F A M O

In conversation with Famo:
​​Education during COVID-19

"Sooo being a teacher sucks. So good job to the teachers [claps]. Now I salute them. Where do I start? So awhile back, at the beginning, I shared a photo of all the kids studying together. That doesn’t work anymore. So I have to put them in separate rooms. We have four rooms, so they’re each in different rooms. In the living room, there’s a little one who doesn’t go to school yet. So she watches TV, and the other kids get distracted a lot, they start watching TV when they’re supposed to be in their classes. Then also, one of them broke the headphones. So they’re not altogether anymore, [laughs]. Also, when they’re sitting together, there’s an echo, it repeats, everybody’s connections get tangled, so that’s why they’re in separate rooms. And also, once they’re in separate rooms, I have to go back and forth to check on them every five minutes because they’ll close their class apps and then go in different apps. They watch YouTube or do other stuff, so I have to watch to see that they're in their class."


- Famo

 

"What have your kids said, how do they experience learning online? Do they miss school? Do they like it this way?"


​- Alex

 

 

"They hate it. They miss school. They have to go through seven different apps to do their work, and then they don't know how to work through the apps, so I have to do it for them. Then they get really impatient. I only have two kids – a son and a daughter. My son is in fourth grade, so I don’t have to worry about him, he only has Google classroom and he knows how to use it. But my older sister has eight kids and she doesn’t know how to help them, so the three younger ones, they come here. So I’m the one who’s helping them, and together I help four kids at the same time. They get impatient when they they click something wrong, and then I have to help them, while I’m helping somebody else. So they don't like that, they don't like working through the apps. And also, three of them have tablets so they rush the schooling part so that they can go and have fun because they know those computers are not fun. So they don’t like it. They miss school and they’re always asking when they're going back, because they don’t like how they get frustrated and they don’t know how to handle the apps. But at the same time, they try to compete with each other. My daughter and her cousin have the same class, so they do the same assignment and compete to see who’s going to finish faster or who’s going to get it right, so that part is fun."


​- Famo

 

"Now that you’ve been doing this for two months, do you feel like you have a routine or do you feel like you’re still trying to figure it out?"


- Alex

"I have somewhat of a routine. I use my phone calendar to put each person’s Zoom time, when they’re supposed to be doing their homework, their class time. Other than that, everything is still a chaos. It’s not as organized as I want it to be. And one of the struggles we’re having is that we were already seven in the house, and now we are twelve people in the house. And seven of us are all in school and we need the WiFi. Most of us have classes almost at the same time, so the internet gets unstable, and it becomes slow, and that’s been a struggle for awhile, so we don’t know how to fix that. So we try to be in different places and not be together, but the WiFi is still being overused. For example, when I’m in my class and the internet gets overwhelmed, it just kicks me out and then it happens to the kids and then they’re like ‘Mine went away too,’ so we’re struggling trying to get everyone back online. So that’s been a struggle and being in the same schedule. One thing that’s also hard for me is that I have to focus on my classes and then also focus on their classes. So I’m still trying to be organized, but I’m not there yet. But hopefully next week, I have one more week of school, so after that, I’ll be able to focus on them and try to be as organized as I can."


- Famo

 

"How do you navigate those different roles: you’re a mother and a caregiver, a student yourself and also a teacher. What are you doing for yourself to get through it?"


​- Alex

I sleep, [laughs]. I sleep whenever I can. I don’t sleep early but I take naps in between stuff. Because, last week, I slept through my class and then everybody was gone, the class was over, I was the only one left. And the teacher was like, ‘Are you still here?’ So that – that was not good. So I try to get as much sleep as I can and try to stick to the schedule so I will not overwhelm myself or stress myself. I think that’s basically it.


