Greensboro, NC newspaper article featuring Angie (Nam 25 PCV)
Video clip: Namibia, a filmmaker's destination
Other web pages to check out:
Namibian Library Projects (search by country or name)
NamibiAlive Video Promo
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
AIDS awareness week, greeting and lasagna (6/24) NEW
Photos of daily life in Anker (6/24) NEW
Busy week and Day of the African Child (6/16)
Photos inside Amy's classroom (6/16)
Photos of the Day of the African Child Performances (6/16)
My Mozambican adventures (6/10)
Photos of the Lutheran Church in Anker (6/10)
Greensboro, NC newspaper article featuring Angie (Nam 25 PCV)
June 20 (6/21)
June 12 (6/17)
Blessings and rehab for Dad (6/28) NEW
Visit to Mooi Plaas (6/28) NEW
Southern Girls Conference 2007 (6/27) NEW
National Launching of AIDS Awareness Week (6/27) NEW
Dad moves into Craig Hospital (6/21)
many good bits of news (6/15)
Dad's surgery (6/14)
My Dad (6/12)
Back to school (6/8)
Day of the African Child (6/16)
the ***BIG*** News (6/29) NEW
And Now For The Rest (6/29) NEW
And the rest of the rest... (6/29) NEW
Alcohol awareness (6/27) NEW
Reality (6/27) NEW
We're being Witched (6/24)
Minute to Minute (6/21)
Language miscommunication (6/20)
Welcome to the world of Ping-Pong (6/17)
This is what every Sunday should be like (6/17)
Life back in Opuwo (6/17)
Home for the wedding (6/1)
Tech Squad Sleepover (6/7)
Chess Club (6/7)
From Cape Town to Lesotho and back (6/1)
This "Development" Thing (6/17)
All Nam 26 bloggers
Nam 26 bloggers active lately:
Link to previous list of recent blogs (May 2007)
Recent news from Namibia
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Greensboro, NC newspaper article featuring Angie (Nam 25 PCV)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Special to the News & Record
During the day, the light reveals the emptiness surrounding you on all sides -- fields stretching for miles, vastness spilling toward a horizon broken only by a few shrubs or palm trees and this enormous blue sky hanging over it all.
Multimedia: Journey to Africa
Looking out over all that empty land, it feels like the sky is sucking you up -- like you're drowning up into the blue. When the sun sets about 5:30 each evening, you can see the colors painted across the sky, like the horizon is one 360-degree canvas. The sun becomes a big,
almost tangible ball, slipping below the land as the space over it turns pink, then orange, then purple, blue and black.
At night, the sky is covered by so many stars that you feel you're in the middle of them, suspended in space. The Milky Way is scattered across the night like tiny freckles, and the Southern Cross hangs above everything in its perfect, calm order, like a compass twinkling in mid-air.
Something about that sky was humbling. Its sheer magnitude made me feel tiny, and every time I looked up at it during my stay in Africa, I was reminded of just how huge the whole world really is and how much about it still needs to be fixed.
That was what I, two other students and one professor were trying to do during our two weeks in Africa last month, -- joining in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
Various Elon University students and faculty members have been working on the problem of HIV/AIDS in Namibia since 2003, when a group of students from the class of 2006 decided to tackle the issue through the support of Project Pericles, a nonprofit organization advocating social responsibility and civic action in higher education.
Namibia's overall rate of HIV infection is currently about 20 percent and stagnant, but the rate of HIV infection in the town of Oshakati is 40 percent, meaning that two out of five people in the region are HIV-positive.
Erin Barnett, a broadcast communications major and my college roommate for two years, was the first to get involved. Last fall, she took a class with Dr. Tom Arcaro, a sociology professor and Elon's director of Project Pericles.
In November, she and Tom had begun discussing the idea of Erin producing a video documentary about Anita Isaacs, a passionate AIDS activist who is HIV-positive herself. Telling her story could help spread awareness about the HIV problem in Namibia on a grander scale.
Erin suggested bringing Conor Britain, a good friend and fellow broadcast communications major, to help film. I came on board later when Tom realized he wanted to bring a writer along, too. My role would be to interview Isaacs and piece together her written autobiography to accompany Erin's video biography.
Our journey to Namibia took more than 30 hours of total travel time, including three flights on two different airlines. On the morning of Tuesday, May 15, we flew from Raleigh to Atlanta, then from Atlanta to Dakar, Senegal, and finally, from Dakar to Johannesburg, South Africa.
The next morning, we flew on South African Air from Johannesburg to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and then finally, after one night in the city, we drove seven hours north to Oshakati, the small town where Anita Isaacs lives.
We stayed at the Okatana Catholic Mission during our two weeks in Oshakati, living in two small rooms with Afghan-style blankets on the beds and crucifixes on all the shelves. The mission was quiet, inhabited by a few priests and nuns, a pair of mangy brown dogs and a Peace Corps volunteer from Miami named Angie.
