Socks and Underwear

Socks and Underwear: April 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to Advertise a Grocery Store

"Ok you've got 'Shoprite' and an arrow pointing in the direction of the store on the billboard. You still have a lot of open space left."

"Hmmm, Put 'This Way To' in there as well. I'm thinking top corner."

"Right...still have room for more. Actually a lot more."

"Really? I don't know, that's everything on my checklist. Just stick a donkey's face on there and let's be done with it."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Bad Beginning and an Ominous End


Today I was intending to travel to a school a few villages over for a formal assessment moderation. Basically the high ups of the school circuit and district wanted an idea of how various classes were doing in these parts. To that end, they requested the 6th grade natural sciences teacher at both the village's primary schools, which is me, to bring along the teacher file and some learner workbooks. The teacher file is the plan for the class and the workbook is a collection of all the assignments and notes the learner has done. This all sounds quite simple but the department of education manages to make it utterly confusing to most educators, at least in my experience. In fact today I had a request to clear up an issue about what exactly the department wants and I couldnt really say, which means I have another side project to mess around with later. Anyway, I was all ready to go this morning but was informed that the meeting would be postponed until further notice. This was of course frustrating because I had to organise to miss class and set up plans for the next day which now was wasted effort. On top of that I was going to visit my friends afterwords and apparently I missed out on having biscuits and gravy and ham and cheese eggs for dinner. Not only is breakfast for dinner (brinner) a simple pleasure of mind, it happens to be gourmet food prepared by caring cooks, especially compared to my standard dinners.

I was also upset because I wanted to see how the moderation went. There was a minor kerfuffle between me and some of the educators during my preparation for the event. The moderation called for a sample of workbooks from the class that is represetative of the whole group. So I ran a lottery and got a random assortment of students. I felt that this was appropriate since it resulted in a selection of a couple of very nicely maintained and organized notebooks, some average notebooks and some notebooks that are messy and incomplete. When some of the other educators saw the notebooks I was bringing they insisted that I choose notebooks from the best students, in other words the nicest notebooks. I disagreed emphatically saying it would be a waste of time to present a view of the class that is skewed. They warned me that I would have to explain the poor condition of some notebooks which I found somewhat suprising since I would figure that the department wouldnt be that clueless to think every student is getting an "A" especially since they already see the test scores from the schools. I argued that if they really want to see how learners are doing then we should let them see it rather than put on a show. I did not convince the teachers but they say they understood my point. My hope is that when the moderation does take place it doesnt turn out to be a disappointment.

Perhaps the educators are afraid to show the work of students who are clearly not grasping the information for fear of losing their jobs. If that is the case, then I am in a special position since I will only be teaching for this year and Im not paid by the department or at all for that matter. So as Uncle Naph would say I must be free.


I ended up staying a little later than normal at school today. The sun was going down and I wanted to make it home before total darkness. A couple of times I have been wrapped up and left too late and had to make my way in the dark. Without any moonlight it can be challenging to say the least. In any case I was leaving and stopped to say farewell to one of the teachers to which she replied "oh well arent you afraid of walking home". I asked her, "should I be" and she said it was just that I didnt know my way around. This was absurd since I probably walk the route between the sections of my village as much as anyone else if not more. I also have a feeling she wasnt worried about theft or assault since that really is not an issue here. I am guessing she was talking about witches or some other form of the supernatural. I dont run into it that often but it shows up every now and then. I have in the past dealt with it very lightly whereas at home I would be a bit more aggressive. I didnt push the issue this time either since I did want to get going. Her mentioning it was still unsettling even though I was not scared of being attacked by witches, it is like telling someone not to think of an orange- it was an uncontrollable reaction. I have decided to deal with this case like I plan to deal with the case of the learners notebooks, I will lead by example. In the futre, Ill leave after dark. I just have to bring a flashlight.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Staying late after school one day, I went outside for a short break and noticed that the learners had created a new form of entertainment. It seems they had broken down some of the trashed desks and salvaged the skeletal remains. From there they interlocked the frames and hung them from a tree branch ala barrel of monkeys construction. At one point there were about 10 learners swinging wildly from this thing and I could see the tree shaking. I certainly appreciate the ingenuity but I feel like it is a little too rickety for disaster-free swinging. My guess is that this is also the reason why it is so popular. I would be curious to know if a sturdy tire swing would be as popular.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

50 Posts Hurray!

A Brief Fictional Interview Taking Place In My Head About Reaching 50 Posts:

Myself: Prescott you magnificent bastard you've done it! 50 posts what an achievement!
Me: Yes thank you I am quite pleased, 49 was tough but I pushed through to make 50 and plan on doing 50 more.
Myself: On top of the sheer quantity of work you have provided, you are now Google's # 1 Result for "Noah Prescott Socks and Underwear South Africa Peace Corps Volunteer".
Me: Well yes, that is true but let's not be vainglorious.
Myself: Hmm, I wasn't thinking that at first but now that you mention it most people would call that glorious
Me: No-

In other news a fellow volunteer has once again done a superb job of putting a more scholarly angle to his blog and contributed a thoughtful post. I highly recommend.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Awww Come On

My host family frequently rearranges their appliances and furniture in the house. In fact, I felt that they adjusted way too often for my taste. Just when I would get used to a new setup it seems that it would change the very next weekend. My thoughts were that they just liked the feeling of a new house or at least new space. Now I must consider another possible explanation which is that they may be checking for things that are living in places they cannot see.

