Thursday, March 14, 2013

Shade School of Language & Culture

I have been at language school for five weeks now – passed my first exam and now in a class of just myself as I go Haraka, Haraka (quickly)to catch up with a class that started a few weeks before I did. It was good to get back to class on Monday after a week off for the election. I am very happy that the election was peaceful, we (the mission organization) were very prepared but I am thankful it was not needed.
I’m writing this post for two reasons, the first to give you a window of what life is like here and the second to provide some free advertising for the my language school – The Shade School of Language &Culture. If you stumbled across this blog while researching the school you have come to the right place. I am not paid by the school to do this, I’m just a simple Canadian girl called to missions and taking three months of Swahili lessons.
The school is located about 30min outside of (the outskirts of Nairobi). My commute is easy as I wake up and walk downstairs for breakfast and around the back of the house to my classroom. The house where the school is located is an interesting design – I’m not sure how each room was used when it was a home as some only have access from the outside but it works quite well for the purpose of the school. I live upstairs in one of the four bedrooms, there are also four bathrooms upstairs which helps maintain a healthy relationship with my housemates. There is a small sitting room upstairs with familiar looking Kenyan furniture – we don’t use it much. There is a small front and back balcony, most mornings you will  find someone sitting there doing their devotions. The back balcony also has our laundryroom  - consisting of clothes lines and a sink.
The school is very well organized and runs on more of a western than an African timetable. We start at 8:30am with each of us going to our respective classes, 10:30 is Chai time. The school provides tea, coffee, and hot chocolate as well as some sort of snack. After Chai it is back to class until 12:00. The first few weeks class was done at noon – it was like kindergarten, only half days as that is all your brain can take. I now have class until 3:00. We have a lunch break from 12-1 and are fed a Kenyan lunch often Githeri(Potatoes, beans, corn & carrots all cooked together), Rice &Beans, or lentils and  chapatti. In the afternoon we have an hour of grammar and an hour of conversation. Conversation is one-on-one time with an instructor or good Swahili speaker, that the school has hired for that purpose. I love to talk so this hour is great, however I do stumble through the Swahili. Today I am hoping to do more listening than talking. I find by now I can get my point across in my halting Swahili but listening takes work. I occasionally think conversation time is just pure entertainment for the language helper as I often string together words in the strangest ways.
I started with a class with three others of a more experienced generation.People learn at different speeds especially when there is a large age gap. As I am only here for 3 months and want to maximize my time I have requested to join a class that started a few weeks before I did. The instructors have been most generous and this week I have been in a class by myself, occasionally joining my former class for shared grammar lessons. It just so happens that the class I wish to join will all be away next week – this works well as when they are back I should be caught up to where they left off. Being in a class of one is an interesting dynamic. All the questions are up to me to answer so by the end of the day my voice is tired from all the translating from English to Swahili. I know some of you are astonished that my voice is capable of wearing out. In the afternoons it’s my free time. I occasionally walk to Tigoni where I can buy most basic things or catch a ride with my housemates to Village Market if I need more wazungu (white people) things. My evenings are filled with grammar review,vocab flashcards, and staying in touch with friends and family back home. All the brain work makes me tired and I am thankful to duck under my mosquito net (thankfully I brought one) and go to bed early
I will end here with some pictures of the school and my home.
Dining room from the kitchen

One of the classrooms
Kitchen, the fridge/freezer is off to the side

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