Thursday, October 16, 2008

Destruction of Tidal Wave #1

A picture of the fence that went down completely due to land slidage from the flooding and rains of the tidal wave that came over us in the northend of St. Lucia this last weekend.... the fence was completely down, but through the efforts of various teachers from the school nearby and community members it is being put back up. This is just one of the many small things that had to be fixed at cost of the wave. The field behind the fence is used for agricultural purposes...most of which had to be attended to immediately. St. Lucia puts a lot of money into reconstruction after the tropical season. Another wave soon to come! Apparently, they are the after effects of Hurricane Owen that passed onto Peurto Rico.
P.S. The dogs in the picture are my best buddies that walk me to work every morning!!!!
Teaching a Class Spur of the Moment

During the course of the week I have been tested a few times to see what I can do. The first of which was Tuesday. Being focused on preparing for my activity for Thursday that determines our next move as Peace Corps volunteers before swearing in, I was hoping Tuesday would just be another day of observation with the Grade 6. However, moments before class begun I noticed that the teacher was not to be found. A few minutes past, the principal came into the class and explained that Miss Eugene would not be coming today due to a CPR seminar she was attending. Okay. Okay. Breathe. Considering I have only co-taught and worked with students in small groups or one on one, this was new to me. Not only was it my first day as a teacher, but I had no prepared lesson plan. Due to training schedules, I hadn’t been at the school for two weeks and I had a vague idea of what the material was supposed to be.

Luckily, I had some ideas in mind for my activity that I had written down the night before. I used a few of these ideas to teach the class that day. Mathematics or “maths” as they call it in St. Lucia, was my starting point. I figure, they are really behind on maths and I need to work with them in this area. Giving them story problems to solve, I managed to have them remain quiet and doing their work. After the story problems, I worked with them on multiplication, but shortly figured out that this was past the point in which most of them were at anyway. So I had to make the choice to move back and work on addition and subtraction of big numbers. Many of the students found it difficult to grasp the concept of borrowing and carrying over numbers, so we spent much of the day working on that.

After lunch, the anxiety had worn away quite and bit and I finally calmed down. We worked on homophones, words that sound the same but have different spellings and different meanings. For instance, the words “there, their, and they’re” are homophones. Using the traditional game of “heads up, seven up” I created a base for the game “heads up, four to speak up”. We began playing the game only as a game, having four children pushing down the thumbs of four other children while their heads are on the desks and their eyes closed. After doing a couple rounds of playing the game, we moved into the more academic version. The students whose thumbs had been pushed down now had to listen to me say a sentence with a homophone word in it, and then follow up with the correct spelling. The game really helped the kids to work together, while still having fun. After playing the game about ten times, the students started to cheat by looking at who was pushing their thumbs down. At this point, when the kids began to get a little rowdy, I had to change the subject. Because the kids were talking too much, I made them return to math. The next time I played an educational game with them they paid more attention!

Today I completed the activity that we are supposed to complete pre-being sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Yes, that’s right, I am technically still a Trainee until Wednesday, October 22nd. I was really stressing out over the activity, as the first attempt posed external problems outside my realm of control (i.e. weather, type of activity in relation to type of assessment, etc). So, you can understand my nervousness in attempting to complete the activity for a second time with success. Being observed and evaluated (unless it is in volleyball) is not my specialty. I get insanely nervous when people evaluate me for my work; especially when I am working in somewhat of a new area. I prepared myself as much as I could ahead of time, and did my best for the given day. After all, that’s really all I can do. Despite my nervousness, I did well but know I could have done a little better were I more comfortable with being observed. Just another hurdle to jump while I am here with the Peace Corps! We are constantly being observed, critiqued, evaluated, and advised on how to be a better volunteer. This is a very good thing, as I, personally, would like to improve as much as possible in the areas that I will be working in. Not only am I training people in St. Lucia and working with them to train others, but in turn, they are really helping me to improve as well!

The activity that I used focused on improvement in numeracy through multiplication. We used beans and playing cards as materials. The playing cards were used to be the numbers that we multiply. To start out with, I flipped over two cards and worked with the four students as a group to show how we can add groups together to get the sum of multiplying two numbers. For instance, I flipped over a 5 and a 4. I explained to the students that we have four groups of five, or five groups of four. Then I counted out the beans into groups to show them what I was looking for. I challenged each of the students to try one of the multiplication of their own, with the help of their peers. Then, after we worked on that for a little while, we moved into playing “head-2-head”, which is a revised version of “war”. I had the four students divided into two teams. First, we all played against each other "head-2-head" and then I took myself out of the game to watch them play on their own. I observed them along the way and asisted them when they needed guidance. It was nice to see that many of the times, they would help each other out in the problems even though both teams were playing against each other.

I'm glad that the activity went well overall. It's just one thing that gets me to be where I want to be. Tuesday of next week and the following I will be teaching the class again at the Primary...let's all say a little prayer for me, eh, eh? I must say, working with the primary has reminded me of what it is like to be a youth again...I am constantly being reminded that there always enough time in your life to play a game, to ask questions to even the most basic ideas, to jump and skip and run for no reason, and to use all the energy you have by 3 o'clock!

