There is very little to do in Lagos, especially for kids, so our school often becomes the AISL community’s hub of life. A huge percent of our student population stays after school for sports and activities each weekday, and Saturday mornings have more sports and scouts. Sometimes, however, when the shipping containers haven’t yet been unloaded with goodies and the limited supply of stock at the local stores feels more limited than usual, you have to get creative.
Like most developing countries, Nigeria does have a plethora of plastic water bottles. Drinking tap water is suicide by diarrhea, an unfortunate and, I might guess, messy way to go. So, when life gives you water bottles… make boats! AISL has an annual plastic water bottle boat race at the pool. The rules are simple- the only materials allowed are plastic water bottles, string and tape. Each team has to bring two people (a rower and a passenger) across the length on the pool, drop them off at the other end, put two new people onto the boat and row back. The only propulsion allowed is with the paddle.
Our boat building teams were our advisories (touchy/feely homeroom for all you non-educators). There are four advisories in each grade of the middle school, one for each of our four Houses (think Harry Potter) Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, and Roosevelt. I agree, the House names are lame- it has something to do with promoting the A of AISL. Boats had to be constructed by the students without the help of their advisor, although what constituted help was helpfully vague. My advisory took the whole project by storm and soon we had a solid, packing tape-covered vessel. Of course, our main goal was to beat Sarah’s grade 8 advisory. Finished, our boat looked impressive- a sleek design, short and torpedo-shaped on both ends to cut through the water and no need to turn it around for the trip back. We added a House flag using a broom handle and a cut up House t-shirt. The kids even designed and built a plastic bottle canon that really worked, but I was so confident of our win, I wouldn’t allow it on the boat for fear we would be disqualified by purposefully sinking a competitor.
The race was this past Friday at the end of the day, and the school was abuzz with excitement. Groups of proud students carried their boats over their heads to the pool, and no two boats were the same. I reminded my students it was impolite to gloat until we won. We sat with our houses and in our colors (my family is in Lincoln and purple) cheering and chanting as the boats made their way to the pool’s edge. Lording over the whole event was athletic director Adrian, wielding a megaphone that was drowned out by the frenzied, uncontrollable preteen screaming. Houses of the same grade raced each other in heats, then the winners of each heat competed in a final race for the overall winner. It was good fun, hysterical, bonded us as an advisory and shot the school spirit through the roof.
Who was the winner? I don’t know, apparently someone from Jefferson House or something. Whatever.
(Our boat sat too high in the water and kept leaning to one side, dumping the kids repeatedly into the pool. They didn’t even get out of the starting line. Sarah has had a shit-eating grin on her face ever since).