Friday, May 4, 2012

OH-SIX-6 and the 4 ONE ONE

066 and 411. the 2 most important numbers in my life. the former refers to the town code for rundu. the second refers to the best day of my life. but instead of giving details on that, i will highlight everything that happened before 4/11 and after since my last post :)

so heres the deal: don't really feel like trying to tie my life together in some concise [vocabulary word] fashion. and i already used the insert transitions idea. so…im just gonna have a bunch of random subtopics. enjoy.

"uhhh what time is it?"

i suppose that one bit of information that i ought to divulge before i get to the crux of this post is that i don't know what time it is. its not cause my watch was ripped off my arm or that my cell phone suddenly stopped working. so day light savings occurred last week. and in typical fashion (since winter is approaching) we fell back an hour. seems simple enough. but despite that it was widely known that this was happening, i was still a bit apprehensive. so it was sunday night and i went to bed not sure if i ought to fall back or not. in the morning i texted some of the teachers to get an idea of what time they had. then i found out the following bit of information: our school will set the time back at the start of next term. meaning the end of may. meaning our school has defied the international time standards. pretty baller. and pretty confusing at the same time. but ill just leave it at that. 

[re]uniting. now that i mention it, in more ways than one.

reuniting with SUPRIYA. many people envisioned (or at least tried to) just what that might look like. some adjectives could surely be attached to the moment: beautiful, emotional, life-changing, heart-pulsing. it was better. so "my friend at the time", sydney, and i trekked along to botswana a tad unsure of how to navigate the terrain, where the town we were meeting up was located (or how to pronounce it for that matter) but no worries because kupi drew a map for us on a spare piece of paper that essentially would determine our fate.
-------kupi is also one of my fave people in the village who cannot be described in a mere post…but heres a quick visual: one night about a week ago when we were just finalizing the final exams and entering in the marks, he came knocking at my window (as he normally does) and beckoned me to the staffroom to work together. later i approached the staffroom, flanked by kiara, and there i saw him, Kupi: sitting in a revealing navy robe with NOTHING underneath (and yes it became quite obvious that that was the case) and he sat with an empty bottle of wine to his left and a loaded gun to his right. clearly the necessary tools to mark exams. also i ought to mention that kiara spent the night in the staffroom)

many apologies for the tangent cause i was just about to explain reuniting with SUPRIYA.  so syd and i managed to hike our way across the border and through botswana. we also noticed that despite the fact that namibia and botswana are neighboring countries, the differences were apparent. consider: the roads were more narrow. the huts were more circular. the trees were taller. and the cows were fatter. this is all truth. and once you've spent as much time in nam, you'd notice these nuances as well.then we reached maun, and more importantly our hostel. syd and i walked towards the front gate. i was shaking. i was nervous and ohhh so excited. and then we made eye contact. i doubt i could truly articulate what was going through my head, but just know that the reunion was better than i ever could have imagined. and then we did a shot. 

so we hung out at the hostel. sup and i got some necessary bonding time. as did sup and syd. and one other thing i ought to mention is that we saw the most brilliant spider ever created. ill just leave it at that. everything else that happened is better as memory than a blog post ;)

so predictably, we had to leave bots. before we did i found a gigantic leaf and gave it to sydney. i told her that if we can procure a use for this leaf than she has to give me N$100. well, she left it behind eventually…it just became too big to carry. sadly, we later did procure a use for it--a souvenir! cause we never got one in bots. although, ultimately, we did end up getting something much better than a leaf.
***also i have to give a disclaimer to explain that "procure" is my new favorite word.

important fact: the nam-bots border closes at exactly 6pm. after some strategic bargaining and negotiating, we reached the border literally at 5:59pm. phew we made it. but then we were asked the following question. 
"do you guys have a car?" 
"uhhhhhh no"
"well hopefully you have blankets cause looks like you'll be sleeping in the bush tonight"
"uhh huh..."

but then, as things tend to do here, luck bent in our favor. just as the gate was about to close its unforgiving self, a truck approached it. and it just so happened it was the same people who had driven us in the first place. we rode all the back to my village. listening to our music. watching the sunset. (rumor of a lion siting occurred) and then…well, ill just say once we reached my village, we were hoping that the ride would never end.

