To the ends of the earth…and back!

The adventure continues…Wednesday, July 15

Wednesday, July 15: Steps and floor are finished.

I walked to Shalom this morning to check up on the roof’s progress before walking back to school to help teach a few lessons. Sandy and Julia had decided to go and visit the local hospital/clinic while Heather and Al would stay behind and assist with building the roof…today’s agenda included hanging the ceiling slabs, laying a new layer of cement on the floor and steps and leveling out the veranda’s ledge. (see photo)

The last class I visited had older children, aged 14-16. As I walked in, they stood up and greeted me, saying “Good morning Madame.” After they were seated, we went to work. I noticed some children not copying down the lessons yet others were furiously trying to get my attention as I read over each statement. It was hysterical and I realized for the first time how much fun teachers must have when looking for students to answer questions. From avoiding eye contact to pretending to drop something, only to sidestep the possibility of being called on, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. I too was an expert on avoiding being called on to give an answer. As the teens scribbled down the lessons, I looked out the window and saw two of the boys, Julius and Michael, from Shalom busily chasing their paper airplanes, rather than attending class. I immediately laughed as I thought of the influence we had had on the children, having taught them to make the paper airplanes just days before. Likewise, I hoped they would not receive a punishment as a result of said influence! They caught my eye and we exchanged a smile before I told them with my eyes to return to class. I’m still not quite sure how they understood what I said with a mere gaze, but I certainly had it down and was more than happy to find this alternate way of communicating!

The back corner of older girls were particularly not interested in the lesson, especially at the beginning. Luckily by the end, as I walked from desk to desk correcting notebooks, the students seemed to warm to me. As I explained their mistakes and walked up to the board to show them where they had missed letters/words/punctuation etc, they would hurriedly rewrite the corrections and shove the notebooks at me again. Just as the bell rang to signal class was over, I made it to the back right corner and much to my surprise, the girls all shoved their notebooks at me as well, eager for me to correct them. Whilst correcting the papers, the girls each took turns looking at me then whispering, some of them even reached out and touched my blond braided hair before erupting in laughter. They also noticed the treble clef tattoo behind my right ear so that was a popular topic of discussion that included many gestures and pointing!

The teachers remembered me, of course, and proceeded to greet me and welcome me yet again to the school, again inviting me to stay longer in Tanzania to teach at the school. I only taught two classes before heading back to Shalom, as I wanted to make sure to see the roof’s progress.

I walked back to the volunteer house where the family was sitting, just about to have lunch. We exchanged stories from our respective morning adventures and Sandy showed me photos of the clinic. It was fascinating to learn about the clinic through both stories and photos. Much like the school, the clinic was government funded and unfortunately did not have enough funds to buy the basic medications that enable the staff to function as a clinic. Many programs are in place, however without funds, there is not much the doctors and nurses can do.  During lunch, some local high school students, three of whom were triplets walked by the volunteer house and greeted us. A tradition they would adopt in the days to come…

After we finished eating, we all headed back to Shalom for some continued work on our posters and further roof progress. Sandy, Julia, Heather and I worked on various posters with English/Kiswahili, the alphabet, numbers, animals (with the help of the children) and the big poster with the childrens’ names. While teaching one day, I realized though the children could sing the ABC’s, some were unable to decipher between letters. We were soon joined by Ezekial, Josephat and some other boys who enjoyed our attention. That and, they knew our cameras were in the room and receiving no attention as we worked tirelessly on the posters. The boys were more than happy to give the cameras some love, of course snapping photos (and sometimes videos unknowingly) with their favorite poses!!

After what seemed like a long afternoon, the family left.

Yusuf, Godfrey and I went into town so I could check my email and change some money for the upcoming purchases. As I browsed through my email, I realized how out of touch I had been, yet how unfazed by this fact I was. When back in the States, I am usually with blackberry in hand, always accessible via email, text or call.  New York City will do this to you, urging one to feel the necessity of always being reachable. What a stark difference it had been here, and how I loved it! Of course, when at the orphanage it’s hard to think of anything but the children, for the work is ultra-consuming.

I sent a few update emails and checked in with my family, ensuring them I was safe. I had the great luck of having a special keyboard so randomly my sentences would have punctuation in the middle of a word or would randomly capitalize letters. It was as if I was writing a ransom letter or something to be decoded by an expert. (Thanks to those who read through it—apologies if you had a headache afterward!)

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