It comes almost right on cue. “SHAKE, SHAKE … RATTLE, RATTLE, RATTLE!” My door is visibly shaking. I can see a pair of eyes peeking in from a cracked window. Little hands are busy at work trying to get my attention from the outside. Voices too. “SAY! TEACHER! TEACHER SAY! HELLO!” Soaked in sweat from the bike ride home, my shirt is hanging from the door grate and I’m thinking through all the things I still have left to get done today. Consciously, I slow myself down.
“Relax, Clarence. Take a deep breath. Be patient.”
With unhurried, deliberate movements, I start unpacking my swollen backpack:
Muesli (do research on Positive Discipline), two new towels (make handouts for Teacher Training), some peanut butter I found on sale (create Reading Instruction Workshop), a can of green tea (complete VRF), lavender scented air freshener (compile Phonics Curriculum), baby wipes (work on Arts Camp), a loaf of whole wheat bread (keep up with lesson planning), canned fish (make video for HYEY), a bag of papaya salad (prepare a Scope and Sequence), and a hot paper pouch of freshly fried chicken (contribute to new resource share site).
The smell of the fried chicken makes my stomach grumble. Too bad this food is going to have to wait. I head over to the bathroom to wash up only to find that the water isn’t running. “Yay, outdoor shower for me later today.” All good. I wipe myself down with a baby wipe instead, tidy up my bottom floor area, put on a fresh shirt, and prepare to open the door. I hear giggling on the other side.
“Relax, Clarence. Take a deep breath. Be brave.”
In my head I’m thinking about how maybe banging on my door isn’t the best way to get my attention. But then again, I feel like their boldness is also a sign of comfort. Around me, a foreigner from America with eyes, hair, and skin almost identical to theirs. I’m a curiosity I know, but so are they to me on occasion. You can never know what to expect on the afternoon agenda.
Sometimes students just want to chat. Other times they want to come in and play Uno or Jenga. Soccer, running, or a trip to the market are also viable options. Plain old curiosity draws a few and they just come to watch or poke around. Every now and then someone will ask for food or something to drink. Nothing quite prepared me though for the latest request …
At around 7 PM today, a boy knocked on my back door and asked if he could spend the night. From what I gathered, his mother is at a party and will beat him if he is there when she gets home? I’m not entirely sure if I heard everything right. So naturally, I let him in and right now he’s sleeping on a mat in the next room with my blanket and pillow. What else could I do? As I write this, I can’t help but wonder what is going on in the lives of some of these kids at home. It takes a lot out of me to be available, to keep my door open, especially on the weekends. Part of me wants to draw a line between their world and mine – to separate myself. Draw myself in. Create my own space. Something familiar and knowable. Yet I know that is not what I am here to do. I’m here to embrace the unknown. The uncertain. The uncomfortable. I’m here to learn and grow, come what may.