Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tech Squad Goes South

The fourth Tech Squad trip this year took us south, first to Rehoboth for a day then two days in Bethanie, the oldest town in Namibia.

In Rehoboth, the Squad installed software and configured a 20-computer lab We enjoyed the lunch and dinner Rehoboth High School provided for us.

We stopped in Rehoboth for just one night so that we could help install software and configure computers for their new 20-computer lab. It was pretty easy work and the Squads enjoyed the down time.

The oldest known church in Namibia. The oldest building in Namibia.  It's now a museum.Lydia, Olivia and Caroline climb the narrow steps to the bell tower.

From Rehoboth we traveled south for six hours to Bethanie where we split into two groups.  On group went to the High School outside town while the other went to a primary school.  Both groups fixed some minor computer problems Friday night, then ran computer classes for teachers, learners and community members all day Saturday.

Paulus and Joel gave us a short sermon from the pulpit of this very old church The two squads as well as our assistant, Kali at our nightly meeting.By Sunday morning everyone was pretty exhausted and slept most of the way home.

We left for Windhoek early Sunday morning after having provided computer classes for more than 60 learners, 6 teachers and several members of the community.  All told, a very successful trip.

To the North... Finally!

Well, I finally did it, I made the journey to the north for our Independence weekend which amounted to five days away from school.  Janet, Caroline and I rented a car from a friend and drove up to Ruacana where the famous Ruacana falls are.  It was a truly amazing trip and full of plenty of adventure.  Here's the summary:

Day 1: Driving for 10 hours is fun.

Ruacana falls and the Kunene river.  Truly breath-taking. Here's a cliff-top view of our camp ground just downstream form the waterfall.  It was paradiseSunset at the campground.  There's a mysterious building in the background that looks pretty cool soft light.

It took a while, but we made it to Ruacana after a very long drive.  The only difference between the north and the south in Namibia is two things: trees and water.  We drove through some wetland which were amazing: trees growing out of swamp-like lagoons.  In addition, the trees grew thick and rather tall (10-15 feet) and spread out to the horizon in every direction.  An arid desert.

Some boys tried to sell us a live crab they caught in the river.  They were pretty proud with their hunting skills. The falls from below.  We had a blast swimming in the warm water at the base.There's an old hydro-electric power plant at the base that we explored.  Behind me is the old equipment.  Pretty cool.
Myself, Courtney, Erikka, Caroline and Janet pose in front of the falls.   

Day 2: Swimming and Visiting

From the campground in Ruacana we went to the falls and walked down to the base using the shoot of an abandoned hydro-electric power plant.  Once at the base we found ourselves completely soaked, so we had no problem just jumping in the water.  We found a protected area and lounged in the semi-warm water while taking in the amazing scenery.  It's a moment I'll never forget.

Janet looking out over the Kunene. Me playing on the crane in the power plant.The stairs down to the falls.  There were 505 of them, so says the guy at the camp ground.

After lunch we left for Opuwo, a town a couple hours from south from Ruacana.  There we met up with another volunteer Pat, who arranged a visit to a Himba village outside of Opuwo.  The Himba's live as close to their centries-old traditions as they can.  They live in villages made from sticks and cow dung.  The women wear ochre on their skin at all times.  Going into this village was stepping back in time.

These shelters were built for the goats to protect them from the sun and the rain.. A view of the village with various kids playing outside.  For the most part, everyone in the village seemed very happy.Some Himba.  You can see the women have ochre painted on their skin.  The boys have a single pony tail while the girls have two until they are older, then they get the locks.

We learned that the Himba are relatively nomadic, traveling once every few years depending on water sources.  They heard cattle, sheep and goats and live nearly subsistent.  They make and sell various forms of jewelry including necklaces, bracelets and baskets. 

Janet was painted by one of the Himba women.

We also learned that only women are allowed to wear the ochre on their skins.  We couldn't get a good answer as to why, but we suspect it's as much cosmetic as it is protection from the sun and insects.  The men spend most of their time with the cattle, roaming constantly in search of grazing lands.  They leave the village for as long as five or six months at a time.

The village consisted of perhaps 100 individuals which constituted one family.  They sometimes marry within villages, but more commonly do so between others.  We were shows how they build their houses using a combination of cow dung, mud and water.  The result is as smooth as tile and hard as concrete.  They hold up well to the torrential downpours that can occur in the desert.

This visit, although slightly awkward, we truly amazing.  We brought a gift of food for the village and they in return allowed us to take pictures and ask questions.  I would love to spend a week or two living in a village like this and hope I can make this happen sometime this year.

Day 3: Car Trouble

We had planned on visiting the skepeton coast to camp on the beach and play in some of the ship wrecks but found ourselvs high-tailing it back home once the car started acting up.

We had to clean all the electrical connections every time the car died.  It sucked. Here me, cleaning and Janet, waiting.  At one point we couldn't get it started and I had a moment of panic as we were 60k from the nearest town and literally in the middle of no where.

