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We are not at home

We are Not at Home
6 March 2003

Hello Everyone,

Well, what can I say, we are still over here teaching away at Ekulo SSS. I mean, except of course for the fact that we are in Africa, our lives are pretty normal. Is it interesting to read about our experiences here? I wonder. Everyday, all the time, I do think about how I am not at home. It is quite an experience to be transplanted into a new culture. And so I hope that the messages sent give a useful insight into something novel. I guess it just feels weird sending out a Christmas type form letter every week, oh well.

            Teaching is turning out to be quite a challenge. It really is taking everything for me to get through the days. Everyday after the last class is done and all of the learners are gone to lunch I just sit in the corner of my empty room and rest. Eventually I get up and clean the blackboard, washing away the fine white dust, the evidence of seven periods of battles won and lost. Ah, no more classes until seven a.m. tomorrow! But don’t get the wrong idea, I like my job a lot, it’s just that it and I have one of those love/hate relationships. I love teaching my learners; seeing them eagerly grasp the ideas I present to them, standing in front of them at the beginning of class and booming at them to sit and listen, trying to teach them while they read the paper or sleep, oh I hate wondering if they know anything new or if I just confused them. I love teaching math and science, at the end of these two years I will be an expert, it’s so fun to learn all of this stuff again and try to explain it in class, yeah I know enough about magnetism to teach it, oh wait, no I don’t, let me just read these crappy books to refresh my memory, oh I wonder when the hell the new physical science teacher will get here.

The Peace Corps warned us about the intense emotional ups and downs we would encounter during our time as volunteers; so far my experience as teacher has born out the truth in this warning. What I didn’t expect though is the juxtaposition of the high and the low. I feel so full of energy and hope when I sit down to plan my lessons. I am bound and determined to know the material cold and plan out the whole unit down to the last perfect example.   But by the time I need to go to bed I haven’t done anything but get bogged down by every detail and I am fighting just to scrape together enough to get through the next day.   

Love, Zachary

* * *

 I keep waiting for life to get boring around here—but I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. There’s just too many weird things. Here are a few of this week’s highlights:

 Sunday—I dream it is raining frozen peas.

 Monday—A visiting German “theater group” performs a very abstract play involving a lot of shoes. Even Zac and I, who have experienced a lot of very abstract performances during our Wexner Center ushering days, could not deduce any semblance of meaning from it. I ask my learners to tell me what the drama was about—but they were as baffled as me. Only one girl says, with suspicion, “I think the drama was about them colonizing us.” This leads to a tirade against the Germans who colonized Namibia. If nothing else, these kids know their history.

 Tuesday—Somehow, and I am still not sure how this happened, I sing the Star Spangled Banner to my 9th graders. Now, I don’t sing. I have been officially banned from singing by everyone who knows me. I especially cannot sing our national anthem. Yet there I was, singing it before 34 Namibian 9th graders.

 A kid in the back of the room places a giant bug on his head. Jokingly, I ask, “Are you going to eat it?” Another boy from across the room comes, snatches the bug off his head and brings it up to me. He cracks the wings off the live bug, squeezes so the innards squirt out—then pops them into his mouth and smiles.

 Wednesday—The grade 9 English book comes with a listening cassette. At the end of the unit on trees, there is a silly little children’s choir song about saving trees. I play it for the learners, thinking they will find it stupid as well, then we can move on. But no. They love it, start dancing in their chairs, and have me read the lyrics to the song so they can meticulously copy them down. Then, for the rest of the period, I play the song again and again while they sing along. Luckily, they are very good singers, but I still never want to hear that song again for the rest of my life.

 Thursday—They’re still singing that stupid tree song.

 Friday—Zac is going to the Ongwediva teacher college for a math workshop, so he’ll send this e-mail out then. You’ll just have to wait until next week to learn about what weird thing is going to happen on Friday.

 Have a great weekend!
Love always, Sera

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