Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Day 37

Another long but productive and rewarding day. The classes went very well, everyone is really enjoying them. We even had some TRC volunteers come and sit in on our last class who had very kind comments about our class and teaching styles. Jay and I work very well together. Since we do the lesson plans together, we can communicate things like "you want to do the next section?" or "what is next?" without words. Jay's methodical and detail-oriented style balances well with my exuberant and fool-hearty style. Together we get things done and make the class a fun place to be. I will miss working with him after our training is over.
I won't complain anymore here about my computer problems. Just know that if I don't post for a couple of days, it's due to computer problems and not lack of Internet access.
Tomorrow my host family leaves for South Africa. I'll be alone until Sunday. I'm looking forward to the alone time, but making my own food every night will be a challenge. Cooking after a long day is never very fun. I'll probably just eat cereal and eggs. This weekend we have nothing planned. Our language test was moved to Monday (big suprise) and our language instructor attempted to scare us into studying for it. I'll probably try, but I'm not very motivated to learn more Afrikaans now- the environment just doesn't suit it. Our instructor is scattered, the temperature is hot, no one speaks it here, and I speak English all day in class. I'd much prefer to pick it up at my permanent site.
I'm looking forward to swimming again this Sunday. Other than that, I'll likely be walking and listening to Harry Potter. I've been listening to the audio books on my iPod since we started going to Okombahe, filling the travel time. It's been a nice nostalgic activity since I both enjoyed reading the books and have very fond memories of the days I read them. The audio books are very good quality too, the guy that reads does all the voices just like you'd expect them to sound. I'm already three quarters of the way through the first book. I've got all six in audio format, but since that's more than a week of recordings, I doubt I'll get through them soon.
We're also planning our host family appreciation party next Wednesday. It'll be an American barbeque: hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad and chips, apple pie and ice cream, lot's of fun! We will start shopping and making some of the salads Sunday. That reminds me, mom will you send me the recipe for my favorite red stuff? I'd like to make that. Oh, and while I'm at it, dad, can you find a number for HP technical support? Maybe there's one for South Africa- the document you send me is just for business centers. (Sorry to other for putting personal messages here, but I can't write emails right now- my computer only lets me write short letters)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Day 35

What a day. Today Jay and I started teaching. We had a great time. Our two adult classes went very well. We taught basic mouse skills using Microsoft Paint. I was surprised how quickly these adults who were using a computer for the first time in their lives picked up the skills. We had a fun group activity where they drew a picture on a computer, then switched computers every minute and continued drawing. We ended the session with a group game of Pictionary using Paint. It all went great.
The kids were much better than I was expected. They contributed when asked and were very respectful. We spent a bit more time on rules then with the adults, but they really didn't need it. We succeeded in getting all the classes to laugh and participate in games, which did a lot for setting the mood and making the class feel less like school and more fun and games. It was a pretty unique experience watching these people use a computer for the first time in their lives. Perhaps like watching a toddler making his first steps, or child getting on the bus the first time. It was a proud moment, I finally feel like I've done something here.
The activity we chose was perfect for what we wanted to accomplish, basic mouse skills and some vocabulary. Everyone picked it up quicker than I anticipated, and we had plenty of time in the classes to play the games. Tomorrow we've got another great game planned that will teach basic keyboarding, then formatting in Word.
Language is going pretty good. The long days make it very difficult. With two hours of driving, at least an hour of walking, 4.5 hours of teaching, and two hours of language every day, there's not much time for eating and writing. It's 20h00 and I'm just now sitting down to relax. Regardless, words are sticking in my head with regularity and I feel like I have made progress. I'm not worried at all about our language test this Sunday- I figure that the PeaceCorps won't send me home for failing as long as I have a positive attitude and try. There's just so little time, and the end of the day is not when I want to sit around and play "guess that word" in Afrikaans with my host family. I want to sleep.
Okay, so this is the fourth time I've written this blog. Each time I get a bit further before the computer quits. If I wasn't so tired, it'd probably really bother me, but as it is now, I don't really care. As long as it [computer quit here and I am typing now 1/2 hour later] stays on long enough to write entries and post, I'll make due. It's powerless feeling though, almost like I don't have a computer at all, I just borrow it from some ghost who likes to take it back at random times while I use it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Day 33 - 35

Sunday was a great day. I stayed home from church to enjoy a movie with Hermanas. After that we went down to the ORC to hop on the Internet for a while. We then met up with Myrial, Beth, and Suzie to go swimming with our host brothers and sisters. The kids had a great time and the pool was thoroughly dirtied when we were done. It was so nice escaping from the heat!
We wrapped the day up with another movie (X-Men 2) and some computer games. Ahh, Sundays...
Today (Monday) was work time. Jay and I were tasked with getting the computer lab at Okombahe ready for classes tomorrow. Most of the leg work was done last week, so all we had to do was copy software from computer to computer. We now have 14 operational computers, up 5 since I arrived last week.
Classes tomorrow will be fun. We have come up with a great activity to introduce basic concepts and start teaching mouse skills. We'll be using Microsoft Paint in a sort of pictionary-gone-wild activity. Each person will have three minutes to start a picture, then everyone switches computers. The participants will learn about icons, menus, styles, clicks, and dragging. It should be a lot of fun. Pictures and stories to come tomorrow (computer permitting).
It is so hot in that computer lab! The day's high of 105 was made much worse by the orientation of the computer room- broad side facing west, and the heat-churning nature of these older computers and monitors. The room only got up to 94, but hey, that's freekin' hot. Imagine trying to learn something in that environment! It's going to be interesting...
The TRC's all went to different sites today. It was great hearing back from them at the end of the day. It sounds like most are doing well, but being challenged. Everyone was pretty impressed with the level of competency and creative styles that the PCT's employed in teaching. We've got a great group here, and they're going to be doing great things all over Namibia.
Our evening language session was more like a high school giggle fest than a productive learning session, but we got through it. For the first time I felt a bit of pity for our trainer, she was honestly trying to get us working; but if the heat doesn't knock you out, it makes you insane.
I've really enjoyed the drive to and from Okombahe. It's about an hour drive from Omaruru, in the middle of the desert. It's easy to find; just drive south west from Omaruru for about 45 minutes, perfectly straight. Then make a left hand turn when you reach a lonely store that seems to have gotten lost some years ago, giving up on a quest to find a village and just deciding that here was as good a spot as any other. Another 15 minutes brings your through some impressive jagged rocks down into the Omaruru river valley and into the small town of Okombahe. The near side is the location, tattered and broken. The far side is the city proper, formerly white, very nice. One store. One school. One church. That about sums up Okombahe. The streets can barely be called that, most snake around trees and potholes like a river meanders through a prairie. The hundred (maybe two) residents of this town seem almost trapped here; pinned down under the tall canopy of a few African trees, tied forever to an unreliable but solitary source of water. I have not met many residents; I wonder what they think of this place, a small oasis in the vast space of sand and rock. I'll ask tomorrow.
It's cool tonight. Maybe somewhere in the 80's. Yes, that's cool. It's only when the sun finally is hidden behind the earth that I remember that the sweltering conditions I endure each day are merely temporary; I don't have to put up a fight for long. It's the nights and mornings that we enjoy, letting our guards down. Only then do we plan walking routes without concern for shade. It's then that we are able to let our thoughts drift to wonderful subjects, not torn away to reality by heat. Yes, it's cool every night. I think some of my humanity would fail should it be otherwise.
Computer update: I spent most of last night and some of today reformatting on a new hard drive (a backup I brought). Same problem. But now it's been working fine for 6 hours, save the blue screen that I got flashed twenty minutes ago like a big middle finger from the HP computer gang. It is horribly sluggish when first starting up, then acts fine. I just hope it lasts me until January. Please God, just let it make it through the year!
There's more I want to write, but the battery is nearly dead and I left the power cord in Okombahe. For now, I want to let Dad, Mom, Grandma, and Richard know that I am drafting emails to all of you and will send this weekend. Jana and Cheli, I'm working on a short video and hope to send that to you early next week. To everyone else, riddle me this: Why, oh why, is the lightning so much stronger here? Someone's got to have an answer! Seriously, I don't have Internet like you guys do, help me out here.


Just a quick note. Computer problems persist. It's likely a faulty temperature sensor on the computer. I've even tried changing the hard drive with no change. I'm starting to get used to it now though. Just save often and run the disk repair every time it shuts off. I'm also backing up everything!
I've put some more pictures up. I'll try to get a good journal entry done tonight.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Day 33

