Thursday, October 27, 2011

Catch Up

Glorious just barely begins to describe the macaroni and cheese that I am enjoying right now.

Here is a quick catch up:

On October 12th I taught grade 5 English all day. They were in the middle of learning about television so we did a group exercise where they worked together to write an episode of whatever show they like, or they could make up a show. We did this after reviewing genres of shows, and the idea of characters, settings, plot, and resolution. After doing this through both A and B classes I asked them what they wanted to do next… they all voted for a 20 word spelling test!!

On October 13th I gave my first Student Survey to grade 4. It went wonderfully and I have since also given the survey to grades 5 and 6. Now I am inundated with over 100 surveys that are waiting to be entered into excel in order to write this report for PC by Nov. 19th.

On October 14th I taught Grade 3 with Mia, who was visiting the school for what turned out to be an epic assembly. At one point Mia turned to me and said, “This looks like it could be a concert for a boy band.”! That was slightly painful. With the language barrier we had some behavioral issues. I tried to remedy this by handing out cards to each child, asking them to write their names on it. Then we made up some classroom rules. Then if a kid broke any one of the rules, then they got a mark on their paper and would not get a candy the next day. For the most part this actually worked. Then for practical arts we were learning about stop lights, the colors, what they mean and the words. Then we went outside and played red light green light. A very nice end to a trying Friday.

We have been continuing our soccer every week, and it has been going great! A lot of boys still show up but they are learning to play with the girls. Especially when Mia and I play with them. We have also learned that the key to successful soccer practices is to wear the kids out before we let them play a practice game. So we have started doing a full workout session before actually starting practice.

That Monday, the 17th, I decided to try to go to the office even though we had heard rumors of a transportation strike. Well I went, and as soon as I arrive in Manzini (the route to the office is Manzini to Mbabane then a khumbi to the office) MV our Security Officer for PC sent a message saying that there are planned strikes and that we should avoid Mbabane and Manzini, if you are already on route call me ASAP. So I called him and he told me to get to the office immediately and not to spend anytime in the cities. So I did, and then was trapped in the office all day with no food. Then a small group of us got stuck in the city and had a free night at a backpackers called Bombaso’s. That was a nice break, even though I had a sinus infection and had nothing to clean myself, sleep in and no toothbrush.  Then on Tuesday we waited around to make sure that nothing was going to happen. Then we walked to the office to double check that nothing was going to happen while we were on route. I got on the khumbi to Manzini and got another call from MV, asking if I could get off before reaching the city because a girl who arrived in Manzini ahead of me was ordered off of the bus due to a transport strike.  I couldn’t get off of my bus and when I arrived in the city left the bus rank immediately and waited for MV to get there. When he arrived an hour later, nothing was going on and he just walked us to our khumbis to get home. I got home at 3pm on Tuesday. Talk about worn out!!!
The next day was grade 5 surveys. Then on Thursday there was a Goat Commercialization ceremony at a village near ours where our (Emkhuzweni Primary School) Drum Majorettes were asked to perform because the Queen Mother would be present. On Friday- grade 6 survey.

We have had our second swimming lesson day this past Saturday! Very fun, perfect weather. Except the sun was a little extreme. We got a ride from the hotel –Orion, look it up- to Piggs Peak because it is easier to catch one home from the city, rather than try to catch a one from the hotel. The person who picked (4 of) us up is a head teacher at a near by school, the brother in law of one of my teachers a EPS, and had a connection with a previous PC volunteer who happened to be from Kent State! His name is Dennis Desantis, Musa Shiba has lost contact with him and if you know Dennis please have him contact me. What a small small world :D  Then we had some glorious KFC in Piggs Peak waiting for the lady whose school we run the swimming lessons. Then we got to talking, and incorrectly assumed that she would give us a ride home. No such luck. By the time we got to the bus rank the last khumbi heading to Buhleni had already left. So we had to take a khumbi headed to Matsamo, the South Africa border post and get off at a T junction where to get to Buhleni we would turn right. We had quite a task even spotting the junction stop in the dark. Luckily we moved to the front of the khumbi at the right time and asked the driver to let us know when we got to our stop, which was right then. We also asked him if he thought we could catch a khumbi to Buhleni from there. He said he thought so. And it turns out with good reason- he had called the last khumbi going to Buhleni and asked him to wait for us. What a nice guy.

