A Recap: Wednesday and Thursday

So much has happened since yesterday, that I don’t really know quite where to start.  Yesterday, the day started out early.  I visited classes (Math, PE, Biology).  I also had an afternoon interview.  I took a small bathroom break, which meant I couldn’t observe a class I really wanted to see.  I thought that I would get to visit it today, but the schedule went over today, too.  Bathroom breaks?  I remember would never take one during the day as a teacher … those days are gone and I’m the better for that I suppose.  
 
Some initial findings from the study are that the teachers have a sense of cohesion and community.  They believe themselves to be mentors and role models for the students.  The teachers I spoke with also can speak to the students from a place of experience when it comes to hardship, whether financial or familial.  They are committed to ongoing development and many of their personal dreams are professional dreams (opening schools).  They are exceedingly happy in their work.  All I talked to had previous teaching experiences and would compare their previous work to the present, lauding their current work for opportunities to develop, encouragement, motivated students, etc.  I have a LOT of work to do in the coming months, transcribing the interviews, identifying trends, and writing.  
 
 
Yesterday, I also did a last PD, which was just a teaser of PBL.  That work with my students takes about 6 hours for an introduction.  In this case I had about 75 minutes.  Needless to say, we never got to the core of writing a PBL unit, and I’m personally disappointed in that.  I wish I could stay for a few months and support individual teachers one on one.  That’s the kind of support that would really be effective.  It’s the same with the tech.  We just got started.  
 
 
I suppose this just further cements the idea of doing my sabbatical – should I be successful in achieving tenure and a sabbatical – in Kenya for a time.  
 
 
Last night, after the PD, I had chapatis for dinner.  Katie brought it over as I missed the Grassroots Girls dance and song program at Global Platform because of the PD.  After dinner, we went over to Global Platform for the warriors dance (Morans of the Massai).  It was AMAZING!  The music, the dances, the stars overhead.  I recorded the audio, but with the darkness, my pictures and video didn’t turn out.  
 
 
I want to talk a little bit about a particular aspect of the exchange that was challenging to me.   At one point, the group of volunteers learning at Global Platform (all in their late teens and early 20s) offered to do a song and dance for the Masai men and women who had come and performed and responded to questions for an hour about their culture.  This song seemed like a pop song that was fun for the group, but did not seem to be a parallel to what the Masai had offered, sharing some of the intricacies of their culture in exchange for a pop song that they did not request.  That said, I think the group was trying to offer something in return, and that is beautiful and valid.  I wonder if cultural exchange could have been more authentic and humanizing if the group had had time on an individual level to talk with the Masai dancers and learn more about their culture, assets, and challenges in Kenya.  I also recognized that this is an outsider lens on two very different cultures from my own:  Masai and Danish.  I am also an older, American, woman of color coming from an academic stance.  I am still wondering about what I witnessed last evening, because I am thinking about how to guide my students in a way that they pursue authentic cultural exchange while learning.  I am thinking of how to support the listening of the students and to encourage the eagerness that I did see last evening in the desire for connection through language (the students spoke familiar Swahili often), song, and dance.  It’s something that I’m thinking about.  
 
 
Last evening, after the event, I packed, watched TV episodes, felt the coming of sadness in parting.  
 
 
Today, I started with seeing Matteo, which is always a joy.  He was winding down from a busy day, sitting on the couch we chose together in our home.  I felt the joy of seeing him while also the sadness of leaving.  
 
 
But there was no stillness today.  It started with a trip to Nanyuki Spinners and Weavers, an amazing organization empowering women leaders in becoming economically independent through the use of spinning and weaving skills since 1977.  They started out with 6 people and now have 137 learning skills and working at the organization.  I have pictures to share from that visit, which was really interesting.  
 
After that visit, we had a quick stop at the Cave and Carol’s Cafe for some beef samosas and a Stoney.  We then headed over to the in town office of Simama, which just opened earlier this month.  The three staff members – Regina, Simon, and Wendy – were SO excited to talk about the work they are doing to help street children leave the streets behind, go to school, get the counseling and support they need, with the end goal of going back to their homes and communities.  They have 25 students they support, and they will be expanding up to 30 soon.  The organization has been going for about 5 years now with the home available to children for the last 2 years.  We saw the office and then the home itself, which definitely is a space for children and care.  They also work with the students to think about those next steps for them after school.  Simama is pretty excited, too, about using the in-town office to offer trainings and workshops to children about their human rights, teachers about supporting the children, and parents to help them understand child rights and create spaces for children to be safe and nurtured in education.  
 
 
The only unfortunate thing about visiting Simama was that I missed the lesson that I really wanted to observe and a meeting with a teacher on campus, but I did learn more about an amazing leader, Regina, who is a counselor and one of the housemothers at Simama.  She dropped out of school in 8th grade, worked as household help for years with the intention of going back to school, got married in her early 20s, went back to high school while married and having children, eventually sat as a private student for the Kenyan national exams (She studied on her own rather than completing high school), scored high enough to qualify for college, pursued an education in counseling and social work, and obtained a position in that field while also working full time and being a wife and mother to three children.  She’s sweet, generous, caring, affable, and ever-laughing, and I knew that from only spending an hour with her.  I have met such strong and giving people here.  
 
 
After Simama, we went back to Daraja.  Katie had a WISH program training with all of the teachers.  I said my goodbyes – I’m not good at them – and then left the training to pack so as not to be too disruptive with all of my things.  After Stephen and Moses picked up the things with the car, we drove the little bit back to the Volunteers Office so that I could say those final goodbyes to Charles, Vic, Katie, Stephen, and some of the teachers (who weren’t in lessons).  I parted with see you next time, because that’s my intention here.  I’m writing this at the airport and already missing Daraja.  
 
 
 
 

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