Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hello, Oshili Nawa

With only a few days left in Namibia, I decided it was time to say ohsili nawa (goodbye) to all the things I will miss (as well as some things that I will not) and hello to the things that I am looking forward to seeing/having/experiencing again (and those that I am not). So here goes.

Oshili nawa Onamutai, my learners, my colleagues. Oshili nawa sand, open spaces, bakkie rides, sun, heat, cold showers, laundry by hand, Oshikandela, braais, boerwors, Salitcrax, shebeens, open markets, Hunters, Urbock, mango juice, cheap mangos, cheap clothes,  Zebros, Oshiwambo, kapana, the smell of cooking meat permeating the air, taxis, gravel roads, memes in their pink dresses, tates with their walking sticks, "eehh", mahangu porridge, Southern hemisphere stars, BPU, pilots,  being the only white person in sight, catcalls, combis, dunes, giraffes, elephants, zebras, springbok (both the animal and the shot...),TK, Paulson, Kristy, Iimene, Vincent, Dina, Jan, Johnny, the girls, cows, donkeys, goats, pigs everywhere, my house, a 30 second commute, classrooms with windows, outdoor hallways, being a foreigner, and traveling. Oshili nawa to my home for the past year, I will be back-- nothing can keep me away forever.

Hello hot showers, washing machines, snow, cold air, driving, Chipotle, Chinese food, beef stew, real salads, fast internet, my bed, Boston, the ocean, the lake, iced coffee, coffee shops, Dunkins, take out pizza, American education, hearing English, too many choices, fresh milk, Cabin Fever, Woodchuck, Bacardi, apple cider, maple syrup, Target, the smell of winter, foliage, skiing, TV, recycling, calling kids 'students', fast paced life, sarcasm, and of course Mom, Dad, Ben, Kelly, Pam, Alli, friends and family all over.


Check back soon for one last post of assorted pictures (when I have decent internet again). Until then, Happy Holidays everyone, and I hope to see you when I'm stateside. =)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Weddings and Final Farewells


My last few days in the village were a whirlwind of packing, goodbyes, and mixed emotions. Saying goodbye to the people and the places in Onamutai was one of the hardest things I've ever done. On Friday the learners came to pick up their reports. Seeing the joy in the faces of those select few lucky (and hard-working) enough to earn the requisite points to be promoted to the next grade made every stressful day this year worth it. Yet looking into their faces as we said goodbye, knowing full well that it would likely be the last time I would do so, simply broke my heart.

After school, Kristy and I took one last walk through the village, visiting our favorite market and shebeen and taking pictures. Most of the learners were gathered at the church for some event, and as they came up to hug me goodbye one by one, I wanted nothing more than to spend a few hours hanging out at the church with them. Instead, we went out to Omupanda with the guys for one more night out, one more bakkie ride, some hugs goodbye and promises for an August reunion in Boston. 

Saturday morning I woke up early and went to a wedding with Kristy and TK. We arrived at the homestead where people were milling about, busy with wedding preparations. As TK headed out to attend the ceremony, the women in the family stayed behind to do all the cooking. Never in my life had I seen so much food in one place. Imagine the largest amount of meat you can picture in one place and then quadruple it, and that's just the meat. There were also 3 huge washing basins full of pasta, the largest plastic storage container filled with potatoes, bowls and bowls and bowls of vegetables, 40 kilograms of mayonnaise, and enough Tafel Lager to satisfy and army. Amid the chaos, I managed to find some jobs to keep me busy and helped out by chopping veggies, assembling beef kabobs, and making green salad (because only an American could be in charge of making a non-mayonnaise based salad...). By the time the wedding party returned, the food was ready and the music was bumpin. I spent the night dancing, eating, and talking with new friends. I was even distracted enough to forget for a few hours that I was leaving the next day. But, the end the night came and we returned to the house, driving into the thunderstorm rolling in across the desert. 

In the morning, we woke up, finished packing up my things and piled into TK's truck to drive into town. I said a tearful goodbye to Kristy, TK, and the north, and was one my way to Windhoek.

I think I am still in a bit of denial about the fact that I am leaving tomorrow. As excited as I am to see everyone back home, I can't say that I am ready to go. Namibia has truly become my home over the last year and I will definitely be leaving a large piece of my heart behind. I hope that someday I will be fortunate enough to return for a visit, but until then, I will have to be satisfied with facebook contact, a million happy memories, and pictures of my learners' smiling faces looking down at me from my classroom wall. 

Looking forward to seeing you all soon. Until then, enjoy a few photos from my last days in Namibia.


Last braai at my farewell party.
Two of my favorite grade 9s that came to visit.
Schoolyard.

View from my stoop.


