Drama at School…

As my title suggests, today there was my first real piece of drama at school.Half way through my lesson, a little girl (Daphin), asks if she can go to the toilet.  She’s finished her work, and is a good student… of course, I say, hurry back.

In she comes a few minutes later, crying her eyes out.  The class turns into chaos, as everyone tries to establish what has happened in a multitude of languages.

Finally, I manage to talk to her… What’s wrong, I ask.  “Teacher Duncan beat me”.  Why??? I ask.  “Because I was outside the classroom.”

I was furious.  I think I have made my feelings on caning completely clear to the other teachers, and anyway, it’s completely disrespectful to cane another teacher’s student, rather than coming to see me first.

So after class, I went to the usual gang of teachers hanging around outside, and ask what happened.  No one knows, but lets go and ask Teacher Duncan.

So, I tell Teacher Duncan that while I appreciate his assistance, under no circumstances do I want him beating my students, especially not during my class time.  I gave the child permission to go to the toilet – I don’t expect another teacher to cane her without my knowledge.  In the future, if he has issues with my students, he should direct them to me.

To my shock, Teacher Duncan looked like a scolded school boy, looked truly ashamed, and stammered “I’m so sorry Teacher Gabi… it won’t happen again.”

This place can be seriously weird sometimes…


A "typical" Friday!

Today has been such a busy, fun day.  I love life here!So in the morning, as usual, I taught at school.  Today’s amusing anecdote:  the school priest/ religion teacher came to greet me when I was sitting outside with the other teachers.  He had his wife with him (a severe looking woman carrying a Bible, and dressed head to toe in black).  He comes to chat to me, and stands above me, CLEARLY looking down my top.  “Ahem”, I say.  He grins, and says: “You have nice shoes”.  “You’re kidding, right?” I ask, in a disapproving tone.  “No, your shoes really are lovely”.  Great priest there people…

Then of course there was the young male teacher blatantly flirting with a schoolgirl.. No biggy.  No one bats an eyelid.

My box of chalk was stolen from the staff room.  Petty.

Aaaand, one of the nuns reinforced for me that yes, I really should have a stick.  She keeps one on her desk “just in case”.  I was offered another chance to have my own stick, which I gratefully declined.  Although I’m beginning to think that I might accept one, just for the souvenir effect.

Some kids really are daft.  Today one child drove me up the wall.  Half way through the spelling test, I look up, and see her sitting there with no paper, no pencil, doing nothing.  “Faith, what are you doing?”  “Nothing.” “I can see that, WHY are you doing nothing?” – blank stare-.  “Faith, you know the rest of the class is doing a spelling test?? Why aren’t you writing??”  “Because I have no paper”.  “Where is you work book??”  “In my desk”.  “Faith, TAKE IT OUT.”   Later on, we’re reading a text from the textbook.  I look up, once again, Faith is doing nothing.  “Faith, where is your book?”  “I don’t have one.”  “Why not??” “My mum can’t afford to buy me one.”  Okay, I said, no problem, please go and sit over there, and share with Christopher.  So what does she do??  She stands up and starts trying to move her WHOLE DESK to the other side of the class room….  “Faith, you don’t need to move your desk… just sit at the spare space that is there….”  But my nerves were being tested 🙂

After school, we went swimming with the kids.  Of course, by the time we got to the swimming pool, there was terrential rain.  I said I didn’t mind, it would stop soon, as the sky was blue.  The kids were desperate to swim.  So in we go, into the outdoor pool.  In the rain.  The kids soon started screaming and wailing.  We all had to go back inside again, having swum about 15 mins, with all the black people sheltering from the rain and watching in bewilderment as the crazy wazungus take their kids swimming…

From the swimming pool, we headed to the elephant orphanage.  Driving along the road we met a stray giraffe, taking an evening stroll along the road 🙂  Our “family” has adopted a little baby elephant called Naipoki, so we were going to visit her.  She was incredibly cute, and wanted to make friends.  She wrapped her trunk around my arm, and gave it a tug, to pull me closer to play.  She nearly took my arm off!  I was seriously shocked to see that an elephant shorter than me with a trunk not longer than my arm had such strength!!  Eventually she got too tired, and was tucked up (under blankets) for bedtime.

The orphaned elephants drink 12 pints of baby (human) powered milk every 3 hours night and day until they are about 3!!  The wardens sleep with their “baby”, and have to be with them constantly during the day.  I was surprised also at how intelligent elephants are – they respond to their names.

One baby elephant was brought in about an hour before we arrived.  A victim of poaching – he has a spear wound to the head 😦  Poor thing was so sad and scared.

