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Surprise Endings; Beginning Again
12 October 2004

On Friday, Zac suggested we go to Okashana, to look at some natural springs that are nearby. It was a cool day (only about 85 F) so I thought we could walk there as soon as school was out at 1pm. Zac said he talked to Mrs. Ndove though, and she said she was going there around 5pm, so we should just get a ride with her. Around 6pm, Mrs. Ndove was finally ready to go and picked us up in her husband's BMW. I wasn't sure how much of a walk we'd have with only an hour of daylight left, but Zac didn't seem worried. On the short ride to Okashana, Mrs. Ndove picked up two learners we found along the way, who said they were going to visit one of their brothers there.

Finally, we pulled in to the place, and we got out to look for someone who could tell us where the springs were. There was a bunch of food set out on one table, and I said to Zac, "It looks like someone is having a party here." Just then, like a swarm of bees, learners rushed out from behind the bar shouting, "SURPRISE! SURPRISE!" I found myself surrounded by the AIDS club, all laughing and jumping around, because I was indeed surprised. They all gave me hugs, and of course I was crying.AidsGroup2.jpg (154980 bytes)

It turned out they had all collaborated with Mrs. Ndove to throw me a surprise farewell party. The program was just like one of our AIDS club performances, with songs, poems, and speeches, except they were all about, "Miss Sera, our Coordinator" instead of the deadly virus. The only thing missing was a drama. I was quite touched by their thoughtfulness and gratitude. Somehow in the end, it seems like they found a way to give back more to me than I ever gave to them.

On Saturday, we woke up at 6:30am to help catch our chickens for Mrs. Ndove. She had wanted to buy our whole brood for some time, but wasn't in any hurry until our black hen mysteriously died. When I told her, she seemed worried about our ability to care for chickens, so she said she'd take them all to her farm this weekend. I was a bit tired of our porch being covered in chicken poop, so I agreed. Although, I have to confess, I wasn't looking forward to life without chickens.

I really felt like a traitor as I chased the chickens and held the small ones trembling in my hand, while a learner tied their feet with black string. The mother hen squawked a good deal and broadcast to the whole neighborhood about this great injustice that was being done to her and her clan. The white rooster wouldn't give up his dignity so easily and insisted upon hoping around the yard with his legs tied together, occasionally pecking at the string.Chickens3.jpg (138751 bytes)

Fortunately, we weren't able to catch all 21 of our chickens. We got the big ones ok, but the babies could still slip through the fences, so we couldn't catch all of them. Mrs. Ndove didn't want to separate the mother from her babies, so we still have the white hen (our original chicken) and her 11 babies, plus two other chicks who managed to escape the round-up. So we'll continue to fatten them up until they can't fit through the fence, and then we'll send them off to the farm as well.

Sunday night I prepared for my first lessons with the grade 11 HIGCSE learners. This exchange sums it up:
Zac: [Chuckling at my flurry of activity] It's like the first day of school all over again.
Sera: Yeah, except this time I know what I'm doing.

So it was that on Monday, the day before my grade 12s wrote their final exam and concluded their English endeavors, I started teaching grade 11 HIGCSE English. It was only by beginning again that I fully realized how much I have learned over the last two years. Instead of my "figure out each day as it comes" approach, I actually have a plan, set objectives in mind, and I know exactly what I need to do in order to prepare the grade 11s for their exam. I learned because I made a lot of mistakes, but I'm glad now to have a brief time to fix everything, to do it right. I am now, perhaps for the first time since being here, traveling a route I know, instead of trying to figure out everything for the first time.

It's good to be able to apply what I've learned before I leave, to get the next batch of learners on their way, but I worry about sustainability. I am currently working closely with the grade 11 English teacher, so hopefully I can pass on all of what I've learned to him. He is a first-year teacher, and wasn't quite prepared for teaching HIGCSE (Higher International General Certificate of Secondary Education) English. His learners kept coming to me, asking me to teach them as soon as I was done with my grade 12s, because they weren't happy with how he was teaching. So I went to him and offered to take over the HIGCSE learners on the premise that, "I know how difficult it is to teach both HIGCSE and IGCSE English, since the syllabi are so different. I can help you out and take the HIGCSE kids as soon as I'm done with my grade 12s." Mr. Nuushona thought it was a great idea, and the learners seemed relieved. So although I am teaching them, I meet with him a lot to discuss what I'm doing and what he can do with them next year. Hopefully this is a way to keep my teachings going on for the next year at least, instead of leaving Ekulo with the grade 12s.

On Tuesday my grade 12s wrote their remaining two English exams. They seem content with their performance, although unwilling to jinx it by saying they thought they did well. At least there were no surprises. Nobody came to me and said, "Miss, you didn't teach us how to do this!" I looked at the question paper and it seemed easier than the ones I'd given them during the mock examinations. Eino said, "Miss, I don't know if the exam was just easier, or if you taught us really well." I tried to convince him that it was because I taught them really well.

The twins, Aletta and Elina were in my class after school, and noticed my list of "Literary Terms" I'd written on the board to teach grade 11. Aletta said, "We miss English class already. Those words remind us of last year." I think it finally dawned on them that they're really done with English. Aletta went on to say, "The grade 11s are happy though. After the first class RoadtoEkulo.jpg (161581 bytes)with you yesterday, they said you make everything easy. But they don't want you to leave, because everything will become hard and confusing again next year." So I have, essentially, one month to teach them enough to be confident to get through the next year.

The weather is getting hot. Today (it's now 16 Oct) the temperature broke 100F in the shade for the first time. This is bad because the weather here is persistent. Once it hits the 100s, it's going to stay that way through February. It's not like Ohio where it can be 95 one day and 70 the next. The humidity is also increasing as we enter the time of "the little rains." Clouds are starting to occasionally roll in during the late afternoon, and if we're lucky it might rain on us. If we're unlucky, it rains on someone else and we just get the humidity. Although, as I contemplate returning to Ohio in a couple of months, I know I prefer this weather to that weather.Chicks5.jpg (154471 bytes)

Finally, ponder this: If chickens eat chicken, does that absolve us of any sense of guilt when we eat chicken?

Love,
Sera

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