By the Numbers

03 Nov

I’ve been in South Africa for nearly four months – and at my site for two months now – which is enough time that I ought to stop counting things here (as in, “this is the seventh time I’ve eaten at KFC since I’ve been here”). But I haven’t. The following list also includes some info I’ve been asked about (like my class sizes). Hopefully, this helps to fill in some more of the blanks.

  • PCVs teaching in schools in the same general area I am: 6
  • PCV Leader in our area: 1
  • Average number of times per week I see other PCVs: 1
  • Other Americans I’ve seen in person (excluding PCVs) since arriving at my site: 0
  • German volunteers in this area: 1
  • Approximate distance to town: 3 km
  • Average number of visits to town per week: 4
  • Average number of times per week I walk to town, just to do something on my own: 1
  • Honest-to-goodness supermarkets in town: 3
  • Shops that refer to themselves as “supermarkets”: too many to count, but nearly all of them.
  • Local chicken restaurants trying to compete with KFC: at least 4, off the top of my head – probably many more
  • Fast food burger chains: 1 (Steers – similar to Burger King, I’d say)
  • Pizza chains: 0 (There was one, but it went out of business before I got here)
  • Grades I have been teaching English: 6 and 7
  • Learners in grade 6: 42
  • Learners in grade 7: 48
  • Teachers for grades 4-7 (including me): 8
  • Classrooms per grade: 1
  • Learners per desk: 2 (This is a connected bench/desktop designed for two people, though I often find three learners have crammed themselves into a desk, while other desks sit vacant. I think it is a combination of cultural differences and the weirdness of 11-13 year old children.)
  • Oldest learner in grade 6 (that I know of): age 16
  • Oldest learner in grade 7 (that I know of): age 17
  • Minimum passing grade for most subjects: 50% or less, depending on the subject
    Note: One could actually fail more than one subject completely and still pass the grade. Thus, there are learners in grade seven who are nearly illiterate in English (let alone being able to speak it).
  • Learners I know by name: less than 12 (They’re hard names to remember … or I’m not trying hard enough.)
  • Grade 7 learners that have been to my home for help with homework or to see photos from the USA: 3 (Sfiso, Sibongile, and Khulekani)
  • Host family members: hmmm … hard telling … lots
  • Percentage of family members that speak reasonably fluent English: better than 50%
  • Number of mangos given to me by various children in the village in the past week: at least 2 dozen

  • Live snakes I’ve seen in the village: 2
  • Snakes I’ve seen in my outhouse: 1
  • Lizard fights I’ve witnessed inside my house: 3
  • Lizard fights resulting in lizards falling off the wall: 1
  • Lizard fights resulting in one lizard having a chunk of his tail bit off: 1
  • Weddings I’ve attended: 1
  • Funerals I’ve attended: 1
  • Churches I’ve attended: 3
  • Books I’ve checked out from the local library: 1

  • DVDs I’ve checked out from the local library: 3
  • DVDs from the library that were in a condition to actually play on my computer: 2
  • CDs I’ve checked out from the local library: 11
  • Number of songs added to my iTunes library: I’ll never tell
  • Haircuts I’ve had in South Africa: 4 (this includes the first one that I gave myself)
  • Cost of the haircut I got yesterday in town: R20 (this is less than $2.50 USD!)
  • Buckets I’ve purchased: 4
  • Buckets currently on loan from my host family: 2
  • Average number of times per day the electricity goes out: 1
  • Approximate number of hours the electricity has been out in the past week: 60

Interested in some more numbers on ZA? They recently released their census info …


Posted by on 3 November 2012 in Everyday Life, Teaching


7 responses to “By the Numbers

  1. Sara

    4 November 2012 at 10:45 AM

    Great book choice! No other titles of interest at the library? Just one book?!?
    What types of snakes? And what do you do with all those mangos?
    What’s the graduation rate at your school?
    Give me a list of statistics, and I’ll give you a list of questions! I’ll have to email you….


    • erikhendel

      4 November 2012 at 12:32 PM

      I’m going to finish the book I started before I left the US before I check out any more. I’ve never been a fast reader. The first snake I saw was pretty small. The one in my outhouse was so big I didn’t wait around to figure out what type it was. By the time I came back with my host brother to kill it, it was gone. Funny you should ask about the mangos — I was just about to start cutting some up for a snack. I don’t know the grad rate for my school. I will find out soon for this year, as the grade twelve is writing their matric exams this week. I read recently that the national average is below 30%.


    • erikhendel

      5 November 2012 at 7:45 PM

      I’ve now added a diced mango to my mostly homemade spaghetti sauce (in lieu of sugar or anything like that). I think it is a good choice to add a touch of sweetness.


  2. Kelsey

    4 November 2012 at 11:12 PM

    Fantastic. At least in Limpopo, mango season truly begins in December. Do you already have ripe ones?


    • erikhendel

      4 November 2012 at 11:27 PM

      Yep! I ate four today. There was a group of people that came to collect ripe ones today to sell in Mpumalanga. Then I watched my adult host family members take great delight in wielding large sticks to knock more out of the tree. If I wanted to, I could walk outside my door and pick a ripe one up off the ground to eat. But I don’t need to because the kids keep replenishing my supply. I need to figure out how to juice them.


  3. Naomi

    20 August 2013 at 10:30 AM

    Do you watch secretively and attentively or you route on the lizard fights?


    • Erik Hendel

      20 August 2013 at 11:09 PM

      I just hang back and watch. Or, if I was sleeping, I tend to lay there and hope that they give it up and stop making so much noise so I can go back to sleep.



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