Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

I’ve always loved a good thumbs up, and find myself thumbs upping here quite often.  Driving around town, I like to thumbs up the traffic police, street kids, and pretty much anyone who looks my way- especially if I’m stuck sitting in traffic. I’ve had several experiences lately, that are very thumb-rating worthy. Here is a small sampling:

1. T-shirts. At the hospital school there is a kid, Tostani, who virtually everyday wears a t-shirt with a soccer ball that says, “Did you eat a bowl of LOSER for breakfast?!”  To top that off, at the Mugunga school last week, a second grader had a shirt from some sleezy resort in Mexico that said, “I’m shy, but I have a big d**k.” Outrageous t-shirts. Two thumbs up.

2. Witnessing a Piggyback Ride. On Sunday I went to my friend’s pig farm to pick out a pig to roast for an afternoon barbecue. As the pig farmer, Innocent, dragged the chosen pig out of his stall by one leg, all the other pigs went bananas and tried to bite his hand. Then, I was so curious to see how Innocent would carry the screeching pig all the way to the car and I doubled over laughing when I saw him carrying the pig on his back, holding the pigs two front legs over his shoulders. Piggyback Ride. Two thumbs up.

3. Minibus Names. The minibuses here are usually elaborately decorated and boldly named. A lot of them are about God or Jesus, while others are just totally random. I give two thumbs up to the one called FACEBOOK!  I give a huge thumbs DOWN to the series of three minibuses entitled- Ni**a 1, Ni**a 2, and http://www.ni**az.com. I have yet to understand why people are okay with this… I assume they hear it in American rap music and think it’s just another, normal word. Who knows. Minibus Names. Easy to rate by thumb.

4. Muzung. So the word for white person in Swahili is Muzungu. But a lot of the little kids here shorten it and just say it like- MOO-zoong! So now my friends and I have taken a liking to also shouting MUZUNG out the window of the car whenever we see a white person.  Makes me laugh every time. MUZUNG! Two thumbs up.

5. Street kids. I love talking to the street kids.  They tell me that they’re hungry and ask me for money, but I always say no.  On good days I like to learn their names and joke with them. On bad days, they are high on glue and don’t recognize me.  Thumbs up to the good days, thumbs down to the bad ones. Today was a huge thumbs UP. A kid named Izak kept asking me for a biscuit (pronounced biskwee) and finally I said in Swahili, “Izak, I am a teacher. I can teach you, but that’s all I’ve got. I have no idea how to cook biscuits, so I’m never going to have biscuits. All I ever have is paper and pencils.”  Everyone standing on the corner started roaring with laughter.  Then Izak smiled and said, “Okay, then I want to write.” I said, “Okay. Tomorrow then.”  So tomorrow I’ll return with a pen and paper, and we’ll see what happens. I’m pretty pumped about that thumbs up.

6. Insects.  Grasshoppers are called senene, and they are everywhere now. People collect scores of them in bottles, fry them and eat them. They’re easy to catch, free, and a source of protein all in one. Senene get two thumbs up. There is also something called an acid bug. They are also in season now.  If one lands on you and you smash it on your skin, it leaves an incredible burn.  Several of my students have burns all over their faces and necks. I seem to have an acid bug nest close to my bathroom, and now have to do an elaborate investigation of all parts of my toilet before I sit down.  Acid bugs get two thumbs down.

7. Ephphatha. I recently visited a school for deaf children called Ephphatha, that’s in the heart of downtown Goma. They have both a primary and secondary school with over 150 students.  All the classes are in sign language and the secondary school includes a special focus on computers.  Because the students are deaf, it’s impossible to take public transportation because they can’t communicate with mini-bus and moto drivers.  There are a few students who live all the way in Mugunga and walk three hours each way to attend the school. There are also students from even farther away places who stay with host families in Goma.  Pretty incredible. They are now in my network of schools where I observe, get to know the teachers, and hope to include them in the professional development activities I will organize for this Spring.  Ephphatha, two thumbs up.

8. Blog Comments.  I really love reading all of your thoughts and reactions to my blog posts.  It means a lot to me to have so many friends, family, and strangers reading all that I have to say!  I wasn’t sure if I would like blogging, or if it would become a burden… but I absolutely love it.  I enjoy writing and feel lucky to have an easy space to share my experiences with all of you.  So two thumbs up to all of you commenters!!

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7 comments on “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

  1. sallyreams
    December 14, 2010

    Great thumbs ups! Missing you so much and wish I could be there for Christmas!

  2. Marcia
    December 14, 2010

    Sara — We can’t wait to be there. This is going to be so much fun. Have a merry Christmas and we will be there soon!

  3. Patrick
    December 14, 2010

    I want that LOSER shirt!

  4. Alex
    December 15, 2010

    I think you should have some shirts printed that say “I’m a Muzungu, but I have a big…..”

  5. Perry P Perkins
    December 15, 2010

    That’s funny! I local farmer I go to always uses a wheel-barrow…never seen the “piggie-back” thing before, lol!

  6. Mom
    December 16, 2010

    Hope you’ll give us an update to number 5 and what the street kids did when you gave them pen/paper?

  7. Megan
    December 17, 2010

    New reader here letting you know you were promoted, in my Google Reader, from my “testing” label to at least the “tier 2” label – and that is after me reading just this post. No one’s ever been promoted after just one post. You should feel very special indeed. 😉

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This entry was posted on December 14, 2010 by in humanities, travel.
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