Thursday, June 26, 2008
Today was hard and exhausting. Early this morning we took off to Zoomba School on the outskirts of Blantyre to meet students and help out with manual labor. We walked nearly five miles to the school.
At Zoomba School there are 18 teachers and 2,300 students! The elementary classrooms were made of cement floors and mud brick walls. The children were squished and squeezed like sardines - all sitting on the floor (no chairs of any kind). In each classroom there were no books, no computers, no posters, no toys...NOTHING AT ALL! One wall in each classroom had a chalkboard on which the teacher wrote the lessons. Each student had one very tiny pencil and a writing tablet on which to copy their lessons. Most of the classrooms had no windows, and those windows we did see were broken.
In grades 6, 7, and 8 the children sat at picnic table like set-ups. The tables were made of cement. In at least one classroom the students sat at desks - not the same desks we are familiar with, but desks nonetheless.
The Headmaster walked us around the school and introduced us to each teacher and classroom full of students. He said, "Good morning students", and the children immediately stood to their feet and in slow deliberate English they said, "Good morning Sir. How are you today Sir?" The Headmaster said, "I am fine", and he told them to sit. They were well mannered and respectful.
We ate a quick lunch (one peanut butter sandwich – the same thing everyday) after the classroom visits. Half the team went to paint blackboards, while the rest of us played with the students. We danced "The Macarena", and "The Hokey Pokey", but the students mostly just wanted to hold our hands and practice English.
The team gathered and ALL the students sat out in the dirt, practically piled upon one another, to listen to us. We performed the skits, "The Sin Chair" and "Noah's Ark". Josh and Olivia shared their testimonies. The students looked at us like we were rock stars!
The team presented the school with some gifts and they were so appreciative. We gave a couple of brooms made out of straw and some buckets. We also gave them ONE soccer ball (they call it football there) and all 2,300 students broke into applause when we showed them the ball!! ONE soccer ball stirred such unbelievable gratitude! Amazing.
As we were walking back to camp a young girl wanted to talk with me. I though she said, "I want to go to America", so I asked, "You want to go to America?" "No!", she exclaimed. "Here I have beautiful mountains and beautiful lake. Why would I leave Malawi?" She's right!
We in America assume everyone from other countries want to be us - have what we have, but that just isn't so!
We got back to camp and left almost immediately to walk another 2 miles to play soccer with the villagers. We walked past a coffee plantation and the lake...so beautiful!
Children are ALWAYS following us. Where do they all live? They must know when to go home. This is such a free and trusting culture. Oh sure, it is true that many of the people here see our skin color and assume we have money (and they want it), but the overwhelming sentiment is "Welcome! We are glad you are here!"
There is a "missionary" who lives at the top of the hill in what used to be the YWAM base. Word is this guy moved in, put a fence around his property, got dogs, electricity and a satellite dish, and doesn't speak to anyone. The villagers walk around him when he walks by, and he speaks to no one!
Today while we were walking to the soccer field, through the beautiful coffee plantation, the "missionary" drove by in his brand new SUV - cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Everyone on the team wants to...I don't know...maybe egg his house. He gives "missionary" a bad name, and it is shameful. The fact that he calls himself a missionary is just sad.
Gia is amazing. She has a huge heart and she cries whenever the amazing children surround her.