My 46th birthday was definitely not typical, but one to remember!
The day started off with several people wishing me a Happy Birthday at the hostel. When we arrived at school, the teachers sang Happy Birthday. It was so sweet!
Then I learned about my present: one of the Kindergarten teachers was sick.
In Africa, unless you pay to go to a fancy private school where half the class are muzungus (foreigners), there are no substitute teachers. The Grade Four teacher had been away for two days previously, so I had filled in teaching extended English classes. Now the Head Teacher wanted me to try my hand at Kindergarten.
I knew this would be a challenge. At least the Grade Fours have a pretty good command of English, but five to seven year olds? I was definitely not sure my weekly two hours of Swahili lessons would be enough.
I grabbed Al thinking that his tall presence might encourage the kids listen. Nope. They were very excited that we were there, but were equally uninterested in learning. Children were standing on desks, crumpling up paper, singing and chanting in Swahili, and doing cartwheels. The classroom resembled a pint-sized riot, albeit with smiley faces.
We were finally rescued by my favourite teacher, Paulina. She’s nearing retirement and has all the tricks in the book. But I quietly noted that even the Kindergarteners gave her a run for her money!
About an hour before porridge time it began to pour. I’m talking monsoon-sized drops streaming from the sky. In no time at all about 20 buckets, a large pail and a metal barrel had been placed outside to catch the water. This was to reduce the work it takes to bring water from the well that is used to flush the toilets.
The Kindergarten classes are held in the same building as the safe house where about 25 kids spend the night. The building is 100 metres from where we dole out the porridge, and about 300 from where it is made.
Al set up the porridge next to the main school building, and then I grabbed the cups and the smaller bucket of porridge to bring to the Kindergarten classes. I had to watch my step because the mud is really slippery, and there was no way I was going to spill the bucket.
The kids were excited to be served inside, and thankfully none of the mini rioters managed to spill their food (probably because they are too hungry to waste it).
After it had been raining for some time, we noticed an invasion of termites flying all around the school. Some kids managed to catch them, pull off their wings, and eat them. Paulina told me she likes to fry them.
At noon, our taxi came to fetch us, much to the surprise of Paulina who really didn’t think he would make it through the rain. We set off on a water-filled adventure through the BMX track that serves as a road, hoping we didn’t get stuck like the truck we passed with a full load of bricks.
One thing that I’ve learned living this short time in Africa is that we tend to view things through Western eyes. Problems that may be problems are not necessarily so to locals, and solutions developed by Westerners may simply not be adequate.
I’ve been wondering why the road is never graded, as cars and tuk tuks must make their way through two deep ruts that threaten to swallow them up, with a raised middle between them almost as high as the tuk tuks. I thought there was likely no equipment or drivers to get the job done, but I suddenly realized today why the lack of grading is a good thing!
The water had filled the ruts and was impossible to pass, but the middle was still high and dry. Everyone was now making their way down the middle (although it posed some problems when two vehicles met). The two ruts on either side served as the drainage system for the entire road.
Later in the day we went to a Mexican restaurant (because why not when in Africa?). Each dish was no more than $5 USD, and all were delicious.
Al had arranged a birthday cake through the local bakery so we shared it back at the hostel. A pretty interesting day!