Saturday, September 30, 2006

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

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

Happy Birthday Amy! (9/27) NEW
Field trip to Etosha (9/25) NEW
Photos from Etosha (9/25) NEW
Amy is in Etosha (9/21)
Photos of Anker (9/19)
Haircut, electrical outage and the Brothers K (9/16)
My holiday and the first week of teaching (9/9)
How to help my school with school supplies

we break (9/27) NEW
kuku (9/25) NEW
quotes (9/4)


Links relevant to my work here (9/27) NEW
New(final) contact information (9/27) NEW
Hello (9/10)

No more photos for a while (9/14)
Adventures to the North (9/13)

Blocked extra point in overtime (9/29) NEW
Ear trouble + education tour (9/15)
no more blisters (9/1)


Some stories from second term (9/5)



Update (9/23)
Thank you all (9/5)



Big Business (9/27) NEW
No Joke (9/26) NEW
It's OK:We're Peace Corps (9/25) NEW
Pizza! (9/24) NEW
Made to Order (9/22)
Vagina monologues (9/17)
Matrix farewell (9/16)
Tornado season! (9/14)
Matrix season (9/12)
Happy birthday, Jana (9/11)
Another Weekend (9/11)
World's largest Bri UPDATE (9/11)
World's largest Bri!!! (9/10)
Rain! (9/8)
Ice Cream! (9/7)
Dams, Cones and Goofin (9/4)
Super Bowl Sunday (9/3)

Fear of engulfment (9/2)


The changing of the seasons (10/1) NEW

August break (9/17)

Back home again :) (9/29) NEW
All good things... (9/27) NEW
Pics of Windhoek siege (9/21)
Computer watch, Day 8 (9/21)
Schoolnet pics (9/19)
Adventures in Schoolnet computing (9/19)
Ending the week on a high note (9/10)
Swakopmund and everything (9/8)
August and Everything (9/8)
August break highlights (9/7)
A "POWER"ful update (9/7)
Back from break-updated (9/5)


Photo page (9/12)

Update (9/26) NEW


culturally immersed in the back of a kombi (9/26) NEW
border hustlin" (9/16)

Link to previous list of recent blogs (8/1-31)

Recent news from Namibia:
Children's rights remain a challenge (9/29) - New Era
Workshops won't stop AIDs (9/27) - New Era
Namibia drops on economic index (9/27) - The Namibian
Tourism set for a boom time (9/27) - New Era
Population decline threatens Namibia (9/27) - New Era
Nama debate: more questions than answers (9/20) -New Era
Date set for power project close to Epupa Falls (9/20) - The Namibian
Gibeon back online but woes continue (9/20) The Namiban
Reparations motion makes history (9/20) - The Namiban
Rainy season "won't set records" (9/17) - The Namibian
Tourism is Namibias new gold (9/15) - Engineering news
Polio inoculations a success (9/14) - New Era
Dams holding up well (9/14) - The Namibian
Multi-millionaire dreams of turning Namibia into a game park (9/14) - The Namibian
Ministry issues alert on killer TB (9/13) - New Era
Big Braii without booze (9/12) - The Namibian
Clouds promise rain but fail to deliver (9/12) - The Namibian
Stigma clouds AIDs battle (9/12) - New Era
Opinion -Policies, Promises and Poverty (9/11) - The Namibian
Black September - a glance at Windhoek's seamy underbelly - The Namibian
Caprivi poitical party declared illegal (9/11) - UNIRIN
Namibia fails to break record (9/11) - The Namibian
World record braii hits a snag (9/11) - The Namibian
Etosha fires finally extinguished (9/11) The Namibian
Namibia's night skies (9/6) - The Namibian
Countdown to the world's biggest braii (9/6) - New Era
Etosha fires spare wildlife (9/6) - The Namibian
Caprivi political party ban draws flak (9/5) - The Namibian
Namibia bans political party (9/4) - The Namibian
Its summer time (9/2) - The Namibian

Monday, September 25, 2006

Field Trip to Etosha (email from Amy)

