Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Namibia on CNN!!!

So, I was going through my routine on the days I get to use the internet - facebook, email, and then CNN/BBC news [trying to stay informed here!] and what do I see on the CNN website, but a link that brings me to the discovery that they are doing a spotlight on Namibia this month! They've written some really great articles about the Land of the Brave :) I already linked to the one about Sosussvlei, but they have several other articles that highlight a couple of the tribes in Nam and also discuss an approach to wildlife preservation. This chart they made of key facts is so awesome!

 Produced by Kyle Ellis. Sources: World Bank; UNDP; CIA World Factbook, Reporters Without Borders, Electoral Commission of Namibia; UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Of their articles I think my favorite is the country profile, which does a great job at summarizing many of the current challenges facing Namibia: 50% unemployment, 15% AIDS infection rate, and one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world, in addition to the steps that the country is slowly taking to counter them. It also provides a solid history of the country - beginning with the German colonization, through the South African run apartheid era and Independence. And of course information about Namibia's natural resources is there too.  Check check check it out!!!
Eye On Namibia

And the other articles: Herero Traditional Clothes, Wildlife Conservation, The Himba

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mid-Servicing Group 34

the three people nearest me ran half marathons.#timetogethealthy

     Just two weeks after getting back to school for Term 3, it was time for Peace Corps Namibia Group 34 to all reconvene for the first time since our December Reconnect. But first, conveniently in the weekend leading up to this Mid-Service Conference there was a marathon in Swakopmund! I went along with what seemed like almost all of the Peace Corps Volunteers from the various groups to cheer on everyone running either the 10k, half, or full marathon! Watching everyone finish their runs almost made me want to participate next year… until I remembered my intense hatred of running even a 5k. We had a nice two days with people from all over PCNam, revisited our favorite stomping grounds for dancing and eating, and said goodbye to many group 30/32 volunteers who are leaving in the coming weeks!
      At our Mid-Service we went to a conference center situated in the mountains outside of Windhoek for our first two days. This was one of the most helpful trainings to date, with a lot of sessions, during which we shared our best practices and discussed all our challenges. Aka it was really nice to commiserate with others experiencing similar struggles [classroom management, that’d be you]. We also got a little preview of advice about international jobs we may be interested in pursuing after closing our service. Currently we have only lost 2 of our 38 Volunteers that arrived last August, making us still the biggest group in Namibia right now! After those two days we returned to Windhoek and got medical stuff taken care of to make sure all is still well. And after spending way too much money in Windhoek once again, it was time to get back home where I could live quite sparsely for the next three weeks and hopefully not blow my budget like that ever again.

     Anyway, back in Luderitz, at some point recently I realized I’m really at home here. I walk around town and in the location and see people I know walking or driving past me. People stop for me and give me lifts because they recognize me. It took a long time to get here, but feeling like a real part of the community is awesome. I’ve got about 3 ½ - 4 weeks left of teaching, depending on when classes arbitrarily stop for the exam whatwhatwhat, and then the term will wrap up already! 

Oh, this past week the GUTS [Girls Utilizing Their Strengths] Girls Group visited the mayor! The girls were very shy once they met Her Worship [as she is called, but they didn’t know this so instead addressed her as Ms. Mayor], but I think they really enjoyed seeing Town Council, listening to the Mayor describe what she does, and introducing themselves to her and explaining what we do in girls group. We facilitators are currently organizing a Gala fundraiser at the beginning of December to raise money for our activities next year :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

This past week...

I was eating omakaka that one of my colleagues shared with me – traditional spinach/pap, and she added fish, it was so tasty! Some of my absolute favorite learners were sitting with me during this break, so excited that I was eating one of their traditional dishes and enjoying it. One of them then tells me that she once ate a mouse. The others joined in immediately. One other had also eaten mice, and several were disgusted by this suggestion. Then some started talking about having eaten dog before in the north. The first girl then told me that if I was given a plate of different meats, I wouldn’t know if I was eating dog or mouse, because they both taste nice and I wouldn’t be able to tell. I told her it must have been a fat mouse for there to have been enough of it to eat. 

Two rod/pipe things that are used to beat kids have showed up in my classroom... I LOVE the shocked reaction of the kids as they watch me throw them away. Cue my inevitable weekly speech about how they need to stand up for themselves when they get beaten to help stop the chain of violence in their community.

One of my prouder teaching moments when learners, instead of insulting each other through their standard Afrikaans swear words [seriously the number of f-bombs dropped in my classroom are out of control], started using “AUGUSTUS GLOOP!” as well as Veruca Salt and Violet Beauregarde as insults. The first few times this happened I couldn’t help but laugh, thereby egging on the offenders to continue calling the person they were fighting with Augustus over and over, provoking a couple nice little fights. Worth it.    

