Published: July 3rd 2012July 3rd 2012
Only 2 days left at our Step Up Nursery school placement. Sydney has been teaching small groups this week. She read a book called Greedy Zebra
and had the kids draw pictures. Yesterday they played number bingo. In my classroom yesterday was almost overwhelming. The teacher of the baby class was absent so we had 50+ kids in our room. The room with actual sitting space for maybe 35. There is no electricity and no space to do much in the way of movement. So the kids sat and the Teecha read the books usually used in the baby class (which they repeat page by page), and drilled alphabet and numbers. At about 10:30 I saw him check the time on his cell phone and put his head in his hands. I decided to ask if I could try some clapping patterns with the kids. He was grateful and told the kids to do what I did. Then, for the next 10 minutes we clapped patterns and laughed. The kids were standing on the tables and concrete benches. It was all fun until 2 kids took a head first dive to the floor. Luckily there was no blood and no serious injuries. Today we had a much more normal day. My lesson du jour was weather. I made big cards with pictures and the English and Swahili words for sunny, cloudy, stormy etc. Tomorrow we are scheduled for community service in Arusha – some kind of construction project I believe.In my head I’m imaging the TZ version of habitat for humanity where we gather grass and make a thatched roof or something similar:-)
I had a conversation with Mama Hasseim at Step Up today. The school has a small plot of maize which usually helps defray costs but they will not get much this year. It costs 10,000 Tsh/week or about $25.00/month for parents to have their kids at Step UP full time. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s a huge amount for single parents or Grandparents raising their grandchildren. There is a Canadian church foundation that sends $200/month and covers the fees for many kids. That basically is how they are able to stay open. The teachers work from 6:30 or 7:00 am to 6:30 pm and make very little money – often $1.00/day. The teachers here wash the cups that the kids use for their porridge and they sweep the floors. They teach in the morning and then get a different group in the afternoon. They are also on duty until the parents show up. They get no planning period and they just leave the class alone when they need to use the toilet.
Dave has finished his work on the budget at his placement and is sending it off to their benefactor this afternoon. Maybe he’ll be with kids the last 2 days teaching Word. He has also quietly been giving computer lessons to one of the drivers. All of the drivers here love their kaka (brother), Dave. He is so friendly and often sits in the passenger front seat, chatting with them. He has also taken video of them singing the TZ national anthem and at other moments.
It seems hot today. It’s the hottest, clearest day we’ve had since we’ve been here. Of course there are children at school wearing fleece jackets and one boy (Junior) wears a down jacket. All of the kids wear sweaters because of the cold. Yesterday I asked Baba Fulgence how hot it gets in TZ in the summer. He replied, “My dear, we are not into measuring things here.” I asked Mama Hasseim and she said, “Very hot, unbearably hot, and humid. It wasn’t like this in the past.” She blames the government for not promoting small families and population control. Anyhow, I looked up the average high temperature in the summer and it can get up to 95. I think we chose the right season. I can’t imagine my classroom jammed with 30+ bodies in the extreme heat; I sweat now, at whatever the temperature is.
Yesterday afternoon we enjoyed a very fun activity. We had a class in batik. The method we used was different than the only other batik class I had at the YMCA years ago. We started by looking at samples of work by the artists that taught the class. In pairs we got a piece of fabric and drew the simple scene of our choice on the fabric. Syd, Dave and I decided to work together. The translation of that sentence means Sydney and I created the design and Dave took photos. I drew an acacia tree and Syd drew a giraffe. We wanted to put an elephant on the other side of the tree. One of the helpers came around and we asked for help with the elephant. He took our fabric, erased it all and drew a giraffe and a very tall, anorexic elephant. So Syd and I added a tree back in and redid his elephant. Then we painted the background colors, then applied wax. Then we painted the silhouettes in black. The result is really a stunning piece that I hope you’ll see a photo of soon.
My newest role is surrogate Mom to a broken hearted 18 year old volunteer who is already mourning the loss of her boyfriend of 2 weeks – he leaves tomorrow and she’s afraid she won’t survive. She is sure they have “something real”. I encouraged her to go for it. Long distance relationships aren’t easy but they sometimes work out and she’ll never have to regret not having tried. It’s amazing to see how much more mature Sydney is than many of these kids. I hear Syd making comments under her breath about their attitudes of entitlement.
Tonight we are going to dinner at Asha’s home – Asha is the director of MKombozi, the vocational center where Dave has been working. I believe we are being picked up by Stanley, our Saturday guide. I’m a little nervous about eating food that wasn’t prepared in our kitchen with “safe” water but I spoke to Mama Fatuma and she assured me we’ll be fine. Asha knows that we are vegetarian so I look forward to a new experience. Lisa and I ate with the family of our guide in Kathmandu and that turned out fine, so I’m sure this will too.
Syd has succumbed to the nasty head cold that almost everyone here has. It starts with a sore throat which seems reasonable given all the dust, dirt and smoke we breathe in everyday. Then it becomes major head/sinus congestion. She is sleeping now and she needs to get a bunch of sleep to help shake the cold.
Happy fourth of July everyone. Baadaye!
Sharon, Sydney and Dave