March 23, 2012

Today is the Day

Luck would have it that yesterday around noon I get a text from Margaret, who is currently studying in India, that she threw up for the first time in 10 years. Today she told me that she is having problems with both ends of things.

I get home and see that Mali has had a military coup. I have a friend studying there and word is that she is fine, but of all countries, I did not see Mali as the next one to overthrow their government.

Senegal has elections on Sunday and who knows how those will turn out.

These are the things that make my stomach tight. They make me question my sanity. They make me cross my fingers, wish on a star, say a prayer, that where I am going will be peaceful. That where I am going will be safe and calm.

But my own fears are calmed when I think about the people who don't have a say about whether they live in these countries. People who don't have the means to leave if things get rough. People who are just grateful to be alive today, eat today, work today, and go to school today. Moreover, I feel so proud knowing that I am going to Gambia knowing that I will be giving kids tools that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives.

Yesterday in all of my classes we had parties. I showed all of my kids a map of Africa and then pointed out Gambia to them. I told them about where I would be staying and what I would be doing. They were so amazed (all be it mostly by the fact that where I will be staying has no air-conditioning and less by some of the Gambia history I told them). While I was walking out to my car my heart felt so heavy, I didn't know leaving was going to be this hard. I love those kids and I wish them the absolute best. That feeling in that moment made everything worthwhile: the early mornings; the late night planning; the frantic grading.

I don't know what to expect of my students or my school in Gambia. But I do know this. I cannot wait to meet my students and I cannot wait to sit down with them and learn about their lives. I am going to try my best to be the best teacher I can for these kids. I hope I can give them skills they can use throughout their lives and I hope that they will open up and let me into their school community.

But for now I am going to go hug my father goodbye and spend the morning with my Mom around town. The next time I post I will be in GAMBIA!

March 20, 2012

We are off again!

On Friday I leave for Gambia, a small country in west Africa (see map below). There I will be teaching for six weeks as a part of my Masters in the Art of Teaching program. The program has been pretty vague about where I will be teaching, but let me tell you what I do know. I am traveling with three other girls; Jess, Kelly, and Allie. Jess and I will be teaching secondary; while Kelly and Allie will be teaching pre-school. I believe I will be working in an all girls school, but that has not been confirmed. I am living in a compound called "Happy Camp", also known as the Tubab (foreigner) Palace. The building apparently towers over all surrounding buildings. We will have a man bring us eggs and milk every morning for breakfast, the program gives us a small stipend for lunch, and a woman comes to the house and makes us dinner. There is wireless internet in one room of the house, the library, and only five people can be on the internet at once. I have to teach in skirts, and pants/shorts are highly discouraged to wear when in public. The current temperature is in the low 100s and I need to take malaria pills.

All in all I know very little, this I find terrifying. I am a planner. Sometimes it scares me how anal I am about organizing things and making myself feel like I am in control. However, after Egypt, I thankfully have learned how to disassociate myself from some things that I have absolutely no way to control. I am preparing myself to get back into Inshallah time, and praying that I don't have a student tell me that Inshallah bukra they will turn their work in to me. (I should come up with a good retort though if someone does try that).

During my time abroad I am going to try my very best to update my blog weekly; however, with the unreliability of electricity/internet I do not know how likely that will be. I will also be blogging at , which is the blog affiliated with my MAT program, there you will also be able to read the blogs of the other people who I will be traveling with. I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone!

The Gambia is a tiny country located on the west coast of Africa. You can barely see it in this picture because when the British colonized this land they sailed their ships down the Gambian river, firing cannon balls off the ship onto the river banks. Where the cannon balls landed marked the territory that Britain claimed. This resulted in a small country, the second smallest in the world, that snaked with the Gambian river. 

In this picture you can see Gambia off on the left. It is the brown line in the middle of Senegal.