This past week I left for my new home in northern Namibia. I am living in a small village named Mayenzere in the West Kvango region. A lot has happened in one week in my new village. Driving up to Mayenzere took a total of two days. The first day was a 7 hour drive from Okhanje to Rundu. The scenery was incredible! Miles upon miles of savannah. Every once in awhile you would see some wildlife. Zebras and warthogs drinking at the watering hole even a family of giraffes running through the fields. It was beautiful. The northern part of Namibia is separated from the south by a marker labelled the “red line”. As soon as we passed the red line the whole life style changed. Mud huts and homesteads started popping up every few kilometers. Families selling meat on the side of the road and hitchhikers every few feet. The next day we took the final 2 hour trek to our village. We were driving along the main road and eventually our trainer said we were here, except there was no school to be seen. Turns out we have to travel about a mile into the “bush” to actually get to our school. After another ten minutes of more bumps and sharp turns than I have ever gone through we pulled up to the school. We were dropped off at our new homestead and started to move in. To say it was a culture shock is an understatement. I was dropped off in a homestead of 6 mud huts and one concrete building used as a kitchen. The family showed me my hut.
I opened my door and found the only thing inside was a mattress on top of some cinder blocks. Well it took me about 2 min to move my stuff into my new home. We were shown the bathroom and shower area which is just a tarpped off area. I spent the next few hours of Sunday talking in kwangali with my new family. They are great. I am living with the principal and his family. His sister and her three kids, as well as his mom, live in the homestead. We had our first meal by the fire side under the stars. It was an unbelievable experience that I have never had the opportunity to be a part of.
I woke up the next morning around 4 am by a rooster next to my hut. It wasn’t the wake up call that I was looking forward to. School in my village is taught from 7am till about 1pm with a half hour tea break or recess for the kids around 9:45am. Kids are separated by grades and they stay in their classrooms all day and the teachers move from class to class. The kids are very respectful of the teachers. They all stand and greet them when they walk in the room and do not sit down until the teachers give them permission.
Whenever a student wishes to answer a question they stand and answer. In the older classes if the student gets the question wrong they must remain standing until they answer a question correctly. I witnessed kids standing for 15-20 min till they were able to answer a question correctly. We spent the first week here observing the teachers. The one sad difference in school here than in the states are that substitute teachers are non existent. If a teacher is sick or can’t come in to school that day then the classes they are responsible for are left untaught and the kids sit in the classrooms working or talking or sometimes just sitting there for periods at a time. This was frustrating for me because we sat there, a resource for the kids, and were unable to teach them because we needed to wait until we had learned the proper teaching etiquette in Namibia. Friday though I decided that I didn’t want to wait and let the children suffer so I walked into the 7th grade class and started teaching math. I had watched their class the last two days so I knew what they were learning and I decided to spend the periods teaching them what I knew about percentages. Besides having to talk in English quite slowly I was able to accomplish a lesson and they told me that I did a good job and they understood what I was saying most of the time. I love my school. The kids are starting to call me by my name, which since I have arrived has changed to Jojo. I am feeling a real connection to life here in Namibia. I hope everyone is doing well back home and I am thinking of everyone there and I am especially jealous of your hot showers. Next week we get to officially start teaching and working with the kids so I will let everyone know how that’s going when I post next time.