A day in the life of an English literacy Intern

A day in the life of an English literacy Intern
15th November 2016

Compared to my life back in England, volunteering for a women’s empowerment NGO in Uganda is an everyday adventure. With a desk set against the lush backdrop of the Ugandan tropical terrain, and Tesco meal deals replaced with local cuisine – working 9-5 has never been sweeter.

8AM: The group awakes to the sound of alarm clocks and cockerels. After a tussle with a mosquito net and a few ‘good morning’ grunts, everyone gets on with their morning ablutions. Walking out into the courtyard for an obligatory trip to the squat toilets requires a few moments to adjust yourself to the searing brightness of the morning sun.

The view from our volunteer house

The view from our volunteer house

8.30AM: Everyone is dressed in their ‘Monday Smart’ as we consider, arguably, the hardest decision of the day – which chapatti man to buy breakfast from. Of course, you can’t deny the sultry goodness of Alex’s but the nameless elderly man’s stall does look more hygienic. To spice up our breakfast the English way, we generously apply marmite and tuck in.

 

 

 

 

The winning chappati man!

The winning chappati man!

 

 

9AM-12PM: We arrive at the WIL Uganda office in a breakfast chapatti haze, armed with our bottles of water and work for the day. I get out my laptop and begin planning for the afternoon’s one to one sessions. Today I will be teaching Janet ‘emotion’ vocabulary, so I begin the crafty task of making flashcards. Afterwards, I write up my lesson plan in my notebook and prepare some games and reading tasks for my student.

12PM: We all hungrily pack up our work and walk to lunch. The intern-favourite is a small restaurant called St Thomas’ that is a brisk walk away from the office. We walk in, greet the waitresses and sit down at our usual table. After a look at the menu that we have all memorised by heart, I order the ambiguous but fail-safe ‘beans and food’. While the food is cooking, we flick through a newspaper or two, paying particular attention to the advice column and horoscopes. The news of Taurus being in a new moon yet again and one failed crossword later, our food arrives to the table. The quantity of rice, sweet potato and beans they serve is a challenge but one we readily accept every day. We munch away, making unimpressive dents in the rice, while we watch the music channel on the small TV in the corner. The TV flickers between the small-budget music videos and a moderately embarrassed news anchor waggling his hips in tune.
We pay the waitresses for our food, with the usual apologies for not having the correct tender, and start to make our way back to the office. Just a few metres walk and we see a blur of small Ugandan school children as they begin their attack, screeching ‘Mzungu’ at the top of their lungs. They completely surround us. Their hands gape as they ask to shake our hand. We greet them with a cheeky wave, as we side-step around them and they giggle mischievously.

1pm-2pm: Back in the office, us volunteers all settle down for the afternoon. I begin some grant research for the NGO and send a few emails. I gather my notebook and books in preparation for the afternoon’s session. Our friendly national volunteer Joe, meets me at the office and we journey to Janet’s house.

Janet playing charades

Janet playing charades

Janet and I in lesson

Janet and I in lesson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2pm-4pm: We arrive at Janet’s house and find her outside under a tree with her notebook at the ready. She jumps up, runs to greet us and rushes to bring over chairs and a desk from inside. We three sit down laughing and I begin the lesson. Today I teach her some new vocabulary for describing emotions. She assuredly says the wrong answer and we high five and laugh. As my most confident student, she quickly gets into the spirit of charades, standing up and acting without much encouragement from myself. I give her some homework, and we say our goodbyes.

Townside school reading session

Townside school reading session

4.30pm: Me and Joe walk back to the office and collect the books for my after-school session at Townside Secondary School. I bolster them into my rucksack, forcing the zip around. We walk to the school, passing our house and the marketplace. Once arrived, I set up the books on the front desk. The girls saunter in, saying hello and asking me how I am. Of course, as everyone is in Uganda, I am fine. The girls pick out the books that had last week and sit down around the classroom to begin reading. As they read, I walk around and answer their questions. One girl asks me what the word ‘sashay’ means, so I demonstrate, to the delight of the class. At the end of the hour, I ask each of the girls to say something they did or didn’t like about the book they were reading. One girl offers herself to go first, and explains that the book made her feel sad because the main character was suffering. We say our goodbyes, and we head home.

5pm-10pm: After returning to the house, me and the interns share stories from our sessions that day. We make an impromptu shower rota, as undoubtedly all of us complain about the sweat and smell. A bucket-shower later, we’re all fresh and ready to get dusty again by going to the market to buy our food for dinner. We decide on guacamole for dinner, so walk off into the night, armed with our trusty right-hand man Joseph, to find some ripe avocados and warm chapattis.
We all get stuck in with preparing the dinner. Alice is on avocado duty, Charlotte on tomatoes and I on onions. We mash the food together, and plate up. A steaming chapatti with some home-made guacamole to finish the day.
After a quick round of Uno, and a few jokes at one another’s expense, we retire to our beds. Whilst I read, another intern checks her Facebook. We all take in those rare moments of solitude, as we relax ready for tomorrow.

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