Nov 2, 2009

News

I hope everyone is doing well as the northern hemisphere settles into winter. Here it's getting hot, and also raining a lot. It's kind of a monsoon feel, but it doesn't rain in the afternoon, rather in the night. Clouds start building in late afternoon and roll in heavy about sundown. This tends to kill the cell phone signal, as well as the electricity. The storms are powerful--two nights ago was literally the most intense lightning storm I've ever seen. The lightning came so fast it was almost like a strobe light, or a fireworks show finale, and a couple bolts struck less than 200 yards away by my reckoning. Like the unzipping of the fly of God Almighty (as the old man said). The rain was so heavy (or perhaps my roof so lousy) that water ran down the walls and drenched a couple of my books. Not to worry, they've mostly dried out now and I've got many spares. One of these days I hope to get the roof fixed up. I do have a screen door now, which is all kinds of awesome. It's definitely fly season here and an open door is something they can't resist, the pugnacious little devils.

The storm was hard on the local livestock, too. We lost a puppy and eight smallish chickens--I assume they must have drowned, as it wasn't that cold. Maybe the wind and the rain could make it that cold? They are very small. The puppies are hard to manage. They're not quite big enough yet to look after themselves, but big enough to get in trouble. Last night I watched a man trod on one in the dark. It flailed around, whining pathetically, unable to stand. That was a bit troubling--I kept imagining snuffling around in the dark, suddenly trapped under the crushing weight of a giant. I thought its leg was broken for sure (= death, no vets here), but today it's walking around fine. They ought to fix these animals, but no one seems to do that. It's more of the law of the jungle here. I bet I've seen 25 dead chickens since I came here at my house alone.

Here at my house the drinking continues apace, but my host mom (or Ma Setlholoeng as she is known) definitely keeps them in line. The other day I watched her (she's past 80, remember) nail an errant drunk at four paces with a donkey whip. That made me feel a bit better about things.

There's not much to report on the teaching front. I've mostly given up lesson planning for now until I get a better idea of what the kids know. Today I planned to review long division with the 7th grade class only to learn that almost all of them did not understand division at all. I'm flailing a bit, but getting better. It's remarkable how good the kids are--even the "bad" ones will try, if I can keep a handle on them. My job is much easier in many ways than a US teacher--I shudder to remember the stories from teachers in the Bronx.

Peace Corps continues to surprise me with their cluelessness. I've adapted an Abbey quote for them: "As governmental agencies go the Peace Corps is a good one, far superior to most. This I attribute not to the administrators of the Peace Corps--like administrators everywhere they are distinguished chiefly by their ineffable mediocrity--but to the actual working volunteers in the field, the majority of whom are capable, honest, dedicated people." It's astounding that they do not realize that if they give us a ridiculous task we will not do it. A fault with managers everywhere--creating an atmosphere that paves over the reality of the situation with nice, comfortable bureaucratic language. You give me the form, I make up the results and return it, everyone is happy, nothing is accomplished. And the managers have no clue.

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