(NOTE: apologies for the language in advance)
Our third week was rough. A scheduled seven day school week, two huge research papers and only one active field day … we were getting a little stir crazy. And to top it all off, we were to end the week by picking up rocks.
The morning was shot with frantic energy. After passing our first papers in the night before we found out that we had a pop Swahili quiz in the morning. Flashcards at breakfast, flashcards in class. We stumbled through a Wildlife Management class on estimating population counts (actually some fantastic stuff, but that is for later). Then we wrestled our way through the ten minute quiz only to find ourselves facing new material. Nothing is more frustrating than a new language when your brain has checked out. It was a relatively unpleasant two hours.
When we left class late everyone stumbled to their bandas and fell on their beds in a huff of self pity. My banda determined it was b*tch hour and let it rip along with rest of campus – I didn’t understand any of that. It’s too hot. I want chocolate. I’m so tired. This room smells like s#*t. I just want to nap. I’m hungry. I don’t want to do this second paper, and most of all… I don’t want to pick up rocks.
See, M’Lis scheduled our first community service trip for this particular afternoon. The task: walk to the nearby Lutheran Church and aid the local tradesman in flooring two new buildings – a task that required carrying boulders into the frames of buildings and laying them on the floor in preparation for a concrete filling. In the hottest part of the afternoon. Perfect…
But we didn’t have a choice. So at 1pm we lined up at the gate, Bring a water and a good attitude, my friend Calvin called to us in our banda. Then we walked together to the church. Upon arrival we huffed and puffed in opposition as we got in an assembly line.
And then we picked up rocks.
The change was instantaneous, unacknowledged and beautiful. With each rock our smiles widened, our voices rose, our pace quickened. Covered in spiders, dirt, and sweat we kept moving – brains resting, bodies moving. We sang through every 90’s song and rap we could think of, screamed nonsense Swahili words with our staff members and learned about the spiders and scorpions under the rocks that we let the tradesmen kill (I promise no one was bitten). We finished in half the allotted time. When we found out that we were to leave early we cheered, of course (more time to write that paper…) but there was a moment of hesitation beforehand as we all wondered why we secretly wanted to stay.