Sunday, 25 September 2016

I Hope You Dance

It is the eve of the start of Week 4, Term 1, school year 2016/17. Things are just beginning to hit a 'routine', so I thought it was about time I got to grips with writing the 'Back to School' Blog.
Here are a few Snap Shots of my time so far....

 This is the regular scene in my office, at Break time, It is my twice daily encounter with what-it's-all about.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday I sit for what feels like hours around the table with the Leadership (Principal, Head of Secondary  and Head of Operation). Then Tuesdays, Primary Senior Leadership.  Sometimes I spend so much time in meetings, it begins to feel like the children are just an optional extra.
But then at 9:15 am and 11:15 am, my stodgy meeting saturated life gets blown apart by the Yellow invasion.
Suddenly all the heaviness of the decisions, dilemmas, and deliberations , dissipates. As those trophies are lifted, for the umpteenth time.And everything is investigated with enthusiasm and abandonment.
Last week, I was very earnestly informing Adarsh, that I was sorry, but I really was extremely busy and needed to continue what I was doing. When he equally earnestly,informed me that he wanted to see the Blue Poisonous Dart frog picture on the computer. Next thing, there he was sitting on my lap, moving the cursor off my 'I'm-too-busy' document and onto his, there-is-nothing-more-important-than-me icon!
 Since my move into the Head Teacher's office I have been exposed to a new and fascinating element of life, Jolly Phonics. During the Summer I actually attended a Jolly Phonics Conference in London.
So, I have now graduated from my false understanding of , a ..a..ants in my pants. To a...a..ants on my arm, causing me alarm!
Also, I have now  discovered, Jelly and jam, Jelly and jam, jiggling on the plate. Oh what will I eat with it? j....j....j...j..j (Action: Pretend to wobble like jelly on a plate, saying j,j,j,j,j)
Just one slight issue, we don't have JELLY in Burundi.So most of the children have no idea why they are wobbling.
Thus, one of my 'missions' this Summer was to purchase some jelly blocks to bring back for J day. I discovered that jelly no longer comes in blocks , it comes in little packets of granules, which are all very definitely Sugar Free!
Armed with my sachets, I eagerly anticipated J day in the Reception class.
Jelly and moto transport, interesting combination. Jelly and Bujumbura temperatures, somewhat sloppy combination.
Jelly tasting and small Burundian (Wise pictured above) Not-too-sure combination.

I have to confess that the above picture is in fact 'Staged'. I don't carry my camera at all times to make sure I have photographic evidence of all the strange things I land up doing. Sitting on the bike is Ashton (Burundian spelling Hatchiton) . On Tuesdays we have Clubs. Clubs finish at 4:30. But TIA, so at 5:45pm it is not too unusual to have a few 'left-overs'.
On our very first Tuesday back, it's 5:55pm and I am still waiting with Hatchiton. After a few phone calls , it is decided that I will transport said child to the house of one of the teachers, where he will wait until someone can come and get him. It is at these times that a little 'English' voice in the back of my mind starts wittering about, safety procedures and Risk Assessments. Next thing we are bumping along the road, Hatchiton wearing a rather large helmet, that may or may not stay on his head if he falls off. Me constantly asking him, if he's holding on  and telling him to yell loudly if he's going to fall off. The sight causing much entertainment to all on lookers in the Kinindo area.
Just in case you are wondering, he got there in one piece with all brain cells in working order.

I am now about to do some shameless, Fund Raising. The picture to the left is our present, Pets Corner.
I would very much like to develop this area. At the moment we have one Guinea pig cage. All the mummies and daddies together!! and a few babies!!!!
Next to them the rabbits. Mummies, daddies and babies. My plan is to have four larger cages and start a Family Planning System.
We want to transform the area into a place where the children can learn about Animal Husbandry, yes I deliberately said that, rather than Pet Care!
We also want to include an area for growing vegetables. But it all costs money. Not huge amounts. However, I don't often find myself in a position of having spare cash to put into projects like this. So if you read and feel moved to help , please do message me.
Finally, before you all nod off. This week I celebrated my birthday . I've had 5 birthdays since living in Burundi. The first was my 50th and I was caught very unawares by all the celebrations and demands that come with having a birthday. I was mortified that first year to find that at the Friday Assembly in the week of your birthday , you are required to go to the front of the assembly to be sung to and prayed for. No big deal? Ahhh, not until you have hundreds of children all clapping and chanting , DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!
I was utterly, traumatised that first year. So much so, that the next two years I managed to 'avoid' being at the assembly in my birthday week and the two following weeks , just to make sure.
Last year, presented a slight problem. Now I was the Head of the school. Can't really 'avoid' assembly. It took all my strength and resolve to make myself face the situation. But I did. When the DANCE chant came, I calmly informed the children that it was just not possible. I don't dance. Then in a moment of complete madness, I made them a promise that I would try and get myself to a point where I would dance , next year. You'd think after living for 53 years, I'd remember that years are very short!They go by, in a blink of an eye. And that's just what that year did. During the Summer it dawned on me that within weeks of returning to Bujumbura, I would need to be dancing.
Thankfully, my grandson Robert (5)has some pretty good moves. He does a great line in back seat dancing in the car, on the way to school. He taught me that it's just a case of 'letting go' and moving . Then, grand daughter, Megan (11) saved my bacon big time, by recording a very simple routine for me to copy. She did however break one condition I set. I did say when planning the moves to only move legs or arms, not both at the same time. I think I have a syndrome that makes it impossible for me to coordinate my top and and bottom half. I can still hear them yelling at me as a child, when trying to march in time down The Mall, for the Silver Jubilee.
Year 6 added the final support to my venture, by very quickly learning the routine and performing it at the assembly. So all I had to do was copy them.
Anyway, the end of it all, was the most incredible achievement of my life. I danced. I danced sober. I danced in front of 200 people. I didn't cry.  I danced. I finally managed to overcome all my hideous inhibitions, anxieties and paranoia and I danced. BUT, I think I might not be doing it too often. Video evidence, demonstrates a lack of coordination and fluidity in my movement. At 54 years old, I danced.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Moving into The Promised Land!

