Saturday, December 09, 2006

One Last Hurray!

We spent the last few days at Grieter's Conference Center (again- yeah!) for our mid-service conference for Education volunteers.  We had a blast!  It was defiantly the best Peace Corps conference I've ever been to- few sessions and plenty of down time.  We had fund swimming, playing cards and just hanging out. 

We came up with quite a few pool games including chicken......pool jousting (holding your hand straight in front of you and try to knock your opponent off as they pass by)And a "swim the line" session that only Peace Corps Volunteers could appreciate
We exploded some coke using mentos...Jay and I even ran an official session at the pool! I think this is the first ever pool session in Peace Corps history!
Carl took the photos...We played some Peace Corps twister- using random items instead of colorsAnd had an AMAZING brii with the workers at the center on the last night
We also found (and killed) a huge scorpian.\

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

World HIV/AIDS Day

I took these pictures last week and just got them off the camera.  Thought you might enjoy seeing what an HIV/AIDS parade looks like in Africa...

A dude on stilts.  Have to say I can't even remember the last time I saw this in the States!Here comes the band!  It looked like the police marching band, but I couldn't be sure
This is my favorite part.  A huge semi followed the band down the street- on it's side were tapped HIV/AIDS posters.  Ghetto!A fire truck with a banner securely fastened with celo-tape.

World HIV/AIDS day was last Friday (December 1st) and is celebrated around the world to increase awareness and inform people about support.  As prevalent as AIDS is here in Namibia, this amounts to a public holiday.  There were bands in the parks and early store hours.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Quick Update

What a week!  After returning from Keets last week I spent most of my time relaxing while getting the last bits of work done before I leave for the States.

Silas, Amy, Dan, Juli, Angela, Elizabeth, Irene and myself just before leaving for the music awards.

The highlight was attending Namibia's music awards.  I got a free ticket because I created a video promo for an HIV/AIDS awareness CD that 14 Namibian artists contributed to.  Unfortunately, the promo was never played due to the extreme lack of organization and time.  It would have been pretty cool to see something I made on national television though...

The music awards were quite the fiasco.  As I don't really care to go into detail let this summary suffice: started late, audience was riotously loud, award presenters were confused and uncoordinated, music was great, Gazza and The Dogg fans fought each other (two escorted out bleeding), finished after midnight.

This week I'm wrapping up some things at the school.  Wednesday all the education volunteers (at least the ones who haven't left for the States yet) will go to Grieter's conference center (again) for a mid-service conference.  Should be fun.

Then, Saturday at 845 I leave for the States.  Whoopeee!!!  I'll probably post once more before then, then it will be all quiet on the blog until I return on the 3rd of January.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Meet Nelson

I had the pleasure of meeting a friend of Jay in Keetmanshoop- Nelson.  Nelson invited us into his house in the location outside of Keet's and permitted me to take some pictures.

Nelson's house is located near the back of the location just two plots down from his mother's.  He lives alone in this small shack. The lot it sits in is clean.  He sweeps it somewhat regularly and picks up trash when it accumulates. 

Nelson, outside his house giving a typical Namibian "cool guy" pose.Nelson and Jay inspect his latest invention and science fair entry- the gambling machine.The sign above the door proudly says "I fix Radios" in both English and Oshiwombo.

Outside his house, Nelson invites me in.  The sign above the door reads "Radio Repair" but is slightly deceiving: Nelson will attempt to repair just about any electrical appliance.

As I enter his home a wave of humid heat washes over me.  The tin walls and roof of the shack absorb quite a bit of heat and since there are no windows the ventilation is very poor.  Despite this his home has a pleasant quality to it.  On one side of the 15' by 10' room is his bed, framed on two walls with colorful sheets that hang from the wall.

The bedroom- a make-shift bed with a metal grid as a box spring, boards as a frame and a small mattress.The entertainment center.  You can see a radio on the right with a speaker.  The TV and computer do not work, but he keeps on trying to fix them.A solar panel on his roof.  It charges a car battery during the day that he uses to power his light and radio.

