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the donkeys aren’t very happy about being tied up in the rain

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the Adventures continue

Wellllllll I guess it’s been a while since I’ve updated, neh? and I guess I start every blog post like that. My bad.

It seems like the end of term is just around the corner. We only have about a month until exams start. It seems like time is just flying by. Every day is an adventure, whether I’m teaching, hanging out at the homestead, or visiting another volunteer in some place new. Last weekend at the homestead I milked a cow, ate sheep that was slaughtered as a sacrifice because there was a new baby in the family, and helped cook over an open fire. This weekend I traveled to another PCV’s village near Windhoek called Dordabis. It’s the first village I’ve been to that was Damara, not Heraro, and it was completely different. No cows, people lived really close together instead of on homesteads, there were hills in the background. It’s was you picture when you think African village. While we were there we went to a choir concert, which was also really cool. The music was all in Khoekhoegovab (one of the click languages that sounds really awesome). After they performed they did this thing were people in the audience could pay for any one in the room to sing or dance for them. Anyone. If you didn’t want to sing or dance you could also pay to get out of it.  Welllll my pcv friend’s host sister paid for all of us to get up and dance. So we did. In front of everyone. And it was hilarious and as uncoordinated as you could have ever imagined.

Today I’m in Windhoek for a Camp GLOW planning meeting. Camp GLOW is an awesome camp put on in Peace Corps countries all over the world during school holidays. Check it out http://campglownamibia.weebly.com/ and donate so we can have a camp as amazing as the one you went to when you were growing up! Every dollar will make a difference in how the camp runs. Donate here: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/donate/champion/camp-glow

mmmkay back to live in the village.

School at Ludwig Ndinda is finally in full swing. We have an afternoon program now with tutoring and clubs after school every day. I really like it. I’m able to give some of the kids who are really far behind the extra help they need with adding, subtracting, counting, etc.

I’ve even started a chess club and girls soccer club. We’ve only met once, but the meetings went well. The soccer club was tricky. I went in ready to do drills, and work on basic fundamentals: passing, dribbling, trapping, etc. What I didn’t realize was that these kids have never had organized play before. When they were lucky enough to have a ball they didn’t get in lines and pass the ball around, they just went ahead and played soccer. So when I tried to get the girls to stand in two lines and pass back and forth, after about three passes it turned into udder chaos. The two balls we had were halfway across the schoolyard and girls were yelling and running all over.  They couldn’t stand in a line without pushing and shoving each other. Finally I had to say that if you couldn’t stand in a queue, you couldn’t be part of the team. That got them in order.

I met some challenges I didn’t think i would while coaching. We only had two balls, and no cones or anything. I think next practice I will use empty milk boxes as cones and play keep-away or other drills. Wish me luck!

Teaching is going pretty well. I’ve moved on from place value and now we’re going over  multiplication, specifically multiples and factors. I really hope I can get them all the memorize their times tables, it will make teaching everything else sooo much easier.

It seems like the end of term is just around the corner. We only have about a month until exams start. It seems like time is just flying by. Every day is an adventure, whether I’m teaching, hanging out at the homestead, or visiting another volunteer in some place new. Last weekend at the homestead I milked a cow, ate sheep that was slaughtered as a sacrifice because there was a new baby in the family, and helped cook over an open fire.

More adventures to come!

Mo

Happy Birthday Nana!

oh, and Happy Valentines Day to the rest of the world!

In honor od valentines day today the learners were allowed to come to schoo” wearing red and white instead of school uniforms, and then for N$2 could stay after school and watch a movie.

Today in my classes the learners took a quiz on place value and then after they got to make a connect-the-dot valentines day card and color it . I explained how in the US we give cards and sometimes small gifts to people that we love and care about and on valentines day call them valentines ( your welcome, halmark). Then at the end of class I gave them all a little valentine with a few candy hearts attached. It was great to see their faces light up when I pulled out the candy .

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one of the valentines I made my learners

Today was also my turn to make tea break food for the teachers. I made a peanut butter cake with s choc pb glaze, and accompanied it with a few peanut m&ms. I just got some candy in the mail (thanks mom!) and thought sharing would  make a great little cultural exchange. I also gave each teacher a raspberry hershey’s hug, and tried to explain hershey kisses and hugs. They thought the hugs were delicious and funny.

Thats pretty much all that has happened at Ludwig Ndinda for Vday. I hope you have a wonderful day!

happy valentines day!
mo

Gooooooood Morning madam. fine thank you and You?

