Sunday, January 29, 2012
I don’t know exactly what it is about the past few days, but I am loving this place. It really feels like home; maybe its school starting, maybe its cooking and baking with Make and Mia, maybe its working so hard during the day that I can’t keep my eyes open at night, maybe its a combination of all of these things. Whatever it is I am definitely in the right place doing the right thing.
I went to the office on Monday and was welcomed by a number of WONDERFUL packages. Thank you!! I also made some solid decisions for my sanity at school. This term/year I am focusing on the kids. Last term was a little different because our title and job description was still ambiguous. We now have changed from Non-Formal Education Volunteers to Youth Development Volunteers. This change releases us from the necessity to be at school all the time, and to find stuff to do as it comes to us there. This arrangement made it really hard not to feel used, and kept a distance with the kids. I have decided that I will arrive at school around Lunch break, 11:00am, to hang out with the kids while they have their short 30-45min break during the day, and then I will stick around for the last hour and a half of school, reading, setting up the library, preparing for after school clubs. After school I have let a number of the kids know that I am available to help them with any homework or studying they need to do, whether it is in groups or individually. Hopefully this will be the basis for some really great relationships with a few kids to help start more exciting after school clubs such as Library/reading club, English Club, Life Skills Club, etc. I also plan to reach out to the younger kids by having an after school story time, just like Hannah and I went to at our local library on Sundays. Whatever happens, I am loving having/getting more time to spend with the kids. They are so full of life and energy and really interested in learning.
School started on Tuesday. That was a little depressing. We had assembly and then it was all around pandemonium. So, I took my leave and went to town to pick up a few groceries
The next day, Wednesday, started at 5:30am. Make, Siboniso (the boy who takes care of the cows on my homestead), and I started weeding the field behind my house. I started out pulling the weeds by hand, but the ground was so dry that I wasn’t getting a lot of root. So, for the first time I used a hoe. I don’t think that I did too badly. I only accidentally got one stalk of maize. However, I did notice Siboniso stealthily following behind me smoothing out the ground and getting the smaller weeds that I missed. Holy cow did my arms start to hurt!! After about an hour and a half with the hoe I went back to pulling weeds by hand around the pumpkins that grow amongst the maize. It is harder to hoe around there and the broad pumpkin leaves kept the ground a little more moist. Then at 8:30am I left Make and Siboniso in the field to get ready for school. Make wanted me to rest, but at that point it would have been counter productive. So, I had breakfast, bathed, and then did some of the laundry that I was piling up to do after school. At 10:15 I left for school, arriving around 11:00. I said ‘hello’ to all of the teachers that weren’t teaching at that moment and sat myself down with The Catcher in the Rye, which I have not yet read. All of the teachers that passed asked questions like: “What are you doing?”, “Why are you late?”, “Where have you been?”, “Why weren’t you here?”, “Why did you leave early yesterday?”. Deep Breath. “I am not a teacher, and I don’t have to be here any specific time.” Their responses amounted to, “Wow. You must be happy.” It feels like a shame. I would love to be busy with the kids all day, but there is just little use to me being there while the kids are all in class. Finally, the younger kids were finishing up their lunches, they are released about 15-20min before the older kids. Then they all gathered around to say ‘Good Morning’ and see what I was up to. The little ones are still getting used to me. Sometimes they run up and touch me, wait to see what I do, giggle, then run away. The more outgoing kids will come up and say ‘Bye Bye’, I’ll respond with ‘Hello’ and then they run away giggling. When the older kids get done with lunch they come over just to sit next to me, sometimes to talk if they have anything they want to ask, or I ask how they like their new classes, etc. This is all the slow process of getting to know the students and earning their trust and respect. I love it!! After lunch break I spent some time organizing how we are going to get our library stuff together. I taught the two Grade 5 classes dots and boxes. They loved it, and I showed them how to imagine the outcome of drawing their line before actually drawing it. For example: if I put my line here it will leave 2 boxes open for the next player to claim, but if I put my line here they won’t get any boxes. Problem solving skills anyone?! At about 2pm I headed home to do the rest of my laundry. Two hours later, about 5pm, I started making this amazing lentil salad that Mia got me hooked on. It has lentils, pasta, green pepper, tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, feta, balsamic, and olive oil. YUM! Everything is fresh and you just add as much as you like of each ingredient. A couple bowls of that and I was ready for bed.
The next day started a little later and this time it was just Make and me in the field at 6am. We finished weeding the field we had started the day before at about 8:30am. I used a hoe the whole two and a half hours! Again, I bathed and ate breakfast then headed to school early, at the request of the head teacher. He said that I must be at school before 10am to get the library stuff sorted out. I got there at about 10:15am. Turns out it was no matter that I was late because the head teacher wasn’t even coming in to school at all that day. …So, I found my same seat and started reading again. It was pretty much the same as the previous day, except this time I taught Grade 6 dots and boxes. Again, they loved it. (And I love those kids!!!) I headed to town around 1:30pm where I splurged and talked to a very talented local woodworker to make a bench and a washstand for my hut. I am SO excited for these 2 items. You all know how important hand washing is to me, and now I won’t have to bend all the way over to get soap and put my hands into the basin, not to mention the exciting prospect of storage shelves to get some of my toiletries off the floor!! I’m sure the kitchen/bath will fee like a new room. The bench will be under my front window, hiding my shoes and easily transportable for sitting on the veranda. YAY!
On my way home from town a couple of boys who live at the homestead next to me asked if I would come teach them the game that I taught grade 6 today. How exciting!!! So, after I dropped my stuff off at home I went back and played dots and boxes and hangman with them for an hour or so. At 4:30pm I left them to keep playing together and ate a bowl of that amazing lentil salad, and went straight to bed. Yep, that’s right. I was asleep by 6:30pm.
Friday morning I got to skip the field work because I wanted to get to school for the assembly. Shem. That’s all I have to say. Mia joined me at the assembly and then we went around to classrooms making announcements about soccer for today. I then had a frustrating conversation about my new title, that the PC had not told the schools or Head Teachers about, and my plan of action. Oh, man. I was so riled up. Mia and I then left for home where we had some awesome baking time with Make and made stellar Banana muffins, rested with True Blood and were Make’s dish fairies. It turned out to be a great day!
Saturday was a day full of cooking (and doing my PC Volunteer Report Form), butternut squash soup, homemade applesauce, and helping Make with her first time baking chicken. It all turned out very well! I got to eat with Make and another Make from the Emphakatsi.
I realized that I really like how productive I am after a good workout in the morning. So, that’s how today started, with some pilates and a good 40 minute walk to get bread for breakfast. And look at that, 3 hours after I wake up Blog post done.
I miss you all so much. Even though Emkhuzweni is starting to feel more and more like home it is still missing all of my friends and family from home. In a way the more I feel at home the more I notice that you all are not here. I hope that if any of you have any interest in visiting that you can make it happen. Anyone is welcome anytime.
Love you!!! Stay well and take care of each other.