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 rat, marking, witchcraft and my holiday plans (8/18)
Lemon meringue, marking and a visit about special ed (8/12)
Kamanjab workshop (8/9)
How to help my school with school supplies (8/9)
The jackal and the little lamb, a cold and good news about the copier (8/4)
Some photos of kids at the hostel (8/4)
Some photos from Anker and the kids (8/4)
The weekend (8/1)
Pass some assertive, please (8/16)
Work update (8/16)
Whereabouts and whatabouts and what what what (8/23)
Soundtrack of my life (8/23)
Latin, American and a little bit African =Me. (8/23)
Cool Hand Luke (8/18)
July rantings (8/11)
Examination Blues (8/11)
Cait in Wisconsin (8/20)
Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy (8/8)
So, I got up today (8/16)
Peanut M & M's (8/15)
Donations please: letter from a youth in Opuwo (8/11)
Mom and baby (8/11)
Driving fun! (8/10)
English Speakin' Himbas (8/9)
Well it looks like my typing hands are back (8/9)
Safari Adventures #1/Spirit of the Namib (8/8)
Boys I swear (8/8)
Ding Dong the Witch is gone (8/8)
More updates (8/30)
Vaca in Windhoek (8/28)
Southern Tour (8/21)
Ethiopian Dinner (8/7)
Going Presidential (or former Prime Ministorial) (8/4)
Photo Studio (8/3)
Driving in Namibia (8/3)
The Invigilator: part 2 (8/2)
A perfect excuse (8/26)
New Faces Old Problems (8/20)
Term two break (8/18)
Let the term two exams begin (8/13)
Some Pictures (8/7)
Catholic Church Inspection, German volunteer & Luderitz wedding (8/7)
Photos posted (8/17)
MYO receives instruments! (8/17)
Hanging in Opuwo (8/21)
Comment resp. (8/20)
Break Time Again! (8/22)
For the kids (8/17)
ombwa wandje (8/17)
excerpts from grade 6 (8/17)
Link to previous list of recent blogs (6/18 - 7/31)
Recent news from Namibia:
Pressure again put on Germany for Herero compensation (8/29) - New Era
Namibia to make Bike Ambulances (8/29) - New Era
Cops sieze DVD's worth millions (8/29) - New Era
Nujoma Pooh-Pooh's UN claims (8/28) - The Namibian
In Namibia, HIV/AIDs inpacts the Democratic process (8/26) - VOA News
Nujoma under fire for alleged death threats (8/26) - IOL
War veterans up in arms against Pohamba's government (8/26) - Namibian Economist
Keetmanshoop faces a hot, dry summer (8/23) -The Namibian
Rural Education Shaping up (8/23) - New Era
Fuel Hike may hit Tourism (8/23) - The Namibian
Huge turnout for Polio 3 (8/23) - New Era
HIV therapy on target (8/21) - New Era
Polio vaccination last round (8/21) - New Era
Veld fires devastate Kamanjab farms (8/17) - The Namibian
Mercury plummets, cold bites (8/16) -The Namibian
Ambitious plan to fight AIDs (8/17) -The Namibian
IT for the masses (computers in all educational institutions) (8/15) - New Era
Trying to save Opuwo (8/15) - New Era
Furnishing a school in Aranos (8/15) - New Era
We want out land back: Hereros (8/15) -The Namibian
UK flight warning lifted (8/15) - The Namibian
UK terror hits Namibian Air Travel (8/11) - The Namibian
Aminuis residents raise complaints (8/9) - New Era
Mariental fights for survival (8/3) - The Namibian
Cold front brings snow and rain (8/2) - The Namibian
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Recent blog posts from some of Amy's teammates (58 Peace Corps Volunteers known as NAM 25) all across the country of Namibia:
Friday, August 18, 2006
So I realized the other day that I have some sort of rat or mouse or squirrel that lives in my bedroom ceiling. I had heard noises but I never really associated them with footsteps, thinking that maybe they were the corrugated tin roof (which does make noises when the temperature changes.) Then I was sitting late one night and listening and I realized that the noise was pacing from one side of the roof to the other and it sounded a lot like tiny feet. I'm OK with it as long as it stays in the ceiling just like I'm OK with some spiders as long as they stay in their appointed corners and don't cut my hair at night because I find that very deeply disturbing (there are spiders here that apparently will cut your hair while you sleep to make nests and it freaks me out.) I just don't want any mice or rats anywhere where I can see them. See no evil and all of that.
