I've been putting off writing about this until I was pretty sure that it would work. I think I am coming home for Christmas. My parents had been planning on visiting me, but my brother had to have surprise surgery to fuse his spine so he's still going to be recovering and they couldn't leave him. I'm really happy and surprised that it worked out. I will probably be spending my time with friends and family and visiting some people since I'll be there for a while. Things I'm looking forward to include--snow, Chai tea, lefse, mostly insect-proof houses, coming back to school in January refreshed, and, of course, my wonderful family and friends.
I'm bringing home a bunch of presents (I told the kids that I would trade them random little stuff that I got in packages for the wire cars and rag dolls that they make, so I think I'll have a lot of those, plus some bracelets from Opuwo and some other things that won't be expensive (I plan to go to the wood market in Okahandja and pull out my Damara songs and phrases to convince the sellers to give me a better price.) Hope to see some of you there.
A few weeks ago someone told me that I was getting nice and fat. That's kind of a compliment here (although people are divided on the issue-some saying it's compliment, others disagreeing.) Regardless, they've been trying to fatten me up ever since I first showed up. There is the idea here that if you gain weight it means that you're happy. The really strange thing is that I haven't gained any weight (or at least not much.) I think she was just trying to be nice.
I did a survey of the teachers a few weeks ago about what they think the top priorities for money should be (mostly so I could figure out where the money left over after we bought the copier should go.) And the top priorities were by far, repairing the school and hostel windows which was in a tie with putting a cement base on the fence around the school hostel (to protect the kids and school property from animals and people who might dig under the fence and attack them), and in a close third, repairing the school and hostel toilets. It was good because those were three of my top priorities too.
I think the money left over from the copier will be used for window repair (which is good because in the hostel about 1/3 of the window panes are broken and it's mosquito season and only one kid in the hostel has a net-- can you say malaria?) because it will take the least amount of time to find volunteer or mostly volunteer labour for the job. I think the money will cover almost all of it, which is really nice. Any extra that we have will go to buying bags of cement (when I first showed up I thought that it was kind of a waste of money to spend it on a fence, but since then I've heard horror stories from other volunteer's hostels, including one where a man broke into the girl's hostel to try to rape the children, and I've realized how scared of animals, witches, and thieves everyone is. So now, even though it's not a warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely kind of project, I really think it is an important one that belongs high on the list with toilets and broken windows)
I had visitors on Tuesday night. A VSO volunteer from Opuwo who works with Ombetja Yehinga came along with her colleague. Unfortunately her colleague wasn't feeling too well. He had The Malaria. It reestablished my resolve to not forget to take my mefloquine because he was really really miserable. It was nice to have guests, though. I made them some chicken soup with barley (here's a hint--if you're ever running low on meat, soup is the way to go--you can make just a small amount stretch for three or four people.) We started watching a movie, but we ended up just talking which was nice as well.
Then on Thursday the Peace Corps came to visit. Waldo (the education supervisor and a very good guy) was showing Jeff (the country director) many of the sites in the North. Jeff, I think, was a little shocked by the isolation, but also by the state of the school. He kept asking about things and I had to keep saying the words, "the school doesn't have any..." working computers, ovens or stoves, library chairs or tables, etc. He was also a bit surprised by the fact that I estimate that the education of about a third of the kids in my school will end at the primary level (probably grade 6 or 7) and that another large chunk will drop out before grade 10. And that another chunk will fail their grade 10 exams and return home without them. I have high hopes for about 5-6 kids in each grade (out of 44 in grade 6 and 37 (actually, now it's 33) in grade 7) and I think those kids have a chance to make it through grade 12. I hope they do.
Anyway, we talked some about the VAST grant which is where a lot of PEPFAR money is funneled into (PEPFAR stands for the President's Emergency Plan to Fight Aids R-something (I don't remember.)) Namibia (because it's like 4th or 5th in the world in the percent of people who are HIV-positive) gets absolutely loads of PEPFAR money and there is a lot that hasn't been used. I have a lot of projects that I would really love to have funded through PEPFAR and they're pretty lenient about connecting it to Aids (for example, it can be a project to improve people's economic abilities since poverty is a major factor in the Aids epidemic) but unfortunately even I think that it's a stretch to connect repairing hostel windows to HIV. He did say that he thought that if I emphasized the number of OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children) at the school and if I talked about how we will use the library as a base for HIV education, job skills for out of school youth, etc. that he thought I could use the VAST grant to get furniture
for the library and possibly even a computer.
I would really like to work with the youth to build the school library into more of a community library--maybe with a large section of ESL resources and other resources that people can use. I figure that if there is a group from the community as opposed to a single teacher who has a stake in the library, it will be a more sustainable project (how's that for a whole mess of
buzzwords). Jeff was OK. He still talks a little like Namibia is a sort of strange other land and we should help the people "over there" but I think he's actually getting better at that.
And now for something completely different: My bed is being invaded by really really tiny spiders. They're everywhere. They're about the size of a typed letter "o." I was watching a movie last night when a whole bunch of them started lowering their webs in front of me. I probably killed a dozen, which means there are probably lots lots more. I'm OK with non-poisonous spiders (by the way, I found out that the spiders in the library are not violin spiders, just some other kind of spider that's only moderately poisonous. Yay!) but I am not OK with them in my bed. Mostly I think insects-shminsects, but I do have some
limits and my bed is a big one.
OK, that's all I have for today. I'll write you all later