I was leaving the school at the same time as two of my Grade 6 boys. One of these boys, despite being pretty smart, can’t bring himself to actually work because he is just too obsessed with being in a gang and becoming Lil Wayne, living the LA life, whatever that is [read: writes essays about smoking weed, stealing to get by, and killing. Thanks American rappers. And yes, this learner is also 11 years old]. The other boy, I swear, has made it his personal mission to either drive me insane or make me quit and go back to America. In my classroom he is so horribly rude and disrespectful to me and I have to stop class at least 3 times each day to deal with his antics. Anyway, as we’re walking through the location I’m playing music from my phone, namstyle – as in no earphones, everyone gets to hear my awesome music. Last thing I expected to hear from lilwayne wanna-be: Miss N, play “Call Me Maybe.” My jaw almost dropped as I started playing this classic hit, and got to listen to these two gangster 11 year-olds sing some Carly Rae Jepsen. BEST AFTERNOON EVER.

Also, I was recently told about this hilarious website, guess some Peace Corps experiences are common no matter where in the world you are.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

August Holiday

The past holiday was incredibly short, so naturally I decided to travel almost as far as I could from Luderitz in the shortest possible time frame. After taking a nice hot and sweaty combi to Windhoek from Luderitz, I decided I was done with public transportation for a while. If the two children vomiting in the row behind me didn’t do it, then maybe the fact that I thought the combi wasn’t even going to stop to let me out in Windhoek because no one understood English or Afrikaans, or because the ride was wayyy overpriced for my budget.

On the homestead!
Once in Windhoek I met up with two other good Group 34 friends, who had just finished Camp GLOW [Girls and Guys Leading Our World], and after two  days of treating ourselves in Windhoek/pretending that we aren’t actually on a budget, we were off! We were on the way to visit our friend Alex, who stays in a village maybe 30k outside of Ondangwa, one of the major towns in the north of Namibia, which is the part of the country where most of the population lives besides Windhoek. Now, to get a ride into the village, we needed to get there by a certain hour or else we would miss out! We also needed to get there because her host sister was getting married the next day, and we wanted to see the traditional Owambo wedding. So, typical, we ended up taking the long way, meaning no fewer than 8 separate hikes. We had an assortment of characters who gave us lifts – from a nice German who worked at a cement factory and explained the mechanics of precision field burnings, to an eccentric man who asked questions such as “what is the square area of an ostrich egg” [to which Mo responded “When would I ever need to know that?!?” as he gave a haughty look when we, as teachers, didn’t know], to an exceedingly uncomfortable 2 hours wedged between a lot of legs, a couple suitcases, and a huge bag of maizemeal in the back of a VERY slow-going closed bakkie, during which I kid you not this woman did not pause for more than 2 seconds to breathe as she spoke to us in a stream of half-Oshiwambo-half-English… Ayyyyy june.

The view from Alex's homestead
As in Nam, everything works out somehow, and even though we arrived about an hour and a half later than we were supposed to, we got a ride to the village! And wow, Alex lives in the bush. The whole ride in we wondered how Peace Corps even found this village. We were truly driving in sand for about 45 minutes as the sun set, nothing ahead of us except the occasional palm tree, and oh wait so many COWS. I forgot to mention, as you get farther north you cross a checkpoint called the ‘red line.’ You cannot transport animals/other assorted things across it, and above the line you are officially in a malaria zone. Also once we passed this line all of a sudden there were a lot more cars on the road, and there were cows and goats EVERYWHERE. I’m pretty sure Alex said something about the land being public/animals roaming freely, which would explain it.

After we reached the homestead, we greeted many extended members of Alex’s host family, most of whom do not really speak English. An elder man is a tate, and woman a meme. The evening greeting goes as follows in Oshindonga:
Me: Wa tokelwa po Meme?
Meme: Ee-ee
Not a real party without some meat!
Me: Nawa?
Meme: Ee-ee. Wa tokelwa po meme?
Me: ee-ee.
Meme: Nawa?
Me: ee-ee.
[In Oshiwambo nawa means good!]

Anyway, after a nice dinner of some sandy pap and traditional chicken we were off to bed, pretty exhausted from our travels. We woke up the next morning and prepared for the wedding! Alex procured some Owambo traditional clothes for us to wear, which we were so excited about!

