Friday, July 16, 2010

My Mother's Skirt

Hi everyone!
As you may have heard, we are all fine here in Jinga, Uganda. We don't have plans to teach in Kampala for a week, and the American Embassy has already issued a clearance here for Americans to resume their prior schedules. The bombs happened about two and a half hours away, about the distance from New York City to my home town in Reading, PA- so we were (are) safe! It was however the reasoning behind the network failing for the past four days- so I'm sorry if I've have scared anyone by not writing, but we are all fine!
In fact, I didn't even know about the bombings until Chris called our emergency line to ask if everything was ok. The shake in his voice alone was enough to keep me from sleeping well. I was in and out of dreams and still shaking when I woke up the following morning. This week has been trying because I feel exhausted. Not physically...years of field-hokey running, and college dance classes have made my body push through any fatigue of walking and teaching on my feet all day, but rather, I am mentally drained.
Monday in particular was difficult because I knew my family was distraught. Since the internet had failed, I had no way of reaching out to them which was very upsetting. They knew I wasn't near the bombs, but the idea that there were 'bombs in Uganda' was enough to ignite a now constant worry in their minds, and I knew that.
After breakfast the shakes had subsided mostly and I tried to take deep breaths in preparation for the day as I got dressed. The energy I expend on a normal day is great, refueled only by the energy that the kids give back to me by their excitement in our lessons. Monday, however, was different; my energy was at a place that I worried would effect the way I taught my kids, and in succession, the way the kids would learn. I wanted them to be happy and excited by music- to be energized enough to embrace the teachings and love the subject- I want them to feel the way I did when I watched my mom teach music every Sunday morning in Sunday School.
The Ugandan dress, as I may have mentioned, is very conservative. The back of the knee is provocative and pants must be very loose so as not to upset the cultural comfort. I decided I would wear skirts because the children respond to, and respect formal dress. Owning very little flowing skirts that reach the floor, I asked my mom if I might borrow a few of her's before I left. Out of her closet she pulls several floor-length skirts, varying in color and pattern: a pastel, tie-dyed skirt that balloons out if you spin in a circle; a leopard and tiger print that has a sheer feel to it; and an actual African print dress with a clay-red and deep-brown print, tying around the waist (her closet was really fun for dress-ups as a kids).
Monday morning I'm wearing the pastel patchwork. When I catch a glimps of myself in the mirror, I am taken back to sometime in the early 90's, with the same seated view of my mother, flowing around the piano in her Sunday-skirt. I know it seems silly, but I am slightly fragile at that moment, thinking of her worrying about me all the way back in the states. I think of the strength she had growing up, and I decide that she would want me to teach the kids regardless of other circumstances. I realize she would understand the work that we're doing here and how valuable our time, effort, and teachings can be. And as I make my way down the street and into town, I decide that to waste a day- a minute- with these kids because of something out of my control would be just that- a waste.
And ya know what- it worked!!

By the end of our first three days with TAOST, The Aids Orphan Support Trust, each class can tell you that "The musical alphabet is from A-G!" and that "The musical syllables are Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do!" AND! what each rhythmic note name is and how many beats each has! Today we notated, clapped, and sang the entire song of "Kumbaya" using both the words AND solfege! 30 minutes a day with 7 classes of anywhere from 15-50 kids and they are saying 'diaphragm' and relaxing their 'larynx'!
They are amazing!!
Even when we meet with their teachers for an hour and a half in the afternoon, the kids sit quietly -ALONE!?- in their classrooms...... and do work!!

I have a nice little laugh envisioning my students alone in the auditorium for even 5 minutes! hahahahahahhaa

I am amazed every day, and grateful every day, and all because of my mother's skirt.

More soon,

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