Smile Because it Happened

25 Feb

It was with an extremely heavy heart that I bid the learners of Moses //Gareob goodbye today.  Although we all knew this day would come, nothing could have really prepared us for the sudden tightening of the throat, the stinging of the eyes, or the emptiness in our hearts.    As cliche as that may sound, that really is the best way to describe this feeling– empty.

Only one month ago, Kari, Bri, Janelle, and I were wandering into the Moses campus, awkwardly standing in the back of the stuffy staff room, attempting to look like we could belong there.  We departed today, stomachs full of cookies and sweets the staff had pitched in to feed us, feeling like we belonged nowhere else.


Belinda & I letting loose, giving the “Jessie & me” photo a close imitation

 

I taught normally for the entire day.  I had the grade 7s do the Glitter Handshake activity, similar to the STD transmission simulation from earlier.  Mostly,
I really wanted Belinda to watch how it was done so that she could do it in future classes.  If you’ve never seen this simulation before, it’s a powerful one.  One student gets glitter put into his/her hand at the beginning of class secretly.  You then instruct the class to shake the hands of three people from different table groups.  The glitter from the one student will get onto almost everyone’s hands and it shows how quickly HIV is transmitted from person to person in an extremely visual way. (Glitter is actually one of the most evil substances on the planet, so it’s a good metaphor).

 


Eliser was my first “infected” student who helped spread the Glitter virus.


Setting them loose to shake hands…absolute pandemonium
:]

 


Fighting his way through the other learners in hopes to shake my hand

 


Stressing the importance of condoms in the face of such a rapidly-spreading virus

 

During break, Shade (Sha-day) invited me over to house for a minute to see it.  This was SO great because I have yet to do a home visit! I only went on one with one of Bri’s students, but I really wanted to do my own.  Well, as luck would have it, I was able to power-walk through Katutura (not a big deal at all) with four girls and visit both Shade’s & Martha’s houses.

Martha in front of her gate

 

***

 

Back at school, Shade told me it was her greatest ambition to become a singer and travel to the States.  Yesterday she sang for me and it actually brought tears to my eyes because I was so impressed & proud of her.  Now I understand why mothers get so unreasonably emotional.  It’s not unreasonable at all, as it turns out.  The pride you feel just wants to burst outside of you– and for me, it tends to burst out in the form of tears.

Here’s my girl, singing her little heart out one last time:

—>http://www.viddler.com/explore/Jillcepal/videos/4/

 

***

 

The kids, however, could sense my anxiety all day and acted accordingly.  They were noisy, jittery, and goofy.  Honestly though, it was exactly how I wanted them to be.

Here, you can watch Terrance performing “La Cucaracha,” which I taught him on Athletic’s Day.  The boy has an amazing ability to retain things after hearing them once.  He also raps Bri’s Valentine’s Day Rap constantly.

—>http://www.viddler.com/explore/Jillcepal/videos/5/

 

After the long day, it was time for the dreaded goodbyes.  I’d held it together during every lesson, every dismissal handshake, every beg for me to stay.  By the end of 8th period, my bag was overflowing with love notes.  The classroom was packed with students wanting to say bye and asking to have their pictures taken.  Belinda, kind woman, took my camera and got some shots so I could focus on the learners.


Little Johaness, right below me, broke my heart.
He asked me when I would be coming back.  The moment I answered “Never,” I lost it.
He cried into my chest once I said it and I could hardly stand to let go.

 


Some more of the kiddos

 


Even more

 


Trying to hold it together, but I’m starting to slip.

 

***

 

At the orphanage, the same tearfest continued.  Regardless, it was nice to see their smiling faces one last time.

It was the most heartbreaking to watch Bianca and Jessica Porter.  They had developed a really close bond over the month.  I kept coughing up sobs as I watched Bianca shivering and spluttering into Jessica’s chest.  Then I would collect myself for a few minutes and suddenly Jess would start bawling beside me.  Since she never, ever cries, this just made emotion wash over me all over again.

 


Despite the tears, Gustav asked me to come see his room for the last time, goofy no matter the circumstances. He told me to “catch a picture” of him before he planted a big wet one on me.

Sooner than we would have liked, Shane was honking for us outside and it was time to leave.

