Sunday, April 30, 2006

Quick note from Windhoek (email from Amy)

I'm in the Peace Corps lounge in Windhoek and our free ride leaves in
a few minutes so I have to be quick. I've been at reconnect for the
past two weeks. It's been a really good time (although we're up in
the mountains so it's been FREEZING, well mid to low 50s, but when all
buildings have tin roofs and no insulation, that's pretty cold.)

My plans have changed, I'm no longer heading back to Anker after
reconnect, instead I'm going the opposite direction on the train to
Keetmanshoop and I'm doing a sewing workshop for some out of school
youth at Jay's youth center and then I'm going up to the Opuwo area
with Dylan and Sandra and I'll probably go rafting.

I have a new plan for hiking into Anker (since it took 8 hours last
time.) I'm going to go up to tourists and ask if they want to see the
real Namibia and then offer them tours of my village in return for a
ride. I figure I can get some of the kids to sing and have them buy a
Coke at the shop that's in a traditional mud-dung house. I think it
actually might work.

We've been working a bit on grant writing (which is ridiculously
frustrating) and secondary projects and I've realized that my school
is one of the poorest of the group. It makes me feel like it actually
might be possible for us to get a copier, which would be nice.

Anyway, lots to tell you all and so little time. I'll write to you
all again when I get to Keetmans. Take care.

Monday, April 17, 2006

How Close?

We talked to Amy on Easter Sunday afternoon. First term was completed successfully and she wanted to spend time with some of her other friends. She is currently in Otjiwarongo until Wednesday with some other PCV's. They spent Easter Sunday together and she said she made a French Silk Pie for everyone that "was to die for".

How close was she to the celebrities this weekend? According to news reports, "Brangelina" were at Okonjima Game Lodge. If you check out this map, you can see that Otjiwaraongo is the next largest city near that lodge. No sightings reported though.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Easter (e-mail from Amy)

I have been thinking about Easter lately. It always seemed right to me that it comes at the beginning of spring, just as new things are growing, new life springing up as a reminder of the resurrection, in the same way that it always felt right that Christmas came in the middle of winter, the Light of the World coming as the days start growing longer. I am not sure how Easter will feel here in the southern hemisphere. We are just finishing the summer rainy season. Soon the grass will dry out and the goats will get skinnier and we will step quietly into the hungry season. Christmas didn't feel quite like Christmas with the 101 degree days, the watermelons, and the lime trees decorated with paper snowflakes and popcorn and I'm afraid that Easter won't feel quite like Easter.

On Palm Sunday we used palm branches from the trees outside. They had a big pile of them at the door and when you went inside they ripped off one of the fronds and stuck it to your chest with a piece of packing tape. Midway through the service they realized they needed some more so they just sent a few kids out into the yard to collect some. It seemed right, much better than the imported palm branches at home. I think that the best symbols are ordinary things; bread, water, oil. There is something about transforming the everyday bits and pieces of life into something holy that is important. I think that it is meant to remind us that things are not as they seem; that the ordinary blue world around us is only as ordinary as our eyes. It's easy to forget. I think that's why we need symbols and also probably why we need stories. It's not that storytellers look at sidewalks and elm trees and see epic journeys and dangerous forests, but that we, poor souls, look at epic journeys and dangerous forests and see only elm trees and sidewalks. That's why it meant so much more that palm branches we used were from the same scraggly tree that I passed every morning on my way to school or to the shop. The donkey outside, the same one that had me cursing under my pillow as he brayed all night or that went whizzing down the street, far too fast to be safe, pulling a cart piled with children, that same donkey could easily have been the one that Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

On Maundy Thursday it rained hard, like the sky was weeping. As I was walking to the shop to buy some sugar, I looked around Anker and I started thinking that turn of the century Israel was probably a lot like this. Many of the mud houses, the donkeys, cows, goats and children wandering around barefoot wouldn't look out of place in one of the middle chapters of Matthew. But it's more than that, there is something quietly brutal about life in both places. There is a danger to life that we have conveniently edited out of the American vocabulary. Here, you can die quickly from painful and untreated diseases that we in America have forgotten. There are funerals all of the time. There are witches across the street and dreams mean something. I think Jesus would fit in better here, with the drunk old men, the orphans, the faithful church women without shoes, the grandmothers who have watched their children die of AIDs and are left with too many grandchildren to raise, and all the others who live on the edges, than he would in the more sedate pains and sins of suburbia. I can see John as the silent, grizzled grandfather who is on the school board who always shows up from his farm with a tattered leather hat and signs in by pressing his index finger to a stamp pad because he can't write. I can see Martha as the woman at the church with the rotten front teeth who sings so beautifully in the choir with her two year old boy tied to her back. I can see Peter looking something like Ronnie, the shopkeeper, who gets up some Sundays and begs us to sing his favourite song and to really mean it this time, while he dances around the church shouting "O-sie-anna" which means "Hosanna" and everybody else in the church dances along with him. The New Testament would make sense if it were set here.

