CAPS LOCK!!

One of the biggest cultural difference (yes, I attribute this to culture, read on) I face is the use of Caps Lock. Caps Lock is the scarcely used button on the left side of the keyboard of most Americans. When accidentally pressed, it automatically means yelling. In South Africa, that aspect of computer culture was never taught.

What I mean to say is, Americans interpret All Caps as yelling, which is a cultural phenomenon. In SA, there is no indication of All Caps relating to yelling. In fact, many people consider it professional and nice looking. So when sometimes sends me a message “HELLO HOW ARE YOU? I HOPE YOU HAD FUN ON THE HOLIDAYS”, I mentally think that this personal is literally yelling at me. In my mind, I hear them hollering through a long corridor at the top of their lungs. A South African sees nothing unusual in this text. Of course, some people write in All Caps, so why shouldn’t they type in All Caps?

I actually get really stressed when people start writing in All Caps. I can’t help but read it as yelling, an innate part of who I am and the culture I was raised in. Department memos, examinations, enrollment charts, circulars….you name it, it probably has All Caps sprinkled throughout the paper. All day long I am surrounded by yelling text. I’ve tried to communicate that this is not professional nor is it good computer etiquette, and my principal told me “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” As in, I should just shut up and type everything in All Caps.

I can’t do it. I despise the Caps Lock button. I get angry when someone has used it and then left my computer, so when I start typing I end up yelling at myself through text. Not pleasant. No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot overcome this cultural difference.

Nor do I want to. I’m sorry, All Caps seriously is not professional. I know people here use it because they weren’t training in typing, so it is easy to press Caps Lock than hitting shift whenever they need to make a capital letter. But still, shift isn’t THAT hard! And it looks so much better! And it’s something I focus on in typing lessons with the educators at my school.

GOOD BYE MY FRIENDS! (See, it seems like I am yelling, right?)
-Jen

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Gratitude: Days 18 and 19

Day 18: This is something I had never really considered before, but I am thankful for street addresses, in America. Street names, house addresses, postal delivery…seriously, this is an amazing thing. I am asked by PC to provide an address when I travel in country, but sometimes, that scarcely exists. For example, my school’s address is Stand xx, Maebeebe Section, XXXX Village. That may SEEM like an address, but if you stood in my village, there are no streets, signs, indication of section, and house/stand numbers are randomly painted on the walls of houses. The infrastructure simply isn’t there in rural areas. Also, actually figuring out a physical address can be headache-inducing. And postal delivery? Ha!! I think it exists in places like Pretoria or Cape Town, but I’m willing to bet you pay for it. If you are well off, you have a postal box, but likely share it with other people (I share mine with 2 other PCVs, and apparently a church?). I have to travel 42km to get to mine, which means that only happens 1-2 times a month. You’d be surprised by the number of people who don’t have a mailbox. I have no clue what they do in terms of mail. But man, the mail system here makes me very thankful for the USPS, and for MEANINGFUL home addresses/street names/house numbers.

Day 18: I am grateful to have been taught computer skills from a young age. I started using computers in school in Grade 1 (1994-ish), so I learned how to use a computer from 6-7 years old. I remember the first time I used the internet, in 4th grade, and having no idea how to use the “address bar”, but quickly figuring it out. Using a mouse, keyboard, turning on a computer, saving documents, surfing the internet…these are all things I can do as naturally as breathing. But the teachers at my school here have only been exposed to computers in the last few years, and most are terrified of them. I have to teach them how to hold a mouse, what right click means, where the space bar is, and what the Start menu means. Sometimes I really struggle to teach these things because they are second nature to me. I was taken aback when I first started teaching computers to South Africans because I literally had to start with “this is a mouse. It’s what you use to select something.” I know that’s a bad explanation, but that illustrates my point-I don’t know HOW to teach some of these things! I see how timid educators are around computers, and how much they struggle to do things, and I’m very grateful to have been taught computers from such a young age. It makes for a much easier life in this world of ever-changing technology.

-Jen

Kidnapped!

This week I was kidnapped…by my school. I was supposed to spend a whole week at MPS, but the teachers from KPS came over of Wednesday and convinced my principal they needed me. Since I really like KPS and they seem to really like me, so I kind of thought they just had a small problem that they were using as an excuse to steal me away from MPS.

No, they KIDNAPPED me and then ENSLAVED me! Seriously! They were having the Grade 6 Farewell on Thursday and the Grade R Graduation as well-news to me. So they dragged me over to KPS to take pictures of all the Grade R students (kindergarten), make certificates for them, make certificates for the other awards, and laminate them. Eesh!!

I managed to get that done, after wanting to bash my head against the wall about 300 times. And I made it home about 6:45pm. If you spent about 2 days in a school in SA, you would realize how incredible it is that most teachers stayed later than I did, all for the students (really).

I’ll have to describe the celebration and more kidnapping on the next post. I’m so exhausted after staying at school until past 6:30pm TWO days in a row!

-Jen

Mondays…

Today was the first really bad day as a PCV. Now, the events throughout the day were actually not that bad, and I’ve actually probably had worse things happen since I got here. But perhaps it was because it is a Monday, or I only had one cup of coffee, or just that I’ve been here long enough that things are starting to get to me. Done with that whole Honeymoon stage of culture shock!

Anyways, I wake up at 4:45am to my beeping alarm, though I often wake up before it. I do my morning routine-coffee, food, bucket bath, clothes, putter around, read my Bible, etc, and get out the door by 6:15am for my walk to school. I meet my host mom on the way, who happens to be running late to her job as a school cook at my other school. We walk together for awhile until she gets to the school and I continue on my way, seeing almost nobody out on the dirt paths over the next hour.

I get to school and hardly anyone is there, including the kids. Odd, as they usually turn up early and I am only about 10 minutes early. There principal is the only other staff member I see. Right around 7:20am (when the school is supposed to start) a few other teachers have wandered in and the staffroom door is unlocked, so I go in, organize my things, and change my shoes as I wear tennis shoes to walk to school in. I head out to assembly and see one other teacher out there, though more are starting to head that way.

Right after assembly I am supposed to be teaching computers to the Grade 6 in the school’s lab. The Principal asks me if I am doing it, and I tell him yes. Then he proceeds to chew me out about how I need to have it unlocked before school starts and get the Grade 6 in there straight from assembly. I mustn’t waste time! Well, yes, I agree and would LOVE to get in there a few minutes before school. But if you read the last paragraph you’ll notice NOBODY was around who had keys. Thus my frustration that I was getting chewed out for something that was not my fault and that I have no control over.

I go to track down the keys, fighting back tears of anger and frustration. Of course, the admin staff member cannot find them, and the Principal walks by again and comments on how we are wasting time. Finally another teacher finds keys and I get into the lab.

Partway through my lesson the computers all freeze up. It’s my day, huh? The lab has 19 computers running off a server, and is a pretty nice setup-besides the fact that Grade 6 has 45 learners.

Currently I’m hiding out in the lab, “fixing” things. And typing up some of the various schedules that the Principal wants me to make for next term.

-Jen

PS: The day ended alright. I hid in the computer lab most of the day, working on some things and helping a teacher type up some question papers. The pure joy she expressed when I taught her how to scan something into the computer, crop it, and insert the photo into her question paper redeemed the day a bit. But then the surprise 1.5 hour long “very very short” staff meeting meant I made it home exhausted and frustrated, but not longer ready to burrow in my bed and cry. So that’s good!