It has been far too long since my last blog, and I have far too many amazing stories to share with you. With the hope of not boring too many of our readers, I will attempt to relive at least half of them with you.
Where to begin? Let’s start with life outside of the Center. Last week, I had the luck of visiting Congomah, a village in the northern mountains of Mauritius, for two awe-inspiring hikes. The first day, we met another Mauritian friend from Yale, Karen, and she and her friends took us for a delicious traditional meal on the porch of a restaurant with a view of the lush mountains to our right, and the striking sea to our left. We then strolled through the winding streets of the village and farmland, that impossibly wrapped themselves around the mountains. I almost felt back at home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania… surrounded by tall, thick sugar cane that reminded me of the height of corn season. Just a few differences… the ocean in the periphery and pineapple, ginger, and aloe vera fields interspersed between. I have ignorantly always believed that pineapple always grew on trees? But I was happily mistaken, for pineapple plants seem to hold every shade of red, yellow, green, orange, and purple possible, and it is absolutely amazing to behold vast fields of the plant illuminated under the setting sun. Every turn of the road revealed another breath-taking view, and no picture will ever do it justice. I can’t even imagine what Mauritius looked like before men and farms invaded every inch of the land.
Another favorite activity of Gina, my roommate, and mine, is visiting the ‘hardware shop’ as often as possible (code word for patisserie, or pastry shop). We have to sneak out from under the ever-watchful eyes of Austin, who is determined to keep me on a strict diet plan to transform me into a ‘field hockey machine’ for the fall. However, I have to satisfy my powerful sweet tooth every now and then, and Gina and I have discovered the mouth-watering almond, coconut, and banana flavored treats at our local patisserie. How can we resist when we can get massive amounts of cookies and cake for the equivalent of fifty cents?!
But, now to return to my all-time favorite spot on the island of Mauritius: our Education Centre, of course, full of constant life and laughter. This is when I really am overwhelmed with stories to share – I am always marveling at how talented, sweet, and kind-hearted our students are.
Last Saturday morning, our students showed up an entire hour early, at 9am (let me mention this is also the first weekend of their holiday break, and many live a long bus ride away) to surprise the fellows by scouring the entire Centre – sweeping, mopping, wiping the tables down, hanging labels and signs. They even hung a sign to the entrance to my lab, announcing “This is SCIENCE CLASS with LEXY – our local Einstein!” I’m so flattered!!
Also, the girls of the Centre have made it their personal mission to beautify all of the female Fellows. They began with giving Sabrina, Gina, and me corn-rows (yes, I had corn-rows for a full 48 hours… complete with criss-crosses and multiple designs, probably one of the more painful experiences of my life) and then one student, Wendy, revealed that she had experience with cutting hair. She began with Gina, who wanted the Ashlee Simpson, edgy look. We stuck her head under the garden hose, then took out our little red craft scissors… and lo and behold, Gina has the haircut of a runway model.
The next day, Wendy waltzes into the Centre and announces that she is dying my hair black, she has the dye in her backpack. It took a whole twenty minutes to talk her down, but by the end I felt so bad for disappointing her that I allowed her to at least cut my hair. Although I have been growing my hair out for years from a chin-length bob, I felt like I couldn’t say no… so now I am sporting an extremely layered haircut that set me nearly back to the beginning. However, it is quite well cut, and I can’t complain because ever since that day the students tell me my hair looks beautiful every time they walk into the Centre 🙂
In addition, this last week, we have been blessed enough to add Hillary, from a Canadian nonprofit named Making Waves, to our ELI Africa family. A graduate student from Columbia University, her help and efforts has made an incredible difference. She has been working on increasing our attendance of children with special needs, and even led an entire seminar today on various teaching methods and suggestions that was beyond helpful. I wish we had her from the beginning of the summer! She will be an incredible asset to our team and hopefully will help coach our Fellows in the future.
Without further ado, I will explain the crazy title of this blog. This week’s science lessons were kick-started with the egg-drop competition, in which the students were challenged to build a contraption composed entirely of straws, masking tape, and paper that would keep their eggs from breaking when dropped from a significant height. Whoever won the competition would not only get to mark their handprint on the ELI Africa tree mural of accomplishment, but also win a massive dark chocolate bar. Given two days to build and write their corresponding lab reports, the students were slow to start. So unaccustomed to being without direction and solely reliant on their own intuition, it took the first day to trust their own instincts and design. However, by the second day, they all returned early to the Centre to work on their design, bringing along more friends, and by the end over three-quarters of our Centre participated in the final competition on the third day.
Unfortunately, I was poorly prepared for the final contest. I hadn’t planned a high enough drop point to determine an ultimate winner! Most students’ eggs survived the initial one meter drop, amidst cheers and screams of classmates and fellows watching the spectacle. Two meters eliminated a few more, and then we had to have Austin climb our stone front gate for the 3-meter drop, which left only two survivors. For the final 4-meter drop, the entire Centre was crowded in the front patio, shouting and cheering excitedly, with egg shell and yolk splattered across the stones at our feet. Finally, our grand-prize winner was Miya! who promptly opened her dark chocolate bar and shared it with every student, selflessly saving herself one tiny square at the end.
We are truly an ELI Africa family. Sister-sister bonding over hair trimming and eyebrows, big brother tips on how to talk to girls. Advice on how to apply to university, comfort on tough days. Family games of Banana-grams in any spare time, a spinoff game of speed scrabble that the students have grown to love, and is immensely helpful to their English vocabulary skills. Dancing and singing together at the end of every day. Secret handshakes individual to each boy, kisses on the cheek and big bear hugs with the girls.
So many more stories to share – but that is probably enough for now. Later I plan on posting a few of the students’ stellar lab reports, and sharing some of their plans for science fair projects in the next couple weeks. Until then, au revoir!