We spent almost 3 hours talking this morning to hash out what kind of response we wanted to give Chris and D.A. about a potential return here, and what kind of a trip we think would be feasible/best, and how this fits into the global travel Deerfield thing more broadly. We brainstormed different projects that our students could engage in, talked about how to prepare students for such projects before getting here, discussed some general pieces that would be valuable to any trip, and figured out a timeline for making decisions about next year.
We had a quick lunch and a half-hour meeting with the school's Headteacher, offering Commendations and Recommendations to him, and discussing teacher development between D.A. and JBFC in the future. I spent most of the afternoon and evening hanging out with the kids on campus, reading with two boys who are staying temporarily with their mother--a JBFC teacher--in the Guest House, and talking and reading with the girls at the Home. The older girls (15 and 16) wanted to know what I thought about Obama, and recalled the killings of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and were delighted to see the pictures of Thomas and Luca. They also helped me practice a little the amazing female African skill of carrying things on top of one's head: buckets of water, piles of sticks, a single hoe, a tray of mangoes, a 20-pound rock, a big parcel of something. One girl suggested I wouldn't be able to manage it because my hair was too "soft," and I found that even just a heavy plastic bowl was tough to keep balanced! While I sat with them (on a rough stone wall in the dirt yard between dorms and dining hall), a couple of 8 year-olds came by headed for the kitchen, carrying live chickens that dangled upside down. A couple of squawks later, those same children passed by again with dead chickens and headed for the open-air wood-fire cooking zone behind one of the dorms, where they -- maybe as young as 6 or 7 ! -- proceeded to pluck the chickens and prepare them for dinner. I was in the dining hall for a good 30 min before dinner was served, and it started to rain, which prompted a lot of the girls to come inside. I had five or six picture-books with me, and the photos of Thomas/Luca, and so we kept passing them all around - I read aloud to a couple of kids, and others read to themselves or found others to read to them. The girls were very polite, thanking me and wanting to know which boy was which in the pictures. As overwhelmed as I had been in the morning at the thought of coming back within the year, my afternoon with the girls truly re-charged me: when they asked me if I would come back and if I would bring DA students, I was moved to say sincerely that I really hoped to.
Dinner was rice (a huge portion) and chicken (a little piece) and some of the same delicious cabbage we'd had for lunch on Tuesday. Right after dinner, the girls were instructed to head down to the "beachi" for a surprise. By the time I was on the (dark) path, they were all headed back for firewood. I'm not sure where they found it, but soon enough most of the girls returned to the beach again, dragging a long piece of firewood behind them, and someone got a fire going and the girls began their singing, sitting on the low wall that surrounded the fire-circle on the beach. It was a lovely scene made more dramatic by the incredible lightning storm that played on the other side of the lake - from the north all the way to the southern-most view of the lake. Around 9pm, the surprise arrived: a troupe of dancers who specialize in traditional dance from different regions of Tanzania. And around 9:05, another surprise arrived: that lightning storm moved right across the cove, and the waves got big, the air got cold, and the rain came down hard and fast. It did not deter the dancers at all, who proceeded to wow us with their energetic dancing accompanied by (or driven by) several drums in different sizes and shapes. There were frequent costume changes, which they performed right in front of us in the sand under the darkened roof of the restaurant, and then the pounding waves, the thumping drums, the shrill whistle, the vocal harmonies, and the barefoot tribal dances would come together again. If I hadn't known before that I was in sub-saharan Africa, I knew now!
The performance went until almost 10:30, and I was in bed by 11, trying to prepare for our grueling trip back: we were to have been on a 1:30pm flight out of Mwanza, but had to switch to an earlier flight to ensure enough connection time in Dar, so we would leave JBFC at 5:30am and wait through a 6-hour layover in Dar, which we had not been expecting. (Then a 5 hour flight to Dubai and 3.5 hour layover there before the 13 hour flight to JFK and 3-hour van ride home...this will mean our return trip will be 38 hours total, if everything is on time...)