The day after I visited Cardiff, I had an 8:15AM bus to London. That was the day when I decided I HAD to stop scheduling myself for transportation that left before 10AM because it never goes well. First of all, I always have things left to pack, and no one in a hostel wakes up before like 9AM unless they’re leaving. That means you have to try to be quiet (or I guess you don’t HAVE to, but I’m not an inconsiderate jerk) which really slows down the packing process. Second, you’re supposed to get to the bus station 15 minutes early. Third, I never budget enough time to get to the bus station, though luckily, in Bristol at least, I didn’t have far to go.

I set my alarm for 7AM, shortly concluded that I didn’t leave myself quite enough time, and went into a panic rush as I tried to get everything done quickly. Of course, rushing leads to stupid mistakes, and while I was packing my bag in the hallway (because I have a lot of very noisy plastic vacuum bags that I don’t like to roll up while people are sleeping), I accidentally locked myself out of my room and had to run downstairs to reception to ask for someone to let me back in.

By the time I left the hostel, I had less than 15 minutes until my bus was supposed to leave, the walk there was about 8 minutes, and of course, it was raining. And of course, I wasn’t wearing a rain jacket because that would have required looking out the window to see that it was raining, and I was too busy panic packing. I practically ran to the bus (both because I was late and because of the rain), and thankfully I made it with about 5 minutes to spare. And I was soaked with rain and also sweating because I ran and there were barely any seats left because I was so late and I sat my disheveled-self next to a girl who was sleeping because she couldn’t be appalled by me if she was asleep.

As much as I like to pretend that I’m a robot who doesn’t require any rest and can walk for an eternity and be fine and doesn’t have to play by the same physical rules as the rest of the people in the universe, I’m not. I have limits, and by the time I left Bristol, I was a bit of a wreck. Not only had I spent like 15 hours a day walking around for three days straight, I also spent my nights trying to catch up on my blog and make plans for the following days and wash every article of clothing in my bag (because I was at almost three weeks of wearing/re-wearing my one week’s worth of clothing).

The results of my complete disregard for my health were that I was 1. Getting sick (and had an intense stuffy/runny nose situation), 2. Absolutely exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open, and 3. Having acute big-toe pain that was so bad I could barely even walk. Yes, you read that correctly. My right big toe was KILLING me. I experienced shooting pain every time I took a step, so when I said that I “ran” to the bus that morning, more accurately I speedily hobble/limped there.

I was worried that something was seriously wrong with me, and that was just not acceptable because I don’t have time to get hurt! Since my brother, Mike, is a doctor, I take full advantage of free medical advice from him, especially when I’m abroad and want to avoid paying to visit a doctor if I don’t need to. (Really though, I just do it for the benefit of his education because it’s good for him to practice diagnosing things. I’m such a thoughtful sister.) I messaged him to ask what he thought was wrong with my toe, and his conclusion was that I had overused it and needed to wear more supportive shoes. Wow. That made me feel stupid. An overused big toe? Come on, Lara. Pull it together!

The good news was that I had already been to London, and I hit the sightseeing pretty hard on that trip. Yes, there are always more things to see, but with Iceland coming up the following week, I didn’t want to keep pushing myself and end up totally useless by the time I made it there. I had three days to spend in London, and the only thing I HAD to do before leaving was go to the Tower of London because I didn’t have time during my previous visit. Otherwise, I wanted to take it slow and give my body a chance to recover.

My plans for my first two days: meet up with friends, sleep, and catch up on work. I was meeting Mike in Iceland in three days, and since Mike loves to hike, my toe had to be better by then. I was NOT interested in tromping around the Icelandic wilderness with a bum foot and slowing Mike down more than I already would.

I met up with Maddy for Sunday roast which is a British tradition. The meal consists of a meat (we went with beef), vegetables, potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding (which is not even close to the “pudding” of American English. It’s the thing on the right side of the plate and is hard to describe… it’s kind of bread-like but denser but also airy. Conceptually, it’s maybe equivalent to an American biscuit because you generally put gravy on it.)

I met up with a couple of university friends, Nick and Becca, who are living in London for a year while Becca is in grad school, and a high school friend, Maddy, who I also saw almost a year and a half prior when I visited London after my time in Ghana. It was funny to see all of them because I absolutely did not think that I was going to find myself back in England anytime soon.