Arriving in Oshakati was a bit of a shock after spending time in the big cities of Johannesburg and Windhoek. Both of these cities, the capitals of South Africa and Namibia, respectively, seemed as urban and fast-paced as any American city. Pizza parlors, department stores and skyscrapers line the streets, standing in stark contrast to the poverty and barrenness of Oshakati.
The town of Oshakati is centered around a huge outdoor market almost a mile long. Every morning, local vendors trickle into the market as the sun rises to set up their merchandise and sit in front of their stalls that day.
The smells of spices and small fires half buried in the sand fill the air during these busy mornings, and echoing throughout all of the cramped stalls are the sounds of voices chattering in Oshivambo, the language of the Ovambo tribe, which populates most of northern Namibia.
During my first day in the market, we spent nearly an hour walking through the sand under the hot sun, in front of rows of big, woven baskets full of seeds, nuts, withered raw fish, wheat, grains and dried centipedes, a local delicacy. We passed stands selling sunglasses, watches, grapes and perfumes, all covered in flies, and when we walked through the meat section of the market, in the shaded center, I saw the head of a bull on the ground, horns still attached, with flies buzzing around its gory neck.
Vendors sat on green and white plastic patio chairs, Coke crates or cardboard beer boxes, talking and drinking Windhoek Lager and patiently awaiting customers. No one hassled or heckled visitors in the market. It was all a simple waiting game.
Namibia is the second least densely populated area in the world, and the rural landscapes of Oshakati reflect this fact everywhere you look. A main highway cuts through the center of town, and a cluster of strip-mall shops, grocery stores and Internet cafes is near the big market, but the houses reveal the area's true poverty.
Most of the houses are tiny shacks made of sheet metal and clay bricks or tall sticks tied with wire. Thatched roofs, dirt floors and broken, plastic lawn chairs are all common sights around the small neighborhoods in the town, and hundreds of brown speckled cattle roam the streets freely.
Most of the families residing in the outskirts of the town live on traditional homestead farms. A homestead is made up of a large group of extended family members and friends gathered on one piece of land, living in one-room, wooden huts with stick-and-wire fences around the perimeter of the homes. Chicken coops, cow pens and hog cages are separate structures within the perimeter, and the group "living room" might consist of a table and a few plastic chairs under a large, old tree inside the fenced area.
Mahangu fields surround the entire complex and provide everything the family needs. Mahangu is the staple crop of the region and looks like a cross between corn and wheat with its tall, tan stalks rustling in the fields.
Farmers in Oshakati harvest mahangu by cutting it, letting it dry in the sun for days, thrashing the stalks with sticks and grinding the ears into a fine powder by pounding them with logs.
The mahangu powder can then be cooked into Omalodu, a fermented drink commonly referred to as "Ovambo Beer," or mahangu porridge, a thick, gray food eaten at nearly every meal.
When we went to the homesteads in the bush, every family we visited served us Omalodu, mahangu porridge and a freshly slaughtered chicken, pig or duck.
We ate the traditional Ovambo way: grabbing a chunk of mahangu porridge out of the community basket on the table, sticking it to the tips of our fingers, dipping it into the juices and sauces of the family's chicken bowl and licking it off of our fingertips.
Anita usually led us around Oshakati during the day, introducing us to different government figures and old friends. Because Anita's story was the focus of our project, we spent a good deal of our time interviewing Anita herself. We filmed interviews with Anita all over town: at her house, in the market and even in our rental truck.
Despite the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the area, the problem exposed itself in subtle ways. We often heard public-service announcements on the radio urging people to use condoms. The local newspaper, The Namibian, frequently had headlines concerning HIV/AIDS.
But one of the scariest and most tragic aspects of HIV is the fact that it is, for the most part, invisible. No matter how often it occurred, I still felt shocked every time Anita would tell us that the person we just met had HIV.
The hardest things to see in Oshakati were the children who were either HIV-positive or orphaned by parents who died of AIDS. Many were both. At a meeting of a support group at Anita's office, I met dozens of AIDS orphans. Children of all ages were seated on benches in the courtyard, eating candy and drinking from juice boxes. It could have been an American school recess, only these children didn't laugh or play. They didn't fuss or complain or get up to playfully chase each other around their seats. They simply sat on their benches quietly, staring at everyone with wide eyes and occasional shy smiles.
On one of our last nights in the country, we took Anita to spend the night in Etosha, a large national game preserve a few hours south of Oshakati. What we found in Etosha was the Africa you see on the Discovery Channel: a Serengeti-like landscape populated by zebra, giraffes, wildebeests, elephants, warthogs and more.
We saw huge herds of springboks -- tan and skinny hooved animals that bend their heads around backward to scratch themselves with their horns -- and even a family of ostriches, bobbing their long, tube-like necks as they walked.
