Grade 3 outing to Outjo – 24th September 2012

Today was really fun, humbling, scary and a bit strange. I managed to join the Grade 3s at the last minute for their class outing to <a class="zem_slink" title="Outjo" thref=”http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=-20.1088888889,16.1547222222&spn=0.1,0.1&q=-20.1088888889,16.1547222222%20%28Outjo%29&t=h&#8221; rel=”geolocation” target=”_blank”>Outjo (our nearest town). I went in the car with Tabs driving and 15 kids piled in the back sitting on mattresses, we drove for around an hour to our first stop in Outjo, the bakery. The bakers showed us around which was surprisingly interesting, they were making lots of sweet bread which is basically like a giant ice bun. One man told me that I was the most beautiful teacher he’d ever seen, it sounds cringey but you weirdly get used to the strange comments like these because everyone’s fascinated by foreigners. The kids sang 2 songs to the staff to say thank you and goodbye which made me emotional because I love it when they sing!

Our next place to visit was the police station, I expected a standard school visit; seeing handcuffs, fingerprints etc, but this visit was a lot different than I expected. Firstly the officer showed us the prison cells.. we walked through a door that was only locked with a small padlock then down an outdoor corridor to a cell, but it wasn’t empty. Firstly the officer took out a disturbing looking man right in front of the children and put him in the next cell that had around 5 other prisoners inside. The officer then told us that this man had murdered someone 2 weeks ago. I don’t know about anyone else but I was so shocked at how relaxed they were; letting children as young as 8 be less than a meter away from serious criminals. I just stood there in shock as the prisoners stared at us and tried to speak to us, it felt more like a zoo than a prison. We then saw the tiny cell that they kept them in, there is no electricity, just a room with a sheet on the floor and toilet in the corner. There was also a dark room with no windows where they would send the prisoners if they were ‘misbehaving’. I told the children and teacher how different prisons are in England and tried to reassure them that hopefully they’d never have to go to prison. Next we went to the room where the forbidden items were kept, they showed us all the alcohol and drugs they’ve confiscated and it seemed completely normal to the officers to show the kids packets of cocaine and tell them how people use it, how much its worth and what the effects are. I was still in shock.. I was then left in charge of occupying the 30ish kids in the police garden, this was by the corridor to the prison cells and the gate was open, as you can probably tell the security isn’t great here. The girls told me they’d seen a woman and baby in one of the cells and that the officer had told them that they’d just arrested another woman who’d tried to kill her baby; the police visit wasn’t as fun as the bakery one!

On our way through Outjo we went to the hospital which was actually really clean and modern. This visit was nearly as disturbing as the police one; the nurse showed the kids the psychiatric ward, telling them that the dark room with no windows was for the ‘crazy patients’ and that if there were windows they’d want to jump out and kill themselves.. We then saw some premature babies in incubators; their parents were in there almost in tears whilst the kids just wanted to see the cute babies. One was practically the size of my hand and you could see its heart beating through its chest, this was definitely the closest I’ve been to crying since I’ve been here. We then greeted all of the sick patients in the hospital which was really sweet and the children sang to some of them. I left the hospital feeling very grateful that I was teaching rather than doing social care because being surrounded with sick people made me feel depressed very quickly.

Our second last stop was at Outjo museum; I’m not really sure what the museum was about but the kids seemed to like it and we got to stop for lunch! The mattresses were laid on the grass and we all ate massive burgers, bread rolls, bread slices and ice cream then slept in the sun.

Lastly we drove to Retoma Taxidermy; the smell of dead animals hit us quickly (it didn’t help that it was the hottest day yet since we’ve been here). I loved seeing all the animal skins and things they made out of animal parts. A guy who worked there showed me an elephants foot which they were making into a bar stool with zebra sikn on the top; it was kind of messed up but really interesting at the same time. I found a massive stuffed giraffes neck and head, a baby rhino, cheetahs, baboons, springbok, oryx, a lion, snakes and so many more animals. I felt like I was in a fashion designer’s heaven; there were endless zebra and leopard skins and even a whole giraffe skin. I don’t know why I loved it so much but the taxidermy was definitely the highlight of my day. We went for a ‘quick stop’ at OK foods which turned into an hour of sitting in a boiling car waiting for Tabs and some of the kids to go shopping. An angry parking man shouted at me because a lorry wanted to park in our space but he didn’t seem to understand or care that I can’t speak Afrikaans and I can’t drive. I slept on the way back but woke up every time tabs had to stop for a warthog to cross the road which I find hilarious but everyone else thinks its annoying. When we arrived back to school I felt like I was coming home again, Giovanni told me that Fran had been crying all day because she was lost without me, I knew it was a massive lie but it was really strange to spend the day without her! Going to Outjo was so much fun but emotional when you realise that so much is different to England; from letting 15 kids sit in the back of a van on oan hour long drive to standing opposite murderers with just a metal gate between you. It’s only when you leave Otjikondo that you remember that you’re living in a completely different culture.

I hope everyone in England is well,

lots of love

Mary

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