Watching the Bourne Identity trilogy for the first time and all I can think about is how cold it looks in Europe in winter.
Last Thursday, my colleague/PC-appointed work partner/friend lost his infant son. (He was sick for about a week. The doctor prescribed him medicine, but it didn’t work. The doctor did not say what disease it was, only that it was caused by an insect.)
Last Sunday, the day here for going and sitting at people’s houses, I headed off to my friend’s to pay my respects. From before I left my house, I did not want to do it.
As I walked to his house, my steps getting smaller and smaller, I thought about how my life would be easier here if I hadn’t developed relationships like this. If I hadn’t developed a friendship where I felt like I needed to go spent an hour awkwardly sitting in a house where death had just happened.
I thought about my life when I first moved into my village. It was a life of the West Wing and counting the minutes until I go shut myself in my house once again. I thought about how I hadn’t thought that I would ever get to this point. To the point where I had friendships that meant this much to me.
I guess that’s what having friendships is about. Sometimes you have to do things. Things that are awkward. Things you don’t want to do. Things that are hard.
In the end, it was the gratitude on my friend’s face when I showed up with my bag of oranges that made it all worth it.1 note
In each of my classes this year, I had my students make name tags in a sincere effort to learn all of their names. Some names here are hard. So, when I saw the name of a student in my 7th grade class was spelled “Geoffrey,” I thought I had it in the bag.
Turns out, pronouncing his name like the American “Jeffrey” is not how you’re supposed to pronounce his name. And turns out, he doesn’t appreciate it when other students pronounce his name like the stupid American teacher does.
In class yesterday, we had a lesson for Madame. “Jay oh fray, Jay oh fray, Jay o fray,” I repeated to myself over and over again during class. Much like the sports and games vocabulary that Geoffrey had just learned.
-Ten students were late because they forget to bring water from their home to water the plants at the school. (We don’t have running water or a well, so this responsibility falls to a different class each week.)
-Five students were late because they hadn’t swept their portion of the schoolyard dirt yet.
-One student was severely punished by our director for walking through my class and then trying to get another student in trouble for calling him a “bandit” for interrupting my class.
-One student almost threw up.
My vice principal’s latest project at my school is the building of a fence around the school grounds. I wasn’t aware this was going to happen, so, like most projects here, I was made aware it was happening when it started happening.
This week they added the wooden gate that blocks the front pathway onto the grounds. As a school with a student body that has a history of being late for class, the flag ceremony and mandatory club meetings, we were a school that needed a fence. It is the job of the student leaders to open the fence at the end of each class, and then close it again when it is time for the next class to begin in order to put a physical barrier between stragglers and the class in which they are supposed to be.
There is no way to open the gate besides manually. So, once it’s closed, it stays pretty much stays closed. Unless you’re a teacher who has arrived on her bike an hour early for class in order to report student grades. Then, your bike ride as suddenly become slightly fenced out.
-Three fried chickens
-Three pans of stuffing
-One virtually untouched bowl of salad
-One bowl of gravy
-Three eggplants, fried and sliced
-One dozen deviled eggs
-One pan of macaroni and cheese
-One bowl of mashed potatoes
-One pan of sweet potato casserole
-Two green bean casseroles with homemade cream of mushroom soup and fried onions
-Two dozen rolls
-Two dozen chocolate chip cookies
-One pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting
-One apple pie
They came back differently from how they left. Where there was understandable drama and tragedy now had just become a casual encounter. I was coming back from a bike trip to Savalou, and I turned the corner into my housing unit. And there, playing in the front dirt, were the two kids who had been missing from my life for the past three weeks.
"Hi auntie," they said. And I pedaled past them to my door.
Last night, after my cat once again failed to catch the mouse that has been living off of peanuts from a plastic bag he tore open months ago in my spare room, my neighbor (Modeste. He’s 13 and so, generally up for whatever I ask him to do. His past adventures in wildlife in my house include removing dead bats and lizards.) and I set out to find where exactly it was calling home.
I knew it was somewhere in the corner where I had been piling empty boxes for the past three months. Stupid idea. But I didn’t realize how stupid it was until Modeste held up the box in which my water filter came to show me the two-inch hole the mouse had chewed in the quarter-inch thick cardboard. And the three mouse babies nestled inside.
Operation Reclaim my House from Mice started after class today. Two trash bags and four trips to throw out dirt after I’d swept and I think it’s back to being just me and my lazy cat in my house.1 note
When I first got here, after talking to volunteers who were leaving and those who still had a year left, the consensus seemed to be that if you complete one major project during your two years, one project where you have to wait a coupe months for the grant money to come through and when it does is more than you make the entire time you are here, then you can call your service a success.
And I think that’s the expectation of most people back home as well: build a school, build a health center, build a water pump. Leave something behind so people will still know that you were there.
And now, I find myself here: Nine months left of service and no large physical projects to remind my village that once upon a time, someone named Emily lived here.
It’s not that I haven’t tried. Circumstances led to one project being ruled out due to cost and one project being stopped before it could start due to changing policies.
So, the question becomes, if there’s no physical remainder of my existence after I leave, will the nonphysical be enough?1 note
Last week, I decided I wanted to start my girls club for this year. I followed all the appropriate channels: found a time every class was free, asked the director if it was ok and wrote a formal letter declaring my intentions to start the club today at 3 p.m.
Then, last Monday at the flag ceremony the vice principal had something to say. The school grounds were not proper, yet. Every student was expected to be at school that Wednesday at 3 p.m. with a hoe and a machete to weed, chop and sweep the grounds into shape.
This was not the first time I’d been in a situation such as this. The hardest part of starting a club is actually starting the club, establishing a specific time on a specific day as your club. I had already pushed back starting the girls club this year two weeks because a class was having a make-up class during the time. I did not want to push the start date back once more.
So, I showed up at school anyway this afternoon. And at 3 p.m., I rounded up the girls that I saw, and I had my club. And we talked about what we wanted to do this year, when we would elect a president and we colored until 4:15 p.m.
The vice principal never showed.