The first stop on our free day in Windhoek was at the school for the blind. We had brought two suitcases of brail books (many Goosebumps stories) with us to take to this school. We drove up to the school on a short dirt road, and waited a few minutes while Ann and Ethan went to check in with the principal. It was a a really nice school. Its interesting to see the design because the hallways between the classroom are all outside.
As I was walking in this young man introduced himself to me, his name was Simon. I shook his hand and introduced myself as Brad, and before I knew it I was mobbed with students shaking hands and introducing themselves. They were great and so polite and happy to meet us that it really made me feel happy that we were here.
We got a tour of many of the classrooms. We saw some very young students learning how to read braille by using a system of blocks. Put the round blocks in the right holes for a particular letter. The number of the hole corresponded to a key on the keyboard. So if you put a block in hole 1 and 5 then you press keys 1 and 5 on your keyboard at the same time.
We met many of the teachers. None of whom had any particular training in teaching blind or deaf children. They were all teachers who were just looking for an extra challenge and ended up here. What the students lack in sight or hearing they make up for in their eagerness to learn. Many of them, sadly, come from homes where their parents don't know how to cope with a disability and so they are suffering from very low self esteem or depression.
I met Anne, who is the computer teacher at the school. She showed us their computers, which were extremely old. However she couldn't turn any of them on because the school had been without power for several days. They were promised that it would be back on by last night, but nobody really knows if that will be the case or not. She said she mainly teaches them word and excel, but also tries to teach them a little bit of programming, "so that they know about algorithms." When I asked her what language they program in, she said Turbo Pascal! Jane and I both had the same reaction, I don't think people have been teaching pascal for years. I told her a little about my textbook project, and at the end of the day we left four laptops for the school, so hopefully the students can maybe start to learn a little Python.
Mr. Engelbrecht, was a young male teacher with a big smile who was just so happy to see us and walk around and talk with us and tell us about the school. The Principal is a force of nature and at one point provided the quote of the day. Right after we had finished singing to a group of second graders she remarked in a very pointed tone: "Mr.Englebrecht, don't you have somewhere else you should be" Apparently Mr. E was letting his own students run amok while talking to us.
The highlight of the tour was when we sang to this second grade class. They started clapping for us after the first time through and as I looked around our group I realized that I wasn't the only one singing with a lump in their throat. The kids were just beaming with joy! Apparently when they have visitors they usually do a little program, so for us to sing to them was something really special. It was one of those moments that confirmed that this trip is all worthwhile.
The rest of the group stayed on at the school for the blind, but Gregory and I were off with Mr. Usko Shivute to visit the International University of Management. We had a very nice meeting the leadership of the school, to see if there are any ways that we can collaborate. ONe interesting fact we learned was that out of 180 some faculty only 7 have their PhD. So they are very interested in Faculty development.
After our meeting we had a tour of the facilities, and we met the chief examination officer. I was very interested to learn that all exams for all classes must be reviewed and approved by the examination officer's group. Of course this means that you have to have all your exams made before the semester even starts. I can't imagine teaching that way!
From there we went to UNAM -- the University of Namibia. I had a meeting scheduled with the HOD of computer science. Ms. Kauna Mufeti. The plan was for me to give a talk (A practice talk for me) about the eBook project. Sadly, the Dean had rescheduled the faculty meeting from morning to afternoon, so many of the people that would have been at the talk were now required to be at the faculty meeting -- which is compulsory. Sadly for my Namibian counterparts they do not have a tenure system, so when the dean makes a faculty meeting compulsory, you really do have to go. Nevertheless we had a great meeting together with a few people in the department and made some great connections. I hope that we are able to arrange some kind of collaboration to work together.
Meanwhile, Gregory was supposed to meet with the HOD of music, but tracking down his counterpart was a bit more difficult. In what Greg described as a typical Namibian sequence Kauna called person after person, office after office before we finally located someone for him to meet with. It turned out to be just the right person, and so when he comes back in 2014 they will meet with some faculty at UNAM.
We didn't get back to the Hotel Safari until almost 5:00. So we had a few minutes to rest before enjoying a happy hour get together in the Peterson room. We exchanged stories of the day and laughed together about our experiences with 'African Time' and then at 7:00 we headed out the door to Joe's beer shack. This is a great restaurant, and quite famous in Windhoek. Parts of the restaurant are open to the sky and have roaring campfires going to keep everyone warm in the cool Namibian night. Other parts are covered, but all of it is great. The menu is full of opportunities to try various kinds of African game. I ended up with a dish that had Ostrich, Springbok, and Oryx. Served in a white wine sauce with "A tot of Whitblit" What is a tot of Whitblit you may ask It turns out that the correct question to ask is how much is a tot? A tot is roughly the same as a shot, so in the middle of all of this game you get a shot of some liquor called Whitblit, which my spell check keeps wanting to correct to whitebait -- somehow seems appropriate. We had lots of fun with Ethan trying to surreptitiously take a picture of Ann sipping her Whitblit. Although she's officially retired, she seems to think she can keep Ethan from graduating if any pictures of the former Dean of Students are posted on Facebook. I think Ethan may take that as a challenge.
Others in the party had Zebra, Crocodile (a bit fishy) and other African game animals. Maybe even a regular old beef stake. We ate and laughed and had a great time. When desert time finally came around there were many orders of Don Pedro -- which is a milkshake with some liquor added. In our case we went with the Amarulo which is the African equivalent of Bailey's Irish Cream. Delicious!!