I apologize for slacking this week with the blog posts…electricity and internet/phone have been in and out lately. I will do my best to catch you up on my week!
I was absent from school on Monday as I had to go into Rundu to do some paperwork with the Ministry of Education and I assigned my classes the task of writing me a letter. The letter had to include details about themselves and their families, their afterschool hobbies and responsibilities, their plans for the future and specific details on how I can help them in math. Though their English was atrocious, after reading 260 letters, I know so much more about their lives and the culture I am living in. Their thoughts on their world were amazing. Some of the highlights:
- It is very common to live with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
- The ages of my grade 8-10 students fall between 12 and 21.
- The majority said they wanted to be a teacher, police officer doctor or nurse after they finish school. In their day to day lives in the village, these are the only admirable careers that they come into contact with.
- One boy wanted to become a police officer so that he can catch all the learners drinking alcohol in the discos. Alcoholism is a major problem here – even for students. Every couple of kilometers is a bar/disco (mud hut with blasting music). One student, Petrus, age 17 in grade 8 said “On the weekend I take my book and I study well. I don’t want disco. I hate disco like a public toilet”. I thought this was hilarious!
- Another boy said he wanted to become a doctor so that he can help stop all the Namibians from dying from AIDS.
- Most openly labeled their families as poor and told me that mom and/or dad were unemployed (which is not surprising in a country with a 51% unemployment rate). A couple told me that the best way I could help them was to pay their school fees, buy them a calculator and math supplies!
- After school, their responsibilities sound endless. The girls have to cook, clean, do laundry, pound the mahongu (grain) and the boys have to weed, garden, or herd the animals.
- A bunch of letters included the importance of going to church on Sunday because ‘God is stronger than the witches’.
One thing I found really interesting was that a couple students signed off with ‘Wishing you 10 more years of life’. Most of them know that I am 32 years old, and I’m guessing with a life expectancy of 50, I am more than halfway through my life. Plus, they face death regularly – many of them wrote about recent deaths of brothers or sisters and their lack of mother or father (or both).
During my day to day activities over the past two weeks, I often forget that I am different. I tend to think of myself as ‘new’ rather than different. The new teacher, the new member of the community… However, I quickly realize my identity here when I hear little kids yell “sirumbu” (which means ‘white thing’) constantly when they see me for the first time. And, they can spot me miles away… it’s freaky.
Bug update… the 14 mosquito bites that I had on my face have subsided and been replaced with double that on my arms. My left forearm and right ankle have two HUGE bites that are so swollen I look deformed! The learners and other teachers think it is hilarious!
Food update… with the electricity going off for hours at a time, I am not really able to use the fridge or the stovetop (no ovenL). So, I’ve been alternating between peanut butter and bread, oatmeal, and granola daily- which really isn’t much different from home 🙂 Fruit is non-existent in the Namibian diet – but I have been eating apples, which I can only get in Rundu. Same with vegetables – can mainly get carrots, onions, cucumbers and potatoes. But, there is NO shortage of cookies… thank goodness!
Don’t have any major plans for the weekend but really happy tomorrow is Friday, as I am exhausted. I will update you again when I have something interesting to say! Thanks for reading and for all the awesome comments! They truly keep me going.