Tag Archives: learning

Bullshit Hacking, or Lies Society Taught Me

Meeting some ducks

Meeting some ducks.

I bloody love going to see my shrink. Ok don’t get me wrong, the bastard still makes me cry, and remember how it feels to feel things I thought I’d put long behind me, but he’s also some kind of ninja counselling genius who picks out ridiculously profound patterns from my what-I-always-assumed-were random thoughts. Which is kinda mindblowing in a how-did-you-even-see-that kinda way, as well as in a more personal understanding-how-my-head-works kinda way. Which is kinda the main point I guess.

So basically I’m learning lots about me. Conveniently I really like learning new things, and I wanted to share a few of them here:

The phrase “A smile costs nothing” is bullshit. True, sometimes it doesn’t cost anything, but then again, sometimes it does. If you’re in the mood for smiling, or not too bothered one way or the other, then sure – give it a whirl. But if you really want to do something other than smile, then it’s a little lie. You’re hiding your feelings, sparing other people’s feelings, avoiding reality. Stuff having a brave face (or a calm face or a supportive face) – I’d rather be in touch with what’s real. I don’t owe anyone a smile – I give smiles when, and because, I want to.

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” is also bullshit. True, if you have to break bad news or broach an uncomfortable subject you might want to err towards choosing your words reasonably considerately, but I’ll take being honest and listening, instead of clamming up and pretending everything’s fine, a thousand times out of a hundred. I have no right to assume that people want me to “protect them” from uncomfortable discussions. Equally if I don’t feel I’m being listened to, then I have no duty to stay in that situation – I have a choice of how to deal with it. And that can include taking a step back or taking some time, or taking my ideas elsewhere. I choose not to be defensive or jump to conclusions, and I can choose not to be around people who do. And that’s Ok. That’s my right.

“Always put other people first” is bullshit too. Consider other people, yes; don’t be unethical or take advantage of others – but always put them before me? Always leave myself with the shitty end of the stick? Always compromise, always give in, always carry other people’s burdens even if they’ve not asked? No. Do other people always put my needs first? No. I have a right to my own boundaries, just like other people have a right to theirs. And I don’t have to give up my boundaries to be accepted as a helpful and charitable member of society. Bugger it – I don’t even have to be seen as a helpful or charitable member of society – I just need to be me.

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Filed under Comfort, Inspiration, Nice Things

Der, Die, Das : 365-7

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This is a brilliant book! I’m brushing up on my German language skills at evening class – in particular I’m aiming to get to grips with the grammar again, but I don’t really feel I’ve made much progress on this aspect so far.

But I ordered German Grammar Drills the other day and have been leafing through it this evening – it’s just what I’ve been looking for! All the rules, in nice little groups, complete with explanations, examples and lots of opportunity to practice.

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Filed under 365 project, Germany, Photography

Project Samson – Making a Change

Johnny (L) helps Knut and our hosts push our broken down matatu…

To balance out my last but one post, one of my fellow volunteers Johnny, came away with different feelings about his time in Kenya. He’s a carpenter, so had plenty to do round the school, and had had a month living in the village as the only volunteer so had had the chance to get to know our hosts much better. Here’s his take on his time in the village, and our attempt to raise enough money to enable Samson, one of the most inspiring teachers at Kimuka Primary School to finish his teaching degree, helping him stamp out caning and improve the kids’ learning and future.

(If you are interested in helping out, please read on, we still have a small amount of money left to raise. If you would like to help, details are at the end of this post. No obligation though, please do read on even if you cannot spare anything, I hope you’ll find it an interesting situation regardless!).

Johnny & Samson with the first aid equipment the proceeds of the Chicken Project has bought for the school

Johnny says:

As you are all probably aware I have spent the last 9 weeks doing volunteer work in Kenya at Kimuka Primary School. My time here as been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, being able to help out those less fortunate and meeting some of the most inspiring people that I have ever come across, has filled me with enthusiasm and energy. It is definitely the most satisfying work I have ever done.

