Friday, April 22, 2011

Who's ready for some futbol!?

Soon after coming to Sangwali, I was approached by my colleagues and asked if I wanted to join the teacher's soccer team known as The Legends. As a fan of soccer, I eagerly accepted and figured it would also be a great way to get to know my coworkers outside of school. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this league, if there are actual games, how serious are they about it, but as not having much else to do in the village, I figured it was worth a shot.

Practice, or training as they called it, took place in weekday evenings and sounded serious. There was even talk of fines for those who missed. Being I didn't live near the school, I only made it to a few, but I could tell I was way out of my league with these guys. They were good, exceptionally good. I was clearing going to be the weak point of the team but they didn't seem to mind how much I sucked. After about a month, as I sat at my desk at school, a colleague and teammate asked if I was going to the game at the neighboring secondary school against their teachers. It was the first I had heard of the game but being in the village and never having anything else planned,
I said “Most definitely!” I rushed back to my hut after school, got ready, and waited to get picked up. Didn't have to  wait for to long as the bakki pulled up with my team in the back and a vuvuzela. I hopped in and The Legends were off with vuvuzela blaring. The drive wasn't anything special other than a flat tire along the way, but an hour later we arrived at the school and began warming up for the game.

The game got underway with some ominous clouds on the horizon and I was rewarded for my trek as being placed as a starter. The teams were fairly evenly matched and first half ended with the score tied at 1-1. I subbed out for the second half and took to watching from the sidelines. During the half the game got away from the Legends we became down 3-1.  With 15min to go, the clouds rolled in bringing rain, sheets and sheets of rain. Some of the heaviest rains I've seen here in Namibia. Within minutes, I was completely soaked and shivering. The game was called early and we made a break for the nearby classrooms. As we wrung out our clothes, we looked around for our transport, but the bakki was no where to be found. Apparently since being close to Katima, the driver had decided to take a quick stop to do some shopping. The driver showed up about an hour later, and by now it was almost completely dark. It was then decided that the road through the game park was shorter and would be a good shortcut. Only problem is driving through a game park at night is not a shortcut. Every 5mi we would have to stop for kudu, springbok, and all kinds of other horned animals chilling in the road. The driver took it slow and navigated the bakki safely past all the animals. By the time we pulled into Sangwali it was past 10PM and I had school in the morning. Plus after being in the back of a open pickup, going 75mph, at night, and in wet clothes, I was quite chilly and miserable. As soon as I was dropped off, I threw on all my warmest clothes hopped in my bed and through on all the sheets. As I began to thaw out, I could only help but think this was going to be an interesting season for me and The Legends.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let the Teaching Begin

It's the start of a new year which in Namibia also signifies the start of a new school year and the beginning to the reason I came here in the first place. I had many questions and some anxieties on my mind. What will I teach? What will my learners be like? Will they even understand me?

I came back to Sangwali a few days before the teacher's were to report to school to spend time with the host family and hoping to get settled into my new home. I was welcomed back to the homestead by a big hug from both of the boys and a plate of food from the parents. While re-exploring the village, I scoped out the school to see what my housing situation would be. Unfortunately the construction still isn't done so looks like I'll be living at the homestead for another few months. Don't mind too much though. The family is extremely gracious and gives me plenty of personal space.

The first day for teacher's arrived quickly and I headed to school not quite sure what to expect. Is it just meetings? Will I find out my classes? Do I get to plan lessons?  Not quite. Instead it was a mob learners and parents waiting to register for school and none of the school staff seemed even remotely prepared for it. After a brief huddle a plan was formulated and we sprung into action registering. Things proceeded at the a sloths pace getting all 360 learners registered but at least things were getting done. The registering went on well into the first week of classes and I still had no idea what classes I would teach. At last the class assignment meeting came and I got the answer I had been waiting for. Two grade 11 biology, one grade 11 math class, and a couple of PE classes. Math, cool. Older learners, great. But, biology, yikes! I haven't taken a biology classes since my freshman year in high school and it was the only class got a C in, ever!

Once classes were settled upon the teaching could commence. Spent the first few days in the classroom getting to know each other. They were very curious and had many questions about me and America. They were shocked to hear I am only 24 since I'm only a couple years older than most of them! And in this time my fear of there being a language barrier evaporated. These older learners have a far better understanding of English than the younger grades in some of the teaching horror stories I'd heard. Learning their names did prove challenging. Not only was I learning their faces but I was also learning names entirely foreign to me like Litokwandambo, Manyando, and Kanyanso.

I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed those first few days. I had a year to plan, a grading system to devise, and Namibian procedures to adjust to all the while teaching classes! But just took it one day at a time, and once I got through the initial class setup I could step back and take a few breathes. It sure does feel good to be busy

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My First Namibian Christmas

My apologizes for being away from the blog for so long. I was away over the month of December with training and vacation and have been having some technical computer difficulties. I'm back in Sangwali now and greatly relaxed and ready to start teaching.

