Category Archives: Field Report

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One of the hundreds of cups of tea that I had in the UK! (And a full Scottish breakfast, complete with blood pudding and beans)

This summer, in addition to serving as the interim Communications Coordinator for the English Department, I also spent three weeks touring the United Kingdom, hiking through the Scottish highlands, and attending various shows and performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world.

Edinburgh was the first city designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a City of Literature in 2004. According to cityofliterature.com, Edinburgh is “a literary powerhouse, attracting and spawning best-selling writers, home to vibrant publishing houses and the birthplace of the world’s biggest book festival….Edinburgh [is] bursting with literary history and heritage.”

My traveling partner and boyfriend, Andy Robertson, was an excellent tour guide having lived in Edinburgh for 6 years (he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s at the University of Edinburgh). During our 6 days at the Fringe, we saw 12 shows (and an additional 2 in London), visited 8 “literary pubs,” drank 300 cups of tea, and learned about the history and culture of Edinburgh.

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Here is some more information about the top eight literary pubs that we visited in Edinburgh:

Literary Pub Tour of Edinburgh: 

1.The White Hart Inn: Founded in 1516, the White Hart Inn is one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs, so it’s no surprise that many notable literary figures have stayed there. Robert Burns lodged there on his last visit to Edinburgh in 1791, as did William and Dorothy Wordsworth in 1803.IMG_3180

2. Deacon Brodie’s Tavern This pub commemorates Deacon Brodie, a man whose fascinating double life is said to have inspired The Strange Case of Dr. Jeykyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. By day, Deacon Brodie was a cabinet-maker and respected city councillor of Edinburgh, but by night he led a second life as a burglar, partly for the thrill of it and partly to fund his gambling. IMG_31923. Sheep Heid Inn: There has reputedly been a pub on this spot selling liquor and victuals since 1360. If this date is correct it would make The Sheep Heid Inn the oldest pub in Edinburgh, and possibly all of Scotland. It was cute, cozy, and a favorite destination for poets throughout the centuries. Also, at the base of Arthur’s Seat, it’s a great place to grab a post-hike beer!

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4. The Blind Poet: Poems are inscribed on the wood panels inside The Blind Poet in homage to the former owner, eighteenth century poet, Thomas Blacklock. The pub now features a series of open mic and spoken word nights.

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The Blind Poet was renamed by the Gilded Balloon for the Fringe Festival and served as a ticket box office for the many nearby shows.

5. Greyfriars Bobby Bar: Greyfriars Bobby Bar occupies the ground floor of a row of Georgian houses adjoining the historic Candlemakers’ Hall, built in 1722. The name of the bar is inspired by an Edinburgh legend of ay Skye terrier called Bobby. When his owner died in 1858, Bobby faithfully watched over his grave and was buried alongside his master in the Greyfriars Kirkyard in 1872. 

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Standing next to a statue of Bobby the dog

6. The World Famous Frankenstein and Bier Keller: This three-story pub commemorates Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with a mechanical frankenstein that gets zapped to life every hour. IMG_3253   

7. The Conan Doyle: This pub serves as a shrine to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is situated across the street from a statue of Sherlock Holmes.IMG_3267

8. Elephant House: Although this is not a pub, it is one of Edinburgh’s most famous cafes. JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series while sipping tea and eating cake in this cafe.

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CSU professor Dr. Roze Hentschell recently returned from a trip to England after accompanying a group of students to Oxford University and teaching HONR 392/492, “Shakespeare in Oxford” (3 credits). This CSU faculty led summer program was sponsored by the University Honors Program.  Dr. Hentschell and her students arrived at Oxford, one of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world and one of the world’s most prestigious and rigorous centers of higher education, on May 24th and returned on June 21st. While there, students were enrolled in a 3 credit one-on-one tutorial in their major area of study taught by Oxford-affiliated faculty.

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After “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at The Globe in London

Here is an excerpt from their class blog written by Roze on June 11th: 

Quick dispatch from the professor:  This is an amazing group of women. They are smart, kind, savvy, responsible, easy going (an important trait for international travel), and a lot of fun. Not one is an English major, but they read and analyze Shakespeare like pros. It has been my privilege to get to teach them and drag them all over southern England to see Shakespeare plays.

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Getting ready to see an evening play, Taming of the Shrew

We have seen two plays at the Globe in London, Hamlet By Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Measure for Measure by students from the Oxford School of Drama. They have heard lectures from Oxford Professors Laurie Maguire, Tiffany Stern, and Simon Palfrey. We’ve spent hours during regular class time.  Next week: a field trip to the Ashmolean Museum and the “Shakespeare is Dead” exhibit at the Bodleian Library and our final class in which the students will present their ideas for their final papers. Oh, and they will also keep up with reading and writing for their tutorials. See? Wonder women.

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Atop the tower at St. Mary’s University Church, after class in the Old Library

Make sure to check out their blog to hear more about their adventures in England!

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This summer CSU faculty member Kristie Yelinek is teaching a composition class at the Forestry University of Vietnam in the city of Xuan Mai. She has been recording her experiences teaching and traveling around Vietnam in a blog, “Teaching and Other Adventures: Vietnam.”  The following is an excerpt from her blog about her last day teaching.