This weekend I went on a field trip with the grade 7s to Etosha (click this to learn a little about Etosha). Now, as you can imagine, field trips in Africa are a little different than American field trips. It started on Thursday afternoon. They told me we'd be leaving at 11 o'clock which made me think possibly 2, but I was pleasantly surprised when the bus showed up at 11:30 and we left at12:15. This is probably not what you're thinking; yellow school bus with a trailer for our luggage. Our bus was built to tightly fit 24 people in to tiny little seats. We, on the other hand, put 37 grade 7s, 10 adults, 2 little kids, and the driver (50 people), plus 25 litres of diesel, an enormous spare tire, all of the food we planned to eat for the next 4 days, everyone's luggage, blankets, pillows, and about 6 mattresses. Needless to day, it was a tight fit.

As we left on this really packed bus, passing goats, donkey carts, and mud houses, the kids started singing loudly. It was a really great moment.The drive up reminded me of a church youth group trip, if the trip were run by an insane person under ridiculous conditions. Although we live quite close to Etosha there is no gate on our side and no way to get to the road from here, so we made a 300 k detour in a triangle, going first to Outjo (130 k south of Kamanjab) and then up 150 or so k to Okakuejo (pronounced Oh-Kah-Kway-Oh) inside Etosha. In Outjo we stopped for an unspecified period of time and basically just set the kids loose. Then when we finally did decide to leave, we just got a bunch of people on the bus and then set off with no head count or checks or anything. I'm still not entirely sure that we haven't left someone Outjo.

I had decided the night before that I had to be the responsible one and bring all of the little things that are important on a trip as no one else was likely to do it. Therefore I packed a bunch of medicine and Band-Aids, a candle and matches, my Swiss army knife, a cup, fork, knife, spoon and plate, string, duct tape, extra water, a thermos, and a couple of checkers sets, card games, and about 20 books for the kids to enjoy in their down time. I was really glad that I brought just about everything. The candle came in handy when the light in the girl's bathroom didn't work, no one thought to bring water for the long bus ride, plus I used the duct tape and the knife a lot.

I picked up my mail in Kamanjab as we went through. My friend Mike had sent me a Chemistry book (along with Dylan and Sandra) and because I'm a geek I spent much of my time doing problems (without a calculator, so it was more of a brain workout.) He also sent me a bunch of Daily Show episodes which I'm mostly saving for my actual birthday.

One of the ridiculous things about apartheid (among many) was the stipulation that only white people could eat white bread. I don't know if they figured that the colour white was their domain alone or if they just liked it, but it leads to some absurd conversations. At breakfast we ate what they eat at the hostel (3 slices of brown bread with butter and jam, and ridiculously sweet tea (I think they just heat up the tea to be able to dissolve more sugar into it.)) The kids were really apologetic and told me to wait while they tried to track down white bread. They were a little incredulous when I told them that I actually like brown bread a lot (I didn't tell them that I liked it better than the tea.)

I caused even more of a ruckus when I tried to wash up the first night. Modesty is a whole different concept here and bathing often consists of plugging up a sink in the bathroom and all the girls standing around with washcloths. At first they were astonished that I actually intended to bathe (to which I responded "I get dirty too.") and then the sight of so much white skin just about sent them into apoplexies.

There were some very frustrating things about the trip too. Some of the teachers spent way too much time drinking unreasonable amounts of alcohol and not really supervising the kids. Part of that is cultural, kids are just not treated in the same way here. Still, the blatant alcohol abuse (although, to be fair, they did start out trying to be discrete, but by the end there were kids using empty alcohol bottles to hold their water and teachers drinking at 9 in the morning) and the lack of supervision for the kids really really frustrated me. We, for some reason, brought the hostel matron who lives next door to me and is constantly drunk. I don't think that it's actually physically possible, but literally every time I see her she appears drunk There were a few moments when I was really low, but I called Elizabeth and she cheered me up. Also, the kids actually made me feel better. Some of them taught me some songs in KhoeKhoe.