I'm still thinking about Easter. No, we're not going into spring, no new life, all crocuses and bunnies, for us. We're going into the dry season, the hungry season, the season when the grass has all been eaten down to the roots and all we can do is hope that next year there will be enough rain to revive it again. But really, when do you need a reminder of resurrection more than you do during the dry and hungry season? We can get together on a Sunday morning; the unemployed men who were drunk last night, the gaggle of children from the hostel who don't have anything better to do, the women in the back feeding their babies, the old men who sit in the front with the church elders, the memes in full traditional regalia complete with head wraps, shawls, and ostrich egg necklaces, that weird Peace Corps volunteer, and all of the rest of us sinners on the edges of society, we can get together and remember the God who chose to come to the edges in the dry and hungry season of our soul. And that definitely feels like Easter.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Last day of 1st term

Today is the last day of the first term that Amy has taught. (click for school schedule). She will teach six terms all together before she is done in December of 2007. She and her learners now have a whole month off. During that month, all the PCV's from her group will reconnect in Windhoek. I think that starts on April 20th.

Recent Nam 25 PCV bloggers and news stories (3/26 - 4/13)

Recent blog posts from PCV bloggers in Namibia:

(Jason's page with photos and links to all the bloggers)

The donkey cart that I certainly didn't ride in (4/8)

Just a quick email (4/5)
Independence Day, the Plague and a Beauty Contest (4/1)


Antenna antics (4/7)

9 back posts back to February (4/5)

Baskets, chicken, fat cakes (4/3)

No Brangelina sightings yet (4/11)
Angelina and Brad... are you in Swakopmund? (4/5)
Pictures (click then scroll below the posting)
Daylight Savings (4/3)

Speaking of Africa Lovers (Brad and Angelina) (4/8)
Zambia (4/8)
Southern Girls Conference Planning (4/8)
Admirable Volunteers (4/8)
Love/Hate relationship with the net (4/6)
Oh yeah...about my PCV friend Rute (4/4)
Tiny snippets of quick news (4/4)
Various Random Blurbs (4/2)
Christmas and the travels of a package sent to me (4/1)
If you plan on visiting me in Namibia (4/1)
Quotes (4/2)
Soundtrack of my life (3/20)

Concert time (4/2)
Independence Day (4/2)
Packing list for Group 26 (4/2)
Khori and Mina (4/2)

Tortillas (4/12)
IM (4/10)
Bugs (4/9)
New Photos posted (4/8)
Still got it (4/6)
From March 25 (4/6)
My picks for the sweet sixteen (4/6)
Windhoek (4/2)

Comments and books needed (4/1)

Taxes (4/13)
Move slowly (3/31)

Truly great popcorn (4/11)
Acculturation (4/9)
The weekend (4/7)
Miss me? (4/6)
Crazy, wild, unorganized accomplishments (3/29)
The Invigilator (3/26)
Makin' videos (3/26)

Another post?...this must be good (4/7)
Got shoes? (4/6)
Africa itches (4/5)
Note from Sheila (3/29)
No news is good news (3/28)

Mom (4/13)
Other events (4/10)
Nothing like a little love (4/9)
Accomplishments all around (4/8)
Long, interesting day (4/5)
You and the world (4/3)
Answer to the "fronic" question (4/3)
My average day in Opuwo (4/3)
All good souls (4/2)
Party time (4/2)
Pictures (4/2)
The good...the bad (3/31)
Road Trip (3/27)
Etosha at fort (3/28)
Norwegian weekend (3/25)
You have nerves of steel (3/24)

Link to previous list of recent blogs (3/12-3/25)

Recent news from Namibia:
Gender violence persists - New Era (4/10)
Mariental rebuilding after devastating floods - The Namibian (4/10)
Make Namibia a winning nation-Pohamba - New Era (4/10)
AIDS cuts Teacher Numbers - New Era (4/6)
Itchy and scratchy at Omhanda school - The Namibian (4/6)
Slow but steady progress toward a better life - IRIN (4/4)
Enough square metres for a herd of elephants - Namibian Economist (3/31)
Unequal income growing - Namibian Economist (3/31)
2005 records lowest inflation rate ever -Namibian Economist (3/31)
New strategy in the TB fight - The Namibian (3/29)
Karas Region Still Tops TB List - The Namibian (3/28)
Are We 16 Years Better Off? - New Era (3/27)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Close encounter with famous stars

The news that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are in Namibia has put the country on all the international news feeds lately. People who never heard of Namibia (or cared) are now aware of it. Tabloid reporters are now enjoying the same cuisine that Amy has. Until today, the reports had the couple in Walvis Bay, far to the south of Amy. But today, reports are that they are in Etosha National Park. This is a very large park and Amy is just south and west of it, but now they are much closer. I doubt that life will change much considering the couple are in a secluded and guarded game lodge, but you never know.

Reuters news report

Etosha National Park

Map of Namibia

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Donkey cart that I certainly didn't ride in (email from Amy)


Just a little heads up. My friend Amber is working with Catholic AIDS
Action up north and she's trying to start an income generating project
to try to help women combat the poverty that is at the heart of the
spread of the disease. The women in her area are trying to find a
fair-trade market for their traditionally woven Owambo baskets, but in
the mean time they have a pre-order form and a website:

and you can contact them at:

if you're interested. The prices on
the order form include shipping and you will probably have to wait for
quite a while (like think 6-8 months) for the baskets since they are
just starting the project, but I thought I'd pass on the info in case
anyone was interested. It's a good project.

Last week

Not much has happened in the last few days. I am up to my eyeballs in
grading since term tests were this past week (Monday is the last test-
agriculture, but the kids will be here through Thursday, which is a
little frustrating. Not sure how we're going to get anything done with
term tests over and the holiday just around the corner.) I realized a
bit late that I should have been keeping track of scores throughout the
semester instead of keeping them in the learners books, since now I have
to go through and grade those too.

