Monday, October 7, 2013

Village Life

On Friday I was showing my ICT kids some software that allows me to monitor their computer screens from mine, and also let's them send me messages and "raise their hand" when they need help. I was letting them message me anything they wanted just to try it out and was getting a lot of "I luv u mis long"s and "heelo"s when I saw someone said "I want you to come visit me in my village". I had been wanting to see a learner's house for a while now, so I quickly looked at who it was, hoping it was someone whose name I knew, and sure enough, it was Sarafina (whose name I only remember because a friend from college lives at Sarafina Way...) As they were leaving class, I told her I would love to visit her house one day though I couldn't that day, but she should let me know a day the following week and I would be glad to go.

Today she showed up at my door when the bell rang and asked me if we could go. I asked her about how long it was, since I had some things to do, and she said "not far, only 15 minutes". I should have known better. After dropping my bag at my house and filling up my water bottle, I offered to carry the backpack that her and her sister share, and after triple checking that I was serious, they gladly handed it off to me. I slung the backpack on my shoulders and the three of us headed off. The sun was beating down on us as we walked the sandy path toward the gravel road. Thirty minutes into the walk and I was sweating and tired. Though the girls offered to take the bag back, I insisted on carrying it the whole way. My learners do this walk twice a day without complaining a bit and I was determined to get the full experience, sore shoulders and all. An hour later, we came to their house where I met their siblings, one of whom was another one of my learners. They showed me around the homestead-- their rooms, the kitchen, where they pound mahangu, where the store it, where the chickens sleep, and curiously, the area where they sit outside and listen to the music that comes from "that room". I tried to get more information about this magical, musical room, but none was given. After the tour, it was time to head home. I told them they only needed to take me as far as the gravel road and I could make it back from there, but they wanted to come the whole way.

The third learner, Naemi, accompanied us as well, and along the way we ran into two others who were out collecting firewood. The girls also showed me what they called a "lake, or maybe a pond." To me it was very reminiscent of a query, but instead of rock, it was sand. Although the water level was extremely low due to the drought, and it was very murky, to me it looked like a great place for swimming- complete with a little beach and everything- but they told me that only the boys sometimes go in it, as most of them can't swim. (Makes sense when you've spent your entire life in the desert). The walk back was much more pleasant due the sun setting and lack of backpack. It was nice to chat more candidly with the girls, though they were still pretty quiet. They asked me to teach them a gospel song, but the only gospel song I know is "This Little Light of Mine", and I only know the chorus. I sang a few others for them too, but they couldn't really pick them up since the English was fast and my tone was off due to my slightly laborious breathing. I give these kids so much credit for doing this walk (and longer ones) twice a day all year and thinking nothing of it. If kids at home had to do this to go to school, classrooms would be empty.

We finally reached home and I said goodbye to the girls. I went inside to get more water only to discover that it was off. It had been off the night before, but on a little bit this morning. However now the taps were bone dry again. Luckily the ladies next door have water, so we're just filling up jugs over there till we can figure out what's going on. I also discovered that the water in their shower is actually pretty's probably a good thing I only discovered this now, otherwise I would have been over there quite a bit this year!

Not having water for this brief time has also given me another tiny bit of insight into how many of my learners live. The majority of them do not have running water in their house, and for those that do, it comes from a single tap in the middle of the homstead, not from sinks, showers, toilets, etc. We live near the public tap, and every day I get to see ton of people (mostly kids) rolling huge water containers or carrying them on their head to and from the tap. "Fetching water" is the most common chore for my kids, and they have to do it often as water goes quickly (as I've recently discovered), even when you're doing everything you can to conserve it.  I give my kids so much credit for how hard they work just to do basic things that we all take for granted, like washing dishes. It makes me sad though to think that a lot of them can't imagine life any other way. I hope that I am able to remember these short periods of inconvenience when I return to America and begin to appreciate things like constant electricity and running water (plus HOT water!), but if I forget, and I start to take advantage, I hope I will remember my learners and the process they must go through just get a bit of water to drink.

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