A brutal week

Either I've jinxed it by saying how amazing I felt last week, or stuff is coming out in the wash now, or both. This week has been particularly hard.

A combination of factors, poorly timed to coincide, and thankfully when spirits have been high.


It looks like the three puppies we have at the school have all eaten something that's now killed two of them. Our last remaining puppy is very weak, but he's trying hard.

The first to go, Scrawny, was very weak anyway, being the runt of the litter. He was unconscious by the time we found him, blood in his stool, too weak to get up and clean himself. His breathing was fast-paced, but there was no response. His breath stank of rot.

The strongest pup - Tank - had the same symptoms, and while he lasted much longer, he's also succumbed to what I can only assume is internal haemorrhaging.

Toby, the only remaining dog, is weak, but it looks like he'll make it.

Life for dogs is hard in Madagascar. A dog has the lowest given respect of all the animals within the homestead, and are only useful if they bark at strangers and keep watch over the home. Our puppies were no exception, they were only fed table scraps, and had to fend for themselves.

Apparently, in Mahanoro, if a dog tries to bite someone, as two of our dogs did, then some of the locals might take exception to this, and take matters into their own hands by poisoning all the dogs.

While I do suspect it's poisoning, I reckon its timing is oddly coinciding with two of the Onja staff being away in Tana. Poisoning dogs is a common strategy for attempting a break-in, and the school is a ripe target for theft.

The guard is on high alert tonight, and all the students have been told to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. But man, this sucks.

Down with the fever

Loïc has been really sick recently. Headaches, fever, vomiting, and lethargy. Sam's Mum, a doctor, reckons it could be Malaria, so Loïc has just started a course of anti-malaria, and after that it's onto the Doxycyclene every day for him.

I hope he gets better, it would be really bad if he couldn't stay on for the year.

Knife accidents

One of our students, Peta, managed to drop a kitchen knife into her foot, sharpened tip first. She apparently cleaned the wound, hopefuly with some of the treated water, but it looks like she didn't do a very good job. She is now heading to the hospital on a daily basis for shots to treat the billowing infection.

The tropics are a dangerous place to have an infection, as things can get out of hand very quickly it seems.

Work overlad

Within the classroom, it's been difficult too.

In teaching the students all about Bash, Git, Markdown and VS Code, we needed a project to practice our new skills. As a group we decided to make a little project, documenting the musical talent of Madagascar.

Well, our project has become a monster, and in so doing it's been fascinating watching their skills improve, making fewer mistakes with each subsequent pull request, and the pace improving after a few incentives were thrown in. But that's not to say it was easy. ~200 pull requests in 2 days was a real grind to manage, we had several false starts, and duplication of effort, so we started using Github Issues, and Google Sheets to dish out the work evenly, and gradually, with individuial coaching, we're getting there.

It was also important to lock down the master branch from commits, as some of the students were mistakenly deleting files they shouldn't or creating unnecesarry conflicts.

The students with better English skills have taken to this rigmarole like a duck to water, but those with poorer comprehension are really struggling. It's amazing to me just how much we take communication for granted. I'm certainly trying to phrase whatever I teach in at least two ways, and trying to build associations. So far, my best won effort has been in teaching the students that git status is their friend. And that they should always check with their friend before doing anything.

I've also been trying to give the students enough detail in their PRs that can help them on the path, but wow, that was draining. I felt like a stuck record most of the time, which means my students and I need to find the common understanding first. As I use more diagrams, and real-world examples to illustrate the concepts, the lights go on, and the students move forward.

I have a much deeper respect now for any teachers that stay the course and get the job done. This is trying, stressful, but rewarding work.