Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Just Say No
(to the love of a dirty man...
Unless you are over 18, and he's Christina Aguilera Dirrty)

I went to an art exhibition at my favorite neighborhood restaurant/bar/coffee shop/art gallery, Katch the Sun. It's in Bugolobi, so it's walking distance from my house. I love the place. The atmosphere is so cool and laidback. I often go there in the evening to relax and read a bit. Anyway, back to the exhibition... It was put on by an American artist, Hilary Wallis (who, by the way, is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. GOOOO! GEORGIA!!!) She's been in Uganda for four months working with Plan, an international NGO. She's been working in Tororo District with youth and post test clubs. (These are groups of people who've gone to be tested for HIV. Members include those who postive and those who tested negative. The criteria for joining is that you know you status.) Together they have been using art as a way to express one's emotions and share one's experieces with others. I guess "art therapy" sums up the project. On display were pieces of art created by the people of Tororo and some of Wallis's (yes, apostrophe s is correct here) work. A short documentary of the work Wallis and Plan were doing in Tororo was shown. It was ok. My hard heart was not moved, but I do think that the work she and Plan did in Tororo is important, and I'm glad that they began it. I hope that it does not die when she flies out on Wednesday.

Word to all my hoes in the Boston area! The exhibition is going on an international tour and will be stopping at the Boston Museum of Fine Art on the 6th November 2006 at 6:00pm. Be there or be square!

Pull 'em up!

Pull 'em up!

Pull 'em up!

Friday, October 27, 2006




I used to have a booklist of all the books that I’d read from the summer before my senior year in high school through a couple of years after I graduated from university. That would make it roughly summer 1993-spring 2002. I lost the disk the list was saved on just before I left for Peace Corps. Heartbreaking.

The list was very personal to me because it was almost like a diary of my life. The books I read were a reflection of my life at the time—my interests, demands made on me, expectations I was to fulfill. After each title and author, I wrote a brief comment of what I thought of the book, what it meant to me at the time or just a summary of the book. I shared the list with only a few friends who were in the inner circle.

I’ve decided to begin a new list. This one will not be so private since I am posting it on the internet. No more inner circle. I'll be listing the books I've read since I left for Uganda in July 2006. I’m not an avid reader, nothing like a book a week. Nor am I a snob. I’m more like a book slut; I'll read anything. Anytime. Anyplace. I don't care who's around. (Don’t judge.) Fiction. Non-fiction. Biographies. Thriller. Mysteries. Children’s literature. I went through a Babysitters Club phase a couple of years ago. I’ve even stooped as low as reading Kirt Cameron: Dream Guy (Thanks Beth! Loved it. Passed it on. I saw it two days ago in the Peace Corps library. We’ve created a legacy). Books are like crack, but I can discriminate. I don’t care much for sci-fi, and I only like good (a very general and subjective modifier) fantasy. Right now I’m a primary school teacher, and that will influence the books I choose to read.


The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett: A sequel to my favorite book, Chasing Vermeer, that continues with the themes of learning what is relevant through exploration and following your intuition.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger: A fun read.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: How many times is this now?

Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian: An excellent book about a young boy who was evacuated from London during WWII.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan: It’s all about moving on, not letting go and others standing in our way. Decisions are the worst.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: This book was so much fun. I love the movie, but the book is a very different adventure. Loved it!

The Second Mrs. Giaconda by E.L. Konigsburg: I really liked this book. Where did DaVinci get his inspiration?

Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti: A great read. Non-fiction. I learned a lot.

The Overseer by Jonathan Rabb: I was not too impressed. Some parts were interesting, but I’m not rushing out to buy other titles by Rabb.

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Rae Bains and Joanne Mattern: A tiny bio about a remarkable American hero.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson: Beautifully written story of a young girl living on the Amazon.

The Shackled Continent by Robert Guest: A look at why Africa is poor. His truths are blunt. (I liked that.) Some examples are too general. The solutions he proposes are very simple but not easily accomplished.

Nzima and Njunju: A Story of Two Friends by Natasha Museveni Karugire: Children’s story from Western Uganda. Beautiful illustrations.

AK by Peter Dickinson: This is a remarkable book about a child soldier in a fictitious African country that could be any of several African countries today, in the recent past or in the near future.

Presently Reading:

The Schools Our Children Deserve
Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards”

by Alfie Kohn

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Gabba or Ggaba?

I’ve made it half-way through the term! We are at our mid-term break of one week, and let me tell you, I really need the time off to recharge my batteries. It has been a long time since I’ve worked so much, using my creativity and exhausting my organizational skills at the same time. I work very well under positive pressure, and the past month has been like a sugar coated vice squeezing me to my most productive self. Did I mention that I’m happy? All this fun, but I need to take a break and rest my weary muscles.

