So once again I must apologize for the absence of a mid week blog, but I will make up for it with a long, very entertaining and informative blog post this time. SO....last Sunday evening we had dinner with the Hawthorne Dominican sisters. It was quite nice. They made spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread. I was in heaven. They told us the story of the formation of their order, which was very interesting, and it would take me a really long time to type out the whole story so I am going to refrain from doing so. It was very nice of them to have us.
The last week at Our Lady of Grace has been extremely eventful and fulfilling. The students have realized that we are leaving and have started really warming up to us, wanting to be with us all the time, and really talking to us about everything that comes to mind. There are three students in particular that always want to talk to me, and it is very nice. One of them doesn't really seem to talk to anyone too much, and always sits with a blank stare on his face, but in the last week he has changed in that he smiles more and always wants to talk to me and sit next to me, which is nice. He asks me all sorts of questions about life and talks to me about things that the wonders about. I gave him my rosary and it said K of C on it - for Knights of Columbus, and he wanted to know who they were, and then what a knight was. I explained to him that the Knights are a Catholic Men's organization that does charitable works for others. The Knight question was more amusing. He wanted to know what a Knight was, so I told him about Knights in the middle ages. I told him that they were men who rode around on horses, wearing armor and brandishing swords, and defending the helpless and fighting for God. He looked at me with this awed expression on his face and his mouth almost open as if to ask, do you really do that?! It was so funny. I had to explain to him that the Knights of Columbus do these things through charitable works and no through swords and on horseback. It was such a funny conversation.
Yesterday we put on a day long retreat for the students. It seemed like they really enjoyed it. I had the seventh and eighth grade boys in my discussion group and they were very well versed in their scripture passages, which was nice. Some of them had trouble seeing the tradition of the church as important, so I tried to tell them about how the church's practices and teachings are based on both tradition and scripture. They steered the conversation towards Jesus and his actions because they knew so many scripture passages. So we discussed Jesus' life and how He is the example that we should all follow. They liked that conversation. Our conversation came to a lull a little early and so we decided to do a team-building activity. I tried to come up with an age appropriate activity on the spot, and I came up with quite the idea. There was an absolutely massive tree next to our meeting spot, so I told them that for a team-building activity, we were going to get everyone in the group up in the tree. Naturally, they loved it, and we got about 12 of us up in the tree. I then told them that we were going to respectfully yell a decade of the rosary at the top of our lungs. At first they were hesitant, but after the first prayer, they got really into it. They yelled as loud as they could, and they thought it was awesome. Now it could just be that they loved it because they had actually been told to climb a tree as high as they could, and were now being told to yell as loud as they could out of that tree, but I prefer to believe that they really loved chanting the prayers. After doing this, we were still a few minutes early for lunch, so I pulled out the guitar, and taught them the chorus to an American college song that I thought they would enjoy. The song is called "The General" and it is by Dispatch. It is a great song, and you can listen to it here if you would like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3JjlkfX5Gk It is about a general who wakes up in the middle of the night on the eve of battle, and decides that he doesn't want his men to fight.
The chorus goes like this:
"He said: I have seen the others,
and I have discovered
that this fight is not worth fighting.
And I've seen their mothers,
and I will no other
to follow me where I'm going, so,
Take a shower, shine your shoes.
You've got no time to lose,
you are young men you must be living.
Take a shower, shine your shoes,
you've got no time to lose,
You are young men you must be living.
Go now, you are forgiven."
They had lunch, and afterwards we played a slideshow of pictures we had taken of them. They don't see cameras very often, if at all, and so they love having their picture taken, and getting to see the pictures. They laughed hysterically at some of the pictures, and had a great time. We had also made them chocolate chip cookies, and passed those out while they were watching. In the absence of chocolate chips in all the local stores, we used chocolate sprinkles. It actually worked quite well.
