A Trip to the Movies
14 March 2003
Hello Everyone, Life here at
Ekulo SSS was pretty hectic here for the
last week. Monday morning I woke up
before five to finish a lesson plan on magnets.
Teaching both science and math (11th and 12th grade
level) was really starting to wear me down.
I was staying up late and getting up early just to get ready for each
day. Of course, this is not exactly
optimal but it was all I could do. The
problem I had was that, as a first year teacher, not only did I have to make
lesson plans from scratch but also I had to review every topic so as to at least
seem to be the expert. I was
able to pull through my classes every day but I knew my lessons would be better
if I could spend more time on them. It
was extremely stimulating but it was getting to be very difficult, especially as
I entered topics in the syllabi that were pretty stale for me.
I know, it’s awful, but somehow between eighth grade and now I forgot
how to do geometrical constructions. I
mean it takes only a few seconds to look it up and refresh everything but it is
difficult for me to just whip up a lesson on something I haven’t even seen for
At any rate, though, the staff
meeting later (6:30) on Monday morning proved to be fateful, and thus, the
previous paragraph has been written mostly in the past tense.
In typical Namibian fashion three teachers joined the ranks here pretty
much unheralded. Including Ms. Shiyango, the new Physical science teacher. So
after spending all of Monday and all of Tuesday afternoon on making the new
timetable for the whole school, along with Sera and her English supervisor, my
load has been critically lightened. I
am now only teaching 11th and 12th grade math, along with
physical education for the boys in those same classes.
It was probably good for me to be so busy for a while, because now I can
truly enjoy my extra time.
The timetable, by the way, is the
master schedule for the whole seven-day rotation of classes; with every day in
this rotation having seven periods. The
teachers have their subjects and the classes each have their required amount of
each subject. The timetable is
created by the unlucky members of the timetable committee (us three, apparently)
who must spend long hours solving a problem that a computer could do in two
seconds. The fundamental problem is
that a teacher can only teach one class at a time and so there is a painstaking
process to put the classes on the schedule one at a time until all seven days
are finished, with all the classes busy every period and each class with a
different teacher. So things are
better for me now that the new science teacher is here; I now have time to do
things other than stress over what I am going to do for classes the next day.
Since I have been so busy these
last few weeks I haven’t been able to tell the story of how we got to see
“The Twin Towers,” as The Namibian likes to advertise the latest Lord
of the Rings movie. Ever since
December I had been lamenting my unfortunate lack of access to the movie.
I heard good reviews from friends when it came out in the States, I saw
from the paper that it had to come to Windhoek at the and of January, and then,
I was sitting in Ondangwa visiting with the other volunteers early on a Saturday
afternoon when we got a call from another volunteer that the movie was at the
local cinema. Seeing a movie here
is a logistical nightmare, the biggest reason being that, since we rely on taxis
for the hour-long drive home, and not many taxis are willing to take us so far,
we risk getting stranded when we stay out too late (past 4pm).
The only way we could see a movie would be if it was the 3:30 showing, so
she called the cinema and asked when the “Twin Towers” was playing.
She learned that indeed it was playing at 3:30 so we went to the grocery
store (usually our last stop) and then met our taxi driver and he agreed that he
could pick us up at 7 when the movie would be over.
So everything was in order, we had our groceries, the movie was there,
our friends were there, we had a ride home, it was great.
The only problem was that calling for times for a movie happens to be
another surefire disaster here in Namibia.
You see, the communication style here is a little different. You call,
and you ask: “is the ‘Twin Towers’ playing at 3:30?” The response from
the person at the cinema is “yes.” Fine,
the Two Towers is playing at 3:30. WRONG. The
people here do not want to say “no” and will avoid it at all costs.
When the attendant says “yes,” she means to say that ‘yes’ there
is a movie at 3:30 and that ‘yes’ we are showing the Two Towers.
Of course all nine of us get there and the Two Towers isn’t playing
until 8:30, another movie is playing at 3:30.
