I made it through the first week of school! It was rough in the beginning because we didn't know what we were supposed to be doing, but it was much better by the end. I even got to teach some private lessons on Thursday and Friday! I taught a clarinet lesson on Thursday because the teacher wanted to work on paperwork; I taught a flute lesson Friday morning so the teacher could watch me teach. It was also his last day because he was filling in for the COST coordinator/music teacher who has been on leave. One marimba lesson I got to help with teaching scales and arpeggios, and the other marimba lesson I got to teach all on my own! The marimba lessons are just like they would be in the states, not like the marimba video I posted Thursday.
One of the teachers invited us to dinner Thursday evening. We went out to a pub that is famous among the Rhodes University students, but was fairly empty since those students aren't back in school yet. We all got delicious pizzas and had leftovers for lunch on Friday! I would have taken a picture, but that is the only time people have come up and asked me for money- when I have my camera out. So, I won't be taking many more pictures around Grahamstown. I will eventually take some pictures of the girls and the school, because it is okay to do that. And of course I will take pictures when I am doing touristy things outside of Grahamstown. The locals know that you have money if you have a camera or a phone out while in public and so will target you for asking for money or a job.
Last night's braai was a lot of fun! It is the same atmosphere as a barbecue, so there were a lot of people and a lot of little kids and a lot of meat! I should have taken pictures, but I didn't, so sorry about that. Hopefully there will be another one at some point in the future and I will take picTonight is the first social of the year. It is a music department fundraiser, so one of the music teachers is going to pick me and Wellyna up for that. It starts at 7, but there will be a concessions area, so we are getting there at 6 to help set that up. I will let you know how that goes! It should be fun, getting to hear some of their favorite music and see them all dance together.
Things are shaping up very nicely. I have now been here for officially over one week and everything has only gotten better! I'm excited to see what the next few weeks bring!
We just finished our fourth day of school at VG. Things are going a little bit smoother now that everyone is used to us being there. We are still observing classes, but Wellyna gets to teach tomorrow! I've entertained some classes, but have yet to teach a full lesson. The COST coordinator for the school comes back Monday, so I'm sure she'll sort things out and lay them in stone for us, as to which teacher will be our cooperating teacher and the like. After classes every day are co-curriculars which are basically the sports, music ensembles, other physical activity classes (yoga, aerobics), and tutoring. Each teacher is required to help with 3 hours of co-curriculars a week. I get to help with their orchestra, a marimba ensemble (they have 5!), and yoga! I will also help with English tutoring whenever they need me, and I'd really like to be a part of the aerobics class (it would at least be some physical exercise :P) I really like that they are called co-curriculars because it means that the school views them as just as important as the academics.
Wellyna and I are trying to fill up time and help with as much stuff as we can so we can be around the girls and get to know them better. The senior marimba group started today and it was so much fun! They reviewed some pieces from last year and taught parts to some of the new girls. I've heard African marimba music played some, but it is a little different when some of the girls grow up listening and learning the rhythms! Below is a video of a group that is bigger, but similar to the one I'm helping with. I will post a video of the girls when they feel comfortable with me taping them and p For those of you who are musically inclined, the African marimbas aren't classical ones that you'd see in a western ensemble. They have all of the white keys on the piano, plus F#. So if you can't figure out the tonality, there you go ;)
Tomorrow evening there will be a braai for the staff and the leadership group at school. The South Africans joke because a braai is basically the same thing as our barbecue, but they don't slather the meat in sauce, they just use spices to make it taste good. And besides, barbecue is the flavor of a chip ;) The act of using a braai is also a fire using wood, never gas or charcoal. Saturday is the first social of the year. The music department is hosting a social as a fundraiser. The girls will have to pay to get in and for snacks and drinks once their in. It costs 10 Rand to get in (which is equivalent to about a $1.20, so not much), so hopefully a lot of girls will come. Tonight, Wellyna and I are going out to dinner with some of the staff! They don't eat dinner until 7:30 or 8 around here! It is definitely a more laid back culture.