I had a couple of long nights trying to finish up my marking (two papers for 81 6th and 7th grade English students, and one paper for my 37 7th grade science students---200 tests to mark, plus I had to brush up a few loose ends and finish the "reading out loud" competency (I didn't want to have them do it in front of the class where there's lots of pressure so it took a long time outside of class.) Here are a few funny answers from tests These are some examples from the Grade 7 English exams. I choose these from the better essays (the worse essays are often completely unreadable.) You can see why I would be tired after marking 81 papers with two essays each.
In a story about meeting the President---"I talk about the offies Why did I not working at offise but other Herero people working and Prisidend say don't talking about Herero."
In an essay about protecting the environment----"We must protect animal for the tourist sometime there in America there is no brown elephant and the tourist need to come to Namibia to look and give as money."
In a story about two girls in a drumming and dancing group----"They goes to America and sing and look the America of people…They like sing, dencing, drink alcohol, smoking daga" (dagga is marijuana and we talked about it in Natural Science and Health class this term)
In a letter to the principal of a secondary school----"Its there hospital and hostels at your school? Its there many bed for use to sleep and matecine at the hospitals?"
Question: A baby cat is called…? A baby dog is called…? Answers:catsy doggit, cattons dogest, ceuties small dogie.
I finished my marking on Thursday morning. This term was a lot less stressful than last semester. It was still tough to fail kids, but it was a lot easier this term than last term. My 6A's did very well this term. None of them failed. My 6B's on the other hand did terribly. Seven (out of 23) failed, although one of them did get an "A" as well (which is really uncommon here… I think I gave maybe four or five out of 118 possible marks.) The worst part of the week was when I gave a grade report to the grandmother of one of my learners who had done very badly (failing all except one class) and she started crying. She doesn't understand English so I couldn't even comfort her.
This term I had the kinds of marks I needed and the grading criteria in mind for the whole semester and aimed my assignments and class projects with that in mind. Also, I took some of the marks in as I did the marking (which made it a lot easier) although I really should have taken more marks as I did them. Finally, I knew what was going on, so it didn't all take me by surprise like it did last year. Still I am REALLY glad to be done. I badly needed this holiday (I think I was starting to go a little nutty being isolated in Anker that whole time and the kids were worse this term than last term (yes the honeymoon is truly over) and I really don't
want to end up making doughnuts.)
I am really excited to be going somewhere else and I'm actually really excited about my medicals in Windhoek (although I'm a little nervous about the dentist) because I want to do some things that I can't do in Otjiwarongo (like get my camera fixed.) I am bringing about 25 burned CDs to one of the volunteers in the south. His ipod went on the fritz and erased all of his music. Before that happened he had been kind enough to share some of his music with me, so I figure it's the least I can do to give it back to him.
OK, I've decided that I really have to dedicate part of an email to a subject that is probably one of the more complicated cultural elements for Americans to understand (and, saying that, I am not claiming to understand it completely) Yes, the topic you've all been waiting for…Witchcraft. Also known as Magic or Juju (from which I think we get the English word Voodoo.) I have been avoiding this subject partially because I don't really know that much about it (there are taboos against talking about it and Namibians know that white people tend to be skeptical, so they talk about it even less around us.)
But that isn't the only reason I've been avoiding it. I know this whole subject sounds really odd to American ears and I don't want to give the impression that these people are stupid or even superstitious in the sense that an American who believed in witchcraft in that way might be. Even those people who aren't afraid of witches in my village still believe in them. One woman told me she wasn't afraid of witches because God would protect her from them, not because they aren't around.