Becca told me months ago to let her know if I was ever in town, and I said that it was unlikely because I had already been to London. With Maddy, we laughed the first time about the weirdness of seeing each other in London after so many years apart… and this time, we laughed about the fact that my life has somehow become one where surprise, repeated London trips are a thing. That’s definitely not a reality I ever would have imagined for myself, but how cool, right?!

Armenia: 4 Lara: 0

That’s the current score on the Armenia vs. Lara’s health competition. (I don’t know exactly how I would score points in this situation, but don’t worry about that.) As of this week, Armenia is beating me by two eye infections, one sprained wrist, and one round of food poisoning. Yep, as if I wasn’t already struggling enough, I got destroyed on Monday by some mystery food. Maybe some shady Russian spaghetti? Who knows, but it doesn’t really matter because whatever it was definitely defeated me.

Carineh and the culprit pasta

I started feeling sick on Monday before I got home from work at GTC, and by the time I was sitting down to dinner, I was NOT okay. And then I was DEFINITELY not okay and lying in bed, clutching my stomach, surrounded by barf bags and bottles of water for the next 30 hours. As if that wasn’t bad enough, besides my stomach literally hating me, my entire body was sore. I was basically immobile all day. I don’t think I had ever had food poisoning before this, and now that I’m somewhat recovered, I can’t say that I’m interested in ever having it again. There’s a reason why it’s called “food poisoning”. The word “poisoning” does not imply a pleasant experience.

I skipped my archaeology job both days this week because as much as that bummed me out, the idea of being outside under the sun for 8+ hours with nothing but grass and rocks in sight while also doing physical labor sounded like torture. Instead, I’m spending today sitting at GTC, attempting to motivate myself to get work done, and drinking mystery host mom beverages that should supposedly make me feel better (and with how horrible they taste, I sure hope they work).

On the bright side, theoretically, the week can only get better, right?


Here’s a random picture from language class. Here, Shant is wearing a fortune teller’s hat (balloon crystal ball not shown) to practice using future tense. Karen (our teacher) had us tell each other’s fortunes. It was pretty funny!

This week has been a struggle. I think it’s a combination of things, but they’re all adding up to me being in a funk. For one thing, I STILL have an eye infection. It’s the one I think I got from Vardavar, and if you’re thinking this is quite a long time for me to have the same infection, you are correct. I went through the first treatment of antibiotic eye drops, wore my glasses for a whole two weeks during that time (which I absolutely HATE having to do), and then went back to the doctor at the end to see if my eyes were healed and if I could start wearing my contacts again. She said yes, and I was thrilled.


Fast forward ONE day of contact wearing, and my eyes felt terrible, aka definitely NOT healed. Back to glasses. I went to a different doctor because I lost all faith in the first one, and she said I had another infection. I personally think I have the same infection, but that makes no difference. She tried to tell me that the infection came from my contacts… unlikely. I used a new pair, and I’ve never had an issue with this type of lenses before. I think that not many people wear contacts here, so they blame everything on the fact that you’re putting something unnatural in your eyes.

Now, here I am, going through ANOTHER round of antibiotic eye drop treatment. This time, I’m going to wait at least a week after finishing my drops before I count my eyes as healed and even consider putting lenses back in. So I think it’s kind of reasonable for me to be a little grumpy because having sick eyes impacts literally every waking moment of my day. Besides already feeling like I can barely see in glasses (not because the prescription is wrong but because I have no peripheral vision with them), I am horrible at keeping them clean, so that plus extra dust in the air here/at my archaeology job means I’m constantly looking through translucent glasses instead of transparent ones. I just feel like I’m living in the clouds a bit… like I’m not completely present because I can’t see clearly.

Sunset on my ride home from work!

If I separate my eye grumpiness from the situation, I guess this hasn’t been a bad week. My class is still going well and still stressing me out, but next week I’ll have a break from the stress at least. We finished going over different AutoCAD commands during Monday’s class, and yesterday we talked about space planning and the project. I constantly think about how much easier it would be to teach this class in a language I can speak or even just kind of speak. I would happily teach another class in Spanish. Needing a translator makes it so much harder to do everything. For space planning, we talked about the example of a school building. What kinds of rooms does a school need? How big do those rooms need to be? What rooms should be next to each other?

