09 April 2009

The "One Love" Phenomenon

Greetings from Namibia at the beginning of a long Easter weekend. I'm getting ready to go camping at Ngepi Camp in the Caprivi Strip (the arm looking thing of Namibia). We're camping right on the river and will get to swim in the river in a cage that protects us from the crocs! Pretty cool, huh? :)



I do want to share a story from my beautiful village of Mangetti...

It's been 3 months since I moved into the most amazing place in the world, Mangetti. It seems like the time has flown by and at the same time, it feels like I've been here forever. The one constant struggle for me has been communication and connecting with my learners and people throughout the village. My learners speak decent English, but conversations are very challenging for them to uphold. The people in the community barely speak any English and I don't speak much Rukwangali.

I am a very social person, so you can see how this was a battle for me. I started ending class by saying "One Love" and showing them the ASL sign for "I love you." I wanted a way to connect with the learners through some type of sign (they do hand signs for their favorite artists all the time) and to let them know that I love them. I taught them what the sign meant and we listened to Bob Marley, "One Love" and soon all of my learners were responding with "One Love" at the end of class flashing me the "I love you" sign.

Walking through the village, I would hear my learners yell across the soccer field, school grounds or the location. "ONE LOVE, SIR!" while showing me the "I love you" sign. This started to spread throughout the younger grades as they saw the older kids doing it. Then it became an all school thing at one Monday morning assembly a few weeks ago. I brought a soccer ball from the States to give to the school and my principal thought it was such a nice gesture that he wanted to have an official presentation of the ball to the school during assembly. He asked me to say a few words at the end of the presentation and after my talk, I ended with "One Love" and the sign. All of my learners and even some of the younger kids responded. My principal, looking curious, asked what that sign meant so I told him and the whole school about the "I love you" sign. He then awkwardly made the "I love you" sign and showed it to me saying, "Oh, we love you too, Mr. James." If you knew my principal, you would know that this was the cutest thing in the world. He is the kindest, most easy going person I've ever met. So ever since that morning, all of the learners say "One Love" to me with the sign, even the 5 year olds who don't speak any English at all. It's even spreading to members of the community as some of them say it to me now with the sign.

It may seem silly to some, but it feels amazing to me because I feel like I am finally connecting with the village. It's only taken me 3 long months, but I love this connection.

Check out this picture of a young learner's shirt. He drew pictures of soccer players on the back of his shirt. You'll see that one of the players is making the "I love you" sign. :)



Kevin said...

dude, it's been a while since i checked in on you! Good to hear all the things you are doing, sounds like an awesome experience!!

Wasn't sure if you knew this or not, but wanted you to know that Jen and I are expecting a baby boy at the beginning of September!! wanted to make sure you knew!!

Ryan said...

Jim - thanks for sharing this. Things have been pretty stressful lately and reading this really put everything into perspective. It doesn't surprise me at all to hear that you're doing so well and changing so many lives. Keep up the good work!!

Dina said...

Jimmy B, thanks for sharing. I am in awe of what you are doing. You are an amazing person! I was thinking of you today. I started reading a great book - Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claibourne. It make me think of you. Thanks for sharing your life with us all. Love ya kid, Dinasaurus Rex

Anonymous said...

James, my name is Eric Cooper and live in Round Rock, TX. I will be traveling to Namibia arriving on June 28th and will be attending a trade mission as the guest of Ambassador Nandango. We will spend the first couple days in Windhoek and then traveling north to the Caprivi Strip. My girl friend works with Genia Antonie who has told us you have a lot of books you are needing shipped to Namibia. My friends and I attending the trade mission would like to get these sent to you and deliver them to you. I can coordinate the delivery of these books along with other supplies I will get donated. My E-mail is ericccooper@austin.rr.com. Please let me know if you still need these shipped to you. If you do let me know where they can be picked up and if you have the weight of the box or boxes. We hope to be able to help and hope to be able to meet you during our trip.