[re]uniting with kate. so almost immediately after we came back from bots…syd and i…….. kate came to NAM! kate is one of sydney's best friends and she got to stay in kavango for 3 weeks and immerse herself in our region. so obviously, i learned how to rear a goat with kate around but i wont get into the details. on kate's first night in rundu, vegas also came up and we made some friends. im not embarrassed to say that these friends were 50 year old women. cause they were. they invited us to a braii and we went the next day. the following weekend, we all went to popa falls a "waterfall" east of my village. the only thing was was that you cant access the waterfall during this season cause the river was too high. oops. instead we procured some friends and while we sat on the bridge i also did what i do best--faciliated love via text. 

here are some texts i received from some nam friends:

"kativa (thats me) can you organise nangura (thats kate) for me. i have a black lady for you"
"matthew i need a husband to marry. do you think you could find me a soul mate to marry later today?"

[re]untiting with sydney….woops. sorry lost my train of thought. let me just continue. 

people of ndiyona, GLOW yourselves.

so you know the deal. GLOW--its our afterschool club mostly made up of the grade 9 and 10 learners at school. the ones who are a bit more outspoken, confident, and lets be real…cool. we planned a social event for the whole school run by our club. the event had  a few purposes: educate the school community about things we have learned, let the kids in the club take a leadership role and plan it, and also give the 220+ kids who live at school and cannot leave on weekends SOMETHING TO DO.  

one thing all of us wanted to do was to perform a drama that touched on teenage pregnancy and the danger of sugar daddies. so one meeting, a few weeks before the event i wanted to get a feel for how the kids act. i told them to prepare something to perform. expectation: kids would be socially awkward, shy, not into it, stutter, just like any kid would in that situation. reality: i was immediately enrapt in the play. not even realizing it was in one classroom with my grade 9 learners. it was realistic. there was side movement going on. props. and passionate, real acting. i was so impressed. although part of me was somewhat disheartened by the fluidness of the performance--it essentially showcased that these issues (teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, and sugar daddies) are all too common in our village. 

as for the social event itself, it looked like this: 
  • sydney helped the kids with decorations. they were especially impressed with her "people of ndiyona, GLOW yourselves" poster (i hope you get the how to lose a guy in 10 days reference)
  • T-Pain (a grade 9 learner) was the emcee. and he rocked the place.
  • there were a few eating competitions. try 562. 
  • it was probably 124 degrees inside the hall cause we had to cover the windows with sheets to prevent kids from climbing through them
  • we had chugging contests (juice, don't worry) and my chugging skills came into play when i BEAT one of my learners who challenged me
  • we danced a bit. and when i danced, place got insane.
  • also the one baby in my village who is afraid of me because she thinks im a ghost, FINALLY LET ME HOLD HER. #winning
  • we had bobbing for apples. but only used one apple to bob with. i later realized that the kids had been hoarding them in the back. 

"does anyone know what cat feces smells like?"
staff meetings. they're either the best (or worst) way to start a morning. we start each morning with one and they often dip a bit into period 1. i would normally love skipping time away from school…but as a teacher, its the worst. it would be ok if the discussions were substantive. well, ill just let you decide. 

so one morning 2 weeks ago (better known in nam as "last of last week") there was poop found on my learner's bed in the hostel. reaction that you'd expect: a cleaning crew cleans and sanitizes the area. a new blanket provided. not too much publicity made out of the incident. but this is nam. so that morning. the poop began to harden while our discussion commenced. was it human or cat feces? valid question, i presume. then, the hostel manager asked the teachers, "does anyone know what cat feces smells like?" but heres the thing. even if i (or anyone else for that matter) could distinguish between various animal feces…it probably wouldn't become common knowledge. and so there we sat. silent. waiting for the mess to be cleaned. but more importantly, for the culprit to be caught.

