This week was full of joys and frustrations.
Joy: One day I walked home with Joseph, a mutual friend of Derrick and I. He told me that Derrick didn’t go to school that day, and when we got to my home, Joseph dragged me to Derrick’s house. Derrick was so excited to see me, and when I left, he ran after me to hold my hand, sing with me, and walk me home.
Frustration: I only have 2 more weeks of that.
Joy: The sun was out all week, so we actually had some solar power at home. I didn’t have to do everything by flashlight when I got home at night.
Frustration: The sun is very hot.
Joy: The best part of teaching health is the questions the students ask. After I finished my lesson, they ask, “Why do we need to brush our teeth after eating?”, “How many hours of sleep do I need to get?”, and “What is the stuff in your ears (earwax) for?”. One time I was asked the name of a certain vegetable in English, but I didn’t understand the description. A student ran outside to get one, and it looked like a white, dime-sized watermelon, but was like an eggplant on the inside.
Frustration: I’ve had two heartbreaking questions. One student asked, “How many meals a day should we eat?” I said three. The headmistress then asked who doesn’t eat breakfast. Most of the students raised their hands. Later, she told me that many of their parents can’t even afford lunch. Another student asked, “What do you recommend someone who is born with HIV do?” I can only think of one reason why a kid in middle school would ask that.
Joy: We bodaboda between schools for health education, and one time while we were heading back to our village, a boy walking home from school chased after us. He sprinted alongside us for at least a minute, holding my hand as he ran.
Frustration: He only ran with us for a minute.
Joy: I finally finally finally got the basketball hoop built. Shout out to the man who drove with it for 3 miles of potholes from the town to our village on his bodaboda. It’s so fun teaching and playing with the students, so funny watching them play, and I’m so glad they’re enjoying it. They’re learning fast, and they keep practicing in the dark when I go home. Nothing makes me happier than coming to the court and finding students playing.
Frustration: Our court is dirt so you get incredibly filthy playing, but of course it’s worth it.
Joy: On Thursday we had the Gayaza World Cup. I haven’t been able to watch a single game of the real World Cup, so this was my substitute. We didn’t have class, and went to a nearby field to play from 9-7 with an hour break for lunch. I think I’ve missed more days of teaching due to holidays and what not than I’ve actually taught, and I don’t hate it. My good friend Douglas, who graduated from our school last year, and I alternated matches as referee. I also spent some time as team doctor after the first concussion. In the championship, Dream Team FC (a mix of S3, S5, and S6 because they did not have enough boys separately) defeated S4 in penalties.
Frustration: Refereeing football is not always pleasant. Douglas and I ended up making one of the teachers ref the final because we were tired of people yelling at us (and tired in general). After many arguments (often in Luganda which I wouldn’t understand) we were content just sitting and talking.
Joy: After the tournament, we had an assembly at school to award trophies to the winners. Then, and I have to brag about this, the headmaster thanked me in front of the whole school. He said I have brought the spirit of sports to Gayaza, and it is perfect timing because the Ugandan government is adding sports to the official school curriculum next year. Then he said something that I think fits in perfectly with what we talked about in Global Scholars. He said, “At first we thought you just came to look at us. Now we see that you have come to be with us and work with us, and we are so thankful for all you have done.” Earlier in the day, one of the oldest students had also thanked me, saying, “I really can’t give you anything in return, but I ask that God blesses you as much as you have blessed us.” I just love these people, and am so excited to know that I’ve helped in some way.
Frustration: I most likely won’t be the teacher for sports next year.
Joy: Saturday was Nkobazambogo, and the dress code was my tunic and coat. Nkobazambogo is like an organization of clubs at schools to promote traditional culture. My friend Hwdu, the Head Prefect, is Muslim (Islam is common in Uganda), and is always wearing these awesome hats. I told him how much I like them, so he gave me one to wear. I’m an official Muganda and an honorary Muslim. I think I was told about 30 times that I looked “smart.”
Frustration: Wearing a coat is not my first outfit of choice when the dry season is definitely here to stay.
Joy: Cornelius had two visitors this weekend, an Ethiopian bishop and a Ugandan priest. Having guests at the house solidified that I am no longer a guest, but a family member. I’m so used to this way of life now, and it was great understanding more Luganda than someone for once. The Ugandan priest asked me how many wives I’ve been offered here. I said only three, but one is the headmistress at one of the schools I’ve taught at. He then said he’d give me a plot of land to build a house and grow my crops if I decided to get married and live here.
Joy: Sunday we had mass with the Ethiopian bishop, as opposed to the usual prayer service (I’m really going to miss the singing and drums), and it was Visitation Day. The parents of the boarding students came to see their children, their children’s grades, the school, and to pay some fees. I spent the day hanging out with the secretary (one of my best friends because she’s someone I can vent to, and she fills me in on all the school gossip) and greeting and talking with the parents.
Frustration: After the parents left, there was a lot of caning for students with poor grades. It is completely normal and acceptable here, but it made me sick.
Joy: As I was leaving school Sunday night, my friend Julius called me over to talk.
Frustration: He told me that he was probably going home this week. His family doesn’t have any more money to support his education. He said his father left him a small plot of land so at least he’ll be able to “go home and dig.” This is the student that this week asked me to help him with alkylation of benzene, a topic I just learned in Organic Chemistry 2 in April. This is the student that in the championship of the football tournament saved two penalties. This is the student that I KNOW will become a pharmacist if he’s able to continue his education. It makes me miserable and even angry that someone with so much potential (and he knows it, so he works even harder) probably won’t be able to achieve his goals due to an amount of money that may be trivial to many Americans (as I was sitting with the secretary, I helped her collect dues, and I think all of the fees I saw were less than $100).
Joy: I love these students.
Frustration: Two of my favorite students lost their fathers this week. It’s common to lose parents so young, and the kids are always so strong.
In all of the hardships I see, whether it be a lack of food, water, money, or even a future, I still see smiles, hear laughter, and enjoy friendship. I may have taught my students a few things about biology, chemistry, America, or sports, but they have taught me more than I ever could have expected.
These are the things I reflect on as I walk home alone under the stars and waxing moon, lost in the sounds of the insects of the night, my thoughts interrupted only by the greeting of a passerby or a shout from a nearby house of, “How are you, Ryan-e Kateregga?”
This week was full of joys and frustrations.