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Published: November 18th 2017
Week 13th November to 17th
Baptism by encroaching insects when I got back to Sam's Village. The rains are nearly here, so everything is trying to get inside. I sprayed Doom by the front door step, and I think it made everything that was under the wooden step come inside. Large ants were streaming in, and a couple of biggish spiders and beetles too. The safest place was under the mosquito net.
The next morning outside both front and back doors were millions of long thin translucent wings, and large queen ants trying to get hidden before the children came round to pick them up - they're apparently quite a delicacy, but I think I'll pass on it. I was just sweeping them out as fast as possible.
This week I'm determined to cook for myself, I cannot stomach any more nsima, but as it took me four attempts to get a fire going for tea, the first morning, it doesn't bode well. When I picked up the big bag with my stuff for the CBCC, there was the biggest spider I have ever seen in it. My scream brought several people running, and when I dumped the contents of the bag on the ground outside, Bakela dealt with it. I keep thinking about it, and I'm so glad I didn't see it last night. I'm now keeping the bag up high on a hook, but I think I might have to drag my suitcases outside, empty them of wildlife, then keep them zipped up.
Chikondi is having the week off; he has exams soon, and needs to revise. Irene, the assistant librarian came in to help with the CBCC , but kept getting called away to dole out things from the builders’ store. As soon as I'm in the CBCC on my own, half the kids play up. I can engage some with activities, but engaging 20 out of 70 isn't enough, and they delight in jumping about. I often take the opportunity to have a physical session of jumping about, but I don't have the energy to do much of that, and if I want to share out books, or organise a pass the ball activity, it's hopeless. And when they cry, I can't understand what the problem is, all I can do is pat them ineffectually. Thank God it's only two hours a day. Then I collected the rest of Standard 3, and some of Standard 2, for a book session in the library.
The training is apparently going well, and finishes this weekend.
I washed my sheets at the beginning of the week. Mostly I don't wash my feet, so I'm not sure that the colour will ever return to the sheets.
As the week progresses, the CBCC children get more and more unruly, embarrassingly so. Some of them love what I'm doing, to some I'm just a figure of fun, and I wonder what I'm doing here.
Thursday was better, some of them get engaged with counting bottle tops, or after chanting the number rhyme, we identify a colour, and if they are wearing that colour, they can stand up and be counted. It's good to see them looking at their own clothes, or each others’ to find the selected colour. I get them to hold up the correct number of fingers for each number, and they enjoy ‘Tommy Thumb’ a finger rhyme where they have to hold up each finger in turn. They also enjoy passing a ball round a circle, and counting, and number 5 has to jump up and run round the circle and go back to their place. To start with, they waited to be told every time, but now some of them are getting it, and will shout 'Kumunga’ (‘Run’) to number 5. Some of them will anticipate by counting along to see if they are going to be number 5. I tried to do this activity with older ones, with multiples of 5 or 10, but they don't count in those numbers. How do they work out money I wonder?
I'm getting better at getting a fire going, and as well as cooking each evening, I'm making tea each morning for the flask, and boiling two eggs in the water for lunchtime. Thursday evening I got the runs, and had to go to the loo twice in the night, which is an ordeal. I'm a wuss so I have a bucket in my bedroom for the night, but that's only for weeing. Friday morning I decided to forgo breakfast and just had tea. The CBCC went really well. The school had s national holiday so there were only 20 children in the CBCC, and it was brilliant. They were engaged and responsive. When I started to do ‘Tommy Thumb’ some of them wouldn't sit down, so I held up the bag of finger puppets, and told them to sit down, and they all sat. We did ‘ Tommy Thumb’and then I gave out the finger puppets. Result! I also did the hungry Caterpillar activity. I read the story, then they had to find each relevant picture to retell the story. Unfortunately the first picture, of the little caterpillar went down a gap in the floorboards. Although the pictures are on A4 sheets, the space under the floorboards is big enough to completely swallow the picture.
Also, after the alphabet chant, we've been saying 'A is for apple’, and I went through each child’s name ‘Jenala and jelly begin with j: Martha and moon begin with m’. It's a start.
As there were only a few children, I tried giving out some popcorn. I bought some earlier in the week, thinking to bribe them to sit down, but it was like a stampede and I had to give up. This time with only 20 of them it worked a dream. Unfortunately the bag had been sitting on the table in the house, and I think the cat had made a couple of holes in the bag, and while I was doling out the popcorn I felt crawling up my arm, and I was covered in tiny little ants. The kids didn't seem to mind, they got excited about the ants crawling on the floor, and I spent the rest of the day squashing ants as they crawled around my body. Once you feel things crawling, you can't stop.
The training finished at lunchtime and there was a big ceremony with speeches, songs and dancing, and certificates given out by Duncan, the country manager, and the main chief of the group of villages. I tried not to scratch too much.
It all ended on a high, which was good, as at the start there had been a bit of a mutiny with the trainees expecting to be paid for doing the course. Some charities do pay, but Landirani is short of money. They were training them for free, and paying for their board and lodging with excellent food, and worked out a way to give people a small allowance. All the caregivers are volunteers, and being away from home for two solid weeks, meant they could not do other paid work as usual. Now the caregivers have the training, the government will soon start to pay them, for manning the CBCCs.
The singing and dancing is stupendous, wonderful harmonies, and expressed with such joy.
About a third of them were men, and about 10 of the women had babies or toddlers with them.
There was a display of the things they had made for their CBCCs; instruments, dolls, cars, houses, balls, paste and paint, clay models using local clay. These are things for the children to play with, or examples of what can be done with children. A pair of caregivers explained each group of activities.
Friday afternoon Duncan and Wezie gave me a lift back to Mabuya, another weekend of comparative luxury. I'll go back on Sunday, I want to go in with the caregivers on Monday to show them what we've been doing.
And spend two more nights with the cat. I shall miss him.
I brought two big suitcases with me, thinking one would fit inside the other for the journey home. Unfortunately they won't, so I'll be taking home two nearly empty suitcases. I've purloined a cardboard box to try and pad one out a bit.
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