Friday, February 12, 2010

More pretty birds and random notes...

I know everyone is happy when I can post pretty pictures of pretty things.  However, the sad truth is, that while I'm on site, there really isn't anything "pretty" or dramatic to take pictures of.  And I'm still trying to gather enough nerve to take my camera out into the village and take photos of my community.

(Everyone here LOVES to have their pictures taken and once it's common knowledge that I'm an owner of a camera, my home and person will become the village's very own "Olan Mills Studio."  I'm trying to avoid this for as long as possible, or until I at least recover from school starting.)  :-)

These guys are two of my favorites. Actually, only the blue one lives in my area now; I saw the black-faced one when I was much further north. The blue one is a Blue Waxbill (Uraeginthus angolensis) and the black faced one is a Black-faced Waxbill (Estrilda erythronotos).  Both are tiny, tiny birds.  I love, love, love the blue of the blue waxbills and watched one yesterday while I was outside, working with my Setswana tutor.  I feel happy every time I see one.

(These photos are not mine; they are "mined" from the internet.  See websites posted below.)

Ok, some random notes I keep forgetting to mention...

When I visited my original host family a few weeks ago, I learned something interesting.  This is the family that I lived with for my first six weeks in Africa.  They were entrusted with "my learning Setswana" while I was staying with them.  (Or at least, they were to help me practice.) My host family "mother" speaks Sepedi and my host family "aunt" speaks Sesoto.  No wonder I was getting strange looks when practicing my Setswana!  Maybe it wasn't all my garbled pronunciation!!

One thing I've noticed about studying the Setswana language: it has helped me IMMENSELY in learning the students' names!  When first learning Setswana, I thought my mouth would NEVER learn to pronounce these strange sounds and syllables.  I'm delighted to be learning the language patterns and seeing things repeated--especially in Tswana peoples' names.  What a perk of "having" to learn Setswana!

I've been asked about the stars here in South Africa, specifically I've been asked about the stars I can see here at my site.  When I was living with my host family, the house was very, very small for the six of us living there at the time.  All dishwashing, because of lack of space, took place out on the front porch.  See photo below, which is mine!)

See, you can actually see my dish-doing spot. Now, I volunteered for dishwashing duties because a) I didn't want to cook and thought doing dishes would be a fair trade and b) for evening dishwashing duty, I got to stand outside, underneath a spectacular South African sky. It was a favorite part of every day during my stay with my host family.

Here at the college, I live in a dorm room. For several reasons, I'm not outside after dark. So, the stars seen here from my permanent site are just as spectacular, I just don't typically see them. I had my bed set up in away where I could lie in bed and stare at the stars at night, but I moved it closer to a light when reading at night was important. Now, since it's not so important, I may rig my bed up for star-gazing again. I try to go to bed a dark because a): I'm tired; b) if I stay up with the lights on, millions of bugs come in and make a mess for me to clean up in the morning, and c): a light on at night seems to call the bored college kids to my room for entertainment purposes.

An aside: "Visiting" is quite the thing in South Africa. I'm still trying to acclimate to this cultural practice and am not succeeding well. Let me rephrase: I'm fine and happy to go visit someone else when invited--and do!

However, and this was true while living in America, I'm not too keen on having people "drop in on me" unannounced. There are several reasons for this: (This is turning into a rather "listy" post.): a) my dorm room is a dorm room and in it are my bed, my bathroom, and my kitchen area. There really isn't anywhere "to sit" and I feel uncomfortable having guests congregate in my sleeping area; b) when I am in my room, I have generally returned from a work day and I'm exhausted and want to do nothing but eat dinner, take my bath, and go to bed, and while ending my day, I typically have my PJs on; and c) while I don't mind finding forms of entertainment for the college kids, I don't want to BE their entertainment. So, what I've noticed, when I get a knock at my door, it is usually a passel of college kids that are bored and want me to entertain them.

