Monday, November 26, 2012

Living day to day.

I have to say, it was a strange and new experience to be outside of the United States during the American election. I got to see how invested the rest of the world is in our politics (do you believe people outside the US actually color electoral maps?) and discuss political views with American children raised almost completely abroad. The last was probably the most unnerving. Though I probably acted much the same as a high school student, it’s hard to see kids choose a candidate based on one platform piece or religious affiliation alone. Now, I admit to being an Obama girl. But when I explained how the President’s healthcare reforms had allowed me to come teach them in Uganda and stay on my father’s healthcare (really the deciding reason that allowed me to come and teach,) they shrugged their shoulders. When I asked them if they knew any of the comments Mr. Romney had made about women or about his speech in Israel, they shrugged again. When I asked them to explain any of Romney’s political views aside from his stances on abortion and gay marriage, I got blank stares. They couldn’t articulate one of Obama’s policies. This isn’t a red vs blue thing. This is an information thing. I don’t know how my social studies teachers in high school could stand us.
Although I am pleased with the election results, I also firmly believe that we are one nation, and now need to rally behind the change that we seek as a people. The work isn’t done now. It has just begun. If people want their government to act, we have to use our voices. End rant.
It’s also strange- Thanksgiving is two weeks away, and I’m still changing clothes after school to get out of the heat each day, and this will be the first time ever that I go to work on this American holiday. Thanksgiving is neither a Ugandan holiday nor seen as a religious one, so no school holiday for me. And I’m going to miss dinner with my family! But it makes me all the more grateful that I am able to see them at Christmas. It’s a blessing that not everyone has- the closeness to family and the physical and financial ability to be with them at special times- and I’ll never pass up the chance to say that you for it.
School here is going well. I had my first round of parent conferences, and am now readying to prepare my first set of semester exams. My students make me think every day, and my diaries fast fill with notes, joyous discoveries, internal debates, and sometimes just plain fuming at what I experience. This week I had a student declare the firm belief that his internal beliefs are all that matters, not his actions or the way he treats the people around him. I got so frustrated, but it was amazing because the next day our head of school gave a talk at chapel about reputation, and why it should matter to our students. I’ve always been taught that our thoughts guide us, but our actions make us. Here in Uganda I am constantly reminded of the mindset of my father, who has always been one to be helpful in small ways. If it doesn’t hurt him or his family to put himself out there, he does. My mind fills with infinite examples of small generosities, from squishing extra students into his university courses who badly needed the credits, to helping people find connections for jobs and giving single parents extra time on university work, and even things as simple as offering a few dollars to a middle school student who clearly hasn’t eaten all day. I think it was Mother Teresa who said, “Do good in small things.” How do you prop that up to do battle against teenage arrogance? I don’t know, but I’m working on it!
So the above was written around the time of the election, and now the end of November is upon us. Thoughts of Christmas at home are invading my thoughts and giving me hope in times of frustration. Sometimes everything around me just gets difficult. Although my students are mostly wonderful (even the ones I rant about,) there are other little things that illicit an instant groan. This can be anything from looking at my stack of grading to realizing that all of my family was at home together for Thanksgiving without me, or the daily little dramas of teaching. I know a few people who sometimes seem like they don’t have a single nice thing to say. Their life is to be critical. Or so it feels to me. Me, the second-year teacher who doesn't have my father’s experience or patience, or the iron will of the women in my family to ignore those less-than-pleasant folks. Hm. That sounds like a goal. For the next three and a half weeks, I’m going to channel my mother and step-mom. They’re scary brave women, and they’ll shrug their shoulders and look you right in the eye if you don’t like it. And don’t even get me started on my grandmother. She was lecturing me on the strength of the women in my family even into her seventies.  

Happy holiday season from Simba and me!

Down the river and under the bridge the frustration goes, and I’ll have plenty of thrilling things to say at Christmas! (And I do admit, African craft Christmas shopping is a great pick-me-up! I can't wait to see how friends and family like their gifts!)

Lots of love,