Saturday, January 19, 2013

48 Hours in Onamutai

After another long, hot drive north and some awkward calls/texts to our principals, we reached Ondangwa, where the first volunteer would be dropped off to meet a teacher who would take her to her village. As we pulled into the gas station, we all had a major “omg this is real” moment. Nervousness was at an all time high as we unloaded her things and said goodbye. My stop was next. We pulled over at the intersection of the B1 and the dirt road that led to my village and awaited the arrival of my principal. Soon enough, he pulled up in his bakki, we loaded up my stuff, and it was my turn to say goodbye to the group. With promises to get together soon, I headed off down the dirt road. My principal, Mr. Tangeni, was very nice as he told me a bit about Onamutai (pronounced on-um-TIE) and the school. He also informed me that the family I was supposed to be staying with had at the last minute requested payment from the school that they couldn't afford, so I was going to be placed in teacher housing with two male colleagues and an older female cleaner. Pretty soon we pulled into the very small village, passed the school (which looked recently remodeled) and then pulled up to my home for the next year. The outside of the house looked exactly like Ted and Jessie's and I was anxious to see what I would find inside. The two guys, TK and Iimene came out to help me carry my things inside, and then they helped Mr. Tagneni put the lock on my door. So far, so good. The house is not in the greatest shape, but it has what I need. My room is pretty good sized with a nice window overlooking the fields and a little seasonal pond. I have a nice bed with a new mattress and a small fridge in my room, as well as a little table that will double as a desk. There is a shower in one room and toilet and sink in another. The kitchen has a couple of counter-top electric cook tops, a convection oven, a mini stove/oven that doesn't seemed to be being used and some doorless cabinets (well two are doorless, the others have doors that are falling off. While the bathrooms/kitchen aren't exactly up to typical American standards, they have what I need, and I hope to be able to clean/brighten them up a little. The common living room area is a little crowded at the moment because the new teacher house next door, where three female employees of the circuit office are living, doesn’t have electricity yet so their fridges are in our living room for the time being.

I began unpacking my things, but soon realized that I needed to get a few organizational items in town before I could really set up. Around dinnertime, the guys said they were going out, and since I hadn't seen the third housemate yet, I was by myself. Despite not having eaten much that day, I wasn't really hungry and certainly didn't feel like making myself dinner with what few groceries I had gotten when we stopped on the way up. I sat around in my room for a bit but then saw that the three women living next door were sitting and finishing up their dinners on their porch, so I decided to pluck up my courage and go and say hello. I had met them earlier in the day when I was first moving in, so I just asked if I could sit with them. We chatted for a little while and they told me a little about the village, which is VERY small. They asked about America and what I was doing here. They seem very friendly, and it will be nice to have some women around my age near by. Around 8 I said goodbye and headed home to get ready for school the next day.

The next morning, I woke up, got ready for my first day of school and met the guys to walk over. Since the house is practically on the campus of the school, my commute is a very convenient one minute walk (jealous, Kell?). Leaners were milling about oustide as we walked into the administration building where the front office, principal's office, and teacher's room is. The school is like some southern hight schools I've seen in movies, where there are bunch of small buildings and the 'hallways' are outside. It seemed in pretty good shape and I was anxious to see the insides. We were having a teacher's meeting in the teacher's room, so I was introduced to the majority of the 22 teachers at the school. It was a little overwhelming because it all happened at once and I had a hard time understanding some of the names, but since there are only 22, I should be able to learn them pretty quickly! Mr. Tangeni introduced me to the staff and after a few announcements, we headed outside to have the morning assembly with the learners. They were all lined up by grade and sang a song (the national anthem?) before Mr. Tangeni welcomed them, made some announcements and then introduced me. The day was going to be a little unusual because the teachers were still finalizing schedules, so it was a little crazy, but I had been warned about this, so I was ready. Since I didn't really have classes yet, I was introduced to my Head of Department who is in charge of all the math/science/computer science teachers. We went over what classes I would likely be teaching (two 9th grade math, two 8th grade physical science, and three 8th grade computers, for now at least) and then he gave me a tour of the school. I also had the great surprise of discovering that I would have my own classroom which is unusual because here, the teachers usually rotate. My school had just switched to having the learners rotate though, so my math and science classes would all be in the same room, and my ICT (computer) classes would obviously be in the lab. My classroom is pretty nice. Its really bright and the floor is smoother than the one in Omungwelume so I hope that means it will be slightly quieter. I'm excited to start decorating it when I can get my hands on some poster board! I set up my desks in groups, which may or may not work when the chairs are in the room too, we'll see. I was given textbooks, so I spent most of the day trying to plan my first few lessons.

After school, I got a ride into town with one of my housemates to get my Tax ID number and some other things I needed for my room. He was going home for the weekend, but he stayed with me until I got my ID number and had met up with a fellow volunteer who was also in town. My principal was going to come and pick me up whenever I was done, so Erica and I went to a few stores to get some things before the stores closed at 5. I got a fan which made a huge difference in the temperature of my room last night! When I got back, I put a few more things away and made a new list of things I still needed. Luckily my other housemate was going into town again this morning, so I had the chance to get the things I didn't get yesterday. We hitchhiked into town and he showed me around the stores a bit. We met up with another volunteer who is in town by herself. We were both extremely grateful to have Iimene to help us navigate the extremely busy stores. Stores close at 5 on weekdays and 1 on weekends, so Saturday morning is when everyone does their shopping. The lines are massive, and we tagged teamed by having one of us stand in line while the other shopped, then switched. We managed to get the majority of the things on our lists, although I've already thought of more. It's hard because you can only buy what you can manage to carry.
We said goodbye to Mariella, and then Iimene and I made our way to the hike point back to Onamutai. He was staying in the city, but was making sure I got a hike back before leaving. At the hike point, we ran into a woman who was in the car we had gotten a ride in on! Such a small world. She was very nice and agreed to help me get a hike back with her (she was going in the same direction) so that Iimene could leave with his friend. We waited for a long time before a bakki pulled up that was going that way. Once we were in the truck, we waited almost another hour for it to fill up before finally leaving.

Once back at the house, I unpacked more of my things and did some more organizing. I then decided to tackle cleaning my windows and the two bathrooms. With a bucket of soapy water, I managed to get all the dead bugs/dust/dirt off the windows, walls, showers, and toilet. I'm in the process of letting the shower soak in cleaner to get the grime off. Maybe tomorrow I'll work on the kitchen a bit. For now, I'm going to go make dinner and read a for a bit. Thanks for bearing with me through two long posts! They won't be this long once I get into a routine and am not having so many new experiences.

To all my friends/family at home: I miss everyone so much, and hope you are enjoying the winter, particularly those in the snowy northeast! Also, if anyone wants to send mail, my address at the school is
Jamie Long
c/o Onamutai Secondary School
Private Bag 5561
Oshakati, Namibia

Be warned though, things can take 5-8 weeks to get here, that being said, I would love to get mail whenever it makes it!

Till next time,

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