Still having computer problems, although the randomness of the shut-offs worked in my favor. I spent a good hour yesterday online without any problems. But then later in the day I was trying out a Linux program (OpenLab 4) and it cut out. Frustrating.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day off. It was a cooler day, actually a bit cold in the morning (near 65 degrees). Partly cloudy skies helped keep the temperatures low all day- what a treat. It's getting very humorous for me to hear the locals complain about the weather. It's a part of any conversation you have with anyone in this town, the phrase "Oh, it's sooo hot!" comes up. It's as if one was expecting it to be cooler, or everyone had just, that day, moved to Omaruru, Namibia and were shocked to find it was a desert. The heat has not bothered me at all. I haven't burned since I've been here, and as long as I've got my hat and water, I could walk all day out in the sun! Even the 90 degree nights aren't that bad. Who knew?
I'm totally digging Linux. Go to to see what I'm talking about. It's a completely free operating system for a computer that comes with tons of educational programs, games, utilities, productivity programs (word, excel, powerpoint) and more. I'm thinking of loading it on the lab computers at Okombahe next week.
Jay and I have restructured the trainings for the next two weeks. Instead of working in different towns, we will work together in the same lab, taking turns facilitating. We will also run three classes a day, two for adults (a beginners and advanced) and one for the kids after school. They will be long days, but I imagine we'll learn a great deal. The classes start next Tuesday (Monday is prep day) and run through next Wednesday. Thursday the 22nd is certificate presentation day, and that Friday is cleanup day.
The 22nd is also when we all move out of our host families homes and back to camp. This has become a much anticipated day as we are all missing each other and looking forward to story-telling. We'll spend the following two weeks having our Christmas party, doing AIDS, TRC, and IT workshops, and otherwise working very hard and trying not to complain about it.
January 6th. That is the day. The 6th is when we are set free. Everything that happens now is just a means to getting to this day. Once we are sworn in at Windhoek in front of the mayor and other important people, then we are free. We've learned from other PCV's that "service" (post-6th work) is nothing like training (pre-6th work). Ahh, service. It's like a wonderful dream hanging on the horizon, soon to be encountered. Service; the fantastic end to this difficult journey. A reward to enduring training. The reason we joined in the first place. Service is coming.
All us Omaruru guys got together at the end of the day Saturday to hang out. We listened to music, watched a bit of "Big Fish", and played cards. Today (Sunday) we may use the swimming pool located at the German bakery. They charge $10 per person, and it just may be worth it!
I'll probably not post for a while. With Monday starts very long days. We'll be getting up early to catch a ride to Okombahe, training all day, getting back at 16h00 for language training, then hopefully home to eat around 18h30. I'll try to get some pictures of the model school while I'm there. I know Mike and Amy are teaching at Okombahe, so count on pictures of them. Until next time

Friday, December 09, 2005

Day 32

I was so frustrated and worried about my computer, I didn't feel like typing much earlier. But now, after a long walk with Hermanas to the store for ice cream, then the river, then the rail road tracks, now I'm ready to write.
People are getting frustrated. I mentioned an incident earlier in the week. What happened was one of our Omaruru group had their host parents leave last weekend. According to the PeaceCorps rules, this is not supposed to happen. The PCT didn't want to make a fuss of it, perfectly happy to take care of them self. Sunday night, three PCT's went to a movie at the house of the American that runs the Sand Dragon restaurant. They weren't done until late, so when they left to go home, they quickly realized that walking home in the middle of the night was a bad idea. They went back to the house and spent the night. The next morning is when the problems started. One PCT's host mother didn't know they would be spending the night and was quite worried. Then when PC found out that another PCT's family was gone, and they weren't notified, they began to think it was some sort of conspiracy. They made one of the PCT's sign a document outlining what happened, which was quite weird, and threatened to send her home. By Tuesday, we were all talking about this. The short of it is that some PCT's made some bad mistakes, and the PC didn't react very professionally to it, thinking there was some sort of conspiracy (planning to spend the night somewhere else) and not listening to the reasoning of the PCT's. The PCT's shouldn't have been out so late to begin with, and should have notified the PC when the host family left.
So that's the story. One of many. Another more general story is one I got on my trip to Okombahe today. There I spoke briefly with some PCT's who have been spending the whole week doing model school, a sort of mini-school where they run classes and get experience as a teacher. They spend the mornings teaching, the afternoons in a debriefing session, the evenings in language class, and the nights writing lesson plans for the next day. They are very tired and are in need of some time off. I didn't have the heart to tell them all the fun things we've been doing here.
Things are constantly in a state of chaos. Even when Naf asked me to be ready to go this morning at 6:20 outside the Spar, I somehow knew this was not going to be the case. I waited a half hour for them to pick me up- chaos. Jay is sick. I haven't had the chance to talk to him about it yet, but he said he had a headache yesterday. We had KFC for lunch and I don't think that helped either. This has added to the chaos, for since he needed the day to rest, he couldn't go check the status of the computer lab in another town. This means it will have to be done sometime this weekend or Monday, because we start classes Tuesday. Tomorrow we have the language class that was canceled today. Sunday we will rest when we should be taking our language exams; they were postponed due to a death in the family of one of the testers. Chaos. As of now, I am planning on making everything up as I go next week, even if someone says there is a plan. Chaos reigns supreme.
I can't wait to get to Windhoek. I just want to burry my head in some work for a while, forget about the endless stream of problems and possible projects I see every time I start talking to someone. There are so many needs here, it's hard to imagine how anything you can do would help in the slightest. Here I am, an IT volunteer, hoping to leave behind some computer skills in the people I work with; but even then I'm not addressing the huge problems with English, math, and science education in the schools. I'm not touching the vast abyss that is health education. It's hard to justify my work when you can see the whole picture. For the first time since I've been here, I want to stop learning about Namibian and just get to work on something, anything.
My computer is having problems. It shuts itself off about ten to fifteen minutes after I turn it on. I think it has something to do with the temperature of the processor, it's possible that the heat sink may have become detached or the fan is not working properly. Either way I cannot fix it and will have to spend tons of money on a phone call to HP then shipping, even though it's still under warrantee. I'm considering just buying a used desktop when I get to Windhoek. I tried to take it apart this evening to inspect the processor, but I don't want to make it worse than it is, and it's not a simple task; getting to the processor. At least I can use it for ten minutes at a time now. It's just so frustrating!
Tomorrow we have language in the morning, then the rest of the day to ourselves. Should be a nice break.

Day 32

Well, I'm having computer problems. If I'm lucky, it will just go away. I'll finish this entry, save it to disk, and post it on the web. If I'm not lucky, then at some random point while typing, the computer will just shut off. I have a sneaky suspicion that it's the processor fan, which is finally running now, but wasn't before. When the computer can't start the processor fan when it needs to (like when the processor heats up) it shuts down automatically to protect the computer. Unfortunately, unless you already know that this happens, there's no way for you to know what the hell is going on. This is the longest it's stayed on since last night, so I think I may be in the clear.
Today I went to Okambi, a small town about 100 kilos from Omaruru to look at their computer lab. They had 15 computers donated by HP in 1999, coordinated by PeaceCorps volunteer. The lab was pretty bad. Of the original 15 only 12 remained. New computers have made up for the loss of the others, but I still don't know what happened to them. Only 9 computers would boot, and all of them were trashed; icons all over, themes loaded, random shareware installed, programs menu a mess. I managed to reformat three others, but the remaining two were not working- one was missing a hard drive and the other wouldn't power on at all.
It was a bit disconcerting to see the work of a previous PeaceCorps volunteer, who had done an amazing job putting together this lab, go to near waste. She had documented everything she did, so it was easy to see what was missing from the lab and what fell apart. The community education classes she started stopped once she left because no one wanted to take the time to teach them. Classes are still taught here, amazingly enough, but they only hold 12 learners at a time due to failing computers (they would have been down to 9 had I not stopped by), and I can only imagine the entire lab shutting down in a year after the last computer failed to start.
It's clear to me now what is needed here in terms of IT volunteers. It's not to have PeaceCorps provide teachers for computer classes, it's to provide computer education to community members and teachers so that they can run the classes. They also need competent volunteers to run around form town to town getting labs operational again. Slowly, knowledge will be transferred and Namibians will be able to do all this on their own.
I'm going to talk to Waldo (my APCD) and see if this is even remotely a possibility. Until then I'm thinking about the first term next year- I can't wait to start teaching!!
Okay- I'm super-thrilled that my computer seemed to be on the mend, so I'm making these entries short- don't want to push my luck. I've posted pictures and added text descriptions to the most recent pictures I posted- check them out!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Day 30

Other than a short language class, a short conversation with the Omaruru clerk, and typing up some Afrikaans language notes, not much was accomplished. I spent a good part of the afternoon on the Internet at the ORC getting my blog updated and new pictures up. In the evening, I also organized my journal on my computer (it's now 26,000 words!) and am finding some tricks that will enable me to write my blogs before getting on the Internet.
Some follow-ups:
Since the ORC's only public-access internet computer was taken out by the storm, I (and my wireless internet cafe setup) am the only way for others to get online. I think Internet use will be cut down a bit over the next few weeks until that computer is fixed.
I won the war with the mosquitoes. I've had to suffer 90 degree heat when I go to bed at night due to keeping the windows closed, but the pay off is that I don't wake up in the night with buzzing in my ears and fresh bites on my arms.
There have been some... incidents. I don't have all the information yet, so I won't just yet put the details, but the gist is that some PCT's made some bad decisions, and the PeaceCorps seemed to over-react. There were threats of being sent home and much crying. Things seem to be nearing resolution, but like I said, I want to have the facts before going into details.
The Omaruru group met to plan for our host family appreciation event. We decided on an American-themed dinner: hamburgers, hot dogs, potatoe salad, apple pie, the whole things. Our families seemed to really like this idea- they're looking forward to eating some somewhat authentic American food.
It has been 30 days since this journey began. Just to jog your (and my) memory, here are some highlights:
Day 1: I meet my first PCT while deplaning in Phili.
Day 3: Funny skits and light-hearted conversation before leaving the States.
Day 4: We get our first details about what to expect
Day 6: An amazing welcome to Omaruru
Day 7: Omaruru in all it’s African beauty
Day 10: Language lessons
Day 12: People get sick
Day 16: The hardest day ever
Day 19: Settling in
Day 23: My new host family
Day 27: Storms and work
Ahh, memories. Today should be a day of note: a trip to Windhoek to meet with Microsoft, SchoolNet, and the Ministry.

