Thursday, November 08, 2007

Updates From the Void

Yeah, it's been a while. I can't say I've been busy, just the opposite actually. School is not in full exam mode which leaves me with very nice long days of walking, reading and watching episodes of Star Trek TNG provided by friends in the States.

Aside from recreational activities, I have managed to do a few worth-while things:

Cookin' meat (and goat skin)

Climbin' mountains


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Cold

It is unusually cold right now. It's been this way for almost a week now. Whatever happened to summer?

On the positive side of things, I got a ride to school in a taxi with spinners this morning. That was pretty exciting.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Prizes Are Out

Some highlights from the Prize Giving Ceremony that took place last week.

The Choir was my favorite part of the whole evening.The church where the event took place.  It was across the street from the school.  Despite the pastor being 45 minutes late to unlock the hall, we managed to end on time.

Me, getting my super special certificate from the school.Me, giving a certificate to Matroos, one of the members of the Tech Squad.
A group of learners after they got their certificates.  I took about a hundred of these... 

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Time to Award

Yeah, it's time yet again for the prize giving ceremony at school. That means it's also time for me to spend two days in front of a computer printing 700+ certificates. Hey, it's a living. Oh wait, it's not. Almost forgot...

The prize giving ceremony is quiet a big deal for learners. To fully appreciate just what a big deal this is, you have to first understand what it means to get a certificate here in Namibia. For most Namibians, especially the young and yearning to be rich type, certificates are the only things that set them apart in job interviews. Think of how you would set yourself apart if everyone you knew also graduated from high school and spoke three languages. It's the certificates that show active participation in programs and vocational training.

Thus, the prize giving ceremony is more about stockpiling things that may potentially land you a few extra bucks in the future. That's why in addition to the typical academic awards (best in subject, best in class), everyone who simply passes a course gets a certificate. On top of that, add the sports teams, choir, girls Club, various computer clubs and random "cultural awards" that I still don't quite understand, and you've got 700 certificates to give out in a school of roughly 750 students. If I went here, I'd like those odds...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tech Squad Goes North

The Tech Squad recently visited Oshakati and Outapi in the north.  It's the first time the Squad has made it to the true north of Namibia (above the red line).  It was also the first time that we split the Squads up and did workshops at two sites at the same time. 

Overall it was a success.  The workers at Catholic AIDS Action were very pleased with learning how to run a Photo Lab.  They will use their new Digital Photography and printing skills to opperate a Photo Lab as an income generation project.

In Outapi the squad worked with members of the AIDS club and taught them basic computer literacy skills.   Despite the 16 hours of driving it took to make the trip possible, everything went very well.

Kali and Leena with some learners that participated in the workshop in Outapi.
The computer workshop participants showing their new certificates after their session in Outapi.
The participants of the Digital Photography workshop displaying the photos they just learned how to take and print.
Participants of the Photo Lab workshop showing their certificates.  These certificates are possible the most important aspect of job advancement in Namibia.
Lydia demonstrating some digital photography techniques on the computer.
Paulus, Lydia and myself after dinner on the second night.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blog Updated

Well, I've back-posted every blog entry that was saved on my computer. I think there's a few in December 2005 that I didn't get saved due to computer problems. For those who have been following my journeys, take a look back in time...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Namibia Style

There's really not a great deal different in Namibia when you talk about the basics.  There are stores, roads, people and food.  The differences exist in subtleties within categories.  One must dig deep to find where our cultures diverge in aspects of life.  Below are a few of these recently discovered differences.

Field Trip!  Namibia style...

To a "Computer Lab", again, Namibia style...

Passing a "Corner Market", yes... Namibia style too

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


**** NOTICE ****
I, Jason Sears, resident of Huis Dreyer on Hugel Straas, hereby declare a state of war between the Sovereign Conglomeration of Peace Corps Crashers (SCPCC) and the Cockroach species.

AS the Cockroach species has neglected and in some cases blatantly disregarded the terms of the December 2006 Windhoek Peace Accord, and

AS the Cockroach species continues to raid food supplies designated "SCPCC Only", and

AS the Cockroach species breeds, defecates and otherwise inhabits regions of Huis Dreyer considered detrimental to SCPCC prosperity and security, and

AS the Cockroad species failed to respond to communiques pertaining to the infractions of the December 2006 Windhoek Peace Accord in addition to treaties signed by parties within the SCPCC,

WE the SCPCC have determined necessary to embark on full war with the goal of obliterating the Cockroach species from SCPCC territories.