The bungalow where we stayed was in an old German fort near a big watering hole where we saw kudu, oryx and jackals come for drinks and, just as the sun was setting, where we watched an old, lone elephant take a bath.
Moments like that -- when I could watch a wild elephant clean itself in the middle of Africa under that big, beautiful sun -- left me speechless. As humbling as that huge, sun-streaked sky was on nights like that, every time I looked up at it, I felt inspired. Each time I felt my eyes drawn up to it, I remembered that I may be only one person, tiny and weak compared to the vastness of the world around me, but one person can make a difference.
During my two weeks in Africa, I saw herds of wild giraffes roaming across the side of the road and six-foot anthills towering between huge stalks of grass. I saw men carving beautiful wooden statues by hand and baboons running across the highway.
But the truth is, when I think about Africa years from now, what I will remember best will be the colors of the sunset in Etosha and the way the stars looked sprinkled on the black over the mahangu fields. I will remember how I felt under the African sky. Alyse Knorr is a rising junior at Elon with a double major in English and journalism.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I think I know what I will miss most when I leave Anker. It's not the children or the animals (although I will miss the kids, the animals I can do without) it's not even the rewarding work (as any teacher can tell you, teaching is not always rewarding and sometimes just annoying.) What I will miss most is shaking hands and saying hello. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "we shake hands in America. We say hello." I am sorry to be rude, but no you don't. In Namibia you greet every person as you enter a room, shaking hands and often going through a long greeting. Yes, it's disruptive to go around shaking everyone's hand when you come in late for a meeting, but you still do it. Someone explained to me early in my time here that not greeting someone is like denying their essential humanity. It says to a person, "You are not worthy of my greeting." So, everyone I pass on the street (in Anker, not in Windhoek, it's not that ridiculous) I say good morning or good evening to, each class says good morning to me chorally, and every time I come into a room I shake people's hands. The longer I'm here, the more I agree with the custom and the more I think that it does deny something of people's essential humanity to not greet them. It, perhaps, is not a denial based on a person's assumption of superiority (here, because of the history of apartheid, people might assume if I don't greet them that I think I'm better than them because I'm white) but it is a denial based, if nothing else, in our assumption of the superiority of efficiency-- in America, it seems, it's more important that we get things done than that we validate people's existance. Anyway, it annoyed me at first and now I think I'll mis it.
Meverlly has been coming to my house for help with her maths homework and she's been giving me some good advice. For example, she told me how the elephants came to her farm and destroyed everything and killed a calf because they were so angry and her family had to run up the mountain because, apparently elephants only climb when they are happy, they stay off the mountains when they're angry (this has been confirmed by other people in the area.) She and Senty also warned me not to write with my finger in the sand at night because a ghost will come up from the ground into my finger and it will swell up, but that if I rub out whatever I write, then the ghost won't come into my hand. They also warned me about the witches who choke people as they are sleeping at night (many learners are astonished that I'm not scared to live alone precisely because of the witches.) So, overall they've been a good source of knowledge.
Oh, on Wednesday there was an announcement over the radio that a pack of 10 lions was loose in the area- so we had to be a little careful (although they weren't that close to Anker so we were all safe- don't worry)
On Tuesday we had a ralley in Kamanjab for Aids awareness week. The kids did a very nice drama and some of the other schools did nice songs or poems. The school inspector came and it was a very nice time. Afterwards I got some groceries.
I made lasagna this week. Someone had sent me noodles in a package last year and I had been hoarding them until I could collect the necessary ingredients at the same time (cottage cheese and the herbs were particularly difficult to get and a little expensive.) When it came out of the oven I literally jumped for joy. It's been so long since I've eaten something homemade and dripping with cheese like that. My life tends to be sort of ascetic (more out of laziness than out of poverty, but I do admit that it's much cheaper to subsist on cooked oatmeal and meatless spaghetti) and I generally don't cook anything that uses a quarter of a kilogram of meat AND a full block of cheese. I know that I've been a lot less obsessed with food this year. I know you all miss my long meditations on that subject. :) That is largely due to the fact that I've finally got some mastery over my transportation problems (not due to any change in circumstances, simply due to my own trial and error education) so I can get food when I need it, and partially due to the fact that I've managed to check some of my grocery store guilt at the door.
When I get groceries I generally buy for at least 2 weeks, sometimes I buy for a whole month in advance, so I buy quite a bit of food (although I have a rule that I cannot buy more than I can carry when combined with my other belongings- it's a good rule to have when you get around by hitchhiking because you often have to carry all your stuff, sometimes for a couple of kilometers.) Anyway, I used to feel guilty when I would spend, say, US$100 on groceries because it's half my monthly salary and because people in the village don't eat like I do- so I'd end up buying less than I actually needed and eating burnt lentil soup for a week (I have never managed to get the hang of cooking lentils and they always end up with a blackened crust and a smokey flavour.) I realised that A. It's OK to spend half your monthly salary if you are buying most of the food that you will eat in that month and B. people eat differently in the village partially because they were raised with different food and it's not good for me to make myself depressed for something that won't help anyone. Anyway, I'm eating better and so I'm not as obsessed.
