This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

A new part of Nashville

Today was my first day as a volunteer tutor at the African Leadership refugee ministry.  I was excited about meeting all the kids and was secretly hoping there would be some from West Africa that I could speak French with.  I miss using that beautiful language every day. 

As I pulled into the northwest Nashville apartment complex where the tutoring center is located, the rain started to pour.  I had written down the address and corresponding directions before I left, but upon arriving I realized that I had no clue which apartment building to head towards.  Driving in, I just kept seeing more and more identical brick buildings, labeled A-Z.  As I sat in my car, not wanting to drive twenty minutes back to Belmont just to get the apartment number, I started to regret my recent downgrade from the internet-browsing, google-maps navigating, full email servicing, way-too-expensive-for-a-college-student Blackberry World Edition wonderphone to my humble LG Chocolate with texting-only capabilities.  That little phone came through for me though, and one call later I was on my way, apartment number in hand.

I navigated the mysteriously crowded parking lot in front of building J and maneuvered my way into the one empty spot.  This little corner of the complex was bustling with activity.  Beautiful black children of all ages graced the sidewalks.  They chatted brightly in sing-song African languages foreign to my ears, toddlers hanging about the legs of their teen-aged siblings.  I got out of the car and started to lock up, but was startled by a man I saw walk up out of the corner of my eye.  A plain-clothes police man, with gun in holster and Kevlar vest with "POLICE" boldly inscribed on the front, walked up quickly but calmly and went into the building I was about to enter.  That was a nice welcome. 

I found another door and went on up to the apartment on the top floor that the African Leadership rents as a tutoring center.  I was welcomed by a, "Hi, you're here to help?" from a friendly-looking older man, and before I could respond he sat me in a chair next to a young woman who was working on some math homework.  Her name was Anesa, she studies here in the 11th grade, and she is from Tanzania (pronounced TanZAYneeya).  It took me a few minutes, but luckily I was able to re-figure out how to solve for X and Y in the system of equations method I had learned back in 8th grade.  

What different lives we've experienced, I thought, as, with a little direction she quickly deciphered the algebraic code.  I realized how smart she was as I thought back on the difficulties I experienced in pre-calculus while studying in Belgium.  It's hard work to try to learn numbers while still learning a language.  Think about how much verbal explanations play a part in our understanding of mathematics.  Take that all away, and you're left to try to reason it out on your own.  

We worked for a good two hours on the sheet and finished about 15 problems.  By then it was already time to go.  
"Will you be back next week?" Anesa asked? 
"Yep -- I'll be here on Thursday again."
"Thank you so much; I will see you on Thursday." 

I was touched by her genuine appreciation for my help.  It's such an honor to help hardworking people who really have a desire to understand.  Anesa's attitude towards her schoolwork reminded me just how lucky I am to be able to attend such a good school myself!


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