Saturday, January 24, 2009

First week of school!

Wa hula po (good afternoon)

I have officially finished my first week of teaching in Ogongo! It was a crazy, amazing, frustrating, and interesting week. I arrived on Saturday night to a 2 room flat with absolutely nothing in it - no bed, table, chairs, nothing! The owner brought me a mattress to sleep on until my things arrived. Luckily they delivered my things on Sunday. I now have a bed, fridge, stove, desk and 2 chairs! I am still living out of a suitcase though, because I have no storage for clothes or anything. I have a roommate. Her name is Magano. She is living in Ogongo for 2-3 months because she is doing computer training for the teachers at my school. The school just received 20 new computers! This is very exciting, considering the school does not have a phone or enough classrooms for all of the students! I am teaching more classes than expected. I teach Grade 6 and 7 Math, Grade 5-7 Art, Grade 5-9 Life Skills and Grade 10 Basic information Systems (computers/library).

The schools here are so drastically different from the states, I don't even know where to begin! The conditions of the school are unbelievable. I will post pictures soon so you can really see what I am talking about. The classrooms are rundown with very old desks and chairs that are almost all broken. Learners often share desks and even chairs. One of my classrooms has 45 learners and 30 some desks! One big difference is that the learners stay in one classroom the entire day and the teachers rotate. This means that I don't really have classroom space of my own! I have to carry all of my supplies and resources from class to class. There is also no time inbetween periods, therefore class doesn't usually start on time. On a good day, I get about 30 minutes of teaching time. It is also common for teachers to not go to the classes they are teaching - especially if they are non-promotional (art, PE, computers, etc). My principal is amazing! She is new to the school as well and has alot of great ideas and high expectations for the teachers and learners. She is getting her Masters in Special Education, which is very rare here! I am going to be working with her to start a remedial tutoring program for struggling students. THat is very exciting!

I am living next to 2 flats of Grade 11 learners. The are incredible girls and my saviors! They have been teaching me how to cook traditional food, do my laundry and I even learned how to make a broom from grass! They love learning about the States and using their English with me. They have also been a great help in learning Oshindonga!

Ok I have been on the internet for way too long! I have so much more to share, but no time! I am considering getting internet in my home and then I can send more updates. I hope everyone is doing well - especially in the cold!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A few pictures

I am still trying to navigate the computers/internet here and figure out the best way to upload pictures. I added a few on here, but it was difficult for me to add captions. These pictures are mainly from Etosha Wild Game Park and my practicum teaching in the north. I will figure out a more efficient way of uploading photo albums when I have more time at a computer!

Wa lala po!

Today is my last day of orientation in Windhoek. Tomorrow (Saturday) morning I will be picked up by a bus and driven up north to my placement in Ogongo. This last week of orientation has flown by! We got back from Tsumeb on Tuesday and the past few days have been full of training sessions. We had language training every day in Oshindongo – the language of my village. It was very difficult to learn and I definitely need to do some studying! Here is a taste of it:

Wa lala po = Good morning
Wa hula po = Good afternoon
Wa tokelwa po = Good evening
Ka lale po nawa = Goobye
Tangi = Thank You
Meme = mother/or woman older than you
Tate = father/or man older than you
Ombwa oya sa = the dog is dead

Yes, that is correct, one of the key phrases that I learned was “the dog is dead.” I also learned how to say “Hey white person, what do you want?” and “Run, whitey, run.” Our language instructor, Meme Shiivute, was one crazy woman! Ten minutes into the first lesson, she asked us to write sentences in Oshindongo (without teaching us any vocab!) and the second lesson she said that she was only going to speak in Oshindongo. She told us a few great stories about her life and growing up in the north during the apartheid. Prior to independence, black students were required to repeat 2nd grade and 8th grade just because they were inferior to the white students. She finished school and completed her teacher training. Her husband was put in jail for political reasons and her family was in danger. So they moved to Windhoek and she has lived here since.

It still hasn't hit me that I will be teaching in a small village for the next year! I have had some great cultural experiences thus far, but I still feel like I am on vacation with 30 other Americans. I cannot wait to get to Ogongo on Saturday! I have a few anxieties about teaching/living/getting around, but I'm so excited to get settled, meet everyone in my village and get back into a classroom! It has only been a month since I left WCHS and I already miss teaching!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I have a new phone number. The new number is 011-264-81-367-7527. The address I gave before is still correct. This is my cell phone number. It is extremely expensive for me to call the states from my phone - so if you call I may not call you back right away - just keep calling! I do not have to pay for incoming calls or incoming texts. I can also send text messages to select providers for pretty cheap.

