#2-2013 A Day at School June 13
Slowly by slowly I am adjusting to being 10 hours ahead of you (PDT). I wrote #1 from 12:30 am to 1:30 or so, having gone to bed at the unheard of hour of 9 pm then awakened. After I finished I slept well, but had so many things to do before I could get to school. They’d been at it for 2 hours by the time I arrived.
It is so fun for me to reconnect with old friends and to get to know new teachers. Mary, who teaches biology, had twitted me all last summer b/c I had a nice big mug for tea. At the end of my stay I presented her with the mug and everyone had a good laugh. Now I’ve brought another nice big mug and I know I will get razzed again, but that’s OK, they love to tease me.
Janet (English) saw my shirt and said, “Margo, you give me that purple shirt?” “Remind me at the end of my stay”. I don’t particularly like it, so will be happy to make her happy. Pauline (math, or as they say here, maths) took out time to explain something about vectors, so I will eventually be able to explain them to Maya, who has not studied that topic. At lunch time 3 board members came to discuss an issue that has risen. “Just 10 minutes, 15 at the most.” One hour later the bell rang and some of the teachers had not had a chance to eat, but needed to go to class. Funny place, funny happenings, funny people. I’m loving it as always.
I haven’t taught any classes yet, just busy meeting with principal, Ruth Kahiga, deputy principal Peter Murigi, matron Esther(?) and getting Maya settled. She is adjusting so well that my initial fears are now put to rest.
Here she is in the form 3 room in her school uniform which is really cute on her, but is not her favorite dress item, you can be sure.
I forgot to write about a very funny incident from a few days ago. Maya and I had come back to my house and as we entered the compound I saw small Joseph (8) coming out my door. Since the children here are very good about not going in my house without permission, I was very surprised. “Joseph, have you been looking at the books in my front?” “No.” (very guilty look on face). “It’s OK if you want to look at them. Did you look for some you liked?” “No, scurrying off. Inside I found the kitchen door open and the peanut butter jar open on the table, with small finger marks still showing in the brand new jar! Last year I often gave him peanut butter toast when he came from school. He’s probably waited for 10 months for my return and the return of the pnb toast. However, he didn’t know how to use the toaster, the bread seemed untouched. He had gone right for the gold! What a rascal. Later I told Julia (matron) and we both laughed heartily. Then she told me Joseph has had such a hard time adjusting. Just a year ago his mother died of undiagnosed AIDS, leaving two small boys. Thank God for Mji Wa Neema, this children’s home, for Jecinta who brought them here, and for Julia who loves them with her whole heart. Many, many children have not any of these.
Lucas has become a scholar and very cooperative 10-year old, but Joseph still wets his bed, runs away from school, hides his books claiming he has no homework, and misbehaves in class until the teacher, whom Julia describes as very nice, is totally exasperated. Poor child is still grieving and has no way to express it except to cry and misbehave. I suggested to Julia that maybe we could work a reward system, rather than punishment, which has not worked too well, as you see. I will give him pnb toast every day that he brings me a note from his teacher that he has been in school all day, done his work and not disrupted class. His desire for pnb will have to be very great indeed, but it’s worth trying.
Julia went to school yesterday to speak to the teacher. She readily agreed to the plan, but it’s going to take some time. Last night I wandered into their kitchen as I do rather often to chat with Julia, Agnes (asst) and the children gathered there for warmth and the generous, lighthearted love they get from Julia and Agnes. Joseph was crying in his room, having been told by Julia to bring his books so she could see what his homework was. When he didn’t appear, she sent Patrick to fetch him. At Julia’s persistent but very patient insistence he came crying and sniffing. She noted his work to be done and sent him off to the dining room to begin. No report on that so far. Later as the children were getting their plates, I saw him hanging back. “Have you gotten your dinner, Joseph?” No answer, no eye contact. Oh, my he feels guilty about the pnb. A little hug. “Joseph, go get some dinner. Aren’t you hungry?” No answer, but he slowly moved into the kitchen to get his plate. I suspect this will be an ongoing story for the summer. It is funny – Julia, Jecinta and I howled again over the small fingerprints in the top of the pnb – but also so achingly sad and yet worrisome for his future. He is falling behind in school, hates being there, is having a hard time reading and is the perfect description of a failed childhood. If anyone can pull him through it is Julia. She is wonderful, so kind, understanding, loving and yet she pushes those children to perform to their very best every day. What a gift she is.
Update (1 day later)
Yesterday I arrived back at Mji Wa Neema, to Margo’s House, only to observe as I entered the gate, no other than Joseph, stealthily entering the girl’s dorm. I watched for a moment, then thinking no one was about, said “Joseph, where are you going?” You could see it in his whole being, BUSTED!! “Joseph, did you run away from school again? Joseph, you just can’t do that.” About then Agnes emerged from her room in the girls dorm and explained that on Friday the small children leave school early. He was home quite legitimately. Oh, my, I blew it. Of course that didn’t quite explain why he was entering the girls dorm, but I let it lie. Later that evening in the kitchen Julia told me the teacher had signed his exercise book, indicating he had met his part of the bargain for that day. “Oh, wonderful. Did he get his pnb?” “Yes, and he was very happy.” Shortly they were all in the dining hall where the children were completing their homework, all except Joseph, who had fallen asleep. Julia gently wakened him and began to explain what he was to do. Here they are.
Patrick is to the right, Lucas directly behind Julia. Right after this dinner of crisply fried chicken and the national favorite, ugali was served. All’s well that end’s well.
It was one day only, but a small victory is better than no victory.