Monday, March 30, 2009

The Nuns and I

I would like to take some time to talk about my roommates, the nuns. There are seven Sisters of Notre Dame in Awkunanaw: Martina, Ifeoma, Helena, Bernadine, Celestina, Ngozi, and Francisca.

Sr. Martina is the headmistress of the school, which suits her no nonsense personality. Martina is from the North and so she is the only non-Igbo speaking Nigerian. She is usually the quietest of the bunch which may be why her quick sense of humor often takes me by surprise.

Sr. Ifeoma (Ifee for short) is a jolly sort of person and she is always smiling. Ifeoma works with the Prenursery school kids, who are three and four years old. The nuns take turns saying grace before meals and yesterday was Ifeoma's turn to pray, however people were not promptly coming to the dining room. Ifee was very hungry so she shouted out her prayer to the empty room and began to eat.

Sr. Helena is 70 years old which makes her the oldest in the house. Helena is British, the other Onye Oicha. I have heard stories told about Helena's legendary ability to teach any child how to read. Helena likes things neat and orderly. It bothers her if pictures are crooked, table cloths are off center, or people greet her when her back is to them.

Sr. Bernadine (usually goes by Bern but I like to call her Bernie) teaches Science and Home Economics, and is the homeroom teacher for Primary 2B. Bernie and I can get each other laughing over the stupidest things. Last week she was at a conference but when she returned she told the children that they had to be well behaved because she spent the last week sick in the hospital and she couldn't handle the stress. I had to avoid making eye contact with her or we would have cracked up.

Sr. Celestina works in the Bursar Office, keeping tract of the School's finances and collecting payments for school supplies. Today I helped her compare the cash book to bank statements for the month of January. Celestina is an albino and people have said that we are sisters. Celestina seems almost shy when she is in a crowd but she gets very animated when in a smaller group.

Sr. Ngozi is the youngest of the nuns, she took her final vows about a year ago. She also works as an accountant in the Bursar Office. Ngozi has been pretty sick with an ulcer the last few weeks and it is nice to see her becoming herself again. Ngozi is not discreet about anything but her honesty can be refreshing. More than anyone she has picked up my American phrases. Ngozi has this swagger and a mischievousness to her that I love.

Sr. Francisca or Franca teaches English to the older students. I am surprised to find that I have the most trouble describing Franka. She is neither shy nor outspoken. She is tall. Hmm... Franka is competent and kind.

Last but not least, is Blessings. Blessings lives with us but she is not a nun. She cooks, cleans, goes to the market, and does countless other jobs. I have trouble guessing anyones age but I don't think Blessings can be much older than twenty. Blessings has had very little schooling but she is smart. When I first arrived she could barely speak a few words of English. Today Bernie was complaining about fish bones in the soup Martina had made and Blessings apologized and told Bernie not to get worked up about it. The sheepish way Blessing used her new English phrase made everyone laugh.

I cannot say enough about these eight women. We often joke that they are out to make my life difficult but that is far from the truth. They have been very good to me. I appreciate all the little things they do for me, like buying pineapples because it's my favorite. They easily forgive me when I inadvertently say or do something wrong. They are so grateful for the work I do and it makes me wish that I could do more.

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