After teaching, Kristie will be traveling to Cambodia and Thailand. Make sure to continue following her personal blog to hear about her experiences there!


 

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Kristie with some of her students on her last day teaching in Vietnam.

 

Yesterday (Friday June 10th) was my last day at VFU. I left a little bit after lunch and had a university car to the hotel in Hanoi (yes, the same one). Because it was my last day, the university had a car take me in rather than me having to take a bus, which was really nice since I had two backpacks with me.

The last day of teaching went well and was about as I expected-mostly exciting (for me) and a little sad. Teaching has been rough, but I have had some great students. Three of them road into Hanoi with me (one of the girls said she thought I might be afraid to go by myself because she would be). It was nice to have company, but then it was nice to get into the hotel room and close the door. And grade. They turned in their last assignment to me in class yesterday so I spent all afternoon and evening and a little bit of this morning grading, but I got everything done so I can simply relax for the next three weeks.

People in Vietnam take gifts seriously and since yesterday was my last day, I got quite a few. As I was getting ready to leave the second class, there was quite a bit of conversation and the class monitor asked me to wait for a minute. Then he told me that they (as a class) wanted to get me a present, but they had just decided what it would be and now they had to figure out where to get it. Then he asked me what my schedule was for the rest of the day. When I said I was leaving shortly after lunch, the discussion got serious. Also, when I told him I wanted to run to the market, he asked if he could take me and maybe do some other business while we were there. I said sure!

It turns out that my present from the class was a beautiful tailor-made traditional Vietnamese dress. When we went to the market, we met up  with three of my other students and went to a tailor’s shop where they let me pick out the fabric and had me measured. A remarkable three hours later (about 15 minutes before I had to leave), they (and a few other students) showed up at the guest house with the dress. It’s beautiful and I am truly touched by their gift. I really don’t have the words.

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Kristie wearing the dress her students got as her goodbye gift.


This experiences has been frustrating at times, but also rewarding at times and now that I’m not in the frustration any more, I hope I can focus more on the rewarding aspects of my time teaching. But, now it’s off to Cambodia and Thailand!


 

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This summer CSU faculty member Kristie Yelinek is teaching a composition class at the Vietnamese Forestry University (VFU) in the city of Xuan Mai. She has been recording her experiences teaching and traveling around Vietnam in a blog, “Teaching and Other Adventures: Vietnam.” 

When Kristie first arrived at the Vietnamese Forestry University (VFU), she was asked to teach an additional class for students who could voluntarily join. Here is an excerpt from her blog about her last day teaching this class:


 

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For our last class, we did some grammar work on parallel sentence structure, as well as some fun work with mood. Then, we took some pictures and they invited me to join them for drinks in the evening. After class, one of the students walked to the pharmacy next to the university with me and helped me buy more gauze for the burn on my leg (an exhaust pipe burn from a motorbike). It’s amazing to me how well my students take care of me. I know part of it is the respect they have for teachers and native English speakers in general, but I’d also like to think it’s because they just plain like me 🙂

Then, after dinner, one of the students picked me up on his motorbike and I joined them for fruit smoothies and iced coffee. I was truly touched by time we spent together tonight. Nine of them showed up and they were all very thoughtful about speaking English most of the time (as it got closer to time to leave and they were getting tired, they spoke more Vietnamese, but not much). They asked a lot of questions about me and my life and told me a lot about their plans for the future and where they were from. They all told me how much they had enjoyed the class with me and they wished that I could come back to teach them again next year.

I have to admit that I also really enjoyed teaching this class. Obviously the group was self-selecting in that they didn’t have to take the class and were taking time out of their busy class schedules (six total) to take an extra class. They were motivated to work and in the end the 9-10 most dedicated were the ones who stuck it out for the seven weeks. We were able to have a bit of fun in class and I really enjoyed not having to give them a grade! I gave feedback on writing they turned in, but I could reward each student for what they did well through my comments and could do the same for the areas they needed to improve without having to put a value on their work.

Two of the students gave me small gifts, which I truly appreciated. In Vietnam, giving gifts is a huge deal and a sign of appreciation. Teaching students like this and being able to interact with them on more of a personal level is definitely one of the biggest reasons I teach (and why I want to teach English and international students). With all of the frustration that has come from teaching here, this class, these students, and the experience tonight is already a huge bright spot in my time at VFU.

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A little gecko helping Kristie to grade papers 🙂

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The CSU Zambia Trip Members on Safari in Chobe Park (Botswana)


Dr. Ellen Brinks recently returned from Livingstone, Zambia where she led a group of CSU students on a study abroad program that focused on contributing to community education and health initiatives for the local people. For three weeks, they took part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). The following field report is written by Madeline Kasic, who will be remaining in Zambia to continue working with African Impact for the next 9 weeks. Make sure to check out Madeline’s pre-departure post too!


William Carlos Williams states in his poem Paterson, “No ideas but in things” in regards to descriptive writing meaning that a writer should focus on physical objects instead of abstract concepts. This wisdom has been passed on to me many times in creative and academic writing classes during my time at Colorado State University. However, I have never understood how important the understanding things was until I began interacting with the people of Zambia.

