Saturday, July 28, 2007

Recent Nam 25 PCV blogs, news and information for the month of July (and late June)

Other web pages to check out:
Namibian Library Projects (search by country or name)
NamibiAlive Video Promo
Video clip: Namibia, a filmmaker's destination

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

Windhoek last week (7/28)
A couple of photos in Anker (7/28)
Harry Potter, Windows and 4 things Americans are wrong about (7/15)
Photos from meals at the hostel (7/1)
This week (7/1)

Oshike? (7/27)
to extend...or not to extend... (7/20)


Where to start (7/20)
Greensboro, NC newspaper article featuring Angie (Nam 25 PCV)

lots of work (7/28) NEW
rehab and remodel (7/27)
foundation, walls, ramp (7/27)
progress on Jolly Avenue (7/20)
from dad (7/20)
How to make your own boerewors (7/18)
Details from Mom (7/4)

Another Examination (7/13)
Don't look at the scoreboard (7/2)


the ***BIG*** News (6/29)
And Now For The Rest (6/29)
And the rest of the rest... (6/29)


Restore M-bag Petition (7/22)
A big donation update (7/22)
Brian Brown (7/22)
Fat cakes with sugar (7/22)



Next plans (7/23)
Goal version 2.0 (7/23)
Before I die (7/23)


Camp GLOW and Term 1 travels (7/11)
Breaking the Blog Silence (7/11)

I LOVE Namibia (7/23)
When someone touches your life (7/20)
Photos (7/12)


Charlotte Observer newspaper article about Silas and the library (7/8)


All Nam 26 bloggers

Nam 26 bloggers active lately:

Link to previous list of recent blogs ( June 2007)

Recent news from Namibia

Windhoek last week (email from Amy)

Well, in a 7 and half hour hike down on Friday and a 12 and a half hour hike back on Sunday, I managed to get my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Which I love, by the way. I managed to restrain myself and didn't finish until Monday. I'm reading through it again because I was not reading particularly carefully the first time.)

I was particularly nervous about the 12 and a half hour hike back. I left Jason's house, packed, showered, and ready to go at about 7:30 AM and I didn't get back to my house until 8 at night. I had forgotten that hiking from Anker is sort of like traveling a river- on the way to Windhoek it is easy to get hikes, like going downstream, but trying to get back is like trying to swim against the current- it can be harrowing and exhausting, and it takes a lot longer.

I managed to do a few other fun things while I was in Windhoek. I had bottomless coffee at Mugg and Bean (I think that Peace Corps volunteers are the only ones they don't get their money's worth on that one, we are sort of broke so we can't pass up another free cup, and when we're in Windhoek we often have enough time to spend an entire afternoon there. I told another volunteer that I was measuring out my life in coffee spoons but they didn't get it (it's a reference to T.S. Eliot) I have to get some better jokes.) I also went out to dinner a couple of times. I saw a movie at the movie theatre there (Harry Potter 5), I went shopping, I got the photos for my school, and I got as many groceries as I could carry. Still, the main reason I was there was for the book and I'm very glad I went. Hope you all are doing fine.

A couple of photos in Anker

My traveling problems: a kid and a goat in a bakkie

A health worker and the clinic cleaner giving polio vaccine drops for the under 5s. They're pretty serious about it because of that whole outbreak last year. The closest case to Anker was in Kamanjab, about 70 K away, but still, they're thorough and the whole country is supposed to be immunized.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter, Windows, and 4 things Americans are wrong about (plus, what's the deal about HIV) (email from Amy)

hey everyone
I know I haven't written a long email for a while, so I wrote an extra long one this time. Enjoy.

I did a movie night on Friday. We made less money- only about N$80 (US $11) because unbeknownst to me the pensioners weren't getting their pensions until Saturday. But the kids still enjoyed the movie. We saw Madagasgar and Lord of the Rings- The Two Towers. The kids liked them a lot. They especially like Lord of the Rings, which has sort of surprised me.