His clothes hang from wires on one side of the bed, while a broken TV set holds several electrical items as a table on the other side.  There are many inventions around the room.  Clocks, suit cases, radios and a gambling machine which he displayed in the science fair in Windhoek a few months ago.  Nelson loves to make things.  He uses items he finds in the trash and gets from family and friends to put together unique and artistic electrical appliances.  He talks to me briefly about capacitors and resistors, terms that he picked up in his 11th grade science class this year.  He hopes to learn more so that he can put together more complex devices.

Nelson shows off the suit case he made from fence wire and cardboard.  A colorful and artistic creation.Nelson and his little brother look over a fan that he made from spare parts. He can't use it at night because it drains his battery.The CD clock on the wall keeps time perfectly.  Another project inspired by the parts he was able to find.

Nelson is 21 years old and has just finished the 11th grade at KHS (Keetmanshoop High School).  Next year he will finish 12 grade, a task that is made more difficult and unlikely given his late start in school.  These days he spends his time playing games on his cell phone, talking to girls, and learning about computers at the community center.  He has dreams of being a musician when he's finished with school and loves to rap. 

Surly one of his many talents will enable him employ somewhere in Namibia.  I have hope for Nelson, and every other youth who learns, tries and aspires.

Pictures of Keets

I took a trip down to Keetmanshoop recently to help Jay install a server in his lab.  We took a break on Saturday and walked through the location to talk to people.  Here are a few of the pictures I was able to get.

Can you see the meet drying on the wall?  This is how biltong is made- a Namibian beef jerky.A Namibian kitchen.  Here fat cakes are being made and sold to residents.  Fat cakes are like Namibian dougnuts.Another view of a kitchen area, shielded by tin and set away from the house.
A view of a few houses.Two brothers insisted I take their picture.  They also said they would come see Jay to learn about computers on Monday..You can faintly see a dust storm here- one of many that visit residents here each day.
Jay sits with a Meme who has taken in children of AIDS infected mothers who cannot breast feed their babies.  We sat and talked with her for a whileSome of the children of the Meme in the previous picture. In addition to her own 7 kids, she cares for at least 10 more, all funded with a N$10,000 grant she applied for.A Namibian garden.  Fresh greens rationed carefully to last as long as possible.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The New ITC

Jay and I spent the last three days in Okahandja (70k north of Windhoek) at the Group 26 PST to facilitate the ITC technical training.  We had a blast- the new ITC volunteers are awesome and we had a thoroughly productive and entertaining time with them.

Here's the soon to be famous Nam26 IT Crew: Dave, Paul and Sam.  Short on syllables, long on talent.We visited SchoolNet.  Hard to believe that just a year ago, Jay and I were doing this same visit for the first time.

We spent our first day together going over a myriad of ITC issues in Namibia, from national initiatives to classroom teaching techniques to common problems. After that we shared files on a ad-hoc wireless network (of course!) and spent a whole day in Windhoek touring computer companies, UNAM (University of Namibia), SchoolNet, and my school among others.  I really feel that these new ITC volunteers are going to do well and I look forward to working with them for the next year (maybe two!)

SchoolNet happened to be getting rid of a bunch of broken computers when we arrived- a sight I haven't seen ever in NamibiaSo, what would six IT guys do when dropped off in front of a mountain of broken computer hardware?  Go through it of course!Another shot of Dave, Sam and Paul at the NIED training center in Okahandja.  Here they do ICDL courses for N$750; Two hours a day for two months.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Greeting The Newbies

Here's the pictures that prove we are complete dorks and unable to control ourselves while attempting to impress a group of new American faces...

The welcoming committee (Susan, Chester, Dan, Myself, Lauren, Irene and CourtneyMyself and two of the Group 26 IT guys with a "healthy" tagging along.  Don't know their names yet, but they seem cool!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Welcome To Babylon

I and a unique opportunity to take a bunch of pictures while riding incognito in the back of a bakkie (truck).  Normally I don't take pictures while traveling through town because it seems rude and indignant.  But this time no one could see me and I took pictures like there was no tomorrow.

