Posted by: kam6761 | June 7, 2008

Saturday Morning

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It’s Saturday morning and as per usual our water is out. I made scones for breakfast, when the water was working, but was too lazy to do the dishes at the time and now I’m wishing I had taken care of the mess then. My counter is covered with dough bits and flour and the dishes in the sink have piled up.

It’s almost 11 and kids haven’t showed up yet, which is unusual. Well, I guess I mean kids in the true sense of the word, but one of Daniel’s learners did show up here earlier this morning. His name is Joseph, and he’s the only learner of Daniel’s that even occasionally visits. He’s the sweetest kid and whenever I see him and I’m without Dan, he immediately inquires about him. You can just tell that he really admires and looks up to Dan, so when he showed up this morning I thought it was just for a visit.

It quickly came to light that his uncle had died, and we weren’t sure exactly what we were supposed to do, but it was obvious we were supposed to do something. It was another of those cultural barriers that we were trying to fumble past, and we weren’t really sure what to do. The thing is that the culture here is against confrontation and, in general, being straightforward (this is actually not true at all about my school, but I guess there are always exceptions). This resulted in Joseph standing awkwardly in our doorway for what seemed like forever, and we were racking our brains trying to figure out what we were supposed to be doing. We knew he had to get up to someplace by the border with Angola, but we weren’t sure how he thought we fit into that. We don’t have a car or many contacts with cars in the village (yeah, as you’ve probably noticed, most of our friends here are 12 and under…), so we let him use Dan’s phone to try to call his own contacts, but no luck. Dan called his principal for advice, and the principal suggested that he find Mr. Hausholo, one of Dan’s coworkers. We told Joseph this and then he sullenly left, and it was really obvious we weren’t doing what he wanted us to. After a bit of sitting around, Daniel and I just felt really guilty but weren’t really sure what to do. We finally decided, based on our limited knowledge of the culture*, that we should have done more than we did. Daniel set off shortly after, and is (to my knowledge) helping him find a hike up towards Angola and (possibly?) offering petrol money. Hopefully that’s what we were supposed to do.

Another exciting thing that took place this week was starting a gigantic English club. During the first term I had run an English Club, but only for my learners. My colleague, Kylliky, had the idea to get ALL of Grades 5 and 6 together one day a week for singing English songs or doing dramas or anything that is active and fun. I was wondering how this would go (trying to control 150 kids, just two of us!), but it went quite well. I’m hoping that we actually keep it up as the term goes on, and I’m looking forward to working with Kylliky more. She’s really fun and I think it might be good for me to hang out with someone my own age! The picture below is of me and Kylliky, taken during the bazaar (we were head chefs of the “modern food” department).

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Speaking of the bazaar, I think I’ll end with a few pictures of it!

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Part of modern food was making Namibian style potato salad, which essentially means tons of mayonnaise and sugar with a few potatoes thrown in for good measure. They boiled the potatoes first and removed the skin afterwards with their hands, which I found incredibly difficult at first, but once I got the hang of it I was peeling faster than the memes around me! In this picture, the girls and I are slicing up the potatoes in preparation for the sugary mayonnaise mixture (I might also point out my super snazzy APRON!).

I had to shrink the picture quite small so that it would upload in a reasonable amount of time, so perhaps I should point out what’s really going on in this picture (which I somehow didn’t realize at the time of taking it). Ladies and gentleman, if I may point out Exhibit A: The gigantic knife in the girl on the left’s hand. I suppose I knew we were going to slaughter the chickens, but I thought I was just taking a picture of two cute little girls holding two cute little chickens. Little did I know I was taking a pre-death photo of the chickens. It’s also worth mentioning that the girl on the right’s name is Emilia, and she’s one of my brightest learners in 6B (in fact, she is the learner in 6B who got a 98% on the comparatives and superlatives quiz!!). She’s an incredibly sweet girl and I like her a lot.

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It’s also worth mentioning that those tin structures you see to the side of them and to the right of the building behind them are actually classrooms. They’re so small the kids can barely maneuver about inside, not to mention how swelteringly hot they get during the day. Right now it’s not so bad because it’s “winter” (which has actually been chilly in the morning and at night), but I’m not looking forward to when it heats up again. And, as if it weren’t crappy enough that they have to spend every day in a shack with no floor, they are given the worst furniture because the shacks have no doors… so we only put things inside that nobody would want to steal. This means horribly broken chairs and tabletops that are no longer affixed to the frame, as well as splintering and cracking all over. Hmm, that reminds me that I have a picture I can dig up of the inside…

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This was taken at the end of the last term, in the midst of moving all the furniture into an actual classroom for the holiday so as to ensure nothing would happen to it. And yes, those chair frames without “the chair part” are actually used by the learners. So they’re put in sweltering hot tin shacks, with broken desks and skeletons of chairs, and then everyone blames the kids when they fail, saying that they’re “not serious.” I just wonder how positively serious a child has to be to actually accomplish anything and learn in this environment.

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Well, I just heard our squeaky gate which means Daniel has returned! Yippee!

*Just last weekend at the bazaar, we were talking to our colleagues about cultural differences, mainly how our culture is so individualistic, and theirs is so communal based. They told us story after story of friends and families making huge sacrifices for each other. If someone needs help they don’t hesitate to ask, and it’s a friend’s duty to help in whatever way they can. This isn’t to say that friends and family in America wouldn’t reach out to help, but just that many people in America never even share their troubles with others in fear of being seen as helpless or weak. Dan’s colleague, Sanday, was telling us about how if someone has money, it’s their duty to provide for their friends and family, and when that money runs out someone else will (hopefully!) be in a position to provide for the group. If a person knows they will be running into financial straits or if they have a big purchase to make, they alert their friends and the money is pooled. The strangest thing to me is that there is no mental notes or tallies being made. There’s no sense of “so and so owes me this, and I owe so and so this.” Like at home, if someone treats me to something I keep a careful log and make sure, at some point in the future, to make it even. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t feel self-sufficient, I would feel like a mooch… and that’s not a very good thing to be. But that doesn’t exist here. This was made quite clear by the “drink sharing” at the table. People would spend their own money to buy something, and then when it got back to the table it was consumed by everyone… without asking… or even thanking the person. It was odd to experience but refreshing at the same time. There was no need to ask or thank, because it belonged to everyone. So, I know this was an incredibly long tangent, but my point is that people here rely on each other a lot more than in America, and we didn’t want to let Joseph down, because he was depending on us (for something… even if we’re still not quite sure what!).

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Responses

  1. Your tangent reminds me of something that happened a little while ago. Our church got word of a missionary in South America (at least, I think it was South America) who had been taken hostage. He was being held ransom for, I think, $100,000 US dollars, which is a ridiculous amount of money in SA, and if the money was not received in 3 days, they would take his eyes. Funds started being raised in churches in the US (the missionary was not from our church, but our preacher knew him and so was giving us constant updates) but only a few thousand dollars (I think around $10K) were raised. Not near the ransom amount. However, the next day we got word that the church in SA, where the people live in similar conditions to your learners in Africa, had raised around $30K in their dollars (which translated to only a few thousand American) and the kidnappers were releasing the missionary – apparently the effort and generous nature of the local people was enough to earn his freedom. It struck me how hard it was to raise money in America, where we have so much, but how quickly it came in SA where they have what we would consider nothing. It’s because of that attitude you speak of – the feeling of community. I think we could definitely learn something from them.

  2. kathryn – what an interesting thing to be learning. everything just belongs to everyone, and sharing and being generous is just the expected and normal custom!

    and lauren – auughh i’m glad that missionary was released!


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