Posted by: kam6761 | November 10, 2008

The Lain is Laining!

Yes, it is true, the lain is laining (I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before that every R becomes an L here!). It’s fantastic because the weather has cooled down (we haven’t even used the fan to sleep the past few nights), but our little puppy is not so happy about the change in weather. At this point Bingo is an outside dog. We leave him out while we’re at school and most of the time he sleeps outside. This makes our lives easier and he is much happier. Unfortunately, the rain is a bit dangerous for dogs. When the sand becomes wet little worms called etiti come out and burrow themselves into whatever unsuspecting bystanders they can. Being as we don’t stand outside in the rain, I didn’t know about these things until two weeks ago when we noticed a bump on Bingo that seemed to be growing. The kids knew exactly what it was and Nelson actually extracted the little worm, which was then not so little from gorging on Bingo for several days. Because of these worms (and also because wet dogs are gross) we have decided to keep Bingo inside when it’s rainy/raining out. He is NOT a fan of this. At this point he knows when we call him into the hallway that we’re going to lock him in there, so he absolutely refuses to go in. This morning I was playing tug-of-war with him with one of his toys while slowly pulling him towards the hallway. He was holding on as tight as he could to the toy until we got to the door to the hallway, and then he completely released his grip. He then led me on a chase around our living room and kitchen area, as he hid under chairs and then darted out as I got close. I finally got him into the hallway and it was the saddest thing listening to his whimpers as I left the house.

The rain, surprisingly, has not decreased our number of visitors. Yesterday we had kids running over IN THE RAIN with no umbrellas to visit. The day was yucky and it made me think of my childhood and how whenever it snowed and I went to play outside my Mom would make me hot chocolate when I came in.* So, as I looked at the kids, a bit soggy from running over, I decided to make them all hot chocolate. They had never had hot chocolate and they were so excited about it. There were no marshmallows, but luckily they don’t know that hot chocolate generally comes with those (I can only imagine how indignant I would have been as a little kid if my Mom gave me hot chocolate with NO marshmallows!). Dan mentioned later that he had really felt like they were our children and I have to agree that, although I actually do feel that way A LOT of the time these days, there was something special about sharing a rainy day with them. One of the cuter moments was when Penexupifo found the scary skull Halloween mask, put it on (keep in mind she was wearing all pink and was the smallest of our visitors), and then ran around the house roaring at the bigger kids. Somehow she actually managed to scare a few of them, but in general it was adorable to just watch how desperately she was trying to seem menacing.

My last update is that I took several hours yesterday to take down and label our photos. I thought we would only be giving away pictures of ourselves and maybe our parents, but it turns out that the kids want photos of ANYONE—one kid has already asked for a picture of Dan’s grandfather. I kept most of them down but put the “more important” ones back up– our families and any Christmas photos we have. The Christmas photos are getting me excited for home (only a bit over 5 weeks now!) and it was really cute to see the kids point to the photos and then point out where the photo had previously been positioned.

Now it’s Monday, which means only 4 more days with my learners in the classroom…

*A funny sidenote to this story is that it was such a ritual for me that I believed it was this way for EVERYONE. One day Dan and I were talking about snow days and I mentioned how I loved drinking hot chocolate when I went inside. I was seriously shocked when he said his Mom didn’t make him hot chocolate after he played in the snow. You’d think at 23 years old I would have more common sense!

Posted by: kam6761 | November 4, 2008

Two Hilarious Anecdotes

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So yesterday we got a card from one of our frequent visitors, Julia. It went a little something like this:

To Mr Dan, Miss Kathryn and Mr Bringo

Hello Miss Kathryn. I just want to say how is the weather condition and how are you? I jast want to know what gr you are teaching now?

Hello Mr Dan. I jast want to say how is the weather condition and how are you? I jast want to know what gr you are teaching now and when is your birthday party?

Hello Mr Bringo. I jast want to say how is the weather condition and how are you? I jast want to say you are soft and you are looking beautiful.

From Julia

No, we don’t have any idea why she might think Dan is having a birthday party, but we do think it’s adorable that she not only greeted but also complimented our dog.

Second hilarious thing to share. Today two of my colleagues were discussing culture. Mr. McKensey, a Herero (one of the tribes in Namibia, but most of the people in our area are Owambo), was expressing that he thought it was disgusting that a woman would be allowed to speak at a funeral. Meme Eunice, a new teacher at our school who is Owambo, then came back (rather cleverly, in my opinion) and told him that there was something wrong with his culture and its disdain for women explained why many Hereros end up marrying sisters and cousins. Mr. McKensey then went on to proclaim that “THERE IS EVEN A TRIBE IN AMERICA THAT DOES THOSE THINGS!”

I was incredibly confused by this comment, being as incest is ILLEGAL, but also because we don’t have TRIBES in America. I denied this and he looked at me, almost crazed, and barked: “YOU HAVE NOT HEARD OF THE REDNECKS?!?!?!”

Oh yes, the Rednecks, the most beloved of our American tribes.

Posted by: kam6761 | November 3, 2008

Happy Halloween!

So this past week I did a “Halloween unit,” and it went REALLY well! I had a reading on the origins of Halloween, taught “Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate” (which for whatever reason they were totally unable to sing properly!), had them read Halloween storybooks from the library, made Halloween masks, and had a Halloween party!

I thought trying to explain All Hallows Eve would make the holiday seem less weird, but I think it just confused them more. The “Origins of Halloween” reading explained that our ancestors believed that evil things came out, but that we no longer believe that. I then explained that it’s pretty much a holiday for kids to have fun and get candy, but some kids still only absorbed the beginning. They had reading comprehension questions and the last one was, “Do you think Halloween is a good holiday for children? Explain why or why not.” Most kids understood and wrote that it was an awesome holiday for kids, but some of my brightest learners explained it was an awful and dangerous holiday because people came back from the dead and witches cast spells on people. I tried my best to clarify, and I’m pretty sure that everybody understood, but there’s a chance that some learners now believe that there’s a day once a year in America where the dead raise up and witches cause mayhem…

ANYWAY, mask-making was much more successful. I have to praise my sister for sending arts and crafts supplies earlier in the year. I dug up what was left of our pipe cleaners and pom-poms and let the kids go crazy. I showed them how they could use the stuff (they had never seen pipe cleaners or pom-poms before) and the kids were actually incredibly creative. It wasn’t really like in America where kids choose to be Cinderella or Spiderman (although one of my kids did actually make a Batman mask!). I guess there’s not the sort of marketing to children that exists in the U.S., so most of my kids just made funny or scary faces. I had shown my kids pictures of Brennan as a giraffe, a duck, and a bee, so I thought they’d understand they were supposed to be SOMETHING, but the dialogue went like this:
ME: What are you?

