The Kellers: Hearts and Bones

**This blog is in no way associated with and in no way represents the attitudes, beliefs, or practices of the United States Peace Corps. It is a personal blog, and all thoughts are entirely those of the Keller family.**


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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kids are mean, but...

I know kids, especially younger kids, do mean things sometimes. They don’t always understand fully how words and actions can hurt others. But today, I was met with a painful exception for which there was no excuse.

Lamar and I were walking home at dusk, and at least 10 “kids” of varying ages were out playing around in front of our house. There were some as young as 5 or 6 and some as old as at least 16 and 17. As we were passing by, I heard crying, but not human crying. I looked back, and a young boy had a puppy. He was putting the puppy between his knees. I thought this was a really weird thing to do, so I stopped and watched, just to make sure. Next thing I know, this kid is punching the puppy repeatedly in the head. He wasn’t hitting him or tapping him or anything remotely close: this kid has his fists balled up and he was punching the puppy.

Something inside me just snapped. I ran over there saying “no” and asking him what he thought he was doing. By the time I got to him, he had pulled the puppy up close to his face and was screaming at him about why he wasn’t able to listen or learn anything. I turned the kid around to face me, I bent down, I looked him in the eyes, and I asked him what he was doing beating that puppy. He looked at me blankly. Then, the saddest thing happened: all the “kids” just started laughing. There were teenagers and one girl who was an adult, for crying out loud! They all thought it was hysterically funny….this white girl worried about some kid punching a puppy to death. I told them it wasn’t funny and that it was a bad thing to do, and then I realized how useless it really was.  I'm not sure what broke my heart more:  the beaten puppy or the realization that it was all useless to try to get them to care.  As we left, I heard them all screaming after us the only words they knew in English, “#$*& you!”

What makes all of this worse is that this wasn’t some puppy they found. About two months ago, I saw one of the kids (not the one punching him) taking the puppy home. He looked so happy. I stopped and talked to him. He had named it, and seemed to really be invested. I told him to be sure and take care of it and treat it well.

Kids are mean, but this was something extraordinary. It takes a special kind of inhumanity not only to do what I witnessed but to watch it and do nothing. And the most ironic part: the kid was irritated at the puppy because he “couldn’t listen and learn.” Interesting….I know the feeling.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Every Monday night, Lamar and I show a movie in English and serve free popcorn. Students and their friends are welcome to come to the university and watch. I give them a choice of four movies each week, and they choose the one they most want to see. It is nothing much, just a chance for them to take a break and have a little fun.

But last Monday the most rewarding thing happened. As usual, Lamar and I were sitting in the back enjoying the movie. The students had chosen The Great Debaters. One of the main characters who is a college professor and the debate team coach is introducing his class to the Harlem Renaissance and its most significant writers: Countee Cullen, Zora Neal Hurston, Langston Hughes. The next thing I know, one of my first year students is whispering to the third year student sitting next to her. Then she turns back and looks at me, and she has the proudest look on her face that I have ever seen. She grins, and turns back around to finish the movie.

In that moment, I felt so fulfilled. I have been teaching Introduction to Literature to my first year students, and we have spent the entire semester focused on African American literature. She has read works by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston. She knew every author, and she knew exactly what the Harlem Renaissance was and why it was so important (both in America and Africa and around the world). And she was proud of it. And I was so proud of and for her.

To see a student feel knowledgeable and proud, to see a student trace the history of her brothers and sisters around the globe, and to see a student feel included in a world-wide historical discussion of race and equality was such an exceptional feeling. I am so glad I was finally given the opportunity to teach literature!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

As my Peace Corps service is drawing to a close, I am (naturally) looking back at my service experience, accounting for my time here. Did I accomplish what I set out to do? Have I given it my 100%, absolute best? Have I tread softly, encouraging others toward success with gentleness and love? Have I fought for those without a voice, those without a fair chance? Have I put myself second and others first? Have I been a good example in my behavior and speech?  Have I done what was right regardless of what others were doing?  Have I been forgiving and patient? Am I leaving a legacy that is righteous and honorable? Did I work as hard as I could have?  Have I been honest?   I wish I could say the answers to all were “yes.” More often than not, the answer is “I tried.”

