Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mimi ni Mwalimu

I apologize for not writing in so long. Time has been going by so fast and I have been very busy. I have only one week left in Loitokitok and then I leave for swearing in, in Nairobi. I have been meaning to write to tell you about Thanksgiving and also model school. This will be a long entry. Pole! (‘po-lay’)

First I will talk about the holiday. Thanksgiving was an amazing day. All of us PCTs went to Outward Bound for the day. We went up there in the morning and set up tents off in the woods. We played football, frisbee, and volleyball until the beer showed up. They we played much more energetically. The staff at Outward cooked most of the meal for us, but some of us were allowed in the kitchen to make special things. My contribution was a last minute gravy that turned out pretty good (Dad would be proud). The meal consisted of: chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, chapati, sukuma wiki, Curtis’ spaghetti sauce, and pineapple-avocado salad. For dessert we had no-bake cookies, brownies (both regular and peanut butter flavor), pineapple crisp, and mango crisp (we could not find apples). It was an amazing meal. We sat down, all 26 of us, plus two from the Deaf ed group, some current PCVs and some staff, at one large table and went around and said what we were thankful for. My favorite was Sajeena saying she was thankful that we were all a lot dorkier than she expected us to be. We all cheered to that. After dinner, we had a big bonfire. But after a few hours, it started pouring rain and we all scattered to our tents. There were a bunch of small 3 person tents and one huge one with 8 of us in it. When we ran to the huge 8 person tent we found that it had flooded. So we vacated that one and all cramed into the small tents. My tent was relatively warm and dry, and only had four people in it. But some had 7 people and some flooded. Needless to say, very few people slept that night. And those who did were woken up at 4 am by someone (I won’t name names) singing “God Bless America”, in their sleep. It was a great time and my absolute favorite day of training.

Now I’ll tell you about Model School. Last week I was a teacher for the first time. Students came from all over Kenya to be taught by us newbie teachers. I taught the internal structures of the leaf, the light stage of photosynthesis, and a physics lab to a class of about 30. The students knew more about the subjects than I did. I learned as I was writing my lesson plans. I think that my first time in front of actual students was not a complete disaster. I talked too fast, they could not read what I wrote on the board, my activity failed, and I ran out of information after about 20 minutes and had to make stuff up on the fly. But the students said they enjoyed it and they understood me well enough. The second time I taught, photosynthesis, I talked slower, but still too fast. I ran out of information too early and my experiment did not work, again. I also played a review game that was totally unfair and I ran out of candy to reward them. But I was not nervous at all and really had a great time. The students had fun and most did surprisingly well on the test. I even got to practice my discipline when I caught five of the girls cheating. I felt very comfortable in front of the class, which I did not expect. Now, I am even more excited to go to my site.

I feel I should mention how I am doing with the language. When I came to Kenya, I knew one language; now I know zero. I am slowly forgetting English and I am still not very good at Swahili. I have merged the two into what I’ll call "Kiswinglish”. I no longer use contractions (its all: do not, cannot, and will not), I talk pole pole (slowly) like Kenyans do, and when people ask me how to say some things in english, I almost always have trouble remembering. Also the following phrases are completely eliminated from my vocabulary: Sorry (Pole), I don’t know (si jui), hello (hu jambo!), no problem (hakuna shida), and thank you (asante). I have my final language exam on Wednesday and I am only a teensy bit nervous. I am sure I will do okay, but I there is always that fear that I will be the only one who fails. I’ll let you know if that happens.
Today I am cooking American food for my family. I am making spaghetti sauce and garlic bread. I am 90% sure they will hate it, but I am still looking forward to it. I went to the market this morning and bought all my supplies and now I am just waiting to begin cooking. After the market, I felt I needed some space and I went to my special spot. That is where I am now; I am writing this the back of my shopping list. My spot is up the hill from my house, past all the streets and houses, at the end of the road. Here there is a rock at the very edge of the drop off where I can sit. Mount Kili is behind me, almost completely obscured by dark rain clouds. I will have to go soon as everything I own is hanging on the laundry line. But for now it is sunny and very hot; I’m guessing about 900 degrees (why did I think it was a good idea to bring black t-shirts to Africa?). There are some kids at the bottom of the hill waiting for me, but they are keeping their distance. In front of me the land is hilly and very green. It reminds me of Italy. The verdant hills are covered in farmland and dotted with trees. There are butterflies and swallows floating around. There is also a bird with a bright blue body and a bright gold head, I don’t know what he is. Beyond the farms, the rift valley stretches out almost to the horizon. There are big, fluffy, clouds that look drawn by Pixar casting long shadows on the valley. And at the very edge of my vision, almost fading into the sky, is a mountain range on the other side. I have only been here for 20 minutes, but with the view, my iPod, and my tiny bag of Skittles (thanks Alyssa’s mom!) , I am totally content. When the little girl with the dirty yellow dress and runny nose finally gets up the courage to come say “how are you?”, I will be ready to go home.


Katharine Keith said...

funny about losing a language rather than gaining one. I feel the same way about learning farsi.. now i just speak Pinglish (persian/english). While playing scrabble with people I keep trying to play persian words.

You are a fantastic writer ryan. keep em coming!

Julie said...

I'm glad you had lots of food and people around for Thanksgiving! The tent story so reminds me our ECO/SOS beach camping trip! LOL Only it was wind not rain, but still. That was very kind of you to give candy. Pole, but I can't help to giggle. I can just picture the kids reactions when you ran out. I wouldn't worry about it to much. Teaching, esp starting out in a different country, is something that you will grow and excel at while putting in the time. Plus, didn't I always say you would be a great teacher anyway! You'll pass your exam with flying colors. I have no doubt! Wow woman! You sound like a professional writer! Miss Ya!