The SCPCC urges all Cockroaches to flee SCPCC territories immediately as a bombing campaign will begin soon. Any roaches found within the territories will be considered combatants and executed immediately.

There will never again be peace between the Cockroach species and the SCPCC, war will continue as long as even a single roach lives. All power to RAID!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things I Thought I'd Never Do In Africa...

Things I've done in Africa that I never though I'd do:

  • Download Daily Shows from the internet every week
  • Send a computer for repair to the states
  • Have the same computer completely die a year later
  • Travel… only not as a tourist, as a computer guy, as a teacher, and as a friend
  • Get impatient; I thought I’d master this, but alas…
  • Abandon my long admired work ethic for the “just try and show up” method
  • Cheer out loud as a cloud temporarily covers the sun
  • Eat crocodile, ostrich, warthog, donkey and dog
  • Grow out my hair
  • Forget I’m white
  • Forget I’m American
  • Want to stay
  • Want to leave
  • See death, hopelessness and apathy everywhere
  • Find youth who are pretty much just like the youth in the States; ready for adventure, caught up in gossip and romance, trying to maintain a small amount of concern for education and the future

Friday, September 14, 2007

Taking A Break

This is how I feel right now.  It doesn't feel like I got hit by a truck. 
Nor am I feeling isolated or lost.  Rather, I feel like I've set off on an
epic journey (hence the long-ass road) and am just taking a break.

Pictured is my good Peace Corps friend Jay Haase.  He is my mentor and
friend.  He is the biggest reason that I se my situation here as "taking
five" rather than "dead on a road to nowhere."

Thanks Jay.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Chess Club

We've started a chess club here and it is already very popular.  I decided to sidestep the whole chess board problem by making chess sets out of paper.  The whole thing is really easy and not having to worry about missing pieces or ruined boards is a big bonus.

The kids learned about the pieces last week and played pawn chess.  This week they will learn about checks and mates.  This is going to become my favorite club, I can tell...

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Some members of the new Chess Club playing for the first time.They played pawn chess with each other for almost an hour after our discussion about the games and pieces.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tech Squad Sleep-Over & Painting Party

The Tech Squad had a painting party last week where they were allowed to spend the night in the computer lab.  It was a very long, cold night but they had a blast and the new computer lab looks better than ever.

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Petrina with not so happy a look is helping prepare dinner.  Olivia in the background takes a taste.Everyone dishing up before watching a movie.
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The color they chose was grey, mostly because the dark blue they wanted was not available. We took breaks by playing computer games and watching movies.  Rough...Matroos, hoarding the food.  We had meat, porridge and macaroni.  A good Namibian meal.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Cape, Lesotho and Beyond

I'm back!  And what a vacation I had!

We (Janet, a PCV from Bethanie) left for Capetown not really knowing exactly what kind of vacation we would be having.  With only two goals in mind (backpack and pony trek) we were pretty much open for anything.

Our first stop was Cape Town, a large city at the bottom of South Africa.  It to over 16 hours to get there from Keetmanshoop where we started from.  We stayed with some ex-Peace Corps volunteers from Namibia who are now living in the cape.  After a few days of shopping, eating and visiting museums though, we were ready to get out of the big city.

On the road through South Africa we saw endless river valleys filled with vineyards and wheat farms.

A view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain, where we hiked one beautiful day

Here's me with all of Cape Town at my feet.  A drop of about 400 meters is directly in front of me.

Myself, Amy, Janet and Josh (Josh is a volunteer teacher in Namibia and Amy is his girl friend from the States) at the top of Table Mountain

One night we went to a great middle-eastern restaurant where we smoked Huka (herb-flavored air with a hint of tobacco) and enjoyed a belly-dancing show.

From Cape Town we took a bus to Blomfontien which is near the border to Lesotho.  We took taxi's from the bus into Lesotho eventually ending up at a PCV's house just north of the capital city.  From there we made our plans, deciding to attempt a complete circle tour of Lesotho.

The Lesotho border with South Africa near the capital city of Masearu.  It was a pretty crazy place.  all the vehicles you see are various taxis.A typical taxi/mini-bus.  You can see it's full of people just waiting for the last one or two passengers so they can leave.

We took more taxi's to another PCV's site seeing much of Lesotho on the way.  We passed through endless villages and towns.  At one point we walked along the road (since there were no cars or taxis) for three hours, never once being an eye-shot away from at least one village. 

