(yes the title foreshadows the length of my post 😉 )
Madeleine and I are stuck in our office during a torrential downpour, so I thought it was the perfect time to start on my next blog post. It has been threatening to rain for days, and the people here desperately need it for their crops, but I trusted it to hold off until lunch and therefore hung up laundry this morning. Now, I am sure they are more wet than they were when I was rinsing them earlier!
So much has happened in this past week! Classes officially began Monday morning, though Madeleine still has yet to teach. The presidential elections (which are being held Tuesday) are also keeping her from entering a classroom until Wednesday. My classes on Monday and Tuesday are also potentially cancelled, which is a problem considering how much work Madeleine and I want our students to start doing to be prepared for their final paper in March. It adds a little more stress to our planning and work, but at the same time we are greatly enjoying ourselves!
The First Weekend!
Saturday, Madeleine and I spent time resting, reading, and preparing for next week. We also faced the challenge of making our first meals alone, as Mrs. Daka always has (and definitely deserves!) the weekends off. Sunday, we went to Mass at 8 hours. It was gorgeous! Mass here is relatively informal, and the choir has so much fun dancing and singing. Fr. Kabuswe (the same man who drove us to Chikuni from the airport) gave the homily about obedience. It resonated with me as, as I have mentioned in my previous posts, I believe this journey to Chikuni was something I was called to do, and had to then accept and follow.
“Jesus taught that the evidence that confirms our leaps of faith comes after we risk believing, not before.” – Gloria Gaither
Madeleine and I enjoyed ourselves immensely, and were surprised when we realized we had spent two hours in the midst of the Catholic community. We were also half-convinced to join choir, or at least another after-school activity with some of the students. Donvan also came and met with us again, and answered many questions about where classrooms are, what people eat for breakfast and lunch, and his opinion about how classes have been going. We have found him to be a great resource for us to find out what the students are thinking and what they are used to.
First Day of “Classes”
Monday morning, the school had its assembly to open the school year. Madeleine and I came to the assembly way too early (of course), and were sitting in the back of the hall when Donvan came up to us and said that they had intended us to sit with the faculty on stage. No one was up there at the time, so we went outside the hall to find Sr. Charity, just so we knew what to do. It’s a good thing we did, because the rest of the faculty was waiting to enter the hall until the President arrived, and then we all walked in together. We narrowly missed looking like sore thumbs J The assembly consisted of a presentation from the second years (a song, scripture reading, and prayer), and then a message from the President, which included all the rules. All of them. Every single one. It was a long assembly. Madeleine and I were both intrigued that the principal took the time to mention all that he did, including many rules that students in the U.S. either learn from orientation leaders, or by word-of-mouth, such as school boundaries. That was the extent of Monday’s excitement, since assembly went through my class time.
The Actual First Day and New Friends
Tuesday, Madeleine and I became more active within the Charles Lwanga Community. I taught my first official class on Tuesday and freaked the students out. Writing for fun is not very common, so to ask my students to do a freewrite, with no form and minimal prompts, was new, foreign, and difficult for my students. When I was able to read some of them, I saw that not many understood my instructions, but instead answered the prompting questions I had put on the board. I was hoping to have them just write freely, so I knew I had to change the way I approached explaining a freewrite to my next class. The discussion we had, though, was productive and the students were engaged. I felt relatively successful at the end of the class. Madeleine and I then went to tea with the rest of the faculty; it is essentially a time for a staff meeting, just with tea. We introduced ourselves to Mr. Mwanamoomba, another literacy teacher, who invited us to come visit and observe his class when we wanted.
