Wednesday, March 17, 2010

lost weekend, and then some...

Well, the good news is that from this point on, I know exactly what to do to prepare for my classes—both the college and the primary school—for the remainder of the year. And for next year, should I choose to teach again.

The bad news is that I lost about 7 days of my life getting “caught up” with my planning because it is:  THE END OF THE SCHOOL TERM.  (Hence, everyone is busy and tired.)

All of those months of standing around with nothing to do? I could have been doing all these things that I’ve spent the last 7 days doing. And we’re talking FULL days here: from 5:00 am in the morning to 9:00 pm at night--all weekend. I am very, very grumpy.

But, again, the good news is that I know exactly how to avoid this problem in the future—and WILL! The neat thing about being a teacher is that you can set up your own little world and carry on in the chaos going on around you. However, it is important to KNOW what you need to know to set up and prepare for your classes. Now I know.

So, for most of my weekend, I was working from my room. Any time I try to work from home, be it teaching or writing, I find tons of things to stare at (rather than the papers I’m trying to grade or the chapter I’m trying to write.)

Here are some of my distractions in the photos above:

I have no screens on my windows and I read at night and my "lights on" draws a variety of insect creatures.  Most of the insect creatures are not welcome.  But these guys, preying mantids, are highly prized and sought after.  These guys are AWESOME in the garden and a wonderful "insecticide."
Now, I hate it when these guys come in because they are likely doomed by my DEET-drenched mosquito net, so if they come in, I try like mad to catch them and release them.

Sometimes, however, they enter unnoticed by me and I don't discover them until days later, when their likelihood of survival is diminished further still.

So, it's Saturday, I'm working, and guess who pops his head at me when I look down at the table leg?  Yes, Mr. PM. I need to get him out. He wasn't happy about his capture, but he endured a photo shoot.  It was hard to get a shot because he was under plastic, but these two are good enough.  Isn't he lovely?  I was able to successfully let him go and hope he's in the garden feasting as we speak.

Back to work.

Oh, look!  It's time to feed the "dogs."  These guys begged their way into my life weeks ago. I thought I would "lose" them after leaving for a training week, but no, they remembered me.  They are just like dogs.  They'll land in my eye view, flop around, and make noise.  Or they will perch on the edge of the window and coo, their necks blowing up like bubbles.  But mostly, they just state at me until I feed them.  I eventually feed them.

Back to work.

And then this beetle guy flies in, sounding like a bomber jet.  I don't know what he is; he is new to me.  But I imagine when I find hordes of them in the garden, I will quickly come to hate him.  Capture, photo, back to work.

The photo of the specks in the tall grass are actually replacing the photo I accidentally deleted.  This shot is of goats grazing in the long grass.  On Saturday, at the hottest part of the day, a group of children gathered to play in the soccer field and I spent a lot of time staring at them.  I'm always amazed at how the people here don't drink water.  The children will play outside in the brutally hot sun, and even the college kids will play competitive matches, but no one drinks water.

How do they avoid becoming overheated or dehydrated?

And I remember that ridiculous trend a few years back, (gosh, I hope it's over now!) whereby the gas stations would sell those hideous cups that actually held 64 oz (a GALLON) of soda. Good grief.

Back to work.

Then I would stop and stare at my new treat, these wonderful peppers.  I'm not sure what kind they are, but boy oh boy, are they spicy!  I throw them in the pan with my eggs and the air is so spiced I can hardly breathe!  I love it! They burn all the way down!!

(Yet another aside. After my tour here, I will be quite proud of my eggs and soups!)

Back to work.

And then I play some more with my newly-arrived package.  Yes, you're seeing right: it's school supplies wrapped in underwear! Isn't it fun?  It felt like an Easter Basket with all of the colors. 

(An aside: You've endured my constant laments about not having enough money, eh?  I naively thought my living allowance would cover clothes replacement.  It does not.  Imagine my surprise when my wardrobe of brand new under things, bought especially for the trip, [new underwear will last two years, right?), fell to pieces exactly six months into service.  This, in and of itself, would not be such a terrible thing. However, my brand new shoes, bought especially for the trip, [brand new shoes will last two years, right?], decided to wear to tatters at exactly the same time.  FAMILY TO THE RESCUE!  Thank you!)

I can't wait to get the pencils to the kids.  They don't make pencils with erasers--or I can't find them--here in rural SA, so these will be a real treat.  (IF I can get them past the educators; the educators seem more thrilled with basic school supplies than anyone!  I took a handful of plain, wooden rulers to the school and the educators were all over them!  You would have thought I had brought gold!  Nary a child saw a ruler that day!!) 

Back to work.

And lastly, I shot of what I now call Mother Africa's "faux storms."  Almost every evening, around 4:00 pm, these wonderful thunderclouds move in with all the bells and whistles: black skies, thunder, lightening, and you really think we'll get a HUGE storm.  This dramatic show will carry on for several hours, and then around 7:00 pm, everything blows over and the sun pops out.  I've been known to call Mother Africa a "blow hard."

However, she can't be discounted or underestimated.  I've learned that she can sneak in, when you're least expecting, and give you quite a doozy.  These usually hit hard under the cover of a "simple rain shower": damaging winds, heavy rain, flooding, structure damage, and loss of life.  These destructive storms, at least one of them, lasted all of 30 minutes.

I don't tease Mother Africa much about being a "blow hard."  I've learned better.

Back to work! 

Soon, Karen

Ps.  Today was the last day of the worst of it: papers are graded and "moderated;" (am still not quite sure what this process is); term grades calculated, all papers "filed" (big to-do about filing papers here) and I'm ready to crash and burn.

Am very, very excited to have time to "crash and burn."  Am spending Friday visiting Tiger Kloof, a world-renowned school very near me, a night in my shopping town (a hotel there offers PC volunteers a discount--YAY, someone else will make my bed and cook my meals!!), and next week, all volunteers are off to a week of training in a FABULOUS hotel with FABULOUS food.  I'm so excited, I can't wait!

But the best of it, after training, I'm spending the weekend with friends who live very near PILANESBURG NATIONAL PARK, and are taking me to see it.  I'm so thrilled, I could cry! 

Finally, I will be having fun in Africa! 

And after that?  A two-week holiday in honor of Easter; guess what I'll be doing?  PLANNING MY CLASSES FOR NEXT TERM SO THIS TERM'S NIGHTMARE NEED NEVER BE REPEATED!!



  1. I'm excited too! we'll have a BLAST!! you should consider coming every other term or on a long weekend, if you enjoy yourself. we're so privileged to see it often :) xo

  2. Very enjoyable post, Karen....the distractions are palpable!