Sorry I kind of fell off the map! It’s been an internet struggle-filled couple of days! The power was out for 5+ hours on both Friday and Saturday, and the internet has been wacky ever since.

Saturday was full of more surprises at school. I feel a little better though because I’m starting to realize that even though I probably know what’s going on the least out of everyone, no one ever really knows what’s happening. In general, there’s one person who knows what the plan is, and it’s the person who made the plan. Everyone else finds things out at the last second.

Communication and planning are two nearly nonexistent concepts here. A couple weeks ago, Jenrika was telling me a story about something that happened, and I was baffled by it.

“I’m confused,” I said. “Isn’t that something that would have been planned out?”

She looked at me and laughed, “This is India. There’s no such thing as ‘planning’.”

Oh… I see. She explained that things are usually somewhat “planned” (using that word in a much looser sense than you’re thinking), but then, someone will change things at the last second and not tell anyone until the moment when it’s happening. So even if you think you know what to expect, there’s a good chance that it’s going to get changed without you knowing. That means I’m not the only one who gets stuck doing surprise speeches and taking on last-minute responsibilities.

Jenrika and I, along with one of the other teachers, have been working together to plan the chapel program for the kids each Saturday. I’ve been placed in charge of storytelling every week which doesn’t completely make sense to me considering the kids don’t understand a word I say, but that’s beside the point. The point is, this week, we all thought chapel was happening, so we made a “plan” (as in, a loose plan but one requiring us to prepare a bit before Saturday). We all found out that chapel wasn’t happening during the assembly on Saturday morning. Helpful, right? No. The answer is no. Helpful would have been finding out before I spent any time getting ready, but that’s just the way things go here.

We also found out that the kids had a dictation test (spelling test) that morning, but since neither Jenrika or I knew about it and we’re the English teachers for classes 9 and 10 (because why bother telling the English teachers about an English test?), we hadn’t prepared anything. We quickly threw together a list of words from the story we read last week, and I went to give the class 10 kids the test.

You may be wondering, shouldn’t the kids know the words ahead of time for a dictation test? That was precisely my question. It was then explained to me that yes, normally that would be the case, but this was just a practice test. The kids were grading each other’s papers (and I was warned that they would try to change their friends’ answers to help them out while grading. I’m shocked… not), and I spent at least 5 minutes trying to understand if I was supposed to collect the papers and record the scores or if the kids were supposed to keep them. (I still don’t know the answer, but I decided to just collect them to be safe.)

There were 80 minutes allotted for a 20-word dictation test and answer review. Yes, that’s way more than necessary. After the test, Jenrika came into the class to help, and we spent the rest of the time playing boys against girls hangman where the theme was “Whatever Big Word Pops into Lara’s Head First”.

Here are the baskets. We made the little ones because they were waaay easier to manage than the bigger ones. All of the teachers were really into them too and have insisted that I teach them how to make them. Gotta love arts and crafts! You’re never too old for crafting.

After period 2 ended, Jenrika and I found out that there wasn’t a plan for class 10 for the last two periods of the day. Luckily, I had pulled together a newspaper craft just in case (things I learned abroad: you never know when you’ll need a good craft idea, so it’s best to keep a few in the back of your head), so I spent the next hour and a half attempting to teach the kids (and Jenrika) how to make a newspaper basket. It was quite the adventure, but it actually turned out much better than I expected. Some of the girls even stayed after the bell rang to finish their baskets! You know that a kid is enjoying herself when she stays at school even a second longer than she has to.

For a day of making things up on the spot, I’d say we did pretty well. I was very much encouraged by the fact that Jenrika and I were both completely in the dark about the plans for the day. For once, I didn’t feel like I was the only one making things up as I went along.

Out of all of the surprises and “wait, no one told you?” moments I’ve had since I’ve been here, today definitely wins the award for catching me off guard. The only reason the surprise even surfaced was because I was chatting with Jenrika during lunch about the things that classes 9 and 10 need to work on in English and how the curriculum for the younger kids might need to change based on what we’re seeing in the older kids.

Totally typical conversation for us… until she said, “Well now that we have an extra week with them during the holiday, we can work on some of those things.” Wait. Pause. WHAT? I must have given her an extremely confused look because she said, “Wait, no one told you?” I shook my head (please, of course no one told me. That’s how this works). APPARENTLY, there’s a proposal in the works to have a week of classes during the upcoming month-long holiday, just for the class 9 and 10 kids. This news was released at a teacher’s meeting and my name was listed as one of the teachers who would be participating. Oh, okay.