Next week

On Thursday I went to Kamanjab for a "workshop" which turned out to be a
big advertisement for Longman textbooks. Still, I managed to get a few
groceries while we were in town. Not a lot, just some bread and milk and
a few other things I couldn't find in Anker, but it means that I don't
have to go into town this weekend, which is nice since I have a lot of
work to do. With only one week left until break I really don't need that
much. I've been trying to use up my perishables since even food in the
refrigerator seems to spoil ridiculously fast here. I blame it on the
heat and the lack of preservatives in the food (You don't realize how
nice preservatives are until you're 50K from a grocery store with bread
that will keep at maximum for a week and a half in the freezer.) Anyway,
Mrs. #Goagoses is having this big celebration of her wedding anniversary
on Holy Saturday and, after a heart wrenching decision, I think I'm
going to go to Otjiwarongo for Easter anyway and miss it. If I can't be
around my family for Easter, I at least need to be around familiar
things. I hope she understands.

Baby powder

I've taken up the Namibian custom of rubbing baby powder on my face. The
women in my village often rub either baby powder or red ochre on their
faces in the hot of the day. The Himba mix it with butterfat and cover
their whole body, hair, and clothes in red ochre, but the other tribes
in Namibia just use it on their faces. It really helps with the sweat
and oil and I think it probably looks a lot better than a shiny face. On
the darker complexions of the other women I prefer the red ochre, which
makes their skin warm and healthy looking, to the baby powder which
makes them look a little ghostly, but on my own complexion I really
think the red ochre would make me look like a clown so I'm sticking to
baby powder.

Donkey cart

Today I made bread pudding, sort of making up the recipe as I went
along. Mmm, bread pudding. I also talked to my parents, which was
wonderful. Then I went to the store to recharge my phone card and, since
I would never break the Peace Corps rules against riding in an open
vehicle, I wisely rejected the ride that a very nice man offered me in a
donkey cart (wink wink.)


I also /have /to finish grading the tests today
so I can concentrate on exercise books tomorrow. The English tests went
better than the Science test (I'm still putting off grading that one
since every time I look at the mistakes the test makes it sickens me a
bit) but the scores were still a little disappointing. I'm starting to
see that there are problems here that are simply bigger than I know how
to fix. Sure, some of the problems stem from a fixable lack of money,
supplies, and training, but the Namibian government spends one third of
its budget on education, one third. America only wishes it spent one
third of its budget on education and all of the problems can't simply
come down to a lack of stuff. I think a large part of the problem is
simply that education has been denied here for a long time (the literacy
rate in my region, Kunene, is just over 50%- that's literacy in any
language, the majority of those who are literate are literate in
Afrikaans.) You can't just erase that overnight. It takes a long time to
build up an educational system. It takes educated parents and educated
grandparents. I think it's a lot easier to deal with injustice than with
the lasting effects of poverty. Injustice is an inherently unstable
position, it may take a long time, but inevitably it has to crumble, but
poverty feeds on itself. Poverty makes it hard to get a good education
which makes it hard to escape poverty which makes it hard for your
children to get a good education and on and on the vicious circle goes.
My hope is that the kids I teach today will be in a better position to
help their kids and somewhere down the line, slowly, it will get better.

Books, packages and letters

OK, enough of the serious stuff. I've been doing a good deal of reading.
In the last week I finished the Inferno (that one took me 2 days), A
Raisin in the Sun and The Covenant. I really want to finish The
Christian Imagination before I go to reconnect because I am hoping that,
along with a copy of Christianity Today and the Inferno, I can convince
Pat to trade with me for the Narnia series. I think I can convince him
to temporarily part with it if I make the deal sweet enough. I also am
hoping that someone will help me cut my hair again. The last time I did
it I cut it myself using library scissors and the hand mirror in my
bathroom. It's not too bad, but I'm lucky that no one here knows that my
hair isn't how white people hair is supposed to be (the kids are too
busy trying to sneak up behind me and feel the texture to care that it's
a little uneven.) I got two pieces of mail today (yay for Saturday mail)
both sent in January (Thanks a lot, NamPost.) A package from my
grandparents with a book of short stories which I'll probably start
after reconnect and a letter from Rob with instructions on how to make a
cell phone antenna out of a clothes hanger and a bunch of wire and a lot
of hope (Since it's just under a week until I go to reconnect where,
hopefully, they plan to give me one of those antennas I'm going to put
off making one, but I enjoyed the letter thoroughly and if I ever get
really bored and have an extra coat hanger and some wire, I'll try it
out, just for fun.)

Wish list

Now, just because some of you have asked and not in any way to imply
that you all should all start sending me presents or feel guilty in any
way shape or form, because I know some of you would, so DON'T, here is a
short list of things that I wouldn't be disappointed to find in a
package. People have been so great to me and I feel almost guilty about
how generous people have been in sending me things. I feel very blessed,
so don't feel too bad for me. I've tried to pick things that are pretty
easy on the postage since it's expensive, I know: Magazines or
interesting articles or essays (we get Newsweek International and you
can find some magazines here in places like Otjiwarongo, but not
speaking Afrikaans and not wanting much information about South African
soap stars or trophy hunting severely limits my choices and it's nice to
just flip through a magazine), Cd's or DVDs with videos or photos or
music or downloaded stuff or really anything you can put on a CD or DVD,
Stickers (I have a pretty massive collection at the moment, but I'm
going to try to start a literacy program next term where learners get
stickers for reading books), Drink mixes (like Crystal Light or Kool-Aid
or, if they're light, powdered Chai mix packets. They make the water
eminently more drinkable), anything that would improve primary education
(flash cards, colorful educational posters, I don't know whatever you
can think of. It really encourages me to be able to help improve the
supplies of the school), Letters, even just a little note (I now it's
hard to find time to write, but what I miss most of all isn't Starbucks
or movie theaters, it's you guys. Aww, isn't that sweet?) Plus anything
else you want to send.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll write in the next week, but if I'm too
busy I'll certainly write during Easter and reconnect. Take care of
yourselves and have a Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Just a quick email (email from Amy)

