Monday, July 24, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Too much computer time today

Guilt overtook me today for not working on the website this weekend so I went into the center early to get an early start. As things usually happen, I forgot my glasses at home so I walked back to get it (short walk).
As I came out of the yard on the way back to the centre, a woman was standing outside the gate of the house. She walked up me and mumbled something. I wasn’t sure what she was saying so I asked her again. I thought she was begging but in fact she was asking for a job. Just like that. She met a stranger on the street and asked for a job. I asked her what she could do and what kind of job she wanted and she said that she would clean my house or sweep the yard or do some laundry. I told her I didn’t need any of that (although I do) but I told her to come with me to Sedibeng and as we were walking, she told me that no one wants to give her a job because she lost her eye in an abusive relationship and people don’t like how she looks. I keep thinking that I’ve heard every sad story but each day there is a new and different one. When we got to the center, she was told that they could not help her because in fact she is a refugee from Zimbabwe and she is not eligible to go to school or to get assistance from the school. So here is a woman who is just 25, has one eye from an abusive relationship, with no money, no possibility for assistance and almost devoid of hope. I gave her a cup of tea (she had no breakfast) but before I could tell her to come back in an hour when the bread was finished baking, she was gone. It was the saddest look on her face. Bad enough surviving a civil war refugee but where is the hope? A lot of refugees come to Botswana from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola because Botswana is doing well economically (compared to other African countries) but there is only so much help and then what? I wish I had the resources to help everyone but I realize that I don’t so I do as much as I can to share my knowledge and skills so that maybe one day, enough people will be self sufficient. I think that’s what all the WUSC and Uniterra volunteers are doing. All this happened and it was only 8:30am. I wondered what the rest of my day would look like.
By the time I got myself settled into my tiny spot in the computer lab (where I have to put my chair sideways because it won’t fit into the space), the floral design students came in. However they did not come to use the computer lab but to keep warm because their classroom which is a covered shed outside (more like a two sided covered carport) was too cold to conduct classes.
Since the computer teacher was not there, I decided to fill in for him. This was a computer class like none I’ve ever taught. I showed some of them how to turn on the computer. It’s that basic. Then we started on a basic keyboarding program teaching them how to type. I used to detest typing as a kid so I learned how to type but without using the home keys like I’m supposed to. Well it was a long lesson in an very cramped space and when I say very cramped I mean very, very cramped. There were about 7 students and the teacher and me of course and 6 computers and barely enough room to walk sideways.
They did really well and we worked at it for over 90 minutes. I told them to take a stretch break and some of them did it for a total of about 30 seconds and wanted to get back to work. If any of you are teachers you’ll know how unusual this is. For all you students, when was the last time you told the teacher you didn’t need a break? I almost had to chase them out of the lab to take a break. It reminded me when I was teaching hairstyling in the evenings and the students didn’t want to go for supper breaks. Now that’s unusual!!
I finally found some time to get some of my work done. They all trooped in after lunch and wanted more. I had enough of the typing so I showed them how to do basic searches on the internet. Some of them were totally amazed when they typed in the word “flower” and came back with almost 60,000,000 hits. Then we looked for gerbera daisies which are some of the flowers they use in their arrangements. They learnt the biological name for it and found out that they are indigenous in South Africa. Then unbelievably, they wanted to do more typing!! Why would anyone want to torture themselves like that? I just remember the painful times when I was a teenager and I had to type multiple invoices for my dad for his business and back in the day when it was carbon paper to make duplicates, it was a horrible job. If I made one mistake, I had to start all over. I hated it. But now I’m a very proficient two or three finger typist. Sometimes I think I should have practiced more but it was so boring.
By the time they were done which was till about 2pm, I had some lunch and prepared for the employment workshop which was to be delivered at 3pm. I thought I was going to have 5 students and three teachers. Instead I had 16 students, three teachers, the director, one volunteer and one person who heard about the workshop from a family member and wanted to attend. I can’t believe how hungry the students are to learn. They were very quiet during the workshop and for a while I thought they didn’t understand (many of them speak Setswana) but they did. They shyly asked some questions after today’s presentation and I gave them some homework to do. They were even excited about the homework. I may decide that I like teaching in this country enough to stay or come back for another stint.
When I was leaving for home about 5pm, Mitho said that her cousin who is a Dr at the Gaborone hospital has offered to manage the centre’s website and to pay the cost of hosting it. I was worrying last week about how I would find the funds to do that but it appeared as if by a hope and a prayer. He is coming tomorrow at 1pm to see what we’ve done with the website. That means that I have to go home and get some serious work done.
I got home at 5 and worked for four straight hours (except for a 10 minute break to eat some of yesterday’s leftovers) and I think I have most of it arranged the way I want it to look. If Priya comes in tomorrow morning, we can work on the small details to have it ready for 1pm. I forgot to call Baagi today. I’ll have to do it tomorrow. Maybe he can come to the centre to meet the staff and see what we’re doing. Time for me to take a break. 12 hours of computer work in one day. That’s punishment. I deserve a break tonight. A nice cup of Ovaltine would be a welcome treat.

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