Friday, March 26, 2010

Life's Precious Resource

Grahamstown has run out of water....

You never realize how fortunate you are to never have to worry about losing something that you depend on and use everyday until it is gone. South Africa has been in a drought for many years. Many rivers are dry and farmers are struggling to keep their crops alive.

You cannot drink out of the tap here. The only water I drink is either from the store or the spring. Diana and I have been saving our water jugs we buy so that we can fill them at the spring. I also save my water bottles and fill them at the school I teach at because they have filtered water. Going to the spring is quite an experience. Since Grahamstown water has been deemed "poisonous" to drink, everyone depends on spring water. Last weekend we waited in line for an hour and a half to fill 3 water jugs.

Yesterday morning, Grahamstown ran out of water. The drain that pumps outside water into the reservoir apparantly broke so no water was going into the reservoir. That means no shower, no washing clothes, no washing dishes, etc...

One of the teachers at my school asked how often this happened back in the U.S. My answer: well never. How fortunate are we to always have fresh clean water? For me, water restrictions means not being able to water your lawn everyday. Here in South Africa it means all water being shut off to your house for days.

So often in life we take for granted the things we have everyday. We don't a "right" to clean water in our homes. We are privileged. We are fortunate. Next time you enjoy safe water from the tap think of those who must walk a mile from the townships just to fetch clean water. Then have to haul it all the way back home. With no car, but maybe a wheelbarrow if you are lucky.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Work hard, play hard

So I have been seriously lacking on my blog posts... life has been super busy. Since half term, which was at the end of February, I have been teaching all three math classes and Food Tech. That is a lot of lesson planning to do EVERYDAY! However, all the hard work has trully paid off. I have reassured myself of the fact that I love mathematics...yes that is the true nerd in me. For every lesson, I try to think of a fun activity to do to enhance the learning. It can be challenging to think of a fun activity on converting mixed numbers to improper fractions. It is a true google hunt to find ideas!

I have received some of the best compliments from the teachers. The teacher of one of the math classes I teach told me that it was clear I had a true passion for teaching and knew my mathematics very well. It is compliments like that that keep me working hard. Coming to South Africa has deeply strengthened my confidence in the classroom. If I can walk into a completely foreign enviroment and make it out on top, then I can handle any classroom!

So what have I been up to this past month?

First off, teaching, teaching and more teaching! Since all the COST students and myself have been busy at the schools, we haven't done that much traveling. We also have a lot of university work to complete before we leave. Since I leave for Cape Town in a week, I want to finish all my work so I can enjoy my vacation!

Last weekend was Foundation Weekend at Kingswood. The school had many festivities planned for the students and alumnis. It was also the 17th birthday of my host families' son. On Friday night, we went to a cricket game in Port Elizabeth. It was the final game of the Pro20. The game was packed and tons of fun. The fans here are insane! Everyone was dressed up and dancing. There is like a DJ at the games with people dancing on the stage. There is also a marching band. So you are constantly moving, cheering and dancing the whole game. On Sunday, I went to the grade 6/7 girls first hockey game of the season. And no, not ice hockey either...they play field hockey.

This past week I helped coach hockey. I have never played hockey before, but luckily I was able to catch on quick. I just had to learn a few rules and basics of the game and I hope none of the students picked up on the fact that I was totally clueless :) I will be helping with net ball (which is kind of like basketball) next week.

This weekend, we stayed in Grahamstown again. Diana and I went to a social with the Rhodes squash team. It was fun to meet some Rhodes students and experience how South Africans have a social. The social was similar to a social I would have with my sorority. The theme was "Anything that starts with a S..." This weekened was also the hockey and rugby festival. I spent all Friday afternoon watching hockey. Yesterday, we went and watched out first rugby game. Man, is that sport rough. I always heard rugby was rough but actually watching it in person was something else. I am sure many of those boys are going to be super stiff and sore today!

From Monday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon, I am going to Kwandwe private game reserve. The headmasters' wife's family owns the reserve. They are giving Auburn and I a complimentary night stay at one the luxurious lodges, including four game drives and all meals! I am trully spoiled! This one night trip would probably cost around $1,000!

In the picture above, is Diana, Auburn, Aegean, and I. Aegean is the 17 year old who lives at the house Diana and I stay out. He is quite the basketball star at his school!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My extended vacation is halfway over :(

I cannot believe that I have been here for over 2 months and will be leaving in a little over 6 weeks. I have mixed feelings about leaving. Of course, I cannot wait to see my family and friends. However, on the other side there is still so much for me to do here. Grahamstown has the 2nd largest festival in the world in June. And of course the World Cup is in June/July. Coming to South Africa has given me the traveling bug. I want to see the world that I have seen so little of. I hope Tyler gets an overseas placement!

Last week, Auburn, Diana and I visited a street school in Grahamstown. Visiting that school made me realiza how sheltered I am at Kingswood. I have been blinded to the realities which exist just beyond the railroad tracks. The school is for homeless, poor, straving children. Students come and go as they please to the school. Most come for the food. However, once the students walk into the school, the doors are locked and no one is allowed to leave until 1:00 when school ends. At first, I didn't understand way they locked the children in. The school has 7 grades. The grades are not by age but ability and time in school. For example, in grade 1 there are children ranging from 6 to 16 years old. Many of the children have stunted growth from malnutrition and starvation. Seeing and witnessing this in person has made me so grateful for all that I have. And I have way too much. I have already decided that when I go back to the U.S. I am going to donate most of my clothing.

Last week, a new COST student came to Grahamstown. Sam is working at a public elementary school. She has turned out trio to a quad. I cannot believe that there are only 3 weeks left this term, then I have a two week holiday. After I will return to teach one more week then I go home. It's bitter sweet