Random roof view! But these mountains don’t get old (especially on the days when you can actually see them because the rain has cleared the smog).

I know I should be happy about having more time to work with the kids… but like I’ve said before, I don’t know that this teaching thing is really for me. I have been counting down the days to the holiday like my life depends on it. I was excited to have some time during the break to help out with projects that don’t include me trying to entertain 20 teenagers. You know, maybe even a project where I don’t have to interact with any people at all.

Okay, I’ll admit that’s an extreme. This teaching has really been wiping me out though. I’m an introvert, and by the time class is over each day, I just want to sit alone in my room and release my feelings. That probably doesn’t make any sense, but when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have a super strong urge to create things. That’s the only way I can clear my head and calm myself down (if I don’t, my brain starts feeling twitchy). Sometimes that’s me journaling, sometimes it’s drawing… and currently those are really my only two options because I don’t have paint or glue or scissors bigger that children’s safety scissors with me here.

Sorry, MAJOR sidetrack. But yeah, so that’s the surprise of the day. An extra week of school! We have school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday next week (there’s a Buddhist holiday on Wednesday), and then the break starts on Saturday. We’ll have a week off before the bonus week, so at least that’s something. I pitched the idea to Jenrika about working together to plan and teach the classes that week, and she seemed like she might be into it. I have my fingers crossed! It would be so much better to have a partner… better for getting the kids interested and involved, and better for my mental health. Plus, I think we would work really well together.

A very small part of the school’s potted plant collection.

Random fun fact of the day: There are potted plants all over the school as part of the gardening classes the kids have on Saturdays. Today, each kid was supposed to bring two potted plants to contribute to the school’s collection. Obviously, everyone didn’t bring them, but I was very interested in what the plan was if everyone DID. There are almost 400 kids in the school… what on earth would they do with 800 POTTED PLANTS? Am I the only one who thinks that sounds completely insane? And potted plants take effort. Maybe I’m just baffled by this because of my complete lack of plant-growing skills (and abundance of plant-killing skills), but I think it sounds ridiculous no matter what. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome. Just also insane.

Today’s adventure in teaching included me, a smartboard, and the story of Cinderella which I partly stole from the internet and then mostly rewrote myself. I didn’t really like any of the options that I found, and I tried to change the wording so that the kids would actually understand the story. I was hoping that some of them would know it already because we’re working on practicing visualization. It is so hard to teach people how to do something that you now just automatically do in your brain! For those of you unfamiliar with the official English teacher terminology, visualization is when you read something and make mental pictures to go along with what you’re reading.

“The little girl stopped to pick the wildflowers that grew by the side of the road.” I’ll start you off with a good one.

We’ve been working on this for a few days now. I tried to explain it to the kids as “making a movie in your brain”, and I got the “you’re insane” blank stare/eye blinks from most of them. They had homework last night to draw pictures to go along with some sentences I gave them, so that’s the artwork you’re enjoying in this post. Some of them were awesomely well done, and some of them were just awesome for other reasons… hehehe. I was laugh-crying in the staff room as I graded a few of them. I know that’s not very nice, and I shouldn’t be laughing at the artistic skills of my kids, but please, just give me this. I need something to get me through the day.

Anyway, today was Cinderella, our first attempt at visualizing something longer than a sentence. To help you visualize class, just imagine me solo-acting the entire story of Cinderella. I was Cinderella. I was the fairy godmother, explaining to the class what a “wand” is. I was ugly stepsister #1 AND ugly stepsister #2. I was the prince. In my opinion, I gave a very compelling performance. The kids even laughed at me at some points which I see as a positive because it means that they were paying attention (also, this is a total sidetrack BUT… I was thinking today about how much I don’t care if they think I’m ridiculous because I’m twice their age. And then I realized that I literally am TWICE the age of some of them. You know what though? I think that’s kind of awesome).

“The crowded street was filled with people, cars, and motorcycles.” Id like to draw your attention to the people who are face planted in the top two streets.

I don’t want to be too optimistic, but I felt okay about how things went. When something happened in the story, I asked how they thought certain characters felt about that thing. That’s an area where they were really struggling a couple weeks ago. To be able to understand how a character feels, you need to have a decent understanding of what’s happening in the story and who the characters are. That means that you need to see it as more than just words. It needs to be a story that feels somewhat real, and the characters need to be people/creatures with thoughts and hopes and feelings.

