :)
  5. I was pleased with the "pimp" shoes I saw on many of the gentlemen. White and shiny and really long and pointy.
  6. Tshirts on the children and youth choir:
  7. "Cheerleaders Suck"
  8. A (definitely Chinese) Hotwheels and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collage
  9. "" (What the heck?)
  10. A bunch of teenage girls were decked out in white dresses of varying bridal styles and time periods. My favorite was an off white number with a three foot train. The chick picked up that train with her tiny arms to walk up and give the offering. She was sweating bullets by the time she got back around to her seat.
  11. In Black gospel choirs you usually have some sort of march song you sing while doing some choreographed steps as you come into the church and onto the stage. The "older lady" choir (there as a children's, youth, ladies', men's) did the coolest thing where they would sing, "Tchaka, Tchaka, Tchaka, Tchaka, Tchaka, Tchaka, Tchaka, Tchaka, Doop Doop Doop." For the doop doop, they stomped their feet on the floor. It was the cutest thing I have seen. The rest of the congregation was loving it. They were all smiles and giggles.

After the service I became a politician, shaking the hands of everyone that exited. Then we headed to my student's house for a quick lunch. He brought along a choir friend who walked with crutches. I was on the same kind, the ones where you stick your arm through a plastic hole and hold on to the arm handles, but this guy was amazing. I guess he has been on them his whole life but we were walking on some pretty precarious dirt and rocky roads. he was whizzing through like a pro. We ate sweet potatoes, salad, fish (yes, i ate it), and mango juice while watching the news on tv. Everyone was so nice. It was a really nice Easter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Think Prom, but in Angola with alcohol out in the open

Here are some vids of the excitement at a party at the school of the husband of one of my students (whew!).  They were having so much fun.