Sunday, 17 March 2013

For Leah

Tonight I am actually not sorry that I am 4000 miles away from England. I have just 'watched' the England Rugby Union team attempt to win the Grand Slam, via Facebook messages with my son. The messages were short and to the point. It was clearly not a match to enjoy as an England fan!

Whilst 'watching' the rugby I have also been composing my end of term exams. It's really not a task I enjoy. Me and exams have never really got along too well.
My first major fall out with them was my 11+. This I managed to fail and was thus condemned to attend the not very local Comprehensive school. Not that I would have coped well with the Grammar school. With it's straw hats in Summer and felt boaters in the Winter.
My next non-triumph was O levels, where I managed a staggering amount of fails. My pinnacle being an Unclassified in maths. I even managed to get an E in Biology, a subject that hitherto, I had only achieved A's in!! A' levels were an equal struggle. Fantastic failures in my Mocks, to be followed by some daring scrape-throughs in the final exams.
One of my problems has always been multiple choice. Somehow I know the answer until I'm presented with some plausible options, then I go to pieces.
So, it has been a huge torment to me, setting exams for my own students. Not to mention the fact that I have suddenly come face to face with all the things we never got round to doing during the term!

At the Crib House - this photo was taken by Dada
Last weekend was a very different state of affairs. The King's School was set up about 16 years ago to educate the children of the CRIB Orphanage (40 in number, now aged from 11 to 20'ish). Five of the children in my class are from Crib. So, I have gradually been getting to know them over the past months.
 Last Friday 8th of March, 19 year old Leah lost her life long battle with Aids. I had only met Leah on one previous occasion. At Christmas I had sat next to her, at the Christmas movie night. It was a night that almost blew my mind! I sat in the open air in late December under a clear night sky. Watching a movie on a big screen. To my left sat Leah, who I had just been told was slowly losing her battle with aids. On my right sat Janine who had on our first meeting (back in August) stared at me so aggressively that I almost turned to jelly on the spot. And now Janine was hugging my arm and wanting reassurance that I would be returning after the Christmas break. And Leah just smiled and sat quietly watching the film. That evening I was overwhelmed by the enormous privilege I had in being part of these lives, even if it was only on a very small level.
In Burundi the tradition is to bury the dead as soon as possible. So Leah's funeral was on the Saturday. This presented huge logistical problems and meant that some of the Crib children were not able to attend the funeral itself. All the children in Years 5, 6 and 7 needed to stay behind.
 It was an honour for me to be asked to go and spend the time with them. We spent time remembering Leah's life and what she had mean to each one of them. The children prayed and sang and thanked God for her.  I ended that time knowing what a precious life had been lost. But I had a real picture of a young lady who had enjoyed life. She had been a real fighter. She loved monopoly, the children said. And she always won....but only because she cheated! She was bossy and spoke her mind .......but always because she wanted the best for us!
 It is so hard to put down in words what an immense privilege it was to be part of that time together.

There were also other more light hearted points. I experienced 'lunch' with the Crib kids. They were a little taken aback when I said, of course I wanted to eat with them! So, I was duly furnished with two plastic plates, one containing a large amount of beans in sauce, topped by what I thought at first were grass cuttings, but I was assured were Sombe, ( a legitimate vegetable.) In the second bowl there rolled, what looked suspiciously like a large lump of grey Play Doh. This, I was informed was Bugali. And Bugali I was told was, very nice. Ok. Next, came the somewhat interesting logistics of getting the said food into my mouth. No cutlery, is used for this meal. You take a small ball of play doh, sorry, bugali,  roll it around in your fingers and make a small dent in it. Then you dip the bugali ball into the beans and grass cuttings, sorry, sombe, then eat! Easy! Messy, very messy. Somehow it seemed to manage to dribble all the way up (or down) to my elbow. Not only very messy, but also not one of nicest flavour and texture combinations I have experienced. On my list of 'Nasty Green Things What I Have Eaten in Burundi' Sombe went in at second nastiest. No 1 Nasty is Sukumu Wiki. No 3 Nasty is Lenga Lenga. When the children asked if I would ever eat with them again, I said yes, but maybe not on a Bugale day!

I also decided on that Saturday to break my strict rule of never lending my camera to anyone under 21. It seemed right to allow two of the youngsters to have a time using it. In the morning Dada, had fun pointing it at people and clicking. Then Freddie said, 'Mrs Liz can I have a go with your camera?'
Before I had even had time to open my mouth, I was hit by an onslaught of shouts. 'No, don't let Freddie touch it.' 'He'll break it.' 'He'll smash it.' 'He's not to be trusted with things like that.'
There's  something in me, that rebells when I'm given advice like that. I just wanted to say, he's never broken anything of mine. So, in the afternoon I sought Freddie out, and gave him my camera, with a commission to take care of it and bring it back in one piece. He gave it back later with a big smile and a very interesting selection of photographs, which made me think he might well have a future in photography. All the photo's in the Blog are part of Freddies Album.

So to close, it is now Sunday. I have been on a 3 hour walking tour of Bujumbura. Just one little tale, from the walk. We (Alli + me) turned down a small back street to be faced by some cows coming towards us, sporting some extrememly oversized horns. I started my little 'mantra', which goes along the lines of, ' I'm not afraid of cows, I'm not afraid of cows .............' I managed about 6 steps and then my body decided to STOP, I am afraid of cows. I stood. I could hear Alli saying something about them being fine and not being interested in us and not to worry. I managed to blurt out, 'Alli stop, I can't walk any further.' When the lead cow changed direction and headed straight for her!! Great big horns and everything. It walked right in front of her and tossed it's head at her AND THEN started walking towards me. I'm frantically looking for somewhere to hide. I turn, there is a young Burundian boy (about 10) standing behind me. We look at each other. I think about hiding behind him, but then again maybe not. So I half slide, half teeter on the edge of the drainage ditch and hope! The cow passes without tossing it's head me. Which means I don't wet my pants. Now its the turn of the second cow. It too walks straight at Alli, tosses it's head and walks on past me.Dry pants.  Cow three, omits the head toss. Cow four, omits the change of direction and head toss. The whole scene ends with a man hanging out of a window above where I'm standing, laughing and saying, ' You scared of cows? they no hurt you, they cows.'
Oh yeah! In England cows trample people to death you know!!

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