Anyway, who really knows? All I can do is try my best and hope that something sticks.

“The two friends walked through the scary forest in the middle of the night.” Check out the ghosts in this one.

Also, I was thinking about it and I realized that with as much as I complain to you about the kids and their English skills, I need to make something clear. Yes, some of them stink at English, but they, in general, are still way more linguistically accomplished than I’ll ever be. Most of the people here are amazing, in my opinion, when it comes to languages. My favorite question to ask people is how many languages they speak. In India, there are SO MANY, and the people I’ve met generally know at least three pretty well. The states all have different languages (and more… there are over 100 languages spoken in India and over 1500 dialects), the two national languages are Hindi and English, and in Jaigaon, there are so many countries close by that it helps to know some of their languages too.

More scary forest!

So for example, here, it would be normal for someone to speak Bengali (the state language), Hindi, and English at the very least. Then, many people also know at least some Nepali because that’s very prominent here. After that, they might know a few more. Most people I ask know somewhere from 3-6. They usually say that they know three or four well and the other 1-3 aren’t great but they can get by.

This one… facepalm. My sentence literally said “in the middle of the night”. That is definitely a sun. A HUGE sun.

Want to guess how many Pastor Daniel can speak? Ten. That’s including Korean though, and he said that he’s not fluent. Ha. He’s in the process of learning #11, one of the major languages of Bhutan (Dzongkha). Ready for what I think is one of the craziest things? The church service here is advertised as “Hindi and Nepali”. After weeks of wondering and since I can’t tell the difference, I asked Ruth how it can be both. She said that the songs are a mix, usually the scripture and prayers are in Hindi (but maybe Nepali if that’s what the person is more comfortable with), and when Pastor Daniel preaches, HE USES BOTH. For the entire sermon, he’s translating for himself! Am I the only one who thinks that’s insane?? Ruth said that he’s so used to it now that he doesn’t even need to think about it. That’s crazy!!!

This girl is my hero. How beautiful is this???!!! I gave her a 6/5. She deserved like a 10/5.
She. Is. Amazing. I love this. I love it!!!

Oh! Another thing… Ruth and Pastor Daniel grew up in different states which means that their families and the languages they grew up speaking are different. Okay, that’s not SO crazy, BUT… then they moved here and had kids, and their kids don’t know the languages that either of them grew up with because no one speaks them here. Let me try to create an incredibly simplified semi-equivalent for you. I speak English and some Spanish. Imagine that I marry someone who speaks French as his first language and also some Spanish. Then, he and I only speak in Spanish to each other because that’s the only way we can communicate. When we have kids, they learn Spanish, and they also learn German and Italian because a bunch of people who live near us speak those languages. We don’t bother teaching them English or French because no one around speaks either of those except for us. One difference between my attempted equivalent situation and the actual one is that many of the languages have different alphabets too, whereas all the ones I listed use the same one. So there’s another level of complexity to add on.

Anyway, everyone here is so nonchalant about languages. “Well, I know three fluently and can read and write too. I am okay with three more, but I’m not completely fluent yet. Oh, and there are two others that I can understand but can’t speak. What about you?”

That’s when I lie, and imaginary Lara is completely fluent in English and Spanish and at least 50% fluent in Armenian. Actual Lara is fluent in English, a generous 50% in Spanish, and an extra generous 2% in Armenian (but I can read it, so we’ll bump me up to 3%). And everyone THINKS that I can speak Nepali, so that must count for something, right?

This has been such a fabulous weekend, but all good things must come to an end (I actually don’t think I agree with that saying in all situations, but they must when the good thing is a weekend). It’s back to school tomorrow! I could tell you about the weekend, but I’ll be honest… mostly I slept. I recovered like 95% from my cold last week, but I wanted to give my body plenty of time to rest so that I could get rid of the lingering stuffy nose and cough.

I was SO excited about today because I could actually sleep in! Every other day there’s either school or church. My plans to sleep until noon were foiled by some 8:45AM pounding on my door, courtesy of Anika (little sister #3), to tell me that breakfast was ready. Whomp. So much for sleeping all day. When I got downstairs, Ruth said something about how “everyone slept in today”. We are definitely not on the same page about what that means.

