Friday, February 25, 2011

Back to School

Last week was our midterm break. I got to relax in my house in my PJs, visit town without the pressure of having to rush home and finish laundry, and I even skipped church. It was wild! And only eleven people came to my house on Sunday to ask me what was wrong, where I had been, or why I had skipped church. I’m not exaggerating about that number, I counted. Eleven. I thought I had no friends in my village and, during my more sullen moments, I imagine if I were to die, I would be completely devoured by roaches or mice or whatever it is that makes noise in my kitchen at 2am, before anyone would notice. But I am happy to report that people will come over to check on me if I haven’t been to the choo in a few hours. Lucky me.

So Sunday, I was lying around my house and I decided to drag myself off the couch where I had been lying like a corpse since I got out of bed. It was like, 2 in the afternoon, and I thought, about time for breakfast. I decided I would make some French fries. I went to my box of potatoes and dumped the whole thing on my floor to look for the biggest ones. This was a horrendous mistake. One of the potatoes had rotted, silently, and was now filled with something that only belongs in nightmares. Even the word gives me the heebily jeebilies. Maggots. There were maggots all over my kitchen floor! I have never been so grossed out in my life and I have seen some pretty gross stuff. But the sight of their tiny, white bodies, writhing on the floor… bleearrgghh! I dropped the potato I was holding and did the ‘ohmyGOD theyrealloverme!!’ dance for a few minutes. Then I took a deep breath, grabbed a plastic bag and stepped back in the kitchen. One glance and I ran out of the kitchen and did the dance again, this time trying to control my pesky gag reflex. Once more, deep breath and into the kitchen, this time using two plastic bags as gloves and a stick to push all the potatoes back in the box, then I ran out and threw it down the choo. I wanted to disinfect my entire house. But TIA (This Is Africa) and I have no bleach or scrub brush or 409; so I had to settle for spreading some hot water all over the floor and rubbing it with a Sham Wow. Now my imagination is creating maggots all over the house. Stray rice grains, escaped bread crumbs, the invisible nothing that is absolutely everywhere and looks just like a maggot. I had graphic dreams about maggots last night, damn mefloquin, they were friendly, inch-wormy maggots. Now my hatred of flies has escalated. I don’t hate flies; hate is too mild a word. I loathe flies with the fire of a thousand suns. I want to punch one in its face, and I try, but they are too darn fast. Does anyone know a way to kill flies? Some tried and true, housewives trick? Can I light them on fire or drown them?

On Monday, since there were maggots all over my house, I thought I would go visiting. I was doing my best to be anti-antisocial. I even allowed myself to be attacked by the preschool kids. They cannot pronounce my name, it sounds adorably like “Lion”, and they tried to strip me naked. Forty of the little scamps surrounded me and distracted me by poking me in the…chest, (yeah, I don’t know why) and while I was fending them off, they had undone the tie on my wrap skirt! Iko sawa, I think they were too little to be scandalized. Next I visited with a form 3 student (that is Junior year) named Halima who lived nearby. She showed me her photo album; it was falling apart and had Leo DeCaprio from Titanic on the cover. It was full of blurry photos of her many brothers and sisters as they were growing up in a village near Lake Turkana. There were pictures of her mother and sisters in traditional Rendille or Samburu (I can’t tell the difference) dress. In the photos of her brothers at their circumcision ceremonies the boys look a little pained because the picture was taken immediately after the procedure, the circumcisor (guy who does circumsicions?) is still kneeling between the boys’ knees. Halima also told me about her mother who passed away on Christmas, at four pm. She said her mother had been sick for years but was doing better and talking completely normal right before she passed. In the tradition of her people, Halima shaved all her hair off in remembrance of her mother. Halima told me all this with a smile on her face. She is a much stronger person than I am.

Now midterm break is over and it is back to school. Today is Wednesday and it is the first day back. I am starting to understand why the majority of our students are failing; this school has such a different way of running things that I just do not see as conducive to learning. We opened today, and some students have not come back from break. Classes are supposed to start at 7:20 am, my first one is at 8 am. I was totally unprepared so I went to school early to make up a lesson. But when I arrived, all the students are still outside cleaning. Then they had an assembly. Classes didn’t actually start until 8:20 so I only got to do half a lesson. In addition, three quarters of my form ones (that is Freshman year) were not in class because they were being punished for being late or for wearing flip-flops (not part of the uniform). So the punishment for being late to class is to be sent outside to spend the day in the blazing sun picking up acacia thorns from the dusty clearing they call the football (soccer) field, and the student will miss a whole day of classes. I felt that it was pointless to cover new material when three fourths of the students were missing, so I just did a review of last week. It was very boring and redundant. But what can you do?

I have been asked by some of you at home about what you can do to help my students. I spoke with the deputy principle and what this school needs is “Stuff”. They have no library, a shortage of textbooks, no internet access, not enough supplies for lab practicals, not enough paper, few notebooks, no visual aids, no reference books, etc, etc. So if you have a stack of old Nat Geos lying around, need some Karma points, or want to help me look like a rockstar to my school, here is a list of some things the school needs:
-Books for students to read recreationally (anything teens, or younger, would like to read to practice their english)
- notebooks, paper, flashcards (so they can study for exams)
-Rewards for good work (stickers, pencils, toys, candy)
-National Geographic or similar magazines (make science interesting!)
-Study guides for English, math, bio, chem., geography, history, physics, health, agriculture
-books of review problems (so I can have students do that for an alternative punishment)
-Bill Nye the Science Guy! (if those still exist, or other educational videos/documentaries)
-educational posters, or poster paper so I can make some
-markers, crayons, colored pencils

And for those with boatloads of cash, every school could use expensive technology: microscopes, digital cameras, and laptops. If you do want to sponsor a girl’s tuition, one year costs about 20,000 Kenyan Shillings, that’s around $260. If you want to give part of that, I can put it in a scholarship for the neediest students.
Alright, that’s enough of my begging. Thanks for reading. I am going to close my blog today with the food item I have been thinking about all week. A large, juicy hamburger with big chunks of brie melted on it, topped with avocado, tomatoes, and ketchup; served with a side of macaroni and cheese with cut up hotdogs. Man, I’m hungry. Have a good week!

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