Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Well, the conference is going great.  It's been wonderful seeing everyone again.  It's amazing how little time it took to tell our stories and start our shenanigans again!

The conference center is absolutely amazing!  It's set up in the top of the hills forming the north west side of the Windhoek valley.  From my room I can see all of Windhoek and the numerous mountain ranges behind it.  The architecture is Greek style with swimming pools and wondering walkways.  It took the first day just to explore it all, from the surounding hilltops to the cavernous rooms.

As if living in a mountain paradise wasn't enough, we've been fed the most amazing food as well.  Each dinner is served course after course, barely giving each table of ten enough time to clean the plates.  Desserts follow both  the lunch and evening meals, and with morning and afternoon tea, I'm beginning to think they're fattening us up for something...

The only drawback to our perfect little vacation are the sessions.  While they have been noticeably toned down and "softened" compared to PST (per our request) they still are something to endure rather than enjoy.  I have to admit I have gotten some ideas and am looking forward to implementing over the course of the year, but I've enjoyed the relaxation, games and company much more than the epiphanies. 

I'm really looking forward to our backpacking trip next week.  Our roster includes six of Nam25's finest: Pat S., Mike, Chris P., Matt W., Janet and your's truly.  We've got the route, the meals and the inventory all prepared.  All that's left is getting out there!  We'll be starting out next Monday and returning (it's a loop trail) Tuesday the following week.  Should be a blast!

I have no idea when I'll get a chance to post this, but I know it will definitely be outdated when it is- sorry!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Massive Crash

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Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usWell, I ended up with 34 volunteers staying at my hostel last night.  It was a bit crazy, organizing anything was pretty much impossible.  Groups came and went even after I went to sleep at 10:30.  But it sounded like everyone had a good time (except for those kept awake by the midnight game of soccer in the hall).

So now were are all getting ready to leave for training.  It's almost like staging again, back in the States, only this time we all know each other and have a good idea what to expect when we arrive at the conference

A small group of us have managed to organize a huge backpacking trip at the last minute, which we'll be doing right after reconnect.  It's a 120k hike over 7 days through some of the most remote and challenging terrain in all of Namibia.  The Namibia guide book calls the hike "the most difficult in Africa due to the elevation changes".  Game on.  I've never been in such good shape as I am now, and this is exactly the kind of experience I wanted for the break.  I hope to have many great pictures to share when I return.

Until next time!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Here are some scenic pictures of Windhoek...

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These huge bugs just love to meander around looking for grub.  If they come across a less fortunate and thus squashed relative, they eat 'em.

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A nice sunrise just outside my flat.

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Here's one of the more than a dozen cactus species that live on the hill near my flat.  This one is blooming- see the huge four-foot flower on top?

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Dan and I caught a movie on Thursday.  Here you can see the luxurious Windhoek theater. 

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Enchiladas! We had fund making enchiladas, including hand-made tortillas!

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Visitors.  PCV's are constantly coming and going from my place.  It's a way station on the road to just about anywhere.


Well, it's finally here.  Tests are done and graded.  Kids have been sent home for the one month break.  And PeaceCorps reconnect is just two days away.  Our first official vacation since we've been here, and we've earned it!  It's amazing to think that we've been in Namibia for more than 6 months: half a year!  Even from the very brief stories I've heard from the PCV's I can tell that everyone worked a little harder than they thought they would have to at basics they thought were, well... basic.  The includes subject material like basic addition and subtraction, as well as cultural interaction that has manifested in dealing with constant lying, low self standards and lack of motivation.  The full stories this weekend and next week will be very interesting.[cut]

After school was done Thursday I headed straight home to start reading.  Dan joined me shortly (he was concerned about getting a ride to town and found one right after school that was headed straight to Windhoek).  Dan and I had a great weekend of talking, reading and cooking.  We made enchiladas, chimichungas and pancakes.  We also completed two books between the two of us and had a great, relaxing time.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usMonday brought more visitors: 13 more in total.  Everyone is staying at the hostel here: I arranged for rooms for everyone who wanted to come into Windhoek early.  Last night we had a blast doing karaoke at a great Chinese restaurant in Klien Windhoek.  Not sure what will happen tonight, but with an additional 10 people joining us, I think we'll be splitting up into smaller groups.

I'm looking forward to reconnect, but I'm really excited about our vacation time afterwards.  Our plans to backpack the fish river in the south fell through when I found out it will be flooded during the time we wanted to go.   The alternatives are pretty much north to Victoria falls or south to Capetown or Johannesburg.  I think I'll be going north, but I'm not sure yet.  Last minute plans are a way of life here!

I'm not sure if I'll have access to the Internet while at reconnect, which is located in a conference center about 10k outside of town.  If so, I'll post the picts and the stories, otherwise you won't hear from me in more than 10 days.  Hasta la vista![/cut]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Truly Great Popcorn

How to make truly great popcorn.

