A Day in the Life of a Fish out of Water
Yo. By yo, I mean hi. By hi I mean what’s going on? And by what’s going on, I mean a rhetorical question I don’t really expect anyone to answer.
So, it’s time for another rambling post bout my adventures and travails in this here African country we call South Africa. Oh, wait, we aren’t in South Africa? Really? Cause you’d never guess by the amount of World Cup fever going on over here, where Kenya’s team, the Harambee Stars, didn’t even make it into the games. Let me enlighten those of you who don’t already know this: the rest of the world thinks football is the greatest pastime invented since navel-gazing and smashing mailboxes. It’s huge over here, and I can’t get away from that “Waka Waka” song that now haunts my dreams. I actually watched the match last night between USA and Ghana, which was the first football match I’ve ever watched in my life. Go USA, way to lose.
Hmmm, so what other mischief have I been up to? There was a minor earthquake here a couple of weeks ago, which we just felt as a shuddering of the ground. I also got the privilege to meet Sarah Obama, Barack’s grandmother in Kogelo. She lives out in the bush on a typical Kenyan housing compound, though with ramped up security and electricity now. I wonder what the poor womans’ life must be like now, with hundreds of visitors a day, all asking her the same questions and wanting photographs with her. She was nice enough, though speaks very little English or KiSwahili, so one of her great-grandchildren translates into DhoLuo for her.
Some of you also may be curious about what a day in the life of me is like (probably not, actually, but I tell myself these things to make myself feel Important. Just humour me). Here goes:
Morning: Wake up around 6:30, wash face, put water for the day to boil on the jiko so’s I can drink it without acquiring some wonderful little deadly disease, get dressed, drink coffee. If I run late, I bring the coffee to the staff room to finish, where everyone asks me to let them try a sip. Every. Single. Day.
I usually have 1-2 classes in the morning. Each class is 40 minutes long, unless it’s a double period. I’m usually covered in chalk dust by mid-morning. Then we have chai break at 10:45am. The chai is basically sugar milk water with a miniscule concentration of tea in it. Sometimes I believe the Kenyans think tea leaves are optional. I usually go to the football pitch to buy an andazi, which is a Kenyan version of donuts. Several students stop me and ask me to buy one for them. I laugh, then walk back to the staff room.
Afternoon: More lessons, sometimes it rains torrentially, sometimes it doesn’t. Massive boredom sets in, and I update my Facebook, check my e-mail, surf some news websites and political blogs on my phone. More staring out the window. Then I sit some more. Then I usually get tired of that and go sit outside for a change. Classes end at 4:00, and many students play games for the rest of the afternoon. I wander around aimlessly, sometimes chatting with students, sometimes goofing off on the internet some more. Then I wander across the football pitch to my house.
Evening: Prepare dinner, which usually consists of rice and veggies. Listen to some music, read books. Around 6:30ish I venture out to collect water in a 20-liter plastic jerry can from the rainwater catchment tanks on the school grounds. This is my water supply for the next 24 hours. I carry it over my shoulder to my house, then use it to wash dishes, bathe, drink, and cook with. I take baths out of plastic basins, using maybe a total of 8 liters of water. Bedtime is usually by 8:30, as there is nothing to do, and the mosquitoes come out to play in the late evening.
So this is my life now, occasionally punctuated by bursts of activity, but mostly characterised by long periods of boredom and not a little frustration. Stress has gone down, though it’s always still there, but I try to see my American friends as often as possible, so that keeps me sane. It’s not as bad as that most days, but I do get frustrated by the fact that I wanted to do development work here, and I’ve ended up working at a 8-5 job where I’m expected to beat students (I don’t, and never will, and this causes a LOT of stress for me, because the other teachers imply that I’m not a good teacher if I don’t cane the students for failing exams or not doing homework) and sit around a lot because they don’t have a lot of work for me. So basically a day in the life of someone pretending to be a Kenyan teacher.
But, despite all that, life goes on, and I do love my students. My Form 2 students in particular are hilarious, and I enjoy interacting with them. I wish they had half the opportunities I did when I was in high school, but we must work with what we have. So. Yeah.
Until next time, we’ll meet again, don’t know when, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sweet day.