Day 31

Today the whole Omaruru group went on field trips. The TRC people were dropped off at Karabib to see the TRC there and do some workshops. Jay and I continued onto Windhoek for some meetings with Microsoft, SchoolNet, and a computer reseller.
We learned a great deal about the IT job market in Namibia and Africa. There are plenty of job opportunities for qualified IT workers, the problem is that so many people that make up the core of the working class are dying of AIDS. It's a problem that has economic consequences as well as the social and health ones. We got the name of someone else at Microsoft who deals more with schools. Hopefully we can contact him next week.
After stopping by a local computer store and noting how much more expensive electronics are here, we had a meeting with SchoolNet. We learned all about how the organization is funded and works. The lone donor for all of SchoolNet Namibia is a German company, pretty interesting. They also are short on funds, so have stopped shipping computers to new schools and are instead upgrading current ones. The most interesting thing we learned was the training program SchoolNet uses. They train 50 people on how to setup the labs and run classes using the computers. These trainers then go to new SchoolNet schools and setup their labs, run a few classes, and teach the teachers. Hopefully, they will be hired by the school full time. The SchoolNet training, travel to the school, and accommodations are all paid for by either SchoolNet or the host school. The idea is to provide education to Namibians who can then use it to get jobs. Great idea!
With our heads and bellies full, we headed back to Omaruru. Oh, and no time for the Internet Cafe- too bad.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Day 29 & 30

I’ve learned many things today. Some seem trivial, like how to sing “happy birthday” I Afrikaans. Some are not so trivial, like what a TB ward in the location looks like. The first lesson of the day came as I was walking out the back door to the TRC where we have our morning language classes.
I bought a briefcase-like bag in the China shop downtown yesterday. I needed something that looked cheap to haul my computer and camera around in so as not to draw attention. The bag that my mosquito net came in was working well, but I couldn’t fit very much in it. I was very happy with the bag, and at just $50, it was a good deal. When you buy something cheap in America, how long do you expect it to last? A month? A year? Longer? Well, I found out this morning as the shoulder strap snapped, tossing my laptop and other items onto the ground, the standard in Namibia is about a day. There could be no doubt when later the seam around the handle started ripping. Luckily, nothing was broken, but now I know: cheap is too cheap here, it’s best to spring for the more expensive stuff.
It was in our language lesson that we got to learn how to sing “happy birthday”, as it is my host mother’s birthday today, and she works at the TRC (if you recall, she is a school inspector and kind of like the manager of the TRC). The rest of my group wasn’t very pleased with me once it became clear that the “happy birthday” song we all know and love doesn’t exist out here. Instead, there’s a long poem about living long and strong souls that took quite a bit of effort to pronounce, let alone sing. Regardless, we managed the task and Bessie was quite pleased with the result.
We spent the morning learning the Afrikaans words for things you find in a hospital, from pills and nurse (which has female and male form of the word) to pain and cure. We also got to make up songs using the words we just learned, which was a pretty fun activity. I’ve got to remember to bring my ipod and voice recorder so that I can record these classic Afrikaans learning moments.
Jay and I worked on our primary school project after that. This past Saturday, we visited Omaruru Primary School, which had some unused computers (IBM-100’s, 5.67 Mhz, 640K RAM, and two 5.25 floppy drives- no hard drive). These computers still worked, so we decided to round up some software and get them all running with at least a keyboarding program, a skill they can apply to even new computers. Yesterday we stopped by the CTC again (Computer Training Center, operated by two Americans) and got loaded up with great software on 5.25” floppies, as well as some replacement keyboards. Our goal was two-fold, first to get the computer lab going for the school, and second to collect some software which we could take with us and use at other sites. We failed on both accounts.
We brought one of the computers to the TRC to work on. There, we hoped to install on of the 5.25” drives on a new computer, where we could then copy all the games and make disks. These IBM’s were so old that the drives wouldn’t even work in the new computers. We even accidentally blew up the IBM when trying to put it back together (it was on its last leg anyway…). So we were then unable to copy programs for use at other sites, but we still could get the lab up, right? Nope. These archaic IBM’s use proprietary keyboards, and the keyboards that the school had were broken. Proprietary is a word used in the computer world to mean “do it our way or no way at all.” In this case it means that no standard keyboard was going to work on the school’s computer. Luckily, one computer had a functional keyboard. Unluckily, nearly all the games we had either didn’t work, wouldn’t work with our hardware, or required an original disk. We ended up with one computer with two games and Logo, not so much of a computer lab as a museum display. The end result was not what we expected, but at least we’re done with it now.
Having that project now finished means much less walking. Yesterday we spend a good three to four hours on walking from place to place in near 100 degree heat. The school is about a mile from my house, which is a mile from downtown, and another mile from the rest camp (now called the ORC, Omaruru Rest Camp, where all us PCV’s stay when we’re together). Yesterday we went from the TRC (near my house) downtown, to the ORC, back to the TRC, to the school, then CTC (near my house also), the TRC, then the school, then downtown and finally to the ORC. Count em’ all up, it’s more than you think. I’ve already gone down one hole in my belt (yes, that’s the only method of measurement, no scales here). Honestly though, the heat is really not that bad if you have a hat and walk at a fast enough pace to catch a wind. It sounds funny, but it’s true. I’ve also learned to push my elbows out just a smidge so air gets to my pits and I don’t sweat buckets. I know what your thinking, and I can tell you that walking funny is well worth not having to ring out your shirt at the end of the day.
After all the failures we packed up and headed back to the school. In the library of Omaruru Primary School (where the computers are located) there is a rather large gem, an upright piano. As we were down to one computer, and Jay was content to do most of the work, I spent a good part of the day playing. I found the piano in tune and well cared for. It was great playing; I haven’t played in months. I just hope I can find one in Windhoek! In between sets, I worked on two documents which were tasked by Naf, the education coordinator. He asked us write an account of our activities as well as a draft thank you letter to the CTC which we suggested should be produced. By 15h00 we were done and heading back to the TRC to meet up with our language group.
Our last activity of the day was visiting Omaruru Hospital. This is one of two hospitals (can you guess why there had to be two of them?) and the more neglected of the two (can you guess why?). The building is in the location, right off the main road. It’s a single-story complex consisting of three main buildings: the administrative offices and laboratory, and two wards. One ward is for walk-in’s, trauma, and post-op’s. The other is the TB ward, and pretty much only houses AIDS patients. TB is the single most common infection associated with AIDS, and the Doctor informed us he had yet to see a case of TB in his six years that wasn’t coupled with AIDS.
The laboratory had an old x-ray machine, chemical analysis equipment, and a general-anesthetic surgical room. Jay and I arrived late for the tour and missed this part (the group forgot that we were at the TRC and left without us). I did see both wards. The buildings were plaster and stucco with narrow (for a hospital) hallways of about five feet. The only adornment on the walls of peeling white paint were AIDS information posters. Ceilings were high, about ten feet, and opened on one side to windows. Doors lined the single hallway, the first of which was the local-anesthetic surgery room. In this room was a single gurney covered with a light blue torn plastic cover. A sink and table on one wall housed a surgery tray with just a few tools strewn about- some scissors, a small knife, and some long hook-like metal tools. The only light in the room was an exposed light bulb directly above the gurney. The windows opened to the courtyard, and you could almost imagine a small group of kids pressing up against the window as a doctor and nurse work on a patient. On the floor were blood stains, several large splats that seemed somewhat fresh, and older pool-like stains from days past. This was a scary room. The lack of equipment (IV racks, monitoring devices, medicine, pretty much anything you’d expect to see in a hospital) was the surreal part. It was like this building wasn’t really a hospital, only someone’s house where sick people gathered.
The next room was the men’s area of the ward. There were about a dozen cots rowed twice and topped with tattered mattresses. Five men occupied the room, all of them were laying down and had bandages either on their arm, leg, or stomach. Those that were awake gave half-cognitive glances at us. It seemed like a bad idea to practice our Afrikaans at the point, asking how they were. Instead we waved and said hello. Most waived back. All of them were rail thin, and I have no idea why they were there.
We then saw the children’s ward witch had just one infant who was dehydrated. I’m not sure what care this child was receiving, but there were no IV’s, no medical equipment of any kind. Just a bed and the AIDS posters.
The other side of the ward housed the women. There were more women, and most of them seemed awake and alert. One walked with an IV hanging from a tall pole on wheels, which was the first piece of uniquely hospital-like equipment I saw in use.
The TB ward was very different from the other one. There were two sections, a hotel-like area where room after room contained two beds and a small table. We were informed that this is where the TB patients who have been on the drugs for a few weeks would live. The other section was where new patients lived. It was a single large room with about eight beds. Of the ten patients I saw, none looked any worse than a bit malnourished. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but these people all smiled, waved, and I heard not one cough.
These three buildings flank each other, creating a courtyard in the center that contained a water tower and sheds. The whole complex was quite large, and I’d estimate the capacity of this hospital at sixty patients. Two doctors (GP’s) and five nurses work here. On any given shift there is one nurse, maybe two, and a doctor on call. This single nurse cares for patients in both wards with the help of nursing assistants. The doctors perform the minor operations themselves, while calling in a specialist when more complicated surgeries are required.
Most cases at this hospital are walk-ins: stabbings, broken bones, occasional shootings, and the whole host of infection and disease that comes from living in a malnourished and unsanitary state. Many of the patients that come with infections are so bad by the time they get to the hospital that permanent side effects result: blindness, amputations, and chronic conditions just to name the obvious ones. Anyone can walk in and get an AIDS test for $4 (Namibian) that takes 15 minutes. Pretty much all of the care provided is free, as Namibian citizens are not denied healthcare and all who come cannot afford to pay.
Namibia does not have a single medical education program. This is primarily because the WHO (World Health Organization) does not provide support for such educational facilities in nations with a population less than five million. The result is that every single doctor and nurse that works in a hospital, nation-wide, came from outside Namibia. The doctor that gave us the tour was from Zimbabwe. He speaks none of the local languages (not even Afrikaans), and is here (as he admitted freely) just to get experience, planning to move back to Zimbabwe to start a private practice next year.
I have to supplement this description with a glaring omission: the hospital is being renovated. A new wing is under construction which will house all of the current patients, and then the old wards will be remodeled. Because of the early stage of the construction, it was impossible to tell what manner of facility it will be, but the situation is hopeful. It’s just amazing to me that this building was being used as a hospital for nearly seventy years- simply amazing.
I’ll round off the night with dinner. I’ll probably be coerced into putting on another movie, as I was last night, but I’ll not likely say up to watch all of it, again like last night. The day drains my energy, and come nightfall my body aches for my pillow. Despite the junk food run Jay and I made earlier today (hey, we earned it!) I have been eating very healthily: mostly grains, meat, and veggies. I’ve been taking a multi-vitamin daily now and feel pretty good. I’m looking forward to working out again when I get back to Windhoek.
The latest news (as of last night) is that Jay and I will be traveling to Windhoek this Thursday to meet with people from Microsoft, the Ministry, and SchoolNet. We are very happy about this, and I’m looking forward to getting out of town.
Other stories I don’t have time to write about:
A huge lightning storm hit last Sunday and knocked out two computers at the ORC. I looked at them, one just had a fried modem, the other had a fried main board.
Jay and I have found several short cuts to and from houses, schools, and downtown. It’s pretty fun walking them; they are in high brush and grass that temporarily block the view of anything civilized. There are literally hundreds of such paths around here, well worn by school children.
I walked to the river, which consists of a 200-foot wide sandy dry river bed. What’s most amazing are the trees that have grown along the banks for more than hundreds of years, they have grown to more than 100 feet high. They spread out in magnificent form, casting shade on not houses, but entire blocks. Pictures to come.
It’s my host mother’s birthday. I’ve bought her a chocolate milkshake. She had it after dinner and I think rather enjoyed eating it in front of the rest of the family. She also had Hernandas draw a hot water tub to soak her feet in. She’s earned at the very least these few luxuries.
I’m earning my keep (or tying to) by helping with the dishes. It’s not much, but it’s something. Joseph will be gone next week, so I’ll try to help out with the yard work. Also on the home front, Marcela is leaving for her Aunt’s house tomorrow, Joseph is leaving for a wedding Friday, and we’ll be down to three next week. The house will feel empty.
Consuming water has become a way of life. I now use two bottles, one in the freezer and one attached to my side. I swap at least twice daily, making my average daily intake about 1.5 liters. I sometimes wonder if drinking less water would help reduce the copious amounts of sweat my body produces each day. At this point, going without a constant supply of cold water is not worth finding out.
I have declared war on the mosquitoes. They have been eating me alive at night. I currently have five bites on my left leg, three on my right, three on my arms, and I think there's one on my neck, but I can't be sure. Tonight I launch a full-scale retaliation. The weapon of choice is "Doom" which is a spray that kills just about anything. I've bathed my room in it- we'll see who the victor is in the morning.
I’m hoping to get access to some high-speed internet in Windhoek later this week and finally download all my emails. I’ve produced a short video called “Rain in Omaruru” which I’ll post as well.
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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Day 28