Later in the afternoon, Madeleine and I wandered outside during the students’ P.E. time. We went to the soccer field to watch both the boys and the girls teams; we could also partially watch basketball, volleyball, and a new line-game that reminded us of track, but they weren’t running. We sat under a tree and, very quickly, people started to come up to us and talk. There were two first years, one of my second years who I hadn’t met yet, and then many other people just stopping to say hello as they passed. We had a long conversation with one of the first years and the second year about how we liked Zambia and what the States are like. Madeleine and I also got caught in the middle of a discussion about whether a woman would become America’s next president and whether that was a good thing or not. It is so interesting to be here in the middle of election for their new president, because many are willing to talk about the failing infrastructure of Zambia, the corruption of some of their leaders, and who they wish will take the position come January 20th. Overall, Madeleine and I enjoyed watching the sports and meeting several of the students. We also convinced one of the students to bring over a tortoise that he had caught. He told us how to cook it, but when we asked if he ever had, he had (what you would hope to be) a typical reaction of disgust. It was really funny, and the tortoise was not that shy, as it would poke its head our periodically.
Good Food and an Improved Plan
Wednesday, neither of us have class, so it was again sort of slow. We went to tea, and I had to explain what the workshop in February will be like, when my professor from Seattle U will visit with his wife to give the faculty tools to use writing effectively in their classrooms. It was interesting to see which faculty were excited, and which were having a harder time understanding why they needed to learn how to use writing. However, it was a good chance for me and Madeleine to introduce ourselves officially as people here for not just the students, but also the other faculty. We hope to continue to build those relationships, and to learn from each other.
After tea, we went back to the house to find Mrs. Daka mopping our floor and being ready to help us with lunch and dinner. We made pork and chicken, with a couple of sides: potatoes, tomatoes, onion, and green pepper, and the other was okra, tomato, and onion. They were all very delicious; we love cooking with Mrs. Daka! Soon after eating lunch, Madeleine and I were off to the opening Mass. It was just as beautiful and lively as before, but many students who attended had never been to a mass before, so they were very confused and took cues from the choir, which also proved difficult when they were standing up by themselves. Fr. Kabuswe gave another fantastic homily about brotherhood, and how Christ joined humanity to partner with us, be our brother. (I am loving his homilies and I can hopefully assume that the other fathers give great messages as well).
Later in the evening, Donvan walked us around campus, showing us where the chickens, pigs, and garden for the campus are. Apparently, chickens are only noisy when they are hungry, so they were fairly quiet when we visited. The pigs looked just like Babe, except many were bigger. They were much louder than the chickens, and I got many funny looks from the men watching when I pet one on the nose. Our concept of pets is very foreign, and to love the pigs bred to be eaten is definitely weird; I couldn’t help myself though!
This morning, I attempted to attend a meeting in Seattle via Skype for work, but apparently the wifi doesn’t like 4am either. Hopefully it will work tomorrow morning as I hope to see the lovely faces of my small group in Seattle! When the meeting didn’t work out, I went back to sleep for another few hours before having to wake up to help mop the floor, do laundry, and head to class. Laundry is done by hand, as the washer and dryer are currently out of commission. The dryer is supposed to be working, but the outlet it is closest to is not so later this evening, after I am sure Mrs. Daka will not come and scold me for not just hanging some of my laundry outside (in the midst of the boys’ dormitories no less!), I will move the dryer to the middle of the kitchen to get it to a working outlet.
After spending an hour cleaning, Madeleine and I headed to my second official class. I changed the topic of the freewrite so that I did not give them a question, but instead just the topic of reading and writing. This went much better, I found out later as I read some of their papers. I got many random topics (so I need to clarify that better), but most were written as journal or diary entries, where they simply expressed their thoughts. My favorite live from one of them was “ “. The discussion could have been better, but I am at least beginning to recognize some of my students and understand them when they answer in class.
We went to tea afterwards and listened to the teachers discuss the politics of the election. When we went back to the office, we were there no longer than three minutes when Mr. Mwanamoomba came in and asked if we wanted to sit in on his class for the next two hours. We, of course, said yes, because we are mightily curious how the other lecturers approach their classes. I felt like I was back in Prof. Anderson’s class (for those in the cohort), where Mr. M taught his students how to create an effective lesson plan that kept track of the time needed for each activity and the objectives of the lesson (which are provided by the government). It was interesting to talk about learning activities that taught students how to simply behave in the classroom, such as sitting, opening a book, and holding a pencil. From some of my students’ papers, I know that holding a pencil especially kept them from learning how to write. It is very different from the first day of first grade in America.
