Friday, February 28, 2014

Lunch at NJ

I'm a posting machine this week. :) With fewer duties this year, I have extra time on my hands. This is a series of photos I took to try and use for one of my MatadorU photography assignments. 

Money was found to build a new kitchen. Yay! Our new building has four solid, plastered walls, a tin roof, and unglazed windows for ventilation. Prep and cleanup is still an outdoor affair. The most commonly prepared meals are pap (corn meal porridge) and stewed chicken feet, pap and pilchards (canned sardines in tomato sauce), samp (kind of like hominy) and beans, and butternut. Sometimes we get roasted mealies -- roasted ears of field corn. In season, large cases of oranges will appear at school and get doled out. At other times, bananas will arrive.

When the lunch ladies have finished preparing the day's meal, they portion it into large, repurposed plastic buckets and place these at intervals along the walkways in front of the school's classrooms. It's served at 10AM and the learners, who are responsible for providing their own containers, crowd around the buckets and serve themselves. Sometimes several learners share a meal from one large tupperware. Silverware is generally not necessary. You pinch off a piece of pap, and dip it or use it to scoop the other dishes.

Preparing vegetables. The prepped food can be passed into the kitchen where the cooking is done. Off camera to the left is the washing station. Plastic buckets used for serving the food are piled high on the counter.
Cooking the food. Cooking is done over an open fire in large, three legged pots called galazas. Propped against the window, you can see the giant paddle used for stirring pap.
Tending the pots. From experience, I can say that stirring the stiff pap with a large wooden paddle is hard work!
Cleaning station. Behind, you can see the large pile of collected brush and firewood used to fuel the cooking fires.
Learners help themselves to pap, the staple food of this region. Pap accompanies almost every meal. Other common starches are samp, and sometimes, rice.
Pap is the foundation of any meal it's served at. A large portion of pap is served with a smaller amount of a protein or side dish, such as pilchards or tomato gravy.

So that's lunch. The English educator in my office, Mr. Nyambi, tells me there is no siSwati word for lunch, but it's kufihlula in Shangaan. Unless you're eating between 13:00 and 15:00 hours, then it's mpimavayeni.

If you're still hungry, neighborhood ladies come to the school to sell their homemade sweets and packets of extruded corn snacks that are kind of like Cheetos. My favorite sweet is emaguina or ema-fatties. These are deep fried sweet dough balls, and they're delicious. Also popular are plastic baggies filled with shaved ice and fruit juice. Kind of like a popsicle in a bag. Ema-chips (french fries) are usually available, too, greasy and delicious. I don't eat these very often!

Want to try your hand at pap? Here's a recipe:

2 cups (500ml) water
1/2 tsp (2,5ml) salt
1 cup (250ml) maize meal (or polenta)
1 Tbls (15ml) butter

* Put the water and salt in a saucepan. Bring to the boil.
* Turn to a low heat once boiling and immediately add in the butter and the maize meal (or polenta). Don't wait for the water to cool. Mix to combine.
* Adjust with extra water or maize meal to the consistency of your liking. I like it the same consistency as mashed potato. 
* Leave to cook covered on a low heat for about 30 minutes.
* Serve hot.

See more at: Fabulous Food Recipes

- Elizabeth

Storm Damage, Continued

I found the photos Perry took of some of the storm damage.

Our family's church, Sambulo Church of Zion in Africa, lost most of its roof.
What was left blew away a short time later...
This building's roof peeled back like the lid on a tin of sardines!
A closer view.
- Elizabeth

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Odds and Ends

Wow. We aren't good bloggers. Sorry about that. I'm going to try and catch you up with 2014 so far, but honestly, I don't quite know where to begin. I guess I'll start with photos of my number one science learner and Team Tiger's -- I had two science classes last year, Team Tiger and the Kaiser Chiefs -- most improved learner.

Xolani (Wise) #1!
Lifa, Team Tiger's Most Improved

Part I: School

I was pretty excited about 2014. I'd no longer have my own class, for one thing. While I very much enjoyed the teaching part of having my own class, I certainly did not enjoy the paperwork and record keeping aspects. In South Africa, each teacher is required to keep a physical portfolio, and each portfolio must contain the prescribed information in a prescribed format with prescribed components. Off the top of my head, each must have an index (TOC), a work schedule (essentially, a pacing guide), lesson plans (in the required format), assessments, memos (keys), mark lists (grading tables), and etc. Each timetable, mark list, and etc. must be signed (generally by the educator, the HOD, and the principal) and stamped -- on every single page. The actual content of the portfolio is pretty much subordinate to its appearance. As a member of the English department, Perry was actually required to gift wrap his!

Anyhow, I digress. This year was gonna be different. This year I wouldn't have to engage in all that bureaucratic BS and could just be in the classroom co-teaching with a South African educator. Doing all the good stuff. Working with a science educator to co-plan lessons, plan engaging activities, design more authentic assessments -- maybe even model a little non-corporal punishment classroom management and (my passion) cooperative group work. So far, that's not the way things are working out. I suppose all the great South African wine I drank over the long break fueled my delusion. Educators here have no (zero, nada, nil) experience with co-teaching. Co-teaching here seems to mean "Send the umlungu to the overcrowded classroom while I sit in the staff room and gab."

So, I'm trying to turn this around by working with a different educator -- my counterpart Bobet. Since we've co-taught Grassroot Soccer successfully, this seems a good arrangement. Perry's used a similar strategy, by the way, and seems happy working with the school's maths HOD now. He also helps learners of all levels with their maths assignments and really enjoys that. Rather than co-teaching science, then, I'm going to be co-teaching LO (Life Orientation) in the grade 12 classroom. I'm hopeful this'll turn things around and give me enough productive things to do. Bobet and I are, of course, also doing another Grassroot Soccer intervention with half of the new crop of grade 8s. Perry and his counterpart are doing the other half. Any future PCVs reading this: Do. Grassroot. Soccer! It's a phenomenal, free, and easy to implement program. We are both training student leaders, too, who we hope will help with GS interventions after we're gone. We want to reward these leaders with a pizza party later this year…if you'd like to contribute to this cause: Go Fund Me.

Peace Corps spends a lot of time at PST (pre-service training) and afterword hammering home the message that during PC service you'll experience your highest highs and lowest lows. And you're all like "Yeah. Yeah. I get it." But you don't get it. You just can't until you've actually experienced it. But it's totally true.

In other news, I'm trying to obtain two computers for the school and am really, really hoping we get them. These kids can't function as 21st century citizens without knowing how to operate a computer. We're also trying to get some books for the library. The library is, sadly, infested with termites, so its catalog of 100 or so copies of Lemony Snicket and a few other odd tomes are getting eaten away. Cross your fingers on that one, too.

Part II: Storms

I cannot adequately describe the intensity of the storms here. We love them! Everyone here thinks we're crazy to stand outside in the sleeting rain watching the lightning strikes. I will really miss these storms. They do wreak some havoc, though. Here's some damage from the last big one. The roof of our family's church was ripped clean away, as was the roof of a building at school, but I can't find those pics right now. :(

This is the top of a tree next to our rondovel
Here's its bottom half

- Elizabeth