Went to church today. It was a Roman Catholic church in the location. I’ve only been to one Catholic church before, with Matt in Boise. This seemed pretty much the same. Lots of standing, sitting, kneeling, praying, singing, and listening. There was no choir, but the songs sounded great. The prayers would be read aloud by the congregation in monotonous drawl, but the songs were belted out with passion and practiced accompaniment. These people love to sing, and in this small church my ears had their fill of skilled intonations that reverberated off the walls as well as souls. It was all I could do to keep awake through the readings, but the constant standing and kneeling kept me on my toes. There was a great diversity of patronage in this church, from the well dressed city dwellers to the T-shirt and jeans youth from down the street. Infants, elderly, teens, mothers, every possible category was present. One thing that surprised me was who didn’t show up- more than half the town! I was expecting to see everyone filling into church on Sundays in this very religious town and nation. Rather, most we walking down the streets, selling goods, and otherwise not attending church.

While I was very happy to have gone to church and had that experience, meeting some wonderful people and seeing first hand the passion that patrons had for their beliefs, I don’t think I’ll go back. With as much respect as possible for the Catholic church, I have to say that services are a tough ordeal to endure when not a member of the faith. At least in a protestant church you get to hear a pastor rant on some cultural problem. Here in Catholic church, you get the Bible straight, no frilly stuff.

I spent the afternoon with Hermanas. We went to camp to get some things from storage so that I could connect my laptop to the TV to watch a movie tonight and try to get on the Internet. We were unsuccessful in getting Internet (all phone lines busy, probably storms), but did meet up with Suzy, another volunteer staying in town. We went to her house and played some Chinese checkers, borrowed a deck of cards, then returned home.

After some card games with my host parents and Hermanas, a big thunder storm hit. I got a lot of it on video, and plan on putting it all together this week. I’ll try and post it somehow on my blog. There was tons of thunder and lightning, but it only rained for about twenty minutes. The lightning here is amazing, coming down in solid columnar bolts which reignite two, three, and even four times. I’d like to know why lightning is so common here, and why the lightning bolts last longer than in the states- anyone want to do some research for me?

After watching Armageddon with the family, I played some cards with the kids, finally getting some quality time in with them. We had a great time playing “BS”, but it took a while before we were all comfortable with each other.

And now the end of the day comes. It’s nice and cool, dark; the stars must be hiding behind clouds. There is a gentle wind that carries sounds of back yard barbeques, TV’s, cars, and every once in a while, church bells. Crickets are the dominant noise makers, followed by incessant barking of distant dogs. Dogs here are strictly for guarding purposes, which means they bark every time someone walks by. If you had a mind to, you could track the progress of various night walkers by listening for distant barking.

I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. Should be fun.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Day 27

Things are changing. There are fewer and fewer means of measuring days left to us. In the States and our first couple of weeks, time was the measure. Days went quickly, then slowly, then quickly again. Locals use temperature to measure days, having hot days, very hot days, and days with “weather”, where clouds, wind, and occasional rain segment the hours. I used to refer to classes attended, sessions sat in, and trainings endured. But all these measures have lost their utility.

Time is no more a resource than the heat, and we spend most of each day avoiding them both. My observation is that cultural norms have blended with a simple resource issue to create this thing we call “Africa time”. Without cars, getting anywhere on time is a difficult task. Depending on weather, who you are walking with, your mood, and who you meet, it can take anywhere from ten minutes to hours to cross town. How can anyone honestly expect a timely arrival under such circumstances?

Weather is a favorite gripe and conversation moderator. Whether you’re greeting a stranger, filling silence in an awkward conversation, or recalling the day’s events with a friend, the weather will be mentioned. The heat is both a way of life and a curse. Here in Omaruru we tolerate our environment as a child tolerates the play pen; occasionally fussing, but mostly trying to find entertainment with whatever can be found.

Flexibility is no doubt a requirement here. Plans change daily and promises lack romantic connotations of fulfillment. Because of this work has less glamour. The challenge is continuing on in the morning, not making it through the day. The challenge is trying not to anticipate what may happen, despite written timelines and verbal assurances.

Without these key utilities to measure days, this past week has gone by not quickly or slowly, not hot or dry, not busily or laid back; rather these days have just gone by. Perhaps a measure will present itself, some adjective that could contrast one day from the next. For now, all I have are stories.

I got home about 18h00. The afternoon sun mixes with small quantities of dust diluted in the air, causing a paling effect that both dull and simplify the view. I walked through the house, dropping my things on my bed, and proceed to the front porch with a book. On the front stoop I relax on the short wall in between two pillars. A rough breeze attempts to cool our town, but the radiant heat from the ground and buildings puts up a hideous fight. Three roosters, one adult and two babies walk by, thrusting their heads forward with each step they take, stopping every three or four steps to either peck the ground, cast a suspicious glance at me, or let out a bellowing “Koook-a-dooo-a-doooooo!” Trees across the street play with each other in the wind, mocked by the cacti that stand like English bobbies, unflinching even when taunted.

After reading a couple of chapters, I go next door to take a shower. The shower has cold water only, but when taking a shower in the evening the hot of the day and the warmth of the pipes make this minor fact inconsequential. The small house the shower is located in is just twenty steps from the back door, and has an external entrance. A single pipe (no shower head) drops water from two feet above my six foot body, both relaxing and cooling every part of me. Refreshed, I stop to say “hi” to the dogs and rooster on the way in. They hide in the safe shadows of small bushes, looking at me hopefully as if I was about to either make it rain or give them food.

Back on the front stoop now, I have witnessed large thick clouds combine to blot out more and more of the blue. The nearly inaudible sounds of distant thunder bring memories of rain just last Sunday, but it’s the small rainbow that can be seen nearby that brings hope of rain tonight. It’s raining on the other side of town. One solitary cloud decided to rejoin the ground, but was unable to convince its neighbors to come along. Rain can be smelt on the wind now. Every time it rains it seems like it’s the first time.

I’ll be wrapping up the day by watching Mr. Bean on TV, having a quiet dinner with the family, and reading a bit more Stephen King. A tidy end to a Saturday.

This morning we all met at camp. All 58 of us got up early so that we could be stuck with another needle and share stories from the pseudo home front. It was amazing how diverse our situations were. Some bath in buckets with cold water (Matt) while others have in-home hot water showers (most of us Omaruru guys). We have been split into four cities, three of them outside of town, and the fourth right here. Only us IT and TRC volunteers are staying here, and we’re very happy about it.

The story of the day was from Myrial. Once her host father left for a week the partying began. She was convinced to go with her host mother and a strange guy (who had been drinking and making verbal sexual advances on her) to a dance club in the location. She convinced them to stop at another host family’s house on the chance that they may be able to help her. After some swerving down the street, it became clear to Myrial that she was in a bad spot. It was PCT Chris that saved the day, telling the drunk couple that there was no way Myrial was going with them to the dance. She has since been placed in a new family, actually the home of Dameon (our favorite Namibian youth) and Celina (a true African super-mom), so everyone is happy.

