For some reason, counting the days like this seems to make the time pass more slowly than I thought it would. Or maybe my mind has been occupied by too many things on this adventure that it feels like I have been here for weeks already. In any case, I am writing about my fifth day here, which was yesterday, and I’m trying to warm up the little secretaries in my brain to pull out the details of what I did. While that is in the works, I’ll mention that I just spent a good part of the morning finishing Memoirs of a Geisha, the ending of which was so fulfilling and romantic. It’s been so long since I have finished such a compelling novel; I got all goosebumpy and a little teary-eyed. These kind of books are so bittersweet for me. They fill me up with all of this warmth and passion, which also tends to accompany extravagant, yet disappointingly unrealistic thoughts. Thankfully, I have this blog to bring me back down from the clouds and I am actually going to start writing about my day now!
My morning began preparing to go to my first-grade class to help out for a few hours. I’m happy to say that the school is very close by, hardly a fifteen minute’s walk from the hostel. (The other organizations are off-campus; though, even with the relatively inexpensive fare of taxis, it still would have been somewhat of a task trying to coordinate getting there.) When I reached the class, which is a very open room with multiple doors on the sides allowing fresh air and light to enter, nearly all of the kids seemed to remember me from my introduction the day before. I waved and said “hi!!!” and they did the same; some of them even remembered my name! The kids dubbed me “Auntie Gabi” (the name “Auntie” is often used by kids to refer to their elders).
I just... I can’t even. I don’t even have words. They were all working in their math workbooks, so I decided to go around to each desk to get acquainted and see if they needed any help. I think it was a little bit counterproductive from what I intended! The people here have a word for foreigners, called “obruni,” which I’m sure made me more of a distraction than an aid to the class. The kids were so sweet and curious. They were asking me questions, grabbing my hands, and reaching for the tattoo on my arm. I spent some time helping Mrs. Ruby grade workbooks; some of the girls came up to make sure I gave them stickers for doing well (so funny how much we love stickers at that age). When it was recess time, I was covered by a gaggle of girls who brought me outside to play. They taught me a few of their games, like London Bridge and a game that involves a lot of shaking our booties. So many little hands hugging and pulling and grabbing. It was love.
On the flipside, I can't very well sum up my experience with the kids without mentioning a culture shock. It would be an understatement to say the kids were at times unruly. In the States, I remember when we would finish an assignment in grade school, there would always be something else we were told to do to fill the time. Here, however, I noticed that when kids finished their assignment, there would be nothing to do so they would either sit bored or go looking for trouble. I wondered how Mrs. Ruby and her assistant maintained order, which I soon discovered was by banging a long reed stick on a table, like a judge’s gavel. This same stick, I learned, was also used to slap the children on the hand when they snuck out of the classroom or misbehaved in any other way. You can guess that I was stunned to witness this, especially coming from a country that has debated over whether to make spanking illegal. On a personal level, I am not someone to condone this kind of practice; not necessarily because it seems abusive to the children, but because it was not very effective. If anything, the kids sat down at their desk to nurse their hand for a moment, before becoming bored again to get back up and misbehave again. I realize it’s hard to avoid downtime because Mrs. Ruby can only do so much at once in a class full of 50 restless kids, so I’m thinking maybe filling the time with an activity can curb some misbehavior. I definitely plan to teach the class Heads Up Seven Up, and maybe try to organize Jeopardy or Bingo or something.
I did do a few other things today, including attending Dr. Boateng’s class (she’s finally here!), having clothes tailored for me, and tasting fufu (sp?) but I’ll touch more upon them later because I know I will have much to say about them soon!
Mosquito bites: Still just 16! One of my awesome groupmates gave me an extra tube of repellant she had. And I think it is working! Thank heavens.