So at the start of December I had just finished my six weeks of observing my Namibian school. The school year was over and the Peace Corps was summoning all the Volunteers in my group back down to Windhoek for our Reconnect training. After a 2 day journey, I arrived in Windhoek and reunited with others in my group. I hadn't seen most everybody since swearing in so there was a great deal of excitement with exchanging stories about our sites and the ups and downs during the past month and a half.

The Reconnect training was taking place at a hotel just outside of Windhoek up on rolling hills with a great view of the city and even better view of the gorgeous African sunsets. The hotel had everything I had been missing for the past few weeks, hot showers, flushing toilets, and even wireless internet! The two weeks of training covered everything for classroom management, to lesson planning, to possible ideas for secondary projects at our school.  Being together as a group again brought out lots of laughter and usual a dinner performance of some kind. The training went by quickly and I took away some great ideas to use in my classroom.

Our fun together as a group wasn't over yet. Like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, we had made plans to cool down a bit and enjoy the holidays out on the beaches of Namibia in the city of Swakopmund. We arrived on Christmas Eve, and I immediately felt like I had left the continent of Africa and ended up somewhere in California.  Swakop was unlike any other part of Namibia I had seen. All the cattle, mud huts, and street vendors were gone and had been replaced with tons of traffic, extravagant hotels lining the beach front, and rows and rows of shops. The city's architecture was also quite the contrast, taking on a Colonial German look. We made our way to the campground which was conveniently located 100 yards from the beach and quickly set about creating a make shift Chirstmas tree at our campsite. We then hit the town to explore and find the many restaurants the older volunteers had been raving about.  Sushi, Italian, Chinese were all there. All things I hadn't tasted since leaving for Namibia.

The next day was Christmas and in the spirit of things we all exchanged gifts in a “Secret Kudu.” That's were the norm for celebrating Christmas ended as we then took to the beach for football and grilling. Definitely felt weird to be out in swim trunks laying out in the sun instead of bundled up around a fire.

The following days just seemed to fly by as we took advantage of the many great restaurants, bars, and coffee shops Swakop had to offer. We took a these days to explore the sights in the area including a shipwreck and a seal colony north and the world's tallest sand dunes and a flamingo colony down south.

Come New Years Eve we again took the celebration to the beach. Instead of a ball dropping in Swakop there is a bonfire lit at midnight which took place not too far from where we were. We went to check it out and were a bit surprised by the 30ft somewhat unsafe looking structure of wood that they had erected and were at the moment dousing in gasoline. Being Namibia and a not having really any safety codes you could get as close as you dared to the monstrosity. At the stroke of midnight the wood was set ablaze and the 2011 was here.

After the holidays it was time to head back to site and prepare for the real work that was soon approaching. Even though my next vacation won't come till the end April, I'm already getting excited.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Address Change

I've moved to site so here's my new address to send all those letters i know you've been dying to send me. Also correction about just two stamps, it's two of the forever stamps. Two regular stamps won't quite make the $0.98 postage.

P.O. Box 2236
Katima Mulilo, Namibia

I've got a few questions about things to send, so here is just a few ideas:
-Candy(starburst, m&ms,...)
-Mac & Cheese Packets
-School Supplies
-Mini Tobasco Bottles
-Water Flavor Packets
Look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm now a Peace Corps Volunteer!

You'll be happy to know I've passed Peace Corps Training and was sworn in this past Friday as a Peace Corps Volunteer! But to back up a bit, the final Silozi test was this past Wednesday. It went better than expected and I managed a score in the intermediate range. Thursday we traveled into Windhoek to do some administrative paperwork and shopping before going out to site. I'm going to be living with a family in a homestead for the first six weeks so I held off on buying pots and pans till I'm in a place of my own. I did buy a travel sized sleeping bag and enjoyed a much missed burger and french fries meal.

The swearing in ceremony was rather brief. Out of the 45 that we started with, 44 were swearing in. The PC country director and someone from the Ministry of Education gave speeches, the ambassador from the US embassy swore us in, and then a few from my group gave speeches in their class language. I gave a word of thanks in Silozi last weekend during our Host Family appreciation lunch, so I was spared this time around. But the Namibian crowd were really entertained hearing us speak in their languages. We sang a few Namibian songs followed by a local school choir sang and then we were let loose to celebrate. An unlucky few from our group whose sites were nearby had to leave right away, but for the majority of us who weren't leaving till the next day, made a dance party up on a few rocks just outside of town.

Managed only a couple hours of sleep before shipping out to site the next day with Lorna and Stephanie (my two fellow Caprivians). A bit of confusion with a last minute switch in drivers and a misunderstanding of just how much of luggage we each had. It didn't help that the PC gave each volunteer a humongous green truck to store our valuables in to go along with our the two years worth of belongs. After some creative reorganization, managed to get everything on board the combi and we were on the road by 7AM. Unfortunately we left earlier than everybody else so didn't get in all the goodbyes I wanted, but I'll be seeing everybody again in six weeks at our reconnect.