It started in the morning after a long night of hard rain.  The car just stopped running and would not start.  After several hours of help from various car "mechanics" in the area, we got it running but it ran poorly.  It would die randomly and could not idle for more than a few seconds.  We learned that the problem was due to the moisture and muddy roads.  As we were surrounded by muddy roads, we felt like we may be trapped.  However, I managed to drive it in this condition to the closest town, Kamanjab by keeping the engine between 3,000 and 4,000 RPM's and avoiding water puddles.  It wasn't very fun.

We got back to town Friday night and I was happy to be home and get a nice hot shower in.  Next time I go north, I'll be sure to bring some anti-humidifier for the car.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gazza Visits Hage Geingob

FNB (First National Bank of Namibia) visited the school last week to promote their services to unsuspecting kids.  At least they weren't pushing credit cards... just bank accounts.

The star of the performance was Gazza, one of Namibia's top rap artists.  He put on quite a show and even invited some of the learners up on stage with him to free-style rap.  It was a pretty cool show but the constant promotion of FNB was a little disturbing for me.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tech Squad Hits Epikuro

Also known as Post 10, Epikuro sits 150k outside Gobabis, the nearest town on a very dusty road.  Andrew, the Peace Corps volunteer there arranged for a very nice trip and we got quite a bit accomplished.

Our standard pose in Gobabis by the massive bull statue. We got a tour of SchoolNet Gobabis where we were taught more about the OpenLab linux distributionThe kids were very excited to see us and flocked around us as we walked .

Our primary goal at Epikuro was to setup a Photo Lab and work with the computer teacher there to organize computer classes.  It was great visiting a primary school as the learners there were timid, curious and very excited to meet these "big city" kids.

The crew showing teachers and learners how to edit photographs on the computer During a tour of the school the Tech Squad got a nice picture on top of a stump.  The tree was cut two years ago because it's roots were tearing up classroom floors.Our meals were very good and prepared with care. 

The school there, Goei Goop Primary made us feel very welcome and prepared excellent meals for us.  They truly value their computer education there.

The Squad in their favorite pose. Pictured is Olivia, Mervin, Joel, Kali and LydiaA view of the schoolyard between two classroom blocks.  These massive trees are as old as 200 years!At night we walked to the local shop and ended up dancing with an elderly Hererro woman.

The Tech Squad was introduced to the Linux operating system as Goie Goop has a SchoolNet lab.  They have the OpenLab 4 distribution which was made by South Africans for schools throughout Africa.

All said, the kids had a great time.  We got to see ostridge, springbok and plenty of cattle.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tech Squad Visits Amunuis

Last Friday we left for Aminuis, which is 200k south of Gobabis on a dirt road.  Gobabis is 250k east of Windhoek on a very nicely paved road.  Suffice it to say, the trip was very long and dusty.

We first stopped by the SchoolNet office in Gobabis so that the Squad could learn more about Linux and the OpenLab operating system.  Max, one of the technicians there gave them a brief introduction and allowed them to use the computers for a while.

A group shot with the bull- a statue highlighting the importance of cattle to this area of Namibia Gracious shows some learners at the school how to take a computer apart and teaches what each piece does Leena uses the Linux computer, exploring OpenLab for the first time.

From Gobabis we went straight to Aminuis, a very small town in the heart of cattle country in eastern Namibia.  The terrain is about as flat as it gets out there.

The school we visited is the site of Chris Pexton.  The school is the oldest school for blacks in all of Namibia, established in 1935.  Their computer lab wasn't quite that old, in fact it had newer computers than most.  They have 5 SchoolNet computers and three windows machines.

The food was adequate.  We ate hostel food for dinner and breakfast which consisted of a piece of bread and a glob of porrage Here I'm leading the discussion on installing ink cartridges (don't think that the squad does all the work!)The squad- Petrine, Matroos, Leena and Gracious standing proud.  The cleared viruses out of the two computers behind them.
We took a photo printer with us and taught them how to run a photography lab.  Teachers, learners and members of the community were all part of the training.  Overall I'd say it went really well.

We were able to see a few sights before leaving for Windhoek Saturday.  I'm hoping everything works out for our trip to Post 10, north of Gobabis this week.

A little sillyness on the way back to WIndhoek. We stopped by the salt flats before leaving Aminuis for a group picture.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Again, another back post (sorry!!)

On February 23 the Tech Squad took their first trip out of town.  They went to a small village north of Windhoek called Otjimbingwe, Dan's site.  We left after school on Friday and arrive after 5:00.


After settling in, we got to work on the computers.  Dan asked us to help network the computers together and install some software, which we were happy to do.  The Tech Squad learned how to make network cables and install utilities over a network share.


The youth at Da Palm Middle School were very excited to see us.  It was a good experience for the youth on the Tech Squad as none of them had been to a hostel before.  They spoke with the learners there and learned what life is like in a rural village.


We had lots of fun and hope to return again sometime soon.