Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Highlights of Thursday the Terrible

Alright, so Im going to try to detail the events of Thursday in great enough detail that it actually captures how horrible I felt the day was.

First, I started off the morning in a good space. I had talked to Kathy the day before and those details will follow shortly, but it was a positive meeting.
I got to the Behavior Class and the teacher was not yet there.
I hadn’t really been given a role yet for this program – it was my first “official” day after the first day of observation.
Without a teacher, we sat around for a bit and played lego. Then I took the older children again and went off to the room I was in with them on observation day.

So far I only had two students, which was manageable. But I had their adult sisters come too. These children do not get dropped off like at school. The adult who comes with them is suppose to be there to learn skills and lessons to be taught at home. However, I wanted to see what the children were capable of themselves, and the sisters were interfering. They were doing things for the children when I gave them a task. Im not sure what they thought they were accomplishing, but I found it very discouraging and frustrating. One sister spoke English, so that helped, but when I suggested that she and the other sister didn’t need to be in the room, neither heeded my suggestion, and they stayed.
I asked the teacher if the sisters could be asked to stay out of the room after break. I’m not sure if that was offensive or not, but I just needed to know where the children were at; what they were capable of. Could they count? Could they be taught to repeat after me? I had hoped to teach some sign language. But there were too many distractions.

After break, there were two more to add to the class. Four students – the higher functioning ones at that. And the moms/sisters stayed away.

I started by bribing them to sign. Each time they copied what I had signed to them, I gave them a cheesie. This worked for two of the four children. One of the others was not interested in the food or activity, and the other little guy did not have the motor control of his hands to actually sign.
The activity lasted less than five minutes.
I was already discouraged.
They started trying to leave from the room.
Then the one little boy with low motor skills peed all over the bathroom floor.
He hadn’t made it to the toilet on time.
I had to go get his sister.

While I did that, one of the girls ran to the other room – which she had already locked herself in earlier in the morning. We had to pry the door open with a knife and when we found her, she was as happy as a pig in mud and completely oblivious we’d had to rescue her!

So, I took the other two children and we went to this second room also while the sister cleaned up the accident.

I brought my iPad to sing some songs with them. The children were not interested in the songs, but rather the device that made noise. They kept touching it. Every time they did, I turned it off, but they didn’t seem to get the cause and effect, so I took it away (keep in mind, I don’t speak the language these children respond to).

Then the little man who had just peed himself, peed himself again. This time, all over the mats. I went to get his sister again and decided I was done. I sent the other three students back to the main room where everyone else was  playing with a parachute.
I must say, my first official day of helping in Behavior Class was as bad as the first day I visited as a guest!

At 11:30am, the whole group went outside for water play and baths. I had a better time with the children in this half hour because I was able to work one on one with them. It was interesting to watch the moms and sisters react the way the children would respond to me. Every time the children did anything remotely positive, I would praise them: “Wakhoza” I would say (Great Work; Good Job etc).
Don’t we do that so often when we’re with kids?
It just seemed natural to me. But everyone seemed to look at me strangely. Perhaps they didn’t see any great accomplishment in the small task being performed. But these are special needs children. Any accomplishment I feel is worthy of praise!

I was worn out and tired by noon. Kathy had called and asked me to take 4.5kg of phale to the hospital on my way to Njewa (outreach) which meant I had to leave right at the end of the class. I didn’t have time to debrief (or apologize) or anything. I just said: Bye, and was off.
Do you know how heavy 4.5 kg of phale is to carry on your back? (phale is cream of corn porridge – uncooked)
Painfully heavy!

I grabbed a minibus at my regular place, and told the guy I was going to ABC. He said, 150MK, and I agreed. I pay 100MK everyday to and from work and ABC is just up the road. This made sense!
Got inside, furthest from the door. I realized this mini bus only had three rows of seats – it could carry four less people. Not sure I’d seen a lot of buses this small. Mental note though…
We were full – four per row – yet we stopped to pick up a guy outside the filling station. Turns out, this was the conductor. The other guy was just filling in while the conductor got a jerry can of fuel.
We dropped the original “conductor” off soon along the way – he was the one who quoted me 150MK.
I had already paid, but they don’t give change right away. They like to hold the bills until they have enough extra small stuff on hand and then they’ll give you your change. I think it’s a power thing too.
Anyway, the guy who quoted me the price was gone. I was left with the new conductor – who, apparently thought he was dealing with a na├»ve anzugu (white person), because he handed me back 300MK.
I should’ve got 350MK. I said something. He argued. The ENTIRE bus argued in my defense. I wasn’t even going half the distance that the mini bus was going and he was charging me MORE than he was charging the people going to town.  I argued with him, the others on the bus argued with him, but he just sat back down and ignored them.