Anyway, there are a lot of stories about witches. They say they can turn into animals or part animals (I've heard of them turning into cows and into people with the head and upper body of a dog), they walk around naked at night and assume the poo-pori position (on their hands and knees with their back end pointed toward windows), they walk on people's roofs at night, they send cats to bewitch people, and they turn invisible and choke or sit on people as they sleep. There are a couple of ways that you can make people suspect you of being a witch, although they still might suspect it even if you don't do these things. First of all, if you keep a cat, that's very suspicious. People have dogs to guard their houses and to help herd their goats, but they don't really keep cats as pets. Also, if you are friendly with anything creepy crawly or reptilian (i.e., you don't believe that all snakes, insects, and reptiles deserve death for simply existing) that's another strike against you (I heard of a guy up north who had a picture of himself holding a chameleon and is now believed to be a witch in his village.) They also seem to suspect Himbas and San more than other tribes, but that's just my personal observation.
Also, almost separate from witches, someone can become "witched" or "bewitched." This can mean anything from having a mental illness or epilepsy to having an unexplained pain or disease, to having some psychosomatic symptoms. You can be witched by someone who is angry with you or who is jealous of you, you can be witched by a cat, or it might just happen. They don't let me walk alone at night because they are afraid that someone will witch me. Also, the learners are astonished that I live alone and that I'm not scared of being witched. I've talked to other volunteers (those whose sites are here in Kunene or in the north central area or the Cavongo, since most of the volunteers in the south and the bigger cities say that their learners don't believe in witchcraft) and we're not exactly sure what the other person is supposed
to do to protect you, but you know.
If you get witched you have to go to the witch doctor to get cured. Here's the thing. One day the teachers were talking about witchcraft and I laughed at something they said. One of the teachers said, "Yeah, we know that you people don't believe in witchcraft, but you haven't been here. You don't know about it." And that is really, honestly true. Sure, some of the people who I've seen who are witched are clearly mentally ill, and sure some of the witch doctors are really bad and claim to be able to cure Aids, but that doesn't mean that it's all like that. Plus, the people really believe that there are some "traditional diseases" that white people can't fix, so they have to go the witch doctor (or traditional healer) for them. And, some of it could actually work. I mean, a lot of it is traditional herbs and teas, and who knows if those things are actually medicinal plants. Also, with mental illness and psychosomatic illness I'm sure that believing that these things work actually helps them to work.
As I have said before, the country is still deeply Christian, but they also believe in Magic. I don't know. I don't want to be insensitive, and I'm trying to reserve judgment. Maybe some of these things really are different here than in the States. Maybe I really can't understand this part of the culture because of the deeply set prejudices against it in my own culture. It's a complicated issue and I'm not even sure I understand what the people believe entirely. Even if they want to tell me plainly about it (which they usually don't, preferring to hint darkly about cats or the weather or about certain people) the language issues make it really hard to explain a concept as complicated as this. I don't really find it funny anymore, I'm mostly just confused by it.
Oh, on Wednesday I got a call from someone who wanted to give me materials for those book boxes. I had emailed The Namibian (one of the national newspapers) and asked for info, thinking that they might send me some of the comic books that they sometimes put into the paper. Instead, they apparently printed my letter. Luckily I hadn't written anything that I wouldn't want the public to know (although I don't think I would have given quite so much information), but still I was a little taken aback and nervous. (When the Peace Corps first started a girl in West Africa wrote a postcard to her boyfriend referring to how "squalid" it was and the postcard ended up in the hands of a radical nationalist group and almost set off a dangerous international incident. Since then the Peace Corps has been really really careful about volunteers' relationships with the media and other printed reports, so I'm a little worried that I might get in trouble for not OKing it with the CD.)
Other than that it's good. We've been having some electricity blackouts this week, but nothing serious, the food in my fridge is still good (at least the stuff that was good before.) I still have very tentative plans for break but I think I'll head out to Otjiwarongo soon and at some point I'm going to meet Dylan and Sandra and we're going to spend some time in Swakopmund and make a turn through Karabib to visit our host families. After that I go to Windhoek and then, all too soon, my break is over. OK, I'll cut this letter off now (seeing as I've gone on for a long time.)
Hope you all are doing OK. Take care.
