Saturday, March 5, 2011

Part of the Community

I am physically and mentally exhausted this week. My life is starting to get very busy. I am actuallynglad of this, it makes me feel like part of the community. Previously, I would go home from school as soon as I was finished and hide in my house to avoid talking to my neighbors. Weekends were spent in town shopping alone, surfing the internet, alone, and hanging with Curtis at Pale Pale, the bar. And on Sundays I did laundry in my house, to avoid the neighbors. The last two weeks have been completely different. Saturday I spent with fellow teachers, and Curtis, at Pale Pale having a good time. I went shopping with Peter, my favorite Brother who is in training to be a priest. I visited the Sisters and had chai, talked to the teachers from the primary school, and ate breakfast on Sunday at the Father’s house. During the week I am very busy as well. I used to come home as soon as I could to hide in my house. Now I have to stay at school all day. This week I am helping to grade midterms. I also have two or three counseling sessions every day with students. I have finally gotten my bicycle fixed, so I ride home at about 6 pm, it is uphill the whole way and I almost blacked out the first time I tried. I get home all sweaty, dirty and disgusting and take a nice cold bucket bath. Then I sit on my porch, rehydrate, and greet the neighbors. I have become friends with Galgallo, the 2 year boy, the adorable little girl whos name I keep forgetting, and Lokho who is 12. Lokho wants to learn English, so we meet every day for about an hour to read the Princess Bride for practice. I also help her do her school work. In return she teaches me new Kiswahili and kiborana words. I have restarted my Kiswahili practice in earnest; I am starting to get embarrassed by how little I use it. It is just too easy to answer in English, I always know how to answer in kiswa, I just don’t for some reason. I need to stop that. I study kiswa for about half an hour, then make dinner. While cooking, I clean my house, anyplace maggots might want to spawn. Then I eat dinner while watching something lighthearted on my laptop. After dinner, I attempt to grade more papers or make lesson plans. I am exhausted and ready to go to bed at about 8pm, but I never get finished before it is near 11. I go to bed and sleep until my bladder wakes me up at 5:30am. Then up with the sun, Blue Band and Zesta sandwiches for breakfast, chug a cup of coffee, and I can coast off to school on my bicycle. Its all downhill so I can arrive fresh and only slightly sweaty for the 7am assembly.
Yesterday, on my bicycle, I had to ride down this narrow path on my way to school. It has some mud huts on one side and a fence made of acacia bushes on the other side. It was very sandy and I was afraid I was going to fall over. I was being careful and watching the ground when I almost ran into a camel, literally. It was the largest herd of them I have seen here. There were 17 of them and they were way too close to me; after being kicked by one a few weeks ago, I am more wary. I can not get over how big they are close up. They are at least as big as moose, maybe bigger. I was nervous to be riding down this small path with all these camels looking at me. Because of the sand, I had to weave in between the camels like they were slow cars on a highway. It ended up being super fun and I did not fall over or get kicked. The local kids who were running after me thought it was hilarious; I think they would have enjoyed it more if I had been injured.
Last week I wrote about Fatuma and her problem with falling asleep in all her classes. I had her write me a letter as to why. Yesterday, Fatuma came and gave it to me. It was a great letter. She opened it by saying “Dear caring mother,” and then thanked me for my concern. Fortunately, she did not mention witchcraft; I would not have known what to do with that. She said the problem was stress and discouragement, which is what I thought it was. She was worried about her poor family at home and how they had had to sell everything they owned to send her to school, leaving her other siblings at home, and the pressure that put her under to do well. She was failing all her classes and became depressed because she doesn’t feel she can catch up. She has trouble sleeping at night because she feels she is letting down her family, she spends all her free time copying notes from friends because she doesn’t understand in class, and then during class she falls asleep because she doesn’t know what is going on and she is exhausted. Then when the teacher leaves class, she said she sometimes cries because she feels so bad. She feels terrible for letting down her teachers who are only trying to help her and her parents who love her so much they sent her to school so she could have a better life than theirs. I am very limited in what I can do, I offered to be her tutor and help her in her classes. I do not have the knowledge to teach her in every subject, but I am hoping to teach her some skills to help her learn. I am going to teach her reading comprehension, English vocabulary, study skills, and active listening. I have to download information on how to do that, since I never studied in high school and am still not quite sure what active listening is. But if I can show her some things, maybe she will give herself a break and not worry so much. If she will be less stressed, maybe she can sleep at night, and maybe stay awake in class and take her own notes, then use her free time to actually study.
Yesterday, one of my students fainted in class. I did not find out until lunch time, when she had been completely unconscious for 4 hours. I asked to see her; they had put her outside under the shade of a tree with her feet slightly elevated. She was completely non-responsive and her only movements were when she cringed in pain and her spine bent backwards and she held her clenched fists to her chest. Her only sounds were wimpers of pain. She had something wrong with her kidneys and had been in pain for awhile. This was not the first time she has fainted, the last time she passed out she was prescribed medicine for epilepsy, without being tested. After I sat with her for another 3 hours, the school was finally able to find a vehicle to come and take her to the hospital. It was just in time too, she had begun to have small seizures. She did wake up a little when the car arrived, she could nod her head when spoken to, and knew where she was. They took her to the hospital where she will finally get tests. I am afraid that she will not be able to afford it, she was already having financial trouble. I am going to keep track of her and I hope that she will be okay.

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