Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sharks and Students

Holiday has come to an end and school has begun! I arrived back in Stellenbosch on Friday afternoon and started in my Grade 3 English-speaking classroom on Monday.

The remainder of holiday was amazing-- a jam packed and very eventful 2 weeks. We traveled along the Garden Route and made several stops along the way.
Mossel Bay: Stayed for 3 nights, went to church on Easter, was shown around the town by one of the pastors (who is from Illinois), went adventure caving at Cango Caves which required us to squeeze through VERY small spaces, went to an ostrich farm and was able to sit on and ride an ostrich, shopped at an Afrikaans Arts Festival, and relaxed at a restaurant on the waterfront while waiting for our bus that had broken down to be fixed.
Montagu: Stayed for two nights, took a tractor ride up a beautiful mountain, enjoyed a traditional meal of potjiekos, which means cooked in small black pots over a fire. It consisted of rice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, zucchini, and carrots, with malva pudding and ice cream for dessert. Also- wine tasting and time spent in the sun at a hot springs resort.
Cape Agulhas: Stayed for 1 night at a backpackers- explored the beach and ocean, petted and fed huge sting rays, went to the southernmost tip of the continent where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, walked up to the top of the lighthouse at that point, visited a very small missionary town for lunch and a tour, more wine tasting.
Gansbaai: Expected to stay for 1 night in preparation for shark cage diving, but it was cancelled on Saturday due to rough seas. We all decided to stay one additional day, so we spent the free day hanging out and bonding as a group. Sunday was shark cage diving! We got on the boat and traveled for about 15 minutes into the Atlantic. Once we got out pretty far, they anchored and dropped the cage into the water. We got our wet suits on and waited for the sharks to come. I was in the first group of divers. There were 5 of us in the cage, and you hang out there above water until the people in charge yell 'DOWN!' At that point, you drop your legs and hold your breath to see the sharks face to face underwater. What an amazing experience! There were many sharks and they came extremely close to us... even biting the cage at one point. Afterwards, I watched the rest of the divers and the sharks from the upper deck. Fortunately, I wasn't seasick like many others in our group!

The first few days of school have been very interesting. It is extremely different than school back home and it definitely takes some adjusting to. There are 25 students, all coloured or black, and they wear uniforms and most come from the local townships (large areas of shacks). There is not a lot of time spent actually teaching... it's more that students are given things to work on and they do some small group practice with other things. Classroom management is a major issue, as the teachers often seem frustrated and have no strategies for dealing with the students.. which means they often resort to yelling or even hitting. It's hard to get used to. I have been doing a lot of the teacher's work such as copying, printing, laminating, typing, etc. I am glad to help in any way, but I'd rather be in the classroom working with the students.

Today I was able to teach them about America and what it's like. I showed them a map, pictures from home, and a book that American students wrote about their country. They were fascinated and had many questions to ask and stories to tell. I also taught them a basic clapping pattern to get their attention, and they responded to that really well. I am hoping that in this short time I can both get to know the students and implement teaching and management strategies that can be used after I leave. I'm also hoping to begin teaching more and more often!

After school, I really enjoy spending time with my host family and friends. We have been eating delicious dinners and getting to know each other. I'm thankful to have a nice place with very loving people to call home for these four short weeks.

Thanks for taking the time to be part of my experience! Grace and peace.

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