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Work Like an American

June 26, 2012

Two red pens, one Peace Corps Volunteer, and more than one hundred hours of work produced four hundred grade cards and grade sheets. Oh, and that’s not mentioning the cups of Nescafe!

Yesterday was rough.  I was up most of the night before making grade sheets and went to campus for our faculty meeting with a pounding headache.  It was the first day I wore jeans to school and, frankly, I half hoped they’d be offended.

“You want me to do an American amount of work?  Fine, but then you have to deal with me being an American.  That means I’m going to wear ‘trousers’ and speak my mind.  That’s right, I have legs and, frankly, one of these days I’d like to use them to kick your ass.”  As I trekked to campus I wrote a passionate speech on the theme “you should be ashamed.”  It was pretty good… and pretty offensive.  So I settled for my jeans and t-shirt, hoping they’d see they’d finally pushed me too far. 

Everyone turned when I walked through the gate and a few raised their eyebrows.  I waved obligatorily and sat down twenty feet away to finish my cards.  One teacher had submitted his grades just the night before and I’d spent the night calculating his averages with a flashlight tucked between my neck and shoulder (fun fact: solar calculators don’t work by candlelight).  My speech was still fresh in my mouth and I didn’t want to risk letting it spill out in conversation.

Some of the 11th graders huddled around me and thanked me for my hard work.  I smiled tiredly, “Do you believe I love you now?” 

The meeting finally started an hour later and by then I was sure I had a fever.  My nose was running, my head was pounding and I sat propped against the wall using my big pink scarf as a blanket.  No one else seemed cold but I was freezing and they just wouldn’t stop talking.  I was obliged to speak on behalf of my classes several times and, simply for lack of energy, stuck with my “I am an American” theme, squeaking out clear fast English.  This is unusual for me and they looked at me wide eyed.  I doubt they understood half of it.  I crumpled back in my bench and tried not to watch the clock.

When we finished four hours later I finally unloaded the grade sheets and was obliged to take some pictures for the graduation program.  “I beg you hire someone to make it,” I said with eyes half closed and head pounding, “I not allllright and we’re travelling Thursday.  I’ll put the pictures on my computer stick and carry it tomorrow.” 

I bought candles, tissues, and pepper soup and somehow made it home.  “Ms. RB is resting!!” I changed the note on the door.  “Do not knock!  See Mr. Demy about your grades.”  I crawled in bed with the radio and read People magazines from February until I fell asleep. 

Notes, however, are great for people who can read. 

“RB?  RB?!  RB-OOOO!?” I heard Grandpa’s voice through the front window.  “Grandpa, I’m resting,” I called back weakly.  They simply screamed louder now, thrilled to receive confirmation of my existence inside.

I got up and we stared at each other through the screen, Angel, Pape, and Maya lined up on the bench so they could reach.  “RB!  My ma na born small sister!” Grandpa exclaimed.  “We must dance for her!”  I unlatched the door and came outside.  They squealed and surrounded my knees.  Grandpa was the only one wearing pants.  Sure.  I could use some baby time.

Pape and Maya started playing with a football even though they can hardly walk and, well, it was pretty great.  I kept kicking it to Pape and he kept picking it up to chunk at me except he never quite got the part where you let go and each time flung his body full length on the ground.  He never cried, though, each time getting up confused but smiling.  “You strong boy,” I said, brushing him off.

I finished some wash that had been sitting since the day before and did the dishes.  I was finally starting to feel a little better when people I didn’t know started appearing at the house.  “I heard you have my result.  When am I going?”  Excuse me?  They meant EARTH University and they wanted me to answer why they weren’t selected.  I was as polite but curt as I could be and sent them away.  Grandpa could tell I was vexed (clearly we spend too much time together) and said sadly, “All these people coming give you hard time, RB.  We should hide?” 

Great idea.  Great idea-o.

I finally had a quiet night to relax since my students cancelled study class to prepare for prom.  It was perfect.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Candace permalink
    July 8, 2012 10:02 pm

    You give Americans too much credit. It should be “work like RB”!

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