…thats what the learners say every morning before class.
if an adult says to them ‘Good morning’ They all reply in unison Gooood morning madam’ or ‘goood morning sir’. The first few days of the year some learners called me sir, because they were used to saying sir from last year ( I almost prefer sir rather than madam. madam makes me feel like an old nun or something). Then the teacher will ask “how are you?” and together the learners say ” fine thank you and You” always raising the tone of  their voice when they s ay ‘and you’. I find it both comedic and annoying. sometimes I change up the order to see what the learners will do. instead of saying ‘good morning’ I might say ‘Hello grade 5’. that throws them for a loop. a few kids always start with the routine ‘goooooood morning’ but when the others dont chime in im left with 21 learners looking at eachother, confused at how they are supposed to respond.
i’ve been thinking about teaching them a new morning greeting routine but haven’t done it yet. I want to say something with a little more pep before starting my classes. any ideas?  please share! I may ask my learners as well. this whole “goooooooood morning” business is nonesense.

anyway

I’m sure I have mention a thing or two in the past about how my classroom is a shelter for all sorts of creatures: a winged animal lives in the ceiling and uses the floor as it’s toilet, there is a hornets nest in the corner, ants fall out of the hole in the ceiling by the chalkboard, and just yesterday a lizard ran across the wall during 6th grade math. Well I decided that it was time to get rid of some of them. The hornets were the most distracting during class, learners would chase them with rulers, so I asked my counterpart to help

tear down the hornets nest. We got s few of the boys to help and during break got most of it down! If we get the rest my classroom will soon be hornet free!

Wednesdays are busy days in Ms Mathias’s classroom. Every wed the learners do Worksheet for a Sticker, they have 20 min to answer 100 addition problems and if they get at least 97 correct they get a sticker on the chart in the back of the room. everyone starts with addition and then moves to sub, mult, div and then mixed. The learners get really excited about getting stickers. At the end of the day they run into my classroom to see if they’ve earned any. I love their enthusiasm.
I also teach grade 5 Basic Information Science and then computers on wednesday afternoons. Today we went over the basic parts of a book and then I read a short illustrated version of Chicken Little. I don’t know how much they all understood my story telling, but they loved the picturee in the book. I’m sure most of the learners did not havr books around to look at on the homestead when they were young, so the book I read was a real treat. I hope it will inspire some of them to start reading the books we have in the library!

After the story I taught computers. Only the learners who paid the fees are allowed to take computers, so I only had 8 learners for grade 5, and most had never used a computer before.

Teaching computer class is really frustrating. I’ve used computers since before all my learners were born. I haven’t had to think about how confusing a username could be, how  difficult it could be to control a mouse for the first time, or what the keys mean on the keyboard. Add a limited understanding of english and my grade 5 computer class is a grand ole time.  Even with a lesson plan, I end up realizing about 2 minutes in that I skipped over what the spacebar is, or how to delete a word. Needless to say, I’m learning a lot about what it takes to teach computers as i’m actually teaching the class.

About 20 min after school let out today it started pouring rain, and learners flooded into my classroom. I let them come in and play cards or chess, so long as they are quiet and clean up before they go. here is a picture of some of them playing in my classroom

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ok…the picture is really blurry. sorry about that, but I guess it captures the essence of the pouring rain outside?

till next time,

Goooooooooodbye madam

Mwatje tupuka! Tupuka!

Today was our inner house athletics competition, or track meet as we might say in the states. The learners competed in shot put, high jump, javeline, long jump. And a series of running events. They were divided into a red team and blue team to make it more fun.

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The red team

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The blue team. They beat the blue team 300 to 189. I didnt select the teams, but I think one of the teachers may have stacked the blue team.

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Sone under 15 girls doing high jump. as you can see, they go for a ‘Get over the bar anyway I can’ technique that made me fear for their necks everytime they jumped.

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This is our best runner. She won the zonal and went to regionals last year but they wouldnt let her compete because she didnt have a birth certificate. Ive been asking around to see if there are ways to grt copies like you can in the us but havent gotten an answer. Hopefully we’ll get one before the competition. she’s a natural runner. it would be a shame for her to be stopped because of paperwork.

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this learner ran with his arms like that all day.
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Oh you know, just a learner holding an umbrella so that a teacher has some shade. Typical example of
how the teachers treat the learners as their own servants

The beginning of the school year….sort of

According to Namibian Ministry of Education the school year officially started last Tuesday, Jan 17. However as I’ve come to learn, starting dates are more liquid than in the states. We had only 66 learners in the whole school that first day, we didn’t even follow a schedule. I was with my register class, grade 6, for the entire morning and ended up running  out of things to do. We did a fill in the blank worksheet about class rules and policies, and then I had each learner draw a star with their name in the middle and on each point draw or write a goal they have for life, for the schoolyear, for math class, someone who would help them with that goal, and what the could do themselves to accomplish that goal. Even in doing all that I was left with lots of time and stumbling to find something to do, I had them write worksheets with the numbers 1 -100 on them for our Worksheet for a Sticker Wednesday, but failed to actually explain worksheet for a sticker to the new learners. Needless to say, it was a bit of a rough  and unorganized first morning,  although I will say I am proud of the stars the kids made.  I don’t know if they had thought about goals before, especially what they want to be when they grow up. I was happy to give them all the chance to use their imagination and dream for the future Many of them want to be nurses, doctors, lawyers and soccer players. I hope the activity gave them each a chance to believe in themselves. Encouragement isn’t dished out regularly in Okahitua. Most of the conversations between adults and kids fall along the lines of yelling to do something, or telling them to stop doing something.

