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Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 20, 2011 You know… I mean…

From Wednesday to Friday, I’ve spent the days busily preparing for the beginning of school. I have to admit that I haven’t done the majority of the physical work in the classroom. Thank God for my assistant Theresa and the newly hired first grade assistant, Weata. Those ladies have been busy going through the supplies and books, dividing everything between the 1st grade and 2nd/3rd grade classroom. Although I made the to-do list and sketched the classroom layout on the board, it’s Theresa who’s been “getting it done.” Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been busy too. I’ve just been pulled in other directions.

First, there was some difficulty with the schedule and how we’d fit the foreign languages – French and Arabic – in the mix. No worries – I was able to work with Jihane, the foreign language teacher, for that. Second, there was the curriculum. I didn’t do much original thinking on that task; I simply downloaded the Core Curriculum from the internet. Third, I kept adding things to our agenda for the faculty meeting next Monday. We have to discuss a laundry list of things like the grading policy, discipline procedures, the protocol for kids coming and going from the school…

Thank goodness Ed and my other coworkers are okay with me being high-strung. Perhaps high-strung isn’t the way to describe it, though. I think the rest of the staff view me as ambitious, organized, and hard-working. I just don’t want that perception to turn sour or annoyed.

Ed did take me to lunch on Thursday to thank me for my “initiative.” I bought him dessert to thank him for giving me the opportunity to be heard.

(Side note: While at lunch with Ed, Adisa called to tell us that we had run out of water on campus. Sure, there are two containers with 500 gallons of water each on site, but someone actually has to climb up to the water tower and connect a hose. So, I went without washing dishes or showering until late Friday afternoon, when the tower was refilled.)

I’ve had the privilege of working at a school that’s well-oiled and well-run. Notre Dame Academy had all those things in place when I walked in five years ago. What I wouldn’t’ give to know how AISM functioned before without things like a student handbook or an-up-to-date website to disseminate information.

On Friday evening, the last compound-mate, Linda, arrived. We were all wrong in our notion of her being an older white lady. Rather, Linda is a dark-skinned black 34-year-old woman from Miami, Florida. She’s spent some time in Kenya teaching at a school for the deaf there. And, she recently married in June to a man from Sierra Leone. Linda is very bubbly, with a large smile constantly on her face.

Originally, the plan was for Ed to take Linda out for dinner. Afterwards, Ed, Linda, Albert, and I would go out for a night on the town. (Adisa is in Kakata, visiting friends she used to work with there.) Linda passed out when she and Ed returned from dinner, and the three of us ended up just chatting away in Ed’s room.

I got to witness Ed and Albert “jam.” Albert knows that I love the singer/songwriter Amos Lee, so he borrowed Ed’s acoustic guitar and began playing “Sweet Pea.” Ed joined in on his electric guitar. I couldn’t help sit back and think I’m in Africa and this is how I’m likely to be spending many of my Friday nights. Not too shabby. Then, the men began pouring themselves some wine, and I got the hint that we were not gearing up for a night out on the town. As they polished off a bottle of wine, we covered a variety of subjects: how to deal with beggars, drunks, hustlers, and wannabe lovers; cooperative learning; curriculum; the “laziness” of Liberians; etc.

I caught myself chuckling because, even after only two weeks, I’ve got a handle on the different personalities I’ll be living with.

Ed is the epitome of laid-back. Sure, he’s the director of the school and has a vision of what he wants the school to be, but he won’t force his vision on anyone in a dramatic fashion. He’s part Peace Corps hippie, part Mr. Fix-it, part artist, and part musician. He also, at 66, is like a teenager in love. His girlfriend Elisa is moving to take over a different school in the area, and Ed is counting down the days till she gets here. In the meantime, they are having their tiffs and their make-ups via text and telephone.

Albert, too, is part hippie in the sense that he wants to acknowledge the beauty in everything. He’s a bit of a roller coaster in the love department – not being able to decide if he wants “a meal or a snack” of a relationship. Hearing him talk – well, honestly, sometimes I think he’s trying to make everything sound beautiful, but in the end he ends up saying nothing at all. Almost all of his sentences begin with “I mean” or “You know,” and undoubtedly, if you talk to him for over 15 minutes, he’s bound to comment on words/language being beautiful/powerful.

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