So, I did what anyone would do in that situation. I ate breakfast and then I went back to sleep for three hours. Ah, perfect.

When I woke up, I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to spend some time actually being productive, so I watched a movie and then got to work (I know, I know). Joke’s on me though because post-movie, I only had 2 hours before it started POURING rain and the power went out. Also, I’m going to amend my earlier statement about how every time the power goes out it’s a power cut. I think that we have both power cuts AND power outages. That pretty much guarantees that something is happening to make the power go out each day. Anytime there’s a storm, especially when it’s windy, the power goes out for at least an hour or so. Today it was out for almost five, and the internet is still not working (speaking of which, I’ll probably have to post this tomorrow).

This week on “Lara Gains 500 Pounds in India”, we have chocolate chip muffins, cookies, and best of all, cheese.

As you might expect, that cut into my productivity a bit. On the bright side, it also made it so that I couldn’t keep eating cookies all afternoon because I keep them in my fridge, and I didn’t want to open it and let the cold air out. I forced myself to plan for classes tomorrow and grade the rest of the monster stories by lantern light, and now here we are. Time for bed!

Ruth and I are re-starting the workouts tomorrow morning. I received another delivery of muffins and cookies this weekend, so trust me, I NEED to do something. It stinks that this is the rainy season because there’s at least a 60% chance (I just made that number up) that it’s going to rain in the morning. I guess if it’s nice we’ll walk, and if it’s not, I’ll have to get creative. I could probably jump rope in the chapel.

Also, I realized that I haven’t taken many pictures to help you imagine my living situation here. Like I said, I’m basically living in luxury. Here are some pictures of my room:

My beds (where I sit when I don’t actually want to get work done)
My desk (where I sit when I actually want to get work done)
I know, right? Mini-fridge, TV (that I don’t use, but that’s beside the point), tea kettle. Craziness!
My sparsely populated closet
My sink with running water that I will never again take for granted
I take bucket showers here, but I really don’t mind them. I mean, I have my own water heater which means I don’t even have to use my tea kettle for a hot shower. Bucket showers are way more efficient too.


My project over the last few days has been trying to force creativity out of the class 10 kids. For the most part, they aren’t very good at making things up and using their imaginations (there are a few exceptions though). I personally think those are some very important skills, so I tried to come up with an activity where they couldn’t help but be creative. I had them make their own monsters.

It’s so hard to come up with things that they don’t think are stupid. I knew that I had to make it as easy and guided as possible so that even the boys who hate everything would be interested enough to turn something in. Then, I gave them class time to work on it because as soon as you say “homework”, you lose at least half the class. Finally, most importantly, I hovered. A lot. Here’s my strategy:

This thing is terrifying looking but apparently is very nice and just wants to be friends.

I walk around the room and start peeking at people’s papers. They’re all panicked for some reason as if I’m grading them on the spot. I go up to a kid who clearly is not working and say, “how’s your monster coming? Do you need any help?” He looks at me like I might be brainless because he obviously has done nothing. “Can I see what you have so far? Where’s your notebook?” He gets out his notebook and shows me a blank page. “Oh, it looks like you have some work to do still. Do you have any questions? Were the instructions unclear?”

“No, ma’am,” he says, trying to get me to leave ASAP.

“Okay, I’ll come back in a few minutes to check on you.” And then I just keep standing there until he starts working.

The dog-bunny-bird thing is creatively named (x+y)^2 and is a nice monster who helped a lost time traveler.

I can’t say it completely worked because I still had some people turn in practically nothing, but I think there’s only so much you can do about that. The important thing is that the people who DID turn it in actually did a decent job! After imagining and drawing their monsters, I told them to write a story about them too. I knew that was a stretch.

“I want you to write a story about your monster. I don’t care what it’s about, as long as your monster is in it?”

A girl comes up. “I don’t know what to write about.”

The girls were really into monster vegetables. Super weird.

“You can write about anything… like the first time your monster meets a human, the best day of your monster’s life, your monster’s first day of school…”

“Monsters don’t go to school.” *Mental facepalm*

“But maybe they do. Maybe they go to monster school.” Blank stare. “Orrrr maybe not. Just write a story with your monster in it.”

Really?? MONSTERS DON’T GO TO SCHOOL?? As if that would be the most unbelievable thing in a story about an IMAGINARY CREATURE.

