Monthly Archives: March 2012

March Madness

24 March 2012, Saturday

“I am many things. No one thing defines me.” – Keeping the Faith

Here is a little bit of everything that has been going on this month…

Last week we had a school fun day.  That meant the learners could bring N$2 and dress in funny clothes for the day instead of their school uniforms.  A lot of the boys dressed as girls and the girls dressed as boys.  The ones who didn’t have funny clothes used chalk and water to paint their faces.  One told me that on that day she was white just like me.  The teachers were even suppose to get into it.  There were several male teachers who dressed in women’s clothes; some dressed in adult size school uniforms; some just wore shorts instead of pants; some women dressed as men; one teacher dressed in white robes with a white turban (don’t even want to know what he was going for).  I dressed for the beach.  I put my swimsuit top over a shirt, wore shorts over tights, flip flops instead of my heals, braided my hair, wore my sunglasses, and carried a towel around all day.  The kids loved it.

The next day was St. Patrick’s Day and my flat was decked out for the occasion, even the giraffes got into it.  I had quite a few visitors and it was great to see some people I hadn’t seen since Christmas. 

This week I started a new secondary project.  One of my colleagues started a soccer program with a group of learners and I volunteered to help out.  It’s a program called Play Football Play Fair and it was put together by the Namibian Football Association (NFA) and FIFA.  It’s an eleven week program designed for a group of 12 girls and 12 boys.  Well we ended up with 9 girls and 15 boys, but I’m still glad they are including the girls. NFA and FIFA even supplied us with a set of soccer balls, cones, 12 yellow bibs and 12 blue bibs, a ball pump, and coaching manuals.  Each week there is a 45 minute soccer practice focused on a specific soccer skill and then a 45 minute lesson on a different health or fitness topic each week.  We have decided to break it into two meeting each week and do the soccer practice on Mondays and the health lesson on Thursdays.  The kids are loving it because they get to use actual soccer balls and soccer equipment but some of the health topics are going to be really great for them to learn as well. 

Wednesday the 21st was Independence Day for Namibia meaning no school, so on Tuesday, we had a cultural celebration to prepare for Independence Day.  Our school is fortunate enough to have multiple Namibian cultures all in the same school, so on Tuesday, each culture group put together a performance.  Myself and the teacher from Zimbabwe were the judges of these cultural performances since neither of us is affiliated with a particular cultural group.  It was really great to watch some of my learners perform their traditional songs and dance.  We sent three of the groups to a big Independence Day celebration being held in a neighboring town today.  They were all very excited and I watched some of them practicing after school yesterday to be ready for their performance today.

I was unable to accompany the group going to the performances because I had another engagement today.  Group 35 came to Otjiwarongo today.  They have been in Namibia for just over a week now.  They are staying in one of the neighboring towns which is much smaller than Otjiwarongo.  In the past week, they have started their training session, been assigned their languages, and moved in with their host families.  They have a much smaller group than my group, only 22 trainees, and they are in Namibia as health volunteers.  The next group of education volunteers will come in July or August.  It was a lot of fun to meet with the newest trainees after they have only been in Namibia for a week.  They had a lot of the same questions our group had when we got here.  I helped them get cell phones today which of course lead to all the questions about how phone “plans” work in Namibia.  I think by the time they left we had most of the questions answered and everyone was sending their new phone numbers back to America so they could talk to their friends and family.  I can’t believe it, I’m no longer one of the newbies in Namibia.  It boggles my mind that I have been here for 7 months now.  Time is just flying by, but I’m loving it.

TTFN, Marsha

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6A on Fun Day

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Some more of my kids on Fun Day

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The Ovambo Culture Group

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The Ovaherero Culture Group

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more Ovaherero

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more Ovaherero

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The Damara Culture Group

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One of my learners just grooving to the music between performances

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A teacher and a learner dancing between performances

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Several teachers dancing

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The Kavango Culture group

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more Kavango

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more Kavango

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dancing on St. Patty’s Day

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the giraffes dressed for the occasion

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green snowflakes and shamrocks

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the letter I recieved this week from Grandma Swatosh. I don’t know where the other half is but it’s lost in America somewhere.  The letter came in a USPS envelop appologizing for the damage to the enclosed document. 😦  But don’t let this discourage you from writing.  Every other letter has arrived in tact.

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Miss Marsha’s Mail

9 March 2012, Friday

“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others this is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.”

Who would have thought? Miss Marsha’s Mail has really taken off.  Everyday I’m getting 40-50 letters.  Yeah, a lot of them are just short little notes to tell me they like my class or they don’t like their seat or they want more stickers, but some of these kids actually had stories to tell.  They needed someone to talk to and they wanted advice.  It got to the point last week where I was spending from the time I got home until the time I went to bed reading and responding to letters.  I got to the point this week where I didn’t have any more clean clothes because I haven’t had the time to do laundry for about four weeks.  I finally had to close Miss Marsha’s Mailbox on Thursday and Friday because 1. I ran out of paper to write on and wasn’t going to make a trip to town just for paper, and 2. I needed time in the evenings to do laundry, wash dishes, sweep the floors, and cook an actual meal.  Next week when Miss Marsha’s Mail opens, I promised the kids that I will read everything they put in the mailbox but I will only respond to the letters I feel actually need a response.  Some kids were putting three or four scraps of paper in the mailbox each day with different notes scribbled on them.  Most of the kids are writing letters because they like getting a letter back, but they don’t write me more than a sentence or two and it’s usually just telling me that they like my class or they are happy they passed a test. 