I have been doing some games with my grade 7 science class. We played a game called "lions and baby elephants" designed to demonstrate how the immune system works and how HIV harms people by harming the immune system. We also reprised a game that we played last year called "The jackels and the little lambs." In this game I pass out "little lambs" (actually white washcloths) and "jackels" (actually clean pairs of gray socks.) The learners start by passing the little lamb around a circle, then I introduce the jackel. If the jackel gets to the little lamb, then the lamb gets eaten. There are three types of players in this game- most kids just pass the jackel and the little lamb at the same rate, some kids (mostly boys) try to pass the jackel faster, and some kids try to help the lamb. When the game is over we talk about the people in our community who need protection like the little lamb-smaller children, older people, orphans, sick people, disabled people, HIV-positive people, and teenage mothers are among the people they came up with. Then we talk about the choice that each of them has. They can be like the ones who pass the jackel faster- they can be a part of the problem, by making fun of people who are HIV-positive or who are orphaned, by taking things from people who cannot protect themselves, or by abusing others. They can be like the people who pass both the jackel and the lamb at the same rate- they can do nothing to harm or help people in difficult situations- at that point we talk about how the ones who weren't helping the lamb were really just allowing the jackels to harm the lamb. Or they can choose to be like the ones who actively try to help the little lamb. At this point we come up with a list of ways they can help vulnerable people in their communities- some ideas they came up with were to share their food or money, give them healthy foods, do chores for them, help them to walk, visit them, sing to them, and pray for them. For homework they were supposed to do something to help someone who needs help in their community.
Teaching quotes of the week "Ms. Amy you are having a brain!" by Amon, one of my favourites, said in a tone of awe as I typed a letter in front of my grade 7s. It's nice when all it takes to impress people is being able to type. That never happened in college.
OK, that's about it. Of course I've been reading- finished The Way of All Flesh and I'm about halfway through Moby Dick. Hope you all are doing well.
These boys are playing soccer with a ball they have made by wrapping
plastic bags tightly into a ball a little larger than a softball and
Thursday, June 21, 2007
At 7:06 PM Namibian Time (1:06 PM CDT), winter officially begins in Namibia. As in most parts of the world, Namibia feels winter well before the official first day of winter. Today is the shortest day of the year lasting only 10 hours 45 minutes (in Windhoek).
This year was very different than last year in that the normal rainy season (October-April) was extremely dry where Amy lives. It hasn't rained for months there and won't again until at least September this year (they hope). The drought conditions will continue to affect everyone adversely.
June, July and August are the coolest and driest months of the year in Namibia. Without insulation, furnaces or, in some cases, even windows, it gets cold at night. Nighttime temperatures can drop to the 30's (F°) but 40's and 50's are more common. Daytime temperatures can get into the 80's (F°) but 60's and 70's are more common.
- 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.
CLIMATE CHART FOR CENTRAL NAMIBIA
All areas of Namibia average more than 300 days of sunshine a year!
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Well, no one can say that I haven't been working this week. I've been going to school at 6:30 AM as usual (for the teacher meeting) but I have been staying until at least 6:30 or 7 PM. On Monday I held a well attended workshop on making your own teaching aids and then for the rest of the week I helped the teachers, particularly the lower primary teachers, with making aids. Mrs. /Goagoses and Mrs. /Uiras and I made two girls for their classroom to teach about clothing, body parts, and weather. We also made a lot of food, utensils, a birthday cake, and I made printable sheets of Namibian money so the kids can practice with them. I helped Mr. #Narebeb to brighten up his teaching aids. His classroom has always been one of the best for teaching aids, but a lot of them are black outlined drawings because he didn't have the markers and maybe he didn't feel confident. We even made a diagram of the taste sensors on the tongue with a plastic sheet that can be lifted up and put down. Mr. Asser, the maths teacher, and I made a pie chart that can change to any size he wants.
Additionally, during school hours I have been extremely busy getting the window project ready for the hostel (I have been especially motivated because the last few mornings have been really cold.) Thanks to a bank error in our favor (seriously, I didn't know things like that even happened, but I am very very thankful) we actually have enough money to fix all of the broken windows in the sleeping rooms with plastic glass. Then the only broken windows left in the school or hostel will be in the bathrooms, storage rooms, and the kitchen. They say that they can have the windows ready by next weekend, so we could have them fixed in a jiffy.
Also I wrote a letter to a group of people in the States who send blankets to needy children in
developing countries to see if we could get a donation that would belong to the hostel. The hostel could then lend them out to the needier learners so that every child can have a blanket, no matter how poor they are.
