Saturday, August 17, 2013


I have this love-hate relationship with America.  As a whole, I love the country.  I love where I am from.  I love the freedom we are provided.  I love that I am exposed to so many opportunities and walks of life.  With only about 3.5 months left in Namibia though, I’m seeing a trend that first appeared when I was in Italy.  Before I explain that, let me just say that American society puts a lot of pressure on us.  From celebrities to politics to other cultural expectations there is a lot that we should be doing in order to be awesome people!  We need to have an awesome job, we need to have awesome friends, we need to do awesome things, we need to have awesome bodies, and so on.  That is what society is always telling us.  I am guilty of falling into that trap.  I’m guilty of being very health conscious and up to date on all the latest fashions.  I don’t think that is wrong, but I do think that it can be taken too far and made into a very undeserving idol.

As for my love-hate affair, I love my country, but as soon as I leave, a part of me feels freer.  I feel this heavy load taken off of my shoulders.  I first felt this in Italy.  As I walked the streets of Rome, I saw that all women were beautiful in different ways.  It’s not so much your figure, but more about how you work it.  While there, I roomed with five other girls, all different ethnicities, shapes, and styles, and on a daily basis I believe that every single one of us felt beautiful.  Did the men telling you help?  Sure, but it was more than that.  There was something in the air that made you walk prouder and with more confidence.  In some ways, I feel that again here in Namibia.  Again, all different looks, shapes, and sizes are considered beautiful.  In fact, most people seem to lean more towards a full-figured woman.  They’re beautiful, they work what they’ve got, and they don’t show any insecurity.  That air, that confidence transfers as you enter the country.  You can go out and be as stupid as you want, I mean ridiculously stupid dancing like a cow, and people are intrigued by your ability to be yourself!  If a group of girls did that in America, well, let’s face it, you would be highly talked about and the stank eye would be thrown at you from all different directions.  In this situation does it help that we are a group of Americans?  Probably so, but as most of us know, I’m a very analytical person and an avid people watcher.  The Namibian women get the same attention that we do!

For me, I’ve adapted some of that Namibian confidence.  I am more comfortable being my weird self with others, my guard is not up as often, and I find myself worrying much less about what people think.  Thinking about going back though, my American brain starts working its way back into my current Namibian body.  It is reminding me how important physique is, as well as career, car, etc.  This is where my love-hate relationship plays in.  I hate that we are so vain and materialistic, but I can’t say that I don’t fall into the category because I enjoy the material things in my life.  I hate the extent we take it all to though.  The fact that we have so many pairs of shoes and that our flaws are so frowned upon by others. 

A couple weeks ago, I spoke about this topic with my mom.  I’m not 100% sure why all of my insecurities go away once I leave home, but I think a huge part of that is knowing that this is temporary.  That the people I meet along the way won’t remember me from the next volunteer that they meet.  Like seriously, they don’t.  People have thought I was a past volunteer and have asked me about my husband...he’s swell!  I don’t really like the idea of living a life full of temporary things though.  I’m more of a long-term kind of girl, so I’m hoping that I can find a way to transfer these Italian and Namibian discoveries into my American life.  I don’t want to go home and feel like I’m not living up to the freedom that America has promised me.  I want my personal freedom to extend into my personal life whether it is through my actions, goals, looks, etc.  I ultimately want my personality to be what captivates others.  Loud.  A little socially awkward. A follower of Christ. Compassionate.  A believer in second chances.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Learning to be a Duck

A moment of honesty: I find it difficult to want to learn the language of people here in Namibia.  People throw new words at me constantly, wanting me to repeat after them, respond, and so on.  Learners are always trying to teach me new words, which can be a lot of fun, especially because I love learning languages.  However, this is the first time and the first country I have gone to where I have no desire to speak their language fluently.  That sounds awful.  It makes me feel like a bad person.  It is unlike me.  But, hear me out, and please know that this isn’t me trying to justify my feelings because I know I should respond differently.   