Well, I had a chance to get online, so I figured I'd send out a short
email. It's been a long couple of days. We have term tests this week (I
hate whoever wrote the grade 7 science was weird, with
questions I'm not sure I could have answered, I have suspicions that one
or two of the questions aren't even true, after all, I don't really
believe that the hippopotamus is part of the sea and coast ecosystem.)
Also, what I suspected were weeds in my yard have unexpectedly erupted
into marigolds.

I am always, always, always early. I wake up for church worrying that I am
late, but no matter how late I get up, no matter how many times the
bells have rung, I am still always too early. Sunday was the start of
daylight savings time for us (remember that we are going into winter
now) and I was a little concerned that I had maybe set my alarm wrong,
but I got up at what I thought was the correct time, got ready, and
headed out the door. Several of my sixth graders stopped me on the way
there and told me that the bell I had heard a few minutes earlier was
the Sunday school bell (which I don't entirely understand because I've
never seen kids going to Sunday School but anyway,) I sat with Mr.
!Geiseb for about half an hour and then, when I thought it was probably
about time, I went to church. No one was there. No one at all. I went
home, ate some breakfast and figured that maybe they would ignore
daylight savings time and go at the usual time, so at 10:30 I headed off
to church. A few people were there, but I still waited about half an
hour for church to really start. I figured I'd be used to Africa time by
now, but the problem is that it's not consistent. School almost always
starts on time and so does When You Are Mine, but you never really know.
I spent the earlier part of the week waking up way too early (like 2
hours before anyone else even got up) and waiting at the gate because,
although it's daylight savings time, they compensate by moving the time
that school starts to later in the day, then they set their clocks so
that that time matches the earlier time. I really don't have any clue
what time it actually is anymore and I spend my days in constant stress
that I'm going to be late. Daylight savings time really messes with your
system when you mainly measure time by sunlight.

So I had my first real report of corporal punishment on Tuesday. It
wasn't too severe, at least not compared to the stories that I've heard,
but it made me kind of sick to my stomach because I feel like it was my
fault. I know that my discipline has been too lax. I've just been
putting off making a more stringent discipline programme until next term
when we can all start fresh again. I figured there wasn't much point in
trying to implement some half thought out discipline program for 2
weeks. So I was sitting in the classroom, helping the learners revise
(review) for their maths test. They needed extra practice with long
division. In the middle of revision two members of the school board
showed up wanting to talk to the 6th and 7th graders. I figured it
would be a mostly good-hearted, though heavily moralizing, lecture on
being better behaved and more diligent in their studies, since that
seems to be the main way of trying to motivate learners. The principal
told me that I didn't need to go and they would tell me what happened,
which was nice since I don't really like going to meetings where I sit,
not understanding what's going on and, as often as not, being used as an
illustration for who knows what point the speaker is trying to make. So
I went to the library and read for while (other than trying to work
myself to death with projects that are not directly my job, my main
coping strategy seems to be reading prodigious amounts. I find that I
read during pretty much all of my free time which, I'm sure, makes the
Namibians think I'm a little funny, since reading is not a popular free
time activity here.) Only later did I find out that the lecture had been
partially (or possibly mainly) about how the learners were misbehaving
in my classes and several of the learners who were deemed to be too
talkative (although how they parsed that out I have no clue, probably
other learners told on each other) were "beaten"- hit with a stick on
the palm of their hand. Oy, I hope term break helps me because I'm
feeling a little "beaten" myself. I guess I'll just blame it on
culture-shock. It seems as good a reason as any.

So on Wednesday I was invigilating an exam (isn't that a wonderful term.
I think we would say I was proctoring the exam, but I like
"invigilating" better.) We had maths in the morning and KhoeKhoe in the
afternoon. When it came to the KhoeKhoe exam I got a little panicky (it
might have been a long time since I've done long division, but at least
the questions are in English so I can actually read them.) I got one of
the other teachers to come in and answer questions (he was a bit more
brusque than I would have liked, but what can you do?) I had noticed how
frustrated Nadia was getting, but I really couldn't do anything to help
her. She answered maybe one question and then she put her head down on
her desk and cried for the rest of the exam. Nadia is probably the
brightest pupil I have in the sixth grade. She was orphaned last year
and came to this school to be closer to her grandmother. She went to a
school in Windhoek before so she is an absolute whiz at English. Anyway,
I figured out what was wrong. She can't read KhoeKhoe. It's really not
that uncommon of a problem. Since the apartheid educational system
didn't teach African languages, only English or Afrikaans, many adults
can't read KhoeKhoe, which is part of the reason why they find my
parroting of the words in the hymnal so amazing. One of the things I
really like about the Namibian educational system is that it
acknowledges that it is important for children to know their own home
language. Anyway, there wasn't much I could do for Nadia. Finally I came
up with a plan. I cornered her during the break and I told her I had a
special job for her. I told her that I had been looking for someone to
help me learn KhoeKhoe better next term and I thought that she would be
perfect for the job. Nadia reminds me a lot of what I was like as a kid,
she loves being around teachers, so she was thrilled. I figure I'll
borrow some of the early elementary KhoeKhoe books from one of the
teachers. Then she can tutor me in KhoeKhoe, which will be good for me,
and as she's trying to teach me she'll be unknowingly improving her own
KhoeKhoe reading skills. That's the plan anyway, we'll see how it works out.