Here we have Shant getting ready to step over this nice gap on the way into a museum. This cracked me up… the street is under construction, so the entrance to the building is just floating. In the States, there would have been a whole plan for how to maintain safe access to the museum. Here, access is possible, and that’s enough. Mind the gap.

For their projects, they’re all supposed to draw their dream houses… or simplified dream houses. I told them that the best way for them to get better at using AutoCAD is by practicing, so they should make their houses whatever they need to be to challenge themselves. They’ll have all of Monday’s class to work, and then after about half of Thursday’s class, I’m going to make them all come up and give mini-presentations about their houses. I want each person to basically give the class a tour so that I can understand what they drew and why.

My big outside-of-class project for next week is going to be trying to figure out how to use the laser cutter. I have a week to work out the details, so I’m feeling nice and anxious about that. A big part of me was hoping that all of the students would forget about that part of the class, but someone mentioned it today, so I guess that means we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist (assuming I can figure it out). I’ve been phoning a friend (my Peru friend Debbie) to try to understand how the whole thing should work… keep your fingers crossed for me! I’m going to need all the help I can get.

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.

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!

​I guess Ghana decided that it needed to give me a parting gift because I felt HORRIBLE all day yesterday. I woke up at 5AM and my stomach felt like a washing machine. I was hoping that as the day went on and things got out of my system I would start to feel better, but no such luck. I had such big plans for the day, and instead I spent 80% of the day laying in my bed and the other 20% running to the bathroom. Wonderful. I think it was just something I ate though because I didn’t have a fever or anything, and by the time I woke up this morning, my stomach felt mostly okay again. Avy was totally not helpful and kept saying, “hmm maybe you have malaria. That’s kind of what it felt like. Ooo or you could have worms!” Yeah, or I could just have an upset stomach. Thanks for the encouragement, Avy.

That night, there was a big party at one of the bars in town to celebrate James’s last night. They rented these massive speakers (they were maybe 10’ tall x 6’ wide), and we could hear them playing music all the way from our house which is at least a 10 minute walk away. At one point, some people from the neighboring town came too, and I’m positive that it was because they could hear the music. I guess there’s no way for anyone to call in a noise complaint… if there was a way, it absolutely would have been done. I was just upset because everyone was dancing, and I really couldn’t dance because of my stomach situation. The ultimate sadness. I probably shouldn’t have gone at all, but I wanted to be there for James and hang out with everyone.



When my alarm went off this morning for the farm, I felt about 85% better which was enough to get me out of bed. If this was any week besides my last week, I probably would have skipped the farm. That’s irrelevant though because it is my last week, and that meant I had to go. We did more machete work… it seems like that’s the new shucking in that we do it all the time and never seem to get any closer to being finished. Fine with me though because it’s the most fun. The only disappointment was that we did short weeds again today, so it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as Friday.
James told everyone at breakfast that he would still be around when we all got back from school to eat lunch, but I didn’t believe him for a second. Last time he was here, he said that he didn’t tell anyone when he was leaving because he didn’t want to have to say goodbye. If that’s how he felt last time, was there any chance that he wasn’t going to do the exact same thing again? No way. But we all went off to school anyway and figured we’d know soon enough if he was telling the truth.

The little piggies. There are only five remaining now, but these all look healthy so we’re optimistic.

I spent part of the morning helping Everlasting until Avy came into the classroom to get me because the one functional computer stopped working. You’re looking at the official IT support for all of Frankadua (and its probably 15 total computers). I went to the computer lab (if you can even call it that) to see what I could do and realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t a problem that could be solved in a couple minutes. I told the teacher that was trying to use the lab that I needed some time to fix it, and she said, “no problem, I can just teach it in my classroom.” I know I’ve talked about this before, but just imagine trying to teach a computer class without using a computer…
I spent about 2 hours working on the computer until it was in decent shape around lunchtime. Luckily, most of the issues were software related rather than hardware related, and though I don’t know too much about either, I’m way more comfortable trying to solve software problems. When I started working, the computer couldn’t even get past the startup screen. By the time I finished, it was completely functional but with some annoying notifications and things to deal with during startup. I’ll deal with those tomorrow. I also think that I need to replace the battery inside. It’s just one of those little 3V puck batteries, but I couldn’t even begin to tell you where I would buy one of those (besides probably Accra but we don’t have time for that). Hmm… I’ll have to do some research. Anyway, moral of the story is that it’s easy to be IT support in a town where barely anyone has a computer and you have access to google.