now the latest drama encapsulating our staff at school. so witchcraft. its quite common in our village. while some of you might merely roll your eyes and read ahead. consider that perhaps its equally valid as any religious explanation that has also yet to be "proved." but relax and delete that drafted email cause im not saying i believe in witchcraft ;) anyway, heres the deal some male teachers have been complaining that they've been having sex dreams about one of the female teachers at our school. they soon discovered that it was the same female teacher. and that she was quite "aggressive" in all of them. so what could explain dreams about a hot girl? well, witchcraft of course. so the female teacher is yet to be called out but she was warned. and our staff meetings have been contentious eversince. example: our head of department walked out of school. in search of a witch doctor. this is the real deal. 

"so we'll be fluent in a few weeks, true??"
as a teacher, its easy to get consumed by the learners and your school. but as a volunteer its important to engage with the entire community. thus thanks to heightened interest, i decided to start an english class for the adults in our village. a simple after school activity  soon became my biggest challenge in namibia. at our first meeting, 20 adults sat eagerly awaiting the start of FREE english classes. soon after our introductory meeting commenced i realized that the gap within the class was WIDE. some adults were parents who had not completed grade 4. others had completed grade 12. others were workers in the hostel. but what was clear was that i had some decisions to make. and one thing ive learned as a teacher is that you must be decisive. and more important than that, you need to look decisive. 

i divided the class into 2 and then decided to have 2 sessions. one would be for adults who have little no to experience with english and thus need to start essentially fresh. the second would focus on the following: resume writing, preparing for interviews, writing business proposals, and perfecting their english. for the first class, my host brother, mashie, works as my interpreter which, in turn, helps him enhance his english skills. one thing that needed to be clear to all of the adults though, was that despite that their teacher was american, they would not become fluent in english or rich from an incredible business plan in a matter of weeks. expectations are sometimes insanely high when an american walks in. which is why its important for reality to be imposed on the class before you get started. 

once the classes did finally commence, it became so rewarding. engaging with the community, those eager to find work, some who had to leave school due to an early pregnancy, or those who are inspired by their high achieving child inspire me daily. and not only that, but i made a friend named thimoteus who is in a BAND. 

my second home
sydney and i have adopted eachothers  villages as our unofficial second homes. most people who join peace corps get the chance to intimately understand and connect with one village. which is incredible. as for us, we get 2. 
mavanze (sydney's village) weekend looked like this:
  • i helped put the water tower some structure after a casual walk around the village
  • one of syds host brothers gave me 5 dollar coin (granted it was plastic…no qualms)
  • we went to the homestead where kiara was born. i met her mom and bro. ill just say im glad i didn't leave her there. 
  • played a soccer game with the boys and then it started raining…syd advised me to shower quickly so i wouldn't get struck by lightening. so i showered in the rain right after she did. and it was magical. and no lightening strikes. 
  • we had to locate kankala (again) who had ran off with my ipod due to his obsession with bedrock
  • we pounded muhangu (video to follow)

"lets call her lily"
 i had my first experience in a southern village! school is over and i finally did what i shoulda done awhile ago--visit LAINE. perhaps its cause we live here and know our villages intimately, but laines village couldn't be any different from mine. the biggest difference: the concentration of homes which are made of corrugated iron and crowd a small farm settlement is truly unique. mountains encircle the small settlement and make for a spectacular view. but what was better than observing the village, was bonding with laine! for several reasons. she taught me spite and malace (my new favorite game…we have to finish our tournament btw), we got to watch gory movies, but most IMPORTANTLY we (temporarily) rescued a baby puppy (that was perhaps redundant) and we decided to name her lily inspired by black swan. despite the fact that she peed almost as much as laine, she became one of my best friends in nam. we cuddled with her. and fed her milk. then she disappeared. oops. 