I will never buy that microwave crap again, even when I go back to the States.  Here's the secret to truly great (and cheap!) popcorn:

Step 1: Warm the panFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
 Put a small pot on the stove and turn the heat on medium.  Pour enough sunflower oil to cover the entire bottom.  Place a single corn kernal in the middle of the pot.  When it pops, you know you're ready to put the rest in.
Step 2: Warm kernels and wait Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
 Wait to hear the pop from the kernel in the pan.  Put the rest of the kernels in a small cup on top of the pot to warm them up.  It makes the popping go much faster!
Step 3: Add kernels Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
 Once the pop happens, pour there remaining kernels into the pot.  Shake the pot to get an even spread of kernels across the bottom.  You should not have too many kernels, only enough to cover 50 to 60 percent of the bottom.
Step 4: Pop! Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
 Now the popping begins!  Make sure to shake the pot ever once in a while to get the kernels to the bottom.  Give it plenty of time to pop, this isn't like the microwave, you can actually pop every single kernel without burning the already popped corn!
Step 5: EnjoyAdd salt (butter if you must) and enjoy.  Nice fluffy popcorn that's not too greasy and has just the right amount of salt.  Honestly, why would you want to do it any other way?
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Monday, April 10, 2006


It's been long enough since I've endured a truly hot day to allow thoughts of winter to flourish. Sure, it's fall here and the weather is supposed to be cooler, but seasons change and time flies, especially when you're busy acquainting yourself to a new culture.

And there have been quite a few revelations, albeit small ones, as I've become acculturated to Namibia.  The definition and soul of value, for one.  In the states you buy things based on what you want.  Here you buy things to survive.  The act of purchasing a washing machine or a digital camera cannot be completed without enduring a plague of questions about what else the money could be used for.  One washing machine equals about 300 meals, or eight weeks of groceries, or a six months of electricity, or 250 taxi rides.  There's a lot that money can be used for, but necessity eliminates many options, and the shear volume of need reduces purchases of convenience to mere frivolities.  How can I walk down the street enjoying an ice cream cone and look in the eye the homeless starving child without paining from guilt?  Ice cream is now a frivolity.  But I do it anyway.  And I'll probably buy a washing machine because I'm sick of destroying my clothes in an attempt to clean them every week.  Am I just living a live of privilege out here in the southern African desert?[cut]

I'm beginning to think that I left the States to live the same kind of life here in Africa.  The only difference is that the suffering and pain in the world that you hear about so often is right down the street rather than across an ocean, and I've traded my Jeep and nice apartment for an ice cream cone and washing machine.  This is the subtle but constant guilt I live with here, in the capital city of Namibia; working daily with the poor and deserving while enjoying a life of relative comfort that I just can't seem to shake.

Another revelation involves begging and giving.  Three weeks ago I gave $100 to a homeless man named Emanuel.  I'd seen him in town quite a few times prior, and each time he had the same story to tell: from the north, in town to see the doctor, can't afford to get back home.  So this time I relented and gave him money for the bus ticket back north.  Even while handing over the bill and telling him to have a safe trip, I knew I'd see him again next week.  But I didn't give him the money because I believed his story, I gave it because I wanted to trust him.  And when I did see him two weeks later downtown in passing, and as he told me he did go home but had to come back, I knew I was right in the beginning:  He didn't lie, he just sold me his trustworthiness. And that day the possibility that someone with something could help someone with nothing was worth 20 meals and 16 taxi rides.  Emanuel sells his trust, I sell my guilt.  It's a bargain well met as neither of us values our commodities highly.  I'll likely not give Emanuel another cent, but I will still chat with him, and maybe someday I'll understand what drives a good man to such a low bargain on an important piece of character.  But right now I just don't know.

Then there's Essime.  She's an 11th grader who came to school in a well worn uniform a few sizes too big.  Her house (shack) burned to the ground two weeks ago, the cause was never identified.  She now lives with her aunt, seven to a bed.  Along with a few other teachers, I gave $100 to her family to help with whatever they need.  The money went to purchase a new school uniform, which she now wears with pride.  The money was unsolicited, and she does not know the identity of the contributors.  Honest charity for an honest recipient.  But why should someone have to loose so much to get something they needed in the first place?  I wish I understood.

Then just last week one of the teachers came to me and asked for a loan of $10 to buy some food.  The smallest quantity bill I had was $50, which he took with the promise of repayment.  Even with several polite reminders I have not yet been repaid, a situation that would have lead to my having a bad impression had it not been for some background information shared by another college.  I learned that this teacher supports his three siblings and their collective fifteen children as well as their parents and two uncles, all under three roofs not a stone's throw from one another.  I can only assume the members of his family who are not too sick either make crafts or food items to sell or ask for change on the streets, a story all to common here.  How can I ask for repayment from someone who gives so much to others?  What is a $50 bill to a man responsible for more than 20 hungry souls?  I honestly don't know. 

Sometimes you do it with honor and dignity.  Other times you are manipulated and betrayed.  But I have plenty of honor to spare.  And if all I have to give up is a little dignity for the privilege of not judging the hosts of my modest generosity, it's a cost I can bear.  I'd rather suffer a little humility than snub a genuine plea for help.   And I have to justify my privilege somehow. 

