Christy got a pretty fierce spider bite a few days ago that caused her ankle to swell up to cankle size. Buddy cattle-prodded her! Bush wisdom says that zapping something with electricity breaks down the poison somehow. Apparently if you get bitten by a poisonous snake out here in the bush, they’ll attach you to a car battery and zap you with that to save your life. As exciting as that experience sounds, I think I’ll stay away from any snakes I see.
Our Noloholo Scholars arrived today. As I was mentioning last week, most families here can’t afford to send their children to secondary school (grades 7-13). APW takes the students with the best attendance at Wildlife Clubs, and then ranks them by academic performance, and gives the top 4 scholarships to attend Moringe Secondary School. Scholars live at the school, coming home only on school breaks to help their parents with the cattle, cooking and cleaning. We also whisk them up to Noloholo for a week and put them through the wringer in an academic bootcamp. Neo found a teacher in Arusha and brought him in to review all their academic topics with them. It’s fun to have them around, but also touching. They have big dreams – to be doctors, lawyers, engineers and educators. They are the first in their families to have a shot at college, and likely the only ones of all their siblings to have this chance. They know the weight of this opportunity. When I see them, I see my father, some of my close friends, and I see a better future (should they succeed) for all the generations that come after them. They are so young, all under 17, but there is so much hope in them. They also have a long way to go – Christy, Andrew, Kelly and I graded their English language essays and they were a grammatical slaughterhouse. But I think that APW is giving them the principles and tools to succeed, an invested program officer (Neo) who can follow up with them in the way that we would expect parents to do, and high expectations for them as role models. These are all things that I think will lead them to success.
My own body, now that it has recovered, has started to crave all sorts of things. Specifically, ice cream. BBQ pork buns. Enzo’s pizza. A dance floor.
The one main thing that has always helped me to find my way in a new environment has been to join the closest dance party I could find. In Sevilla, it was sevillanas and flamenco. In New York, it was argentine tango. In DC, salsa. Even in Hunchun, I made my way with the 50-somethings that would gather to ballroom dance every night in the park, the Chinese tango and the Chinese hustle. I miss the feeling of connecting with a community through their dancers, of being in a strange place but still knowing how to interact. Here, I am without that one thing that has always anchored me to a place. The hollow of it gnaws more fiercely at my mind every day; I cannot be myself without it.