Monday, June 25, 2012

Hi there. Nice to meet you. 

“The future is called ‘perhaps,’ which is the only possible thing to call the future.  And the only important thing is not to allow that to scare you.”  -Tennessee Williams, Orpheus Descending, 1957 

What is a muzungu and why are you writing this blog? A muzungu is a traveler. Or a white person. It depends on who you ask. I’m twenty-three years old, just out of my first year of teaching, and moving to East Africa. Yes. Africa. 

Why? Because it's a completely amazing place. I spent last summer in Uganda with the inspiring Volunteer Uganda- teaching English and math to 11-16 year olds in the rural district of Kanungu. When it was time to leave, I was in tears at Entebbe International Airport. I had new family, new friends, and a life full of sunshine and purpose. In three months of teaching children who could afford only to bring lengths of sugarcane to school for lunch, I met some of the bravest, most stubborn, and most amazing children ever to grace this earth. These students, whose parents couldn’t in most cases even afford to buy them shoes, smiled and laughed more than kids I’ve taught who wear the newest Nike sneakers every day back in Philadelphia. Before I even left, I was plotting how to get back. 

(If you want to know more about Volunteer Uganda- and you should- check out I highly recommend taking a few weeks out of your year to experience something that will change your life forever.)

The opportunity came when a private international school in Kampala accepted my application and offered me a position to teach high school English to their diverse population of students. As sorry as I was to say goodbye to my 8th graders in the United States, I’m taking off in two weeks to start a new life of teaching abroad. I can’t thank the team of teachers I worked with this past year enough. They are some of the most genuine, honest, hard-working, and generous people I have ever met. If you’re one of those teachers, you know who you are. Thank you so much. And don’t let my BFF teacher across the hall sing too many “Salami Gomez” and “Hannah Wyoming” songs to the kids next year (as corny as that sounds, those jokes are hilarious before 7 AM.) Though if he does, please take video. You guys are the best, and have taught me so much.
At my send-off party this past weekend, my dearest friends came out to wish me luck in this seemingly crazy endeavor. And a few of them starting tossing around an interesting word: calling. “It’s amazing that you’ve found your calling, Diane.” In a send off note, “I hope by the time you get back I’ll be lucky enough to have found my calling, too.” I’m still a little stunned when I think about it. It is true that my life has been about teaching since before I can remember (thanks to three educator parents.) But a calling suggests that this is the purpose I have been put in this world for. The job that God planned for me to do. How wonderful would it be if I really have found my calling at twenty-three?
Though being destined to do a job doesn’t mean that it will be easy. I’m jumping from teaching thirteen year olds in public school who challenged me to push-up contests at the end of class, would demand an honest explanation as to why I was upset to hear them speak too knowledgeably about sex at their age, and who would occasionally curse me out, to a Christian classroom of students from all around the world. I love where I came from. My students helped me grow as much as or more than I helped them. I took a lot of joy from seeing them develop throughout a year and realize that they were capable of some pretty amazing things. I wouldn’t be surprised if two of them become famous hip-hop artists someday. (If they do, I have video and drafts of original lyrics that will be worth millions!)
Still, I look forward to the opportunity to discuss literature from a Christian vantage point (something I have never had the chance to do before,) and get to know a group of students whose lives are so much different than my own. I hope that my new coworkers don’t mind that despite their recommendations about packing Tevas, I plan to keep up my professional tradition of wearing heels. It has always seemed like a good thing for my students to know when I’m coming down the hall. Though I don’t know if I’ll have to worry about this crowd and paper airplane fights. That, and they help to keep me from getting mistaken for a student.
But before the school year begins in the big city, I’ll be headed back to Kanungu to visit friends and family from last year, and to work on plans for a proposed library project. While teaching the village children last year, I was struck by the lack of literacy in classrooms, and saw that a big part of the problem was likely the fact that there was almost no access to books. Students can’t practice their learning if they have nothing to read. After discussing my observations with the Hon. Rev. Canon Dr. Hamlet Mbabazi (those are a lot of titles to say that he is ordained, a former MP, and now the serving chaplain to Uganda’s national parliament,) he shared that a library had been on his mind too. So during the holidays, I’ll be trying to raise enough money for bricks.
I’ll be sure to update you as that project develops.
And so the time of leaving approaches. I will miss my family and friends here in the US, but I can’t help this sneaking feeling that something pretty spectacular awaits.

Lots of Love,


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