Testing. Testing. Testing. 1. 2. 3. Is this thing on? Can everyone hear me at the back? Ok. GOOD MORNING TIRANA! I’ve been asked to come along today to tell you of the exciting new language being developed at the special school. We predict that this new language will replace English as the world’s lingua franca within the next three years. Also, I don’t want to move rooms again.
So, we have been working at the school now for four days, and I am starting to get a handle on how to deal with at least some of the children. The kids basically adopt you; the kids who have decided to hang round me are one boy and one girl, both with Down’s syndrome. The boy enjoys football and basketball, but has difficulty playing both and we volunteers have to stop the other children from physically throwing him off the pitch/court. The girl also enjoys playing with a ball, but not with more than two or three other people. So I have spent some time playing catch and basketball with them. But a major issue was keeping them amused and interacting when the balls are being used by other people, and also communicating with them, since I still can’t remember much Albanian being the monolingual muggle that I am.
But then I had an idea. Almost all kids enjoy it when grownups are silly and mess around with them. So I started effectively re-enacting Mr. Bean, pretending the basketball was really heavy, dropping it in silly ways, banging it on my head. And to go with it I started using a very silly squeaky voice which sounds kind of like the mouse droids from star wars, with ASDIC pings, Road-Runners “meep-meep”, miaow sounds and peacock noises thrown in at random. I also sing “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” but with the squeaky voice so you can’t hear the words, and also I often say “Nee!” and “Ecky ecky ecky patang nuwom!” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s Knights who say Nee. With the squeaky voice (known in my head as LJs Anglo-Albanian-Heliumese) you can’t make out individual words, which is a good thing as I throw in the occasional “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” and “Fetchez la vache”. The children will often repeat things you have said to them, even if they don’t know what it means, so making incoherent high pitched noises is a good way of avoiding accidentally teaching them bad words!
Working with the kids is difficult and isn’t difficult. They are kids, they enjoy the same sort of things all kids do on a summer school, silliness, games and adult attention. But you have to concentrate at all times. They sometimes become violent at random, or run off, or jump on your back. So you have to keep an eye not only on the kids you are with, but also others around who might suddenly attack yours. I have been bitten by one kid who just decided that was what he was going to do then.
This highlights one important aspect of EVS that sometimes people don’t seem to realize. It is not a holiday. It is work, and it is hard work. Yes you are in another country, and you can enjoy yourself and do a spot of light tourism on the side, but the job has to come first. If you are going out drinking every night, partying and meeting people and so on, you can’t do your job and you become a danger to the project and the children and you will quite simply be told to leave. On the week-long youth exchanges I have done we say “If you are going to be a big man at 3am, you also have to be a big man at 8am”. In other words, go out late if you want to, just make sure you are on time and prepared to work.
In other news, I have now moved rooms five times since I arrived 10 days ago, for a diverse panoply of reasons ranging between broken pipes, young love, the writings of George Orwell, the velvet divorce of Czechoslovakia and the glistening tear on the cheek of a golden child (it is possible that not all of those reasons may be true). I should like to ask any deity who might be listening and in a sympathetic mood (perhaps Anoia, the goddess of things that get stuck in drawers) to please make sure I can stay in the same room until I leave on 1st September? That would be good.
Thank you for that little speech Mr. LJ, I am sure the whole school learnt something. Very inspiring. Now school, a round of applause for Mr. LJ. Come on school. Come on! IF WE DON’T HAVE SOME APPLAUSE THIS MINUTE THE WHOLE SCHOOL WILL BE IN DETENTION!