PO Box 90
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Not much to say about this week. It’s exam time here so I have been invigilating. We talked about the vocab word “whine” this week because I was sick of my 6B class (they actually whined about the English exam because it was in English.) I’ve been doing a lot of marking and staying up late some nights, but this term was about 10 times easier than last term because I knew how to do it and I had actually prepared through the whole term to do the marking.
Lemon Meringue Pie
So I made lemon meringue pie on Friday. I had bought lemons and tartaric acid (cream of tartar) last week specially to do it. I used custard powder (which is like unsweetened instant pudding mix…i.e. corn starch with some colouring and flavouring) instead of corn starch and I beat the meringue by hand. It turned out a little thin (I think the custard powder might have fine corn flour instead of corn starch so I really should have used double the amount) and, seeing as how I was using a wire whisk, a lot of elbow grease, and about an hour of my time, I didn’t manage to get the meringue part all the way to a real meringuealthough I got close) but it still tasted really good. Mmm, tastes like home.
Special Ed visit
On Friday I got a visit from Diane Mills, a VSO volunteer in Khorixas who works on special ed. stuff, and another VSO volunteer who works up in the Caprivi in Katima Mulilo, and a woman from the UK who was spending about a month working on hearing issues up in Katima. There is
a little girl in the village named Berlin who is pretty profoundly deaf. We’re trying to get her into the school in the first grade classroom. She is a very bright little girl and her parents are really great, I often see her mom, who works at the hostel. They have been teaching her to write and she is obviously well loved and taken care of by her whole extended family and community. It was nice to get to show off my school to other people. They were very impressed with the obvious care that the
teachers here take. One of them said that it’s one of the best schools they’ve seen in Namibia. We decided that I would help and Berlin could come next term for part of the day to get used to school and to help the learners and teachers get used to her. Diane is going to come for a week to train people and she’s bringing a TV and a video of Namibian sign language. I really hope it goes OK. I think that the teachers can handle it and that Berlin is very smart and able to do the work. Plus, I was telling them, people here take care of each other. There is a real sense that one person’s problem is the community’s problem. Everyone (the teacher, the family, the school) is a little nervous, but I really do think that they want to try to make it work. The only other option is to try to send the girl to a special school in Windhoek and that would be really tough. Anker is so rural and the whole culture is so communal and Windhoek is (comparatively) such a very big urban place. I can entirely understand them not wanting to send their first grade daughter, who they obviously love deeply and feel very protective of, alone to some strange school in Windhoek.
Another Project idea
I have a new idea for a project (although it's not like I don't have enough projects in the air right now.) Anker's school library is the only library for about 50 kilometers in any direction. Most of the rural population just doesn'y have any access to printed material. Besides that, the literacy rates are the lowest in the country (the rates for the whole of Kunene are a bit above 50%, and that includes the people in cities and the white people, I would guess that, at most, about a third of the parents of my kids can read and write with reasonable understanding in any language, although many of them have memorized how to print their names.) Anyway, my idea is to make up library boxes with maybe 10 picture books (with translations into KhoeKhoe and Afrikaans)
and a couple of novels (for the youth who can sometimes read reasonably well in English), and a bunch of non-fiction packets on topics like HIV/Aids, Pregnancy, Health, Agriculture, Sewing, Money Management, Basic maths and science, and other topics that would be interesting to a rural population (with translations into KhoeKhoe and Afrikaans). Most of the farms are actually groups of 3-5 houses with grazing land all around, so I figure we can send the boxes with a responsible elder at the farm who will be responsible for the books and we can rotate the boxes every term or so. If that works out I would really like to get some money for cassette tapes, rechargeable batteries, and some tape players so that we can record the information for those who can't read. I think we could do it with PEPFAR money since HIV/Aids and Health information will most certainly be included and since it would be reaching out to those who have very little access to other information. Anyway, it's an idea, I don't know if it will work or not.