Things are different here than in the United States; here everyday items that Americans have in abundance or consider to be disposable carry value. For example, most of my friends can go weeks without repeating an outfit and have no qualms about recycling water bottles or throwing away unwanted personal items. Zambians on the other hand may only have a few sets of clothes and it is not uncommon for them to wear the same clothes day after day. Furthermore, if a Zambian were to lose something that we might consider to be of little value, like a Nalgene water bottle, they would feel more of a sentimental loss because it was something that travelled with them daily for a significant amount of time. So when I say that things are different here in Zambia I mean that the people here interact with their personal items in a completely different way than we do in the U.S.

It may seem natural for a more impoverished group of people to have a different approach to personal items in terms of use and maintenance than an affluent group that can replace items at will, but the differences between how the Zambians see personal items goes farther than simply having less.

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Madeline Kasic teaching at Linda School in the afternoon (Photo credit: Isabell Brown)

Every morning after I walk into my fifth grade classroom at Zambezi Sawmill Community School at least four students ask me if they can borrow a pen. They ask for many different reasons. Some do not have a pen to begin with because their family can hardly afford school supplies and others ask because the pen they brought has stopped working. I carry extra pens with me just for this reason. The first day I gave one of my students a pen I thought they would keep it, which was fine with me because I figured they needed it. However, when I was packing up after class the student came up to me and returned the pen with a practiced diligence that is rare in American fifth graders.

Over the next few weeks I lent pens to many different students, carrying six or seven with me at all times just to be prepared. Each time I have lent a pen to a student they have returned it to me without fail at the end of class. And although I now expect for them to be returned to me, I still marvel at the respect my students have for such a simple item.

In the US, a pen is a disposable item. I lend pens to my classmates and usually don’t expect to get them back. I figure that any pen I lose in this exchange replaces a pen I have “borrowed” and accidently taken with me when the class ends. But here in Zambia pens are valuable.

teachingI have spent a lot of time thinking about why the Zambian children I teach are so much more respectful of my property than I expected them to be. I have come up with two reasons. The first is that as stated earlier, here, even the smallest item is valuable. The other reason is a result of the first. Because of the level of poverty and the value of simple items, there is a lot of theft in poor communities like the one my school is located in. My students, therefore go to great lengths to protect their reputation as someone who does not steal. There is no such thing as forgetting to return something at Zambezi Sawmill Community School, and the students are very aware of this fact.


The difference in the approach to personal items between Zambia and the U.S. is an unforeseen cultural difference that has begun to fascinate me. As I continue my time here I plan on learning not only the intricate details of the Zambian approach to things, but also the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach.  


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This summer CSU faculty member Kristie Yelinek is teaching a composition class at the Forestry University of Vietnam in the city of Xuan Mai. She has been recording her experiences teaching and traveling around Vietnam in a blog, “Teaching and Other Adventures: Vietnam.”  The following is an excerpt from her blog that explains some of the adventures she has been having with her students.


 

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Kristie (in the middle) with some of her students

On Thursday (May 19th) my students took me on another adventure to visit some sights close to Xuan Mai. We started bright and early, 7 am, so that we could try to miss the heat of the day when driving on motor bikes. There were 16 of us, two to a motor bike, and along the way, the student I was riding with asked if I wanted to drive the bike for a little bit. The road was fairly empty, so I gave it a shot. It was pretty fun, although I was happy to turn the driving over to him when we got close to a busy and confusing street market.

Our first stop was the Hoa Binh (pronounced “Hwah Bing”) hydroelectric dam, about an hour’s drive away. The dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in Vietnam, as well as South East Asia and my students said this is where our power in Xuan Mai comes from. We seemed to be the only ones there, although my students said that typically the dam has a lot of tourists visiting it and for it to be so empty was rare.

Hoa Binh (pronounced “Hwah Bing”) hydroelectric dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in Vietnam

Hoa Binh (pronounced “Hwah Bing”) hydroelectric dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in Vietnam

From the dam, we headed up a small hill to visit a statue of Ho Chi Minh. On the way there, the student who I was riding with was pulled over by the police (we passed through a tunnel and his headlight wasn’t working). When we stopped, we both got off the bike and the officers started to talk to the student. One of them glanced in my direction, looked surprised and said, “Oh! Hello!” And again, this was the end of our shared language. He gestured to me to move to the side, so I did, but he kept waving his hand at me to go further until I was in a teeny, tiny piece of shade. He pointed at the sun, pointed at me in the shade, and smiled. Communication accomplished! Whether it was the fact that I was with him or his own sweet-talking, the student got off without a ticket and we continued on to the statue.

The statue of Ho Chi Minh was constructed at about the same time as the dam and is rather impressive at about 60 feet tall. You can see it as you approach the dam. Once at the statue, you have a good view of the city of Hoa Binh and the river flowing from the dam. At the statue, you can buy flowers and incense to leave to pay your respects to Ho Chi Minh, or “Uncle Ho,” as the Vietnamese refer to him. I don’t know a lot about Ho Chi Minh, although I am learning more every day, but he is still a constant presence in the life of all Vietnamese. It’s difficult to travel anywhere in Vietnam without seeing statues, posters, pictures, and more with his face.