After that, as I mentioned above, Madeleine and I got stuck in a monsoon (thankfully we were in our office!). We were meaning to go to lunch with the students today, but I guess it will need to move to tomorrow. My clothes were pretty soaked, but no worse than when I hung them up this morning. I just hope they dry enough before dark. We might spend the rest of the day watching the students play sports again, reading, or doing homework. I have been reading so much, having finished five books for fun on top of reading for school! Unfortunately, several of the books that I have loved reading are the first in a trilogy and I cannot read the rest of the series for free I just have to wait until I get back to the States to visit a library!
We were surprised about 18 hours by a knock on the door as several students delivered on their promise: we were taken to dinner! They were all convinced we would hate it, but it was essentially gravy from our Thanksgiving, with fake meat and shima, the corn paste made into a biscuit of sorts. Madeleine and I thought it was good, but totally understand how students could grow tired of it quickly. We talked with four of my students: Donvan, Casa, John T., and Chilala. They are some of the students that have started to welcome us into their midst.
This weekend the second years are putting on an event to welcome the first years. Madeleine and I hope to join and take part in the festivities. We are graciously beginning to be accepted into both the student and faculty bodies, and we are excited about our new relationships.
“If God sends us on stony [ … or rainy … ] paths, he provides strong shoes [ … or umbrellas]” – Corrie ten Boom
For those of you who spend a lot of time with me, it is probably not hard to guess that I am missing hugs. Comfort is a very interesting and difficult challenge to have, especially when my comfort in the past has been from the physical presence of people near me. Being accepted into the communities is definitely helping me feel more comfortable, as is the constant reassurance I receive from some of these people that I am in the midst of a community of believers. I also continue to take solace in the fact that I have a purpose for being here, beyond even the simple act of teaching a writing class.
I am beginning to feel like this could be normal, though. Madeleine and I are often stopping our task to see the beauty around us. We love the stars we can see at night. It is so cool to be seeing a different, yet similar sky. It is easier for me to find Orion than it is to see the Big Dipper! We love the beauty of animals and bugs, and also the always pink sunsets. The weather is also very Washington right now, cooler and wet, much like late spring. Madeleine and I are still the only ones not carrying around umbrellas! J
But to carry the image further, I feel like I am being covered graciously by the people back home who care for my well-being while I am here. I have an umbrella of my own made up of love and encouragement and prayers. I am very lucky to not have been drenched, but only sprinkled on as I have continued on my journey here. Any hardship just feels like the flies here; always near your head, but quickly gone with the wave of a hand.
Again, and as always, thank you for your love and support. Thank you also for reading this ridiculously long post! Everything is still so new that I feel like telling you about everything! It is also easier to remember now than it will be later!
Lots of love, and walking with a Friend,
For those who are curious, mail gets here in about two weeks. My address is below. If you do send something, please don’t in March, as I want to make sure I receive everything before I fly back home!
c/o Charles Lwanga College of Education
PO Box 660193
AND a prayer I have come to love …
The Inmost Fear
Why do I fear?
God is here,
of lung, limb, and life
with tongued fire and crossed strife—
through Christ’s indwelling,
warm love straining
to be heard, to be loved,
yet quiet as a craning ear in silent expectation,
as simple and lonely as a man’s sigh,
as rich and crowded as God’s sea
in which I swim to eternity
alone in crowded company—
I, a mere glint of God’s light,
a mere hint of His might,
yet having the mint of His Son on my heart:
a cross sweeping to God’s glorying
and a love flaming with God’s worrying—
Christ about me,
today the darkening fierce joy of God’s sorrow
and then the tranquil swift dawn of God’s tomorrow.
Why, then, do I fear?
God is here,
Life grandly vibrant,
Love scandalously flagrant,
yet heart quietly homing
and Lord wisely lording.
But, then,–why do I fear?
. . . fear . . . fear . . . fear . . .
— David J. Hassel, SJ