SELMA: I’m a woman.

ME: Oh, that’s nice! And Timo, what are you?

TIMO: I’m a man.


There were actually a lot of oshilulus (the Oshiwambo word for ghost) and I also had a lion, so that was cool. Our Halloween party was HILARIOUS. I made each of them knock and say, “Trick or Treat!” to get a sweet. After that we had a few Halloween games (The Origins of Halloween trivia and unscramble the Halloween words) and the winning group got Ring Pops (no, they don’t have those here– my Mom sent them!). Our final item was voting for “Best Mask.” I had each group nominate a person and then everyone voted, and I must say I was really impressed that each group didn’t just vote for its own nominee. 6A, in my opinion, had the best masks, and Nelson BY FAR had the best mask in the grade. Nelson is the learner who draws Pocahontas pictures (among other pictures) for me all the time and he’s also the learner who took Bingo when we were in Otjiwarongo and returned him home to us safe and sound! Here he is in all his mask glory:

I should also mention that I got some good use out of the Halloween mask we had Dan’s parents bring along when they came to visit in April. They brought a scary skull mask, which we just thought would be fun to scare the kids, and I certainly scared the crap out of my entire class. I ran in, screaming in a gruff voice: “HAPPY HALLOWEEEEEEEEEEEEN!” with the super scary skull mask, and my oh my did they scream… even the boys. After the initial shock they realized it was me and began to laugh hysterically at my trick. It was pretty excellent, although 6A (the class I had scared) must have warned 6B, because 6B’s reaction was not nearly as good!

We also had mask making with our play group (funny side note– at our end of service we each got an “award” and mine was “Matron of the Omungwelume Children’s Play Group.” The other volunteers don’t really have visitors like we do, so it’s been a running joke all year that we essentially run a kindergarten) and they came the next day to “Trick or Treat.” I ended up letting any kid, mask or not, say Trick or Treat to get a sweet, because I figured it wasn’t fair to only give them to the kids who happened to have visited us the day before. However, I did give my masked kids 2 sweets each, so I figured that was fair.

After that our friend Tomas came to visit for the weekend, which was awesome. Dan and I have both always gotten along with Tomas really well but because of distance haven’t been able to hang out with him as much as we’d like to. He’s one of this year’s extenders, which means he’s staying on to teach next year, so it will be cool to stay in touch with him during the rest of his service. I think Dan really enjoyed having a boy to watch western movies and play video games with. As I made dinner each night I just heard cries of, “AHHH! He still has three bars left! Hit him! YEAH!” So I guess I lucked out with a guy who doesn’t spend time yelling at football matches on TV, but the occasional shouts at a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game is certainly much nerdier.

And so here we are, with only five more weeks of school left, only two of which are actual classes. The last three are exams and wrapping up reports and stuff, so I’m kind of freaking out. We leave our site a month from TODAY. One thing that I really don’t like is that after exams start I rarely see my Grade 6 learners all together, so I wonder if I’ll even be able to get them all together for a final goodbye. I’ve been trying to soak up the little time I have left and not get too stressed about exams, which is actually not too difficult considering I set the exam and I’m pretty sure my kids are ready for it. This makes me want to spend the next two weeks just hugging them, but my better half has convinced me to spend the time doing useful stuff. This week I’m doing healthy eating and HIV/AIDS stuff (and of course if Obama wins tomorrow I will squeeze a reading on him in…!), and next week will be a final wrap-up and review for the exam. The good news is that after we leave here we’re headed to Tanzania, which will be awesome if I don’t spend the whole time crying about how much I miss the kids.

Posted by: kam6761 | October 24, 2008

A Fantastic Surprise

On Saturday Daniel and I were walking through the village when we heard a man shouting: “HEY! YOUR BOXES!” We were walking by the post office and the guard had seen us and wanted to tell us to come to take our packages. The woman went rummaging around and then lifted one…then two… then three boxes! It felt like Christmas.

We trekked home through the unbearable heat and arrived home, so excited we barely greeted Bingo and hurried inside. Our parents had sent us tons of goodies, and tons of goodies for the kids as well! My Mom has been busy since she’s been home, searching for super sales and figuring out any way she can to spoil the kids here. I mentioned that Cinderella and Barbie books are in high demand in the library, so my Mom sought out whatever memorabilia she could find—stickers, books, pajamas! She sent two really beautiful Princess storybooks for Meameno and Paulina, six pairs of tiny pajamas for the adorable little girls that come to visit us, and tons of pictures from their visit in the village for the children. I couldn’t wait. I immediately began wrapping and planning and packing things up into a bag to take around the village. We went to Paulina’s house to drop off her book, the pajamas for Joy (a 2 year old little girl that absolutely fell in love with my Mom when they were here), and the pictures for all the children from that house that had been at the party for my parents. I chose a pair of Barbie and a pair of Cinderella pajamas for Joy, and everyone in the house literally began clapping when she opened them. Everybody was so excited and Joy had the cutest smile on her face as I held the clothes up to her.

We trekked around trying to find all the kids to hand out pictures and did the best we could. We also stopped at Queenie’s house, who I’ve mentioned is the cutest little girl in this village, this country, and probably all of this continent (I can’t expand it to the world, because that would include Rachel, Chloe, and Ella, and we all know that those are the cutest girls in the world). We gave Queenie two pairs of pajamas and another little girl, Iyaalo, a pair. I explained t hat they were pajamas, but they came to visit two hours later, in the hot afternoon sun, sporting their long sleeved new princess pajamas. It was for sure one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen in my life. Iyaalo looked so proud of her pajamas and was proudly showing them off. Queenie was too young to understand how cool the pajamas were, but she looked adorable in them nonetheless.


