I will now try to recollect the blog I spent over an hour blogging yesterday. Why recollect you say? Well, simple. I wrote it at school and left the computer for literally less than a minute and when I came a teacher had exited Word and clicked “No” to saving it! I guess that’s what I get for doing personal stuff at school.
Anyway, as the blog title suggests, it is oppressively hot here. I am currently sitting here literally dripping with sweat. My clothing is damp from sweat before I even leave for school every morning. Every night we sleep with the fan blowing directly on us, but being as THIS IS AFRICA the electricity is not always a guarantee. Before this was annoying but tolerable, being as it only really affected our refrigerators and their ability to keep our food fresh. Although the electricity does go out sometimes, it’s usually never more than a few hours at a time, so it’s never a huge deal. NOW IT IS. A few nights ago the electricity went out in the middle of the night and I immediately woke up, thinking I was being baked alive. The only remedy I could come up with was cuddling a cold bottle. I lay in the bed, sweating profusely, clutching my 2 liter water bottle, cursing the electricity and the heat. Dan spent the next morning teasing my exasperation and some of my more notable quotes. As usual, the electricity was only out for an hour or so, but I’m pretty sure it was the longest hour of my life.
Now for the subject of this blog’s title: heat amplifies unpleasant smells. Like little kids in America, my learners don’t view personal hygiene as a top priority. The smell would indicate that many of them don’t wash every day, and the worst is when they remove their shoes. It’s such a big deal that we’ve spent several weeks of Morning Devotion (every Monday morning the entire school meets for announcements and to worship together) stressing the importance of bathing every day. A new school policy has arisen as a result of the smell: Learners who remove their shoes in the classroom will be punished. I think this means they’re beaten, although I just start sniffing around until I identify the cause of the smell, and I figure the humiliation is more than enough of a punishment. Seriously, I’ll be at the board teaching or walking around checking work and then a pungent odor suddenly begins wafting up from whatever area of the classroom, and I have to identify it in order to keep from gagging. I feel bad because for some of these kids fetching water is a serious task. My Mom could tell you stories of my absolute refusal to bathe as a kid, and all I had to do was step into a bathtub or shower and pull a knob. Some of these kids have to walk over a mile to fetch water, and then they can only take back as much as they can carry, unless they have a donkey to do the grunt work. So yeah, it stinks that they have to do a lot of work… but if they don’t then they actually stink.
A sad story from this week is about one of my learners that I really like, Max. Evangeline, one my learners and the thief that stole markers from my house earlier this year, wrote his name on the chalkboard which inexplicably infuriated him. The teacher that should have been there didn’t show up (what a surprise!), so Max proceeded to beat Evangeline in the chest until she passed out on the floor. The learners have begun fetching me whenever there is a class issue, despite the fact that I am not their class teacher. Usually I don’t mind because it’s a situation I can easily handle, but this time I was totally unprepared. Two of my learners came into the library to tell me that Max beat Evangeline and she was passed out on the floor. I can only imagine how a mother feels when something happens to one of her children. My heart dropped. I started running toward the classroom, having no idea what I would do. Luckily she had come to at that point and was just crying hysterically, so I took her out of the classroom and tried to console her as best I could. She continued crying and I began to realize the problem was more serious than hurt feelings. I asked her if she needed to go to the clinic and she nodded. We arrived soon after the time the clinic should have reopened for the afternoon, but the workers obviously didn’t feel like working yet, because I watched them in a room down the hallway chatting for the entire hour. I actually began to believe the people couldn’t possibly be part of the clinic because they seemed so unconcerned with the growing line, but lo and behold they came out after an hour and began calling patients. No apology, no explanation. Luckily they took Evangeline first. A woman took her weight and temperature and then sent us in to an examination room. The doctor came in and asked what happened and, without even inspecting Evangeline for broken ribs or whatever else, prescribed her two pain medications. I’m guessing she’s fine because she’s been at school, but it just seemed odd. I guess this is a good time to mention the article I read about medicine in the “third world” and how brain drain is making it nearly impossible to battle even simple, curable diseases. Africa has 25% of the world’s medical problems and 3% of the world’s medical workers. I read it in The Namibian (the newspaper here), but I’m pretty sure it was just from Reuters so you could probably Google it if you’re interested. I don’t know if the doctor was unqualified or overworked or just somehow knew it was only pain, but it makes me worry about more serious things going untreated.
Now I’m sure some of you are wondering why I like Max. It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around sometimes, but even the good kids just physically lash out when they’re angry. Max is generally a gentle giant and I’m guessing there is some part of the story I missed, but obviously no matter what he shouldn’t have reacted in that way. I talked to him and he seemed genuinely remorseful, not to mention upset that his father was disappointed in him. And speaking of the prevalence of beating here, I was called in for a meeting with Max’s father today where the principal openly admitted to beating Max after he found out about the incident. I know beating happens at my school, but I didn’t know how aboveboard it was. I kind of thought that it happened but it was considered this taboo thing that some teachers did and wasn’t accepted, but after this meeting I’m wondering why the law against corporal punishment even exists. I guess it wasn’t too long ago that America used corporal punishment, so I suppose it’s just a matter of time before the law and what is practiced become aligned. I had hoped I would leave this year with a bunch of tree hugging, classmate hugging kids, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Some habits are just too difficult to break.
This doesn’t mean that my kids aren’t awesome, and I really think the beating and disrespectful behaviour has gotten much better with my kids. I’ve made it a point to encourage my kids to voice their feelings and concerns, and I’m sure that’s a reason why they tend to come to me with problems more than their class teacher. We have close to two months left but I’m already beginning to dread leaving them, and I’m pretty sure they’re beginning to dread me leaving as well.
Every day now I receive beautiful colored pictures of everything from Pocahontas to Bingo from my learners. The only thing I can figure is they’re beginning to realize I’m leaving soon and want to show me that they appreciate me. I’m obviously a fan of this and I also love that many of them address the picture to “Miss Kathryn, Mr. Dan, and Bingo.” They really are terrific children, even the mischievous ones that I occasionally wish I could throw out the window! Dan came to school today to take a few pictures of me with 6A (my favourite class, but don’t tell 6B!). I’m planning on getting some with 6B next week, but for now you’ll have to live with 6A only. The first picture is our “silly face” picture. The second one is me with the boys who always draw things for me. From left to right they are Nelson, Shikongo, Elifas, and Warde. Everyone should remember Elifas from previous posts, and my parents may remember Shikongo as the boy who pretended that he was going to get into our rental car when we were at the school talking to the learners before they went on their field trip. I just realized that it’s possible that nobody has heard of Warde, which is ridiculous because he is quite possibly my favourite learner. I’ve just decided I’ll dedicate a post to him later rather than briefly describe him now. Suffice it to say he is AWESOME. And yes, that picture is a giant picture of John Smith that Nelson is working on. Ever since we watched Pocahontas the kids have been obsessed with drawing the characters… Yet another reason why they’re adorably fantastic.