 

 

We leave Namibia with old shells of ourselves.  We’re definitely the same spunky, silly, quirky girls we were when we left the States, but suddenly, we’ve turned into professionals, into caregivers, into women.
We’ve felt such a powerful surge of love and protection towards the children we’ve taught, it’s changed us completely.  They always say experiences like this will change you forever, but it’s only now that I realize just how much.

 

Heads Will Roll

22 Feb

 

Before you ask, yes, this is the third blog I’ve posted today.  We have been so busy with school, grading, planning & wrapping up our final days that I’ve hardly had a chance to sit down and review my photos, let alone blog about them.  I’m on a roll today and actually have minimal planning for tomorrow, though, so here we go.

 

On Monday, my wonderful mentor teacher Belinda took the Moses girls out for some real Namibian fun.  I have really enjoyed having her as a mentor because she has had American students before, and more importantly, she’s had PLU students before.  She understands our responsibilities and is eager to learn from our teaching methods.  She’s also very willing to give up her classroom (I teach all day, almost every day, with the exception of a few art classes Kari teaches and a few lessons Janelle teaches when she’s with me).  In addition, she’s very open and knows that we are here for a true cultural experience.  No holding back.

This is an excursion that she plans on making a tradition as we bring her more PLU students each year.  Although she usually only takes her own student teacher, she has taken quite a liking to all of us: Kari, Bri, Janelle and me (of course).  First stop on traditional outing is the goat head restaurant.

 

It didn’t look like much.  Even to my (now) culturally competent eyes, the place looked a little unclean and extremely foreign.  We sat outside under an old canopy with flies zig-zagging over our heads while Belinda ordered “Smiley.”

 

Here’s Smiley! Yup.  It’s a boiled goat’s head.  This is not a traditional meal for only one tribe, but a customary dish for almost all Namibians.  While Belinda described it, I had a flash back to My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, where Toula is telling Ian about her family’s Christmas– they eat goat and her grandmother chases her around with the eyes and the brain, telling her it will bring her luck.

Similar traditions are kept here.  While the head looked terrifying to us, she calmly explained that many times, different parts of the animals are fought over, like the eyes, the brain, and the tongue.

 

A closer look at smiley….mmmm.

 

Before you panic and ask who I’ve become, let me just clarify that I watched the entire experience.  None of us were brave enough to taste it, and Belinda, knowledgable as ever, did not encourage us if we were uncomfortable with it.

 

Bri might be a little annoyed with me for putting this up, but I can’t resist.  Her face as she watched Belinda (and her husband, who joined us from his job at the Ministry) eat smiley was priceless.


Belinda was kind enough to ask the gentlemen to allow us some photo opportunities with their latest kill.

 

After the goat experience, Belinda brought us to her home in Windhoek.  It was definitely different from the homes we’ve seen in Katutura.  In comparison, she lived in luxury with a backyard, nicely tiled floors, and lots of space for her three children to grow comfortably in.  However, having spent a lot of time with her, I know that maintaining her home is a struggle.  Because she and her husband are both educators and they see flaws in the Namibian public school system, they send both their elder boys to private Catholic school.  Her adorable daughter, above, is still too young for school, but soon will attend private pre-primary.  Private school is expensive, she says, and hopefully soon her sons will be able to work to help out with small bills.

She had us in the sitting room for a while, looking through family photos while feeding us delicious cookies and soda.  Then, more tradition followed– trying on the customary Herero tribe dress.

 

This is only the first layer.  Herero women wear five or six layers of this undergarment to make their dress poofy.  It is heavy material.  I can’t believe women walk around all day in these.  When we went to Opuwo, we saw many women dressed up in this fashion..I have no idea how they did it, because I was sweating.

 

Finally, after much swimming in piles of orange fabric, the dress is on.  Sadly, the lack of boobs was a downer.

 

Belinda was crafty and stuffed me full so I could look like a real Herero woman!
SO cool.

 

It was really touching to have had the opportunity to meet Belinda’s family and see a different lifestyle.  She is such a great woman.  Even though teaching wasn’t her first choice, she makes the best of it by trying to better herself professionally.  She loves learning and it is clear that she is a culturally competent person herself.  I think the greatest lesson I have learned from her over the course of this experience has been to be positive.  Laugh at the mistakes you make.  Remember that the kids will love you tomorrow, no matter what.  Do your best.  And finally, be proud of the person you are– the kids will always be watching you for a role model.  We can’t let them down.