So, that's my week so far. Hope things are going well in your neck of
the woods. Much love.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Daylight Saving Time

Many countries in the northern hemisphere change (or have already changed) to daylight saving time (DST) today for their spring/summer/autumn months. However, very few countries in the southern hemisphere's summer months observe DST. In fact, Namibia is one of only three countries in Africa that observes it. But, since they are now in autumn, they are actually ending DST today and going back to standard time. So, while we "spring forward" one hour; they "fall back" one hour. That means our time difference is now 2 hours shorter than it has been. For us in Minnesota, we were 8 hours behind Namibia, now we are only 6 hours behind them until September 2 when Namibia returns to DST.

See these links for more information on the confusing world of DST and check the link on the right for the current Namibian time.

World map of daylight savings time

About Daylight Savings Time

Worldwide Daylight Savings Time

Interesting and confusing facts about DST, time and time zones

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Independence Day, the Plague, and a Beauty Contest (e-mail from Amy)

If you are reading this email it means that I got the Internet thing to work, but I still have to get a phone line put into my house, so it will still be a while before I write more than once a week or so. I keep putting off calling the telephone company, partially because I don't know how to tell them where I live. There are no house numbers or street names in Anker, in fact the whole idea of streets is sort of flexible, they are the sort of the flatter and barer spaces in the bush, but you can chose to drive wherever you feel like and the bakkies and donkey carts do. One of these days I'll work up the courage and call them and tell them, "I don't know where I live, but if you can find your way to Anker, just ask someone where the white girl lives, that's my house and I'd like to have a telephone."

In Windhoek

So here's what has happened to me since I last wrote. As many of you know, I went to Otjiwarongo and saw the doctor. He gave me some pills. I started getting a little better, but I still had a fever and some flu symptoms, so the Peace Corps decided to pull me out to Windhoek. Thinking about it now, and having read an information sheet they sent out, I think they are probably a little panicky since bird flu appeared in Africa, particularly in Niger, a Peace Corps country. Anyway, in typical fashion, my flu disappeared almost as soon as I got to Windhoek, but they kept me there for a few more days to run some tests (I am still malaria, parasite, and TB free, in case you were wondering) and to get a doctor to look at my tonsils (Peace Corps is nothing if not thorough.) The doctor said, unsurprisingly, that my tonsils were OK, but he prescribed some penicillin in case something happens again and I find it difficult to get out of Anker. While I was in Windhoek I met Jason and we saw Zathura, since it was half price movie night at the only movie theatre in Windhoek (there are two in the whole country), and had dinner out. It was a lot of fun. He is a great host which is good because sometimes I think it's harder for the people who live in hub cities and have volunteers visiting them all the time. They can't just spend a quiet weekend at home and they end up spending a lot more money, since they have things they can buy and country bumpkins like me who want to do things with them.

Back from Windhoek

March 21st was Namibia's 16th anniversary of independence, so we had a four day weekend. I spent it in Otjiwarongo and visiting (only slightly illicitly) with some friends in Okakarara (by the way, one of them told me that Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face and I didn't believe them. I actually accused them of lying, and not doing a very good job, because it seemed so absolutely ridiculous, until I got one of the Newsweek's that the Peace Corps sent us. Man, I can't leave you guys alone for a few months without everything going to pot, can I?). We went to a celebration in the location in Otjiwarongo where we were the only white people except for some Norwegian volunteers who showed up later on. We were escorted to the front to sit (possibly they thought we were some important group from the press, but it might just be white privilege rearing its ugly head again.) The celebration itself wasn't that great but it was fun to spend time with friends and see how other people celebrate independence. We unfortunately missed the dancing because we were going to have a braai and so we just got to hear someone read a really boring speech written by the President (imagine sitting through someone reading a printed copy of a really long, kind of pointless State of the Union speech and then imagine that it is being translated into three different languages, making it at least 3 times as long. Not even the Namibians were listening.) I did get some of the food, though. We bought some fat cakes (fried bread) and some corn on the cob that was boiled in the husk and tasted like something in between sweet corn and field corn. It wasn't bad. We wanted to get ice blocks (frozen baggies of Kool-Aid) because it was really hot, but they were all sold out. Anyway, after that I hiked back, but I didn't start out early enough and ended up getting stuck in Kamanjab on Tuesday. On Wednesday I sat outside the service station from 8AM until I finally got a hike at 4PM from the pastor at the Lutheran church in Anker. I think I confused some of the passing tourists who stopped in Kamanjab to fill their Land Rovers with diesel, since I was sitting in a corner next to a woman in the full Herero getup (think enormous Victorian dress in crazy African print, with a headscarf elaborately wound to look like cow horns) surrounded by bags of groceries. I definitely looked a little out of place. I even heard some British tourists asking the gas station attendant where I was heading and why I was hiking (Afrikaners don't hike.) She explained that I was a volunteer and I came into town every two or three weeks for supplies. If I didn't live so far out in the bush I think one of them might have given me a ride, which would have been a lot of fun. Actually I was as fascinated with the tourists as they were with me. I impressed all of the Damaras at the station by sneezing and joking that someone must be thinking of me (that's what the Damara say it means when you sneeze.) and by telling them in KhoeKhoe that it was going to rain.