We realized that the boys hadn’t received any special gifts, but my Mom HAD sent a TON of Faulkner t-shirts, which by the way are the hottest fashion item in the Omungwelume Fashion Scene these days (and I’m not even kidding, people we don’t even know beg us for them). The smallest size that exists is an adult small, so we gave our most common boy visitors each a small t-shirt. They looked like shirts on the bigger boys, but were more like dresses on the two smaller boys, Bongi and Mbumbu. I wondered as they left in their “Faulkner dresses” whether they would actually wear them, but Bongi came the next morning to visit wearing his longer-than-the-knees shirt proudly.

Posted by: kam6761 | October 19, 2008

Nothing Like Getting Showed up by a 7 Year Old

Watching Miss Kathryn wash has become a town spectacle. As I wash our clothes outside, a group forms outside of our fence and they lovingly (I hope!) mock how I wash. This has given me the brilliant idea of just paying the girls some money every week to wash for us. It costs about $2 for a week’s worth of wash, so I figure it’s not such a bad deal. This money also generally includes some mopping and overall scrubbing of my things, which I figure is always good. Usually it’s Paulina, Meameno, and Joly, three Grade 6 girls who might as well be my own children. They know exactly where everything is, from the sweets to the detergent to Dan’s socks. This new routine of them cleaning has made me lazy and this week I neglected to even sweep, and living in a desert makes for a quick build up of sand. Yesterday one of our younger visitors, Penelao, wanted to help, so she washed for a bit and then swept inside. While washing outside she and the girls began illustrating the way I wash: “This is the correct way to wash. This is how Miss Kathryn washes.” I got an incredibly cute video which you’ll have to wait 2 more months for, but it’s golden. Once Penelao came inside she was disgusted by the amount of dirt on the floor. As she swept around the house I just heard her, from whatever room she was in, exclaiming: “OH! Miss Kathryn’s house is so very very dirty! OH! Miss Kathryn’s house is too dirty!” When she emerged from the various rooms, she asked me if I ever clean. I sheepishly tried to explain how busy it is with school and a constant circus of visitors, but the truth is I’ve just given up on sweeping. I feel like Sisyphus. I used to sweep every room every day, and even before we had Bingo it would inevitably be dirty the next day. Now, with Bingo, EISH! There’s no keeping anything clean and I’ve pretty much just resigned myself to living in filth. Bingo spends his days digging holes in the sand outside, so when he comes in and I pet him my hands are instantly covered in a layer of filth. When he’s really dirty you can see where he’s laid down by the small piles of sand left on the ground. So yeah, this is just all an elaborate excuse for how I could have possibly been showed up by a 7 year old. I’m pretty sure she’s a 2nd grader… and she can clean better than me.

In other news, we’re in a bit of a predicament with Bingo. Next weekend we have our end-of-service conference in Otjiwarongo, which is about 5 hours south of here. We’re staying in a lodge and obviously can’t bring Bingo. I had just been planning on giving him to Paulina or Meameno, but 2 days ago they came begging for money for the church. Apparently the money is going towards some sort of Choir Workshop they’re offering NEXT weekend, which most of the village children are attending. This makes my pool of likely Bingo takers much smaller, so I’ll keep you updated on who I beg for assistance. Our last resort is Mekondjo. He’s one of the few kids not attending and we do love him, but he did kick Bingo like a soccer ball last week… UGH.

One thing that Dan and I have both noticed since getting Bingo is how differently we, as Americans, treat dogs. Before coming and after first arriving I thought of the relationship between the people here and their animals as this almost sacred thing, which I’m beginning to realize is not the case at all. Animals here are ANIMALS, which means they’re treated like property rather than living things. I feel conflicted about this. In America we have this sort of very contradictory relationship with animals. One of the first things that children learn are the names of animals and what each animal says, as if it’s really important that a one year old recognize what a cow or a pig says. We give them, from an early age, this tremendous sense of importance (again, how often do tiny children learn to recognize different farm animals which they never regularly see in their actual lives), but we EAT them. It reminds me of this story that the Taos tell of when Lauren was little. One morning she asked where bacon came from, and she was told that it comes from pigs. She literally didn’t believe it. I obviously don’t know her reason from disbelief, but I would imagine it stems from the fact that children are taught to view animals as these cute and almost human creatures. Farm animals are personified, like Piglet or Chicken Little, but we EAT them! I’m not saying it’s weird that some people eat animals—I understand I am totally in the minority on that one, but doesn’t anyone else think it’s a big strange that we teach our children to love these animals while simultaneously feeding them those very same animals?

The thing here in Namibia is that it’s completely straightforward. People own animals to use their meat, milk and skins. You take good care of the animals and watch after them so that they can effectively produce the things that you want… but they’re ANIMALS. They’re not awarded any special place in the hearts and minds of the people here. As a high schooler I couldn’t even bring myself to dissect a worm, but Grade 5-7 learners here slaughter animals without blinking. I remember at my bazaar I took a picture of two girls, not even realizing at the time that one was holding a gigantic knife and the other was holding a chicken. I guess I was raised to love and respect animals, and then I slowly became aware that I was also EATING them, and decided I’d rather not do that. Here the kids are never taken to petting zoos to see “the cute little farm animals.” They never put coins into a little feed dispenser to get some food for the cute little chickens or the goats. They’re not a source of entertainment or enjoyment here—they’re food. People here can’t even fathom why I choose not to eat meat, and I can understand why. They live so close to the source of their food, they have to slaughter the animals themselves, watch them die, and then clean the carcass, so how could they possibly learn to love and admire them?

Obviously I think all living things deserve to be cared for in a humane way, and here that is the case. But I also assign animals the ability to think and to feel emotions like people, which I’m sure is true to an extent, but it’s not like real animals go through stories like Babe or Charlotte’s Web. This brings me to what I actually wanted to talk about and then got totally distracted from, but it’s from this context that people see Bingo. No, not as FOOD, but just as another animal.

