Friday, January 18, 2008


PS. On the ferry, there were also chickens and goats. Some guy brought a chicken and Megan tried to take a picture of it--when the guy said hey, thats my chicken! She responded, "what, is it a famous chicken?" hahaha.

We also camped on the deck through two thunderstorms. eeek.

Luuveellyy Jahbellyyy Journey through Zambia/Malawi


Lusaka- After being in land of few people and large open spaces, it was incredibly overwhelming just to cross the streets of Lusaka, the capital of Zamibia, forget exploring the city. Basically, the it was the entire population of Namibia squeezed into one crazy, real, bustling city. After adjusting to the number of people around me though, I loved Lusaka—complete with a Subway, hideaway Indian places where the aunty just put whatever came to her that day in a thali, and very few tourists, it seemed like a great place to live. The first day, we simply walked around trying to find some local food and markets—in addition to mangoes, there were all kinds of vegetables and crazy orange mushrooms. It was also kind of hard to adjust to the currency. 6000 Zambian kwacha is one US dollar. AHHH! Its impossible to think in thousands all the time—2000 kwacha is really not a lot of money but it sure felt like a lot. Fortunately it got progressively more manageable as we passed through Southern Africa.

Also, because there weren't a lot of tourists around, we got a lot of interesting comments—it was five girls and one guy with a big cowboy hat walking around, so it was pretty much impossible to blend in.

Some great comments in Lusaka:

“Five (girls) to one (guy) --you are overloading!” (Overloading=commonly used to describe when taxis and combis stuff too many people. This happens in namibia all the time.)

Shayna: “Can we all ride in your taxi?” (5 people)
Taxi Driver: “You are fat. Taxi is small.”
Shayna: “is that a no?”

We also saw an awesome modern art museum in lusaka and after searching for a long time, found the local food restaurant that we were looking for—it wasn't that much different than caprivian food, but they did use a lot more vegetables and every table had hot sauce on it, so it was definitely enjoyable!

From Lusaka we travelled to the border town of Chipata. We got on a bus leaving at 4 am, but it broke down in a random village just outside of Lusaka. It was kind of fun to walk around the village, and mango trees were everywhere, but toilets were hard to find. ACK. We did meet a guy from namibia who was on our bus!

Once we got to Chipata, we were pretty much lost—it was really late and we needed to find a place to stay. There were bike taxis of disputable reliability offering to take us around—actually i don't think the bikes themselves were unreliable, but it was raining, muddy, hilly, and we all had huge backpacks on, so we opted to walk rather than kill any unsuspecting bike taxi drivers. We ended up staying in this guesthouse and finding an awesome local food place that had really good vegetables. It was interesting to see that the town had such a large muslim population though—the mosque was about the nicest thing in chipata. Anyways, it was just a temporary stopover (later we discovered a pcv resthouse was there and we missed it :-()and the next day we set out to find a taxi to take us to the border—we ended up finding an awesome guy who loaded us ALL in one taxi with all our bags. He had to go find rope to tie up the trunk and then played hip hop music all the way to the border—on the way we saw people holding up canisters of black market gas, which is apparently much cheaper in malawi.

Once we got to the border, there were tons of people trying to exchange money for us—little did we realize this was our only chance to do this, since no one in malawi would exchange the inferior zamibian kwacha for the malawian kwacha (not that much better, but at least we were using 100s instead of of 1000s. 150=1 US dollar). Our taxi driver, having become friends with us since we were in such close quarters with him in the overloaded taxi, fervently defended our right to a fair bargain and we got a pretty decent rate for the remainder of our zamibian kwacha, before we walked across our second border to malawi.


We got to the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe in pretty decent time. Lilongwe is a much more manageable city—it was quiet and small, and seemed pretty cosmopolitan since we could find Indian and chinese food :-). We stayed at a nice backpackers where we met a volunteer from Mozambique who just finished her service, Kara. She was going to the same place and ended up joining us for a part of our trip! It was a relaxing night before we set of for our first exotic desitation, Nkhata Bay on Lake Malawi. We were initially informed that we were taking an express bus that would be much nicer than the other options, despite being the same price. The bus itself was definitely nicer, and since we got there on time, we got our own seats. However, by nine o'clock (our starting time being 8 o'clock), we realized that this bus, despite its appearance, was definitely local transport. We had people standing in the aisles (for the entire trip), music blasting, and off course, a couple of chickens. Every time we stopped people sold their wares, including corn, bread, and peanuts—by the end we were starving but when we tried to buy food, our newfound malawian friends yelled at the local sellers trying to overcharge us. By the end, we got slightly delirious and megan started talking about wood nymphs and sprites. Fortunately, our bus driver was speeding through the mountainous road along Lake Malawi, so along with getting to our destination quickly, I was constantly entertained by Megan falling on me seductively (accidentally).

