Monday, August 13, 2012

Settling In

Hi All,

Today we had our first day of school (more or less)! All of the new students are on campus and the returning students are slowly trickling in. I have finally met the kids that I am being charged to look after. Fortunately for me, I think, all of them are returning students, which means that they are going to be able to teach me a lot about the residential life on campus and help me better understand my role as Dorm Parent. I’m hoping this isn’t a double-edged sword and that they use their superior knowledge to take advantage of my ignorance, but they all seem to be good kids so I doubt that will be a problem. They all have super-cool names: Bevertone, Zishan, and Shivam.
Time functions in a very bizarre way over here. Life moves at a very slow pace, but everyone has so much to do and is so motivated to do it that sometimes the pace of life gets in the way of achieving goals. Many meetings, activities and gatherings are scheduled and a schedule is sent out to the general community. Great. But then, as you converse with people throughout the day, you discover that certain arranged events have been moved or cancelled and if you hadn’t asked the right question you would have missed a meeting or showed up far to early. And sometimes that does happen. It’s just a part of life here. You have to shrug it off and move on.
I have been trying to keep track and write about all of the things that have been going on this past week but it has been a futile effort. It has been a real crash course in the International Baccalaureate program from the youngest students in the Primary Years Program (PYP), to the older students in the Middle Years Program (MYP), and finally to the oldest students aiming to achieve the IB Diploma in the Diploma Program (DP). It’s a fascinating program and I encourage you to check out the IB website to get even a glimpse into the program. As intensive and rigorous as the IB program is the Academy adds more levels of complexity and learning with an additional requirement to teach along 5 Strands of the Aga Khan Program: Pluralism, Ethics, Governance and Civil Society, Cultures (with a focus on Muslim civilizations), and Global Economics. It’s incredible how much work these students do. I continue to be amazed at the quality of student this school has and how intelligent, compassionate and driven they are. And I have only been here one week!
That being said, I can’t believe it has only been one week. At the beginning of the week, I was utterly and completely overwhelmed, struggling to keep my head above water, really. There was so much new information to take in and so much adjusting to do. I am looking back at my notes now and in numerous places they say in multiple places, “I still have no idea what I am doing.” Some progress has been made but in a lot of things, like the dorm parent position and what exactly I am supposed to do when I am “on duty” during the week and on the weekend, will have to be figured out as I go on. I sat down with the Teaching Fellow who runs the College Counseling office, Safiya, for three hours today and I am feeling the most comfortable and excited about the prospects for me there. I still haven’t had a conversation with anyone about Student Representative Council but I have plans for that later in the week.
I am most nervous for my English teaching assistant role as, unlike most of the other Fellows, I am not trained at all as a teacher and, although I read books ravenously, it has been a while since I have sat in on an English class. Indeed, I am not going to be teaching a class, at least not yet, but I will be assisting however I might in the coming weeks.
So, although I am certainly excited for what is to come, I am anxious to see what exactly that may be. My role is certainly getting clearer, which is refreshing but not everything is settled yet and my role may be shifting in the near future. As my Dad mentioned last night in conversation over Skype, every new job takes some adjusting to, especially when it is in a new country, new culture, and new environment.
As my workload picks up my goal is to be able to post at least once a week, time-permitting. I hope all is well wherever you may be, thanks for reading!

-Mzungu currently settling in and beginning to clarify his role in Mombasa 

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