Packing us in
So here’s how the weekend went. (see last email for info about where she went) On Saturday morning at 7 o’clock we jammed 14 children, all of their bedding, their school uniforms (or other learner’s school uniforms if they don’t have uniforms) two drums, some food (jam sandwiches and macaroni), and my and Mrs. Renathe’s bags into the back of a closed compact pickup truck. For those who think that we cannot possibly have fit 14 children in the back of a compact pickup truck all I have to say is we managed somehow (Namibia runs on the assumption that there is no such thing as not enough room for one more in travel… What’s that, we can’t fit any more in the taxi? Sure we can, we just have to stack ourselves like cord wood, no problem at all.)
At the lodge (which is a very nice place) we performed twice—once for three couples and a second time for two families and two couples. In all we made N$690 which really floored the kids and, quite honestly me and the other teachers too (it’s like the equivalent of yearly school fees for ten kids and there were only a total of 18 tourists (including small children). The last concert they did in Anker attracted maybe 80 people and raised a total of N$110.) It only costs about N$150 (US$23) for petrol to the lodge and since lodging was free and all of the food that we ate was provided we still made N$540 (US$85) profit.
We stayed in staff housing because most of the staff are from Anker and many of them are parents or otherwise related to the children. It was a little crowded (the rooms were meant as dorms for 2 workers and they were maybe about 10 feet by 10 feet with two beds, two wardrobes, two side tables and a table with food. We slept ten girls in the room where I slept (every inch of floorspace was filled by kids burrowed together like little baby rabbits (they’re so cute when they aren’t awake) and there were three on the beds including Hendretti from grade 5 who kept turning over in her sleep and slapping me in the face.)
Someone from the lodge gave each of the learners a little bag of peanuts and they fell asleep holding them and, in the morning, they shared them (they do that whenever they have food. It’s really cute.) Sharing is a very important part of the culture so any extra food (ie, anything other than the bread, porridge, and meat that they get at the hostel) is shared. Part of the problem with pen stealing is that learners lend pens to each other all the time so I have to figure out if the pen was stolen or just lent to someone who lent it to someone else. Generally I leave it up to the learner who owns the pen, but that’s probably my American culture showing through. The worker housing had no electricity, but they did have water heaters that had a space beneath them to light a fire. Still, it wasn’t the hot shower I was looking for. It just took the edge off the cold water.
The lodge is really good for the workers. They get N$300 a month plus free lodging and they get food packages with more food than they need (they send half of it back to their families along with some of their money. Each month each worker gets 10 kg of flour, sugar, and mealie meal, 2 kg of cooking oil, 4 tins of fish and 4 of mince meat, six candles, one kg of washing powder, two large boxes of matches, soap, and toilet paper.) Plus they get to keep things that the tourists leave for them and the work isn’t very hard. It’s much better than subsistence farming. The best part is that the tourists really enjoyed it and the lodge wants the group to come back again and the headmaster was thinking that this time we could do a Friday night show too and maybe even earn a little more money. It’s a really great way to earn money since it is a renewable source (the tourists are new every week so they don’t get tired of giving or of hearing the kids perform) and it allows the kids to share their culture and to see that it is valued (so hopefully they start to think that their traditions are important too.)
Bigger support base
Several of the tourists wanted more information on how they could collect donations in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom so I put together a newsletter with notes about Namibian culture, the village, the school, and a few projects I’d really like to start or finish up, plus lots of photos of the kids and the school. If even one of them follows through it might be a really great way to broaden my support base and allow me to do more projects for the school than I could do with you all alone supporting me. I’m not sure if Anker will get another volunteer so I’d really like to leave them with enough supplies that they just have to maintain everything, not try to repair or get anything else.
In other news I think I am really, honest to goodness sick now (I have been fighting a cold/flu thing for a good month) but I’m trying to pretend that I’m not. I am pretty sure that I have a bit of a fever (I used up all my thermometers the last time I was sick) and my throat is sore most of the time (honey lemon tea and !orarasen and rooibas tea just aren’t cutting it anymore.) There’s only one week left until exams so it’s a really bad time to be sick. I at least want to make it to the
start of exams next Monday before I call Peace Corps (who might panic and want to pull me out to Otjiwarongo or Windhoek because they think that Anker is in the middle of nowhere and, quite honestly, it kind of is) because someone else can invigilate my exams but if I’m not there,
no one will teach my classes or finish up the last bits of marking for the term.
I have decided not to go on the educational tour to Etosha with the seventh graders. I had a good time this weekend, but I realized that if I don’t get some time away from kids and with other volunteers this break I will be an angry person next term and that’s not good for anyone. One week is half the term break and I don’t think I can handle that much of my holiday with grade seven. I’ll pay the fee (to subsidize the trip some for the grade 7s and because they were planning on me being there.) because it’s only N$110 and, I know I’ve said this before, but there isn’t much to spend money on here so it tends to accumulate for me. Also, I’m hoping that lots of the kids can earn up enough money to go because they like animals a lot and because it’s a chance for them to get out of the village and see some of the wider world.
I got my traditional Damara dress back this week. It’s beautiful and all of the learners are really impressed that I’m wearing their traditional clothes. I paid the lady N$60 because they said that most people charge N$50 for just the work and, although I gave her the fabric, she provided the thread, buttons, and rickrack (plus I didn’t think N$50 was quite enough.) I'll send photos soon.
A million dollars
I gave my learners an assignment to write about what they would do if they had a million dollars. I thought it would be a great assignment, but it turned out to be a flop. Most of the kids just wrote a list of things that they would buy which isn’t great practice for English. On top of that, a million dollars was completely out of their ability to wrap their minds around. Most of them wrote how they would buy chocolate and lots of porridge and goats and when I mentioned that it would take thousands of kilos of chocolate to use up a million dollars they added things like biscuits. The most ambitious boy wrote about how he would buy a taxi.
Behind my door
Other than that, I’m doing OK, just trying to make it to the break. I’ve been doing a lot more work in my house on my computer (and locking my door and only letting learners in who have homework questions (usually maths)) because I can just sit on my bed and listen to U2, but I’m actually working on stuff for the school and not just hanging out. I’m revising grants or making up a brochure for the tourists or making plans for future projects I can work on.
Anyway, I'll have to call Peace Corps before I go to Windhoek for my physical because if I go there and they find out that I've been sick and I didn't call them I'll get in trouble. I'm OK. At most it's the flu just turning into Strep Throat so I should be OK for just a few more
days. OK, that's about it. Lots of love everyone.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Packing us in