When we got back to the house for lunch, shocker, James was gone. He said, “it’s easier this way.” Well yeah, for him it’s much easier. For everyone else who thinks they’re going to have a chance to say goodbye and then doesn’t, it’s really crappy. I would be a lot more upset if I wasn’t going to see him again in 2 weeks. Oh yeah, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this… I planned on going to London for a week after Ghana, and now I’m going to visit James in York for a couple of days too. And Sosane is going to come to London to spend a day with me! So much to look forward to even after I leave!

​I’m really liking this whole school thing… and the not waking up at 5AM thing. I promise though, if someone comes this weekend who is willing to come to the farm with me, I’ll start going back. I still have to put the finishing touches on the poop hole, but it’s hard to find the motivation when I know that it’s just going to be me.

Song time at the beginning of class. The kids get super excited about this, so Avy likes to do it at the very beginning of class to encourage the kids to show up on time.

I went back to school with Avy today. I’m starting to feel like myself again, but my stomach is still a little out of wack. It was such a good day because the kids were well-behaved! It’s amazing how one day, the class is so bad and you leave feeling discouraged and exhausted, and the next day, the class is so good and you leave feeling elated and still exhausted. It usually seems like a good day is immediately followed by a bad day, so right when you’re feeling like maybe you have things under control, you get an aggressive reality check.
Today’s English lesson was about greetings: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening. We talked about what times you say each of them and then had the kids practice for about an hour. All of the things we’re teaching seem like they should take about 5 seconds to explain, but that’s never the case. It’s hard to tell how much of that is the language barrier, how much is the kids being behind, and how much is just because they’re kids and I’m not used to their learning speed. I don’t think they really know how to tell time either, so that doesn’t help when you’re trying to use times to explain something. It seemed like they were kind of understanding it by the end. I guess we’ll see on their homeworks tomorrow!

Baptist is part of a government program that provides lunch to the kids each day. It’s currently the only school in town that provides lunch, and because of that, the enrollment is higher than at the other public primary schools. There are women who cook for the whole school, and when it’s lunch time, one woman delivers bowls to the classroom and two deliver the food. It’s pretty cool, and it’s good to know that the kids are all eating at least one meal each day.

Math was more of the same number talk we’ve been doing for the last few days. If you’re wondering how many times you can teach the same thing, and have a bunch of the kids still be completely lost, the answer is at least five. It seems like they’re almost unlearning the things they already know because they try to make things harder than they are. For example, they definitely know how to say two digit numbers, but now they’re getting confused and they’ll say something like “two thousand, four hundred” for 24.  Noooo!! It’s one thing when they struggle with the new concepts… it’s another when they regress because of the new concepts.

Avy and I had a mouse adventure today. When we were sitting around doing work after dinner, a mouse ran across the room into a kitchen. We managed to trap it under this bucket, but our plan didn’t go much past that. Honestly, I didn’t think there was any chance we would actually trap it. Anyway, we didn’t want Agnes to move the bucket in the morning without being ready for it, so we left a sign. I’m almost positive that the mouse is going to suffocate tonight though… I feel bad about it, but what are we supposed to do???

One of Avy’s big classroom management strategies is to keep a running score of the class vs. the teacher. When the kids are behaving and following the rules, they get a point. When someone breaks the rules or the class is misbehaving, the teacher gets a point. You pick an end point for the competition, and if the class wins, they get a reward. Today was the end of this round of the competition and the class won, so their reward was that we came back after lunch and did drawing time with colored pencils. It was good that we didn’t try to do anything that required a lot of concentration because the kids took their medications during lunch, and all of them came back feeling sick and dizzy. We spent about an hour trying to get them to draw things from their imaginations before heading home, totally exhausted.
The ultimate bummer of the day is that the couch is gone. I think Joe wanted it out, so Agnes said something about it removing it this morning. I am so upset. How am I supposed to get comfortable in a bunch of plastic chairs?!?! RIP couch. The ultimate awesomeness of the day was a hot bucket shower. I was dreading showering because the water is always freezing, so I heated some up in our tea kettle and combined it with some cold water in the bucket. I can’t even describe how incredible it was to take a warm shower. Life changing!!! What have I been doing for the last two months??? A warm shower is the answer to every problem.

