Monday, January 14, 2013

It’s Windy Season Julle!

So I think I have ranted about the wind in Luderitz too many times to count, but I have not yet brought up one of the cool things about this windy little town. Every November thru mid-December there is an international windsurfing/kitesurfing competition here, called the Luderitz Speed Challenge! Since 2007 over 40 world records have been broken here!

The Windsurfing Channel in Second Lagoon
I was lucky enough to get to see a bunch of the windsurfing this year because my neighbor and I drove out there on several occasions. Last year the Challenge introduced a new man-made channel in the Second Lagoon area, and this year was the big year for everyone to come and experience it! I once thought it would be cool to try out windsurfing – but after seeing how very narrow that channel is, I realized that narrow channel + rockscape + extreme wind would probably end badly for me when I inevitably fell over. So we stayed a good distance away and watched from the car. It’s pretty crazy how fast these people are going. Unfortunately windsurfing isn’t much of a spectator sport because of, well, the serious wind, so really very few people from the Luderitz community went out to watch it, at least when I was there. Maybe with time and more sponsors some kind of structure can be built to shield spectators from being blown away. In any case, when we went I got to see lots of windsurfing and one fluke kitesurfer – unfortunately I was out of town by the time kitesurfing officially began, because that looked way more fun and exciting to watch!

more pictures like this here:
Anyway, this year it appears that 2 more world records were broken, in addition to 12 different national records – which is pretty crazy since there were windsurfers from 13 different countries competing! From what I’ve seen, it looks like the windsurfer Sebastien Cattelan had the best run [is that the right term? i know nothing about windsurfing] with the speed of 53.27 knots – which, to convert into non-nautical terms, is him windsurfing at a speed of 61 miles per hour, or just under 100 kilometers/hour, SO FAST!  

If you find anything I’ve said so far about speed windsurfing intriguing, and want to hear more check out this interview with one of the windsurfers. Just a disclaimer I’ve actually not seen this video, because my internet is too slow to load it!!! Hopefully it’s interesting! Interview at the Luderitz Speed Challenge

PS fun fact – one of the world records set prior to this event was in Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer [one of the most memorable places I had ever been to until Africa] in Provence, France, where I studied abroad. Living in windy places is becoming my thing!

Friday, January 11, 2013

December Holiday: AmericaStyle!

Really there isn’t anything extraordinary to write about my trip to America. It was pretty standard America, which is to say, amazing. Wonderfully cold winter weather, Mexican food, Target, bagels, comfortable couches, driving, cable TV, snow on Christmas Eve, movie theaters, good friends, and my family, what more can you ask for? It was a perfect and much-needed break from Namibia. In the days/couple weeks before my flight home I really reached my limit in terms of African time, customer service [or rather the lack thereof that often exists here], and the exhaustion of traveling without a private car, both public transportation and hiking. Going home was the best thing I could have done to prepare for another [almost] year of service. And, after three weeks, I was really refreshed and totally ready to return. I am re-energized for my upcoming projects, and so excited to start off 2013 at Diaz Primary School. It was great getting back - my principal happened to be at the airport when I got to Luderitz [yay lift home!], and the day after that when I went to the grocery I ran into 5 people I knew, then saw three of my learners in town. I love feeling like a part of this town! And I still say this, even after I went yesterday to get a few pictures printed in town, and the lady helping me laid all of them out for the large group of other customers to see and marvel at!
New Years Eve stateside!
Anyway, this year I am looking forward to continuing the battle of teaching in trying out some new ideas, activities with my girls’ group, facilitating a new and exciting life skills/HIV education program that incorporates soccer, a promising community recycling project, the end of my Peace Corps service, a trip around the world with a some fellow PCVs, and a return home to America just in time for another Christmas. Let’s do this 2013!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

December Holiday NamStyle

Mo's host family's homestead
Yikes two months since the last post… oops. Much to update on, but I think I’ll start with the holidays before going even further back in time, since some cool stuff did actually happen in Luderitz in November! Time really is flying by! So at the beginning of December when school let out I decided to use my limited window of time before America to see some more of Namibia. To make the most of our time we moved real fast! I started by visiting my friend Mo, who lives in probably the most remote village around. She met me in the shopping town for most Volunteers in central Namibia, Otjiwarongo, and along with our friend Alex, we made the trek to her site, Okahitua. This involved traveling 30k south on the B1, then getting out and waiting for a lift another 100k to the tiny town Okakarara, then getting out again and waiting for another lift 30k to her village. The last 30k was a journey, as our first lift dropped us on the side of the road after we encountered a really bad accident [he decided to act and take the two seriously injured men to the hospital 10k back in Okakarara, unlike the 3 police cars and officers/various people, who were just standing around the accident scene doing nothing], so then we got another lift to a nearby village, and finally a third lift to Mo’s village, during which the muffler of the car fell off… always an adventure traveling. Mo’s village could not be more different than my site – she lives 5 feet from the gate to the school, her host family, and all the other families really, stay on homesteads scattered around the area, and there are probably (definitely) more goats than people. Plus there are no stores. None. From what I saw her village is the school, homesteads, farming land, and a soccer field. It was really cool to walk around and get a sense of what life is like this isolated from everything – it would definitely be an adjustment living there/having to travel that much every time I wanted any kind of groceries, I fully realize how spoiled I am living in a town. My favorite thing about her site – the complete peaceful silence at night and the sunsets. Thing I enjoyed the least – the thousands of fire-ants that bite your feet almost everywhere, it was a pretty painful experience for Alex and I walking around in sandals. 

