It’s been a little over a month since I’ve arrived at site!  It’s hard to believe, though swearing-in feels like years ago at times!

Site installations began the after we left Conakry.  As part of the formal Peace Corps moving in process, we’re introduced to all of the bigwigs of our region and surrounding prefectures, so I got to meet military and political officials in Labe, Pita, and Lelouma.  The Peace Corps dropped several volunteers off at their sites at a time, and finally, on September 29th, it was my turn.  After riding around the rocky roads of the Fouta in Peace Corps land cruisers for three days, I was excited (and slightly nervous) to be installed in my own site.  On arrival, I was greeted with lots of little voices shouting “Madame Sarah est revenue!” (Ms. Sarah is back!) Obviously, they had not forgotten me since my site visit in August. After being formally re-introduced to the Sous-Prefet and Principal at my school, the clouds started rolling in and we rushed to get all my junk moved inside my house.  At that point, everything became a whirlwind- kids running all around my house sweeping and moving thins, others dragging my heavy bags into the house.  It was only when the APCD installing me asked how I was doing that reality sunk in and I suddenly started to tear up. I wiped my eyes quickly as the Peace Corps car drove off. The rain kept me inside my house for the first few hours and I was busied with unpacking and organizing my new home, though I was praying for the rain to slow so I could head out to the market and get food for the coming week.  (The market at my site is only once a week , and I had conveniently arrived on market day.)

Finally the rain let up slightly, and I was followed by half a dozen little neighbors to the market.  My onlookers grew in number as I shopped, and soon I had over fifteen little kids carefully watching me make each purchase.  I felt like Dorothy in Munckinland.   

The next few days were busy as I continued to organize the house and prepare for school. Unfortunately, I still had very little information on what I would be teaching, so I made a go-to lesson plan for every single grade level I could possibly be given on that upcoming first day. I quickly learned how to carry water on my head, (though not well), where to buy bananas on non-market days, and how to sit through awkward courtesy visits from people who speak mostly Pular.

The first day of school was probably the strangest first day I have ever had.  I was the only one who was expecting to actually work, apparently.  Two other administrators showed; the rest of the teachers were nowhere to be found.  Only about twenty kids came, and the school has about 250 in the middle and high school students combined.  So, to my shock, I watched the Principal lecture the kids on the rules for the upcoming school year. I was then told to sit in a chair and watch as the students cleaned out the courtyard.  That was it for the first day of school.

The second day was very similar, except a few more students made their way to school, and I was instructed to give those who were there English lessons. I hadn’t really prepared much for English during training; all I had were a few emergency lesson plans in case I was put in a situation like this one.  The rest of the week I winged more English classes to all of the grade levels, trying to hide the fact that I have no idea how to teach English, and had little materials or methodology. The students seemed to enjoy it though, and I was kept busy.

The second week, teachers actually started showing up, and I was told to stop teaching English and to start with the Chemistry program- for ALL grade levels.  So, I began teaching 7-12th grade chemistry (each grade has a different chemistry curriculum).  The schedule for classes (instead of just doing whatever the Principal decided that morning) was finally established in the middle of the second week in a two hour staff meeting where I sat silently as five Guinean men yelled at each other in Pular, writing and erasing and rewriting the schedule of classes on a chalkboard in the school office.    By the third week, we finally started following the schedule a little more regularly. We still are waiting on the arrival of a French Teacher, a Math teacher, and possibly another Chemistry teacher (which would change my classes again to Chemistry, Biology, and English). 

Right now, I have six preps (ah!), and each class period lasts two hours.  The longest I have to teach back to back is four hours, when I go from 7th to 8th grade, for example.  I have no photocopier, no overhead, no projector, no whiteboard, no textbooks, no lab materials, and very little chalk.  My largest class is 62 students at the latest count (the classes grow each day), and my smallest is 4 (not many make it all the way to 12th grade).  My work is definitely cut out for me.