Most nights, the kids gather around as the Ambassadors pick through the “Question Box” that sits on the table in the Sitting Room. The Question Box is something the kids can use to anonymously write down any questions they may have about a topic of their choosing, and put it in the box to be read aloud. Many of the papers in the box contain questions about the solar system, dinosaurs, the English language, American culture, and other academic questions. Sometimes, there are questions about things the children might be too embarrassed to ask otherwise I.e; questions about their bodies, and other things kids may be curious about as they grow.
Usually there is one Ambassador that stands in front of the room and reaches in the box. So far, I’ve managed to avoid heading Question Box until I get fully comfortable here. Frankly, many of the questions are tough to answer on the spot, and take some serious thought on how to explain the answers to 26 curious children sitting in front of you. But as a family, we try to answer the inquiries the best we can and if there’s one that really throws us for a loop we’ll look up the answer later.
I have been so impressed by how eager the children are to learn here. Even though it is technically summer break for the kids, tutors are brought in to help them focus on their studies, and reading and homework are done after dinner. And, even after a day of learning in the classroom, the kids are stillconsistently asking us questions in hopes to learn more each and every day.
For example, yesterday morning I walked in to the Boys’ Room with my coffee in hand to start the day. I like to pop my head into each room and say “Good Morning,” to all the kids. You would think that the kids would be moaning and groaning about getting up, or at least be a little fuzzy so bright and early(I know I was). Instead, I was almost instantly peppered with questions of all sorts. Some of them included: “Do you know who Jet Li is?” “What about Jackie Chan, have you heard of him?” “Have you been to Thailand before?” “Does Thailand have a president?” “Who is the president of the States?” “Did you vote for him?” “Does everyone vote in the States?” “Is a governor more than a president” And my personal favorite: “Arnold Schwarzaneager, is he still the strongest man?”
Now, keep in mind these questions were being fired at me while I was still on my first cup of coffee. So, I did the very best I could in answering their questions, and had to break a couple hearts in the process by revealing that Arnold had recently let himself go a bit and was not currently in his best shape.
One of the boys was particularly interested in Thailand, and I admittedly could not answer all his questions. So, we spent part of the day huddled over my computer looking up facts about the country. Benny was so excited to be able to share his new information with the rest of the family at Family Meeting. He was most interested in the Thai Boxing, and was very impressed when I told him I previously took some lessons in Muay Thai.
Later in the night, Mom(the head Matron of the house) asked us to share what we had learned that day. I shared that I had learned a new word: “Rafiki” (friend). At the end of meeting, Mom reminded us that we are all learners for life; we never stop learning all around us “until we are in the tomb!” This is a lesson that I see lived out every day at Flying Kites, and it made me think of some of the things I have already learned in this very short time that I’ve been here:
How to make coffee with a french press (no electricty = no coffee pots)
Many new words including the Kiswahili word for peace ( “Imani”)
How to weed the shaba (garden) so that the plants don’t compete for nutrients and sun, and we can have lots of fresh veggies for dinner.
To never say the phrase “I know,” to a Kenyan. It is considered very rude.
That Elephants really love carrots
What Arrow Root is (FYI: it’s like a potato, and it’s delicious)
Any questions I have about living here or Kenyan culture in general are always answered so graciously. It’s inspiring to see all of the tenacious learners around me every day, and I know that this list will grow much longer with the help of all my new Rafikis here at Flying Kites. And, pretty soon I’ll get brave enough to tackle Question Box.