Return to Orkeeswa


Back from our homestays, we have settled into a normal routine at orkeeswa. When looking around nowadays you can see dirt flying as we work on leveling the soccer pitch and students nestled in quite corners doing language exchange with their partners.

As we approach the school every morning we are surrounded by many red sweaters with eager faces. When getting out of the car we are greeted with an orkeeswa handshake and a smile. Following the normal routine we partner up with our language exchange buddies and get right to work. Each Groton/St. Marks student is paired with a few of the younger students from orkeeswa. Going over things such as greetings, fruits, animals and much more we soon advanced to making sentences.

My partner and I quickly became more comfortable with each other and could talk about a wider variety of things. We would talk about the similarities and differences of our schools, America and it’s politics, a typical day in our respective lives, religion, the challenges we face being girl in our society and much more. From language exchange we have not only learned how to say different words, but we have also gained so much information about the lives that our partners lead and the ways in which we are similar.

On day one when the soccer pitch project was introduced we were faced with bumpy terrain and a slope that was less than ideal for a soccer pitch. Methodically we started digging, taking the dirt from the high ground and by assembly line we transported it to the low parts of the soon to be field. When standing in the assembly line you can hear the fall of the pick-axe on the hard ground, the sound of the shovel hitting the bucket every time it is filled and the chatter of many voices. Although it is hard work physically it is also a social time. People in the line converse about a variety of topics, and it is ideal for free form conversation. When people in the full bucket line get tired and switch with the empty bucket line it is an opportunity to see a new face and start another conversation. We work on this for a good part of the morning, and by the time it is lunch everyone is always ready for food but looking back at our progress is satisfying.

When back at the place where we are staying every evening it is comforting to debrief with the group. We have done many things such as highs and lows, having speakers come and playing bonding games. The games are usually silly, end with us all laughing, and are such a nice way to decompress. My favorite thing to do is highs and lows because I enjoying hearing about what stood out to certain people. Some common threads in the highs have been meeting new friends, immersing ourselves in the culture here and recognizing the beauty of the country and the privilege that we hold by being here.

Emma Keeling

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