Sunday, 29 September 2013

You're having a Gilaffe!

Yes I know, it's been a bit sparse on the Blog front. I've been struggling to find something even remotely amusing to share, about my first few weeks back at school.
My bubble has been burst and stamped upon! I had realised last year that my ideal of coming to Africa, to teach children who wanted to learn, was in fact a tad unrealistic. I discovered that children are children, all over the world. They have an inclination towards naughtiness. They don't always say 'yippee' when asked to work hard. In fact, even in one of the poorest nations of the world my role as motivator is high on my list of priorities.
So, who popped my balloon, who knocked the wind out of my sails? My present class 6L, Mrs Liz's, year 6 class. They are, as a group of children one of the most challenging I have ever faced. As individuals, (sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, nephews and neices, children of your best friend) I am sure they can be vouched for, as being, wonderful, loving, fun to be with human beings. BUT, put them together and call them a Class, and they become something different entirely. Herein lies my problem in Blogging about them. This Blog has the potential to be read by a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, and so I do not want to be saying that the child known to any of those people, is anything less than wonderful. I would hate to read a Blog that said anything negative about any of my beautiful, perfect grandchildren!
So, if by chance you do happen to be reading this and are directly connected with one of the individuals that makes up 6L King's School, Primary, Bujumbura, please be aware that I am talking about your child as part of the entitiy that is 6L not as the individual you know and love.
You see the entity that has become 6L has a history of being difficult to maintain. Together they draw out in one another a desire to oppose all forms of authority. Thwart, all attempts at consistent learning. Some have developed highly skilled strategies of concentration avoidance. They have an intricate 'domino effect' attitude to reprimands. Finding it highly amusing to create a string of accustions and denials of involvement in actions requiring a reprimand. 
All in all they have been a nightmare to teach so far!! And yes, I have set boundaries around them, because I know that is what children need. But sadly, 6L as a group are boundary jumpers, boundary tunnellers, boundary climbers. Boundaries are great if those inside them acknowledge them and stop at them. But these guys, they are something else! My next step is to seek out and develop any potential for in-boundary dwellers. There are a few showing signs of tiring, when it comes to fighting the system. A few, for whom the thought of not getting a good education is beginning to be less appealing.
Thus my time has been rather consumed with keeping on top of my lovely crowd. The last two weekends have just been spent re-charging the batteries, ready for the next onslaught.
But I do have a little ray of sunshine to add. This week I visited my colleague's house for lunch, between school and a staff meeting. She has two beautiful children Joanna and Enoch. Whilst home in Endgland a young friend gave my grandson some plastic animals that he had grown out of playing with. When I saw them I negotiated with both my friend and grandson, (Well at 2 years old, the grandson wasn't really up to much negotiating) that at the end of the Summer, I could take the animals to Burundi, and give them to Enoch and Joanna. Thus, this Thursday I was able to pass them on. It was again one of those experiences that makes it all worth while. The absolute joy and excitement on Joanna and Enoch's faces as they identified the animals and played with them, was such a privilege to behold. Enoch was so taken with the Gilaffe. He kept saying, 'it's a Gilaffe, it's a Gilaffe.' The kangaroo was a complete unknown. In Bujumbura children will get to see, hippos, crocodiles, dogs, cats, goats, and cows. Not much else. They wont all have seen the hippos and crocodiles. Enoch and his Gilaffe was great therapy for me.

Even though my class are hard work and appear not to appreciate the privilege they have in attending King's School.They are all still children growing up in one of the poorest nations in the world. They may not be the poorest children in the country, but they are still facing many hurdles and limitations that are not faced by children in the west. And I am still privileged to be able to make a difference to their lives (even if they make it hard work!).
The more I write, I realise that when my balloon popped and must have fallen over my sense of humour eyes. There are actually far more good things that have happened than I first thought when I started writing.

I nearly forgot! What great joy this weekend to hear that a young footballer from Burundi, Saido Berahino scored the winning goal for West Bromwich Albion against none other than Manchester United! Oh what joy that brought to my heart.

Finally, an update on my pea eating exploits! Evidence here of a meal shared with the Junior staff. I am the gap in the photo. We are sharing ibitoke and peas!( and a few carrots)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Back in Bujumbura.