After this, we separated the students back in to their groups, and I was once again with the seventh and eighth grade boys. We were going to try and use this time to talk about what it means to be a Catholic man and a Catholic woman with our respective groups. I was not sure that my group of boys could handle the subject, so I decided to take a roundabout route into the topic, rather than a direct one. However, they didn't go for it, so after about ten minutes of trying to get them to talk, I took the direct route. I had given them a good balance of quiet time and questions so they could ease their way into the topic, but they would have none of it. So I asked them "How are women to be treated?" They remained silent. So I moved to a more direct question. I asked "Are women here for our own use and objectification?" (A side note: Polygamy is still a large part of African culture, especially the Luo tribe. Many of the students are from this tribe.) There was silence for about thirty seconds and then one of them said "yes" and most of them started smiling and laughing in agreement. I took a minute to explain to them that because, as they had mentioned earlier, we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore have an inherent dignity, and deserve respect. Whatever we do to one another, we do to Christ. They just sat there and stared into space, so I brought them to the high school boy's discussion group and told them to sit and listen, figuring it would benefit them more than me telling them things and them not listening. I think listening to the older boy's conversation was beneficial for them, so I'm glad that I brought them to that conversation, instead of trying to force a discussion upon them.
Today we started cleaning the house we have been staying in, and packing up our things. It feels so strange. I am almost all packed up, but I have so much to do tonight that I might not get too much sleep. We also took one last ride into town. I rode in a matatu for the first time as well. Picture a standard eight passenger van and then gut it, and fill it with seats for about 16 people. So it;s full to the brim with people, and then everyone has grocery bags and other things, and it becomes very very cramped. The matatu we took back was so packed that I climbed into it through the back window, which was about one foot by one and a half feet. I barely fit in it. I would have gotten in the side door, but the matatu was full, and the only open seat was in the very back by the window.
We got back to the school, and hung out with the students from about 4:30 unitl 7:30. Our dinner is served at 6:15, so we were quite late, but that's ok. They were having a great time, but many of them were sad because we are leaving tommorow. Two of them have been showing me their gymnastic skills, and one of them perfected a backflip last week, and he did that a bunch of times. I got a great photo of him upside down in mid air. It was pretty cool.
Interacting with the students has been a little more challenging over the past two weeks, because they have been studying for their end of term exams, and their national exams. They have three weeks of testing. Whenever they aren't in an exam they are free to study, or "revise" as they call it. We don't want to interrupt them, because for some of them, the national exam will determine if and where they can go to university. However, "revising" is much like an American college student's studying - sitting with your friends for about four hours, and maybe getting one hour of real studying in during that time. It seems that some things are the same in every culture haha.
Earlier on in the five weeks we spent here, I offered to do some manual labor for the school, as we had a lot of down time. There were many places around the school that needed to be repainted, and I mentioned that I would like to do this. Last week they took me up on the offer, and we started to repaint the parade ground (the area around the flagpole) The students stand around it every Monday morning and raise the flag, and every Friday morning and take down the flag. They sing their national anthem and have announcements too. The paint had chipped off most of it, and there were large pieces of cement missing. So we got cement and paint and went to town. The primary students finished their exams on Wednesday last week, and just sit in their classrooms now, so we asked the boys to come help us paint, and they did. They loved it. The secondary boys helped too, when they needed a study break. It will not be completed before I leave, but I know that it will be completed, because the students love working on it. There were a few instances in which students who weren't painting disrespected the working students by unnecessarily walking through the work area and kicking up dust near the wet paint. The students who were painting got angry and defended what they were working on, which was great, because the administration has had trouble getting the students to stand up for their school, and take pride in it. I feel that the students have learned a lot by painting. They are working hard, and diligently, and are seeing what they are accomplishing. It is pretty awesome.
We leave tommorow for Nairobi and then on Tuesday morning we head to the Maasai Mara for a safari. We return to the US on Saturday. I probably will not be able to blog while in safari, so I will write again nwhen I get back to the states! This experience has been life changing and incredible on so many levels, and I am very grateful to all of those who made it possible for us to be here. Thank you very, very much. And thank you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read this blog. I appreciate it.
There are many more pictures up and they can be found at the URL below! Thanks again!