I've figured out how I'm going to get the next Harry Potter book. In case you were unaware, it comes out soon soon. Next weekend I will be hitchiking to Windhoek (about 500 K away, aproximately a 6-7 hour drive) on a Friday after school. I'm hoping I can get there in one day because my only other option is to stay the night in Otjiwarongo. Then a bunch of us are going to the only bookstore offering it at midnight (I think that Jason might have convinced them to do that for us. Another of volunteers asked if they could buy the book at midnight and they were laughed out of the store.) and spend about 20% of my monthly salary.

The next day I hike back to Otjiwarongo before noon and then I hike back to Anker the next day. Nothing to it. Just a good 14 hour round trip on a weekend and, with the travel expenses (hitchiking isn't free in this country) about half a month's salary. Still, when else in my life do I get a chance to have an adventure like this, and what else is a living allowance for if not for skimping on the food budget for a month or two and buying a book (hey, at least I'll be getting my money's worth page-wise.) Who needs to eat when you can read :) By the way, I know I joke about not having enough money for food, but just to comfort those of you who worry about me, I'll be fine. I have enough saved up that I won't be spending the grocery money.

You have never seen creativity until youve seen a child play for an entire day with a pair of shorts and three coloured pencils. Jenefer was at my house because on Mondays her mother does my laundry. I was only there for an hour or two, but first the pair of shorts was a baby and she fed it with a coloured pencil, then she was ironing the shorts with the pencil, then the shorts became a car that she could push around with three coloured pencil passengers, then she used the coloured pencils as hoes to dig at the earth. And that was just in an hour or two. Most kids have only maybe one or two toys, but who needs toys when you have a whole world full of inanimate (and, occationally, animate) objects just waiting to be transformed by your imagination.

Another teacher got a computer this week. They buy them on an installment plan with the College of Open Learning. I think they end up paying some horrendous amount of interest, but for most of them computers would be horridly expensive anyway because of the double import (things are imported to South Africa and then imported again to Namibia) and because there isn't much competition, and because they'd have to go to Windhoek to get them and at least this way they have some technical support. Anyway, I was reminded again of why I hate Windows. Their copy of Windows is registered for the Middle East and Africa, not places that are known for their vast infrastructure, and yet the procedure for registering it is the same as in the States. It's ridiculous. If you don't want to register by internet (not really an option in Anker) you have to write down a 50 digit number code, then call a long distance number in South Africa, then get another 50 digit number code, then type that code in without making any mistakes. And on top of that, we discovered after making one attempt that the code changes every time you open the box, so you have to leave the computer on and open while you go to the pay phone and hope for no power outages. And if the phones lines are out (which they are a lot of the time) or if you don't have a calling card, or if any number of things prevent you from doing that, too bad for you. Ugh! It makes me want to rip my hair out and stuff it down the throat of whoever came up with this system.

4 Things I think I've learned about Americans while I've been here (when I say "Americans" I am making broad, unsubstantiated statements, but being in a different place gives you a little perspective and trust me, I used to top the list in a lot of these topics):

1. Americans believe that all (or most) problems can be fixed with money and they are wrong. To fix most problems you need some money, but it is by no means the most important aspect of problems and money is powerful and dangerous to use. I've seen a lot of problems that have money just thrown willy nilly at them and the end result is that you till have the problem, but now you also have a whole group of people who are living off the graft and inefficiency, who have a vested interest in making sure that the problem doesn't get fixed. And I'm not saying that money isn't important because I've asked for money before and sometimes it can do a lot of good and sometimes we have to work with the systems that we have, not with the ones that we wish we had, and sometimes a band-aid fix is the best you've got and even if a band-aid won't stop the massive hemorrhage, at least you aren't doing nothing, but still, money can do more harm than good and it seems like not a lot of people are ready to admit that.

