Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Geeking out

Just a year ago I had no idea what I was doing. I had what seemed an impossible goal, an un-named passion. I knew what I wanted to do, but no idea what it was called or what I needed to do to get there.

And today, my books for Jordan came today. Understanding Global Health and Epidemiology. They're both intense, dense, full of specific and detailed information and will challenge me to no end. But flipping through them, I got so excited and passionate and thrilled...I teared up. Yep. I know. Major geek status. But seriously! This is *exactly* what I love and to know there's actually a name for this, that what I'm passionate about exists, that I'm DOING it, is so overwhelming.

So overwhelming. So exciting. So incredibly amazing. Wowwowwow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This guy... backpacking around Peru right now. He's 4,500 miles away and still makes me laugh. I found a little message in my inbox this morning that made me miss him like crazy. He's pretty cool. I kinda like him.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Refugees and Reciprocity

I wish I had taken a picture of the whiteboard.

Their words, carefully scrawled in red marker, punctuated my original sentences. The letters were shaky and un-uniform; some dipped below the line I'd drawn and some were near unrecognizable....but you could read them. "Salesperson", "fixes", "mechanic", "waiter", "cleans buildings". The words were there and, what's more, so was the comprehension. I was beaming.

Last Wednesday was my last day with the refugees for the school year. The ESL classroom is closed over the summer and I'll be studying abroad so we had to say goodbye. During our last lesson we mostly reviewed material from the last six months: places, directions, the months and days, colors, grammar, does vs. doesn't, jobs...and for some, the alphabet. It's been an amazing six months and when I thought back to January, I couldn't help but beam inside. Six months ago I was given my own little table with 6-10 newly arrived refugees (depending on the day and weather, attendance would shift). Six months ago we couldn't understand each other. Six months ago "January" meant nothing to them. Six months ago some of them couldn't even write their names. Now they're writing sentences on the whiteboard and they know what the words mean!

Alganesh is Eritrean and lived in an Ethiopian refugee camp for 10 years with her three little boys. She stands at the board sounding out each word as she writes and then, when she's written a word, she spells it back to herself. We laugh as she writes out what a waitress does...."My job!", she giggles. "I serve food everyday...but my boys, no tip." She gets it.

Law Meh is quiet and shy and always says "thank you Teacher" when I pass out her paper. I don't know how long it took for her to get out of Burma, but she hasn't been here long. She left in March to work on a mushroom farm, but was fired after two weeks for being too slow. She's back now, smiling and whispering at my table and as we practice the jobs she surprises us all. "I can plumbing" she announces. Alganesh tries to explain what plumbing is and Law Meh nods vigorously "yes! I can plumbing." Well, we've got a fix-it woman on our hands. She gets it.

Twa Meh joined us about a month ago. She'd never held a pencil. So while the others quizzed each other on jobs or made flashcards for themselves, she and I traced the alphabet and learned each tricky letter. She's been practicing her name for the past two weeks; there are pages and pages of her notebook covered in shaky"Twa Meh"s. Wednesday, I was busy working on vocab with the others and when I turned around a couple minutes later, her name AND the day's date were boldly written on her paper. She finally gets it! I was so proud.

I've learned so much from these refugees. Once again, I came in prepared to be the one teaching, instructing, and guiding. And while that did happen, once again I was surprised and humbled by how much I learned from them. Alganesh and I would sit at lunchtime and enjoy her homemade injera while she'd tell me of life in the camp. Ler Say and Nyay Reh would laugh as I tried to pronounce kareni words...I'm sure I was butchering them. They were patient with me as I tried to make English comprehensible; they smiled at my blunders and gave me grace when I couldn't ask for it.

I'm going to miss those guys over the summer. ESL is where it's at.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday laundry

I'm cozy inside a green Mexican poncho. My jeans are ripped and frayed. My feet refuse to be entrapped by socks and my toes wiggle on the carpet.

Buffalo Springfield is serenading me with hippy songs and I'm munching on whole-grain bread from Berkeley. Today is a study day and I feel like a vagabond. I'm about to go camp out in the library for who-knows-how-many hours to do homework for my African societies class. I can barely even call it homework though; I have four African movies to watch and analyze. Tough life, I know.

My laundry is fresh out of the dryer; warm and delicious. I bury my nose in the towels, nostalgic memories of childhood streaming through my mind. We'd bear-hug dad when he held warm laundry so we could soak up the warmth. In the chilly winters we'd brave the cold and run to the dryer to get out the warm clothes we'd been heating up. We'd dance around in the cold air pulling up our hot jeans trying not to get burned by the washers or zipper. Every so often we'd have massive sock-folding marathons and the warm static electricity would make our hair stand on end. Zap.

Those were good times. As I carry my warm pile of laundry back to my apartment I smile. Warm laundry will always make me smile. It's the little things in life...and the silly, happy memories that accompany them that make a soul lighter. Finals are coming up and if I think about it too long, my brain has a panic attack. But right now, in this moment, I'm cozy inside a green Mexican poncho with armfuls of warm, yummy laundry.