Back to school

In all, I missed almost a week and a half of school and since I have an overactive conscience I feel very guilty about it. When I got back everyone was excited. They told me that they were worried about me and they prayed very hard for me. I cried a little because it felt so good to be home and I didn't realize how much I missed everyone. The end of the term test is coming up and I'm worried about how many classes my kids missed while I was gone. I wish I hadn't gone to Windhoek and I feel really guilty about it, but I try to comfort myself by reminding myself that that's hindsight talking since I would have felt bad if I ended up having Tuberculosis or Malaria and hadn't gone.


While I was away, but when I was feeling better, I tried to do some of the work I couldn't do in Anker. I bought some supplies to fix the library books. One of the other volunteers told me how he buys sweets in bulk and has his library prefects sell them for 20 cents and uses the profits to buy supplies for the library, which I thought was brilliant so I copied him (as one of my writing profs said.. good writers don't borrow, they steal. I think it applies to volunteers too.) I looked up info on how to get a grant from computer companies, so I hope to work with one of the other teachers on that project. So I actually did get some things done while I was gone.

Teaching stories

So, a few random funny stories from teaching: On Monday I was in the middle of teaching science when I noticed that none of my learners were looking at me. They were all staring out of the door. "What's out there that's so interesting?" I asked. "It's a /hun." one of my learners said. Sure enough, there was a white man with a Ministry of Education car. "Stop staring at that white person and start staring at this white person," I told them pointing at myself and they all thought that was pretty funny. On Tuesday I was showing one of the fifth graders a map of the world. We found Namibia and I showed her where America was and then she pointed to the area around the map. "Miss, this is where the heavens is?" she asked. So I had to try to explain that even though the map was flat. The world was actually round. One of my sixth graders asked me on Wednesday if you would ever walk so far that you would fall off the world. It makes a lot of sense. There is no globe in Anker and believe me, after making a fool of myself trying to explain why the sun came up in the East when it went down in the west, it is not intuitive to believe in a round Earth, plus they're still just 5th and 6th graders. I have given up on not looking a little silly. When they asked me about the sun coming up I had one of them stand still and pretend to be the sun. Then I turned around in a circle while slowly going around him. I think I might have only succeeded in really confusing him. I'm almost positive that they didn't understand my explanation of the moon phases. Oh, well. I think the learners are starting to understand that I don't like them fighting. These children hit and kick each other a lot and no one seems to think that's a big problem. I don't know if you can attribute it to the remnants of apartheid or corporal punishment or just to cultural difference. The thing is that kids don't always learn the lessons you want them to learn. You might hit a kid to teach him or her not to lie, but he or she has only learned that it's all right to hit. So, two boys were fighting and when one saw me he stopped in mid-punch and instead hugged the other boy. It made me laugh because it was so earnest, like he thought I really wouldn't know that they had been fighting, they had just been sharing a burly guy-hug.

Teaching science

I teach Natural Science and Health to Grade 7 learners. I have been teaching about ecosystems, nothing strange about that, I remember studying that at about the same age. Then we moved on to the "Health problems in Namibia's Ecosystems" and I found myself teaching the children how to avoid getting malaria, measles, and mumps and what to do to avoid dying of dehydration. These are NOT topics I learned about in seventh grade and even stranger, the kids were pretty knowledgeable. They had malaria prevention down pat and they knew how to make rehydration solution for a child sick with diarrhoea (something I first learned about my senior year at Wheaton in "Public Health and Nutrition in Developing Countries"). My "this is one of the most bizarre experiences of my life" moment came when I was teaching the kids how to prevent the plague (which apparently shows up in the north when there is drought.) The thing is that these are really important lessons. Kids who don't pass their exams and become goat farmers probably won't need to know how to make a food web, but it's important for them to know what malaria or measles looks like. Sometimes I feel like the kids know a lot more in science class than I do. They certainly taught me some things when we were talking about ecosystems- they know the plants and animals in detail, they just don't know their English names. I took them outside and had them list all of the plants and animals they saw and I let them use Damara if they didn't know the English name. Then I compiled the lists on the board. When they started naming things in Damara I did my best at spelling them and I literally got a round of applause (not something you expect in a seventh grade science class) for my mostly successful attempts. Ahh, KhoeKhoe, such a wonderful parlor trick.


It has been an especially active rainy season this year. Rain is a double edged sword here. On the one hand, rain means grass which means that the goats and cows have stopped looking so skeletal and there is plenty of milk to mix with porridge. That means that some of my kids start looking a little better fed, with less signs of minor malnutrition, definitely a positive. On the other hand, rain also means mosquitoes, which means that malaria, not particularly common in Namibia due to the fact that it's sandwiched between two deserts, sees a sudden upswing. One of the other volunteers said that there has been an outbreak in his village and my village is close enough to the north to be in danger. So far we've been lucky; most of the mosquitoes are closer to Kamanjab than Anker. Still, I saw a three year old spotted with mosquito bites and I worry. I was covered in mosquito bites too at her age, but malaria doesn't haunt the woods of Minnesota.

