Posted by: kam6761 | June 6, 2008

Time Flies When You’re …Having…Fun?

It’s hard to believe that four weeks of the new term have already passed. I’m wondering why it’s gone by so fast, because the old adage about having fun doesn’t really apply here.

So much time was wasted planning for the bazaar, which would have been justified if we raised a lot and put it towards improving the school, but the funds raised were a bit over N$600, which means less than $100. I spent so much time creating forms to properly take inventory and log sales, and once I distributed them among the teachers I never saw them again. It’s funny because it was this past week that sort of put me over the edge of “culture shock.”

Americans are so anal about precise figures and keeping tallies, and I can now safely confirm that this trait hasn’t made its way into Namibia. After distributing forms and explaining their relevance, people generally looked at me like I had three heads (“KEEP TRACK OF SALES?!?! WHY WOULD WE DO THAT?!?!”). As you can imagine, being a particularly anal American, and the bazaar treasurer, I was quite peeved. The non-urgent African Time has generally been soothing to me, but the week running up the bazaar I was on American Time, trying to get things done. Delegating tasks didn’t work, and I couldn’t do it all by myself, so I resigned myself to indifference. I feel a bit guilty because I’m sure we could have done much better if I had stuck to my guns and goaded everyone else into compliance, but at least this way I’m not perceived as the crazy bazaar dictator.

Another thing that’s really gotten on my nerves is bostik being stolen from my classrooms. Bostik is that white sticky stuff that is used as an adhesive to put papers and things on the wall. Apparently the kids really like it, because I’ve started to notice over the past few weeks that the things I have hung up are falling down. When I first noticed the papers falling down, I thought nothing of it and went to just stick it back on the wall. That was when I realized the white adhesive was just completely gone. It really, really hurt my feelings. I’ve spent SO many hours designing little posters and teaching aids, just to find that I’m unable to even keep them up on the wall because the bostik will just be stolen.

During orientation, one of the other WorldTeach volunteers (a girl who had actually spent several months in Namibia before as a student teacher) tried to explain that the kids genuinely were good kids, but they steal because they think we (whites) just have this endless supply of materials. At the time I wrote off the explanation as ridiculous and asserted that I could never be so forgiving. I don’t know if I’ve become a softie or if I just have become more enlightened, but I’m not angry. I do truly think these kids are kind and wonderful and eager to please… but they’re kids. I don’t know if the thieves rationalize the theft in their minds the way the volunteer had explained, but I do truly think that if the kids realized how much it hurt my feelings, they wouldn’t do it. Kids will be kids, and I guess kids with essentially no possessions of their own would be tempted to steal if given the chance.

And, speaking of kids who steal, I just realized that we never updated you all about Mekondjo, our sheriff/no longer sheriff/sheriff again. For those that are still confused, he is the boy who we gave N$10 to buy odjove when Dan’s parents came, and then he squandered the money. We firmly told him he could not return until we had our money back (not because it was a lot, but just because stealing should not be allowed), and the first week that we returned home he didn’t come. Dan and I were a bit sad and conflicted, because we both really like him, but at the same time we didn’t want to back down on the insistence that he return the money. Sure enough, a week later, Mekondjo returned, N$10 in hand. It wasn’t until later that I learned how he got the money, and it made me feel like quite a scoundrel.

I guess it’s custom here that when you visit family they give you money (probably similar to how when I was little and my Nana would come, she would bribe me with a dollar to finish the milk from my cereal bowl!!). I guess Mekondjo had been too shy to ask his mother for the money, so he just took off on Friday and travelled far (I’m not sure how far, his mother just told me that the relatives did not live close)… by himself… to his relatives… so that he could get N$10. He was also too shy to tell his mother what he was doing, so she told me that she was running around the house yelling for him like a crazy lady. Luckily he returned home unharmed and N$10 richer.

And that’s all for exciting news. Classes (and therefore my life—sad, but true!) have returned to normal, now that the bazaar is over. I missed my last day of classes on Monday, and returned on Tuesday to find three cards from learners. Favorite excerpts include:
“I miss you today because you not come to the class. You too busy.”
“I love you too much in my life.”
“I want to tell you that you have good behaviour.”
And the ever popular, “I repect you.”

I gave my learners a quiz on comparative and superlative adjectives, and some of them really, really aced it– like did well even by American standards (here 60-79 is a B and 80-100 is an A). I had a learner in my 6A and 6B class get a 98%, and Dan even said it was better than his Grade 11s did on the topic. That obviously made my heart swell with pride, and I let them each pick out a special prize today as a reward. This doesn’t mean all of them get it (the average was a bit over 50%), but one small step at a time, right?

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Responses

  1. ahh, i’ve learned a lot in my intercultural communication class at school about how different cultures view time…it’s baffling! i’m sorry the bazar was such a frustrating time for you… but you did what you could do and now it’s over and there’s a big sigh of relief for ya!

    and…i’m glad that mekondjo returned the money. even though… 😦 yes that is sad that he walked so far to obtain it. daniel told me quickly over the phone that he returned it, but i wasn’t sure how. so now i know!

    AND – that’s so exciting that your learners are coming along so well! and yes, you’re right –one small step at a time! 🙂

  2. i left a really long comment before and i think it got eaten up!

    unless i just can’t see it for some reason…

    but basically what i said was that it’s so interesting…the difference in how americans view time and how africans view time…. that must be quite the adjustment 🙂 aaaand i’m glad mekondjo returned the money!


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