Working in the library
This past week has been a busy week. I've been trying to take stock at the library. I had no idea how much work running a library is. The library didn't have a very good organization system, so I'm trying to organize it better and I'm trying to put all of the records on computer (partially for my own convenience and partially in the hope that the school will one day have computers and I can write a program to let the learners search for books they want and for the library teacher to check books out.) I've probably spent a good 4-6 hours at the library each day this week on top of my teaching load, taking all of the books off the shelf, ordering them by their accession number, and typing the information into an Excel worksheet, plus I spent most of the weekend typing titles and authors, publishers and dates from the records that the library does have. I have a wonderful book that was put out by the VSO (the British organization that's like the Peace Corps.) It's called "Setting up and Running a School Library" and I would be lost without it. It's written for developing countries, so it deals with the problems that I have, things like not having enough book shelves, how to teach basic library skills (I have been trying to beat into the learners' heads that books go on the shelf with the pages facing in and the spine facing out), how to set up a card catalogue (which is my next big project), and how to fix books with limited supplies (I only have sellotape (scotch tape) and I don't want to put it on the books and end up ruining them.
I got several packages in the past 3 weeks. I got photos and a DVD of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which, being a little movie-deprived, I've watched about a hundred times this week) from my parents. I got a really wonderful package from my grandparents with a copy of Christianity Today that had an article by one of my profs from Wheaton in it. I've read the magazine cover to cover a couple of times. Their package also had Crystal Light and the packets from macaroni and cheese boxes (which I unfortunately have not been able to use yet because I ran out of pasta the day I got them.) I got a great letter from my cousin with a little lizard she made herself and I've gotten a few letters. On top of that, I got an M-bag with some great books for the library, which always makes me happy and Book Aid sent a nice packet with 10 brand new books in it. It has been a rainy season in my life. I only wish I could email you all more often and thank you.
I am almost out of groceries at my house. I've gone three weeks without getting out of Anker because last weekend there was an athletic day that I had to scorekeep for. It was very exciting (I'll send photos one of these days) but I really need to get groceries today. That's why I had to go into town this weekend. I am down to oatmeal, a tiny bit of flour, sugar and oil, rice, beans, split peas, shelf stable milk, some eggs, butter, some spices, a few apples and carrots, and a bag of goat meat (from a goat I watched get slaughtered and butchered) that the headmaster's wife gave me. The chocolate I bought was gone after the first week. The pasta ran out a week ago at the same time as the tomato sauce. The biscuits are gone, as is the bread and the potatoes. I haven't gone hungry; I've just had to get more creative as the foods that I use most often disappeared. On Thursday for lunch I boiled rice, beans, rosemary, and apples together and I doused it in honey and butter. It was only a little funny tasting and I've decided that anything doused in enough butter and honey will taste at least decent. I have been eating a lot of a pea soup concoction that I invented, which is not too bad, and when I ran out of pasta, pancakes became my new food of choice. Still, I'm really excited about getting new food. I'm going to buy 4 chocolate bars and a kilo of pasta, just in case I don't get into town for 3 weeks again. (later addition to this email- I went to the store and for a while I thought I had forgotten my Debit card in Anker which really depressed me, because I only had N$100 (about $15) so I bought the neccessities- mainly bread, pasta and of course chocolate, but then I found my card, so I am going home with loads of food…it's all good.)
I have decided to hire someone to do my laundry for me. I was strongly against it because I thought it was incredibly colonial for the rich white American to come into town and hire someone to clean up after her, but then I realized that that's my American culture showing through. The other teachers all have someone help them do their laundry and they thought it was bizarre that I washed it myself by hand. The truth is that Anjelica Christiaan, one of the elders at the church, told me that her friend needed work and I realized that it's giving someone a job and putting money back into the community. Also, I realized how back breaking it is to wash clothes by hand each week.
No school supplies
On Tuesday I read to the kindergarten, which was wonderful. There are about 8 kindergarteners and I really like the kindergarten teacher. We read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See" which is great for teaching colors. They sang me a song and then I tried to teach them a song. It was a good time. The kindergarten is in rather desperate need of supplies. At the moment they have chairs, tables, and a few Duplo blocks and that is literally it. There were some colouring books, but in a rather stupid move on my part (in my defense, it was soon after I got here and I didn't know how things worked yet) I let some of the learners borrow them and they coloured in them. I would love to get donations of toys, but I can't figure out how to get them shipped. The library can be stocked by sending M-bags, which are relatively cheap, but you can't send toys by M-bag and I think it could get to be quite expensive to send them. If you have any ideas, email me. Also, while I'm at it, if you have any connections with a computer or a copier company and could put in a good word for me when I write and ask for donations, I would be very much in your debt. We now have 3 broken computers, a broken printer, and a broken copier… all of them beyond my ability to fix. Some of them were actually donated already broken and the copier breaks with regularity every month or so for 3 weeks to a month, which is unfortunate since it is incredibly difficult to teach with no copier (I actually tried to hand write a worksheet once, but it was so much work that I gave up.)
I think I am learning more about myself here in Namibia. Some of it is good; I never realized before how strong I could be and I'm starting to believe that a lot more is possible than I would have believed before. I'm also starting to see some truths about myself that I never let myself see before. It's like I'm living closer to the surface of my skin. I think that I had built up a nice wall to protect me from the truth about myself and somehow the isolation, or the lack of distractions, or the poverty is pulling it down and pulling me out of myself. I'm learning some about my selfishness. I think that maybe I could believe I was generous before because there was no one asking me for anything. Now everyone asks me for things because I'm the rich American. Learners ask me for money and food and pens, teachers ask me for supplies and sometimes money, I sometimes avoid going to the little store because there is a man who sits near there who always asks me to give him money (and makes rude, uncomfortable comments to me), and I realized the other day that I didn't want to share my masking tape with Mr. !Naruseb. I wanted to save my masking tape and I wanted to use it to mend the holes in the library windows. I realized how silly it is to be possessive of a little masking tape, especially my Namibian masking tape, which smells disturbingly like paint thinner, but it's not just masking tape. I don't want the learners looking over my shoulder as I type on the computer and I don't want the kids to play on my hammock (which is now somewhat broken.) I want to keep my things for myself. I've been memorizing the Sermon on the Mount and some sections cut pretty deep. "Give to the one who asks, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" really got to me the other night when I told Nadia and Kaliena, who had come to my door looking for money, that I wouldn't give them two dollars because it wouldn't be fair if I gave them money and not other learners. In a lot of ways I can't give because if I started down that road there would be no turning back. There are enough needs here to run through far more than my $275 a month and I can't starve myself so I can give each kid who asks me $1. And still, my attitude worries me, because I really do have enough masking tape and compared to many of the people in town I am rich and it concerns me how much I think about my things and how I can keep them for myself. I love the Sermon on the Mount, but sometimes it crushes me how petty I can be.
I want them to have everything
Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with emotions. I was reading National Geographic the other day (since it's basically the only magazine in the library) and there was an article about Iraq. There was a man who wanted his daughters to go to school. "I want," he said, pausing to search for the words, "I want for them everything." And I couldn't help it. I started crying, because I knew how he felt.
Friday, February 10, 2006
Working in the library