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?”
We stopped by a factory on the way home from the school to check out desks that were being built for the classroom by a local furniture maker. We got to the old factory and there were about a dozen men working on various projects and works of wood and metal. As we approached the desks, something looked a bit odd. As I looked closer it was more obvious: the desks were custom made for desktop computers, not laptops like our school was getting. Not a big deal, but kind of funny as the big hulking desks with separate compartments for consoles and keyboards were being constructed for a classroom that is receiving some of the smallest laptops I have ever seen (compliments of Lenovo). Kyu later told me that this furniture wasn’t just for our village but for other schools as well that were in fact getting desktops so it made much more sense given the mass production that was underway. In the end, these were beautiful desks that would be fantastic improvements to the 2×4 desks they were currently using.
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.
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.