Somewhat relatedly, when asked by an educator if I will "help" them, I've learned to be very careful in my response. I volunteered for, and helped out with, student registration at the college. When my colleague had me "trained well enough" to somewhat captain the ship, my colleague "disappeared." I would find myself, stuck with people asking me questions that I didn't know the answer to, having no one to whom I could direct the questions, and staying hours and hours later than I had ever imagined, only to later learn my colleague had abandoned me to travel to Vryburg for some shopping! This same type of thing happened when asked to help with "invigilating" exams. An instructor would ask that I cover their shift, with no reason, but then I would later learn that they wanted my cover so they could go shopping! Eish! (So, what happens is, I do their job for them so they can go shopping, yet it is THEY who are PAID for the work!) I repeat: Eish!

Someone has asked that if I get late comments on an old post, can I still see them? The answer is yes, I can still see them. However, I have to go back through all of my old posts and pull up screens to find any new comments. (Blogger, as far as I can tell, doesn't notifiy me of new comments. If Blogger does have this feature, and I need to set it up, someone please tell me!) While I'd love nothing better than scrolling through all of my blogs, the fact is I don't have the time. I don't have my own computer and any use is on the college's library's time. So ususally, I'm signing on, taking care of business, and hopping off of the computer.

I'm raising very curious questions from villagers about carrying bags of grass clippings to the garden. "Are you going to replant those so they will grow again?" "Will you use that for manure?" "Why are you wasting those perfectly good pillow cases for doing yard work?" :-)

I can only imagine what people are thinking at my picking up cow and pigeon poo for the garden. (Yes worry-worts--I'm using gloves and a breathing mask!) I'm sure this new antic will greatly improve my reputation in the community. :-)
(I never had access to manure while living in the States as I lived in the city. Now, cows, donkeys, and goats roam all over and I can pick up and carry the piles. It would be easier if the animals were coralled, but hey, I'll take it where I can get it!
I have to tell this one gardening story--I keep forgetting. There is one gentleman in the garden that sells me his produce and has asked me to tend his eggplant patch--they call them brinjas here. One of the things I've been doing is hand-picking the sucking (and therefore disease-carrying) insects from his plants. I find the problem-causing bugs, pick them off the plant, and drop the insects into a bucket of soapy water. (The pests then drown in the soapy water.) I find the bug-picking an unpleasant task, but try to strengthen my resolve in remembering my nieces, when they were very, very little girls, helping their mother squash potato bugs in the family's garden. If those baby girls could be brave, then so could I!
Anyway, one of the nastier bugs is a big, black, squash-bug looking thing with pointy barbs on his legs. His legs look like Batman armour! Sometimes, when I'm worried the nasty bug might stick me, I emit my Jane Jetson-like "Eeeeek!" And my farmer friend, who speaks very little English, would shout, "WHAT IS IT?" And I'd reply, "It's a big, scary bug!" I'd work some more, shriek my "Eeeeek!," he'd reply, "WHAT IS IT?" "It's a big, scary bug!" And so it went. :-)
I have been asked about mosquitoes. The mosquitoes haven’t been bad at all. However, while I was attending a training the last two weeks of January, my village has a huge, huge rainstorm and after it have come the mosquitoes. They aren’t terribly, terribly bad, but they are another reason I like to go to bed when it gets dark—I can climb under my mosquito net.
Corporal punishment is a remnant of the former educational system supported by Apartheid. Apartheid has ended and South Africa has deemed corporal punishment a criminal offence. Corporal punishment is no longer allowed in South Africa. However, corporal punishment is still practiced by many, many of the educators in South Africa, especially in the rural areas.
Corporal punishment is one of the challenges the Peace Corps volunteers are invited to "take on." We're asked to demonstrate better ways of managing classrooms, ways of managing that doesn't involve the beating, shaming, or threatening of children.

I have seen corporal punishment practiced in my school.

As the bloom is waning from the rose in my classrooms, (Hey, this weird white woman is just another teacher and we're going to drive her crazy!), I've asked my colleagues for suggestions.
When asking my colleagues, my South African colleagues, for suggestions on classroom management, I'm advised, "They must respect you. They must do your homework!

When I say, "Yes, but how do you accomplish this?" I'm told, "You must smack them a little bit--just don't abuse them."

I was moved more than a bit in grading papers for my sixth graders this week. They were practicing using "because" in their sentences. Some examples from students:

I love Ms. Kaye because she is teaching me.

I am hungry because I did not eat last night.

I am crying because my mother passed away.

I like Ms. Kaye because she doesn't beat learners.

Soon, Karen

Websites for pictures of birds:

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