A Namibian Fun Day

*I wrote this Friday, Nov 18.

Today at school we had a going away party for the volunteer I’m replacing. In true Namibian fashion, the party had been rescheduled at least three times.

It was less a party for Tom, and much more a “Fun Day” for the learners…well, the learners who brought N$15 dollars to cover the cost of food.

The day started out with a social studies exam for grade 5, 6, and 7. It was supposed to start at 7:45, but like most events at Ludwig Ndinda Primary it started late. When the exam ended the fun day began….kind of. Learners ran around the school for about 20 minutes and somehow all of them magically changed into their street clothes. I wish I would have brought a camera. Some learners were wearing tattered shirts and pants, while a few girls were wearing lacey dresses. It was adorable.

The day started off with a bag race (potato sack race), followed by a egg-on-a-spoon race (which was argued about in the staff meeting for a good twenty minutes. Why would you waste good eggs?), and then a game called battery. In battery there are two teams of four people. Each team has a line of batteries spread out in front of them. They take two old batteries and throw them at the other groups line of batteries trying to knock them over. It was actually really fun, minus the times when we almost got hit by batteries.

Following battery the learners got their first special meal of the day! I should clear something up, in Namibia party=food other than porridge. So the learners were excited to get what looked like mashed potatoes mixed with ketchup, a small piece of sausage, and a lollipop.

After food we played a game of netball, learners vs teachers. I’d never even seen a game, let alone played, so the first few minutes were a little confusing for me. It’s sort of like a combination of basketball, ultimate Frisbee and volleyball. You can’t dribble or move with the ball, and only certain players can shoot or defend. It was a lot of fun, and I found out my principal is super competitive. She was completely focused on winning, not on making sure all the kids were having fun. She gave the Sheehan family a run for their money, it was an impressive amount of competitiveness.

Soccer came after netball. I really don’t understand how, but it took at least a half hour just to organize the teams. First they have to divide the girls and boys, then divide them again, figure out how to mix up the boys and girls and then figure out whose playing first. Seriously, I don’t know why it took so long. A simple 1,2,3,4 count would have taken five minutes and worked out just as well. Oh well, the learners still seemed to have fun.
At least the older learners, that is. The poor lower primary kids didn’t get to play netball or soccer and had to sit around all day. I don’t know how they did it. Actually, most of them ran around the school causing a ruckus.

I’ve noticed that a Nam-event is not complete without a baby roaming around, and this event was no exception. The principal’s two year old granddaughter, who I think is named Kooki or something like that, wandered into the middle of the soccer field at least four times, only to be picked up by a spectating grade 6 learner. I wish I could have gotten pictures, it was hilarious. The whole day was great, I should have brought my camera.

The day was way more successful than the other events I’ve attended, I think mostly due to the fact that no one was asked to give a 45 minute long speech. Hazaah!

The school year is almost over. Next week we have exams and then I’m not quite sure what happens afterwards. I asked the grade 3 and 4 teacher, and she told me we either send the kids home until their grades are ready, or make them clean up the school. There has a been a rumor of a school tour (think multi-day field trip), so we’ll see what happens.

I hope everyone has a wonderful thanksgiving next week, I’ll be thinking about you (and missing pie ) on Thursday.

Love,
Maureen

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I solemnly swear that I am up to some good

That’s right my friends, October 20th Namibia Peace Corps Group 34 swore in as volunteers. Wahoo, it’s official! And all 38 of us made it through training! Training is over and I’m at my permanent site, a tiny village 30 km from Okakarara, a village you might find on the internet if you get lucky. I talked about my site during my post about site visit, so I won’t go into much detail now.

Here’s what you need to know:

-they speak otjiheraro (think funny dress with horns as a hat), not much English

– there are more goats, cows and sheep than people -the school has 140 learners (students) total from pre-primary through Grade 7

-to get here you take a gravel road for 30 km, turn onto a smaller gravel road and then turn off onto a dirt path

-my shopping town is 150 km away and I go there once a month I hope that gives an idea of my home for the next to years.

I actually got to visit my shopping town, Otjiwarongo, the day after I got here . It is really nice, and is known throughout Namibia for housing the nicest SuperSpar, an amazing grocery store. It’s like the Wegmens of Namibia, its that big of a deal. Although Wegmens is about the size of an entire village.