Term break plans
Other than that, there’s not much to report. I still haven’t finalized where I’m going for term break, but I’m definitely going to Windhoek for the second half of it and I think that some people are coming to Anker after that (although I don’t have any confirmation as of today.) I’m hoping I can tag along with someone else who has plans. OK, that’s it for now. I love you all lots. Take care.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
To further continue our theme of---How YOU can help Edward //Garoëb Primary School
This week’s theme: School Supplies
Well, it’s soon going to be autumn in the States (if it isn’t already.) That means apples, fall leaves, and school sales. With school sales starting, this is the perfect time to cheaply buy a few extra school supplies. “And where should we send these extra school supplies?” I hear you asking. Well I’m glad you asked, to ME of course, (well, more properly, to my school and to the teachers.) In Namibia school doesn’t start until January, so if the supplies get sent in mid to late September that leaves a good 2 months for shipping (and anytime we receive them they will be appreciated. They needn’t be there for the first day of school. Heck, most of the learners aren’t even there for the first day of school.) This year (and we expect that the numbers will be similar next year) there are
- 295 learners in total
- 175 lower primary learners (Grades 1-4)
- 120 upper primary learners (Grades 5-7.)
- 10 teachers including me (two for first grade, one each for grades 2-4, a 5-7 math teacher, a 5-7 social studies teacher, a 5-7 science teacher, a 5-7 KhoeKhoe teacher, and me)
- Photos of some of Amy's students.
- Photos of Amy's classroom
- About Amy's town, home and school
- More about the school
- Amy's Photo page
This is my wish list for supplies (not that we need all of these things, but even a few would be nice. This is my “if the world was a perfect place” list, not my realistic thoughts about what we can and can’t get. Don’t get overwhelmed. I don’t expect that even a percentage of this will show up.)
From Paul: If you plan to send or have already sent any of these items or other things not already on this list, let me know and I will post them here (in Red) as a sort of "Anker School Supply Registry". That way you will know what is still needed.
- 9 packages of stickers (The best kind are the packages of 3000 tiny circular motivational stickers because they are cheap, there are plenty of them so they don’t all get used up quickly, and they are relatively uniform but if you collect other kinds they would be appreciated too.)
- 50 protractors (for class use in maths class) (14)
- 50 solar calculators (batteries are too expensive in a place where school fees are US$10 a year.) (25)
- 50 compasses (24)
- 50 set squares
- 1 set of blackboard sized mathematical instruments (compass, protractor, set square, straight edge)
- 300 pens (150)
- 300 pencils (so each learner can have one of each) (360+)
- 300 rulers (43) (They are a little obsessed with straight lines and will wait until someone is done with a ruler rather than draw a line without one which, I can attest, can actually drive a teacher crazy.)
- 300 pencil sharpeners (at the moment they use these curved razor blades that make me worry that one day they’re going to stick someone.)
- 10 Wall mount Pencil sharpeners (1)
- Erasers (34 individual, 132 pencil erasers)
- 10-20 English Dictionaries (the best kind are children’s picture dictionaries or student dictionaries not the OED or some complete dictionary since the definitions are hard for the kids or even the adults to understand. There is no such thing as too many dictionaries, we can always always always use more.) (20 paperback .97 ones from Walmart)
- Maps of the world, the continents, and other maps
- Globes of the world (2 inflatable "beach ball" kind)
- Educational Posters (with the letters, numbers, multiplication, math concepts, library skills, pictures of authors (especially children’s authors and black authors), historical things, the solar system, weather, science stuff, body parts, colors, animals, shapes, posters that encourage reading, really anything educational or with English words on it.)
