new posts, finally
I had a brilliant idea this past week that involved fabricating some posting dates on this blog so that
a) I could blame the 3-mo absence of posts on a technicality and
b) produce lots of short, quippy posts for you to digest easily at your leisure.
At your leisure . . . cliché?
Unfortunately I barely know how to make a post to begin w/ and don’t have time to figure out how to get the blogger to help me lie, so you must suspennd disbelief and pretend that the dates below are true.
4 Oct. 2005 (real)
I’m in the library typing up emails I can send to professors I have selected from the faculty profile websites of schools to which I’m applying. I am doing what application forms term ‘making contact,’ which involves me looking for holes in degree program outlines that will warrant me sending an email to ask a question. So far I don’t have any questions for NYU of UPENN.
You will be interested to know that I am typing this to you in celebration of Teacher’s Day in Namibia. You didn’t know there was a Teacher’s Day in Namibia? Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know it was Teacher’s Day either until 4th period today when the principal walked into the faculty room and said off-handedly to about five of us that we could go celebrate if we wanted. ‘Does that mean there are no more classes today?’ asked one teacher after he left. ‘Kandi shi-shi’ said another. (For those of you who haven’t condescended to learning Oshiwambo yet, allow me to translate: ‘I don’t know’). So this new schedule for the day didn’t seem entirely legit yet. I had already taught half my classes and still, idealistically, try to keep them on the same lesson, so I planned to go ahead and finish the day. In the middle of my next class, though, a teacher popped in to announce that teaching should cease at 11 am so that teachers could go celebrate. Once the kids know that there shouldn’t really be any teaching going on, it’s not very fun to try to teach them. So, I gave in, am going with the flow, celebrating Teacher’s Day in actually, now that I think about it, the most fitting way that represents teachers in Namibia—by bunking classes.
The library is trashed because yesterday I had forty kids in here doing some extra assignments for me. These assignments have been amazingly popular so far; about 95% of my students chose to earn them when they turned in trash for homework. Here are the assignments, which are to be written ten times each and checked for accuracy by yours truly:
1. When my teacher, Mrs Hickerson, told me to use full-stops and capitalise the first letter of every senttence on Monday, 7 September 2005, I listened. From now on, I will always use full-stops and capitalise the first letter of each new sentence I write. Here are some examples of capital letters: P, Y, I, M, W, G, S, N, F, J, K, O, R, and B.
2. When my English teacher told me it was important to spell words that are written in the article correctly, I believed her. From now on, I will always be sure to copy words I use from an article correctly, and I will check my work to make srue I have done a good job before I say that I am finished.
3. I promise myself that I will always do my best to follow the instructions that my teacher or my assignment gives me. If I am not sure what I am supposed to do, I will ask a friend. If my friend cannot help me, I will ask my teacher to explain the directions. When the teacher is giving instructions to my class on how to complete an assignment, I will always listen and give her my full attention.
I always thought writing lines was a stupid punishment, but as we in grade 11 are still debating whether or not we think it’s important to be the least bit precise when our life futures hang on the results of next year’s exam, I think it’s appropriate this once.
On the way to the library the principal called me over and said, ‘These two girls want to talk to you.’ He disappeared, the girls hid their faces in their hands, and I said two or three times, ‘What can I do for you?’
Finally, ‘Miss, we want accomodation from you for exams.’
‘Accomodation? You want to stay at my house?’ She nods.
It seems an absurd request, of course they can’t, until feelings I’ve repressed—guilt over having such a big house and the desire to please my principal, to be a PCV superstar—spew forth and complicate everything. Crap. Really, I know I’ve already decided, but I don’t want to tell them now. I opt for the Owambo method of dodging commitment: ‘I should talk to Jason about it. Come find me tomorrow and I’ll tell you what we decide.’ The idea is that they’ll never come back, or never find me.
Six months ago I might have really mulled this situation over, stressing out. ‘Am I generous or selfish? Should I try to be more like them, more communal, or am I hoarding my possessions like a materialistic, capitalistic jerk? They’ll need a key to the house. . .’ The situation certainly has the potential to be a beautiful story in a collection of PCV profiles, a nice bit of propoganda for recruiters:
I have never felt so fulfilled than when I took in a couple of grade 10 girls so that they could study for their national examinations during my first year in Namibia. The bonding that we did, braiding each other’s hair, quizzing each other with potential exam questions, listening to their stories— I knew I was making a difference in their lives.
But I’m not thinking about that. Instead, I’m reveling in how revealing my principal’s avoidance of the situation is, how it’s completely characteristic of the way he sluffs off anything that might make him look unpopular. ‘What a poor leader,’ I say for the hundredth time to myself. ‘He didn’t want to tell them there’s no place for them to stay so he put it on me,’ I think. And then suddenly, I wonder if maybe he had expected me to accept them instead. Does he think I should let them stay with us? We only have three extra rooms after all. He’ll think we’re complete asses if we don’t say yes, huh? And now I’m waffling again. They will steal everything in our house, they’ll kick my pregnant cat, they’ll eat everything in the fridge. Man am I selfish to worry about that, but I want to go to South Africa next holiday and money is running out. But people will think we’re the most paranoid, selfish bastards ever if we don’t let two little girls stay in our monstrous house. And so on. (Yes, just finished a Vonnegut book).
