So word has gotten out about where the fun places are to hang out in Omungwelume—and if you’re in the 3-12 age bracket, that place happens to be our house. The past week has just been a constant stream of kids, so much so that we finally posted “visiting hours.” Dan kindly reminded me that he suggested we do this before we left to come here, and I promptly replied: “No! We’re not posting hours when people can visit us!” The times have changed and we now run a “playgroup” 4 days a week (Wednesdays and Thursdays 4-6 and Saturdays and Sundays 2-4, for any of you that are thinking of flying over…). We put the schedule into effect on Sunday, so when kids showed up at 10 am and we kindly told them we would have visitors at 2, they quietly sat in our yard… for hours. Literally. There were groups of children gathering, just waiting, for HOURS. This obviously made it difficult to concentrate on anything else, but it did come in handy when I went outside to wash our chairs. We’re living the high life with FOUR plastic chairs, but they were quite filthy so I went outside to clean them. Sure enough, our little friend Rauna was just running laps around our house, waiting for 2, and decided to do something more constructive with her time (aka help me wash the chairs). A moment later her sister, Meameno, materialized from around the corner and began helping as well. By the end I had three girls huddled around me, scrubbing and washing. Rauna and Meameno are our most common visitors and, although they’re incredibly sweet, it’s a bit trying to have them over so frequently. I work with their mother, Meme Kapau, and she is very sick, although I’m not quite sure with what. She comes to school every day and sleeps in the staff room all day, avoiding her classes and often mumbling to herself incoherently. I can only imagine how little attention she gives her children and it hurts my heart to think about. Their father has already passed away so I can only hope that their mother isn’t terminally ill. However, the fact that my colleagues have only said “she’s very sick” leads me to believe it’s HIV, which is rampant but never spoken about here. The infection rate in Namibia is around 25%, and that number is higher in Northern Namibia, where we are. Most of my learners have at least one parent that is deceased and often live with extended family because their other parent is working elsewhere.
BUT ANYWAY, back to the playgroup, it’s been quite fun so far. Dan and I made a few games out of trash (strange, I know. We actually had a workshop on making games out of recycled materials and I thought it was a great idea, so we’re being frugal and earth-friendly!), and they’ve gone over extremely well. One of the games we made was Color and Shape Bingo, and the kids LOVE it. The quote of today’s playgroup went something like this:
Dan: Okay, so do you guys want to play one more game?
Most kids: YESSSS!!!! YESSSS!!! YESSSS!
Imagine (yes, that’s really his name!): NO! NO! NO!
Dan: Imagine, you don’t want to play anymore?
Imagine: I want to play MANY MANY!!!
And, if that doesn’t give you an idea of how much the kids love our playgroup, maybe this tidbit will. One of my learners, Paulina, tried to come in today to join the group. For some reason, the guard wouldn’t let her onto the school grounds so she came down to where the fence was outside of our house and just stood outside of the gate for the duration of the playgroup. When we played Simon Says in our yard, she stood outside of the fence and played along with us! I’m not sure why the guard wouldn’t let her in, but she told me that he told her “Miss Kathryn is busy washing her body.” The only thing I can figure is that he thought he was doing us a favor by keeping kids out, but Paulina is one of my favourites (yes, I definitely have favourite learners, and I know I shouldn’t!), and I was a bit sad that she couldn’t come in. I also inexplicably got a birthday card from a girl in the village today that said, among other strange things, “I want you to be my Mom or my friend.” I’m not quite sure why she thought it was my birthday, but I thanked her all the same.
And, speaking of strange things I’ve received, I haven’t told you about my Valentine’s Day! Dan’s Mom had sent fun Valentine’s Day decorations and stickers with her package, so I was inspired to make a thematic week of it! I taught the kids words like unrequited and sweet, decorated my classroom with the decorations, and baked the kids heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies. They LOVED it. I taught the kids about making valentines and received quite a few, with quotes like “teacher remember that being in relationship is good but it is difficult to handle” and “Exercise me Miss Kathryn.” No, I haven’t quite figured out what that last one means, which isn’t to say I’ve quite figured out the first one either. But anyway, I haven’t gotten to the CHERRY ON TOP yet. Valentine’s Day, on my walk to school, I ran into one of my learners, Set-Son. Set-Son is a wonderful kid and was actually one of my learners during practice teaching (which means you can go see him in the class picture if you’d like!), and he kindly handed me a bag of cookies and said “Present for you, Miss.” I thanked him and took it, noticing it was an OPEN bag of cookies. I found that a bit strange but didn’t think much of it. Later, when I went to enjoy one of my delicious gifts, I noticed they were not in the most pristine condition. And by this I mean there was actually a huge bite taken out of one of them. Not like it maybe crumbled to pieces, but rather that a perfect crescent shaped bite was taken out of it. So that was my inventory of Valentine’s gifts, and I immensely enjoyed each one.
I’m really enjoying teaching, despite how slow the class is progressing. The averages of assignments are generally around 50%, which is actually only a D here. There are some learners that are incredibly bright and eager to learn, and others who are completely unable to understand even the most basic English. I’m thinking of starting remedial teaching and hopefully that will close the gap a bit.
I’m also getting ready to start entering books into the library database that Dan has created for the school, so learners will be borrowing books really soon! I’m really excited about encouraging a reading culture with my kids and am hoping it will in turn improve their literacy. In the meantime, I’ve taken to doing ridiculous things to illustrate the meanings of words (such as literally running and bouncing around the room screaming, “I’m so excited! I’m so excited!” to convey the difference between happiness and excitement), and it’s actually helping a lot. The kids seem to really appreciate my efforts and it makes it worth it to see learners recall the meaning of the word the next day, without any hints or help.
I hope teaching continues to be as rewarding.