Living in Anjozorobe can be a bit like working in a kiosk at the mall. My house is the kiosk, the streets are the halls of the mall, the market is the food court, the people of the neighborhood are the other mall employees. When I leave my house and walk to get something to eat from the market, it's like I'm locking up my kiosk to make a run for the food court (only i will not be getting a double decker taco or a chi tea latte from Starbucks). I pass the same people of the neighborhood (or mall employees) and I'm forced to make awkward pleasantries (though different from the mall as it's in Malagasy or French, and not about how dead the mall is today and how it's a shame that anyone would be in the mall on such a nice day anyway). The people from whom I purchase food items know exactly what I'm going to get, and I have exact change ready (though now that's not just because I'm paying in dimes). When passing someone I vaguely know, I have to chat with them for a moment, even though neither of us actually want to chat (my friends who have worked at the mall know what I'm talking about). There are even security guards that feel the need to mention the frequency or infrequency of my abandonment of my kiosk, oops, I mean house. If I'm gone for a few days in a row, everyone notices and asks where I've been. Too bad there aren't janitors ;)
Anyway, school is going well. I've administered and graded my first test. It was horrible. The kids were some cheatin' fools. I mean, they are practically sitting on top of each other, so i understand that it's kind of hard not to see your neighbor's test, but come on. I caught several kids with cheat sheets they suddenly sought to stash as I came by. Nothing will catch your attention like a sudden move to hide something when you're giving a test. If they just let it sit there, I might have not noticed. The best way to tell if a kid is cheating, though, is if they look at the teacher (every student should know that). They look at the teacher to see if the teacher is looking at them, and when they see that the teacher is looking at them, they quickly look away, only to check back in a few moments to see if the teacher is still looking at them which is a confirmation of the teacher's suspicion. If I saw a student cheating, I walked over to his or her (usually his! either boys cheat more or girls are better at it) table and drew a star on the test. That really freaked them out.
One of the days I gave the test was the first day of the cyclone (I'm a good deal inland, so did not get the full force of it by any means. I believe it was weak at any rate. But anyone in Ohio knows that a hurricane can send enough wind inland to disrupt a few things, ha ha). The wind kept blowing the students pens and pencils and sometimes tests off their desks. And my test was written on large paper and taped to the board. It took a lot tape to keep it up! That wind was ruthless. (If you're wondering why I didn't just close the windows or door, they were closed. They don't have glass.)
Aside from the nuisance of testing, I'm enjoying teaching. The class size is a constant challenge, but I actually enjoy the challenge of have little to no resources. It gives me a chance to get creative. I used some Beatles songs in class; that was fun. Almost a hundred poor malagasy children singing The Beatles with a Peace Corps volunteer... I felt like I making a Peace Corps recruitment video.
I'm also enjoying the Girls Club. There are five girls that are the 'teachers'. They come over to my house to plan the 'program' for the big meetings. They are all between 11-13 and very smart. They are good to talk to because we use a mix of Malagasy, French, and English and they don't get frustrated when we struggle to communicate. They are adorable too. We had to first big girls club meeting this weekend and they decorated the chalk board and ran the meeting like tiny little teachers. It was awesome. Everyone couldn't wait to get to the 'recreation' portion of the meeting where we played basketball in the school yard. I'm actually pretty good at basketball, at least against little kids.
I'm in Tana now for the 15th anniversary of Peace Corps Madagascar. I worked the education sector booth today. It was awkward. People came and I was supposed to tell them about my work with Peace Corps and volunteerism. Hooray!
Now I'm heading off to vacation, oops, I mean business. I'm meeting some friends from my stage. I've been hanging out with other PCVs here in Tana, and they're great, but nothing beats the camaraderie of the people from training. Stay tuned for a vacation, oops, I mean business blog.