In America we buy our dogs special food and treats and sometimes even clothes and little bows for their hair. We have special shows where we parade our dogs around to show how beautiful and talented they are. Maybe it was just my family, but we celebrated the birthdays of our dogs (one year my sisters and I even made a wet dog food “cake” decorated it with dog bones—needless to say, our dog spent the rest of the day vomiting) and even had stockings for them at Christmastime. Dogs here just exist and are more often than not considered more of a nuisance than a member of the family… so people think we’re pretty weird. I’ve noticed on multiple occasions how uncomfortable people get when I talk to Bingo. I’m not sure why, but Bingo is really comfortable with children but not with adults AT ALL. When they even walk near our house he starts barking and growling. So when I hear this, I go outside to console him: “BINGO!! It’s okay sweetheart, those people are just walking by. They’re not going to hurt you. It’s okay, Bingo. Calm down. It’s okay.” Or if he’s barking angrily: “BINGO! Be nice to the people. That’s not very nice.” The looks I get are priceless. The thing is, I KNOW he can’t understand me. I know he has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, but I do it because I was raised in a culture where that’s what you do. You talk to your dog and dote on it and assign it so much more cognitive thought than it’s actually capable of. I think most people just think we’re crazy, but some people think because of the way we act that Bingo is somehow a superdog. Some of the kids think he can SPEAK English and many of them have gradually adapted to our style of dealing with him (talking to him, petting him, etc.). The other day I was asking some kids if they could take Bingo when we go to Otjiwarongo and they asked: “Can Bingo eat porridge?” (dogs here just eat the leftover porridge from the family’s dinner). Maybe it was just a translation problem, but it seemed to me that the kid thought Bingo was somehow a superdog and was therefore unable to eat anything but his superdog food (people here think it’s SO weird that a thing such as dog food actually exists, let alone dog biscuits and dog toys). Some learners at my school have started asking me incessantly why I love Bingo, and when I answer because he’s wonderful, amazing, and fantastic, they just seem confused. To them, he’s a DOG. To me, he’s my firstborn (what the oldest child is called here—I’ve started telling kids that Bingo is my firstborn and, although some kids laugh it off, others become disgusted that I would even pretend such a thing). And, in a culture where violence towards people is regularly practiced, it’s nearly impossible to get people to understand that violence toward our dog is not good. We’ve had to reprimand countless children who have just thought it would be good fun to poke, prod, or kick Bingo. They don’t mean to be malicious, it’s just what is culturally accepted here. I get frustrated dealing with it from my perspective, but when I take a minute and reflect on the experience of people here, I begin to see myself as a bit neurotic and almost certainly insane. Bingo is an animal that likes to eat poop that he finds on the ground and will gladly eat his own spit up… but I refer to myself as “Mommy” to him and constantly talk to and attempt to reason with him. Yes, I can understand the Namibian perspective on this one.

Posted by: kam6761 | October 19, 2008

Heat Makes Smelly Feet

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.


Posted by: kam6761 | October 12, 2008

Another Culture

Despite having not written in quite some time, I’m somehow unable to think of anything significant worth writing about.

As Dan stated in his blog, the most exciting incident as of late was the “Fry Miss Kathryn” meeting that our school cluster had recently. I think the hostility was realty directed towards my HOD, who conveniently “wasn’t able to attend” the meeting. My colleague, McKensey, conflict causer and complainer extraordinaire, accused her of essentially pressuring me into resetting the exam so that the learners of my school would perform better on the Languages exam than on the Maths and Science exams (my HOD is the head of department for Languages and he is the Subject Head for Maths… yes, they make Math plural here—I’m not sure why). Anyway, it was this ridiculous notion that caused McKensey to create the biggest stink EVER about me resetting the exam. My HOD had given me a heads up that McKensey wasn’t letting the issue drop, so I had the foresight (Thank Heavens!) to prepare an explanatory letter. It explained, in detail, what was wrong with the original exam, and it went on to discuss the generally low standard that many schools have regarding the instruction of English. I tried to preface this by explaining that if they came to America to teach Oshiwambo, they would obviously be more qualified than someone who had just taken it as a subject in school. I thought this was an adequate explanation, and truthfully I think most of the people at the meeting were unable to understand the content of my letter, so they continued to ask questions regarding why exactly I reset. I had beat around the bush out of fear of offending someone, but I was so angry at that point I just blatantly stated, “I was educated in one of the most developed countries in the World. English is my mother tongue, and I grew up in a learner centered education system. I’m sorry if this is disrespectful, but I feel that my standard is therefore much higher than the level of this cluster.”

SILENCE. After that, no more questions came my way. No more communication in any way came my way. The next day my principal called me in to ask how the meeting had gone (he was also conveniently not there), and then he ended up calling in McKensey to make sure things were smoothed over. McKensey made a few remarks about what I had said, obviously showing he was offended by it.

I feel really conflicted about what happened. My remarks and the way I felt made me sort of feel like the imperialist Westerners that I hate, and that was really emotionally trying for me. I came here to work with local teachers, to learn everything I could about the culture, and to fit in without being overbearing or disrespectful. It was this tendency that mushroomed this whole situation. I could have simply talked to the teacher who had set the exam originally and explain it needed to be redone, but I felt uncomfortable telling a local teacher that the quality of his work was low. Because of my reluctance to do that, I ended up having to tell all of the teachers in the cluster (not just our school, but the entire school district) that their standard is low. It was not a good feeling.

And the thing is it’s incredibly complicated. The history of this country and, in particular, this area, has shaped the way the education system is today, but I didn’t have hours to qualify my remarks. Until independence, blacks were educated under a different system. The teachers in this system were only Grade 6 graduates. This means that many of the teachers teaching now were taught by people who only completed Grade 6… and you wonder why the Education system is lacking. And things ARE improving—the younger teachers have better (if not perfect) English and show more critical thinking skills, but there’s still a long way to go. The scars are deep and it’s going to take many years to get things on the right track, but then there are the more upsetting issues that are, I suppose, cultural. I don’t know if it’s “African Time” or laziness, but many teachers don’t even show up to their class until halfway through the period (many often don’t show up at all). The learner centered education system the government always talks about is certainly not implemented at my school. Most classes I’ve seen, if the teacher actually shows up, consists of the teacher writing notes while the learners mindlessly copy things into their books. Not to mention the various sticks and weapons the teachers carry for the learners who decide to talk.