When it came time to go towards the stop I needed, we turned instead. When it came to the only place I could’ve gotten off, the driver kept driving. I YELLED from the back of the bus. The guys next to me YELLED. Suddenly the conductor remembers me and tells the driver to stop. I try to fight my way from the back of the bus with my ridiculously heavy bag. The gentleman next to me offers to help, but the conductor reaches for the bag instead. I slapped his arm away and in said very angrily, “IIIIII” (meaning NOOOOO) and then I stood in front of the door for him to get back on his mini bus and demanded my money. He huffs at me as though Im stealing from him, and I make sure he realizes he has NOT dropped me where Im suppose to be going in the first place. I take my money, “shake the dust off my feet” and cross the road. Im shaking! Im still burning with anger, but also just with that adrenaline from confrontation!

It might have been a good thing they didn’t drop me at the clinic where I needed to go. It gave me time to cool off (internally, definitely not externally). I got the hospital and it took thirty minutes to find the doctor and patient I needed to give the phale to. No one is where they’re suppose to be, and of course when I called Kathy, not only is she in the middle of a therapy session, but she doesn’t know where they’d be either.
Im at the brink of breaking down. I just want to go home.
I figure that I’ve had a rough day, Ive got a minimum forty minute commute still to come to Njewa so guarantee I'll be late.
Kathy calls just as I was about to make the executive decision on my own to go home.
She offers to come get me and drive me to the outreach.
And Im at the outreach right on time. There is only one mom there and we still haven’t received the keys to the storage room.  However, everything happens as soon as I get there, so there isn’t really even a moment to relax or calm down or get mentally ready for the afternoon.

One of my favorite little guys from the sign language class shows up with his mom. Immediately I start working with him. His attention span lasts about five minutes. He is more easily distracted than the children I have worked with in the morning. Plus, we’re outside. There is just so much more to see.

He starts climbing on trees and picnic benches and running through the bushes. He thinks its great fun to toss the soccer ball into the trees and watch the branches break. He can not hear and he can not speak. So if he doesn’t get his way, he just moans real loud.
This happened a lot.
Eventually mom comes to get him and take him back to the group. She tries to get him to do a puzzle, and instead he fights against her. So, I wrap my arms around him and playfully squeeze and tickle him until he sits still. He’s calm for a few minutes and I think (arrogantly ) that maybe we’re getting somewhere. Then he moves a little and a puddle appears under him. He’s just peed himself. And, consequently, ALL OVER my dress also! I have a nice big pee puddle on the bottom of my dress!

That’s it. Im done. I go clean my dress, and sit myself on the couch while the children have snack. I can not get home soon enough. We clean up, and I am devoid of all energy. The girls make fun of me on the walk home because I just have no energy whatsoever.
A man pulls over and picks us up (this is common). He is rather polite and gets a kick out of me (the anzuga). We talk about the best way to cook Chinagwa (Yucca). The girls are laughing at me in fits of hysteria. I don’t think Im being funny, but perhaps the bad day is going to my head. Maybe Im talking foolishness! Or maybe its just that Im being so expressive and they aren’t used to that. Im not sure. They're laughing at me, and Im too tired to care. Plus, its nice to hear them laugh...even if its at my expense!

I get home and all I want to do is go to bed. I go through a quick dinner routine, get cleaned up, and get a nice hot relaxing drink to put me into a calm mode. I crawl into bed, and accidently knock over my water bottle, which accidently knocks over my drink. CRASH, glass everywhere. I stand and just look at the floor. I watch the liquid as it travels over the tiles and along the grout in between. By the time I decide to move, its reached the hallway. So much for relaxing.
Jake has heard the glass break, but given that he is aware of how rough my day was, he is hesitant to open the door. He is afraid of what he will find. Im relatively calm considering. I go through the motions of cleaning up the glass and the mess on the floor. Hoping that any small shards I may have missed get stuck in the cockroaches feet and they can’t crawl around my room.

I just finish putting the glass in the garbage and contemplate making another drink.
Lights out.
Power is gone.
That’s it.

This day needs to end!

Goodnight; good riddance. This is one Thursday I hope to never face again!

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