Sunday, July 22, 2012

Feels Like Christmas in July

I’ve been a bit mia lately, sorry neh! Things have just started to pick up at a rapid pace! This term is really flying by. What’s been going on as of late in Luderitz… for the 4th of July a guy from my group happened to be in town for a training, and I also hosted a PCV from South Africa at my house. Funnily enough an older couple from his group was also in town, and so was the other volunteer who used to live in Luderitz, so we had a big barbeque and American feast!  It’s always fun hanging out with other PCVs and hearing about how their service differs/is similar to ours, so it was a fun couple of days. Oh I also wore some neon blue pants to work with assorted red white and blue gear, and let the kids ask all the questions they wanted about America, they loved it.

Other then that, things are the same old over here. We’re reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in my English classes, which I think the kids are really enjoying – though some of them have been disappointed when they’ve asked if Willy Wonka is still alive and I have to tell them that the story is made up.  This coming week I’m heading to an ICT workshop, which will hopefully help a counterpart from my school and I in developing a curriculum for computer classes at the school, so I’m looking forward to it a lot! When I get back there will be just a week left before exams start and the term wraps up, crazy!

Also, I'm getting SO excited/anxious because the Olympics start in T-5 days!!! I'm excited because I'm slightly obsessed with the Olympics. I'm anxious because I am about 95% sure that I will not be able to watch any of it. I wish there was a sports bar or something here, or someone who also likes the Olympics who has a TV I could camp out in front of, unfortunately neither of those options exist. My colleagues have given me some semi-judgmental looks when I alerted them about how soon they start. I guess it's just not a big deal here - Namibia is sending 9 people to the Olympics. 

Finally, a few amusing interactions to share about my crazy Grade Sixes

Found this on one of my learner’s spelling quizzes:
A letter to miss Nowlin
Dear Teacher
I Helena will hereby like to inform you that
In your class I keep my mouth shut
It has started from Monday up to Friday
This week I love to listen to you Teacher

During break several weeks ago I was walking with a couple learners to buy a fat cake [they're too cheap and delicious to resist]. As I literally go to take my first bite of this fried dough, one of these learners asks 'is Miss N on a diet?' I am kind of confused at first because sarcasm is not something I experience a lot from Namibians, but I'm eating a fat cake!! Not sure whether she's insulting me [in reality I probably should be eating better these days] or what's going on, I say, 'Uhhhh no look I'm eating this fat cake here, this is not healthy! But yeah I guess I should start exercising more...' and the learner goes 'no Miss N, Miss was very fat, very very fat when she first got here, now Miss is looking nice.' I thanked her, but remain pretty confused about that whole conversation.

For one of the recent English continuous assessment marks I prompted the writing task with “What is your biggest achievement or success?” after explaining what success and achievement mean, this is all that one of my naughtiest girls wrote:
I am very good at making Miss Nowlin angry, really really angry.

A couple weeks ago I brought a salad to work for my lunch. I felt pretty accomplished/proud of myself too! Upon taking it out, a group of 6 girls approached me with looks of shock and repulsion on their faces.
Girls: MISS N, what is Miss N eating?!?!?!
Me: I have a salad, it’s delicious!
Girls: Miss N, that is NOT nice food! Why is Miss N eating that???
Me: This is a really healthy lunch to have, it’s good for you to eat vegetables girls!
Girls: NO MISS N, NO they are not even cooked! That is NOT nice!!! *cue looks of disgust and Namibian expression “ooooooh-ahh-ahh” as they walk out of the classroom*

Winter Is Coming

[this was written a month ago, totally forgot to put it up]

Well actually winter is officially here this side.  As always, the weather in Luderitz is different compared to winter of the rest of Namibia, but it is still definitely a marked change. There is A LOT of fog/mist these days, and noticeably less wind. The intensity of the fog makes me feel like I’m on the set of a bad horror movie as I walk to and from school sometimes. It’s not that it’s crazy cold, it’s just that it never gets warm. I miss heating. The past few nights I have worn socks, leggings, pants, a shirt, a sweatshirt, and been inside a sleeping bag under sheets and two comforters in order to stay warm.  Then I wake up at 3 am and am extremely hot. I swear it’s colder inside my house than it is outside, don’t really know why. But as any true Buchter will tell you about the weather here, Luderitz has 4 seasons in a day! It will be super cold in the morning, then get surprisingly nice in the early afternoon, then the fog/mist will roll in with a drop in temperatures, and then it gets cold again. Despite my best efforts at staying healthy, these rapid weather changes have finally gotten me sick along with about half my learners.

Anyway, things have really picked up here in Luderitz. I think the theme of Term 1 can be called “Survive” and now this term it is “crazy busy ahh!” I’m so glad I stuck out the challenges of last term, because while classroom management continues to be challenging, things have gotten SO much better. The first week of school this term I switched classrooms to the one right next to the office, and adopted a new classroom management strategy introduced way back in PST [at the time I thought it was completely insane and way too strict]. I don’t know if it was one of those changes or I’ve gotten better at dealing with learners being rude to me, or a combination, but the change is like night and day compared to last term. It’s AWESOME. Things are starting to fall into place and I now definitely understand why Peace Corps asks for two years. So back to what I’m up to after school these days:

-       First off, during week 1 of the term the smartest girl in Grade 7 approached my colleague and I mid-conversation and asked what we thought about starting a debate club. After meeting with her and hearing her very articulate vision for the team, now I’m heading up a debate team, and there are about 35 kids so far who are interested. We had our first meeting a couple days ago, and it was amazing. I can’t believe what a difference there is between Grade 7 and Grade 6 learners – not only are they like a foot taller, but we had a really productive conversation about topics they want to debate, one that could never have happened in any of my classes. The group is really enthusiastic about debating controversial issues in Namibia and I can’t wait to see where this goes. If any friends with debate experience are reading this I’d love input/advice!
-       Second, we officially opened the library last week! So far I’m really happy with how well the prefects are doing at running it and checking in/out books for the learners. The one thing we’re doing in the coming weeks is assigning grades particular days to go get books – the library space is WAY too small [like the size of a small college dorm room] and there is A LOT of learner interest.  The first day there was a line of 25 kids waiting to go inside, and we hadn’t even announced that we were opening it. This week the lines are going to be madness. At a school with 970 learners, this is going to cause problems in the long run, but we’re making it work for now.
-       Really sad to say that the other two volunteers in Luderitz are about to leave! One of them goes home to America at the end of this week, and the other moves up north in the middle of July. So since this is happening, they have recruited and trained several Namibians to take over and continue their projects. Yay sustainability! One of the projects is a girls’ group, and I along with two other teachers at Diaz have become facilitators. Most of the girls in the group are in Grade 6/7 at Diaz, so the group is now going to be meeting at the school once a week. I’m really looking forward to this project. After having attended a few meetings already, it brings me back to the good old days of SR.
-       After getting these three things on solid ground I’m going back to the World Map Project idea, working towards opening up the computer lab for typing/IT classes, and developing an educational community recycling project with the science teachers. So in sum, life has gotten very very busy, but in the BEST way possible. Peace Corps is definitely a roller coaster, but right now things seem to be going up in the right direction!