The market.

Fresh Ideas Bar-- a favorite shebeen.

I'm going to miss these African sunsets.
Last visit to Omupanda.

Just a fraction of the meat at the wedding.

Gift line for the happy couple.
TK and I at the wedding. Doesn't he look sharp
in that yellow jacket?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Netball, Exams, and Sunburns-- Oh My!

Here are some highlights from my life these past few weeks:

Netball Court: The first half of the cement has been poured and it's looking really good! Now the guys are just waiting for the next round of cement to arrive so they can keep going. Here are some pictures of the progress:
Measuring the boundaries and leveling the sand.

The first load of cement/concrete arrives!

A little over half the court covered in cement...now we need
to do the rest!
Also, I made a video to introduce you to some of the players that will be benefiting from the court. Watch the video below to meet them!

We still need your help! Once again, a HUGE thank you to those that have donated, we are so close! If you haven't donated yet, please considering giving even US$10, that will get us one bag of cement closer to our goal! If you don't think you can donate, please share the video with others to spread the word! This is a great cause that will be enjoyed for years to come =) (And just try to say 'no' to those faces...you can't!)


School: Last week we had our last day of classes, and exams are now in full swing. For the last day, I surprised each of my math and science learners with a pen, a pencil, a rubber, a note, a good luck marble (from our points system) to use on their exams. I have never seen kids so excited over office supplies...I took a group photo with each class and many insisted on holding their goodies bags in the picture.
Say 'hello' to 9C! I'm gonna miss those smiles.

Now exams have started which means the school has descended in to a sort of organized chaos (sometimes less organized than others). My math kids wrote their exams yesterday and the results are somehow. I'm trying to keep my head up and count every correct answer as a victory instead of each incorrect answer as a failure. If I stay positive, I think I can emerge from exams relatively unscathed.

Life: With time winding down so fast (less than three weeks, omg!) I'm trying to make the most of every second here. A few weeks ago, I went to a learner's house for the afternoon. She cooked porridge for lunch and then attempted to teach me to do some traditional dances. However, the steps were a little fast for this oshilumbu to pick up, so don't be expecting any dance awards from me anytime soon. I also helped her fetch water and watched in awe as this girl carried a 20 litre jug of water on her head with no hands over uneven terrain. Amazing. I carried 10L on my head with my hands and still managed to spill a bit. Also, my neck really hurt after...


This past weekend we went up to the river with our friends Jan, Johnny, and Otto for one more hike/camping weekend. We had a blast, hiked about 20k, swam in the croc infested river (don't worry, Mom, we were in the fast moving water and totally safe), slept in the sand under the stars, had an AMAZING braai, and got some epic sunburns. (Mine breaks into my top 3, and those that know me know that's saying something...)
View from the top.

This weekend I'm hosting our Namibian Thanksgiving party which should prove to be a great time. Although I'll be seriously missing celebrating Turkey Day with my family (and Auntie Ann's sweet potatoes!), we're doing our best to bring a little taste of home to Namibia.

Oh, and I applied for some jobs, a couple of long-term sub positions around MA, so everyone keep your fingers crossed!

With so little time and so much to do, my mind is constantly in a million places, but I think keeping busy is good-- it keeps me distracted from the plethora of intense and conflicting emotions that are currently swimming around my head. While I'm obviously excited to come home and see everyone (and having a washing machine again will sure be nice), I'm also incredibly sad to leave my colleagues, learners, and friends. I've had such an amazing experience this year, and I'm going to make the most of my last three weeks! See you all soon!
In the meantime, enjoy the adorable piglets that have
taken to hanging out outside my house!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

$10 = One Bag of Cement (and other exciting updates)

The project is underway!! We have chosen a contractor who is already hard at work digging the boarders of the court. We enlisted some of the learners today to haul sand to the field to mix in with the cement (no pre-mix bags here!) and after school I went in to town with Paulson and TK to buy the first round of cement! It will be delivered tomorrow morning. =)

The contractor is charging N$2000 (about USD$200) which is a very reasonable rate. However, our original estimates for the amount of cement we would need were too low. We will need over 100 bags of cement for this project, and each bag costs about USD$10, so I've raised my goal amount by $300 to make sure everything is covered. If there is extra money leftover, it will be used to purchase additional equipment for the team.

I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to all of you that have donated already! You have been amazing in the past 10 days. Please continue to help by spreading the page around on facebook, email, twitter, anything! Remember to tell potential donors that even $10 buys one bag of cement-- we can reach this goal one bag at a time!

Check back next week for a video from the team, and in the meantime, check out these pictures of the work in progress!