2. Americans think the HIV pandemic is about sex and they are wrong. Truly, sex is only the thinnest icing on the cake, but it paints a picture that many Americans find uncomfortable. The HIV pandemic is really about gender inequality, racial and tribal prejudices, unfair work practices, illiteracy and lack of education, poverty, and unemployment. You probably think that I'm mincing words, but I'm not. The truth of the matter is that most people know that if they have unprotected sex they are at risk for HIV, but HIV is still being spread in Namibia, mostly by unprotected sex. If telling people to use condoms worked, then this problem would be fixed already. The HIV pandemic is in the wife who can't confront her husband about using a condom even though she knows he has multiple partners because women are supposed to be faithful and men aren't and she is supposed to accept whatever decision he makes about condoms. The HIV pandemic is in the 20 year old unemployed subsistence farmer who dropped out of school in the 7th grade and has two kids and a couple goats on overgrazed, drought-prone land and who doesn't see much reason why he should /want/ to live to old age. The HIV pandemic is in the man who has a job in a mine hundreds of kilometers away from his family, who sets up a second family out of lonliness. HIV is hardly about sex at all. HIV is about all the reasons for hopelessness.

3. Americans think that there is something noble about going to Africa to help the poor people over here and they are wrong. First of all, I think the people I've lived and worked with have been far more noble than I have. I came over here, messing up on all the cultural cues and making faux pas galore, and changing all sorts of stuff, being weird and emotional from the culture shock, and trying to do ridiculous things, and they fed me and helped me and tried to set me straight when I was wrong. And they did it from tiny, segregated cinder block boxes, tin shacks, and mud huts. The hard truth is that there are only a few things in life that are truly giving, and it doesn't matter that I'm in the Peace Corps in Africa, what I choose to do or not do is more or less the same as it would be in America. I think that there are only a few moments I can point to in these two years that have been truly generous, and they aren't huge or glamorous or anything. When I am tutoring a kid after school in maths and I ask the same question for the fifteenth time after demonstrating it five times and they still get it wrong- its in that moment I have a chance because I can choose to see it as my own failure to communicate properly or I can just get frustrated and yell. That's the moment-not because it's /so/ generous or whatever, because the things that we see as "generous" feed into our own need to be seen as giving- the truth is that you can only be generous when, right there, in that lonely second, when no one is looking and no one will know, if you will choose to side with your better angel.

4. Americans think that culture is all dancing and singing and they are wrong. Culture is about what a certain group of people collectivly tend to remember or ignore, believe or disbelieve, like or dislike, practice or not practice. Sure, dancing and singing can fall under culture, but so can a lot of other things. Culture can be the way you treat your family, or what you think is appropriate behaviour, or how you act towards your children, and it's not just "those people over there" who have culture. In some ways American culture seems sort of bizarre and unique to me now. The way Americans treat children wouldn't make sense to almost any Namibian and it just seems weird to me now. Well, thats about it. I don't know that I have much else to say.

I'm fine. Hope you're all well. Take care

Monday, July 09, 2007

Silas Fincher news article

Charlotte Observer July 8, 2007


Remodeling teaches kids about work ethic

Life lessons include responsibility, value of working toward a goal


Lee and Christy Luce and their children Nicole, 12, and Cooper, 10, remodeled their Weddington home recently. They put a large addition on the back to extend the family room, and created a new master bedroom and an office for Lee.

This left the master that was previously upstairs as a new game room for the kids -- well-deserved, because this family knows cooperation and teamwork.

Everyone sacrificed something in the process, but what they gained outweighed nights of frozen dinners and pizza deliveries. The Luces are intent on making the house they purchased last year into a home. They took on the huge project because they could see potential in the 1979 rustic farmhouse.

They endured months of dust, plastic tarps and inconvenience. But lots of folks take on remodeling projects. So what makes this family different?

The Luces are trying to instill a strong work ethic in their kids. Young Cooper was handing tools out the second-story window to dad at age 9. And because Lee is a contractor, he can teach Cooper to do home repairs himself.

Working on the home helped the kids develop a sense of responsibility and teach them that if they want something, they have to work hard for it.

After all, they remodeled their last home in Charlotte near the Arboretum. The family attends Christ Lutheran Church in Charlotte and chose to remain for the fellowship and kids' programs instead of moving to a closer place of worship.

"When you relocate your family, you have to keep some consistency in the children's old friendships," Christy says.

