Mohlohonolo a selemo se secha (Happy New Year)!
I certainly hope 2014 will be one to remember. This will be my only full calendar year spent in Lesotho and I intend to take full advantage of the limited time to accomplish some sustainable projects. A brief vacation in Cape Town was a proper way to ring in the new year. Teaching started back up soon after getting back to Thaba-Tseka and I’m happy to say I’ll finally be working full time here in country. In addition to teaching I have a few projects currently ongoing and also some aspirations for others.
Back to School
I began teaching Computer Studies at Thaba-Tseka High School in the middle of last term. They squeezed in a single class, Grade 8, to last the final 6 weeks of the semester. This couldn’t have worked out better for me. Having never formally taught a class before, I really had no idea what I was doing. Although the lack of experience could have been a hindrance, I found myself very comfortable in front of these wide-eyed Basotho children. They were very eager to learn the subject material and their final marks quantified that. The class average was 82% on a sliding curve towards the 90 percentile. I was certain it was going to be a bell curve as the material I was instructing wasn’t exactly easy for them. Taking this limited experience, I knew I was ready to begin the new term that began on January 13th.
This term I am teaching grades 8-12, Monday through Thursday, with a total of 10 class sessions. Working full time has been great. I feel like I’m finally able to contribute my full worth here. These first two weeks have gone splendidly. My Sesotho has advanced to the point where I’m almost conversationally fluent. This goes a long way with the Basotho. When they see a foreigner learning and speaking their language it garners a new level of respect. So I leave 5-10 minutes at the end of each class and usually say something like “Okay students, today I have taught you about computers. Now it’s your turn to teach me some Sesotho”. They absolutely love it. The strategy is sound because each class will give me a new word to learn and I ask them to quiz me on it the following week. This week’s words were “khoto” (mouse), “fesetere” (window), “mohaisane” (neighbor), “motšeare” (late), and “Mokhokhothoane” (Tuberculosis). They think it’s funny to give me big words but the jokes on them… long words tend to be easy if you break down the syllables. Like Tuberculosis = Mo-kho-kho-tho-an-e.
45 students per class means 450 tests to grade come exam time. I always get excited to see their marks but grading that many tests is going to be daunting to say the least. However, that spreadsheet I previously posted is going to be an interesting perspective with a plethora of data.
What a wonderful city this is. The contrast to Lesotho is almost indescribable. I traveled along with 9 other volunteers from my Healthy Youth group. The bus ride from Bloemfontein took 14 hours but fortunately we opted for a luxury liner instead of a sweaty kombi taxi. Upon arriving it was a bit rainy but that soon gave way to clear skies which lasted for the duration of the trip.
My first order of business was getting some McDonalds. I almost ordered the left side of the menu. I never really ate it back home (Chipotle is the go-to), but after not having had any type of fast food for 7 months it was heaven. Of course, my stomach wasn’t exactly up to the challenge and I went catatonic for a couple hours soon thereafter. We arrived at the hostel in the morning and immediately hit up a farmer’s market style event that had the best international variety of food I’ve ever seen. And it was all fresh. I ended up getting a delectable Mediterranean style pita thing that made my knees buckle. Every night was spent on the famous Long Street (very similar to Bourbon or Canal Street). The bars and clubs were filled with people from all over the world. Not just tourists but expatriates as well. The city is a true melting pot. And of all the people I met, only one couple was from America.
The highlights of the trip were playing the most beautiful golf courses I’ve ever seen and also watching the sunset over the ocean on top of Table Mountain. The first course I played was Mowbray Golf Club which was built in 1886. This historic course had an old school feel to it but unfortunately due to some inclement weather patterns it wasn’t in the best of shape. Nevertheless it was great to get back on the links again. And the scenery was incredible. The same could be said for the second course, Royal Cape Golf Club. I was paired up with a British couple and a Scottish lad. We did some match play and it was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played. After not swinging a club for 8 months and using rentals, I thought I was going to dog it out there. However, that wasn’t the case and we had a very competitive match. The Scottish guy and I edged them out by 1 hole. I almost eagled a 490 yard Par 5 as well. This course was in the upper echelon of courses so it was very well maintained. Below is an album of the entire trip, including the golf courses and Table Mountain:
In the Works
Aside from teaching I’ve been trying to get a few other projects going. The largest of these initiatives is spearheading the creation of a volunteer technology committee for Peace Corps Lesotho. There are various committees in each respective Peace Corps country with specific roles/tasks. For example one might be focused on providing tuition assistance to top-tier students that PCVs interact with either through teaching or their host organization. I’ll have more information about the Lesotho ICT committee in future posts. In the meantime, check out the draft proposal (which has been unofficially approved) to get a better idea of what we intend to focus on here in Lesotho in regards to information communication technology:
Another project I’m very excited about is beginning a pen-pal program with World’s Cultures classes at the high school I used to work at, Maine West High School. This is for the World Wise Schools [link] program I have mentioned in prior posts. I plan on having my Thursday Form E2 (grade 12) class participate in this exchange as they have the best English and can fully engage in some cross-cultural discussion with students 8,500 miles away. If all goes as planned, we’ll even be able to have a few Skype sessions. Connecting two classrooms so far apart would be an amazing sight to see.
As always thanks for reading. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with their families and friends. Here’s to a safe and prosperous 2014!