Victoria Falls – OMG!

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I didn’t realize until I got away from the village that I badly needed a break from there.  Zambia has been amazing.  The people here are very friendly and I feel very relaxed here.  Seeing that I’m at an internet cafe in the hostel, I can only write a brief update – will add more when I get home on the weekend.

When we arrived at our hostel in Livingstone, we dropped our bags and headed to Victoria Falls immediately.  And honestly, words can’t describe them.  They are absolutely gorgeous… a must see!

I understand why it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World!

Amy and I at the Boiling Pot - the bottom of the gorge.

Today we did the SCARIEST thing I have ever done – we walked along the edge of the falls and swam in Devil’s Pool – a pool of water less than 2m from the falls.  They warned us that it was only for strong swimmers and I almost changed my mind at the last minute (as I only do a very relaxed butterfly stroke) but I am so glad I went for it.  The guide stayed by me the entire time and had to grab me in the rapids a couple times.  The photos say it all!

Livingstone Island - at the lip of the falls.

Taking the plunge into Devil's Pool!

"Is this really happening?"

Just looking at those photos I get chills!  Needless to say, I am happy to be alive right now!  The rest of the day today I will be relaxing in the sun by the pool and drinking margaritas to celebrate!  Ahhh vacation!

Term Two – DUNZO!!!

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I can’t believe another term is complete. While it has definitely had its challenges, there have been many more moments of satisfaction, accomplishment and awe. I am soooo happy to report that my learners improved their exam results this term. In fact, the math averages were third highest among the grade eight subjects – a whopping 42%!!! After teaching them double periods and bombarding them with exam-type questions for weeks prior to their exam, I truly felt that I had prepared them as best I could and was hoping for a more impressive average. But I realized this time around what went wrong…. they didn’t study! They couldn’t identify a parallelogram, used area formulas to calculate volume and had no idea of the difference between profit and loss! Sooo frustrating! But, at least I know what I need to tackle in term three!

This term I got the chance to really get to know my homeroom class. Of the 33 students, 32 of them are repeating grade 8 and will automatically move on to grade 9 next year. 14 of them have faced the death of their birth mother or father. Two of them are orphans and live with extended family and three girls have babies of their own. Unfortunately, we had three female learners drop out of my class alone – one due to pregnancy, one got sick and another had a parent die – all part of reality of village life.

As I did last term, here are a few memorable quotes from the term:

When discussing celibacy during my Life Skills class, I asked learners if they could identify one person they knew in the community who was celibate. Because many are Catholic, I was expecting they would say their priest – but one learner raised his hand and very seriously said “Michael Jackson”.

During another Life Skills discussion, I was encouraging the learners to wait to have sex until they finished school and one boy asked “is this why some learners have the sex with goats?”.  He wasn’t joking.

In an argument between two girls, one said: “Put your jealous in your pocket and close your pocket!” Classic!

Hiking back from Rundu one Saturday and as we passed a school, the driver said with pride “I used to teach at that school but I got suspended for getting a learner pregnant. I tried to convince her she was wrong, but…”

Written at the bottom of one of my learners’ exams: “Sank you miss Tanya, that was easy”. He scored 28% on the exam!

With the end of another term comes another school holiday and the chance for me to explore more of this continent! So, tomorrow, Amy and I begin our road trip to Livingstone, Zambia to see the majestic Victoria Falls and then a camping safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana. Very, very excited to leave the village and do some exploring. I will post along the way!

Letters from Learners

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Over the past couple of weeks I have blessed with numerous letters from learners.  While most of them make me chuckle, they are filled with love and appreciation (most of the time!).  And to be honest, they remind me of why I decided to come here in the first place.  So, here are some of my favourite quotes from recent letters.

“Miss Tanya, time for love and time for happy. Please come at my house tomorrow and play.”  Rebecca, grade 6

“God, I need you to send your holy spirit to Miss Tanya and your power in the hands of Miss Tanya. Amen.” Eveline, grade 9

“First I would like to say thank you and I will congratulation you because things that you did for me is very grateful.  My parent was also very happy and he said that God bless you all the time and keep you going.  For me I am praying every day before I’m going to sleep because things that you are doing for me I was very surprised and that is whi I said that Miss Tanya is also like my mother because she were treating me as her own daughter.”  Monica, grade 10

“I want you to know that on Monday I will be happy because it’s my birthday.  Please bring me a gift for my happy birthday.  I love you Miss Tanya, love Tena”  Tena, grade 6

“Miss Tanya, every day I am hungry.  Please give me food on Friday.”  Adeline, grade 6

“Since you came at this school you are the only one I saw that you are good and one thing I realize from you is you are kind and you are helpful and you treat others like your own brothers and sisters.”  Elizabeth, grade 10

“I am true to love Ms. Tanya for 100%”  Kalina, grade 9

“Miss Tanya, during the night I dream that God send his angel to come bless me and then I think that my dream came true when you came to my life, Miss Tanya.  Whenever you feel sad, I will be there for you.  I love you.”  Eveline, grade 9

And there you have it – the reasons I decide to stick it out another day!

