Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day Two

The morning of my second day, it was about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. I was wearing loose fitting white capri pants, a turquoise tunic, and a light scarf. When I walked through the school’s gates, one of the ladies looked at me in alarm and asked, “aren’t you cold?!” I gazed around and noticed that most of the staff and some of the kids were wearing sweaters and cardigans. (Later in class I’d see a boy wearing a fleece-lined windbreaker and sweater to keep warm). I smiled and explained that where I’m from this type of weather is considered warm.

I went over to the Early Years Building and met Miss Sara. She had gate duty and so I went upstairs on my own. I met the children in the classroom next to ours and chatted with the teachers for a while. Before class was to start we had an assembly downstairs. The kids lined up and we took them downstairs, where they patiently lined up one after the other, and without complaining stood for the duration of the assembly, which consisted of the music teacher speaking and one of the classes performing a song.

Back in the classroom we waited for Miss Sara. The students were more familiar with me now and after one of them, overcome by curiosity, started asking me questions, they all gathered round and joined in. This Q&A soon turned into them wanting to tell me about their lives and I encouraged them by asking them questions. They were so eager to answer, that they all started talking at the same time. Cricket seemed to be a particularly popular topic. One boy started my telling me about the upcoming cricket world championship (some games are being played in Bangladesh) and that he plays cricket. Jumping up and down with their hands up in the air the all said in chorus, “me too, me too!”

Eventually Miss Sara arrived and class got underway. While I’m sure the children were learning a lot, so was I. To start the day we sang a song about the seasons based on the tune (and words) of “Where is pointer? Where is pointer? Here I am. Here I am. How are you today sir? Very well I thank you. Run away. Run away.” Instead of the names of the fingers, you substitute the names of the seasons. We started with autumn, then came winter and spring. I knew summer would be next, but what would our last finger be? Turns out Bangladeshis have five seasons – the four we’re used to and monsoon.

Of course I’ve also been trying to learn everyone’s name. There are some children, Nora, Naveed, Drik (pronounced Drake), and Ariq (sounds like Erik with an A), who have names that are familiar and were thus easy to learn. Others, Ridita, Ramissa, Arash, Mujabin, and Shawdah, have been harder to remember, and then there’s the ones that aren’t listed here because I can’t recall them at all. Every day I’m introduced to a huge number of staff and students whose names I desperately try to remember, but in the end I still get them mixed up. I think I need to borrow a yearbook so I can study the names and faces.

While I’ve been busy learning names and getting a glimpse of Bangladeshi life, I know some of the kids wish I would just learn the language, Bangla. Almost all of the children at school are learning English as a second language. Some of them, you can tell, speak it at home or at least practice, others can understand me but are not comfortable speaking, and some still struggle with comprehension. The differences in English literacy skills often cause me to ask myself whether I can’t understand because of the accent or because they were actually speaking a different language. One girl won’t speak English, not even to Miss Sara. However, when we were in the computer lab I was trying to help her and I thought we’d had a breakthrough when she said “puzzle” and pointed to the screen (i.e. asking me to change the game). I enthusiastically told Miss Sara about this later, and she smiled and said, “there is no other word for puzzle in Bangla, so we just say puzzle.” I guess the breakthrough wasn’t one after all.

I’m quickly picking up on the children’s personalities. Ayaz is Mr. Popular. He’s very outgoing and all the kids, especially Mashirah, like him. When we attempted to get the kids to stand in a circle, Ayaz was stuck in the middle and being pulled in three different directions – literally. Mashirah was clearly the most determined and about to win when, with a smile on his face but desperation in his voice, Ayaz said, “always, always Mashirah wants me to go with her!” The problem was solved when Miss Sara invited Ayaz to stand next to her. Mashira always wants to be the first - she’ll wait for everyone to line up and then slip right in front of the line. Ariq has a lot to say and can always think of something more to add as soon as I focus my attention on someone else. Nora notices every little detail and will point out any time conflicting information has been presented.

Interactions with students have not been limited to the class I’m working in. I observed the Ladybird (aka ladybug) class, level 3, and three of the students came up to me after school. They were very interested in learning as much as possible from me – where I’m from, what I do, my family, whether I like their school, their country, etc, etc. We spoke until it was time for them to get picked up. I lingered awhile longer before heading home.

This first week at school has been great and I’m already looking forward to tomorrow! (Since Friday and Saturday are the weekend, and Sunday is the equivalent of our Monday).

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