If anyone wants to donate online by the way – do contact me for more info.

And today’s piece of trivia:  I find it stupidly amusing that Kenyan money is referred to as “bob”.  Ie.  “How many bob does that cost?”  “Oh it’s 30 bob”.

Good night, I’m off to Nakuru tomorrow morning at 7 – to visit the flamingos!!!

I’m in love with Kenya

The days seem to pass so quickly here, because I always have so much to do.  Once again, I have many adventures to fill you in on!On Sunday, I went to Nairobi National Park with friends… and went on my FIRST SAFARI.  And maaan was I lucky.  I saw all the animals that I could really wish to see, that live in this area- giraffes, zebras, a lion with 3 cubs, a black rhino, wildebeest, gazelles, buffalos… just everything you need to have a great safari.  It was breathtaking, and exciting and so awesome.  We were able to see the lions from about 3-4 metres away, as they had killed a zebra near the road, and were guarding it.  The guide told us they wont leave that place until they have eaten the whole zebra.  The rhino was huge, and like something from another planet.  The giraffes are incredibly tall… none of my photos do the animals justice.  And all set against a background of high-rise buildings in the distance (the park is on the outskirts of Nairobi city).

Yesterday was my day off from teaching, so Geraldine (the lady who I live with) took me to visit the Sheldrick foundation elephant orphanage.  My goodness, are baby elephants cute???  They all have terrible stories though- most of them lost their mothers through poaching.  They are all very cheeky and sweet though, and love their mudbaths…  They were throwing dust and mud around and at each other 🙂   Our “family” adopted a baby elephant, which means we can go and visit her in private on Friday evening… will be great.

The elephant orphanage is essentially in the bush – with no shade.  And of course yesterday the real African sun decided to come out for proper.  It was HOT… and more than heat, the sun burns here!  You can really feel the rays… its awesome.

Today I had another amusing day at school.  I taught my year 4 class, and decided to scrap the textbook today, and played games with them.  Boys against girls – spellings, vocab, charades.  They absolutely loved it.  The girls won (of course) by one point, and so I gave the boys the penalty of having to go out into the playground and do 10 press ups in front of everyone.  There was plenty of giggling.  The kids all loved it.  And at the end of the lesson, they taught me their daily Kiswahili phrase.  Today they taught me:  “Wewe ni mwalimu mzuri sana.”  (You’re a great teacher).  I swear I love those kids!!  And to make things even better:  I have a dyslexic student who no one else has paid any attention to – and I have already become the meddling teacher by giving him extra lessons and help.  He came upto me at the end of class, and told me, teacher, this lesson I got 7/15 spellings right in the test!!  (For the past 3 tests, he got 1/15).  He asked me, please will you help me more??  I wanted to cry… he’s such a sweet kid, and so hard working.

I’ll finish with an amusing image.  I had a free period today at school, and was sitting in the playground in the sun.  The head teacher, priest, and some teachers come out to join me.  The priest takes out his mobile phone (glittering purple), and puts on his playlist:  a strange mix of oldschool Backstreet boys, and sexual rap.  The teachers are all there, bobbing their heads along, laughing, chatting – questioning my teaching technique as “too active”… all of a sudden, up they hop:  “nearly end of class, better go back and check that the kids did their work”.  It turns out, they had given the kids work at the start of the lesson, then come outside to relax… and went back at the end of class to collect the work.  I do raise an eyebrow at the morale of teachers over here…  Anyway, no wonder like this I seem “too active”… 🙂

Lala salama!  (Sleep well!)

Weekend number 2

Hello everyone!!  It’s been a whole week since my last blog, but we haven’t had internet.  It’s Africa – we have power cuts every day, and sometimes things just don’t work.  Sometimes the electricity supply is too weak to actually power appliances, and the lights can only manage a dim glow.  When something doesn’t work (for example, the internet) the company can never be bothered to help.  So it takes time to get anything done.  Please please please don’t panic if I disappear for a couple of days again, it will just be some ridiculous power cut or something!  Although, it was kindof cute that people got so worried :-)So Monday-Thursday there was no teaching, as the kids were doing exams.  I supervised the English exam, which was funny.  A class of 10 year olds where asked to give the definition of the word “irrigation”…  Lets go and ask some English 10 year olds that question…

