Now about Omwabini. The school day here starts at 7:15. The classes last for 35 minutes and they have 10 of them a day. I am impressed because they get two breaks and a lunch hour here. Most African schools push their students from morning until evening with little time to run around and relax the brain. The pressure to succeed here is very real and could be, quite literally, the difference between life and death in their family. But I have learned that students learn best with regular breaks where they can just be kids. I am grateful that St. Michael Omwabini school has realized that fact.
Today I taught three lessons. I am learning to improvise lessons quite well. Often, I have little over two minutes to prepare a lesson and present it to 30+ students who don't speak English as a first language. Well, I taught Standard 7 Math, Standard 8 Composition, and Standard 5 English today. For some reason the kids get a real kick out of me. Maybe it is because I laugh a lot. Who knows? Teaching a foreign people is a wonderful experience and it keeps you constantly on your toes. You never know when you'll encounter a language barrier, if your language is clear enough to be understood by the students, or if you'll have to ask for clarification on a question that was so heavily accented you wonder if it was English.
It is difficult to find that line between teacher and foreign visitor. For them, it is a novelty to have a white teacher and they just love to watch you as you move around and to listen to you as you speak. You must however, also ensure that they are understanding the material you are trying to convey. Trying to explain what they did wrong on an assignment question is often so difficult, and you are so pressed for time with 25 kids waiting after this student, that you struggle to give each one the time they deserve.
They are so full of life and laughter that, even if I am tired and drained before I step into a classroom, I leave the the room more rejuvenated and joyful than I could have imagined. Seeing their eager, almost tireless faces awakens an energy in me that I did not know I had. Their beautiful skin, their white smiles, their stories, their laughter, their deep energy ... all these strike me deeply. How can children who have literally lost everything still smile?
I also got acquainted with the day care section of Omwabini today and visited three times between classes. There is nothing like cuddling a little baby to make everything feel all better again. I played with the toddlers. We got along quite well despite not knowing a word in each others' language- although I can now count to 19 in Swahili. Their toys consist of a single doll and about 90 blocks.
I had a wonderful conversation with the mother of the day care. She has five children from age 19 to 5. We shared testimonies and she was such an encouragement to me! We talked about God's grace and guidance. She encouraged me and I encouraged her, however I think she was more effective than I was. Before closing the doors at the close of the day and walking home, she led us in prayer for the children she watches over, for the work that God is setting out for me... God is so good!
I am more grateful for you every day that I am in Africa. The way you have supported me and prayed for me ... It is something that I cannot take for granted. I have seen the great needs that exist on this continent and know that very few of them have the support that I am blessed with. So thank you for your prayers, your love... they will never go unappreciated!