Friday, February 29, 2008


While the U.S. Dollar is doing well against the South African Rand as of late, I still cannot help to shop for bargains. After a long week, I revelled in the opportunity to run errands in town. One errand of consisted of checking out from the public library, children's xhosa books that I attempt to read to students. While there I found some real gems. I found 3 National Geographic magazines that had articles of the Northwest, one an article on Washington, The John Muir Trail in Northern California, and The Pacific Crest Trail. The other magazines had articles on Nepal, and a couple south african countries, two of which came with maps the cost me the equivalent of 3cents a piece. I also checked out some Emily Dickenson and Thoreau. What a find. There is nothing like looking at pictures of Bloomsday race in Spokane taken from a helicopter, pike place market, Mt. St. Helen's, and the sun setting over the beach in the Olympics. Ahhh......Country road. Take me home. To the place where I belong......

I did come away with a book to read to students as well.

Oh, and I found some old keyboards at the local computer shop that they donated. This will give my friend, security guard and computer tutee Isaiah, something to work practice with at home.

South African Resource Room

A photo of two students I work with at one of my schools. I share a classroom with an inconsistent schedule so sometimes I set up shop outside, which is nice on sunny days like this photo. Items worthy of notice: Students are sitting in chairs, however the makeshift desks are amputees delicately balanced for one student with his left hand. The other student has it leaning against his chair. These broken chairs are a glimpse of what kids find to do with their time when not learning. Also, you may notice the lovely decor of the tree in the background. I refer to it as South African Tinsel (barbed wire). Believe it or not one of the students swiftly scaled the tree to fetch a frisbee on the roof a while back. I was amazed and frightened at the same time. His climb seemed, to me, too well practiced.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This is why I am here

This photo was taken while I sat with a couple students one evening after visiting the shelter. We sat on the steps overlooking the city. I remember thinking to myself, this is how I want to remember my time here.

Today brought another "aha" moment. For teachers and family of teachers you know the aha moment, the moment in which a child realizes he or she is capable. I was not expecting it either. A 15 year old student had been referred to me by a teacher and I wanted to do a quick assessment to figure out where to start. I first assessed whether or not he knew his letter sounds. He knew them well and so made the assumption that he would be able to read a difficult text. When I showed him the text he gave me a blank stare as if to say, you want me to read this. I then pulled out a simple cvc (consonant vowell consonant) book called Dan the Tan Man.

He took the book and stated in broken English "I cannot read that." At this point I decided I would spare the poor kid from trying anything too difficult and damaging his self confidence. I gave him a simple worksheet where he had to listen to me say the simple word and he would pick the letters that needed to be blended to make the complete word. After a couple examples he was able to pick it up. I showed him some flash cards where he had the "an" and "ad" cards as well as some other letters. We sounded out "an" and "ad" first then I placed a letter in front of the "an" and "ad" cards and he blended them together. After he had built his confidence with this, I then showed him the small book "Dan the Tan Man." He read the book brilliantly. I told him he should be proud of himself. I then gave him the book and he proceeded to read the book to several teachers.

Later that afternoon in conversation with June, Ntombekia and Sarah, of the after school program, "What happened today is why I am a teacher." Who knows what tomorrow has, but today was incredible for both the student and I.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This is a photo of "the boys" working hard at the after school program.

Working at the Monastery with the kiddos.

Back Into Routines

School is rocking and rolling. There are some times in the week I wonder what I am doing here. I will sit in a classroom and try to teach a new game to kids who speak only xhosa and have learning disabilities and think to myself "What am I even attempting to accomplish." But then there are days like Friday when I was able to see progress with a stuggling reader, help get a student a new wheel chair, recieve and start paperwork to get a student to a special needs school. Ministry outside of work is going well. I have started up Thursday night Tacos at the house and have been getting into some really cool conversations with roomates and friends over tacos. The security guard at Amasango asked for help with keyboarding so Sunday afternoons I teach him keyboarding and computer skills. Working with him is such a breath of fresh air. He wants to learn and is picking up skills quickly. Life has picked up the pace and I am loving it.