We saw lots of animals and I learned a bunch of KhoeKhoe words for animals. I saw a zebra and a black rhino for the first time. We didn't get to see a lion because they come to the waterhole at nighttime. We were staying at the Okakuejo Primary School Hostel which is at the gate to Etosha, 20 k from the waterhole. People aren't allowed to drive at night in the park because it's dangerous to the people and the animals. Anyway, we got a small exception, but we still had to be out by 8:30, long before the lions showed up. But almost more interesting was the tourist watching. When we first drove up, what struck me first was how many white people there were there. I'm just not used to white people everywhere (even in Otjiwarongo or Windhoek, where there actually are white people the bulk of people are black. Here almost everyone was

Later that day we were watching some of the people swimming (actually the kids were all standing in a circle staring at the people swimming. —I tried to tell them that I thought that might make some of the tourists uncomfortable but that is a completely culturally foreign idea to them) we were in the park on a free education pass so we weren't allowed to swim (and the kids don't have swimming suits anyway) and one of my learners turned me and said, "Miss, places like this make me wish that I was a Boer." I didn't know what to say about that because, quite honestly, it is a very honest reaction to the very real economic disparities in this country.

After that we went to the location, where the black people live, just outside of the camp to drop something off. There the people lived in some small cement houses and squatter houses built out of corrugated tin, wood scraps, and scrap plastic sheets. By the end of the trip I was really sick of being stared at. The tourists stared at the kids (especially when we were all packed on the bus) but they really stared at me. I could almost read their thoughts as we drove by and they did a double take, staring at the white girl in the bus full of black kids. Anyway, we were sitting down eating lunch at one of the camps inside of Etosha (think nice touristy rest stop, cabin hotel, and a campground.) We were buttering some bread when some Italian tourists came over and handed Mr. #Guibeb a handful of pens to take the kid's pictures. It was a little strange and I don't know why, but I felt kind of offended. The kids were happy (they love having their pictures taken) and Mr. #Guibebb was happy about the pens (although they wouldn't have had to give us anything- we're not Himbas or anything.) I think I was the only one who understood both sides. The kids were a little mystified (one of my learners asked me if maybe they would just throw the pictures away since they didn't know the people in it.) The tourists were equally naive about the kids. One of the tourists gave a penlight instead of a pen and one of the girls, just being a kid, was shining it into another learner's ear. I'm pretty sure I saw the tourists chuckling to themselves. I think they thought the kids had never seen a flashlight before.


PO Box 90
Kamanjab, Namibia

Photos from Etosha

The first picture is an Elephant, the next one a photo of one of the waterholes, the third photo is a rhino at the waterhole (sorry, the camera's not very good), the next two are the inside of the bus (this is how we traveled home, on the way up it was even more full since we hadn't eaten the food and we hadn't used the 25 litres of diesel. As a teacher, I was lucky enough to not have to have anyone sit on my lap.) The last picture is breakfast-one of the hostel matrons stiring a poitjie pot (think cauldron) full of porridge with a wooden stick.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Spring begins today in Namibia

The spring equinox

The same time (September 22 at 11:03 PM CDT) that fall begins in the northern hemisphere, spring begins in the southern hemisphere (September 23 at 3:03 AM Namibia). That means that the days start getting longer than the nights in Namibia.

Spring in Namibia (September 23 through December 22), means generally higher average temperatures (especially in the daytime) and the first rains and clouds since April. Though, like anywhere, daily temperatures and rainfall vary widely.

Namibian Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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


namibia climate chart

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

Click to convert mm to inches

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Amy is in Etosha

After Nancy's appointment on Wednesday, we came home and called Amy about 10 AM (5PM her time). I had taken the morning off work so we took the opportunity while we could. The phones had been out all weekend again, which was disappointing because we had tried to call
her from her from one of her Wheaton friend's house on Sunday morning.

She was doing well. She said she was glad we called because they had recruited her as a polling assistant during the school board elections they were having on Wednesday all day and she was glad to get away from it. She thinks they choose her for some things just because she is the different one in town. Kind of like: "who should we get to do this...I know lets have Amy do it."

