Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Happy International Webloggers' Day!

When I first heard about IWD, I tried to decide what to post. I finally chose 'Why I started blogging' as the subject and wrote the post many times in my head, figuring I could easily sit down and bang it out in a short amount of time this morning. However, something that happened last week made me change my mind yesterday. Instead of making this post about me, I'm going to tell you about a student at our school. He's not my student, but I'm a 'permanent substitute' for his class and talk to him from outside of the classroom from time to time (as we pass in the halls, in the computer lab, etc). His name starts with an I, but that could get to be a bit confusing, so I'll call him O in this post.
O is originally from Angola, but has been living in my country-not-to-be-named for thirteen years now. Fourteen years ago, there was a knock on his front door. His father answered and was greeted by some of the local militia leaders. They told him that they had heard he as quite a few sons, and wanted to buy them for their militia (child soldiers are a problem in Angola). His father politely refused, then realised he had to get his family out of there immediately as he knew they'd be back to take his sons. Not having a direction in mind but wanting to preserve his family, they fled that night. They ended up in Luanda, the capital, going door to door to different embassies, telling them what had happened and trying to get out of Angola. My country-not-to-be-named accepted them as refugees and a bit later, they were here.
Moving on to modern times, O is currently a very good student in our school and will be graduating at the end of June. He's smart, funny, very popular, quite studious and always in a good mood. He speaks his local African language (sorry, I can't remember the name of it) as well as three European langagues fluently. He has a love for life that is quite uncommon here. In the two years he's been attending our school, I've never heard a bad word said about him by either students or faculty.
Last Tuesday, O's mother died of cancer. She had been ill for a few years and finally succumbed to the disease. Understandably, O was absent from school that day, something very unusual for him. Exams started last Wednesday and O was there for them. Thursday also, but he was absent again on Friday (no exams) and Monday (no exams), but was there for his exam on Tuesday, and was his usual cheerful self.
On Monday of this week, I had to fill in for his class' regular teacher because she was on holiday, which is when I found out the above info about his mother. N (another student - his best friend) told me that they were going to start a collection for him, so I immediately opened my wallet and donated 20 Euros. The students gave what they could. I then told N to go around to the other classes, explain what had happened and see if anyone wanted to donate. He said, "Do you think they will?" to which I replied, "I'd be surprised if there was someone who wounldn't." N came back a bit later with close to 200 Euros for O and his family. After class, I called Bossman (he was at our other school), let N tell him what had happened and he said that the school would donate 50 Euros - which Young Secretary gave him from the petty cash. Later that day, O's entire class went to his mother's funeral.
I also found out a few other things about O on Monday when talking with his class...he's the third oldest of nine children and not only spends a lot of his free time studying, but also helping his dad raise his younger siblings (his mom had been too ill to do that for a few years before she passed away). To help support his family, he works after school one day a week and all day on Saturdays at a local shop.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to O about his plans for after graduation. He told me that he has a job lined up in Switzerland as a receptionist at a hotel for the rest of the high season, and then he'll return to our country to look for a job to be closer to his family again.
To end, I'd like to tell you about an oral report O did last November (I just happened to be subsituting on the day he was giving it). I found out most of the biographical information that I have included in my second paragraph about O on that day as his oral report was on Angola, however one thing really struck me...his description of the Angolan flag. The main colours are red and black, the former representing the blood of the Angolans that was shed under Portugese rule and the black representing Africa. In the centre, it has a cog wheel representing the industry of Angola, a machte representing the common people and agriculture of the country and a star symbolising the progress the country has made since independence and hope for the future - all three of which are yellow to represent the country's wealth.
So, O, on the first ever International Webloggers' Day, I want to tell you that I'm glad I know you, thank you for being the great person you are and proudly fly the Angolan flag on my blog in your name.