Saturday, January 27, 2007

Home, Movies, and Books (email from Amy)

I've decided that I must concentrate a few of my impressions from my weeks at home, or else I'll never get them down on paper. There were lots of enjoyable things about being at home-- a well stocked fridge, watching new episodes of CSI and Mythbusters with my mom, being viewed as (and, if I'm honest, actually being) poorer than everyone else for a change (trust me, if there's one thing I've learned here, it's that being viewed as wealthy is an enormous burden) and, of course, my wonderful, loving, infinitely patient family.

At the same time it was a sort of strange feeling, coming back. I felt a little like I stepped off an airplane and into another of my lives. It was sort of unnerving, kind of like you might feel if you stepped off an airplane and into your life at age 16. Still, there were parts of America that have become absolutely inscrutable to me. I was standing in the line for customs in Washington and this guy in front of me kept complaining about how long it was taking. Quite frankly, I was a little astonished to be on American soil, surrounded by white people with accents I recognized, and, in addition, in Namibia I've waited for a longer time just to listen to someone read a patently boring speech or to try to force a goat into a bakkie before. Everyone seems to be in such a big hurry to get everywhere, and everyone walks so fast, and no one greets each other. I suppose part of it is that I came back at the hight of the Christmas season, but here I greet and shake hands with every teacher every morning, often being asked, "How are you?" multiple times. Not greeting someone is like denying their personhood, and, although it annoyed me to no end at the beginning, I really love it now.

Other than that, I missed the singing most of all. I went to church and the music was beautiful, but I missed the old grandmothers who sing acapella with a lot of gusto and not a lot of accuracy. I missed the beauty of kids singing in circles in the afternoon, just because there is nothing else to do, and it's fun, and I missed the morning songs when kids might void singing because they are tired, but not because they're embarrassed.

Oh, also, CNN sounds a bit schitzophrenic, and massively paranoid to me. It's not like Anker is a bastion of pastoral bliss, but we only tend to worry about things that actually have a possibility of affecting us. I hear a lot about how we might be in a drought and whether we can get drought relief, about how to properly prepare the school filing system in case the school inspector shows up, and about how we'll manage to get the sports field cleaned up and the teams trained in time for the Inter-House tournament next week, and really, what more news do you need than that?

Last weekend I showed some movies to the kids. We made almost N$100 (US$15) for the school deveolopment fund off the entrance fee (N$1, US 15 cents.) It was a double feature. I showed Holes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was actually a lot of fun. I love watching the kids watch movies because they aren't jaded to them. They actually, audibly gasp at places. When the snake jumps out at the beginning of Holes I actually saw some of them jump and then the whole room went crazy. It was interesting thinking how they would think of things. I heard someone talking (in KhoeKhoe) about how Zero was a Bushman. I think it was a good movie to show them. They don't get many good role models for a more integrated society. Anyway, most of them were pretty exhausted by the time we moved to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and only about 30 or 40 were awake by the end.

This week has been more planning and more work. I have almost 40 kids in my grade 7 class and 38 in my grade 6 class. Let me tell you, that's not fun. Especially Grade 7, who have passed from the cute, naive 6th graders who stare at me blankly when I speak English, but who try to do what I say, into gangly, hormonal 7th graders who feel that they do not need to listen to instructions or be quiet when I'm talking, or stop hitting their neighbor. Oy, I think grade 7 might kill me. If only I were teaching one of the younger grades where they stare benignly at me as I try to find a way to change, "Draw a line" into simpler English

For those keeping track, this week I read Catch 22, Alice in Wonderland, Aesop's Fables, The Third Testament by Malcolm Muggridge, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, and I'm halfway through I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Macbeth, and The Sun Also Rises. I had missed reading so much. It seems like, in America I have endless options for obtaining books--librarys packed to the ceilings, bookstores on every corner, books lying around in piles-- but so little time to actually read them (or so many distractions to pull me away) whereas here, I have a severely limited stock of books to choose from, but all the time in the world to read them (and, it doesn't hurt that they're way more interesting than the handful of repetitively viewed DVDs in my collection. There's nothing like laying around on a Friday or Saturday devouring chapter after chapter of a good book.) Anyway, this was one thing I actually was looking foreward to in the Peace Corps that has actually lived up to my expectations-- I'm actually catching up with my reading.

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