Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brubru, blissful solitude, and two South African firsts

A new bird friend; Isn't he darling?  This little guy is a Brubru or Nilaus afer.  He's a little sweety pie and I love him.  (Photos not mine, see credits below.)

So, the students are gone for four blessed days and I'm as happy as a clam.  I realized I really do love my site when the students are gone.  Isn't that terrible?  Terrible, but true.

I never realize how unhappy I am until the students leave and I'm suddenly overwhelmed with joy:  I LOVE MY SITE when the students are gone!!

I'm trying to be nice about the students with my wanting to move out of the dorm and all.  But the truth is, for me, there is a sinister element that goes along with living with the students.  I often feel as though I'm in a viper's pit.

On campus, there is housing for students in the hostels.  "Hostel" is the South African term for "dormitory".  On my campus, there are four "hostels" with a housing capacity of 200 students each.  As far as I can tell, only two of the dorms are used for housing students: I reside in the one reserved for the girls and another is used for the boys.  There are two other hostel buildings, but those are mostly vacant with some college staff residing inside.

Elsewhere on campus, there are individual houses and trailers (called "porta-camps" in my village) for educators.  All of the houses are occupied and most of the porta-camps are occupied with educators as well.

Another educator living in the men's hostel recently asked to be relocated from the men's hostel, to a porta-camp.  He arrived at my college in July and was moved out of the hostel in January.  I arrived in September and am still trying to tough it out (although I have requested to move and a move is in process).

My request to move to a porta-camp (only one porta-camp is vacant, but the reason it is vacant is because it is currently inhabitable and in need of major repairs) would take me out of the realm of the students and put me in the realm of the adults:  A realm that can provide me the space to finish out my PC service happily.

Now, it all sounds very petty about my complaining about living with the students.  However, I don't feel SAFE living with the students.  I feel threatened by them.

Each and every single day I must move through group after group of students, both males and females, who taunt me in a mean-spirited and menacing fashion.  This happens not occasionally, but EVERY SINGLE DAY.  It doesn't happen once or twice a day, it happens MANY, MANY TIMES THROUGHOUT THE DAY.  I get it in my hostel hallways, moving in to and out of my hostel, walking to and from class, etc.  It happens on school days and it happens on weekends.  When I'm in my room, the students passing by outside make a point of taunting me so that I can hear them outside my window.  The harrassment is all day, EVERY DAY. The only time I'm free of it is on holidays, when the students are sent home.

I'm glad I have my work at the primary school on school days, so that I have a reprieve, at least for a few hours.

I've been in denial about how bad it actually is for months now.  Many of you know it took me many, many months to even speak to my supervisor about relocating my sleeping quarters.  And this is why:  I keep thinking that it is MY FAULT that the students are behaving this way.  I think I'm not integrated well enough, I haven't found a common ground for reaching them, etc.  I keep thinking things will get better and change if only I keep trying harder.

It's also difficult and I have trouble finding support for my concerns when speaking to others.  They seem to diminish or dismiss my concerns all together when they say, "Oh, it couldn't possibly be that bad" or  even  worse, "You must be imagining things."

So I keep plodding away, trying, trying, trying to get the students to like me, and they continue to taunt and mock me and I remain miserable.

And it is only on the wonderfully blissful, student-free days that I realize how oppressed I feel.  I'm really, really, really hopeful about  moving into this porta-camp.  Because quite frankly, I can't imagine living so miserable for another year and a half.

So, why do the students behave this way?  I'm not sure, but I have my suspicions and I'll keep these to myself.  But to a major one I'll speak freely:

In the institutions I have previously worked, the administrators/staff of institutions of higher education hold the position of power.   In this way, the college makes the rules and the students abide them (or receive appropriate consequences).

What I see here is that the college makes the rules,  and operates as if it holds the position of power, but if the students are unhappy, the students protest, and when the students protest, they get what they want.  When the students protest, property is damaged, staff is locked inside buildings, and police come shooting rubber bullets.

On more than one occasion, and even this week, normal school activities are interrupted because the students are protesting.

So, as I see it, the STUDENTS hold the position of power where I live and work.  I've seen the students threaten the administration and I've seen the students "protest" violently.

So, I'm afraid of them.  And I want to be living away from them.

So there it is, the truth of why I am wanting to move.  And now that I know there is a possibility of moving, I feel very urgent about moving.  But, it South Africa, things move painfully slow, so I'm trying to be patient and wait.  And enjoy a few more days of happiness with having the students gone...

So, I'm very happy this weekend.  I'm enjoying the campus, walking about freely, unharrassed.  It is wonderful, it is lovely, and I'm brimming with delight!

I've had a couple of "firsts" this weekend.  When we originally arrived in South Africa, it was winter and we were provided with warm bedding.  This is my  big, bulky comforter, which is very, very warm.  (See photos below. But be warned: the blanket, while warm, isn't very attractive!)But because it is so big and bulky, I hadn't yet attempted to launder it.  So, today it was laundered and is drying on the line in the sun.

The weather has also cooled enough that I can keep butter and cream again. (I put it on my windowsill at night where it gets nicely chilled.)  So, I bought my first block of cheese!  I've bought small containers of parmesan before, but this is my first block of cheese.  It is so yummy and divine!

(Great news!  When I move into my porta-camp, I am buying a fridge!!)

For a few days, at least,  until the students return, I'm a lucky girl!

Soon, Karen

Photo credits of bird:

1 comment:

  1. Boy, that is ugly! And the blanket, too. I hope you can get the porta-camp. I will call you tomorrow. Love you.