22 January 2003
It has been 3 months since we left our homes in America.
We are now settled into our new home at Ekulo Senior Secondary School,
and we are finally teaching. In
our cultural training, we were warned that the concept of time is different
here, and that things take a long time to happen.
I thought, “ah, how nice, a relaxed pace of life for two years will be
fun…” What I didn’t realize
at that time was that while things were taking a long time to happen, I would be
stuck in the teachers’ room doing absolutely nothing from 7am to 1pm, while no
one talked to me or told me what was going on, or what I should be doing. It was
not fun. So that was my life
at Ekulo from Jan 9-17.
the 20th, classes finally started and all my frustrations and
annoyances subsided as I looked into the fresh, eager faces of my learners.
The kids here are really great—very well disciplined and ready to
please. I think I will have a hard
time readjusting to city schools in America when I come back.
Here, my every wish and command is immediately met with “yes Miss.”
One day, I had the learners write down what they wanted to do in English
class this year. Many of them
insisted that I give them a lot of homework and one girl even wrote, “you must
give us a test every Friday.” This
was countered by a 9th grade boy who wrote “you must give us gifts
like sweets, chocolates and ice cream.” I
told him, “I don’t even have ice cream here because it would never
survive the hour long taxi ride from town. I left all my ice cream in America as
a sacrifice to come to Namibia just so I could teach you English, and you’re
telling me I should give you ice cream?!?!?”
Another common trend was their desire for books.
They really want to read books and go to the school library (which is
mysteriously never open). I saw the school library when we came here for “on the job
training” in November. It is a
very sparse library compared with even the poorest library in a school in the
states, but it is surprisingly abundant for this country.
I really want to make it one of my projects to get some young adult
literature for these kids. Somehow.
For this year, I am teaching grades 9 and 11 English.
There are three classes of each, and the number of students in each class
ranges from 21 to 35, so I have about 200 learners altogether.
I am convinced some of my 11th graders are older than me.
This school operates on a 7 day cycle, so every week is not the same, and
the daily schedule is never the same either. The timetable is very complicated, which perhaps explains why
they still haven’t finished it, and keep giving us temporary schedules every
day. If they ever complete the timetable, I will be having 45 out of 49 periods
per 7 days. Luckily, I have my own classroom, so I can make it a little haven of
efficiency and order. In my room, I
put up 2 bulletin boards about HIV/AIDS, 1 about the environment, and one
section has posters that I had my learners make about how English is used in
their own lives, Ekulo, Owamboland, Namibia, the world and the media. I will
also have some of my learners make some art to decorate the room with, but I
must buy them supplies first.
One interesting thing about living on the same campus
as the learners is that several of them come to visit us every evening.
We are grateful for the company since none of the teachers have taken
much interest in us. We show the learners our pictures and maps and tell them
about America, and how it is winter there—and then we have to explain how
nobody has goats or grows mahangu, and how there are many forests because no one
needs wood for fires to cook because we have stoves (“But Miss, what about the
people who don’t have stoves?” “Everyone has stoves.” “Oh!”), and
how most people have jobs and cars, and all the roads are paved, even some of
the driveways, and how we speak English even at home, and how school is free,
and everyone is a day-schooler and buses pick people up if they live more than
15 minutes away …etc.
All in all, I think I will really enjoy teaching
here, mainly because the learners are so good—they make it all worth it, even
giving up ice cream for two years. We
are very lucky to be placed at such a good school and in such a nice house.
Many of the other volunteers are not so fortunate, and they will have a
very difficult two years. We are
calling our house The Arcaro Rest Camp and have given the other volunteers an
open invitation to come anytime for some R&R from the homestead.
Inda po nawa, kala po nawa. (Go well, stay well.)
This is from Zac:
Well, Sera and I are finally volunteers, training is over
and we are on our own in Africa. We
made a lot of good friends with our fellow trainees and for the duration of
training they, and being in a new environment with them, have defined our
experience. Newly minted
group 20 is now spread all across Owamboland, and we are all now full time
teachers in some school we didn’t have the faintest idea existed only three
months ago. So, Sera and I have
been placed at Ekulo S.S.S.; it is our final destination for two years. I think that I will be pretty happy here.
Firstly, our house is beautiful; we have a well-appointed
shower (with hot water!), a deluxe flush-style toilet, quite regular
electricity, and a modern kitchen with everything today’s chef could need
including a stove and a refrigerator (you know, to keep things cold).
Actually, it is a pretty nominal two-bedroom house, but here in Namibia
compared to most people’s houses it is a regular castle.
in a little cluster of teacher’s houses on one side of the school grounds.
Our house is built for two couples or four single people, but we are
living alone. There is a large
communal living room where there is a couch fashioned out of a bed, a large
wooden table where we eat and work, a smaller table, which we have the laptop
set up on, and four nice chairs. Off
of this room we have the front door (facing SSE), the communal kitchen, and the
door of the hallway to the toilet room, shower room and two bedrooms on our side
of the house. So far we have
invested in a bookshelf and a floor lamp and we have tried hard to decorate the
walls with cloth and posters (this serves a double purpose as the paint on the
walls is in pretty poor shape). For
our first house as a married couple I think Sera and I have done quite well
getting the place up and running.
As far as the whole teaching aspect of this gig is
concerned I am taking it day by day. You
know, I actually handle standing up in front of a classroom full of Namibian
high school students pretty well. Only
the very first time I went in to teach the kids was I ever nervous, and this was
during “model school” where I had students to practice on before the real
thing here at Ekulo started. I just
get up in front; speak slowly and loudly using my Tang Soo Do voice and the kids
magically turn into my students. The
hardest part for me has been drafting and designing the lesson plans for each
day. I am definitely a novice
teacher so I am learning everything from how to properly write on the chalkboard
(spacing everything out maximize both space and clearness) to gauging the best
way to explain various topics to planning the right amount of information to
cover in a period.
though, I feel that this will be a very fulfilling job.
I really couldn’t have hoped to get brighter students. So far they seem to speak English well, have good behavior,
and are highly motivated. There are
of course some exceptions but it must be understood that other schools here are
completely different: at least one of my colleagues (from a previous group) said
he spent literally a solid month teaching basic multiplication to students in
high school. On the other hand,
with my students, I’m pretty sure I will get to teach some of them calculus.
It will be challenging and I’m sure that more than once I will wish I
remembered my college math classes a little better.
Another thing that is going to be difficult for me is that I will be
teaching at 98%. There is a
seven-day rotation here, with seven periods every day.
So there are a total of 49 periods in the rotation, of which I will be
teaching 48. In other words, I will
get one free period every seven days. (The
percent recommended by the Peace Corps is 70%, in order to give us time to work
on other projects) So, in addition
to teaching two 11th and two 12th grade math classes I
will also teach one 11th grade and one 12th grade physical
science class. The problem is that
there are a few missing teachers here and the principle asked me to help fill in
the gaps. (When I say missing
teachers I mean it, some of the kids will literally go to a classroom for class
several periods every rotation and sit in there with no teacher; they simply
will not be taught that subject this year).
On the bright side though my laboratory classroom is surprisingly well
stocked. It’s ironic that I have
to give out decrepit books (one for every two people, if we are lucky!) when I
have a nice oscilloscope sitting in the back room.
I think I will manage just fine though; overall Sera and I
are extremely fortunate to be here at Ekulo.
Our principle is organized and friendly, the other teachers are nice (if
somewhat indifferent), and we live in a fine house less than five minutes from
click here for more pictures of
our house or
the teachers or the