Monday, June 7, 2010

The Year Without a Summer

It is hard to type when your hands are half frozen. Winter has hit Kroonstad and I don't like it. I have always preferred warm weather to cold weather but the fact I am freezing in June makes me particularly cranky. 2010 will be my year without a summer. I left at the end of March when it was just starting to get nice in Bloomington. And when I landed in South Africa it was mid Fall. I still have to suffer through two more months of winter and just when the weather should be getting nice and hot, I will fly back home. I love a white Christmas just as much as the next person but come on, how much cold weather can one person take?

Foolishly, when packing I listened to the internet that said South Africa has mild winters, with lows in the 40s. Maybe certain parts of South Africa are like that, but Kroonstad has been colder than that already and July is supposed to be the coldest month. I am a little worried about how we will survive. Our house was built around the turn of the century and it is drafty as something really drafty (sorry I drew a blank on that metaphor). I opened the door this afternoon and it was ten degrees warmer outside than in. The only heat available in our house are these ceramic tile heater things on the wall. There are four of them in our bedroom alone but when I woke up this morning it was so cold I thought that we had forgotten to turn them on. (Oh and it turned out they were on, just not all that effective.) I keep thinking that if I wear enough layers it will be okay but as I said I trusted the internet when packing. I packed two fleece jackets and three long sleeve shirts. All the warm sweaters in my closet are now taunting me from 8,000 miles away.

Well I guess the saying that "what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger" is applicable here. If I really wanted to I could go buy a couple sweatshirts or an indoor heater. But sometimes its better just to go on a rant on the internet.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Old as an Elephant

Friday was my birthday and I'm 26 years old. It started as a pretty average Friday. We had mass at school and there was a special blessing for me and four students who also had birthdays. Then the children sang Happy Birthday to us, including a verse in Sosotho which loosely translated means "May you grow as old as an elephant." After school, Sarah and Kelly threw a surprise dinner for me. Earlier this week I asked if they would make me a birthday cake and they told me that I was not allowed to plan my own birthday. The day before they spent six hours out of the house, without telling me what they were doing, so I knew something was up. The Sisters and our friend Lebo came over for dinner. We had lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and chocolate eclair cake. After dinner the four of us met up with Ryan and Willy at Moments. We spent the night dancing and having a few drinks. It was a really nice birthday and my roommates were too good to me.

Pigeon Wrangling

I am pretty sure that every teacher has that one class. The class that tries your patients and leaves you frazzled. For me that class is a fourth grade class. I am pretty luckily that of my twelve classes only one is a discipline problem. This class is one of my largest and there are three learners who cannot keep still, keep their hands to themselves, or stay quiet. Every time we meet it is a struggle to stay on task and get through the lesson.

On Tuesday two pigeons got trapped in the hall. We had finally closed the windows because of the cold and the pigeons were not able to get back up the hole in the ceiling. The birds kept flying into the windows and I was sure it was only a matter of time until they knocked themselves out on the glass, stupid pigeons. So most of my students would point at the birds and cower if they flew anywhere near us. But not my grade four class. The boys started chasing the pigeons and jumping up to swat them. I kept yelling at them to sit down but I should have saved my breath. Then I noticed that Tumelo had snuck away and was climbing up the mountain of desks and chairs piled up to the ceiling in the far corner of the room. The pigeons had taken refuge there but Tumelo was determined to catch them. I kept yelling for him to stop, all I needed was for the boy to knock over the tower of furniture and get buried underneath. The next thing I know here comes Tumelo with a bird in each hand. How he managed to catch them I will never know. I told him to take the birds outside and his friend released one outside. But Tumelo took off running before I could stop him. The children started laughing saying that he went to flush the bird down the toilet. I don't think it is even possible to flush a pigeon down the toilet but I didn't see what he did with the poor bird. On the one hand the birds were distracting and I was glad they were gone. On the other hand I was very upset that the children were not listening to me and we lost fifteen minutes of class time to catching birds.

Invasion by Air and by Land

We have an infestation at school: of pigeons AND rats. There is a hole in the ceilingt tile above the chalkboard and it is constantly raining down insulation, feathers, and bird droppings. Each morning I sweep up this nasty debris but I am fighting a losing battle. There is a nest above my desk and we often hear chirping and scraping coming from the ceiling. And in the far end of the hall where I teach there is a pile of extra desks and chairs where rats like to congregate. I try not too look too closely but the other day I couldn't help noticing a dead rat on the ground. I don't know if it was killed by the school cat or if it died of natural causes, regardless it was really nasty. I am tempted to bring a plastic snake and throw it up in the ceiling to see if I could scare them away but I could see that ending badly. If a snake (even a plastic one) fell from the ceiling it would probably freak out the entire class. For the time being I keep watching the floor and the ceiling for various pests.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Freedom Day Weekend

Tuesday was Freedom Day in South Africa, celebrating the first post apartheid elections in 1994.

Long weekends were made for road trips, even if they are only short ones. So Monday we decided to go to Welkom which is about 40 minutes away. Rumor had it that Welkom was a bigger city, complete with shopping malls and a movie theater.

The drive to Welkom was my favorite part of the trip. This part of South Africa is mostly farmland and in many ways it reminds me of home. Once we arrived in Welkom we stopped for directions to the movie theater, which consisted of going left at the first traffic circle, right at the next circle, and straight through the next two. Welkom is a city of traffic circles, which I hate. Luckily we managed to find it without incident. By this time it was lunch and we stopped at this seafood restaurant for lunch. I got fish and prawns (whole shrimp, heads and all) and it was really good. After lunch we went and saw the Blind Side. Kelly and I had both seen it before but we didn't mind seeing it again. It was interesting listening to what the audience found funny. After the movie we wandered back to the car, where we had inadvertently parked in a casino parking lot. We decided to check out what a South African casino is like and it was exactly like an American one. In the end we left without gamboling. Finally we decided to walk around town before going home. Not far from the casino was a town park with unlit Christmas lights, which reminded me of East Peoria (they even had the dolphins). And just past that was the mall. I wasn't planning on doing any shopping but I was a little disappointed to realize the shops were exactly the same ones in Kroonstad. Maybe it stems from having lived in small town America but I am confused when I hear people complain that there isn't much to do in Kroonstad. With the exception of a movie theater, Welkom didn't seem to have more to do than Kroonstad.

Tuesday we were hoping to find a parade or something in Kroonstad but it was not meant to be. We spent the day relaxing and running a few errands. All in all it was a nice holiday weekend