On Friday I taught classes as usual, but perhaps the most amusing part of Friday was a “lecture” I received from the teachers.  3 guys were stood outside, so I went to join them during my free class.  They handed me a stick and asked if I knew what it was.  “A stick??”  I was told “Yes, it’s used for teaching”…. Haha…. For beating the kids I asked?  For many things, they told me… but without a stick, I will not be able to maintain any respect or authority within my classroom.  Laughing, I told them I don’t need a stick to have authority over my students.  Laughing, they told me… oh yes I do.  How else will I threaten them??  I told them I make my misbehaving students write lines at home.  And if they are very naughty, I will call in their parents.  (This being a very big threat over here, because those privileged enough to go to a good school do not want to shame their parents, and will probably be beaten at home).  The teachers told me:  “For many of these children, they receive no moral guidance at home, we are their parents, so we have to beat them.”  I could see I was fighting a pointless battle, so I declined offers to have a stick carved for me, and gave up on the anti-beating speech.  However, the teachers changed tactic:  “What will you do, if a huge snake comes into your classroom?  With no stick, how will you beat it to death??”  I assured them no snake will come into my class.  Oh but it might, they told me.  “In the unlikely event that a huge snake comes into my classroom, I’m sure I will manage to find an implement with which to beat it to death.” I told them.  They were satisfied.  Beating things to death seems to be a necessary part of life here.  So long as I was willing to beat the snake with something, everyone’s happy.

The bell had gone in the meantime.  “Are you not teaching this lesson?”  They asked.  “Yes I am,” I told them, “but I’m getting better at African time.  No one moves when the bell goes, the teacher won’t come out of the class, and let me begin… you have to wait a bit, and start late.  That’s African time.”  Doubled up from laughter at the crazy mzungu… they told me “African time??? Don’t be silly”… 🙂

Yesterday I went horse riding in an attempt to get over  my dislike of horses.  But it wasn’t very successful.  They gave me a horse that was very stubborn, and seemed to find it hilarious that every now and again, the horse just decided it had had enough.  When we were running, it would just stop suddenly, and I almost flew off a few times… and sometimes it just decided to go home to its stable, and  made a break for the exit.  Perfect horse to give a beginner….  Don’t think I’ll go back again…

In the afternoon I went to an expats meeting, where I met loads of lovely new people.  I can’t believe how many young people have moved to Kenya for work…. So cool 🙂

My first weekend

Today I stayed in bed until 8AM!!! What a luxury!!  I did feel supremely guilty hearing the kids SCREAMING in the living room, but too bad – it’s my day off…In the morning I rested, marked essays, and so forth.  There was one excellent essay – about how the girl’s favourite time of day is English lessons, because her new teacher is so amazing and brilliant… full marks for her I say 🙂

After lunch I decided to man up, and confront Africa head on.  I put on my hiking boots, and put on my headphones (I haven’t been listening to music for fear of being mugged so far).  I set off to the Karen Blixen museum.  It was a loooong walk – about 7 kms from my house.  I decided to hold my white head high, and shout Jambo to anyone I meet…I can’t stay in Africa for 3 months and be scared to go anywhere.  Surely no one will hurt me for being white, if I’m nice…

I came to a crossing, and couldn’t decide which way to turn.  So, I turned to the nearest person, and asked the way to Karen Road.  He smiled, and said – “Oh, you want to go to your country club?”  No… I said, I want to see the museum.  His attitude changed immediately, and grinning, he directed me to the “fantastic museum” (It’s a state heritage site).  Country club, in Africa?? No wonder they think white people are bonkers…

I had my first meeting with the African sun today.  So all in all, I slightly regretted deciding to walk the whole way by the time I got there.  But I’m scared of the matatus, because of their deadly driving.

The Karen Blixen house was very nice – lots of movie props have been donated by Universal Studios, to help make the house more authentic.  I took a stroll in the gardens, and met the cutest animal that was chilling on a cactus tree.  I can’t remember what it’s called.  But it makes very funny noises, and they are hunted for their furs.

Afterwards, I went to Kazuri – a bead factory, set up to give single mothers a profession and means of earning a living.  They hand make and hand paint allsorts of beads, and make jewellery.  The factory was closed, so the ladies in the shop told me to peek in the windows.  I was just peeking, when I was accosted by a security guard.  He told me to come with him, he’ll give me a private tour.  I was naturally, terrified.  He took me by the back route, to a shed, assuring me we were going to look at how clay is made.  I couldn’t think of a way to run away 😀  And, it turned out he was taking me to see the clay.  Then he told me to come inside a shed.  Once again, I was sure this is where I would get macheted to pieces.  But no, he showed me the kiln.  Then he laughed, and put his arm through an open window, opened the workshop door for me and took me on a guided tour of the workshop.  We went out, he smiled, wished me a nice day, and left me.  Just goes to show where the world has gotten to – I was genuinely terrified, and convinced he was luring me into a shed to rape and kill me.  In fact, he didn’t want my 7 km hike in the heat to be in vain.

