Tag Archive for 'woodshop'

3 Easy Steps to a Better Home

1. About a month ago, I bought a new couch.  Having guests is much nicer now… it was awkward before when people had to stand.


2. Around the same time I also bought a larger mosquito net.  I makes sleeping a less claustrophobic experience:


3. Lastly, about two weeks ago I (actually ErinRose) discovered that I do in fact have running water for a few hours a week.  This has literally changed my life.  My clothes and I are much cleaner than ever before.  All this time I had just assumed that the faucet never worked, but in fact the city rations out water to my school from time to time, so Monday and Tuesday mornings, if I turn on the faucet and wait a few minutes, water will eventually come out!


OK, enough of that.  I have to run because I’m off to a weekend event (some kind of HIV workshop / games thing), but here are my nine English/Math students from the vocational school:


4 Responses to “3 Easy Steps to a Better Home”

  • Paul,

    This really does bring back the memories. When I was there, the water would run several days a week during the early morning (sometime after midnight and before 6 a.m.) for a short period of time. If I left the tap open overnight and left a 5-litre bucket under the tap, it would usually be about half full by the time I woke up in the morning. That would give me enough water for some daily needs. If I saved up the water over several days, I had enough to do some laundry.


    • Sometimes (although rarely) the water comes out so fast that I have to stay in the house to make sure the bucket doesn’t overflow. It’s amazing… I just stand there and watch it.

  • Hi Paul,

    I came across your blog through Peace Corps Journals Kenya. It’s very cool- glad people like you are sharing their stories!

    I’m a RPCV Botswana (04-06). I live in Corvallis, Oregon where I’m working on a graduate degree in International Health. I’m active in Oregon State University’s Engineers Without Borders chapter who is working on a project in Lela, Kenya. EWB is an interdisciplinary group with professional and student chapters with the goal of helping communities meet their basic needs. This particular project is focused on water supply and quality, the specific plan of which is to be determined after an assessment trip in December. Lela is a tiny, tiny village outside of the still fairly small town of Migori, just north of Tanzania, south of Homa Bay. The other nearest sizable town is Kisumu (north of Homa Bay).

    I’m contacting you because I am seeking a PCV in that area of Kenya to serve as a contact for us and I was hoping your might know someone in that region. There’s so much about an area that we can’t know without being there, hence, it’d be great to have someone who can field questions about the region, the environment, etc. I’m contacting other PCVs in Kenya as well, just to try and get help from anyone who might be able to point me in the right direction.

    If you know someone in that region, please do let me know, especially if you can tell me how to get a hold of them. Thanks a lot, and good luck in the rest of your service!

    Susanna Murrie, suztheday@gmail.com

    • Another volunteer just sent out a mass email with all this info… hopefully someone in the area can help you out.

Woodshop photos

A friendly member of the Peace Corps Kenya staff visited me from Nairobi and sat in on one of my classes last week and took photos.  Here are a couple for you to enjoy:

Me and all seven vocational school students (we’re signing our names for the camera):

See my nose and hand in action!  This was a picture/word matching exercise using the vocab they started picking up a couple days prior on the computer.


1 Response to “Woodshop photos”

So, how am I doing?

Something I seem to forget to write about.

Overall, I’m doing well, although the food/water seems to disagree with me on a weekly basis, making me tired, lightheaded, or some combination thereof.  The Miliaria problem is mostly gone, although it seems to threaten to return every now and then.

Teaching is, of course, a struggle.  One one hand, it is tremendously satisfying to see any progress; on the other hand, it is exhausting, mostly because I refuse to just teach and then come home and forget about it.  My art classes are enjoyable… today, for instance, I taught “the wave” to the third graders, referring both to the sporting event phenomenon (fun to see in action as it moves across the room) and to the oceanic variety: the entire class learned to draw waves in the style of this famous Japanese painting…

Hires Wave

…which I tried to draw from memory on the board:


I thought this was a fun way to spend an entire class reinforcing a single vocab word.  Last week we did cubism to reinforce shapes.