Two weeks ago, my sixth graders completed their culminating activity for our “Children and World War II” unit. As a class we decided to convert our classroom into a WWII museum. Fun times. First, we had to dismantle Narnia (no easy task), then we built an Anderson shelter, labeled maps, painted Battle of Britain backdrops, designed model weapons and toys and a constructed a half dozen other exhibits. We also put on an assembly for the whole school where we musically presented what we’d learned about propaganda, rationing and resistance. My unhealthy obsession with Cabaret finally paid off. (A pineapple for me!!!) May I say we were a smashing success. Well, we were. I am so proud of my kids and amazed at their talent.

After all of the energy we invested in the museum, I thought we’d have an easy following week and celebrate our success. No rest for the weary! No, the following week turned out to be UN Week at school. I knew that. I was on the planning committee, but I’d never experienced a UN Week so I had no idea how much work would be involved. OMG. The UN’s Convention on Children’s Rights was our theme, and my class explored a child’s right to security through a study of the civil war in Sudan. [Did you know that the US never ratified the UN Convention on Children’s Rights? Madeline Albright, when she was ambassador to the UN, signed it, but congress did not ratify it. Why? One reason is that the US wants to maintain capital punishment for people under that age of 18. Yes, we like to try children as adults. This means that in states that still have capital punishment (Florida, I’m talkin’ ‘bout you), children can be sentenced to death. This violates children’s rights as established by the United Nations.] We were visited by people from UNDP who are working to de-mine northern Uganda, and I invited a guest speaker to talk to my class about education in southern Sudan. The year sixers also had to come up with some kind of performance for the UN Day celebrations on Friday. Our creative juices were practically zapped from the week before, but we pulled a rabbit out of our hats. I work my kids to death: last week they also had to complete an 8 paragraph essay on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and they had their mid-term math exam. They love me.

Friday I was the walking dead. I stayed in Friday night, read and rested. Saturday I went with my friend Charles to Ggaba (or Gabba) Beach and ate fried tilapia and drank Fanta Citris. Ggaba is a very interesting area. It’s a fishing community, and it’s very busy—unlike what I’m used to in Uganda. At GB, I ran into an old Peace Corps colleague, Gordon. He told me that PC is interested in me assisting with some life skills trainings in December. That would be wonderful if we can coordinate our schedules.

Peace, love, and understanding.

Fishy Desires.png

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Don’t stop.

Do it ‘til ya drop.

I finally officially reported to work on 23rd August. (Ages ago now.) Busy, busy, busy. The kids reported to school on the 30th. (Also ages ago) We’ve had an amazing first six weeks; it’s been a journey, but I’m glad I’m here.

I’ve had to reinvent myself in many areas over the past few months. First, I had to begin writing in cursive again. I’ve not done that since sixth grade. So much emphasis was put on it in elementary school, but then in high school, the teachers did not care, and word processing became the norm for writing papers. Once I got the hang of connecting my letters again, I was informed that I was using the incorrect style of handwriting. The school adopted Cripps Handwriting. (No blue bandanas and nightly drive-bys.) It is almost like a combination of print letters and cursive writing. I’m still getting the hang of it, but I guess I can add this skill to my resume.

I’m also having to relearn how to do math. We follow a British scheme called Collins Math. There is a huge emphasis on mental math, so the children are taught to think through problems in a very different way than I’ve ever known. I’ve been confused and frustrated with having to teach math this way because it is so against what I’d normally do; however the results are pretty impressive. The kids can figure out math problems in their heads faster than I can do it on paper. I admit that I’ve learned a few tricks myself, and they come in handy when totalling up restaurant bills.

Other changes include spelling color colour, mold mould and tire tyre. People are also very funny with commas. Placement of commas is often an issue of style. They are used to politely clarify the meaning of what you are writing. However, the Oxford (also known as serial or Harvard) comma is never used and viewed as a sign of ignorance. I’ve cut back on using it over the years, but now I’m a bit paranoid when I write.

I finally began French lessons at Alliance Française. I go every night of the week from 7 until 8. Traffic is horrendous. It was taking an hour and a half to two hours to get there by vehicle, so I’ve resorted to walking most of the way. I take a taxi from Bugolobi to a roundabout just before town, and I walk a little over two miles to the language school. This saves me at least a half and hour, and it kind of makes up for not running in the afternoons. Traffic has cleared up a bit by the time class is out, so I just take public transportation home in the evenings.

Today is Ugandan Independence Day (9th October) so I have the day off from school. It is nice to have an extra day to relax and try to prepare myself for the coming week. I just finished reading a book this morning about a young girl’s experience on the Amazon River, Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. I loved it and I’m mentally planning my next trip to Brazil. It’s been nine year since I left and time to return…MONEY!!!

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