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Parker in Africa

Home > Parker in Africa > November 2, 2006

Parker in Africa - November 2, 2006

Dear friends and family,

I wanted to first write to you all about graduation. It was my first ‘departing’ with my students and thus quite significant. This graduation was quite a big deal for everyone involved. The guest of honor was Tanzania’s Speaker of Parliament, whose wife is incidentally the Minister of Education. And of course, the bishop was there. Because of these high-profile guests, we spared no expense in preparation. Not necessarily money-it didn’t cost that much- but labor. For the three days leading up to the graduation we have up classes so that the students could clean, repair, and generally just prepare everything. 1½ km of road were repaired by the students with a pile of dirt some hoes and shovels. All of the grass had to be slashed, walls had to be scrubbed, trees trimmed, windows washed-everything. By Friday afternoon the school was looking pretty shiny.

My responsibility was the decoration committee. We had decided to hole the graduation outside on one of the lawns. We rented some tents and hired some men from the village to make a stage, which turned out to be a pile of planks and some nails that we could have easily made ourselves. Friday evening we had a lady come with some materials to help us begin to decorate. And then it started to rain. Now, this time is considered the short- rain season, so we expected it to stop. But is just kept going and going. The tents started to leak water, and there was mud everywhere. But we had to continue with the decorations, still holding on to the chance that there would be sun in the morning. So we worked, and the students worked until everything was finished and then just waited for morning.

That Friday night we also had what we called the Last Supper. All of the teachers and soon to be graduates got together for one last time to say thank-yous and goodbyes. That’s where I really started to cry. At the end when we were shaking hands and saying goodbyes I just about lost it-saying goodbye to kids that I will never forget-my best friends-knowing that there was a good chance I’d never see them again. I won’t lie-I went home right after that and basically cried myself to sleep.

The next morning I woke up to the sound of rain-it had never stopped. I put on a kanga and marched up in the mud to see the damage. Sr. Mlay said we just couldn’t leave it that way-with the speaker and Bishop getting soaked in the rain. So, the next 3 hours were spent in a scramble to bring all the decorations through the mud to the dining hall. It was a hard messy job, but everything ended up looking great in the end, even though the drapings hanging on the walls were spotted with mud. We were just finishing hanging up the balloons when the guests started to arrive on our newly repaired road which was quickly washing away down the mountain.

I rushed home and wiped off the mud and tried to make myself look as presentable as possible, making it back up just in time to walk in the dining hall with the students. For the next two or so hours there were prayers, singing, speeches, awards, and so on, but somewhat surprisingly it wasn’t unbearably boring. After the ceremony, the food was served and I had to prepare myself to give congratulations and see my students leave. Luckily the rain stopped long enough for everyone to celebrate a little. Unfortunately, or maybe for the better, I was hardly able to say goodbye to them before they had there parents bring them home. They were definitely ready to leave, and I couldn’t blame them, but I did selfishly want to spend every moment I could with them. And then it was over. Everyone left and it started to rain again, and I went home to feel sorry for myself.

Luckily, I escape the next week, so I didn’t have to think about I was losing so much. I went with my friend who visited me-Laurel- to Zanzibar. We took a bus from Moshi to Dar, thinking that we would get there just in time for the last ferry. Unfortunately we planned our vacation during the end of Ramadan, a very important Muslim holiday. So, we were forced to take a flight from Dar to Zanzibar. At first I was quite annoyed with the extra price, but I soon found out that it was more than worth it. The plane we took was a 6-person plane, smaller than a van. The coolest part was that I sat in the co-pilot’s chair! All of the controls and even the steering wheel were inches away from my fingers. Basically, it was just like a taxi ride over the ocean, and before we knew it we were on the ground ready to head to the beach. The best taxi and most beautiful taxi ride of my life! We didn’t have that long in Zanzibar, and it certainly wasn’t as fun or exciting as my last visit, but it was till paradise. It was somewhat fortunate that we were there at the end of Ramada as everyone, and since about 90% of all Zanzibarians are Muslim, I really mean everyone on the island comes out to party after a month of fasting. The women and girls were all dressed up for the occasion and goodness were they beautiful. Huge families all went out to eat in the parks, dance, and enjoy the excitement. After three days in Paradise we had to take the ferry back to Dar and Laurel left the next morning for home. I stayed in Dar for the day and got to meet up with some of my Form 4 students that lived in the city for lunch. It was so wonderful to see them and so much fun. When they get into a pair of jeans and are free, layers of their personality come to light out o f the strict religious environment. I also got to see some other friends from Dar and was happy to get back there as I have really grown to like the city. Now I’m back at school, trying to teach my students some last lessons in physics before I leave. Only 1 more month before I pack my bags, and there are a lot of things to tie up. Hope all is well wherever you are and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Much love,