We did eventually get to Nkhata bay, where random men found us and took us to one of the local backpackers/lodges. Nkhata bay pretty much can be described as paradise. Lake Malawi is completely clear blue and the beaches are sandy, but the sand is not so fine that it stuck to you all the time. To top it off, there were mango trees on the beach and you could see fisherman in the tiny boats riding out at sunset.

We spent a couple days just vegging out after hard travel—the lodge that we were staying at also had the most hilarious staff. First was simon, the four foot tall little old man who spoke with a really high voice. He didn't really do anything funny until he noticed that megan could not stop laughing every time he walked by. Then, once he started dancing in front of her (leaving her, i think, at the brink of hysterics) and when we left, he gave her a bunch of air kisses. It was pretty fantastic—but my favorite was Dixon, the main waiter. Every time you asked him for food, he said “whyyyy not, ahahahahahah.” Once he convinced us to buy a meal just because he said it would be “yaaummyy yaummmy yaummyyy.” When we said we enjoyed it, he just said “ahahaha, loaavelly jabelly.” Clearly, he was amazing.

Anyways, we decided to leave this paradise for the ferry that travels across lake Malawi (we were misguided by the deceitful and unreliable lonely planet, which told us that not only was their tons of food available on the ferry, but that we could possibly meet our soulmates on this ferry. After going on the ferry for two days, i can assure you that this is pretty much impossible.) We got on the ferry, deciding to take 1st class, which was the cheapest option above deck. 1st class meant we camped on the deck of the ferry—possibly scenic, when its not the rainy season. The sights were beautiful at times, but frustrating because it was raining mostly and because the boat stopped for hours because someone wanted to transport a car on to the ferry. IF the ferry was normal, as in it docked at all of its stops, this wouldn't have taken long. But no, the car was transported via smaller boat onto the ferry. Needless to say it took forever. We spent Christmas on the ferry and made each other some rather exciting gifts—including a massage, a bottle cap necklace, beer goggles made from cardboard and bottle caps, and a paper rose. It was a little sad, but nothing compared to our initial shock at discovering that we were definitely NOT meeting our soulmates on the ferry.

Anyways, we chose to get off at a smaller stop, Chipoka. We unloaded onto a small, suspicious looking wooden motorboat, but our elation at getting of the ferry was too strong to be overshadowed by this. Until we found out how we were getting off the small boat. One of the older (Malawian) ladies on the boat almost fainted when she saw it—we were to climb up a 5 foot high cement wall using the rusty metal (often broken) beams attached to that wall. We climbed up with our backpacks and watched incredulously as babies were lifted over the wall by one arm. They didn't seem shocked though.

Anyways. We made it!! And got to the road where we parted ways with two members of our group, kara (stayed on the ferry) and simon (went back to namibia), and set to wait for a hike to the next town, or possibly mozambique. Originally we had planned to get all the way there, but our ferry was eight hours late and no one was stopping to take us anywhere. Combis rejected us because we were too many people—this would never happen in Namibia and cause me to missed overloading here desperately. Anyways, finally, a flat-bed truck pulled up and a white guy speaking Chichewa (the local language), started helping us out because, i'm pretty sure, we appeared just as desperate as we were. Anyways, he turned out to be Peacecorps and offered to host us for the night (and has been to Richmond). We ended up riding on bike taxis the 2-3 km to his site—since we all had our huge backpacks on, i'm pretty sure the drivers were exhausted by the end. At one point, we saw a herd of cows in our way and I was sure we were going to fall until the driver started yelling at the person herding the cows and the cows to move. I tried to communicate this to the driver, but his english was limited to "yes, madam", "thank you madam", pointing and a thumbs up. The cows listened to the driver, but since the person herding them was about four years old, i'm pretty sure he had no control. Well, i guess he didn't look like he cared much either. Anyways, we got to the site—it was beautiful and set in a valley with small farms all around it. It was fun to play volunteer there—we played with the kids that congregated to stare at us and Danny, the volunteer cooked us delicious food on woodfire/stove. He had only been at his site a week and was soo happy and excited to be there so that was also nice and we tried not to infect him with our occasionally pessimistic perspective on volunteer life.

