It is hard to express this week in words. I’ve written everyday so here’s my week. Pictures will come later
I could hardly sleep last night. I attempted to go to bed but the combination of a hot room and worried thoughts kept me up. I kept on remembering things that I had forgotten or just in general being quite restless. It sucked because I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the pervious night either. But then around 2:30 in the morning I feel into a very short sleep. I had set my alarm for 5:30 in preparation for leaving at 6. I did not want a repeat of last week’s diabolic when I missed my flight to St. Louis. It worked out fine in the end but I was nervous about the five hour drive to Chicago as well as getting through security.
So with nothing more than a peach in my stomach, my parents and I set off for Chicago. My dad driving and talking. My mom listening and trying my best to fall asleep. It took a while but I managed to sleep most of the way with the exception of a stop at McDonald’s for a bathroom break. I didn’t eat anything because I still find the thought of McDonald’s repulsive. I did try that strawberry lemonade they keep raving about and I don’t see the hype. It’s not as good as they make it sound but I guess it’s good marketing.
I awoke hours later to find us at my brother’s hotel. Winston, the middle child in our family, has been working at an internship in Cleveland and drove all the way to Chicago to see me off. It was nice to see him because he’s always good for a laugh. He’s always been a much easier going guy than me. I was/am so nervous about the trip but being with family helped ease my worries.
My last American meal was at Jimmy John’s. Not exactly the best choice but it was still good and then after soaking up the sun we were off to the airport. My dad dropped my mother, Winston and I off at the Departures section. I am flying KLM which is a Dutch airline that I took last time. They are not the cheapest airline to take but then again it was nearly impossible for me to find a flight under $2000. But then again it may be worth it as I was typing they just gave me a hot towel. Can’t complain about that. Plus each seat has a small TV attached to the back of the seat ahead of you with TV shows, movies, games, etc. And as I recall the inflight food isn’t bad at all. I will not complain.
But getting here took some doing. I had carefully weighed each of my two check-in bags to make sure they weren’t too heavy but as it turns out my big bag was too heavy. 80 pounds actually and it was only supposed to be 50. My heart raced as we got out of line and tried to figure out what to do. Lucky I wasn’t the only one with baggage and my parents all had bags that we could trade. But as it turns out that wasn’t even necessary because I had put a collaspable bag in my huge bag for the trip back. For any future travelers, it helps to bring one because chances are if you stay in a place long enough, you’ll probably end up with more stuff than you had when you left.
This bag worked perfectly and I was able to transfer everything from my smaller bag into the collaspable bag and reduce the weight of the 80 pound bag. My advice: pack light. It’s just really hard to do that when you’re leaving for a year (or nine months).
With that crisis adverted, I got into the dreaded security line only to be told that my family couldn’t stay with me more than five minutes. And that was after I was asked how old I was. I’m 21 by the way although I have been told on numerous occasions that I look 16. Anyways, the goodbyes were short and sweet which was fine by me because I hate goodbyes.
Going through security wasn’t too horrible though I always feel like we’re just cattle being herded through the checkpoints. I had a lot of stuff and I was just happy to get through the line without being patted down or anything of those other humiliating things they make us do for our protection.
Once through I had about a half an hour before we were supposed to board. For international flights, they usually start boarding almost an hour before departure because they are so many people and it takes a while to get situated. All in all, getting on the plane wasn’t too horrible and I have plenty of entertainment to pass the time. Now if you’ll excuse me the TVs started working again and I want to get back to my movie. More updates later…
I’m sitting in the kitchen of my lovely apartment and I can hardly believe I’m finally here. After a year plus of planning, debating, and packing I’m here. My plane got here late last night and I went through the various securities before waiting for my baggage and getting my money exchanged, which took forever for some reason. It is cold here but that’s to be expected since it is winter. I cannot wait for summer. There is a swimming pool close by and I can’t wait to take advantage of it.
To my delight and surprise, I’m not the only black person here! I heard last night from the program coordinator, Mel that there was a family here and I was expecting them to be white but they’re not. They’re black and they’re from Philly. I’m happy that my assumption was wrong. Although the other girls who got picked up from the airport last night were white and let me be clear that there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just that we are serving a black community so it would be nice for there to be other blacks serving.
