On Wednesday at RPS, there was a school-wide fund-raising wheelbarrow race. It was so fun to see the kids get excited and cheer for their friends. The kids had to push the wheelbarrow back and forth as many times as possible in a set period of time (and for the third graders and older, a classmate was in the wheelbarrow). It was a competition between classes, and some of the teachers and kids got so into it.
Many classes had cheers, painted their faces, and dressed up in theme colors. For example, one class was the cheetahs, another was the lions, and another was the frogs. Our personal favorite, though, was the class of Zulus. We really enjoyed watching, but given that it was in the middle of a day on a Wednesday, it probably could have been scheduled a little better–most of the teachers had lost all hope of actually continuing their lessons after the festivities.
There were some other funny moments this week. We recently started reading a version of “The Princess and the Pea” with the kids, and each group, without fail, has found the word “pea” to be excessively amusing. A few third grade boys were laughing about it for about five minutes!
At Zuurbekom, we moved onto organizing the nonfiction section. We are using a slightly amended version of the Dewey Decimal system, which we now both love and hate. (We also have a lot of respect for librarians.) Some of the books, which had been donated from other libraries, were already labeled with their Dewey Decimal number, which was a pleasant surprise. For the others, we just tried our best to guess… We’re also using colored dots to make the system more kid-friendly and accessible. (Thanks to Mrs. D’Innocenzo for her advice!) We also are pleased to report that all of the books that were checked out have been returned, and that the second-graders have now been able to check out books twice.
Today, we decided to go to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. We went to it three summers ago on our first GLP trip, but we now feel like we have a much better understanding of the country’s history and culture. It was interesting to revisit South Africa’s complex, fascinating past. We also went to the house of the Thabisile principal for a family party. It was very nice to be included and to meet some new people here.
Hope all’s well with everyone!
After school one day last week we visited an after school/day care program that is run by one of the RPS teacher’s parents. We plan on going to work and play with the kids a few times in the upcoming weeks. We played soccer and net ball, had the kids race, and learned a few hand games from the girls. They taught us a new version of “Ring Around the Rosie.” The words to their version were “ringa ringa rosie, pocket full a rosie, tissue, tissue, we all fall down.” Another game involved having one person dance in the middle of a circle while everyone else chanted “so-and-so is in the house, is in the house, jump, shake your body”. Because some of the kids were from RPS, they referred to Christina as ma’am and Emma as teacher. Unfortunately, our dance moves were not up to par. They also asked us some very funny questions about America and ourselves. They couldn’t believe that we weren’t twins, didn’t personally know the Jonas Brothers, and didn’t speak Afrikaans.
On Thursday we visited the grade R (kindergarden) classroom at Zuurbekom that Chloe Carver and Meghan Barry were in charge of redoing last year. It was fun to play with the kids and see them using all the supplies that GLP donated last year. We also spent a day dotting and organizing the books in the library. All the fiction books are now finished and we hope to meet with teachers next week to set up a more permanent system for checking out books.
We had a pretty laid back weekend, the highlight of which was attending a Diwali festival on Saturday night. There were singers, Bhangra dancers, and a light show. To those celebrated, we hope you had a great Diwali!
If you would like to see pictures from the trip we both put up albums. Thank you to all of you who donated books and colored pencils! We can’t wait to distribute them to our kids at RPS.
Our first week back to school was pretty good. While outside with one group of first graders, Christina was reading a story called “Worm Watches.” According to the story, Worm watches a movie about kissing. Upon hearing this, the first graders erupted into laughter and disgust–the girls starting squirming around and hiding, and two of the boys literally spit onto the ground. It was so funny. In general, it was nice to see everyone back at school.
At Zuurbekom, we have decided to organize their new library using the “dot system” that Mrs. D’Innocenzo, the Pingry lower school librarian, designed during our trip two years ago. We chose dot colors to represent books at different reading levels, and spent a lot of time Thursday and the school day on Friday labeling and shelving the books. Upon doing this, we noticed again how few books–only about thirty–there are for the first and second grade readers. We were happy to see that, despite the break, almost all of the second graders who checked out books last time returned them. We’re hoping it will soon be a fully-functioning library.
While the break was refreshing for everyone, we have definitely had some trying moments because of the lack of direction from some teachers. We often find ourselves leading classes with no knowledge of if (or when) the teacher will show up or what exactly the class is working on. We do become frustrated with these teachers, but we try to remember that we have only been here for two months, while many of the teachers have been working for many years. In most cases, they started working as teachers before apartheid ended (in 1994), or at least experienced it as students. It’s fascinating to us that this is such a crucial, dynamic time for the South African educational system, but we have also seen that the constant changes have made these teachers’ jobs more difficult.
One challenge that we were unaware of before this trip was that there are no substitute teachers here, so if a teacher is absent for the day, the kids are dispersed among classes of different grade levels. We have yet to be in a classroom that does not have these kids, who are called “subs.” The subs usually become either bored or overwhelmed, and the teacher, who already must deal with a very full class, has to try to find something for these kids to do. Despite all this, there are many people who work hard and genuinely care, and it’s begun to pay off–given what we’ve heard, schools are drastically different than they used to be.
Spring Break is over and we actually can’t wait to go back to school. We miss all the kids so much!
Although getting to Mozambique was a little stressful (the trip took about thirteen hours and we had to run across the border), we had a lot of fun. We explored Maputo and also spent time in a small town called Bilene. The beaches were beautiful and the food was amazing.
One night, we suspected that we had some mice friends in the room with us. Emma, at about 4 am, used her phone as a flashlight and tried to find them. She then, forgetting there was a malaria net around the bed, was not very graceful and almost bounced into Christina’s bed. Christina bursts out laughing every time she pictures this. Emma does not.
Despite the animal presence, we enjoyed our time in Bilene and even had an entire beach to ourselves after making a long trek through the sand uphill both ways—but actually. It was great to see another African country, but it feels great to be back home in South Africa!