Anyway, all I can say is, I’m happy it’s the weekend. Despite having school on Saturday, at least we don’t have English class. Oh yeah! And guess what today’s surprise was! I assigned some homework to class 9 and said, “this is due on Monday.” And then they said, “we don’t have school on Monday!” Surprise! To be fair, this actually was on the school schedule. Either way, it was a surprise to me! Happy Weekend!

There is a lizard in my room (or maybe it’s a gecko… does anyone know what the difference is? We’ll just go with lizard). Now, I’m not afraid of lizards or anything, but that doesn’t mean I want one in the room where I sleep. I have some lizard-related nightmares that I’d rather not have come true.

Nightmare #1: There’s this scene in The Parent Trap (the newer one with MK and Ashley) where the step-girlfriend ends up with a lizard half in, half out of her mouth. I keep having these horrible visions of me waking up in the middle of the night with a LIZARD IN MY MOUTH. Ew ew ew ew ew ew.

There he is, lurking right next to my air conditioner like he has no idea what danger lies inside.

Nightmare #2: I don’t know if you recall the lizard-meets-A/C incident of 2016, but apparently, I’m scarred from it. Today, my new roommate was hanging out on my wall, my air conditioner was running (which is rare, but it was HOT), and all of a sudden, it decided to move TOWARDS the A/C unit rather than away from it. COME ON, LIZARD! Be smart! It disappeared from view, and I was sure that at any second, a dead lizard was going to be dispensed onto my bed. I’m currently sitting on bed #2, far away from the drop zone.

My A/C is now off, and my lizard friend was last spotted heading away from my bed, so I think we’re safe at the moment. Nothing is for certain though. On the bright side, these lizards make this weird sound… I don’t even know how to describe it. My best attempt would be that it’s like when I try to imitate a dolphin. I know, that’s very unhelpful, but it’s the best I can do right now. I’ll start trying to catch it on video. Anyway, that’s a positive in my mind because then you can always tell where they are. I would rather know if my room has been infiltrated, even if it’s going to freak me out a bit.

If I’m being honest, the lizard was probably the most eventful part of my day. I’m still sick, so I went to school for 1st period and then came back to sleep. I need to take advantage of all the rest time I can get because tomorrow I have three classes to teach. Jenrika has been with the class 9 English class doing grammar the last couple of days, but I have them back tomorrow, plus the class 8 Science period. Wish me luck!

Oh! The other mildly exciting thing that happened today was that it was a kid’s birthday at school, and that means candy! I love how birthdays are celebrated here. This is another “I don’t know if this is an Indian thing or just how things are done at this school” thing. Every day during assembly, they ask if it’s anyone’s birthday. If it is, they come up to the front, and everyone sings “happy birthday” to them (and it’s a much better version than the one we use. I’ve decided that our “happy birthday” song is horrible and kind of sounds like a funeral march. We should work on that). The kid doesn’t have to wear his/her uniform that day, and they walk around the school giving out candy. Tell me that doesn’t sound like the best thing ever! With almost 400 kids in the school, we have A LOT of candy days. This should be a thing everywhere.

Finally! Test day! And it’s also Pastor Daniel’s birthday! Today was another one of those days that just reaffirmed the fact that I know what’s going on approximately 10% of the time. More likely, that number is 0%, but 10% of the time, I just don’t find out that whatever I thought I knew was actually wrong.

I got to school around the usual time, and it was chaos. Kids were getting sent over here and over there, teachers were running left and right, and it looked like there had been a balloon explosion. So, what did I do? I asked once if there was something I could do to help, got a half-answer that I decided to take as a no, and stayed as far out of the way as possible. Everyone was getting ready for a small birthday ceremony for Pastor Daniel.

The “We Wish You A Happy Birthday” kids. Hilarious.

Here’s the 20-second summary: Pastor Daniel showed up, and everyone clapped. A prayer was said, a Bible verse read, and then he was serenaded by a happy birthday remix (including a rap), courtesy of the class 9 and 10 boys. All of the teachers were called to the stage for something that we were apparently supposed to be aware of, and I was happy to see that the couple of teachers I was standing with also got the panicked “ummm whattt???” eyes. We tried to refuse, got forced onto the stage to perform some songs that I didn’t know, and quickly returned to our hiding spots in the back. Paper letters were pinned to the backs of some kids’ shirts to read “WE WISH YOU A HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. That was kind of awesome. The cake was cut and some pieces were stuffed into the mouths of random, nearby kids. The gifts were presented, a “thank you” speech was given by Pastor Daniel, and that was that.


