Africa: Umeshindaje?

Hujambo!  Today was the first day at my volunteer site.  I am working at an orphanage – many of the children are boarding at school or other places right now, so today, I had about 15-20 kids, ranging in age from 2 to 9 or 10.  They were quite interested in the new mzungu and were entertained by my lack of Kiswahili.

They managed to teach me to count to ten, and in exchange I read a few stories to them.  We also did some math exercises and spelling.  When they finish – they shout “teacher!” and bring me their exercise book to check it.  Then I get to write something and draw a smiley face or a star which goes over quite well.  I’m also getting a refresher on my multiplication tables and addition and subtraction – it’s been a while.

The orphanage itself does not have a lot – my coworker/buddy Preska reminded me today how hard it is to teach without a chalkboard… anything we do with the kids we have to write down and they have to copy it into their exercise books.  Things seem fairly structured – there is time for math, spelling, a break time that consists of some fun songs and dancing (today we sang you are my sunshine, a fun song about shaking your booty and feliz navidad!).  I may introduce head, shoulders, knees and toes and another christmas song tomorrow.  There is a paper christmas tree stapled to a “wall” in the facility.

The facility itself is an open courtyard surrounded by their bedrooms, the kitchen area, bathroom, and offices.  The courtyard is all dirt, and our teaching area is on the side of it,  two long tables with bench seats and we are covered by an aluminum roof, thank goodness, because it was hot today!  I didn’t want to take pictures today, but will do so a little later in the game.  I may have my phone with me tomorrow to get just a few.

When we got home, Primo had fixed us the best lunch ever.  Pumpkin soup and grilled cheese. It’s like he knows when we’re going to need comfort food.  We then had a health session with a doctor from the local hospital and by that point we were so full and tired, Baba let us all take a nap before our Kiswahili lesson.  I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.  It reminded me of all the naps I took in Samoa during training – your brain is fried and you’re full – combined with the heat of the afternoon, you have no choice but to sleep.

We had a good Kiswahili lesson, and I feel like I’m picking it up fairly quickly and not mispronouncing too much.  The vowels are the same as in Spanish or Samoan… I’m just getting used to grouping all of the consonants and what that sounds like.  Umeshindaje, the title of this post, is a question asking how your day has been.  I now know several ways to greet and respond, counting, other random things like “let’s go!” and please and thank you and “bless you” when someone sneezes.  That I learned mostly because my allergies have been crazy since I’ve been here.  No idea what the cause is, but I’ve been saying samahani (excuse me) quite a bit.

All that said, it’s time for another lovely meal from Primo.  So I’m going to go wash up and get ready for dinner!  Tutaonana kesho (see you later!).

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2 thoughts on “Africa: Umeshindaje?

  1. Jessica, you are my hero! I wish I could something like this. Although I would cry my eyes out for all those parentless children. Give them lots of love from me too.

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