I seldom lose my temper in Africa, because I'm usually relaxed and very happy; however, life as I know it threw me a new challenge today. Although I'm normally very laid-back, I feel strongly in following rules and guidelines and would never do anything to upset the proverbial "apple cart" (gee, I'm in Africa -- should I say "mango cart?").
Today, a new CCS volunteer (the company I work for) began at my job placement. He is young, but also strong-willed, opinionated, and REFUSES to follow any rules or guidelines! Although I mentioned to him at breakfast, before work, that he wouldn't be able to smoke at work, he left 2 times this morning to do so and that's the good news! He also informed me that I was teaching Math incorrectly to the boys. And he was going to start a beading program to have the guys make bracelets for themselves. The final "straw" for me was when he announced shortly before lunch that he was going to town after lunch to get the things he needed -- and he announced to the other new volunteers that the afternoon classes he was expected to attend were unnecessary and NOT mandatory so he wasn't going to them!!
I lost my temper at that point, and said "Gee, urinating isn't mandatory either, but it IS very helpful!" Guess I should also mention that I was told by a reliable source that he already made his "drug contacts" in this area, the first night he was here. Just the sort of influence we need in a prison for juveniles!
I've worked very hard for the last 7 weeks and I don't want anything to happen that would mess this up, so I went to the administrators and told them my concerns. I also skipped lunch and got a taxi to town to type out my frustrations...
The Mystery of the Disappearing Classroom Chalk
Last week, I decided to take chalk to work to give the kids an additional and different way to do Math. The "board" is very ratty, but at least there IS one. I couldn't figure out why the chalk was disappearing so fast, until I finally realized that the guys were EATING it!!! I found a little more chalk back at the Homebase, and although it was mint green, and some light purple, I thought at least I could use it. I guess these were simply not the desirable "flavors," because it wasn't eaten, and I can continue to do Math in these odd colors!
On Safari With Osteoarthritis
Although I seldom am able to leave the compound where I live other than go to work in the prison, or to take a taxi into town to write this column, I was able to go on a 1-day safari in Arusha National Park last Sunday. I think I've mentioned before, that as an osteoarthritis patient with a wide variety of joint challenges (and replacements), roads, paths, and even "sidewalks" provide an incredible problem for me. Here, all roads are heavily rutted, dirt and very rocky; the version of sidewalks in the village were made, I think, by "engineers" with severe learning disabilities. Walking on sunny days is a challenge, but on rainy muddy days, everything becomes quite treacherous for me!
The first part of my jaunt last weekend was a hopeful search for more than one species of Colobus monkeys. The one I've photographed on previous trips to East Africa looks rather like a long-haired, black and white skunk with the body of a small monkey. I was able to find my hairy friend high in a tree, and one other species, but NOT the one I'd hoped for (maybe he's shy?).
The advantage of this type of trip is that I was riding in a safari vehicle most of the time, and only had to climb up to a standing position on top of the seats to get special shots through the van's raised ceiling. After some successful shots, we stopped at another place to begin our "walk." I reminded my guide, of my walking challenges, but he said it was just a short walk to some falls, and then we'd have lunch. Sound harmless, doesn't it? Except he's not walking-challenged (great young guy with those long legs that seem to go forever). He was nice about helping me in certain areas, but I was miserable about 98% of the time. The "walk" was far more of a 2-hour HIKE including walking through a swamp, and walking on large slippery rocks and a log to bridge this mountain stream. I can't remember when I've had so much fun -- maybe my most recent root canal???
When we returned to the van, the next part of the trip was a canoeing trip, which I definitely refused, so my driver took me for a short ride to see some shorebirds. By the way, for those who've never ventured forth to this part of Africa, even sitting in a "nice" van for a lengthy time can be excruciating. ALL roads are heavily rutted and rocky which makes any trip a very bouncy, bone-jarring experience! I kept thinking of my own tall kids in America who would have found our seating in this vehicle painful. Although I'm fairly short, riding in any of these vehicles requires a somewhat gymnastic body since your knees are shoved into the back of the seat in front of you, and somewhat at a diagonal, providing a rather cramped ride! (and DEFINITELY NOT for someone with artificial hips!)
Next weekend, I'm going to the Ngorogoro Crater -- a place I've been before, but I need to "get away from Dodge" (besides I was offered a great deal)! There should be little (or no) walking, a more comfortable ride, more wildlife, etc. It will definitely help to get away from this area and hopefully help me get a new perspective!
Published On: July 30, 2008