Down here on the Tropic of Capricorn, it’s getting to be that time of year where many of my conversations go like this:
Old woman: Hello. It’s hot.
Me: Yes, wow, it’s too hot!
Old Woman: It’s very hot!
Me: The sun!! It is hot!!!
Old Woman: Yes!! Well, bye.
My host father liked to say, “If it’s this hot tomorrow, we are going to suffer!” He said this every single day during the summer. And you know, he was always right. Personally, here’s how I’d finish that sentence…
This year, the heat has been a bigger struggle than I remember it being last year. This is weird, because I thought I had adjusted. Possibly it’s hotter this year. Possibly it’s like giving birth and your mind willfully forgets how awful it actually was, as a sort of coping mechanism. Possibly I should stop doing manual labor outside when it’s like 108 degrees. Right now my phone is telling me that the “Real Feel” is 118. Oh, come on. That’s just unfair.
Anyway, since the school year down here runs from January to December, my lousy self-preservation instinct and I have been hustling to wrap things up before summer break. The fourth term of the year is like a practical demonstration of entropy. School just sort of… stops happening. I guess the kids are supposed to leave school after they finish their exams, but instead they come for lunch and hang around playing.
The result is something like chaos. Today, I showed up at school and saw the yard was full of kids. A Grade 7 girl named Vonakalani (“Voni”) greeted me at the gate and we talked a little.
Me: Wow, the school is pretty crazy today. These kids are all playing?
Voni: Yeah, they are playing a game for money.
Me: Oh, they’re gambling? Like betting money.
Voni: Yes. The kids with money don’t want to lose it; the kids without money are trying to get it. So they are all angry. It’s a good thing I’m not playing!
Me: Haha, okay.
Don’t know what it says about me that a schoolyard full of angry gambling children doesn’t really faze me anymore. Probably says that I’m not very suited to be in charge of kids.
I’ve been able to eek a little bit of productive activity out of this dysfunction. Last week my learners participated in a World AIDS Day art exchange that PC/SA does every year. I led some afterschool lessons on HIV and stigma, and the kids. spent a few days producing drawings and poems on the subject. I exchanged this art with Meghan, and we selected the best pieces from each village to be sent to Polokwane and perhaps even Pretoria for display in the US Embassy.
All the learners did a nice job, so I made some fancy certificates for participation. Everyone loooooooveeees certificates here. The whole point of the art exchange is to fight stigma, so I hope the kids will show their families the certificates and it’ll start a discussion. One of my favorite poems was written by Voni, the learner I mentioned earlier:
HIV Poem by Vonakalani (Age 12)
AIDS oh AIDS, what a name!
AIDS oh AIDS, what a disease!
What a huge meaning of words!
What a killer disease!
How many should be infected
For you to die!
How many should be killed
For you to die!
You are such a thing that
Leaves some homeless!
You are such a thing that
Leaves some restless!
But watch out for us youngsters
We’re on the way to kill you!
Will be the doctor to find a
Medicine to cure AIDS
AIDS oh AIDS, you such a
Otherwise this week and next I’m just killing time and wrapping everything up before summer holiday begins. I planned to do closing meetings of my English clubs and Girls Club, but I totally forget that school just dissolves around now and “after school” isn’t really a thing that exists any more. So I’ve just been supervising library hours all day long for kids who want to come read, which has been fun. Overall this was a good school year work-wise, but I’m ready for it to be over because at this point it’s just shambling around like the undead. Die already!
Anyway. To entertain myself at school, I’ve been brushing up on my Xitsonga. I want to leave you with some of my favorite example sentences from the grammar book. For your enjoyment:
Tihomu ti ta ku ku chayisa. The cows they are going to crush you.
U nga ka ndzi u nga ndzi nyiki xidloko. It may be possible that you may not give me the hat.
Translate the following sentences into Xitsonga:
This goat is delicious, I love eating it.
The fat pig is eating two mangoes now.
I am afraid of the big chicken because it watches me.