Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Whoooo the last few weeks have been a big adjustment period. The days go by so slowly, but then all of a sudden almost three weeks have passed since swear-in! On my first day at the school I was given control of Grade 6 English, which was slightly unexpected – I thought I’d have at least a week to adjust! I don’t mind teaching during this random 6 weeks before the end of the school year (I would have been so bored observing classes that whole time), but it has been challenging taking over so soon for several reasons. First, this class is used to the last PCV that I’m replacing in Luderitz. They love talking about what he used to do, and also imitating the way he got angry at them for misbehaving [therefore I vow never to cry in front of them, I must try to keep my cool, who knows what’s going on behind my back]. Second, I can’t really seem to figure out what they’ve worked on in the past couple of months… so I don’t entirely know how to help them prepare for their exams. Finally, I’m trying to get classroom management under control, but it seems as if the last volunteer was on a more friendly basis with them, so in order for me not to go crazy I’ve had to get the learners to adjust to the fact that I’m not their friend, I’m their teacher. Which is hard because obviously I want to be liked! I abandoned that desire quickly after a couple days in though. The days vary depending on the mood of the class, sometimes they behave angelically, other days they’re like little monsters! I almost lost it last week with 6C. A teacher hadn’t shown up for a class, so 6B was playing outside, because it was actually hot for a change [that weather only lasted a day]. All of a sudden, instead of doing their work quietly, 25 of my 40 learners were raising their hands, desperate to “go to the bathroom” even though I have a no-bathroom-unless-it’s-an-emergency policy. It took me a little while to realize what was going on, then they were all pointing at each other saying they actually needed go to the bathroom not play with 6B. The class then proceeded to get out. of. control. Loud, noisy, kids yelling at me that it was their turn to go they asked first, that other people were just playing, that they would go get them, when in fact they just wanted to join the fun outside. At that moment, I understood the impetus behind the last PCV’s crying outbursts in the middle of class. Luckily I held it in but I was fuming. To quote the movie Clue “flames, FLAMES, were coming out of my head.” The next day I had all of them write me an essay about why they misbehaved and how they as a class will work together to follow my rules, in particular my rule of being respectful. I got several very nice essays apologizing for behavior. I also got a couple essays saying they misbehaved because I don’t beat the learners, and they would have behaved if I were one of those teachers. What the heck?! Corporal punishment is technically against the law here in Namibia, but it is definitely still practiced. Anyway, since then 6C has been better because 1) the kids realized how upset I was and some of them did feel bad and 2) because of those shambles I now know all of their names, so I can call them out for being disruptive. Now to the next troublemakers: 6A. Only 10 days of classes left, so its really only to ensure I remain sane until Reconnect and the New Year, with a whole new grade all to myself.

 Took a trip to Shark Island last weekend - coolest moon rocks!
 First you see moonrocks, then you see the Namib.
On another note, life with host family number 2 is so awesome. It’s a complete 180 from my training host family, and I appreciate every moment of it. Instead of being ignored, I’m treated like an actual part of the family! I’ve been sick lately because of these extreme weather changes, and they’ve been so nice and concerned! Today my host mom, noticing my slight chocolate addiction, brought home a chocolate bar for me, baie lekker! One of my learners went to her class to tell her some people were being disruptive for me, so she’s offered to come tell them to behave tomorrow, because they know she’s no nonsense. And my sisters are so nice as well, we watch a lottt of soapies together.

A few tidbits of awkward:
-       On Halloween a bunch of volunteers from the south came to Luderitz to dress up and celebrate. It was so much fun meeting a lot of volunteers from different groups and getting to know the actual town, which I don’t see much of right now because my school is in the location! The club we ended up at was empty when we got there, so I went to request some of my favorite songs, which of course included Gaga. The DJ then told me he didn’t have any of her music, which provoked a solid conversation of me asking why he didn’t have any of her songs, how is that possible, her music is everywhere!? Two lessons learned from this experience: 1. I need to stop attempting to get people to like Lady Gaga here, it’s really not going to happen and not worth my effort. 2. Everyone in Nam seems to know each other or be related. I found out the next day that the DJ I had this conversation with is a cousin of my host family… sweet.
-       I tried to make red beans and rice the other day for my host family. Note to self: it doesn’t taste the same when the beans aren’t actually red beans, and the sausage is boerwors [my personal most detested meat in this country]. I cooked it to the perfect consistency, but that gross sausage flavor poisoned my dish! That was a bad day all around [also the day of the 6C bathroom fiasco].
-       Last Friday was the Grade 7 End of Year Party, so the teachers stayed at the school in the afternoon to make food. First, the teachers at my school seem awesome, and I can’t wait to get to know them better [mission number 1: learn their names. They only officially introduced themselves to me all at once a month ago during my site visit, and there are 25 of them. Those names in addition to 125 6th graders = challenge.] As I was preparing some food with one of them, another teacher came with koeldrinks [anything that isn’t water or alcohol], so we had some coke. She asked me if I was drinking soft drinks. I said yes, glancing at my cup of coke, confused because she had just seen me take a sip of it, and then she said ‘but not hard drinks right?’ then I realized we were definitely not talking about the same thing. I told her I was confused, and she said soft drinks are beers, ciders, and wine here. Ohhhh, glad to have found that out.
-       Once the Grade 7 Party had begun, after they’d eaten, of course an obligatory dance party started. A lot of the teachers got up to go dance but I wasn’t feeling it, as I was super tired and not feeling so hot. Luckily my host mom was also tired so we sat together. Then they began chanting her name to join, so I was alone when a group of teachers came to get me. All of a sudden, I was standing next to just one teacher who had some baller dance moves, and the entirety of Grade 7 was dancing in sync towards me. I felt like I was in a movie, but unlike in movies I didn’t magically know the coordinated movements to the song so I just kind of tried to blend in [impossible, I keep forgetting that I stand out here], and gradually eased myself out of the dance when they forgot about me.

Anyway, we’re almost halfway through Phase 2! I can’t believe that the 6 weeks I’m spending at site right now is almost the amount of time I spent in training – I swear training felt like 2 years! I feel like I’ve known the Volunteers in Group 34 for forever, I guess that’s what being around people for at least 12 hours a day every day for 8 weeks does to you… I’ve begun a countdown to the soon to be epic Christmas Break with these people, so pumped!

I will end with my favorite thing to say to people as a good night – “Slaap lekker!” to which you would respond “Ja, lekker slaap!” The word “lekker” is used for everything here, ranging in meanings from sweets as in candies, to nice as in tasting or a sweet day, or have a sweet sleep, the uses are endless!

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