Monday, August 30, 2010

Greetings From Botswana!

Jambo! (ok that's swahili, but I don't know how to say hello in tswana...) Right now we are in the little town of Kasane, in the middle of Chobe national park in northern Botswana. Our campsite is right on the river, and the views are spectacular. Our trip so far has been wonderful and it is definitely helped by Adam, a friend from the states who is here visiting Ari. He helps not because he is particularly great (he is a nice guy though) but rather because he is in constant amazement of stuff here that we forget is not... normal. We are constantly laughing at the little troops of kids hanging out on the side of the road, waving or playing with surprising toys (rocks, cans, wire cars...) and he reminded us that a troop of three year olds without adult supervision is not somthing you see every day in the states. Apparently we also all think it's standard for herds of goats and cows (sometimes baboons or warthogs) to just wander across the road and make you wait for them, he finds this hilarious.
We also got really lucky with some very cool animal sightings in Etosha (the national park in Namibia). We pulled up next to a watering hole to see a bunch of zebra and springbok not moving but warily eyeing a lion who was laying down and relaxing in the sun. Another lion came sauntering over and it was almost like all the animals were holding their breath, even the 6 giraffes hanging around. But then everything was disrupted by the true kings of the jungle when a herd of elephants came over to drink and play in the water and all the other animals had to scramble to get out of the way. Amazing.
After Etosha we spent one night in Ari's village and then headed to Ngepi camp in the eastern part of Namibia where we camped about three feet from the river and swam in a cage in the river (the cage is so the hippos and crocs don't eat us) while we listened to hippos grunting at eachother across the river.
Just thought I would let you know that this vacation is as entertaining and relaxing as i need it to be! Hope things are going well back in the states!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A not so happy update...

Sorry for slacking so much on the whole blog thing, but the internet in Uis has been sporadic (at best) and the past two weeks have been... well... awful. Sorry that so many of my posts are "downers" lately but here's what happened:
Two weeks ago, my colleague Werner Aichab, teacher for longer than i have been alive and an important part of my school community suffered a stroke. After a week in the hospital, he passed away last saturday. The school is currently in mourning.
On top of that one of the other upper primary teachers suffered a medical emergency and has been in the hospital or recovering at home for two weeks as well.
The only other teachers left for upper primary are the principal (who has been at a workshop for over a week) and Jane Doe, who was obviously the target of a lot of harassment and near-violence after these two events.
THis means that in addition to the chaos caused by exams, mourning, and demonstrations against one of our teachers, i have been almost single handedly responsible for grades 5 and 6 for over a week. Needless to say, i am a bit exhausted and sooo thankful that our holiday starts wednesday. Hopefully, the next post i have will be about adventures on the way to Zim and Zam (bew and bia)! Hope things back home are a little more stable!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Exams round II

Exams have started up again which means more craziness! This is how things started:
I came in Monday (had heard from another teacher in our cluster that exams were supposed to start Monday) and asked my principal if she had received our exam schedule (other vols got theirs about 3 weeks ago…). She replies, “I left a stack of schedules on the table in the staff room Friday afternoon, didn’t you get one?” No…. if you don’t tell me they are there, why would I check? And unfortunately Friday I was busy since all the other upper primary teachers left so I had to supervise three grades who were already out of control because it’s a Friday afternoon…
You get the point.
Fortunately, they didn’t start Monday but rather today, Tuesday. Unfortunately by 8:00, which is when learners all over the country are supposed to begin their exams, we still hadn’t received the question papers for the tests that the learners were supposed to take today. The principal, who had said during the pre-school staff meeting that she would call to find out where they were, decided they just wouldn’t take them today. Then when the exams were faxed over an hour later, our learners finally started at 10:00. Oh boy.
I’m sure the coming weeks will be full of interesting situations and plenty of miscommunications, but the good news is that exams mean it’s almost time for vacation—yay!

Also, I put down a deposit on the new bookshelf last week (hooray!!!) only to find out that the price of wood has gone up. I’m still getting it fairly cheap from a local guy, but if you can/are willing to, please please please help out! I would really appreciate it!!! And if you can't help, perhaps you want to ask friends/family who might be more willing? And thank you again to those who have already donated, you got us most of the way there already!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A global issue on my back porch

I have been debating for several weeks about whether or not to write about this topic because it is such a sensitive one, but given that none of you know the individuals involved, I think it should be ok.
I have mentioned before that HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in Namibia. 20% of people are infected. As a result, there are a lot of programs from the government and independent organizations geared towards raising awareness and education. My kids are bombarded with information about the disease. They have to listen to plays, hear songs, read magazines, see posters, watch shows, and see commercials about it every day. Even every single school subject’s syllabus contains ways that HIV can be worked into the class materials. As a result, they know a lot. Kids who can barely speak English know the ABCs of prevention (abstain, be faithful, condomize) and are brought up to talk openly about the disease. I mentioned before that there is a small gap between knowledge and ability to apply the knowledge (my 6th graders knew all about condoms but didn’t know the technicalities of how sex actually works…) but that’s probably ok given how young they are, and they still understand the social situations involved.
I find it very interesting that some of the topics that are continually addressed are not necessarily things that would be focused on back in the states. I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but cheating is rampant (many men have girlfriends in several different towns who know about each other and are fine with it) so obviously the idea of being faithful is addressed a lot and is not a ‘relationship assumption’ that people here would make. Another interesting difference is the focus on sugar daddies. This is mostly (I feel) almost a joke back home, but here, where so many people are impoverished, it is a reality. This borderline prostitution involves men (usually older men) buying clothes, food, electronics or just giving money to young girls for sex.
Unfortunately, I got a chance to see how all of these are still a continuing reality recently when it was discovered that a man in my community (someone I know, he is generally seen as a pretty upstanding citizen- doesn’t drink, has a family and is in a serious relationship) was having a sugar daddy relationship with a learner. They were found out when she came home with a brand new cell phone and her suspicious parents followed her when she went to meet him. The man has known that he is HIV positive for five years. He and the young girl have been having unprotected sex for almost two years. She is one of my learners, in fact one of the ones that I am closest to (not one that I have blogged about). She is 12 years old.
The family is pressing charges, although there are rumors that things will be ‘sorted out’ through the traditional authorities instead of through the police. The man was fired from his job. She is going to a nearby town to be tested for HIV and to take a pregnancy test. She continues to visit me fairly often but dropped out of school last week.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sundooooowwwwner Cup!

This weekend was the sundowner cup, the biggest event to hit Uis each year. 32 soccer teams came from all over the country, there was a netball tournament and a boxing competition, not to mention a show (singing and dancing) and spectators pouring in from all over damaraland. Jen and I went out with her host mom on Friday night to see what things look like and to keep the teachers from my school who were selling things company and it was absolutely crazy. There were hundreds of people everywhere. The sundowner (one of the two clubs/bars in the location) was absolutely packed and all outside it there were fires and grills and cars so that it almost looked like a late night tailgating party with people selling things. After socializing (and dancing with an old woman who decided she liked me…) we went home relatively early given that the club was open till 6 am.
The next day all four soccer fields in town were used and there were thousands of people watching and walking around, selling things and talking. It was fun (if not a bit overwhelming) and we had a lot of fun spending time with learners and greeting all the people we know. Sunday was more of the same, culminating in a final soccer game in the early evening. It was so bizarre to see the number of people in Uis triple overnight and the streets constantly full!
Sadly it was also Jen’s last weekend in Uis so we made it a full and exhausting one. Today we had to say goodbye and I’m back to being the only American (and the only white girl) in Uis. But that just means I have to do lots of fun things to make up for it! I’ll keep you posted on my adventures!