Some small boys came up to us to ask for sweets.  It may seem funny, but we saw many boys with no pants, only a sweater.  The rubber boots were also very prominent even among the adults.This is a good idea, bathrooms right outside the garden; instant fertilizer! Here's a close view of a roundiville, the main form of housing in villages.  There are remnants of old abandoned houses everywhere as you can see in the background.

The villages in Lesotho are made of rock and straw.  There were people everywhere.  Many never leave the area, traveling only a few kilometers to shop.  They wore mostly western-style clothes however we saw a lot of people covered with blankets.  It gets so cold that blankets are a necessity.  Their blankets are made of goat hair and have a very unique texture to them.

A view of a village on the slope of a hill.  Imagine life here...An elderly man waiting for a taxi or bus to go to town to buy smokes.Some teenagers bringing donkeys to the next village so that they can haul wheat back.

Eventually someone passed and picked us up. We got to Sani pass, where we expected to be able to backpack to a national park further south, eventually connecting back up with the main road.  When we got there, however we were told that no such trail exists, but we could just walk there over the mountains.  As I was entering in GPS coordinates to attempt this rather difficult trek a professional backpacker came to speak with us.  He suggested an easier trail that was actually a trail that was nearby in South Africa (across the border).  He also offered us a lift as he was headed that way.

A group of men beating the wheat. I was told something about separating the edible part of the wheat from the rest but I didn't quite get it.A view of another village perched on a hill overlooking the highlands of LesothoThis is Sani Pass, looking towards South Africa to the east.  On a clear day I could imagine seeing the ocean from here, more than 400k away.

We ended up hiking the Castle Cup trail, a 60k hiking trail (that is meant to be a 5-day easy hike with lots of side trips and sites to see) in two days.  It was pretty intense, especially since at one point we got lost and ended up scaling a 600 meter saddle to rejoin the trail.  Along the way we found some cave paintings, which I thought was pretty amazing.

Janet walking along the trail on our first morning of hiking.A nice suspension bridge along the way.We were fortunate to never have to sleep on the floor for our entire trip.  On the trail we stayed at this lodge-like house.  It had water (although cold) and hostel beds.
Our food supplies.  We pretty much survived on peanut butter and bread.A nice shot of the Drakensburg mountainsJanet and I in our "grandparents" shot.  We had just finished the trail and were completely exhausted.  Another 12k hike uphill awaited us the following day
Me next to the cave paintings we happen to find while lost.

On the other side of the trail we then had to hike back up into Lesotho.  We climbed more than 1,000 meters back up into the highlands of Lesotho through a national park, eventually ending up in a lodge in the middle of the park.  From the lodge we got a random and very lucky lift in the back of a pickup truck to the nearest town, four hours away.

The ride in the back of the truck was one of the most amazing experiences of the trip.  We coursed through massive mountains that sprawled into the distance as far as you could see.  The mountains were so pronounced and steep that there was barely any room for the spattering of small villages and homesteads that peppered the slopes.  Large herds of sheep, goats and cattle were seen everywhere, tended closely by teenage boys.  Occasionally we would crest over a hilltop or saddle and be able to see for what seemed like thousands of miles.  It was truly amazing.

This is all I have from that amazing ride in the back of the pickup.  Some things you just can't get pictures of...Lesotho is called the "Magic Kingdom" You can get an idea of why in this picture...

After another day of taxis we ended up in a lodge in a remote village called Maleale. There we went on a two-day pony trek and stayed the night in a village.  It was an amazing experience and I am still shocked at the type of terrain horses can walk on.  At one point we decended into a river valley using a goat path that was not only narrow and rocky, but at points had huge boulders in the middle which the horses would either scale or jump.  I always hoped for the former because jumping a boulder on a goat path with 300 meters of cliff to one side is not exactly a moment of happiness.

You can barely get a sense of just how steep this trail is. You see the rock in the distance, to the left?  Yeah, my horse jumped that.Me on my horse.Me on my other horse.  The first one was too slow so the guide switched with me.
Our accomodations at the Maleale lodgeOn our over-night pony-trek we hiked up to this waterfall.  It was pretty amazing and VERY cold.

After spending a few days at the lodge and meeting lots of interesting people from all over (including some volunteers from South Africa and Namibia!) we started heading back home.  We spent two nights with the volunteer we started at, then headed to Cape town for two days before going back to Namibia.

It was an amazing trip I'll never forget.