With only two weeks remaining of my placement, I find myself wandering where the last ten weeks have gone. When I first applied to volunteer with Village Africa three months seemed such a long time, now I feel it's almost too short and wish I could stay longer. However the next stage of my trip awaits and my bus back down to Dar es Salaam for November 28th has been booked.
Life has moved into quite a routine in Milingano, well as much of a routine as is possible in Africa. Each school day I'm up by 6.30am, breakfast is at 7am and we have left for school before 8am. Often before we have left the house the school children will run by in their classes singing a range of songs. This is their morning exercise once they have swept the school.
Once in school we are always greeted warmly by the headteacher, some mornings he likes to sing to us which is always a pleasure. I teach two lessons in the morning and two in the afternoon. At lunch time we make our way home for some food, then return for our afternoon lessons. The afternoons are always an interesting affair. By this point some pupils may not have had any other lessons and have just sat in their classrooms waiting, so are a bit stir crazy by the time I arrive. Many have not had any lunch so are hungry, combined with the heat this leads to a number of children often being asleep in my class.
Standard II have provided the most stories to tell, generally the best tales are when my lesson is being observed. For example the time a girl decided to stand outside the classroom and pretend to cry as loud as possible before storming into the room and proceeding to hit a boy in the class. I tried to ask the girl in question to sit down, however I think I had my invisibility cloak on at the time. This row continued while I tried to maintain the attention of the rest of the group. Meanwhile the boy who'd got a good walloping was wandering up and down the aisles with a friend looking for what I had now established to be a pencil case. This week, possibly my favourite tale, my lesson that was being observed again, was firstly disrupted by a change in classroom. This room is a lot more squat than the rest, the floor is scattered with big holes, and the blackboard is as useful as a chocolate tea pot. Additionaly the wind seems to swirl through the room and not allow any flashcards, meticulously made the evening before, to stick on the board. The desks in this room had also been squashed together so there were no aisles between the 4 lines. As a result the first 5 minutes was a scramble to get to seats clambering over and under. This resulted in a few scuffles, arms flaying and good slaps being distributed, untill calmness was found, to an extent. The real highlight to the lesson though was when one child found the rag that was used to wipe the board and decided that there was nothing more fun than hitting all the children around him until chalk dust was clouding a quarter of the class. At this time I was attempting to pick up my previously mentioned flashcards from the floor as they had blown down for the umpteenth time. Some form of normality is often resumed as soon as I designate three teams for a game, the accompanying cheers bring relief to my flagging spirits. This is until, inevitably in a game, a team loses, they sulk and then refuse to clap the winners.My favourite members of standard II are two boys who are receptive to my requests for quiet, and patrol the aisles hitting anyone who is talking, and then shouting at them producing more noise than the original culprits.
There are many days when standard II bring joy to my heart, but those days don't provide such amusing tales.
School finishes at 2.30pm, and we have now begun doing twice weekly netball club with a selection of girls. Well, never before have I seen the game played with such joy, nor have I seen the netball thrown with such ferocity. These girls have been carrying heavy buckets of water and working on their shambas since they could walk, so they're pretty strong. The sheer energy and enthusiasm that exudes them makes it very difficult to stop them and suggest that as a non contact sport they really shouldn't be rugby tackling the opposition, or that when they have the ball in their hands they should not travel the length of the court before passing the ball. The court itself provides a few obstacles, literally, 6 trees are scattered around, providing excellent shade but also mildly affecting play. The lines are drawn out using a hoe, but rapidly disappear as the game wears on. Unfortunately there are no bibs for positions, however I have managed to make some from cardboard and string, these are yet to be tested but I'm unsure how the restriction of these positions will go down. I fear these bibs will not last the aggressive nature of Milingano netball, so any spare sets lying around would be greatly appreciated here!!!
We arrive back home by 3.30pm, giving us some chill out time before our bucket showers, and then the previoulsy discussed mactabe at 5pm. Dinner is served at 6pm which is followed by our ritual of tea and ginger biscuits bought in Tanga and meticulously rationed to last the two weeks. Devastation nearly struck this ritual, when Jen offered Zacariah, our watchmen, a biscuit with his coffee. As she held out the pack to suggest he take one Zacariah grabbed the whole pack and what followed was a small tussle and a reluctant release on Jen's part and we watched the biscuits disappear forever. The rations were more frugal for the rest of the week.
At 7pm we seem to have developed evening teaching sessions with a group which starts with four or five and finishes with several more as we get the classic game of snakes and ladders out. An all time favourite amongst the children, even the older kids enjoy playing. Personally when I've gone down the snake on square 99 for the 5th time, the game starts to lose it's appeal, not it would seem for these children. On Thursday night by 9pm I had to put an end to the agony. Some nights we do some extra teaching of vocabulary and recently we've been reading some stories. By the time the children have gone, we have to then think about planning our lessons for the next day.
A substantial part of our day is spent singing. Now I know that many at home particularly my mother will cringe at this prospect. Fear not, there are no glass windows here! Jen and I really hit it off when we realised our mutual appreciation of Heather Small's Proud. At any opportunity in the day we may break out into this song, we are trying to teach it to some of the children and a couple have nailed the key line. We are not limited merely by Heather's work, but will cover a number of songs througout a day, Take That are another favourite and any good power ballad can be given air time. I feel that my musical talents are appreciated more here.