Monday, January 30, 2012

Chinese New Year

I've been talking so much about the daring do's of kids in New Xade that I forgot to mention a very important weekend, Chinese New Year! I happen to be in my friend Kelly's village over the holiday picking up supplies for the kiddies, so I stayed for dinner...



My first tomatoes (after investing over 100 US bucks and before the plants got trashed again last weekend)



Kelly Liu and I sharing Tsa Siu Bao that she, camilo, and Alison made by hand from scratch!



Kelly's Eggplant dish which I shamelessly devoured over the weekend



Kelly's Longlife noodle dish which I also devoured



Firework(s)! The "Golden Shower" (Try not to giggle)
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"CAAAAALLLLVIIIIN!!!!"





I take it back, these kids are driving me crazy. Though, like the thorn I stepped on yesterday afternoon, I have to admit, or is it "I hate to admit," it's not their fault, it's really mine. I've turned into Uncle Wilson from Dennis the Menace, "DENNNISSS!!" or is it, "CALLLLVVIINN!!" Either way, I'm a cranky old scrooge and every time the kids come to ask me for water for sweets for shit, I'm reminded of how little I have, which is pretty petty since I have so much... Luckily, kids have thick skin and no understanding of the english language, so within minutes, all is forgiven and the next day we can continue our *friendly* banter. (Photo above, students outside doing traditional dance, or at least what they know of it)

I was left alone with one of the standard one classes, a group of 60 little ones. My head ached after half an hour when they realized that I'm not a normal teacher and that I dont have the guts to tell them to shut up. Screaming, crying, laughing, singing, some were even covering their ears to drown out the noise. Finally I took charge and told them all to "shhh!" and the kids, being kids imitated me, "shhhhh!" I pulled out a book and decided to read them out loud. Read to all 60 of
them. Students were demanded patience as I read slowly in my best Ms. Lewis from the 2nd grade voice and rotated the book around the room for them to see pictures. (Photo to left, the standard 1 class I'm working with, before they received a gift of coloring books. The task for the day, color in the entire sheet of paper and then scratch out a picture)

Since they didn't understand my words, they turned it into a game. When the book came around to them, they would squeal, hop on the tables to get a better view and grab it with their itty bitty hands. By page 5 I was wrenching little fingers away from the pages, telling kids to sit down, and the headboys were out of their seats monitoring the kids behind me. 60 kids is hard to manage. After a point, things got so chaotic, kids were falling from their chairs and I had to be mean again. I grabbed one particular kid, the policewoman's son ironically who had spit on me the day before, and brought him outside to scold him. He babbled some english words at him, knowing he couldn't understand what I was saying, but hoping that my tone would convey my message, and ushered him back inside... (Photo Below, Mma Leswa Dula teaching the kids outside, making a traditional cloth doll to teach body parts)




Friday, January 27, 2012

Puzzles and Coloring Books

Our standard 1 class this year has 120 students and only 2 teachers. It's like a circus of tiny babies in there. Well some are babies, some look to be around 12 years old and still mix up the only 2 english words they know, "hiiii" and "byeee." I've spent the past couple of days visiting these classes for about an hour or two, teaching them how to do jigsaw puzzles and helping the teacher prepare coloring materials for the class. In addition to being understaffed this year, we are also underfunded. No new materials for 120 standard 1 students. No photocopy machine either, so we have resorted to tracing old coloring pages 120 times so the students have something to do during the day.  

A few kids have taken to following me home after school. The same kids who used to visit before, but now they're 1.5 years older, less neurotic, and I can communicate with them better. I've been in a good mood lately, so I gave 2 girls some water and they sang and bounced around in their cups like I'd just given them the cure for cancer. They came back the next day, and then the next. On day I said no, not today. They begged and begged. Finally, one pulled out a small coin, 10 thebe (about 1.5 american cents), "I will buy water ! I want to buy water!" I laughed. Why not do a little role playing? "Sure" and I took the 10 thebe coin. They danced around again, screaming happily. "3 cups!!" she demanded from me. One for each little girl on my porch. So I got them 3 cups and a pitcher and they sipped happily exclaiming how good the water was. 

I realized this morning that as much as I cringe from the pitter patter of feet on the concrete patio, as much as I hate venturing out in the sun to shut the gate that they always leave open and unlocked, as much as I hate being woken up from a nap by a small boy in my backyard drinking from my tap, I'm going to miss their shrill voices.

