Sunday, February 3, 2013

Comparing and Contrasting

It seems like this whole week I've been comparing and contrasting Namibia and America in my head. One second, I'll be thinking how similar things are here, and the next, something will happen that is so different from what I'm used to, that it takes me a minute to realize this is real life. I think that's what  I like most about being in foreign countries, some things are so incredibly different, but at the end of the day, we're all human beings facing the same basic challenges and joys of life.

My second week of teaching went fairly smoothly. I'm starting to get the gist of how things work at the school, and now that I'm a little more comfortable with the syllabuses for ICT and Physical Science, I'm a bit more confident about my ability to teach them. The language barrier still causes major obstacles though. Case in point: I was so excited to do a Pascal's Triangle investigation with my grade 9s and spent a while coming up with what I thought was a very explicit directions page to guide them to finding some of the many patterns contained in Pascal's Triangle. However, I must not have been clear enough, because at the end of the class, no one had written anything down. Most were still trying to fill in the triangle even though I told them multiple times to stop at Row 10, up to which we had done together. I was frustrated with myself for not anticipating that it might have been over there heads, and decided to do it together the next day. So, I procured a projector, found a nice picture online that showed up when I projected it on the chalk board, and  created a very ghetto smartboard for myself. Once we started going though it, I realized that their biggest problem had just been reading the instructions. Even though we had gone over them together, some of the vocab was beyond them. I hadn't even thought of the fact that they might not know the word 'diagonal' yet, which, for anyone who knows anything about Pascal's Triangle, means 85% of the instructions made no sense. And of course no one asked me what it meant...However, once we started going though it together, they were very engaged and picked up on most of the patterns once I showed them where to look. They particularly enjoyed the Hockey Stick Pattern, (once I explained what hockey was!) which was fun for me because that's my favorite pattern too. :) Even though this particular struggle had a lot to do with language, a problem I don't face as much in the States, having a lesson crash and burn is a feeling I'm very familiar with, and once I thought about it, I could see my students back home not doing well with this particular activity individually either. Some things are so similar...

Then there were the handful of leaner-related situations that are still shocking to me, in the best way. First, I was given a present of 6 freshly picked guavas from one of my grade 8 learners. So adorable. Then there was the whole 'nobody moving when the bell rang' thing which still blows my mind. In the States, the kids starting packing up their things 10 minutes before the bell whether I was done or not. At first I thought they were being polite and waiting for me to finish my sentence, but then they asked me to keep teaching and I was blown away. On Thursday, I was walking back to my room after the final bell had rung and I saw two of my grade 9 girls standing near my door. I said hi to them and they shyly said hi back and continued standing there. Unsure if they wanted something or were just hanging out, I went into my room and started to wipe down the board. They came in, but still didn't say anything, so I asked them how they were doing. They said they were fine, and then eventually one of them asked me if they could clean my room. I was sure I hadn't heard them correctly, but I had. They were offering to clean my classroom for me. Back at home, having a student pick up trash was something that I would assign to a student who got detention, and even that got grumbles of unfair punishment. But here, these girls put all the chairs up, hunted down a broom, did a thorough sweep, washed my board, closed the windows and even offered to refill my water bottle. Then when they were leaving and I thanked them, they looked a little surprised and thanked me. I'm still in shock over the whole thing, but am definitely not complaining!

This weekend offered another a few more "things aren't so different here after all" moments. Friday after finishing the track and field tryouts (which was an experience in itself!) I headed home exhausted from all the sun and collapsed on my bed. A few hours later, TK said he was going into Ondangwa to meet a friend, and asked if I wanted to go so I could do some grocery shopping and not have to worry about getting a hike. We drove into town and did the grocery shopping and then we met up with two of his friends at a bar. We chatted for a bit over a drink, and I actually got to talk American politics with them, which was fun for me! I also figured out that one of the guys was moving, and that's why TK was in town- they needed his truck to move the large furniture. So we drove over to his place, and did a couple runs between his new and old apartments. I am not one to sit around while people are doing something, so I went right in and started picking up boxes. The guys told me I didn't have to, but I told them I didn't mind helping. I think they were a little surprised when I went for some of the larger items, but I knew they were grateful for the help as well. Here is something that's the same in Namibia as it is in the US: four guys moving. Between the actual contents of the apartment, and the way they were just throwing everything in the truck, I just had to laugh because it reminded me of helping some of my guy friends move at home. Boys will be boys. And, just as in America, the payment for helping someone move is beer, so we headed to another bar to hang out for awhile when we were done. The three guys were all also teachers, and they worked at a private, international school. It was interesting hearing more about the education system here, and once again, I found myself thinking that I could be having an identical conversation with colleagues back home. It was definitely a fun evening, a nice change from sitting in my room, and the guys were all really nice (they insisted on paying for my drinks) and fun to talk to.

Saturday morning, I woke up to TK cleaning the cabinets in the kitchen, which I was planning on trying to do this weekend anyway. They already looked so much better even though he had just started, and together we decided to try to put the doors back on. We would need hinges, but since I was planning to go into town anyway, I said I would just pick them up. I got ready for my first solo hike into town, and didn't have to wait long before someone went by who was going that way. It turned out to be another teacher at my school, and she let me sit in the cab of the truck instead of having to sit in the back, which was very nice. Once in Oshakati, I tried to get my errands done quickly, but this isn't always possible in Africa. Since everyone had just gotten paid, the crowds and lines were massive, and things took me longer than I had hoped. I was planning on meeting up with a couple other volunteers who were hanging out at Benny's again, but since I had some cold food and wouldn't have been able to stay long, I decided to skip it and just try to get a hike home. I reached the meeting point and at first just sort of stood there. I wasn't sure exactly what I was supposed to do to actually get a hike, and was hoping that by observing for a few minutes, I would pick up on some clues. There was a man there with a truck who seemed to be talking to people who were asking for rides, so I asked one woman where the truck was going, she replied it was going to Onamutai. Perfect! I asked the guy if I could get a ride as well; he seemed surprised that I was going to Onamutai, but said that I could go. No one seemed to be getting in the truck right away so I continued to just stand around and not understand a single thing that was going on around me. Someone said "hi Miss Long" and I saw it was one of my learners. I said hi back and asked how he was doing, but kicked myself for not remembering his name. After waiting around for a while, another man came and seemed to give something to the owner of the truck. Someone told me that the driver had been waiting to meet that man, so now we could go. We all piled in, but this took awhile as there were probably about 15 of us, and all of our things. The truck was very full and I was standing in the middle. I could just barely reach the side rail, and was thankful that spending years on boats has left me with a pretty good balancing ability. However, I made it home safely, proud of myself for surviving my first solo hike!

The rest of the weekend has been pretty standard. Procrastinating, cleaning, laundry, lesson planning, and a little skyping. Now it's time for dinner, a little more work, another episode of The Wire, and then early bed to rest up for another week.

I'm really starting to love it here, but I miss everyone at home terribly. If anyone wants to skype or chat, I'd love to hear from you. Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the slightly warmer weather! Till next time,


1 comment:

  1. So I spent this whole post (which I read right when you posted and forgot to comment) being like, wait, that happened at my school too!! and stuff like that and then I got to the end and it was just too much. Do you know what I started watching again when I got to France? That's right, The Wire. We will always have our special roommate connection!!!