The drive wasn't bad. I dozed in and out for most of the 14 hours. Didn't see any elephants this time around. Since Stephanie's site was along the main highway we dropped her off, but as for Lorna and me, whose sites are a bit off the beaten path and with it being dark, we were going to have to wait in Katima till the next morning to get to site. Thankfully the UK Volunteer Marika, who we stayed with last time, was kind enough to let us crash with her again. We were even treated to a vegetarian dinner by Marika's neighbors an Australian Volunteer couple named Manna and Rani. Two of the nicest people I have ever met. Never had I been so happy to see so many vegetables as the Namibian diet is as far from vegetarian as it gets.

The next day Lorna and I spent shopping for a weeks worth of groceries and enjoyed the fish, spinach, and porridge lunch from a delicious market vendor we had been craving ever since we left Katima. The plan was to catch a ride out at 3PM to site with my principal who had to travel through Katima to get to Sangwali anyways. So we waited... and we waited... and we waited, but he never showed up or responded to any phone calls or texts. Marika was understanding though and told us we could remain as long as we need, and her roommate Vivian who does school inspections promised to give us a lift out to site the next day. It turned out it was movie night in the UK's house, so we all sat around a laptop eating popcorn.

Which now brings us to today. Just as Lorna and I were getting ready at 8AM to leave to site with Vivian, my principal calls telling me he lined up a ride for me at 11. Gah!!! So here I am waiting for a ride that may or may not show up, but I'm on Africa time now. Waiting is just something I'll have to get used to doing. I'll get to my site eventually. At least for now I can enjoy my tea and one last hot shower.

The Namibian Classroom

New to training this year, is a week long visit to a Namibian school near Windhoek. During this visit we are to shadow a teacher in the subject we are most likely to teach, observing a few class periods, and then even stepping in and teaching a few. I welcomed this opportunity to escape the grueling powerpoint presentations and being that I have had never taught to a classroom, a chance to experience the real thing.

With 44 people being to many to send to just one school we broke up into groups and with my group being assigned to a secondary school. The five us went bright and early into the teachers meeting not knowing quite what to expect. We had been given horror stories of corporal punishment, teachers who just don't show up to class, and learners misbehaving. The first thing we did notice was about a quarter of the teacher's were missing.  The next day was a holiday, so we figured many had just decided to take the long weekend. Being that grade 10 and 12 exams are starting, which are like a month long standardized test across all of Namibia, and requiring a teacher to invigilate (weird Namibian word for proctoring) in each class room, it was already clear that not much teaching was going to get done. Time was passed with each learner group staying in one classroom doing nothing and the remaining teachers required to just babysit. Teaching just could not be done. If anything like this had happened in The States, the teachers would have been in an uproar. So with nothing really to do, we just passed the time in the teachers lounge practicing our language.

We didn't make it back to the school till Wednesday with Tuesday being a holiday. This time the teacher attendance was much improved and we hoped for a more typical school day. I was assigned to shadow grade 8 & 9 mathematics teacher. I sat in on the first couple of math classes and just observed. The Namibian class wasn't too different from something I'd see back home. Some textbooks, pens, pencils and rulers had to be shared and would be lobbed across the room from learner to learner. The teacher wasn't big on handing out complements and at times a bit cruel but she covered the material well. After her lessons she approached asking if I would teach numberlines to the next class after the break. This was it! My big moment! I'd be in front of a class teaching for the first time ever! So I went up there, gave it all I got, and I taught numberlines. It felt great. I could feel all the great teachers I admired growing up channel through me and into the lesson. The learners participated, asked questions, and showed a willingness to learn. Not at all the menaces they had been hyped up to be. I taught one more class that day, and left the school feeling accomplished, hoping for more of the same tomorrow.

Unfortunately it was back to day one. Because of the exams, the principal didn't want to ring the bells. This meant that classes would not be rotating and the teacher's would again be left to babysit. And the funny thing is the bells rang anyways. On the plus side, being that more teacher's were present, some traded classrooms, so some teaching could still be done. With the limited teaching, I managed to only teach one class, and spent the rest of the day wishing for time to pass in the teachers lounge.

The final day was again a no bells day and only a half day for us at the schools. Not to let that get me down, decided that since I'm here, I might as well find some learners who want to learn. So I asked one of the math teachers to show me the way to one of her classes and to see if I could just teach a  marathon lesson.  It worked out great. The learners were happy because they had something to do, and I was happy because I had something to contribute. Really was enjoying myself and before I knew it was time for us to leave. I didn't want to go, and the learners didn't want me to go. But we said our goodbyes and I got back on the combi to language training. All in all I came away feeling like I had gotten the true Namibian teaching experience filled with ups and downs. Definitely can't wait till the new year, when I'll get a classroom of my own.