Kayla and Cape Town… how lucky am I?!


After much anticipation, Kay arrived to meet me in Cape Town last night.  I can’t even express how happy I am to have her with me for the next two weeks.  Of course, it would be even more perfect if Alisa could have joined, but I can’t have everything, can I?  (Miss ya Lise! xo)

While it is quite chilly here, Cape Town absolutely gorgeous.  Mountains, sea, sand and CIVILIZATION!  We spent the day exploring and had an excellent seafood dinner tonight.    We have a busy couple of weeks… stay tuned for the details!


Term One is DUNZO!!


So, I survived the first term!  Although the past few days have been frustrating as I had to fumble through the grading and report card process without any direction, handing out the reports to my learners today felt great.  Unfortunately, more than 65% of my students failed their math exams, which was disappointing for me, but is generally the norm here.    Like them, I am learning as I go through this process and I have realized things I need to do differently and skills that need to be taught.  So, I am really optimistic that next term will be an improvement.

The principal held a wonderful assembly this morning where he announced the highest achievers for each subject.  The entire school clapped and cheered while those students were given a small monetary reward.  I myself felt inspired and proud, I can only imagine how they felt.  It was a great way to end the term.

As I was leaving school today, one of the teachers said something that made me burst out laughing and so I thought I would share with you some of my favorite Namibian quotes this term:

“I don’t know where Canada is.  Is it an Arab nation?”   – Taxi driver

“If you don’t come to pick up your report card on Thursday, we will put them in the toilet.” – Principal speaking to entire school

While walking one evening, one of my learners asked me where I was going and when I explained that I was walking for exercise and to avoid gaining weight, she said: “But Miss, you are already round.”

“Is Canada a developing country like Namibia?” – grade 5 teacher

“Miss Tanya, do you know anyone who would want to buy 20 karats of diamonds?” And when I told him that I don’t know anyone with that kind of money he asked “do you know how I could get them into the United States?” – grade 4 teacher

And the best of all, spoken to me today by one of the female teachers as she was walking behind me:  “Miss Tanya, you are getting fat…very fat.  Namibia must be treating you well!”

Photos Photos Photos!!!


I get lots of emails asking for MORE PHOTOS – so here you go….  I am at the lodge in town with free WIFI so I am taking advantage of it!  Enjoy!

Around the village:

Precious Hellena and her baby goat

I couldnt resist!

The kids I see on my evening walks

Around the school:

The memes selling snacks during break

Primary learners enjoying their break

Slush treats in a baggie

Hanging out with my learners in front of the old house after school.

My Heavenly Home:

My palace

The cockroach-free kitchen

First load of laundry and probably the first time my clothes have been clean in 4 months!

Weekends with other volunteers:

Justine and I doing the famous mshasho pose

Volunteers gathering for the free internet at Omashari Lodge - worth the 3 hr trip into town!

Sunset cruise on the Kavango River - breathtaking!

Another gorgeous sunset...Im addicted.

In My New Home


As I write this post, I am sitting at the kitchen table in my new Namibian home.   After much encouragement from my mom, I requested a move a couple weeks ago.  The cockroach problem wasn’t getting any better and the living arrangement was really getting me down.  So I have moved to another volunteer house in Nankudu, which is one village west of Sitopogo and approximately 2km from school.

The house in massive.  There are three bedrooms, an office, a laundry room (with a washing machine!!!), kitchen and dining room.  Currently, I have two room mates… Justine, another WorldTeach volunteer, who will be returning home at the end of the month (very, very sad about this!) and Bev, a VSO volunteer from England who just arrived.  Once Justine leaves, I will move into her room but in the meantime my stuff is everywhere.

While the 8km of walking a day will kill me, I can’t tell you how nice it is to live bug free.  I will post photos soon, I promise!

Exams, Namibian Style


This week we began the chaos of exams.  While I have heard so much about the examination process, I didn’t know what to expect.  When I think of high school exams, I remember receiving a time table ahead of time and knowing exactly when and where the exams would be.  There were certain rules to follow throughout the school during exam times both inside and outside the classroom.  I remember people were stressed (at least I was!) and when you looked around the school, you could see students studying and preparing.

Well, exams in Namibia are a completely different experience.  It is absolute mayhem!

We were told at the last minute that we had to write our own exams, which is normally done at the regional level.  And then, the exam papers were due on the first day of exams, which doesn’t leave much time for photocopying and stapling!  I got asked at the last minute to type up the Rukwangali exams (which was a joke, NO idea what I was typing!), as they were  handwritten on lined paper, about 2 hours before the kids were supposed to write the thing!

An exam timetable was given to us last Friday… with NO TIMES!  So basically, we get to school at 7am and wait around until someone (could be anyone really- principal, subject head, janitor) tells us it is time to pass out papers.  And until then, the kids, who are supposed to be studying, are running around, yelling out windows, playing soccer in the classroom with a stuffed sock… while the teachers are no where to be found.   The calm, quiet, study-condusive environment I remember around Notre Dame during exams, does not exist here.

And then the exam begins.   Teachers and kids are wandering all over, students are passing calculators and rulers.  They whisper across the room for their friend to throw them their eraser or pen.  Of course, some kids don’t have desks or chairs so they are sitting on the floor or writing with a chair on their lap. I have no idea how they concentrate.  Even worse, is that the teachers who are supposed to be invigilating the exams are chatting outside the classroom.  I think I am the only one that actually stays in the classroom while the kids are writing!

The problem is that the exams are very heavily weighted.  Nationally, grades 5 to 12 write exams three times a year: April, August and December.  For grades 5-10, the exams count for 65% of their final mark.  For grades 11 and 12, the exams count for 100%.  When so much of both student and teacher success relies on this  time of the year, I am surprised (well, not really) that there are not more rigid rules and guidelines.  Things that make you go umm….

Ask a volunteer, and you shall receive…

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During afternoon study this week, I was interrupted by one of the primary teachers, Ms. Nangolo, who was accompanied by an older lady from a neighbouring village.  With Ms. Nangolo translating, the lady told me that she heard on the local radio that the regional councilman told the community that if they were in need, they should approach volunteers (specifically mentioning my village) in the area as they have ‘access’ to money.     So, she walked 6km to come and see me.  She is a seamstress and she was hoping I would give her money to buy a new sewing machine.   Of course, I was completely caught off guard (although I probably should have seen it coming!) and while I felt bad telling her I couldn’t, I was so frustrated!   I tried to explain that I was a volunteer and that it cost me a lot of money to be here.   It isn’t her fault – she did what she

No doubt that I felt guilty turning her away, but I feared that giving her any money would create an even bigger problem and further encourage the image of the ‘foreign white person’ that I am trying to fight.  I am here to teach.  Not to hand over money.

So it leads me to further think about what I want to do with the remaining money I have fundraised.  While some has been used on school supplies for my learners, treats, rewards and teaching materials, I would like to do something useful to benefit the learners at my school, on a longer term.  This week I am going to buy a class set of scientific calculators as they are an immediate need for the upcoming exams.  I was also considering working with the English teacher, Mr. Siteketa (who is wonderful),  to see what materials he might like to have to help improve comprehension, as they currently don’t have ANY senior comprehension materials.   A class sets of novels or short story compilations that are interesting but at the appropriate level,  might be a good investment.  I know that because the state of the school is so poor, anything would be of benefit.  However, finding a way to help the teachers to further help the students might make the money go farther.