Kristie and some of her students at the base of the Ho Chi Minh statue

Kristie (2nd from the right) and some of her students at the base of the Ho Chi Minh statue

After the statue, we continued on to the Muong village of Giang Mo (not to be confused with the H’mong of Sa Pa, a different ethnic group. Vietnam is home to over 40 ethnic groups). Here, we planned to rest for a little while to get out of the heat of the day and have lunch. Most Vietnamese rest between 11:30 and 1:30 every day (give or take on either side) because of the heat. In Giang Mo, many people still live in traditional houses on stilts (so that they can house their cattle, buffalo, chickens, pigs, etc. under the house). Their houses are very simple without much furniture. Looking into the houses, you can see open rooms-maybe two or three total, with a hearth for a fire and then mats to sit on. Some had a cupboard for storage, but that was the only actual furniture I saw in the houses. The first house had a cat that made friends with my students and was quite excited for attention. So much so, that she let the students put a (small) basket on her head.  We all thought she looked quite regal. She did, however, protest to the student who tried to put a banana peel on her head. But, then, this student is a “young buffalo” and likes to push the envelope just a little bit every time.

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At lunch, we sat in two circles on mats with the food laid out on banana leaves—chicken, pork, green leaf veggies, and bamboo. I initially somehow wound up in the circle with the men along with one of my female students, but one of the Muong men told her that she had to join the other group with the girls (he said nothing to me). That left me alone with the circle of all men, but one of my (female) students leaned over and said that unless I wanted to drink a lot of rice wine, I should join the girls. I quickly changed groups. The meal was delicious and once we had finished some of my students made traditional green tea for after the meal. The girls were finished long before the guys, who continued to eat and drink rice wine with the Muong men in their circle. A few of the guys had a little too much rice wine, so we had another hour or so rest so they could recover (at least a little). When it was determined that there were enough sober drivers to continue, we headed to our next destination, Dragon Head (Dau Rong) Mountain with an extensive cave system.

We explored three of the four caves that were open to visit. All of them were well-lighted and had a ton of steps to climb up or down into them. Between the second and third cave, we stopped for a snack of watermelon. After our quick snack, some students declared that they were too tired to continue, but about half of them had enough energy to visit one more cave, so I joined them.

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Once we finished walking through the third cave, it was starting to get dark, so we started the almost two-hour trip back to Xuan Mai. After spending a good amount of time on a motor bike on Thursday, I can say that they are convenient, but not the most comfortable thing to ride. Once back at the university, we all commented on which part(s) of our bodies had lost all feeling along the way!

 


Although this video was taken on a different day (in Hanoi), it gives you an idea of how crazy traffic can be in Vietnam with all the motorbikes:

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CSU professor Dr. Roze Hentschell is currently accompanying a group of students to Oxford University and teaching HONR 392/492, “Shakespeare in Oxford” (3 credits). This CSU faculty led summer program is sponsored by the University Honors Program.  Dr. Hentschell and her students arrived at Oxford, one of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world and one of the world’s most prestigious and rigorous centers of higher education, on May 24th and will be returning on June 21st. While there, students are enrolled in a 3 credit one-on-one tutorial in their major area of study taught by Oxford-affiliated faculty.

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Still smiling after a three-hour class on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo outside the classroom at New College.

Students are studying four of Shakespeare’s plays and have an opportunity to engage with them well beyond the page. Students have taken or will take field trips to see performances at the Globe Theatre in London, by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and by actors at Oxford University. Students will also visit London, Bath, and Windsor. In Oxford, students will have access to examples of Tudor architecture (including the spectacular Duke Humphrey’s Library at The Bodleian, known by most as the library of Hogwarts), art (at the Ashmolean Museum), and religion (Oxford was the site of the prosecution and execution of Protestant martyrs).


Before students embarked on this journey, they met during the week of finals to prepare for the trip. “It’s hard to think about the experience of a lifetime when you are in the middle of finals at CSU, but we took a break to gather one last time before we meet in Oxford on May 24th. We went over the “Shakespeare in Oxford” syllabus, assignments, and schedule of classes and activities.” (Quote by Roze Hentschell taken from the Shakespeare in Oxford blog)

 

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Here is what students were most excited about:

 

And what they were nervous about:

 

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After being there a week, Roze posted this update: “We have been in Oxford since the beginning of the week. The students have: settled into their flats, had orientation, met or set up a meeting with their Oxford tutors, had their first Shakespeare class, visited Windsor Castle, been inducted into their colleges (New College or Christ Church), received library cards at the Bodleian, explored the city and its environs, met other students from U.S. universities, and have basically taken Oxford by storm.  Except, they’ve brought the sunshine instead.”

Make sure to check out the class blog to read more updates from the students!

 

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After a very successful inaugural year in 2015, Dr. Ellen Brinks will be taking CSU students to Livingstone, Zambia from May 22-June 11, 2016 to contribute to community education and community health initiatives. For three weeks, they will be taking part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). The following pre-trip field report is written by Madeline Kasic.

