Friday, March 5, 2010


One gratifying aspect of being a foreign teacher is that there are stories to tell every day.  Most often, these stories are too small, or relatively uneventful, to share.  They don’t come even close to those stories that start with “when I was in a small town in Africa…” Yet, these daily occurrences make me appreciate the fact that I’m here, and perhaps more importantly, provide me with entertainment.  Kyungbok, another Korean volunteer who teaches biology at Saba-Saba, and I share these daily, and I think we learn more about the community we belong to as we experience them.  Here’s one to share:

An hour into my class after tea break, two students came in late.  I asked one of them where he went, and he said that he went home to eat because he didn’t have breakfast and was famished.  I let him in, and then asked the other one, and he said he did the same too.  So jokingly, I asked whether he was the first one’s brother.  To my surprise, he said yes. There was an atmosphere of slight humor in the classroom, so I decided to investigate further.  I checked the attendance register, and found that their last names were different. Aha! I caught his lie! So I asked,

 “If you’re his brother, why is your last name different?”

“Different father, same mother,” he replied.

Oh really?  So I asked the first one,

“What’s your mother’s name?”

“(some Swahili name)”

And the second one replied likewise, so I decided that to let this be my first exposure to the extremely common illegitimate child/ divorce/ unplanned pregnancy/ mixed up family culture of Tanzania.  But then a couple of girls started to giggle in the front, and one of them said that they are not brothers at all.  So, being a bit upset, I called on the boy, the girl, and a smart student to translate.

It turns out, they aren’t really brothers, but from the same tribe.  When I asked him whether they were brothers, he meant “as if a brother.”  I’m sure somewhere in this whole incident he said something misleading in order to escape punishment, but I got tired of being lost in translation, and decided to let this one be a story that ends there.

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