“Every second he breathed, the smell of the grass, the cool air on his face, was so precious: To think that people had years and years, time to waste, so much time it dragged, and he was clinging to each second.”
Now let me tie this scene to life here in Ndiyona. Feeling a bit confundo about how I might do that.?Now, I'm not about to have some unforgivable curse spelled on me to cause my death. But I couldn't have found a more fitting quote for the feelings that are certainly swirling around my head right now. Now would be the time for a pensieve, I'd say.
As the days tick down to our eventual departure from Namibia, I'm making a concerted effort to embrace these moments. To not get emo. And to not take it all for granted.
Without further ado, here are the things I will cling to in my last few months in Ndiyona
The "bad boys" of my homeroom-9B
Albin, Herman, and Nicodemus. Unlike most of our learners, they don't live at school and they come from our village. When the bell rings, they run out of detention (thats where I like them) and they run to their homesteads where they are all without mothers and fathers, they are the caretakers, the elders of the family. They cook and care for their younger siblings and no one would have any idea that they lived the life of a caretaker if you didn't know them. From afar (ok and from pretty close up) they're the trouble makers, the typical class clown. At first I took a bit of a liking to them cause let's be honest (LBH) they made me laugh. I still have those moments as teacher when I cant really control myself. And then they became a bit of a disturbance. But then I got to know them. I didn't do what their other teachers do--I didn't ridicule them, I didn't dismiss them as the "lowly village boys"…nah, I saw some serious potential. They have a bit of spunk, their confidence, it all was unique for kids in Kavango. And slowly throughout my time here, I watched them grow up, from boys into young men. They still tell silly jokes and get in trouble all the time but now when they have a problem they come to me--their surrogate father. They tell me their problems at school with other kids, confide in me their problems with people at home, and now the kids who the teachers told me were "a lost cause" when I first arrived, are besting every exam they take. I give them advice on life, dealing with adults, and insight into Christian Science. And they haven't lost their swag one bit.
Village Life: star gazing. birthday party crashing and still receiving all the free meat and beer that we'd need. Instant coffee. Raisng 15 (+) dogs. Hitchhiking everywhere. Everyone knows you. Everyone respects you and calls you sir or madam. The twice a week shower. Free food at one's command.
Ntjamba. As a general rule, I like kids with a stutter. And kids from Angola. Ntjamba satisfies both of these requirements and thus theres little else I need to say. But I'm wordy, so here I go. No doubt, I will be relishing every time Ntjamba walks into my class and straight to my desk just to greet me and ask questions about my life, I'll relish sitting in the library with him after hours and reading Holes with him for the 13th time, or when he raises his hand for every question I have.
Mashika and Prisca. The brightest and most inquisitive kids I have ever encountered. No doubt. The biggest challenge as a teach er in Namibia is lack of teaching aids. Not lack of text books or computers or books--though the deficit for all is quite severe. But I'm talking about real life teaching aids. In America, we completely take for granted how much learning takes place outside of the classroom. How most of what we know about human rights, government, the world, space, fantasy, critical thinking, comes from living and soaking in all that we are exposed to on a daily basis. The reality in the village is that one is not exposed to the intricacies of the justice system or the characteristics of a good leader. Thus as a teacher, there is an immense burden to fill this insurmountable gap of access to knowledge and information. But not with Prisca and Mashika. These are the two who get me out of bed each morning (I promise thats not literal) inspire me each week and made these two years so insanely rewarding. They ask the right questions. They think, they analyze, and they infer. They soak up every word that is spoken to them or read by them. They're humble but with unprecedented confidence. They have no qualms getting up and co-teaching a lesson, singing a song on command, or proclaiming that they embody why the future of Namibia is bright. Recently a team from the Minisry of Education came to observe some of my classes. They had to interrupt one of my lessons because they couldn't hold in their thoughts anymore. They had visited countless classes throughout the region. no one expresses themselves or gives them hope like these two did. It was a nice moment of validation to say the least.
The class conversations and anecdotes: the cold war, abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, justice system, invitro fertilization, surrogate mothers, illuminati, love and dating, poverty. We hit all the loaded issues and for many of my kids these are the topics which are rarely discussed or even considered. So what do we do? We analyze, debate, and share all of our raw opinions and make them our own. Its indescribable to watch kids from grade 8 become men and women in grade 10 and seeing their opinions form and shape and mature.
My 9B class. Our class motto: "forward ever. backward never." Our class may be known as a bit cocky. And obviously its me, so my class is the most competitive and espouses the greatest class "pride". We say that B stands for BEST. And I have no qualms perpetuating that sentiment. Our kids in Kavango are consistently told that the futures are already determined--as hopeless. They're reminded that failure is common and expected. So its been a mission of mine--to spread that "mind over matter" message--believe in yourself--as thats the only way one can succeed. And succeed we do. Our class out performs all the others academically. And (more importantly) we won 120 Namibian dollars as the champions of the soccer tournament!
The profile of a Kavango kid: humble, soft-spoken, responsible, mature, respectful, opinionated. I will, no doubt, relish such a profile cause that can be a bit hard to come by in the States. And how, not only can you get a kid to do anything for you, but he or she will do so with a smile and think that its the highest honor. I will certainly relish these last few months with minions and assistants.
Mangundu and Kashera. They will pull me into the back corner (or at least attempt to) during my lessons and just want to discuss life together. Now we do that, but just on our own time. While we discuss, they share cookies that they somehow procured cause they don't think I'm eating enough. And they ask if Sydney has a sister that they could potentially date. And then they inform me that I ought to "taste" a Namibian woman before I leave (preferably an older townie) and when I give them the schpeal on being faithful when in love, they look at me like they did when I first arrived--"who is this crazy white man?" Then when Mangundu sees a girl he wants to potentially woo, Kashera and I talk about becoming lawyers--which we inspired each other to pursue by the way.
Kupi and his little idiosyncrasies. Like when he climbs a tree in search of the latest medicinal herb but realizes that a 40 year old obese man is not fit for such an act. And then he falls out. Or how he applies bug spray to his wounds so that insects wont "disturb" them. Or how he was the only one who refused to switch his watch back by one hour meaning he goes by a different time…compared to the rest of the nation.
Kavaghu, Mufenda, and Joseph: We've become cliquy among the teachers. Surprised? The young teachers banding together, calling everyone outside of the group "kuke le kele", them finally realizing that I'm more poor than they are.
The things that make me merely chuckle inside...alone: How my colleagues think that by speaking in an American accent, one inherently becomes a better teacher. Or how the biggest issue of the day is how much butter teachers are spreading on their bread during tea break, despite that one learner attempted to murder another while inside the school hostel. How teachers are instructed to spend more time constructing administrative files than actually teaching. Taking my contacts out in front of Namibians and the reaction I get. (Fake) laughing at the most corny jokes I've heard. When a teacher asks me to "organize" a white for them so that they too can join me in my quest to return to America.
Sydney: how I got to fall in love with a girl in the middle of nowhere,e around the world from home. And know her better than anyone I've ever known because of that. Relying on her as my family, friend, girlfriend, and partner: and how she fits each role…perfectly.
Every day that passes, it all becomes a bit more real. The longer I spend here, the more comfortable and settled I get, the closer it is to my departure date. So instead of wallowing in those emo moments, I'm left with one choice and thats to channel my main man Harry. Savor these moments. Appreciate how what I will always remember and miss about my life, is everyday,typical life for the people in my village. Yet, all I can do is cling to each second.