The ceremony as usual started about 3 hours after it was supposed to, and I did not understand most of it. Towards the end though someone stood up and translated solely so that we could understand what was going on, which was so nice! After the ceremony ended picture time began, and before we got a chance to slip out the three of us were asked to go pose with the wedding party, only slightly unexpected since we had not met anyone in the wedding party before. After we returned to the homestead from the church, SO many memes greeted everyone as we walked in with the traditional high-pitched cheers, waving horse-tails in the air [see video!]. We got a tour of Alex’s homestead and saw a glimpse of life in the village before it was time to eat! Something got lost in communication, but another of Alex’s host sisters told us to go check out the wedding tent. Naturally, as we went to check out the wedding tent we ended up awkwardly standing right behind the bride and groom as they were getting introduced as man and wife to their closest family and friends… the bride quietly told us to just come inside already. From there we were unsure of what to do in order to not make the situation even more awkward, and after a stress/inappropriate laughter-filled couple of moments, someone took pity on us standing next to the food table and showed us to a couple of free seats. And so we got to eat while listening to our favorite Namibian songs as well as “It’s Your Wedding Day!” a song that I had not yet heard before! Afternoon turned into evening as we walked around the rest of the village, watched the sunset in the sand with Alex’s adorable adopted host son, and danced the night away as the evening's entertainment [aka a crowd of Namibians that preferred to watch us dance rather than break out their far superior dance moves]. In fact apparently the next week almost all of Alex’s learners wrote about how they watched Miss Alex and her American friends dance after the wedding. The next day it was already time to leave and get back to site for Term 3! Well worth the three day trek back to the bucht!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just What I Needed

Hey Everyone!

Long time no update. I started having a hard time deciding what is and is not appropriate to post on a blog, but also the past couple months have really gone by fast! Anyway, I will try to get back on track and update more often. Watch out for a bunch of stuff I wrote a while ago in the next few days. In not-so-recent news, I have officially been in this country for a year! Well, now closer to 14 months :) How time flies! Some days it feels like yesterday I was at home, and others it seems like I’ve been in Nam for ages. This year has been a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve gotten to have so many incredible experiences, face unbelievable challenges, gain some lifelong friends, and I know I've changed a bit as well. One more year to go! Ok, backtracking to August nownow:

Exam season is not my favorite time of the year, mostly because of the massive amount of time that gets wasted as the kids sit in their register classes all day, not doing any actual studying and not getting any lessons. Because I had my act together this term, I was completely done with all my marks a week and a half before the term officially ended. In addition to helping other teachers finish up with their marks, I also experienced one of the proudest moments ever. I spent a whole two days in the computer lab, trying to figure out the issues that were preventing 13 of the 20 computers from turning on. A LOT of cords, lots of things not hooked to each other, power outlets being weird, etc. But I didn’t lose hope and now ALL of the computers turn on, and only two have to be rebooted! Considering my many previous struggles with technology, I was so psyched to have figured this IT dilemma out! The next mission on this front: get other teachers to volunteer their time so the learners all get computer classes.

Anyway, one of the bigger struggles I’ve had in Peace Corps has been integrating. A really big reason for this is that I live extremely far away from my colleagues. My house is literally as far as you can get on the opposite side of town, a solid 40 minute walk going through town and then past town some. During this last week, though, I was SO excited because some of my colleagues included me in their post-work hangouts. After hanging out the night before, two colleagues and I went for a drink after we were finished at the school, and after an hour or so another two colleagues showed up. We were having a grand time, and after about another hour these two white men from South Africa came over and started talking to us. We were hesitant at first, but then they kept talking so naturally we merged tables and became fast friends. Now side note, a few weeks ago the teachers started catching on that I understood what they were saying in Afrikaans. In reality, I’d say I probably understand between 60-70 percent of what happens in conversations, which is generally enough to get at least the jist of what’s going on. I cannot, however, properly speak Afrikaans [the order words are put in doesn’t make sense!], so I always respond in English. Anyway, this realization prompted the teachers to only speak Afrikaans now, because they assumed I understood everything they were saying but was just too shy to speak it. Back to the bar, we are now sitting at the table with the South Africans, and one of them [who looks almost exactly like Jay from Modern Family] is saying that I don’t understand anything. My colleagues begin strongly defending me just as everyone’s Afrikaans is getting faster and faster.  I realize that drinking is actually not helping my language abilities in the slightest, and I’m understanding less and less of what’s going on. My colleague sitting next to me suddenly leans over and says ‘I think we must invite them to braai tonight!’ And the adventure continues at her house! A few hours later, we officially had two new capetownian best friends and full bellies from lekker biltong chili bites [jerky], oysters and gemsbok! Days like these are exactly why I joined Peace Corps, to make friends and have unexpected and completely unplanned experiences.