Anyways, the next day, after another wonderful meal (we really hadn't had much to eat on the ferry), we set off for mozambique. We got to the border town pretty quickly (By noon) and had some more good local food while we waited around for the rain to stop. We wanted to change money, since there was a bank and an exchange place, but we were deceived by the signs. The atm was not working, the exchange place was closed, the bank wouldn't exchange anything or provide any services of the atm, and we were simply told that nothing could be done. Ack. I'm not really sure why the bank was even there or why those people were being needlessly employed. Anyways, it all worked out b/c one person's card work and everyone accepts dollars and rand everywhere. We learned our lesson from the previous border and exchanged the rest of our malawian money with the sketchy men at the border—this time they had calculators which were mysteriously programmed and didn't work properly. Fortunately we also learned to work out the rate in our head ahead of time, so i think we got a decent deal. Anyways, it was the end of the kwacha (sadly) and the beggining of the mozambiquan currency, meticais. Much less fun, obviously, but much more managable as it was 25 meticais to 1 us dollar. After haggling for the last time in english (not understanding how wonderful this is, compared to haggling in, say, Portuguese), we once again walked across the border, blissfully unaware of the exhausting journey that lay ahead of us in Mozambique.

next edition—mozambique.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Zambia/vic falls

Today we are in Livingstone Zambia! We went to vicotira falls… I thought this would be uneventful, you know just looking at the falls, but we ended up hiking to the bottom of the falls in this thing called the boiling pit, whih I thought would just be stairs, but not really—we waded through two streams and climbed over a series of rocks to get to the bottom (after the stairs). When we got to the bottom there were tons of little Zambian boys from a soccer team already down there who were apparently really excited to see us and started taking pictures with us. Then they helped us to find limes since there are tons of lime trees at the base of Victoria falls!! After we climbed back up (much easier), we decided to buy some food from local vendors—which was nice, except baboons grabbed our food. The first time, we didn’t know it was coming and it just grabbed a bag of fruit. But the second time we were trying to run away from it and it chased me and grabbed my peanuts!!! Then it did a victory jump/dance while the Zambians around laughed at us. It was pretty funny, but that’s the second time a baboon has stolen my food. Next time, I will throw a rock at it. Grrr. Anyways, after that we got rained on again—friends where supposed to bungie jump but it wasn’t a good idea in the rain. We ended up coming back to town... Its amazing here! There are mango trees everywhere. No one even sells them, we just pick them off the trees! They are delicious—plus at the open market we saw mushrooms and eggplant and bellpeppers and avacadoes. Really though I’m excited to eat anything we can get off the tree. That’s all for now!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

One Year in Namibia!

So it has been a long time since i have updated—and it will probably be a long time until i do afterwards, so don't worry that its so long!

I can't believe I have been back from the states for two months. The time has flown by—it wasn't hard to readjust to life here. I think that I just can't think of both home and here at one time because they are so different! Except for maybe walking in the sand, my host sisters were just cracking up when I got back and one of the teachers started calling me oshilumbu again (literally translates to: thing white) again. And, I had just convinced her to call me oshibrowna right before I left.

This last trimester has been a bit different—its the end of the year, so people are starting to check out a bit. Grade 10 learners were finished back in october and the rest of them just finished yesterday! Its made getting things done at school a bit difficult, so i have spent most of this trimester thinking about and planning for the projects I want next year. I'm still looking for something big that will take me a whole year but my time is running out.

So, I have been here one whole year and am approaching my halfway point for the end of my service—there are a lot of things that I have grown used to, but in their place, new, and probably more serious things have popped up. Peace Corps staff and ex volunteers always warned us that after a year, we would feel like we knew nothing about our society. I don't feel entirely like that—I know some people pretty well and feel comfortable where I am. But I have learned that there are a lot of things that I have never understood, even from my experiences with culture at home.

New Volunteers!!!!!!

Its strange to realize that I am no longer new here, and this feeling is reinforced by the new volunteers who have just arrived. I met them when I arrived at training—they had only arrived five days before and were just as wide-eyed and scared as I was last year. While I was sort of nostalgic for training, I don't envy them at all! Just knowing where we were and how to interact with people gave us so much freedom, as opposed to last year when we were confined to our training center and really couldn't imagine anything beyond it.

I now have two trainees shadowing me for a week—the prospect of having them here was really exciting, but now that they're here I'm kind of stressed out. They're excited and eager to be here and also excited about their sites. I don't want to ruin that. Also, coming to my site is kind of a step down for them in terms of creature comforts though since both of their sites have running water and electricity in the forms we expect in the states. Its also difficult because I don't want them to judge me as a volunteer, especially when I have days when I doubt myself. (They're not actually judgemental fortunately) I found myself justifying to them why I decided to stay here, in Omuthiya, when I had the option of being at another site with more basic comforts, and it was hard to explain! I have thought about the idea of changing sites or even moving somewhere nicer at my site (there are some flats here that are pretty nice), and I can't bring myself to make it happen. I can't think of any concrete reasons, except for that I am happy where i am, and that's not something to underestimate.

Old Hat

One major thing that marks this one year anniversary is simply the fact that I am used to things were once ridiculous. This is probably what has made my blog entries less frequent—the fact that i have spent several mornings chasing goats out of my homestead (simply because I left the gate open) has sort of seemed normal. In fact goats and chickens have become standard—except for the day that it rained and I found a bunch of goats in the outhouse. That was frightening.

