Monday, April 30, 2007

term 1 in review (email from Amy)

It's been a long semester and I know I've been terrible about keeping up with emailing everyone. I assure you that was due to some problems I faced aquiring email, not due to a lack of desire. Hopefully next term will be better with regard to my availibility. School is going really well. I feel amazingly more confident in the classroom. I think that I am really starting to get the hang of this teaching thing. I'm teaching one less class this term, but I think that the quality of my teaching has just skyrocketed. When I think back to what I was trying to do last year at this time, I can't believe how ridiculous I find it.

This term break I'm just hanging out for the first half-I'm hopefully going back to Anker today and staying there until Wednesday. Then I plan to go to Windhoek and hang out. After that I'm hiking through Fish River Canyon- about 80-90 K in 6 days. I've heard it's beautiful and I'm excited to do some camping and to see more of the south of the country.

I'm thinking more and more about what I'll do when I finish here. I'm seriously thinking about doing grad school, but I'm also thinking that I will need to take a while at some random job just to reaclimatize myself to American culture (you wouldn't believe how really great it sounds some days to be working as a clerk at Barnes and Noble.) They say that culture shock is the worst on the return trip- it's easy to understand why the culture is so different when you're in a completely new country but when you go back home to everything you used to be so accustomed to and everything seems so foreign and strange-that's when you really start to question things. I can actually see the culture shock looming on the horizon.

I do miss all of you, although it's turned into something different than it was at the beginning. At the begining its all frenetic phone calls and desperation to have contact. Now things have mellowed into a gentle sort of homesickness. Most of the time I'm concentrated on my own concerns, but every now and then something brings you viscerally back home or you find yourself missing someone you haven't thought about in weeks. You'd be surprised how often food can do it. Every now and then I'll eat a food that I haven't had in a long time and it will yank you into a different time and space. It's happened to me with salad, bacon, and mashed potatoes. It's a very intense experience and it usually doesn't repeat itself. I eat bacon now and I feel nothing, but the first time I ate it I was suddenly back in my home in Minnesota on a Saturday morning in early winter.

I've been reading really really ridiculous amounts. Even I find it a little ridiculous how many books I've read this term. In March I finished 12 books. In April I finished 7 including Tess of the D'Urbevilles, Barchester Towers, The Color Purple, High Fidelity, Cry The Beloved Country, and I'm halfway through Hard Times by Charles Dickens. I've decided that I like the book situation here. There's sort of an informal person-to-person library system between volunteers with houses in larger cities acting as a sort of branch library. You take books that you want to read back to your site and keep them for as long as you need to. When you're done, you bring them back to the shopping town and they get passed to someone else. Granted, you're limited as to the variety of books, but if you really want some book you can get the word out and other volunteers will spread the news.

I've found that I have completely given up on the news. Anything I know about current events now comes from my 1-3 month old International Newsweeks or from word of mouth. I could, I suppose, watch NBC (Namibian Brodcasting Company) for their news, but they are most likely to report on cattle theft and the production values are somewhere between an amatuer vhs recording of a high school play and the movies that you get if you give a teenager a video camera. Also they sometimes say ridiculous things. One volunteer reported that they heard this said "Is shelter still a necessity or has it become a luxery?" accompanied by a picture of a tin shack from the location. She said her responses ranged from "Are you serious?" to "Are you on crack?" Anyway, mostly I don't know anything about the world anymore.

The kids are OK. Their marks are still abysmal, but no more than I expected. We're still working on having an acceptable discipline policy. It's very difficult to discipline kids who are used to corporal punishment when you do not engage in it. Some days it has me tearing
out my hair. Oh, in the realm of amazingly great news for the year-Anker now has cell coverage. Which makes me feel like I'm no longer on the dark side of the moon. I was so happy when I found out that I actually did a little dance. They had been telling me that it would happen, but I assumed that it was sort of the "one day the sun will explode" sort of it will happen.

Anyway, I hope everyone is well. I promise I will try to be less completely unreachable. Lots of love.

Take care.

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