“Cheese, Gromit! We have cheese!”

Taking a day off this week felt strange. On Thursday we played a game in class—all of the students had to pretend they were at the market. They were divided into teams of two then half of the teams played the role of vendors while the other half were shoppers. We gave the shoppers lists of what there were supposed to buy using only English. The vendors were supposed to come with appropriate prices for whatever food they were selling. The kids LOVED it. When we said go the room came alive, everyone was in character and busy negotiating. It actually sounded like Lwangwa! I think it really helped to have our friend Mwaisemba come in and translate the directions. There was no confusion about what we wanted them to do. I think some of the girls were also very excited to have a handsome African man visit the classroom…

On Friday, after their exam, we had each student draw a picture of a farm and then write a story about it on the back. It works really well to do an activity like drawing on Friday afternoons because it’s not a lecture but it keeps them focused on class work. Plus their drawings are awesome so it’s definitely my favorite lesson. I think they also enjoy this different form of learning where everyone has an individual project. At the end I always want to keep all of their artwork but we are saving some of their work to send home to their parents at the end of the course. I think the farm pictures will be especially fun for their parents to see. Everyone put so much thought into their stories. One girl wrote about a farmer who had no wife and had to learn to cook for himself. I helped Umboke write his story very, very slowly, helping him spell each word and trying to figure out what it was that he wanted to say. He’s so bright and really sweet but just can’t write well at all. He wants to do well and is attentive in class and still doesn’t seem to be down on himself when he does poorly. Helping him one on one is so much fun and by far my favorite part of teaching. He was so happy when we finished his story. He had this huge smile and took my hand very tightly and said “Thank you Madame Hannah!” It made me cry. It was so awesome. It’s going to be very hard to leave all of our students. I’ll miss seeing them down at the soccer field or working around their houses when we walk to Lwangwa. It’s so fun to feel like we’ve become part of the movement of the village.

Another student that I have written about before but is just such a character is Yusuphu. He’s hysterical. Before the game on Thursday he and I were making each other laugh. He was trying to get me to give him more mandazi but then I was supposed to calm them down before Mwaisemba arrived. I was trying to so hard to be taken seriously but couldn’t stop laughing. I walked to the back of the classroom to compose myself and when I turned around Yusuphu was looking right at me with his eyes open wide while stuffing a piece of paper into his mouth. I rushed over to him to try and grab the paper and just as I reached out he wrapped his big lips around the last of it. I totally lost it and had to go outside I was laughing so hard. They’re all just so funny and they love to make us laugh. Frank is like a little Italian and always wrinkles up his face and yells random things in English. It’s funny to see even the quiet, serious students get riled up when we play competitive games. Sayuni was slapping and yelling when she thought the other team was cheating.

In other exciting news this week, Katelyn and I walked about 4-5 miles to Itete to visit the doctor there, Carina Dinkle, and pick up some cheese she bought for us in Mbeya. It was great to get out of Manow again and see the hospital at Itete. Carina was taking care of a feverish baby when we arrived and let us stand in and watch. It had an infected umbilical cord and since it still didn’t have a name the forms had to say “So and so’s baby.” She told us about all the interesting ideas and practices she had to work against coming from a western medical environment. There are things that the people she works with will never practice because they are different than what they’ve learned. She said one of the most frustrating is trying to explain to mothers of premature babies that it is better to wrap the baby tightly against their body than leaving them wrapped in blankets in the house. She told us about one boy she lost last year who had rabies. After he was bit by a dog his father took him to a clinic where all they gave him was a penicillin shot. When he brought the boy to her two weeks later she knew he would die. I didn’t realize that rabies makes an infected person hydro and photo phobic. All she could say to the parents was that they could keep him at the hospital and keep him comfortable. She was shocked when the parents took advantage of the last five days they had with their son. It was the only time she’d seen people anticipate death and really spend time saying goodbye. Usually, she told us, death or the process of dying, isn’t acknowledged until it has happened. It was a very interesting visit and fun to hear about her experiences after living here for two years.

2 thoughts on ““Cheese, Gromit! We have cheese!”

  1. Hannah, you made me laugh with your story of Yusuphu and cry with your story of Umboke. You are such a good person and teacher and writer.

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