The country and not so western....

On one of the Sunday nights in the past eight weeks, I decided to join Ashley in Babboneau for what is called a “country and western dance”. Seeing as how where I had been staying with my host family is very close to the location of the dance, I gave in when Ashley asked if I wanted to go. Her host mom and three of her host mom’s friends came to pick me up on the corner by my house. We fit four people in the back seat with no hesitation, except for a little giggling. At one time I am quite sure that my elbow was in someone’s chest and her thigh had been digging into my rear. It was like the volkswagon commercials, where you see twenty people piling up out of this tiny little car.

Actually this reminded me of when cousin Megan was in town to visit and we had all gone to the Mariners game. We had a ride there with no problem. However, me and Megs wanted to go out on the town and thus, needed a ride to the bar. However, there were already six of the family members going home in this car and so, it was pretty packed. Talk about family bonding time. I think after this experience, we were all changed. Not only did we manage to fit 7 or 8 people in the tiny little car that my uncle was driving but we rolled down the windows to roll in style. One of the cousins decided to start singing “apple bottom jeans”, and next thing we know all of us are singing along to it. Including my uncle! So imagine a mixed car of old and young, of all different backgrounds singing as loudly as possible to this rap song. And on top of this, my uncle had admitted he had gas at the beginning of the car ride. You can imagine how that went. This is perhaps one of my favorite moments in Haley history, perhaps.
So not to get off topic, but I thought you should all know that story because it describes my family perfectly. I’ll risk the legality of the situation for the humor that life presents. Anyhow, that Sunday night Ashley and I made our way to the “country and western dance”. Immediately, I wanted to leave. I felt so awkward and uncomfortable! I didn’t know how to dance this way and I looked very much out of place. The one thing keeping me there, well, besides Ashley saying we can’t go yet, was the music. Yes, yes, I will admit, I love country music. There is no denying this. People thought because I could sing the song in full I was going to be a pro dancer. Nope, sorry old buddies, not the case.

Then, I thought to myself: When have I felt completely comfortable and not awkward this entire experience thus far? The answer: not once. So I made the most of it and grabbed a dance partner. It took many different partners and watching others for hours to actually learn this “two-step” (really a three-step). Between dancing with all guys above 60 years old and feeling incredibly awkward, Ashley and I stepped out to grab a Piton at one of the great “bars” in Babboneau. This one is actually a bar! Funny enough, however, is that the name of the bar is “Gordon’s”. Of course it is! (For those not sure why this name is significant it was the name of the place I bartended at for four years before committing myself to the greater good of the Peace Corps). Along the way to the bar, we met a man from England (originally from St. Lucia) and it turned out his family owned the bar. Life is so small in St. Lucia! Another one of the guys that I met that night was so anxious to keep in contact with me because he said he would probably never see me again and guess what? I have seen him four times since then…in the most random places too. This island is VERY small.

So the morale of the story is: despite feeling extremely awkward and uncomfortable for the first half of the night, the rest of the night proved to be very worthwhile! I had a ton of fun, sweated out the one beer I drank, and “just let go”. By the end of the night, I once again felt as if this was the right place for me to be, at the right time. I should be in St. Lucia!

I wish I could record what happens at one of these events just so all of you readers can experience the same thing I experienced. Words can sum it up, but words cannot fully immerse you in the experience. Imagine the scenery… The lights are off but there is a DJ on the stage in the front of the room with a few lights on him. About twenty people are on the dance floor pulling out their best “two-steps”, the men wearing jeans and a t-shirt with gold chains and the women wearing skirts or jeans; the kind of dress that you would find at a downtown late night club. It’s great stuff. There are people all around the outsides watching and talking. Yes, for a minute you feel as if you are warped back into an eighth grade dance; you are a wallflower and waiting for a dance partner. After turning down the first five because 1) he wasn’t attractive enough or 2) you don’t want to embarrass yourself with your horrible western dancing skills, you finally accept to the sixth, somewhat decent guy that is also bad at dancing. Soon after, you realize that picking a bad dancer as a partner was not the best way to go, as now everyone is staring at both of you and smirking. The next time around you dance with a better dancer, but of course the attraction is compromised. The more and more you dance the better the dancers get, and the less you care about who you are dancing with. Now, it’s just all about having fun and not caring one bit. This was the progression of my night; and it was a great experience for me. Wish you could have been there? Come to St. Lucia and I’ll take you to one or I’ll make Ashley take you to one instead.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Laundry awaits....

The rains have been continual for the last week, and I have yet to get my laundry finished... I finally understand how much of a gift having a dryer back in the states is! I have taken for granted the appliances that I had back in Seattle to such a large degree... but now I know. At one point, I had complained because I had to walk outside, down two sets of stairs around the house and down another set of stairs to get to the washing room. To think!