Friday, December 22, 2006

Summer begins today in Namibia

The summer solstice

The same time (December 22 at 6:22 PM CST) that winter begins in the northern hemisphere, summer begins in the southern hemisphere (December 23 at 2:22 AM Namibian Daylight Time). That means that today is the longest period of daylight in Namibia for the year.

Summer in Namibia (December 23 through March 21), means the hottest daytime temperatures quite a bit of rain. Though, like anywhere, daily temperatures and rainfall vary widely.

Namibian Climate

  • Namibia has a dry climate typical of a semi-desert country, where droughts are a regular occurrence.

  • Days are generally warm to very hot, while nights are generally cool.

  • Midsummer temperature can rise to over 40ºC (104ºF)

  • Winter days are warm but dawn temperatures can drop to freezing.

  • Along the coast the cold Benguela current is also the prime determinant of the climate of the Namib, as it reduces rainfall and causes the omnipresent fog typical of the coast.

  • The rainy season lasts from October to April. The rest of the year is dry and cloudless.


namibia climate chart

All areas of Namibia average more than 300 days of sunshine a year!

Click to convert mm to inches

Click to convert Cº to Fº

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I'm on the road (email from Amy)

OK this is a quick note because I'm in an Internet cafe and I'm paying by the minute. Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm on my way. I cleaned out and defrosted my fridge (can't afford to leave it on for a month while I'm gone) I spread lovely toxic roach killer all over the kitchen (not that I think it will kill the roaches, everyone knows that cockroaches are unkillable, I'm just hoping that it will keep them from breeding into giant mutated roaches the size of tennis balls in my absence.)

I packed up my stuff and then I left to make the 400K trip here on the back of an open bakkie (small pickup) at noon yesterday. The teacher I was going with lent me her head wrap and I covered my face and neck, but I still got a whopper of a sunburn, and I got stared at by a lot of tourists (this road is the main corridor from Otjiwarongo to Etosha or Opuwo, so there are always giant land rovers with South African plates passing you, and whenever they see me packed neatly on top of a couple of suitcases with a black man and a small boy, they do a double take).

Anyway, I made it safe and in one piece to O-warongo and I'll be here until tomorrow. Then a bunch of us hike down to Windhoek and from there I go to the Mid-service conference, and then home. It feels really strange to be travelling with so much luggage. I've gotten really good at packing everything into my hiking pack with everything squished down to a little larger than an average backpack, and now I have a full hiking pack, large unwieldy suitcase, and my laptop bag. I feel like I''m another person.

The last leg of the Principal's farewell ceremony went well. At one point Mr. !Narubeb insisted that I must learn a Bushman dance (He's San-otherwise known as bushman.) I did and it mostly consisted of complicated stomping patterns accompanied by a sort of high pitched coughing sound syncopated to the rhythm of the music. Unfortunately it then descended into a discussion of whether the Damara stole the Bushman''s land (The Damara are the second oldest immigrants to Namibia, and it's my personal opinion that if the stealing happened more than 2000 years ago, and if the land has subsequently been stolen by every other immigrant to this nation in the mean time, then maybe it would be wise to just let it slide.)

That led to a complicated discussion of whether Mr. !Narebeb was really San, Bushman, or Ju'/Hosan (a clan of the San. From what I can figure there are two main clans--the other is the Xun-- and they are about as different as the Nama and Damara, with similar, sometimes violent tensions. The Ju'/Hosan look more like the Damara than what you typically think of as San--more black Bantu features.) It was quite a discussion. After that I snuck off to find a bedroom to sleep in and was awoken an hour later because there was a big Bull elephant nearby and they wanted to make sure I hadn't wandered off. Then I headed home.

Overall a fun time, although, of course, very sad to be saying goodbye. Well, I'll be seeing you all very soon. Lots and lots of love

Take care

Friday, December 01, 2006

Marks, Library cleaning, and a ridiculous farewell ceremony (email from Amy)

Hello All,

It's been a busy week. It started with me finishing my marking-- 8 kids failed English in grade 7 (out of 34) and 9 failed Science (the eight who failed English, plus one more who did really bad on the final exam-- it's hard to pass science if you don't know English) And 10 (out of 44) failed in Grade 6. I was a little depressed for a bit, but the other teachers assured me that the kids who failed really did deserve to fail and that they weren't going to pass many of the other classes either. It reassured me. I keep thinking that it's better that they do grade 6 or grade 7 again and hopefully learn more than that they go on and fail in grade 8, but at the same time, I know that I won't see quite a few of those kids again and they won't come back and learn more, they'll just drop out.

I finished my marking early so I've been doing an inventory of the books in the library. It's a lot of work and I'm not completely done, but I would say that I've done 90% of the books (Pretty impressive considering I did it in 3 days and there are almost 3000 books in the library.) I did have to clean a couple of wasp nests off the back of the non-fiction shelves and off of the copy of A Tale of Two cities. I really hope the windows in the library stop the infestations, because I'm starting to feel less like a librarian and more like an exterminator.

Also, I forgot that the shops here don't keep a large stock during break (because the village tends to empty out quite a bit.) So I've been desperate to get a Coke because before it rains it gets unbearably hot, but all of the shops in the village have been sold out since at least Friday. Finally, today, the Herero shop restocked and I am very very happy. I bought a litre of Coke and some potatoes to make french fries to celebrate the end of school. Ah, I am such a healthy PCV.

