First day of no supervision
Yesterday was our team’s first field visit without a supervisor from either the GCIL team or Biome (the NGO we are interning with). The day started off at 9:15 am. We borrowed a 3-meter measuring tape from Elbin, and Bujin loaded 8 packages of cookies into her backpack, as usual. Personally, I thought this was too few. I hoped she knew that I planned to eat some of them.
After about an hour drive, we arrived at Rajiv Nagar primary school. We walked in to interview the headmaster. Turns out, he was on his way out and wouldn’t be back until 3 pm. It was 10 am. Fortunately, he was graceful enough to allow us to interview him quickly. As soon as we sat down, he asked if we had a permit to take up teachers’ and students’ time. We did not. But luck was on our side once again, and with Anna's (our translator) help we called Biome, and somehow cleared up the issue. We finished up that interview, and then spoke to the Rainwater Team, a team of 5 or 6 boys who perform basic, easy maintenance on the rainwater harvesting system. The boys exhibited groupthink, with all 5 of them bobbing their heads at whichever question, and all of them standing in a kind of superhero formation, with a leader in the front. I am not sure why, but they rarely smiled. When asked why there were no girls on the team, they said that the girls couldn’t go on the roof because of their skirts, and that the girls were too weak to turn the plastic rainwater switch that opens and closes one of the pipes. When prompting the teachers about the same topic, they told us that there are girls on the rainwater team. We spoke to these young ladies afterwards. It was extremely weird to me that their roles were hardly acknowledged, even if they are not allowed to do everything the boys do.
Nonetheless, we moved on to the the second part of our field visit. Henk, Evan, and I went on the roof to measure the area of the rainwater catchment basin. We found two local women looking up at us, and their golden retriever, whom they lifted up so that he was only standing on his back paws, and shook his paw to wave at us. I was sad that I couldn’t better communicate with these two friendly, seemingly awesome, women.
Then, despite all of the ups and downs in our visit, the unthinkable happened. Evan climbed down the ladder from the roof. I climbed down. Henk climbed down. Now, on the side of the building we were climbing up and down from, several trees had been planted. Most of them were a decent size, say 3 to 10 feet. But one small sapling had recently been planted. You could tell it was just beginning to grow, about to hit a growth spurt maybe. But sadly, just as Henk reached the ground, he stepped slightly to the left of the ladder, and in one quick motion, smashed the beautiful sapling almost completely in half. One of the boys watching started muttering under his breath, probably regretting ever fetching the ladder to allow us on to the roof. He grabbed the closest rocks and tried his best to prop up the pitiful plant. It almost looked good as new, but we all knew the truth. The little sapling could never recover.
“Ksamisi, ksamisi!*” Cried Henk. He was practically in tears over his betrayal to our guests. Anna translated for us that that sapling was a special plant that this student and the headmaster had planted and taken care of together. Of course. Henk could not keep it in upon hearing this detail, and began to sob. **
We comforted Henk, and said we could go buy another sapling. So, we all loaded into the car, with the three students who had witnessed the accident (including the student who helped plant the sapling), and went to the nearby plant nursery. There were beautiful roses and hibiscus plants! They did not have the same type of tree which Henk had just murdered, but the students picked out a different tree, and in addition, Henk bought the headmaster a small rose bush.
Overall, I’d say our first mission without supervision was a success.
*Ksamisi means sorry in the local language of Kanneda
**exaggerated for entertainment purposes