EXTRA! Check out the WRITE AWAY writers retreat, Aug. 31–Sept. 4 in Český Krumlov, CZ.

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

hands off by John Amen
Etched by Michael Bazzett
First Day in Sydney, 1992 by Catherine Bull
Two Poems by Laurie Byro
Seamstress by Krista Genevieve Farris
Train Kids by Tracey Gratch
Floating World by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Two Poems by Bernard Henrie
Transcendental Nocturne by Colin Honnor
Newport Mansions, Observed from the Cliff Walk by Jean L. Kreiling
Gifts: Naxos by April Lindner
Two poems by Gary Maggio
10-100 by Bradley K Meyer
Two Poems by Kassandra Montag
Microclimates by Lisa Ortiz
Ukrainian Now by Lauren Reed
Two poems by Kim Suttell
Two poems by Pepper Trail
Morning Trip to the Mechanic by Samantha Walters
Two Poems by Anna Weaver