Friday, May 25, 2007

No way out

I have spent the last month and a half in my village with no visits to town, which was actually a fairly amazing expereince for me. Running out of food...or so I though, and somehow the same day I'm wondering(almost kicking myslef in the butt for not going to town on the weekend) what I would eat, a guest comes to the door with a sack of sweet potatoes, or corn or eggs. I'm invited to tea...I actually didn't WANT to leave-what's going to happen in two years? Can't even imagine how I am going to feel then. A lot has been going on in my life-things that I feel are very important for the rest of the world to know.

HOME: I have now 'adopted' children-5 actually. Two girls are living with me during the school year because of terrible family situations. Frolida, my house girl when I first arrived is one of the girls living with me. WONDERFUL gilr. I was so uncertain abou ther when I first arrived. Shifty eyes(which I'm now understanding as shy and bashful eyes), but a hardworker. She lives with a father and a mother-the mother is an invalid, the father is a drunk. He drinks his life away -not helping build the thatch roof that leaks during raniy season, not helping in the farm....just drinking. I'm paying for Frolida's school fees. I kept asking other teachers her grades-and was shocked to learn that she was getting F's. WHAT?! WHY? The reason is b/c everyday after school, she would go home and help her mom clean, cook, farm....and she was having trouble with English. I sat her down and had a long chat with her about her grades. She wasnts to be a Doctor!!!(most girls here want to be this is GREAT that she thinks she is capable of being a doctor!)We decided that it would be best that she stays with me-and her grades have soared. She comes home every afternoon, helps in the gardne a little, speaks English with me, and studies.I'm so proud of her! Zamda is my other 'daughter'. She has no father, mother or gaurdian-she has the bibi(grandmother) of her father and a younger sister. She has a good heart, but noone there to look out for her. I don't think she's ever even had a hug in her life. She is a Form 2 studnet, getting F's in every subject because she doens't understand English, but I also think that she has a learning disability. she studies all the time-but doesn't understand one thing she is reading. Any advice for helping with learning disabilities? Her English(speaking) has improved tenfold by staying with me, but I think I might put her through an intensive English course at a local NGO, then make her start Form 1 all over again. I don't want to see her slip through the cracks. Akida is may knight is shining armor-teaching me Kiswahili and Kihehe....and my runner between the local NGO and myself...ehlping me in the community with the sick and the elderly....Ester My house girl and her baby Felix. Its quite an assorted family-all different backgrounds, but the most wonderful thing to come home to at the end of a long day. To see everyone working together, some playing cards, some studying together, they are singing, or working in the garden-it warms my heart.

SCHOOL: I have started successfully teaching a TEFL(teaching English as a Foreign Langauge) type English class in the evenings to students-and I do think I'm startging to hear a difference. They are excited to learn, and always come early(which in Africa is a rare thing) and always come to my office asking questions "May you please give me homework Miss Jenny?" How do you say.... Miss Jenny? I LOVE IT! My Form one's are giving me gray hairs. One stream is doing well-after midterms(b/c majority got F's) I required that they study with me every friday afternoon...and if they couldn't attend, they would have to ask permission. I told them(because apprently noone in AFrica is taught responsibility) they must ask before FRIDAY not ON friday. But guess what? They were shocked when they did not get permission when they came TO MY HOUSE to ask permission. There is this one little trouble maker in my form one C class...EVERY period, he is iether talking, doens't have his notebook, or a pen, or this or that...EVERY PERIOD! I make him sit right by me in front, make him answer all the questions I ask...and as much as he hates me now, I think its really helping his grades-I'm seeing an improvemnt....of maybe I'm just biased. In my Form three class, we staarted out as 75 or so...and now I'm down to about 35-40. People are starting to get used to the idea that I'm just a normal person, even though my skin is different..and the novelty of a white teacher is wearing off. They are realizing that being white doesn't give me the power to magically make them understand physics. They still have to WORK at it:) The students that have remainde behind though are wonderful and brilliant.

Every night from 5-7 I'm teaching an English class, origianally started in my home with 4 women, expanded to 20 village farmers, got shut down by my school, and my class was so excited that they BUILT ME A CLASSROOM in their own home! I have 20 adults that come everyday(which again, is shocking in AFrica) and that I have just sent to a private school and they were ALL ACCEPTED!!!! EVERYONE is going to start Form one next January. I feel like a proud mother hen, my little chikcies going off to school. When they returned from their interviews, they were all grins and laughter and have stepped up a notch studying their English with me. It is the highlight of my day to teach these wonderful people. They went from not speaking ANY english at all, to being able to understand what I'm saying, ask quesitons when they don't understand, and now they are starting to bring their friends. I have never felt more encouraged to do anything more in my life! It was my birthday this last week-kind of depressing not having my wonderful family with me, but as soon as I stepped foot in my classroom, I was greeted by a harmonized song wishing me well on my birthday. I almost cried.

