Day Six in Duk Payuel

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday morning I gathered up volleyballs and the soccer equipment and balls. Chol helped me carry them all to the school. Meg Foss’s daughter, Brianna, donated about six used soccer balls, ball bags, corner flag posts, ref shirts and hat, a whistle, a team score keeper, and miscellaneous other cool stuff. I bought a few more soccer balls and some volleyballs-some in pink-and two pumps. Zachariah helped me pump them up, but before we were finished, he’d broken both pins. Oh well. Brianna had sent a pump, too, so I got them all blown up in time. Later Victor found me an extra pin, so I’ll deliver that to the school for future use. I’ll have to remember to bring pins next time. I tried to buy extras at Scheel’s where I got the pumps, but they didn’t have any.

We’d hardly started down the path when a teacher from Patuenoi (a 15-minute-water-walk from here) stopped and asked for soccer balls for his school. It just didn’t seem right to refuse. So I gave him three balls (I think). Anyhow, I had about seven balls left—I never counted them. I gave one to Zachariah for his help, but I haven’t seen it around since then.

We delivered the balls to the school office. They’ll let me know when they organize a game, so I’ll return for that. The school has a volleyball net, but they’ve had to play with a football, (which I am thinking is a FOOTBALL, but of course is a soccer ball) so they were very excited about the volleyballs. Easier on the hands.

I toured the main building, built by IRD. It houses an office and a small library which has some UNICEF textbooks, but no selection of basic reading books for children that I could see. There are three classrooms for grades five through seven. Outside under the trees sit the nursery school students. As I approached, they stood and serenaded me with the “We Welcome You,” song. There is no playground equipment, though the grounds are large enough. They have 13 teachers for 714 students. The primary classes 1a, 1b, 2, 3, and 4 are held in the huts. I’m serenaded at each hut. Inside, there are so many children crowded into the hut, the noise of their singing is deafening. The 4th grade class is smaller, mostly girls. They sang me a different song, though I can’t tell you what it was.

I asked the teachers to select five or 10 girls who spoke English and wanted to learn to sew. And I asked them when the girls would come. I assumed after school, which ends about 1 pm. But the teachers said 10 am when they had a break.

Chol had gone back, so I headed toward the clinic on my own. Apparently the reason people get lost in the woods is because they don’t turn around when they’re walking through and see what the return path looks like, so they don’t recognize the way and walk in circles. I stopped at the registration tables to chat with the two men in charge of registering voters for the January referendum. Each registrant receives a laminated card with his ID information. This card allows the bearer to vote—but only in the place of registration. Then I headed toward a path, but it didn’t go through, saw another—same problem. I felt a little idiotic as I know people were watching—probably thinking I was a pretty dim Kawaja. One of the registrars walked toward me. I threw up my arms and he directed me toward the clinic path.

At the clinic I set everything up in the dining hall for the morning class, but no girls came. The cooks and cleaners were interested, particularly in the sewing machine, but it’s not yet working properly. Victor came back to work on it. It’s fixed, but the belt isn’t quite tight enough, and we decided we need Maduk. Perhaps this weekend. Since that wasn’t working, I gave the women a few safety pins, a needle, some thread. Such small gifts, so greatly appreciated.

Mary and the Athiai, the pregnant cook, decided to sit down with me and sew. Athiai mother of three girls, is pregnant with her fourth baby. No ultrasounds here to determine the sex. I told her I was the oldest of four girls; she came from a family of five girls. She had to return to her duties, but Mary stayed and finished a pad, so I gave her one of the ten sewing kits I’d brought for the girls. She was my very first student.

Then it rained, hard enough to retreat to the tent and wait for it to blow over. The good thing about the rain is it cools things down for a bit. The bad thing is it doesn’t help the eventual humidity and keeps the flood levels high.

Around noon, a teacher arrived with ten girls and gave me a sheet with their names, ages, and grade level. The girls ranged from age 10 to 16, in classes three and 4. One of the eleven-year-olds was in class four. Unfortunately, noon isn’t a good time. The cooks are preparing lunch, so the dining hall is in use. I asked them to return at three.

Apparently the dining staff assumed the sewing kits were available for the taking. Four had disappeared, so I would have to make do with the five main kits, and miscellaneous smaller travel kits, and the extra needles and thread I brought from the US and bought in Nairobi. The staff will put them to good use, anyhow.

Once again I unpacked and set up. It was 2:30. Five girls appeared. I figured—great—five girls. Very manageable. Sufficient kits to go around. We got started. By three there were 10 more. Ten minutes later, another 10 girls arrived. Now I’m digging out needles and thread from my stash.

Most of the girls had rudimentary skills. When they didn’t, they showed each other. I felt a little inadequate as a teacher who couldn’t speak the language and had to continually interrupt Daniel, who was either sewing or videotaping the group, to interpret questions and answers between the girls and myself. When he explained the steps to sew the pads together the girls giggled with embarrassment, though it didn’t bother Daniel a bit. In fact, he and another boy sewed each sewed one. Many of the girls came to show me their results, which was gratifying. Even those stitched in big loopy stiches, the tops and bottoms not aligned, were pleased with their finished pads. I showed them how to hold them together with stick pins for sewing, but many of them didn’t quite get it, or they simply skipped the step. With 25 girls, it was hard to stay on top of things. I have no idea who the original girls on the list were. If these girls spoke any English, they sure didn’t let me know.

One of the issues with the precut pads (from the generous sewers in Bismarck, ND) was that I had no snaps. I had racked my brain trying to figure out what to do about that—the snap deal is more challenging—either sewing on the tiny snaps by hand, or using a snap fastener. I decided safety pins would work. So I gave each girl a safety pin. Who knew safety pins would be such a desired item. I ended up giving each of them four safety pins. I brought hundreds, and it felt odd dishing them out this way, but I wanted to be sure there were enough left for the unsewn pads and to leave with the women who will be in charge of the machines. A few aggressive girls came back for more, hoping I wouldn’t realize I’d already given them pins. I caught on to that, scolded them and slapped their outstretched fingers playfully. They laughed.

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