On Tuesday we had the farewell party for the headmaster. It started when we spent hours and hours cleaning the school, preparing the sun shelter, putting up the tents we borrowed from the road construction crews, and decorating. Then there was the ceremony. The schedule was pretty reasonable-- a series of 10 minute speeches interspersed with music or dance numbers. It was supposed to go from 10-12:30, a little long, but OK. Unfortunately a 10 minute speech means something entirely different here. The governor of Kunene alone went on for an hour and a half. He went into the history of Bantu education and everything. The kids were getting restless by about 1:30 (Actually, I was getting a little restless. I don't think you should expect first graders to be able to sit through three and a half hours of speeches and I was getting sick of trying to discipline them for something that I didn't really believe they should be expected to do.

After the governor's speech there was a really nice dance number from the Ombetja Yehinga Youth Group and one of my sixth graders leaned over to me and whispered "after the speech I was feeling so angry, but now I am just feeling nice." and I admitted to him that I agreed) The worst part is that no one felt that they should reduce their speeches by one word, despite the fact that we were several hours behind, and people were leaving to buy ice blocks and everyone was just having conversations over the speeches. It finally ended at 2:30 or 2:45, making it a 4 1/2 to 5 hour program. Oy!

My electricity has gone out each night for the past three nights. Every time it rains or there is a lot of wind my electricity goes out. It usually comes back sometime in the night, but it's a bit annoying, especially since my oven is electric, making it hard to make supper, and also because all of the ice in my freezer melts into a big puddle on my kitchen floor. I also had to finish up some of my marking by candle light without my usual movie on the laptop to keep me from going insane (you try marking 190 exams of kids who have only the most tentative grasp on English without something.) I suppose there are some good things about living in a semi-desert--namely that this doesn't happen for 6 months of the year during the dry season.

It's been just ridiculously hot. I realized today that it was Dec. 1st and it seems bizarre because it has to be 100-105 degrees F out and, because the rains have come, it's humid. I keep having these wonderful fantasies of getting off that plane in a few days and having wonderful, cold Minnesota weather.

OK, I'm going to cut it short there. I have a lot of stuff to do before I come home, including packing, cleaning out my fridge, and generally getting everything prepared for me to be gone for a month.

Take care of yourselves.

Lots of love
Amy (8 days until I come home.)

World AIDS Day 2006

The hidden cost of AIDS - loss of teachers

Namibia: Special CDs And Event in Fighting Aids

Support World AIDS Day

More links:

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Recent Nam 25 PCV blogs and Namibian news for the month of November

Recent blog posts from some of Amy's teammates (58 Peace Corps Volunteers known as NAM 25) all across the country of Namibia:

Jason's page of Nam 25 blogger photos and links

Marking, a Thanksgiving cheeseburger and yet again with the spiders (11/25) NEW
Thanksgiving, Windows and enormous spiders (again) (11/22)
Grade 7 exams, a movie and a baby spider (11/18)
a few stories (11/15)
cars, dolls, and some groceries (11/11)
one year and counting (11/7)
Copier update (11/7)
Christmas, window repair and a couple of visits (11/4)
pregnancy, church and books (11/1)
How to help my school with school supplies (updated 10/9)

gobble, gobble (11/24) NEW
How do you measure a year (11/24) NEW
ARV's (11/15)
Birds (11/15)
Windhoek (11/15)
So.. (11/12)

School Uniform (11/17)
Padkos (11/17)

New Pics and I'm off to see Mom and Dad (11/12)
Happy Anniversary (1 year) (11/12)
Going through withdrawals...the DMB kind (11/11)
Damn you internet (11/11)
Quarterly newsletter thingy (11/5)

so much to be thankful for (11/28) NEW
reflecting on the year (11/17)
Girl's club end of year celebration (11/7)
miss, my takkies are asking some porridge (11/2)

anniversaries (11/17)

Text Messages (11/22)

Still Alive :) (11/3)



It was Thanksgiving? (11/27) NEW

One Year (11/15)
Lowdown of Life (11/15)
Saturday night (11/8)



Namlish (11/7)
Walvis Bay (10/31)
An introduction (10/19)

Pictures of Keetmanshoop (11/29) NEW
Meet Nelson (11/29) NEW
The new ITC (11/23)
Greeting the newbies (11/17)
Welcome to Babylon (11/16)
Mysteries in Keetmanshoop (11/14)
The Hike (11/5)
Tech squad to the rescue (11/5)



Days off (11/25) NEW

HIV/AIDS Committee 2007 Calendars Information (11/29) NEW
Je ne sais quois? (11/27) NEW
Marking Day for math (11/22)
Congrats, Herb (11/14)
526,600 minutes (11/10)
Running again (11/7)
Quick Story (11/1)


Merry Christmas (11/30) NEW
To my mommy (11/7)
A birthday surprise (11/6)


Summer (11/13)


the routine (11/23)
recycling (11/7)
donations, etc. (11/6)
omuti: otjherero for traditional medicine (11/3)
wooot---wooooooot!! (11/2)
42.2 km (11/1)

Link to previous list of recent blogs (10/1-31)

Recent news from Namibia:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Marking, a Thanksgiving cheeseburger, and yet again with the spiders

Hello All,
It's been a long week. The windows are almost done (the kids were cleaning them with newspaper this morning.) And I have done an enormous amount of marking. I am basically done with my marks in grade 6A and 7 English (except for one or two kids who are missing some work that I'm still hoping is going to come in) and I'm about half done with my marks for grade 6B English. By Tuesday I think I'll be done or almost done with all the marking. That's the day of the principals farewell party too. My grade 7s did really well on their English exams. Only 7 of them failed (trust me, an 80% pass rate is really good) and the highest marks were 61.5 out of 75, which according to the grading scale here is an A, which is almost unheard of.

