February 22, 2009

I am now a Kiswahili teacher

That's right. They decided to promote (demote?) me from English teacher to Swahili teacher. OK, that's a slight perversion of the truth. But here at Emusoi Centre, my new school, they already have 2 teachers who teach all the arts and science subjects, including English, to the girls. So they didn't need me to teach English anymore. However, the problem is that there are about 8 girls who don't know how to read. DON'T KNOW HOW TO READ, even in Swahili. Three of them don't even know the sounds of the alphabet at all. I find it hard to believe that they've supposedly finished 7 years of primary school. They must have been at terrible schools where the teacher never showed up- or they were never able to show up due to sickness (one of the girls has TB) or to their family's lack of support for education. Maybe their father always said, "Go herd cows!" So my task is, teach literacy. And it seems to make the most sense to teach them to read in Swahili, which is a language that actually makes sense in that every word is pronounced according to a pattern. So, the girls are at different levels, but at the most basic, we're working on "a, e, i, o, u" and simple Swahili words that probably even YOU could read and understand- mama, baba, Tanzania. It's a tough job, easy to get frustrated. Hard to believe these girls will ever be able to make it in secondary school. But, that's not my job, to know the whole picture, just to be faithful in the small task given to me: teach these girls to read and write simple words. In Swahili.

February 18, 2009

things to be thankful for

because if you can't be thankful in the place where you are, at peace and appreciative of life at any moment, will you ever be at peace anywhere? this is what i've been thinking. and there is so much good here that i couldn't have anywhere else. like taking a cold bucket shower every day, and somedays, when it rains, i get to take an extra cold one- a rainwater bath. or waking up in the same small twin bed under the same trusty mosquito net with my dear friend Esther. or going outside on the porch in the evenings, feeling the breeze and seeing the kids running around in the dust,singing jumprope songs and when i turn around the other direction, there is Mt. Meru, purple against a blue sky, sort of jarring when you're in the middle of the city and there's this vast wild mountain right behind you. or how i come home every evening and 5-year-old Rita tells me, "let's do our exercises!" and we do push ups and sit ups together, and she's so proud because even though i tried to teach others in the family to do push-ups, she's the only one who can do them (sort-of). or going to a waterfall this past weekend with john and a Tanzanian guy, climbing up the rocks and standing under the water and getting a rrreally cold shower. or eating mangos every day. i love this place.

February 4, 2009

why i spend half my time trying to kill mosquitos

Malaria is not fun. But thankfully, the medicines they have these days work quickly, and I feel 900 times better today than I did yesterday, and I'm hoping to go back to work tomorrow. Yesterday-felt like fainting, throwing up, had chills, fever, achy all over- and as I was leaving the house to go to the hospital, people asked me for money, and I was so mad, I wanted to say- I feel like I'm about to die, and I'm volunteering in your country without payment, and you're still asking me for money? Of course the truth is even in my malaria-stricken state I'm better off than a lot of them. The hospital was an experience, about as inefficient as most stuff here, which is annoying when you feel like sleeping. But all told, I came out of it really well, people have taken care of me wonderfully, and I'm much better, and very thankful. If you'd like to send mail, I do have another address that'll work through May- Katie Murchison c/o Joyce Msengi P.O. Box 16920 Arusha, Tanzania, East Africa John had a worse experience yesterday- he was visiting me at home since I was sick, and just as he was leaving he went out on my porch and said to 2 year old Peter, "Come, greet me!" But Peter's still afraid of him, and when Neema brought him over to John, he started screaming and crying in terror. Just then, a woman walked by our house and shouted, "Mzungu, give me money!" And he said "I don't have any!" He really thought he didn't, but he reached in his pocket and saw that he had 100 shillings (less than 10 cents) At that point this woman was like "Mzungu, I'm not leaving till you give me money!" So he was thinking, why didn't I just leave 30 seconds ago. And then the woman continued, "Listen, I have kids at home, and no food to feed them, and I'm nursing them, see!" and she whipped a breast out of her shirt to prove it. Hahahahaha. So John said, "I see!", threw the 100 shillings at her, and ran! Well, a pretty funny story, if for nothing else that it captures all the great intricacies of being a white person in Tanzania...

February 2, 2009

developments

craziness is going on here. for one, i was able to help my friend esther go to school, only to find that it's a bad school andwe're trying to see if we can change her to another place. apparently there's a lot of people in this country who just want money, so they'll tell you they're going to get you through secondary school, take your money, and then don't teach. unfortunately the education system is ridiculous anyway, so even though her private teacher isn't teaching much, government school might not be much better. meanwhile, there are lots of other things that keep happening in my family- Mama Rita going away for a week, Rita almost getting kicked out of school because of fees. Now she thinks the teacher doesn't like her, she doesn't understand it has nothing to do with her- but seriously, make a kid feel that way bc of money? They should deal with the parents instead. Then,my new volunteer job is to work at Emusoi Center. I'd been teaching all 60 pre-form one girls in one class. Now there are more like 70, but they'resplit into 2 classes bc we have 2 Australian volunteers. After next week, the australians leave, and the official class schedule begins and i'll probably just teach a small group (although it'saround 14 now which is too big!) who need help with basic literacy in Kiswahili, basic stuff. Imagine they can't even read or write, and they passed primary school! But basically every day, Sister Mary (the American Catholic sister who runs the place) tells us some new story about a girl with a terrible background. Pregnancy in which she had no choice, being beat by her father, running away, leaving a baby behind, stealing money to get here, begging for days to be let in to this school, sleeping on the grass outside the gate till they let her in--all these appear frequently in the stories. And the Centre is really short on money esp with the US economy lately, which is where a lot of its donations come from. I don't know how she keeps going. The sum total of everything happening there and at Esther's is totally overwhelming. And yet, i've been peacefully able to welcome that overwhelming-ness, bc somehow it's finally clicked that there's nothing i can do. i mean when things aren't so overwhelming, only a little overwhelming, you can be more frustrated or try to do it on your own strength. but this i just cant, there's no way. there's always something new happening. so i welcome it in the way that it's teaching me a lot and teaching me not to try to be relevant but prayerful. I mean that things are out of my hands and often I can't see good results, but prayer and connection to God is the only way to find peace, to leave it out of my hands, and know that God can show me small places where fruit is growing. This comes from a book by Henri Nouwen and has been, ironically, extremely relevant to me lately! well, you'll all be happy to know (actually i'm pretty sure no one was waiting on the edge of their seat, except me) that i've finally made a definitive decision about when to leave here. i'll stay here in Kwa Mromboo till mid-April, then if it all works out, head to Nairobi for 3 weeks to work with kids and a church in a slum (thanks, Maggie!), and then fly back to Chicago on May 17. At that point I'm hoping to make a grand tour of Minnesota and the greater Chicago area, and then to fly home to the east coast. And then...i'm open to invitations :)