It was the first day of the first work week of my 6-month Kenya internship program. That morning’s breakfast was eaten outside on the makeshift benches in the back of the house as we admired the huge baboons roaming around and playing – basically in our back yard. After breakfast, we could still hear them calling out to each other, but we made our way inside to focus on our assignments.
Connor is our teaching coordinator of considerable fame among the villagers of Shimoni. He is the man that taught the children a tune of gibberish that has now, over the course of 3 months, become a standard greeting to all of GVI as we pass through Shimoni – much to his chagrin (he claims the tune’s popularity is dying down, but I’m skeptical).
Connor had planned our day’s activities and several other volunteers and interns had left to either teach or scour the forest for indigenous African species. Luke, Sophie, and I were relaxing on base planning a lesson for the following day. Luke was leaning against the wall, thinking about strategy (I assume) and staring off to the back door while Sophie and I were sitting in the common room. All of a sudden, Luke backs up and says, “Whoa…,” in a heavy undertone. Sophie and I looked up, alert, and moved over towards Luke and the front door. Luke had, in fact, just seen a baboon appear right at the threshold of our back door. It even stepped into the house for a couple of seconds, then backed out and left. By the time Sophie and I had moved around to see the back door, the baboon had left. With caution and slightly nervous laughter we all crept toward the back door in order to close it.
“I didn’t know that could happen!”
“I heard from someone that the baboons sometimes want to come in; you have to keep the back door closed if they’re being particularly active around us.”
|We are the world… We are the children…
Later that day, all the GVI teachers attended one of Shimoni’s three primary schools, Matunda Bora, and led the choir. Eric, had managed to bring not only his backpack and gear from Chicago to Shimoni (a hefty job for all of us 6-month interns), but also his guitar. He played the tune to, “We Are The World,” as the children sang the chorus. Eyes alight with enthusiasm and cheer, the boys’ and girls’ voices rang out over the entyre school yard: We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving. It’s a choice we’re making. We’re saving our own lives. It’s true, we make a better day, just you and me.
After several rounds of this song and chorus, the novelty wore off. We switched gears and decided to see what other songs the children knew. Eric was talking to Luke and mentioned, “Wonderwall,” by Oasis. Connor immediately walked over.
“They know Wonderwall. Play Wonderwall!” All the volunteers looked slightly surprised but Eric started playing. All of a sudden, the entyre class of children started to sing Oasis’, “Wonderwall,” to near-perfection. All the volunteers were cracking up with laughter at the scene: apparently, GVI’s volunteers in the past had taught these children a thing or two about Oasis.
|Playing and singing Oasis.
In the midst of all this, I spent time with the children in the back of the choir by trying to speak and learn Swahili (while also making sure I wasn’t distracting them from the Choir’s activities). At first, the girls I started speaking to just laughed at the sight of a GVI volunteer speaking Swahili. At my insistence, finally a girl softly replied, “Nzuri,” (fine) to me after I had asked, “Habari yako?” (How are you?) From there, the girls seemed fascinated by me and started throwing vocabulary and sentences my way, most of which I couldn’t understand. I would respond, “Hapana, Sielewi!” (No, I don’t understand!) They would immediately switch to English and translate what they had just said. It was with pleasure and goodwill that these girls started helping me with their language and it made me look forward to the next time I’d be able to sit down with them and the other children to practise my Swahili.
The following morning was my first time teaching an English class (the use of, “has,” and, “have,” and adverbs) and one of the girls I had been speaking to the day prior was present. During a short break in class while a student wrote on the board, I leaned back against a desk to watch. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around.
“Hujambo!?” (hello! in proper Kiswahili)
“Sijambo (hello to you!)… But this is English class. In here, I teach you. Out there,” I gestured to the school yard, “-You teach me, okay?” The girl laughed and nodded.