For starters, I was brought to this country to teach my learners English, the official language of the country.  The language they will be required to know and speak for the rest of their lives.  On top of that, every time I am greeted by someone older (20 plus) I am laughed at for responding in their language.  If I answer correctly, I am laughed at.  If I answer incorrectly, I am laughed at.  Nobody can learn or have the desire to learn under situations like that.  We have all probably experienced something like this in our own schooling experiences.  Thirdly, there are very few times that I am in a room with others and they attempt to speak English, which they all know how to do pretty well.  I am not included.  I am not in the know.  I am left out 98% of the time, which makes that other 2% of the time make me not want to talk, a characteristic very unfitting for my personality.  I love to talk.  Awkward or not, I talk…A LOT!

To add on, there have even been situations where someone says my name and I greet them in English, but they insist I speak in Oshikwanyama.  Do they laugh after?  You bet!  Making me feel like the only reason they want to talk with me is to laugh at the American girl.

I write all of this now with hope that during my short holiday I can regroup and do a better job at brushing this kind of stuff off for my final term.  In the words of my father, “Be a duck! Let if roll off.”  Always easier said than done, but here’s to regrouping and coming back a duck.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Kids Say the Darndest Things (ESL)

As I spend hours marking exams, I often find my butt going numb and my mind feeling like a giant blob.  In fact, after a whole day of sitting and marking, my whole body feels like a blob.  Luckily, my students say some pretty entertaining things in their essays, which makes marking a little more fun.  Here are a couple examples of the sweet and funny things that they say.  Most of them are because English is their second language, but I can't help but to giggle and share them with the world.  I have blurred out names just in case.  Also, some pictures may be hard to read, so click on the image to enlarge it.  ENJOY!

Students are always writing "Good Luck" at the end of their work.  It's endearing and makes me feel like they are wishing me Good Luck as I tackle the long and draining marking process.

"It looked so nice and it is formed with metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks."  UM, SCIENCE NERD!

One writing topic asked students to write a letter to a friend that dropped school.  They needed to inform them about the importance of Education, etc.  Who better to write a letter to about dropping school and education than none other than LIL WAYNE?  

Instead of being "Yours faithfully," my students like to be "Yours fanfully."  Whatever floats your boat :)

"My aim to take this pen and paper is to tell you..."  I just love that he told me his aims of putting pen to paper :)  FANCAAYY writing!

"God Bless Me to Pass."  After struggling through so many essays, not knowing what they were trying to say (Heaven forbid we use a period to end a sentence), I came across this gem and got a good chuckle.  God Bless me to get through all this marking!

"These many types of sports in schools like soccer, netball, volleyball, athletic (track), jumping."  Excuse me student, what sport is jumping?  And SIGN ME UP!

"the rain did not rain well."  I hate when the rain doesn't rain well.

"Greet your family and your friendly."  From now all of my friends will be called Friendlys (I guess if we are using correct grammar it is friendlies for the plural version).

Lastly, night time is dark.  If you didn't know that, please read paragraph one for a better depiction and understanding.

Well that is all I have to share for now.  Although marking is kicking my butt, I am almost finished (hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday) and my students have been entertaining me through their exam breaks.  These students are beyond hilarious and have so many questions about the world.  For all you young ladies out there, one learner is looking for an American girlfriend.  Any takers? Huh? Huh?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Teacher Pride

As I stand at the front of the class monitoring a grade 10 English exam, I can't help but to marvel in the awesomeness of these students. For two hours they are required to take the paper 1 English exam. The learners quietly sift through the readings, appearing as calm and cool as a button. This is what takes my breath away.

In school, primarily university, I was what you would call a nerd, just ask my sister and ex-roomie. Even as an English speaker though, I always faced some form of anxiety prior to a test, exam, or big project. I am an analyzer and would find myself going over different scenarios and options to a question for hours after an assignment. These learners, learning English as a second, third, fourth language, do not resemble me though. They sit there, working hard, appearing as if they have tried their hardest to prepare for this test, and I am blown away. Blown away by their ability to take all exams in a language that is not their own. I cannot even imagine or fathom having all of my college exams in Italian. And this is what hits me...