Also, I've been working on trying to get 5 of the brightest and most disadvantaged learners' applications ready for a scholarship program. If they are accepted they will be able to get up to N$1500 (US$215) a year towards their school fees, hostel fees, and exam fees, which is more than enough to cover the fees for most of the learners. Primary School fees are much smaller than Secondary School fees, but still at our school learners only pay N$80 (US$11) a year in school fees and N$324 (US$46) a year in hostel fees (if they pay, a lot of them don't have enough money to even pay the school fees.) So that's all I've been up to, nothing much really, just a few minor projects :) .
As I said, I've been helping some of the better and poorer learners to apply for a scholarship and they had to write an essay about why they want the scholarship. They have some really sad stories:
--Elvis, who is brilliant, wrote about how his single mother is unemployed and their animals are too few.
--Sedney, who got the only A I gave out in my class one term, is 16 and in grade 7 because his parents didn't bring him to school until he was 10 and his grandfather is the only one supporting his education and he's afraid that his grandfather will die while he's still busy with his education.
--Erastus was orphaned by both of his parents. Theodor, one of my most diligent and committed learners, wrote how the grandmother who had been paying his school fees out of her pension had died last year. His father is unemployed and he hasn't seen his mother for 4 years, when she abandoned the family, so he is going to school without paying his fees at all and he only had shoes because his unemployed aunt's mother bought them for him.
--The worst story was Nadia's. She was having trouble writing her essay so she asked me for help then she told me how her mother had died while she was sleeping in the same bed as her and how her father refused to support her or her sister because he had so many children by other women who still had mothers to force him support them and also because her stepmother doesn't like her (ironically she loves fairy tales. Maybe stories of evil stepmothers are a little close to home for her.) She told me how her uncle had told her the night before her mother died that God was only waiting for her to pray and then he would heal her mother, so she thought that maybe it was her fault that her mother died because she forgot to pray for her that night (I told her that's not the way things work, that God doesn't let people die because their 11 year old children don't pray enough but I'm not sure she entirely believed me.)
I would really like all 5 learners to get the scholarship. They all need and deserve it, all of them are also getting among the top marks, but they only give out 100 scholarships for all of Namibia and they give out 2/3 of them to girls (4 of our 5 applicants are boys. We tried to get an equal number of girls and boys, but none of the other girls qualified academically. Just a quirk that this year's 7th graders have mostly clever boys. Last years 7th graders were full of clever girls.) Anyway, I think we have a chance that one of them might get the scholarship.
Friday was the Day of the African Child. We had a program-mostly songs and dramas about the need for education or about fighting HIV/Aids. It was sort of like an elementary school program, but we held it in the open sandy part just outside the school. I'm including some pictures. It was my turn to do the morning devotion, so Mrs. /Goagoses suggested that I take the passage where Jesus says that the little children should come to him. She also said that God had wanted Namibia to be independent and then asked me if I thought it was true. I said that I thought that God didn't like apartheid so I thought that he probably was pretty happy that Namibia didn't have apartheid anymore and that I thought that God wanted all people to have a place of their own just like Namibia is our own place. Anyway, it was a nice discussion.
Last week in church the man who shows up for church drunk every week :) pulled me to the front of the congregation and spoke in rapid KhoeKhoe about how God should bless me for coming to church every week and how the children should take me as an example. I'm kind of used to being singled out, particularly in church, but it was still a little weird.
There's still a drought in the area, but no one talks about it much anymore because we're not hoping for rain anymore. Now people are just trying to limit their damages by selling off their livestock and trying to save the money. When you are a subsistence famer livestock is a sort of savings account. Your goats or cattle are your emergency nest egg, your savings, and to some extent, your pension, when you need money you sell some of your cattle. Unfortunatly, during a drought the price of cattle goes down, but if you don't sell them they will probably die of hunger and then you've lost your savings. Anyway, that's the Catch-22. Drought also exacerbates the serious problems of overgrazing and soil erosion, particularly in traditional communal lands like the area where I live. Overgrazing and soil erosion in turn exacerbate desertification (the less plant life in an area, the less rain falls in that area, slowly changing semi-desert savannahs into full deserts) which causes more droughts. It's a vicious cycle. Anyway, not much we can do about it at this point.
Hope everyone there is doing well. I'm doing just fine. I think I've really adjusted to the culture. I rarely feel culture shock anymore. Things seem to make more sense and I understand better what will work and what won't work. I'm just a little worried about the reverse culture shock. I only have 5 or 6 more months so it's just a little frustrating that I've become adjusted when I'm so close to leaving. Also, I'm worried that the more adjusted I get now the worse the shock will be when I return home. Well, what can you do? Take care.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
This is Anjelika Christiaan, one of the church elders and about the closest thing to a pastor that the church has. An ordained pastor shows up about twice a year to marry people and baptize babies- the rest of the time the church is run by the elders and Anjelika Christiaan is one of three elders who are there almost every Sunday.
