Monday, June 20, 2011

My New Community

Settled in in Katosi, this past week Kristen and I took off running. Thus far, we have been working with four schools, three primary and one secondary, possibly adding a couple more to the agenda this coming week. In the Ugandan School System, students complete seven years of primary school, followed by six years of senior secondary, before taking exams for University. A bachelor's degree requires three years of university, instead of the typical four in the USA.

I have been in Katosi for two weeks now and already I feel included in the community. When I walk down the street, more often than not, I will hear children calling my name "Nakato!" instead of shouting the generic "Mzungu!" Yesterday, when I went to the market to buy items for lunch, I was greeted by a woman I did not know. I greeted her "Oli otya nnyabo?" "Gyendi nnyabo. Weebale. Oli otya Nakato?" I expected to be called "nnyabo" - woman - which is the formal term used in greetings, yet she surprised me by knowing and calling me by my Ugandan name. I suppose word spread quickly when there are only three white people in the town.

I have been staying busy teaching in the classrooms (Nursery, P2, P5, and S3), making yogurt for KWDT Dairy, entertaining the children of the community, leading sanitation clubs, helping with household chores, hand washing clothes and dishes, cooking two or three meals a day, keeping my daily journal, reading books, and socializing.

A few highlights of the week:
On Tuesday, after teaching P5 Math and Science at Katosi C/U Primary School, I went into the P2 classroom and taught a song with Kristen. Asked to come back on Friday to sing more songs, we did. The children, no matter what age, are always so excited when we walk into the classroom. After Row Row Row Your Boat and Mary Had a Little Lamb, the teacher told us that some of the children would like to share a word with us. We expected them to teach us a couple phrases in Luganda, but it was clarified that he meant a word from their income. We received eight tomatoes and four avocados from as many students because they wanted to show their appreciation of us.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Kristen and I worked with the Nursery class at St. Mary's Primary School. One hundred 3-5 years old students circled around us as we taught songs - The Very Little Spider (The Itsy Bitsy Spider), Row Row Row Your Boat, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Wasswa and Kato (Old MacDonald) Had a Farm - and dances - The Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance - and more. In return, they sang songs and danced for us, overly excited that we were paying them so much attention.

On Saturday, we went with Heidi to St. Joseph's Secondary School for their Health Club. We played a few games and completed a Life Skills Activity to encourage the students to think about who they are and who they want to become. All the students were asked to draw a picture of who they currently are and another of who they want to be in the future as well as write a description of their goals and aspirations. Everyone shared their drawings and asked questions about their goals. These students were very enthusiastic and interested in what we had to share with them. With students like the ones I have had the opportunity to work with this week, it is no wonder why so many of them desire to be teachers.

As a thank you for the time we spent with her class, Harriet, the head nursery teacher at St. Mary's (there are three teachers for the 100 students), invited us to her house on Sunday for fruit. The invitation in and of itself was very kind of Harriet. However, when we arrived, she had prepared so much more than we expected. A full meal of matooke (cooked green bananas) with beans, fish, and greens and a bottle of grape Mirinda sat waiting for us to share with her and her two adorable children. She also gave us tomatoes, avocados, and lemons from her garden. She told us how several parents had contacted her to ask if it was true that two mzungus came to teach in the classroom since their children had come home telling them so. The parents are all very appreciative that we are willing to work with their children.

In Uganda, the emphasis that is placed on community and the importance of hospitality is immense. While I may feel that I not making much of a impact, I have come to realize that the smallest amount of generosity and effort goes a long way. Sometimes I wonder why I fall in love with certain places, like Katosi, but then I think about the hidden beauty of the location, especially that which is in the people, and I remember. I have traveled to many countries, yet nowhere in the US or Europe have I seen such complete selflessness and hospitality as from the people I have come to know in Uganda and Ghana.

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