 

I did the same goal seeking exercise with grade 7 and grade 5. Grade 7 was great, their English is good enough to understand my basic instructions and each person came up with some really great goals. Grade 5 struggled. It became clear that many of them didn’t understand my English. when I was giving directions and they saw me write “Ms. Mathias” in the middle of the star I was making as an example, some  wrote “Ms Mathias” in their star instead of their own name. It was definitely frustrating, but their undestanding can only improve from here right?

 

Now I have a star up for every one of my learners on the wall in my classroom under a banner I made that says “Reach for the Stars!” (thanks Woody from Toy Story for that phrase). Its there to remind the kids not to be afraid to work hard and make their goals come ture.  The volunteer before me told me that getting the learners’ names on the wall quickly would stop them from writing all over everything, so the stars serve that purpose also.  So far it’s worked.

 

The rest of the last week went without a schedule. After day one it became clear to me that I was the only teacher doing anything in my classroom, The rest of the teachers had the learners sit, or clean the class during the day.  I took that time to keep going over the rules and classroom procedures. I’m happy to say that after repeatedly going over it, 90% of my learners know to raise 2 fingers when they have to go to the toilet, 3 to ask me a question and 1 to answer a question. Getting up to leave at the end of the day is still a bit of a struggle for grade 5, but after I assign them spots in the queue (line), I hope they will stop hitting each other to be  in the front or the back.

 

I played a pretty fun card game with grade 6 and 7 last week to review basic addition and multiplication. It was Ms. Mathias vs the class to see who could get to 100 first pulling two cards at a time. Each round we added all the numbers, and found the difference between the two scores . The kids got really into it, I could hear them whispering “two, two, two” when a learner was drawing a card for me, or blowing on their fingers for good luck before choosing. I think it was a great way to ease them back into doing some math.

 

This week, although the official start of the schoolyear with the school schedule, has been   lax as well. Monday went smoothly, in grade 5 and 6 we went over rules again, and played the game to 100. In grade 7 we started with place value. I read over the weekend that before teaching each place value it is good to make sure the learners have a good grasp of number sense and a good way to teach number sense is to use poker chips with different values for each color. I didn’t have poker chips, but I did have different color plastic dividers and covers from all the manuals Peace Corps handed out… and now I have chips! I had grade 7 make different numbers and subtract or add with the chips. By the end of the period they had a pretty good grasp of it, and on Tuesday I added a hundreds place. The physical exchange of one blue token for ten white token makes it easy to understand why we have to borrow in subtraction. Plus they aren’t used to be able to use things in class besides a pencil and paper, so its been an nice change of pace for htem.

 

Tuesday in the staff meeting  it was decided that Wednesday classes would be canceled and all of the learners would work clearing the soccerfield of weeds and grass so we could start athletics. Athletics are a big deal at the beginning of the year. I’m still not sure what they are, but I hear its something like track and field. All the learners grade 1-7 and the teachers are split into two teams and practice every day for an in house competition (although if its just track and field couldn’t we do it without the teams, most events are individual anyway). We have to have our in house competition by next Friday, so it has been decided that Wednesday and Thursday the kids will clear the field and Friday they will start practicing. That means no more classes and  I’m finished teaching for the week.   Apparently the change in schedule is common in many schools all around Namibia (learning is not always the main priority in school, not if the teacher needs something cleaned, or grass to be cleared, or the teacher is tired). It makes me wonder why the learners come. Half the day they sit in an empty classroom with nothing to do. I guess they get to see their friends, and now they’ll get to practice math!

