the places: out of africa part two

I now know how Hannah Montana feels. The screaming. The crowding. The pushing. The clamoring. The kids. All. Over. You.

I was ready to jump on a cement block and try my best rendition of “Party in the USA” (yes, I had to google that, lest you judge me).

The moment the Africa team walked onto campus we were accosted by kids. Like little ants in blue sweaters, they crawled up and over one another, posturing for the camera, touching my hair, shouting questions, comments, asking our names, asking about America, staring and giggling like we were aliens that had just disembarked from a spaceship.

From culture to culture, some things never change. The high schoolers, too cool to show their curiosity, stand aloof, seemingly uncaring, wanting to be won over. Kid’s throwing spitballs behind the teachers back. Notes being passed stealthily from one hand to another. Chattering, disinterest, teacher’s pets, and side conversations, it was just like home.

Yet so different.

The school is in the poorest of the poor neighborhoods in Addis Abba. Most of the children who attend are sponsored by someone from America. The walls are bare. The air is thick with chalk dust. The rooms are packed, rows jammed with three children each, 70-80 students filling the room to the brim. They each have one notebook and a pencil. Concrete, dirt, one lone basketball “court” on rocks. We walk into a classroom and immediately the students stand out of respect. The teachers shake our hands in deference to us –their colleagues. “Discipline” dressed in a suit, walks around the campus, carrying a long whip.

We went in bringing new teaching methods and supplies and we left being humbled, grateful for all that we have, shamed about all that we complain about and all that we waste and resolved to change ourselves and our attitudes. Africa will always have a piece of my heart.

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