Whew! From a 5:40am start to the morning to writing this now from bed, today has been a flurry of activity. Heba and I both woke up to our alarms but I think silently mutually agreed to ignore them, so we ended up missing some of the good stuff at breakfast (eggs, bananas, toast). We did, however, make it in time for a bowl of oatmeal, which is one of my favorite breakfasts anyway. I was super heartened to see all the comfort foods we'd have access to every morning; so while I initially thought I'd store apples and peanut butter or something in my room for a quick morning meal, I'm now weighing an extra thirty minutes of sleep against a hearty breakfast. Sleep vs. food...gonna be a tough one.
After eating, we six interns (called "Harvards" by teachers and students alike) went to our first staff meeting, during which we were introduced to the teachers. I felt bad because we got there early and sat down, whereas some of the actual teachers had to stand for the ten-minute meeting. There wouldn't have ever been enough chairs for everyone anyways, with or without us, but next time I want to try to be more mindful not to steal anyone's seats! Not tryna incur anyone's wrath on day one.
We then went over some scheduling things with TG, the person in charge of interns and visiting students, who has collected requests from teachers seeking our help while we're here. The requests ranged from leading a SPE (service/physical/enrichment program) about writing, tutoring in math, and practicing Chinese with a student who'll be studying in Beijing next year! Hearing the options made me realize how much more effectively I think I work one-on-one with people (or maybe how much more comfortable I am to work one-on-one) as opposed to being at the front of a large classroom; and while we left with our schedules still very uncertain, I'm hoping to keep that in mind as we solidify them.
We also received lists of all the SPEs happening this term, most of which started last week. The ones that immediately stood out to me were African Philosophy, an Edible Permaculture Garden, FIlm Club, Community Art, Bible Club, Photography, Reading Club(s), Verbal Emancipation, Cookery, Clay Club, Conversational Setswana, Amnesty International, MaP Refugee Advocates, Bollywood Dancing, Childline (playing with children who were abandoned, orphaned, or abused at a nearby institution), and Naledi and Gabane Feeding (not super clear on details but both involve delivering food to people in need). So all of them, basically.
Glossing over some quick stuff: 1) intern trip to the mall (same one as the movie theater yesterday but still don't know what it's called...) to get SIM cards/soccer cleats/groceries, and 2) LOVELY lunch back at MaP with a student whom I just randomly sat next to! She's passionate about wanting to stop bullying and hopes to study in the US someday, which is rare here, as many students don't seem to buy into the value of a liberal arts education. I'm happy that we hit it off, and also feel better now about approaching students (hopefully without cramping their style or anything).
After lunch, the SPEs I decided to check out today were the Edible Permaculture Garden, which I sadly couldn't find (typical), and African Philosophy, which I LOVED. It didn't seem to be a philosophy course in the way I think of philosophy courses, and instead felt more similar to a women/gender/sexuality/race relations-type class. Which, of course, I was super into, having just finished one WGS course at Harvard that actually changed my life. Today was the group's first meeting, and I got to sit in as the instructor Natasha surveyed her nine students on which six topics they would be most interested in covering over the next six weeks. After a lot of debate, the winners were: Patriarchy and Gender, Youth and Decolonization, Social Media, Religion on the Continent, The African Brand (about African writers and artists feeling the expectation of having to create authentically African works), Cultural Appropriation Versus Appreciation. I'm PUMPED!
The students were so into the class that they were eagerly talking over each other, and while they were extremely welcoming and friendly toward me, I was hesitant to say too much since I was just sitting in and they already had so much to contribute themselves. After hearing that many students were beginning to work on video projects about African identity though, I did add that I study filmmaking/photography and have experience with interviewing people/storyboarding and would be so glad to help develop concepts, brainstorm, or help in any way possible! They were 1) shocked that Harvard had a film department, and 2) really excited to hear that and all wrote down my email address. :) I stayed after class too to chat with Natasha, since I wanted to check in about whether she thought my presence in the future might be okay. During class, one student had apologized directly to me while making a comment about Westerners; and as much as I would love to be a part of this course, I in no way want to participate at the expense of students' comfort with speaking freely. After talking, I felt better about my potential to create a space for students to share, ask questions that could help them think about things more deeply or in different ways, and contribute any creative/technical skills possible. It really seems like such a wonderful fit for me, and like the first place I've "belonged" here. I 100% plan to be there for next week's meeting! Clear highlight of my day. Natasha, who’s super young and a really chill person, and I also exchanged numbers to continue our conversation, and I'm looking forward to getting to know teachers better as well as students.
I think that covers most of the action of the day! I chilled in the library for a bit with another student (who is involved in Amnesty International and MaP Refugee Advocates, which is soon traveling to a refugee camp and MAKING A SHORT VIDEO about their research); tried to go for a run before realizing I was locked out of my room (we only have one key for four of us that I wasn't carrying); dinner was fried chicken, fried potatoes, and oranges; and then a Princeton fellow led us four female Harvards down a few hallways of the girls' boarding house to introduce ourselves and show us the ropes of boarding house duty, which starts next week. Just now, I chatted on the phone for the first time since arriving here with a friend from home, and it was so nice to externalize all the action of the past few days to someone who knows me well—it's always comforting to hear a friendly voice. And now Heba and I are ready for bed! 10:31pm is later than we planned (9:30pm) considering another 5:40am wake-up tomorrow, but we'll see how we feel and maybe have to get better at going to bed earlier.
So that's all for today! Tomorrow my one goal is to go for a run, as the planes wreaked havoc on my knees and I'm feeling weighed down after like four consecutive days of missing my daily run. Crossing my fingers I'll have time! Night, y'all.