The Requirement of English

An interesting TedTalk by Patricia Ryan, an English teacher with over 30 years experience in the Gulf. Ryan stresses some of the repercussions of the spread of English as the international language and the reality of a system that equates intelligence with a knowledge of English.

“Can it be right to reject a student on linguistic ability alone? I don’t think so.”

“I hear you say, ‘What about the research? It’s all in English’… that is a self-fulfilling prophecy… I ask you, ‘What happened to translation?'”

Ryan’s talk presents an interesting connection to our own experiences teaching in Kipili, where English is seen as the key to continued learning but often becomes a barrier to opportunity. It also sheds light on how to embrace the diversity of languages and harvest the rich cultural knowledge embedded within them.

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July 10, 2008

Me Again!

Almost the end of Week 2, and we’ve started to settle into our home here. This was our “cultural experiences” week before starting at school and I think it was everything we could have hoped. We learned how Tanzanian women cook and clean without the luxuries that we are used to at home.  You realize how different the pace of life is, especially when basic chores take hours longer in Tanzania.  We also had 30 staff laughing hysterically at us today when we tried to cook “Ugali” for them for lunch. We started at 9:30am, and served it at 12:30pm.

As I think I mentioned in the last email, the Tanzanian staff here are simply amazing. They feel like our older brothers, and we have so much fun together joking around, despite the language barriers. They all want to learn SO badly and want to continue their educations, but it’s a complete uphill battle. There is one dictionary on the island, and they take turns borrowing it to try and learn more…but that’s about it for learning supplies. Most of them are working to pay for younger siblings to go to school – ultimate sacrifices of love – because the staff here are only a bit older than I am and send every penny home to their families.

We went to Kuranda on Wednesday (30min boat ride away) to do some shopping at the market, and two staff members came with us and showed us around the town because that’s where they grew up. It was an AMAZING morning – I will remember it for the rest of my life I’m sure. We went to Noddy’s aunt’s home and all the children started SCREAMING and crying and running away because they thought the “Mzungu” (white people) were going to eat them. Everyone was just yelling “Mzungu” at the sides of the roads, and parents would try and get their kids to touch our hands but the kids would just scream and cry. Eventually though, we busted out the few Swahili phrases we knew, and just crouched to the ground and put out our hands…and the brave kids came for high fives. Eventually, ALL the kids wanted high fives.  We ended up with a trail of about 20 kids behind us going around the village, all taking turns holding our hands.

Unfortunately electricity time is up – but I can report that we are still alive and have a growing number of stories to share when we’re home.

Sending a bigggg virutal hug home!

Lots and LOTS of Love,

xoxox Kate (and Kaitlin)

July 9, 2008

Hi Everyone!!

I have to do this the impersonal way because we have VERY LIMITED time on the internet!! This is also on Kaitlin’s behalf we don’t both have time to write something! She will send next weeks emails. SO here goes (Ill just babble until time runs out):

We are having a whirlwind experience so far in Africa… the most intense culture shock and emotional rollercoaster either of us have ever experienced.

We’ve been all over the country already but are finally settled in on the Island where we will remain for the next 5 weeks. Tanzanians are such amazing people. They are beautiful (inside and out), warm and welcoming – a very different vibe than at home. We are kind of like aliens here with our white skin. Today we took a boat to the closest village and little kids literally screamed and cried when we got meters away from them.  Determined to change their minds about us, we went on our knees and most of them inched nearer and nearer until we were walking around the village with 20 kids all around us holding our hands and giving high fives. We haven’t started teaching yet but I honestly don’t even know what to expect. They don’t speak any English, and as much as I’m trying to learn Swahili (I’ll give some demos when I’m home, its pretty amusing), it seems like an impossible task to try and teach English.

The 4 of us have has many moments where we just want to break down because various things become a bit overwhelming, but the one thing that always bounces us back are the staff here on the Island. They are INCREDIBLE. About half speak some English, and they are the nicest men I have ever met. They are like our older brothers and they look out for us everywhere. They’ve been teaching us Swahili and all about the culture.  We sing and dance together and in this short time already have so much love for them all.

Although the Island is this crazy 5 star resort, we live in the staff quarters so it’s a bit different. Our room looks a bit like a jail cell, but we’re used to it now and and it’s not bad.  Kaitlin and I hung some magazine cut-outs on our wall using band-aids – it’s all about being resourceful here.  The power cuts off at 9:30pm so we light a candle after that. There’s no mirror so I never know what I look like, no hot water so we’re adjusting to cold showers, and no laundry so we walk down what seems like a mountain with buckets balancing on our heads carrying our clothes, sheets, and towels…and do our laundry in the lake like African women. It’s labour intensive and I think I have squashed all the vertebrae in my neck carrying the bucket. SO painful. All the staff laugh hysterically at us…but we’ve embraced it and just laugh too. They said we are improving.

The days are going to be LONG when we start teaching…school from 7:30am to 5:30pm…..

There are NO supplies, hardly any desks or chairs, remnants of a black board – this is truly how you would imagine a 3rd world school. We spent yesterday on the island making little mini chalkboards for the kiddies, so at least we can give them that. In all honesty, I’m terrified about the teaching.

Today we introduced the staff to “North American music” – Kanye, Jay Z, Rihanna, and some other people. They were LOVVVIN’ it. Celine Dion is actually so big over here; you hear her blasting when you drive through villages. Weeeird. I have lots of videos for you to see of singing and dancing.  Naturally, they show us up in the dancing big time!

Tomorrow we are learning how to cook traditional Tanzanian food for 30 staff – they are making us eat some after so it’s quite likely I’m going to be dead sick afterwards. We’ve all felt like shit off and on this whole time because of the different food. You have to be so careful about the water. But otherwise I bet it will be fun cooking it.

OK- must go…no more net time. I hope your all having AMAZING summers, and I miss you so so much. I’m trying not to count the days and just enjoy the little things, but its hard at times and I can’t wait to be back home with you all!

LOTS AND LOTS OF LOVE,

Kate (and Kaitlin)

XOXOXOXOX