Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last post from Uis!

Hello! One last brief update from Uis. Tomorrow morning I leave my village! This week was the last week of school (teachers had to stay to do paperwork) and has been full of goodbyes for me.
For those of you who don’t know, from here I’m going to Mozambique for a week! I’m not sure what the internet situation will be like, so please don’t get too upset if I don’t respond to emails right away ☺
Sorry I’m not full of insightful reflection or funny anecdotes, but things have really just been winding down around here. To close this chapter however, I would like to list the contents of a going away gift given to me by a grade 6 learner named Velonika:
4 advertisements torn out from magazines
2 bags of chips
1 page from an ovambo book with the first sentence translated
30 namibian cents
the front and back cover of a notebook.

Clearly wonderful, because these are things valued by an 11 year old, and I should mention that the box was very elaborately decorated.

So that’s all for now! I may be able to put something up from Mozambique, but if not have a good couple of weeks!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A week of events!

As we near the end of the year and the end of the term, our school has started to host all of their closing events. This started Thursday night with the Christmas pageant/ pre-primary graduation and awards ceremony. While most of the evening was spent with the pre-primary teacher yelling at everyone to be quiet (now I know where my kids get it—the parents couldn’t shut up) there was a very cute mini-skit of the birth of Jesus put on by grade 4. There was also an awards ceremony for the top performers in the pre-primary class and let me tell you, it gets the award for cutest ceremony ever. There was a lot of chaos and it’s a good thing it was held in a church because it is a miracle no one’s hair got lit on fire (who give 4 year olds candles?!) Then there was a costume change and all of the kids appeared in the smallest caps and gowns I have ever seen.
My job for the night was to take pictures in case the parents wanted some but there were about three other people with cameras/camera phones and after about 30 minutes of having people step right in front of me as I was shooting it or getting so close to the kids that they blocked out everyone else’s picture, it was a relief to hand my camera over to one of my high school friends who was not afraid to push and shove for a picture. It’s interesting how since widespread access to cameras is a relatively new phenomenon, no one knows the “camera etiquette” that we all take for granted.

Then last night (Friday) was another event- the miss brandberg/ miss pre-primary pageant. The event was… painful, but very much a cultural experience since beauty contests are so popular here. The event was scheduled to start at 5, but I showed up to discover it had been rescheduled for an hour and a half later (somehow everyone in town knew except me, typical!). I re-appeared at 6:30 but could have waited since it didn’t actually begin until 8. Then over a lot of shouting and noise from the crowd, the contestants paraded. It was almost a relief that my camera battery was dead from the night before so I didn’t have to explain “in my culture we don’t take pictures of strange children in their bathing suits…”. There was a swimwear round, traditional clothing, and evening wear. It was, of course, adorable to see the little ones waltz with all of the attitude they could muster and the older contestants were my learners who walked like pros, even if the crowd was too loud for you to hear their mini-speeches. It was a long, but interesting evening.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Ok official apology: I’m sorry I have been so bad about updating. Things here have become routine and it’s difficult to find things to write about. That said, here’s a little something for those of you who still bother to check the blog!

Things we are doing in my classes:
BIS: I am making newspapers with all of my classes. They have to make advertisements, comics, sports news stories, local news stories, and a profile of a person. Theoretically, these are all things we have done/written in class over the past three months but that’s only true for a few learners… so it’s fun! They are getting into it and actually working hard. Hopefully I will get some pictures when they are done, and this project should take us through until the last class of the semester!

RME: Progressing through the world religions! All of them are on Hinduism (grade 5 finishing up, 7 in the middle and grade 6 just starting). They don’t really get the idea of polytheism, but enjoy the pictures of the different gods and the stories about them.

Natural science: on our last chapter, the kids just made “environment collages” about what environment means and how it can be protected.

Math: telling time. It’s a bit more fun, because we can play with clocks but still a challenge. We have three full chapters and less than 3 weeks before their final. I’m not sure we’re going to make it through everything but if they leave the semester being able to read a clock, add decimals, and convert measurements (meters to cm) I will be happy.

Art: Art has been super fun lately. We just finished making masks and grade 7 is having a Halloween party on Thursday when they all have to wear them. They got really into the mask-making project and although there are a lot of kitties, they are creative. The last project we’re doing is making friendship bracelets, which they love. It is the first project all year where even the trouble making boys sit down and work throughout the whole class. It’s a miracle. I even have esau making them after school in the library just to keep him from turning up his obnoxious meter ☺

So that’s how thins are going at school! I have my end of service conference this weekend, which is crazy. I remember talking about this part of the year at orientation and it’s baffling that we’re already there, but I guess time flies!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quck Update

