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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Swiftie Schooool

You know how some blogs have a place where you can write the title of the song you're listening to? Well, I am humming to myself:
** moo o oooon r i v e r . . . wider than a mile. . . **
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Film photograph taken by Lashma, Standard 6 student at Swifts

The students of Standard 6 at Swifts (where I worked and now live*) are the first ever to do film/take-a-camera-home in Arusha. Generally we use digital since film is outdated, but that means the kids don't get to take the cameras home. I got the film photos developed the other day and picked them up on the way to Swifts School. Sitting in the front seat of the taxi, I passed this one quickly as I looked through each roll. There doesn’t seem to be much that catches the eye. I remember noticing the word “Baby” and the baby’s face on that package, but that’s about it. When I arrived at Swifts, I handed back the developed photos and as always, excitement filled the room as seven pairs of eager eyes slid over each photograph.

One of the rolls had been taken with the theme of “Community at Swifts.” It was a spontaneous project that stemmed from having extra film on one of the film cameras that was thought to be broken. When we realized it was in fact working, we decided to finish the roll together. Each of the students (there were 7 present out of 8) took at least two and Teacher Kim and I took some as well. We came out with a dynamic roll and had a lot of fun with it. When I brought these photos back, the students were especially excited because they had all played a part in it. We made two posters and filled them with photos the students selected and what they chose to write about each one.
One of the Swifts School Posters upon Completion

I wish I could express how I felt inside: Happy? Excited? Beaming. Everything came together so nicely and after working with this particular class for so long, I can safely say that I feel a wonderful connection to the students and each personality. Lucky, holding back a smile. Warda, unable to keep from smiling and squirming in her seat when we enter the room. Agatha’s quiet and calm demeanor. And Lashma, this girl is outgoing and bolder than some of the others. After we had finished up the posters, she ran up to me with a huge smile and handed me a photograph. “This is me on my birthday and I was feeding cake to my dad. I like it very much.” I could hardly speak. “Isn’t this really special to you? Are you sure you want me to have it?” . . . “Yes. I have another one, don’t worry.” I stammered out a thank you, flipped it over, and saw that the negative was attached to the back. This was something I was going to keep, something I would treasure. She also gave me a necklace that she fastened around my neck herself. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy at the generosity of this young girl, but I don’t even know if generosity is the right word. The photograph that she gave me obviously was special to her, and she chose to give me a copy. It made me feel such a warmth and acceptance that I will remember.

HOWEVER, later I started to feel guilty. Why should I, an almost complete stranger, be given something that means so much to this girl? Who am I to deserve that? In 3 weeks, I will leave this beautiful place . . . I couldn't help but feel a little solemn contemplating this. I don't want to be that girl that volunteers somewhere, then just packs up, "oh hey everything was great," and disappears. . .

It wasn’t until later that I realized (through Wendy’s eyes) that the photograph Lashma gave me is in the picture I am writing about, which is why I wrote about it.
Photograph from Lashma
The photograph that Lashma gave me

mwalimu kim na mgeni marissa (teacher kim & guest marissa)
Photograph of me & Teacher Kim + Lashma's writing

. . .respect to everybody. . .

"we are looking when the sky were blue"

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