> Hi everybody. I'm posting this letter I received (with permission)
> Teresa (a member of our listserv) who just recently moved to Africa to
> teach art. Her post makes for fascinating reading. Thought you'd
> >Dear Bunk,
> >Am I settled yet? That will take a while. I'm just getting used to
> >being able to leave the school compound and not become totally
> >by the onslaught of people who want to sell you something,
> >approaching you on the street, through the windows
> >of buses, taxis, and cars, or need a handout. There's no social
> >security, welfare or retirement system, so those in need are clearly
> >in need.
> >The poverty is the most unbelievable thing. You simply can't imagine
> >and I simply can't describe it. The school itself is quite well
> >stocked with supplies but in the local schools they have nothing. Let
> >me emphasize NOTHING. They are lucky if there is a chair, let alone
> >books or a pencil. They don't exist. One teacher has 90-120 students
> >they get paid the same as my maid, which I'm expected to employ -
> >about $75 a month. I have housing provided and I pay much more than
> >that on food, and we're not talking eating out or buying meat - just
> >basics, staples. I can't imagine how someone could live on that.
> >The local school is a cement barracks, like an abandoned bunker.
> >There is a hole for a window with twisted wire across it. Not mesh or
> >screening to keep out bugs, but wires placed far enough apart to keep
> >someone out. that's it. There is a woman from a local arts college
> >doing research on art education in the US who is visiting my classes
> >to see how I teach, and I have permission to donate old supplies to
> >her so she can take them into local schools and show teachers how to
> >teach art. It's quite an unusual project locally and I'm glad we can
> >support it WITH ACTUAL SUPPLIES to do something. She literally has
> >NOTHING when she goes there to teach. Can you imagine how to teach
> >kids at a time with no supplies?
> >People keep saying, "When it gets hot," and
> >I look at them like the're crazy. How can it get any hotter? Locals
> >are actually wearing sweaters because it is their winter.
> >I have an AC in the art room and at home, so I can keep
> >out of the worst of the heat. Problem is that now there is power
> >rationing and the electric is off from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fortunately
> >the school has a generator and so we have electricity for some of
> >that lapse time. Food rationing has just begun because of drought
> >this year. They expect famine in the interior. I live along the coast
> >and have money so it doesn't affect me personally except in higher
> >prices for things. But it makes you that much more aware of being on
> >the other side of the "have nots." It also makes you question a
> >system which has gotten rich off of the backs of the poor and
> >continues to enslave them through the economic structure that exists.
> >"Capitalism has no heart" the former President recently said. Sadly,
> >you see how it's true.
> >The kids are great here and it's wonderful being able
> >to start an art program, although the classroom teachers are all
> >committed to doing art in their classrooms. There was a teacher
> >before me who set things up with a handout of art basics, sample
> >projects, and who helped order supplies, so I'm not having to
> >convince people of the value of art. I had a 6th grader stop on the
> >way out of class and say, "Thankyou for the wonderful art lesson."
> >the little things that make a >difference and keep you going.
> >Women don't carry money so a woman with
> >money and independent and not wrapped from head to foot in cloth is
> >preyed upon both literally and figuratively. Last year a teacher who
> >insisted on walking around the neighborhood kept losing her shoes.
> >People are so poor that if you have no money, they will rob you of
> >your shoes. You have to pass through guards who have to unlock
> >the gate and then let you back in. The entire country is locked up
> >this way, which makes it an effort to go from place to place. It's
> >taking some time to adjust to all of it.
> >But the people are surprisngly warm and friendly, in spite of the
> >persistent slave/master colonialism where all caucasians and
> >asian people, which here means Indian, have money and all
> >people of color are poorer. There is no defined infrastructure or
> >planning system, so the country is preyed upon by those who have
> >resources. I myself try to be a different model and
> >greet the "askaris" the guards we pass, the cleaners, the maids, etc.
> >the classes of people that most people walk past as if they don't
> >exist. The hierarchy of social class and power, with it wealth and
> >status is very entrenched and much more difficult to transcend here,
> >reinforces classism, racism, and sexism.
> >Well, that's the low down on my new job. I try to stay afloat with
> >humor. So keep those lively posts of yours coming.
> >Asanti sana,
> >Teresa (aka R2T2)
> >Dear r2t2.....saw your comment to Carla........Glad to see you back
> >How's Africa and are you settled yet? It must be so exciting1!!!!
> Bunki Kramer
> Los Cerros Middle School
> Danville, California 94526