Last Day

•May 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today was our last full day in Africa. We head home tomorrow. I cannot believe how quickly the last month has gone. I know I’ve said this about a million times, but I love it here and I love the kids and I’m not ready to leave. At the same time, however, I’m ready to come home and see everyone I love in America!

Today at school was really difficult. We had to say goodbye to all of our students and the wonderful teachers. We had our pictures taken more times than I can count, and gave goodbye speeches and heard from the students. It was very bittersweet. Some of my girls had gifts for us. A beautiful handmade card, jewelry, art, a box, chocolate. I’m so glad that I have made a difference in their lives. I love the kids here and I’m surprised I didn’t cry saying goodbye. All of the teachers were sure to tell us that if we want to come back we are more than welcome to stay with them. Even if we come on a personal visit, we need to stop by and see them.

This morning there was a soccer game between the Sekei teachers from down the road (from GVSU too … and Zack joined their team) and the Sekei students. Since it was in a field directly outside of our school, we went over and watched that for the morning. The 8am game got started around 9:30 and we had to leave for tea at 10 so that was kind of a bummer, but what we did see was awesome. I’m not sure if he posted it yet, but Cody had a very complete and creative description of the game. Check out tanzaniamath.wordpress.com for his take on the experience. The teachers surprisingly won 3-1. Although a student playing on their team scored 2 of the goals I think.

We also had tea with the headmasters of the primary and the secondary schools and our professors this morning. That was quite enjoyable. They just wanted to show their appreciation for us coming in and teaching and we wanted to show ours for allowing us to do so. We were talking about what we learned and what we took away from the experience with them, which I think was pretty insightful. The headmaster of the secondary school told us that he liked how much we involved students and thought it was something he wanted to try implementing as a more permanent structure for the classroom. I feel as though I was actually able to make a difference there.

Tonight we are headed to dinner and then back here for a celebratory party. Tomorrow we will have lunch out, go into town for a while, and then head to the airport in the early evening. This is likely to be my last post. I’ll be sure to update my facebook once I land in Detroit, so if you’re interested in my flight status you can check there. It’s supposed to be around 11am Sunday.

Love you and miss you,

Love, Cass

Living it Up

•May 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Well it’s almost time to go. Only one more day in the schools and then half a day around town. I’m trying to really enjoy my last few days and experience as much as possible. Today, being Thursday, none of the Prime people taught. Prime elementary school was closed, so the two elementary teachers had to come over to our school. Also, Tetra Lutheran, where the Purdue kids are teaching, was closed so we had three of them at our school, too. That made a jump of normally 3 muzungus (white people) to 8, which I thought was a little overwhelming. Especially because it’s a very small school. We only have 4 classes, but form 4 (12th grade) doesn’t have school because they just finished teaching. That left 8 students in 3 classes, which would have really overwhelmed me. We observed the first block of classes and then decided we needed to work on our capstone project for a while. The Purdue kids observed another block. We, however, made a lot of progress on our project. Then during tea time Emily had her hands done with henna. The girls gave her the exact same pattern as they gave me. It was just precious to see everyone standing around and watching, though. After that we chatted with the teachers a bit about various things including relationships, which was really interesting. They think if you date for 3 months it’s appropriate to get engaged. I’m thinking wait a minute. Too fast!

After school we conquered town again. We stopped by the tanzanite museum (where I gave in and bought a small piece to have set into a ring), the book store, the money exchange, and the Masaai market. I think I finished getting the souvenirs I need and I have a little bit of money left as well as some clothes and shoes for trade to get whatever I want on Saturday. We also ran into a couple students in town so it was nice to chat with them for a bit while walking. It’s interesting because when you see people in Tanzania they are likely to stop whatever they are doing and start talking and walking with you. It’s almost like they’re just out wandering around looking for something to do rather than out with a purpose like would be done in America.

I’ve really loved my time here and I think it’s going to be so hard to say goodbye tomorrow. I love my kids and I’m going to miss them a lot. Especially because I’ve just started to really get to know them. On the other hand, I feel as though it is time for me to come home because I miss everyone very much.