Meeting Brangelina

22 Feb

I would have actually had a panic attack if I’d met Brad OR Angelina, even though I’m not a huge fan of either (yet).  I tend to become a bigger fan after having a personal meeting experience with them (i.e. The Jonas Brothers and/or assorted Twilight cast members).  Brad & Angelina’s daughter Shilo was actually born in Swakopmund, Namibia.  In fact, the Hollywood stars have a beach home on the coast…a few houses down from where we stayed.

That’s their house right there.  Obviously, they aren’t staying in Namibia right at this moment, but it was still awesome to see.  Also, it was cool that Namibians just don’t see celebrities the way Americans do.  Celebs are cool people, but they are just people.

 

Our trip to Swakopmund was relaxing to say the least.  I think my favorite part of the trip was all the Jess & Jill bonding we got in.  It’s like we have taken even closer steps towards becoming Jan & Paula, our heroes/professors.
;]

 


Matching tank tops

 


Matching lunch orders/love lattes


Matching bracelets…and matching faces of annoyance as we were suckered into purchasing them by crafty vendors.

Because she is great, Jess read to me (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by the way), played with my hair, gave me a massage, and snuggled with me.  What a pal!

 

 


Another favorite part of the trip was the COOKING!  I miss it SO much!
We made two Family Dinners and one Family Breakfast.  Here we are, me, Jess, Kari and Bri, responsible for the main dish: penne with red sauce and alfredo.

Jessica Porter and Veronica were in charge of the dessert…TALK ABOUT DELICIOUS!


Can’t end the night without a little wine and champagne!


Morning French Toast for all :]

It’s so funny how these mundane daily tasks like cooking, driving, and something as boring as, oh say, heading to Starbucks, are the things I miss most about home.

 

The beach was also phenomenal.  Hello, Atlantic Ocean!

 

And of course, we did go out just once.
I wish I had a picture of the 70-year-old man ripping up the dance floor, but I didn’t bring my camera.
We met some nice gentlemen and a very friendly 17-year-old girl who gave us a list of clubs to hit up AFTER we were done with our first.  While Americans close up shop at 2AM, Namibians rarely close the clubs down before 6 AM.  We did NOT go to another location, but geeze.

:]

Just Once is all it Takes

22 Feb

Welcome Grade 7s to Condom Day!! was what the board read this morning as 7C clamored into my room.  I am so glad I waited to do this today instead of rushing it yesterday.

On Monday, the bells were not working.  Since Namibian learners are already late on a consistent basis– be it the cultural time difference, other teachers holding them up, or a random fight breaking lose– the bell schedule did not surprise me in the least.  Although I ended up having about 15 minutes with each class because of this mishap, it ended up being for the best.  I have all three 7s back to back on Tuesdays which helped tremendously, since Condom Day takes a LOT of set up!

Because I had planned a condom discussion yesterday anyway, I had the kids write questions they had about condoms.  They surprised me and came up with a TON.  Since I won’t have time to go over every question (35 minute periods are so difficult to work with), I made them a poster for reference.  I also did a fun demo where I blew a condom up and had a student rub vaseline on it, which by the way, makes the condom explode.  It’s exciting, hilarious, and informative…plus the kids loved it.

It was actually so fun to make this poster as well as vocabulary cards to decorate one corner of the room with nothing but condom information.  They had so many good questions!

I set up four stations.  Here, at Station One, the theme was “shopping for condoms.”  At this table, a group would be able to examine a large variety of products to see the differences.  They were also given the opportunity to touch, smell, and see the difference between a latex condom and a polyurethane condom (animal membrane).  We even had a femidom (female condom) available for observation (first time I’ve seen one, but they’re a big thing here).

The purpose behind this station was to teach learners that there is no excuse.  No one can lie to you and say they can’t wear a condom because of size or allergy or what have you.  There are so many kinds out there, there’s really one (or two or three or a hundred) for each person.

At Station Two, learners would have fun stuffing condoms full of apples to see how many they could fit before it broke.  Then they had to record their findings.  Did the ultra thin last as long as the ribbed?  Could they figure out a way to get all six apples inside ONE condom? It was a challenge and it actually involved a lot of strategy I was impressed to find the learners had.

The purpose behind this one was to demonstrate just how strong a condom could be if used properly.  Manhandling would certainly lead to a massive tear.

At Station Three, learners could stretch condoms as much as they wanted to see how much it would take before ripping.  Yes, there were a few incident where condoms flew across the room at a deadly speed, but no one was injured and the kids saw just how tough they were.