She left today for a school trip to nearby Etosha National Park (one of the premier game parks in the world). She hoped to see zebra and lion along with the elephant, giraffe, ostrich and oryx she sees all the time. It was going to be 37 7th graders plus 7 adults (she think she was the only female adult for the 16 girls though). They are going to stay in a school hostel tonight, Friday and Saturday nights. They will visit the good places tomorrow and Saturday and return Sunday. She said the budget for the whole trip was $4500 N ($600 US) mostly raised by donations and food from the hostel and that included everything (gas, vehicles, housing, fees and food).

Next weekend, she will be going to Windhoek to buy the copier and, depending on the ride situation, bring it back. October 6,7, she will go to Otjiwarongo to visit PCV's and perhaps celebrate her birthday with others.

Other tidbits she told us:
--she devoured the Christianity Today magazines that G & G sent and downloaded a few more articles from the web.
--she is reading the Brothers Karamazov and loves it
--since prepaid electricity started in Anker many more cook fires are being used. She hasn't had to pay for it yet and thinks it is being covered by the PC
--she text messaged Matt about the teacher that caused her grief last week and Matt TM'ed back and made her feel better about it.
--she tried ostrich meat and found that, instead of tasting like chicken, it is more like beef.
--she helps Mrs /Goageses with grammar and spelling on papers she is writing for a class and a test she will have to take soon for some kind of correspondence class she is taking.
--Dylan, Sandra and Mike have a package for her in Kamanjab for her birthday.
--she got her adaptor back for her computer
--because the oven and refrigerator cords are too short to reach the one (chest high) plug she has in her kitchen, she has to use an adaptor for them too. When she also plugged her hot pot into it the adaptor burned out. She opened it up and soldered it and now she only has her refrigerator plugged in to it.

It was good to talk to her and she sounds like things are going well so far.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Photos of Anker

Anker from above. The first two photos are the village of Anker from the mountain where I get cell phone coverage. I know it's a little hard to see the buildings (they're made out of mud so they kind of blend in) next time I'll take a picture closer to sunset when there's a big contrast. But you can still see about how big the village is. The third photo is a baby donkey (they're so cute when they aren't big and old and smelly.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Haircut, Electrical outage, and the Brothers K.

I forgot to tell a few stories about my break. In particular, I got my hair cut by my friend Elizabeth. Although someone in the group has haircutting scissors, we were in Otjiwarongo and Megan only had a really dull scissors that didn't so much cut as hack at my hair. So part of the way through, Elizabeth gave up on the scissors and started cutting with the scissor on my Swiss Army knife. She did a really good job too, it's really really straight and I am now, if I do say so myself, just as stunningly beautiful as ever.

When the VSO volunteer was here with me I lent her my adaptor to power her laptop. I think she accidentally took it with her so I have been in a bit of a quandary about how to power my own laptop. I have a power converter (for changing the voltage from 110 to 220) that also has a European adaptor plug so I've been using that with another adaptor that changes European plugs to Namibian plugs (which I think are only used here and in South Africa.) Anyway, the problem is that the converter is only rated for 50 Watts (far less than what a laptop usually takes) so I've been plugging it in when the laptop is off and unplugging it when it starts getting really hot and giving off plasticy smelling smoke. So far it's been working and I' m pretty sure that the most damage I could do is to ruin my converter.

I actually completely ran out of money this week. I have lots of money in the bank (there are jokes among the other volunteers that I'm the richest volunteer in Peace Corps history and that I should invest in Namdeb (Namibian DeBeers, the diamond company here.) It's not completely accurate, but I do tend to accumulate money since there isn't much I can buy in Anker and since I don't get out a lot) Anyway, I have money in the bank, but the nearest place where you can get money is in Kamanjab. I gave my last bills to Lena to pay her for laundry in August and I was down to N$4 and a few 5 cent coins (about US$0.50 total.) Anyway, it didn't mean that I was starving or anything, I get most of my groceries in Kamanjab anyway and I only really use money in Anker to pay Lena, to buy Coke, and to get a few staples when they run out (sugar, cooking oil, flour, etc.) It was just a little weird to have almost nothing.

