In case anyone wondered what a “normal” day looks like for me here in Tanzania…here is a play-by-play from earlier this week.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
4:45 a.m. deee, duum, du… Just dance… deee, duum, du… Just dance… As Lady Gaga blares from my cell phone, I groggily roll over and double-check to make sure my second alarm is set for 30 minutes later, when I actually need to get up.
4:46 a.m. Amini clambers up onto the bed and plops down beside me with her head across my chest. Apparently my alarm is her cue to climb in bed with me after spending the entire night under the bed.
5:15 a.m. deee, duum, du… Just dance… deee, duum, du… Just dance… This time, I roll over a bit farther, lift the mosquito net, and turn on the light. Time to start the day. Ugh. In the next 45 minutes, I need to shower, brush my teeth, let the puppy out, feed the puppy, pack lunch, eat breakfast, pack my bag for the day, read my Bible, journal, and get dressed. Not necessarily in that order.
6:30 a.m. deee, duum, du… Just dance… deee, duum, du… Just dance… My final alarm for the morning is my cue to grab my bag, throw my lunch in it, find my keys, and coax the puppy out the door so I can leave. I quickly calculate the time I will have available after school between activities, and determine that today, the motorcycle is my best transportation option. I greet the guard as he opens the gate, and then speed off to school.
6:45 a.m. Getting to school early is something I learned from one of the teacher’s I student-taught under, and its a good way for me to organize my brain (if not anything else) before the day actually begins. This morning, I spend a few minutes organizing the various piles of papers that obscure the desk before checking my school e-mail, Facebook, and my personal e-mail. A grade 12 student stops by to pick up a college application letter he had asked me to help him with, and I explain that I cannot write the letter for him, but that he should write it without worrying about grammar, spelling, or really anything else… and then to bring it back to me later, and I would help him with the editing and revising.
7:30 a.m. Homeroom begins. Everyone is admiring Jacob’s broken nose: a result of a frisbee thrown by our secondary principal during an Ultimate Frisbee game. Not every kid can say that his principal broke his nose. This is also the last day of Mock Exams for the tenth grade students, so they are gathered in small groups cramming before the day’s exams begin.
7:45 a.m. A Level Literature. We’re reading The Trials of Brother Jero by Wole Soyinka. I am learning as much as the students, because this time, they have better insight into the world of the author and the play than I ever will. Soyinka, along with several of my students, is Nigerian, and his plays are saturated with Nigerian society and cultural norms. The outspoken Brother Jero, a false prophet who seems entirely over-the-top and ridiculous to me, is, I discover, a common sight in Nigeria. Even here in Tanzania, students explain, people look to Nigerian prophets who claim to be the voice of God, complete with fake predictions and ridiculous “miracles.” I had no idea…
9:15 a.m. Though this would normally be my tenth grade English Literature class, because of Mock Exams, it is my turn to invigilate the second part of the IGCSE Physics test. For forty minutes, I alternate between reading Son of Hamas, an interesting book I found in the history classroom, and watching students scribble furiously as they complete their exam.
10:05 a.m. I stop the examination, collect the students’ work, and join the secondary classes for the weekly HOPAC assembly. Mr. Sanchez, a former Californian (can you ever be a “former” Californian?), is speaking this week about culture. As he tells stories of breaking cultural boundaries at the local fish market here in Dar, students laugh and relax, listening attentively to Frank’s message on Christ’s own cultural experiences when He came to earth as a man. A few announcements follow, and I run off to grab my lunch out of the refrigerator before supervising the weekly meeting for the student newspaper.
11:20 a.m. Free time. More technically, prep time. But that makes it sound too much like work. I grab a soda water from the snack bar and sit down at my desk to finish marking papers.
12:05 p.m. Because another teacher is out sick today, I’m covering a study hall. Once again, I alternate between reading my book and watching students quietly work or collaborate on various projects.
12:50 p.m. My final “class” of the day is an art study hall. Four grade twelve students work on their self-study art projects while talking and laughing enthusiastically. They tease each other about future plans, boyfriends, girlfriends, and the like, never minding that I can hear everything. Occasionally, they interject and ask me whether I dated in high school, or if I’ve been to a certain place in Tanzania. All four are talented artists, and it is fun to see their creative minds at work.
2:15 p.m. Back to homeroom. Mr. Russell, the chaplain, is still in the room hanging out with the students. I take attendance, hand out a few papers from the office, and ask someone to pray for the day. The students nominate Mr. Russell, who prays for the students, and then for me and my safety on the crazy roads of Dar with my motorcycle. He closes, and school is over for the day.
2:30 p.m. Every Wednesday, we have an after-school staff meeting. Needless to say, this is never the highlight of my week. Though, in reality, it is not that bad. Its is actually pretty cool to get together with all of the other teachers to share prayer requests and then pray for each other and the various needs brought to our attention. That’s something I wouldn’t be doing back at Carroll High School. Because of an administrative meeting still in progress, after praying in groups, we are dismissed early.
3:30 p.m. Back at home, I gobble up some leftover guacamole, check my e-mail once again, and play a bit with my puppy. She still has green paws from my now bright green driveway, but fortunately, the paint has dried and she is no longer leaving green paw prints behind her. I throw the tennis ball a few times, then start packing my bag for volleyball. I throw in an extra 10,000 Tsh to be able to get a drink after the games, change clothes, fill a Nalgene with water, and head off to volleyball. I stop on the way to buy a pair of neon board shorts off of a tree on the side of the road. Buying clothes off of trees or piles on the ground is becoming normal.
5:00 p.m. Wednesday night volleyball is by no means competitive, but I enjoy hanging out with many of the players. Collectively, we are an international group. Players come from Colombia, Denmark, South Africa, Finland, Australia, Tanzania, and the U.S. Occasionally, the Finnish majority goes “tribal” and leave the rest of us out of their conversation, but I don’t really mind. I’m playing volleyball, and, today, I’m passing the ball to target on every play, which is somewhat unusual. So I’m happy.
7:00 p.m. Once it is dark, we stop playing and gather around a long table. Everyone gets drinks, and conversation begins. The topics range from a recent bag-snatching to motorcycle maintenance to Finland’s education system. Eventually, I finish my soda water and get up to leave.
8:30 p.m. Back at home, I feed the puppy, take a shower, and prepare for bed. Safely inside my mosquito net, I start my laptop to watch another episode of Hawaii 5-O that I borrowed from friends. By 10:30, I set my alarm for the next morning, and go to sleep.