Another thing that has become standard is how no one is going to be on time. Now, since most of you know me pretty well, you know that I am not on time unless I absolutely need to be. Here, no matter how hard I try, I always seem to be early. Usually this is because I have decided to actually show up for an appointment. I guess this is ok, since I might as well enjoy it while it lasts. I should clarify, not everyone is like this here, but when working with the community in Omuthiya, this is how it generally goes. I am currently waiting for a group of people that was supposed to meet at 8 to give me a list of children that should receive teddy bears. One is here, but is leaving. We have 200 bears to donate. She gave us our first five names. AHHHHHHHH!

There are some things that I pretend I'm used to. Like transportation—I am still not used to getting in a taxi, waiting an hour to pile in about 8 people, and then taking an hour and a half to go 70 km. Ahhhh. But, now, at least people know me. Back in the day, they used to not believe me when I said I was going to Omuthiya (Gauri and Stephanie wrote “Omuthiya” down as their destination when they first arrived in Namibia. The guy at the passport desk said to them what everyone says about Omuthiya--”are you sure? why would you want to go there?”) Now, if I'm trying to get a hike anywhere, like, Windhoek, three people stop and ask if I need a hike to Omuthiya. I don't know who you are, how do you know who I am? Its not just me either, for example, those volunteers living in towns find that taxi drivers will know where their house is. In the states, this might be scary, but here it is kind of nice. It feels like people know you, and when people know you, they help you out. Or so i think.

New perspective

There are also a lot of issues that made me really angry. For example, people asking me for ridiculous things. I got blankets donated for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in June, and some teachers continuously asked me for the blankets. Complete taboo to me—you are making a regular salary, why would you want this blanket, which is going to keep some poor child warm for the winter?! I know you already have a blanket. Even now I struggle with reconciling myself with this idea and would never do it myself. However, as I've gotten to know the people in question a bit better, I've gotten a better idea of why something like this might be ok—All of these teachers support children that are not their own (in addition to their own). They don't do this grudgingly, but simply because they are making money. Those who have are simply expected to share. You find people here regularly paying for schooling up to the university level for nieces, nephews and cousins. So if there are blankets sitting there, they should simply be available.

Also, another volunteer gave me some more insight into people asking for something—for people here, asking can be a way to initiate friendship. This is really unusual for me since both of the cultures I come from frown upon asking for things—if you want to be friends with someone, you give them something (information, invite them somewhere, etc). Here, asking can mean you trust the person to give you something quality (i.e. That won't kill you). That doesn't mean I always give something to everyone, but it does mean I ask for a lot more! Aha.

Another thing that I have found difficult is the generalizations people make here—about each other, themselves, and Americans. In general, I don't like generalizations (ahaaha, i just made one), but in my first three months here, I found myself making them.. about Ovambos, Namibians, Southern Africans, Americans, and on and on. It took a heated discussion with another volunteer who had been here much longer to realize what pattern I was getting myself into—when people here say things like “Oh, us Africans, we cannot do this...” and nothing is getting done, sometimes its easy to think, yeah maybe you're right. Of course, it helps that I know many Africans who accomplish a lot and ultimately it just becomes frustrating because people use these generalizations to make excuses for themselves. Its even more frustrating because they often truly believe them.

The only way I can think of to avoid these is to remember that I really only know about the north of Namibia, and that there are always exceptions to every generalization. It also helps that people here constantly make generalizations about Americans, based on none other than, tv and movies. Oh yes, and their interactions with Peace corps volunteers who are obviously very typical in US society.

Self-Imposed Boundaries

Ultimately, I have found that its easy here to find things acceptable that you wouldn't think are ok in the states. In some ways this a good thing, like when I am riding in a taxi, or when I don't want to kill my Meme for waking me up at 5 in the morning to borrow some salt. In other ways, I have decided that I need to draw a line even when Namibians don't understand it. Basically, I've decided that I'm not a cultural relativist. This is kind of a strong statement because it means that I don't think all things are ok because a certain culture decides that it is acceptable. Well ok, i am a cultural relativist to a certain extent, but there are certain issues where I draw the line—like sexual harassment, abuse, murder, theft, etc. etc. It seems like these are easy boundaries, but here, I find that when it comes to gender relations they are not. Our definition of sexual harassment would get a lot of men arrested here—and it would not be accepted by some women also. When I first arrived here, it seemed to me that most women were content to be with men who dated other women regularly (even to the extent that they would have several live in girlfriends) or even beat them. There have been situations where I found myself conforming to this and feeling bad that I was “overreacting” to situations that were normal here in Namibia. However, upon closer inspection, it seems to be a situation that they simply accept b/c they don't see another option. This doesn't mean that all women are unhappy, but it does mean that a lot of them are living with situations that they would change if they felt like they could. Ultimately, to react negatively to these situations however, is pretty much looked down upon. After a lot of thought and talking to some other volunteers, this is one situation where I have decided that I will not conform with the culture here. Fortunately, there are at least a few people that agree with my perspective and some others who never thought about it before and don't exactly hate it. I hope that by maintaining my perspective I will be able to change at least a few minds here!

