Wednesday, October 27, 2010


These past few months have turned to weeks, and days—it hard to comprehend rational of time. Peace Corps is ephemeral by nature; two years is what you have, and as you experience highs, it is a ticking time bomb—a set of amount of time to accomplish something. During your lows, it is a sentence—a fixed time to when you can be “home” again. Yet they co-exist, somehow, to my vexation.

Mid-term exams were taken and all the students anxiously awaited the results; to their surprise, so did I. I have worked with my class 8 for 2 years now, in social studies—the most despised subject in the school. Every year the results from exam show that social studies always have the lowest average of all subjects. For students who struggle with English, social studies can be very—wordy. I didn’t know all this when I first began teaching 2 years ago, in fact I had no idea that the class I was taking on currently had a failing class average in the subject, I just knew my best subject was always social studies and history, so I eagerly choose this class.

Before I knew it I was thrown into the teaching gauntlet. I have had so many highs and lows teaching this class. There were days when I wanted to just walk out and cry; cry for the system that had failed these kids, and at time is feels as if it is almost designed for them to be unsuccessful. Yet, in small ways my students encouraged me, everyday. I could see them growing mentally, becoming curious, asking questions, and demonstrating concepts. Even when I felt beat down, I tried to enter the classroom with the same enthusiasm, and patience, I had the first day. My students brought their energy, and curiosity. Some days they brought their attitudes, hormones, and general teenage behavior, and I brought my frustrations, and exasperation, yet someone we preserved together.

The midterms are the last exam results I will see, in two weeks my class eight will seat for the national exams; the results won’t be released until January, after I have left the school. So as the teachers posted the results for the exams I anxiously waited until classes begun and the children left. I watched each minute pass with a vigilant stare. Finally when all the children ran to class, I approached the bulletin board and traced the lines of subjects with my finger. Social studies; all of my students had improved, tremendously. If I look at the results from when I first began teaching this class they began with a failing average; to this exam, in which they now have a C+ average as a class—with none of them failing. My heart busted into a million little pieces, I was so overwhelmed with unadulterated joy! Later, I met my class; told them how proud I was of them, their eyes swelled with pride, and their smiles were so genuine. I signed “ I told you if you work hard, you will improve” they responded “yes teacher, thank you”. We have a few weeks until they seat for the national exam, and there is something different in all of them, a passion, a confidence, a new life breathed in them. We are not missing a beat, continuing until the national exam, where I will be a wreck, hoping, wishing, crossing my fingers for them!

I thought as a nice reward would be a field trip to Embu, as part of our life skills class. Our main event was getting a tour of the Post Office ( pictured above), which they all enjoyed, especially when they were able to stamp some of the letters. They were so excited, to see a new and different place, to understand something new, I was proud.

I think about the two years I have spent in the classroom, I think of everything I will take away, and leave behind. Even though I am beyond proud of my classes because of the improvements they have made academically, I hope I taught them more. I hope I taught them how to be curious, to ask questions, to know their rights, to challenge themselves, to see a person for who he or she is not what they look like, to be more human. When I think of everything that I will take away—well that list could consist of a whole book. It was best of times, it was the worst of times, I think that one has been taken.... I will say I have seen great warmth in people, I have seen charity, and honesty, but I have also seen corruption, apathy, and even violence. Yet the juxtaposition, and the emotion that comes with living a in world with both, well, often leaves me vexed. I know that every time I am discouraged by the world, I throw my energy into my students; they are my hope. I’ll put it this way, a phrase I hear often from people at home is that I am changing the world, but the way I really see it, for better or worse, the world has changed me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Like a Rolling Stone

Every year the jacaranda blooms in October. All year it sits in silence- amongst the trees, just waiting for its time to shine, patient.
Then like a red headed stepchild, it blooms- and there it is exposed to the world, all the green leaves fall, all thats left is a smear of electric purple, that rains on all of Embu.
I love jacaranda season.

I recently finished my COS ( close of service) conference at a nice hotel not so far from me. Its hard to describe what I am feeling these days--part nostalgia, fear, excitement, curiosity, happiness, and a longing. There are million things I love about living in Kenya, I have become so accustomed to life here, I actually find it hard to remember a different life.

I love the excitement I feel every morning, the quite cups of tea, the line of children who run to help me carry me books, the greeting from the other teachers, the time spent alone. I get so much joy from the smallest gestures of kindness, the small hands signing- big ideas, the time, time to read, to think, make the world go silent--and to just be.

For all the these months, time has slowed me down to a snails pace, like a donkey dragging its feet, now it taunts me with its change of pace! These next few weeks will include helping with the new groups training, finishing up some projects, taking the GRE, applying to grad school, finalizing my travel plans, tying up lose ends here, finishing strong with my class 8 who are seating for national exams next month, saying goodbye to fellow volunteers, friends, and my students.

I feel almost the same way I did 2 years ago! Everything I have known for 2 years will be turned upside down, I'll be thrown into a different culture ( well is it different, or am I?), but I am strangely excited by the next adventure. This experience has taught me so much-- equivalent to my 4-years at university. My teachers Emerson, Hemingway, Marquez, Eggars, and the hundreds of other authors I have read--along with all my co-workers, community members, and my students- who teach me something new everyday.

I'll finish up these next few months, trying to soak everything up, trying to absorb all the happiness here, so I can use it for a rainy day when things may not be so bright in the future.

Whatever the next adventure brings--I am ready to jump, without hesitation.