First thing in the morning I have been teaching English and Math in the vocational school (9th grade with a woodshop emphasis).  The students’ math has a stronger start than their English: an initial assessment showed that about half the class could computer the area of a rectangle, and one student even came close to calculating the length of a hypotenuse!  English, on the other hand, is the bigger challenge: on the first day, I asked the students to write about themselves.  Name school, family, etc.  I got back essays ranging from three sentences to one and a half pages, and not a single sentence in the entire lot made any sense.  Examples include “my Hello and I am teacher School wor”  and “your That as be for Deaf some These have canting is into lake mouse more used was commpisition.”  These are examples picked at random, and they are pretty indicative of the overall essay quality.  So I’ve started with sentence structure, and even in math class, I spend a lot of time on English, for instance I use the written form of numbers on the board (“one”) rather than the integer form "(“1”), which I need to explain a lot of the time but which will sink in eventually.  I also focus on short word problems like “What is half of four?” which I then convert to an equation and then solve, and then give other similar problems to do in their books.  They are a good group and I enjoy my time there.  Nonetheless there is a wide gap between the students who need the most and least help, and I can definitely do better on that front.

A random note: I walk by this every day— the VSO volunteer who built the woodshop and bought all the tools (!!!) left his name on the wall as his legacy:

Image025 I also join the teachers for chai break before lunch, which consists of drinking piping hot tea at the hottest point in the day.  I can see the sweat on the men’s shirts (including mine) so I’m not sure why this is so favored.  It is also customary to eat about three pieces of white bread, which I do happily.

For lunch I sometimes make something small, like soup or ramen, or I leave the campus to grab a matatu into town.  Between lunch and dinner I normally open the library and let kids use the computers, which makes me more tired than any other single thing in the day.  Many of the kids have become wise, and they come into the library with urgent looks on their faces,and they insist that all the children in the room must leave to wash their clothes, or drink water, or some other thing, and then after the kids leave the messengers proceed to use the computers until the kids come back, realizing they have been duped.  Similarly, the kids have begun lying to their PE teacher, claiming injury in order to come into the library instead.  Many boys show me their feet as they enter, supposedly so I can see the cuts (which they all actually have) that supposedly prevent them from running.

For dinner I almost always go into town with a book.  By this time the matatus all have their blacklights on any music blasting, so the ride to and from dinner is always amusing.  I just finished I Sing the Body Electric! today while eating a cheeseburger, which is not a common meal but not a rare one either.  Later in the evening I read educational research online, or if I’m burnt out I watch a movie, and I drink a juice/Sprite mix to stay hydrated.  And then I pass out.

4 Responses to “So, how am I doing?”

  • That “famous Japanese painting” is pretty much the first thing I see when I wake up in Matt’s bed after a night of heavy drinking in San Diego. He’s got a print of it hanging on his wall.


    Well there goes my political career.

  • all i know is, every time mark comes down, him and matt “play guitar in the room” … but the guitar’s sound really squeaky. must be bad acoustics.

  • If I might offer some historical perspective, a voice from the distant past, if you will,

    I’m not sure how the story of “Blair, the VSO volunteer” got started, but when I arrived there in 1992, the woodshop and tools were already in place — although they had apparently not been used for years. Given the lack of inventory control and such, I can imagine that all the tools may have “gone missing” and perhaps Blair replaced them, but I can’t believe the entire woodshop had gone missing.

  • Dear Paul Blair:
    Last week I found your work with pupils and I want to tell you that I would like to share some ideas about how to use Art for teaching English and different subjets.
    I´m Spanish and I´m teaching Art & Craft for children. I´m also trainer tachers and I am a researcher with the Seminario de Investigación para la Paz (The research center for peace in Zaragoza, Spain http://www.seipaz.org ).

    This month I´m teaching “ how to draw waves” and … I found your class !!!!!
    Well, My aim is not only to draw waves. I try to develope their sensibility … and I show them beautiful waves all around the world. Each place has interesting landscapes and people who make diference.

    I read that you did cubism to reinforce shapes. Great!!!!!!!!!!!!

    IF you send me a e-mail address I will attach you some works of my pupils. I hope you receive this e-mail without problems.

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Mª Carmen Gascón .