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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.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May has come and nearly gone. I've had a productive month of correcting portfolios, reading novels I've been meaning to get to, ascertaining what improvements can be made for next year and fielding student applications for teaching certificate programs this summer. Most of the students are going off to do 'teaching pratice,' a de facto practicum program for six weeks of summer internship before they begin their final year of schooling.

The writing center never really got off the ground here. Having to re-adjust my goals with the practicalities and restrictions here on the ground. In theory, the idea is well-received but no one really wants to champion it to the people - whomever they may be - that can actually get it up and running. Without a stable resource center where students can access materials and tutors on a daily or even weekly basis, the thing has no shot. I'm going to have to re-think ways to integrate the idea into an actual institution on campus. Things here do not change quickly.

I'm nursing what has become a week long stomach shall-we-say...issue, the likes of which has kept me sidelined from my usual routine of tai-bo, underwater basket weaving, and North Korean shadow boxing. Really a drag.,.,.

I summoned the energy to meet my dutch friend out for a night of it last night, in the name of sport. Barcelona and Manchester United were playing in Champions League Final on the telly, which is big news in Africa. Soccer rules. Bars import projectors, screens, televisions, and furniture to accomodate the influx of clientele, and last night was no different.

I met another Dutch guy and German-Israeli at the bar before kickoff and actually felt like part of a crew as we sat enthralled with the mesmerizing passing, keep-away, and blinding speed of the Catalan side.

This morning my stomach is in knots again, we're four hours and 52 minutes into the six hour Catholic choir practice echoing through the hibiscus and mango trees, and Dan is on outfit number three of the morning.

Our final exam is slated for next week, a three hour journey into the realm of creative writing, supposed to test students' abilities to conjure their own personal stories into dramatic plays, poems, or short stories. That has been the focus of the semester, as I shared the class with another faculty member of the Literature Department. There is some talent amidst the rubble of my constant edits and red ink, but I am having a hard time staying positive on the whole. I keep telling myself "It's not their fault...nobody taught them this before...it's not their fault" as I read and mark up paper after paper. I do lament the fact most of the students this semester are graduating in a month and nearly all of them have consistent structural and lexical deficiencies in their writing, academic or otherwise. They aren't exposed to enough literature, they don't read enough, they have never been forced to expand vocabularies, and never been allowed - in many cases - to tap into their creativity in an academic setting. They have been lectured at for half a decade or more; practical applications of the skills they are supposedly learning are often omitted during class. And as future teachers, many of them are destined to repeat the same methods in their own classrooms. This has severely put them behind the eight ball. It's frustrating. I contend a few students will flourish, continue writing, and succeed, but most would not survive a freshman Comp and Lit class in a western university.

Kampala meanwhile seems to be back to normal. No riots or protests or major arrests this month. Soldiers are still visible throughout the city, in trucks, on foot and in large campsites outside our university, but there has been little need for them.

The rainy season really never came this spring. It has rained periodically but not like last fall.

Inflation is certainly become a major thorn in people's sides. I have seen prices for daily goods go up by 200 % in many cases since I arrived. 1.5 liters of water was 45-50 cents last September. Now it's nearly a dollar. Juice, bread, eggs, rice, beef, petrol are all on the rise. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to bought the same thing and been quoted a higher price a week later. And these are at supermarkets and shopping malls. It's not me getting worked over. We'll see where this takes us comes 2012.

Finally, I have struggled with transportation a lot the past few weeks. I can sense my testiness increase on the back of boda boda. My back-seat driving, annoyance, fear, and disdain for the whole process has grown incrementally throughout the year. I just don't have many other options. Once in a while I'll take a matatu (fourteen seat taxi-van) but their frequent stops, size, and comfort are demoralizing. A ten minute trip on a boda boda might take upwards of an hour on a matatu if traffic is bad.

Ah well, at least it's sunny...

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