Sunday, June 25, 2006

Happy Days

I had a great weekend.  Despite not having the company I was expecting, the company I did have was great. 

Thursday got me off in a great mood as I picked up my package from home.  Thanks so much Mom and Dad for putting it all together!  I now have a new hard drive for my computer, a Pocket PC to stay organized and more art work from my niece.  I also got some food items that I've been craving for a while now.

Some items in my package from home.  The black olives and peppers are a must for good enchiladas and are impossible to find here.

Friday, Copellia was in town to meet up with her parents.  She is the first to have relatives visit her from the states.  Her parents invited me to dinner and we had a wonderful meal at the hotel they stayed at.  Even after a long flight and not nearly enough sleep, her parents had plenty of stories to share.  They were excited to see their daughter and looking forward to the safari that is currently showing them the best of Namibia.

Courtney came into town Friday night and spent two nights.  Will came in late and stayed two nights as well.  Saturday we got some shopping done, played a little miniature golf, and cooked an amazing dinner. This is the third time I've made enchiladas with PCV's and I have to say that these were by far the best. I used the diced black olives and peppers that were sent from the states as well as a box Red Velvet cake sent to me by Janet.  The whole meal was amazing, great company, great conversation, great wine, great food and great desert.  It was as if for those brief hours everything was right in the world.

Courtney getting ready to dig into a fruity breakfast at the Crafts Center CafeWill sipping on a huge mocha.  I get one of these every time I visit this cafe, they are wonderful!
Courtney and Will working on stuffing our home-made tortillasWill, chillin' on my bed to a good beat and good book.The finished product- oh it smelled soooooo good!!!
This golf course is about as cheap as the entry fee.  For just N$5 you can play 18 holes of relatively uncomplicated golf.  It's a great time if you've got great company, which we had.

Sunday everyone headed home and I got to cleaning.  Now here I sit in a very clean flat with a night of lesson preparation and reading ahead of me.  I'll be fighting the urge to plow into the 90 gigs of tv shows that were sent in my package from the states. 

This week is going to be a busy one.  Monday I have a meeting with a ministry official that coordinates training centers in the Windhoek area.  I'm hoping to start teaching computer classes in some of the settlements in the south.  Tuesday I'm hopefully having a phone line installed so I can get crystal clear calls from home.  Wednesday and Thursday I am doing a Desktop Publishing workshop for staff members at FAWENA (Forum for African Women Educationalists - Namibia), and Friday there is no school.  There's also no school the following Monday, making it a four day weekend.  I plan on heading up to Omaruru to take part in the PCV festivities (himba wrestling among other things).

Monday, June 19, 2006


There is a huge issue on the lips of every Namibian throughout the country: Shebeans. More specifically, the government attempts to close down illegally operating shebeens.  A shebeen (pronounced sha-bean) is a small bar and night club, usually small (about the size of a living room) and about as prevalent in Namibian towns and villages as coffee shops are in the states. 

The commotion started last week as the government sent troops and police to a Walvis Bay settlement to shut down illegally operating shebeens.  They confiscated liquore and in some cases even bulldozed buildings.  This sparked a series of moderately-organized protests, starting in Walvis Bay and spreading all the way to Windhoek.  The protests in and near Walvis Bay clashed with riot police who shot rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowds.  The protester's message was simple: don't take our bars away.

Initially I was very perplexed by this issue.  Massive protests and large-scale civil actions were used to petition the government, but for what issue?  I thought for sure Namibians would want to protest the gaudy N$1 trillion state house being build just outside of Windhoek; perhaps those gold fences could be compromised for some desks and chairs in schools?  Or perhaps, I continued to ponder, Namibians were fed up with the ramped corruption that's reported daily in the newspapers, yet again squandering millions that could be used to fight the massive HIV/AIDS problem.  But no, it was the bars.  In a nation that struggles daily with alcoholism and it's horrific social consequences (rape, car accidents, domestic abuse, etc.) it's the bars the receive the civil backing of the populous. How ironic, I thought.

But then I looked more into the issue.

