"i think it would be the silliest thing you've ever done in a lifetime of silly things…"
lyra always seems to say things in such a concise and confident manner. so i decided to just pull her words from the pages of golden compass and put them onto my post. i think its important to embrace the silly moments and make that part of life, especially as a PCV in namibia. silly to me is normal. silly to me just means shying from a "plan", spontaneously exploring literally and figuratively, and embracing life and all of its adventures--and that's really what life is all about as taught by lyra. ok fine, by lyra i mean sydney. so here it goes: some silly moments (except for endless foose ball competitions) from the past month. enjoy.
for almost every villager in ndiyona, i'm the first american they've ever met. so that means showing off US coins like they're were graced by the hands of jesus (he's popular here), dispelling the notion that every american is rich and white, but thats just surface level stuff. so we had an american visitor at my school and i made my kids sing our school anthem for her. simple demand, and it was met--made me happy to be an authority figure. did i mention im referred to as "sir"--yeah its kinda hot. so we're working on this little thing called "reduce the shame" and "boost the self-esteem". and that is all good until one of my learners stood up and asked with a smirk, "sir, can you sing the american anthem for us?" excuses quickly swirled in my head for why i couldn't--like 'don't we have a staff meeting in a few' or 'woah children, we have some important activities to work on' or "this whole shame thing is kinda one-sided' and then i realized i didn't have a choice. and then i caved. and i sang. in an american school, id have to submit my resignation the following morning. in namibia, i was asked to go on tour. mission accomplished.
as part of our public speaking unit in english, we watched quite a few barack obama speeches. i know what you're thinking, but no, im not trying to indoctrinate my impressionable learners. its election season and i figured since ive been doing my best staying in the loop on politico, i ought to share my passion with my learners. and it was at that point that i realized barack obama's message that he's trying to relay to americans is just as appropriate for my kids in our namibian village. "you don't have to be rich to be successful" "race is no barrier" these are the messages that we try so hard to cement in the hearts and minds of our learners.
and then things got silly. my learners were asking one afternoon all about america. sometimes the discussion goes off an a tangent. this time we discussed diversity in america and how many americans speak spanish. so i spat out a few words. something like "como estas" and suddenly my learners assumed i was fluent. and then one boy raised his hand and looked deeply disappointed. i assumed that someone recently died and so i was sure to be sympathetic. but all he said was, "sir, why haven't you been teaching us spanish?" i could have said because i am your english teacher in a southern african country where no one has ever spoken spanish. but instead i told them that spanish lessons begin today after school. silly, i know. i wont go into too much detail on the lessons but i will say that my learners now greet me like this "buenos dais senor" and text me "que estas hacienda?" when they're curious about my day. while i never had a plan to teach spanish in my namibian village and nor do i see much of a "purpose" i realized that sometimes in life you cant always have a tangible explanation for everything you do. the sincere desire to learn and ability to expand their global understanding is reason enough despite those silly implications.
na hara mema NGESI
mema=water in rumanyo and i could pretty much just leave it at that. but for the purpose of my blog, i wont. lucky you. as a preface, just wanted to let you know that that stereotypical wet hot african summer is happening. right now. and so while i hardly ever showered during the winter months (no qualms about making admissions like that) i started to shower. often. well, until the water stopped working. so it went like this--syd came over on a thursday night and we thought we should have a semi-celebration for our semi-occasion. but as we learned in nam, our lives are an adventure with no preconceived plan to work with--and thats what makes them perfect. so as i alluded to, the water stopped working. and so did the electricity. what we thought was a mere village malfunction, we soon discovered was affecting the entire region. we scavenged for any liquid we could get, tried to collect rain drops in a bucket, considered pouring cooking oil in the back of a toilet so it could flush, bought as much juice that we could carry from the shebeens, and then tried to fall asleep. but as we soon learned the most liquid we could possibly procure was from our sweat that poured onto our bed that was surrounded by 3,546 mosquitoes. no lie.
the next morning we walked to the river. talked about life like we do. and then sat on the "beach"--emphasis on the quotes. going to the river in the village involves some of the following steps: ensure that there are not too many naked women bathing as to appear culturally insensitive and procure a tree stump that can serve as a seat. we did just that. namibians flocked to the river--it was the place to be and obviously syd and i kinda like being part of the cool crowd of kavango. so we jumped in the river cause the fear of crocodiles and hippos couldn't stop us from the insane heat and thirst that was emanating from our bodies. and we swam--all the way across until we approached a man who was growing undisclosed drugs. since he was an elder, we greeted him and then swam back. but then as we started swimming back to our side, syd started to do some kind of crab walk in the river. it was hot but i think you had to be there cause to some innocent bystanders it appeared like perhaps she couldn't swim (which many namibians are perplexed by the fact that we CAN swim) well at least according to one woman she couldn't. although it wasn't exactly a woman, it was more like a mermaid. this topless woman appeared literally out of nowhere and swept sydney onto her back perched on her bare breasts and carried her safely to shore. i merely stood there and LOL-ed. then, in typical mermaid fashion, the woman dove under the water and we never saw (sal) her again.
