Tuesday, May 20, 2008

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Class ended. With a bang. I wrapped up the year teaching the students a few last literary devices. It was riveting. We got through archaisms, allusions, and allegories (don’t worry, we weren’t going alphabetically). The allusions (Tanzanian pronunciation: arrusions) was especially amusing. With the classes help we whittled down the definition to “A direct or indirect reference to a well known person, place, thing, or event.” Example: Someone who is wise can be wise as Solomon. Asking the class if everyone followed, and seeing 90 heads nod in the affirmative, I asked them to give it a try. After a few seconds, one of the braver girls in the class tentatively raised a hand and offered: “The mother bore a child, the child was dead.” Hmmmm. Okay, back to the drawing board. “How does that fulfill the requirements of our definition???” No response. Okay, someone else give it a go. Next came one of my best students. He raised his hand and suggested: “Israel is the place where the Jews live” Hmmmm. Strike two. I tried backpedalling to tie “Israel” into an allusion. NOW, do we all understand what allusions are??? Everyone nods their heads: Yes. Okay, someone give me a real allusion. A boy in the back stands up: For God so loved the World he gave us His Son. Alright, well he’s alluding to something, even if this isn’t what I wanted. As I walked back to home I wondered if my students’ comprehension was just an illusion...or irrusion.

Other memorable moments were the simile a student offered me: “This class is as long as my penis” (I was quite proud he made a rather abstract connection between length in time and length in space). The awkwardness of this moment however, was compounded by the fact that I thought he said “My beans” and I asked him to repeat his answer three times. Or there was the student who, giving me an example of onomatopoeia, said, “The lion says Moooo” and another student, “the car goes uuuuu.” Or the student who, trying to give me an example of an archaism, suggested “Gracias” since, he said, “this means ‘thank you’ in the land of the Italians.” Close enough.

In all fairness, I think the last few lessons on creative writing were a bit out of these students’ leagues. In fact, I think some of my friends in Canada couldn’t come up with a Litote or an Archaism if I asked them. But they are still good people.

On one of our last days, Vanessa and I went to the school to take some pictures. When we got there we saw all the students outside between the classrooms. This might be interesting we thought. I was about to take a few pictures when the headmaster came to greet us (again, greeting here is a 5 minute ordeal: how are you? Your home? Your work? Your friends..etc.). I asked if we could take some pictures of the school to show our friends back home and he said, “Of course you are welcome.” (Aside: many Tanzanians say Of Course to emphasize saying Yes, it’s really funny. One student, Titus, is the best at it. I called him Mr. Titus one morning and he replied, “But of course you may call me Mr. Titus”). Anyways, I asked what was going down at the school and why the students were all out of class. He told me that 4 students were being expelled. Two boys had been found using opium and living in the village with some woman of ill-repute and two girls had been found drinking. So we packed up the camera and inched our way backwards. Awkward.

This is just one example of the fact that I never really knew what to expect when I went to the school. One day I went there and it was a national holiday. The other day I went up to teach my Form III students and they were all pouring out of the classroom and heading to the village. I was a bit late, but time here does not really mean what it does back home (e.g. the other teachers can come about 30 to 40 minutes after a class should have began and go for about 50 to 60 minutes after it should have ended). I saw the headmaster with a few teachers following the students and quickened my pace to catch up with the growing mob. The headmaster informed me that last night some students had stolen the school’s plastic lawn chairs and sold them to a man in the village and they were going to raid the village and return them. Mob violence in Tanzania is very real and accepted, just 2 days ago the nightguard at Ikuza (I wrote about him in an earlier blog) had both his sons stoned to death when they were found guilty of stealing and last time we were in Mwanza a man was inches away from being stoned in the street, but a guard with a rifle managed to take him away. Anyways, I was thinking that this might get ugly. Fortunately it didn’t. The chairs were returned, the students expelled, and the man who bought them was fined 300,000 shillings and a cow. Did that make sense? Of course. So the school now has a brand new cow tied up out back.

We said our goodbyes on Friday. The school hosted a big assembly and made a feast of rice, beans, fried beef, meat stew, and tomato salad. Good stuff. Some of the teachers gave speeches imploring us to stay. They offered both of us full time teaching positions and they would construct us a house. We’ll see what happens. At the clinic, Vanessa’s coworkers had dessert and sodas for us. I was surprised at how little English they speak there compared with the school. But that is over and Kahunda is now a collection of memories of unique students and patients, lessons and lesions, beaches, naked bathers, fishermen laughing in the night, struggling with propane stoves and battery operated lighting that never seemed to work, making everything from scratch (more Vanessa than myself) and a whole bunch of smells and tastes and sounds that don’t translate well into words.

Now we are in Mwanza. Tomorrow we fly out to Arusha for our Mountain Climbing adventure. Mwanza is pretty uneventful. We went to a nearby “cafe” for some tea and coffee yesterday morning and were surprised that the price for two cups was only 1500 shillings ($1.20). We were more surprised (or perhaps less) when they came out with a kettle of boiling water and gave Vanessa a tea bag and me a pot of instant coffee grinds. Nasty. We are enjoying the city though. Bob took us to see some of the missionary homes yesterday and the home of the old AIC archbishop. He lives in a large place on a mountain peak overlooking the lake. Quite beautiful. He’s an English M.A. as well, which is interesting. If teaching ever falls through, maybe I could find a job as archbishop somewhere.

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