It was a good Thanksgiving, although I spent the first half of the day invigilating exams and marking learner's work. I couldn't get a chicken for Thanksgiving (which is kind of ironic because right now there are several probably eating bugs in my flowers.) Apparently people here usually coop up a chicken for a week or two before they eat it and they were quite disparaging about me eating it without that quarantine period. So instead I made myself a big bacon cheeseburger with the last of my mince. Nothing like a cheeseburger, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and canned mealies on Thanksgiving. It was a strange meal, but I was deeply thankful for it. When it you run out of good fresh food as often as I do, it's nice to have a big feast, even if it's only for one. It was a little strange thinking about Thanksgiving here. For one thing, the word and idea "colony" means something totally different, and somewhat malevolent, here. Anyway, unlike Halloween or some other American holidays, I think that it is one that would work in Namibia. I am abnormally thankful for good food this Thanksgiving. No one in Anker is starving, but I've seen quite a bit of malnourishment. There are about four kids in my Grade 6B class who I'd really like to force feed vitamins from my med kit because they are so small and undernourished (although, considering the fact that I think I was vitamin deficient earlier this term, perhaps I'd better concentrate on taking them myself.) There was a passage in the reading exam about how to make biscuits for your dog with mealie pap, bananas, and biltong (dried meat.) And several of my learners were actually very angry and wrote about how it was not good to give things like that to the dog. I have learned how much I truly have to be thankful for over this year, and I've learned some of how much I have taken for granted. Even if it was celebrated by eating a cheeseburger under my mosquito net while watching "The Bourne Identity," over all I think that I caught the spirit of Thanksgiving this year.

I know I've written a lot about spiders lately, but it's because the rains have come and the spiders are everywhere. I found out that, unfortunately, I was not mistaken about seeing that black spider in the library (in addition to the hoards and hoards of enormous tan ones that are, comparatively speaking, mostly harmless.) I sent six kids to the library and as we were getting ready to clean it we realized that there was a lovely web with a black spider with a yellow and red body on it. Best we can figure from the massively unhelpful Guide to Spiders and Scorpions in Southern Africa, it was probably a brown button spider; not as poisonous as it's black button cousin (i.e. it probably won't kill you) but still neurotoxic and potent enough to probably send you to the hospital (which, by the way, is about 300K away in Otjiwarongo. If I got bitten they would probably have to send a helicopter to get me. I don't even want to think about what would happen if one of my kids got bitten.) We ended up killing it with the end of a very long stick and I am hoping there are no more where that came from.

They just finished fixing the windows in the library and once they are dry (hopefully soon) I'm definitely going to fill the place with strong arachno-toxic chemicals of the Doom variety (motto---deadly killing action.)

OK, that's all I can think of to say right now. Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving and are enjoying the beginning of the Christmas season.

Lots of love,
Amy (14 days until I leave for America, not like I'm counting or anything!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving, windows, and enormous spiders (again) (email from Amy)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

On Monday I got the glass for the school windows in Otjiwarongo. It was one of the hottest days this year. We drove in the morning and thankfully I got to sit in the seat, not in the back of the bakkie, but it was still unairconditioned and the sun was killer. Unfortunately it was pay day so 20 or 30 people sent the other teachers with their bank cards and we ended up spending a good 2 and a half hours in Outjo doing banking. I bought some cold banana Otjikandala (sour milk and porridge drink) and hung out in the back of the bakkie getting stared at by tourists.

Anyway, we payed for the window glass (the money came from the money that was left over after we paid for the copier) although it looked a little like we'd be in trouble when the shop didn't take credit cards. We went to the bank where they asked for my passport, which I didn't have on me. Luckily my Peace Corps ID has my passport # on it and they took it.

While we were in Otjiwarongo I did a little shopping. I finally got some medicine for my ringworm at a pharmacy there (good strong stuff too.) I also got some groceries and I managed to find some cranberry sauce at the Super SPAAR. It was wretchedly expensive, but oh so worth it. I think I'm going to buy a chicken from one of my neighbors and have a real Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. I also got four new books from Megan. I've already finished Bridget Jones' Diary and when I finish Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (which I will this week) I'm going to start on The Sun Also Rises or The Great Gatsby (ooo, I can't wait.)

On the way home it rained like I've never seen it rain. Lightning everywhere and raindrops like golf balls. It was amazing. I still remember the beautiful sunset through the clouds behind the Mopane and Camelthorn Trees.

This week we've had 3-4 guys fixing the windows. One of them is from the school board, but the others are parents of kids who can't paytheir school fees. They are doing this work instead. The school looks so nice with so many unbroken windows. It's strange how you get used to that. I think that will be one of the odd things when I go home for Christmas--unbroken windows. The kids are pretty excited about the school.

So, I marked the English papers writing exam today (they take the reading and short answer test on Friday.) They actually did better than I was expecting. I have been dreading marking those exams because it means reading 2 essays from 78 different learners, some of them are basically unreadable/not in English (I actually get English exams written in Afrikaans or with every other word in Khoekhoe)/random words from the questions copied from the questions without any grammatical connection. Anyway, the number of those exams was smaller than I expected and the marking work went a lot quicker than I thought it would. Some of the exams were pretty amazing. One of my seventh grade boys actually wrote a story with a similar plot to the beginning of Hamlet (well, relatively speaking. He wrote a story about a boy named Okonwo who woke up in the middle of the night to find the ghost of his dead mother telling him that she had been poisoned by his uncle.)

Also, we've been cleaning the library and the giant spiders are back. I've killed a couple of them and removed some webs in the past couple of weeks. I was afraid that I saw a black spider (black means possibly a black button spider--one of the most poisonous spiders in the world) but I think I was seeing things. After they fix the library windows I think I'll buy some deeply poisonous Doom product and fumigate the library. I don't want things breeding in there for the whole month of term break.