Love you and miss you,

Love, Cass

Last Day Teaching

•May 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Wednesday May 25, 2011

Today was my last day teaching. I’ve come to realize that I’m going to miss my students like crazy. They truly are incredibly sweet. I gave a test today and then I had them do a sort of teacher evaluation writing one thing they liked and one thing they thought I should change. I had no idea that my students like me so much. Everything was so sweet. Some of my favorites are:

  • “[I] like the way you explain and ask if we need help, your friendliness, your punctuality and many more”
  • “You’re gentle and kind and understanding. You let everyone share his or her idea with someone else.”
  • “You teach while smiling that also made [me] enjoy your math lessons.”
  • “I have always been scared of asking questions in class but with you [I] feel very free to ask questions.”
  • “You teach politely and you always laugh that’s (sic) makes me happy when learning”
  • “Miss Cassie was teaching us mathematics for the past three weeks and for me they were the best mathematics weeks.”
  • “After you complete your studies come back to our school and teach us again. I shall never forget you.”
  • “I would really really !! want you to stay for long bcs (because) 3 weeks are not enough at all at least a year you could stay and I can also lend you my room if it’s a year.”

I went a little overboard but they were all just so sweet. The only critiques that I got were that I talk too fast (which is probably true. I told them to ask me to slow down if that was the case), and that my handwriting was too big on the board. I guess I can live with that. I think my teaching is just way more interactive and very different from their other teachers. I had several comments on how students aren’t afraid to ask questions. One boy told me he used to be afraid to go into the teacher’s room and he’d rather be physically punished than have harsh words said to him, but he wasn’t afraid to ask me questions. It just kills me that kids are punished or scolded for being wrong. There’s a reason you’re the teacher and they’re the students, and it has something to do with the fact that they are still learning the material.

Some of the girls in my class did henna on my hands today. It’s really sweet. They each took a hand and went at it. It’s free form and it’s incredibly pretty. They say they do it all the time. Generally you only do it for weddings, vacations, or big days. Sounds kind of like a manicure or pedicure in the US to me. It should be on for about a week they said, so hopefully it’s still on when I come back to the states. I did take pictures, though.

The next two days we will just be hanging out in the schools because there’s no math Thursday or Friday. 3 kids from Purdue are coming to our school and the 2 Prime elementary students are too. I have no idea what they are going to do since we can barely occupy ourselves. I think they’re going to watch other classes. Fun stuff. I think that’s all for today. I’m ready to come home, but at the same time I want to stay forever.

Love you and miss you,

Love, Cass

Back to School

•May 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Tuesday May 24, 2011

Back to school today. I was pleased to hear that the math teacher taught my/his class isosceles triangles yesterday so I could just do a review day before the test I’m giving tomorrow. I think this test is going to go much better than the last one because I taught all the material so I know more where the students stand. They have been really impressing me with their proof writing abilities.

Some of the girls approached me in the courtyard today and were just chatting with me and they were asking me what type of things I like. They wanted to know if I like cultural things like necklaces or Indian things or henna. I told them that yeah, I guess I like those things and I asked them why. They apparently want to get me gifts. That’s really sweet but I don’t want them to spend money on me. I did let them convince me to get some henna tomorrow though, so we’ll see how that goes.

We went back to the Masaai market today and I did pretty good bartering I think. I got gifts for James, Scott, Brandon, Kai, and Roni for about $30. Can’t really complain about that. It’s still really overwhelming because there are somewhere around 100 shops and they have all the same stuff. Everyone beckons you to their shop and promises the lowest price.

I’m loving this trip so much and I feel like I’ve grown in a lot of ways. I really appreciate my life in America a lot more. I thought after going to Jamaica that I was pretty much to the point where I knew what I have and I appreciate it, but it keeps surprising me. They have so little here yet they are so giving and willing to share. I also feel like I’m more understanding of some of their culture. For example, polygamy: it’s definitely not for me and I have a lot of strong opinions about how it’s disrespectful to women, but I’ve learned a lot about it. The man marries one woman to begin with and then she’s responsible for the chores around the house (or hut). When the chores become too much is when she wants another wife. The women won’t take wives unless they love them, too. So it’s not as disrespectful as I had previously thought. I’ve also become more aware of how the students interact and how they are similar to and different from American students. I feel like the students are way more appreciative here. They have a lot of the same adolescent thoughts and problems as American students, though.

Well I think that’s all of my ramblings for the day.