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As an English education major I originally thought studying abroad would take me to England to pore over the works of Shakespeare, Marlow, Beckett (who is actually Irish), Dickens, and hopefully J.K. Rowling. Studying English literature in its native country would be an amazing experience, and is something I hope to someday have the opportunity to do; but at this stage of my life I want an experience abroad that would offer me a new perspective and help me gain experience towards my goal of becoming a teacher. Unfortunately, no matter how wonderful literature is, and the inexplicable way reading allows us a window into the experience of others, there is something to be said for gaining experience firsthand.

Enter the opportunity to teach and do community service in Zambia. When I first heard of the program I did not know what to think of it. Zambia offered all the experiences I was seeking, but I did not know what I was seeking when I began looking at study abroad programs.

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My realization of how incredible this opportunity might be happened slowly over Thanksgiving break after my adviser recommended the program to me for the second time. I was staying in my uncle’s town house in Frisco, CO where my younger brother was frantically filling out college applications. He inspired me to get my own computer out and start working on finding a study abroad program for the summer. I found myself taking a closer look at the organization African Impact that Dr. Brinks was working with to create her program and something sparked. Here was a program that would help me gain experience in the field of education and take me somewhere I would never have thought to go otherwise. It was the opportunity to help people, become a better teacher, and gain a new outlook on the world.

The next morning, I told my family that I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, and they were stunned. My parents were comfortable with the idea of me fending for myself in Europe because we had taken a few family vacations there and had lived in France for six months when I was little, making Europe an easy place for them to visualize me by myself. I also have relatives in France so there would be someone relatively close by if I needed help, which helped set their minds at ease. But now I was presenting a very different idea of how I wanted to spend my summer.

My uncle started looking up facts about Zambia on his phone while my parents and aunt began asking me questions about the county and the program. We quickly discovered a couple of facts: I would be in Zambia during the dry season, the Zambian government is relatively stable; Zambia is landlocked and bordered by seven countries; that just outside the city of Livingstone (where the program takes place) is Victoria Falls, one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world; and there was the ever so slight chance that I would see my brother’s favorite animal the Pangolin.

A pangolin. Photo Credit: David Brossard

A pangolin. Photo Credit: David Brossard

The more questions were asked the more excited I became. I was planning a journey that was different from what I was expected to do, and that made me feel like I was making the right choice. I don’t identify as a rebel, but I do believe that the best things happen when we reach for the unexpected. As a teacher, I want to empower my students to think outside the box, and go take the chances they feel need to be taken, making this trip to Zambia a chance to practice what I plan to preach.


My hope is that by teaching and serving in Zambia I will gain a better understanding of what our world needs to successfully continue into the future. I believe that education is one of the best ways to help enable young people to inherit the world and to make better choices than their predecessors. 


After deciding to go to Zambia came the many stages of getting to Zambia. It started with applying to Dr. Brinks’ program. I enjoyed the shock and awe that accompanied my friends’ reactions to my summer plans, and as I looked further into the program I decided to extend the original three week trip by eight more weeks, enabling me to stay with the Zambian class I will be working with for almost their full term.

Then after I was accepted into the program came the academic and physical preparations for the trip. To prepare academically the other students going to Zambia and I read A Thousand Hills to Heaven by Josh Ruxin, Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind by Curtis A. Keim, The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell and a number of short essays depicting the experiences of aid volunteers in third world countries. And to prepare physically we each subjected ourselves to multiple vaccinations to protect ourselves against typhoid, malaria, and yellow fever.

My hope is that by teaching and serving in Zambia I will gain a better understanding of what our world needs to successfully continue into the future. I believe that education is one of the best ways to help enable young people to inherit the world and make better choices than their predecessors. This applies to me as well as my future students. Through this trip I hope to not only educate myself, but help the youth of Zambia receive an education as well as emerge with a story and example for my future American students of how they can impact the world.

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Professor Ellen Brinks took a group of students to Livingstone, Zambia this summer. For three weeks, they took part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). We asked a few of them to send us pictures and let us know how it’s going, tell us more about what they are doing and experiencing. Here’s the final report from Morgan Bennett, Amira Noshi, and Alexandra Pinion.


~from Morgan Bennett

During our time in Zambia, all of us on the community education projects assumed we were the teachers. That was even the idea that sold me on the idea to travel to Livingstone: teaching and impacting children in a country across the world. Little did I know that going to Zambia would transform me from a teacher into a student.

I entered the 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School confident in my teaching ability; I have had fantastic education teachers at CSU who have prepared me for anything. On top of that, I have aspirations of teaching middle school students in the U.S. But when you hear a 7th grade class, a group of 11 year olds is probably what comes to mind. That is not the case at Libuyu: the students go to school when their family can afford it. This means that the age range in the class can be from 11 to 19. This can be difficult because students are at developmentally different places in their life, but are all still learning the same curriculum.

Halfway through my duration at Libuyu Primary School, my host teacher, Coastah, told me that 13 of his students could not read. At this point, I was cursing myself for not packing my E402 Teaching Reading Interactive Notebook, Teaching Grammar Through Writing by Keith Polette, and Kylene Beers, When Kids Can’t Read. It was a real frustration for me to have only three weeks with these students who needed help past what my time could give. This was my next lesson as the student. To me, teaching students digraphs seemed a small feat; I felt disheartened that I only had time to teach them so much. But that’s not the point: teaching students what noise “th” makes may be small, but it’s leaps and bounds away from where they were before they learned that. And sometimes life is about the connections and experiences you have, not the amount of information that is learned.

