We had been here 76 days. And finally, yes, really, I am not kidding, glory hallelujah, I can’t believe it is finally happening, David and Rory started teaching students at IPDC! And, the best part is, the students are pleasant, polite and a joy to teach.
Early indications are that the fifth semester English students, are, unfortunately, way below the expected proficiency. Sigh. And, the first year students, who are all coming in with some background in English, are testing close to zero. Sigh again. We, as new English teachers, will give it our best shot, pray much, try to make it interesting, relevant and comprehensible, and let the chips fall where they may. We are still the best game in town as far as the school is concerned, and they are THRILLED to have us! So… good.
Teaching in the poorest country in Asia continues to require adjustments in thinking and practice. We bought our students notebooks, and were happy to see that they all came to class with pens. But we had several students come up after class and ask for printer paper. We are able to require students to use the Internet for homework or language practice, for which they must typically pay $1 per hour.. They also pay $0.15 for two pages of photocopying of any homework assignments we may assign. As we have mentioned before, we are in the process of acquiring a printer ourselves so that we can print their handouts without them having to pay for them themselves.
The simplicity of life on campus is striking. Few chairs for students to sit on outside, so they just sit on the grass or the floor. No drinking water anywhere or food, so they go outside the school gates where some entrepreneurial roadside stands have sprung up to serve the school crowd. This “food” is mostly local junk food, small packets of starch and sugar in quantities a bird might happily call a meal. It is no surprise that obesity and weight loss are not a concern around here and we feel like real gallumpuses in comparison (my preferred descriptor for ourselves is Amazonian).
Effective staff communication and long term planning appear to be Western concepts which have not yet arrived in Timor-Leste. We are usually left completely uninformed about anything until the day of, or on a good day, the day before, an event or program. One does truly learn to roll with the punches and not take oneself too seriously. I think we are learning lessons that will take us through to the end of our days with much greater peace of mind and flexibility!
We are also teaching the teachers two hours per week and have been asked to start an English Club which will add a few hours per week as well. My desire to have a full schedule is certainly being met.
And, I had my first guests over for lunch on Sunday after Mass. A priest from New Zealand and a chaplain and his friend from Australia, joined us, looking on from the kitchen table while I worked some alchemy on my two gas burners. My magic this time? A whole carton of cream will make any dish truly gourmet without trying! At home, I would never have considered this fatty extravagance, but here, well, you do what you can with what you have. It is Timor-Leste after all. [posted by Rory]
Celebratory addendum: Peter and James, our new grandsons, were baptized Tuesday. Thanks to a mystery photographer, we enjoyed lots of pictures of the event, lessening the pain of not being there. Here is a link to the Picasa album and Mark’s blog post.