Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Typical Morning

So, after being in Oshakati for 3 weeks now, I feel that I have established a routine enough to describe a typical day. I know my last post was long, so I figured I would split this into several different posts, so that I can give details without overwhelming. I’ll start at the beginning.

I wake up to my alarm at 5:30, and get on the Internet for about 30 minutes while it is free or read a little before getting out of my sleeping bag and braving the cold air. By six o’clock I finally get up, fix myself a bowl of Rice Krispies, and work on the puzzle while I eat. While I eat I can hear the roosters crowing. I put on my professional teacher clothes and Chacos, stow a pair of dress shoes in my backpack, and bag a pb&j sandwich, a Clementine, and my water bottle for lunch. I collect the school things I need that have been scattered throughout the house during the course of the previous day, put away my computer, grab my jacket, remember something I’ve forgotten, then unlock all the doors, set the security alarm, and leave, locking all the doors behind me. I wait a few minutes for Mary in the yard while I hear her setting her alarm and locking up next door.

We walk down the sand street, turn at the corner, go past the pharmacy, and turn to the school. We pass a few neighbors and learners going on their way, and say, “Good morning,” and “How are you?” to which the responses are always, “Good morning,” “Fine, and how are you?” We manage to make it to school without getting run over by cars and taxis that honk at us every time they pass. Mary finishes her breakfast as we walk and discards the orange peels, eggshells, or apple cores as we go. There are a few dogs wandering around the streets and chickens clucking in people’s yards.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Light here is a critical part of everyday life. The sun sets my internal clock. I know it’s really time to get out of bed when there is light coming through the curtain. If the sun is up it means I need to be productive- either at school, or cooking, or preparing for the next day. As twilight approaches, it’s time to be home. I get tired almost as soon as the sun is down. Once it is really dark out, it’s time to go to bed.

Not only does it set my schedule, but light also has come to mean safety. Traveling through town and between cities- the roads are just not safe to drive on at night. Some of the safety of light is purely mental. The first night I got here the light in my bedroom was not working. I was trying to unpack in a completely new place, and by the light of a headlamp. It was so discouraging and scary that night to feel all alone in a dark bedroom. In addition, the porch light of my house doesn’t work, and it’s a bit unnerving coming home in the dark, even if it’s just from the duplex next door. It is hard to see all the locks and fit the keys in, but once I am inside and safe and in the light it is so much better.

Early in the mornings, when the sun has just risen it is very cold- it is hard to keep my toes on my feet as we walk to school in the new morning sun. Walking in the sun, however, is so much better than walking in the shade or being in the house. The longer the sun is out, the warmer it gets. Walking home in the afternoon is warm and wonderful, especially when there is a breeze. I pack away my jacket and sweater, put back on my Chacos, and soak it up!

Being in the light of the sun is warming and feels great, but after a while it is also exhausting. Especially here where we are so much closer to the Equator than I am used to, a day in the sun is draining. Even just standing and sitting in the sun watching sports on Saturday was so tiring. Sunday, Mary and I spent the afternoon at a park, and even though we didn’t do much (we did play with some children for a while), we were so exhausted when we got home!

So as great as the sunlight makes me feel, the night sky here is pretty amazing. With the decrease in artificial light, the stars are multiplied in number and brightness. We can even see the Milky Way. The other night there was a lunar eclipse, but unfortunately I didn’t hear about it until the day after when all my learners asked me if I had stayed up to see it. I wish I could put into words how amazing the starry sky looks here, but it really is incredible.

I heard a man tell a story the other day about hunting in his childhood in Namibia. He said they would hunt “jungle hares” and easily kill them by simply shining artificial light at them. The hares would freeze, confused by this strange phenomenon, and it was then easily caught and killed. Now days, these jungle hares are used to the lights, and know to run away as soon as they see them. It is so interesting to me how everything adapts to technology.

I finally was able to go to church this past Sunday- our principal took us. It was a very nice service, and it was great to hear the church sing about the glory of God. The sermon talked about Christ as the light of the world, and how we are supposed to show His light until his return. What a wonderful reminder. Not only should this encourage our spirit, but also encourage our actions. Pray that I will be a light at my school and that I will find other ways to serve while I am here.