Ultimately, I've accomplished a few things in this year, both personally and professionally. I've had to constantly remind myself of such accomplishments the days, like this one, that I am just sort of sitting around waiting for someone I made an appointment with to show up. I think the one thing that I am most proud of that I've managed to stay reasonably optimistic most of the time— both about people in general, and that these women might just show up in the next few hours.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Random Observations

Once again, I have been lax on updating—partially because work has been a bit busier, but also because a lot of things that I have observed in the past seem sort of normal to me, so I think i don't notice them anymore. For example, the other day I was riding in one of my principals' bakkie, and he was filling up the gas and suddenly the car starts moving up and down. To me, this is now standard—at filling stations people will pump their entire truck up and down to fill it up with more gas. The first time it happened though, I thought they were trying to get me out of the car.

So maybe today will just be series of random observations:

1.Today, as I was walking from an office, I saw an entirely naked baby wearing only white tennis shoes. It was bent over and screaming aaha haha. I think it was happy.

2.A teacher warned me earlier that some kids were messing up my class room. I went in, told them to get up, clean up, and get out. It was the strictest I've ever been (they had left old corn and candy wrappers on the floor, PLUS dumped all my things on the floor!). My karma it seems, came to get me, when I tried to lock the door. The lock sticks, but usually it works ok. Today however, I try to open it and suddenly the key moves smoothly—why? b/c the key broke in the lock.

3.Also, today, I went to visit a school in my cluster, about five kM from the road. There were three classrooms constructed from the normal cement, and then five zinc shack classrooms for 200 students. Its a new school, which in Namibia, means that the Ministry might not have gotten around to it? We went to two classrooms. In the first one we found some older learners who stood up when we walked in (standard). Then we went into the next class room, where there were sixty small kids in one, rather large, but not large enough, classroom. When we left that one, I looked back into the first classroom only to find the kids still standing.

4.I got bored and taught Grade 8A how to use the Internet. They were fascinated most by the pictures of lions, giraffes and elephants that they have never seen before, even though there is a game park only 17 km from Omuthiya, my site!

5.Recently attended a meeting under a tree. Quite possibly the most efficient meeting I have been to since arriving in Namibia. The group, saving to buy a tractor and use it to raise money to fund affordable housing, has collected N$41,000. The meeting took thirty minutes, and had absolutely no written or discussed agenda. This does not mean that nothing happened at the meeting, just that we didn't really spend much time talking about what was going to happen at the meeting.

6.This week, I attended a staff meeting for the school closest to my house. The teachers have taken the initiative to build a second water pipe for our school, in addition to planting a diverse variety of fruit trees all over the school, clearing and creating a new soccer field, planning a school trip to Grootfontein, organizing a HIV/AIDS awareness week march and drama competition, and painting a new school emblem over our old one.

7.Last week, I shadowed a woman who works with the World Food Programme to understand the feeding scheme and maybe talk to some of the people who do the distributing. All the people who appeared at the Feeding points were mostly old women, but they were talking and laughing as they picked up the heavy bags of maize meal. I realized that these old women weren't picking up the food for themselves, but for the Orphans and/or Vulnerable Children they had taken in. I also met a woman working for the UN. She was a Namibian who only passed Grade 12, but had found herself in a successful position as an AID worker. We visited the small village center near one of my cluster schools and ate some really good chicken that only cost $2. Not only was it covered, but it also had pepper in it! Way nicer than Omuthiya Location market. Also saw a really really hairy brown baby donkey.

8.Visited the village of a friend with no electricity and no water except a tap, but was very nice. Even though only about an hour and a half from my site, this village had an entirely different landscape. Vast savannahs (as in the Namibian national anthem) and open spaces, while here we have a lot of trees. Met two small kids with my favorite names: Ndafa (means: I am happy) and Boyki (a combination of afrikaans and english, which just means, “small boy”). Ndafa, who is also named Ndiddymeche (I think may be her real name), can compete for the prize for cutest small girl in Namibia. Also saw some really tiny baby goats, but have a feeling they won't be cute for much longer.

9.SchoolNet installed OpenLab4 on our computers. Now, we have SEVEN functional computers in our lab! (this is what allowed me to teach grade 8A, i guess). Only disadvantage is that it makes my Internet REALLY slow. Still, Ndafa!
10.Before that attended peacecorps wkshp at Red and Yellow hotel in Ongwediva. Got to see everyone, very exciting, and met our new peacecorps director, who prefers to be called Hannah. She knows one of my French teachers, Professor Drame from her time as a peace corps volunteer in Senegal!!!!!

11.Had a huge HIV/AIDS awareness day march and then drama competition later in the week. Notable Incidents:
1.A poster which said, “safe sex safes lives.”