Other than that, I've been doing some Chemistry problems to keep myself busy (and to avoid my piles of marking work.) I'll often use it as a reward. When I finish marking 20 or 30 papers I can do another chapter in the Chem. book. It's fun. It's been just horribly horribly hot here; like a sauna. Sometimes, especially when it's humid, the air is so thick that breathing is laborious (I have my inhaler, but it makes me so twitchy that I don't like using it unless it's absolutely necessary.) When it rains (torrential downpours) it's wonderful and cool, but the rest of the time it's terrible. So, that's the news from here. 17 days until I leave for home.

Take care

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Grade 7 exams, a movie, and a baby spider (email from Amy)

Well, the exams have started and I am up, as someone I know and love might say, to my earballs in marking work. 17 of my kids, exactly half, failed the grade 7 science exam. I keep hoping that I forgot to mark a section, or that the multiple choice questions were supposed to be 2 points apiece or something. It was especially disappointing because right after the exam they told me that it was a very easy exam, which puffed me up. It was out of 100: the average was 29.3 and the highest score was 56. Passing is 30%. I haven't worked out all of the other marks, but I think about 6 or 7 of the 17 who failed have gotten high enough marks at other times to still pass the class. There are about 9 or 10, though, who don't have much of a chance, even if their other marks were OK (the final exam counts for half of your total marks for the year.) The big problem is the English. They simply do not have the English skills to properly read the instructions. I just hope it's not because I'm a bad teacher.

I showed some of the kids a movie. I told them that if they brought in a library book that hadn''t been returned they would get to see a movie, so I showed them Beauty and the Beast. I think I'll do it again next Friday too. My favourite part was watching them watch the movie. There was one girl-Garoldine- who showed every emotion, hitting her head when something went wrong, gasping, and clapping her hands and laughing. There were some older boys--Erastus and Sedney who are in sixth grade and about 14 or 15--and I literally saw them crying at the end of the movie. I wonder if maybe it's a way they can get out their emotions. Erastus was especially upset. He is an orphan--both parents dead--and he lives with his aunt and uncle. I wonder if maybe he can cry if it's about a movie. Anyway, they were all overjoyed with ending,
so it was OK. I also liked listening them explain things to each other in KhoeKhoe.

On Friday I was going to do some work in the library. I changed out of my nice work clothes and into a pair of pants and then I took a dirty shirt out of the dirty laundry pile (no point in getting a clean shirt all dusty.) After I put it on I felt a small something crawling around. It was a baby spider like the kind in the library--those kind are moderately poisonous (it was about the size of a nickel.) I had heard of people who had been bitten by scorpions or spiders that had crawled into their clothes. Now, when a moderately poisonous baby spider is crawling around under your shirt, the first thing you think is "GET IT OFF ME!!!" but then you come to your senses and realize that the last thing you want to do is take that shirt off and possible trap or crush that spider and make it bite you. Anyway, after a series of dancing, shaking steps, I managed to shake it out of my sleeve and kill it with my sandal. No more wearing dirty laundry off the floor for me.

That's about it since last time. I've started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's pretty good.

OK, take care.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

a few stories

Hey everyone,
A kid told me something very strange the today. She came up to me and said, "Miss, I want to castrate someone." I didn't think I heard her quite right so I asked her again and she repeated it. I asked her if she knew what that word meant and she said "Yes, my grandfather was an elephant castrater." I really don't know what to do with that story, except laugh at it. What else can you do?

Tomorrow exams start. The grade 7s are taking Natural Science and Health Education exam. It is an external exam, meaning it's written by the Ministry of Education. I'm hoping they'll do OK. I gave them an open book test that was basically intended to make them revise for their exam. I'm going over it with them tomorrow. I also told the classes this week that I was going to show a movie this weekend and if they brought in a library book I'd let them see it for free. I'm hoping I'll get all the missing library books.

Next weekend I'm going to pick up the window glass in Otjiwarongo. We're replacing the windows in the school with glass, but I convinced the rest of the teachers that we should replace the hostel windows with plexiglass windows. They were a little nervous about it because plexiglass windows are quite expensive (US$6.60 apiece as opposed to glass windows which are about US$1.50.) The kids live in these rooms and I'm pretty sure that if we replace them with glass windows they will be broken again pretty soon. The nice thing about plexiglass windows is that they will never again have to replace them again. We have enough donated money to fix the windows in the school and in the hostel hall, but I'll have to raise some more money to fix the sleeping room windows. I told them that I think we can get enough to replace them and they're trusting me, so I'm hoping I can manage it.

I heard about the elections in the US (I didn't vote because it's hard enough for me to try to get groceries or phone calls from home, trying to work an absentee ballot when I'm 55K from a post office, 90K from another American, and 400-500K from the nearest notary public, much less trying to be an informed voter, REALLY didn't seem like a good use of my time.) I actually don't really know much about what happened except that it was quite partisan and some people were upset about it (when is that a surprise?)...Anyway, I just wanted to say that I think we're kind of lucky in America regardless of whether the election went your way or not.

I had a dream a while ago. I was on the airplane coming home to America for the Chrismas holiday and I started talking to the person sitting next to me. He (or she--I don't really remember, you know how it is in dreams) asked me where I was going and I said, "I'm going home to Ithaca." It seemed very important. Probably just a lovely Mefloquine dream. Still I thought it was kind of funny. My own little odyssey home. It got me thinking about homesickness. There are all of these subtle lonlinesses that come on you when you are away for a long time, some of them little more than an echo of your nerve endings. I will wake up with a sudden memory of the way it felt to sit in that chair, the smell of autumn air just after the first frost, or the feeling of my parent's kitchen counter. Some days I just long for the familiar. I know that I will miss this place when I leave too, though. It seems like life is a long series of goodbyes and the periods of rest between them. Nothing ever stays the same.

