Dear Grade 10,
As our time together comes to an end, I want to take a moment to reflect on what has been the most memorable year of my life. I remember that morning in January at assembly looking towards the Grade 10 lines and thinking, “Wow! I hope those boys (Pius and Muha) don’t beat me because they are much bigger than I am!” I remember Paulus and Joseph taking charge in the library sawing logs, proudly helping create the Kalihonda Library. I remember wondering if Hertha and Roise would ever speak to me, then finding out they are very sweet young women, just a little shy. I remember talks with Beatha and younger learners as we walked that side* for lunch when I lived at the guest house. I remember teaching Daniel the “Soulja Boy” dance in the guest house when he and the boys came to cut my hair. I remember Elias teaching me what Tate Buti* is really singing about in all his songs. NAUGHTY! I remember Gotfriead going out into the bush with Thomas and I to cut down trees for my house. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! I remember Taapopi not saying much but always getting high marks and occasionally flashing his radiant smile. I remember feeling very honoured when Jonnas wrote about me in this term 1 English question paper*. I remember Auleria and friends coming to me protesting their required hair cut. Even though they had to cut their hair, I’m proud of her for speaking her mind. I remember all the sweet SMSes that Miss Lindsey and I received from Naironga while on holiday in Swakopmund. I remember hanging out in the Otara-tara* with Epimakus and friends trying to teach me Rukwangali. I remember Plasidius teaching me Rukwangali every day in class. “Awe sir! Na Na Na!”* I remember my weekend in Rundu with Garu and Kamina; at Kavango River Lodge, Garu enjoying his jacket potato* and Kamina wandering all around taking photos. I remember Uyepa, even though failing the first 2 terms, working harder than anyone else in term 3. I remember Aloysia, the youngest in the class and the only girl to pass term 2, working hard and actively participating in a class dominated by boys. I remember watching Martha on the netball field and looking at the photos of little Martha in the office.
Thank you for all the memories Grade 10. I will never ever forget you. As the exams begin, know that I believe in you. I believed in you when you were scared of me because you thought I was a Boer*. I believed in you when we decided to build the library. I believed in you when you stood up against corporal punishment. I will always believe in you. Believe in yourself, work hard, treat others with respect and good things will happen in your life. Now go knock out that exam, Hitman*!!
One Love,Mr. James
That side--This is what we say when you refer to anything, and i mean anything, that is fairly far away. Example: "Where is the store?" "It's that side." (usually accompanied with snapping and pointing with your finger in the general direction)
Tate Buti--A Namibian musician who sings many songs in one of the local languages about promiscuity and degradation. Instead of dirty, Namibians use the word "naughty" and I love it!
Jonnas' question paper--First, a "question paper" is another word for exam. Their writing prompt was to write about their hero and he wrote about me for coming into the bush to teach them even though there was no electricity, etc. :)
Otara-tara--This is kind of like the sitting room, or family room, in a homestead full of huts. Ours is pretty big and made strictly out of mahangu stalks. We have a fire in the Otara-tara and sit around it talking, laughing and teaching/learning Rukwangali.
Awe. Na Na Na.--Awe is pronounced "Ah-way" and Na Na Na is just like it looks. They use these expressions when they don't like something or they disagree with something or just to express general discontent with a situation. They use it a lot in my class, if we're playing a game and they think I cheated them out of points or something. It's hilarious. And when I use it in return, they all think it's hilarious. I like to use it in town when someone is trying to sell me something and I think it's too expensive. The reactions are priceless.
Jacket potato--baked potato. Garu proclaimed while eating his first jacket potato. "I'm dying gradually" because he loved it so much. So many amazing moments at that dinner. I'll write more about it another time.
Boer--another term for Afrikaaner. My learners recently confessed to me that most of them were afraid of me at the start of the year because they thought I was a Boer and the only thing they know of Boer's is that they treat blacks like garbage. It's really, really sad. Many of my learners' families live on farms around Mangetti and it really has a colonial era feel to it. So sad.
Hitman--World boxing champion from Namibia. I made the analogy that we were like Hitman who got knocked down in the second round because we did terribly on term 2 exams, but that we would get up and knock out the exams in term 3. They liked it. They are super competitive and I have a bit of that in me, myself, so it worked out nicely. :)
Thanks for reading. That ended up being a lot longer than I expected. Hope you enjoyed!