Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Midsummer Day's Heat and Confessions of a Computer Guy

Here Comes the Rain Again... (Article by Robin)
Hot weather opens the skull of a city, exposing its white brain, and its heart of nerves, which sizzle like the wires inside a lightbulb. And there exudes a sour extra-human smell that makes the very stone seem flesh-alive, webbed and pulsing.” ~Truman Capote, Summer Crossing

The village bridge washed away due to heavy rains.
The bugs are back again and so is the summer heat... The weather here varies in the summer between extreme heat getting up to as high as 44°C (about 111°F) one day and then down to about 26°C, after the rains. On hot days, it can be a two ice-cube tray day – meaning that we can go through two trays of ice in one day.

The summer also brings the rain. Typically we will have several days of high heat and humidity followed by a day or two of rain. During the summer, the air will be impregnated with humidity for several days before it finally rains. That makes the heat almost unbearable as it weighs you down like a soaked rag. It is almost impossible to get cooled off. Even while sitting directly in front of a fan, I'm still sweating from the unconscionable moisture hanging in the air.

When the rains finally do come, it falls from the sky in a torrential downpour like a stampede of horses. Then there is the sound of the rain slamming against our tin roof. If you have never lived in a house with a tin roof, well it is quite an experience to hear the sound of the rain. It sounds like there has been an explosion in a glass factory. Imagine yourself being inside a tin can while someone throws thousands of small marbles at you. The roof just amplifies the sound of rain and it is actually quite frightening. I often feel as if our roof will go flying off of our tiny house each time it rains because of the huge gusts of wind – And like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we will go flying off with it to some remote and mysterious land. These rains often start in the evening. While Woody and I curl up in bed trying to watch TV on our laptop, we often have to cease our entertainment for the evening and just go to sleep because the noise of the rains slamming against the roof make it impossible to hear anything. There is also the sound of the rolling thunder. I'm not sure if it is because we are in a rural area that is less dense or if it is because the walls of our house are thin, making a insufficient barrier between us and the elements – but somehow the thunder and lightning seem more ominous here. I don't recall thunder clap being quite this loud back home in the US. I often get so scared that I practically jump out of my skin each time lightning strikes. It is no wonder that people here are scared of lightning!

However scary it seems, we need the rain though. The rain is what fills up the river when it runs dry – providing water for washing, cooking and bathing. The rain also waters the mealies (corn) and peanut plants during the growing season. While at times nerve-wracking, at least we get a break from the unbearable heat when it rains. So, I say... Let it rain! Let it rain!... And now I'll end this article with a Zulu proverb about rain:

Where is the Rain?
The giraffe and the elephant went for a walk.
They stopped in some shade and started to talk;
"I wish it would rain," said the giraffe with a sigh.
"I'm tired of watching the clouds pass us by!"
"Yes," said the elephant, "Where is the rain?
I wish I could eat fresh green leaves again.
The sun is so hot and the land is so dry;
When will the rain fall from the sky?"
Later in the day the sky turned grey,
The flying ants flew out to say,
"The rain is coming! We smell it in the air!
And in the distance, thunder we hear!"
The giraffe and the elephant looked up at the sky
And heard the black eagle give forth his cry,

"The rain has come, The rivers will flow;
The dry season is over; now the green grass will grow!"

Kids and Computer Graphics (article by Woody)

Oupa by Floyd
Can you draw a rhino free-hand? Not I. And definitely not using a mouse either. But after showing a small group of the Art-Club and Library Helper kids in the computer class a few basics about using the Paint program in Windows, guess what one of the first things they drew was? Impressive!

So at the end of Term 4, to incorporate it into the computer literacy lessons, we asked them to make a drawing in Paint. Then, in Word, to write a short story about the drawing. From there a few of them even managed to embed the drawing into the story. We got everything from “One time my brother. . .” to “The Krazy Khumbi (taxi)”. A few more classes like this and we'll have a handful authors of illustrated kids stories. With the majority of these kids graduating grade 7 this year and moving to the high school next year, hopefully it won't be too long before we can get them access to computers at the high school so they can continue working on developing these skills. There may even be a graphic artist or two in the making there.
The Krazy Kumbi by Floyd, Grade 7
Zulu song about a Khumbi 
Vusi Drives the Kombi
Vusi drives the kombi that takes us all to school.
We open all the windows so the air blows nice and cool.
He hoots when he fetches us, he hoots when he goes,
He hoots at the cows that are standing in the road.
Vusi drives the kombi that we all love to ride.
If you want to travel with us, there's lots of room inside!


Computer Skills for Adults (article by Woody)

ABET Computer Classes
This term (October to December), in addition to computer classes for the kids at the school, the adult learners attending ABET (Adult Basic Education and Training – like GED) classes hosted at the primary school expressed interest in attending after-school computer classes to improve their own skills. So two of the educators, Mr. Mhlaba and Mr. Ngwenya, volunteered to teach one class each once a week. Mr. Mhlaba took the ABET class, and Mr. Ngwenya took the general community class. With the changes we made in the timetable for this term, we were able to incorporate these two classes into the end of the school day on days when the computer class was not in use. That way we avoided keeping anyone overly late at the school and at the same time fit the computer practice in before the regularly scheduled ABET classes, which start after the primary school knocks off each day.

This group of adult learners picked up the skills so quickly and have such focus and patience when practicing, that even though they started learning more than a month after the kids, they've already outpaced the kids. They're already moving on to writing documents, learning a little about file and document management, and a few are even working on writing their curriculum vitae (CV). They even asked that we keep the computer class open for the week following the end of the school term until official break for the Christmas holiday. On the list for next term: spell checking, dictionaries, and encyclopedias...

Woody demonstrates the computer desktop while Mr. Mhlaba explains in XiTsonga