But I plan to continue to work in all things and end my service with integrity and dignity, doing what I can to ensure the success of my students and the success of future volunteers at this site. At the end of the day, this is all any of us can do.

Perhaps my service will be well received and perceived; perhaps it will not. But I have the assurance of knowing that I tried to do the very best I could by Cape Verde and its people.

"So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.  His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth."  (Hosea 6:3-4)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Carnival 2011

The drum lines.

Just fascinating:  Cape Verdeans painted black, "pretending" to be "African."  Oh, the paper I could write on this one!  Seriously:  fascinating!

Their costume:  mud.

This cutie-pie decided she wanted to watch Carnival with us.  So, she did.  When she was tired, she took a break and sat on my feet eating popcorn.  Nice.

The theme this year was the seven wonders.  These guys were Rome.  My seamstress, Dona Milo, made these costumes! 


This picture gives you a good idea of the size of the floats.  They were really beautiful.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2nd Annual English Teachers Workshop

Thursday, February 24th and Friday, February 25th, teachers and student-teachers from Santo Antao and Mindelo participated in the 2nd Annual Teachers of English Workshop.  It was so great to see teachers get together to share ideas, talk about issues in the classroom, and just generally work together to improve English education in Cape Verde.  It was a great experience. Here are some pictures from the event:

Valdir, Donzilia, and Isaac:  UNI-CV college students.  They gave a great presentation on classroom management.  I was so proud of them!  And everyone LOVED the presentation.

Teachers from Mindelo and Santo Antao doing group work during the workshop.

Fedra, from Ludgero Lima in Mindelo.  Fedra and Jimmy did an AWESOME presentation on classroom motivation.  They were so enthusiastic and well-prepared.  They set the bar high for next year's presenters.

My counterpart, Ms. Brito.  She is the delegada for the education department here in Sao Vicente.  She is super organized, efficient, and nice!  She is a great counterpart.  I am going to be sad to leave her.

Kate, a volunteer from Santo Antao, and Celestino, my Peace Corps boss.  They were both such HUGE helps during the workshop.  I could not ask for better friends and colleagues.

Donzilia, my best friend here in Cape Verde.  Look at that face?!  Isn't she just so cute.

Misty, a Peace Corps volunteer from Praia.  She is giving her presentation on writing and current events in the classroom.  It was definitely one of the favorite presentations at the workshop.  She came all the way from Praia just to help me out with the workshop.

Me....checking off things on my list.

Megan, a Peace Corps volunteer from Santo Antao, and I.  We were busy filling resource folders and completing diplomas.  Megan was awesome--she worked all week and never complained once.

The group!  We had a total of 77 teachers. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Me and Paul Simon

Paul Simon.  I love his music because he does both things so well:  the music and the lyrics.  If you don't know his work, you definitely should.

I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain't got no rain
She said a bad day's when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been

Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

And I count myself blessed. I know so many living a life of regret. 

Maybe I think too much
Maybe I think too much
Maybe I think too much
Maybe I think too much
They say the left side of the brain
Dominates the right
And the right side has to labor
Through the long and speechless night

And the right side endures...

One and one-half wandering jews
Free to wander wherever they choose
Are travelling together
In the sangre de cristo
The blood of christ mountains
Of new mexico
On the last leg of the journey
They started a long time ago
The arc of a love affair
Rainbows in the high desert air
Mountain passes slipping into stones
Hearts and bones

Still free to wander...

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder

I know to whom I look...

Some people say the sky is just the sky
But I say
Why deny the obvious child?

Still working to acknowledge the obvious child...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thanks to my parents' generosity, Lamar and I spent an awesome Christmas with our family and friends back in the States.  We spent three weeks in Arkansas, with Lamar traveling to Albuquerque for a week to visit his family.  It was so wonderful to have everyone together to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Two of my favorite people.  My cup runneth over.

Beautiful Albuquerque

 Our return to Cape Verde was nice as well. Our sweet friends made sure our apartment was sparkling clean when we arrived. There was even a welcome home sign. It is a peculiar thing to leave one home to arrive at another.

(Finished two great books: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga and The Last Report on the Miracle at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. I highly recommend them, if you have the time and inclination.)