Six weeks ago, when I first arrived back in Dar, I never dreamed that I would feel so completely at home here. Jet lag made for a bit of a rough transition, but now that I’ve settled in, I am enjoying life to the fullest.
As I write this, my tenth-grade IGCSE English Literature class is writing their final paper for the first unit of the year. These are the same students I taught for Grade 9 Service Learning last year, and it is amazing to see how much they have matured. At the beginning of last year, I often felt like I would rather bash my face into a concrete wall than teach their class. By the end of last year, and now this year, I am excited to teach these students, and they are already turning in some excellent work.
In Grade 11, or AS English Literature, it is a bit more chaotic as several students have recently dropped other classes to join Literature, creating a shortage of books. I was able to check out one copy from the school library, and have given another student my own teacher copy–and because this particular book is not available in e-book format (what’s up with that?), am teaching from memory until more copies can be acquired (hopefully tomorrow). But we are having fun nonetheless. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a great drama to start the year with because of its oftentimes crude humor and scathing criticisms of humanity’s tendency to avoid reality and sacrifice all in the pursuit of power/wealth/achievement.
The A2 English Literature class, Grade 12, is an even smaller class, which enables us to be flexible and creative as we work through Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” As these students move from the AS level in to A2, I am enjoying the challenge of stretching them and challenging them to push beyond their comfort zones. The rigor of the A2 Literature course requires students to build arguments from the text, using not only their own personal response and analysis, but also to evaluate and weigh the opinions of others. In many ways, it feels like teaching a college class, and it is exciting to see students dig in and discover new perspectives.
In addition to these core classes, I am also teaching primary swimming and Grade 9 Service Learning, as well as supervising a group for the Grade 11 Service Learning projects. There is a new aquatics director here at HOPAC who is also teaching primary swimming, allowing the class size to be cut from a 25-1 ratio, which has made those classes so much easier and fun to teach! Grade 9 Service Learning is off to a great start this year. I am excited to co-teach this class with Mr. Kappers once again, and thrilled to be working with students who are inquisitive and eager to learn. The Grade 11 Service Learning assignments were made just today, and I will be working alongside a small group of girls with a local NGO, Changamoto, which means “challenge” in Swahili. It is a rehabilitation center for women dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, where the women are taught to make and sell crafts in order to earn an income. Other things I’m excited about at HOPAC include the upcoming Grade 11 Bonding Trip, starting an after-school volleyball club, meeting with a few girls for a Bible study once a week before school, and YoungLife club.
One of my only complaints at the end of last year was that I didn’t have any close friends my age and still felt lonely even after living in Dar for a full year. I did not expect this to change, but have been pleasantly surprised. I have made some amazing friends that I’m able to hang out with multiple times a week, and am absolutely loving their friendship!
My after-school schedule has assumed its own rhythm this year, starting the week by once again coaching the IST girls’ volleyball team each Monday afternoon before playing with a group of adults in the evenings. Tuesdays are my time-out evenings. Of course, that oftentimes means grading papers (I do teach English Literature after all!), but I try to take Amini for a run on the beach, read a book, watch a movie, or just relax on Tuesday afternoons. I play soccer with the HOPAC staff, students, and parents on Wednesdays, and have started playing indoor ball hockey on Thursdays (if I would have known I’d be playing, I would have brought my hockey stick back with me from the U.S., but oh well… such is life!). On the Fridays when there is not YoungLife club, I play touch rugby. The weekends aren’t any slower, with cycling, beach volleyball, underwater hockey, Ultimate Frisbee, diving, and softball all competing for time and energy. It is busy, but I love every minute of it.
I do realize that I haven’t taken any new pictures yet this year, and have hopes of getting my camera out again in the upcoming weeks. The hard part is that I’d prefer to take sports photos, but don’t want to stop playing long enough to take the pictures! At the same time, I am planning to travel to Mafia Island over the October mid-term break for some diving and snorkeling with whale sharks (hopefully I see some!), which should lend itself to some photography. I’m also tentatively planning a trip to Victoria Falls over Christmas, which may or may not include whitewater rafting and bungee jumping (with my GoPro camera, of course!). All that to say, stay posted for photos over the next few months.