then laine and i headed to windhoek. we split a bottle of champagne. need i say more? bonding session. check.
theres not a problem with having favorites…right?
as most of you know, the first term has come to an end. and as i alluded to in my previous post, teaching has been more enjoyable than i could have imagined. but what i love most about teaching here would never exist in an american school. like the kids and teachers essentially living together. the relationship between learner and teacher that is uniquely nam. and the lack of a mentor, or adult who believes in the kids, and so providing that, well, rewards everyone exponentially.

my grade 8 math classes surpassed their goal for the term. the goal for the class average was a C. the average this term was a B. and as a side, last year, the average grade in math was an E.

grade 9 english reached their goal, as the average grade was a C. additionally, the average for english last year was an E.

but now its time to showcase my faves. but what makes a favorite is not just "liking them" but their sheer motivation, work ethic, and performance, and leadership in the class. being a teacher makes me appreciate the kids who are inquisitive more than anything. the ones who, when pushed, reach further than ever imagined. 

Shashipapo Moses

he's in my grade 8 register (homeroom) class. he's the most modest and soft-spoken boy there. most learners in my register class are loud, outspoken, and enjoy the moment they can show off. moses, on the other hand, sits in the back and cruises through school at an unprecedented pace. he calmly and confidently exceeds all expectations and, most importantly, treats all of his peers (regardless of ability) with the respect that they all inherently deserve. no judgment, just quiet guidance. he received a 99% in math. often when im walking around the village with a moment to just think (perhaps while gazing at the stars a bit) i ponder, "where will my kids be in 5 years, 10 years, in the future?" i ponder because im truly curious and excited but also anxious that they harness their obvious potential. moses is always the first i think about when pondering that thought. purely because his future is unbelievably bright. 

Mbambo Kaveto

kaveto is also in my grade 8 register class. like moses, he excels and received a 97% in math this term. thats where the comparisons stop, however. kaveto is an outspoken leader in the classroom. he was elected to the learner representative council (LRC) and has made his foot print on our class quite obvious. he is the first to ensure that all learners understand their assignment and urge them to seek help from either him or a teacher if thats not the case. 

Ndumba Hellena

hellena transferred to our school just this year and she, also, is in my register class. she came in having no friends. she is bigger than all of the other girls and her lack of self-esteem was evident. so, as the teacher, it was my role to ensure true immersion in the school community. she was one of the first learners who reached a comfort level with me to inquire about education, ask questions about america, and seek help in her social and academic realms of life. now? she was elected to the hostel representative council and to chair the math club that i also run. she was one of the top 5 learners in grade 8 and she even has a vibrant social life. basically, she's smart and popular. perfect combo.

Mashika Basilius

mashika is a grade 9 learner. and the second best english learner in all of grade 9. he is the most inquisitive learner that i have ever encountered. from day 1, he took advantage of the purpose of having an american teacher--he engaged in cross-cultural dialogue asking about airplanes, schooling in america, my family, and careers. he's ambitious but his confidences hovers at a level that one would never expect based on his academic successes. he lost his mother at the start of the school year and instead of conceding and falling through the cracks, he's pushing himself and challenging himself despite that he sometimes loses faith. thus as his teacher and mentor, im working with him to restore that. 

Marembo Prisca

prisca is 15 years old. a grade 9 learner and undoubtedly the brightest learner in all of grade 9 and perhaps in the entire school. she's a leader, she actively engages in class discussions, and she is confident. she refuses to subscribe to the gender norms that she easily could have inherited. she aims to be a doctor and i have no doubts that she cant reach that goal. she's the one that i can always rely on to engage in provocative discussions in english dealing with peer pressure, self-confidence, teenage pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS. she doesn't merely speak, she engages, provokes, challenges, and her convictions are more than apparent. she is also a leader in our GLOW club and is the learner that all teachers rely on to excel, motivate others, participate, and make the school more than a school but a community.