Pre-cake cutting

Speaking of the cake thing, that’s something else that I don’t understand. Anytime there’s a cake cutting here (which, in the two weeks I’ve been here, there have been more cake cutting ceremonies than the rest of my life combined), there are like 10 people with their hands on the knife, and after the cut is made, everyone feeds each other cake. It’s like what people do at weddings except it’s not a wedding. Today, Pastor Daniel cut the cake and then fed pieces to like 5 random people who were standing close-by. I need to do some asking around about this because I really don’t get if there’s some method to the whole thing or what, and with my luck, I’ll end up doing a cake-cutting at some point and will offend everyone with my lack of cake-feeding knowledge.


That about wrapped up the birthday ceremony, but SURPRISE! Half day of school to celebrate! Of course. I totally knew about that… not. The one thing that DID go according to plan was that the English test actually happened. Spoiler alert: I was in physical pain after grading the class 9 tests. Teachers of the world – is that something that happens to other people, or is it just me? Class 10 did pretty well. I personally think that everyone should have gotten a 10/10 because it was insanely easy, but they at least had a large majority who got 8/10 or higher. Class 9 though. My gosh. There were so many questions that people didn’t even answer. What is wrong with these kids? When you don’t know the answer, you GUESS! You write ANYTHING and hope that you’ll get partial credit. Anything is better than nothing! If you write nothing, you’re going to get zero points, guaranteed. We’re going to have to talk about that. These are essential school skills!

The teachers!

Part of the reason I’m bummed about the scores is because I know that when kids do poorly on tests, it’s partly a reflection of how the teacher did preparing them. That means I have work to do. I’m not going to take all the blame though because part of the problem is the way they’ve been educated up to now. The way I see it, the kids in classes 9 and 10 have been speaking and learning in English for at least 10 years at this point. How long does it take to get a good grasp on a language when you’re speaking it every day? And when you start from a young age? They should be able to write complete, coherent sentences by now. They should be able to read and comprehend a basic story. They should know how to study for a test where they don’t know the questions ahead of time. Am I being unreasonable? You remember how I mentioned the big board exams they have to take at the end of year 10? They’re in English! There’s no escaping the fact that they need to be able to read and write proficiently.

Sorry, I’m ranting. It’s frustrating though! Now I’m all invested in these kids, and I want them to do well! I want to help them do well, but I think I probably care more than they do. Teacher life is exhausting. I don’t think I’m emotionally cut out for this.

No, of course I wasn’t taking pictures of the class during the test…

Anyway, after school, I headed home to finish grading the tests and was interrupted by a knock on my door. It was my sister (#2), Prisha, asking if I was ready. Ready for what? I never know. I figured it was something to do with Pastor Daniel’s birthday, and she was wearing a dress which meant I should probably change out of my pajamas. I said, “of course!” like I totally know what was going on and then rushed to get changed into something presentable before running downstairs. I caught the car just as it was pulling out of the driveway. Phew.

It turns out that Pastor Daniel puts on a lunch for the teachers every year on his birthday. We were headed to the Bible school where we enjoyed a few more birthday serenades, another cake cutting/cake feeding, and a lunch. I was directed towards the “non-spicy” foods which means “tolerably spicy for a non-Indian and non-spicy for an Indian”. One dish was pointed out as being spicy, and I steered VERY clear of that. Trust me, if you’re a normal human and an Indian tells you that something is spicy, run the other direction.

All in all, it was an exhausting day. It was really cool though to see how much the teachers respect Pastor Daniel. I’ve talked to more than one who mentioned how he’s been a mentor/a friend/like a father to them. He’s one of those people who makes everyone feel special and appreciated. I really admire him as a leader, and more and more I’m realizing how lucky I am to get to spend so much time with him. I have so many opportunities to talk to him and ask questions and learn from his experience. To put it simply, he’s kind of a big deal, and I get to be part of his family. How awesome is that?!?

*This post is from Monday, but thanks to a power cut, I was wifi-less yesterday.*

Today was definitely a T.I.I. kind of day. I’m still not feeling great, so I decided to go to school just for the morning because the kids were supposed to be taking the English test. I figured I should be there since it is, after all, my test. The test procedure at this school (not sure how they do it at other schools here, so I can’t only speak for this one) is not what I’m used to. For the entire week, the kids have a test or two per day (depending on the grade they’re in and the number of subjects they have). The test takes place in a “0 period” that happens right after assembly, and after that, the normal class schedule follows with 35-minute periods instead of 40-minute.