I went to a cluster teacher meeting on Thursday. We saw a large, old, male elephant on the way. It was the first one I've seen that close to Anker (it was between Anker and Ongwati, about maybe 3 kilometers from Anker.) I got some groceries, money, and my mail. I got three packages—one package of books for the library, one from Jewell and Mark, and one from the Wilsons. It was really nice. Especially since the cluster meeting was awful. There's this teacher who one of the other volunteers turned in to the school inspector because she was drunk and drinking beer in front of the learners in the bus on the way to the science fair. (read about that story from Matt's blog here and the letter turned in about her here) Anyway, she's in my cluster and I think she must drive everyone else a little nuts too because she's really abrasive. She decided to spend most of the meeting demeaning the exam that I set for grade 7 (which, honestly, was a little too easy) as "garbage" because nobody had bothered to tell me that it needed to be cumulative. And then she insisted that she couldn't write any exams this term because she had written one last term (not bothering to mention that everyone else had as well.) Anyway, it was nice to come home to something familiar after that fiasco.

Earlier this week the electricity went out. I did what I always do when the electricity goes out, I lit some of my candles and I didn't open the freezer. It was out for almost 24 hours. I leave the freezer closed so that it traps as much cold as possible. I had decided that if the electricity was still out by dinner time (over 24 hours) I'd have to cook all of the meat in my freezer and eat it. I had about a kilogram of mince and half of a chicken in pieces so I really didn't want to use it all up. Anyway, the electricity came on right on time so it was all good.

I realized that I haven't been keeping you all updated on what I've been reading (and I know you all are on pins and needles about that.) In the last month or so I've finished a book called The Persian Puzzle about American-Iranian interactions, Harry Potter Book 5, a couple of young adult novels from the school library (including a rather annoying mystery where I predicted the whole plot about ¼ of the way in and a wonderful set of tall tales called A Long Way From Chicago), and Robinson Crusoe. I'm right in the middle of The Brothers Karamazov which I actually, surprisingly, have never read and I am quite thoroughly enjoying it. I read until late on Friday night and I'll probably finish it next week, although with the pace I've been taking it might be this weekend.

OK, that's about it. Take care.

PO Box 90
Kamanjab, Namibia

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My holiday and the first week of teaching (email from Amy)

Well it was, overall, a very enjoyable holiday. It started when I got stuck in Anker. Yes, that's right, I was stuck. School ended officially on Friday, but we ran out of food at the hostel so we told all the kids to go home Wednesday night. The same thing happens at other schools so the teachers who have kids at other schools (who are also the only teachers with cars) went to go get their kids and then didn't come back. Then all of the rest of the people abandoned the village by donkey cart for the farms. That left just me and a few people down at the shebeen in the mostly deserted town. I didn't think I was going to be able to get out until Monday which deeply disappointed me since I hadn't seen any other volunteers since the fourth of July (over 7 weeks.) Don't worry too much, there were still a few cars in the village so I could have gotten out if it was an emergency but they were all heading for the farm or staying in the village. Anyway, I was lucky to find a hike on Sunday afternoon (a free hike too, although there were five of us in the cab of the pickup and another five to seven in the pickup part with luggage and stuff too. As I said, there's never such a thing as not enough room for one more.)

So after I got out of the village I headed to Otjiwarongo and met some people there. I met Elizabeth, Brock, Lindsay and a couple of other people who had been up to Etosha. We went to the Cheetah Conservation Fund and saw some cheetahs. I'd love to take my kids there. They apparently have a three day program that costs N$5 a kid (less than US$1.) You just have to provide transportation and food.

After that I headed off to Swakopmund. I met Sandra and Dylan and Mike there and we had a lot of fun. We window shopped and ate good food. We went to this nice, fancy hotel and layed next to the fountain and pretended that we belonged there (we did buy Cokes so technically we did belond there.) We read Encyclopedia Brown mysteries and added humerous asides. Swakop was cold, but I was smart and packed warm clothes. I also packed a tin cup and silverware which was very smart because we ended up renting a bungalow with a little kitchenette (a hot plate and a refridgerator) but it had no pots, pans, or dishes so we made hot chocolate in my one cup and took turns drinking it.