​- Famo

Reflections on Ramadan

"Like others have said, Ramadan is different this year. We're all staying home and I like to go out, go to work and then come home, and just focus on stuff at home. My kids – and my parents – don't understand that when you're home, you're still working. So every time I lock myself in my room, they keep knocking – that's when they want something the most – so it gets distracting. At the same time, when you're home all the time, you're thinking about fasting a lot, because you're home and you're closer to the food. When you're outside, you focus on work and other things, you don't think about the food until you're home and that’s when it gets you. And also its different, because everyone has to pray at home. It’s nice, but it also gets crowded. Usually, we go out to pray at the mosque, but we can't do that, so we're home all the time. At the same time, I like that I get to be with my family, because now we get to bond and stay together a lot. Usually, I'm pretty busy and I don't see them all day, unless it's a weekend, and sometimes I also work during the weekend. So that's a nice side of it, I get to spend more time with my kids.

Before COVID, I used to always make food that’s really fast, because I'd be out all day. Then when I come home, I'm too tired to cook a meal that would take longer, so I would always cook food that would finish in either 30 minutes or 15 minutes or 20 minutes. So now, I get the time to try things (like kebab) that take longer, because you have to wait in between. With the bread, it's not something I make everyday either. So I get the chance to make food that I usually wouldn't make because I wouldn't have the time for it. So that's one positive thing that I like about staying home.

Also my sister came to visit for two weeks – the week before Ramadan and the first week of fasting. And we got the chance to cook together again, because she got married and moved out. So this was the first Ramadan that she came back to celebrate with us as a married woman. So that was fun cooking together, and we were competing to see who could cook faster and who could make the better dish. So that was a fun experience that we had."

​- Famo

Family meals

"Does the yummy meat that you made represent something to you or your family, or have a connection to anything?​"

- Dan

 

"It doesn't have a deeper meaning, but it's a dish that we would usually cook when families are gathering together. It's the easiest thing that we would make, and we would also make it with steak, but not the American steak, it's a little different– the African steak..."


- Famo

 

 

"I feel you."


- Dan

 

"... with the big bone in. So it's like a big cookout where people are meeting. We usually do it during Eid when everyone meets after prayer. And the guys do it, while we [women] sit around and they just feed us [laughs]. We would make the food that would go with it, but they would grill the meat outside."


​- Famo

June 2020: finding a routine

"Since they’re doing home schooling, we have a schedule that they have their Zoom class time in the morning. The little ones, they start theirs at 11:30 and the bigger ones at 11. So every day, after their Zoom classes, they would have an hour to two hours where they would just be on their laptops, their computers and they would just catch up on their homework for the week. And during that time we turn off the TV, we turn off everything, and they just sit there for two hours doing their work and us helping them. My sister went back to work so she brings her kids over and we’re all together almost every day."


- ​Famo

"Once they do their homework, they have a free day, a free pass, where they can just be on their tablet, most of them have tablets. So they can just be on their tablets and watch YouTube and just relax and have fun and that was one of her moments."


​- Famo

Working from home during COVID-19

"I do a lot of Zoom meetings. Even with school being done this week, today, this is my third Zoom. I’m in a lot of organizations that have weekly Zooms, and I also work from home with Bill [from the Global ARC], so I meet with him a lot. We are going to start our youth meetings using Zoom, so I’ll be doing even more Zoom, so I need to create this section where it’s my office where I do my Zoom classes and I normally do my homework. But because I don’t have a space that I would call a workspace, since before all this I was never home, now I’m forced to have a space that has to be an office even though it’s in my room next to bed. So even now, I have a backdrop thrown over my headboard, so it doesn’t look like I’m sitting on my bed, but I am. My room is so crowded and outside it’s just full of kids. There’s not a place I can just sit and call it my office so that’s what I created."


- Famo

In conversation with Famo: documenting daily life during COVID-19

"For this one, my mom likes to send things a lot to her friends and her family members all over the US, and also to my sisters in Vegas. She would always go to the store and buy something for them and send it to them. So almost every week, I have to go to the post office to send her mail because she doesn’t know how to do it, but she always sends me to go do it. Every time, for the last month, every time I went, the line was so long, it would go outside the post office. So every time I went there and there was a line, I took a picture of the people standing there. But it was funny because sometimes they would notice and I wouldn’t want to get in trouble so I would hold my phone like I’m texting but I’m taking photos. I included this because it became one of my weekly routines."