Love you and miss you,

Love, Cass

Safari

•May 23, 2011 • 1 Comment

What a weekend! Where to even begin? So much has happened in the last four days it’s absolutely incredible!

Friday

We headed out around 8am and arrived in the Serengeti around 10:30. The animals were more sporadic than expected but we still saw tons and tons of animals. I think the most incredible thing was the zebras. There were somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 zebras. It was very overwhelming and incredibly awesome at the same time. They just kept on going as far as the eye could see. There’s no way to even describe how awe inspiring it was. You just wanted to stay there forever and watch them frolic in the field. We also saw lions from a distance sunbathing on a rock. Lots of buffalo, gazelles, birds, giraffes, wildebeests, baboons, hyenas, warthogs, ostriches, leopard. I think there were more. It was just incredible. In case I haven’t said that enough yet. We also got to see a leopard sleeping in a tree with a fresh kill. That was pretty grotesque, but pretty cool at the same time. It was just asleep in the tree with its antelope half eaten over another branch. It got up and moved a little while we were watching it but it was still in the tree the next day when we drove by.

We then went to the hotel which was just amazing. There were little huts that we stayed in but they were furnished like a 5 star hotel. We arrived and were immediately handed hot towels to wipe our faces and juice to drink. The dinner was so delicious. There was a build your own pasta option and a lot of other good food. More American than African but it was a nice change. The place was absolutely beautiful and the view from our balcony was to die for. I cannot imagine waking up to that every day.

Saturday

We went out into the Serengeti again and it was pretty dang sweet. We hooked up our ipods and rocked out to music as we were looking for animals. Everything looked even better when we were listening to Circle of Life. We got to see lions really close up which was amazing. They were sleeping under a tree and we drove right up to them. I could have reached out my window and pet them. We saw some elephants out in the distance but came back the wrong way to see them close up, so that was kind of a bummer. We saw some cheetahs way in the distance, too. That was actually pretty cool. We didn’t get to see them run but that’s alright. I think my car Saturday was just awesome. We were having so much fun just singing and we stood up the entire ride home through a really bumpy forest which was really dumb and really funny and incredibly entertaining all at the same time.

We went back and stayed at the same hotel which again was just awesome. We just hung out and played a lot of euchre during the night. Which is a typical night here at the Out Post too.

Sunday

Ohhhh Sunday. Sunday was kind of a lame day. First off, we were in a car with the Purdue professor who just has a conflicting personality with a lot of the people on our trip. Secondly, only three vehicles can be on the same wavelength for radio communication at a time. We have four vehicles to fit us all. We were of course in the one without the radio and the driver didn’t get the memo as to where we were going in the park. We drove straight to a rest stop, but everyone else went out and got to see some pretty cool animals. We then sat around the rest stop for 2 and a half hours waiting for everyone else. Once they arrived we immediately left and headed straight to the hotel while everyone else stayed and enjoyed lunch because the Purdue professor was feeling ill. Yeah that was pretty awesome.

We went to a different hotel for this night. This was one was even prettier than the first. We were greeted with the same hot towels and juice. We had to deal with checking in the group which was kind of a pain because we didn’t really know what was going on and the professor was pretty sick so she couldn’t help and they shorted us a room. Anyway, we got that all figured out and then hung out and (you guessed it) played some euchre. We were able to just laugh it off for the most part so that was good.

Oh, I forgot! One good thing did come from the two and a half hours at the rest stop. We met this guy from LA named Camile and he was here with his parents. They were Native American but they were born in Dar es Salaam, so they were visiting family and enjoying safari. There’s this African mountain man who uses roots from a tree and makes this medicinal drink. It supposedly can cure any illness including cancer and AIDS. It’s not very expensive to get the drink, but getting up to see him is quite difficult. Camile’s mom has cancer and his dad has high blood pressure so they were trying to get things sorted out to go see him. After lots of help from Dave (their guide) and many phone calls they were able to organize it. So they’re headed up there today. It’s kind of interesting because I’m not really sure I believe it, but I think if I was here and had some serious health problem I might try it.