- 10 staplers with staples (1 plus 1 box of 500 staples)
- tape (2)
- plasti-tak (1 package)
- lots and lots of boxes of crayons (118 boxes of 24 count)
- boxes of markers (14 boxes of 10 count)
- boxes of colored pencils (14)
- dry paint (like watercolors, don’t even try to send me bottles of wet paint. Trust me, that’s asking for disaster.) (5 - 8-color boxes, package of 10 brushes)
- Colored paper (Construction Paper )
- Tapes or CDs of children’s music in English
- flash cards (especially Maths- the kids have a lot of trouble with multiplication facts mainly because they haven’t had it drilled into them with flash cards, but if you can find flash cards with English words on them they would also be appreciated.) (1 of Addition, 4 of Subtraction, 1 of Multiplication, 1 of Division, 1 of Alphabet, 1 of Sightwords)
- Anything else that has to do with education
- scissors (6 childrens 2 adult)
- glue stix (52)
- Foam Alphabet blocks (2 packages)
- box of thumbtacks and 100 pushpins
- box of rubber bands
- Foam shapes
- Paper clips, pencil cushions
- 2 boxes of lacing cards
- Phonics tiles, puzzles, stencils (zoo), wipe off phrase strips, wipeoff books and wipeoff markers
- Linking preschool shapes
- 8 wood puzzles in a slotted puzzle box
Notebooks are only kind of useful. Learners are provided with two notebooks for every subject by the government of Namibia so any notebooks would be mainly used by teachers or possibly by learners before the notebooks are delivered. Anyway, a few would probably get used, but we don’t need 300 notebooks and we need a lot of other supplies more. Also important-these things are NOT useful—Three hole punches or binders with three rings (everything here works with two rings that are closer together), things that only use the English system (as opposed to the Metric system) but that doesn’t apply to rulers since they mainly use them to make straight lines not to measure things, and things that are ONLY applicable to the United States (for example, a poster about the system of government in the US, but don’t let that hold you back too much if you have stuff, for example they still use maps of the United States in Social Studies. Also, kids get more excited about things that have to do with Africa, but they are also interested in different cultures and yes, the US is a different culture.)
You can choose how you want to get the stuff to me. You can either send it in the mail to me:
Edward //Garoëb Primary School
Private Bag 5006
Or you can get it to my mom and dad. They are going to visit me in December and they are planning on each packing one of their two suitcases with donated stuff for the school. If you choose to mail it to me be sure you choose a very sturdy box, you tape it thoroughly, and you pad anything even kind of breakable (like plastic protractors or calculators.) Also, be sure to mark that they are donated school supplies and not worth money on the customs form (I haven’t had to pay customs fees yet, but some other volunteers have.)
Thank you for all of your support for me. As for information about the copier- I will definitely be buying it when I go to Windhoek. I will send lots of pictures and thank you notes once I get it back to Anker.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Some photos of Anker and of the kids. I took them for the newsletter that I wrote to send the tourists who wanted to help with some projects. The first one is a guy with his donkey cart (there's a pile of dung on the left side. I think he was collecting it to plaster the outside of a house.) Three pictures of some of the houses in Anker. Then Ricardo getting his dinner and a little boy eating his dinner.
I understand that it’s been really hot there this summer. Conversely it’s been really cold here. Not a really busy week.
We played a good game about living positively and helping others called The Jackal and The Little Lamb in science class. I got it out of a book called _Building_Resilience_in
that they know that they don’t have to be afraid of HIV positive people and that they have the power to help others.
It has been really cold this week. I have been sick but I'm starting to get better. I almost stayed home on Thursday but I decided that the kids needed me in the last couple of days before exams so I went anyway. I bundled up in a long sleeved shirt, three sweaters, a scarf and a hat, I told them not to mess with me, and I went home to sleep after my science class. I slept under a blanket and my sleeping bag with wool socks, my polar fleece pajamas, and a hat. I’m not sure how cold it is but it’s at least freezing because there’s frost on the roofs and the tips of the sand dunes in the mornings. I really worry about the kids in the hostel. This week I found out that they only have 94 mattresses for 206 learners in the hostel (almost all of them sleep two to a bed and some of the littler ones sleep three to a bed) and the learners have to provide their own blankets (meaning that some of them don’t have much to cover them.)
There is some really good news about the copier project—it looks like we almost have enough to buy the copier. I’ll probably buy it when I get to Windhoek this term break. I am writing to Jason (the IT volunteer in Windhoek) about it. I want him to send me some info (if it isn’t too much trouble for him I’d really like to get a couple of choices so my headmaster and the people at my school feel like it’s their project and their choice and not the copier that the Peace Corps volunteer picked out and purchased.)