 

Ok, back to worksheet for a sticker. I completely stole this idea from the volunteer before me. Every Wednesday instead of doing a lesson the learners do a worksheet with 100 problems on it. They start out with addition, and have 20 minutes to do the worksheet. If they get 97 or more correct they get a sticker on the chart I have on the bulletin board and they have to get three stickers to move on to the next level. But! If they get 97 or more the first time they do the worksheet they can get three stickers the first time and automatically move on to the next level whether it be subtraction, multiplication, divisision, or the mix up worksheet of all operations. Lucky for me, grade 6 and 7 did the worksheet last year so it needed only a little explanation and everything went smoothly. But I must say, I botched it with grade 5. When I first had them flip their papers and start working, I noticed nearly half the class just staring at the paper. So I stopped the clock and explained everything again, but still some kids were confused. The poor language barrier is so huge, I really need to learn some more Otjiheraro. After the twenty minutes most of them understood the directions, but when I graded it became clear to me that grade 5 needs help with basic addition. So! On Monday that’s where we will start.  I just hope that by the end of the term we can get through addition, subtraction, even and odd numbers, place value, multiplication and division. I have my hopes up that these kids will catch on, they haven’t had a true math teacher in a while. I can’t say this for sure, but I think in many places lower primary teachers neglect to teach math because they themselves don’t like it and aren’t good at it and the kids suffer from it. At least that stops in upper primary: In my classroom there will be learning, lots and lots of learning (I hope!)

 

My classroom is starting to take shape. I have posters of rules and consequences, learners’ stars, and a few other posters up. I hope to make some more posters with basic math concepts to put up around the room and hope htat when  the learners finish their work they will stare at them and the information will sink in.

 

Today is Wednesday. I spent the day pulling weeds in the soccer field with my grade 6 class. It was nice being with them outside the classroom, I feel like I got to know some of the learners better. They even spoke in English with me and taught me some new otjiheraro words. I have a feeling our class relationship is just starting to take form, but its going to turn out nicely.

 

At Ludwig Ndinda the teachers have a tea club for tea break. Every day one teacher is responsible for making food for the other teachers. Most of the time its some sort of meat, bread, and sauce, all cooked during the period before break. Yup, the teachers leave their classes and skip out on teaching to cook for the other teachers, seems kind of backwards doesn’t it? I have to cook for the tea club tomorrow, and have been toying with ideas for the past few weeks. I finally settled on making a cake instead of some sort of hot meat dish. Cakes can be made the day before, and is easy to make. I also played around and made some homemade orange/ lemon sherbet that I’ll serve with it. I hope it goes well! If not, next time I’ll be making a namlish version of tuna noodle casserole.

 

I had my first overly sexist issue during a tea break this week. One of the female teachers was handing out cups of punch and gave me a cup before one of the male teachers. Now, this male teacher is pretty modern and up to beat on cultural issues so his reaction surprised me. He said, “Um excuse me, this is Africa, men get served before women. Even if I don’t want the drink, I can have it sit here for two hours if I want but I should be served first”. The female teacher apologized repeatedly and then gave him a cup. It was appalling. I didn’t know what to do so I just sat there shocked and didn’t say anything, but it stuck with me all day. I mean, what is the big deal? He didn’t even want the drink, why did he have to insist that he’s served first? Ideas raced through my head all day. I know it was just a small little part of the day, but I realize that it was the first time since second grade when a kid yelled “Girls can’t play ball” that I had been hit with a directly sexist comment, at least that I can remember. Does it mean that this teacher thinks he is superior to me in other was solely because he is a man? I’ve known Heraro culture was sexist; men get served first and get to sit in the front of the car, but I had never experienced someone making such a huge deal out of it. Part of me wishes I said something, but this is the culture I’m living in I have to be careful with what I say.

 

Every day school gets out at 1:30 and I’m left with nothing to do but plan lessons. Life here is very relaxing. I have been reading, writing letters, cooking, baking, running watching movies and tv shows on my computer, and soon I’ll start to learn harmonica. Even if I do all of that in one day I can still get a solid nights sleep before starting it all again tomorrow. It’s a pretty nice life I live here.

 

I’ll fill you in  again once I really get into  some actual teaching. So far its just been games and review, next week I’ll start the real deal being a teacher  and I’m sure I’ll have some great stories to share!

 

Ka uhare nawa!

 

Mo aka Maureen aka Maureena aka Iwaneka aka Ms Mathias aka Madam Mathias (my least favorite)

Making fat cakes

Today on the homestead we made fat cakes over the fire. Fat cakes are a delicious fried dough treats found all over Namibia. You might think they’re like funnel cake, but they are so much better than that. They take the crispy fried, sugary part of a funnel cake outside and combine it with the warm, doughy taste of a fresh baked roll on the inside. They are simply incredible and can be purchased from many a meme or mama on school premises for $1 at break time. Well worth the money.

Anyway, i’ve always wanted to learn how to make them and today I did! Its pretty basic: water, sugar, flour and yeast mixed in a bucket and let sit for about an hour. Then you scoop bits of it into a pot of hot oil and leave them till they turn a tasty golden brown and bam! You’ve got fat cakes

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A bucket full to be exact.

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Heres a picture of my sister  making fat cakes. She’s a teacher in Windhoek but comes to the homestead during holidays to be with her 2year old twins