So my policy now is to always give.  If someone asks for something, I stop and listen.  I offer modestly, and when possible make the price a short conversation.  I try to remember that we are all people, doing the best with what we have.  And I may never understand the soul of a man who lives under a bridge and spends each day begging for coins, but I can at least value that soul over the sum of money in my pocket.  [/cut]

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Weekend

Last weekend was a busy one.  I had two volunteers staying the night Friday, three more Saturday, on Sunday four left and one came in, but everyone was gone by Tuesday.  I didn't get squat done last weekend- not even the laundry.  What amazes me most is just how much I don't stink; maybe you don't need to wash everything each week...  I'm going to start rotating my clothes, washing every two weeks.  Hand washing your clothes is really hard on the fabric, my pants are stretching and my shirts are thinning out.  The less washing you can get away with without colleges avoiding you, the better.

I did, however, have a great weekend.  The stories are pretty much all the same; volunteers come in, we shop, we eat, we hang.  Then everyone goes home.  I'm looking forward to seeing three volunteers this weekend, one of which is brining two learners who are competing in the National athletics competition.


I just keep counting down the days to reconnect.  It's like a big family reunion where you look forward to seeing your favorite relatives just as much as looking forward to laughing at the crazy ones.  We're going to have a blast.

I've organized a trip to the Fish River Canyon with a touring company.  They will bus us down there and pick us up on the other side.  I have yet to figure out if the canyon is even open (because of all the flooding this year), but I have a backup plan.  In the course of researching this trip, I found another one that I really want to do.  The Namib desert (south west of Windhoek) has a 130k, 7-day backpacking trail that is supposed to be one of the most difficult, isolated and beautiful in Africa.  I'm hoping to find three other adventurous PCV's to tackle it with me in October.  Should be a blast!

Testing at the school is what I call "crazy-organized", which is not to infer that the organization is really great, just that it's a crazy kind of organization.  Today there are only two grades testing, which means the rest of the school remains locked in their classrooms (although as I type this I hear several learners goofing off outside).  But by next Monday all the tests will be done.  Crazy organized.

Tomorrow (Saturday) Mr. |Hohobeb and I will be reformatting the server here and reinstalling everything.  That will make for a great learning experience for him and will help me organize the computers and files (crazy-organized works well for some things, not for others).  Next week I'll be reformatting all the computers in the lab to get ready for next term when we will be making music and producing movies.  It's going to be a blast!

Aside from a few other things I'll write about later, that sums up the past week.


Thursday, April 06, 2006


I had a great weekend with Jay & Shoni from Keetmanshoop and Megan K. from Otjiwarongo.  They came in Friday evening and spent Saturday and Sunday morning with me.  On Saturday we went out to the Crafts Center Coffee shop for breakfast, then did a little shopping.  Jay needed to get an external hard drive for his computer (both he and I need to reformat our computers for different reasons), and Megan and Shoni needed a pedicure.

We watched X-Men 3 at the theaters then headed home to relax before going out for the evening.  We started the night at a very nice wine bar that overlooks Windhoek.  It's a great spot that I think I'll go to more often as they have great live music and atmosphere.  After that we went to a west African restaurant where I had Chicken curry (excellent) and we all tasted the super-spicy sauce that nearly burned my lips off.

Breakfast at the Crafts Center Coffee shopDrinks at the wine bar just down the street from my flat.Dinner at the West African restaurant.

After dinner I headed home and the others went to El Cubano (a popular night Club).  I'm just not a clubbing type.

Great conversations, great company and a fun time made the weekend enjoyable and relaxing.  Next week is a short one- just two days, after which we all go to Swakop for our all-volunteer conference.  I'm not really looking forward to this, mostly because I know it will be more partying and drinking than conferencing, but it will be nice to see everyone none the less.

After the conference everything finally settles down again.  No more interruptions.  It will be nice.

Hiking the hill to my flat.  Everyone must do it at least once to prove their worth.Megan and Shoni looking at bracelets at the Crafts Center.  I still don't understand what's so special about these PVC-pipe bracelets but they are very popular here.Here's a mocha, Africa-style.


A small brush fire kick started the weekend at the School.  Friday, just before we were done watching "Rush Hour" in the computer lab after school, a brush fire started in the elementary school down the street and spread all the way to the computer lab.  We got the hoses out and fought it off.  It was actually kinda fun!  Despite several calls to the "fire brigade", no one showed up to help put it out.  Never the less, we were able to get it out, an hour and a half later.

The wind kicked the flames up about ten feet at times.  It was actually a pretty big fire.The fire actually got to within six feet of the computer lab.  Since the building is made of brick I don't think it was ever in danger of burning down, but hey, it's the principle of the thing.  No fire is threatening our computer lab!We didn't have anything to connect the hose to the water spout (go figure), so we had a learner hold it.  Fun job, eh?The fire spread much further to the right of this picture, but this is the closest point it got to buildings.