2.Riding in my counterpart's really nice car while hundreds of kids ran behind us singing songs about HIV. I felt a little bad, but not nearly as much as I would have when i first got here. After all, I am “Miss Ami”, sometimes Oshilumbu, sometimes Oshibrowna.

3.The Police Officer chasing back Waa Pandula P.S. Learners (basically small kids), back with a stick. No one sees this as out of the ordinary. Fortunately, no one gets beaten. The police officer wants the picture I took to memorialize the event.

4.Got donations of prizes from a local grocery store. The owner had to verify that the prizes were for kids to make sure not to include alcohol.

5.During the drama, there were at least four plays about sugar daddies. One of them was named “Mr. Cash” and was on a vendetta to infect people with HIV/AIDS.

6.To simulate having HIV/AIDS in the Drama, my host sister, who was the star, borrowed my jeans (which were too big and falling off). In addition to promoting an incorrect stigma of AIDS, it made me feel kinda fat.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


So, I promised a blog entry a week, and I shall deliver. I have chosen Wednesday because a) I'm feeling awake today and have accomplished almost everything on my list of things to do today and b) b/c today is the day I take my mefloquine aka malaria prophylaxis, which often leads to interesting dreams and mood swings, so I thought it might make this entry more exciting. If any of you are still reading this. This week is starting to pick up, although as predicted my June 1st OVC meeting is postponed. No problem, as now i've learned to go with the postponements, but its also goign to be bigger than i expected b/c the RACE office from Ondangwa is planning to attend the meeting. Will we really accomplish anything? What do they want to talk about? Will anyone understand me while I am speaking. The suspense is unbearable, but I will have bear it until next wednesday.

There are some other things I am working on though. In the Namibian (or maybe world tradition) of having holidays for diseases (or maybe more PC, infections), AIDS Awareness week is the third week of June, so we're having an event and a local store has already agreed to donate some prizes for our contest. The contest will be basically a cultural show, where people can read poems, do dances, peform dramas, or read stories about or related to HIV/AIDS for both the school and community members. It should be exciting, and I think PEP may also be donating some things. The Area manager is calling me tommorow, and he seems to have had a great relationship with the previous volunteers so things are looking up. I've also started my OVC database as two schools in the cluster and the local OVC coordinator have given me lists of local OVCs.

The current project which does not seem to be working out is the school newspaper I am trying to start. Everyone seems to want a newspaper to instantly appear, but no one wants to do anything. I am going to have a meeting today with my kastaff (meaning, in namlish, small staff) and in addition to playing musical chairs with them, i plan to have them write something, anything really, down on a piece of paper and then have their neighbors rate what they have written. Just to get them started. Its going to work! And, everyone is going to want to be on the paper when it is finally done. In my ideal world, this will all happen (and I will also figure out a way to take hot showers every morning instead of boiling a really big pot of water and bucket bathing... winter has finally arrived, although that just means its freezing at night and warm during the day. on the bright side, i dont feel like i need to take a shower during lunch and can spend it attempting to work, or at least sitting in the tuck shop with the teachers).

Speaking of sitting in tuck shops with teachers, I don't know if I have mentioned about the Namibian (and from what i studied in college, west african) tendancy to speak in proverbs and use metaphors constantly in conversation. I'm not sure if its used so frequently in english simply because of tradition or also because people don't know the words for things in english, but unless someone is directly addressing me, I often have no idea what people are talking about. (this happens to me frequently in the tuck shop... kind of a canteen i guess). For example, a conversation will go "He is going to the bank with the officer." "oohhhhhhh, soooooohoooooo. they ahve gone as two and will come back with one loan." everyone bursts into laughter. Ok so maybe this one wasn't that hard to catch (on to, but if i added these two words, my namlish would not be complete), but it took me a while. One that I've heard used frequently in reference to the namibian man's tendancy towards multiple girlfriends is, "he is not serious, he just wants dessert after dinner." eeeeeeek, I guess I got that one the first time. The problem is, I can't relay to you the conversations that I dont understand b/c I can never remember what they are saying. I think today some teachers had an argument about a paper in a book and taking it out, but i'm really not sure. hmmm. but, I've decided to retaliate by referring to everything as " that thing." Its frustrating because no one ever knows what "that thing" is even though I am usually refering to something we just talked about, although they seem to always know what each other are referring to. Assimilation is definitely not as easy as it looks on the surface. So, If I come home refering to everyplace as that side of Washington DC and everything as that thing, please forgive me and congratulate me b/c I may have finally achieved integration into Omuthiya.

