Sunday, October 26, 2008

letter home

This is coming from the Yahoo Sustainable Organizers group. Her son's school (see bottom) seems to have a problem with kids throwing away perfectly good pencils. She needs someone like you to have some third world kids write a testimonial about the fact that they don't have enough pencils to do their schoolwork or something to that effect. Would you be willing to write something for her to present at the school? It doesn't have to be long. And perhaps some pictures as adjunct. If you don't have time, no problemo.
Thanks, Ev

Hi Ev,

I have no problem writing to you on this topic. It is evident all day, every day, all around us, in abundance.
Here at M*** School both pencils and paper are in short supply due to the cost of having things shipped to such a remote place. You know the Exercise books little primary kids use in school, to learn to print well, etc? We all use those to write in, or spiral bound notebooks if they can be found. Even my senior high school students write in 65 or 92 page primers. That is just what we have.

To write WITH, we can buy red, black or blue papermate pens which usually work, though not always. There are also a few boxes of the bic pens that are clear on the outside. It is kind of funny how frustrating that can get for all us North Americans. We are so lush that we don’t even know it until we try to function with NO choice (or very little choice.

Pencils are horrible. We can purchase them but have little hope of sharpening them very often. They are soft and break easily so we usually all just write in pen.

All texts and novels must be shared. I am not sure that a single school day has gone by where each student had everything he or she needed to do their work. We don’t mind sharing at all ... we are accustomed to it and no one complains. Most of the students here, Nationals and ex-pat’s alike, don’t know it any other way. They don’t notice the mouldy musty smell of all the curriculum and notebooks either.

Many Nationals do not go to school, and when they do, I don’t see them bringing home textbooks or notebooks. They just memorize the information because they are used to that method, having learned all about their heritage and culture from their families in just this way. They also know how much of a privilege it is to be able to learn English and to be in a school at all.

Another example, though not directly related to school materials, is with dishes. Last week I noticed that one square, porcelain dish I would use back home for maybe an apple crisp (only did that twice here since I pay almost 1 dollar per apple!) had a crack in it. I could not trust it in an oven, and instead, put it at the back door so my work meri could take it to the pit. There was also a small cereal type bowl with a crack that I left at the door as well. Now, these cracks were such that if you were to wiggle the sides of the dishes back and forth, you would hear the tell-tale grinding of the two broken sides. I think we all know that sound and what happens, suddenly, one day if we try to use them again.
My work meri asked if she could take them home instead. She knew they still had plenty of life in them because, of course, she does not have an oven to worry about ... and no fancy apple crisp to be baking.

When I give her lunch, on the days she helps me work around the house, I give her soup or leftovers in a washed pasta sauce jar. It becomes another drinking glass for her family, for times she has access to fresh, unsalted water (remembering we are surrounded by the Baltic Sea which is salt water and I have a collection tank and a good filter which, again, she does not)

The work meris and guards all regularly check out the base’s “garbage” pit for things that we wasteful, rich North Americans decide cannot be used any longer, and they take these things home with them. It is humbling to re-examine our ways when we so often boast of how environmentally friendly and economically minded we (think we) are.

I know I, for one, have been changed.

Kristina Campbell
Islands Region, Papua New Guinea, West New Britain Province

1 comment:

Barbara said...

well said. I think of how guilty I felt when I threw a not so nice peach into the composter at someone's house once and they gave me a scolding of how "you only need to cut those parts out"... I certainly waste much here too. (shhh. I haven't even figured out the recycling system here yet). I'll pay more attention this week...or try anyway.