​I feel mostly better today! Though I’m not sure if that’s because my body is actually recovering or if the meds are just masking the issues, and as soon as I stop taking them I’ll be right back to where I was on Monday (dramatically laying on the couch). For now, I’m just going to be happy and not question it.

Our classroom! When the weather is nice, it’s actually not bad. We brought rubber bands to tie the window shutters open so that there’s more light and air circulation, and that makes a huge difference. We’re trying to figure out a better way to hold them open that can be implemented in all of the classrooms.

When we got to school this morning, the place looked deserted. There were no kids or teachers anywhere to be seen. As we got closer, we could hear some noise coming from one of the classrooms. It turns out that first period on Wednesdays is Worship, and they had somehow managed to squeeze the entire school into ONE room. I seriously don’t know how they did it. That’s probably about 200 kids in a single classroom, plus the windows were closed so there’s no way it wasn’t 5000 degrees in there. It ended maybe 5 minutes after we arrived, and kids just kept pouring out of the room. Next week we want to get there early so we can see the whole worship and also understand how it’s physically possible.

One thing that’s in terrible condition is the floors. They didn’t have a lot of money when they built the second part of the school, so the quality of the floors is terrible. One of the teachers told us that they started breaking within 6 months. Avy is planning to use some of the money that she fundraised before coming to help fix the floors.
Avy worked with the kids on phonics again while I graded the homework. I actually really like grading. I think it’s fun to see how the kids are doing (though if they aren’t doing well, I start getting annoyed). Avy also said that when she first started with the class, she had a lot of trouble getting them to do homework. Now, more and more of them do it each day, and today, everyone turned something in! I can’t say that it was all good, but at least it’s a start. The homework we give them isn’t even that much of a time commitment. It’s usually 5 English questions and 5 Math questions that are exactly what we did in class, so if they paid attention and understood anything, it should take maximum 20 minutes.
Machetes all over the ground during the assembly. This is so typical, and I’m starting to just get used to it. I had to consciously remind myself that this is funny, not normal.

During the first break, there was a surprise assembly (as in, a surprise for us but pretty sure all of the other teachers were aware). First, they split the whole school into three teams which apparently they’re going to use to have a competition throughout the year. The headmaster kind of explained it, but I’m not too sure about how it’s going to work. I think it’s a way to break them up to do the different chores at school (such as machete-ing the grass, sweeping, cleaning up the school grounds, etc). Second, they appointed the class prefects. I also don’t know what that means, but I do know that each time someone’s name was called, the other kids cheered loudly, and the person who got picked didn’t seem thrilled. Third, they let the kids know that tomorrow there will be a mass drug administration to prevent worms and bilharzia (you can google them if you want, but if you don’t know I recommend preserving your ignorance). This whole thing took about an hour and a half, and then it was time for lunch… so much for math class. We let the kids eat, did a quick math lesson and assigned some homework, and headed home. Not the most productive school day, but I’m starting to get used to that.

Avy teaching phonics

I skipped the farm again this morning, partly because Nico wasn’t going and partly because my stomach is still a total mess. All I’ve eaten the last two days is plain spaghetti, plain rice, and I had plain toast for breakfast this morning. What could it possibly be complaining about anymore? I’m thinking now that maybe it wasn’t food poisoning..? How long does that last anyway? It’s times like these that I really wish Amber was still here. We were sending her messages all day yesterday with our symptoms and such, trying to get a diagnosis, but it was way better when she was just here to stitch us back together herself.

So that I didn’t feel totally worthless (and so that I could pretend for a little longer that Nico wasn’t leaving), I went to school with Avy this morning. She’s been teaching P3 at Baptist because they still don’t have a teacher. They’re supposed to have about six different subjects, but she’s just doing English and Math during the morning, and the P2 teacher combines them with his class in the afternoon.

