Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Today was a long day, hot and muggy inside the classrooms and dusty outside. It was punctuated nicely by brief breaks during which we could read (we’ve all become very avid readers lately, and I am particularly enjoying Gone with the Wind), make friendship bracelets with the kids, and get teased by Dornuki for no reason in particular.
After school, Jerry really wanted to take us to his house, so he, Yona, and Abigail lead us through the circuitous, muddy paths of Community 25 to where he lived (Kelly, always a trooper, somehow managed to carry Baba the entire way). On the way we met Jerry’s sister Erica, who speaks only Spanish, because she is too old to go to school and grew up in Guinea. She is 18, like us, and chattered a little with Kelly as we passed her, all the time non-chalantly balancing a huge bucket filled with water on her head. I never cease to be impressed at the immense quantities that nearly every woman here seems to be able to carry on their heads, to balance, walk with, bend down with, etc. regardless of whether the weight of the coconuts or watermelon halves or waterbags is evenly distributed in the large bowl. We then met Jerry’s mother, who speaks only French and Spanish. I chatted with her a bit in French to discover that she is from Equatorial Guinea, and that Jerry had been born there. The family had also lived in Mali and Mauritania since then, but moved to Ghana about five years ago because that is Jerry’s father’s nationality. I was impressed to learn that Jerry understands French fairly well, and he is certainly better traveled than any of the other kids I’ve encountered, even though his family is quite impoverished.
As we were walking back to the school, I teased Jerry in French, which he found hilarious, but he also acted very embarrassed that he was able to understand me. A little while later, Jerry and Yona began to press me to take them back to America with them. Jerry said, “I will tell my father that you want to take me to the States and he will love for you to take me. You will take me ok? We can fly far far away.” This conversation was a really hard one, because of course it wasn’t that simple, and although I love Jerry, I couldn’t imagine taking him away from his home and his family. It was also upsetting for all of us when the two boys kept repeating how much their families not only wouldn’t object to the idea, but would be supremely delighted.
Kelly, Annabel, and I decided to go for a short run after our walk, and Jerry put us to shame by easily keeping up, even in his torn flipflops. When we got home, it was just getting dark, and much darker in the house. The power had been out all day, and Connie was reading inside with a flashlight. We managed our bucket showers with our beloved headlamps perched on the concrete windowsill of the shower, and somehow, Nurse Emma cooked us dinner in the dark. Dornuki and I did a little bit of “the History of the World,” but it was short lived because, once the power returned a few hours later, Mr. Kabutey insisted that the five of us write reports on the progress that each of the kids we tutor had made in English during our eight weeks of tutoring. Dornuki read Anne of Green Gables, which I recently gave her to read, and watched, amused, as we lingered over the reports, frustrated and unsure what to write for some students who we fear have made little progress. Mary, for instance, the oldest girl in First grade (she’s 14) whom I tutor (and who spends more time bullying the 5 year olds than studying, according to Madame Kelly, who teaches that class) began knowing very little English and not much of her alphabet. She knows some of it now, but certainly not all of it, and I often feel as though perhaps I have failed in some way but not succeeding in teaching her the whole thing. Still, none of us are perfect, and for the next two weeks, as for the past seven, we’ll continue to try our best.