Hello! Sorry I have been so bad about posting lately, it just feels like there's nothing all that new happening and I'm not far enough removed to want to reflect just yet, so I'm slacking! Last weekend, though, Kristen and Jena came to visit! They arrived friday just after i finished having my hair plaited (pictures as soon as I can, I promise!) and we spent the evening cooking and catching up. Saturday we had a picnic by the reservoir, wore matching tie-dyed dresses (matching is very cool here...) and went to dinner in town. As always we had fun and it was so nice to see them and still be at home :)
This week was relatively uneventful, although two of the teachers at my school just started having detention after school, which we can all send misbehavers to. It has been really nice, and the kids hate it so it's a good punishment, although it has sparked a few arguments about being unjustly punished. But I think I can hadle that.
I hope something exciting happens so i can write about it, but if not, have a great week! And I will have to write after our trip to the central north next weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I think the way that people in Namibia view ideal beauty is really interesting. Obviously this varies a bit from person to person, but just as there are certain very American views on this subject (don’t even get me started, reminds me of waay too many classes I have taken…) an ideal exists in Namibia too. Here’s a breakdown of what I can gather.

Hair: Hair should be long and straight. Women here go through a lot to get this look. Most common is plaiting (braiding), but wigs (worn over a tight braid to hide natural hair) that are made out of straight hair and relaxer/ straighteners are also common. Kids are amazed at my hair, not just because it’s long and different from theirs, but because they cannot believe that I don’t have to use multitudes of products to get it to be straight.
Also hairy bodies are totally normal and considered beautiful. My kids cannot believe I “cut” the hairs on my legs and they think it’s totally weird. I also had someone tell me they loved my armpit hair (yes that’s a glimpse into personal hygiene here ;) ) which I can certainly imagine is not a compliment I’m going to hear back home.

Skin: Generally people think that lighter skin corresponds to more beauty. I have seen women put powders and chemicals on their faces to lighten their skin and often hear my kids put themselves down saying their skin is ugly. It’s upsetting to hear and I’m not sure if it is a remnant of colonialism or even apartheid, but this is probably the most talked about part.

Size: Ideas about size are really interesting. Namibia has already been bombarded with western ideals of beauty so people already think that pop stars and actresses should be stick thin with a large chest. But on the day to day, things are different. I am constantly told that I am beautiful because I’m fat (ha I still have not gotten used to taking it as a compliment) and “shaped like a woman”. I had one learner tell me “Miss you have such a beautiful body. You look like you’ve already had two children.” A. Ouch. B. This is a much healthier way to idealize women’s bodies, and I really do appreciate how ingrained into people it is.

Teeth: Straight, white teeth are an important part of beauty only in the upper classes. In the lower class it makes no difference, they can be discolored, missing, or pointing in interesting directions and it doesn’t seem to matter. Across all levels of society, however, gold teeth are in, especially third from the front on either top or bottom. People even put little gold stickers (ok... not actually stickers, they last longer) on their front teeth. I have seen stars, moons, dolphins, and circles. It’s amazing how common this is. Mostly when I think of teeth in Namibia, though, I can’t help but picture the pre-primary kids out brushing their teeth by the fence every day after break. As a friend of mine would say, it’s so cute it causes pain ☺

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quick Update

Hello! I just wanted to let everyone know that last week the bookshelf was delivered!! It is better than I could have expected and exactly what we need. Thanks again to everyone who made this possible!! I spent the weekend re-organizing the library and this week I have been painting the shelves (and a dot on the books!) to color-code the non-fiction section. I realized if this library is going to be usable and not fall into total disorganization, I need to find a system that is as basic as possible and I'm hoping this is it. Hopefully I will post some pictures when it's finished.

Other than that not too much exciting is going on around here. Classes have been going alright (some good, some not so much, but that's to be expected) and mostly I'm looking forward to the weekend when the other Erongo girls are going to come visit Uis!

I plan to do a topical post later tonight but in case the internet dies or I get distracted, I just wanted to let everyone know what is going on!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

home again home again

Hello from back in Uis! The end of the trip was pretty wonderful, we stayed an extra day in Botswana camping at a beautiful lodge right on the river. This means we got to enjoy the pool and comforts of a $300/night room for abot $10 :) Yay! We mostly just lounged around but took a great boat tour up the river into Chobe national park and saw hundreds of eliphants, some hippos, crocs, and water buffalo.
Then we worked our way up to the Zimbabwe side of victoria falls where we spent an afternoon walking along the national park along the falls just in awe of the spectacular views. We went during the dry season but still got a fair dusting of mist. The next day we went over to the Zambia side and got to visit livingstone island, which is right in the middle of the falls. From there we crossed (holding hands balancing on rocks and swimming at parts- I can hear my mother pancking from here) to devil's pool where you could jump from a rock into a pool right at the edge of the falls. Terrifying but incredible.
After that it was mostly a marathon drive back to Rundu (after we met up with another vol and his family for a night out in livingstone) and then another long drive to windhoek. I got back to Uis in time for the first day of classes, and am in a much better place mentally and emotionally than at the end of the last term (not that that's saying much...). Classes today were basically nonexistant... after making all the reports for grade 5 I made the 5 learners in grade six who showed up write goals for the term and play with multiplication flash cards. Despite everything, it's good to be home!