Postcard proseIssue 10 | September 2010

Grammar Lesson

by Mandy Berman

The first day I meet the children, we sit in the dirt, on a flat ground beneath the rolling hills of beanstalks and maize and pumpkin patches, pulling bean pods from their stalks. The women and children laugh and talk in Timbuka. I sit and do my work. A girl with thin arms and full lips sits next to me, separating the brown bean pods and the green ones into two piles. We are quiet until I ask for her name.

Charity, she says.
That’s a very pretty name.
Thank you. Beside her is a plastic bowl, and she begins to place stray beans in it, ones that had fallen out of their pods.
How old are you, Charity?
I am twelve years old. Her English is measured and clear, a mix between the British accent she learned in school and the thick Malawian dialect, with its interchangeable r’s and l’s, its emphasis on the last letter of every word.
Do you have any brothers and sisters? This to me is a universal question to ask a twelve-year-old.
Yes, she says. I have five-ee.
Five! That’s a lot. Are any of them here? I point to the other children pulling bean pods from their stalks.
No, she says. There are no more.

I decide my first lesson will be on the past tense.

About the author

Mandy Berman recently returned from teaching English and Math to AIDS orphans in Malawi, Africa. She currently writes for the online travel guide, Dguides.com, and blogs at prettierworld.blogspot.com. She is currently teaching English in the Dordogne region of France.

Read our current issue:

Poetry

on a wrought iron bench in Bristol by Jamie Donohoe
Ocean Point by Melissa Goodwin
Amaszonas, S.A. by George Guida
Santé by Zoe Karathanasi
Three poems by Athena Kildegaard
Two poems by Jane Kirwan
African Soundscape by Karla Linn Merrifield
Aubade in Transit by Rick Mullin
The Fields of May by James B. Nicola
Igbo Directions in Amsterdam by Uche Ogbuji
High Jumping Silver by Gail Peck
the ground unfurls by Gabrielle Peterson
Two poems by Mike Puican
Byzantium at the Bus Stop; Byzantium at the Mall by Sarah Sadie
Romance by Askold Skalsky
Two poems by Bill Yake

Postcard prose

Before We Let the Hens Out by Emily Avery-Miller
Cheng Man Ch’ing by Douglas Penick

Travel notes

Life Jacket by Margaret McMullan
Hamam by Caroline Swicegood