In Zambia, 7th grade is the testing year. This means that at the end of the three terms, students must take a test to see if they can continue their education in secondary school. If the students don’t pass, it will be the end of the road for many of them; schools and families both cannot afford to support that high volume of students in the class for a second year. I learned a disheartening statistic that 77% of students in the Zambian school system will not graduate from secondary school. It hurts my heart, because like the students in America, these children have high aspirations. Many of them want to be doctors, engineers, and teachers: all jobs that are desperately needed, but also require a high level of education. Although it’s hard to know that all of the students in my class may not make it to secondary school, I have the hope that all the knowledge they have learned from their great teachers throughout the years can take them into the future to accomplish any dreams they put their minds to.

The 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School with soccer balls donated by the CSU English Department

The 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School with soccer balls donated by the CSU English Department


~from Amira Noshi

We’ve been back for nearly two weeks now and I think I can speak for all of us when I say, no words can describe our individual experiences. Overwhelmed by the seemingly harmless question of “how was it?” I find it hard to even write about now, having defeated my jet lag and adjusted back into my daily life.

Spending three weeks working in the Cheshire Home, a school for children with disabilities, has changed my perspective completely, being immersed in the daily lives of the inspiring students and teachers of Cheshire homes reminds me to challenge myself in all aspects of life.

The Cheshire Home was conveniently located just around the corner from the hostel, so Katie (my partner in crime) and I could enjoy a nice stroll every morning before starting a unique day. Cheshire Home had two classrooms, separated by grade levels with Charity teaching the older kids and Evelyn braving the younger class. Charity and Evelyn were not only responsible for the everyday lesson plans, but also for administrative duties, and often they were called away from class leaving Katie and I to either continue the lesson or completely improvise the rest of the day.

Playing a game where the object was to hit the newspaper with a rock, whoever hit the most wins!

Playing a game where the object was to hit the newspaper with a rock, whoever hit the most wins!

During these times we really got to know the kids, we learned that Mildred has some pretty sweet dance moves, Mushabati is a math wiz, and Veronica can command a classroom better than Katie and I combined. I experienced a spectrum of emotion while working in Cheshire, with days that were difficult – hair was pulled, faces were kicked, and tears were shed – and I had days where there was no place or group of people that I would’ve rather been or been with, reiterating my changed perspective and reminding me constantly of why I opted to go to Zambia in the first place. We were forced to make due time and time again, and each time Charity, Evelyn, Katie, and I managed to make it work.

Lifah! One of our brightest and smiley-est students!

Lifah! One of our brightest and smiley-est students!

Evelyn and Charity were nothing short of inspirations. Both of them demanded authenticity from everyone inside and outside of Cheshire, encouraging the kids and community to face adversity as a team. We witnessed that time and time again, with the donation of food by the religious community of Zambia, allowing Evelyn and Charity to host the braii (barbeque) that provided the funds for a school trip to Lusaka for a nationwide sports competition and again at the braii itself, when Evelyn and Charity (and some of our group members) let loose and fully embraced the ideals that they instill in the wonderful kids of Cheshire.

Student Andrew shows off his amazing football skills to fellow volunteer Fiona during sports

Student Andrew shows off his amazing football skills to fellow volunteer Fiona during sports

No words can describe my trip to Zambia. I’ve tried over and over again to find adjectives that manage to condense all the memories created. Replaying them in my head leaves me with a warm sentiment, all the friends we made, all the truly amazing experiences we had, all within a span of three weeks. I think we all as individuals went on this trip for a vast array of different reasons; in the end we all gained so much from the community we both built and dove into in Zambia. No regrets, none at all.


~from Alexandra Pinion

Leaving Livingstone can only be summed up in one word: bittersweet. For the most part, I think we all made Livingstone Backpackers our home away from home. We settled right in, made fast friends with the other volunteers as well as the staff, and shared memories that can’t be easily transposed through writing or simple images that we had taken from our time here. It is something that we share, but we must all be prepared to condense this three-week experience, and to tell our family and friends back home in as much (or as little) detail as we can how we fared in Africa.

What I had gathered from talking with the friends that I’d made was that yes, we were probably ready to go home now, to sleep in our own beds, cuddle our pets and significant others, and relax in the sweet Colorado summer sun, but we were also incredibly sad to leave. There were tears and enough hugs to last a lifetime on that last day, yet I think we all realized that these feelings extended from the strong bonds that we all made during our short time in Livingstone. If only we had a little more time…

I remember the last few days as trying to soak up every bit of my surroundings. During the bumpy van rides, I took mental photographs of the big mango trees (unfortunately for us not yet in bloom), and the clear blue sky, the red dust that got all over everything and that was permanently underneath all of our fingernails, the loveable children that knew no boundaries, the pastel sunsets that somehow merged two opposing colors into something that could ever be captured except by the eye itself. I hugged the kids tightly, feeling a type of warmth and love that I hadn’t felt before with children that were so openly affectionate. I waved joyfully at the locals who seemed so happy to see us. I tried to pinpoint all of the personalities that were so wonderfully welcoming to us.

