Another week of teaching under my belt. This week was much better than last, but there are still challenges and hurdles for me to jump. I’m feeling more confident in the classroom, which happens to translate to being a bit more bossy/mean, but I think that it’s a good sign. I’m not so shy to manage my classroom. Things seem to be going by so quickly, today I thought it was either Wednesday or Thursday, and then at lunch I realized it was Friday! Already! It just feels like it’s flying by.
This week was made even better by the arrival of 5 packages! 5! It was so shocking! On Monday, Mr. Ambalo brought me a bit of mail, one of which was a notecard from the Posta requesting I come retrieve a parcel, totaling 5,600 shillings. That’s a lot of shillings! So, I thought “must be my Christmas package from mom and dad.” After school, I caught a ride into Siaya town just in time to retrieve my package before the Posta closed, to find not one, but 5 total packages waiting for me! I had to have assistance carrying them to Mr. Ambalo’s shop down the road, then get them all situated for my ride back to the village. I waited until I got home to open them, which was sheer torture. Thanks to Mom & Dad, Jordan, my church family, and Aunt Becky, I feel like I’m living the dream.
That night, I unpacked all of my new things on my fairly large coffee table that never actually holds any coffee – until now! I had a billion packets of flavored instant coffee as well as splenda strewn across my table. It was absolutely overflowing with goodies from home! I sat in awe, and just cried and stared at my new things until it was dark outside, then decided to waste the rest of my minutes calling mom to tell her about my new goodies. I can’t even begin to tell all of you how much it means to have packages from you, and the thought that you put into the contents just blew me away. First of all, the church package, it was amazing. I opened it, unsure of exactly what to expect but on the very top of the package was a compact of eyeshadow. My jaw hit the floor – I am so blessed to have a church family that really knows me and cares so much about me. Such a small, simple gesture, but to me it means a lot, that you really thought about me and it wasn’t just another package you send to anyone..it was especially for me. I just want you all to know how much I appreciate the thought you put into that package, as well as the contents. Tonight, after classes finished, my kids put the coloring books and colored pencils to good use. They are absolutely exhausting the pencil sharpeners! Everything you sent is appreciated SO much, and they need school supplies so badly! In the box, you wrote that it was late for Christmas, but that God’s timing is always perfect – so true. The packages saved my school money that will now be spent on chairs, since some of our students are lacking seating at the moment. Also, we are going to be purchasing a few more beds for the dormitories, because our number has increased unexpectedly this term and a few kids are sleeping on the floor at the moment. I just want everyone at home to know how much they treasure the things you sent, and that they are all going to be used until they are completely exhausted. I showed the new things to Mr. Ambalo the next morning, and he was in complete awe. In fact, he offered to pay the customs fee for the packages since they contained things for the kids here at school. The people here are so appreciative, and I am too, it’s so wonderful to have such amazing support from my family and friends at home.
So, that night, after my emotions were drained, I fell asleep watching “My Name is Earl,” and woke up to listen to music on my new iPod. Then I had a cup of Starbucks Vanilla instant coffee, put on a new skirt, new underwear, and a new top, as well as new earrings and a new bracelet. I went to class with new pens for grading papers, and used colored chalk to teach my lessons. Then I checked the kids work using nice red pens that the kids LOVED, and afterwards took post-it notes, paperclips, rubberbands, and a few extra sharpies to the office for other teachers to use. I made a box of the colored pencils, crayons, markers, and coloring books and put it in the office for other teachers to take advantage of as well. It’s just amazing how those things would seem insignificant, kind of just meaningless at home, but here they are absolutely treasured. I appreciate the things from home more and more every single day. I realize how much I took advantage of things back home, and already feel guilty about it. Two days after receiving my new packages, I had a hard time deciding what to wear. I felt like I had so many clothes (and I honestly do!), but then I think of how greedy I was back home, and always just buying new clothes and wanting more and more, but here I realize that is such a waste. It’s funny… I mean I still want things, duh, but now I see how those things aren’t necessary. I have probably 10 outfits, total, and I feel like that’s a lot. A lot more than most people here have, and when you handwash your clothes, it’s a ton.
Let me tell you about my clothes washing experience… by the way.
Last weekend, Sunday morning, I decided I had better wash my clothes or else next weekend it would be a nightmare. So, I took my 15-20 articles of clothes outside, next to my big water tank, and plopped them on this little concrete pad that surrounds my house, about 2 feel wide – all the way around – because when it rains, it becomes so muddy “it steals your shoes,” Mr. Ambalo says, so the concrete around my house serves as a sidewalk, kind of, as long as my windows aren’t open.