Alright, before I tell you guys about Mozambique I thought I'd give a quick run down of my last couple of weeks. School has actually been treating me well- I've been making teaching aids like my life depended on it and I think I've really gotten my stride with teaching, which is pretty amazing. I actually don't feel out of control and I think the kids understand me at least some of the time. I've been reading of course- Over my holiday I finished "Saint Joan" by George Bernard Shaw, Naked by David Sedaris, Slaughterhouse Five, "The Threepenny Opera" by Bertolt Brecht, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Right now I'm halfway through The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler. This weekend I did a video show for the kids. We always do a double feature- so I showed X-men and The Fellowship of the Rings. We charged N$1 (about 15 US cents) to see the movie and we had over 150 kids, so we made a little over US$25- a nice profit which I have safely stored in an old powdered milk tin. They loved The Lord of the Rings and it was a lot of fun watching them react. My favourite part was when Arwen is taking Frodo on horseback to Lothlorien and they're being chased by the Ring Wraiths. The kids here know horses really well so from the very beginning of the scene they perked up (I think they were way more impressed just by how fast Arwen's horse was running than American kids would be- most horses here are skinny and kind of diseased looking so I don't think they're used to how healthy horses can react and, quite honestly, no horse can really keep up that fast of a fullgallop for long except in the movies.) Anyway, near the end of it they were actually applauding and shouting at the screen in KhoeKhoe for Arwen to go faster and I saw kids holding their head and snapping their fingers in astonishment and jumping up and down. It's fun to think about the way that they might think about the stories- it's a much more agrarian culture and there is still a very strong sense of the supernatural (pretty much everyone believes in witches and curses, witch doctors, muti, and fate in general) so I think there's a stronger connection with stories like that than we can have having been raised in a much more industrialized culture. Since it's winter here and in the desert it gets frigid as soon as the sun goes down we all bundled up and the kids shared the blankets from their beds. There are only about 30 or 40 chairs in the hostel so most of us sat on the giant well scrubbed tables and the little kids made beds with their blankets on the cement floor. Movie shows are fun, but in the way that a giant sleepover for 150 kids where I'm the only one in charge would be fun. I spend a lot of time telling the kids to be quiet and watch the movie or to stop going in and out to the toilet and trying to sneak kids who didn't pay in the back door, or telling the boys to stop teasing the girls- kids are kids. Anyway, I think I'll do another one this term and suggest to the teachers that we put aside all the video show money to buy cartridges for the copier.
OK, by popular demand (mostly from my parents) here's the Mozambique story including how we were almost left behind in South Africa and how we were picked up hitchhiking by a bus bounty hunter-ah the life of adventure I lead :) . So, I went to Mozambique this holiday and it was sort of by the shoestring kind of trip. We started by getting onto a bus in the center of Windhoek and driving south through the night. It was a fitful night of trying to sleep sitting up in a bus seat, although we did have a lot of fun playing spades and occasionally reaching back to close the bathroom door that kept falling open against Lindsay's seat. Sometime around 3 or 4 in the morning we got to the border with South Africa- a few stamped passports and a ridiculously long stretch of no man's land (I'd say there's at least 10 or 20 K between the two border posts- you drive for almost half an hour) later and we were on our way to Uppington. In Uppington they pitched us out of the bus with our luggage onto a street corner at about 5 AM and we switched buses. We drove across the northern Karoo, seeing quite a bit of the scenery of South Africa on the way. At this point everything seemed to be going fine-that is until we hit a town called Vryburg in the middle of South Africa. We had a little longer break than usual so we decided to try to get some Rand out of an ATM across the street- unfortunately the ATM broke when Angela tried to use it- it said it had taken money from her account, but it hadn't given out any cash- so while Angela and Lindsay ran to the bank the rest of us tried to hold the bus. The bus employees were adamant that they wouldn't wait for the girls, so, being unwilling to leave two girls stranded and alone in an unknown South African city, we decided that we had no choice but to all get off the bus and be stranded together. We started to remove our stuff. We figured that we'd just have to find our own way from there-probably by taxis or hitchhiking. As we were taking the last bags from the bus, one of the employees asked me if we knew where we were- "no, no we don't as a matter of fact." Anyway, to make a long story short, they finally took pity on us and agreed to wait, but they were just a few minutes short of leaving us alone and penniless (at least in SA currency) in an unknown city in South Africa, so it was pretty dang miraculous that we all ended up back on that bus. Anyway, we made it through the rest of the trip to Maputo pretty well with just a short transfer in Jo-burg.
