Friday, February 26, 2010

Ready for Teaching

A typical day this week: I awake to the squaking of crows and the sound of water coursing through the pipes. (We only get water at certain times of the day: 5-9 am, noon-2, and 4-9 pm.) After washing up and preparing breakfast, I head for chapel. The service starts at 8 and consists of half an hour of joyful singing, prayer, a reflection given by a student (they volunteer), and announcements. Sometimes a student group sings, and there seem to be several quartets or quintets that have formed among the various schools (education, social work, and journalism.)
Then I go back to my quarters to prepare class notes for the teaching that will start next week. There is no point in trying to get the Internet in the morning. If it isn't raining, I might take a walk before lunch, which is either fixed at home or occasionally taken at the dining hall with students. There, the traditional Zambian meal is nashima (a mound of corn meal mush) served with either a chicken, meat, or fish sauce, and cooked greens. I actually like it, but not every day.
In the afternoon, I go to the library or hook up my mobile Internet device and see if I can get online to do research for my teaching and, later in the day, to do email or communicate with family via Skype. When I go outside, I notice many beautiful butterflies flitting among the flowers and grasses.
As I walk down the road or on one of the paths, the Zambians I meet or pass always greet me and each other with a "good morning" or "good afternoon" or "how are you today?" I discover more programs on my walks--a clinic for women, an HIV/AIDS education project, a drop-in center for youth, a model nursery school, all within the compound. Most are run by Zambians.
One of the issues here, especially for muzungus, is how to respond to the person who comes to the door asking for help--money for the bus or food or help with a hospital bill or school fees. There is such deep poverty and so many needs. I tend to give food if they look hungry but I know I cannot help everyone who needs money.
In the evening, if not online, I read using my Kindle or visit with neighbors. Saturday is market day, and Sunday there is church. Then the new week begins, when I will teach an intensive module on community social work and then start the human behavior and social problems course that I will carry for the rest of the semester. The challenge will be to get feedback about whether the material I've prepared is culturally relevant here and to make appropriate adjustments. To get students to respond honestly and critically is difficult, given the respect they accord to authority figures and to international and white people. I'll try my best to make it happen!
Keep me in your prayers or thoughts, and best wishes and blessings in your work and lives.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In Zambia!

Arrived safely Feb. 18 after 3 planes & 9 time zones. Located on the outskirts of Kitwe, Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (MEF) includes a social work school, 2 theological seminaries, a peace training center, an administration building, and scattered dorms & cottages for students, staff, & volunteers. A YWCA is also part of the compound. Most of the teachers are African, from Zambia & surrounding countries.
I will live in a small apartment on campus and will mostly teach and develop curriculum in the social work program, established last year out of the recognition of the need for more people trained in community development, program management, and services for vulnerable children.
The people of Zambia are welcoming, gracious, soft-spoken. The country is very poor but stable politically. Kitwe is in the copperbelt, and mining is the main industry for the country. I think it would be a great place to come as a tourist, since there are national parks all over. The only well-known tourist destination would be Victoria Falls, but there is lots more to see. So come visit!
Internet connections are difficult, so be patient if you send me an email message. I will write more about my work in the next week or so.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Departure date: February 16, 2010

I'm awaiting my visa and still getting my house ready to rent, but I now have airline tickets and a better idea of my assignments at the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (MEF). They want me to teach some social work classes, as well as organize a program for school leavers. (Isn't that a less pejorative name than dropouts?) Sounds as if I will be kept busy. Expect my next entry by the end of the month, once I'm settled.