So on the last day of filming a man appeared in slacks and a pink button down shirt. He seemed to be sticking his nose in everyone’s business and we weren’t sure who he was or what he was up to. Then he came over to me. “My name is Rading (pronounced Rah-ding), it’s spelled like TRADING but without the T. I am the school patron (aka local politician) and think you should interview me for your show”. Turns out this buy is a super shady local politician that is always trying to be in the limelight and exert whatever power he has wherever he can. His mission today was to be the focus of everyone’s attention and give a speech, on camera only mind you, to show the world his excellence. What followed was one of the most amazing speeches that I need to get a copy of so the entire world can share in this masterful piece of self-promotion. Aside from constantly referring to himself in the third person, some of the other memorable moments of the monologue include when he asked that “the school or something at the school be named after Rading” or when he asked the MTV crew to sign a blank piece of paper for him that he could fill in later with text describing how great he is, thus showing we endorse him. An amazing man, though I feel for the people who must live with him on a daily basis. Rading is below in the pink shirt:
As a token of our appreciation to the school and community we gave them some small gifts. I had bought a bunch of pens, pencils and crayons before I left to give to the headmaster, and during the trip we all chipped in to buy some sports equipment for the kids. There is a huge field in front of the school with 2 makeshift soccer goals. The kids would play soccer with a ball that was just bigger than softball and made of what looked like paper and twine. That said, we got them some soccer balls, volleyballs, and cricket paddles and balls. We were hoping to give this to the head teacher on the DL but they insisted on making a ceremony of it. It ended up being pretty cool though because they had all the students gathered and additionally, many of the parents, the tribe chief and village elders came out today to witness the revelation. The ceremony ended up being filled with song and dance, smiles, handshakes, and one of the most memorable speeches I have ever heard by a local politician named Rading.
Good news! Desk construction was completed and they arrived today! There are 5 desks and 10 chairs that were delivered and they look fantastic and the kids seem excited at their arrival. It’s amazing when you don’t have much how exciting the arrival of something as simple as a new chair can be.
Back in the village today and construction is going well. Since we didn’t have a ton to shoot today we got to spend some QT with the kids. I walked into a classroom that Tim was in and he was have a little Q&A with the kids so I stepped in to help out a bit too. The questions we were getting were amazing! “Is wrestling real?”, “who is Saddam Hussein?, and the best one yet “Why do people come here?”
Since we were documenting the renovation of a classroom that was being turned into a computer lab the students who normally take class in that room were displaced during construction. To make up for this, the school set up a makeshift classroom outside. The desks had been taken outside and a chalkboard removed from the wall was placed leaning against a tree to set up this new place of study. While not ideal for learning, the new setup was quite beautiful so Sean and Steve wanted to capture the scene. The only problem is being outside was too distracting and class hadn’t started yet so the students weren’t facing the chalkboard which would replicate a classroom environment. To remedy this, I went to the front of the class and decided to stand in for the teacher. There were some sentences up on the board that served to both teach English and writing, while also helping drill in health and education related information. For example “I brush my teeth every morning” or “I make sure I come to school every day”. However, what started as a way to simply get the students facing forward turned into my sitting there for 20 minutes going over these sentences, coming up with new sentences, and inviting the reluctant children up to the board to practice their writing of the phrases. It was a wonderful opportunity to interact with young people in the community and helped reinforce something I already knew which was teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.
It was always a bit awkward at the school when it came to eating and drinking. It was almost 90 degrees every day and we were standing outside in the sun most of the day so it goes without saying you would get hot, thirsty and hungry. We had lunch packed for us by the hotel and had a cooler of water in our trucks, but the problem is we are constantly surrounded by kids who often go hungry and don’t always have access to clean water. I would always be sure not to drink outside amongst the kids, but even when I would sneak inside the truck for a drink of water there would be kids peering inside the windows asking for water. At one point I caved and gave Lester some water and watched as he was amazed that the water was cold, then watched him march around like he was carrying a trophy he had won, so proud to have cold water. It was a difficult reality to deal with and I ended up trying not to eat or drink until after we left the village in the end.
When we first arrived at the school we were greeted by hundreds of kids. It was a bit overwhelming because it was a new setting, most of the kids didn’t speak English very well, and there were so many of them staring at us.
I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to do something that is universally understood and doesn’t require language…magic. I did a magic trick for them that my dad taught me that through slight of hand can make it look like a small object, in this case a stone, disappears from your hand. The first few times I did it the kids were cracking up, completely baffled. Then they kept asking me to do it again and again as they tried to figure out how it was happening. Sure enough, after a few exhibitions one of the kids figured it out and took his own stone and started performing the trick for his friends. It ended up being a great icebreaker and those kids ended up being some of my friends during the week.
The children of the village are fantastic. It seems with many of them you get a cold, hard look from them, then once you engage them they give you the biggest and most genuine smiles you have ever seen. One of the things I realized during our visit is that wealth doesn’t always affect ones happiness. I know many people who seem to be successful that aren’t as happy, peaceful, or appreciative of life as the people of Lihanda.
One thing that stood out when meeting these children however came when you would ask them their age. You would meet kids that were small in height and weight, looking to be about 6 or 7 years old, but were actually 12-14 years old. They were in good health and eating regularly now, but most of ones development potential is determined before the age of 5 so since they were likely malnourished at that time they don’t grow to their full potential for their age.
We got to the village and were greeted by the headmaster Vincent and his staff of about 6 teachers. They thanked us for coming, then we broke out to check out the computer lab we would be documenting the construction of. One of the teachers, George, was good enough to give me a tour of the entire compound so I could see firsthand the situations the village is dealing with and the solutions being worked on. They included solutions for education, food, dorms for teachers, bed nets and vaccinations, health, and sanitation.