Maybe I should start with a re-wind. Yes, I am back in Bujumbura, after having two months at home in England.
I arrived home on July 2nd to be met by some thoroughly 'poxy' children. All four grand children were covered in Chicken pox. One of them had the most dramatic spots I have ever seen, and I've seen quite a few cases of Chicken pox over the years. Within days of arriving home I also encountered a very nice virus, which laid me low for a few days. It was so bad, that on the worst day my fingers ached too much to even use my phone to text!
 After, a tussle with the NHS I discovered that surgery to remove my errant teeth was impossible, due to my exposure to Chicken pox. Week 2, found me at the dentist having my teeth hauled out the good old fashioned way. Just to make me feel 'at home' I walked through the dentist's door to be greeted with the news that there was a power-cut! I discovered that teeth extraction can be done quite effectively without electricity. A big bonus also, no assistant hoovering out my mouth whilst dentist is yanking teeth out. I hate that hoover thingy. All my dreams of luxurious eating, when I got back to England for the Summer were blown apart. It took weeks for my gums to stop aching and getting sore. Even a fish finger sandwich was too scratchy.
Due to slight memory and communication issues, my car stayed resolutely on the drive. Having no Tax, no MOT, no insurance, no Log book. Therefore, no leave the drive. I found the process of being reliant on public transport somewhat frustrating and mystifying. The setting of fares by the train companies seems to be a random affair, whereby they pick a price, half it, double it and then choose which time to charge, which fare. I'm still grumbling about the fact that if you buy a ticket 24 hrs in advance, you can travel from Hinckley to Peterborough for £9.60. But if you leave it and buy the ticket on the day you have to pay £30 single or £25.50 return. (and yes, I have got them the right way round!)

Off on a Bug hunt.

My first month home was a bit of a grumbly, achy, wobbly, frustrating time. It was a struggle to settle into a 'life' that was no longer quite mine, but was really. I felt like a very rusty Grannie. It was lovely having real cuddles with real grandchildren, not the Skype varieties, I had got used to. But Rusty Grannie had a slightly lower tolerance level for noise and mess and chasing determined 2 year old's, than she realised.
By the end of the second month however, I can safely say that I had built up a fine collection of happy memories to bring back to Bujumbura with me. I never did manage all my visits to Mc Donalds, but I think I gathered some better times, to go onto next year's wish list.
I have discovered the joy of finding pebbles on the beach that can used as mobile phones. Stones - phones, when you're three years old the link is quite feasible. I've pushed a two year old on a swing until my brain went numb. I've built stone castles, because there was no sand for the sand variety. I've spent hours carefully sticking Princess stickers in a very precious album. Painted a garden gnome. Been shot in the eye with a NERF gun. Seen the musical Mamma Mia. Met a beautiful springer spaniel puppy, the newest member of the family. Spent a few precious hours with my newest 8 year old grand daughter (step). Been on a steam engine, on the beach, in a tent, on the river, fishing, bug hunting, watched movies, shopping, sleeping, baking, walking, talking, and spent some great time with family and friends.

So now, here I am back in Buja. Back to being a 'Skype' Grannie, Mum and friend. But this time it's a bit different. This time I know what 16- weeks -until -Christmas feels like. I don't feel the need to count the days away until I see everyone again.  This time, I am also an actual Mum, here in Burundi. This time, I have brought my youngest son with me. Contrary to some rumours, that were spread, it was not just because I needed someone to help put my hand luggage in the overhead lockers on the plane. Although that was indeed a very useful by-product of the process.
What a strange experience it has been. Me being the one who knows my way around. All the things that this time last year Rachel (house mate) was doing for me, now it falls to me to do for Andrew.  I have negotiated a taxi fare, helped him open a bank account, shown him where to buy eggs and fizzy drinks. We have even visited the zoo. Something that I said I wouldn't do, but he promised he didn't want to feed live guinea pigs to the crocodiles, so I agreed.

What then of, 'First Impressions' second time round. Maybe that makes them Second Impressions, not sure. It's not as hot as it felt last year, you really do get 'used' to the temperature. Knowing even a little bit of the language spoken by the people around you, makes you feel far more at ease and less 'different'. Rice and beans are good to eat. Cockroaches are not quite as gruesome as they used to be (but still pretty yucky) Walking along a dusty road to get to work each day is AWESOME. Looking forward to the start of term, as opposed to dreading it, is a privilege. The odd cold shower is ok. Toilets without seats, water and toilet paper are disgusting, always will be and I will never get used to them! Mosquito's inside the mosquito net should not allowed, especially when they only reveal themselves at two o clock in the morning by going pzzzzeeeeeeeetttt in your ear. Having good friends and family on two continents is mind blowing.
 Slowly, buke buke, I am learning how to value all the time I have, where ever I am. To look at each day and enjoy it for itself and not be looking for what is coming next or what has gone by.