Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bring on the curriculum

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
We finally went for a run!! I can’t tell you how happy it made me to just get out and run! A, who I am going to reveal as Andi (it is getting to look strange with her name as the only one omitted from this blog), Paige, and I went for a run along the roads surrounding the centre. Paige is a Penn State student (also in the GLI with me) who studied abroad at the University of Nairobi this past semester and will be staying at the centre until June 1st. She took us on her normal route along the neighborhood dirt roads. It was quite muddy today and the terrain is a bit challenging, but I couldn’t have been happier. There was a light rain as we ran along, waving to the locals as we passed them, listening to my music and just enjoying the morning in Kenya. I did manage to eat a bug though, so note to self, breathe as much as possible with your mouth closed :). Once we returned from our run, we ventured into town to buy some groceries for lunch as Issa promised to teach us how to make ugali. We walked around town a bit, but soon headed back to the centre as our groceries were getting quite heavy.
Ugali it was! When I tell you it literally consists of flour and water, it is literally flour and water. Issa is so funny. Each step he explains so seriously, even the most simple of parts. We also learned how to make “eggs” (three eggs with tomato, oil, and onion) which are absolutely delicious. We enjoyed our lunch together inside as it was rainy on and off all day today.
Andi and I hung out for the rest of the afternoon and went to see the kids when they were back from school. My rafiki (friend) Mohammed has taken to calling me “sister.” Many of the kids are convinced I am either Hindu or Arab/Muslim. I tell them that I am Jewish, something that is completely foreign to them. They ask if I am Christian or Muslim. To them, Judaism is simply not an option. We sat on our little hill together and watched as the CYEC staff played a friendly game of football (soccer) with some of the older students. Before dinner for the children, they gathered to say goodbye to Caroline and Ida who are leaving for Mumbasa tomorrow morning (they have been here for three months). It was very touching. The kids sang a few songs for them and then a few words of genuine thanks were shared. It must have felt so nice for them.
As we waited for the children to finish their dinner, Andi and I gathered our materials for Lesson 1… finally!! We walked down with Benard, Kevin, and Duncan (we will have some staff members attend our class to help us with the children’s cooperation). We walked into a room full of youth ages 13 and up. Forget about 60 kids, make that 80+. Bring it on. It was difficult to get them settled down as there were so many of them! At one point, Duncan had to make a speech. Most of it was in Kiswahili, but we gathered that it was about respect and being quiet when others were talking. He also said “you never know if these girls would sponsor you for secondary school.” 
I did not really agree with Duncan saying this. Although of course a very real concern for many people here, I do not like that there is so much focus on money. The idea behind the talk he gave should have been, in my opinion, that what we have to share could be valuable in benefitting their lives. It should have included that they may learn something they may choose to utilize in their daily lives. Regardless, the yoga seemed to be a hit! We did some very elementary breathing exercises. Everyone participated and it really brought everyone’s attention to the lesson at hand. We had to omit a few activities due to the size of the group as well as the importance of keeping their attention for the most important concepts. 
Many of the youth were a bit confused. Firstly, I believe, because they had only been informed about the curriculum earlier today. Secondly, the introductory lesson focuses very briefly on several of the topics we will be exploring in greater depth later on in the curriculum. Lastly, although English is one of Kenya’s national languages (English and Kiswahili), some Kiswahili terms are easier for the youth to understand. This language barrier made it difficult for the students to understand one of our activities. They interpreted the unique animal creation (which I explained briefly in my last blog post) entirely differently. It turned out alright as the underlying message ended up being the same the one we intended for the activity. So, in summary, I will say I believe Lesson 1 could have gone better, but it could have also gone worse. We recruited many students for our research interviews on happiness and leadership, which was great! They seem to be really excited to share their opinions on these topics. Jane told us later that man of the kids approached her to tell her how excited they are about the curriculum! We were shocked as we did not think the first lesson was as successful as she reported. We have high hopes that it will only get better.
With our copies of the curriculum on our first night of school :)
Once we got back, we went next door to our little Kenya family; Jane, Issa, Kevin, Elvis, Andi and I usually find ourselves together for meals at night. Stephen (we had been calling him Dan until now… how should we know if he never corrected us?!). Issa taught us how to make uggi (sp?), which is a thick, sweet, dessert kind of drink. He will soon be a YouTube sensation as we have begun filming his cooking show entitled “Cooking with Issa.” We laughed a lot tonight ;). They make fun of the stereotypes of black Americans and do excellent impressions. We then had an indepth discussion with Stephen about America versus Kenya regarding technology, resources, intermarriage, traditions, etc. It was very interesting. It seems that he has a rather skewed perception of America. He was shocked to hear that we have a homeless population at all in addition to our rather high unemployment rate. We talked about the difference in social norms and personality. He had many questions for us. He also serenaded Andi with one of his original love songs – he is set on marrying her and creating the next Barack Obama. I’m not kidding. Anyway, I am exhausted from all of tonight’s excitement so I think I will call it a night. Until tomorrow :).

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