Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The greatest gift....

My learners enjoy bringing me small gifts that I have come to look forward to receiving. I am just amazed at the generosity of these children who have nothing of their own. The gifts are a surprise every time – random fruit or nuts, guava, half eaten fat cake, used erasers, hand drawn maps of the school, elaborate greeting cards that read “I love you more than fat cakes” or “This love explain how you feel to words.” The day before a math test I got a card that said “Please pray to God tonight that I pass your test tomorrow!”

Today I received a gift that tops all of them......a cat. Serious. Sabina, a grade 6 learner, walked into class today with a large cardboard box and handed it to me and said “okambishi” and sure enough, under the newspaper and plastic, there was a black and white kitten! Cats are not well-liked here, so the learners were shocked at how ecstatic I was and they thought I was joking when I said the cat would sleep in my bed with me...ha. I spent the night trying to get her to eat and not run under my bed out of reach. I am still thinking about a name.....

Word of the Day: Okambishi = cat

Monday, April 20, 2009

High Hopes!

The stars are aligning and everything seems to be falling into place for myself and my school. Both the newly constructed buildings (one for classrooms, one for teacher housing) are nearing their completion and look beautiful! Grade 10-11 and myself will be moving into our new homes by the end of the month. I'm pretty excited for running water and a flushing toilet! The teachers are finished with their daily computer training, which means we can finally start sports and other extra-curricular activities. I am super excited about this because I am starting the very first ladies' soccer team at Ogongo Combined School. We had our first set of tryouts today and over 40 girls came out! It looks like I have my work cut out for me, but I am ready. Task number one - choose a team, task two – teach the rules of soccer, task three – find other girls' teams to play against!

Let's see, what else....

The past couple weekends have been great. We had a 4 day weekend for Easter and I went to Etosha National Park with other volunteers. It was relaxing and beautiful! We had tons of great animal sightings, including 27 giraffes, a handful of jackels, 3 elephants, and an entire pride of lions! I will try to post a few of the best pictures. It was also great to spend time with some of the volunteers that I have not seem since orientation. Last weekend my roommate and I went to stay at Meme Bertha's, once again to make banana bread (without bananas). Then I spent most of the day Saturday with my principal in Oshakati, finishing the night at home grading a million math tests (majority of them passed!!). Sunday night a played a hilarious game of soccer with some of the Grade 11 girls and boys. We played barefoot in our front lawn by the light of a motion-censored flood light. We could see as long as someone was running in front of the showers every few minutes!

Phrase of the day: Inda hui = Go away!

Sleepover at Meme Bertha's with our 'no banana' banana cake. From left to right: Meme Aili (colleague), Meme Bertha(colleague), Ishuna, Ester, Magano(roommate)

Tangi Unene!

I need to take a few minutes to recognize all of the people who have or are currently contributing to the Ogongo Library Project. I have been amazed by the overwhelming support and involvement of the following groups and individuals:

Webster City High School (The teachers and students of WCHS worked extremely hard to organize a book drive and collect donations. They recently sent 15 boxes of book and school supplies!)

Sparta Cadet Troop 264 (These ambitious girls have been organizing a handful of fundraisers and will be pen pals with a group of my grade 9 girls)

Sparta Brownie Troop 475 (Organizing and conducting a Read-a-Thon to raise money and collect books)

Wong Publications (Donating two copies of The First Days of School)

Alfreeda (Organizing a book and poster drive at her high school in Madison)

Heidi Tumerman (Heading the Ogongo Library project, sending a million books and most importantly being such an amazing and supportive mother!)

In addition to all of the book, poster, and supply donations, we are currently at $1200 in donations. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has contributed in some way! Please check out our project website at

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Multiplication, prostitutes and banana bread

This last week of school went even better than the last! We, including teachers and learners, seem to be getting back into the swing of things again. I am experiencing much more success in my math classes. They are still really struggling, but I can see the light bulb going off for a few of them! My math classes have been a challenge because of the discrepancies in achievement paired with the expectations of the school and Ministry of Education. In order to prepare my learners for the end of year exams, I am suppose to be teaching them long division and multiplication when majority don't know 3 times 4. I was really proud of my grade 7 last week for doing so well on their multiplication quiz. Quite a few of them were even able to multiply 2 and 3 digits numbers. They have their first unit test on Wednesday....we will see how that goes!

Some of my grade 7 learners and I started a Math and Oshiwambo Exchange. There's about 4-5 learners that have been coming into my office during study time. I give them help with their math homework and they teach me Oshiwambo. It has been great! They are getting the help they need, I'm getting to know them better and my Oshiwambo is improving. Last Thursday they made me signs to put up around my place to teach me household words. My colleagues and friends get such a kick out of me trying to speak Oshiwambo. I often have them laughing hysterically just by saying things like “Andi hole ovula candi hole efundja!” (translations: I like the rain, but I don't like the flood) What really gets them rolling on the floor is when I don't say it correctly or use the wrong word without knowing, like frog (efuma) instead of flood (efundja) or prostitute (oshikumbu) instead of goat (oshikombo). I told a group of my colleges that “I know many animals – like elephants, dogs, fish, donkeys, prostitutes and cows.” They fall in the same category right? Laughter is everywhere here and so contagious! That is one thing that I know I will miss greatly after going home – laughing all day long.

So the chefs in my family will appreciate this next story. As of two weeks ago, I became the best cook known to Ogongo. I earned this coveted title after a sad attempt at chocolate chip cookies. They were thin, slightly burnt, and not enough chocolate. Yet they were pieces of heaven to the residents of Ogongo. I get asked everyday at school when I am going to bring my “little cakes” again. Then I absolutely wowed them with banana bread! One of my colleagues and good friends, Meme Bertha, is a very good cook and has her own catering business. She said that she must learn to cook like me, so I stayed at her house on Friday and spent Saturday morning baking. Fortunately, these batches turned out tens time better than my first! I am thinking about organizing a bake sale for a small fundraiser.

Word of the day: toilet = okandjugo