Oh, but I digress! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and am willing to admit I don’t think the American school system is simply different—it’s BETTER. There’s so often this lack of discussion when it comes to different cultures, this sort of default “it’s just different” rhetoric. If you want to qualify anything from your culture as superior, you’re being ethnocentric. Is it just me, or is that a big pile of rubbish?

Yeah, treating children as people, respecting them and the duty to instruct them is BETTER than beating them and barely instructing them. This is not to say our culture is perfect by any means, but I certainly think in that aspect it’s better. This doesn’t mean I think the Owambo culture is completely flawed; in fact, there are many things I think our culture could learn from it. The sense of community and togetherness, for instance. I often think the American trait of independence has gone way too far, and being here has been such a nice vacation from that.

Last week a lower primary teacher brought her learners into the library (without asking me), so they just tore apart the library and made it a complete mess. I got a list of the learners who had done it, and told them they needed to fix it. I asked the older kids to show them how to put the books back correctly, and they did, and then they continued to assist them in doing the task. Thinking maybe there was a language barrier, I told them it wasn’t their job and to let the little ones do it, but they told me they wanted to help. To help these kids they barely knew. Not to mention the countless number of times I’ve seen a baby start crying and the nearest person, relation or not, picks the baby up to console him or her. I think I’ve already mentioned this, but even things like rewards are shared here. If a learner wins a sweet that can be divided into pieces, it’s divided and shared among the other kids.  A SWEET. Like the size of a cough drop.

So I don’t know, maybe I’m an ethnocentrist, but I’d rather just label myself a realist. There are  certainly good and bad things about every culture.

Rampant materialism? Bad.  A culture of reading and learning? Good.

A strong sense of community? Good. A lack of respect for education and children? Bad.

Obviously these things are not good and bad in any absolute sense, but in my opinion criticizing aspects of another culture doesn’t necessarily make me a bad person. I hope.

Posted by: kam6761 | September 27, 2008

Ondunga Season

So, the lemons are no longer in season, but the learners have found a new Owambo replacement for our apple: Give the teacher an ondunga!

My bag currently has seven ondungas* in it, and I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Ondungas are the fruit of the palm tree and I like them even less than lemons. During “lemon season,” I was able to use the lemons in iced tea or sangria or other beverages, but this new fruit is a bit different. The closest I can come to describing it is stale bread that is slightly sweet. The fruit has a really hard shell that you crack and peel off, sort of like a hard boiled egg but not as easy to get off. Once the shell is removed, the fruit actually looks like bread crust. And, as I said before, it tastes like stale, slightly sweet bread crust.

Because it tastes like stale bread crust, I can’t help but prefer the fresh bread in my bag that is smothered with peanut butter and jelly. Last week was the beginning of the wave, and I was able to regift my ondungas to learners from other classes ( so the donors would not realize I was giving away their precious gifts!), but this week there have been too many to slyly regift them. In a way I feel tremendously guilty because these kids seriously go crazy over this fruit, and so many of them are being generous enough to share with me, only for me to plot ways to sneakily get rid of them. Maybe Bingo would like them…

Speaking of Bingo, he is going teething crazy. Nothing is safe from his razor sharp fangs, including our toes and fingers. Gone are the days of snuggling him in my arms—they have been replaced with days of a growing Bingo thrashing in my arms, trying to position himself so that he can gnaw my fingers off. At first I allowed it because it meant he would sit happily in my arms, but he’s growing so fast that it’s already getting to the point where his bites are slightly painful. We’ve started hitting him each time he bites us, but it doesn’t seem like he’s getting the message. Any suggestions? And while I’m soliciting advice, how about potty training? It’s really strange because he seems to be trained at night. He whimpers when he wants us to let him out, but during the day it seems if he feels like going and he’s not outside, he just squats and goes on our floor! We let him out pretty frequently, take up his food and water around 7 pm, and stick his nose near his accident and say, “BAD!” whenever he makes a mistake, but it’s been three weeks and there are still accidents almost every day—is that normal?

Unfortunately, these aren’t our only recent problems. Dan and I have had some pretty tough situations to deal with lately. Within the past week, it was revealed that two of his learners fell pregnant (their euphemism here!). One of them was actually one of his best learners, so it’s unfortunate that they both had to leave school. I guess learners are required to leave school for two years (maybe to raise the child or something?), but after that they can go back. This doesn’t really seem like the brightest policy to me, considering those children will need to be provided for, and good jobs are hard to come by without a high school diploma, but who am I to judge?

One of my issues started this week when a learner came to me with Zulinda’s book and told me “she’s finished coming here.” Zulinda is a learner I wrote about briefly before. She was one of my weakest learners and, although I tried to encourage her, she didn’t seem to care. She would chuckle when I would ask her where her homework was or laugh when I had to reprimand her for not writing her classwork. She was one of my learners that, no matter what the topic assigned, would write the same sentences each time: “My name is Zulinda. My mother is nice. Our class is wonderful.” Then one day she turned in her assignment, which was supposed to be on her weekend, but it turned out to be something a bit different. There were a smattering of the usual sentences, but then at the end she began writing about school: “I don’t understand. Every time I study, but I don’t know. I try, but I don’t understand.” I had asked them to draw a picture to go with their writing, and for some reason the saddest part was her drawing—a rudimentary drawing of herself reading a book. To make a long story short, she dropped out…from Grade 6…because she was tired of failing. She was a 17 year old Grade 6 learner. It makes me sick to think what a girl without a primary school diploma will probably end up doing. I brought her case to the office, because it seemed strange to me that a Grade 6 learner could decide to just stop coming without consequences, but nobody else seemed to think it was a big deal.

Then one of my colleagues brought the case of one of my other learners, who is apparently being abused at home. She’s an orphan living with her aunt, who pretty much treats her like a servant. Last week she went to the public library, and when she got home her aunt was convinced she had been out with a boy and beat her senseless. She came to school with a bruised and swollen face, accompanied by sudden outbursts of crying, which the teachers obviously noticed. We know, but apparently there’s not a “Child Services” sort of deal here. The teachers are concerned about taking it to the police because her parents are dead, and if her aunt turns her out she may be worse off than before. I don’t even understand how anyone could think this girl has a mean bone in her body—she is soft spoken, kind, and always trying to do whatever she can to help. Of course I’m not in favor of anyone beating anyone, but I’m particularly not a fan of people beating innocent, kind hearted little girls.