OK, that's about it.
PO Box 5006
Kamanjab, Namibia

Saturday, November 11, 2006

cars, dolls, and some groceries

Hey everyone,
This week I started trying to get some Christmas gifts. I collected together little things that I had or that had been donated that I couldn't think of a way to use in the school (mostly small toys and things like that) and I told the kids I'd trade for the rag dolls and wire cars they make. Unfortunately I set off this rush to make and bring things to me. Some kids actually tore up a sheet to make dolls. I now have close to 70 dolls and I think by the end of the weekend I'll have a similar number of cars, horses, elephants, and other toys. It's been a little crazy. I'm pretty sure I'll have to cut it off on Monday.

I already think I have more dolls than I have friends and family. It got me thinking. There is a lodge near here and I know they have a small gift shop, but I think most of the things come from factories in Windhoek. Maybe we could set up a sustainable income generating project here. My thought was that we could split the money up-a profit for the lodge, a small bit of spending money for the kid, and the rest of the profit for the school development fund (where their school supplies go) Still just an idea, though.

I'm getting nervous. My kids start their exams next Thursday. I think I've done about all I can in English, but I'd love to have more time to revise with the grade 7s. I got groceries this week. A good thing too, I was down to next to nothing--now I have lots of nice things-apples, cabbage, canned goods, butter, orange juice, etc.

Next week I think I'll be in Otjiwarongo. We've been working hard to finish the window project and I think we'll go and buy the glass next week. Then we just have to put it in. This week I finished The Brothers K and that math book I was reading and I'm a few pages from the end of Dune. Not sure what I'll read after that, maybe They Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers. OK, sorry it's a short one this week. The kids kept interrupting me.

I'll write more next week.
Lots of love,

Friday, November 10, 2006

Nam 26 PCV Blogs

One year ago today the 58 Nam 25 team members arrived on the Windhoek tarmac (+ 95 degrees, in contrast we are under +6" of snow right now in MN). Today, the 67 in the new team of Nam 26 PCV's arrives on that same tarmac. I have been collecting blogs for some of these new PC trainees. This is the list I have so far:

Group 26 (November 2007 - December 2008)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

one year and counting

Today is the one year anniversary of the day I left from O'Hare for my
staging in Philedelphia. Sunday is the one year anniversary of the day
I first arrived in Namibia. Wow--I've been here for a year. I think
back to what I was doing and feeling at this time last year and a lot
has changed. I have changed. It's interesting thinking back. It
doesn't really feel like I've been here a whole year already. Well,
take care

Thank you for the copier

Sida GanGans du Ra

(We Thank You!)

Several months ago I wrote about the school’s need for a new copier. With your donations and with the assistance of a charity called “Great Deeds” we were able to earn $2000 dollars, more than enough to buy a new photocopier and some toner. Unfortunately, my camera is broken, so I’ll have trouble sending you a picture of our copier, but it looks like this:

The copier sits in the headmaster’s office, carefully covered to keep dust out. The teachers are very pleased by it and excited that we won’t have to worry about how we are going to copy our exams this term. The headmaster asked several weeks ago to thank the people who sent us the money. I have several hand-written thank you notes that I will be sending to my parents to give to those who donated, but I wanted to make sure we thanked you all properly. The copier and toner altogether cost about US$1100.

We will use the remaining $900 to fix some of the broken windows in the school and hostel and to buy cement to finish the fence that surrounds the school and hostel. If you want to donate to either of these projects, please contact my mother. Thank you to all of you who donated. Your generosity has really overwhelmed the whole school. Several of the teachers have expressed their amazement that people so far away would want to give money to a place they have never even seen.

Thank You! Gangans!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Christmas, Window Repair, and a couple of visits.(email from Amy)

Hey everyone,
I've been putting off writing about this until I was pretty sure that it would work. I think I am coming home for Christmas. My parents had been planning on visiting me, but my brother had to have surprise surgery to fuse his spine so he's still going to be recovering and they couldn't leave him. I'm really happy and surprised that it worked out. I will probably be spending my time with friends and family and visiting some people since I'll be there for a while. Things I'm looking forward to include--snow, Chai tea, lefse, mostly insect-proof houses, coming back to school in January refreshed, and, of course, my wonderful family and friends.

I'm bringing home a bunch of presents (I told the kids that I would trade them random little stuff that I got in packages for the wire cars and rag dolls that they make, so I think I'll have a lot of those, plus some bracelets from Opuwo and some other things that won't be expensive (I plan to go to the wood market in Okahandja and pull out my Damara songs and phrases to convince the sellers to give me a better price.) Hope to see some of you there.

A few weeks ago someone told me that I was getting nice and fat. That's kind of a compliment here (although people are divided on the issue-some saying it's compliment, others disagreeing.) Regardless, they've been trying to fatten me up ever since I first showed up. There is the idea here that if you gain weight it means that you're happy. The really strange thing is that I haven't gained any weight (or at least not much.) I think she was just trying to be nice.

I did a survey of the teachers a few weeks ago about what they think the top priorities for money should be (mostly so I could figure out where the money left over after we bought the copier should go.) And the top priorities were by far, repairing the school and hostel windows which was in a tie with putting a cement base on the fence around the school hostel (to protect the kids and school property from animals and people who might dig under the fence and attack them), and in a close third, repairing the school and hostel toilets. It was good because those were three of my top priorities too.