Lastly, we had the Condom Communication Station, where learners were to use their role-playing skills to practice responses to condom nay-sayers.  In a situation where someone may try to persuade them to not use a condom “just this once,” I wanted my learners to have some skills to suggest why condoms would be beneficial.  These grade 7s have already done a role-playing activity, so they were eager to show off their acting skills again, especially while I was video taping.

Below are some photos of the day’s work:

7B managed to stuff three apples into one condom

 

An engaged learner finding the condom’s expiration date

 

Intense condom stretching…ended in disaster, let me tell you…

 

Condom balloons (although I didn’t recommend this, I didn’t stop them either)

 

An AWESOME teachable moment about defective condoms!

 

One of the many strategies used to stuff more fruit into the condom.

 

Blurry, but their laughter and looks of triumph shine through regardless :]

 

One proud stuffer

 

Nikanor demonstrates the Femidom

 

Some of my fabulous learners after a long, exciting day :]

 

I was more than prepared for this lesson only because I have been dreaming of doing it since I found out what I would be teaching.  We did a similar day when I took human sexuality and I felt like I got so much out of it.  I remember wishing I’d been taught all that content when I’d been in high school.  In particular, I feel like a lot of the HIV and STD problems that occur could be reduced if people simply knew how to properly use condoms, or better, felt like they could ask about them.

I, in no way, expect my learners to need this information at this point in their lives.  However, it built a nice foundation for their learning next year when they move to secondary school.  My teacher loved the lesson and kept my materials for it so she can do it next semester.  I’ll find out how much they actually retained tomorrow, when we do the debrief and reflection activity.

I’ll never have a chance to do this in the States.  I am so glad I took that chance here!

 

Love you all and remember to wrap it before you tap it,
J

I’m Only Going to Break Your Heart

17 Feb

I have 4 days left with my learners and am at a loss when trying to follow Jan & Paula’s directions about enjoying every second we have with the kids.  It’s nearly impossible not to dwell on the inevitable– that in one short week, we’ll leave these kids forever.  The reality is we’ll almost certainly never see them again.

This week I learned that engagement is key to reducing behavior issues.  Unfortunately, you can have the most engaging activity in the world planned, but if your learners can’t even get past directions, behaviors will continue.  I had lots of success with my home room during my STI introduction.  We passed wrapped and unwrapped candies around and those who had the unwrapped candies “caught” an STI.  Learners were asking questions, answering respectively– we even pulled out a condom because the questions were so good and I was dying to answer them to the best of my ability.  In sharp contrast, however, 7B was not so successful.  Although I clearly said “Do not put these candies in your mouth,” three of the six candies (wrapped AND unwrapped, by the way), ended up covered in spit.  The next thing I knew, everyone was yelling and blaming their neighbor for breaking the rules.  It was chaos.

This part of the day was not so fun.  I had to make them put their heads on their desks and give them the “we need to be thinking about the choices we’re making” speech.  I really tired to be firm but still keep it non-authoritarian.  They brainstormed with their table groups what we could do as a class to improve behavior, which seemed to be a postive way to go since we didn’t have time for the activity after all the hulabalo.  However, 7B came back for art during 8th period and the choas ensued again.

I turned to write something on the board for a second and a girl marched over and karate-kicked a boy in the chest.  While he was bent over wheezing, two boys in the back started hitting each other, fighting over the tape.  Of course, through all the yelling, it was hard to figure out what was happening, but I separated all fighting parties quickly.  After things had calmed down, I realized I had forgotten to take a class picture with them (I’m trying to take all the class pictures this week so that I can have them ready by Monday).  Dismissing by table group, I hoped that this would not be pandemonium.

Well, of course it was.  Young teacher’s mistake, certainly.  After the third table group, punches were flying, shouts were echoing, and I was freezing.  Freezing as in I became immobile.  I have this tendency to just shut down when there’s so much going on, especially yelling.  It was 8th period, I was cranky, people were fighting, and I had no apparent say.  I just stood there, for minutes it seemed, while children crowded me shouting, “MISS! MISS! MISS! Miss, he’s pushing me! Miss, where’s my sweets? Miss, where’s the book you promised me?”

I just walked out.