Practicum Teaching, Etosha, and Tsumeb

I am currently in Tsumeb - a medium size town in the north. I spent the last week in a small village north of here. We did our practicum teaching in a hostel school there. For four days, I taught a group of students for two periods each day. Since learners have a break from school, they had children from the village come in for our classes. It was quite interesting because there was a huge range of ages! Since I am one of the few to be teaching grade 5-7 this year, I got the youngest learners. I had a class of learners that ranged from 2 years old to 8 years old! The oldest student was in grade 2. This was quite a struggle because only a few of them knew English! In Namibia, learners have classes in their native language for the first few years of school and then in grade 3 or 4, all of their classes are conducted in English. It was also a struggle trying to teach this class with toddlers in the group! I spent half the time teaching with a baby on my hip! It was a great experience though. The children are amazing! There were 7 and 8 year olds taking care of their 2 year old siblings. I did not see a single parent the entire time we were there. When asked what they did the night before, most learners said they plowed the fields, cooked dinner, worked outside, or took care of younger siblings. They LOVE to get their pictures taken. Everytime I took out my camera I had 10 or more kids posing and begging me to take their picture. I really want to post pictures on here, but I still haven't found a computer with USB access.

To reward ourselves and take a break, we have a few days off. Yesterday we drove through Etosha National Wildlife Park. It was unbelievable! I saw a ton of zebras, springboks and wildabeests. We also saw a male lion! Apparently it is very rare to see one in Etosha - we were very lucky! He was just chilling in the shade. The most amazing part was seeing an African elephant! It was walking next to our bus and then walked down the road right in front of the bus for a ways. We also saw a giraffe from a distance, wild dik-diks, warthogs, and a handful of African birds. I will definitely be making a trip back to Etosha in the next year! Today, we have the whole day free in Tsumeb, which is a nice town. Since it is Sunday, we struggled finding anything that was open. After a long trek, we found a gas station with one computer! The hostel we are staying in is great. There is a pool and very nice rooms. There are birds all over the hostel, including a beautiful peacock!

We drive back to Windhoek tomorrow (Monday) and spend the rest of the week in the same hostel as before. I am very excited for my language training this week. I will have daily lessons in Oshivambo. Friday we are having a braii (traditional BBQ) with live music to celebrate the end of orientation. On Saturday we all travel to our placements and then I start teaching on Monday (19th). I am very anxious and excited to get to Ogongo, get settled in, and start teaching!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Let the journey begin...

This is an updated version of my journal (I found a USB drive and uploaded an old journal). Happy New Year from Namibia! After 4 flights totaling 20 hours, I have arrived in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. We spent New Year's Eve in a posh hotel in Johannesberg – quite an experience! On the first of the year, we flew into Namibia and took a large bus to our hostel “backpacker” in Windhoek. Our bus driver, Mr. Cassinga, provided us with the fine entertainment of Enrique Inglesias' “You Can Be My Hero”.......on repeat. Apparently he is quite popular here, along with Celine Dion, R. Kelly, and 50 Cent. We are staying in Windhoek for four nights at the Backpackers United with an outdoor pool, shaded cabana and catered food. With all of these plush accommodations, I feel like I am on vacation rather than teaching in rural African village for a year! It will be a rude awakening once I move to my village on January 17th, but I guess this is a nice transition into my placement.

My schedule for the next few weeks is as follows: 4 days in Windhoek for orientation, 5 days in a north central village for practicum teaching, 2 days traveling through Etosha National Wildlife Park and staying in Tsumeb, and then back to Windhoek for the remaining 4 days for finish up our training. World Teach does an amazing job of preparing their volunteers for the full cultural experience teaching in Namibia. We discuss all kinds of teaching strategies – from specific subjects to general classroom management and the Namibian education system – as well as Namibian culture, language training, dealing with culture shock, and much more! In addition to being very educational, this orientation has allowed me to meet so many amazing people. There are 31 volunteers total, which is the most they have ever had. We have only been together a few days and I can already tell the group dynamic is just perfect. It is such a diverse group – in terms of background, age, experience, and careers, yet we all have this common passion for helping others that ties us all together.

Since I have only been here a brief time, I have not been able to experience the Namibian culture, but there are a few things that we have discussed that are quite different from American life. One is the way that you are expected to greet others. Greetings are very important and it is quite offensive if you do not take the time to say “Hello, how are you?” and wait for the other party to answer and reciprocate the greeting. This holds true not only in social situations, but anytime you have an interaction with someone whether you are at the grocery store, eating at a restaurant or running into the post office to drop of mail. There have been a few times where people have been refused service because they failed to greet someone. Wait, they value being cordial and friendly? What a concept! Another big cultural difference is the concept of time. Namibians are very laid back when it comes to time and schedules. Everything seems to move at a slower pace and they do not feel the need to rush through life. In theory, this seems wonderful, but I can see where I will have many challenges, especially once I am teaching and wanting to accomplish so many things. I'm sure I will have many stories about these two big cultural differences in the future.

I am hoping to get to an internet cafe and update my blog as often as possible – maybe 1 to 2 times a month. I would love to hear from all of you – via blog comments, email, snail mail or phone. I will list my contact information below, including my cell phone number. There are a few ways to call me. You can purchase a calling card that allows you to call Namibia. You can only get these cards online. You can use or It seems a little sketchy (with many hidden fees) but you can't buy them any other way. The cheapest way is through Skype. If you are not familiar with it, it is a free program you can download and use with the internet. It is free to call other people with Skype or you can call cellphones or landlines for a small fee. I won't have internet often to use Skype, but you can call my cellphone on Skype and it is much cheaper than a calling card or anything else.

Here is my address for the next year. I would love to hear from you!

Rachel Manley
Ogongo CS
PO Box 3056
Oshikati, Namibia