Monday, May 16, 2011

"Why is there a goat in our house?"

Monday, May 16, 2011

The title of this post is a testament to the regularity of farm animal interaction we have here. Every day we open our door to the goats, chickens, and roosters. We walk along the road, casually passing cows, sheep, and goats enjoying their day grazing or sleeping wherever they please. This morning, we left our door open as we brushed our teeth, etc. I went back to my room (just down a very short hallway) to grab my nalgene water bottle and I turn around to one of the goats standing casually in our kitchen. No big deal. Those silly goats… very curious. Good morning to me!

Andi, Paige, and I walked just a short way down the road to a small local market that surprisingly houses a large amount of goods; from produce to eggs to nail polish. Very resourceful! We picked up some materials for tonight’s dinner as well as some milk for our morning tea and some eggs.
This morning we decided to make a good breakfast to start our day. We made a childhood favorite of mine, “spit in the eye.” At least that’s what I was told it was called… Andi knows it as “chicken in a basket.” It is very simply a piece of bread with a hole in the center where you plop the yolk of an egg and cook in a frying pan. Far from the most complex breakfast, but it was most delicious and we were excited to make it as none of us had tasted a good “spit in the eye” in many years. Andi took her turn making our morning Kenyan tea and Paige shared some pineapple she had bought at the market the other day. We decided to delay our run until this evening as it was cloudy and threatening to rain this morning.
Cooking our breakfast in Jane's kitchen.
Look Mom, spit in the eye all the way in Kenya!
Instead, we headed into town to buy a few last things we needed to make dinner tonight. After a quick trip to and from town via matatu, we ate a quick bite with Issa consisting of ugali and kale (are you sensing a trend?). Andi and I organized a bit and figured out deadlines for the conclusion of our interviews. Our goal is to get all of our interviews done by the time the overwhelmingly large group of Penn State students arrive on Friday. Later we went for a beautiful run, the temperature was just right and we just went for a while without looking at the clock or worrying about what else we had to do. We were back in time to shower before we headed down to teach Lesson 3: Anxiety Management.

Today, class was a bit frustrating. I made it a point to talk much slower today in the hopes that my annunciation would aid in their understanding. However, other than when I asked if they understood what I was saying, I had no indication that they comprehended the material. I felt like I was talking to a classroom, mostly full of either blank faces or those making fun of me. I don’t care if they make fun of how I talk, or the way I look, or even the way I care about these topics as long as they are really hearing what I am saying in these lessons. This language barrier is really challenging, both in class and in the interviews. For these kids, it seems easier to understand what I am saying, however, when it comes to expressing views and opinions in English, things get quite tricky. This usually results in sheer silence. No one opens their mouth. I ask a question and I literally hear the mosquitoes in the room. I offer one of my takes on a situation. Now I hear the crickets in the grass outside. After confirming their understanding of the question, providing an example, and asking for someone to answer a question as simple as yes/no… “do you know what anxiety means?” Oh, yes! I think I hear the goats butting heads all the way up the hill. Okay, I’m exaggerating. Literally, though, I receive blank stares, embarrassed smiles, and an occasional Kiswahili jab at me that obviously I am the only one who does not understand, sending giggles throughout the class.

It is difficult to determine whether or not the students are taking in what I am presenting/trying to discuss with them or if they are just waiting to get out the door and day dreaming to pass the time. Kevin (who has been with me in all my classes to help with cooperation and translation when necessary) says that they understood everything tonight which was great. At the end, he confirmed their understanding by summarizing Lesson 3 in Kiswahili. I just feel the curriculum would be most effective when taught in Kiswahili with a bit of English instead of by two American English speakers who sound funny and stand out like a sore thumb. It must be distracting from the topics I believe are so important to their life education. I think the most effective way to approach this curriculum in regards to maximizing its effectiveness is to train the staff, providing them with a thorough understanding of the intent of each lesson instead of actually teaching these classes. We should be playing a supportive role instead of the visitors who share something with the kids and then leave a few weeks later. I don’t think that is the best way to go about the situation. However, in this instance, we didn’t have enough time to thoroughly train the staff in order to execute such a plan. Instead, through their observation of our classes, staff members are able to see how it is intended to work. We can only hope that they will choose to implement it after we leave, creating a sustainable product I truly believe in.

I SO want our curriculum to work for these youth and I found myself rather down about how tonight had gone. However, I realized that if even one student in my class found something positive to take away to better their life, our curriculum has been a great success. There are two students in my class who participate (wooooo! I have two who share after we hear the goats!) George, whom I believe I have mentioned before, is very obviously engaged and committed to the discussion and the topics I cover in class. Samuel is another bright student who informed me this evening that he had completed three years of secondary school when his father ran out of money and could not send him for his fourth and final year. He asked if I could sponsor him, something many of these children are hoping for. It is such a difficult request to answer as the investment is not something to take lightly. I told him I would have to think about it as I am a student myself and do not have much means to take on sponsorship, but that I would be happy to talk about it further some time in the next few days. Another consideration is the connection one might have with a child when deciding whether or not to sponsor. Although I just learned of this young man’s name this evening, it is clear that he is motivated, driven, and undoubtedly committed to his completion of secondary school. All inspiring attributes, however, I feel conflicted. I need to discuss with Jane. Tomorrow will be Lesson 4: Anger Management… we will see how it goes :).

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