Truly is home now. Recently asked what my favorite thing in Tanzania, I had to think-not too long. There is a place I call "Habari Hill". The hill from my house to the main part of "town" goes around a curve. at this junction, there are about 10 little girls ranging from 1-8 who every time see me, scream out MISS JENNY, run as fast as their little legs carry them and fling themsleves at me, giving me hugs and kisses. I just eat it up!! They are so cute! I want to take them all home! Then, we dance a little, laugh a little and then they excort me either down the hill to my house, or to town, singing a little song. Its so endearing and something I will greatly miss when I leave (if I ever do....)

I have recently hooked up with a local NGO that is fighting the HUGE battle against HIV/AIDS and orphans created by this problem as well as others. Huge differences are being made-these people absolutely inspire me. villagers once afraid of talking about AIDS openly share their experiences with one another, the community support is something I didn't know existed in AFrica...and people are starting to understand that not everyone with HIV is going to die a miserable and early death. In February I started getting hodi's(knock's) on my door...asking for help. Openly telling me that they had AIDS and what could Ido to help them! AMAzed that this was actually happening, I have now started a program where I am able to get bus fares for the sick to go to the local hospital each month to get ARV's. However, I'm also started to learn of the little injustecs of the world. I fyou are a healthy looking person living with AIDS, you aren't given ARV's. Why? good quesiton. maybe because there just isn't enough med's to go around? I honestly have no clue. Also, if you have liver problems, you don't get ARV's. you get other meds that prevent opputunistic these poor villagers, go there religiously every month, thinking that they are recieving treatment, but NO they aren't!!! My empathy goes out to the hospital, but it still angers me to no end! I now have 8 families I'm assisting each month. Well, 7 I guess. My first 'patient' just passed away on May 23rd, in the early morning. Death first hand is a new experience for me. Going into dark, mudhuts, thatch roof, not really being able to see(which is probalby don't want to see the grime these people are living in-bedbugs, fleas.....glah), talking with the sick...Let me tell you about Alice.

Alice was a beautiful lighter skinned woman who, because she was kind of fat and light skinned had all the men after her. she went away to work, came back with a child named Issa. Father abonded them because he was a drunk and they were both VERY young. She went away again once Issa could walk, and yet again, came back pregnant. She caused her own abortion and was very sick for quite a while. Another man yet again, another preganacy, this time the child died after a few months. Then ANOTHER man(really, she is not trying to be 'easy', she is trying to look out for her family, and women have no choice about sex in this country....)and along came Willa(who I'm madly in love with). Mom gets AIDS, starts on Meds, but also continues to drink...because its at the pubs that you find the men that can 'take care of you'. The hospital tested her liver enzymes, pulled her off the meds, and she got sick. That's when she came to see me. She was shivering, sweating, coughing, askling for food. We made a bargain..I'd help her if she made me a basket....Well, then I met the NGO, got money to help her...her children were a pitiful site-dirty times a thousand becaseu bibi couln't wash them-she was too old and frail and was trying to go to the farm to help get food for these poor kids. So, the kids have scabies, they have worms, and they both had chest infections. I befriended a doctor who has been a Godsend...he told me tha alice probably had TB, a HUGE liver-most liekly was in liver failure...she started to go crazy and just babble...couln't eat, and then because she couldn't eat, her liver wasn't workiing , all the water that she drank went straight to her legs and they swelled up. Her feet were about 4 times the normal siz. Think HArry Potter 2 when the auntie swells up. she couldn't walk....her health was rapidly worsening. My two daughters I sent everyday to wahs the kids...we baught them clothes at the used clothes market, the NGO helped sith money for food....we started a wonderful veggie garden nearby for them to start getting healthy foods...but now, Alice, with no more will to live, is in a much better place. Going to the funeral at first was fine-I detatched myself at teh beginning, but then bibi of alice came up to me, crying, saying you helped! you helped! but for what?! she wanted to die! I almost lost it right there. So please pray for these kids. They have no faterh, mother or grandparents. They live in a mud hut with great-bibi(grandmother). There is a local orphanage that I'm trying to get hooked up with and see if my babies can live there. This is just one example. hundreds more happen every day.
So, everyday is great and terrible in their own ways. Hope prevails, these people amaze me and I hope that one day, you all will get to experience a little bit of what I am....