I made cornbread the other day. It’s nice because the only things it requires that I can’t get in Anker are eggs and milk powder and I try to keep a pretty good supply of those things on hand. Plus it’s a way (other than porridge) to use cornmeal which is by far the most common and cheapest food available (one kg costs N$5.5 and if I want to buy in bulk I can get it even cheaper.) I also tried to make cream of tomato soup with milk powder and tomato puree. It wasn’t very good (I think it was the milk powder) but I ate some of it anyway and then I made the rest into spaghetti sauce. I usually buy a couple of cans of cream of tomato soup but I haven’t gotten groceries for a while. I’ll have to get some soon. I was hoping to get some today, but there wasn't anyone going to Kamanjab. I suppose I should use up some more of the food that I have here since term break is coming.
Funny story, a week ago I was leaving the library on a Friday and I said to some of the kids "See you later alligator" and Elizabeth said to me, "Miss, we are not alligators." As if I had deeply offended her. It was pretty funny. I told her she was right, that they were a lot more like baboons than alligators
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Packing us in
So here’s how the weekend went. (see last email for info about where she went) On Saturday morning at 7 o’clock we jammed 14 children, all of their bedding, their school uniforms (or other learner’s school uniforms if they don’t have uniforms) two drums, some food (jam sandwiches and macaroni), and my and Mrs. Renathe’s bags into the back of a closed compact pickup truck. For those who think that we cannot possibly have fit 14 children in the back of a compact pickup truck all I have to say is we managed somehow (Namibia runs on the assumption that there is no such thing as not enough room for one more in travel… What’s that, we can’t fit any more in the taxi? Sure we can, we just have to stack ourselves like cord wood, no problem at all.)
At the lodge (which is a very nice place) we performed twice—once for three couples and a second time for two families and two couples. In all we made N$690 which really floored the kids and, quite honestly me and the other teachers too (it’s like the equivalent of yearly school fees for ten kids and there were only a total of 18 tourists (including small children). The last concert they did in Anker attracted maybe 80 people and raised a total of N$110.) It only costs about N$150 (US$23) for petrol to the lodge and since lodging was free and all of the food that we ate was provided we still made N$540 (US$85) profit.
We stayed in staff housing because most of the staff are from Anker and many of them are parents or otherwise related to the children. It was a little crowded (the rooms were meant as dorms for 2 workers and they were maybe about 10 feet by 10 feet with two beds, two wardrobes, two side tables and a table with food. We slept ten girls in the room where I slept (every inch of floorspace was filled by kids burrowed together like little baby rabbits (they’re so cute when they aren’t awake) and there were three on the beds including Hendretti from grade 5 who kept turning over in her sleep and slapping me in the face.)
Someone from the lodge gave each of the learners a little bag of peanuts and they fell asleep holding them and, in the morning, they shared them (they do that whenever they have food. It’s really cute.) Sharing is a very important part of the culture so any extra food (ie, anything other than the bread, porridge, and meat that they get at the hostel) is shared. Part of the problem with pen stealing is that learners lend pens to each other all the time so I have to figure out if the pen was stolen or just lent to someone who lent it to someone else. Generally I leave it up to the learner who owns the pen, but that’s probably my American culture showing through. The worker housing had no electricity, but they did have water heaters that had a space beneath them to light a fire. Still, it wasn’t the hot shower I was looking for. It just took the edge off the cold water.
The lodge is really good for the workers. They get N$300 a month plus free lodging and they get food packages with more food than they need (they send half of it back to their families along with some of their money. Each month each worker gets 10 kg of flour, sugar, and mealie meal, 2 kg of cooking oil, 4 tins of fish and 4 of mince meat, six candles, one kg of washing powder, two large boxes of matches, soap, and toilet paper.) Plus they get to keep things that the tourists leave for them and the work isn’t very hard. It’s much better than subsistence farming. The best part is that the tourists really enjoyed it and the lodge wants the group to come back again and the headmaster was thinking that this time we could do a Friday night show too and maybe even earn a little more money. It’s a really great way to earn money since it is a renewable source (the tourists are new every week so they don’t get tired of giving or of hearing the kids perform) and it allows the kids to share their culture and to see that it is valued (so hopefully they start to think that their traditions are important too.)
