Monday I realized that, given all the travel I am doing in the next few months, Tuesday might be my last day at Saint Francis for a while. I had already invited Sally Gilbert, an SIM colleague, to join me with the idea of her taking over. I read a book from the My First Steps to Math Series (Chicago, Children’s Press, 1986). It went over very well with the five and six year olds who feel very good about themselves when they successfully put together that if Little Six finds four nuts on the ground and two nuts under the log, there are enough nuts for each of the six chipmunks we met on the previous page to have one. Sally read Handa’s Surprise, a favorite, full of animals and fruits that the children can identify.
Since it was my last day for a while, Teacher Louise decided the children should sing. They sang a little thank you song very nicely, but what they really wanted to do for us was gumboot dancing. Teacher Louise comes from the coloured (mixed race) culture. Teacher Pumla is Xhosa, and she has been teaching the children to dance.
Gumboot dancing is something that grew up in the mines as African men from different cultures came together and adapted their dance traditions to modern life. Gumboots are the rubber boots the men wear underground. Dancers often wear hard hats and blue coveralls like they would in the mines. The boots make a great sound when slapped in rhythm. So dancing involves stomping and bringing up your foot to slap the boot or bending low to slap between stomps. Pumla (a woman of “traditional African build” as Alexander McCall would say) introduced some moves you might see in a Western club—moves like my mother described in the 1960s as coming straight out of
Needless to say, gumboot dancing is lively. I have seen groups of men performing at