The beauty contest

I was asked to judge a beauty contest last weekend. It was a fundraiser for the school. The first round was Friday night and the second round was on Saturday night. By my estimations in the two nights, I think we made about US$75 for the school which will probably go towards the new used copier that they are trying to get. It was really odd. They've seen things like the Miss America pageant on TV (Just in case are wondering, the American television shows that show up on international TV stations seem to be all of the ones that would make you wince—Miss America, Jerry Springer, E! shows portraying people with way too much money and not enough common sense, and other shows that generally reinforce the idea that all Americans are ridiculously rich, loud, pugnacious, and vain) In the beauty contest there was some sketchy "swimwear" (like underwear and a bra) and I just kept thinking how this would NEVER fly in an American school. On Friday the culminating event of the night was when two out-of-school youth got into a drunken fight outside and broke at least two of the windows in the dining hall where we were having the contest. The little children terrified me by crowding closer to see the fight better. I stood up and started yelling at them all to sit down, which later amused some of the kids "You were scared, Miss Amy, weren't you?" They asked me "Yes, I was scared that the little children would get glass on them." I said with frustration and the kids laughed, as if this were really, really funny. On Saturday it was a little calmer (for one thing, we only had about half the attendance since many of the kids couldn't scrounge together another dollar (US 15 cents) for admission.) The only real disturbance was a very drunk man, inside the hall this time, deciding to try walking the aisle as a beauty contestant. Some angry words were exchanged in KhoeKhoe when he got up onto the tables that were serving as a catwalk, I don't really know what happened, but he got down after a while and I tried to avoid him. There was a very nice intermission when they turned on some KhoeKhoe pop music and an impromptu dance broke out. Oh, and some of the beauty contestants impressed me by dancing Kwashi Kwashi (a dance that involves squatting close to the ground and, without moving your feet, moving your knees together and apart) in high heels, which I didn't even know was possible (actually it is my firm belief that to really dance Kwashi Kwashi you have to not have bones in your lower extremities.) So that was the exciting beauty contest.

My "ordinary " life

I wrote a paragraph for this email about how my life is really pretty ordinary. Nothing really epic happens. I get up, eat breakfast, go to work. I still have too much to do. I still don't like to wash my dishes. It's all just real life. Then, I started thinking about it and I think I might just be getting to the point where it isn't novel anymore. "Oh," I think, "That donkey cart is driving too fast." Or "How am I going to earn the N$20 (US$3.25) for tape to fix the library books?" Or "I wish they wouldn't singe the hair off the goat head right outside my classroom window." I think that I've gotten used to all of the new and interesting things (kids singing in the next classroom, goats and donkeys carts, KhoeKhoe church choir practice next door) and all that's left are the annoying things and the frustration. Then I started thinking about that and I thought, "Oh no, that's an almost perfect definition of culture shock." So I think I am in the midst of a strong bout of culture shock (which is really a misnomer since it's not that shocking, sneaking up as it does, slowly in stocking feet. I think they should call it culture lethargy or culture depression with anti-social impulses but I guess those don't have the same ring to them.) Anyway, recognizing it is nice, but it doesn't do that much to combat it.

E-mails and packages

I have been reading all of the emails I have saved on my computer, which helps some, and I got a really wonderful package from one of my Wheaton profs (Thank you Professor Wright!) filled with familiar books, some CDs, and copies of the New Yorker and other magazines. It was supposed to get here much sooner, but I'm actually glad it didn't since it came at almost the perfect time, right when I really needed something familiar from home. It made me cry a little when I got it (which kind of freaked my 7th graders out since it was just after class and I think they are all a little worried after my week and a half absence that I'm going to leave them and go back to America.) I also got some CDs from my family with music, including my cousins singing like angels, and downloaded books, which were wonderful. I'm just trying to survive through the end of the term tests (this coming week.) Then we have reconnect- a two week meeting with all of the other volunteers for "training" (I don't think we'll be too cooperative if they are long bureaucratic sessions) but mainly so we can all get together for a bit and detox. From what I've heard no one has dropped out since we took our oaths (only 2 of the 50 dropped out before that) that puts us well ahead of the average drop out rates in Namibia of 20% by reconnect (they say it's because of the isolation- Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world, the first being Mongolia), so I'm excited to see everyone.


Just in case you are all keeping track of my reading habits, and I know you all follow them with baited breath, I managed to find a copy of Volume 2 of The Covenant in the Peace Corps Library, so I've been reading that. I also read Master Harold and the Boys, The Crucible, and I'm in the middle of a book called The Christian Imagination and A Raisin in the Sun all of which were sent in that package. Plus I've been devouring the copies of the New Yorker at a pretty breathtaking speed and reading plenty of poetry. I especially like reading the film and book reviews which is pretty funny since I can't actually see any of them. In the absence of the ability to watch movies, reading their plots is a good substitute. When I go to reconnect I'm going to pack about half of my suitcase with books and magazines to pass along and to trade for other books I'm hoping that we'll set up a little lending library and switch all the books around. I've been joking that when I said I thought the Peace Corps would be an educational experience I didn't expect that it would be because I read more than I did in college.

Tree trimming

The other day I decided that I should cut back the large tree that was threatening to subsume my back door. So I took out my handy Swiss army knife (other than my laptop, one of the best things I brought) and opened the woodsaw (hah- to all of you who laughed at the woodsaw attachment, by the way, I also use the can opener all of the time) and I started hacking away at the vines which then started bleeding thick puddles of sticky, poisonous milk onto my back porch. Unfortunately I got splattered with some of the milk and it was stronger than I had been lead to believe. I ended up with sticky gum stuck to my arm hair and in three places where I didn't manage to get it off completely I ended up with small blisters. Fun fun fun.