Embarking on my 5th year in Burundi. Moved into my 6th house. There have been some huge changes over the past four years.
The Front Door + Dog.
Firstly, it looks like this year's house is going to be my first real 'home'.
 For the first time, I'm not living in school accommodation, or lodging with friends or even house sitting for absent residents.
This house is one I've chosen to rent (with Alli). We chose it because it has everything we want and need (well almost).
So what did I want in a house? Light and space. What I really love, is space to walk all the way around the house.
As you can see, we have our very own little guard dog, Badger. I know he doesn't look like a Badger any more, but when he was born, he was black with a white stripe on his head.

Luxury bathroom. With fully intact, no cracks, toilet seat. As you can see, great colour co-ordination. White toilet, green bidet, beige bath and two tone floor tiles. Plus, bright orange toilet brush. Just one major draw back ....... no hot water !Back to cold showers. It is at least a hand held shower, so I am developing an elaborate system of washing using a flannel and minimal amounts of cold shower water directly hitting my body.
I know most of you are thinking...but isn't it so hot in Burundi that a cold shower would be nice? NO, NO, NO. Cold showers are never nice in my world. You are thinking of somebody else's world, not mine.
No, he's not usually allowed on the bed. It's a Saturday treat.
 So far no dramatic stories to tell of giant cockroaches or even late night ppppzzzzzzttttttting mosquitoes. Just one small bug, that did produce a large amount of blood, when squished. I rather think some of it may have been acquired from me at some point. But I have no evidence on my body to prove that theory, so I won't press charges. I suppose that means I may have executed an innocent bystander, whose only crime was to be crawling up the inside of my mosquito net. Oooops! Well let that be a warning to all bugs in my bedroom. In this room you are guilty until proved innocent and don't bank on being given time to prove your innocence.
Moving on to the kitchen, which contains everything a girl could need. Sink with cold tap. Cupboards, shelves, cooker. Ultimate luxury, a fridge freezer.
There is a slight absence of work tops, granted. The most frustrating thing we have found is that between us Alli and I have discovered we own not a single tea towel. When I think about the 100's of tea towels I have given a  home to over the past 30 years. It beggars belief that I have finally reached a point where I have not one left.
So for now it's all drip dry.

We inherited a dining table and chairs from the previous tenant.
As for the living room area, we decided to go to Budget, a large shop in Bujumbura that stocks just about everything.
The name Budget however, is a tad misleading. It is Budget, as in, have you got a huge one? If so, you might manage to purchase something in this shop. The average price of a living room suite turned out to be between 4 and 5 million francs.
We got on the moto and travelled to the Wood Working sheds of Mutanga Nord. Here we did our bit for the Burundian economy and ordered a traditional package of 3 seater, 2 seater, 2 single chairs, coffee table and 4 small tables all for the grand price of 600,000 fbu. Just got to wait until 21st of September for them to be made and delivered. A very kind friend at school has loaned us two arm chairs until then.
Alli is a tough Canadian and she had been excited by the prospect of being Bohemian and lounging on the floor with cushions for the next few weeks. Not I. My body no longer does Bohemian. It just does aching and cramping and things like that. I find myself saying things like, 'could someone help me up?' or  'I think I might be stuck here for a while.' So now we have two 'mobile' comfy (ish) chairs, that live on the balcony pre 5:30pm and living room, post 5:30pm. 5:30 is mosquito time.
So, here's the Promised Land link. The house is great. But the compound around the house is Awesome. My idea of heaven on earth is the facility to be able to relax and walk all around my house in the garden. Here I can do just that.

Left side

 Granted it all looks a bit bare just now. But it is coming to the end of the dry season. Soon, it will be green and growing.

It's hard to find fault with life, when you can wander all the way around your house in the garden.

It was a friend who referred to the house and garden being like finally reaching my Promised Land.
When I reflected on that, I realised that the Israelites waited 40 years to reach  their Promised Land, because they ticked off, God.
I briefly hoped that it wasn't the case for me, but realised quite quickly, I've done a fair bit of ticking off on my time.

I'm very grateful that even though we tick Him off, God is in the business of forgiveness and new starts. Pretty impressed with mine. I really hope that time and familiarity don't erode my appreciation.

Back - Mango tree
Right side, from back
Right side, from front
My second huge change, is that I am starting my second year as Head Teacher of The King's School - Primary.
Hopefully, I'll Blog further about that next weekend!

When I look at all the gloomy posts about teaching on Face book and talk to those returning to teaching in England this week, I realise how immensely blessed I am to be doing a job where I am excited to be going 'Back to school'.