The view we got after our mini-hike
Waterberg Plateau!

After a couple of days hiding from the sun in Okahitua it was time to move. We dropped Alex off in Okakarara to go catch her flight in Windhoek, and Mo and I headed to Waterberg National Park, where her staff party was occurring. Oh, forgot to mention – Mo has fewer learners in her school than I had in my Grade 6 class [of 150] this year, so there are 5 teachers [while I will repeat that my school has about 970 learners and 32 teachers]. So with our small group we managed to travel in a single bakkie to our braai. For the next two hours we drank lots of cooldrink and ate the most delicious boerwors I’ve ever had. We also hiked up to a lodge’s pool area in order to get a better view of Waterberg Plateau. After taking some good pictures we walked down the steps and saw an oddly placed bridge into the woods, on which a baboon was perched. Mo, thinking this was a moment that had to be captured [“in America bridges have trolls, but here we have baboons!”] paused to take a picture. Unfortunately, at the same time the unfriendly German tourists up at the pool decided to chase another baboon away from their area, directly towards us. So then we were chased by a baboon for a quick minute. Luckily the baboon got bored of our frantic screams/running and went back to his friends on the bridge, but we had a brisk walk back to her colleagues after that. As the afternoon came around it was time to move again, so with some extreme luck we soon made it back to Otjiwarango, and then up to Tsumeb to stay with our friend Allison for the night. As we rode further and further north the difference in landscape was incredible – so much grass and tons of trees, all of it just so GREEN! A massive contrast from the south, much less the rock/moonscape of Luderitz.
Attempting to pound mahangu with Sydney in her village
A few of my citenges... I may have bought 12 more at the market.
Anyway, the next day we made our way up to the Kavango region of Namibia, which is in the northeast of the country, and another area that I had not yet visited. We went to the town Rundu, which is actually the second biggest town in Namibia after Windhoek – we were surprised to learn this, but it made more sense after realizing that it’s really the sole hub for the whole region, which is almost entirely comprised of villages. Many of these villages are within view of the main road, we saw traditional hut after hut on our way into town. My first impression of this area was how blazingly hot it was. Thank God for trees and shady areas. We stayed with our friend Sydney in her village, Mavanze, which is about 20k outside of Rundu and really easy to get to by taxi. She works primarily at an OVC [orphans and vulnerable children] Center, which is a really unique primary project for an Education Volunteer, and that is also where her housing is. My favorite thing about her village/the whole region maybe, was the midday pouring rainstorm. I miss the rain so much! The most unpleasant thing about her village was having to use a latrine, which you had to walk a distance to from her room and then unlock before being able to use. I don’t think I would fare well with using a latrine for two years - again, things we take for granted [toilets!]. Our visit to Kavango was spent having evening dinners and sundowners by the river in surrounding lodges, and a really fun kayaking trip on the Kavango river, organized by another PCV in our group, Gio. The other side of the river is Angola, so we kayaked between two countries! That morning was mostly great, except for when I made the unfortunate discovery that it is possible to get badly sunburned on the tops of my hands… ouch. So much for SPF 70. While we were there we also had dresses made for us at the open market out of citenges, which Sydney told us are actually called Ehekes by people in Mavanze. These are long pieces of brightly colored and printed fabrics that are worn/used by a lot of people in this region. Just over the break alone I used one of my citenges [that someone brought down to me last year] as a pillowcase, sheet, scarf/headwrap, and general cover from the sun - it's uses are endless!

Our time eventually came to a close in Kavango, and we headed back to Windhoek for our upcoming trips. A great sprint of a trip, and just to give another show of how huge Namibia is, Luderitz is about 1545 kilometers from Rundu. The next undiscovered piece of Nam - the Caprivi Strip! Hopefully I will get there in May. To finish up here, a little moment that I wish I'd had my camera for - did you know that goats hate the rain? While in Mo's village we [tried to] help bring the goats into their enclosure for the night. As Mo and Alex waited patiently for me to finish being so amused by the goats [the only animals in Luderitz are street dogs... not as interesting] it began to rain, so we turned to head back to her flat. All of a sudden, all the goats had run out of their enclosure, we thought after us, but to our surprise, they were all running for cover under a tiny porch-type thing. The goats were fleeing the rain!