So, being the resourceful, strong willed (pushy) Americans that we are,
we begged and pleaded until the management relented and agreed to show the movie
that we wanted. There were also
about nine Namibians at the theater as well and as they came in we tried to
convince them that they also wanted to see the Two Towers.
(Because only the current movies are advertised in the paper, and not
their times, people just show up and find out what they will watch.)
It worked and on February 22, only two months after it opened for the
rest of the world I got to see it too. And
to boot I bought two movie posters for 10 Namibian dollars (less than US$2).
I think I was even happier about seeing The Two Towers than
Zac was because I could finally stop hearing him whine about missing it. He put
one of the movie posters above the ‘couch’ (2 mattresses on a bed frame) and
after classes he just laid there looking at it, reliving the movie.
We’re a bit starved for entertainment around here, with no movies, The
Simpsons, The Daily Show, Southpark, The Onion, or NPR.
I think that during these troubled times, I miss The Onion and The Daily
Show the most because I can only imagine the heyday they’re having with
Freedom Toast and Freedom Fries. I
miss NPR as well, since we can only occasionally pick up the BBC here, and
otherwise we have no news programs to listen to.
But then again, I don’t miss hearing about the terrorist alerts (level
orange these days, is it?), or all about the impending war, or all the
propaganda. We can follow the major events in the paper, but other than
that we can pretty much ignore it all—or at least distance ourselves from it.
I also feel pretty safe, as I bet neither Saddam nor bin Laden could
possible find me here. Although officially, Namibia is opposed to war with Iraq,
most of the people here aren’t informed about world events enough to have a reason to
hate Americans. The Peace Corps is
taking every precaution nonetheless, as someone stopped by our house to take a
GPS reading of our coordinates, and we are having a meeting on Wednesday to
discuss the revised Emergency Action Plan (EAP).
After doing the timetable
here at Ekulo, I think that I should write to the GRE board and have them revise
my scores on the analytical section. I
am now a whiz at “distribution order” games.
Completing the timetable took no less than three people working for 17
hours (record time, by the way). That
was the problem with the GRE, they only gave me an hour!
But, the one benefit of being on the timetable committee was that I gave
myself a near-perfect schedule. That
is, I have all my grade 9s together, then my grade 11s, with a fairly even
distribution throughout the week. Originally,
I would have double periods, then have a day with no 11C, and my classes would
alternate between grade 9s and 11s throughout the day, making putting anything
permanent on the chalk board nearly impossible.
So my schedule is beautiful now, with an emphasis on
full. While Zac’s load has been
reduced from 44 periods to 32, I’m still teaching 45 periods out of 49.
The teaching and lesson planning is not bad, it’s the marking that
takes forever. I get so depressed
every time I have to grade papers. I always realize too late all the things I should have told
the kids about the assignment. I
keep assuming they know things they don’t.
I still have so much to learn about teaching—and sometimes I wish
English were a bit more concrete so I would feel like I’m actually teaching
them something. Teaching definitely
has its ups and downs. Right now
I’m just trying to stay one day ahead of the kids.
The one accomplishment I’ve had so far is my invention of a contest
called “Their mistake is your sweet reward.”
Whenever a learner finds an English mistake (spelling, grammar,
punctuation, typo etc.) in any published material like books, magazines, or
newspapers, they can show me the mistake, explain it and then I give them a
piece of candy. My goal was to not
only encourage learners to read, but to also pay attention to the structure of
what they’re reading, thus improving their English skills. Plus, as one can imagine in a country where few people have
English as their first language, everything is riddled with mistakes.
Everyday, at least a couple of learners come to me with mistakes
they’ve found. So that is my one
accomplishment. Not much else.
I finally saw a thermometer here and it said 90F.
I couldn’t believe it was that hot, because it felt really cool right
then, since it was about 10am, so it must normally be about 100F.
It doesn’t feel too bad though, as long as you stay out of the sun,
because the air is so dry. On March
21 autumn starts though, so it might start getting down to 80F by May or June. Are you still having cold snowy weather there?
Take care, Love Sera