I started practicum on Tuesday, so that means that I started co-teaching with my counterpart to 10th grade students in a high school. I was frustrated, not because of the students but how much time was allotted to us to lesson plan. There are two lessons plan that needs to be done a day, but each lesson has two sections that need to be covered (at least for the first week). The textbook in Ethiopia to learn English isn’t very helpful and so it is up to us to make sense of it and present the information in a way that the students can understand. We also get observed by a Peace Corps Volunteer or a Language Facilitator and I thought I would have been more of a mess than I was. I found myself quite collected once the lesson plan is actually made. Having to do a lesson in 40 minutes all while having a variety of levels of students can be stressful and quite tiring. I walked out my first day completely spent. I had to remind myself “only four more weeks of this.” Overall, I find that I love teaching. Quite ironic that when I first had my interview and applied, I wanted nothing to do with English teaching and wanted to do more health related teaching. I can already tell that my service will be a mixture of stressful and rewarding. On my second day, I observed a student with a different learning style and so she couldn’t write a sentence. Put her in front of the class to speak sentences and she’s a star. Each student is so unique and I’m still trying to learn the best way to teach them all.
By Friday, I’ve began to feel more confident in my teaching abilities. I’ve gotten better in my language class and things are looking good for me. Sure, there are a lot of stressful times but it doesn’t even begin to compare all the wonderful things I have learned.
I have done some pretty amusing things apparently. I killed a mosquito with my hands and while I did that, I said “hi-ya!” To me, hiya is a sound associated with karate, but nope, not here. In Ethiopia, hiya means the number 20 so my family had a good and long laugh. Another time, I was dead tired from practicum that I almost fell asleep holding an almost empty cup of hot tea by the bottom. When one of the girls took the cups from me, I didn’t even realize it so I kept holding an imaginary cup with my hand for a few seconds. Add laughter here. Also, teachers are not supposed to crouch down to write on the bottom of the board as one Ethiopian observer mentioned after my session of practicum. I find the differences humorous in cultures and I cannot wait to see what more things we can laugh at.
On another note, I am losing weight and walking more. In Butajira, most of the roads are unpaved so there is a lot of walking and a lot of dirt. What I hate most is always feeling unclean. My shoes are never clean, my hands are never clean and my clothes always get dirty. The worst part is walking anywhere and constantly having to stop to take off my chacos because rocks keep getting in my sandals. What would take minutes in my little Mitsubishi to get to school takes me almost twenty-five minutes walking. I will never take a car for granted again. Frankly, I’ll never take an electric or even a gas stove for granted again. Everything takes so long to make in Ethiopia. What I could do in half the time in the States to cook takes twice as much time here. For example, Ethiopians start cooking their dinner by 4 but we don’t eat until about 8. I’ve started realizing how privileged us Americans can be. I watch the children here and they’re so happy with the things they have. They’re resourceful and I’ve seen them make toys of the most basic things like putting sand in a coke bottle and running around with it or using the wheel of a bike and rolling it to one another. No one has the latest gadget, no one has the fanciest car and no one cares who is the most popular. What I happiest to report is that this is a “fist bumping” community. All the kids love to fist bump the ferenji and I find great joy in that simple act because not many people that I know back home do. Kids will literally run after the ferenji just to fist bump or say hi, then they’ll turn around and smile. To know that the simple act of fist bumping a child can bring so much joy to them is amazing.
I haven’t quite gotten used to the stares everywhere I go. People will literally turn around in their seat while riding a horse carriage to take a closer look at the ferenji. I’ve started getting used to always being stared at, so once I’m done with class, I don’t even think twice about changing into sweatpants to go out into the street. The way I figured is that if I’m going to be looked at, I might as well be comfortable for the last hour that I’m out on the street. Because nothing I do, say or wear will ever change the fact that I am not Ethiopian. And that is okay.