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Miss Winter
27 June 2003

The weather here has been getting downright chilly.  The hot cocoa and tea that mocked us during the hot and humid days are finally getting used up; I wear my dress blazer to work everyday to stay warm (I had been planning to send it home because I never though I would use it).  This week the new timetable was finally finalized and I picked up two eighth grade physical science classes, so I now teach ten additional periods every rotation.  The extra classes kind of suck but the material is so basic it won’t be hard to prepare the lessons.  I like teaching the upperclassmen in my math classes because I never have to deal with most of the discipline problems that Sera does with her ninth grade classes.  I don’t have a very good feel for my new learners yet but I think as long as I keep them reasonably well behaved it will be fun to teach some younger learners.  They are pretty cute, at least for now, and actually they are happy just to have a teacher (for most of the year so far they haven’t had any teacher at all for their science periods).    

            Sera and I were judges at our second beauty pageant last weekend.  This particular competition only featured four contestants, three eleventh graders and a twelfth grader.  Our previous experience prepared us well for the evenings events.  We set up our score sheets efficiently, penned our questions, and when the night was done we had helped to crown, or in this case just sash, “Miss Winter.”  I wouldn’t have guessed it before coming here but the kids have quite a talent for strutting around a stage, although they falter a bit when it comes to answering the questions.   I admit that it is difficult to answer a random question with a huge crowd of your peers listening.  Usually teacher-come-judges just lob them some generic softball question about helping Africa or something and they adapt their prefabricated and equally generic answer about fighting AIDS or preaching Jesus.  Much to the contestants’ displeasure I aim to give them questions that actually might force them to think on their feet.  I asked my girl if she believed in intelligent life on other planets, what these beings might be like, and would she like to meet one.  She came up with an admirably acceptable answer, and ironically I, as I had to speak my question into the microphone to the ~200 learners present, was probably just as nervous as her.   

           Today was the official opening of the northern gate to Etosha, which we are about 17 km away from.  There was a festival and the Minister of Tourism made a speech.  We didn’t actually go because it was during school hours but we did hear a lot about it.  Anyway, because the gate is so close to our school, the organizers requested to use the school kitchen facilities to cook the food.  Ok, fine whatever; we usually try to stay as far away as possible from the school kitchen anyway.  Well on Thursday my first class after break wasn’t calming down very nicely and was excited about something out the window.  I asked them what it was and they mumbled something about ‘cattles.’  When I couldn’t get the class to settle down I walked over and took a look.  Oh, of course, they are slaughtering the food for the festivities.  About 70 yards away in the middle of a field (within the school grounds)  are three men, three bovine and a gun.  Two of the cows are dead (well, dying) on the ground and, as I watch, the third joins them after two shots.  I found it to be quite disturbing, and I was somewhat surprised at how extraordinarily violent it had seemed to me.  I turned to go back to the front of the class and as my eyes adjusted from the bright light outside to the light of the classroom I realized I was momentarily lightheaded.  It was the first time I had actually seen anything killed in such a manor.  As I taught the last three periods of the day I would peer out the window and see the workers butchering the cattle in-situ and carting off the animals to the kitchen in pieces.  As I walked home through that same field two hours later the job had been finished and there wasn’t anything left.  I’m not really leading up to any profound point, in case you are wondering.  I wasn’t instantly made into a vegetarian or anything.  I did muse however that all of those arguments about how movies and video games are desensitizing are a load of nonsense.  I happen to be personally responsible for the death of hundreds, if not thousands, of computer generated cows and that didn’t prepare me one bit to even watch someone else kill just one real one. 

  love, Zac

A few additions from Sera:

In the beauty pageant, 2 of the contestants were identical twins (who are in my register class, 11C).

 This week I’ve started giving computer lessons to Tuna, one of my 9th graders.  He is very smart but often misbehaves in class because he’s got too much energy and he’s bored.  So I made a deal with him that if he is the perfect student in class every day, I would give him computer lessons, which he’s been begging me for for quite some time.  I said to come at 2:30 and every day he comes a little earlier.  The lessons are going quite well—he is a very quick learner.  It’s so fun to teach computers to these kids who have never used one before.  Everything is like magic to them or something.  They keep saying, “Wow!”  When I showed him how we had 147 Mp3’s stored on one CD, he didn’t believe it and flatly said, “No Miss.” which is their way of saying, “You’re lying to me and I’m not stupid enough to believe that.”  So I showed him the play list and said he could choose any song he saw and it would play.  So eventually he was convinced.  They love music here, so 147 songs on one CD was like heaven.

That's all, folks.

love Sera

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