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.

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