I think the money left over from the copier will be used for window repair (which is good because in the hostel about 1/3 of the window panes are broken and it's mosquito season and only one kid in the hostel has a net-- can you say malaria?) because it will take the least amount of time to find volunteer or mostly volunteer labour for the job. I think the money will cover almost all of it, which is really nice. Any extra that we have will go to buying bags of cement (when I first showed up I thought that it was kind of a waste of money to spend it on a fence, but since then I've heard horror stories from other volunteer's hostels, including one where a man broke into the girl's hostel to try to rape the children, and I've realized how scared of animals, witches, and thieves everyone is. So now, even though it's not a warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely kind of project, I really think it is an important one that belongs high on the list with toilets and broken windows)

I had visitors on Tuesday night. A VSO volunteer from Opuwo who works with Ombetja Yehinga came along with her colleague. Unfortunately her colleague wasn't feeling too well. He had The Malaria. It reestablished my resolve to not forget to take my mefloquine because he was really really miserable. It was nice to have guests, though. I made them some chicken soup with barley (here's a hint--if you're ever running low on meat, soup is the way to go--you can make just a small amount stretch for three or four people.) We started watching a movie, but we ended up just talking which was nice as well.

Then on Thursday the Peace Corps came to visit. Waldo (the education supervisor and a very good guy) was showing Jeff (the country director) many of the sites in the North. Jeff, I think, was a little shocked by the isolation, but also by the state of the school. He kept asking about things and I had to keep saying the words, "the school doesn't have any..." working computers, ovens or stoves, library chairs or tables, etc. He was also a bit surprised by the fact that I estimate that the education of about a third of the kids in my school will end at the primary level (probably grade 6 or 7) and that another large chunk will drop out before grade 10. And that another chunk will fail their grade 10 exams and return home without them. I have high hopes for about 5-6 kids in each grade (out of 44 in grade 6 and 37 (actually, now it's 33) in grade 7) and I think those kids have a chance to make it through grade 12. I hope they do.

Anyway, we talked some about the VAST grant which is where a lot of PEPFAR money is funneled into (PEPFAR stands for the President's Emergency Plan to Fight Aids R-something (I don't remember.)) Namibia (because it's like 4th or 5th in the world in the percent of people who are HIV-positive) gets absolutely loads of PEPFAR money and there is a lot that hasn't been used. I have a lot of projects that I would really love to have funded through PEPFAR and they're pretty lenient about connecting it to Aids (for example, it can be a project to improve people's economic abilities since poverty is a major factor in the Aids epidemic) but unfortunately even I think that it's a stretch to connect repairing hostel windows to HIV. He did say that he thought that if I emphasized the number of OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children) at the school and if I talked about how we will use the library as a base for HIV education, job skills for out of school youth, etc. that he thought I could use the VAST grant to get furniture
for the library and possibly even a computer.

I would really like to work with the youth to build the school library into more of a community library--maybe with a large section of ESL resources and other resources that people can use. I figure that if there is a group from the community as opposed to a single teacher who has a stake in the library, it will be a more sustainable project (how's that for a whole mess of
buzzwords). Jeff was OK. He still talks a little like Namibia is a sort of strange other land and we should help the people "over there" but I think he's actually getting better at that.

And now for something completely different: My bed is being invaded by really really tiny spiders. They're everywhere. They're about the size of a typed letter "o." I was watching a movie last night when a whole bunch of them started lowering their webs in front of me. I probably killed a dozen, which means there are probably lots lots more. I'm OK with non-poisonous spiders (by the way, I found out that the spiders in the library are not violin spiders, just some other kind of spider that's only moderately poisonous. Yay!) but I am not OK with them in my bed. Mostly I think insects-shminsects, but I do have some
limits and my bed is a big one.

OK, that's all I have for today. I'll write you all later

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

pregnancy, church, and books

Hey everyone,
It's been a busy week. In English class I've been running my Grade 7s through exercises from last year's exam and my marking has been proceeding slowly but surely. One of my grade 7 learners dropped out of school last week a little less than a month before exams started. She, as they say here, "fell pregnant." Some of my learners are older than their grades might suggest, but she still can't be older than 14 or 15 (the ministry kicks kids out of my school when they hit 16 and sends them to a combined school.) I really worry about my kids sometimes.

Tomorrow the Peace Corps is coming to visit me—my superior and the Country Director for Namibia. I'm betting it's going to be an interesting visit. They're trying to get around to all of the sites. My boss has been here before, of course. But I think the isolation might really shock the country director who lives in Windhoek. The big challenge will be making sure my house stays clean this week.

OK, so I realized that I haven't written about church in a while. I have been meaning to give some numbers to give you an idea of a typical service. These are some numbers for this Sunday. Attendance was about normal. There were 12 women, 6 men, and 60 or so kids and young adults. Between us we had 10 hymn books and 5 Bibles including my own. They always announce how much was given in the offering at the end and they divide it up between the men, the women, the kids, and the money given for petrol for the bakkie (I think to transport a priest up every now and then to perform marriages and baptisms and that sort of stuff.) In total the offering was about N$50 (US$6.60). They are really happy when the offering tops US$5. Still, what are they going to spend lots of money on? I mean the elders take turns preaching, so they don't pay a pastor. They don't have to pay for lots of books or paper since many in the congregation can't read anyway. They don't send money to missionaries. I actually think they're saving up to buy a new church bell (not sure how much that will cost, but with US$5 or less a week I think it'll take a long time.) Oh, and they bought two new candles for the altar a while ago. I can't think of much else that it would go to.