I feel like, so often, I’m missing a lot of what happens. I notice when learners are acting strange or seem malnourished, but I don’t have the language ability to get the full story from them. I forget if I ever wrote about this, but there was an issue last term when one of my best learners stopped coming to school for almost a month because he “didn’t have a uniform to wear.” This didn’t make sense, because the orphans or vulnerable children that can’t afford uniforms are allowed to come in anything, yet every time I asked someone about it, the same story about the uniform came up. I still don’t know what happened, although I did eventually learn he was an orphan who had been chased from the home he was living in, but the details are a mystery.

The same is true of the latest drama at my school, which involves the school tour. For those of you that are in touch with my parents, they may have mentioned the day they came to visit the village and how the learners sat outside of the school for nearly 7 hours before the teachers showed up to take them on their field trip. This actually was not uncommon and is that “African time” that so often bungles our plans here, but what transpired after they left was another story. First of all, because the teachers showed up so late, they had to skip going to Etosha and headed straight for the coast. Then Mr. Hasheela (the principal, who should be…you know… principled and a strong role model, right?) and Meme Justy (a teacher who planned the tour) apparently had different views on what should happen. Meme Justy was following the itinerary, but Mr. Hasheela had different plans. He wanted to head off to other towns, which was impossible because they didn’t have enough gas to get there (petrol stations are few and far between here, and often not functional, as my parents can also tell you!). This was apparently unacceptable to my principal, who actually choked the driver and started mouthing off about his tribe (the driver was Himba), and then turned on Meme Justy and began blaming her for the non-functional petrol stations. Then he began screaming that HE WAS THE BOSS, THE ONLY BOSS, and IF HE SAID DRIVE THEN THEY WOULD DRIVE. At this point all of the kids on the bus were apparently bawling and the drama continued over the duration of the three days. Meme Justy then came back and told some people what happened, which my principal then chastised her for and accused her of spreading rumors and instigating trouble. Then the parents started coming. The parents came because the kids told them what happened, but Mr. Hasheela decided that Meme Justy was his scapegoat and then the fun began. He asked me to type a warning letter (because most of the time he treats me as a 2-in-1 teacher/personal secretary combo, despite the fact that he ALREADY HAS A SECRETARY), which she received, made copies off, and posted all over the school. Then it all hit the fan. It came out that I typed it (so of course Meme Justy is giving me the cold shoulder), the parents found out that the drama was still unfolding, and they began threatening to BOYCOTT AND PICKET THE SCHOOL.

Today there is an emergency school board meeting, which will be in Oshiwambo, not to mention all the recent arguments and juicy conversations that have also been in Oshiwambo, so I’m a bit out of the loop. Assuming I somehow get into the loop regarding what happens today, I’ll be sure to let you know.

And now, just so I don’t bog you down with the bad stuff, I’ll talk about a few fun things that have happened lately.

This past weekend was Eengedjo’s bazaar (Dan’s school), so we had a weekend full of selling raffle tickets (for chickens, mind you. Not a computer or a TV… a live chicken!) and selling food and things. The main attraction of the weekend was the Miss Eengedjo pageant, which was the 3rd beauty pageant Eengedjo has had this year. More on that in a minute.

Saturday morning, while getting ready for the bazaar, Meameno showed up at the house. I was putting on my makeup so I let her sit and watch while I finished. After I finished, she begged me to “put for her.” I agreed to put on some eyeshadow. She chose green. It was like the “If you give a mouse a cookie” story. After the eyeshadow, she HAD to have eyeliner. Once she had the eyeliner, she HAD to have mascara. And once the makeup on her eyes was sufficiently caked on, she HAD to have lipstick. She left looking like an 80s pop star. Before we left for the bazaar, I tried to convince her to take some of it off. She would not hear it. She insisted on wearing ALL of it, and for some ungodly reason people liked it. A Miss Eengedjo contestant heard of Meameno’s makeup (news travels in this village so fast it would make your head spin), and she showed up at my house to see if I would “put for her.” I agreed, and later that night I met her at the bazaar to do it. Then the line formed of the Miss Eengedjo contestants, and the “If you give a mouse a cookie” story happened all over again. First it was the eyeshadow, then the eyeliner, then the mascara…! I actually really enjoyed doing it and was proud to see the girls when they came out, seeing all the golden/silvery/pink/etc. eyes shimmering in the light. And luckily Meameno’s mother loved the makeup, so I’ll live to see another day. I guess I was thinking from the perspective of an American, where if you put makeup on someone’s young daughter you would seem irresponsible and unprincipled, but here it’s more that NOBODY has makeup, so putting makeup on her was more of a special treat that most women here have never experienced.

The last thing I’ll talk about is Bingo’s rising celebrity status. Over the past week or two, people I’ve never seen before in my life have asked me where Bingo is or what he’s doing. Learners stop at our gate on their walk home, call me outside, and then request to greet Bingo. Last week I was walking home from school and I saw Set-son (the boy who often walks with me to school) hiding behind a tree stump. I asked him several times what he was doing with no clear response, and then I began to continue towards home. Then I hear his little voice: “Miss Kathryn, where is Bingo?” He left his hiding place and walked back to the house so that he could greet Bingo, so I’m pretty sure he had just been waiting for me to come so that he could see Bingo. Even learners from the Junior Secondary School and Eengedjo, who I don’t know, are bold enough to call me outside to request Bingo. One day last week we had decided on no visitors on a specific day, but one girl Penelao kept coming back to the gate as if our answer would change. It seemed like she had finally given up, but then I heard her little voice outside. When I went outside, she told me she wanted “to visit Bingo,” as if that would somehow get her in. It makes me wonder if Bingo is really incredibly cute for a dog here, or if he’s just famous because he’s the white people’s dog… either way, he loves t he attention!