Random Tid-bits

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Sorry guys – nothing shocking or insightful for you this week …

Apparently I have been very lucky – been here 7 months and saw my first snake this week.  It was a poisonous one, according to the man who was chasing it with a stick, but it got away.  The following day I saw a dead Black Mamba on the road!  Eeeks!

Clucky laid her first eggs for me this week.  I was a bit hesitant to eat them, but they were yummy!

Bev, my roommate, will be leaving village life and moving to Rundu.  She has an opportunity to work directly with the Ministry of Education, where she is hoping she will be able to do more sustainable work than the typing for the principal at the school she’s been at.  I am secretly hoping she will forget to take her french press with her, because I love it!

Two hippos were killed in Rupara, a nearby village along the river, because they were coming close to homesteads- so they were shot.  The meat was on sale at the side of the road the following day.

Fruit trees are starting to ripen – this week I tried a pou po (like a guava) and a monkey orange.  Wasn’t crazy about either, but had to pretend as my learners had brought them for me!

I am just finishing season 5 of Dexter and OMG it is awesome!  I don’t want it to end because I don’t have any more, but I have found a new favorite time killer – The Mentalist!

Our in-country director, Kelly Jo, has just accepted a job at the Namibian Polytechnic school as an English and Gender Studies professor, so, she’ll be leaving WorldTeach in October L

The weather is very quickly warming up.  In a matter of two weeks, jackets and sweaters aren’t needed and blankets are folded away.  I will definitely miss the cool nights and dormant bugs!

To Develop or Not To Develop?

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Since I’ve been here, I teeter back and forth on this question.

Upon arriving, I saw so much beauty in the day to day of village life.  The crisp air, the peaceful, natural surroundings, and the simplicity of things left me in awe.   The stars are brighter, the air is cleaner and the food tastes better.  I watched the uncomplicated nature of village life, in which the daily goals were to get water, collect firewood, pound maize or mahongu for dinner and then spendthe remainder of the day sitting in the shade with family and friends.

The kids play for hours in the fields while their goats and cattle feed.  They aren’t comparing brands of shoes, trading video games or listening to ipods.  They are laughing and dancing, kicking a home-made soccer ball around and swimming in the river.    They make homemade valentines, bring cobs of corn for snack and share EVERYTHING.

But as time has passed and I have the opportunity to look more closely, I become aware of the pain and ‘lacking’.    It’s hard to find positivity in seeing kids eating paper to satisfy the hunger pains, walking 8km to and from school in shoes that are two sizes too big, or digging through the garbage pit for anything useful.  While they may not be worried about whether their jeans are the right brand or their lipstick is on neatly, they are worried about where they will get their next meal or how they will get the money for their exam fees.

Walking home from school last month, Frans, a grade 9 student, came running up behind me.  He wanted to talk about Osama Bin Laden.  He had heard about his recent death and wanted to know more about him.  Why are people happy he is dead?  Was he a president?  What did he do that made people hate him?  As I tried to explain to him the events of 9-11, I realized how unfathomable history was to him.  He had never seen a high rise, never been in an airplane, never witnessed a large mass of people.    And then I asked myself, does he really need to know about this?  Did he really need to know about the hatred, mass killings, persecution, genocide that exists outside of the village?  How does knowing about Osama Bin Laden and thousands of people who died in the World Trade Centre make him a better person?  And then I see they’ve drawn swastikas on the walls of the classroom and I realize that they haven’t a clue of the depth of the symbol.

The most obvious difference I see in these kids is that they are tough.  They rarely complain or whine.  They do not shy away from physical work, even if they haven’t eaten.   And when I see them sharpening their pencils with a piece of glass or sucking the last drops of ink out of their pens with their mouths , I am tempted to buy them whatever they need.  But in the end they do manage, and they are much more resourceful as a result.

And so I teeter…

Meet My Chicken!

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Yes, today after school one of my (favorite) learners, Gabriel, showed up at my door with a chicken.  A live chicken!  Of course, I was in shock and not exactly sure what to do with it.  When he asked me if I wanted him to kill it, I said “no, I wanna keep her as a pet!”  So, he spent 2 hours building a pen for her in our front yard.  What a sweet heart!  I think he is really getting a kick out of watching me interact and care for this chicken.  I even had him teach me a couple Rukwangali phrases so that I could speak her language!

 

Gabriel (on the left holding the chicken) and his friend

Clucky in her new home

So, we have named her ‘Clucky’ because she doesn’t shut up.  And today, with the help of a couple learners, we painted her toe nails with bright pink nail polish!!

The gift of a chicken is very common.  Most villagers own chickens, cows and goats and use them to barter and trade for goods/services or give as gifts.  According to other teachers at my school, it is a big honour to receive a chicken.

To be truthful, this is actually my second chicken.  A couple months ago, the mother of another of my learners, Adolf, appeared at my door with a dead chicken in her hand and a huge pumpkin on her head.

And it is in these very rare occasions that I feel appreciated, not because they are giving me gifts, but because they themselves are lacking so many necessities and are still so generous.  For example, Gabriel wears his school uniform pants on the weekends  because he doesn’t own another pair of pants.   I know the value of a chicken to these families and I am honored to receive it – even though this clucking is going to drive me crazy!