Monday

Our last day on safari. We spent it down in the Gnorognoro Crater. There were so many animals in the crater it was crazy! It wasn’t like the Serengeti where we saw animals every 30 minutes or so, it was like constant animal sightings. We saw so many lions really close. One peed on our car. Which was actually kind of neat because then all the other lions we saw wanted to come up and smell the car. There were maybe 15 total. We saw 2 cubs and they were absolutely adorable. We also got to see elephants pretty close. Not as close as the group on Saturday, but pretty close. The only thing we didn’t get to see was a rhino. Or a kill. But other than that it was absolutely amazing. It was freezing in the crater, but when we were driving home it was so hot.

Now I’m back at the Out Post preparing for my last week in Africa. I’m ready to come home because I miss everyone but at the same time I love it here and don’t want to leave. I’m going to miss the people I’ve met here (even though I get to see them on campus in the fall. Yay!) and my students. They are just such sweet and appreciative kids and it’s definitely going to be hard saying goodbye. Because of the way my schedule is I only get to see them two more days, and one of those days I’m giving them a test. Lame.

Love you and miss you,

Love, Cass

Safari this weekend!

•May 19, 2011 • 1 Comment

We are headed to Safari this weekend! I’m so excited to go and see the animals! Not bringing my computer, so I’ll be completely out of touch for the next 4 days for real. It’s seriously going to be amazing.

Today was pretty blah. Not much teaching. We were going to go to Rwandan genocide trial, but they were adjourned for the day. We went to a Tanzanite museum, which was ok but they kind of rushed us out.

Just hanging out tonight. I love these people. I’m going to miss them when I leave, that’s for sure. The good news is we all go to school together! Yay!

Well short post. But that’s all.

Love you and miss you,

Love, Cass

Teaching

•May 18, 2011 • 1 Comment

The days keep flying by. I can’t believe we’ve been here two weeks already! At the same time it feels like we’ve been here forever. Today I taught AAS and RHS congruence theorems. The kids were actually attentive and were doing really well with their proofs. Lisa, Rebecca and Cynthia came today and videotaped part of my lesson. I was really worried that my students were going to be very distracted, but it was quite the opposite. The students were very attentive and quiet. I kind of wish they were videotaping me every day! I collected homework today and their proofs are looking very nice. I feel like this is a complete turnaround from the logarithms unit. I was telling the students that I will be gone on Monday and that we are having a test on Wednesday and they all got really nervous. They wanted to know if there would be logarithms on the test. After reassuring them that it would just be over congruence I think they were much more at ease. I am getting more and more comfortable being here and teaching. I almost feel like it’s my classroom with my students. I am learning some of their names which is really cool, but some of them are hard to say. I have like 4 kids in my class named Mohammed. There are a couple names I am familiar with like Joanna, Eric and Rachael. There are also some names that are English words, but they’re not common names: Peace, Sunday, Queens. Finally we have the majority of students with names I’ve never heard before in my life: Armadeep, Aisha, Hamdi, Zamzam, Zaynab. When I passed back tests the other day the students just laughed and laughed at my slaughtering the pronunciation of their names.

I am to the point where I’m missing some things from home. I’ve been missing people and the comfort of having a place to call home this entire time, but now I’m missing some other things too. The Out Post is starting to feel like home so that’s helping things. Zack bought some chocolate yesterday for his students and I had a piece and it was pretty gross. That made me start craving a chocolate bar like crazy. I already told Brandon that it would be super awesome if he brought me a chocolate bar when he picked me up from the airport. I’m also missing some of the other foods. I can’t wait to get home and have a cheeseburger. A nice make it at home on the grill cheeseburger. (hint hint Mom). I also miss being able to go the places I want to go without finding two other people willing to walk with me while it’s light out. I love having a car and being able to drive places. All of that is not to say that I do not love it here because I definitely am. It’s absolutely incredible. I am so happy that I am going to teach for the rest of my life and the kids are such a blessing to be around.

I am really excited to go to the Serengeti this weekend. We are going to see so many animals; it’s going to be absolutely amazing. We are going Friday – Monday so I probably won’t have internet then. Also, for those of you who I haven’t told: Tanzania is redoing its whole power system. This means that from Thursday-Sunday I think we have power only 11pm-8am and then from Sunday-Friday we have no power at all. This means charging things will be very difficult and I might not be on at all. Don’t worry. Everything is alright.

Love you and miss you,

Love, Cass