Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Chimpanzee

It’s been a very busy past few weeks. School has finished and I gave each of my students a goodbye message and we had dance parties in every classroom. It was sad that it was the last time I would see them all together but it was also a relief in a way to finish classes. A lot of them have already left Monapo to go and visit relatives over the holidays. They will get back for when school starts at the beginning of February. They have a longer break this year because the presidential election is being held tomorrow (October 28th). I have already turned in my grades and they were much higher than last year so thankfully, there will be no arguments with the school about me being such a horrible teacher because I actually gave students the grades they deserved. When I told the pedagogical director that I reached the 85% passing rate that they require, he reached out and shook my hand. I think they were happy too that there were no arguments this year. I was much easier on my students this year, letting them use their notebooks and doing projects as groups. The passing rate is supposed to be at 85%, but in all reality, less than 50% should actually be passing. In order to even pass, the students only need to get a 10 out of 20 points. It saddens me that knowing half of the information of the year is considered passing for the next level. It’s because of a system such as this that I am correcting my students’ Portuguese. I am a foreigner who just learned Portuguese starting in 2007 and my portuguese is not perfect. Some of my students in ninth grade didn’t even know how to read or write well. My students are intelligent but they have never been pushed to succeed at a higher level. Hopefully, one day that will change.

Monday was the inauguration of the library and it was exciting to see. We announced it on the radio and we invited the local director of district education but she had to go to a funeral so another man came in her stead. At first, he was very standoff-ish and uninterested in a school ceremony. But as the ceremony went on and he saw that it wasn’t your typical boring one, he actually seemed genuinely interested and stopped playing with his cell phone. We had him say a few words, student activists talked about HIV/AIDS, the JOMA group showed some of their art work and my REDES group presented and did their fashion show. I am happy it ended well and I would call it a success in my books. Although I have donated two years of my life to teaching in Monapo and secondary projects, some people here still wouldn’t consider that enough. No. There must be refreshments at the inauguration. So I had to go and buy soft drinks for everyone. I tried not to be bitter about it. It was frustrating but at that point, I was ready to just pull the band-aid, buy the soft drinks and call it a day. Of course there wasn’t enough for everyone and people got upset. I have come to learn that you can’t please everyone and that’s okay. The library is pretty much finished. There are just a few organizational issues that need to be addressed and then we will be set to go for next year.

REDES is having our end of the year goodbye lunch next Saturday. We are going to cook and eat together and I think I will write each of the girls a letter. They are really amazing girls and I hope that they make it all the way through secondary school and continue their education afterward. I have seen them grow so much over the past two years. They have become more confident and vocal. And they have learned how to sew and start their own small sewing business. They have a long way to go still but they have started with the basics and the only direction from here is up. I have already submitted the project reports for my library and REDES projects and am relieved to call those projects finished. They were a lot of work but they also made my Peace Corps experience even better. When I wasn’t teaching, I was always with my REDES girls or in the library. I feel like I have helped my community gain new skills and materials and that’s all I have ever wanted. I feel like I have made an impression on them but they have made a bigger impression on me. We will always be connected to each other and I will miss many of the people in my town very much when I leave in three weeks.

In other news, I have found a home for Timba after I leave! I originally was going to leave him with one of my students but I have always been kind of afraid that he would get beaten by neighbor kids, have rocks thrown at him, or not get any food to eat. As a result, I asked the nuns in our town if they wanted another dog. They told me to bring him by and I have been taking him to their house each day to get the other dogs used to his scent before he joins them entirely. Right now they have a real guard dog. The kind of guard dog that would rip your face off if you were trying to break in. The other one is still just a puppy. I think it would be a great place for Timba. He can run around the fenced in yard all night long and play with the other dog. The nuns are building a new house for the dogs as well. I kind of feel like I’m putting a chimpanzee that has grown accustomed to love and affection of humans back into the rainforest. Timba is my chimpanzee. He will have little interaction with humans, except to bark at them. But I feel like he will be well cared for and live a better, longer life than he would have if he lived in a random house. I feel like a burden has been lifted off of my shoulders and that he will like it. And if the nuns had decided not to take him, a priest across the street saw me with the dog and one of the nuns and he started inquiring to the nuns if the priests could have him. I never thought there would be such a demand for my undisciplined little clown of a dog. Maybe he always was such an unruly jerk for a reason.

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