Standing in a hot sweaty afternoon classroom with 60 kids, watching them stare at a Hannah Montana jigsaw puzzle for the first time in their lives, play with the pieces, discover its edges, its dips, its handles, its colors. Watching them 10 minutes later fit their first pieces together. 1 hour later, one of the groups had finished their puzzle and then went on to undo it and redo it 3 more times... It was nice. Even if, when I left, they sang to me in an itty bitty chorus, "Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

IgnorANCE is Bliss...

I’ve lately been ignoring some of the younger kids who visit my place. Not that I mean to be rude, but I just don’t feel like being polite. They come knocking, running all over my yard, and looking at me, asking me for crayons and things, which is fine, except that I don’t have crayons and things and I never had crayons and things and I don’t know how to say “I don’t have crayons and things.” Usually, it ends up with me sitting there with the kids for a while until they get the message. But lately, it’s just me coming out saying something in Setswana, saying something in English and then coming back inside to continue whatever it was I was doing while they stand outside looking confused. I’m pathetic…

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Moon Myths

The moon has been bright, full, and round lately. Sitting in my porch,
swatting away mosquitos, my friend and I were chatting about nothing
and everything at the same time. After a while, I found myself staring
absent-mindedly at the moon when my friend looked at me, contemplated
my gaze and said, "In New Xade, they say that if you stare at the moon
for too long, it sucks you in and deposits you in a pit latrine..."

...I kept staring, willing the celestial powers to do its worst.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It is so hot you can hear my sweat sizzle as it pours off my forehead
and onto the sandy ground below-- correction, it is so hot that my
sweat turns to steam as it pours off my forehead and attempts to hit
the sandy ground below. It is so hot that when I turn my foot walking
outside I'm worried about the sand burning my toes than my ankle being
twisted. It is so hot that walking 1/2 a block gives me a 3rd degree
burn through my umbrella and layers of sunblock. It is so hot that the
streets of New Xade are eerily quiet, every animal and human being
standing deliriously underneath shade of some kind, staring into the
distance eyes lolling and mouth slightly parted. It is so hot that my
laundry dries within 5 minutes of being hung outside. It is so hot
that everything in my house is hot to the touch, including my
bedsheets. It is so hot that all but 3 of my garden plants have not
only withered but completely disintegrated into thin air leaving no
trace behind but a few dried up crumbs...

it is hot.
worst off, not only is my electricity still uninstalled, leaving a
mess of wires and a huge gap in my heart where the solar panels used
to fill... but the water went out last night leaving me scrounging for
buckets and savoring every drop I use for my bath. Sitting there in my
aluminum tub at 4PM on a Thursday afternoon, I had a moment, however,
of peace. Something eloquent and profoundly simple about sitting in a
tub taking a bucket bath on a hot afternoon, where you have to save
every drop of water, count every ounce to make sure that you leave the
tub clean, then suddenly realizing, this is the most comfortable
you've been all day today and that there is no difference whether you
get out now or spend an extra hour or so just lounging in the aluminum
casement naked and for the first time this week, cool. Cause you know
that within ten minutes of getting out, you're going to be hot again,
wishing that you could just start sweating...or at least turn the
electricity on so you can get a fan going...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Happy New Year everyone! It is hot hot hot here now and it's hard to feel sane. My electricity is still out (it's been a month and 2 weeks now) and so I'm looking for relief anywhere i can find it, bathtub, hot coffee, ginseng tea that my mom sent. Sweat sucks but it's better than internally combusting from the heat. Life by candlelight is certainly an experience. I was eating dinner tonight (freeze dried beef terriyaki sent from my brother!) and could only just sit there and eat. Normally I watch a movie or read a book or something. But because there's no electricity, my activities were limited. It was nice. Just sitting and enjoying the taste of good food, watching the sun go down. I can see how there is value to eating blindfolded/in the dark (isn't that a new restaurant trend?). In bad news, my friend thato says that the water will likely run out tomorrow. So I've prepared by doing all my laundry and filling my bottles and buckets.

I hope you all had a wonderful new year. I spent mine in the company of friends in Tsodilo hills, a holy place full of ancient rituals and mysteries surrounded by cave paintings from as old as 4000 years.