- Famo

"This has become part of our daily routine: when we get tired of being in the house, we go to 50th Street. That’s where my sister and my aunt live. And we just sit outside and just hangout. When we get tired of doing the same thing all the time and we want to go out, but we’re not allowed to go out and mingle and do things because of the quarantine, we just do that. And we’ve been doing that for the past three months, where every other day we just go there and gossip."


​- Famo

"My sister is back in town – again [laughs]. She got married two years ago. Whenever she’s in town, she likes taking photos, so I did a photo session with her, where we went to the park and we took like 200 pictures and then we came home and she wanted to do a photoshoot. So we decided to make a home studio and that’s what we were doing. At first, we started with a white background and then we did a second backdrop because she’s wearing white for her second outfit. I included this picture because it became a routine that we started every time she comes, that we would always have a photo shoot. That’s one of our routines that we’ve been doing together when she comes here."


- Famo

"Praying is part of our daily routine, even though it’s not fasting time anymore. It’s something that we do every day."


​- Famo

"This was when we went shopping and we went all out because they gave out those P-EBTs – the little kid’s food stamps. They get COVID/pandemic food cards now. They just started giving them out last week, where each kid gets three hundred and sixty-something dollars. I have two kids, so both of them together they get $700 and I usually get $300 every month as well, so we had $1000 worth of food stamps, and we went crazy. We bought $400 worth of food. I took my niece, we took Binti. It was three of us, so we were all getting food that kids would like. We weren’t buying essentials, we just – yea, it was bad. We had two full carts, and then Binti had those grandma carts that you ride, like the little cars, and it had a cart on top, so that one was full. We just went all out and we bought a lot of food. We haven’t been able to do that for a long time so that was a fun experience.

It’s all gone by the way [laughs] we don’t have it anymore."

- Famo

"I thought I would include this because we have to eat at some point [laughs]. We talked about food already. We don’t cook that much, even tough it’s not fasting time anymore. But we always cook like twice a day, either sometime around lunchtime or dinnertime. We don’t do a lot of breakfast. We wake up really late [laughs] since we don't have any places to be so I just thought I’d do one food picture in there."


- Famo

Did you used to eat breakfast before COVID?"


- Alex

"Not really. Even before COVID, we are always rushing, the kids going to school. Like they would grab Nutella bread. They don’t do a lot of peanut butter, they would do the sliced bread and Nutella, but we are always rushing so we don’t do full breakfasts. We wouldn’t even call it breakfast, we would just grab an apple and banana and just run out. "


- Famo

"Every night before we go to sleep, we would have like family time where we get to choose what to watch. That day, they wanted to watch their aunt Binti, the one who came to visit, they wanted to watch her wedding video. It’s on YouTube, and they wanted to watch it together, so I bought chips and cheese for that, and they started talking about who else is getting married, and I was like ‘I don’t know!’ But, yea, we do that a lot. The week before that I made them watch a scary movie, [laughs]. They didn’t like that so much. But, the next day, they were like ‘Can we watch it again?’ so I was confused.
 
But they like the experience of just, it’s their nighttime routine. Before, they used to say ‘Can you read a story?’ Now, they’re like ‘Can we watch a movie before we go to sleep?’ So we just do that once in a while before going to sleep. Or, sometimes, we just watch somebody else reading a story, like a Cinderella story, so I would not have to be reading, because they’re bad listeners. So we just watch somebody else read to them and then that makes them go to sleep. But that day was a movie night."

- Famo

"I just had to include this as a final image, because that’s what we do after the day – we go to sleep. But this also has a deeper meaning. I’ve been doing this for the last three years. Every time they go to sleep, I will take pictures of them sleeping. Then I have like a whole collection of it. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but it’s a series that I’ve been doing for a long time, so I just thought I’d include it. They don’t like it. Every time they go to my phone, they see a picture of them sleeping and they’re like ‘Why do you keep doing that?’ I’m like ‘I don’t know.’ It just happens, it’s my photography nature, I don’t know."


- Famo