I currently have one hour left in Mauritius, and sadly I am spending it in a crowded airport terminal. I cannot believe that these last nine weeks passed so fast… it feels like we only arrived yesterday.
But looking back now, what an incredible journey. I remember showing up to the center our first day, a dilapidated old house full of dust and cockroaches. I remember having zero students for over a week, and only six for another week more. I remember getting traveler’s sickness from drinking the island water the first week.
And then, suddenly, here we are two months later. This last week has been quite the emotional roller coaster, from cheering and clapping to weeping and wet kisses. To describe this last weekend in a couple paragraphs could never do it justice. Although I can try to fill you in on some of the logistical details, there are just no words to describe the feelings of accomplishment from the students, and the heartbroken goodbyes from students and fellows alike. We truly grew into an ELI Africa family this summer, and I have many brothers, sisters, and dear friends that I am now leaving behind.
A brief glimpse into our last week at the Center: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were dominated by last-minute preparations for all of the final projects, as well as a fierce Olympics competition in Austin’s sport class. The walls became plastered with Ed’s poéme class work, the beautifully worded and decorated “Where I’m From” poems. On the opposite wall, there were small windows into the students’ ‘inside and outside selves’ from Sabrina’s creative writing class. BJ’s students took a traveling day and impromptu performed in several of Mauritius’ bustling open-air markets. And of course, the few and the proud science students were frantically perfecting their models and presentations for the impending competition on Saturday.
The science fair was absolutely amazing. Many had gone home and had clearly spent many extra hours on their posters in preparation, and the students dedicated more time and effort than I ever could have asked for. All of the fellows, Grace, Vedant, Ben, Hillary, and several doctors served as judges, and traveled around to the eight different students’ stations set up outside, under a massive tent constructed for the weekend. The students proudly stood next to their projects, prepared to explain and answer questions. Judging was based on the adherence to the scientific method, creativity, display, and knowledge. The fair lasted for a little over an hour, and the students performed even better than I predicted.
These students’ incredible work deserve a quick shout-out: Kevin designed a sun-dial, Ved built a lemon-powered light circuit, Kunal tested the effects of alcohol on raw eggs, Priska builta lung model to illustrate the negative effects of smoking, Sonam did an extensive project on the properties of gases, Gael built a potato circuit, Jean Luc performed an experiment on air flow, Adarsh constructed a model of a house powered solely on wind and solar energy, and LaFouine showed the necessity of oxygen for burning. They all did extensive research and preparation, and I couldn’t have been more proud. The scoring results were extremely close, almost so much I felt guilty declaring winners. But overall, Kunal took first place, Ved second, and Lafouine and Jean Luc tied close behind with third. Unfortunately Adarsh entered the competition late, although his project was also incredibly executed.
Moving on from the science fair, we presented all of the students with their certificates of attendance in front of their parents and with the generous help of the American embassy. The ceremony also included a performance from our singers, and speeches from the ELI Africa staff.
However exciting Saturday was, however, it could never measure up to Sunday. I only have a few minutes left until boarding, and could never do it justice now, so you will have to wait to read more after I get State-side again.
It is probably a good thing that we are flying away in the dark. If I could watch the island disappearing behind our plane, I would probably start crying (again). This summer flew by too fast, and as much as I think we accomplished our goals plus so much more, I also hate leaving these kids. They are so smart, so beautiful inside and out, so sincere and loving, and have so much untapped potential. I just hope we offered them a small glimpse of what they are truly capable of this summer, and they will now grasp hold of it and start climbing.