Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Busiest (Best) Day of the Year

My eyes pop open as soon as the sun begins to filter in at 5:15AM. I feel well-rested, considering my favorite bedtime is 9PM (no one makes fun of you in Zimbabwe for going to bed at 9PM-or even 8!). I hop out of bed and do a few stretches, enjoying the peaceful time before music starts blasting throughout the house (I live with an 18-year-old, so what else can I expect). I take a deep breath and open my bedroom door to the mayhem, as this morning, I have not one, but 3 teenagers moving up and down the hallway. Benji and Chipo arrived last night from their rural area to get ready to leave for boarding school today.
The electricity cuts, (surprise, surprise) so Nyarai heads out to cook chicken over the fire for Benji and Chipo’s lunch while they are traveling. I stay inside and start the rice on our small gas stove, and then boil water for baths, and more water for baths, and even more water for tea. By 7, I see Cecillia (our assistant administrator) walking past on her way to the office to start gathering the school supplies. By the time I arrive at 7:30, she and Peter (our administrator) are already in full swing. Papers and bags are flying around the office, as the Fairfield children line up (or form a mob, let’s be honest) to receive their school supplies and books before heading off to school.
Peter packs the combi bus full of boarders and their luggage and heads off on the 2 hour trip to Marange School, where some of our children attend. Cecillia heads off to Hartzell Primary and Secondary to pay fees for the Fairfield children. I use guilt and begging to convince Linda (our secretary) to come with me to all the other schools, even though she is on leave from work (she graciously accepted, thank you Linda). We pack Benji and 2 other students in the car and zip off toward St. Augustine’s (why can’t everyone go to the same school?!). It poured the rain last night, so we move slowly up the steep, muddy mountain (who builds their school on top of a mountain, and why?). We stand in a line to pay fees, we stand in a line to pay teacher incentives, we stand in a line to collect Benji’s mattress.
Now the car heads back down the mountain toward Tsvingwe Primary and Secondary Schools. At one point while concentrating on the deep, muddy rivets in the road, I look up to see that a bus has become stuck in the mud and abandoned in the middle of the road a few feet ahead. We’ll have to somehow turn around and go the long way around (this requires all my thinking skills, and I think my jaw is permanently clenched shut). We finally reach the primary school. Papers and bags fly again as all the HOPE children are given their supplies to start the year-same scene at the secondary school.
It is now late afternoon as we make our way back to Fairfield. Peter and Cecillia arrive back home just after us. We have forgotten to eat all day and suddenly realize we are very hungry-and tired. The first day of the school year each January is the busiest day of the year, but we will all sleep well tonight, knowing that all 74 of the Fairfield children and 100 HOPE children are happy, healthy, and exactly where they are supposed to be. Good night my friends…and thank you that at the end of every line, I had enough money to pay, and for every moment I almost felt overwhelmed, I knew that one of you out there had sent up a little prayer for us over here. What would we do without you?