Okay perfect. I had my plan to go for assembly and 0 period, and before I left, I was going to give the class 10 kids a writing assignment to do in-class during period 1. Since nothing gets printed out or photocopied here, everything is handwritten. For the test, I hand-wrote the questions on sheets of paper and handed them in to the woman who is in charge of keeping the test papers. Then, when it’s time for the test, she takes the appropriate test paper and gives it to the class teacher (basically the homeroom teacher) who goes to the classroom to write the questions on the board and administer the test. The kids all copy the questions from the board and then answer them. If that whole thing sounds complicated, then you have the right idea. I can’t even explain to you how much easier life would be with a photocopier!

So this morning, the English test papers had been handed out to the class teachers, and they were about to leave the staff room when… oh, wait. Monday is MATH, not English. Of course it is. It’s not like people have been telling me for almost 2 weeks that the English test was on Monday. “Oh, yes. It says it right there. English is Tuesday.” Great.

I stuck around until the end of 0 period, and the class 10 kids were still working on their math tests. It didn’t look like they were going to finish anytime soon, so I left. A productive day, right? I actually have managed to be pretty productive considering the circumstances. My big goal for the day was to get a loose framework for my lesson plans for the next three weeks, and I kind of have one. Halfway through my planning, the power went out which means that the wifi went out, so “loose” is really the key word here.

Now I’m writing this blog post that will probably have to be posted tomorrow considering the power situation. It’s been out for over an hour now… usually they aren’t that long. It’s a good thing that I’m a power cut pro at this point. The lights go off, and I roll my eyes and grab my flashlight, completely unfazed. What a spoiled life I live in the States! There, the power goes out from a storm and I think it’s incredibly inconvenient. Here, the power goes out for at least a few minutes every day (a few minutes to a few hours) and I think it’s no big deal. Sometimes it’s good to get a reality check to help me realize just how lucky I am! I’ve been getting a lot of those over the last few months. I’ll share that ever-growing list another time.

This was my first weekend of school on Saturday, and let me say that while it wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting, it also wasn’t good. I mean, school itself was fine. The problem is that now it’s Sunday night, and I don’t feel like I’ve had any time off. Sunday nights are hard enough when you have a full weekend!

The other thing that’s making me a little grumpy is the fact that I’m sick. Ugh. Being sick is the worst. Ruth is sick too, and she thinks that it’s because we got caught in the rain on our walk Friday morning. I’m not so sure. It was only drizzling, and we weren’t in it for more than 15 minutes. It is suspicious though. We’re the only two in the house who are sick, we got it at about the same time, and we’re the only ones who were walking in the rain. I didn’t think that getting caught in the rain could make you sick, but maybe things are different when everything is polluted.

Everyone waiting for chapel to start, girls on one side, boys on the other, as usual.

I’ve spent most of the weekend sleeping, trying to get over it. Ruth is in much worse shape than I am. I just have a tickly throat and maybe a slight fever, and I think I’m going to be over it in just a couple more days if I keep taking care of myself. From the way everyone is treating me, you’d think that I was on my deathbed. I skipped lunch today so that I could sleep, and I got a mini-pizza and hot milk delivery once I woke up. They also keep asking if I need to go to the doctor, but I really think that I just have a cold and will be fine soon enough.

Yesterday was my first school chapel experience. Besides the fact that all I really wanted to do was sleep, it was fun! I helped Jenrika plan it, and we went with an Easter theme since classes were cancelled last week for the holiday. We were supposed to have a projector, and I found this great video for kids that explains Easter, but when we got there in the morning, the projector wasn’t there.

Remember how in Ghana we used to say “T.I.A.” (This Is Africa) anytime something happened that we either couldn’t understand or was just so classic Ghana? Well, I think I need to start saying “T.I.I.” or something like that for here. T.I.I. would apply in situations like this, where nothing happens the way you’ve been told, or at times when you end up being assigned some responsibility that no one tells you about until the last minute, or when an event starts no less than one hour after it’s supposed to.