Then early on Sunday we left to go to Manzini where a bunch of volunteers (both group 9 and group 8) were getting together at a….wait for it… PUB! to watch the Rugby world cup. Turns out I really like Rugby. It was such a great time and I got to meet some of the group 8 volunteers that I hadn’t met before.

Recently this week I had a talk with the thishela mkhulu (head teacher) about no longer being available to sub, after another day this week with grade 5 without a lesson plan, blowing in the wind, it was not good for me or the students. Especially, if after we start the new school year in January I want to teach any of my own –planned- classes. Then we talked about what I was thinking about for next year: a life skills lesson 1 day a week for grades 4, 5, 6, and 7; and I said that I could teach 1 English lesson a week for any grades or classes that wanted experience with a native English speaker, and my lesson would in no way be connected to the teacher’s regular curriculum; I also offered to run an alternative disciplinary option for teachers, a detention where students could be sent out of the classroom, or ordered to attend detention during break or after school with me where we would work quietly together.

Ok- that about sums everything up. Sorry if it was kind of boring.

I miss you all so much and think often about seeing you again, even though I still have about 21 months. Speaking of which, anyone is welcome to visit anytime!!!


Monday, October 17, 2011

New post coming soon!!

This post will soon be replaced by a new post. I have a few things to update, and depending on when I get home tonight, or tomorrow I will tell you all about it. For now I am stuck in the PC office waiting for my head to clear up (allergies) and the transport strikes to be over.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Crossing streams with Make

 I apologize that I did not keep my weekly promise/ritual of updating my blog yesterday. It has been a crazy few days.

Let me start from right now and work backwards, like that backwards episode of Seinfeld- the wedding in India. Okay, maybe it’s been a while since I’ve seen that episode or any Seinfeld for that matter, but just go with it, ok?

It is raining buckets, literally, and has been since about 2:30pm this afternoon (it is now 7:00pm) with the addition of some hail every here and there. Make and I just started ‘harvesting’ the rain water about half an hour ago (except for the really big barrel Make has, that’s been out the whole time, under the one dripping gutter) and we have already filled 13 buckets, the smallest one is 25 liters, and we have filled her 125L (This is a guess, it is for sure bigger than my 100L barrel but I don’t know how much, and believe it or not I am erring on the small side) barrel two times now! We fill our buckets with big openings and then use them to fill barrels kept inside and the ~25L jugs with smaller openings, then fill the first round of buckets again. Every single bucket possible is filled with rainwater.

When I got caught in the storm as it started this afternoon, the roads were already turning into colliding rivers. And remember that there is only one paved road here, so they are nasty mucky rivers. Even more nasty since I passed a Gogo this morning, on the way to school, with the back of her skirt hitched up around her waist just slightly hunched over a bit of grass on the edge of the road. This is not a normal occurrence, as far as I know, but hey, emergencies happen. And now whatever it was that has graced the road since our last rain is floating around in the rivers we are forced to walk through to get anywhere. I can’t even imagine driving, or at least driving and getting very far.

We saw the storm approaching as we (2 teachers and I) were walking from the prayer service all of the teachers attended at the families homestead to mourn the death of a student’s mother, who was also a nurse at our clinic, in the bus accident last week. We were going to deliver scones to the Gogo of the sons whose bus crashed, killing the mother, and several others, we had just been praying for. The sons brought Gogo to their home to receive visitors offering their sympathy for the devastation of owning a bus that has killed people. The bus was actually sitting in the side yard with a tarp over it. It seems funny, coming from a culture where we always look for someone to blame, to think that people are sympathizing with the bus service/owners for bearing part of the responsibility of that tragedy (the bus operator was also killed in the accident). The Elders of the woman’s family, she was also a Dlamini (like me, so technically, but not really, we were related on some level), were the ones at the homestead sitting in an empty house, with the exception of mats for visitors to sit on, receiving anyone who might stop by offering to mourn with the family. This is viewed as their job and they never leave, even to cook and feed themselves. So they rely on other members of the family to feed them.