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"I ♥ U Miss Long"

Today I recieved the following card from one of my favorite grade 8 learners.
"I  U Miss Long. I gonna miss you when you go back. I will never 4get you!! You are a good teacher and I don't want you to live I want you to teach us Physical Science in grade 9 but I know you can not you will go back. I love you."
Darn those pesky 'ea's! Got a good laugh out of that but man, I'm going to miss these kids so much.

On another note, I have been told that the link to my fundraising page in my last blog post was broken. I have updated it on my blog page, but for anyone who reads my blog in their email, here is the correct link. Thank you again for your contributions, and remember-- every little bit helps!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nothing but Net(ball)

My time at Onamutai Secondary School is winding to an end, and I'm realizing I haven't really done much that will leave a lasting impact at the school. Sure I've imparted wisdom and knowledge into my kids that they will remember forever (or more likely until the day after their exam...) but I haven't really left anything tangible for the school to enjoy for years to come. Other volunteers have done some great fundraising projects, from building a kitchen to purchasing school shoes for learners that can't afford them. I wanted to do something in my last month here, so I asked my principal what he thought we needed. His instant reply was a netball court.

You see, our school is an MCA school, meaning it has been resourced by the Millennium Challenge Corporation. We are fairly well equipped when it comes to academic supplies: books, lab equipment, computers, etc., but the sports equipment is severely lacking. Like most American high school students, athletics are the most enjoyable part of school for many of my learners, the only reason they attend in some cases. However, the conditions that these kids play in would be unimaginable for many American students. I have observed (and participated in!) several netball practices and what I see breaks my heart. The courts are just lines in the sand, the hoops are missing nets, the girls play in their uniforms, barefoot, on hot sand that is riddled with broken glass, rocks, and three inch long thorns. The balls are deflating and the hoops are being held up with rocks. They often fall over in the middle of practice and it is only due to sheer luck that no one has been injured yet.

The school is trying to give the girls a real court to play on. We have selected a spot near the soccer field, and holes have been dug for the poles. All that is needed now is funds to purchase cement. I am hoping that you, my loyal readers, can help me with this. My goal is to raise about $1000 to cover the cost of cement, labor, and hopefully nets and a few new balls. Even a small donation will go a long way to reaching this goal. If you don't think you are able to donate, perhaps you can spread the word to others who might be able to. I am confident that together we can give these girls the court of their dreams.

A proper netball court will go a long way in improving the safety and happiness of these players, and future players in years to come. The girls, myself, their coaches, and the entire Onamutai community would be forever grateful for your assistance.

To donate to this great cause, please visit the YouCaring site here. YouCaring is a free fundraising platform that allows 100%  of the donations to go to the cause.

Thank you in advance!
Jamie

Monday, October 7, 2013

Chain of Fools

My middle school math teacher was Mrs. Long (no relation) and it is from her that my passion for teaching math springs. There are countless things that I learned in her classes that I still recall today, but perhaps none more vividly than "Same, Change, Change". Like many concepts in Mrs. Long's math class, this clever mnemonic, used to assist in the addition and subtraction of negative numbers, is to be sung to the tune of some (previously) well known song. We had Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" for dividing with decimals, MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" for prime factorization, and for Same, Change, Change, "Chain of Fools" by the one and only Aretha Franklin. Now this song has become so synonymous with negative numbers in my head that I still sing it to this day when it comes to adding and subtracting negatives, even though four years of being a math major has left me with more than enough conceptual understanding to not actually need it. Anyway, the point is that Chain of Fools has become part of my mathiness.

Enter Onamutai. Here I am, trying for the umpteenth time to get my kids to understand basic integer operations, and on a whim I decide, "what the hell, might as well teach it to them. " I had been though Same Change Change with them before but without the song, and it hadn't stuck. So I told them the story of the first Ms. Long and sang the three notes for them while they all laughed. I told them I knew they didn't know the song (as most grade 9s in America probably don't know it at this point) but if anyone wanted to come up with a new song to sing it to that they all know, they could earn a bonus point or two. This did not garner as much reaction as I had hoped, and I began to doubt that this would stick either. However, I kept it up throughout class and lo and behold, a few scattered people were singing the Chain of Fools version, even if they weren't actually using it at the time. By the end of class, almost everyone was belting out "Same Change Change", albeit slightly off tune (yes, these are the same kids that can do perfect 4 part harmonies every morning. I'm going to say that I was the one who was off key and they were just matching pitch). 

They loved it so much that they continue to sing it at random points throughout class, and throughout the day. I also played them the actual song so they could here more of what it was that they were singing to. They ate it up. So much, in fact, that a few of the boys have requested I give the song to them on a USB. 18 year old Namibian boy wants to jam to some Aretha Franklin in his spare time? I would be happy to enable him.