** For those of you who may be new to this blog and/or story, I am a great fan of the TV show "SouthLAnd" -- a show which was not renewed for a sixth season (boo-hoo). The main characters of that show were left in a variety of states -- some good, some not-so-good. And I started to wonder -- as did other fans -- what would have become of Officer Ben Sherman (played by Ben McKenzie) if the series had been allowed to continue. After all, the series finale left him lying on the ground in seeming moral defeat. So, I decided to let my imagination run a little wild, and I have been having a lot of fun coming up with a continuing story for Officer Ben. It's probably a little cheesy, but I'm enjoying myself here. ;-) **
School had been in session for a little less than a month. I was happier than I had ever been. The kids were doing well, and were more enthused than any kids I had ever been in a classroom with during my childhood. They actually seemed to enjoy learning the alphabet, learning how to put letters together into the words of a new language. Using pictures -- and, of course, George's knowledge of the native tongue -- we taught them English a little at a time. English that could actually be useful. I remember learning Spanish back in high school. I knew how to say "the lady has blue hair" before I could have asked somebody where to find a restroom. I was happy that George's nonprofit was taking a this approach. We were teaching our students how to apply what they were learning in practical ways. I have often thought that if American kids could make a connection between their educations and their actual lives, the "system" would be more effective. Here -- in a land far away from that in which I was born -- I was seeing the fruits of such a learning environment.
So, yes, we did a lot of the so-called "three R's" with our kids -- reading, writing, arithmetic. But, there was also ample time for art, music, physical activity. We didn't have fancy "equipment" for these subjects, but George's group provided good, basic materials. And the kids themselves often brought musical instruments and art supplies from home. We were, after all, living in the midst of a culture where these things are valued. We taught our students about the history of their nation. We studied their culture. And when I say "we" studied -- well, that's exactly what I mean. I had as much learning to do as they. But, as many seasoned teachers have said, "You've just got to stay one chapter ahead." Not that we really had textbooks, to speak of. There were a few of those. Mostly, though, a generous number of seemingly random books were provided by George's organization. Books that covered a variety of subjects. I found, though, that when I put together my own ideas with the ideas and knowledge I found in these books, I could come up with some pretty creative lesson plans.
So, as I said, I was feeling happy. There were still nightmares and self-doubt. Hell, there still are. But, the tangle of negative emotions in my heart was starting to loosen a little. And in the midst of this -- on one hot afternoon as I was trying to explain to my charges why the letters "c" and "h", when put together as "ch", make the unpredictable sound that they do -- I looked up to see a face in the doorway of the little schoolhouse. A face I had never seen before. A woman's face. Young, but somehow ageless. Breathtaking. A face the color of chocolate -- chocolate infused with gold dust. Eyes large and black, but open somehow -- open to life and love and joy. High cheekbones that somehow managed to exude a pinkish hue, even for being so wonderfully and softly dark. And that face was smiling at me -- smiling a kind, yet wise and knowing smile. A smile that belied an understanding and experience of the difficulties and hurts of life. A smile that also belied a willingness to embrace that life, as hard as it can sometimes be. And I knew, somehow, that I wanted the life which that smile embraced to embrace me.
Her name was Ashaki -- which means "light". She certainly became that for me, this woman who became my wife. She was the aunt of one of my students -- a lively, bright 10-year-old boy. She had recently graduated from University in England, where she studied linguistics. Finally -- someone besides George with whom I could easily converse. Why had she come back here? Why didn't she stay in England, or even go to America? She would be welcome in either place, given her intelligence, her education. She had learned of the school George's nonprofit had started here, in the place of her birth, and she wanted to help out. That was fine by me. George was often in demand by the organization -- needed for various administrative decisions and tasks. That left him with little time for actual hands-on teaching in the school, which meant that I was responsible for most of it. Therefore, this lovely lady's assistance would be most welcome. And little did I know, when I first set eyes on her, that she would not only be of utmost value in our little classroom. She would become of utmost value to me, for the whole of my life.
To be continued...