Many of the discussions centered around chores. Most of the men found that they were not expected to do anything, while many of the women were asked to do a bit more than their fair share. Some men were admonished for doing dishes, while others were welcomed to cook and clean. I have to admit that I’ve been pretty lazy here, and intend to help out more tonight. I helped with dinner last night, but wasn’t really of much use.

After our morning sessions, we were set free. Having already got my hour of Internet time early this morning, I didn’t need to stick around. Jay and I went with his host father to Omaruru primary school to look at some broken computers. The school was very nice (Namibian for saying it was previously a white-only school) and Catholic. The archaic IBM computers actually ran, and we found that the original software was already installed. Good old DOS, Word 4, and logo will make for some entertainment for learners next year. What was most startling to me at the school was the health display. One entire corner of a main room was dedicated to AIDS information. This included pamphlets on how to put a condom on, how feminine contraception worked, urgings to “stay faithful” to one person, and use the ABC’s (Abstinence, Be careful, Condomize). Imagine such a display in a Catholic school in the States! Here no one debates the ethics of contraception. AIDS is destroying these people, and all means of fighting it are being employed. There are currently 120 million Africans with AIDS, including children. We learned that in some towns AIDS is so stigmatized that doctors tell patients they have TB (tuberculoses), but neglect to mention AIDS. While TB is a common problem among AIDS inflicted people here, the cause is the AIDS. We also learned that the highest risk factor for women is being married. Both men and women often have extra-marital sexual relationships, but continue to have unprotected sex with each other. Women often have no choice as they are financially dependent and culturally expected to do as they are told. Meanwhile orphanages overflow with youth who are left without family. It’s a sad situation. I wonder if the odd family structures here are the result of youth being shuttled to distant relatives as parents either leave to find work or die of AIDS. I doubt there is a single household in this entire town that has just two parents and kids only from that partnership.

After that our language group met to watch an Afrikaans movie. This ended up being “The Gods Must Be Crazy” which is not Afrikaans, but is African and funny. We were only able to get through half of it though; most of us were nodding off, wishing we were either on a soft bed or enjoying a meal. We all left earlier than expected.

Tomorrow I go to a Catholic church in the location with my host mother. I’m looking forward to seeing the location (which I haven’t yet) and other parts of town. I also wonder how this church will differ from ones in the states. After that, who knows.

Blog back up!!!

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See you there!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Day 24-26

What a crazy couple of days! The schedule for our training changes by the minute, making each day a surprise. We started the week thinking we (Jay and I) would be training some employees at the TRC. After we realized that they were struggling to round up people for us to teach, felt like it was a waste of time. Adding to that, we were missing our language classes and getting behind in Afrikaans. We talked to Naf and arranged to drop the trainings formally, but continue to work with some of the employees who needed it on a as-needed basis. This left us free for language classes, which have been fun. That was Wednesday.

We spent yesterday (Thursday) making lunch at one of our hose families house. We’ve met in coffee shops, the TRC (Teacher Resource Center) and other places to learn. The learning is going very slowly. We’re at this weird in between place where we know enough to speak, but not enough to hold a conversation. It will come with time, we are assured. We ended the day in the library checking out children’s books in Afrikaans.

For language today, we met this evening at another house. We worked on fruits and veggies, directions, and a funny poem about grandparents farting. Earlier today Jay and I had several productive conversations with the owners of a computer business here. They do just about everything you can imagine on a computer: flyers, databases, certificates, training, custom building, installations, etc. They are Americans who have been living here for 13 years. They had a great deal of insight and information for us. I now have three good contacts in Windhoek (one at Microsoft!) to get a hold of when I go back there. We also got some great free software.

Next we spoke with a manager at the local phone company who filled us in on the telephony infrastructure of Namibia. We learned that there’s a 64 channel fiber optic line carrying high speed internet and phone running through Omaruru on to a larger town, but no junction here. Thus, the fastest connection in town is a 32 Kbit dialup from which you get about 4 kbits throughput due to poor phone line connections. Good stuff.

I’m getting ready to go to a barbeque at the Camp for us eight volunteers that are in Omaruru. Before that is a school play in which our favorite Omaruru resident is starring in. Dameon is a 12 year old genius of a Namibian. His mother works at the rest camp, so we saw a lot of him these past weeks. He’s very smart, witty, and fun to be around. We’re all going to watch the play tonight.

Tomorrow is reunion day. All 58 of us will be returning to camp to organize our stuff (we’ve got to consolidate rooms to save money), get some more shots, and attend a few sessions.

I have to apologize for the short nature of these past posts, I’ve been busy during the day and very tired at night, plus I’m spending a lot of time with my host family, so writing had been difficult. I’m hoping to get some time this Sunday to write in detail my experiences and feelings.

Until then!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Day 23

I am writing this from my new room, a rather large one at that. My host family is great. Bessie (my “mother”) is an inspector for the Ministry of Education. She is responsible for checking in on several dozen schools in the area, ensuring they are following rules and doing their jobs. Joseph, Bessie’s boyfriend, works for the city, implementing a new data system that connects residents, utility companies, and the city. It’s a pretty interesting idea and seems to be working well. Bessie has two kids, eight year old Hermanas who is excited about everything and very interested in everything I own. Marcella is twelve and seems to really enjoy a tattered keyboard which is missing most of the black keys. She is on holiday from school in South Africa and will be returning home after Christmas. Hermanas goes to school here in Omaruru.

The house is located just a few steps from the TRC, one of the training sites we will be using over the next month. It’s also pretty much downtown, within a short walk to the store, bank, a stones throw from the police office, and just a twenty minute walk from the rest camp the PeaceCorps group has taken over. This is a very nice setup for me since I can leave most of my valuables locked up at the rest camp while keeping them readily available. The house is a typical western-style house with four bedrooms, a dining area, sitting room (with the satellite TV), and kitchen. The two kids share a room, and my room has a lock on the door which I’m happy to have. The yard is very nice and manicured. The front yard hosts a large desert garden with a variety of cactus and other dry-climate plants. The back yard contains a small house that is rented out, a patio, and (of course) the barbecue. The whole house is very clean and inviting, they even have a washing machine! I’m going to be very comfortable here, and I can tell that my hosts are a good personality fit for me.

My first day here was a fun one. I didn’t get picked up until 17h30, after which I got the tour and met the family. I then took the kids on a walk back to the rest camp to pick up some items I left in my bunk. After the long walk, I sat with Joseph at the barbeque and talked for a while. We watched a very popular Spanish drama (dubbed in English) which closely resembled a daytime soap opera but seemed to captivate the whole family. Dinner was steak, grilled cheese sandwiches (with onions and tomatoes), and beans; all very good. But the evening was too short and now I’m very ready for bed.

Earlier today Jay and I spoke with Naf (our Education and IT coordinator) about what we will be doing for training over the next few weeks. He proposed that we spend some time at the TRC in Omaruru this week training their staff on computer skills. The next two weeks do model school, which means we will teach some formal classes to kids who are out of school but need to do some remedial work or want to earn a certificate. Jay and I will coordinate computer classes for the youth as well as adults in the community.

We spoke with Naf about the importance of visiting other computer room sites to get a feel for how things are run here, we think we made a good case. If we get what we really want, we’ll spend two days in Windhoek visiting the SchoolNet HQ, Microsoft, the Ministry, various other computer and internet companies, computer education service organizations, and some schools with labs. We’d also like to spend three days visiting other school sites with labs to talk to the teachers and find out how they are being used. Hopefully we’ll be able to do at least some of that.

Today was a completely lazy day. Other than a very informative morning session on the history of the education system in Namibia, nothing needed to be done. We napped, packed, played cards, and otherwise blew time. The rest of the week will be pretty laid back as well. Tomorrow Jay and I being the classes for the TRC employees, but not until we’ve fixed all their computers.

It’s going to be very strange living with another family. It’s a bit awkward since I’m supposed to be treated as a member of the family, but don’t know these people very well yet. Bessie has assured me that the entire house is now mine, and to make myself at home, to help myself to any food I want, and to come and go as I need. The kids are great, although Hermanas is defiantly a seven-year-old, still learning patience. It’s fun living with kids. At least it’s fun now.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Day 22

Day 22 (28-Nov 20h13)

Back to training again. It’s almost like last week never happened. The routine was so familiar to us all that it was almost comfortable. Almost. We were inundated with last minute paperwork, handouts, and information. By 16h00 we were ready to skip town, but yet another hour of surveys, power of attorneys, and reviews were ahead of us. There was even a 19h00 meeting sprung on us, just in case we were thinking about trying to pack for the morning departure that was scheduled after two morning sessions. It’s crazy. I’m just glad I don’t leave tomorrow until 17h00, so I’ve got plenty of time to pack tomorrow.

One of the activities earlier today was “cross the line”, where everyone who fits the description or question answered walks to the other side of the room. It was surprising to see how few had major problems, but how many had minor ones. Some great stories were told, the best by far was a health volunteer who found a cobra snake at her feet. After running and screaming, someone came to aid with a shot gun, making quite a big mess of blood and guts which was all captured on camera. Great stuff.

I’m not going to spend much time on this entry. There will be time later in the week to write. For now the only update I have is that tomorrow I’ll be moving down the street to a local’s house to live for the next four weeks. I’ll be within walking distance from the camp, which means I’ll be able to get internet access easily. My next post will have the scoop on my host family.