5th grade girls at Mwandi Community School

5th grade girls at Mwandi Community School

I think that three weeks was a perfect taste of what it would be like to live on the other side of the world. I know that I can adapt to another place, another climate, another way of life. Those three weeks in Africa affirmed for me that I can and should chase my dreams around the world of teaching and learning from other cultures that I may have had no idea about. My biggest hope is that in the short time I was there I was able to transfer some of my knowledge and culture as well, in order to offer a learning experience to those that so graciously welcomed me and took care of me during my stay.

I’m especially thankful now for social media, because even though I’m a half a world away from the projects and the people I was invested in during my time in Zambia, I can still see how they progress, change, and develop. I can still see the smiling faces of the kids I cuddled and the friends I made and their journeys. It was definitely difficult to leave this temporary home behind, but it was also such a joy to step outside of the airport upon arriving and have my sights filled with beautiful Colorado rolling hills and misty mountains, the green grass contrasting with the dark blue sky. It was difficult to leave behind the short life I’d made in Zambia, but when I saw that landscape I had been away from for so long, I knew that I was home.

The students at Mwandi always brought a smile to my face

The students at Mwandi always brought a smile to my face

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Bottom row, left to right: Kathleen Wendt, Nick Breland, Alexandrea Pinion, Nicole Marie Sutton, Jackson White. Top row, left to right: Amira Noshi, Jo Buckley, Acacia Sharrow, Adelle McDaniel, Alexandra Orahovats. Not pictured: Morgan Bennett, Katie Wybenga

Bottom row, left to right: Kathleen Wendt, Nick Breland, Alexandrea Pinion, Nicole Marie Sutton, Jackson White.
Top row, left to right: Amira Noshi, Jo Buckley, Acacia Sharrow, Adelle McDaniel, Alexandra Orahovats. Not pictured: Morgan Bennett, Katie Wybenga

Professor Ellen Brinks took a group of students to Livingstone, Zambia this summer. For three weeks, they took part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). We asked a few of them to send us pictures and let us know how it’s going, tell us more about what they are doing and experiencing. Here’s the latest report.


 

Silas and Morgan Bennett together at Libuyu Community School. Silas is showing off his Art Club mask.

Silas and Morgan Bennett together at Libuyu Community School. Silas is showing off his Art Club mask.

Although coming late to the Zambia blog, I (Morgan Bennett, English Education Concentrator) am excited to be able to share a moment from my teaching experiences. (During my time in Zambia, I’ve chosen to volunteer in community schools, as opposed to working on community health projects.) In Zambia, education is not a right offered to all, but a privilege; and unfortunately it can be a costly one. Livingstone has two schooling options: community schools and government schools. The government schools can be far away from the outer provinces of town, or prohibitively expensive, so communities have created local schools to have their children educated in. The majority of these schools have minimal to no financial support from the government and, as I have come to understand it, operate solely on student fees and donations.

But what does this mean if the student can’t afford to pay the 50 kwacha (roughly 6USD) every term (3 month period)?

Unfortunately, I had the opportunity to find out. If the students don’t pay the fee, the teacher asks them to leave the school; from talking with students, this means that the up to an hour trek they made that morning was for nothing. In the course of 5 minutes, the class I was volunteering in went from 40 students to 4. Although usually very obedient, the students were unruly at being forced to leave the school for the day and miss a chance to learn. Outside the barred windows, students stared into the room, begging to be taught, crying out, “We want to learn!, we want to learn!, we want to learn!”

Most of the students trickled back over the next few days, scraping up the money they needed to attend school. Some students still show up everyday, in hopes that the teacher will let them in regardless of unpaid fees.

English student Jackson White with sixth graders from Libuyu Community School.

English student Jackson White with sixth graders from Libuyu Community School.

In the U.S., education is compulsory, and students celebrate days off and breaks from homework. But there is a lesson in this. Although in America we have a right to be educated, we must remember what a privilege that right is.


Hi, everyone, this is Amira checking back in with a report on a very special project designed by African Impact for our CSU Group here in Livingstone: to build a compost bin out of “ecobricks.” By densely stuffing and packing plastic water and soda bottles with plastic waste, you can create an ecobrick, eliminating unsightly environmental waste. A fun and easy way to collect trash and make use of it, EcoBricking rids areas of toxic waste degradation, ensuring a safer area for all the residents of Zambia. It also provides the materials for much needed infrastructure, because you can actually build structures with ecobricks, including benches, chicken coops, and even large buildings, such as schools.

Local Linda Farm resident working on the compost with CSU.

Local Linda Farm resident working on the compost bin with CSU.

EcoBricking provides an intersection between poverty and the environment. More often than not, communities in Zambia are forced to choose between sending their children to school or paying for trash pickup.

EcoBricking has been utilized in one small Livingstone community named Linda Farms, a local area where families live and receive support from the community. Africa Impact has made it the centerpiece of an incredible new afternoon project for volunteers, with our CSU group on the forefront of this incredibly cool practice.

Ecobricking to create a compost bin.

Ecobricking to create a compost bin.

After everyone returns from his or her morning projects, i.e., teaching or healthcare, we eat lunch and prep for our afternoon projects. For CSU, that usually means grab some plastic, pick axes, and sunscreen, load up on the Muzungu bus, and head to the farm.

