This week is the last week at my internship, so I am quite sad to be leaving all of the kids. Today is my last day specifically with the younger class, and I am missing them already. For my lesson today I thought we would do some creative math. I had the kids trace their hands onto a piece of white computer paper, and then label the fingers 1-5.
They all loved coloring, which is what the majority of them did at first because my directions in English were not making sense to them. Once the other pre schoolteacher translated the directions in Oshywambo, the kids were on the ball! Watching their faces light up when they were done tracing their little hands and saw that their hand was then on the page was absolutely priceless! One little boy Isaac, actually flipped the paper over and repeated the process all over again. I would also like to mention that Isaac has a younger brother in this class as well, and when Jacob, the little brother who is actually 3 years old, was having trouble tracing and holding the pencil, Isaac came over and helped him.
These two little boys have been on my radar since I started at HISA for two reasons: 1. They have not worn shoes once to HISA and have the exact same, ripped shirt and torn pants that they wear everyday and 2. They never have a snack that they bring with them like the other kids. This is clearly very sad, them not having a snack like the others, but when you just sit back and watch them eat at snack time, there are always kids that rip their bread in half and give some to Isaac and Jacob! The fact that these kids at such a young age understand how to share something as precious as food when I know they all struggle, just because they realize someone else has it worse, is heartwarming and wrenching. Although I hate to see Isaac and Jacob sit there and look around waiting for someone to share their snack, when you see the food handed over to them and the smile those children exchange when they form that unspoken bond is inspiring. I will admit, I started bringing two apples in my bag everyday just incase the other children didn’t share, but I didn’t always give the apples to Jacob and Isaac. Sometimes it would go to a more quiet child, or someone in the older remedial class that you knew didn’t have much just from talking with the other kids, or sometimes to a child in the afternoon that came back after school was over who wasn’t going to be fed another meal that day. I have never realized the value of food until this experience in my life. I have been doing a lot of reflecting this past week, what with my internship and Social Development and Change class ending, and I am so thankful for this experience and what I am taking away. I know that I will only continue to take more away from this as time goes on and I have contemplated about this all more….for example, my afternoon at HISA today.
This afternoon at HISA, I went out with two of the peer promoters (staff) again for the Outreach Program into the informal settlements surrounding HISA. Although the Monday before it was very depressing and put me into a funk, this time I was taking a different view on it. Accepting now that I cannot possibly save all of these people and being upset about it doesn’t really do me a lot of good, I decided to just observe and think about what I was actually seeing. I decided to take my camera along and document some of the time out in the settlements. I have about 40 minutes of different videos from us talking to different people about their living situations and looking into their houses. I not only want to remember what I saw, but I want other people to see it too.
If everyone that saw the videos I took today donated even just one blanket to some of these people, it could save a life. One woman told Ndeshi, my co worker that I was out with, that her daughter died because she was sick and they didn’t have any blankets in the house, so she continued to just get more sick and there was nothing the mother could do. We also met one man who lived by himself in a shack that was practically falling down. I did almost cry when we looked at that (which is in the video and a bit embarrassing), but my co worker and I had a lengthy discussion as we walked back to the center after that. We spent over two hours just walking around talking to people in the settlements. I was yelled at twice, had to hide my camera, almost cried, saw some drunk people (at Noon on a Monday), saw someone just openly smoking a joint, and watched one mother beat her child. But I also saw kids playing, and some loving mothers, and dad’s playing with their children. Although this is all so overwhelming to witness in the moment, after the fact, this is all an experience that will impact my life for the rest of my life. I can’t take back the things that I have witnessed; I am just going to have to learn how to take away positive things from this experience.
Today was our last development class! We went and had a tour at Penduka, a women’s and disabled craft center that teaches people how to make certain crafts (quilts, clothes, glass blowing, etc) and sell them. After our 30 minute tour and meeting some of the workers (most of which are disabled or handicapped in one way or another), we sat outside and started our last class discussion about development. Our professor, Linda, had us read a famous speak by Dr. MLK Jr. from 1961 about the Vietnam War, one of his more controversial speeches. We discussed things like race, class, color, discrimination, and equality. It was one of our more philosophical, but revealing discussions. It wasn’t based off of text book readings and there wasn’t going to be a quiz at the end to measure our success. We got out of the conversation what we put in. We made the connection between our studies in American and one or more themes in development. We thought critically about what this is going to do for our future, or what we want our future to be. And then we had a discussion on hope. What is hope, do we have hope, especially after learning all of these depressing things about how the world is so underdeveloped. When you read about the majority of the population living in poverty it is one thing, when you go out and see poverty at its worst, it is another. We all said whether or not we had hope in the greater good, and why. Why believe that people do good and not evil? Why think that things can change when they have stayed the same for the last however many years? My answer: because you have to, or else you have nothing to live for. You have to believe in hope. In my opinion, hope can be a lot of different things, depicted in a lot of different fashions. I had the only internship placement in the actual informal settlements, so I really got to spend the most time in the worst places, being subjected to all of their depression. And at first, I will admit that my spirit was crushed. I was upset by the whole experience and I thought maybe this was going to just be one big mistake, however, then I started to realize the little things at my internship. For example, the smile that comes across a child’s face when they just traced their hand for the first time. To me, that is hope. Watching the kids run around and play at recess, laughing and just having fun, to me, that is hope. If you don’t have hope, then you have nothing.