It is clear that I allow the light that God created to affect my actions, give me courage, change my attitudes, give me energy, and inspire awe- may the same be said for the light that is God- Christ Jesus.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Little Women

The past few days I have felt a bit under the weather. I’m not sure if it was allergies or a cold (it is winter here), but I am sure it was not fun. I was well enough to go to school and continue on with life, but not well enough to really feel 100% or clean the accumulating dishes in the kitchen, go to the grocery store, or really commit to lesson planning. So the other night, as soon as we got home from school (around 4:40) I made myself scrambled eggs and toast (what my mom used to make me when I was sick), got into my pajamas, took a Nyquil, and curled up in my bed watching Little Women. Yearly my friends from Vanderbilt and I have watched Little Women. I love each of the characters in their own way, and last night I particularly loved Marmy and her wisdom and caring for her children. While I am so glad to be here, I cannot help but wish I had my own “Marmy” here to make my eggs for me and clean my dishes and make me feel better. I slept 10-11 hours the past few nights, and am feeling better. Thank God for my returning help, and ask for continued recovery. I have also still been working on finding a church here, so pray that it will all come together soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sounds of Home

Living in the Oshakati volunteer housing allows me to hear all sorts of life happening around me. I heard 2 cats battling under a pile of brush in front of our house. I hear dogs howling at night. I hear miscellaneous birds every night and morning. Some of them sound like machines or alarms, so at first I was a bit thrown off. I hear roosters crowing in the morning. At night I hear the pounding bass of the occasional car passing by. In the morning I hear the pick-up trucks and vans rambling by. During the afternoon I hear walkers talking as they head home from work. Today I heard children playing a game of tag, and some screams accompanying the game. Living as an outsider in this new culture makes it a lot easier to notice things, and makes me wonder what I miss hearing when I am home because I am so used to it I don’t listen anymore.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dress to Impress

Everyday Mary and I walk to school to be at the staff meeting at 7:00. Yesterday was the first time we did it without making any wrong turns or having to stop and ask directions. We were unsure about a turn, then saw some children in green sweaters (the school uniform) and decided it was the best option to just follow them. They unknowingly led their directionally-challenged new teachers right to school just in time for our meeting. Not only are the uniforms useful for getting to school, but it also makes teaching them seem so much easier. I’m not sure what it is, but something about kids looking sharp in their school uniforms lining up to come into class makes me feel like, “Okay, they are just kids, I can do this!”
Clothing can really change your perception of someone. At the rugby match yesterday, our team was preparing the field and practicing throwing the ball in their uniform pants and t-shirts or collared shirts. They looked a bit rag-tag all in different things. The other team (an all white-team from a private school in the neighboring city) rolled up in their van and all piled out in their red and black uniforms. Even though my learners assured me we would definitely win the match, I couldn’t help thinking, “We are in trouble.” I watched as they practiced throwing, picking up their team mates and kicking. All hope was lost. Then our team came out. They had transformed from a mismatched team in school clothes to a unified team in matching green, numbered jerseys, white shorts, green socks, and white shoes. “We’ve got this,” I thought to myself. “It’s in the bag. We’re back!” Of course we did win, and by several scores, but it still makes me chuckle just thinking about how much appearances seem to sway me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Life with Learners

It’s 5:50 pm and I am ready for bed. Because it is not very safe to go out after dark here (there is no street lighting), that means it is safe to get completely prepared for bed at 6 and go to sleep at 7. Teaching the past two days has been exhausting but great. The past year or so I have really been wondering if teaching is something I really want to go into, or if other educational avenues would be better. While I cannot yet say which direction I will be heading, I definitely think this summer is giving me a good taste of what it is like to be a teacher. Some of the students are wonderful and sweet, while others are a little rowdy and disruptive. Of course back in the US, some of the attention I get as a teacher will be gone because I will no longer be the new white American teacher with the funny accent.
I am really enjoying the learners. Here are some stories:
-Today after school I stayed to watch the Rugby team play, since some of my learners are on the team and told me, “You must come watch us play!” (we won by a lot- I’m not sure how much b/c I don’t know exactly what was happening)
-Waiting for the game to start, I acquired a small possy of 3rd grade girls. One of them told me, “Your legs are so white!” I asked the girls if they knew any hand games, and they showed me a game almost identical to one they played at Western Heights in Knoxville last summer.
-I took pictures of each learner holding up a piece of paper with their name on it so I can try and learn the names. This gets lots of different reactions (hide behind name, put on lip gloss or fix hair, or try in be everyone’s picture), but everyone always wants to see what their picture looked like, even if they were very nonchalant about the whole thing.
-I have been telling the kids I am 83 years old. Some take this to mean 38, others know I am joking, and others are slightly confused. One girl goes, “You are older than my grandma! You don’t look that old- you look more like you are 21!” (I almost told her she was right since she guessed so accurately, but I didn’t want to ruin my rep as a “real adult”).
-The learners all call me “Miss.” I get “Good morning, Miss,” “Hello, Miss,” “Good afternoon, Miss,” “Here, Miss!” and “Sorry, Miss,” (which I soon learned means “what are you talking about, lady, I am so confused!!!”)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ongiini from Oshakati

