Recently one of my learners, Elifas, has begun showing up at our house… like, every day. He’s an incredibly sweet boy, but at the same time he is one of my biggest trouble makers. I know he’s interested in learning English and doing well (he is one of my only learners that has come to my house for extra help and he always came to English Club during Term 1), but he cannot (FOR THE LIFE OF HIM) stay still. He will ask me a question, and if anything around him moves slightly or makes noise, his attention is gone. I’m pretty sure he would be diagnosed with ADD in the States. He comes over and when I tell him it isn’t a good day, he literally begs until I let him in (“PLEASE MISS KATHRYN, PLEASE!!!”). Yesterday he was over when a learner came over for extra help, so I told him he had to leave (I was letting him play computer games and it would have been distracting). He absolutely refused to get up and, when I took him by the hand and started trying to physically pull him up, he started pleading: “I’m sorry, Miss Kathryn, I’m sorry, please, please…”. When I told him he had to study with us or go home, he chose to stay and study. I think he just really likes being here, no matter what (usually he wants to play on the computer, so when it isn’t here and I tell him, he asks to do anything else. Last week I was cooking pumpkin with the girls and when I told him we were busy cooking pumpkin, he insisted that he REALLY wanted to see how we cooked pumpkin). Somehow his pleas aren’t annoying or whiny, but rather heart-warming. He’s one of my favorite learners, despite the constant problems he causes in class (“Miss Kathryn, Elifas lose my pen.” “Miss Kathryn, Elifas is take my hat.” “Miss Kathryn, Elifas is making noise.”).
Last week he was helping me bring books to the library, and he mentioned it was what sounded like “quarry” day. I asked what it was and he explained it was the day that old people get money (pensions, I’m guessing). He then explained that he would also get money. I thought he was lying to be funny, so I called him a liar and immediately regretted it. He told me that it is also the day he gets money because he is an orphan, and I’d wished I had put my foot in my mouth. He didn’t seem upset about it, which I guess is because death is just so common here, but it still puts me at a loss for words when learners tell me about their parents dying or their orphan status. Anyway, this is all a long winded prologue to what I really wanted to talk about, but now you know who Elifas is!
Yesterday, after Elifas agreed to study with the girl who had come over, he got up from his seat and sat down in front of the refrigerator. We have those colorful letters of the alphabet so learners often sit down in front of it and spell their names, and I guess Elifas was easily distracted by the colors! I didn’t pay much attention to him because I was helping the girl study, but I looked over several minutes later to see he had written his name and then below it “Evelina.” Evelina is the girl who sits next to him in class, and one of the brightest girls at that, but she wasn’t at the house so I thought it was odd that he wrote her name. I pointed it out and he was obviously mortified, quickly spreading the letters apart. I asked him if he liked her and he emphatically insisted that he DID NOT. I took that to obviously mean that he did.
It made me think of parallels in the human experience, and how I had experienced almost the exact same thing as a sixth grader. One weekend I was at my friend’s house and we made clay magnets. I had the biggest crush in the world on this boy named Chad, so for some reason I felt compelled to make a red clay heart with “Chad” written in pink clay on top. Then, with my feeble sixth grade mind, I thought it was a good idea to hang it in my school locker. Someone noticed (one of the POPULAR girls at that, oh my!), and asked me if it was the Chad at our school. For some reason, I thought I could hang a heart magnet with “Chad” written in it and not suffer any questions, despite the fact that Chad is an unusual name and it happened to be the name of a “popular” boy in my grade. I quickly made up a story about a Chad at another school, and then took the magnet down as quickly as I could.
Elifas didn’t make up any stories about another Evelina (I guess this village is so small, it would be even less believable than my fabrication!), but I just thought it was funny how both of us had intentionally and yet absent-mindedly displayed the name of our crushes somewhere while we were in sixth grade. I don’t think I’m articulating the experience exactly as I would like to, but in some strange way I just felt that it brought me closer to him. I think it also explains some of his naughty behavior, being as complaints often come from Evelina. Sort of like how my grandfather used to chase my grandmother with worms, but Namibian style.
I’ll end with a picture of the two lovebirds: