Thursday, October 05, 2006

Namibian Job Stress

An empty classroom on a quiet Thursday afternoon.

Well, it's been nearly two solid weeks since a teacher attempted to give a lesson at my school.  Four weeks ago, at the beginning of the term, things seemed to be going well.  Most classes were reviewing material for the upcoming tests.  But then Day of the African Child came.  Any excuse to not teach is received warmly by both teachers and learners, thus that Thursday nothing happened with the exception of a few dramas and songs by the choir.  Of course, in anticipation of this blessed event, nothing much happened on the three school days leading up this day.  And who can work on a Friday when nothing was done all week?  So Friday most of the teachers didn't even bother coming to work.

So, one week of few studies down, you'd think we would be ready to hit the books again, right?  Yeah, you guessed it.  Monday we had a surprise HIV/AIDS program put on by a church down the street.  Tuesday was normal except no one taught and all the learners were held in their register classes all day.  I still have no idea why.  Wednesday we had a mysterious guest from another country who after meeting I still cannot figure out what they were doing here. 

A baron school except for two 12th grade learners who are "studying"

Then there's today, Thursday.  The day before our prize giving ceremony.  I've spent a good part of the entire week printing certificates for classes, clubs, subjects, departments, sports teams and just about anything else that happened at school this year.  More than 800 certificates, including the 232 computer class certificates I'm handing out.  But we didn't teach today; not because we were preparing for the ceremony tomorrow, but rather because it's national Teacher's day.  So everyone went home at 10.  Leaving me here, alone, printing certificates.  Yeaaah...  Can you feel my enthusiasm?

I have no idea what to expect tomorrow.  But my prediction is this: Our scheduled start of 7:00 will be pushed to 9:00.  Our scheduled closing time of 11:00 (since the church that is hosting us has an event then) will force us to stop and continue the ceremony somewhere else, probably outside in the brick common area at the school.  I may or may not get to hand out the computer class certificates as I'm last on the schedule.  We'll see. 

Now, if you've read this far you're probably thinking that I'm bitter or angry or stressed.  Nope.  The great thing about working here is that there is no expectation that you will get your work done.  People don't even expect you to deliver work you say you'll do.  So even though I'm sitting here waiting for more paper to get delivered so I can print the remaining 100 certificates and wondering how we are going to stamp 600 certificates tomorrow (since no one wanted to buy ink for the stamp today), I'm not worried.  It's like I'm attending someone else's party, and I'm just helping out. 

I call this African Stress.  I'm trying to finish a job, but not worried if it will actually happen, and overall curious about how it will all come together.  It's nothing like the stress in the States. In the States you can feel your insides churning as you worry intensely about timing and productivity.  But here I am, in the middle of Africa, and somehow I know that all these problems will either work themselves out or remain problems, either way this prize giving ceremony will be done by this time tomorrow.  Anything else is a bonus.

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