I’ve got the internet café going again. It may run pretty late tonight as many want take this last opportunity to send updates. Most form our group is going out of town, not far, but far enough to make it difficult to get Internet. It’s us IT and teacher trainers that get the lucky homes downtown so that we can learn Afrikaans and be close to the resource center.

We had our first ET’s (early termination) today. Kim, our beloved female IT gal decided that the PeaceCorps was not what she was looking for at this point in her life. We’ll miss her a lot. I never got the chance to get to know the other volunteer that dropped out, but many did and will miss her as well.

According to the statistics, we should see four more ET’s before January.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Day 21

Day 21 (27-Nov 17h40)

Wow, it’s been three weeks since this journey started. I have to say that things are starting to slow down, finally. Last week it seemed like months had passed since I left the states. Today, it seems about the same time. Diminishing returns, linear regression, inverse square, whatever the function is, it’s slowing down.

We are all together again. I had to pull myself away form the group because the intensity of conversation was a bit too much. There are so many stories, and most are telling them with passion and great interest. It’s like an internet chat room, sixty conversations all taking place at the same time. In fact, traditional methods of communication are insufficient to handle the influx of new information, and new channels have broken through. It’s now common to hear a story you told just minutes ago re-told to another group on your behalf. We are so starved for information about each other that all it takes is the obligatory “did you hear about Jay and the spider?” and the story has to be told, with or without Jay.

By far most of the stories are good. It seems that everyone has had positive experiences and is looking forward to getting to work. I have heard several people who have been intimidated by the accomplishments of previous PCV’s, given a high standard to uphold. I’ve also heard the dirty house story, the “my boss doesn’t care much” story, and the “I’m the only white guy/girl” story many times over in different contexts. Amy had the best “welcome to the village” story, she arrived to the whole school holding a sign with her name welcoming here; singing, dancing, the whole works. The funniest story goes to Mike who was solicited for money and food through a broken window while taking a shower. He took second place as well with the account of one student who, upon witnessing him exit the van when he first arrived, remarked “looks like it’s going to be a white Christmas after all!” Coppelia had the strangest (this one I heard second hand), she met the governor who greeted her with a hand shake; one hand extended, the other in his crotch. I still haven’t heard the full “Jay and the spider” story, but I’m sure I will soon. Aaron and Greg tied for dirtiest accommodations. Matt by far gets coolest location as he’s right next to a wildlife preserve. Chester had the best language story; his supervisor taught him the Afrikaans translation for “I don’t take shit from nobody!” And the stories are still coming. It will be a long night.

I spent the morning waiting for the gate to open. I tried to leave at seven and found the front gate trumping my plans. It was still closed at eight, but nine rolled around and they miraculously let me pass. I read in the park, enjoyed a candy bar (they have THE BEST chocolate here, Cadberry), played some computer games, and eventually was picked up and dropped off at the PeaceCorps HQ.

I was happy to find that the PeaceCorps lounge has high speed internet, so I know I can get it there no matter what. It’s a bit of a walk from my home, but doable. The PC lounge was a mess. Books, trinkets, sleeping bags, power adapters, and random bits of junk lined the two rooms. Apparently the system works something like this; when you first arrive, grab whatever you want, when you leave, empty you backpack in the corner. I did manage to find an interesting book which I took. I’ll get plenty of opportunities to rummage through the piles in the future.

After a three hour comby ride with 13 of use crammed in very close quarters, I was happy to arrive at camp. Dinner was waiting for us, and after a quick session on text books, we were set free. Now is story time, speaking of which, I think I’m ready to get another dose.

Day 20

Day 20 (26-Nov 11h50)

Wow, what a day; So much to write. What I was expecting to be a middle-of-the-day event turned out to take the whole thing. Mr. Hoxobeb (aka Absalom) invited me to a church choir party, which I accepted earlier this week. I decided to take a taxi to the school (where we would meet) rather than be picked up because I wanted to get the experience. Little did I know just how much of an experience it would turn out to be…

I started the day by sleeping in. This was a difficult chore since I went to bed no later than 9:30, but sleeping until 7 was accomplished. I had the most vivid dream that the PeaceCorps sent all of us home for a week to visit our families before CBT (community-based training). I don’t remember the details anymore, but I do remember waking up surprised that I was still in this flat.

Once up, I laid in bed for another half an hour. The fact that I needed to accomplish nothing collided with knowing the inevitable work we will be doing in the next four weeks, and I took this morning to be as lazy as possible. After finally getting up, cleaned, and dressed, I walked downtown to find an Internet Café. This was a little more challenging than I thought. I picked up some batteries for my camera at the corner store, which had a coffee shop attached, however I couldn’t find the entrance to the coffee shop. I could see people inside, but no door. Not wanting to look like a tourist, I just kept walking, which to my surprise led me down a street I wasn’t anticipating on going down. Not wanting to look like a tourist, I just kept going, pretending like I knew what I was doing. I managed to make a large loop, finding a nice indoor mall along the way, but no Internet. Once I made it back to the store with the coffee shop, I went inside (not wanting to look like a tourist standing like a dope on the corner). I managed by sheer luck to notice the store went back further on the left side than it seemed at first. Daring to step into the unknown, I walked past isles of candy and chocolate to a hot food deli along the far left wall. I stopped to pretend I was inspecting the food options and saw in the corner of my eye the opening to the coffee shop. At last! I purchased a coke (when they say coffee shop, they mean just coffee, no mochas or espresso) and sat to read. Oh, and no Internet.

After that long detour to nowhere, I enjoyed a bit of my Stephen King novel, then headed back to my flat. I needed to speak with the head master about some of the problems with my flat (no light in the bathroom, leaky faucet, door to patio locked, etc.) and figured I could ask him about the internet. When I hauled my lazy ass back up that hill I was disappointed to learn that the head master was, yet again, marking exams (he had been doing so the last two days when I tried to get a hold of him). This time I left him a note detailing the problems and will leave it at that.

What better way to round out the morning than to sleep some more? None; so when I got back to my room, I laid down and took a quick nap. It’s so easy to nap here. The heat drains you during the middle of the day. One needs only to lay down and the sleep just comes. Once it was time to walk back to town and catch a taxi, I shook the sleep from my body, put on my nice sun hat, filled up my water bottle (I still haven’t managed to drink enough water yet), and headed out. Hailing the taxi was the easy part, enduring the ride: a whole other story.

So traffic in Namibia is quite a bit different than what I’m used to in the states. In the states, when you come up to a big red stop sign, you stop. Here in Namibia, stop signs are more like yield signs, traffic slows just enough to tell who is going next; stopping is nowhere in the definition. Also in the states, when you have one lane and you want to pass, you have to wait until there is no traffic coming toward you, then carefully pass. Here in Namibia, if you want to pass, let’s say a huge, wide garbage truck, you just do it, traffic or no, using parking space on the side of the street in available. On coming cars are expected to do a little swerving to accommodate these maneuvers. Lastly, in the states a car always yields to pedestrians. Here in Namibia, pedestrians are obstacles, and the logic is something like if you don’t want to die, move. Pulling into parking lots, crossing intersections, wherever you find pedestrians you find cabs pulling right in front of them. It’s amazing more people aren’t hit by cars here, although maybe I just haven’t seen it yet.

Picture this: you hail a white sedan, probably a late eighties model, rust lining the hood and doors, the taxi sign taped with packing tape to the dash. After getting in, you tell the driver where you want to go, and he nods. Everything’s cool, right? Wrong, you see if the back seat is empty, then there is a lot more work to do. My cabby drove up and down International Drive (the main strip here) twice to look for more passengers before leaving town. Even then, we cruised down side streets at blistering speeds (dodging pedestrians and slowing only for stop signs) rather than take the free way, just to find someone who wants to ride on the roof (well, that’s the only thing I could think of…). When you finally get close to where you want to go (all the time passengers are being dropped off and picked up) you only then find out the cabby has no idea where you want to go. In this case, neither did I. I had seen the school before, but never navigated to it. With the help of a passenger and some poor dude on the street, we eventually made it. Needless to say, I was happy to get out of that car. On the bright side, the whole trip was just six bucks (like 90 cents US).

Whew. I was feeling a little sick after the ride to the school but the day had barely begun. Absalom was waiting for me there, and after a half hour tour of the Windhoek getto (called the “location”) looking for various choir members who where all “not ready yet”, we we’re dropped off at someone’s house to await those not ready (i.e. the girls).

The house was cement, cracked from floor to tin ceiling, covered in what I counted to be at least six coats of different color paint. Inside, the door frames marked where solid wall once was, but time and elements had done their work, leaving only rounded edges above the doors. On one wall prominently hung the electrical box, which is a pre-pay system. Residents go to the local market to purchase electricity codes, which they type into their boxes to get more time. The water works in a similar way, but I wasn’t able to see it. The room was actually quite clean, not a trace of dirt was visible on the bare cement floor. Four arm chairs adorned the main room, tattered beyond any possible resale value. There was a TV, sitting on a simple wood stand, and constituted the most elaborate and expensive thing on the property.

I was welcomed into this house by the owner, who took my by the hand, looked right into my eyes, and said “Come in! Please! Come in and sit!” I obliged, introduced myself to the half-dozen bodies in the room, and took an empty seat. No sooner had I sat, everyone else jumped up and started bustling about. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I thought it best to say put until given further instructions. Two kids, no older than seven sat with me. We talked a bit, and I took their pictures as they shared a piece of raw meat. I showed them their picture on the camera, and they immediately asked “when do we get it?” referring to a copy of their picture. I had to disappoint them.

