Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Press Post before the Power Goes Off! It's Nearly 10 pm!

I'm very proud of this picture.
 The first time all my children and grandchildren
have been together, plus all in-laws.
A day I will cherish for a very long time.
Initially, I was about to begin this Blog with the word 'so', however I realised that the use of such a word would be entirely inappropriate. Gradually, it dawned upon me that I should put my Connectives lesson from last week into action. Thus, I am trying to use as many of the connectives we learnt, as possible. Therefore, I am having to create rather a lot of waffle. In addition to the waffle, it is my intention to start the Third Year of Blogging from Burundi. Moreover, I have chosen to start this Blog as opposed to continue marking the stack of 44 books which contain copious amounts of inane drivel, trying to achieve the same result that I am now. On the other hand, well actually I can't think of what's on the other hand, consequently this particular sentence isn't going to make much sense. Nevertheless, that got two more connectives out of the way.
Furthermore, I have learnt a valuable lesson tonight.  When you have two groups of Literacy books to mark, 23 belonging to Group A (classic A as in slightly more able than Group B) as well 21 belonging to the said Group B. Always mark Group B’s work first! If you start with Group A and 2 hours later move onto Group B, you will eventually ( I’m not sure, that use of eventually actually qualifies as a connective) want to bang your head on a wall! Finally, I have now used all fourteen connectives from our lesson in Week 3, Term 1. Thus (again, because I like thus a lot) the Blog can begin.

A great by-product of that little exercise, I feel a little more compassionate towards my pupils, especially those for whom English is a second language. It was quite taxing on my brain. I now see why so many of them drifted off into the realms of ‘nonsense writing’.

Still trying to avoid the use of ‘so’ to start a paragraph. Here I am back in Burundi for a third year. 6L of 2014 to 2015, have made a much more positive start than the previous 6L. The previous 6L are now consigned to the history book. Now I can look back and laugh! And oh how I’m laughing, well on the inside, sort of, well at least I’m not sobbing anymore, I can at least smile about the experience. The new 6L, have no lesson saboteurs, no academic terrorists, no concentration killing guerrillas.  The new 6L are that usual mix of, nice, naughty, spacey, serious, quirky, quaint and just what you’d expect to find in every Year 6 class. It’s looking so good, that I am in fact planning to take both Year 6 Literacy classes to the Post Office for a ‘field trip’, as I did in my first year here.

The many faces of Harry J Salmon. Newest grandson. I spent many precious hours with him over the Summer.
Miss him rather a lot now.

Sweepings from the kitchen floor, after and over-night Baygon spraying!!
As I enter my third year, I have begun residence in my fourth house. It is an extremely nice house in many ways, but has one serious draw back. It has a rather a lot of other residents. Cockroaches! They get everywhere. My best Cockroach story so far....... Tucked safely inside my mosquito net on my second night here, I am awoken by that ever-so-wonderful sensation that something has just crawled across my arm. I speak sternly to myself, refusing to put my torch on. Because I know if I find the culprit, that will be the end of sleep for the night. Thus, I limit my panic to frantic brushing of my arm and the area of bed nearest to me. Back to sleep. Unknown time later, I am awoken again by the same awful sensation. Positively yell at myself not to turn the torch on and find out what it is. After all it only felt ‘small’. Leave it, I reason. You don’t want to know. There follows, more frantic brushing of the arm and bed. Back to sleep. Daylight appears. I wake up. I look up. There hanging from the mosquito net above my head.......... is a big, fat, black cockroach!!!!!!! Swift exit from the bed. Lots and lots of frantic brushing of the arm. Lots and lots of strange noises like urrgggggghhhhhhhh  and arrrrrrrrgggg. Cockroaches are so, so not nice and I so, so don’t like to share my bed with them.

This incident led to a very serious dilemma. I have trained myself to get used to the somewhat claustrophobic confines of a mosquito net. I have even reached the place where I prefer to sleep with a net, because I hate being woken by that pppppfffffeeeeeeeeeeeeettt noise in the wee small hours. But if something that size can find its way in, I am not sure I want to be tucked up beside it.  My only consolation was the fact that I was using a temporary mosquito net, which didn’t quite fit the bed. With the arrival of the proper net, I decided to continue keeping the mosquitoes out and me in.  The net is so well tucked in though, that it is a major manoeuvre getting in at night. A number of times I have been safely ensconced in my den with, torch, phone, alarm clock, inhaler (yes it is a huge bed) only to look out and see my kindle sitting happily on the outside, smiling at me!

Having spent another Summer at ‘home’ and returning once more to Burundi the edges are beginning to blur around the boundaries of where I feel home is now.  Although I was made aware of how unsuited I still am, to some aspects of life here.  It was Friday afternoon, I had gone to visit the cash machine, up the main road.  I was escorted by my son’s dog (Sparta) and housemate (Ed). Unusually we’d had a successful visit to the cash point, actually coming away with cash in our pockets.  It’s great that Burundi now has cash machines, what’s not so great is that they are not very reliable, more often than not they make all the right noises but fail to spit any cash out. However, this fine day, we were successful. We were happily striding back down the hill towards home, when I noticed a rather fearful sight heading up the hill towards us. A herd of Long-horn Burundi cows. It’s been a long time since I have faced  this particular cultural challenge. Very quickly, I informed Ed that I was not very ‘good’ with cows. He seemed unaffected by this revelation. No, Ed I really don’t like cows. Again, Ed seemed unmoved by this revelation. And they were getting closer. My instinct was to run in the opposite direction, back up the hill. But clearly that would be a ridiculous course of action. I spotted two cars parked at the side of the road and announced to Ed that I would stand by them, hoping that Ed would protect my open flank. But oh no! Horror of horrors, Ed nonchalantly wanders off to the other side of the road. He abandons me.  The cows are literally yards away.

All the while this is going on, there sits a very jolly Burundian, on a wall just feet from where I am cowering behind the cars. He is happily informing that he is hungry and has no money. I have already said I’m sorry about that. In the next few seconds my life turns into a horror movie. The cows split up and come around both sides of the car, I am rapidly becoming surrounded. That’s when total panic sets in, I flee the 6 feet it takes to get to the jolly Burundian, and I quite literally hide behind him. He displays a mixture of mirth and confusion, what on earth is the crazy muzungu doing?  A cow with huge horns stops and faces the strange sight of laughing Burundian and quivering muzungu. I communicate to my protector that he should make the cow stop staring at us. Which he does amazingly easily, considering the obvious danger we are, with the flick of his fingers. Then it’s over. The cows have gone and I am safe once more, if not a little embarrassed at my rather pathetic ability to cope with the ordinary. My jolly Burundian informs me once more that he is in fact still hungry. Now I have a real dilemma, he has just protected me. Can I really just walk away and not offer him some reward? But all I have in my pockets are 10,000 fbu notes. 10,000 fbu is like a month’s wages to this man. It’s far too much to give. But it’s that or nothing, which is far too little. I ponder for a few seconds, then the decision is made. Why not? Everybody deserves a ‘lucky’ day, and today it can be his. I pressed the 10,000 into his hand and dashed away, to sound of his enthusiastic thanks. Despite the trauma, it was good to feel that I had the opportunity to do something surprising for someone else.

So ........(I had to do it in the end!) many things in life here are finally feeling normal. Power cuts, cold showers, mosquito nets, white boards that are not connected to anything, cobblestone roads, the absence of Supermarkets, milk in bags. But every so often something catches me and reminds me I’m far from ‘home’. Like cows and cockroaches and children begging in the streets.
(My sincere apologies for the random placing of photos around this Blog. The computer just didn't want to play ball!)