During my time here I have been able to see first hand how the school operates and also what areas the school needs help with. Often when looking through problems within an institution, it’s best to start from the top down. Here, the Head Teacher (Joshua), has unfortunately like many of the Maasai men, let alcohol take control of his life. As a result he is rarely present at school (especially when there are volunteers present to pick up the slack). If he is at school, he is drunk. His behaviour is no doubt affecting the school, especially the kids. There is a lack of trust between the Head Teacher and his staff and also with the kids. The most frustrating aspect of this is seeing a perfect replacement stuck working underneath him.

Teacher Samson is an amazing teacher. One who shows unyielding passion for his job. Always going above and beyond for the children, to ensure that they can have any opportunity available to them. He is in charge of all the school projects i.e ‘The Chicken Coup’, ‘The Rabbit enclosure’ and tree planting around the school [which give the kids responsibility, self respect, and teach them non-academic skills]. These tasks are carried out with great care and organisation, and always match his high standards.

Samson does all of this despite having to pick up the majority of the work left by the Head teacher’s absence. He has spoken to me directly about his personal dreams for the school. Listening to him talk about it, you can feel his enthusiasm, passion and drive to help improve the quality of the children’s lives.

I suggested, or rather demanded that he put his hand up to take over as Head Teacher, telling him he would be perfect for the role. He explained to me that it wasn’t as simple as applying to the school board and putting his case forward. Strangely the current Head Teacher is adored and well respected within the community here. As far as I could work out this is because:

– A. He is a local Maasai man, one of ‘them’, which Samson is not.
– B. Despite the fact he is a drunk, the school is performing the best in the area.

So in the eyes of the local community members, despite how much he drinks, they see it as not a major problem, he is seen to be achieving good results so why change?

In reality, the school is only performing better than the other schools, not necessarily achieving high marks. Many children struggle with basic English and Maths. The room for improvement is huge! In Kenya, strong education is not just important but essential. If the children want to live a life above the poverty line, a solid education is the key. That is why it is so important to have strong leadership and a strong team at the school, so it can grow, and help the children really achieve something for their futures so they can make decisions, if they wish, that will lead their communities out of poverty.

Samson shows the kids how to mix chicken feed

In order to stand a chance of persuading the school board that he is the man to lead the community’s teachers into more efficient ways of working, Samson needs to complete his teaching degree (most teachers in Kenya need only a certificate in teaching to work at primary level). He has already learned valuable skills and methods which he is putting into practice, the pupils regard him highly and parents bring him gifts of valuable goats and traditional jewellery. I have seen him teach and he has a genuine talent for connecting with the kids and engaging them all, not just the brightest or his favourites, and they all trust him.

But his money for the degree fees and required residentials has run out, the small credit limit the government allow teachers has been reached, and if he can’t complete his final year he will have to take up to between 2 and 3 years out until he can get a new loan before continuing with his course. Which leaves Kimuka’s kids being looked after by a drunken Maasai Head who is, along with many of his colleagues, pro-caning and uninterested in what the kids learn, only in the grades they get (and all too often those are achieved by copying or memorising, without understanding of any of the concepts, through fear of caning upon asking a question).

As Samson is not a village elder, nor even a Maasai, he is going to have to show the school board he has ambition and qualifications, how valuable he is to the school – and what would happen if he left. Of course if that happened, all the projects would stop, it would leave only one other teacher who doesn’t teach through the use of caning, and grades would undoubtedly drop as there is no-one else there to fill in for the head. Finishing his degree is his best chance of sealing his ambition to make Kimuka a great rural flagship school and help his beloved kids make a future for themselves.

Johnny has made a brilliant fundraising effort, and he has nearly all of the £850/AUS$1300 Samson needs to complete his course. At the time of writing, we still have £165/AUS$250 to go. If you would like to help and can spare some cash, however little, then please email me on ellyoracle AT gmail DOT com and I will send you details.

Thanks for reading!

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Filed under Africa, Kenya, Society, Travel