I was doing some cleaning on Sunday and discovered a termites nest. My extended vacation left the little suckers unchecked for a couple of weeks and they exploited that time. They had managed to come up through the cracks in the floor and built a pretty large home between the wall and my wardrobe. I have been checking for damage in the wardrobe itself but as of yet I cannot spot any. Can't say I know what I am looking for though, my guess would be large wholes in the wood but I am not an expert. In any case it seems ship shape. I wonder what they were snacking on though if not the largest wooden thing in the room. Moreover I have tasted the wardrobe and it is certainly among the most delicious I have come across, primo cellulose.

I was not as repulsed as when I was attacked by bed bugs since they were not really after me personally, it was equal parts interesting and annoying mixed with a little disgust. Most of all, it was monumentally disturbing to have to dedicate time and energy on my precious Sabbath to destroying and sweeping out a termite lair. Let me tell you, those things are robust. I had a tougher time removing the mud/wood/termite spit-feces concoction off of my wall than gravity has at taking down the shelves I have been trying to install (I briefly considered bio-mimicry for the latter but have since decided to go for sturdier screws). If there was one happy party in the whole affair it would have to be the chickens who enjoyed picking through the aftermath.

Needless to say I have been inspired to rearrange my room more often. The interior decorating is really an after thought as the important part is that I monitor the cracks and crevices diligently for intruders. My live and let live policy is suspended until further notice. You hear me insects of the world? So back off or else I am coming for you and I'm bringing hell with me!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vacation Extravaganza

Similar to my update following my first vacation in Coffee Bay I will be highlighting only some of the parts of the vacation. There are plenty of pictures though so enjoy.

This was the only worthwhile picture I took during the workshop. It was certainly the finest Peace Corps training yet. Not only were the accommodations stellar but the training content was somewhat informative if not entertaining, even when it slid into pseudoscience. Most importantly though, there was an incredibly dangerous trampoline. It was too irresistible for some to walk by without a bounce. I stayed away this time because previously I landed on the grass after a complicated jumping maneuver.

The beginning of the half marathon. There were some far more ambitious volunteers who attempted the 56km run and started quite some space-time ahead of all of us. We were bused halfway up the mountain and dropped off here. Those at the starting line were getting pumped up with "Shosholoza" before the gun went off, neat stuff.

The pack thinned out pretty soon after the start with me being pretty close to the caboose. The scenery was gorgeous and the climate was refreshing. Even though I was walking I tried to draft behind as many people as possible. I made it to the finish just fine in case you were wondering. Thank you again to all those who contributed, the combined donations surpassed last year's donations.

After the race, a small group decided to go hiking on the Fanie Botha Trail, which is around the same area the race took place. This was at the very beginning of the trail. The land is all owned by a timber company which meant scenes showcasing varying degrees of a tree farm in progress: seedlings, fully grown trees and freshly cut areas. Don't my comrades look like they are off to see the Wizard ...the Wonderful Wizard of Oz? I was on the lookout for flying monkeys, one can never be too careful.

The trail offered lots of different types of hiking in a fairly short stretch. There were times where we were in deep in vegetation, which is certainly a change from my site. The spiders were out in droves, I must have walked through about 100 spider webs.

There were some absolutely stunning waterfalls. This one was "Cathedral Falls" which was pretty massive, being down near the bottom was like being around a during helicopter takeoff but wetter. We saw another five or so from varying distances but this one was probably my favorite.

This was after we came out of the woods and saw how high we had climbed. Again it is apparent that the timber company had recently been to some areas. I wonder how they go about cutting and replanting, it seemed somewhat haphazard but I doubt that is really the case.

There was a fork in the road and the gals went one way and we fellers went the other (we met up again at the shelter). I am glad we went the way we did because we went through a pretty large field and saw some manner of African ungulate, we think maybe an ibex. It is somewhere in the picture there. I think it is one of those black dots in the center.

Another spectacular waterfall. All of the pools created below the waterfalls were very tempting to get into but it was not very hot and the water was frigid. Shortly after this we encountered what we all believe was a baboon troop. I took a video of it but it was far away, grainy and I was walking so it looks like a Sasquatch video combined with the Blair Witch Project . Truly though we saw some baboons!

Right in the middle of some clouds. This pictures doesn't do justice to the peril we were all facing. It is hard to tell from the picture but the slope was quite steep and along with that the trail was slick and the ground uneven with broken up pebbles and stones. Everyone had a few close calls.

A break from the clouds to show the rolling hills. Again it was amazing to see such different landscape all in one day.

This was in the same areas as above but we were just moving through the valley which gave a great view.

Look at how green that grasshopper is! You might ask yourself "how much more green could a grasshopper be?", well the answer is none... none more green.

The trip was amazing and I was glad to get some backpacking done. Next vacation is World Cup which I am excited for but am uncertain as to how it will play out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Term 2

Well I am back (have been back for a week) and am quite ready and prepared for the next stint of Peace Corps life. School has started off well and I find myself excited to try new things which I have been going over in my head since the end of last term. Now that I have established myself it is time to start building and experimenting.

My next post will be about my vacation which was quite spectacular as you will soon find out. I have a bunch of pictures and half post on my phone and dead computer which I am trying going to eventually get posted as well. That's all for now but you should all be glad that I will now be using contractions with apostrophes and I will also be correcting my more egregious mistakes because I am using the school's computer since I got around to retrieving my blog password.