Monday, May 21, 2007


As we were sitting at a campsite in northern Kunene, we heard a voice of disdain... maybe it wasn't as strong an emotion as disdain, but rather just laziness. Mweeeeeeeh, mweeeeeeeh. It was like someone was summing up my emotional state of the moment (and ok, possibly of every moment since I graduated a year ago)... I had to meet this person who so clearly understood me. Unfortunately, my attempts to find my soulmate were thwarted by the fact that it was a bird and afraid of all of us. It flew away from the tree right above me when we attempted to move closer. I have no idea what kind of bird, but i've started hearing it everywhere in Namibia (and not just from my own mouth, since I can't make the sound nearly as well as some of my fellow volunteers can).

From following the mweh bird all over north western namibia to playing german monopoly (where I lost spectacularly. As if the fact that I'm broke wasn't enough to indicate to me that I am terrible with money), I have to say I've had an exciting month without any time for updates... including two sort of vacations. Well the first one was a full blown vacation, largely due to the fact that it was entirely planned by group 25ers (aka the people who came here last year). They rented a car and two of us from 26 came along for the ride. It was all in Kunene, but Kunene is ginormous (is that a word?), so we did a lot of traveling and saw a lot of different landscapes. We spent the first four days on the kunene river.

At the first place we went, the staff was really nice to us b/c they're not used to getting younger people coming to see them (its usually older europeans), and we went on this river boat cruise thing, which was nice but we didn't see any crocodiles. This may have been fortunate since most of us (including our tour guide, who lives there, so I trust his judgment) ended up swimming in the river, but I was still disapointed. And don't worry, it moves too fast for schisto... or so they told us.

At Epupa Falls, which was even harder to get to but definitely worth the bumpy travels... we were just driving and driving and suddenly, you look down the hill and see palm trees and water falls in the middle of the desert. I thought i was seeing a mirage. (Once you climb up a bit higher than we were you can see that the falls are actually huge and the angolan side of the border is much greener, but that moment was pretty shocking, especially after miles of desert). Our campsite was right infront of one of the smaller falls, and right next to it was a small delta with little water falls that was safe from both schisto and crocodiles so we could swim there also... it was amazing. There was a huge baobab tree right in the middle and tons of little himba (you're gonna have to look this up) kids playing in the water. A bunch of them braided my hair, but my favorite was a little girl named wendy... i didn't keep it in for long b/c it really hurt, but apparently it looked allright and someone has a picture of me and wendy after I got my hair braided. I tried to give her a bunch of cookies, but a bunch of kids swarmed me, so I settled for just giving her two instead of one. (One of the 25ers found a bag of them at a store on our way there. I think he said they said “South West Africa” on them. Well, he might have been joking? Either way, delicious. Oh how my standards for food have gone down.) Ok so maybe my favorite was also happy boy, this fat fat little baby who was sitting in the water giggling while we splashed (or uh... rolled) water on him. How did they name him so appropriately?

Anyways, after epupa, we went on to some desert campsites where we were supposed to spot elephants and rhinos. We didn't see any rhinos (unfortunately, since someone just told me i look like one...mweeeh), but we saw an elephant and tons and tons of zebra, giraffes (we got a momma and baby crossing the road), oryx, kudu, and even a few warthogs. And off course the standard cows, goats and donkeys that you get everywhere in namibia (today i saw a goat wandering around by it self bleating... it was so depressing... i never realized that goats can't be alone, but i had no idea how to make it feel better. somehow petting it didn't seem like the right thing to do.) PLus, the campsites we went to were all nicer than my homestead. Some how most of them had electricity and ALL of them have hot water. I am so gonna figure out how to set up a woodburning waterheater at my site.

Second vacation was to Grootfontien, Rundu, and Divundu (the latter two being in the kavango). We mostly hung out with other volunteers, but it was cool to see what life is like in the kavango. We saw rundu beach on the kavango river, although we stayed out of this river since it was pretty still and obviously could have shisto, although apparently no crocs b/c little kids were swimming in it. On the other hand, volunteers east of Rundu in kavango have mentioned that they lose 5-6 learners a year to crocodiles when small boys/girls are sent to fetch water. Maybe corporal punishment is the kinder alternative in some places, eeek. Anyways, we hiked out to divundu which is right on the edge of caprivi strip, and stayed with the volunteer there who lives in this amazing amazing youth center. we're apparently supposed to get one like that out here, but uhh.. who knows when that will happen. we spent most of our time cooking and watching sex in the city, but we did make it out on a river cruise, which was really cool, we saw a lot of hippos!!!!!, water monitors (huge lizards), baby crocs and cool birds. The guide must have had like 20/0 vision b/c he could see everything and kept on pointing out stuff to us that we would have never noticed. Everything was great in dividu until we had to hike back... we waited for FIVE hours to get a ride to Rundu and had to split up. Its a nice place, but i dont know if i could handle the difficulty in traveling.