Later that afternoon we had our internship class and we discussed the loads of assignments, papers, presentations, and projects that are due by this upcoming Tuesday. It is crazy to think that this whole experience is almost over. I am just starting to scratch the surface here and want to continue to chip away at the thoughts provoked by my short time here.
My last official day with the children is today, and I am not ready to say goodbye. I don’t have to teach a formal lesson today to the older group, because I am spending my allotted time with the kids taking pictures and playing outside. I did assist the teacher, Monica, with her lesson of having the kids write their name. Now, keep in mind that all of the children in this older class are typically 6, so of them are 7, and the majority of them do not know how to write their own name! I actually needed a class roster myself when I went around to help the children one on one because I didn’t want to teach them how to spell their name wrong. For some reason, when I hear the name, “Mabuku,” I just wouldn’t think it was spelled: “Mabuokuio.” I do have to say that some of the kids do not go by their traditional, tribal names, and have what Monica described as school names. For example, Matthew’s real name is not Mathew. It is something that I still cannot even pronounce, so Matthew works just fine. When caretakers put the kids in HISA, they just pick a westernized name to make it easier for the school system. I feel like that is eventually going to create some sort of identity crisis for some of these children, but that is not a thought that I have spent too much time pondering just yet. Now back to the most important part of my day- I taught Matthew how to spell his name today. I had to write the letters for him at the top of the page, then had him repeat them back to me aloud in English, and then had him write them. For some reason, his “a” was an “o,” and his “t” was an “i,” and the “w” was an “m,” and I don’t even think the “e” was another letter in the alphabet. Although he was frustrated at first that I kept making him rewrite the letters, when he finally wrote his name correctly, he looked at me, smiled the biggest smile, and then threw his little 6 year old arms around my neck and gave me a kiss on the cheek. It was the greatest feeling in the world to have him succeed at something that he really wanted. I told him that I was so proud of him and just hugged him right back, and his excitement was just contagious. I was so happy for him that I was a little choked up. After all of the time I have spent at HISA, this was the first time that I really felt like I taught someone something that they remembered and were receptive to. It was my, “AHA,” moment. Something as simple as Matthew writing his name was the greatest success of my day. I also gave all of the kids a lollipop and played soccer with them for the last time at recess.
My afternoon was spent in meetings helping the founder’s write the European Union Grant and forming the “safety net” concept. Go figure- me getting myself into a meeting. The last little bit of my day was spent with the youth helping them with their drama about children’s rights. I was alone because the other teachers were still in the meeting, so I broke them up into 4 smaller groups, assigned them a right, and then told them to make a skit to perform in front of the others before we left. All 4 groups completed the tasks and the skits were amazing. They were funny, the kids were outgoing, and they were all educational and advocating a child’s rights. I had a very successful day.
My last day at HISA is today. I am teaching the adult literacy class, both English and Math. I did an English lesson that entailed the adults reading a passage from a book I found in the office (Spiderman) and then picking ten words for us to define. For math, we did some addition and subtraction, but spent the majority of our time on multiplication and division. I did release myself early so that I could serve one last lunch to the younger kids out of the soup kitchen. I also stood outside of the classroom after lunch and hugged or high fived every child good bye. It was bitter sweet. Those kids taught me a lot in the last 5 weeks. Probably more than I taught them to be completely honest. I just had a great last day and a lot of good discussions with my staff members that I am also really sad to leave. One notable thing to mention is that one staff asked me if we have cows in America…. He was shocked when I told him we do have cows. He was also appalled that we don’t have tribes, and that Obama is the president of the whole country and not just a portion. It was a funny and enlightening conversation. My time at HISA is sadly over, but my relationship with them is not.
This morning we did not have our typical development class. Instead, we had an internship seminar and had a panel of 4 Americans who live in Namibia come and talk to us about their lives and how they got where they are. There was a man from Cleveland that had dreads longer than any African I have seen yet, who has lived all over Africa for the past 20 years of so. He works at a local NGO doing all of their documentation and some research. The next person was a woman who is from California, and has lived in Africa for more than 20 years and actually met her husband in the neighboring country of Botswana and they now own a very successful consulting company. The next man hasn’t been living here for more than 2 years, but has lived in different countries all over the world. He currently is the Director of the Center for Disease Control-Namibia. The last woman was from up state New York and has been living in Namibia for 7 years, lived in Bangledesh for a year, and El Salvador for 10 years. She actually was a resident in El Salvador and played on the National Women’s soccer team there! And started the first girls soccer team that led to that national program. Mary Beth is kind of a big deal here in Namibia and is Ryan’s internship supervisor. Needless to say, they all had great adventures and crazy lives that were inspiring. We have the afternoon off, the weekend off, and Monday off. Tuesday we have our final presentations and farewells, and then Wednesday is the 4th of July.
I am not sure that I will blog again while I am here in Namibia because I need to finish all of my schoolwork and then I would like to just relax and enjoy my last week here. After next Wednesday we are going to Etosha and camping in the north. When we leave Thursday morning, I will not have access to the Internet again until I am back in the United States. I fly out next Sunday and will be home sometime late on Monday. If you followed my blog throughout my trip, thank you for reading. Wish me some safe travels and I can’t wait to tell you more about my experience in person once I get home.
For my last word of advice, I have only one thing to say: If you ever have the chance to visit Namibia, go. It is an experience of a lifetime.