Thursday, June 16, 2011

East Africa Day 31 (Mon June 13): Parting Words

Towards the end of breakfast this AM, Victoria reminded me that she and I had decided that I would present to the students during today’s Morning Assembly (in Frost Valley terminology, it’s Flag Raising) – in approximately five minutes.

Photo: This is my usual mealtime group! I often sit against the wall, across from Pamela – that’s where I was sitting this AM.

I considered how to best say goodbye to the students on my way up the hill to the flag pole. This was a particularly fun Morning Assembly (we have them every Monday AM following breakfast) because this was “Mr. D’s” (Jason Dougherty) first Morning Assembly in a while. I recorded some video, but will have to post it some other time. However it also was not fun, because the students begin several days-worth of testing today. I wouldn’t call their faces grim, but they weren’t dancing and laughing, either:)

After the students raised the flag, and Mr. D and faculty made announcements, I was invited to step up to “the stage” (aka the opposite side of the flagpole from where the students stand). I essentially told the students what I had come to learn over the course of the past month: that Mr. D and Jenni selected these particular students to come to Daraja because they are already brilliant, saw that the students were just like them, and that the students have the potential to do challenging things – to forge new paths – to do great things, just like the Dougherty’s themselves. Yet - the students are already great. Grades and KCSE scores cannot change that. I referenced the Blue Sweater Book Club meeting a few times, and the speech I gave to the students when I introduced the book.

While these are themes that I’ve been considering a lot over the past few days, I hadn’t exactly prepared notes for my little speech, and was therefore a little unsure of myself. So it was really sweet that when I looked over my right shoulder at the faculty and administration, I saw Teacher Carol nodding her head in agreement with my remarks. Afterwards, Car, Carol, Jason, and Victoria told me that they had really liked my remarks. Car even said that it had given him some things to think about. It was difficult to tell how the students received my remarks – their expressions didn’t change while I was speaking, but I felt based on some of the hugs I received over the course of the morning that my remarks might have meant something.

After breakfast, I got to meet with Jason for a while to talk about my project and how it fits in with his plans for the school and students. We had a great conversation – he gave me some things to think about. Good stuff! Following that, I went to the Library and wrote inscriptions into all twenty-five copies of The Blue Sweater.

On my way through the quad, I ran into students who were taking a break between exams.

I found a study group doing some last minute reviews, beneath my favorite place to sit on the quad.

Over two weeks ago I’d promised Joyce that I’d take photos of her in her uniform, for her. When I saw her on the lawn, I grabbed her and asked her where we should take the photos. She found a beautiful spot tucked away behind one of the classroom buildings, with good lighting. I love this photo of her!

Following lunch, Car, Teacher Peter and I jumped into the car with Wa and headed into town. Fortunately I found the person that I was supposed to speak with at the Council office, at his desk! He completely filled me in on how the Council awards its bursaries to students. He welcomed me to Kenya and told me that I could call him if I have any additional questions. Everyone has been so nice! I didn’t have much time, but headed to the Education District Office to thank Hasan for all of his help. I found him in the lobby of the building, and he invited me into his office so that I could confirm that I correctly understood what he had told me during our previous conversations. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned and how much my comprehension of the Kenya education system has improved in not much more than two weeks. I sorted out the Ministry of Education bursary award process and the District Education Office’s role in it, thereby actually unbelievably wrapping up all of the details of bursary options in Nanyuki – as far as I know! I feel really good about my understanding and findings. Perfect timing since I am supposed to leave Daraja’s campus (and Nanyuki) any day now.

Photo: Hasan at his desk in the District Education office.

I then had four minutes to get to the Boulangerie to meet Car, Peter and Wa, to catch a ride back to campus. We were running a little late, so I was able to order a chocolate crossaint (the Boulangerie is famous on Daraja’s campus for these) to go, and sat down for a few minutes to use the wireless internet with my netbook. It was nice to get to catch up with Jon and Peter who work there, one last time before I go.

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