I chickened out of getting a matatu, and started walking home… however, a matatu saw me on the roadside, and stopped.  So I thought, now or never… and hopped in.  I smiled jovially at the bus of black people, and held on for dear life.  Needless to say, I survived that aswell 🙂

September 9th, 2011

I really hate the rainy season.  It’s cold, and muddy, and wet.  Whoever thought I’d come to Africa and be cold. I’m hoping the warm weather will come soon.  I’m told by everyone at school that the bad weather is due to global warming – there shouldn’t be rain at this time of year.  Earlier in the week there were Safari ants everywhere – which is apparently a local indicator of rain.  They’ve disappeared now… so here’s hoping.
My classes were dedicated and cheerful again.  They had to hand in their first homework assignment today – a composition piece about a time that they were really scared.  I only had time to leaf through the first couple of essays, but I can tell it will be great fun marking them.  Essay 1, by a little girl: “I was collecting firewood in the forest, when suddenly I was faced by two cheetahs.  I was very scared, so I dropped the firewood and ran away quickly.  I was safe.”  Essay 2, by a small boy: “I was playing football, and kicked my ball into the bushes.  So I went to get it and there was a big snake in front of my ball.  I ran to get my dad, and he killed it for me.”  Essay 3, by another girl: “I was on my way home from school, and I took the short cut.  I walked across a field, and almost stepped on a cobra.  I quickly picked up a stick and beat it until it was dead.  I promised my dad never to take the short cut again.”  Essay 4: “I was in bed one night when I was woken by a strange man climbing through my window.  He started stealing things from our house, but my dad and brother caught him and called the police.”

… Beats the old “I went shopping on the weekend, and watched Eastenders.  There was a spider in my room and it scared me.”

I took tea with the sister who runs the school, and much to my amusement she is ADAMANT that tea with milk is a Kenyan invention, and definitely is in no way related to the English habit.  I told her we drink tea with milk in England.  “No, it’s not possible – it’s African.”  I gave up persuasion in the end 🙂  Also, I’m not allowed to drink tea without eating bread with it – an African tradition it would seem…

I have launched myself into studying Kiswahili, and intend to be able to hold a conversation before I leave in December!  One of the teacher brought in a Swahili textbook today for me to borrow so I can teach myself!

Kwaheri ya kuonana everyone 🙂 (Goodbye and see you soon… I think)


September 7th, 2011

I’ve been in Kenya for 4 days, but it seems like a lot longer.  I’ve already seen the posh compounds and the slums…, the supermarket and the orphanages…

I’m now well aware of the fact that I’m a “mzungu” (white person), and am entirely used to people pointing, staring, and shouting “mzungu mzungu” whenever I pass anyone on the street.

Today I started my volunteer job at the school in town.  I have 2 classes: class 3 (8-9 years old), and class 4 (10-11 years old).  What can I say, I have never met children more willing and eager to learn!  A near scuffle breaks out every time I ask a question – hands shoot up in desperation to be the next person to answer.

The text books we use only cover African topics, so today I had to teach the class about clans!  Which was quite amusing, seeing as I know nothing.  They stared at me in confusion when I tried to pronounce the various clan names that I had researched.  In the end, I laughed, and said “why don’t you guys teach me about clans, because we don’t have them in my country”.  Hands shot up, and I got a brilliant explanation!

However, perhaps the most shocking was the end of class.  The bell went for break, but no one moved, because I was still speaking.  Not a twitch.  Then I told them  “class dismissed”.  No one moved.  I started packing my stuff, shuffling papers.  Nothing.  Eventually a boy stood up and said: “teacher, we can’t leave before praying, and teacher has to leave before us”.  So I grabbed my bag, and raced to the door, at which point the whole class stood to attention and recited a really long prayer.  This from a group of 10 year olds.  They also gave me a masaii bracelet as a present… which was so kind.

I also was given a tour of the new building site by the Sister who runs the school, and she filled me in on many miracle stories 🙂

I do love the house where I live.  The family are lovely.  I look after 4 very cute but very crazy kids – all under the age of 5.  Etienne is 5, Lise is 4, Sammy is 2, and Babo is the baby of the house at 1.  Babo is so funny, he only speaks Kiswahili because his nanny speaks to him in Kiswahili.  When I speak to him in English, he just looks at me with biiig confused eyes!  The other kids are great, super active – always either playing or fighting.  But also keen to please 🙂

Next post coming soon… missing you all 🙂 xxxx