Soon it was time to leave the house. I learned that the commotion was over lost keys to the large blue van parked outside. We all piled into the van (they insisted I sit in front) and went to the local market. I accompanied them as they collected food for the dinner. This market was different than others I have been in. The isles were barely three feet wide, and pallets of food were plopped down anywhere additional space could be found. To make it even more interesting, the place was packed. I spent the entire time in the market pushed up against strangers. It took me a while before I realized that “excuse me” was not necessary in this place. You just push through.

Now about 13h30 (an hour and half after meeting Absalom at the school), we arrived at the park where the church choir party was to take place. Absalom approached two security guards posted just inside the park to let them know what was planned. The guards informed us that no cooking was permitted at the park. After a few phone calls to the park manager, we found ourselves without a place to eat as the guards would not relent. We ended up going to one of the choir member’s houses nearby to have the party.

Now this place was truly amazing. This time the first thing I noticed was not the house, but the owner, a little old lady that barley came up to my elbows. She was blind due to some sort of disease, and here eyes seemed sunken. She wore a long flowery dress of green, white, and yellow, and had a healthy look to her, despite her years of at least seventy (very old in Namibian terms). I introduced myself, and before long I was being whisked to the back yard. This house was much like the first, made of cement probably back in the late fifties when the south African government instituted apartide, forcing all black and colored people into “locations” outside the cities. The foundations for the house were exposed due to decades of tromping feet, high winds, and land-scraping rains. The entire property was no bigger than a foundation for a three bedroom house in the states, maybe sixty feet long and forty feet wide. In this property stood a three bedroom house (very small), a good sized back yard with a large tree in the center, a small shack where one of the residents lived, and an outhouse. On every edge sprawled a make-shift fence composed of bed springs, construction rebar, sheet metal, and wood pallets. You know that saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? Well, this is where the other man lives.

We sat on amazing diversity of seating contraptions; metal chairs, barrels, empty paint cans, a car wheel (the metal part), some bricks, and the good old up-side-down bucket. Everywhere on the ground protruded rocks that had endured enough weathering to convince me they were the tops of large boulders. Watching the two year olds run around in this yard should have put my nerves on edge, but knowing that this was life here, and walking around barefoot on a near gravel surface was normal. I do shudder to think of what kind of damage a small rock would do to the head of a falling child.

This yard was clean; well kept. There was no trash laying about, and even the berries that recently fell from the solitary tree had been raked up into a neat pile. Everything in the yard had a purpose. From the assortment of seating options to the old tarp used as a play mat for the toddlers; from the orphaned seat cushions used as child seats to the half of a metal barrel used as the barbeque.

The kids kept themselves busy playing with a handful of toys: a small ball, a small doll, and as many sticks as could be snatched from the tree when adults weren’t looking. The kids really enjoyed eating a home made popsicle-like treat made from ice, sugar, and some sort of flavoring all poured into sandwich bags and frozen. The kids would first soften the bag by beating each other with them, then make a small hole in one of the ends and squeeze out the contents. A two year old enjoyed playing the same game I remember playing with Cheli, holding a cell phone to the ear and pretending to talk to someone. Most of the older youth (teens and pre-teens) played with the younger kids on and off, and there was never a moment they were bored.

Most people in this group spoke some English, but only a few could manage a conversation with it. I spent a better part of the afternoon sitting in a chair, watching the kids play, watching the adults make jokes, and watching clouds go by. It was a pretty hot day, and constant adjustments had to be made in seating in order to stay in the shade. While the food was being prepared, we also waited for some choir members who had not shown up yet. It wasn’t until nearly five (17h00) that the ceremonies began.

First, there was singing, wonderful singing. What made it amazing was the language these Darmara people speak. Imagine a typical church choir, harmonies created with bass, altos, and sopranos. Now add to that an assortment of clicks which come in varying speeds and intensities, depending on which part of the choirs is making them. Also add a unique time signature where it seemed that every fourth measure was cut in half. Tapping your feet to it was easy, but counting beats was impossible. The range of the choir was impressive. The bass had a solid deep tone that stirred in the gut. The sopranos had chillingly high pitched tones that closely resembled squealing, though always on note. The songs were church songs, and you could easily pick out the words “Jesus”, “Hallelujah”, and “Amen”. They were amazing singers.

After singing came praying. After praying came speeches. None of this I understood. I had to watch the person across from me to take cues on when to bow my head. Luckily, all prayers ended with “Amen” so I was never left behind with my eyes closed. Once the ceremony was over, the choir held their annual vote for offices. A new choir leader, treasurer, and so on were nominated and voted on. This all took about an hour. After new officers were chosen, dancing began. This was great fun to watch. First they formed two lines, chanting as one person at a time jumped in the middle and shook a little booty. Then, they formed a circle and danced around with great fun. Describing the dances here would do them no justice whatsoever, so I’m leaving it at this: the dancing was half tradition, half plain old fun. It was very entertaining.

After dancing came certificate presentations, which I was asked to aid with. After massacring half the names (and drawing endless laughter, which I’m sure is why they wanted me to read them) it was time for the final ceremonies. The choir board were asked to come to the middle where they all made some speeches, presented a gift to the head lady, and finally, after much ado, and nearly seven o’clock, we ate.

I was presented with a plate of food that seemed to weigh at least five pounds. In the center was a six-inch long, two inch thick sausage, which sat on a thick steak, next to the fist-sized meat ball. All this was cuddled by a scoop of potato salad and some sort of red vegetable with a sour taste. Oh, and the whole thing was topped with a small loaf of French-like bread, split down the middle and heavily buttered. It all tasted amazing, but I could only down half the steak and half the sausage before my stomach started screaming “whoa there buddy! Remember the bus!!” and I stopped.

I had a short conversation with one of the band members who filled me in on a lot of what happened earlier. He also told me that this choir, formed in 1997, tours all of Namibia and other parts of southern Africa; a sort of evangelical tour. They sing songs and perform dramas about stories in the Bible and “spread the good news.” Most I talked to made it very clear that they were Lutherans, not to be confused with the Catholics who instituted indulgences some centuries ago, thus forever marking themselves as ungodly.

When sunset came, I knew it was really time to get going. I have to say that as much as I enjoyed the whole experience, I really was looking forward to getting in the cab and heading home. So many faces, so many people, so many stories. Even now, as I type, I’m leaving out half the day; things that would just take too long to record; the drunk guy trying to convince me to go out drinking with him, the old guy on the street who wanted my chocolate bar, the fire in the foothills that lacked something… oh yes, a gaggle of fire trucks, planes, and helicopters like in the states. So many stories, such a long day.

The cab ride home was uneventful, although the cabbie tried to charge me too much. I wasn’t up for an argument, so I compromised at ten bucks. And now, after a twenty minute call with my parents, an hour and half writing this journal entry, I’m looking forward to a couple of episodes of Family guy to round out the night.

Tomorrow I meet some of the others at the PeaceCorps HQ downtown to get a ride back to Omaruru. Back to the ranch. I wonder what stories will be told tomorrow night…

Day 19

Day 19 (26-Nov 7h30)

Another great day. The days seem so short here! After meandering a bit downtown, I met up with Mr. Gallant and the school custodian/mechanic who came to fix the locks on two of my doors. That took nearly two hours, after which I headed to school and worked in the computer lab.

I found a small piece of gold in the lab- a syllabus for computer skills made by ICDL (International Computer Drivers License), a British company that promotes computer literacy world-wide and especially in Africa. I’m planning on using this syllabus as the core for the class structure next year. This is exactly what I needed, something solid I could use to craft lessons around without resorting to starting from scratch.

After school, all the teachers had an end-of-year party at one of their houses. We all crammed into the comby (15-passenger van that’s about half the size of the US 15-passenger van) and spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out and talking. It was great to get a chance to get to know some more teachers. I’m starting to recognize their faces now, which is very comforting as I was sure this was an insurmountable task; so many new faces all at once.

The last of us left around 17h00 after I helped the host with some computer problems, and I spent the rest of the evening reading the syllabus and dreaming about how the class will run next year. I’m out of movies (didn’t bring that many), so I had to resort to old episodes of “The Family Guy”, a very off-beat comedy, for entertainment.

Something of note: the house we had the party at was located in a formerly white community. This neighborhood was very nice; wide streets, gates, tall trees, and an impressive view. All of Windhoek is like this, categorized primarily by the skin color of its previous residence. In the case of formerly white communities, many blacks and coloreds have moved in. But with formerly black or colored communities, they have changed very little.

There is a great deal of concern about corruption in the government here as well. In a local instance, the Hage Geingob High School (the school I’ll be working at) is supposed to have three new classrooms built by the ministry. Foundations were laid, but before any more work was done, the ministry-employed project manager was investigated for fraud, which stopped all work. The case is still pending; a rich ministry official dodging fraud allegations while students at the school have classes outside, the school forced by the ministry to take in the students that would have filled these unfinished classrooms.

Only two days left in Windhoek. Today (Saturday) I go with Mr. Hoxobeb to a church choir party; I’m not sure exactly what that entails, but I assume there will be some singing. After that, I plan on spending some time in my kitchen cleaning and washing dishes, leaving as little incentive as possible for the current inhabitants to stick around. The various bugs are nearly vanquished from my flat now, the only visitors are the ones that fly in through the windows, which are pretty much always open.

Earlier yesterday I really wanted to just stay here and start working, skipping the PeaceCorps training that is coming up. Now, I’m ready to leave, to get some perspective, and learn a bit more Afrikaans. The teachers were all very impressed with my Afrikaans, limited as it was, and I look forward to being able to converse with them in something other than Namlish. Namlish is the Namibian version of English (a joke), and takes some getting used to. Many of the more fluent speakers have a strong British accent, and there are many words and phrases that make no sense to me now. For instance, if you want something done now, you say “now now”, because one “now” just doesn’t cut it here. Also, formalities that are only used for show in the States (Sir, Mam, Gentleman) are used regularly here. It’s Namlish, and it’s just different enough to leave you silent, while everyone else laughs at a joke, wondering what the heck the punch line was.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Day 18

Day 18 (24-Nov 19h51)

Another great day. After going to bed early again, I was wide awake at six. The sounds of youth getting ready for school are not as disturbing as you may think, but they do rouse the senses; feet pattering down halls, shoes clapping against pavement as learners ascend and descend stairs, morning pleasantries exchanged in a foreign tongue, it all has a homey feel to it.

