My first day at Murengeti didn’t give me much confidence in the school, or my teaching abilities, or whether I’d even be useful there. Wednesday turned out a lot better. I taught 4 classes: 7G (G is green, B is blue, & that’s the way it’ll be from now on), 5G, and both 6’s. I also helped grade exams a bit, and I spent a lot of time going over the textbooks deciding on what I should focus in my lessons. In my omnipresent Bag O’ Wonder, I’m now carrying around textbooks for the 5’s and 7’s, and some extra English books for the 4’s as well.
The 7’s had just read a passage on drugs and drug use, so I skipped the comprehension questions and held a bit of a class discussion on different types of drugs and what they do and why they’re bad. The kids (surprisingly) didn’t know about any of the harder drugs- most of what they knew was alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, plus some Kenyan drugs that I’m not too familiar with. I touched on AIDS and drugs a bit (of course I did, what did you expect? :’D), and I gave them most of the lesson to write a composition on What I Would Do If My Friend Started Taking Drugs. I collected those and graded them that night. Again, the writing level is way below what I would expect for 7th graders. Even Ann, who saw me grading, said that the essays would be fine for 5’s, but not 7’s. Erg. The kids have a big problem with gender continuity (his and hers are basically interchangeable, even in daily speech) and tense, as well as basic things (spelling, grammar, etc.)
I stuck with the book more with the 5’s. We read a passage about The Drought and talked a bit about it. I was proud of myself- I had an interdisciplinary moment and asked if the kids knew of any stories in the Bible about the drought, so we were regaled with the Good Samaritan and Jesus and the fishes and loaves, and one kid said Genesis- is there a drought in Genesis? I was only going for the loaves and fishes, but they answered the question well. I handed out paper for a composition on The Camel in the Desert, but we ran out of time and I assigned it for homework.
I had C/A with 6G and 6B, and for both lessons, I asked the kids if they knew any songs. Both classes sang lot of reggae songs in unison, with accompaniment (of course), and then some kids sang solos and I sang at their request a bit, and in 6G we ended up singing a version of Siya Hamba (oh, SCC) and marching and jumping and walking around the room, as the song dictated (“We are ____ing in the light of God, we are ____ing in the light of God”.)
Thursday was a bit of a day off. Murengeti hosted a district-wide HIV/AIDS extravaganza with 6 other schools. There’s a Peer Counselor training program in place at Murengeti, where kids are trained about HIV and no adultery and no sex before marriage and no drugs (but nothing about condoms, grrrr), and this event was focused around them. All the peer counsellors from Murengeti (including Kevin, John & Mama Duta’s son!! He’s in 5G, & he’s *very* vocal in class- born leader type) had made signs, and they (with me in tow) marched to Ngarariga, singing and dancing and flashing peace signs, which apparently means that they’ll wait till marriage for sex? 🙂 I dunno. I felt left out, so I took out my notebook and wrote AIDS KILLS in block letters on the back and carried it for the parade. The kids liked it. When we got to Ngarariga, there were 3 other schools there, all with paper visors or signs. We waited for about an hour while the rest of the schools showed up, and I got to know some more of our kids: Dennis, with a cut on his lip, who told me he has a CD out and he’s going to come to the US ^_^; David with the grey sports coat, who’s very serious; Margaret with fuzzy braided hair; Grace with curving braids; Lillian, who’s vocal and paler than the rest; and Susan, who wears prescription sunglasses- it seems to be the thing to do here, I’ve seen it a lot.
We all trouped back to Murengeti, singing and waving the signs to passers-by. When we showed up, the whole school was in the back field, where desks had been set up, along with tables and chairs for the teachers and a table for the judges. (People failed to tell me that this was the first round of a competition, and the best school will go on to the Divisionals this coming Friday in Limuru. I actually don’t know who finally won! :’P) The MC-of-sorts greeted everyone and a woman led us in prayer and the presentations began. There were solo and choral verses, followed by songs and dances, and finally skits and dramas, all telling us how awful AIDS is and how important it is to protect ourselves by not having sex til after marriage. All these were introduced by a solo child coming forward and telling the judges, teachers, and students what they were about to see. One solo verse had a boy addressing AIDS, personified by a boy in a sheet and a tall mask, slightly reminiscent of t he Knights of Ni, with porcupine quills and feathers on it, dancing around. My favourite verse was one called Kissing Is A Habit, since it incorporated something along the lines of “the girl gets the blame” and “10 minutes of pleasure, 9 months of pain, 2 days in the hospital.” The dramas were quite good, all following basically the same storyline- girl disobeys parents, goes out with boy, ends up pregnant and HIV+. One of them was the closest thing to musical theatre that I’ve seen here, with a boy and girl singing to each other to symbolize that they were lovers. (The girl was hopping from guy to guy to guy at the time.) They all had costume changes and a table and chairs for sets, and one scene at the disco was complete with dancing extras, a radio with dance music, an bottles of “beer”. :’D It was very good.
