Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Oooops, where did January go ?

My sincere apologies to anybody out there who might actually look forward to my Blog. I appear to have missed January somehow. Well actually I do know how it happened. I have come to the realisation that my Blogs have three essential ingredients: Photographs, Time and Humour. Unfortunately at the the beginning of January I was lacking two of the aforementioned ingredients. No photograhs. But perhaps more significantly, my sense of humour seemed to have deserted me. Someone had turned the light off in the funny side of life. Don't worry I don't require any sympathy or anything. Nothing particularly bad or distressing was going on. I just couldn't quite see anything amusing in the day to day occurences that were my life.
Christmas '13 - I popped home to top-up on cuddles
from the grandchildren!
So with the absence of humour and my failure to have my camera about my person when required I , kept thinking about Blogging, but not following through on those thoughts. As January crept by, I managed to resolve the photograph issue. Things were looking up, a seed of an idea appeared for possible Blog topics. By mid to late January the power was restored in the humour department. Like those energy saving bulbs, the light was slowly building. But then disaster struck, Time had fled. I found myself using every spare moment at weekends getting ready for the next week at school.
That's it. That's where January went.
Finally, February has presented me with a day that appears to contain all the ingredients needed for the birth of a Blog. It is Unity Day, (no, I don't know what it is Unity about). It is a Wednesday and it is a National holiday. I have photographs and I have a modicum of humour residing in my brain.
Here goes! (darn it, now I don't know where to start.)
Watching the Africa Cup of Nations (Football) Andrew
and I had been watching 6 Nations Rugby, but we
got out voted by the boys from CRIB and had to watch
the football instead.
ELAP. The King's school is split into four sites or compounds. Three are situated within a radius of about 500 yards. The Nursery, Infant and Junior school are all just 2 minutes walk from each other. The Secondary school however is slightly further away. A 5 minute drive or 15 minute walk down the main road (Avenue du Large). In September there was a slight anomaly in the admissions process, what I like to call 'a brain burp'. What this anomaly amounted to, was the realisation by mid November, that 18 students had been admitted to the school with severly inadequate English language skills. As a fluent Engish speaker! I became involved in finding a solution for the problem. We decided to take the 18 students out of their year 7, 8 and 9 classes, take them off curriculum and form an English Language Acceleration Programme. Thus two weeks ago we put our plan into motion. My part involves leaving the Junior school at breaktime (11am) Monday through to Thursday, jumping in a car, being driven down to the Seconday school and teaching Speaking and Listening skills till 1pm. Up until last year my experience of teaching teenagers had been seriously limited. Last year I had for the first time ever the 'joy' of having teenagers in a year 6 class.
There I stood (and continue to stand each day) faced with .... 17 (one left for Uganda) well, it is hard to put into words what I am faced with. It is probably easier to say what I am not faced with. No smiles. No happy, keen to learn faces. In fact as I look round most days I begin to wonder whether or not we are about to face the end of the world. Many of the faces commnuicate an absolute state of misery. I could be forgiven for believing that I had just missed to most depressing, catastrophic event known to mankind. Every day I have to take myself through a silent mantra. 'It wasn't me, I didn't do it. I did not cause the misery emanating from these individuals. It's not real. They are teenagers. It's their job to look disaffected and disinterested.Underneath those desolate personas are bright, lively individuals, just waiting to be set free!' And so I begin.
It has in fact been a good experience. Despite being a fluent English speaker, I have no real understanding or experience of what is involved and required in teaching  English as an additional language. My involvement in the ELAP class has not been wholly philantrophic, a large part of it is a selfish desire to improve my language teaching skills. I have begun to realise that this is a baptism of fire, if I can teach teenagers, then other age groups should be easy! Please don't disillusion me if you think otherwise.
A real silver -lining to the EAP experience, is the fact that my 'lovely' year 6 class now feel like I am bathing in bright sunshine, compared to gloom of 11:30 to 1pm Monday to Thursday. Some of my Year 6 pupils are actually older than the ELAP students, but it is interesting that they have not developed the same malcontent exhibited by those frequenting the Secondary school. I will see how things pan out over the next 8 weeks, but I think it is safe to say that I won't be rushing to work with post -Year 6 after this!
 One of the things I have enjoyed about living in Burundi, has been the walk to work. Even though I live in the city, it's really not like living in an urban environment. Unforntunately the Burundi Road Works Department have spent the last few months doing their level best to destroy all the roads in our neighbourhood. They have systematically been taking diggers along all the roads and removing all the hardened top stuff. Leaving soil that becomes slimy mud as soon as it rains. And rain it has. I now look extremely fetching as I walk to school in black trainers and a dress! On very wet days I even have to take my umbrella. Not to keep me dry, but to use as a walking stick. Apparently, the ultimate aim for all this destruction is to cobblestone all the roads in the area. At the moment all that seems to be happening is the movement of piles of cobblestones from one storage pile to another.
 It seems to have been a very wet rainy season so far. Not that my vast experience of one previous rainy season qualifies me as a reliable opinion on such things. But it does make me question the logic of our continued daily water- cuts. Most days the water is switched off from mid-morning to late afternoon. Yet recently, I still found myself the victim of my continually deteriorating memory. I had been somewhat traumatised by the attentions of Angel (aged 6) who finds my muzungu hair fascinating. She was gently playing with my hair when she declared, 'Mrs Liz you have white in your hair.' (no not dandruff!) Both I and her mother laugh a little nervously. 'Do I Angel?' Next, thing she declares even more loudly, ' Wow, you have loads of white, look it's all white here!'  Decision made. It's time to get the hair dye out. When I was younger I used to say that I would grow old gracefully. I was never going to dye my hair. Then when the reality of getting older set in, I thought 'hang that' there's going to be no grace in my aging, I'm fighting all the way.
Saturday afternoon, the time arrives. I plaster my hair in Deep Rich Brown hair chemicals and wait for time to roll back. When the thought suddenly occurs to me.......there's no water! How am I going to rinse it out? Fortunately, I'm home alone for a couple of weeks. So without any voice of sense and reason to admonish me, I use every drop of emergency water (Buckets, bottles, barrel) to save my vanity. One of these days, I'll get used to the power and water cuts, but maybe not just yet.

 Not sure what this bird is, but it was stting up in the tree outside Angel's house (the Johnson's).

The pictures of children in Green are from our latest 'House Day'. Ntahangwa continues to struggle at the bottom of the League table in the Primary school. We did lift ourselves to the lofty heights of 3 out of 4 one week. But I suspect we will have returned to the bottom at the next round up of points. It's not that we are all bad in Ntahangwa, it's just we don't quite seem to be able to put the ball in the net as it were.

What we lack in point scoring skills, we make up for in enthusiasm and joy!
 So that's about it. I will endeavour to hang on to my sense of humour a bit more carefully from now on. I'll end with some of the attempts of my little 'lovelies'  at the weekly memory verse. It is meant to be, Psalm 84 v10

" One day your temple will be bigger than one thousand people, so bless the wicked."

" One day in your temple is better than three days away. I'd rather stay in the temple than the homes of the wicked."

For those of you without a bible handy! It should say, 'One day in your temple is better than a thousand any where else. I would rather serve in your house than live in the homes of the wicked.'

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