I’ve spent the last three weeks, observing classes, teaching, and organizing the library at my school. My observations showed me that outside of math class not a lot of teaching gets done, which explains why some of the learners in grade 5 still don’t know how to subtract. The 3rd and 4th graders are all in the same classroom with one teacher, even though grade 3 is taught in otjiheraro and grade 4 in English. When I observed one of their classes the teacher yelled multiplication tables at the grade 4’s for about ten minutes, wrote some problems on the board, yelled at the grade 3’s for about ten minutes and then left the room with 50 minutes left. So I was left in charge of a classroom where I couldn’t communicate with half the learners. I tried to go through a few of the problems on the board, but it was clear after a few minutes that the learners hadn’t bothered to do them partly out of laziness, but mostly because they had never actually been taught how to multiply big numbers. So, I’ll have a lot of work to do catching up come next year.

I taught grade 7 math last week: points, lines and angles. My first lesson was pretty unorganized, I thought that everything would take a lot longer than it did and I ran out of material with about 40 minutes left in the second period. The second lesson was a lot better. We reviewed points and lines and went into different types of angles. The learners understood at least some of it, which I deem a win. I gave them a test at the end of the week and it went over fairly well. Grades are different in Namibia. You can get a 45% and that is still a C. It confuses me, because in no way would getting a 45% on a test show mastery of the material, or even basic understanding, but I guess it is also much harder to get points here than it is in the states. I still think the system is a bit flawed. How are kids supposed to build on their skills if they only learned 45% of the material to begin with? If that’s al they know at first, then by the next year they might only remember 20 or 30%. So teachers end up re-teaching a lot of the things that learners were exposed to before.

The second Saturday I was here Tom, the RPCV who I am replacing, and I spent the day organizing the books in the library. I organized the non-fiction section by basic subject: math, science, English, history, etc and have spent my extra time the past few weeks labeling them with colored paper and tape. I hope it will help keep some of the books organized, and will give me something to teach the learners if I decide to take over Basic Information Science.

Whooo well I guess I’ve done a lot since swearing in. I’ll go through my daily routine: Every morning I wake up at about 6:30 (after hitting the snooze button 3 or 4 times) get dressed, and eat a breakfast of Mueslix, Wheetbix and milk. I make a pb&j sandwich to bring with incase I get stuck late at school, and then I walk the ten minutes it takes to walk to school.

When I get to school there is a staff meeting. We talk about what is going on in the week, where the kids can play their small ball game, when we will go on out shopping trip, etc. If it’s Monday or Friday we have a morning assembly with all the learners outside. They sing a few songs in Otjiheraro and the teachers explain what is going on. Most of this is done in Otjiheraro so all the learners can understand, and I just pretend like I know what they’re saying. Then classes start. I either sit in on Tom’s math lessons, or go to the library and label books until break. Next year I will either be teacher math or entertaining learners while they have Otjiheraro in my classroom. The principal is the teacher for that class, but she never actually teaches it.

At breaktime I go to the staffroom where the teachers eat. They have a system where a different teacher cooks every day. Unfortunately the teachers find cooking the meal more important than teaching and many times will leave the period before break to get the meal ready. Because I’m not full time at the school and do not have a kitchen yet I haven’t had to cook. I don’t know what I’ll do, or what I’ll cook next term that won’t interfere with my lessons. Maybe tuna noodle casserole the night before or something. Anyway, if you have any ideas please email them to me! After break it’s back to lessons, orback to the library until the end of the day.

After school Tom has compensatory teaching (tutoring). I think I’ll keep that up next year, it will help the kids who are so far behind they can’t subtract to catch up. When all that is over I head back to the homestead. I great my family there and sometime sit around and try and talk a bit. Then I go back to my house, eat some lunch- either tuna salad or a pb&J and either read outside, take a nap, or do a workout video on my computer. By the time I’ve finished with that I walk across the homestead to shower and then help cook dinner over the fire. Every day I watch the news at 8 pm and then go back to my house to sleep and get ready for the next day.

I’m sure when I leave the homestead and am living on my own my routine will be way different. I won’t have babies running around everywhere, but there will be kids from school.

Before I finish I just wanted to say goodluck to Cavanaugh Interhall football! For anyone still reading who doesn’t know, Cavanaugh has made it to the championship game in the stadium this coming Sunday, and that’s a HUGE DEAL! We won in the stadium my freshman year and I still dream about that day. So Chaos, make us all proud, and kick some McGlinn butt. I’ll be thinking about you Sunday.

Peri Nawa,

Mo “ I may be in Namibia, but on Sunday my heart is in the stadium” Mathias