Not my best moment.  It’s not like I went far, I just stood with my back against the wall as I had another mini-meltdown.  You know, the one I swore not two weeks ago I’d ever have again.  I wasn’t even sure why I was crying or upset.  I just knew that I wanted more for them that to be fighting.  I wanted them to love each other enough to see that it was obviously not the way to behave– like that was fair of me at all.  Instantly, my home room group (who were outside playing since their teacher was absent), flew to my side.  I was literally outside for 30 seconds before they saw I was visibly upset.  I told them I was fine, of course, that sometimes we all just needed to take a break and breathe and it was all fine.  Rino asked me angrily if the learners were being mean to me.  Without my answer, he flew into the classroom and started yelling more– as if that was what I had wanted.  But I didn’t stop him.  The girls were all petting my hair telling me not to cry.  Geeze, it wasn’t like I was sobbing.  I was just glossy-eyed and tearful, but they looked so worried.  I kept repeating that I wasn’t mad, that really I was just going to miss them all a lot.  Rino came back out and told me they were taking care of it.

A few minutes later, Frankly, one of my favorite kids and a prefect, came outside and told me they were so sorry and to please come inside.  It had been a few minutes, so it was definitely time to rejoin my children and take leadership once more.  When I came inside, they were all standing perfectly against the blackboard, ready for their photo.  At once, they all burst into “I’m sorry”‘s and “We never want you to cry”s.  I felt so goofy.  I started laughing harder than I have in a while, mostly because I could tell they were so sincere.  After we took photos, they stood in a line for hugs and apologies.  I kept repeating that it was ok, that I was just going to miss them a lot, but they still hugged and said sorry a million times.

It may have been another moment of weakness, but it was for the best this time around.  I think they finally saw me as a human being, not just a teacher there to lecture and get mad.  One of the girls approached me after class and gave me an apology note.  She said, “It’s a hard job, miss.”  Then she patted me on the shoulder and gave me a kiss before leaving.

I almost want to cry again thinking about it all.  It’s overwhelming to feel so much love and sadness and frustration at once, it makes you ache inside, but I would rather ache than be without the feelings entirely.  Thursday, our last day, is going to be a mess.  I might as well not even wear make-up.

The elusive 7B photograph


7A, my home room & (secret) favorites.  It’s personal against the other classes, but I spent so much time the first and second week getting to know these kids.  They’re my advisory group.

Some of my 7A boys who have stolen my heart posing with some school supplies my Tia Venus, Mama Deb & Jessie donated.

 

 

***

 

 

The orphanage is yet another part of the Namibia trip that will break my heart…I’ll regail you in photos.

My beloved Gustav…the biter/licker/sucker child

This is how Gustav drew me today. Interesting.

Mis hombresitos

 

9 days left in Namibialand….

 

 

Love is in the Air

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day, my American chums!  I hope the wintry February air is still bringing you the feeling of love, despite how many goosebumps it may also bring.

 

Today, the learners are Moses Garoeb were pleased to come to school in what Tacoma might call their “civies,” or their regular clothes.  In order to participate, however, they were to pay a small fee that goes towards school renovation.  It was interesting that this was the method the schools chose to use as a fundraiser.  Belinda, my mentor teacher, asked me how we did it in the States.  When I told her usually some big company had the children selling things like wrapping paper, cookie dough, or entertainment books, she laughed.  I kind of felt like laughing too, only because I had initially thought paying to wear a non-uniform sounded ridiculous.  Come to think of it, making small children “sell” random products is kind of ridiculous too, especially since parents usually end up doing it.

Although I’ve always known that collaboration is important to teaching, I’ve never really felt its impact until now.  I am learning so much from my peers and am loving every minute we can talk strategies.  I have been lucky enough to have Janelle team teach with me once or twice a week– love it.  Not only does she provide a different perspective, but it’s nice to share kids.  In the States, we seem to get so hung up on the possession of children.  They’re my class, my kids, mine. To a certain degree, it makes sense and is endearing, but I am learning that it is so important to be a school team.  They are not just your students– they are students of music and art and PE as well as the classroom.  When teachers share the same children and are able to know them all in different capacities, it really can be beneficial.  Bri has two of my Grade 6 classes for English and Kari has most of my Grade 7s.  It’s so nice to talk strategies and lesson plans while referencing specific classes and their behaviors.

In addition to this, it’s like Kari said the other day: You can be anyone you want when you’re teaching.  So my “anyone I want” has been turning out to be a mash of all the good advise I hear around Casa.  Calm like Kari, spunky like Janelle, and firm like Bri.  Somewhere in there is my own wacky style, which has been more and more fun for me to discover as the days pass.