By the way, thank you to all of you who keep me in your prayers. I really appreciate it. Other than that, I've been reading a lot, of course. I finally got around to finishing Robinson Crusoe, I've been reading some Beverly Cleary books from the library, and I'm nearly finished with a book called "Journey through Genius" about various geniuses of mathematics and the theorems they developed. I'm just starting the chapter on Liebniz and Bernoulli. This week I'm hoping to finish the Brothers Karamazov. After reading the first half in less than a week, I slowed down, and finally, just before the fourth volume, I stopped for a while. Not sure why, but I think I'll really get down to it and finish it this week. I'm only 50 pages from the end.

I got 3 M-bags today. One from Darien Book Aid. One from the Scarsdale Women's Group Book project and one from my family. Plus three packages (including a really great birthday present from my grandparents with the ingredients for rice Krispie treats. Also, one with great school supplies and one with fun stuff from my friend Jewell. Thanks guys. OK, that's the news from this neck of the woods. Take care.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Recent Nam 25 PCV blogs and Namibian news for the month of October

Recent blog posts from some of Amy's teammates (58 Peace Corps Volunteers known as NAM 25) all across the country of Namibia:

Jason's page of Nam 25 blogger photos and links

A new blogger I missed: Shonita of Keetmanshoop

Computer repair, spiders and a Cavongo orange (10/24) NEW
Packages, insects and and essay (10/14)
Birthday, depression and Windhoek (10/12)
Detailed satellite maps of Namibia (10/4)
Happy Birthday Amy! (9/27)
How to help my school with school supplies (updated10/9)

Photos (10/21)
October (10/21)
94 minus 32 (10/12)

Lucky Star Pilchards Marathon (10/23)
Sossusvlei (10/17)
Third term blues (10/16)

New pictures (10/22)
1 month in (10/15)

Just an update (10/20)

If you ever get worried about what I'm eating (10/31) NEW
New Photos uploaded (10/31) NEW
Mathematics (10/30) NEW
14-19 October (10/20)
6-9 October (10/20)

Witch one? (10/31) NEW
Cait's photos (10/16)
The long road home (10/13)




The long and short of it (10/31) NEW
Halloween (10/31) NEW
thomas (10/22)
Photos and Thank You (10/17)
Highlights and New Era newspaper article (10/16)
How cute (10/15)
An attempt to break a record (10/10)
Wow Time FLIES (10/10)
I have reached one of my goals (10/3)



PCV's get soaked ( 10/30) NEW
Talk Radio (10/29) NEW
Libraries and Swimming Pools (10/26)
Staying Busy (10/20)
Passing the torch (10/20)
Big city volunteer (10/18)
What a weekend (10/16)
The hills are alive (10/8)
Namibian Stress (10/5)
The Fair: Namibian Style (10/2)



The changing of the seasons (10/1)

Our first thunderstorm (10/13)
Installing the burner (10/10)
We're covered in sand (10/9)
Grade 10 last day (10/7)
Back home again :) (9/29)


Happy birthday to me (10/30) NEW
Life is great, despite (photos follow posting) (10/17)
What the !?!? (10/11)



October update (10/14)
Photos (newest photos are at the bottom of the page) (10/14)


Link to previous list of recent blogs (9/1-30)

Recent news from Namibia:
Opuwo girls find club refreshing (10/16) - New Era
Rural school to benefit from materials (10/16) -New Era
Who are the dead? (10/16) - New Era
World food day (10/16) - New Era
Etosha prepares of its 100th birthday in March (10/13) - New Era
Grisly find: another mass grave found (10/13) - New Era
Conservation without borders (10/12) - The Namibian
Heavy rains soak Opuwo (10/10) New Era
Time to do away with shacks (10/10) New Era
Freezing weekend ahead (10/5) - The Namibian
Teachers celebrate their day (10/4) - New Era

Namibia fares poorly in competitive rankings (10/2) - Namibian Economist
US increases AIDs funding (10/2) - The Namibian
Children's rights remain a challenge (9/29) - New Era

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Computer repair, spiders, and a Cavongo orange (email from Amy)

I know I haven't emailed you in a while. Last weekend my computer power cord broke and I attempted to fix it myself, which really didn't work. It wasn't that great, especially because my brother was going in to the doctor to see if he needed surgery and, because I couldn't charge the computer, I couldn't check my email. Anyway, on Friday I headed out to Otjiwarongo and actually got my cord fixed, surprisingly. I also had a great meal at the Wimpy Burger with a bunch of other volunteers, and had the chance to talk and catch up with some people.

I have a lot of work to catch up with this week, though. Lots of marking to do. Last Tuesday I killed a spider the size of my open palm in the library. I killed another one just today. I had found two similar spiders dead earlier in the week. The learners told me it was poisonous so I looked it up in my book about spiders. Apparently it was a violin spider, which is cytotoxic and although it won't kill you, it will make you really extremely unhappy for a while. So, in addition to the swarms of possibly malarial mosquitoes, the library is also apparently infested with enormous poisonous spiders. Yay!

Also, I thought that I had a mosquito bite on my arm, but it isn't going away and I'm starting to think that I might have ringworm. It doesn't surprise me too much—hygiene is not intensely practiced here and although I am pretty clean, it seems like it would be a lot easier to contract infectious diseases here. Among the diseases that other volunteers have been exposed to—one volunteer had a person from the Ministry of Health check out her learners and found that all but three had scabies, one volunteer from the Cavongo was telling me that her mattress has been infected by bedbugs several times, I know that my kids have head lice, and there are all sorts of worms and parasites that go around (one of my kids was out of school for a while because of a worm that's infects you when you walk around barefoot.)

Really I should be glad that it hasn't happened sooner. Anyway, I'm going to call the Peace Corps soon, but I really have a lot of work to do before the exam and I don't want them to pull me out to Otjiwarongo or anything until the weekend, so I have to be pretty sure that I need a prescription first. Ringworm won't kill me.

