Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'm finally back, to the land of the living, scorpions, and primary school...

I thought I was earlier, but was not, now am!

See this guy? He's the guy that stung me during my home-stay visit during training... Isn't he something? (I can say that now that he is safely away from me, no longer stinging me!) But I didn't like him very much at all at the time!

He is a Cape thick-tailed scorpion (Buthidae parabuthus caperisis) and according to
"Parabuthus is an Afrotropical genus with 20 of the 28 species endemic to southern Africa. It occurs in areas of less than 600 mm of rain per annum and is absent in southern Africa from the extreme Eastern Cape, Kwazulu Natal, much of the Free State and the Highveld. The distribution extends northwards through eastern Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. Parabuthus avoids moist or humid conditions and is thus absent from tropical central and the western bulge of Africa.

It is a psammophilous scorpion adapted to areas of soft to hard gritty soil. They all dig shallow burrows in sand at the base of shrubs, under rock, logs or any suitable cover. The females are normally sedentary, staying at home, while males of certain species are lapidocolous, using any available cover during its wanderings or may even excavate a new burrow.

Parabuthus scorpions are of great medical importance and all species must be regarded as potentially lethal. In the north-western Cape scorpions are more of a problem than snakebite with the reverse being the case in Kwazulu/Natal. (I'm in the north-western cape!)

The quick acting venom negates the need for large chelae which are only used to hold onto its prey while being stung and unlike the thin-tailed scorpions, the chelae are not used to kill or hold onto its prey while succumbing to the weak venom. Whether there is any logical connection between chela size and tail thickness is still debatable as Parabuthus also uses the thick tail for burrowing. The tail with stinger is held over the head ready to strike but Parabuthus can also execute a sideways defensive jab – so do not try and pick it up with the fingers!

Gerry Newlands was the first to mention that certain Buthidae scorpions spray venom up to 1 metre and the fifth metosomal (tail) segments of these scorpions are enlarged. The 3 species cited are Parabuthus schlechteri, P. transvaalicus and P. villosus. This has not yet been documented conclusively and is refuted by some experts – so lets get it on video!"

(Me talking again.) It is said that the smaller the scorpion, the more reason for concern here in Africa... So while this guy is a baddy, he must have been half dead when he got me (or he didn't get me very good) because although the sting hurt like the dickens (and I was sick from the sting the next day), I ended up being ok.

But he is the main reason why I have fallen in love with my mosquito-net, which I have renamed my "anything and everything that might fall, land on, or otherwise get on me and bite or sting me" net. It has become one of my favorite things because I feel safe in it.

This is such a reversal for me; in the past, I've been so afraid of DEET as an insect repellent, I wouldn't even use it (even in Alaska!). Now, I basically sleep in it.

The other reasons are: I know of at least one other PC volunteer who has been bitten by a poisonous spider (and she highly recommends using the bed nets), and a wonderful woman I met right before coming to SA recommended it as well, and she served in Senegal. (She had told me that it was more for things that might "fall on her," rather than mosquitoes, and I remember thinking, "what does she mean?," but silly me, didn't ask her.

So, now I'm happily using my bed net and it is one of my favorite things!

New subject, I thought I was over my first African illness, but really wasn't. School resumed on Monday and I was anxious to get started, but after speaking w/ the PC doctor, we decided to take another day or two to rest. So, I took Monday off, but jumped right in on Tuesday, which was a mistake. Although the school day went by quickly, I could tell I still wasn't feeling well and came home and "power napped" from 2-5. Then, I slept from Tuesday night (8:00) until noon today (Wednesday). So, I took today off (Wednesday) and think that last good night of rest has done it for me. I know I'm feeling better because I felt like cleaning my apartment!! :-)

Yet another subject, I'm very happy to report that I LOVE THE PRIMARY SCHOOL!! I was originally terrified about working in the primary school because a) my training is not in elementary education and b) one of the reasons I didn't want to work in elementary education was because I always thought it TOO HARD! (I couldn't even discipline my own kids let alone 30 at a time!!

But I love working with the kids at my primary school. They are so open and welcoming-and seem genuinely glad to see me! (I never really know with teenagers and adults!)

They are so well-behaved! Well, of course, they're well-behaved because many of them are disciplined with corporal punishment--a leftover from the Bantu education (the educational system instituted under apartheid) that has been in place for the last 50 years. It's one of the reasons we're here: to show educators different ways to "manage" students without c corporal punishment.

This is all very controversial and people tend to get really up in arms about it. And I do too--get up in arms about it. I find corporal punishment of children absolutely unacceptable (I haven't seen it yet). But I was of a generation that we were "paddled" for misbehavior. And paddling is, of course, corporate punishment.

And the mindset is hard to change because, well, corporate punishment is EFFECTIVE--at least from the teacher's perspective. And how many times have those in America heard (or thought) "spare the rod, spoil the child."

It, combating corporate punishment, will definitely be one of my challenges: it will be a challenge to show educators other ways of managing a classroom. Because remember, I chose to teach college so I wouldn't have to deal with classroom management. A true dictatorship: follow my rules or get out! :-)

But the kids are great and I'm excited. I even got to help a classroom with none other than MATH yesterday! I couldn't believe it. Karen, the huge mathophobe helping 7th graders with algebra! (I must have learned something in math class Mr. Boyer!)

I spent the whole day with one class of seventh graders and they basically sat in their seats the whole day, with only a half hour lunch break and a ten minute short break. The students sit in one classroom and the teachers rotate to them (rather than the students moving from classroom to classroom in the States). And oftentimes the teacher for the period doesn't even come to class (other obligations) and the children monitor and work amongst themselves. I couldn't believe it, really.

Oops, I'm outta here. I think the library is closing. There is so much I want to report on yet, so many words, so little time!

Big hugs, k

Peace Corps is in no way connected to this post!

1 comment:

  1. Hi there Math Teacher! I hope you are well now and that you will use clean water to do everything! I got your letter today with the postcard that has the stamp from the hotel you stayed in. It was lovely and my favorite thing all day. Yes, I do think our grandchildren will be able to hang on the monkey bars from their thumbs. Thank you so much for the letter, I loved every word and send back to you all the love in my heart. Take care and wait for a big surprise on internet for you!