If you’re interested in seeing our little guy, Dan just posted a “Bingo” folder on his Picasa at Enjoy!!!

*eendunga is the plural of ondunga in Oshiwambo, but I’m just going to say ondungas for simplicity’s sake!

Posted by: kam6761 | September 20, 2008

Trauma Drama and Doom

Things have been busy with Bingo. It’s been two weeks and, although the accidents have become fewer and far between, he’s still trying to figure out the whole potty training thing.

Since getting Bingo, Meameno has been coming by much more often. We got Bingo from Meameno’s family and it’s really obvious that she misses him. Outside of our gate there’s a pile of bricks for a house that is being built nearby, and it’s not uncommon to see her just sitting on the bricks, just waiting to see Bingo. We’ve tried to give her a lot of time with him and always let her hold him and play with him when she’s over. The problem is that we’ve found her to be a bit too rough with him. She often pokes and prods him in a way that (I suppose?) is meant to be playful, but just makes him whimper or growl and try to run away as fast as he can… kinda like Elmira, for those of you that remember that Tiny Toons show. Anyway, despite all this, we decided to let her try her hand at dogsitting yesterday.

We were headed into Oshakati to do shopping and some of our friends invited us to meet up for lunch, and we figured having Bingo out with some kids to play with would be better than having him sit in a dark hallway for hours on end. We told Meameno to come and pick him up at 10am—she was so excited that she showed up at 7:45. We did our errands in town and spent an hour or so at lunch with our friends, and then we all headed back together for a board game night and sleepover in our village. We told Meameno we would be home around 3 or 4, and she brought him back promptly at 4, but Bingo didn’t look right.

He seemed really lethargic and his eyes looked a bit swollen, and then I noticed that the one eye was completely bloodshot. Meameno insisted she didn’t know what happened to him, and we figured that maybe the dust from outside had bothered him or something. By this morning, we realized that wasn’t the case. His eye was less bloodshot all around but still had a ring of blood around the iris, and his other eye was starting to look cloudy.

It was a sad ending to our sleepover with friends, which had gone swimmingly, but we decided to take Bingo in for an emergency visit to a vet in Oshakati. I went into our guest bedroom to change into jeans, and as I pulled them off of the shelf a cloud of mosquitoes shot out. Our friend Irene had slept in that room and had asked us before going to bed if she could open the window. Although we are generally incredibly anal about keeping our house totally sealed up, we figured it was September (and therefore not prime mosquito season) and we were hogging the fan, so it wasn’t really fair to expect our poor friends to suffer in the heat sans-fan. Talk about a BAD DECISION. There were literally hundreds of mosquitoes in every crack and crevice in the room. We decided to try out this “Doom Destoyer” machine we bought when we first arrived, which to this point we haven’t actually needed to use. You plug it into the wall and put a “destroyer mat” into this little slot, and then it apparently works magic.  We had to leave for the vet, so we figured it was all we had time for at that point.

Our friend Irene was kind enough to drop us at the vet, and it turned out the guy was really nice and seemed pretty knowledgeable. Bingo was a fantastic patient and didn’t whine or yap a bit. He sat quietly for all the prodding and even through 2 shots, which the vet forewarned were painful! He told us the eye received “some trauma” and that it looked like someone had poked or hit him there. Although we were relieved it wasn’t some terrible and incurable disease, we were really disappointed in hearing that it probably resulted in some sort of negligence or abuse on the part of our dogsitter. We know Meameno wouldn’t hurt him on purpose, but it’s bothersome that she either doesn’t know what happened to him or knows and isn’t telling us.

After leaving the vet’s Bingo was out cold. We walked to the grocery store, shopped, and then walked to the hike point home—he drooled and slept through it all. He slept until we were on the truck on the hike home, and luckily he seemed a bit more like himself.* The medicine already seems to have kicked in, and he both looks and acts more like himself.

Anyway, once we got home I prepared Bingo an “I’m sorry I gave you to someone that gave you eye trauma” lunch, which consisted of 2 eggs, a slice of turkey lunch meat, and a slice of bacon. Us people had fried egg sandwiches and then Dan set to work as “Mosquito Destroyer.” He went into the guest room wearing sunglasses, a shirt tied around his mouth, a shoe in one hand, and spider killer spray in the other. The spray listed like 10 insects that it killed, so we figured it was worth a shot. He ventured forth into the room and closed the door, and what I heard next sounded something like this:
“Oh my Gosh!!!!!!!!!!!!”
*smack smack smack smack smack* (sound of shoe killing mosquitoes)
*shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh shhhhhhhhhhhhhh shhhhhhhhhhhhhh* (sound of spraying spider killer)
*smack smack smack smack smack*
*smack smack smack smack smack smack*
“OH COME ON!!!!!!!!!”
*smack smack shhhhhhhhhhhhh shhhhhhhhhhhhhh smack smack smack*
“Yeah take that!” smack “and that!” smack “and that!” (maniacal laughter)

I should mention that interspersed in the above dialogue was a string of curse words, which should mean something to anyone who knows Dan. In the 7 years I’ve known him, I think I could count on my hands the number of times he has ever said a curse word. This itself should illustrate how serious the problem was! The mosquitoes perched on the ceiling were so large in number that the roof looked spotted, each time you went to touch something in the closet a cloud of mosquitoes would shoot out, but there were still a slew of dead mosquitoes lying on the floor. The Doom thing was actually working and combined with Dan’s master mosquito killing skills, the problem is already much better.

We’re soaking our mosquito net in permethrin, which Dan’s Mom thankfully got us before we left, so hopefully we’ll sleep without being eaten alive tonight. If necessary, we have tons of insect repellent that both my parents and Dan’s parents have graciously given to us. Did I mention it rocks having wonderful parents and parent-in-laws?

*This means he was gnawing at our hands and feet relentlessly. The day before we took him to the vet, when he was a sleepy puppy, I was worried sick but also cherished having him cuddled up on my lap without trying to claw or bite my limbs off. I guess it’s how he plays, and I suppose love sometimes hurts, but GEEZ! It’s for this reason that we bought Bingo a small variety of dog and baby toys (there wasn’t a huge selection of dog toys, but there were some hard plastic baby toys we figured would do, so we bought them). As of yet, he still prefers to gnaw our hands off.

