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That’s My Teacher!

April 12, 2012
Yada Draws

Yada draws on the floor by candlelight.

Each day gets just a little easier.  Thank god.  I haven’t cried today or slipped into a glassy eyed trance so I’ll call that progress.  I stayed in bed until almost 8:30 this morning, squeezing the cover tight and hiding my face in the pillow.

As soon as I unlocked the door Daniel and Nya came running, “Sweet bread na gone!”  Usually I buy $50 donut, way more than I can eat, and give most to the kids.  Momie is a good woman and I’m happy to give her $0.75 a day, but I missed her today and the kids were disappointed.  I took yesterday’s pineapple off the table and distributed that instead.  I wanted to eat it, but even now have flashbacks of kneeling over my host family’s toilet, half digested pineapple acrid in my mouth.  I couldn’t bear to risk it.  The kids, though, the kids are invincible.

I half heartedly prepared for school, unsure if it was even happening today.  The primary school kids were all on the porch claiming it was National Prayer and Fast Day, but yesterday Mr. Demy backed away from cancelling school even though it was on the Ministry calendar.  “Really, I am confused,” he shook his head at me.  “It’s always on a Friday.”  I pressed him, “So I should come to school.”  He paused, “I cannot say.  Listen to the radio tomorrow.”  Ohhhhkay.

So I prepared my lessons, packed my bag, and trudged to school.  I saw no maroon or green until I reached the main road so I was already planning how to spend the afternoon when Mr. Demy zoomed by obviously dressed for school.  Fewer than half the students milled around the courtyard as I passed through the gate.  A pen-pen driver smooched and yelled at me.  I just shook my head without turning.  “That is not your fine girl,” one of the students yelled at him, “That’s my teacher!”  Good kids.

As I crossed the courtyard 12th grade broke into smiles and applause.  “I knew she’d come!”  I shook their hands, “18 days to WAEC.  Of course I’m here!”  After class Festus begged me to stay, “One more period, Ms. RB.  I beg!”  I told him I had to go to 11th grade but would come back later.  “They will be crying if I don’t come,” I said.  He shook his head, “Let them.  We need you!”  I just laughed and told him he could come with me.

He did.

There were only about 50 kids between the two sections so I put them together.  That meant I was free third period but I hung around anyway, checking homework and solving WAEC problems.  Isaac came out of 11A and sat down next to me.  I checked his homework and he lingered.  “Isaac,” I said, “are you bored in my class?”  He stared, “I’m not getting you.”  “Is my class too easy?” I tried again.  He nodded apologetically.  “Actually I wrote you this letter.”  He fumbled with it but didn’t hand it to me.  “I want you to help me.  I want to be a mathematician.”  I’d been thinking about the same thing for weeks.  I’m not covering enough material for the bright kids.  I’m pulled a lot of kids up but am holding Isaac, Morris, Saye, Christian, and so many other back.  They have done so much outside work they’re actually at or above grade level.

“Of course I will help you,” I turned to him.  “Tell me when and I’ll be there.  You can come to my house any time.  I can come to school early.  I already meet the quizzers on Sundays.”  He looked hopeful, “Before school would be good.”  I asked what days and he said simply, “As many as you can.”  I laughed, “Let me carry the 12th graders to WAEC first, ok?”  He looked solemn, “Surely.”

Festus climbed on the ledge, “I still have your notes, Ms. RB.”  “I know,” I said, “for long!”  He smiled shyly.  “You are still studying them?” I asked.  “Keep them.”  It was an entire legal pad full of notes and associated WAEC problems we won’t be able to cover in class, one of three I have floating around.  I got up to leave and he followed me.  “Are we practicing tomorrow?”  I stopped, “You want to?  It’s a holiday.”  He looked at me hopefully, “Will you come?”  He already knew the answer.

“What time?”

Leaving campus I reached to Maima’s for a fourth day of pepper soup.  Good thing it’s really good.  I went to Jungle Water to get supplies for potato soup night with Pelle and as I left the wind rushed down the main street and the sky turned a funny yellow orange.  “Wait small!” Nya yelled to me, but I waved and rushed down to the club.  Nathaniel brought me a beer and I got completely lost in my book as rain battered the zinc roof and spritzed my face.  Sloppy, drooly Dickson, the small boy who lives at the club, loves me now and we spent a good five minutes playing hide and seek by the door.  Just a month ago he’d run face first into the gate trying to get away from me.  Progress, white woman, progress.

I finally wandered home after six to have a dance party and light the fire.  I was just sitting down to work at 8:00 when I heard small feet on the porch.  “RB?” it was Yada.  I unlocked the door, “Yada, what are you doing here?”  He smiled and held out his hand.  Inside was the small green pencil sharpener they’ve been trying to give me for days.  “Thank you!” I said, “But dat for you.  I have my own.”  He just stared at me.  “Yada, do they know you’re here?”  No response.  I gave him a pencil and showed him how to sharpen it.  Now he’d leave, I thought.  Instead he sat down.  I gave him a sheet and put a candle on the floor.  He scribbled seriously and silently.  “Fini!” he announced after ten minutes.  I took it and thought now he would leave.  I sat down next to him.

The candle was burning out and we sat in silence watching its last breaths.  “You tired?” I asked finally.  He nodded.  “I should walk you home?”  He nodded.  I got the flashlight and wrapped a lapa around my waist.  He took my hand and we walked next door.  “Thank you, RB!” the girls yelled from the porch.  I let go of his hand, “Good night, Yada.”  I turned to go and he turned too then started chasing me.  He grabbed my leg.  “Yadaaaa,” I pried him off, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”  He was silent.  One of the girls led him back to the porch.

Love that kid so much.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. christina permalink
    April 30, 2012 1:48 pm

    Love reading about your interactions with the kids 🙂 I still remember adults who were kind and interacted with me as a child. Whether in school or playing around outside, I’m sure the impression you leave with these children will last a lifetime.

  2. Candace permalink
    May 2, 2012 2:32 am

    I’ve come to love Yada too!

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