Guided by our fearless leader Alex from African Impact, we’re greeted by the kids eager to help (especially with stuffing the EcoBricks). There’s an area sectioned off where we are assured that our hard work will be safe from pesky elephants. We break off, some to EcoBricking, and some to manual labor. Working as a team we’ve made great strides. A foundation consisting of rock, topped by ecobricks, has been laid, with a concrete reinforcement. On top of that foundation, we’ve started laying down EcoBricks.

 Professor Ellen Brinks with Linda Farm Community children making ecobricks for the CSU compost project.


Professor Ellen Brinks with Linda Farm Community children making ecobricks for the CSU compost project.

EcoBricking is an extremely sustainable practice, and hopefully it will start trending in Zambia and the rest of the world.


Hello! This is Alex, with an update on my time in Zambia. We’ve all worked extremely hard on this trip. We have early mornings for our teaching projects, and long hot afternoons with community projects like Eco-bricking at Linda farm, helping out at Maramba Old People’s Home, and after school projects like reading, maths, and art clubs. We’ve been rewarded greatly for this hard work though.

This past weekend we had the opportunity to visit Chobe National Park. Chobe is about an hour away from our temporary home in Livingstone, in the beautiful country of Botswana. The safari began with a boat ride on the Chobe river where all of us were in awe of the elephants out for a morning swim. This was our first encounter with African wildlife aside from the pesky mosquitoes – or, as the British cutely call them, mossies. On the river we saw several elephants, some hippos, crocodiles, and many birds, including the fish eagle – the national bird of Zambia.

safari

Despite the early morning wake up call and hourlong journey to Botswana, after the boat tour we were full of energy and excited for the afternoon game drive. We strapped in to the vehicles to prepare for the bumpy ride through some of the 11,000 kilometer-square park to our campsite. We realized the boat tour was just a small taste of what we would see in the afternoon.

Upon our entry into the park, we immediately encountered monkeys rooting through the trash, baboons in the trees, and so many beautiful birds. Our group was split into two vehicles, one led by Ace and one lead by Odi. They were so knowledgeable about the wildlife and taught us about how the plentiful impala is nicknamed the McDonalds of the animal kingdom (not because it is easy, but because it is very fast food for many of the predators if they are able to catch it).  From there we saw giraffes peeking through the trees as we drove down the road into the river delta.

The view was beautiful and breathtaking. We encountered more elephants, which are also very plentiful; we later learned that the park contains about 100,000 elephants able to roam in and out through the seasons (the greatest density of African elephants on the continent, it turns out!).

The rest of the day was surreal. We expected to see wildlife but not so much and not so close to us. What was even more surprising were our evening lion encounters. On safari, I think we expected that we’d see elephants, impala and maybe giraffes, but the big cats are elusive and one can never count on seeing them having only a weekend. The lions, though, roamed all over the roads. We were lucky enough to catch a pride of females with a fresh Cape Buffalo kill by the river, with the hungry eyes of the crocodile peering out of the murky water waiting for its chance to drag the lions’ kill from them.

As dusk approached, the roars of the lions became audible through the din of the engine. Ace told us that lions roar when trying to find each other. That meant that the male – the king – was possibly around, and a sighting would be “very rare.” Sure enough, we parked the vehicle, and see him sauntering lazily up the hill, the picture of the red African sunset as his backdrop. Our day was topped off with the most amazing vision, reminding us how lucky we are to be here on this amazing continent.

safari04

Our campsite was in the midst of all this wilderness, and our ears pricked up to hear the sounds as only sheets of fabric shielded us from multiple prides of lions, warthogs, hyenas, and all the things we hadn’t seen but knew were there. Despite all this we rested easily, our bellies full of delicious food and imaginations enlivened with stories from our guides.

We woke before the sun to see more animals. Again, we encountered the majestic male lion, just as the sun was coming up. His demeanor was relaxed and regal as he got ready for his day of sleep. After leaving him to his business, the CSU caravan departed to see more sights of the Chobe morning. These included an elephant carcass covered in scavenger birds, such as vultures and marabou storks. Later we saw other birds as well: majestic fish eagles and the beautifully colorful lilac-breasted roller. But there were a few animals we hadn’t yet seen.

safari02

“You’re not keeping your eyes open,” Ace tells us, as he slows the vehicle to point out a few zebras, perfectly camouflaged in the brush. As we inch forward, we see more and more of them, and finally come to a clearing with a herd of zebras near the water. We learned that a group of zebras is called a dazzle!

safari03

After a much-needed siesta, we knew that our amazing time was limited. After being dazzled by the zebras, in awe of the lions, surprised by the giraffes, enthralled by the many types of beautiful birds, plus so many more animals we had never even heard of, we began our exit. This wasn’t without one last encounter though. Over in the brush, almost hidden and skulking, was the elusive leopard. We were so lucky to have spotted her, and by this time we had seen almost everything that Chobe had to offer.

We were exhausted and dirty, our bones jostled by the hours of bumping around, but we all left the park feeling transformed. Nothing can compare to being inches away from the famed African wildlife. Maybe some of us will visit again, maybe some of us will never return, but we have all been able to share this experience together, and that alone is enough to last a lifetime.

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