October 28, 2010
The school term is once again in full swing, after our half-term break. But before it started back this week, a coworker and I took advantage of the time to visit a nearby hostel for street children. Some of the youngsters gave us a fine tour of the newly constructed buildings and grounds, showing off their sheep, wells, and constructs-in-progress. They were especially proud of the gardens they have cultivated and maintained so diligently over the past few months. And I’m afraid the garden trumps the sheep so far as interest goes, for one of the children in particular. He was harboring a bit of a grudge against a certain creature who had managed to escape from the pen, expertly locate the ready-for-harvest garden, and make short work of the entire row of cabbages that this child had been in charge of . . . I cannot blame his ill feelings in the slightest!
October 22, 2010
Travel in Zambia means, for me at least, a blur of intensity: intensity of experiences, of colors, of life itself. In particular, this adventure has been largely spent involved in grassroots projects, getting my hands dirty [ok, so maybe every inch of my body is by this point in my sojourn, rather hopelessly saturated in “red dirt,” as we call it here :-)]. Thanks to some very good people who have welcomed me into their humanitarian lives, I have learned and done more in this journey than I expect might have happened in years of some sorts of “normal,” Western lifestyles:
So where have these days taken me? Well . . . I have learned how to build a Zambian house, and laid some bricks on one in progress. This home, incidentally, is entirely funded and implemented by a loving Australian family who has seen the need in one hardworking Zambian family and has decided to do something about it . . . I have discovered that bicycle taxi just might be my favorite form of transportation [except that I have yet to experience the ox-cart version that will transpire tomorrow :-)] . . . I have toured a grassroots gardening project and learned the difference between the white and red guava trees . . . I have learned how wells are built in this country–quite fascinated by it, in fact . . . I have seen the ingeniously-constructed dome in which groundnuts are stored on a farm before being sold . . .
In short, I have been immersed in the sorts of experiences that make me wonder at the depth and breadth of possibilities when people are not resigned to living within the boxes and bounds that financial comfort so easily engender.
This particular photo is one I took today as Raymond and Christopher showed me their water well, where their mother daily draws their cooking, washing, and drinking water–a good 15-minute walk from their hut. Their family is the one that, time and funds allowed, will get to move into a real brick home before long now.
October 19, 2010
My first thought, upon learning about the elephant footprints I was looking at this morning was “Math lesson!” Our guide explained that we can tell how tall an elephant is by measuring the circumference of the print and then doubling it . . . we used nearby grasses to test this out and found this particular elephant must be about 4 meters high, shoulder height that is. Now if I could just cart around the illustration for this particular equation . . . :-)
October 18, 2010
It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction. I don’t know about “stranger,” but in my own life of late, truth has certainly been more intense than fiction could ever be. So much so that I have had a hard time caring about time to read fiction. When I have what has been precious little free time, I find that what I long to do most is document the reality that life has been.
Today is no exception. I found myself weeping as I gazed at the face that I wept to leave over 3 years ago . . . not really expecting to ever see again. This constant companion I loved for that year, as we worked with the children together, should have been lost to me for this life at least. But as it happens, I have made my way back to this old workplace—against all odds. And she, who left this place to bear and raise a child, has returned—against all odds. So here we are, unexpectedly reunited: two people with such vastly different upbringings, experiences, and aspirations. Yet two people who know what it is to be fast and true friends . . . against all odds.
Too much. Sometimes life is, or feels to me, just too much. Too much for one heart to hold. Too much love. Too much goodness. Too much life. And in moments like this I find it so very comforting to hold to the assurance that one who is bigger and greater than I is big enough, and great enough, to bear all the much-ness of life. Thanks be to God that it is not too much for Him . . .
October 17, 2010
October 15, 2010
Some days teaching breaks my heart. This morning I overreacted to the misbehaving youngster in my class. It wasn’t quite so much the way I responded that was an overreaction, mind you: it was more so the nature of this particular youngster, that I should know by now: he is a sensitive one, eager to please and quick to respond to discipline. So much so that I have not had to really discipline him, for all practical purposes. As a result, when he was rather obviously disobedient this morning, I reacted without thinking, as harshly as I would have done with my more hard-headed students. He left our current group work, as I had instructed, and went to sit by himself in the corner. After a few minutes I asked if he was ready to join us again and, when he did not answer, I went over to him. Then I knew why he had been silent. He was crying, noticeably so, and was trying to conceal his tears from his classmates.
That was when I started to fight my own tears. For I knew that I had been too hard on him, in my hasty response. For this particular student, a simple, stern word would have been sufficient for him to correct his behavior.
The rest of the day went more smoothly. I found a way to apologize in a way that hopefully was discreet enough to make it easy for him to rejoin the group—which he did. But it took a long time for me to get over my own shame over shaming him. I only hope that he is as resilient as he seems to be, and that he will somehow understand my realization of my own error. I guess that is what grace is all about: Lord help us if not!
This photo, while not in the classroom, is one I took of those students when we were in the middle of a cricket-playing P.E. class this week.
October 9, 2010
Some of you may know that I have a bit of a penchant for clotheslines. So today, on a Saturday in which I was not traveling, the dorm clothesline seemed to be a perfect photo op: are Zambian clotheslines anything particularly unusual? Maybe. Maybe not. But one that gets as much use as a school dorm one does surely deserves a bit of attention :-)
October 7, 2010
There are moments when life reminds you that, as serious as things may seem at the time, all seriousness sometimes must be swept to the side for the sake of a good laugh.
Today was just one of “those mornings.” I was pulling my hair out over the impossibility of getting two highly prone-to-distractions and highly rivalry-oriented Grade 6 boys to calmly complete the writing and editing assignment I had in mind. But it took approximately one hour for them to type three sentences, thanks to the constant bickering, the “But, Miss . . .” queries, and the sudden needs to go to the toilet, get a drink of water, or jump up and down for a bit [and yes, I have indeed had this request—I said no J]. So I was on the brink of educator’s despair, bemoaning my lack of suitability for this role I have in life, feeling a failure as a teacher, and wondering what good I could possibly be doing at the moment. Dwelling on this despair, I paused in my lectures and just sat there for a bit, observing the two in their antics, one mumbling with his head down on the desk while the other egged on his despondent cohort.
As I watched them, Seth picked up his head, looked back at the computer screen, and then let out a stream of complaints: “Iwe!! You . . . ! Miss—this one, I cannot take this one any longer. Iwe! . . .”
I looked at the screen and saw a line of “Z”s trailing off where Seth had left off in the typing. Sani had been instructed numerous times that, for at least this portion of the assignment, his job was only to read, while Seth typed. So I looked questioningly at Sani. He shrugged and blamed it on Seth’s laxity: Ah but Miss, I had to do it. See, this one, he just won’t do the work. He just sleeps—just look at him!
This was when I started my usual serious teacher lecture and then stopped in mid-sentence and, instead, just started to laugh. And you know, the funny thing was that, as it seemed to me, the rest of that lesson went a whole lot more smoothly after that :-)
October 2, 2010
Just so you know that life here in Zambia is not all about exotic sorts of activities, I thought I would demonstrate today’s activity. Thanks to a birthday celebration for one who lives in the dorm with us, Christine and I spent the afternoon making popcorn. Lots of popcorn. For this celebration will involve not just the girls’, but the boys’ dorm as well [i.e. lots of hungry children!]. We were not yet finished when I snapped this shot . . .
We did intend to include some helpers but the young ones quickly decided that the pots were not quite as appealing as an afternoon siesta :-)