Anyways, I threw my clothes down there, then filled up my two basins right next to my water tank so I wouldn’t have to carry them far, and plus, the clothes line (a wire from the corner of my house tied to a tree) is right there. I started washing, listening to Luo music on my little handheld radio. After washing about half of my things, one of the younger kids – Debora – came to help. She’s a sweetie, not deaf, but autistic. No verbal communication, though she does respond to her name and demands. She’s probably 5 or 6, in nursery class. She came and jumped right in, washing clothes, Kenyan style. She appeared to be a pro, moving so quickly, doing the same motions I see the Kenyan Mama’s doing, which I can’t replicate to save my life. At first, she was just helping. Then after a skirt and a top, she started washing my things herself, just grabbing out of my one pile, scrubbing it, rinsing it, and throwing it up on the line. She was a machine. We only had about 3-4 more shirts and my jeans left, and she threw a skirt on the clothesline and SNAP – it crashed to the ground. As I mentioned, when it rains, it all turns to mud – so all of my wet clothes crumpledin the dirt, instantly becoming muddy. So, back to the dirty pile they went. I went to fetch the groundskeeper to repair the line, and in the meantime, Debora was going to town with my clothes. While I was gone, she had just thrown clothes in both buckets, so one was no longer for washing and the other was no longer clean for rinsing – and the clothes that she had finished washing, she threw straight into the dirt – again!Gah. I chased her off, then had to start completely over, washing everything – again – and using two new buckets of water, and unfortunately she had also put the rest of my laundry detergent to use while I was gone, so they only got a thorough rinse. Pretty frustrating, but amusing at the same time. Now I know I should do my own laundry and not take advantage of child labor.
Teaching this week was rough, but better. I am still struggling with adjusting to the culture in schools here, just the “no big deal” attitude. I am supposed to teach 4-5 classes every day, including PE, and so far, I haven’t accomplished it. Some days it’s my fault, just poor planning, but other days, it’s beyond my control. The other teacher might run over and before I know it, my slot for class has been filled and another teacher is next in line. That’s just some times though, otherwise, it’s my fault. Sometimes it takes a long time for the kids to copy things down from the board – I mean a LONG time, they really can’t go any faster. Also, they really want to learn, usually, and so I want to help them understand. Math is one of my classes, for grade 2, and when they start to get it, class is ending, but they are beginning to understand so I just keep going, and that means we miss KSL… so it’s hard, to balance. I started making homework papers using some of the construction paper you all sent from home, and I give that to them at the end of class instead of having them copy things off the board, because even though that is a lot more convenient, they are so slow at writing.
It’s just shocking, too, that some teachers show up for work around 10, or 11, or sometimes they just don’t. Their kids just sit in class, waiting, and doing I don’t even know what, but being good…. It makes it kind of challenging to give it your best when no one else seems to be. But, that’s not true either, because there are only a few teachers like that. Most teachers here truly care, and teach well. Especially the two deaf men that started teaching this term with me. They are excellent teachers, and really seem to benefit the kids – already. It is a little discouraging, at times, to be equally new and not equally talented at teaching. I know it will change in time, but it’s challenging.
Another issue is just my endurance. My tolerance, I guess you could say. I just run out of energy really early in the day. I spent some time yesterday trying to hash out what was going on in my mind, and I concluded that it’s mainly due to adjustment and adapting. I’m still new here, I’m still adjusting to my new home and new people, not to mention a new job of teaching, in a new language. I don’t know how quickly everyone else is adjusting to their schools but it’s proving to be a little exhausting for me. Not that I don’t enjoy it, just that it is a bit more of a challenge than I expected, or maybe it is effecting me in ways I didn’t anticipate. Probably a combination, but anyways, after teaching two classes, I’m pretty much done. I just feel frustrated and stressed, and I just want to be in my house. It’s strange, because I’m not doing anything physically taxing, and am definitely eating well and getting plenty of sleep… I just run out of fuel around 11-12. Fortunately, this term I do not teach anything after lunch, so I can come back to my house and recharge. I try to go out and spend a little time with the kids after school, even if it is just sitting under the shade trees with them. I started coloring with a few younger kids two nights a week, as long as they are interested I will try to keep that up. It’s just hard to always be in “social” mode. I live on the school compound, so there’s really no time when I’m off duty. I can already tell that I’m adjusting more and more every day – this week was definitely an improvement of last week, and I’m sure they will continue getting better and better.
So, tomorrow I am going into Siaya town to do my usual cyber business, hit up the supermarket and posta… then back to the homestead. I am also starting to get the hang of keeping my electronics up and running. I charge my computer probably twice a week, so I can watch an episode of Glee (or now My Name is Earl) while I fall asleep, and I use it to keep my ipod charged. I charge my fancy phone once a week, to check my emails and such, and then I bought a cheap phone that stays charged for several days but has no internet access – so I only have to charge it once a week as well. The generator at the school has one free outlet that I can use, so three or four nights a week, I take something over to get a little juice. This week I ran out of minutes, the day that I got my packages, so I have been feeling a bit isolated from everyone back home… but I will take care of that tomorrow.
So, I guess in a nutshell, for those of you who made it this far, things here are still great. I’m adjusting and trying to make the changes to be successful. I wish I could really express how much I appreciate the packages and the gifts, you have really impacted me with your generosity – as well as the kids and staff here at Nina. Thank you so, so much, from me and everyone here at Nina.