TGIF! And unlike most occasions which one might utter this phrase because the week was long and drab or somewhat unbearable, this time I only say it because I’m looking forward to a great weekend to top off an awesome week. This week was my first week back at site after consolidation, and to be entirely honest with you, I was not looking forward to my return to the village. In fact, I didn’t even anticipate returning to site after consolidating – I fully expected to be returning to America, due to civil unrest after the Presidential Election. Fortunately, that was not the case, and I just finished another amazing week hanging out with a group of phenomenal kids at Nina.
Allow me to elaborate on the seemingly insignificant events that made my week in Kenya awesome. I say seemingly insignificant because from your perspective, my fellow Americans, perched on a leather sofa with your laptop between you and the LCD TV while waiting for your dinner to heat up in the microwave, my stories might not seem as impressive, or brag-worthy as I imagine.
First of all, I managed to successfully facilitate 2 detention sessions this week. Yes, detention. And yes, that is the high point of my week. And no, not because I hate children and want to punish them and witness their suffering, because if that were the case, I would do absolutely nothing at all to amend the punishment system here.
On Monday, several of our kids were called out during assembly for refusing to run in the morning (all students run 10 laps in the morning and evening to prepare for upcoming athletic competitions), falling asleep during reading hour, and not helping wash dishes. Understandable crimes, typical kids. Usually on these occasions, where the kids actually “deserve” the punishment, I simply take leave and hand out sweets later. But since I’ve returned from consolidation, one teacher has been whacking the kids while playing volleyball if they have a bad hit, or if they are too slow – silly things that beatings certainly won’t improve. Enough is enough. Anyways, on this morning, 3 teachers took turns beating the kids, which happens to be illegal in the new constitution. (I did make a point of subtly reminding all students and teachers of this throughout the day: Teacher: “good morning, Adhis, how are you?” Me: “Fine. Well, I was fine… until teachers decided to ignore the new constitution and beat the kids this morning. And you?”)
So, after spreading the good news of our new constitution all day long, I talked with the older kids about the recent punishments. They are (and have been) well aware of my stance on corporal punishment. That’s one benefit of being the third volunteer – the kids know that 1. white people don’t tolerate beatings and 2. they can’t run fast) They requested my company while reading in the evening to ensure that no one would be in trouble the following morning. Since I couldn’t sit with the boys and girls at the same time, I told them to start giving me the “naughty list” and I would try to find a better way to punish, since they hate the beatings, too. Surprisingly, I received the naughty list 2 days later (I had offered this before, but they thought I wouldn’t actually punish them so they continued giving it to the disciplinarian). I spent the morning pondering on how to handle the trouble makers, and considered how they would be dealt with back home. Detention. That was the answer. And, for my benefit, cleaning the choo. Ha. That will teach them. So during assembly, I called out the naughty kids and asked them to meet with me before lunch. They eagerly found me before lunch, curious about how I would handle the situation. I had them each bring a chair and sit it under my window, next to my house – out of sight from the rest of the kids. They sat here for the entire lunch break, no storying, eating by themselves. The other kids, teachers, and workers passed and asked why they were sitting at my house, and all seemed to agree that this was a great idea. However, they suggested withholding their lunch, which actually caused Johnnie to cry. I explained that starving kids normally doesn’t improve their behavior, though I’m no expert. After school was finished, I gave them the supplies to clean my choo. Spotless. Such angels. Hopefully they get in trouble again soon.
My next major accomplishment was initiating a garden project. We have tried this before, but this time, I have another teacher backing me up, so I expect this attempt will be more successful than the last (i.e. we will actually plant seeds, rather than just digging up a plot of land for new grass). On the same note, I’m also witnessing the tangible outcome of the grant I wrote last term. The cow shed is developing more and more, with every cow-cart of stones unloaded by hand on the compound.
Otherwise, the company of my kids has just been amazing. I wish I knew the words to say. Every single term just ends up being better than the last. I keep thinking I’m at my full potential, my full capacity, fully adapted and adjusted to my life and community here…. and then something unexpected happens and I realize I’m handling this situation way differently, and way better, than I would have even a month ago. It’s a never ending process.