Back to the team teaching– Janelle helps take a lot of the planning burden from my shoulders.  Today, for example, she taught the Grade 6s and I taught the Grade 7s.  Although we helped monitor and facilitate both lessons, we each had a clear role in the classroom which helped us teach well.

 

Janelle led the kids in a powerful lesson about self-esteem.  This was mostly on the premise that for Valentine’s Day, we could talk about loving yourself as well as others.  The class discussed physical and emotional things they were proud of and then made small posters detailing things they liked about themselves.  In the States, there are so many fun activities to do via worksheets and handouts, but we literally work from scratch here.  In my mind, I had the cut-out person worksheet where the kids fill in a few things about themselves they like and then color themselves in.  Here, something similar was produced without the human outline.  Janelle even went around to each kid and asked them questions.

“What would you do if someone told you that you were awful at singing?” she asked one girl.
“I would tell them no, I don’t, I’m great at it,” the girl answered honestly.
Janelle couldn’t help but give her a high-five after she child spoke with such conviction.
“Get it, girl!” Janelle cheered.

 

I taught about the Five Love Languages to wrap up our discussions about healthy relationships and communication.  Last night after I found the 30 question quiz to find out which language you “spoke,” I hit a dilemma.
30 questions is way too long for a 35 minute period and children who struggle with reading.
I don’t have a printer.
And I don’t have a copier.

I chose 18 questions and hand-copied them 4 sheets of paper before realizing that this would be impossible in a classroom of 50 students.  Instead, I settled for reading the quiz aloud, which was more complicated than I can put into words.  Finally, after confusing directions, lots of raised hands, and a flurry of scratch paper, every one of my Grade 7s could tell me what their love language was.  Then, they were to make a poster which would highlight  8 ways to show affection using their love language.  (The standard in their curriculum was just that– discuss safe ways to show affection).

This is their example that I made last night…we’ll see how theirs turns out tomorrow :]

We were all showered in love notes and fake flowers today.  I’m not sure how many times I’ve said I love you or how many times my feet were trampled on in attempted hugs, but I loved every minute of it.  I’ll say it now and I bet I’ll say it again: I love being loved.  :]
I’m not above it.


This is one of my funniest boys from home room.  We ran into him when we were shopping in town on Saturday, actually! It was so cool, but probably weird for him.  He looked pleased to see me when I gave him a hug, but I remember what it was like to see my teachers outside of class– it’s as awkward as a running giraffe.


This is another student of mine from a 7C.  She is always coming in during lunch to chat or hanging around after school to work.  Similar to the girls that stayed in during recess to help file or organize closets in Jessie’s room (last practicum), there is a small group of girls that just love being teacher’s pets.  (I was one of them too, so I get it).

Some of the gentlemen from 7A & 7C…I never let them in the classroom until they can show me how gentlemen behave, and these guys have improved their behavior SO much since I first got here!  I always say my classroom is for ladies and gentlemen only, so they make it their business to “help” their peers be on their best behavior.

***

Tonight we are treating ourselves to another night at Joe’s Restaurant.  I’m thinking the zebra sounds amazing again, but maybe I’ll try something new.  I had an oryx burrito two nights ago…talk about AMAZING.  Sort of in the mood for kudu…we’ll see.

 

Kiss kiss to all, my loves!
I miss home dearly
but I am having
the time of my
life!
Happy
Valentine’s
Day!

Lesson plans & Laughter

10 Feb

It may have only been a week ago that I narrowly escaped bawling in front of my Grade 6s, but this week has brought me nothing but smiles and exhaustion.  I’ve finally started having okay days– nothing SUPER amazing, but nothing SUPER awful, either.

Paula warned me earlier on that the students may seem wild at first, but that I’d be amazed by their sudden turn around in behavior after a while.  Boy, was she right.  I guess coming to Namibia 11 times means she knows a little something, huh?

This week my Grade 6s covered the beginnings of puberty.  After realizing they had never learned a thing about it, I did some major re-planning and started with a subject I know very, very well: periods.  No, not the ones at the end of a sentence, folks.  I think usually they separate the boys and the girls for this lecture back home, but I don’t believe in such a thing.  I had the pleasure of telling my class flat out that periods were a lovely fact of life that enabled us all to have children.  What a beautiful, magical time of womanhood….Also, did I mention that girls may be exhausted, cranky, and experience the wonderful world of cramping?  I had them all grab their arms as hard as they could and twist them, Indian rug burn style.  “That’s what your uterus feels like,” I said.  The boys’ eyebrows shot up and the girls’ eyes widened considerable.  Inside, I was dying of laughter.