Check out their route here
We got to Maputo at about 10 am, two days after we left Windhoek (ah, the joy of a 36 hour bus ride.) We didn't really know where we were or where the bus station to Inhambane was or when the bus left or much of anything (yes, we are so well organized that we didn't bother to bring a map of Maputo or Mozambique or a bus schedule, or really plan much of anything- that's just how we roll), so we ate some lunch at a falafel restaurant across the street and then walked all around Maputo carrying our hiking packs and other stuff (yes, people stared- imagine 6 people walking down a street in Chicago wearing huge hiking backpacks-we
were a little conspicuous.) We found out that we had missed the bus so we walked about 20 blocks back to find the youth hostel. When we got there a wonderful man helped us out. He gave us a map of the city (conveniently labeled with the areas that were dangerous to go to) and told us that even though the youth hostel was full for the night he could get us a reservation at a place called "The Central Boardinghouse" which was definitely as sketchy as the name suggests (we think there might have been prostitutes on the ground floor and there were definitely a bunch of overweight shirtless sketchy looking men on the couches just outside our room.) Anyway, we were all 6 in the same room so we were fine and plenty safe, although a little crowded. At this point I took 3 million metacais from an ATM and immediately used 1 million to pay for our lodging (21000 metacais equals about US$1.) That night we went to the fish market for dinner. At the fish market you choose and buy your meat (sometimes still alive) from tables in a sort of open market and then go to one of the restaurants behind it and have them cook it for you. It was a bit expensive and we might have been ripped off, but it was still an enjoyable meal and afterward we got some gelato, so all in all we were pretty happy.
The next day we headed off early to Tofo via Inhambane on a direct bus. Tofo has the white sand beaches and blue green waters that seem out of place anywhere other than on a picture postcard. We stayed at a youth hostel in a reed hut thatched with palm leaves and with a sand floor covered only by reed mats. There were a few problems with vicious mosquitoes but, through a combination of frequent applications of deadly chemicals to my body and the air around me and an assiduous, almost cabalistic, dedication to tucking in my mosquito net, I managed to escape mostly unscathed. We went swimming and the other girls had purchased snorkels at the Namibian equivalent of a dollar store so we found a tidal pool and took turns seeing an amazing variety of fish (although I had to hold my glasses out in front of my goggles so I saw a lot less than everyone else, still I did manage to look like a geek, so I have that going for me.) We walked on the sand beaches and collected some sea shells, reclined in hammocks on the beach, drank fruity beverages, the usual beach stuff. We got most of our food from the local market and, since we were sea-adjacent, seafood was the most reasonably priced stuff we could get. Mozambique is an amazingly fertile place (although, I was comparing it to Namibia which is pretty much all god-forsaken desert, so I might have a skewed view of it) and we could also buy fresh passion fruit, orange-citrusy things that tasted like tangerines, coconuts, and the most amazingly sweet, flavorful bananas I have ever tasted in my life. We spent most of four days barefoot and covered in sand eating prawns and bananas. We also got to meet some Mozambican Peace Corps volunteers, and we had a pretty awesome spades tournament (I know, we're dorks.) Near the end of our stay we realized that we might be in fiscal trouble so we took out all the currency that we had on hand and pooled it on the floor of our hut and discovered that if we stayed the fifth day we had only 200 000 metacais (US$10) left for food for the six of us for two days, in the end, though, we decided to go back to Maputo a day early just to be sure that we'd catch the bus on time so we were fine financially although I think by the end of the trip everyone had borrowed money from everyone else.
We had heard that the bus that we had taken to Inhambane cost almost twice the cost of hiking and, since we're so used to hiking, we thought we'd save some money and just hitchhike or take public transport back to Maputo. We got a combi back to Inhambane, but as soon as we got off the bus and told someone we were going to Maputo we were told that the Maputo bus had already left. The man kept hurrying us onto another combi that was supposed to take us to another city where we could find a ride to Maputo (it's possible that he was lying to us and just trying to get some business for his friend in the combi.) We were rushed onto the combi and it wasn't until our bags were tied on and we were all squished into the last seats that we realized that this could be a very very bad idea. After all, we were in a country where we didn't know the language, going to a city who's name we didn't even know, and where we didn't know a single person, so if we got stuck for the night we'd have nowhere to stay. We didn't even know if this was a large place or small place. We got a little more nervous when the combi dropped us off next to a highway in a dusty market with about ten women each with a bag of coconuts, but we figured we couldn't do much about it at that point. I admit that I did have a few panicked visions of begging people in this village in ridiculously broken Portuguese to let us sleep on the floor of their hut that night. A couple of volunteers went into one of the cuca shops and bought bottles of Coke for us to share while a few of us used their "bathroom" (that's in quotes because it was actually a square shaped roofless reed screen surrounding two rocks. You stood on the
rocks and squatted.)
