Attempting to Teach:
I am teaching Grade 8 sections A, B, and C Physical Science, Grade 8, one section of Life Science and lastly, Grade 10 Physical Science. From our orientation in both Windhoek and during our practicum in Uis, I had the understanding that the first week of teaching would be a lot of ice breakers and introductions and easy game-like exercises. I couldn’t have been more wrong… I arrived on Monday morning in the staff room with all of the other teachers and sort of just got thrown into my classes. I used the first day of class to make my introductions and play a short game so the kids could get to know me but then the second day I realized that I should be actually teaching the kids something… however, I had no books, no syllabus, no chalk and no erasers. Quite the conundrum I had. The kids begged for books in the classroom and as the second day continued I realized that kids have not been allowed to take books home with them because they typically steal them and don’t bother bringing them back to school. I realized this would be a circuitous teaching exercise for me and perhaps a way to challenge my creativity. How does one teach without any resources?
I chased one teacher, Ivan, for the syllabus which he had for Physical Science. It (hopefully) included Grades 8-10 so that would help me plan my Term 1 and I was hoping to share the deliverables with the classes. I asked Ivan as early as Monday afternoon for the syllabus and didn’t receive it until yesterday afternoon. It is curious how many of the teachers here are simply in no hurray to get anything done. I have noticed that most things are not learner centric and typically are about the teachers/staff/administration. Every morning we have a staff meeting which we spend time discussing things like the copier and the paper or the staff who is hired to clean the staff room and their insufficient performance. There isn’t much talk about solutions but more talk about the issues themselves. I typically sit and listen and try to understand why these issues are more important than the actual work – teaching the learners. I think back to my days at BIDMC and we were always so focused on delivering the best care to the patients. That was always the goal and here it is about the teachers – the mindset around teaching is sadly extrinsic. All in all though, I think the kids are taking to me and enjoying my classes. Yesterday I found out that Grade 11 went to the principal and requested to have me as their teacher so I think he is trying to work that into my schedule. Many of the students from Grade 11 & 12 came to me early in the week and were disappointed to hear I wasn’t going to be teaching them so they must have pulled some strings with the principal. I hope I don’t let them down!
Life in Uis:
I have found that Loretta enjoys walking both in the morning and the afternoon so we have been going on night walks around 8/9pm. I always feel safe with her because she is a local and people tend not to mess with her as the teachers are well respected in the settlement. On a walk at around 5:30a with Loretta on Wednesday, we saw a woman leaving the kitchen right before breakfast was served. Loretta stopped and pointed out the woman and told me she was stealing food from the kitchen and that this is a regular occurance. She mentioned that last year she stopped by one of the women’s houses last year, unannounced, and found her cabinets full of food that was supposed to be served to the kids. It was discouraging to see and I asked Loretta what could be done. She said that everyone knows that it happens and nothing is ever done about it. Frustrating to see and in orientation they mentioned that you have to decide how you will conduct yourself when you see things that are ethically not right. Kids being beaten, sexually harassed or taken advantage of. During orientation, the head of the PeaceCorp here in Namibia told us that a PeaceCorp volunteer a few years ago found out that a child was being sexually abused by a teacher in her school and reported it to the district. Everyone in the town knew about it but no one did anything. She was murdered as a result. I am sure my values and ethics will be challenged while living here but I hope I have the patience to try to navigate these sort of situations in the most appropriate way.
This also happened last week so I will not be visiting the shabeen anytime soon.
“Fear less, hope more. Eat less, chew more. Whine less, breathe more. Talk less, say more. Love more and all good things will be yours.”
I arrived last night and met my roommate Fredericka who is so sweet. She is shy but neat and organized. She is teaching science this year as well so it will be nice to bounce ideas off of her for teaching lessons.
Loretta also popped by last night. I met her when I was here for the practicum and she offered to take me to Walvis Bay on Friday as I have to go to the Ministry of Finance this week. Her grandmother has a house in WB so she said we will stay there and then go to Swakopmund on Saturday and then come back on Sunday. Sigh… Why is everyone so generous and welcoming here? Fredericka, Loretta and I went for a sunset walk and it was bliss. The girls in the hostel are a little rowdy but literally are tickled at the sight of me and all of them want to touch me. It is strange but cute to have them want to be around me.
Last night was our last night together as a whole group. I can’t believe that these 12 strangers have turned into family in just three weeks. I love each person in this amazing group for their own uniqueness but what really bonds us is our compassion for others and attempting to make the world a better place.
Three weeks ago today, I nearly got on a plane and went home from Zurich due to being so sick. Now, even earlier this week, I was sick (again…) and each person in my group took turns checking on me and taking care of me. From Patrick continually making me boiled potatoes, Kate with her constant “are you alive?” check-ins, Liz with her maternal instincts and caring touch, and Jordan with her humor and positivity that I will and must get better immediately. I truly am blessed to be surrounded with this new family.
This morning, three volunteers left for their placement in Ohangwena, next three other volunteers go to Karas in the south and four will go to Oshana and Kavango in the northern regions. Liz and I will be departing for Erongo around 11:00 this morning. It is already really hard to see each group depart in their minibuses just waving goodbye when it feels like I will simply see them in a few hours. I know this is part of the experience so here is to an easy four hours and to the next chapter of my adventures in Namibia – Here I am come Uis – I can’t wait to already see my favorite students again.
Classes start first thing tomorrow – wish me luck!
In our last class, Patrick and I were teaching about pollution and recycling. The photo above is me making a toy with some normal trash items they can find at home. Although there is little waste in Namibia, typically people aren’t used to re-using containers etc. so this was a nice lesson that we did and the kids loved it!
On Thursday we drove to Brandberg mountain and hiked about an hour in to see the White Lady rock paintings. They were pretty spectacular. It was very hot but definitely worth the hike in! Afterwards we went to dinner at one of other restaurants in Uis called Montis. I met the owner who was German and let her know that I would be living in Uis for the entire year. I mentioned being interested in visiting Swakopmund and Walvis Bay and she said that it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Namibia. I mentioned my idea of perhaps buying a motorbike inside of hitchhiking (common way of traveling in Namibia) in a combie (minibus) and she said that a motorbike would not do due to the roads being so bad. She mentioned that the other restaurant owner, Bezel, and she would find me a ride and call around to find who in the town was planning on going that weekend. I think that is really the way things work in Namibia, particularly in some of the small towns. Everyone knows each other and shares resources. Something that has been said to me countless times with food, money, beer, has been “Everyone shares in Africa” – sigh.. bliss.