Thursday, March 11, 2010

A tiresome day and an answer: Why DON’T I just go home?

I know, I know. I said no more birds for awhile. I can’t help myself.

This is a cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis). These guys aren't spectacular all on their own, and we have these in the States. What I LOVE about these guys is that every morning, between 6:30 and 7:30 am, these guys fly in  groups in similar time increments as the UPS planes. At any time I look into the sky I can see a flock of them fluttering in behind an earlier group. What I love about these guys is, when in flight, their wing patterns make them appear as if the group is shimmering like an effervescent school of fish. Within the group, they will move around and trade places, in the same way large schools of fish will scatter about. I LOVE THEM. It makes me very happy to see them. (Photo not mine, see credit below).

I wake at 5:00 am because I have to cook my food in shifts: my double hotplate kicks off the circuit breaker so I can only use one burner at a time.

I’m grateful to note that the water is back on; we were going into day two without it.

I’m enjoying my tea, watching the egrets fly in like schools of fish and open my package of pearled barley to find it crawling with tiny insects.  Yum.

From 7:30 until 9:30, I’m feeling pretty good. The college is in a flurry to prepare files for both the educators and the learners. All papers must be bound, in order, and clearly identified. I’m a bit confused (as are others) but am getting answers to my questions.

I’m trying not to feel resentful about the fact that in all those months of doing nothing, I could have used the time to attend to matters such as this.

Around 8:30 I get a text message to one of my supervisors from the South African Department of Education: Could she come by for a chat at 10:00?

I respond that I’m teaching at that time and feel unsure at not knowing the protocol for such visits: Does a visit from a supervisor trump teaching a class? Should I cancel my class? She responds that she’ll come at 3:00.

I note, to myself, that today isn’t the best day, as I’m teaching at both the primary school and the college AND desperately need to get to the market because I have nothing to eat.

But, I tell her, ok, come at three.

At 10:00 am, I arrive at the primary school to teach my normally very well-behaved sixth graders to find them restless and inattentive. We accomplish very little. Our sixth grade democracy was rebelling today.

After my class that didn’t go well at all, I rush back to the college to teach my 12:15 college class that I spent several hours preparing for. The students, who didn’t bother to come yesterday, show up after class as I’m locking the classroom to inform me they won’t be in class tomorrow either.

(It seems that almost anything trumps class attendance in South Africa: student elections, needing to have papers signed, a celebration, another educator needing my students at that time, etc.)

I feel very angry about this; after all, I have PLANS for my class and there are exams next week. (There is that word again: plans. I’m beginning to better understand the old adage: If you want to make God laugh, make plans.)

I’m all prepared to teach with no where to go.

I dash to the local market to pay twice the price for rotten fruits and vegetables that I will throw half of away. I’m harassed and panhandled repeatedly along my shopping route.

I wait 45 minutes in the hot blazing sun for a kombi to return me to the college. When one finally arrives, I hurl myself inside the van with my two heavy bags of rotten produce and crawl over 15 people as I make my way to the back of the bus. I was thrilled when the 6-year-old boy, rather than scoot over to allow me to sit in his seat, motioned me to the very last seat.

I mentioned how very kind he was.

I return to the college, run my groceries to my room, then dash to find a computer so I can compile a test for my sixth-graders; it is “due” tomorrow. I have one half hour to work before my supervisor calls.

She calls at 2:45 to tell me she’s running late. Good, I have a few more minutes to work.

She arrives and I go to meet her in the administrative building. I’m carrying all of my work, schedules, lesson plans, etc. from both schools, because I’m not sure of the reason for the visit.
To my surprise, we meet on the sidewalk (we don’t even go inside) and have a very brief chat. She was only making a “courtesy call.”

And I think, ok, couldn’t we have done this on the phone? :-)

I work another hour on my test and blessedly find a working printer on campus (the only one, it seems).

I then meet one of my campus supervisors to help her download/install adobe reader so she can read pdf files. I tell her it will “only take a minute.”

After an hour, the download is finally installed, it is 6:00 pm and I limp back to my room.

Along the way, I endure yet another round of college students mocking me, as they have been all day, as I have worn a lovely jumper with colorful roosters embroidered on it. As I have passed groups of college students congregating, all day, they have mocked me as I pass by, taunting and teasing with the Setswana word for chicken: gogo (pronounced: koe koe). I guess they think I don’t know the Setswana word for chicken, or perhaps they don’t care whether I know it or not.

In America, I’m certain my American students made fun of me too, they just weren’t so bold about it. This kind of teasing makes for a very tedious day and makes me not want to be around the college kids, which is not a good thing. My skin is tougher on some days, but it wasn’t very tough this day.

I go home to make what I now fondly call my “rotten vegetable salad,” because it is a salad, indeed, made of salvageable pieces of rotten vegetables.

I start thinking of a beloved family member who is soon to have a birthday and I want more than anything to be home. At home, not only do I have people who LIKE me, I have people who LOVE me. I have people who are happy to see me and never taunt or tease me, or make fun of me. Actually, they are usually very HAPPY to see me.

Why am I here? Have I lost my mind?

On my way to bed, I watch the earwigs (or whatever they are) do acrobatics in my rice jar. I’ve started using empty pop bottles as my food storage containers, hoping to keep the vermin out. Sadly, the vermin is in the food when I buy it, so it comes home with me.

I had the rice bottle on my counter rather than the pantry, I don’t know why. So, I was disheartened to see so many bugs crawling around in my food. They seem to be more active at night.  I've put the bottle back in the pantry.
(I may have to buy a blasted refrigerator just so I can use the freezer part to exterminate the critters in my dry goods.)

I crawl into bed, turn off the lights, and stare out my IMAX window at the beautiful, black, South African sky at all of the beautiful stars. I have my bed placed under the window in a way that makes me feel I'm camping.  Such a wondrous sight encourages me to try one more day.

The next morning, I check my email. I’ve heard from a dear friend I haven’t heard from in AGES. She tells me  she reads my blog every day and loves what I’m doing. I am an inspiration to her.

I crawl to my primary school to face the very same sixth graders who “ate me alive” yesterday. They are attentive, respectful, and engaged in our learning. We have a great time.

On the way out, a shy little sixth grade girl whispers to me, as I walk out the door: “You are a brilliant teacher.”

I can stay for one more day.

Soon, Karen


  1. Thank you for this post. What a roller-coaster. How much is a refrigerator?

  2. I have money for a refrigerator. PC gave us money for such purchases. :-)

  3. Hey punkin! Hope you are having a good start to your week.

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