After only about 10 minutes of waiting a completely empty full sized bus drove by, the volunteers who we had left by the road to do the hiking for us looked at each other a little bemused and shocked, then a second full sized empty bus pulled by and they just started running. Quite a ways down the road the bus driver saw them and stopped. I had just gotten out of the bathroom when the other volunteers gave their cokes to one of the ladies with the coconuts (they are quite serious about their bottle deposits in Mozambique and they would have run us down if we tried to leave with the bottles) and we all grabbed our stuff and started running. Everyone in the market was very excited for us and was cheering us on (I think we may have provided them with the excitement for the week-I can't imagine that 6 white people with hiking packs show up on a regular basis and chase down buses.) Anyway, we got onto this brand new 63 seat bus which contained only the bus driver and another guy. They were heading to Jo-burg via Maputo and offered us a ride. We offered to pay but they both refused out of hand. It turns out that these buses had been stolen right off the assembly line from Jo-burg two years earlier and these guys had only just tracked them down to Beira (a town on the central coast of Mozambique.) The man and the bus driver were partners who ran a business recovering stolen property for municipalities and they recieved a fee worth about 10% of the price of the vehicles they recovered (we figured that their fee for the buses worked out to almost half a million rand (about US$70 000) so they weren't hurting for petrol money- also when we told one of them how much money we make in a month he compared it to his 15 year old daughter's allowance- so we didn't feel too bad about taking a free ride.) We were also traveling with a fully armed convoy of customs officials, so it was pretty much the safest hike I have ever had (although they did warn us that the guy they took the buses from had sort of a vendetta against them so there was a reason they were traveling with armed guards.) The guy who gave us the ride had worked in emergency aide in Mozambique and Kwazulu-Natal (the poorest and least developed area of South Africa) and he gave us amazingly acute advice about volunteering, guilt, reverse culture shock, sustainability, and a bunch of other pertinent topics. Also, he bought a bag of about 2 pounds of cashew nuts and insisted that we eat them (cashew nuts are pretty much ubiquitous in Mozambique and incredibly cheap- you can get a one cup scoop for 10 000 metacais-about US 50 cents- and a large 2 or 3 pound bag for about US$2.50) He offered us a ride to Joburg, but we already had bus tickets and we didn't have anywhere to stay in Jo-burg (that place scares me) so we refused and they dropped us off just outside of Maputo. The convoy of customs officials that we had been traveling with was going to trade off with another group and I'm pretty sure the bus bounty hunter guy paid the customs officials a little bit to take us all the way to the door of the youth hostel where we were staying (we reserved beds ahead of time so we wouldn't end up in the Central Boardinghouse again.) We stayed there that night. The next day we had a nice breakfast, I bought some cloth (Jewell- if you've read this far, the cloth is going to end up in the quilt I'm making for your new baby) and we walked around Maputo. Maputo is an amazing city. Mozambique got into a civil war sometime in the 60s or 70s and the war only stopped about 10 years ago so Maputo has this old, 1950's architecture that is in various states of crumbling disrepair and a lot of the city looks scorched or bullet torn. One volunteer said that "it looks like it's falling apart, but in a beautiful way." It reminded me sort of the way pictures of New Orleans or Charleston look, except with war damage. Anyway, we also ended up at the art museum where we saw some amazing paintings and sculptures many of which dealt with war, peace, damage and hope. It was a very moving experience. That night at about 7 we packed up our stuff again, walked back through the streets of Maputo carrying everything we had on our backs, and got onto the bus.
There weren't any exciting events on the ride back, although I did have a difficult time getting through Namibian customs (they always want to know my address, but there are no street names or house numbers in Anker, and besides, why do they care so much? Do they have a huge problem with illegal immigration from America? I have a valid visa. What's the deal?) and when we were in Jo-burg it was like -3 degrees Celsius and one of the coldest streaks South Africa has had in a long time (it actually snowed in Cape Town.) We put on pretty much every piece of clothing we owned and wrapped up in our sleeping bag and blankets. At about 5 in the morning (we had gotten in at 3) an Israeli tourist who we had met in the youth hostel in Maputo found an open shopping area and bought us a cup of very hot, very sugary coffee, we promptly went and bought more coffee and hot fat cakes. Anyway, we survived the cold and got back onto the bus. We got into Windhoek at about 4 in the morning, took some money out of an ATM (we had gotten paid while we were gone) and hung out in the basement of an empty shopping mall until the sun rose and we all went our separate ways. I went to the Peace Corps office to do a little emailing and then went to Jason's house where I decided to stay the night so I could see the half priced showing of The Pirates of the Carribean (which is a very convoluted movie by the by.) The next day I started out at 8 AM and got really good hikes, so I got into Kamanjab at about 6 PM and then waited at the petrol station until 10 PM when Mr. Asser showed up from Outjo. I got back into my house at 11 and lit some candles (I didn't have any electricity left) and went to bed, ready to get up bright and early the next morning and go to school. And that's what I did on my summer vacation. Take Care