Before I wrap this post up, I want to give a quick shout-out to my parents, Marianne & Marty, who are celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary today! Last year they went to Hawaii to celebrate and this year they get to stay in beautiful Salem ;) Hopefully there are many, many more opportunities to go on holiday for your anniversary. Oh, and thanks for getting married ;)
Yesterday Wellyna and I got to have coffee with Libby (a math teacher from VG who moved here from Oregon!) and walk ar. She told us more about Grahamstown, VG, and her transition here. She has lived here for about three years. She got her teaching certificate through Rhodes University here in town and hasn't left since then! She did her student teaching in a township school near Grahamstown and said it really opened her eyes up to the corruption in the country. The principal of her township school had a C class Mercedes and the 60 students in the classroom were sharing 13 textbooks. The government says they are making the country a better place, but are really just manipulating the numbers for test scores and only choosing the most positive outcomes to showcase. It is really upsetting. Even though VG is one of the best schools around, in order to pass some classes students only need to get a 30%, and that is about all that some girls can get. They do have a 100% graduation rate, however, and have had that for the last 15 years. Considering some of the girls are graduating with passing scores of 30%, it is still better than one of the township schools Libby mentioned where none of the students graduated one year because none of them passed. It really is a sad cycle, but it is better than it was during the apartheid, so the teachers here view any improvements as positive, regardless of the level.
Today is just a lounging day, getting our rest in before we start teaching tomorrow. We had all intentions of going to church this morning, but we didn't know what time it started. Dr. Baxen (our coordinator) came to us around 9:45 this morning asking what we were up to and we mentioned church. She said the one that she normally goes to starts at 9:30, but she hadn't planned on going this morning. She said that we can go with her next week though. I think going to church will help us feel more acclimated to the culture and we can meet some other new people. Grahamstown is sometimes known as the "City of Saints" because of how many churches there are in the city. One of the churches has such a big steeple that it is considered a landmark, changing the ranking of Grahamstown from town to city. I took some pictures when we were out walking yesterday, but haven't loaded them. Wellyna has loaded hers onto her blog though, and the link is in the right hand column.
We're both excited to start school tomorrow so we can have something to do that will keep us busy. Libby is picking us up at 6:55 am tomorrow, so we'll definitely be going to bed early tonight! Please don't hesitate to ask questions if you have any about what we're up to. I may not be able to post every day once classes start, but we'll see! I will definitely keep you updated!
After 26 hours of traveling, I finally made it to Grahamstown! Traveling took quite a bit out of me, but I'm not as tired today as I thought I'd be. Wellyna and I were up at 9 am to get ready to go to our school and meet some of the teachers. The teachers are really relaxed with each other, but once they are in the classroom it is all strict and orderly. The girls aren't allowed to sit down until they have greeted the teacher and the teacher allows them to sit. Maybe this is how all private schools are, but it is definitely different than what I am used to.
In case some of you don't know, I am at an all girls private boarding school. It turns out that only about 30% of the girls attending the school are living in the hostels. The other 70% come to school every day and leave at the end of the day. The school day starts at 7:30 in the morning and is over at 1:45, but co-curriculars start at 2:30. 25-30% of the school is also involved in music. They have two nationally ranked choirs, 5 marimba bands, and an orchestra, which is a group of anybody who can play any instrument. A little different than at home!
I’ve attached a few pictures of where I’m staying. I couldn’t get any good pictures from the airplane of Johannesburg (Joburg) because it was kind of cloudy. The first picture is of the backyard where I’m staying. It is very pretty! It has been raining on and off all day here and I hear that that is very common, for the weather to change through all four seasons in just one day. The other pictures are of my garden cottage. It is just an addition to Dr. Baxen’s house, but is completely separate. Wellyna and I are sharing a bedroom and from there we walk into the kitchen, and through there is the bathroom.
We went to the grocery store today and I tried to look for non-American brands of shampoo and soap and was surprised to find that that was a difficult task! Most of the brands of non-food supplies were brands I’d seen at home! I was able to find a soap I’d never heard of and a kind of shampoo that I’ve seen the brand of, but not this particular kind. It also turns out that Friday afternoons are not the right time to go to the grocery store. I mean, that seems common sense and I probably wouldn’t even do that at home and we didn’t have a choice today, but I probably won’t do that again.
Okay. I am going to start working on my assignments for student teaching. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions!
With everything packed, I am ready to begin my travels. Today I fly to Chicago to spend the night with my friend Molly, and tomorrow I fly Chicago to Atlanta to Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth! Fingers crossed that all goes as planned.
My goal for this trip is to not be afraid. I want to try new things, go on some (safe) adventures, and make the most of this once in a lifetime experience.
I will keep this updated as often as I can so that everyone who reads it knows what I'm up to. I will post some pictures in the blog, but if you want to see more, just ask :)
It was difficult saying goodbye to my parents and brother this morning, but it will be so great to come back to them with stories galore!
I will keep you all posted and let you know when I am safely in Grahamstown.