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I teach abroad and continue to pursue the life I was given as if it was my last. Many people think it is. In my spare time, I enjoy lapping up ice cream, reading spy novels, and euthanizing manta rays.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Freshers Ball

I have 83 students in two classes. These students come from all over Uganda. From Gulu and Arua. From Kasese and Kabale and other towns you've never heard of. Beautiful people, eager to shake my hand (the Ugandan shake, by the way, is: regular shake, what's up, bro'! shake, back to regular shake, slow release...) and get my thoughts on their country.

Their names are impossibly impossible to make up: British colonial first names followed by tribal surnames.

I've got Mercy and Maxwell, Prima and Victoria. Charlotte and Damalie, Richard and Julius. Three Juliuses actually. Three Pauls. A couple of Richards. A Simon. A Jimmy. A Sharon. Two Fionas. Two Racheals. A Patrick. An Anita. Even an Ivan.

Today was the Freshers Ball, a celebration to welcome first years into the university. I guess they prefer than neutral gender title to our "Freshman" term in America. I actually had no idea about it until I saw caps and gowns and a big gathering outside the main hall on campus. The Vice Chancellor made a speech. There was music. The setting was fabulous. I even ran into a few of my students which was really nice. I feel like we're starting to connect as people.

Julius saw me first and rescued me from a physics student talking my ear off about America. Then came Prima and finally Moses. That's Moses Kibuuka for those scoring at home. He loves "The Bourne" trilogy almost as much as I do. Then a few Freshers I am teaching showed up after the ceremony. One of them noticed a huge bug on my shoulder and saved me from a nasty bite. That student, Richard Orijabo, has about the widest grin one could imagine. To his left was Florence Hantongo. Florence is cross-eyed but plenty capable. Her first essay was captivating. I've noticed if I stare at her right ear she and I connect. It's like ear-contact. Without getting anywhere near the lobe.

So I had a good afternoon at the ball then came home to prepare vienna sausages and buy Nile beer at the local bar. I made a special deal with the owner that if I bring back the empties I can take their beers out of the bar and into my fridge. Each 24 oz bottle costs 2000 shillings (or approximately 90 cents). God bless.

The students are starting to get the idea of an academic essay. It's not the most riveting of classes as far as song and dance, fun activities, but they see the use of it and how badly they need the structure. Their ideas are so fluid and fascinating that if I can somehow harness their organization and teach them the skills for writing an academic paper, they might actually find the class useful.

We have individual meetings in my office this week so I can try to learn all their names and help the weaker ones before we start moving through the course syllabus a bit faster.

I am also supposed to be leading a workshop on writing in October but as of yet haven't heard any specifics on dates, audience, or specific topics to be discussed. I'm getting used to that around here.

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