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The Gods Must Be Crazy
18 July 2003

4TH OF JULY

 To celebrate the fourth of July, I taught my ninth graders some “traditional” songs like Yankee Doodle and also the Star Spangled Banner using a cassette tape my aunt sent me.  They loved it.  But explaining our independence was a bit problematic.

 “Since today is Independence Day in the U.S., we’re going to listen to some traditional songs.”Dancing: This is one of the kids on the homestead dancing.  The Meme looks on, holding a mahangu stalk in her hand.  The children to the left are singing and clapping, while the girl on the right is drumming on an upside-down bucket.

 “Miss!  America was colonized?”

 “Well, sort of…”

 “Who colonized you?”

 “Well, we got independence from England, but…”  I tried to explain how it was like the Europeans colonized the Native Americans (killing most of them in the process) and then got independence for themselves.  It wasn’t working so I tried a different approach.  “Imagine when the Germans came to Namibia that they killed most of you and then got independence from Germany.  Do you understand?”

 “Yes Miss.”  They understood all too well.  They looked at me in a different way.  For a brief moment I was no longer their teacher but a colonizer. 

 Namibia got independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990.  Everyone knows someone who was personally involved in the liberation struggle.  My learners can tell me stories of the atrocities committed against their parents and grandparents under colonial rule.   Somehow American independence doesn’t seem very noble compared to Namibia’s.

 Nonetheless, we had some of our fellow volunteers over for a 4th of July braii.  Since there’s not much to do around here, we pretty much just cooked food and ate all weekend.

 

THE GODS  MUST BE CRAZYThe Gods Must Be Crazy:  The beginning of a new movie.

 To my infinite delight, I have discovered that the lead actor in The Gods Must be Crazy is a Namibian.  Or was.  The way I found was that he died and so the newspaper was full of articles about “Namibia’s most famous actor.”  He has an interesting story.  He lived the traditional bushman life (as portrayed in the movies) and before staring in The Gods Must be Crazy, had only seen 3 white people.  The movies made him rich, but he didn’t really know what to do with the money, so he left it lying around in his hut and most of it blew away or was eaten up by hyenas.  After his stardom, he returned to his traditional way of life, although he did have some cattle and farm a little bit.  He died on a trail near his hut with his bow and arrows, as he had gone out for hunting.  The autopsy reported that he died from TB.

 

 CRACKDOWN ON LEARNERS

 The principal has been gone for the last week.  We don’t know why.  While he is away, the two HOD’s (head of department) are acting principals.  Evidently they are on some sort of power trip and have decided to arbitrarily crackdown on learners.  It all started when I was watering my plants and 2 boys from 11B came over to ask if they could write their test that night rather than the next day in class as scheduled.  At first, I thought they were just over exuberant learners who were so excited about the test that they couldn’t wait one more day (the kids here like taking tests. I’m not sure why since they usually do poorly).  But I decided to question further, so I asked, “Why do you want to take the test early?”

 “Because we are being punished, Miss.”

 “Punished?!”  If this kid was in trouble then there was no hope for the world.  He even looks like the cherub his namesake implies.  “Gabriel, how did you get in trouble?” 

 “No Miss, I was just sitting on the boards.  Everyone was sitting there. It was only me who got caught.”

 “You were sitting on the chalk boards?  How do you do that?”

 “No Miss.  It was the…the boards….”  Here he resorts to sign language and I figure out he means the shelves that go along the wall of the laboratory classrooms.

 “Ah ha—so you were sitting on the shelves.  Now why can’t you take my test tomorrow?”

 “Because we must go home.”

 “You have to go home now?  For how long?”

 “Ah Miss, it is very far.  It is just for maybe one day.”

 “Why do you have to go home for only one day?”

 “It is to fetch our parents.”

 “Oh, so you go home and get your parents and come back?”

 “Yes Miss.”  He seems relieved that I have finally understood.

 “Now Gabriel, what if your parents cannot come?  What if they are busy?”

 “No Miss.  They cannot refuse.  I cannot come back without them.”

 “And why must your parents come?”

 “Miss, so they can discuss what punishment to give, like weeding or digging or something.”

 I try to pretend like this makes sense.  “Ok.  I will go and write the questions.  Just wait a minute and you can take the test.”  Hesekiel, the kid with Gabriel, has been silent the whole time.  He was one of my dear little plagiarizers and has been sort of afraid of me ever since.  While they write their test, I am working on the timetable, which is being redone, again (it’s a weekly event around here as teachers are always coming and going.)  But while I’m sitting there, it occurs to me that all this would be much easier if the boys were just able to call their parents, rather than waste the taxi money to go home, not to mention the classes they will miss.  But the school only has one phone, and no one besides the secretary is allowed to use it.

