Thursday, October 31, 2013


Today marked my third week of actually teaching in the classroom.  Sometimes I think my lessons are too easy, all the 2nd graders I work with know the shapes of letters and can recognize them, but then an activity trips them up.  For example:

Class, how many 'f's are in this sentence I'm going to read to you?

Five fish swam away.


Oh boy.  They have no trouble listing words that start with a letter, and they're getting better at understanding the idea of phonetic sounds (B goes 'buh' not 'bah'), but listening skills are just, well. Not there.  But that's my job isn't it? I have the native accent!  Not that 'f' sounds different in Amharic, or Oromifya.  Still.

What really gets me is how excited the students are.  My first class is the first one after the recess, and as soon as they see me coming they're racing to their seats.  The second week, when I entered class I heard whispers along the lines of 'yay! she's back' and today it was the largest, most enthusiastic 'HELLO TEACHER!' I've ever heard.

I've also been noticing some of the secondary outcomes I was hoping for.  One teacher took time out to watch one of my lessons (though I wish he didn't arrive late to his own class to do so), and the second grade teacher I've been working with has 1) started looking into phonics on his own and asking me questions during his rest period  as well as 2) been taking a more active role in each mini lesson. It's no longer me doing a 7 minute phonics instruction, it's a 7 minute team-taught lesson.

I should have done this last year!

Also meet with staff at the secondary school today, I want to start a biweekly English music club.  My teachers' English club was supposed to start next week, but I'll have to push that back because apparently school will be closed next week so the kids can help with the harvest.  That's something that doesn't happen in America!

Well, at least not in my towns.  Maybe in rural Wisconsin? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I remember hearing once that you're considered fluent in a language if you dream in it.

The closest I've gotten to that was a dream in PST that was all in Peace Corps' weird phonetic language they use to teach languages that don't use roman characters.

However, I have noticed lately that I'll have conversations where I'm thinking in Amharic.  I don't have to translate in my head, I just say it.  Shopping, greetings, man, even the other day lamenting to a store clerk in Addis why I couldn't buy her cheese. (I need it for this coming up weekend, but hey, no fridge = no cheese.  Mozerlla can't sit on my counter for a week).  Of course, there are still times when I just stare at people and say 'algabunim' or 'I don't understand'. A lot of times actually.  But then later in the day I'll just spit out Amharic without thinking about.  Such as greeting other PCVs in the local lanuage and not English.

I think that freaked the newbies out.

Oh! Newbies!  G9 moved to sites the middle of September and I now have two new neighbors.  Both education.  I think there's only two PCVs in this entire zone who aren't education and one of them is leaving come the end of November.

Hanging around them also makes me feel like an Amharic goddess.  Good thing Dani's sister likes to bring me down a peg or two.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Yay for chance meetings

The other day I was getting copies done for a training (and was still charged the full price even though I brought my own paper. Grr) and a man who walked in after me stuck up a conversation.  I immediately got the feeling that we had met before, but I didn't remember.  Such things happen when you're the post popular person in town and everyone wants to talk to you.

Eventually, I remembered who he was, a guy named Franco who I had met at the juice bet one day and had vowed to actually call once I had taken my GMATs.  His number has been on a Sudoku scrap piece in my purse for months! Fancy meeting him on the opposite side of town from his house (and work).

Franco, even when I first met him, is a gem of an Ethiopian. Aka a unicorn in PCV speak, but he doesn't consider himself habasha.  He grew up in Cuba, studied in Russia, and now is a security supervisor for the UN if I remember correctly. He's got a grip of 11 languages, travels a lot, and is more than welcoming in helping me with my (super duper) rusty Spanish which I'll need for grad school.

We got sodas and spent an hour talking. It was this weird mix of Spanish, Amharic, and English, but it worked all right. He even gave me homework to learn 1-10 in Arabic (which Dani can help me with).  Franco is so cosmopolitan, he's a breath of fresh air that will hopefully last this entire last year.

He offered to teach me how to drive stick, since my one lesson in the States didn't really stick with me, and what other Ethiopian in Huruta 1) has a private care 2) can speak English to explain how to use a stick and 3) pretty much told him I can use him as a bunna daddy.  Then again, he considers himself Cuban so....

There are just times here when I'm blown away by the people I meet, be it in sleepy Huruta or some place else.  Franco's one of them, and he's really only in the country for another year, so we'll be leaving together.  I have a brother in arms to join Dani and me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

First Training of the Year

And I'm off!

Technically, school started Sept 12.  But well, national teacher meetings weren't scheduled till after then, nor the teaching rotation finalized (that's Ethiopian foresight for you) so regular classes didn't actually exist until this past week.

I held a training on what is CPD and how to do it, which is a national level program all teachers much participate in every year that's focused on self-improvement.   I went to two school to invite people and hoped for maybe 15 total from both schools combined.

I got four.

Well, at least they each got individual attention!  The best part was all the Oxford ESL textbook I had laying around for teachers to fill through while waiting for people to arrive.  My teachers just fawned over them and begged me to lend them out.  They really are much best than the English for Ethiopia books that are used here and hopefully my teachers can use them to 1) understand the purpose of supplemental texts and 2) use them to some extent.  We shall see.

I'm just excited to begin working.  I've paired up with a 2nd grade English teacher and will now be giving weekly 5 min phonic lessons to his two classes.  

This is the letter B. You draw it like this.  It sounds like this.

Basic stuff, that really teachers ignore.  There's a reason the literacy rate in the local language isn't 40%.  Hopefully, for this class at least, we can boost that because skills like blending (which we'll get to about half way through the year) is a skill you use to read all languages.

Wish me luck for my first class on Thursday!  I hope the little kids at least understand me.