Bigger support base
Several of the tourists wanted more information on how they could collect donations in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom so I put together a newsletter with notes about Namibian culture, the village, the school, and a few projects I’d really like to start or finish up, plus lots of photos of the kids and the school. If even one of them follows through it might be a really great way to broaden my support base and allow me to do more projects for the school than I could do with you all alone supporting me. I’m not sure if Anker will get another volunteer so I’d really like to leave them with enough supplies that they just have to maintain everything, not try to repair or get anything else.
In other news I think I am really, honest to goodness sick now (I have been fighting a cold/flu thing for a good month) but I’m trying to pretend that I’m not. I am pretty sure that I have a bit of a fever (I used up all my thermometers the last time I was sick) and my throat is sore most of the time (honey lemon tea and !orarasen and rooibas tea just aren’t cutting it anymore.) There’s only one week left until exams so it’s a really bad time to be sick. I at least want to make it to the
start of exams next Monday before I call Peace Corps (who might panic and want to pull me out to Otjiwarongo or Windhoek because they think that Anker is in the middle of nowhere and, quite honestly, it kind of is) because someone else can invigilate my exams but if I’m not there,
no one will teach my classes or finish up the last bits of marking for the term.
I have decided not to go on the educational tour to Etosha with the seventh graders. I had a good time this weekend, but I realized that if I don’t get some time away from kids and with other volunteers this break I will be an angry person next term and that’s not good for anyone. One week is half the term break and I don’t think I can handle that much of my holiday with grade seven. I’ll pay the fee (to subsidize the trip some for the grade 7s and because they were planning on me being there.) because it’s only N$110 and, I know I’ve said this before, but there isn’t much to spend money on here so it tends to accumulate for me. Also, I’m hoping that lots of the kids can earn up enough money to go because they like animals a lot and because it’s a chance for them to get out of the village and see some of the wider world.
I got my traditional Damara dress back this week. It’s beautiful and all of the learners are really impressed that I’m wearing their traditional clothes. I paid the lady N$60 because they said that most people charge N$50 for just the work and, although I gave her the fabric, she provided the thread, buttons, and rickrack (plus I didn’t think N$50 was quite enough.) I'll send photos soon.
A million dollars
I gave my learners an assignment to write about what they would do if they had a million dollars. I thought it would be a great assignment, but it turned out to be a flop. Most of the kids just wrote a list of things that they would buy which isn’t great practice for English. On top of that, a million dollars was completely out of their ability to wrap their minds around. Most of them wrote how they would buy chocolate and lots of porridge and goats and when I mentioned that it would take thousands of kilos of chocolate to use up a million dollars they added things like biscuits. The most ambitious boy wrote about how he would buy a taxi.
Behind my door
Other than that, I’m doing OK, just trying to make it to the break. I’ve been doing a lot more work in my house on my computer (and locking my door and only letting learners in who have homework questions (usually maths)) because I can just sit on my bed and listen to U2, but I’m actually working on stuff for the school and not just hanging out. I’m revising grants or making up a brochure for the tourists or making plans for future projects I can work on.
Anyway, I'll have to call Peace Corps before I go to Windhoek for my physical because if I go there and they find out that I've been sick and I didn't call them I'll get in trouble. I'm OK. At most it's the flu just turning into Strep Throat so I should be OK for just a few more
days. OK, that's about it. Lots of love everyone.
These links are to information about the lodge Amy was just at. Once I figured out what the actual name of it was, I found a lot of information about it. It is actually called the Grootberg Lodge. Khoadi Hoas or ≠Khoadi //Hoas is the name of the conservancy where it is located at.
Web site of Grootberg lodge with photos
Another page about Grootberg lodge
Conservancies in Namibia
(this one includes an example you can click on to listen to someone speaking Khoekhoegowab)
PDF file with a crude map that has Anker on page 15 (requires Acrobat Reader to be opened)
The enterprising Khoadi Hoas
Money donated to Khoadi Hoas
Profile of the Khoadi Hoas conservancy