Happy Birthday Sharissa!!! And Reality Check part 8?

Back to the “work week,” unfortunately the last here in Zambia, but that means back to getting up early for school!  I quickly looked over what I would be teaching for the day and was off to Libala where I was greeted by the children running in every direction… very typical, ha.  We began the school day with math, still working on the basics of division.  There was definitely a lack of attention within the classroom, I’m hoping it had a bit to do with the Monday-aspect, but you do what you can right!  The children are really having a hard time understanding the concept of division and I think it stems back to not knowing the basics.  They’re allowed to use a multiplication table for all of their work—even for simple problems such as “4 times 3.”  Because they don’t have the fundamentals down, I think it’s almost out of the question to expect them to understand and carryout division which utilizes multiplication.  I asked Sister Mary if they had anything like timed multiplication tests just to know the basics and she had never heard of such a thing.  I explained that as we were learning multiplication, we had tests that consisted of 100 questions and had five minutes to complete the test… I think we needed a 95% or so until we had “mastered” the material and were done with the tests.  She was mind-blown… well guess that’s not a common measure of learning here in Zambia.  Anyways, we’re taking division slow and steady but hopefully by the end of the week, we’ll be remarkably farther than where we started.  Next up was Chitonga (the local language), of which I was completely lost… it’s even harder trying to grade Chitonga as the language just seems like a few letters randomly thrown together.  For example, a few of the words/phrases that I learned today was “zilajalongwa” which means “it’s cute” and “mulomfwu” which means “to talk along with.”  Last subject of the day was English where they learned the difference between singular and plural words—alright, I could at least be of help with this one!  Because Sister Mary was “less than impressed” with their math skills for the day, they were assigned homework—they were less than enthused.  But we worked out a few problems before assigning homework for the days… don’t have too much pity for the young children however, one of the problems was 12 divided by 2 and the rest were of practically similar difficulty by Sister Mary’s request.

Next was off to the Lubasi Home where I was welcomed by the staff and introduced to the children who were just finishing up lunch.  They were sitting on the ground eating a plate full of nshima (really cheap, unflavored cornmeal-like substance) and some steamed cabbage… not much of a well-balanced meal.  There are forty children that live full-time at the Lubasi Home.  Lubasi in English means family and the orphanage was started in 2003 through donations through various Churches and via private donations.  Many of the children that live at the Lubasi Home are able to attend public school, so only about fifteen were actually at the orphanage having lunch when I arrived.  Ten of them were three to four years of age and the other five were a bit older.  All of these fifteen children have been at the orphanage for two months now as a result of their mothers being imprisoned when trying to illegally emigrate from Congo to Zambia (they’re bordering countries).  I guess this has been a growing issue as Congo is relatively unstable, even compared to Zambia.  The children were fortunately allowed to move into the Lubasi Home indefinitely until their mothers are released.  So, they gained a new playmate for the week and we definitely had a lot of fun.  I was mostly with the younger kids as the older kids were working with one of the “mothers” (workers at Lubasi) on their English.  Being from Congo, the children spoke French and Swahili so there was a definite language barrier, but that didn’t prevent us from having fun!  After lunch, it was playtime… perfect!  And it didn’t take long for me to be included in the games—we started off with hand clapping games (similar to down by the banks but the song was something about a doctor… maybe in Swahili?  Not really sure, but I got the hang of it after a bit and they seemed to enjoy it… especially getting the “Muzuungo” out!).  Over here in Zambia, they call white people Muzuungo or Makuwa—not in a discriminating, negative manner but rather an identity thing… not really sure on that whole thing though!  Anyways, after hand clapping, we played tag and then a prisoner-like game.  “Unfortunately” I was caught quickly and had to stand in jail and wait for the game to end… the kids ware you out quickly so standing in jail was definitely good to get re-energized.  The boys were determined to head over to the swing set area so the girls followed as they climbed all over this “swing set” like it was a jungle gym.  In reality however, this swing set basically consisted of a few pieces of rusted metal that was somehow held together by a few screws… definitely wouldn’t pass a single safety test in America.  After a short bit, it was time to play with sticks and rocks in the dirt surrounding the swing set.  As they were playing though, the children kept finding shards of glass and rusted nails kept… it didn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary and the kids simply picked them up and moved them aside… ahh!  Although the orphanage is given money through charity and through donations, the place is definitely rundown and  not really a good environment for the kids, but I guess it is better than nothing… it is a roof over their heads at night and a relatively safe place… key word: relative.  One of the boys found a piece of string that served as quite the entertainment for quite awhile as the boys tried to tie a rock to the stick… sad how that can capture their attention for so long as they literally have nothing else to play with.  Two of the older boys were kicking around a soccer ball but just from the sound of it, one could tell that it was pretty deflated.  I guess there were also a few tires that the children rolled around and were able to climb on, but other than that there wasn’t much.  We headed back up to the main portion and Amina (definitely one of my favorites… adorable!) was playing with rocks.  My baton skills came in handy as I was able to show her a very simple juggling trick with two of the rocks which we worked on perfecting for quite awhile.  She showed me a “magic” trick, of course I was a good sport and played along!  Another one of the kids brought over a windup radio so we were able to play music from the radio (winding it up about twice a minute however) and “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz came on and they definitely recognized it and had a blast dancing to it—so we had a dance party for quite awhile before Amina and Daveed (?? A girl a bit older) decided it would be a fabulous idea to braid my hair—so my head is currently covered in cornrow-like braids… pretty impressive what two very young girls are able to do!  It was time to say goodbye to the children for the day but I promised them I would be back tomorrow and we could play lots more!

You know those commercials on tv that show an orphanage and are asking for donations… they show the sad children that kind of just lack a spark in their eyes… well the places definitely exist.  It was a lot of fun just being with them today and I am so thankful for the experience and just to spend time with them… but it’s definitely a reality check.  Like these kids were excited by a piece of string that they found while playing in dirt contaminated with glass and nails… yikes.  And even with very little, they’re still some of the sweetest children you’ll ever meet—they’re just like any kids, wanting to play and have fun.  It is just really unfortunate that they are in the situation they’re in as they had literally no control over any bit of their life so far.  It definitely wasn’t easy seeing the children in their living environment (if you can consider it that) but I suppose it is better than nothing for them.  We’ll see what the rest of the week brings, but I have a feeling that I have just about fifteen new friends/playmates :).

The rest of the night was spent back at the hostel—Louise and I made a pasta dinner and I made some lesson plans for tomorrow… we get to learn all about how to conserve forests!  Other than that, nothing else is too different—my “pink eye” gunk seems to be clearing up which is most certainly a positive!

I hope everyone at home had a wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day!  Also, a special HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sharissa… I miss you and hope you had a fabulous day–#20 ahh!

~Susan

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