An old car outside a residence.  It may look abandoned, but it's either being worked on or used as a place to sleep.  Little goes unused in townships.A lot of care goes into the houses here.  You can see an old guard shack that has been put to use.  Gardens and decorative plants are not rare.The outskirts of Babylon.  A river runs through a valley but the water is hardly potable due to sewage content.

Welcome to Babylon, a settlement just outside of Katutura.  It used to be what Namibians call a "temporary settlement" or "informal settlement" but now it's officially a part of the city.  In 1997 the streets were lighted and water taps were installed one-per-block. 

The residents here pay no taxes.  The land is free, one need only register to claim a spot.  The houses can be built using wood and metal sheets for less than N$1 000 (US$145).  Residents are supposed to pay N$25 a month for the access to water, but few do.

A great view of one of the hillsides.  Remember, each house contains 6 to 20 individuals.  That's a lot of people!You'll find residents spend most of their time outside their houses talking with friends.  It's a stress-free life style.You can see the typical construction materials and methods here.  A basic 4X6 frame with metal sheets attached.  When the rain comes, it floods every household.

Life in Babylon is a mystery to me.  I intend to learn more about this place, but transportation and security issues make it difficult.  All I know now is most of the inhabitants of this area are recent (within the past 10 years) immigrants from other parts of Namibia.  Few have jobs, but those that do can afford to support an entire block of people.  Each house contains usually two rooms, a living room and a private room.  Adults sleep in the private room while kids sleep in the main room.  Each shack you see in the photos houses between 6 to 20 people each night.

Another view of a hillside.  You can see some shops in the lower left and planted shrubs in the foreground.That's a bathroom on the right, basically a hole with a pot.  A hair-salon sits to the left.You can see a very large market on the corner there.  The markets buy their goods from official markets in town then resale them for slim profits here.

The commerce in Babylon is mainly informal businesses.  You can buy just about anything you need, groceries, meat, small appliances, a hair cut and even a tune-up for the car by stopping by the right house in Babylon.  Few people here work outside (in Katutura) and most learners school nearby.

It's a fascinating place I can't wait to learn more about.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mysteries In Keetmanshoop

It's been a while since I've posted- sorry.  It's not that I've been particularly busy, at least no more so than months prior.  It's just that I haven't had much to say lately.

Last weekend I did go down to Keetmanshoop for a murder mystery party celebrating our one year anniversary in Namibia as well as Carrie's birthday.  We had a pretty good time, Jay and Shoni (our hosts) did a great job organizing the whole thing.

Dylan (the guy who got killed), Sandra (a quiet mortician) and Erica (a pregnant mother of 7) in their costumes just before the party began.Cynthia played a "man-hater" and did quiet a good job of it too...
Mike was my favorite character, a biker with a serious attitude and 79 dependents according to his tax returns.Jay was our host and played an eccentric just-out-of-jail single looking for a good time.

I played Wade, a lonely exterminator who finds much joy in finding bargains at the grocery store and saving money.  I was a suspect in the murder that occurred later in the night because the guy killed sold me some crappy land in Florida for $50,000.  I was trying to get him to pay me back all night. 

But the real killer was a character played by Janet who was about as talkative as the girls on Clueless.  She got fed up with him ignoring her all night and refusing to get back together with him, so she off'd him.

Dan played the French man-servant and Mark played the virgin computer nerd.We briied (barbecued) some bread and meat.  Traditional Namibian cuisine.
Dan and I took the train (not this one), played cards and discussed the meaning of life... seriously. 

The break from work was nice, and getting all the way from Windhoek to Keets and back in two days was quite a fun journey.  We (Dan and I) took the train Friday night and attempted to sleep.  By the time we arrived in Keets at 9 the following morning I was soar and not very well rested.

Our hike back from Keets made up for it all though.  We got a cheap ($20) lift from a Namibian in a new VW with leather back seats.  We slept most of the way as he plowed through Namibia at more than 200kph.

Next week I go to the group 26 PST and help with a bit of the training.  Should be fun.  If everything goes to plan (...right) I hope to be in Swakopmund to celebrate Thanksgiving.