|Setting out 116 plates of rice and meat|
This past Friday was the end of the second trimester at Stella Maris. Our school is in session from January until December with breaks in April, August and December. They close the school so that children have holiday time but also because most children here have extra responsibilities at home like farming. Some breaks from school children may spend the whole time planting or harvesting crops (typically this time of year the farms are being harvested). They have to do this in addition to their numerous other normal chores like fetching water (because they have no running water in the home) and sweeping out their homes (to clean and level the ground because their floors are often dirt floors). In celebration of the completion of the term, I always like to pay for one big feast for the children. It started with the first two trimesters I was here in 2010, again last year in 2011 and now in 2012. Every year I am absolutely humbled by the joy it brings the children to come to school and just eat pilau (rice and meat). Some bring spoons, but most students just use their hands and dig in to plate after plate of pilau while smiling ear to ear. It’s amazing the joy a big plate of food can bring here.
|All the children digging in!|
|Sitting around after stuffing ourselves|
|You can see the various stages too full, still eating and satisfied|
Sometimes children here can be shy around adults. They can fear them or just not be comfortable with them, especially children growing up with difficult home lives. Their fears are often reinforced at school because teachers are not trained to understand how positively reinforcing behaviors you want in the classroom is more effective than reprimanding negative behaviors constantly. I personally cannot operate in a classroom or be an effective teacher knowing the children are not comfortable or cannot trust me. I may stand apart many days being the only teacher playing with the children or talking to them one on one, but I enjoy it that way. One of the greatest blessings of being a white guy in Africa is that I already stand out. I am surrounded by a sea of dark brown faces, so frankly if I already look so different, I might as well teach and act differently too. That way my actions and results will be the example for others to follow. Over the last two months I have been getting to know all of the new students and trying to give the older students the confidence to trust in me again. I can now say that with the mob attacking me with joy, sitting side by side eating pilau from the same plates and just having fun, smiling I am certainly back. It cost me 153,000 shillings (about $100) to give 116 students enough pilau to stuff themselves. It continues to be one of the best single investments I have found in Tanzania or anywhere. No other investment has ever brought so many smiles, which at the end of the day is more important than anything. If smiles are the currency of love, then you would be hard pressed to find a richer man than me on pilau day.
God bless all of you and have a great weekend!