It has been a long time since I posted to you. How have you been? oh really that is too bad. I hope that works out for you. There have been a few events of note that I felt were worthy of your attention. Enjoy.
The second Peace Crops training was held during January. Which explains a portion of my time not posting, the rest is explained by business and laziness. All of integration was to be summarized in a portfolio for our bosses' reading pleasure. Some people put a lot of effort and seemed to get a lot out of it. I was not one of those people. While I found it useful and a good idea to have assignments and suggestions of things to do in the community to acquaint oneself and get going, some of it just did not apply to my small community nor was it even possible to accomplish in 3 months. If you view the purpose of it to give me ideas of areas to work in and to show my boss that I have ideas then the mission was accomplished.
The rest of IST (inter service training), with the sessions and the meetings was just about on par with all the rest of Peace Corps sessions and meetings I have experienced. That is about as diplomatically as I can put it. I was feeling somewhat sick the first day that I got there, whcih did not help, and sort of carried through to the end.
The best part of IST was seeing the other volunteers. We are down another volunteer but are still quite strong in numbers. Everyone has become a little tanner a little leaner it seems ( I think the peace corps 15 only affects some )and a lot more keen to Peace Corps ways. The most ambitious of the group took it upon themselves to arrange activities for the evening such as parties, talents shows, capture the flag, and even a PC prom. All were quite fantastic. The talent show was superbly better than what I was expecting, I cried laughing during one portion, to those keeping track the last time I cried laughing was at one Master Bacon eating a watermelon without using his hands. There were also some surprises and some serious talent. The capture the flag game was gripping and perhaps the most exercise I have gotten since being in SA. Blood was shed and bodies sacrificed and some voices were raised. The important thing though was that my team won. HUZZAH! The PC prom was even fun, dances are not really my thing but seeing other people enjoy themselves helps...also booze (not that I had any booze). My favorite part was that a very artistic friend helped me make a tuxedo t-shirt, which I have wanted for some time, and the only way to outdo a bought tuxedo t-shirt is a home made tuxedo t-shirt.
On the way back I visited a few volunteers who have a unique site near Rustenburg. They work for a camp that hosts weekly stints on all things life. Things such as how to pay your bills, is getting insurance a good thing, archery, and trust fall exercises. A little side vacation after the semi vacation of IST. I plan on returning because it was a beautiful area and I like the volunteers working there not to mention I saw a wild baboon.
At the beginning of the trip I was feeling grumpy because I felt like a hypocrite leaving my site for a week, right at the beginning of school. The week of introduction and acclimatization would have to start over once I got back not to mention planning a weeks worth of activities based on very little work and teaching. By the end of IST and my visit to fellow volunteers, I was glad I went. Although getting back to site from traveling always takes me a while to get back into village mode. It is hard to explain but I feel incredibly sapped and it may be among the lowest moments of my volunteer life. That is more a topic for another post. Moving on.
Teaching is going well. I suppose I should say, it is going well from my perspective. I have a nice routine and it should go uninterrupted until the end of March. I am viewing it as half challenge and half experiment which are among my most powerful personal motivators. Other powerful motivators include avoiding annoying things and optimal benefit/effort ratios (I call this the laziness quotient), these thing however, do not lend themselves well to high pressure and involvement jobs such as teaching. Overall it makes me happy. There are moments were I totally get those headache commercials were the woman's face is twisted in agony, then we zoom into her head where her pain is being symbolized by a rope being twisted beyond its capacity for twisting. I also have a fair amount of Ferris Bueller-esque moments where I am just repeating questions over an over again to silence. This is somewhat normal again because of the whole non English speaking class.
One of the most successful things I have been doing so far is starting the class with roll call. None of the classes I observed did this but then again most of the teachers already know all the students in the entire school. In any case, it is helpful for me since I still need to learn everyone's name and there is an added benefit. The kids really enjoy me trying to pronounce everyone's name which is fantastically awful. A good way to start class, there is of course a downside to this though. I adopted the warning system against misbehaving where I write the learner's name on the board if they break a rule. Since I have yet to learn everyone 's name (48 in one class, 52 in the other) I have to get some help. This is bad enough but then I never know how to spell his or her (usually his) name. So I have to ask them how to spell it while maintaining the air of seriousness, since they just broke a rule and I sort of want to scare them or at least put in some old fashioned guilt. This is the part where the air of seriousness is broken. Sometimes the learner has trouble spelling their name, there is often times letter confusion (I and E), and then other students desperately want to help so they all shout out meaning I just hear white noise and see amused faces.
Me: K? O?
Me: K-G-O? S? I?
Afterward I have to re-establish the gravity of the situation. Luckily I was bestowed with the Prescott crazy eye and gloriously bushy eyebrows to accentuate it. It does not yet hold a candle to my father's one eyed focus technique which could stun just about anybody to 100% compliance but I am working on it. Luckily behavior has been quite good. There was one particular day when the barriers were tested and I had some students clean up the classroom but since then it has been smooth.
Teaching has certainly made me think more about when I was in elementary school and what all my teachers did. I think I was pretty lucky as far as public school goes so I have some good examples to remember. As I said, I am enjoying it so far and am excited to see where the learners will be at the end of the term and ultimately at the end of the year. I have high hopes. In the long term this will give me ideas on how to help the other teachers and potentially the school as a whole.
As I said coming back from vacation is tough. Well, that is not quite right. By the end of my vacations I have had enough and want to be home. So the initial feeling of being in my own space and not having to travel any more is great but then this strange unsettling feeling creeps in and then it takes a while for it to go away. I was doing my Peace Corps duties but was feeling sort of out of it and distant. This most recent returning was especially bad since both of my make shift shelves had broken since my being away, meaning wasted food and clean-up and now less shelf space. I was just in a weird, possibly bad mood. Another reason for my lack of writing and e-mails.
I was working through it and decided to make a visit to the post office. That is when things started to turn around. I received a package from my family, from my good friend Tom back home, and even a little package from my VSN (volunteer support network), who are charge with keeping volunteer's sane in some respect. Getting that mail really boosted my spirits. Got some goodies for sure but it is just nice to have physical link between friends and family. The VSN package was very well timed and really appreciated as well. Any scoffing I initially did at the idea were completely unfounded and I take them back.
As I was opening the packages with my spirits being lifted. There was an afternoon downpour. This was no normal downpour though, it goes in the top 5 greatest natural phenomenon in my life. It was not raining, then all of the sudden it was raining buckets upon buckets. Then the wind came and the rain was coming almost completely horizontally. This was my first experience with a leaky roof since being here, there were no holes in the roof, it is just the rain was coming in so hard from the side it was coming up under the overlapping metal sheets. I was completely at a loss as to what to do. I just sort of got up and ran around. Then I pulled myself together moved some stuff around, turned off electronics, put down some buckets and laughed at myself. The power was out at this point.
I then went outside to see what the deal was and saw the most amazing rainbows I have ever seen. One right on top of another one and a gradient of light throughout the sky. Moreover I could see both rainbows from end to end. Awesome in the true sense of the word. One of my host family members came out of the house and the only thing I could think to do was point at the rainbows and make some excited sounds. He looked and then smiled back at me as if he has seen it a thousand times. It was at this point that I was almost right back into village life.
Well blog those are some of the things that have been happening to me the past two weeks. Since I am in full village mode at this point and don't foresee any break in that for quite some time, there will be more correspondence. Stay well.
Noah Manson Prescott