|Lining up for a race|
One of the most difficult aspects of working in a school or in a non-for-profit school in Africa is the constant feeling of wanting to do more. I am constantly bombarded with the feeling of “if I could just change this one thing…” I have realized over the years of my service here that there will always be another thing to fix, another person to help but I still can’t help the feeling. Because of the structure of our school, the nature of schools in Tanzania and my own limitations of not knowing too many certified teachers in Tanzania we went two months without a full staff. Finally this problem was remedied last week, which means the teachers are all making it to their classes, but we can never get back the time we missed. To me, as an educator and a person who cares deeply about my students, my children I found that to be unacceptable. For two months I was stuck wondering when we would meet our responsibility to the children. We can all rest easy now knowing that our staff is complete and look towards the future in establishing the processes and expectations that are required to be met. I will however continue to push on behalf of all of you at home to constantly be the “fire” that lights them to try to do their best.
Of course there are many bright spots coming out of the past couple weeks. Our library is currently being renovated by our outstanding volunteers Katie and Joost. We will have a constant reminder of their impact and role at our school and how we benefited from their work here. They have painted it with an “around the world” theme and with the help of Joost’s friends in the Netherlands will outfit the library with some brand new furniture. Additionally a University student from South Carolina, also named Katie, has started a University book drive for our students focusing on early and emergent level books to fill up our library. It seems the children have found a way to inspire every person they come in contact with, by inspiring them to do more. Our next step will be adding computers (when we have some generous donors donate more…) so that our children can truly connect to the world and those who have helped them. The children have very little concept of the outside world, or even their own country outside of Mailisita. With the help of these resources they will be able to finally reach out to the world and discover it for themselves.
As I have still been slowly recovering from malaria, you will all be happy to know that I am finally able to exercise again. Those of you who know me personally know how important that is and probably feel very sorry for those who were forced to be around me when I was not working out. Believe me, the staff and my friends here are all breathing a sigh of relief, because I can imagine that I have been a bit on edge lately. Case and point was when the workers decided to start burning the trash at 8:30 in the morning during my first period English class which resulted in smoke filling my P4 classroom. That lead to me storming out of class, finding the construction worker and apparently raising my voice enough in “disappointment” that the children heard me. The moment I returned to the class my children all laughed and said “sorry sir!” I pride myself on not ever raising my voice in the classroom so it was certainly the first time they had ever heard anything like that from me. On the plus side, we established a ground rule, ‘no burning trash during school hours’. A problem that we would not encounter in the States, but luckily a problem we will not encounter at Stella Maris again.
Even during this trying beginning of the year, the children still remain the example in patience and happiness in our project. They make many mistakes, do not get me wrong. They fight a lot, they argue with one another and they still have friendship drama (especially the older ones). They still find a way to remind us all that they are just as loving and funny as ever. One small problem I have been noticing when I come home is that I end up with small red stones from our playground in my pockets. I had no idea how they got there and it seemed impossible that they would end up “jumping” into my pockets. Every day I came home, took out my keys and these little stones would fall out. It was usually just one or two very small stones, but enough that I noticed a pattern. It wasn’t until today that I realized who the culprits were. Two of our P4 children, Witness and Dennis have been working together to slip these small stones in my pocket almost every day for about a week and then sneak off to laugh. I never noticed, but they would come up and start to talk to me. When I was occupied one of them would put them in my pocket as a few children would sneak off to laugh. Yesterday however I caught them red handed as I felt a little hand get too greedy trying to slip multiple larger stones into my pocket. I grabbed the hand, whipped around and found a whole group of P4 students laughing as Dennis screamed with laughter right in my face. No one will ever confuse me for being the smartest man in the world, but it was only today that I realized that I must have been teaching them too well, they have already surpassed me. I immediately felt guilty for the time in high school when I snuck a powdered donut into my teacher’s closed coffee mug. Now I understand the feeling, too bad it was a 10 year old who tricked me.
I guess I realized how lucky I am to have so many people in my life that support me, the work here and the children I love. Katie in South Carolina, Katie and Joost volunteering here, my friend and mentor Adam, the Mailisita Foundation board and my friends at home who send me messages and emails of support. You are all always patient with me as I respond, slowly and constantly remind me of the example I should be. I will always find a reason to laugh and enjoy the children, but I must also be patient as the adults grow too. Our project is growing, we have overcome many speed bumps and will encounter many more, but I will remain patient and loving. You all have always been that way with me, thank you. God bless.