Saturday, April 11, 2009

My American Education

So I came to the school today to use the internet (no more cafés!). The key to the staff room wasn’t where it normally is, so I stopped by the office to ask for it. Sister Anne and Sister Juliana were working on something, and when I came back to drop off the key, Juliana asked if I were busy and if I wanted to help. Well, of course I didn’t really want to help – I wanted to go online to plan my vacation – but how could I say no?

They were making coupons for the canteen. You see, the students have a choice of either bringing their own lunch from home or eating at the school’s canteen (like a cafeteria, but with no selection). Those eating at the canteen need to buy a “coupon” for one cedi at the office. At lunchtime, they bring their coupons to the canteen and are given a bowl with the day’s food. Apparently, it was time to make new coupons, so at the office, they were busy printing, stamping, and signing them.

“You can help me laminate,” Sister Juliana said.

“I don’t know how,” I said.

“Okay, then. You can cut.”

There were 18 coupons on each sheet. I took a pair of scissors and began cutting away. Sister Anne and Sister Juliana were delighted with how fast I was cutting, particularly Sister Anne.

“Well, I’ve had a lot of practice,” I said as a joke.

“In America, they learn in nursery school,” Sister Juliana told Anne.

“Oh, I see,” said Sister Anne.

“Wait, don’t they learn in nursery school here?” I asked.

Juliana shook her head. “The children aren’t allowed to use scissors. They might hurt themselves.”

“What? I learned in preschool, and I never cut myself!”

“I guess we want to protect them more,” Juliana said, and shrugged. “The teachers do all the cutting for the children. If the children could use scissors, it would be less work for the teachers.” She paused for a moment with a thoughtful look on her face. “Although, the children aren’t allowed to use paste either, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.”

Africa! How ridiculous are you? You won’t even let your kids cut their own paper?

I sat in the office for two hours, cutting away. They were making, in total, I think 2000 coupons. I wasn’t quite finished cutting them all when my hand and wrist began to hurt. I didn’t say anything, determined to finish with my job. I paused for a moment to shake my wrist, and Juliana saw. She insisted that I stop right then if my hand was tired.

“But I’m not finished yet!”

“If you’re tired you need to stop. We can finish this later. But thank you so much!

“Well, at least I can do something good with my American education,” I said.

I stopped cutting. I went to use the internet, but my laptop was having problems. It’s getting old. I’m a bit worried about it, I’m not going to lie. I’ve had it for almost five years. I’m hoping it lasts another two years more, until I’m finished with grad school, but really... at least work until I’m home from Africa! So, I couldn’t plan my trip today as planned. What a bummer! I’ll try again tomorrow.

Okay, sorry this was kind of boring and lame. Now that I’m not in school, I feel much lonelier. I don’t have my students to keep me company all day, and I guess that my writing in here is my way of talking... to myself? I don’t know.

Anyway... Happy Easter!

1 comment:

Jason 'Star' Rice said...

It is good to see that you have put that education to good use. I hope I am able to do the same here as well...I know how you feel about with the loneliness issue; I have the same problem.