I’m not sure if I explained before that these first six weeks at site are our “settling in” phase of Peace Corps. We’re supposed to be getting to know our schools and the other teachers, and also getting to know our community. Surprisingly, that’s more or less exactly what we’ve been doing!
We’ve gone to school most days (so early in the morning!) and have done a mixture of observing and teaching (Dylan), marking (Christiy), and spending time in our respective computer labs (both). It’s almost the end of the school year here – 10th and 12th graders (who take national exams) finished two weeks ago and everyone else starts their exams on the 14th. Consequently, there’s not a lot of teaching going on, it’s more review of past papers (tests) or getting in final assignments for grading.
It’s a real challenge to learn all the names of my colleagues – you have to learn the first and last names because they use both interchangeably. And there seem to be a lot of similar ones like Nyumbo, Nayombe, Kayanda, Kanyunde (and none of those are spelled right). I think I’m making progress on that front, but it’s going to be interesting trying to get the names of the learners next year!
As for getting to know our community, we arrived just in time to attend the annual Copper Festival, an event celebrating the history of Tsumeb as a copper mining town. We were able to go to the opening ceremonies (which took place two days into the festival) and hear all the speeches (mostly consisting of greeting the dignitaries that attended) and see the special music performances. The music stuff was pretty cool; it was a band with dancers and also a couple groups of learners who did traditional dances. In addition to the ceremonies, there are stalls set up all over the park selling stuff (mostly “China shop” junk, but a few cultural stalls) and food. We had our first Tsumeb fat cakes there (which were delicious)!
We also spent two days this past week walking around town with another volunteer (who’s been here since April) and being introduced to various community organizations. These included the SOS Children’s Village, which is very close to our house, Tov (means Good in Hebrew), Tsumeb Family Support Center, Hope Child Center, a couple of government ministries, SOS Family Strengthening Center…and maybe more that I’m forgetting. Many of these organizations work with OVCs – orphans and vulnerable children. It was good to make contact with the people there and know what opportunities are available for us to serve outside of our schools.
School finishes at 1:00 and for the most part our afternoons are free! I’ll admit, the first week we spent all that time playing games on the computer, reading, watching movies, and just generally relaxing. Now we’re starting to be a little more productive, brainstorming ideas and making plans for our classes next year. There’s a great book called The First Days of School that we’re using to help prepare, along with the national syllabi for our respective subjects (although the English syllabus at least is not very helpful in my opinion).
Some fun stuff that’s happened during these two weeks include a PCV Halloween party where a bunch of volunteers came down from the north to hang out here, and a dinner with our colleagues from school (the husband teaches at Dylan’s school and the wife teaches at my school). They prepared a traditional chicken for us which they call a “marathon chicken” because it runs free. We ate this with mahangu, the traditional porridge, and then had a braai with more meat afterwards! It was quite a meal.
On the downside, I did have my first experience of being sick here. I had a fever and a stomachache and pretty much spent three days only moving between my bed and the bathroom. Peace Corps has a doctor they work with here in Tsumeb though, so I went to see him, got some meds, and was better soon after that. Dylan stayed home to take care of me, which was really nice. And, while I was sick I had a lot of reading time so I read through the Chronicles of Narnia. What great books! I highly recommend them to everyone.
We had our first “hiking” adventure this past weekend (hiking here refers to hitchhiking). We wanted to go to Otjiwarongo, about 180 km south of us, to buy second-hand bikes from a place Peace Corps recommended. So, at 8am Dylan and me and another Tsumeb volunteer went to the hike point and started trying to wave down cars. I felt so ridiculous! You stick out your arm with your hand palm down and wave your hand up and down. About five cars went past us and I was beginning to think we’d be there forever when one actually pulled over! We were like, “Oh my gosh, it worked!” It turned out to be a nice German man, who had a very nice car, and also was going to Otjiwarongo. Yay!
The way back was not quite so easy. We successfully found the bike place and bought bikes, which meant we had to get them back to Tsumeb too. Several cars stopped as we flagged them down, but none could really fit the bikes inside. Finally we ended up getting in a public transport combi with our bikes in a trailer in the back. This was a bit slower, as we ran on African time, and not free, but we made it back in the end, bikes and all.
So, on to our third week as volunteers!