Thursday, March 12, 2015

(In and) Out of Africa


I learn geography by going there. It’s a hands-on approach. Africa is a big place. No I mean it is a really big place – just less than 12 million square miles it is four times the size of the whole United States (including Alaska) and it contains 47 countries. After this trio Sara and I have been to 6 – 46 (barring any new ones cropping up) to go.

First up on our latest jaunt into the Dark Continent was Zambia and a visit to American International School Lusaka - AISL.  Of course I had never heard of Lusaka until I knew I was headed there – blame that on my Eurocentricly instilled geographic education where we were told that there was this big land mass called Africa and pretty much left at that.

From what I saw, Zambia is a green lush place full of birds, color and sound. Much the same, AISL is a multicultural place full of color sound and learning. Our hostesses – Terry and Kelly the upper and lower school librarians respectively showed us the upmost of hospitality. 

I started my day with pre-K and finished with seniors – my favorite. I love getting to jump back and forth from elementary to high school. It keeps one on one’s toes to say the least. Along the way we did a couple assemblies, took a bike ride shopped in a local market after reuniting with a teacher friend, Dana, who we met a few years back and introduced us to her compatriot in mayhem Kathleen the math teacher.  We packed whole lot into 4 days – just enough to know we want to come back.

Next up on our tour was Khartoum in North Sudan a brand new country in the upper eastern portion of the continent. Life here seems pretty harsh. Searing heat, the temperatures climbed over 110 degrees Fahrenheit while we were there. It’s a dry oven bread baking temperature dusted with well, dust. One’s sweat just disappears as soon as it leaves ones body and you have to be careful to remain hydrated. Top this off with an authoritarian government and an economy whose back is being broken with US sanctions and you’ve got a recipe for misery. Instead, we found the Sudanese people to be welcoming, quick to share what they had and even quicker with a laugh.

Embodying the definition of oasis is the Khartoum International Community School. Jeanette, the upper school librarian and her lower school compatriot Laura invited us into the refreshing atmosphere of their school.  We worked on refrain poems with the little guys, extended metaphor with the big guys and then did a voluntary professional development session with the teachers after school one day – which ended up being packed. I like to think it was our dynamic presentation that brought out the big numbers – but I have a sneaking suspicion the free cupcakes and coffee played into the mix.

Next up Uganda!

As hot and dry as Khartoum is – Kampala, Uganda is moist and green, leaning its verdant shoulders into Lake Victoria from which the Nile flows. Noisy Ibis cackle and crack wise from the sky, music blares from all modes of vehicles and vegetable stands line the roadways from Entebbe airport to the International School of Uganda.

We squeezed a three day visit into two- first day working with teachers on writing across the curriculum and then the second with students in the upper school. Again – we only wish we had more time.

We were the happy house-guests of a humanity teacher named Matt  - who we had worked with several years ago in Hong Kong (these international teachers get around). ISU was the impetus for this whole journey – Sara had met the senior school principle, Lesley, at a conference a couple years back and the two had been plotting our visit for a while.  So – thanks to the scheming of Lesley and her librarian Cathy we pulled this one off!

After our work at the school we had just enough time to hit a couple markets, buy a few masks, eat a great dinner then up at 3am to begin our journey home. Our heads are still spinning!

This was the definition of a whirlwind spin through a bit of Africa.

Can’t wait to do it again – perhaps at a little calmer pace.

1 comment:

steve swinburne said...

Love the feel of your post...Africa was SO lucky to have you two!