School Cape Town

Learning isn’t always easy or fun. My impression is that Vivian and Evan tolerate going to school because they get to hang out with their friends. Take the friends away and you’re left with just the teacher and your lessons. Take the teacher away, and it’s us homeschooling the kids. Doing it on the go is even weirder. Without a fixed schedule or classes or lesson plans, everything is up for grabs. But we have settled into a basic pattern. Vivian does her math problems from her Singapore math book. She asks me if she doesn’t know or understand something. I check her work and if there are systematic errors, we go back and learn some more. Often Vivian puts on her earbuds, zones into her music, and sits wherever – like in our tent in the Okavango delta, and does her work. Sometimes we go to a lounge at a lodge and work there, but the other day she had to wait, math book in hand, while a large female elephant wandered around.

If you noticed, I haven’t mentioned Evan. He is Jo’s problem. Every day I think of Ms. Carrol who was his teacher last year. I hear she is being nominated for sainthood. About time.

Yesterday, Jo had planned a pretty amazing school day in Cape Town. We got our PE in early – with a 5 km walk from home down to the water front, stopping for pancakes along the way. We took a diversion through the colorful Bo Kaap neighborhood and the kids got a lesson on apartheid, slavery, segregation, racism, and gentrification. Then recess at a food tuk-tuk serving ice cream cookie sandwiches followed by science class at the Two Oceans Aquarium, especially the sting ray feeding event, and the discussion on plastics and marine life including graphic photos of plastic bags pulled out from the stomachs of dead and dying turtles, sharks, whales, birds, and other animals.

You use a plastic bag for an average of 12 minutes before it is disposed. We consume 2 million plastic bags worldwide every *minute*. And while we are doing that, the Texas Supreme court ruled last year that local plastic bag bans are in violation of state law. Our esteemed Attorney General sent letters to 11 cities in Texas including Austin telling them that their local plastic bag bans were illegal and unenforceable. I’m not kidding. We have used one plastic bag in the last two months in four countries in Africa. Damn shithole countries.

Later we had an unexpected social studies class. The Uber driver that evening was listening to a talk show on the radio where the host was discussing violence against women in South Africa. We got into a nice discussion and got some interesting perspectives. The driver said that real change will happen when people stop the violence not because of fear of the law or because someone in watching them, but because they understand it is wrong.

And we ended the evening with a Spanish class (so we are stretching this life-as-a-classroom concept a bit). We went and saw the Dora The Explorer movie. Dora (“Dua”) was Vivian’s favorite cartoon character when she was a little kid. After a healthy doze of teasing from Evan, and a bit of self-conscious embarrassment, Vivian has recently come around to owning her love for the cartoon. And we enjoyed a dinner of movie snacks. Can you say “delicioso”?

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