Our small, sad family picture.. James, Avy, Nico, and me

In English, they’re just working on phonics. Avy went over the short vowel sounds today. Watching her in action is kind of crazy. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t remember anything about when I was learning how to read. Teaching that to kids is a HUGE job! She’s really good at it though, so I was happy to have a chance to watch and learn (while simultaneously grading their homeworks). I was planning to teach Math, but my stomach wasn’t up to it, so I just observed that as well. It was good to have a day to figure out where the class is and see how she manages the kids. Assuming that I feel better tomorrow, I think I’m going to take over Math. They’re learning about saying numbers in words (for example, 5,698 = five thousand, six hundred and ninety-eight) and I’ve already taught that multiple times, so I think I can handle it.
Me and Nico with his hand washing bucket creation! We all talked about making a bucket with a nozzle for washing hands (they have a larger version of this at the clinic), and he actually made it happen! It’s probably my new favorite thing because one of my biggest complaints about being here for the first few weeks was never feeling like my hands were clean. Now I can!!

After lunch, the moment I’d been actively ignoring for the last couple days finally couldn’t be ignored any longer. Nico left. This might have been the hardest goodbye, partly because Nico and I spent so much time together, but also because aside from Avy, he was the last of our original group. He’s also the last of the people that I came here with, and I think you have a special bond with that group because you’re all figuring out and experiencing things for the first time together. It feels like the end of an era.

The house is so empty now. We’re down to just Avy, James, and me, at least until Saturday when we’re supposedly getting six new volunteers (I say “supposedly” because we can never get a straight answer from anyone about who is coming or what program they’re doing, and anything they do tell us ends up being at least a little wrong). It’ll be interesting to see the house dynamic with so many new people. Fingers crossed that it’s still good! They said we’re getting two new agriculture volunteers, thank goodness, because I’m really not into the idea of going to the farm by myself every morning. Maybe this week I’ll just focus on teaching and get back into the farm groove next week.

​I’m pretty sure that I got food poisoning yesterday… I don’t know how, but I feel horrible and it makes the most sense.

The only picture I have from church… I don’t really like taking pictures there, but I’ll try to get a better one next week. You can see how cool the setting is though. I love that it’s outside (except for when I’m sweating my brains out, then I momentarily hate that it’s outside)

We woke up around 8AM, ate breakfast, and Nico, Isabel, and I went to church. We went back to Agnes’s church since Amber and I liked it so much last time. Somehow, in two weeks they made huge changes including adding a sound system, drumset, keyboard, and electric guitar into the mix. I was a little bummed because I think I liked it more when it was so simple, but I still enjoyed the service. This week, they talked about how we all have a purpose. God knows what the purpose is, and he’ll reveal it when the time is right. We just need to trust Him, even when it seems like things aren’t going well, because the promise of the future is better than any pain and hard times in the present.

By the time we left church, I was already starting to feel a little icky. I thought that I had a stomachache because I was hungry, but that definitely wasn’t it. After lunch, I just started feeling worse and worse. My stomach felt out of sorts in both directions, I had a headache, and my whole body hurt. Nico, Isabel, and I tried to play Monopoly, and I lasted maybe 20 minutes before saying that I couldn’t keep going. I laid down on our “couch” and passed out. I had a fever and don’t remember much from the rest of the night, aside from people coming over, touching my head, and saying “oh yeah, she’s definitely warm.”

During the night, my fever broke, but we James, Nico, and I still went to the clinic this morning to get tested for malaria, just to be sure (Nico isn’t feeling great either, and James was kind enough to chaperone the invalids). The test for malaria is a finger prick, and they put some dyes on your blood and check it out under a microscope. Nico and I were both negative, thank goodness. The final decision was that it’s something food related, so they gave us some antibiotics and fever reducers and sent us on our way.

I’ve been a total bum today, but I feel like it’s acceptable because I still feel horrible. During our time at the clinic, I was pretty sure my stomach was going to fall out. It’s like a washing machine in there. Nico and I went to soccer training with James just to watch and get out of the house, and I had to leave after about 30 minutes. Hopefully these meds start to kick in soon.

Just to add to the great feelings, Isabel left today for the Gold program because she wants to do childcare and teaching, and we only have the option for teaching here. This last week has been too much. Everyone is leaving, and it’s all happening too close together to give any time to emotionally recover.

Tonight is Nico’s last night, so we were planning to have a mini-bonfire. I’m not sure that’s going to happen anymore since it’s been raining for a few hours now. We’ll probably just hang out on the porch and play some games while pretending that he’s not actually leaving.