Below is a small sample of some of the letters I get on a daily basis.  Since this has become such a big part of my life lately, I thought you all might enjoy seeing what I read every day.  I’ve translated some of the Namlish to English so you can understand better.  Enjoy…

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Dear Miss Marsha

Today I am happy because I have to pass times, and I have to learn (teach) Sylvia everyday.  If you go to America, who is going to learn (teach) us math?  Miss Marsha I will miss you very much teacher.

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Dear Miss Marsha,

I feel happy because your lesson is precious.  When I walk in your class I feel like I’m in heaven.  I hope that you think that too.  Have a nice day.  Are you having your family in Namibia?

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Dear Miss

I feel sad today because my pen was gone.  I tell everyone my pen was gone.  They did not know where my pen was.

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Dear Miss Marsha

I feel happy because my friend’s mother the one who died just find out that I am not the one who killed my best friend.  I love her so much but I feel bad cause she is not anymore in this world.  I wish that one day she was here with me and I will like to say that tomorrow is my birthday and I don’t feel very happy cause my best friend is not here with me.  I don’t know why but every night after (something) I feel sad and start crying and I don’t know how to forget her.  She is in my heart, mind, and soul. No one can help me.  My parents are not here and no one can help me take this girl out of my mind so that’s why I wrote this to you.  Maybe you may help me.  Since you came I knew that you are a good teacher and I need your help.  Please.  And one think I like your teaching and like the way you teach.  I love you!

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I’m angry because Gregory beat me.  Can you please please exchange us please.  I don’t want to sit with Gregory.  Thanks!!!  I will be happy if you change us.

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The Right Kind of Friends…

2 March 2012, Friday 

“The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” – Abraham Lincoln

In Namibia, the right kind of friends are the ones who can provide you with a hot shower.  Only joking… sort of… So a couple weeks ago I met two VSO volunteers from England.  Turns out that they are living on the opposite side of the location from me, about a 15-20 minute walk.  We got together for dinner last week and they let me use their hot shower; it was glorious.  Unfortunately they are leaving at the end of the month, but it’s been fun getting to know them and talking to them about their travels around Namibia and their plans for returning to England.  They are also looking to sell their guitar, so I’m headed over there tomorrow to take a look at it.  They are asking a ridiculously cheap price for it, and I’ve been looking for a guitar since Christmas. 

As far as Namibian friends, there’s no one better than my neighbor Betty and her four kids.  They are always popping in to say hello.  Betty is great about providing insight into the Namibian culture and why Namibians do the things they do.  She is a very forward thinking Namibian and provides a great bridge between the American and Namibian cultures.  Unfortunately, she is looking to move to a city closer to the capital city.  It would be a great step up for her to move into her own home instead of living in the hostel, but I’m going to miss them.  The oldest daughter is in grade 4 and incredibly intelligent.  She wants to be a pilot some day and travel the world.  She is coming over almost every day with questions about her homework.  And a big plus for Betty is that she has managed to raise four of the nicest, politest children I’ve met in Namibia without beating them.  I get along really well with most of my colleagues at the school, but the fact that they hit children is something I find difficult to get passed.  One of the teachers spent four and a half years traveling around the United States and Canada on a greyhound bus.  I like talking to him because he can understand my English and he has a lot of really positive ideas about improving the school.  However, I found out this week that he was threatening to beat kids for failing tests in other teacher’s classes.  Which prompted me to tell each one of my classes this week that if a teacher ever threatened to beat them for failing a test in my class that they can come tell me and I will take it up with that teacher.  I told them that they should never be beaten for anything that happens in my class. On a more positive note, I was talking to one of my colleagues this week and I found out that he used to play baseball in Cuba.  We bonded over talks of how there is no baseball in Namibia and we can’t even watch it on TV (not that I have a TV).

The most important friends I have here are the other volunteers.  Thanks to cell phones, no one is ever more than a text message away.  I like to check in with the volunteers who are in the more remote villages from time to time just to let them know we haven’t forgotten about them.  Plus I have volunteers coming to town nearly every weekend for shopping or what what what, and they usually stay with me.  It’s never lonely around here.  Several of us volunteers have already started to plan the trips we want to take around Namibia during our four day weekend for Easter and our break between terms in April.  I want to see as much of Namibia as I can while I’m here, and it’s always fun to visit other volunteers’ sites and see the different kinds of living accommodations.

And speaking of friends, the people here that really need good friends are my learners.  For a lot of them, they are either staying in the hostel or one or more of their parents lives and works in a different city.  For quite a few of them, one or both of their parents has passed away.  Many of them have older siblings who go to school in another town.  I am getting letters each day from learners who are missing a member of their family.  They could really use good friends to lean on for support, but despite all they have to deal with living in poverty, they are still middle school children.  The gossiping, stealing, name calling, etc. never ends.  They struggle to find someone they can count on from day to day.  I do what I can to help through letters and providing them with a place to stay in my classroom after school.  I am usually at school for an hour or two after school is out.  It started as me offering to answer homework questions.  Of course I had to bribe them to come with stickers, but now some learners are coming to ask questions, some just come to work on their homework, and some just come to talk to me or their classmates or draw on the chalk board.  Last Friday I had five girls in my classroom who were pretending to be five of their teachers.  I was working at my desk and each one of these girls was standing on a chair at the chalk board with one of their school books in one hand and a piece of chalk in the other.  They were pretending to teach lessons and call on learners and unfortunately, threaten their imaginary class when they were misbehaving.  They asked me several times if they were disturbing me while I worked, but I just let them continue to play.  Below are some pictures of the kids I see on a daily basis after school.  

TTFN, Marsha

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