If you read nothing else:
Praises: I have made it safely to my placement city, and I’m finding everyone here very helpful and friendly. The teacher whose classes we are taking over is taking me to church Sunday.
Requests: Pray that the fruit of the spirit will show through me in the classroom, around town, and in my attitude. Also that God will continue to protect me and keep me safe and healthy. Also that church on Sunday will be in English.
I am living next door to Mary, the other Oshakati volunteer, and we have been walking to school and the store together. So far I have only met four other people living in this house- the wall spiders that I am not willing to attempt to evict. Otherwise it is just little old me in this large 2-bedroom flat (complete with security system and multiple lock door). I believe a little kitty may help me evict my little friends, and a doggy may help add even more security (even if it’s just emotional security).
Last week during orientation we continued to learn about Namibia, talked about teaching here, and went over safety again and again. After orientation I feel really prepared safety-wise, and know that I have help just a phone call away with the field directors, should any problems arise. We also visited a few different places in Windhoek. We saw an area filled with homes built from metal scrap. The 26 of us with WorldTeach walked around and met some wonderful people. There were dogs and chickens roaming around, beautiful children walking down the streets, and adults washing clothes, visiting with neighbors, and eyeing this mostly white and college-aged group canvasing the area. In the same city we saw gated and secured neighborhoods, as well as 2 huge mansions where the Prime Minister and President lives. We’ve talked a lot about the financial issues facing Namibia, and educating the students about technology hopefully will provide this upcoming generation in Namibia with new opportunities in this global economy that is so largely technology-based.
We rode with Lucas, a Ministry of Education official, from Windhoek to Oshakati (about a 9-hour drive- Lucas was a champ!), then Mary and I were taken to our new housing, given a tour, introduced to some colleagues, and driven by the school so we could find it the next day. Well, we still had a little trouble finding our way around today, despite the tour, but we never got completely lost. Our home is a bit plain, so I keep not noticing we are here! Some exciting things from the day:
-1st night in the new city- fell asleep to Monsters Inc. at 7:30
-1st learners we met- Grade 10 (Tech)- The 47 learners waited outside the door in a girls line and boys line to come into class, then waited to sit down until the teacher said they could. They also all looked very sharp in their green and white uniforms.
-1st class taught- Grade 8- 40+ learners and 20 computers that are very slow and often freeze- improvised a lesson about different vocabulary words in Microsoft Office Word.
-1st taxi ride- after we unloaded all our groceries, the driver asked us to push his car down the hill to help get it started.
-1st meal in Oshakati that isn’t pb&j- bowl of Rice Krispies for dinner tonight (don’t worry, Granny,- the stove is on the way, and I did get lots of fruits & veggies).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Orientation report

Since arriving in Windhoek I've been spending time at WorldTeach Orientation with the other summer volunteers and the semester volunteers. I am really ejoying getting to spend time with the others and experience the initial culture experiences with others who are in the same boat. I can't believe that on Thursday I'll be on my way to my placement and on Thursday I'll be at my placement school in Oshakati- wow!

In orientation we've gone over a lot of the safety measures we need to be thinking about, how to keep in touch with each other and home, and learning about the culture and history here. I've been learning a lot, and am excited to be immersed, but like I said, I'm enjoying spending the time with the other volunteers. I've been drinking a lot of hot tea (Rooibos- thanks Julie Hunt for helping me acquire a taste for tea!) We've been mostly having sandwiches and cereal to eat for lunch and breakfast. For dinner we had spaghetti last night and Namibian barbecue the night before- yum!

Prayer- continue to pray for those I come in contact with, that I can share my personal purposes for coming with them, and that I would continue to be protected and safe. Psalm 62 was in my biblestudy yesterday, and verse 8 has become one of my prayers: "Trust in Him at all times you people; Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's up from Windhoek

Hallelujah- I made it to Namibia! I am at the hostel our group is staying at for the week during orientation. It's been a long past 50+ hours- traveling to New York, Dubai, Johannesburg, and now Windhoek. I got a little sick in the Dubai airport, but doing much better now that we are done flying. Might have been the meds, might've been the flying, and definitely glad it's over!

There are about 16 of us here for the summer, and we are all sitting around on our computers getting back in touch with home.

As I begin this adventure, my willingness to trust are definitely being put to the test. I have to trust the WorldTeach has prepared me adequately to come here and will prepare me for my teaching placement. Most of all I have to trust that God has a plan through all this and that he will use me for his glory while I am here, that he will protect me and guide me on this adventure. I have already seen Him at work on this trip, and can't wait to see what's in store!

Please pray for the other volunteers I'm with, that I can be a light to them. In addition, that God will open my heart, mind, and eyes to see Him at work, create a desire to join Him there, and for me to trust in His plan. Pray for the students and teachers I'll be with, that their hearts would be open to me showing them Christ's love. Praise God for bringing me here safely and for his continued provision.