So I am back at my site after many travels! I plan on spending time at my site, but imma rolling stone (ahaha, i jsut wanted to stay that), and I can't say that I am ever just happy sitting still in one place. But now that I'm back, I've decided to get to work at getting work now that I am here, but its still slow coming. We were supposed to have a meeting on June 1 for this new job description that Mr. Matengu helped me to create for myself, where I will be working with OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) within our six cluster schools. I'd say maybe 60% of our kids are OVC, so I'm not gonna be working with all of them, but just what the OVC coordinators at each school decide are the cases in need of attention. I'll be monitoring their weekly progress and school, applying for food and blankets from the government and local businesses, and hopefully doing some activities with them, which I am still trying to work out, b/c I want them to be fun and some how also confidence building. Any ideas anyone?

Unfortunately though, the ministry recently decided that school should be postponed another week, so I have a feeling this meeting will not go as planned. It makes sense that it is postponed, b/c it was supposed to start this week, but we get friday off for africa day, but its weird that they decided that this should happen last week. well it will be figured out next week.

So that is whats goign on... I am also continuing to work on my peer counseling thing/ school newspaper/income generating projects/legal assistance and looking forward to GAURI visiting meeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!! For now, it is weird b/c I feel like I am doing a lot and its tough to keep it organised, but at the same time, I feel like I am doing nothing.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

5 cent

So... finally updating! I think I am going to stick to weekly updates, b/c honestly, now that you guys know my daily routine, life is relatively unexciting on a daily basis. Well, its still exciting for me, but to hear that I ate beans and corn from the field again today could get boring, and I want to keep you guys coming!

Miss Ami

So yesterday, my three dedicated PHEs actually practiced a presentation in front of my future is my choice and I was scared to DEATH. Like to the point that I didn't want to watch them b/c I was so scared. But, fortunately, they did an excellent job. They were confident, loud, and knew when to improvise and speak in oshiwambo! I am totally throwing them a party next week after I get back from windhoek. I told them that, and they didnt really understand...but they will if I find cookies in windhoek. Cookies always make a good party. Actually... I think I might make them! Anyways, I was very excited, plus 5 more kids signed up.

Beans and Maize

So this week, I've basically been hanging out with my family for dinner everyday b/c I love the beans and corn... they were eating mahangu one day, but it was with beef, so they got me more corn and maize so I could eat with them... it was really exciting. *i know it doesn't sound that exciting... but really, it was* Then, I promised to show them Indian dancing if they showed me how to do oshiwambo dancing, which is basically feels a lot like step. They like sing and clap and basically stomp to the rhythm in the middle of a circle of people... As opposed to my abysmal attempts at step though, I think i actually got this, and then I showed them some garba/a little bhangra (they loved it, but somehow could not do the steps without falling down. made me feel pretty skilled). Somehow though, the night ended in us attempting to do ballet and the splits in the middle of our homestead... i was in pain for at least a day after that. The next night we did the same thing... except we decided to play this game where someone listed different things after someone picked a category. We decided on musical artists and after we got through all the namibian artists, my host sister decides to try an american one... specifically, "5 cent." hahahahahaa. try making a dollar out of 5 cent. ok just kidding.

Fried Chicken

So, I stayed in Omuthiya for the weekend and went with my host sister to this... well they ahve this tradition where the girl goes to the guys homestead to meet the guys family, so me, my host sister, her sister, and some of her friends headed up north in my host sister's little red city car. (think VW bug with like 7 people in it... yesssss). It took us forever to get there... my host sister stopped at their cuka shop to do her hair, and made me go home and change into indian clothes (probably should have grabbed a snack). Then we finally left for Ondangwa, but once we got there, we stopped at pick and pay to go shopping... and then... some how my host sis got the newsflash that I got all the way back in Omuthiya that something might be wrong with her car so we stopped at a mechanic who basically told us it was no big deal. I guess it wasn't, but the car did stall out in the middle of ondangwa, lol. But once we got to the homestead, about 5 km outside of Ondangwa, it was pretty nice. They had like full out building in the homestead, but they had arranged this area outside for us to sit in with snacks and drinks and stuff. It was cool, but then they took forever to come. First, the meme came and greeted each and everyone of us and left us some Oshikundu (this oshiwambo drink with, shocking, mahangu in it). Then a few people would come every couple of minutes and introduce themselves. Finally after an hour or so, everyone in the family came and greeted us each individually. Then... we all introduced ourselves (I did in oshiwambo! I only said like two lines, but they got so excited that they clapped for me... then the guy next to me said the exact same two lines, and they thought it was funny and clapped for him too)... and then they gave speeches, and then FINALLY we ate, but it was worth the wait. It was like fully stocked southern meal... with mayonnaise in it. We had fried chicken, macaroni salad, mashed potatoes, carrots, spinach... oh my god, it was delicious, especially after a week of corn and beans. I mean I love corn and beans, but, i forgot how much loved real food.

So thats pretty much for this week... next week will be more exciting. My friends are coming up tiommorow! THen were going to ruacana falls and then I go to windhoek!!!!! yessssss.