The next morning is even worse.  One of the HODs comes in to my first period class, 11A, and takes at least half the learners out.  Luckily there are no interruptions in 2nd period, 11B, since they are writing their test.  3rd period also goes smoothly, although I notice a few people missing.  4th period I have 11B again, and the other HOD comes in and asks for Uugwanga Sam (the other plagiarizer).   A few minutes later the other HOD comes and asks for Uugwanga and Hesekiel.  The class tries to explain to her that those two have already been removed, but she seems convinced they are lying.  As the afternoon goes on, I notice many kids absent.  From 9B, two boys come in and ask to see my point sheet.  It is the list of school rules with the appropriate number of penalty points for each offense.  They find their offense on the list, and say that they should just get points, not be sent home.  What can I say?  It is unprofessional to undermine another teacher’s authority, so I say nothing.  But it was unfair.  Apparently they were all being punished for various petty offenses such as being outside the classes during class time (they were outside because their teacher wasn’t there).  Some other boys were in trouble for being outside the dining hall.  All of these things happen all the time, these teachers just decided to crack down now.  And even then, they should just give the kids points, not make them waste scarce money to go home, then waste their parents time and money to come to the school.  It was absolutely ridiculous.  At the end of the day, I walked through the administrative building and there was a line of disgruntled parents forming, all ready to hear about the serious offense of their child.  What a waste!  I just hope that every one of those parents tells the HODs that they have wasted their time and money and complain to the principal when he returns.

 

 Anand’s Meme and the large storage basket where they keep their mahangu (millet).  That brown crusty stuff around the top is cow dung, which they use to seal the lid.MOVIE STARS

 Zac’s dad came to make an HIV/AIDS documentary about Namibia.  He came with Jay, a cameraman from Elon University, and also Vaino, a Namibian from the Ministry of Broadcasting and Information.  They had arranged several interviews in Ondangwa but also did a few interviews with some of our learners.  The kids at our school had a great time meeting all these important people and becoming movie stars in the process.Anand’s School: Although this appears to be an abandoned building, perhaps a casualty in the war, this is actually the school where Anand teaches.

 On Saturday, we all went out to Anand’s homestead to get footage of a traditional Namibian home.  Anand lives a three hour walk from the tar road (18km) so we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to go out there.  His family demonstrated all of the doings of their daily life: cooking, pounding mahangu, dancing, etc.  I’m sending you a lot of photos from Anand’s place so you can also see some of these things.Anand’s Sister: Portrait of a Namibian girl.

On Sunday, Jay was kept busy with the English Club who did an AIDS drama/movie.  Monday night he went to show the movie in the dining hall after evening study.  But there was some big fiasco about the kids pushing in the door and then a teacher beating the learners.  Jay and Vaino witnessed all this and were quite upset with the teacher for beating the learners.  Unfortunately I didn’t see it, so I can’t give you a graphic account of what happened.  This is the same teacher who was sending learners home to get their parents just for minor offenses. 

  Click here to find out more about the documentary they made

  NOW

 We only have about a week and a half of teaching left now, and then it’s exam time.  I’ve put all my effort into teaching my grade 11s Things Fall Apart, so I haven’t done much with my grade 9s.  I really like teaching literature, but it’s hard to get enthusiastic about teaching the “2nd conditional” to grade 9.

Elon University, where Zac’s dad teaches, donated 4 lap tops to our school so we are going to start training teachers on using them, and then hopefully start teaching the learners.  The principal asked Zac about the computers today (because we haven’t set them up yet).  He wants to lock the computers in the safe.  Apparently he is afraid that if people can actually use the computers, they might steal them.  Furthermore, we both have full schedules now, so I don’t know when we’re going to find time to do all this extra teaching.  As it is, we are both doing school work up to 9pm.  But the teachers are eager to learn and Zac and I want to share the joys of Microsoft Word, so somehow we’ll find a way.  Things have a magical way of working out around here.  Or not.

 It’s still pretty chilly here, but the temperature is creeping back up.  The weather here is the opposite of Ohio.  In Ohio, the weather can completely change in a day, whereas here it is constant.  The only difference is if it is windy or not, or if there are a few clouds in the sky or not.  The dry yellow grasses are disappearing and the sand is reemerging, resulting in dust storms if there is a wind.

 Love, Sera

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