In the past four days Eli Africa has undergone a makeover. We moved into our official office downstairs, the Fellows launched their teaching programs across five different centers, Telecom finally installed Internet in the office and at the house, and throughout all of these developments we have been preparing for our big fundraiser this Friday night at Insomnia, one of the biggest clubs in Mauritius. Most importantly, this week, the Fellows discovered Mauritius’s hidden gem – Roti. This 30-cent spicy goodness wrapped in a thin, but doughy tortilla filled with curry potatoes and chilies, is our new breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner.
I started teaching Wednesday at a center located near the edge of Port Louis. The center sits at the base of the mountains that are visible from any point on the island. As we we pulled up to the blue garage that would serve as my teaching center, the mountains looked more like a large majestic curtain that hung from the sky. When I got out the car and found that the doors to the garage were padlocked, and that the classroom was dark and dusty, my heart dropped. Some of the other Fellows had experienced rough first days, so this locked and unused center just added to my anxiety. Gradually though, students started filing into the class. Although my initial lesson plan was designed for a slightly older student group, the kids still were enthusiastic about the lesson for the day. First we danced, and then we shared our interests, and names. Samil and Narfur particularly enjoyed the dancing and demanded that during next class we dance to Waka Waka by Shakira. “Ms. Pretty Braid” (She didn’t say her name loud enough for me to hear so I teased her about her neat braid, which soon turned into a nickname), took to photographing the class while the boys danced. Before the class left I gave them a bit of homework to hopefully keep their imaginations active between classes. I told them that their guardian(s) gave them 100 rupees to buy vegetables, but instead they purchased a Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar; their task would be to explain to their guardian(s) how they ended up with a chocolate bar instead of the vegetables.
When I’m about to bite into a Roti there’s a mixture of worry, excitement, and anticipation. The spice sometimes can burn your tongue and upset your stomach, but if you get the right combination of tortilla, potato, and chilli, then bliss awaits. I felt the same way leaving the office today. With the Internet up, the fundraiser tomorrow, my second class tomorrow, and six more weeks of teaching and office work – I feel like I’m about to bite into a Roti. I hope I get the right combination.