After Swakop we all headed to Windhoek. I had my medicals and the others were going to go through on their way to their sites. The Peace Corps put us up at a really nice place called Jan Jonker Holiday Apartments. I ate a lot of good food and saw a bunch of other volunteers. Jason showed me some copiers but they were all sold out of the kind that automatically duplex so we decided that in a couple of weeks I'll come back to Windhoek and buy it. Some things I purchased while I was there--- A KhoeKhoe Bible (Elobmis-- litereally "God word"), 10 metres of coaxial cable (I am in the middle of making my own cell phone antenna out of spare wire, a straight stick, and some super glue and duct tape. We have decided that if I can pull it off I will officially get the McGuyver award.), and fudge (yeah, I think you can guess what that's for.) I also bought Harry Potter book 5 (books are really expensive here, even buying it used it was N$90 and new books, if you can find them in English are much much more expensive. Still, it's a really good stress reliever and there are a lot of days when I need that.) Anyway, I picked up a few books from the Peace Corps lounge too, not that I don't have enough books, but what can you do?

I had a medical checkup but it was basically, "Are you sick? No? OK then." The dentist was a little more extreme. She found a small cavity and she was going to have me tell them to look at it the next time I came in, but when she found out that might be in one year she decided to
fill it on the spot which caught me a little off guard.

After Windhoek I headed to Otjiwarongo and bought a bunch of food at the Super Spaar (I actually found lettuce YAY! I've been making salads with homemade French dressing. It's tough to find lettuce here and I hadn't had a real salad for a long long time) and I stayed one night (it's too far to hike all the way to Anker from Windhoek in one day.) I got a really great hike the next day and got back to Anker by noon (I was really lucky and never really had to wait anywhere, even in Kamanjab.)

My plans for the term-- I am revising my discipline policy again. When I was in Swakop I bought one of those paper punches shaped like a lizard. The nice thing about this is that, unlike my stickers, it's relatively difficult to steal one of them. The kids can earn lizards by doing their homework, by not getting their name on the board, by getting good marks on a test, and, occationally by doing nice things for other learners. The lizards can be saved up and used to buy privledges, like bathroom or water breaks, or things, like cheap pens, stickers, or bookmarks. I'm hoping that it will work better since I'm sick of yelling and since I'm sick of other teachers beating my learners for being bad in my classes. Also I'm starting a "Reading Club" which will
hopefully be kind of like storytime. I'll read a book out loud to the learners in small groups. The learners who stick with it the whole time will get to watch a movie of the book at the end. We're starting with Harry Potter since I have both the book and the movie here, but there are a couple of other books that it would work with (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Holes are the ones that I've been thinking of.)

This week Diane Mills, the VSO volunteer from Khorixas, came to get the little girl who is deaf into the first grade classroom. I was nervous, but I think it actually might work. I have agreed to help in the classroom three times a week and Mrs. /Goagoses seemed to be really good with it. It was nice to have someone in the house for a change.

Still, it's been a busy week and I'm glad to have a weekend. Next week I'm pretty excited about science class. We're studying energy and I'm going to have the kids build a solar oven so we can talk about solar power. Well, that's about all I can think of right now. I'll let you know
how things are going a little later on when I teaching has really started

Take Care,

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Back on Daylight Savings Time

Namibia is the only country in Southern Africa to use Daylight Savings Time. Because spring is beginning there now and the days are beginning to be longer, they changed the clocks to "spring forward" one hour overnight last night. That means that to time difference between the USA and Namibia is one hour longer than it was yesterday. For us in MN, that means they are now 7 hours ahead of us instead of 6. On October 29, when the USA goes off Daylight Savings Time, we gain another hour in difference. It's all very confusing. Want to know what time it is right now in Namibia? Click the link on the right for current Namibian time. Also check out these links from my post in April:

Daylight Savings Time