Family is a priority for the Luces. In the summer, Christy works shortened hours at UNC Charlotte as coordinator of graduate student teaching so she can be with her two children and transport them to summer activities. Nicole loves tennis lessons; Cooper enjoys soccer.

The kids were instrumental in choosing their bedroom decor. They chose paint colors, but mom painted every wall herself in her spare time and stained all the baseboards and window frames. Lee put in the wood floors and hung light fixtures and the antique doors Christy hunted down.

She is an avid antiques collector who scouts bargains on eBay and other Internet sites. Her favorite haunt is Metrolina Expo. Lee owns Luce Building and Remodeling.

A house project like this, according to Christy, "Takes a lot of patience and the family has to be committed. ... If one person is not on board, it won't work."

Book drive benefits Africans

While American students enjoy their summer vacation, children at the C Ngatjizeko Primary School in Namibia, Africa, are attending class.

Peace Corps worker Silas Fincher is located there and sent word to his congregation at Matthews United Methodist Church that the Namibian primary school desperately needed children's books.

Patrick Henderson, a marketing teacher in Weddington, heard of the need and proposed that his members of the Distributive Education Clubs of America help.

This past fall, Weddington High School DECA conducted a book drive coordinated by marketing students Rachel Donlin and Danielle Brockmann.

With the help of all the DECA members, Pat Kowalo, Hillary Steere and Brigette McSheehan's marketing classes, more than 1,000 books were collected and delivered to Weddington United Methodist Church.

Madeline Kamp packed and shipped all the books to Africa before the Christmas holidays. Before this school year ended at Weddington, DECA members received many pictures and thank-you letters from the children who received the books.

If you want to contribute, see

OUR TOWNS Sari Monaco

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Meals at the hostel

Cooking porridge for the hostel

Kids lined up at the hostel for food

Kids with their food

Kids eating

More kids eating

Kids by their house

This week ( email from Amy)

I've been invited to go to a Peace Corps conference in Ondongwa next week. I head out on Wednesday and I come back on Sunday or Monday. It's exciting for me. Ondongwa is in the far north and, other than the Caprivi strip (the small strip that extends from the north east corner of Namibia) it's pretty much the only part of the country that I've never been to. Plus, it means that I'll have good cell coverage for the 4th of July so I can talk to my family.

see map of some locations around Namibia

I've been sick this week but don't worry, I'm OK now. I had a fever and a sore throat (I lost my voice for a couple of days.) I didn't miss any school though. I don't know if there's anything quite so bad as waking up and feeling sick and knowing that you still have to go to work that day. (I mean, I don't HAVE to, but there aren't any substitute teachers in this country so if I don't then three to six classes will sit and do nothing for the period and will probably steal the textbooks or rip down the posters and when I come back they will have forgotten everything we talked about for the last month and a half.) Still, everyone took good care of me - a bunch of them visited me and suggested good remedys. And part of growing up is that you have to take responsibility even when you feel sick. I mean, if you're a parent you don't get to take sick days.

We got the window glass from Otjiwarongo on Friday, and we just hit a cold snap so it was not a moment too soon. We'll put them in over the next few weeks. While we were in Otjiwarongo I got a bunch of Lost episodes from Megan, so I've been watching them a little obsessively. It's such a good show. I also managed to get some fabric scraps for the quilt I'm making. It's a crazy quilt.

This week I finished Moby Dick, but I haven't started anything new just yet. Moby Dick was one of two books that I was supposed to have read in college and never finished (Middlemarch was the other) so I'm halfway to catching up.

Actual conversation I had with a traffic officer on a hike:

Him: "Can you drive?"

Me: "Yes, but I'm not allowed to here."

Him: "Why not?"

Me: "Well, I don't have a Namibian license and the Peace Corps is afraid that I'll get into an accident and they'll get in trouble for it."

Then there was a long pause where he looked confused for a bit and then his face cleared, like he figured something out.

Him: "Oh, you are having a chief in America and he says you cannot drive because you will be destroying things."

Me: "Yes, exactly, we are having a chief and he doesn't want our families to get angry at him if we get hurt so we must hike instead."

Anyway, I'm doing well. Not much else to report. Hope everyone there is fine.