then we got the following sms: KAVANGO PCVS TO CONSOLIDATE IN RUNDU DUE TO THE REGIONAL POWER OUTAGE. the outage meant no water, no cell phone service, and no electricity. it was a result of some naughty kids vandalizing the poles in attempt to collect some copper infused bolts and thus with the recent onset of the rainy season, they fell. and it all led to this. namibians carried on with their lives, work resumed, generators were powered, and few complaints were voiced. but as americans, we were fetched from village to village and all brought to this camp site just outside rundu. also, i got to help with the fetching. the peace corps security officer and i went village to village in kavango and raided homes until we had a posse of americans and we'd surprise them with the news that we were being evacuated to rundu until the whole "situation" was settled. and we decided to make it into a reality show called "village invasion" and it was quite stressful being consolidated--it was 28 americans chilling on the river, reading on the pier, playing king's cup around a table and making friends with obese dogs, and rolling around in the grass one night (for the first time.)
the power is back for now, in case you were wondering.
also as a quick side note, since i mentioned that summer is in full swing--we were chilling in mavanze, and noticed a bunch of syd's younger learners swimming in a makeshift pool presumably filled half with water and half with pee. but again, its hot so no qualms, no regrets. and we swam with the kids, taught them marco polo and then a few of them gave us a namstyle pedicure. don't judge please cause i threw some sweets their way so it was more than an even exchange.
the tale of 2 puppies
i got a puppy named kiara almost one year ago today. then in that time i (directly or indirectly) procured 8 other dogs. and now i only have a dog named kiara. as some might say, life comes full circle. heres the deal with the puppy situation
- kiara had 4 puppies the night i brought home scoresby. i sat on the couch with kiara while she was giving birth and that was the moment i supported midwifery.
- i went to camp GLOW and when i returned 3 of the puppies were missing. great. so, along with kupi, we trekked around the village and through the bush searching for the lost puppies. we found one and in appreciation for kupi's efforts i gave him the pup.
- then no more luck searching for puppies.
- my bro--mashika--led a village investigation and, keep in mind, he's the son of the headman. so after some interrogations, we discovered that a grade 4 boy stole the pups. we got them back and now one is with sydney. little bina.
- when i went on runs in my village (yes, ive gone on my fair share of runs--yes ive changed) i've been flanked by both kiara and scoresby. oh and 7 grade 3 learners. makes me feel popular.
- so one morning i was complaining about scoresby to kupi. i jokingly told him to take him to town. thats exactly what kepi did and i haven't seen him since. so nam. so silly.
- as you could have guessed from the aforementioned spoiler, i now just have kiara. and she's amazing. the most village integrated and self-sufficient dog one could ask for.
sustain that S$#%
the ultimate purpose of development is that its finite. thus the purpose of peace corps is that, ideally, in the near future it will depart from namibia. thus our aim as volunteers is to build capacity and sustain the progress that we make through the able hands of locals. easier said than done. but ohh so necessary. so finding those able people to sustain our work is the challenge. while some of the teachers at my school are my closest friends in the village the reality is this: many are often absent, out drinking too late, sleeping with learners, while others are hoping to be transferred to a more "attractive" town school and the rest conceivably have lives of their own. lives that they cannot solely dedicate to their learners. whatever the excuse, the issue of sustainability has often frustrated me--until i came to the ultimate realization: that sustainability and capacity building starts and ends with the learners themselves.
so as a math teacher, i take pride in my learners' new found ability and interest in the subject. and some learners are undoubtedly bright beyond any standard i could use to measure. so to 1) tap their abilities and boost their confidence as future leaders and informal teachers and 2) to continue spreading the knowledge and passion for learning, we established a TUTORING program (the math study stars) and, with syd's advice, i identified the top 5 learners and awarded them with SKITTLES and a certificate. and now they are slowly breaking out of their shells and becoming the teachers that they are completely capable of being.
the mission of our GLOW club leadership and thus, my aim is for learners to completely take it over. and thats what i believe my aim is to do here: tap the endless potential of my learners and ensure that they carry that flame onward.
alright its about time i go…and get a bit silly.
see you all in america in a bitttt. GOBAMA