The rest of my journey went by slowing. I had a three hour layover in Amsterdam in which I took advantage of the free internet and was able to use Skype to call home. After that there was a twelve hour journey in which I struggled to stay awake. I mostly watched movies including Harry Potter 7 part 1 and some others. I also met an American teacher who was coming to South Africa for only week which I thought was pretty hilarious considering how long it takes to get here. My journey started at 6am Saturday morning and I didn’t get to Cape Town until 10pm their time which is 3pm central time so it’s long. But worth it. I felt like I was coming home and I was explaining to the teacher how I had came before and making suggestions about what to do here.
Later that same day….
I’m now waiting to start training specific to my program. There are other programs in this area run by GVI. There’s an orphanage that volunteers work with, a sports program at the school I’m working at and a nursery. We took a tour of the different programs and the kids were so adorable! The school was depressing. Their playground had no equipment. It was pretty much a concert slab in the middle of school, sort of like a courtyard. I think the most depressing was the library which had no books whatsoever. They said that that was because there was no one there to watch the books and before when they had books they were not looked after and walked away. L Being a deep lover of books myself, I found this especially heartbreaking.
The rest of the day has been a worldwind. Training, training and more training. I can barely think. I am exhausted. I just finished planning tomorrow. I have one on ones in the morning and I get to numeracy as they say here. Tomorrow I’m planning on testing their multiplication skills and I will be working with six graders. Then later I team up with another teacher and we do a lesson focused on reading. Tomorrow is supposed to be a fun day since we’re just starting and the students are starting another term this week. We are reading a story about a Chinese boy who goes on to become a famous dancer and in the beginning of the story, the boy makes a kite and attaches his hopes and dreams to it. We’re planning on making our own kites and for the kids to attach their own hopes and dreams to it.
Today is the moment of truth. First day of classes. I’m nervous and excited to get started today. My day will consist of four one on one sessions in which I’ll be seeing what levels my students are at in terms of multiplication. Each sessions last a half hour. Then like I said earlier I partner with another teacher and we will have six students and an hour to do our lessons. I think the students will really enjoy making kites. Then we end the day with all four of the teachers and a group of 15 students and we’re going to play games with them. Since this is the first day, we don’t really have to have a strict academic lesson which makes it a lot of fun to plan. Planning for me was difficult because I wanted to make sure I had lots of things to do and made them interesting. My mom gave me a lot of resources to use and I’m definitely taking advantage of them.
The rest of yesterday was a blur. After lesson planning, I went with one of the other volunteers to see if the internet worked. At our apartment there is none but one of the other apartments involved with GVI does so we checked it out. I had forgotten how frustrating it can be. The internet went in and out and the signal overall was very weak. We finally moved to another apartment and it ended up working pretty well. We’ll see later today if it works good enough to use Skype.
I woke up at 6am this morning, wide awake. I laid in bed for a while before finally deciding to get up at 7. Let’s talk about yesterday. I’m not sure what I expected. I guess the main thing was I didn’t expect to work with sixth graders. I thought more elementary age but here primary does not necessarily equate to elementary. At ACJ (the school I’m working at), the students are anywhere from grade 1 to 7th grade. My primary focus is numeracy aka math and yesterday my one on one sessions focused on multiplication. Most of the students did well. I just want to increase their speed. So I’m thinking about making them their own flash cards and then having them go over them again and again until they become second nature. That’s how I learned it but I also know that the language barrier makes things harder. I need to figure out how to learn Xhosa, their main language, then it will make things easier on the both of us.
The one on one sessions went well though I did notice that after the first two I pretty much did the same thing even though there were things that I never got to for example word problems which is something they all probably need to work on. Today all the volunteer teachers are focusing on “marvelous me” where we have the children fill out a worksheet so we can get to know them better. If they do that in enough time, I’ll move on to word problems. Hopefully those will go well.
After the one on one sessions there was a break and I went outside to meet some of the children. The school looks small but the classrooms are huge and there is apparently 1800 students in one small school. GVI designates one day as picture day so I’ll be sure to take pictures so you can see what I mean. The students were awesome especially the little ones. At one point two held my hand and then more kids linked on until the circle was huge. It was fun playing with them.