Shebeens are uncomfortably and intrinsically connected to the history of this land and these people.  During the apartide regime shebeens were the answer to laws that forbade blacks and coloreds entry to certain bars.  They served as gathering places and social hubs during times when racism was violently practiced and even small gatherings of blacks was forbade.  And even today, shebeens generate income for small families which is used to send children to school.   Shebeens also provide a social and recreational outlet that the government has yet to address.  With few youth and community centers, after school programs, adult education or other social services, Namibians who are unemployed (and there are many) in small towns have very little to do with their time.

And now you may start to see why the closing of illegal shebeens has struck a tender cord among Namibians.  Here's a government that has (in the eyes of many residents) failed to stimulate the economic growth it promised 15 years ago, inadequately provided social services, and instituted a liquor licensing policy that favors the middle class; and it's now trying to take away a staple of Namibian village life. Ask any PeaceCorps volunteer and you'll confirm that shebeens are everywhere.  Making them illegal will not make them go away, it will create a huge black market that will cost millions to control. 

What a difficult issue.  What is the solution?  Do you, as a government, put morality aside and allow for the sale of alcohol to everyone from abusive husbands to five year old girls?  Or do you make a moral stand and risk mass riots?  Is it insensitive to think that illegal shebeens should simply go away, forgetting their interesting role in the freedom fight?  Or is it more important to stand by the new government that was fought for with many lives?

I'm glad I don't have to make these decisions.  I just hope whoever does make them sees all sides of this deceptively complicated issue.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Time Keeps On Slippin...

The weeks are just flying by. Now, just one week after the all-volunteer conference I feel like the December holiday is just around the corner.
It didn't take long to get back into the groove after being gone from school for three solid days, which was great. This past week was "Education For All" week in which the learners participated in a series of debates, essay contests and discussions all revolving around education in Namibia. The festivities culminated Friday with a big Education program that included dancing, speeches, singing and dramas.

As fragile as the education system is, it's somehow ironic how an entire week of studies is disturbed to celebrate education. The daily class schedule was adjusted to accommodate one extra period a day which was used for the debates and discussions. This had the effect of making teaching impossible by shortening already too-short periods and making the same periods unpredictable as the automatic bells system was turned off and we relied for the entire week on the memory and availability of the secretary to ring the bells.

But despite it's shortcomings, the week was a success and the learners enjoyed it.
My big triumph was getting headphones for all the computers. I agreed to produce a newsletter for FAWENA (Forum for African Woman Educationalists, Namibia) and also agreed to hold a five-day training workshop for the employees on desktop publishing in exchange for 20 sets of nice headsets. Now each computer has a headset complete with microphone that will enable teaching digital music compilation and editing, something I've been looking forward to.

I started with a few classes last week and they loved it. Just like kids anywhere, these guys love music, and love making music just as much. They had a blast making loop-based songs with software purchased by the school. I love my job.
This weekend is a quiet one. Yesterday (Saturday) Jon from group 24 popped by and made copies of my DVD's. My DVD collection has become something of a pariah among PeaceCorps, promising to provide much needed entertainment to those volunteers stuck in small villages. Yet few of them ever get the chance to spend a few hours here to copy them.

I also attended the school's first athletic meet for soccer and netball yesterday. The soccer was as you'd expect, and as big as soccer is here, it was quiet exciting. I was especially looking forward to watching the netball games though. Netball is a variation of basketball played by girls here. The baskets have no backboards (just a metal hoop) and the key looks a bit different, but much else is the same. There are seven players on each side. Each player is restricted to a specific part or parts of the court. There is no dribbling, once you have the ball you must stop and pass it to a teammate. The object is to continuously pass until the ball is close enough to the hoop to affect a shot. Here, everyone stops. You cannot take the ball from someone, only knock it out of the air, so the opposing team stands in front of the shooter with their hands up patiently. The shooter takes her time, aiming carefully then shoots. About half the time it goes it (shooting without a backboard is much more difficult).

This combination of fast-paced passing and running with the patient, deliberate shooting makes the game feel kind of weird. From my ignorant perspective there appears to be little strategy, but then I am just learning. Maybe it will grow on me. Despite that, I've decided we need to get some real basketball (for both girls and boys) going at my school. Another project...

Well, today is cleaning and laundry. Perhaps some mid day naps and reading: all in a long weeks work...