An Unforgettable Journey Part 4

With December comes Christmas, which was probably the lowest point of my year in terms of missing home. As much as I would like to say that we don’t have many traditions at my house on Christmas, we actually do. They may not be strict traditions, but they are things that we do nearly every Christmas. At home, we eat lots of food, sit around on the couch, open presents, eat some more food, play games, drink coffee, and other similar things. During Christmas in Lesotho, my host mom and host brother went back to Qacha’s Nek, their hometown. I stayed behind in Maphutseng because I needed to work the days before Christmas weekend, otherwise they would count as holidays for MCC. However, the day after Christmas, I was able to leave and visit my host mom and brothers in Qacha’s Nek for a couple of days. It was the first time that I had ever slept two people on a single-sized mattress when I had to share a bed with my host brother. This experience is common for most guys my age because if a friend or guest comes over, you often just share a bed with him because you don’t necessarily have an extra bed or in your house, and you can’t turn people away.

For the winter retreat, all of the SALTers and service workers from SwaLeSA went to the east coast of South Africa just south of the city of Durban, the largest port in the Southern Hemisphere. We spent a week relaxing away from our host families and finally hanging around people who understood all of the words that we expressed. We went swimming in the Indian Ocean almost every day. We also played cards and board games and watched movies. In addition to those good break activities, I was able to speak to James and Joan about switching my job description to something a little different than it was before. We decided that it would be better if I worked more as a teacher’s aid who centered from the library classroom. Then teachers could come and talk to me if they had a question about some subject matter or to just talk. Also, I took on full responsibilities for the library, finding more books for the kids, visiting each of the classrooms to help the teachers, and read to the students. One of the most devastating parts of my year was seeing how few books were available to the students to read.

When I returned to Maphutseng after the retreat, I began planning a few things to start doing right away, including visiting the reception or kindergarten class and first grade class. I wanted to start with the younger grades first because the faster that they learned to hear and understand English, the easier their subsequent years of school would be. By the time that my time ended in the beginning of June, I was visiting the kindergarten and 2nd grade class 3 times a week and the 1st grade and 3rd grade classes twice a week. I was able to visit the 4th grade classroom a couple of times during the final 6 months, and I was given the privilege of teaching both the 5th and 6th grade classrooms for a couple of days, which actually went pretty well if  I didn’t stress not getting a lot done throughout the day. I also started giving a weekly devotion to the teachers. It was about a half-page typed and themed around the book of Ephesians. Interestingly, it worked out perfectly that my last devotion was also the last piece of Ephesians 6, which I thought gave it a good sense of closure. You can read those devotions on this blog.  In the last couple of months between April and June, I started opening the library to the 7th grade students to come in and read about a half hour before class, which actually became more and more popular as we drew near to the end of the first semester.

Because I was no longer confined to a classroom all day, I was able to start and finish some construction projects for the school, including the repair of twenty desks. Each desk is able to seat 5-6 students. They were very simple desks, but they built well and to last. I also built two 4 feet tall by 8 feet long bookshelves for the Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. In those younger classes, the children had no shelves on their desks to place their bags on, while all of the older classes had desks that allowed for this. Having shelves in their rooms helped the teachers keep the floor cleaned up from everyone’s bags lying around as well as provided more space for a teacher to store supplies, textbooks, or anything else that they may need.

Really, I became a jack of all trades. If anything was broken, I was asked to try and fix it. I became really good at replacing door knobs and locking mechanisms in doors because many of the ones at the school had either broken or were not working properly. My biggest project was remounting and fixing broken doors in the student toilets. The girls had an outhouse with five stalls, while the boys had an outhouse with three stalls and a huge concrete urinal. Only two of the five doors were functioning correctly for the girls, and two of the three that were broken had no door at all. The hinges had broken on the doors, so the school had put the old doors in storage until someone came along who could fix them. I was only able to do any of the above projects because the missionary there had all of the tools that I needed to get them done. I would have never been able to do it had he not trusted me with his tools.

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~ by randallkoehler on December 5, 2012.

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