After writing some emails out to send later, Mr. Gallant (Science and Biology teacher) came to pick me up in the school van. The adventure started early when he was unable to get the van started after waiting for me to come down. We played with it for nearly an hour, thinking it was the van’s security system which disconnects the ignition when armed. Since the door locks didn’t work properly, we assumed there was something wrong with the disarming mechanics, we were proven wrong later. A phone call to school procured for us another teacher, Mr. Hoxobeb (English, Damara, and History teacher, and yes, the vertical line is part of his name, it’s a click) who took us to the mechanic. The mechanic told us that they did not work on our particular brand of security system, so we drove twenty minutes to the alarm manufacturer. There, we found a nice mechanic who followed us back to my place to asses the problem. Any ideas what it was? If you guess the battery, you’d be correct! We jump started the van and drove it to school. Later, Mr. Gallant found out the battery was dry (no salt water), and once it was refilled, worked like a charm.

Morning antics completed, I spent the rest of the school day in the computer lab. There I located more places on the server that the previous volunteer stored music. I believe I have uncovered more than 60 gigs of music in various places, the server holding the majority of it. The server’s capacity is only 60 gigs and nearly three quarters of it is used by music. In addition, many services are not being used (exchange, AD groups, Group Policies, Backups, and DFS just to name a few). Sincerely, it will be fun rebuilding the network in January.

The computer lab is actually quite nice. I don’t recall describing it before, so here it is. There are four rows of glass-top desks with monitors sunk inside them. The computers are Dell mini-towers and pretty fast by even today’s standards. There are two air conditioning (called air-con here) units on the wall opposite the door, and a large table greets you as you enter. To the left of the entrance is a doorway to my new office which houses the servers and enough desk space to put one, maybe two elbows. I hope to consolidate the servers to create a bit more work space back there. I have a personal air-con unit in my office, very nice. There is a white board in the front of the room and two post boards at each end. It’s going to be fun filling the walls with stuff. I’ve already got an idea of how to display class progress throughout the term. There are enough motion detectors, entry sensors, and silent alarm triggers to make you feel like there’s also some gold in the floor no one told you about. But the security is necessary, break-ins are a weekly occurrence. Just last Sunday someone cut the metal cage around the window, but ran off when the alarm was tripped after breaking in.

The computer lab is the only room on campus with air-con, so I feel very lucky. I’ll be working with resources that represent a fortune in a room that’s cozier than most feel all year; I feel a little spoiled.

After school, I spent some time with Mr. Hoxobeb who is going to be a lab assistant and is eager to learn as much as possible about computers and networks. He had some great input as to what the teachers would like to see this next year. The top of the list was after school lab hours, some of which should be dedicated to teacher training.

About two ‘o clock, both Mr. Hoxobeb and Mr. Gallant took me out into the city to get dinner. We stopped at a market to pickup a meal, which we then took out of town to a small picnic area, nestled in a large valley with Idaho-esc mountains on all sides. On one side the mountain range shot up out of the desert floor like the bunching of carpet when you stop too fast. On the other side a conglomeration of isolated mountains, some topped with enormous boulders and rock precipices. In the valley, thousands of small trees and brushes in which hid wart hogs, whatever they call the deer here, free-ranging cattle, and baboons. That’s right, baboons. I saw at least a dozen of them on our drive in and out of the valley. They climb the trees and sit at the tops watching the cars go by. It was pretty cool.

The three of us had a very enjoyable meal and conversation, after which we went on a short walk. On our way back into town, thunderstorms rolled through, dumping more of that thick rain. This time though, the ground was already damp, and after twenty minutes of constant down pouring, you could watch the water start to collect into rivulets, streams, and small rivers. It was amazing how fast the water poured across the ground, a stark contrast to the way the ground handled the short bursts of rain yesterday. Now I know why all those deep dry river beds are so cautiously guarded.

I have enjoyed my evening alone. While I thoroughly enjoyed the company of new friends today, it takes a great deal of effort to stay pleasant, smile, introduce yourself to every family member and friend-of-a-friend they happen upon; I was glad to have some down time.

I took a bath. It was hot. I think baths will be more enjoyable in the winter months, but nevertheless the bathtub is large enough to accommodate me, quite a feat for a tub. I arranged my laptop at the end of the tub, with speakers on either side and watched part of an episode of Firefly before the heat finally got to me. I took a picture of this setup and will post as soon as possible.

And now the sun retreats as I enjoy a cool breeze by my window. There are a few small birds playing some sort of flying game outside, singing pleasantly. The sky is a deep red, reflecting the remaining shards of light through thick, moist clouds. It’s a wonderful end to a stormy evening, though distant thunder reminds me that the weather is a pawn to no one; the storms will return soon. I find comfort in the storms now, understanding their important place in bringing respite from this season’s blaze. Perhaps the summer won’t be that bad, so long as there’s a storm on the horizon. It used to be that storms in life brought perspective to forgetful minds, but here in Africa the storms, temporarily blotting out the intolerable, are a welcomed challenge.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Day 17

Day 17 (23-Nov 18h50)
What a contrast to yesterday! Even this morning, I was on the edge, now I feel so much better! I was picked up at eight this morning and taken to the school. There, I pretty much spent the whole day in the computer lab. I met several learners who have been very active in the computer lab, they helped me clean. I got a great deal of information from them as to what went on before and what they want to do in the future. The gist is this: they haven’t done a great deal, and want to learn as much as possible, playing games along the way. It’s going to be great working with and getting to know these youth.
The computer lab is in poor shape. Each computer has different software installed, and two of them are loaded to the brim with music. That, apparently, was Chris’ hobby, ripping CD’s that the learners brought onto the computers. Chris was the last volunteer to work here. I have pieced together that Chris was a good guy, but didn’t stay organized. Even the learners told me they noticed the computer lab getting dirty and disorganized, and wanted to learn more in classes.
So the bar has been set very low. As long as we’re not playing limbo, I should come through with great results.
Now, I’m getting organized. I’ve taken home what useful paperwork I could find. The computer office was a complete mess, and the only two organized binders I could find were irrelevant: one from years ago, the other from Chris’ previous post in the north. After gleaning what I can from them, I’m going to start on a flexible syllabus. It’s an idea I see in my head, but don’t yet know how to organize into words and action. The ultimate goal is to have enough detail planned so that more advanced learners are constantly challenged, while basic concepts are continuously introduced. Basically, it’s the youth who run the class.
Anyway, during the day I was visited by some Americans who are doing a study-abroad program. They are having a thanksgiving meal and invited me- I think I’ll go. After school, Hanna treated me to sand winches and a ride to the market to get more food and supplies. Hanna is completely awesome. She’s a great principle and a wonderful person. Her house is a hostel in itself; she houses youth in the area that don’t have family or need a place to stay. She’s also very active in church (her husband is a pastor) and women’s groups. She has the calm and thoughtful personality that I enjoy working with.
There were rainstorms today. It came without warning: enormous drops of water, first falling intermittently like warning shots across the bow, then in torrents like an invading army. It happened just as I was about to walk the 30 feet from the computer lab to the office. By the time I got to the office, I was drenched.
It continued to rain on and off like that most of the day. On the drive to the market, it hit again. It was very humerous watching the locals run in the rain. They looked like marathon runners, pacing themselves in moderate jog, it looked almost as if they were out for a daily run before work. Distances are so great out here that a flat-out run would do no good, thus an increase from walk to brisk jog is all that is required during the rain.
I also saw more of the location on the drive. Lines of houses made of metal siding and rotting wood. Some houses were pieced together with so many different materials that they looked like artwork, nearly assembled for viewing pleasure. Hanna gave me some background information on these areas. The government is re-settling people here from areas where it is too crowded or there are no services. In these areas, streets are blazed, lights are put up, cement out houses installed, and lots allocated. Most of the people who are relocated to these areas are jobless, and spend much of their days performing mundane tasks for little money. Out on the streets, chickens and roosters walk about, not aware that the houses the return to each night will, on one of those nights when the daily rations are not enough, turn them into a meal.
Never the less, the people here are still wonderful. As we passed, people smiled and waved, fully aware of what is going on, and making as much as possible out of what they have. It was difficult seeing all this. Especially after passing the nearby textile plant, which, as Hanna informed me, is owned by a multi-national corporation, undoubtedly taking advantage of the newly placed jobless population to pay such poor wages that food is barely affordable. It still is difficult to think about the countless thousands that are right now, outside my window, dealing with leaks in their roofs and splitting a pittance of food between a dozen family members. I’m not sure how to reconcile these thoughts, except to say that I am here because I was asked and because I am needed. I will do my part, for what it’s worth, and that is as much as I can do.
The rain is now a little more familiar, dribbling down in a monotonous tone that resembles its origin, a solid-grey sky. It’s cooled, but it seems no one is here to enjoy it. The birds have all taken shelter and are keeping to themselves, the youth have turned to entertainment inside their dorms, and even the city seems to have slowed down. There are no puddles here. The parched earth is thirsty enough to gulp every drop of water it receives, leaving none to collect. The result is an unnerving scene, massive amounts of water that drench the body, but utterly disappear into the ground. The horizon that used to display great mountains of distant clouds has now been engulfed by the grey. It’s now the rainy season in Windhoek.