Well, the term is finally over. The last week was undoubtedly the most stressed I have ever seen Dan. This was because the program that both of our schools are using to generate report cards is something that Dan programmed himself. This means he is the only one to fully understand it and any problems with it must go to him. This also means that even though the program is relatively user-friendly, teachers can feign ignorance and roll their work onto us. I happen to be less kind than Dan (and much less computer savvy), so I spent a lot of the week hiding from the teachers (literally—I spent one morning in the corner of an unused classroom reading a book). I had finished my work and was determined not to get suckered into doing something that a teacher could do for him or herself, and for the most part I succeeded. When a teacher asked me to type something, I kindly declined and said they could do it for themselves. If a teacher genuinely didn’t understand something, I offered to show them how to do it a few times and then let them take over (some teachers seriously come and ask me to make copies for them, as if it’s really hard to place a paper face down and push a button). Because of this, my week was not overly stressful. Dan, on the other hand, was frazzled every day. Teachers made mountains of mistakes and then told him many reports needed to be reprinted, and insisted that they hadn’t made the mistake—the computer had. He was home late and in early, and on Thursday night he even brought a printer home to print reports.

Because he was so stressed, I tried to make his heart happy through his stomach. I would get home and make a nice lunch or snack for him when he came home for his break, which I think was a bit of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy few days. On Friday, we had expected to leave our schools by 9:30. I got home a bit late, around 10:30, and figured Dan would be home soon. I made him some toast and cream cheese and a hot chocolate, and then sat. I waited and waited, but no Dan. Then Meameno, Paulina, Joy, and Justina showed up. They made the time pass faster, but they could tell I was getting irritated. I ended up giving them the hot chocolate because it was getting cold and then, when they seemed intrigued by the cream cheese, I gave them each a bit of the bread. Then the five of us anxiously stared out of the window, waiting to see Mr. Dan appear.

At around noon, I declared that I was going on holiday myself and that I was going to kill Mr. Dan. This led to Meameno claiming that she would assist me in order to take Dan’s place on the holiday, and I agreed. Paulina then expressed concern over the imminent death of Mr. Dan, and suggested that we just beat him instead (yes, just to reassure you, the girls did know this was all a joke!!). Meameno then began picking up large objects and then pretended to scold Mr. Dan for his tardiness. Finally, at around 1, she had her big chance.

As Dan walked towards the house, Meameno flung open the door, broom in hand, and began yelling: “Mr. Dan! WHERE ARE YOU? WHAT YOU DO?!? WHAT YOU DO?!?” Justina then reached for a skein of yarn (man, I bet it sure would hurt to be beaten by a skein of yarn!) and began shaking it wildly at him. Meameno then summoned Joly to join in, and it was about at this point that Dan had collected his thoughts enough to even respond. Because he hadn’t been there for the previous two hours, I think he was really dumbfounded to see Meameno shouting at him (I think her broken English made it a bit hard for him to understand why she was yelling) while shaking a giant broom in his face. Unfortunately the incident ended rather anticlimactically, because I think the girls felt self-conscious when Dan didn’t play along (his confusion combined with his stress made him slow to react), they dropped the joke soon after and then began fumbling to help us with our bags. Dan was carrying our two bookbags and his computer bag (not because I didn’t want to, but just because he had picked them up and I hadn’t gone to take a bookbag from him yet), and the girls began laughing at my light load. Meameno then began lecturing me: “MISS KATHRYN!! MR. DAN IS NOT A DOG!” After we shifted the load around and I had a fair share, we said goodbye to the girls and headed on our way.

As we neared the road, we ran into my colleague who told us that she was going the same way we were going and that she could give us a hike. But for this portion of the post I will hand the writing duties over to Dan.

So the opportunity to ride with this colleague of Kathryn’s (Meme Shidolo) was really too good to pass up since she was driving all the way to Ohangwena—where we needed to be—and we could therefore get to our destination pretty much directly when otherwise we’d have to hike in 2 or 3 separate legs. There was a bit of a snag, though: the back of Meme Shidolo’s truck was loaded up with two gigantic sofas. We sort of thought that maybe we could fit somewhere, but a brief examination of the entire perimeter of the truckbed ultimately revealed that we really couldn’t.

I say “we” couldn’t; in fact, there was barely enough space for one person, and I think Kathryn has a photo demonstrating this somewhere. For now, let me just say that obviously I was that person, and it was agreed that Kathryn and another girl who was riding with Meme Shidolo could both squeeze into the front. (This struck us as an obvious arrangement, but to our bewilderment the girl kept moving as if to get up onto the sofas in the back despite our confused protests. Eventually it was explained to us by another of Kathryn’s colleagues that the girl shouldn’t ride up front due to strict enforcement of traffic laws by Ohangwena. You’re probably thinking, Wait, what? Three can’t sit in the front but it’s OK for two to sit precariously atop two giant sofas jammed into the back? Apparently, that is correct. On a side note, our friend Steve later informed us, upon hearing this story, that it sometimes happens that a truck driver will be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt when he’s carrying a dozen people crammed into the back.)

Believe it or not, it was a pleasant enough ride for me. The only drawbacks were the clouds of sand and rock that were rocketed into my face whenever another car passed, the occasional feeling that I was going to fall off the truck to my death, and one particularly frightful instant when I had to duck under a tree branch to avoid being decapitated. Those concerns notwithstanding, I quite enjoyed myself up there.

After this, we met up with our friend Steve who drove us down to Windhoek. We stayed the night at our friend Weslie’s, who is always a pleasure to see, and then headed to the airport early this morning.

Our flight was fine and we were one of the first ones off the plane, meaning we flew through passport control and were the first people at the baggage carousel. We were also the last people at the baggage carousel, because the airline lost our bag. It turned out that it just somehow didn’t make it onto the plane with us, and we were promised that it will be in Blantyre tomorrow, so hopefully we’ll just have to go tonight with no toiletries. If the bag is somehow lost tomorrow, it means we’ll be headed to the beach with no sunscreen, insect repellent, or swimming suits. Keep your fingers crossed for us!!

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