While I was away someone gave me a Cavongo orange. A Cavongo orange is the size of a baseball and as hard as a rock. In fact, to open a Cavongo orange you have to hit it against a rock. The inside of the fruit looks like a brown brain and it tastes a little like a sweetish grapefruit. It was pretty good. Other than that, not too much has happened. I'm doing OK.

Take care,

PO Box 90
Kamanjab, Namibia

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Packages, insects, and an essay (email from Amy)

I have been going through the packages that I got on Thursday. I am almost through sorting and entering the new books into the accession register (the kids are raring at the bit to get at them.) I'm still sorting out the school supplies. Someone sent multiplication flash cards which made Mr. Asser so happy and I'm trying to figure out how to sort the crayons evenly (I think the primary teachers will be really happy about that.)

For me, I got about 20 copies of the New Yorker and 20 copies of Time and Newsweek, they should keep me busy for a number of months. The volunteers in Gobabis will be happy about the New Yorker too. The last time I got New Yorkers I gave them to them when I had finished reading them. I also got a bunch of food-- 4th of July candy, good coffee (Thank You!- Nescafe with chicory doesn't do it for me), Crystal Light, granola bars, various food mixes, and Lasagna noodles. I also got some long pants (less useful now, but they'll be great in a few months), and a nice sundress.

The past week the seasons have suddenly changed. The heat has been a little ridiculous. On Sunday it poured for about 4 hours and then it rained again on Monday. The rain started out the biblical plague of insects that are now assaulting my house. It started with the assault of tiny tiny ants. If I put down food on my table for a few minutes it would be covered with ants. After Sunday there were a whole bunch of other things--black half-dollar sized white furred beetles that fly noisily around the room until they noisily hit the wall (they're really stupid), red winged grasshoppers, winged termites, anophales mosquitos rice sized brown beetles that attack in swarms, and a counle of other random insects that I have no way of keeping out of my house. I am very thankful for my mosquito net. Someone told me that they sort of hibernate until the first big rain of the season when they hatch. I can't wait until the 6-inch mopane butterflies hatch

Things are going OK with the pre-paid electricity meter. I've been keeping track of my electricity usage and I think I use about 4.5 kilowatt hours a day if I cook two meals on the range. It costs 50 cents a kilowatt hour, so I should spend between $60 and $80 a month.

This is an essay I got from one of my learners. The topic was "Who is your hero and why?"

My hero is Mrs. Amy. I like Miss Amy because she is speacing English with Mr. when I was visiting him at her home she gave me some food when I was helping him at home. I will be like Miss Amy. She was write people. I was go with Miss Amy to USA stand for Unitet stade of America

Oh, I've been getting messages from and they've been getting weirder and weirder. Before the Peace Corps I bought a pair of Birkenstocks online and a few days ago I got this message "Based on your past purchases in Apparel, we thought you might enjoy incredible savings on top designers like Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and more." Yeah, nice thinking Amazon. That's just what I need. Anyway, that's about it.

Take care,

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Birthday, depression, and Windhoek

Well, it's been a while since I wrote a long email and a lot has happened. I got two M-bags (from my parents) and three packages today (school supplies from my mom and dad, a package from the old PCV, and a box of stuff from one of my Wheaton Professors-- Professor Wright) Also today they changed my electricity box over to the pre-paid box. I was a little annoyed, but it's not as expensive as I was expecting. I think it'll be OK. I went to the shop and bought $20 worth of electricity (40 kilowatt hours--I think it'll last a little over a week if I don't use the oven too much.)

Last week on Wednesday it was my birthday. By the way, thank you to everyone who sent me birthday messages. My inbox was stuffed. It was wonderful. It was a good birthday and then a tough day. The village was really great about my birthday. They sang me the birthday song in English and in KhoeKhoe (!Gai !Gaxa !Gai Tses.) The learners made me cards with messages like "This flower is very niceful" and "May the Lord sunshine on you and give a big light" Some girls actually came to my door to sing me a song (Amisa America, Amisa ta ge a /nam "Amy is coming from America, we love Amy.") I made myself a chocolate cake and I watched a bunch of Daily Shows that my friend from south of Windhoek had sent me.

Unfortunatly the next day I went into a weird depression. It was probably the most depressed I've been since I came to Namibia. I was at the teacher meeting and I was trying very hard not to cry. The thing that scared me the most was that I wasn't crying about something. It was just culture shock, compounded by over-working and all of the emotions of my birthday just sort of pushed it over the edge. After the meeting I actually ducked into the library to cry. After my first class, Mr. Geiseb called me into his office and asked me if I was OK. I told him I was feeling a little homesick and he said that he thought that was the problem. We had been planning that I would go to Windhoek on Friday to get the new copier for the school and he said that he had rearranged his schedule so we could go a little early.

It was a very nice visit to Windhoek. I got to see Jason, Irene, and Dylan and Sandra. We ate Indian food for my birthday celebration. I got the copier and got it all the way back to Anker. I'll send pictures later. I also got to stare at tourists a lot. I think I just needed to see other Americans, especially other volunteers. It was nice, but I'm also glad to be back in Anker. Windhoek is too fast, with cars and people going every way so fast.

Anyway, I'm back and in the swing of things again. I was thinking about going to Otjiwarongo this weekend but I just couldn't handle another weekend away from Anker. Today I baked biscuits with Ms. Julianne. Ricardo came and cleaned my back yard, but when it came time to pay him something was wrong. I gave him a big bowl of porridge, but he didn't want any. I really don't know what was going on, but I'm a little concerned. He seemed really upset
about something. Anyway, that's about it. Not much to report.

I'm doing well. Hope you all are too.