Then Aysia and I had a reading focus with six students. We read the peasant prince which tells the true story of a famous Chinese dancer. It was hard at first because there were two groups of six in our tiny classroom but once we left to the staff room it was much easier. I find it hard to know exactly who is understanding or who isn’t. Mostly one girl answered and the rest didn’t seem to pay attention. Once we got through the reading, we had them make their own kites since in the book, the boy ties his hopes and dreams to his kite so we thought it would be cool to have them do it. I’m not sure all of them understood though because a couple kids just copied the example that Aysia had made. Overall I think it went well especially considering it was our first day and we had to make up the sessions on our own.
Aftere the reading focus group, school was out and we had an afternoon session. Those are supposed to be the fun ones. Students literally line up at our door for a chance to be in the session. Since our classroom is so small, we can only take 15 students. Yesterday we split up the groups into two since again our classroom is so small. Half went outside with myself and Beth, a English girl who is also here to teach and then the other half stayed inside and decorated pages with their names on them. We wrote their names in bubble letters and then asked them to decorate inside the letters and outside of things they liked. It didn’t exactly go as planned. First off many of the students just started simply polka doting their letters and not really drawing things they liked. It’s hard because I also think they didn’t understand what we were trying to do. Then a strange thing happened. For some reason the students were convinced that I spoke Xhosa as flattering as that was, it turned out to be a total distraction and some of the students even got angry when I tried to explain that I am an American and that I didn’t speak Xhosa. It was very strange and frustrating because the students then starting speaking Xhosa and it really felt like we lost control which is something you never want to have happen in your classroom. So that was a poor way to end my first day and also when Beth and I had the students outside. We quickly ran out of ideas of games to play. That was pretty bad too and again the language barrier was a huge issue.
Yesterday was really good. For my one to one sessions, we talk all about marvelous me and I had the students answer questions about themselves by using complete sentences. The time seemed to fly by and then if there was extra time I asked them to solve some word problems. This is definitely one area where I want to work on because I had to help most of them through the problems. Also I learned how to write better questions because my questions are pairs of shoes was really confusing. We then had our reading focus which went well as well. We had the students answer some comprehension questions using the book. We split them up into two groups of three and had them compete with each other. One group worked really well with each other but the other one did not fair as well. But the team that won was very excited so competition definitely work as a motivation tool. Then we had our afterschool workshop. Our theme was animals. So we had the children name as many animals as they could think of. Then I had to explain to them why a mammal was a mammal, a fish a fish, etc. I tried to get them involved but they didn’t really know too much about animals. Then we separate them into four groups one group decorated fishes, another group made snakes out of paper, my group drew mammals by hand (quite a challenge) and the other group decorated birds. It was hard for the children in my group to draw mammals. One because they’re hard to draw in the first place and two because many of them wanted to draw things other than mammals. One kid was so frustrated with my group that he went to other, only to come back because he was dissatisified with the other one. He ended moving around to each group because he wasn’t happy. But the girls who could draw did an amazing job of just copying pictures of animals better than I ever could. Overall that went well. We went to the nursery before we left the project site and I played with the babies. They were so cute! One kid just kept blabbing in Xhosa which I don’t understand but he was adorable. Once we got back to house, we went straight to the bar. We found this awesome bar that has free wifi which is a rarity in South Africa and the wine was good so I couldn’t complain. The internet worked so well that I could use Skype and call home which was a nice treat since I hadn’t been to since I got here.
I feel horrible right now. I am hungry but scared to eat for fear of just letting it all out again and now I kinda feel like I’m not to throw up but there’s nothing to throw up because I’ve barely eaten today. I’ll probably go to bed soon because I feel like there’s nothing else to do. I pray I’ll feel better in the morning. I think some girls are going surfing and I would love to go again.
It is crazy windy here. You can hear it even inside the house. I am eating biscuits aka cookies. They are less sweet than typical cookies. I’m not over here chowing down on some chocolate chip cookies. I hope I feel better soon. My throat does feel a thousand times better.
I just got back from our little adventure around Gordon’s Bay. We took a taxi with the intention of going one particular place but ended up driving around with the taxi guy and he took us up to a dam and we took awesome pictures. It’s still really windy here. So we didn’t stay long. We then drove some other places, stopped along the beach and took more pictures. It’s very beautiful, indescribable. You have to be here to experience it. Now I’m at Mont Blanc using their internet here. It’s nice because most of the volunteers are gone so it’s pretty empty. I’ve just been hanging out with three other girls who have already been on the Cape Town tour. Oh yeah and we stopped for lunch at this place called Barbados. I had fish and chips. Well specifically hake and chips but it was super good, not too expensive either!