Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Illustrating Idioms

One of my favorite aspects of teaching is unleashing my students' hidden talents. The teachers I train are amazing artists - check out a recent activity we did to illustrate idioms: 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kif Kif

I really like phrases with double sounds. Here are some of my favorites:

Kif kif (same same - Arabic)
Shweya shweya (small small - Arabic)
Seda Seda (small small - Pulaar)
Joni Joni (soon soon - Pulaar)
Tuti tuti (small small - Wolof)
Sawa sawa (ok ok - Swahili)
Ndanka ndanka (slowly slowly - Wolof)
Waw waw (yes yes - Wolof)
Cheb Cheb (cheap cheap - Mauritania) This phrase generally means that it was pieced together. So if you are doing many jobs, you can say your work is "cheb cheb" or if you buy something 2nd hand or slightly damaged you can say it's "cheb cheb." It can also be used to mean something of substandard quality. A cheap, knock-off phone, is often called "cheb cheb."

I guess in English we have "bye bye"!!!

Can you think of any more?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Global Ambassadors

"In humility, I realized I am a child of all nations, of all ages, past and present. 
Place and time of birth, parents, all are coincidence: such things are not sacred."
- Pramoedya Ananta Toer

We become global ambassadors for the countries where we live. I have lived in Kenya, Benin, Ethiopia, Mauritania, and now Algeria. I still follow the news and current events there. I don't write my friends as often as I would like to do but I think of them every day. These countries are a part of me. I think about the similarities and differences between each country and my experiences in each place has helped me to understand the world around me. 

Often people ask me about my favorite country. I always explain that I don't have a favorite - no country is better than any other. All countries have amazing people and fascinating cultural traditions. I try to represent the positive qualities of each country because I saw immense beauty in each place, separate and unique. It doesn't mean I can't talk about the negative issues because of course there are many challenges to overcome in every country, and the United States is no exception. I want to share my love for the people and places in every country where I have had the privilege to live because I genuinely loved every day I was there. I am a better person than I would be if I had never lived in so many countries. It is a gift. 

Youth Center Superstars

This week I was invited to visit the youth center where four of the teachers in my program are working. The youth center is a large complex and has over 1,000 visitors per month. The Ministry of Youth and Sports named it the best youth center in the country. After spending the day there, I can see why.

My students came to pick me up in the morning at seven am and they dropped me off at nine pm. They showered me with gifts and treated me like a princess. It was a truly spectacular day. The highlight was to meet their wonderful students and see these brilliant teachers in action. It was a day I will never forget! 


I love organizing Jeopardy games as part of a celebration of hard work. This time my students wrote the questions and I brought tons of candy to help make a festive atmosphere. It was a very fun class.... 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Surprise in the Mail

Today I opened my mail box and had three slips for packages from the post office. I practically ran there to collect them. What a great day! There was no line and the staff were friendly and helpful. I am so excited to open these all of these gems! I love my family (and the Algerian postal system)!!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stroke Survivors Club

My father had a stroke in 2012. He survived but the trauma has taken away almost everything he loved. 

Two years later and my father is still really weak; He can barely speak or move. He can't eat or drink, play guitar or harmonica. His friends come over every weekend and play for him, he smiles and taps the banjo. He is still 100% present. He understands everything and he is always listening. He is stronger than he looks and more resilient than anyone ever imagined. He is fighting to survive and he's beating all the odds. The doctors told my mom not to call 911 the next time he gets pneumonia. My mom keeps calling because my dad will decide when he's too tired to keep going. It isn't his time yet. 

After spending five weeks in the intensive care unit with my dad and family, I had to return to Nouakchott to finish the school year. I asked my dad for permission before I left, he squeezed my hand and told me he would never want me to give up my life for him. I know my dad well enough to know that he wants me to follow my dreams. 

In Nouakchott I learned that one of my close friends had a stroke. I went to visit him and was happy to see that he getting stronger everyday and had nearly recovered all movement. He resumed teaching a few months later. Last year one the father of one of my best friends had a stroke. I didn't get to visit him but I still keep him in my thoughts. He is recovering well and has nearly gained back what he lost. The last time i was in Kaolack I visited a friend of a friend in the hospital. She was only 32 years old and it was her second stroke. She was laying on the bed and her eyes betrayed no spark of personality. It looked like she was in a coma. I spoke to her and although she couldn't respond I knew she heard me because I asked her to squeeze my hand if she understood. Her grip was strong. Tears streamed down my cheeks because I knew she was there. I could only imagine how scared I would be to be in her place. The sour smell of the room, shared with five other women. Imprisoned in a body. I spoke to her for a while and asked her to please keep hope alive. I assured her that her children were taken care of. She passed away the following day. 

It has been a terrible experience to watch my father suffer through brain damage and persevere through a broken health care system. It has been incredibly painful to see my mom maintain her dignity despite the heart-break of losing so much. Yet we are all still here, as survivors of this disaster. Whenever I hear of someone who suffered through a stroke, brain damage, or illness I feel a strong connection to them. Many people I haven't spoken to in years reached out to me to share their stories of becoming care takers for their children, parents, husbands, wives, friends. We share a bond that no one wishes to share. We became experts of subjects we never wanted to study. We are all part of a club we never wanted to join. 

My father's immense network of fans and friends have rallied around him. He had no idea how loved he was. I believe this has been the source of his strength - the number of people cheering for him and the depth of the love around him everyday. He wants to recover for them. My father is selfless, even in his most weakest position, when he can barely speak. I will listen hard to his quiet, childlike words, and he will be saying, "do you have a ride home?" He is worried about others, while he is filled with tubes and connected to a vast network of machines. Yet through it all- we have become stronger versions of ourselves. We get back up and we keep going. Every breath my father breathes is an act of rebellion against the odds. We will not surrender. 

Solidarity is strength. Thank you to everyone who has helped me get through this. I hope that one day I can help others as much as they have helped me.