I love teaching this stuff because, as my friend Kari says, when you’re a teacher, you can be anything you want to be.  You are literally putting on a show every day.  When I’m up there, I’m like Dr. Oz or something, only I dance and sing for the audience to be silent (has been working like a charm, PS).

I got to tell the boys about wet dreams today, too.  Talk about hilarious.  I’m so serious when I lecture about it, but again, I’m cracking up on the inside.  Their facial expressions just say it all.  I basically gave them a list of everything that will give them a boner and told them they needed to figure out a system if they wanted to hide it, because their bodies would do it without their permission.  Nervous laughter proceeded until one boy raised his hand and asked, “Does it happen in front of girls?”

“Especially in front of girls, honey.”

These poor, prepubescent boys.  In reality, I wish I could have just started the entire unit with a cheery greeting:
“Welcome to puberty, the worst years of your lives.  You’ll smell bad, look weird, feel awkward, and start secreting fluids out of places you wouldn’t believe.  Don’t worry.  You’ll have different issues when you’re an adult.”


He’s working on their “Journey To Puberty” booklets.
:]

 

My grade 7s have covered sexual health and positive communication this week.  They wrote letters to 5th grade American students describing what sexual health was and what it meant to them.  Some of the letters were so impressive: they went into talking about HIV & AIDS without me prompting them.  Some of the letters were about a paragraph long and I could tell they’d written in the class before.  Some of them were hilarious.

Example:

“And the most important thing that I want to talk to you is respectful and knowledgeable. Being respectful is very important because if you want the other people to respect you, you must also respect them and knowledgeable I do not know the meaning of the word knowledgeable. Thank you, young Americans.”

“Taking care of your body.  It does not mean you must bathe, it means respect your body having self confidence.  If you have a virus you must not pretend that you are not sick at all. Don’t let something convince you about bodies.  Self confidence for a better future.  From me, I say love all, but trust no one.”


They also did my Deal breakers lesson, which was SO fun! I had them come up with a list of 7 things they needed in a life partner.  Then they had to get rid of 3, leaving them with 4 deal breakers in a relationship.  I told them that although deal  breakers changed as you grew older, it was important to have standards.  We covered the popular quote “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for everything.”  Some boys wrote on their lists that they wanted an American girl.  One boy wrote he wanted an Indian girl.  Geeze.  :]

Janelle led them in a lesson about positive communication where they had scenarios (ones we had witnessed on the play field during break, in fact).  They had to discuss why those scenarios were not positive and how they could make them so.  Then, they got to act them out, which they loved.


This is the range of my teaching this week.  Usually, Kari steps in and teaches art in my class, but she has her own classes to worry about, so this week I taught communication skills, abstract art, and the menstrual cycle.  Freakin’ love it.


I had nothing to do with this.  I swear.

 

 

I am having the time of my life with these kids, especially my 7As.  They are my home room group, something like an advisory.  I have always wanted to be someone’s Mrs. Shepard and I feel like I am finally becoming something like that.  Martha, one of my girls I was having most trouble getting to know at the beginning, invited me to her house on Tuesday.  I almost died under a pile of hugs today while I wished them a good weekend and when Martha told me she loved me, her face next to mine, I almost wanted to tear up, thinking about how soon I would have to leave her.

 

We have been meeting the coolest people here.  Our kitchen & office staff are wonderful and it is clear that they love us as much as we love them.  The hotel guests are friendly and interested in our travels.  Shane, our driver, is one of the coolest guys ever and we have the best time jamming to rap beats in the morning and after school.  Even the cashiers at OKGrocery know us and greet us.  I’m trying not to focus on the goodbyes that haven’t happened yet, but it’s tough.

 

On a more upbeat note, Bri & I spent some time at the orphanage today, where Gustav proceeded to not only bite my neck like a little vampire, but suck on it as though to give me a hickey.  You swat him away, and he just comes back.  It’s strange, but then he looks at you with huge black eyes and you basically want to let him get away with murder.  Hilarious.  As Kari said, thank you, Twilight.