It is so easy to get frustrated from time to time by low marks and by students not understanding what I am saying, but in this arena, learners are more advanced than me. In some ways, they are more developed in languages than me. They are talented, smart individuals that although may not be able to get a perfect score on an exam, can make American students seem behind. While our students at home go home to Facebook, texting, and hanging out with friends, my students here spend their afternoons in study improving their English, fetching water, washing clothes, digging holes for water pipes, and chopping wood. So not only are they advanced in the language department (meaning they speak more than one language almost fluently), they are being exposed to an incredibly strong work ethic from a young age. They are seeing at an early start the importance of hard work, and with that said, that is how I want people to see, think, and read about my kids here. They are hard workers. In several ways, they know more about work in their 12-20 years of life than I do in my 23 years, and probably more than others in their 49-60 years. They are doing things with their lives that if put in their shoes would not seem imaginable, and because of these reasons and many, many more, I am so proud of these kids. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Term 2 Finale

So I figured some people might actually be interested in what is happening in Namibia rather than always reading about my ramblings, thought processes, etc.  Therefore, I’m dedicating a WHOLE post to things that are happening in Odibo.

Currently, we are in the process of taking exams.  Students take one to two exams each day, which means they are finished with the school day around 10 or 1.  Since some days are finished early, you would think that teachers would continue to meet with the students, but so far, students have been free to leave if they want to.  Most days a handful of the students stick around and socialize.  For those that are there, I usually show a movie on my laptop to entertain them.  Others have been helping me in the library.  Speaking of the library, I am finally getting somewhere on this project.  Last week I was able to get all of the desks and cleaning supplies removed, and since then, I’ve swept and sorted the books that were already there.  A lot of the books are really old/falling a part or are for a younger reading age.  This is great for the lower primary students, but does not really benefit the older students that need as much exposure to English as possible.  That is where the money I have raised will come into play.  Amanda and my mom have started scoping out Half Price Books and making purchases through Amazon.  The plan is for Amanda and Mark to bring as many books as possible with them in September and to then have the rest shipped with some of the money I have fundraised.  I am eager to see how the kids respond to their new supply of books and also to see the final outcome of the library.

As of right now, there are a couple shelves in our library/old janitor’s closet.  The shelf closest to the door will be for bags.  We don’t want any of our books to disappear, so students will be required to leave all items at the door.  From there, there will be 5 seats within the library.  This will most likely become my office for term 3, so one chair will be mine, but the other four will be for students to come do homework, read books, get help on their English.  Past the desks will be the shelves of books.  In the past, the school sorted the books by the year they were published, which seemed odd to me, so I will be changing that and putting the books into Fiction, Nonfiction, Resource books, Oshikwanyama books, Miscellaneous items (songs, poems, plays), and Newspapers/Magazines.  I will also be putting posters on the walls to explain the difference between Fiction and Nonfiction books, and then there will be some motivational quotes to inspire the kids to keep pushing forward.

The last process will be to get books registered and ready to check out.  One of our teachers is technically the librarian, but the books have not been available to check out for a little more than two years.  I am hoping to get her help on understanding the system of how things should work.  Fingers crossed this goes smoothly and is not incredibly demanding.

In other news, I will be going on August Holiday at the end of the month.  On the 21st, teachers are done and have about 10 days to relax and prepare for term 3.  Of course us volunteers do this by driving all over the country to see as much as possible.  I will be traveling with 3 other volunteers.  We are renting a car, which is incredibly scary because Namibians drive on the other side of the road and car.  We will pick the car up in Windhoek and head south, hitting major tourist attractions like Sossussvlei, Luderitz, and Fish River Canyon.  Along the way, we will stop at smaller sites to do some site seeing and hiking.  I am seriously counting down the days until our holiday starts.  Although this term has flown by and has been great, we did not have any 3-day weekends, so we are all ready for a break from teacher talk.

Welp, that’s what is happening in my neck of the woods.  Students finish exams on the 12th and are then done with school.  Pray for my sanity as I sit on my buttocks and mark test after test for the next couple weeks.  Also pray that the students do well on exams and that the library continues to get rolling and that some of the other teachers jump on the bandwagon.  TEAM LIBRARY!!

P.S. On Friday, I will be picking up my traditional Ovambo dress that I had custom made.  Pictures will definitely be headed to the blogger world soon.  In addition, here are some super cool Namibian goodies I picked up last week.  All proceeds go to the maker of the item and their villages.