One inexplicable part of a drama was when the pregnant, HIV+, destitute girl started singing Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” to her stomach (complete with pillow), which kicked in response. ?_?
The program went longer than was originally planned, since we started late, and I ended up out in the sun for much longer than I’d planned, sans sunscreen. As a result, that night I found that my lips, nose, and the general lower half of my face were *really* burned, to the point of being blistered. >_< I took a needle to the blisters on my lips, and the rest of them were small enough to be scratched off. My face is really dry today.
Friday was back to the regular teaching circuit. I taught 4B about nouns and verbs, which they were very good at, and I tried to do adjectives, but that’s a bit too abstract, so I gave up & went back to verbs. We discussed past, present, and future tense for a while, since I’ve heard from many people that that’s hard for Kenyans to understand. I gave them 5 verbs to write in all 3 tenses (one of which was accidentally “sit”- past tense was a problem, but I told kids the issue and sometimes let them get away with “sitted” instead of “sat”), and they got star stickers for doing it correctly. They quickly figured out that they could show me their book twice and I wouldn’t know the difference and they’d get two stars, and then I figured out what they were doing and the lesson was over anyway so I left. I tried to do the same thing with 5G, and we read two stories in their book. I really stressed reading comprehension when I found out that none of the kids were able to tell me in their own words what the story was about. :-[ I then read them Horton, which they *loved*- they applauded after I finished reading a page. I’d gotten coloured paper from Gladys earlier, so I had them draw their favourite part of the book, hoping for something along the lines of comprehension. I got a lot of elephants, but some were in a tree, and some were with a bird in a nest, and I got one giraffe, and Kevin drew a huge egg, so there’s hope.
That afternoon, I helped to grade and copy over more exams, and I taught C/A to 6B. I duplicated my Horton-and-drawing thing, but I told them they could draw whatever they wanted. They immediately went to their books and traced as many drawings as they could from the pictures in the text. Frustrating, but it’s a start. Gladys failed to inform me that C/A was, in fact, a double lesson for 6B, so we ended up with time to spare. I sat with some of the older girls, and they wanted me to sing, so I did, and they wanted me to say a poem, so I recited the lyrics to Carrickfergus, since it was in my head & it’s pretty. They sang a bit, too- one girl sang A Long Time Ago In Bethlehem, which I know from John Denver, so I got excited. 🙂
It’s a bit thrilling when you’re referred to as Teacher Mary, or when you get to tell someone you’re a teacher. I don’t feel like I’m apologizing, as I do whenever I tell someone I’m an actor.
Today, I got up pretty early (since my body never lets me sleep in) and came to Nairobi. I got breakfast at Kenchic, where they’re kuku about chicken (apparently), and I ate a sausage and meat in this fried dough triangle and more meat in this long crispy tube. I *finally* got into Bookpoint, the only book shop I’ve been able to find outside Nakumatt, which is woefully wanting books that interest me, and I struck GOLD. I bought A Doll’s House, A Tale of Two Cities, and… *Monstrous Regiment*. It’s another Terry Prachett and I’m SO PUMPED to read it!! I got another notebook for me and lined paper for the kids to write compositions, and I got Aloe Vera lotion at Nakumatt for my poor blistered face, and milk, since I always get milk when I go to Nakumatt. I ran into Sarah & Gerardo on the street (!!!!!!!!), and we caught up. Maasai Mara was a major culture shock for them, and they’re preparing to go to Tanzania for a week. I’m comforted by the fact that Sarah has the same rash of bites on her stomach and limbs that I do- they aren’t mosquitoes, and they don’t bleed, but they itch like *crazy* and I think they’re spreading. David said they could be anything, flies or fleas or ticks, etc.
I’m going to look for the Maasai market and Ushanga (Usheng’s?), a store that reputedly carries beads for necklaces, and then I feel like heading home. I don’t know if I’ll be back to Nairobi next weekend- I’d like to tour Kibera, but I hope I won’t have to buy any more supplies. At this point, I’m trying to get rid off all the stuff I brought with me, books and stickers and that stupid bag of puff balls that I don’t know *what* to do with. 🙂
I finished Clive Leatherdale’s Dracula: The Novel and the Legend. It was good in the beginning, but it turned into a bit of a slog near the end, when ol’ Clive got into talking about Marxist and tarot-based reading of Dracula… It’s worth reading, but only if you’ve read Dracula itself, and only if you really liked it. I’m now reading A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey, on recommendation from Joanna- it’s *really good*. It’s intense, but *really good*.
Mom & Dad come home from Europe on Monday. Mom said she wants a giraffe from Kenya, and Dad said he just wants my smile. :’DDD If anyone specifically wants anything from Kenya, I suggest you tell me now, and I’ll see what I can do. Reasonable requests, please- Seth and Bobby, I know what you’re going to ask for.
Wish me luck finding this market! 🙂 Peace.