Like I was saying, so T.I.I., the projector wasn’t there, and we had to go with the backup plan. Luckily, we had one because Jenrika said that we couldn’t count on what anyone told us. Thank goodness for her because she’s one of the only people I can count on for reliable information. I don’t know if it’s because she knows more than other people or if she just understands my questions better. My current way of getting answers to my questions is by asking everyone I come across and then trying to piece together what I think the actual truth is, based on all of the information I’ve gotten. Jenrika has consistently been correct or the closest to correct.

Dancing during one of the songs, I’ll need to take a video next time because this really doesn’t adequately convey the scene.

Wow… my mind is wandering all over today. Again, like I was saying, the projector wasn’t there. Instead, I gave my best attempt at telling the Easter story. No pressure, right? Just trying to get 300 some kids to understand the most important event in all of Christianity. I think I’m getting better at knowing how to phrase things and which words to use though because even the little kids seemed to understand what I was saying. When I finished the story, we asked a few questions about it and gave out chocolate to the people who answered correctly (there’s nothing like candy to get kids motivated).

The chapel session ended with a few songs which I think was my favorite part. The kids love to sing and dance, and the songs that they teach all have fun hand motions and dance moves to go along with them. The kids were going crazy, jumping around and singing along. It was awesome. After that, I passed out, and that’s pretty much been the story of my weekend since then.

Tomorrow is English test day, so I’ll at least try to go to school during the test period in case there are any questions. Fingers crossed that I feel better in the morning!

Sorry I’ve been MIA the last couple of days. I’ve been crazy busy! I’m having trouble putting together a good schedule that allows me to get everything done each day and also get enough sleep. This week was so good though! I can’t believe that only one week of teaching has gone by (one day last week does not count). I feel like I’ve been in the classroom with these kids for like 3 months. You know what else is crazy? I’m giving a test next week. Me! A test!

Morning walk street views

I don’t know how often they do test weeks… every month maybe? Anyway, they have a test in every subject next week, and since I’m currently the English Lit teacher, I’m giving the English Lit test. HA! I have NO idea how this is going to go. It’s only for 10 points, but they have 40 minutes to do it. I’m not really sure what that means for how I was supposed to write the questions. I personally think that the tests I wrote are incredibly easy and that if everyone doesn’t get a 10 out of 10, it means that they somehow managed to put in less than zero effort. I’m sure that I’ll be unpleasantly surprised when I get the papers back though.

In other news, I think my campaign to be a normal person is slowly working. I’ve been going to the pre-school assembly every day, and the kids have stopped staring at me like I’m an alien. I even have some teacher friends!! All of the teachers have been so nice, and I’ve especially hit it off with a few of them. It’s so much more fun going to school each day when I know that I get to see my new friends. I mean, if we’re going to spend six days a week together (school on Saturdays though… like why?), we’d better like each other.

Besides people starting to treat me more normally, I’m realizing that there are some things that I thought were special but were actually just normal. For example, bringing me hot milk every day at school. Okay, so I might be the only one with a special order for milk instead of tea (though honestly, they might as well just give me tea… it’s all the same to me now), but ALL of the teachers get tea delivered to them during school. How was I supposed to know? You don’t see teachers in the US getting teacup deliveries in the middle of the day. That’s a thing here though, and after I realized the truth, it made me start looking more closely at everything.

Today’s random thing of the day… this cereal box. “Prolonged storage and exposure to air may result in infestation.” I’m sorry… what?? Can you be a little more clear? What KIND of infestation???

There are a lot of things that just come down to manners and the way that people are taught to be polite here. People are always offering things to others, especially food. If someone is eating lunch, they offer it to everyone else around. It’s not just an “asking to be polite but you should say no to be polite”. It’s a “please, have some. Seriously, I want you to”.

The kids are taught to have respect for all adults. When a teacher enters the room, everyone stands up and greets her/him with a simultaneous “good morning, ma’am” or “good morning, sir” and remains standing until you give them permission to sit. They ask for permission before entering or leaving the room. At the end of class, they stand up as you’re leaving and give a “thank you, ma’am” or “thank you, sir”. Here, like in Ghana, the kids are always expected to do things to help out. They’re responsible for keeping their classrooms clean, they offer to fetch and carry things for you, and you can ask them to help you with practically any task, no matter how random, and they’ll do it. Don’t get me wrong; they’re not perfect. They’re definitely still kids and don’t always do what they should, but there’s a respect and willingness to help that are just trained into them. It’s very interesting.