We left school at around 1pm and went to pray. We sang a few songs and our school’s pastor (not exclusively) led some prayers in SiSiwati. Even though I could understand so little of it, it was incredibly moving. It made me think of a part in ‘The Poisonwood Bible’, that I am reading right now (huge spoiler alert!!! And for any one who hasn’t read it, go do it now! Really now, run.). It is when Ruth May has just died and Orleanna, the mother, puts her body out on the table under a traditional alter and all of the other mothers in the village, many of whom have also just lost children under different circumstances, come crawling on their knees to help Orleanna mourn her lost child. And whoever is the narrator at that time realizes that this is the same pain that these other families have been feeling this whole time; that they are not exempt from the pain and possibility of losing a sister/daughter in Kilanga. I think that I did a terrible job explaining that, but hopefully if, or once you have read the book, you will understand the comparison and realize, if you haven’t already, how anyone who has lost can help mourn and feel the heavy fog of sadness. Even when helping to mourn someone that you have never met, and never will. Just knowing that they were someone’s mother, daughter, sister, someone is enough. Then on top of that feeling, realizing that this is something that, as a part of their culture, Swazi’s have seemed to understand and accept more than I could ever imagine without coming here and seeing it for myself.

That pretty much covers today. For now I will skip the weekend and continue with the heartbreak and tragedies of last week. This bus accident happened last Thursday evening. A tire blew on a bus that travels from Manzini to Matsamo border post, SA. The accident was in Dvokolwako, which is about 30 min south of Mkhuzweni, and Mkhuzweni is the next to last village before Matsamo. So this hit our community hard. The news of this accident arrived on the same day that a boy in Grade 1, about 7, was deserted by his mother for eating his little brother’s fat cake. He showed up to school with his eyes welled up to brim with tears and a grocery bag not near that full of dirty clothes. We are still trying to figure out what to do. Last Friday also happened to be the day that we received an official SMS (text message) from our CD about 2 more volunteers leaving the program.

Talk about a bummer.

Luckily, Mia and I had already planned (thanks to Shauna who is the current Volunteer Swimming instructor) a pretty fun weekend of swimming lesson introductions, and an over night with some awesome people and awesome food. I actually got in the water and swam with the kids some, even though it was freezing. My own swimming instructors would never believe it, since one of the most prominent things I remember about swimming lessons was complaining as much as possible before I actually got in the water. So, now I will be teaching swimming lessons every, or every other weekend!! After integration we are also allowed to overnight any time we need a get away. Unfortunately, being so emotionally exhausted after the previous week and then physically exhausted after swimming lessons I was plum wore out on Sunday.

However, now I have rearranged my schedule to accommodate everything and myself. It looks like this: School Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; Girls soccer after school on Friday; Swimming lessons on Saturday, and Sunday to Monday are free for whatever, maybe more community work, but I’m not sure if I have that kind of energy. Re-reading this I know that it doesn’t sound like a lot for how exhausted I have been, but think about doing everything you do in a day with people all around you speaking a different language, all of the surroundings different and walking at least 30min to get anywhere, including to catch a khumbi these days, in scorching sun or pouring down rain.
The way my schedule at school is going it looks like I will be sitting in on classes for this week, and attending a few meetings, then organizing on Friday. Hopefully, the following week I will be able to start surveys with the teachers and the students. I am actually supposed to type the teacher survey tonight, but I am just too tired and now with a roaring headache. The rain has stopped and my head has filled in the now missing constant pounding of rain, with just pounding.

Alright, next week I will post again either Monday or Sunday with happier stories.

Love you all and Miss you!! Please take care of yourselves and remember that everyone is someone’s someone.