Going to school routines

This is how my walk to school goes, one of the better parts of my day, at least when I'm not wishing I were back in bed. I leave my house at 6:20, before the sun is up. I don't usually go by the time. I usually look outside and guesstimate when I should leave by how much light is on the horizon. I've gotten pretty good at it. I should leave the house when most of the sky is black and full of stars, but the East is blue with a little tinge of yellow green. I walk out my front door, lock it and go out of the gate. 30 meters away, the acacia tree with the low branch that the kids sit on is black against the light. Just above it is Venus and sometimes there is a sliver of the crescent moon. I go through the gate to the hostel, past the children lined up in front of the huge cauldrons on the cookfire, waiting for a little breakfast-- tea or coffee and bread with jam. I walk in between the girls hostel where girls are bouncing on the beds or talking excitedly and the dining hall (empty and dark) and I exit the hostel gate on the other side. Now I can see the school, hopefully with a few lights on in the classrooms, since that means that someone has unlocked the gate, but not too many lights, since that means I'm late. I walk past a few first and second graders, already lining up at the school gate, and go into the school ground. I unlock the library and, if I have the time, I take a minute or two to read something in a magazine or just sit and wake up. Then I go to the teacher meeting, greet everyone, and my day starts in full swing.

I'm confusing

There is a little boy in my village. He couldn't be over two years old and I terrify him. If I come around a corner, even if I'm very far away, he screams bloody murder, cries and tries to run away. His brothers and sisters take particular delight in tormenting him by picking him up and walking towards me, which I think is a bit cruel. They told me that he's afraid because he thinks I'm a ghost. Between the people who think I'm an angel, the people who think I'm a ghost, the people who think I'm a Boer, and the people who think I'm a tourist, I think I manage to confuse just about everyone who comes across me.

Long meetings

This Friday we had a parent-teacher meeting that was almost torture. First of all, it was supposed to start at 10, but it actually started at 11:30 and it went for 3 hours, all in KhoeKhoe, including a section where every cent that was spent out of the school development fund (school fees) for the last year was ennumerated. By the time it ended at 2:30 I was ravenous with hunger and really sick of being at work (I told the kids I was napping and then went into my room and read the New Yorker. I actually do that a lot because I need way more alone time than the people here think is appropriate and I'd really rather they think I'm a little narcoleptic than angry or unhappy, also when I try to explain that I need time alone I'm met with blank stares). I did learn some things I never knew about the school, though. 206 of the 295 students live in the hostels and, apparently, due to an accute mattress shortage, at least two learners have to share each bed, sometimes three, which I suppose accounts for the current epidemic of head lice (at least that's what I assume is happening since girls show up to class shaved bald with wicked looking yellow stuff on their head.) One of the oumas (grandmas) was very upset and I asked Anjelica Christiaan about it and she said, "How do I say it? Her child share a bed with a boy who is watering the bed." She apparently was quite upset and wanted her child to have a different bed-mate, but mainly everyone just laughed. Also, there was a long, angry discussion about what should be done about the out of school youth who broke the windows in the beauty contest. The consensus seems to be that they should be arrested (easier said than done, since the nearest police station is in Kamanjab 50 K away) and people seemed to be quite concerned that the littler hostel children were having trouble sleeping because of it. I also found out that if you couldn't pay the school fees you are supposed to try to bring in, "any goat or sheep" to pay them. Then they had the longest school board nominations ever. Every nominee had to be nominated and have two people second the nomination, then he or she had to accept and give a short speech. Then, the names of the nominee, nominator, seconders, and the children of all of them had to be recorded and everyone had to sign their name (or, if they couldn't write, there was an ink pad for them to put their fingerprint.) This process was repeated for all 10 nominees.

Mail from home

But, on the bright side, when I got home I had loads and loads of mail. There was a package from my parents that was supposed to get here for Valentine's day (ah, the Namibian Postal Service- Motto- It'll get there when it gets there and you should be thankful that it got there at all.) There were letters from my friends in Okakarara and my friend Tiffany and there were videos of my friends and professors my parents took when they went to Wheaton. The videos made me cry a lot, but in a good way. I needed to cry. It's weird the things I miss. Sometimes I really miss how much easier and more comfortable life is in America; sitting on cushy chairs at Starbucks reading and drinking coffee, going to the grocery store and not having to worry about how to get things home or what I will or won't be able to get in Anker or Kamanjab or when I'll be able to get back, watching TV on the couch or surfing the Internet. Other times I just miss familiar places and people, seeing Arena Theatre in the movies made me a little homesick, tea at the Rupprechts, and of course all of the people (Baby George is so beautiful and big, Jewell.), sometimes I just find myself thinking about Wheaton College or my home in Minnesota. Then sometimes I just miss my own culture; walking down a street and being anonymous, talking at a regular pace and not having to consider whether "choose" is too big of a word and whether maybe they'd understand better if I said "pick", and I miss the sense that my house is a private space and my free time is private time. Anyway, that's part of the culture shock I suppose. I'm hoping it will get easier as I get used to things. I love you all a lot and I was so happy to see everyone. I'm going to send emails to all of the people who sent me greetings on the video, so check your inboxes.

So that's the way things are going here. I just didn't have the energy to organize this week's email into a coherent whole or even to provide reasonable transitions, but I know that you will probably enjoy the snippets anyway. I'm doing OK. Hope you all are too. I'll try to write again soon. Much love. Take care of yourselves and each other. !Gaise ha re (Stay well)