Thankfully, rationality returns. I gave up rapport-building with the principal shortly after he sent us that text message saying ‘I can make life difficult if you know what I mean,’ so why do I care what he thinks now? I didn’t ask for a huge house, I’d wanted to rough it actually, to have a family and live simply, so too bad for him, misallowcating his accomadation resources at the school. Whether or not these girls pass does not hinge on staying inside the school; I can’t possibly believe they’d actually study more here than at home. They’re not homeless. And I am not paranoid to be afraid of theft after losing so much stuff already. There’s not much left to take, but not being able to find anything because unbeknownst to you it got jacked gets to be stressful after a while. Those girls don’t think stealing is a problem, perhaps even feel entitled to whatever I have and they don’t. They would definitely take something, piss me off, and what would I do then? Go tell the principal who still believes that we accused him of stealing our cameras and doesn’t believe they were ever taken? I’m not a PCV superstar; I’ve got to be realistic. Plus, I’ve got to protect my freedom to walk around naked.
August 4 (fake)
Jason and I are eating breakfast at the backpackers lodge in Livingstone watching the BBC news about Katrina when a middle-aged European-looking woman walks up and comments, "Now they're going to buy up all the oil and make the prices sky-rocket again."
"Mmmm" I manage to get out, through a mouthful of omelette.
She continues, leaning on my chair back over my food: "The U.S. just buys and buys and then no one has any oil or can afford it."
I'm afraid to actually speak lest she recognize my accent, but I venture a lame comment like, "Really" or "It's a problem." Then I ask her where she's from.
"And what types of alternative energy sources do ya'll use in Germany?"
"Oh, solar, wind, we're diversifying. And where are you from."
"Mmmhmm. Where exactly?"
Wait for it . . .
"Ah hah. You're at the source."
"Yep. I didn't vote for him though."
The conversation goes on like this for a while until I tell her we really must leave to go catch a bus out of town. She happens to be leaving that morning too, taking the Intercape. We're planning to hitchhike, but after buying so many crafts to take home as gifts, I'm dreading it. I envy the easy ride she has in front of her.
After we've checked out and are walking down the main street without any destination in mind, I ask Jason if he'd like to just take the Intercape bus too. "What? We're deciding this now?"
"Well, there's a lot to carry"
"I can't believe you waited until now to decide. I thought you had this all planned."
"Hitchhiking is a rather nebulous plan . . ."
As we're arguing, the German lady walks past us with a determined gait. "Are you taking the Intercape?"
"We're deciding, actually."
"Well, good luck" and she's off. We should steal her ticket! But we are two.
We stand on the side of the road for ten more minutes discussing our options until we decide to just go and try to buy Intercape tickets. The guys at the bus outpost say we have to wait for the bus to arrive before we can try to buy them, so we sit down and calculate how much it will be, when we could get back to our house, and talk ourselves out of the Intercape again. The German lady is there, trying not to stare. We decide to go the adventurous, albeit cheap, route and try to hitchhike after all, once we get to the Namibian border. From Livingstone to Katima, we've decided on the Mazandu Family Bus, locally owned and operated out of Livingstone.
We're impressed when a huge charter bus pulls up to take us all to Namibia. We jump on board, but the only problem is that there are no free seats. I get back off and talk to the ticket-seller, who says, "Ok. I will be right back." I never see him again. When the bus is about to leave, we decide to sit on the steps. It actually turned out to be a comfortable ride, excluding the 50 stops we made to let off kids to pee and let passengers buy raw fish. It only took us all day to get to the Namibian border, putting a hitch in our hitchhiking plans.
In Katima, a guy offers to drive us from Rundu to Tsumeb for only 4x the normal rate. It doesn't always pay to be white. So we stand on the side of the road flagging people down. All the nice cars keep disappearing into a nearby lodge; it's too late to really get a ride out I suspect. I flag down a trucker who stops at a weigh station across the road. He says he's not really allowed to take people, but he'll talk to his driving partner about it. If we're still around when he comes back by after dinner, he'll take us.
I'm exultant! I really want to get home the next day, feeling guilty about our cat starving outside for a week now. I tell Jason the good news, and we wait. and wait. and wait. It's getting dark. I'm so stupid! Of course he wouldn't just say no, he would say I'm coming back. How many times will I fall for this trick?
Jason goes into the service station to ask if there is any cheap accomodation around. He's ready to turn in, I'm desperate to get on the road. "Let's just wait ten more minutes. It's not entirely dark yet." And at that moment, out trucker comes down the road. . .
TO BE CONTINUED