In Southern Africa it’s all about the feet, so here are a few pics of my learners dancing at our Independence Day celebration at school.
How weird is that, this most recent trip to Cape Town was my last long holiday that I will be doing any international traveling. I don’t like to think of the remainder of my time as a countdown of time in Namibia but instead think about the fact I still have two more terms at Iilyateko Combined School. The trip though was rather interesting because it snuck up on me and I actually wasn’t nearly as excited about traveling, but once I arrived I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Cape Town! For those of you who don’t know Cape Town is the New York City of Africa.
With one of my Peace Corps buddies, Rachel, and her friend from America, Amanda, we all caught a night bus from Windhoek directly to Cape Town. The bus ride is about 22.5 hours and it was interesting because we got on in the evening, and I proceeded to fall asleep immediately only waking for stretch and pee breaks and at the border crossing (which is open 24 hours, unlike the other borders Nam shares with other countries). Waking up during daylight was rather interesting because the first time I awoke it was a mountainous desert, then an hour later it was at a rest stop with lush green grass and there were already more choices when it came to drinks and snacks. Continuing south I awoke next and we were in the large town of Malmesbury (the spelling may not be correct), but I was struck by the number of cars, parking lots and buildings, specifically their architecture and the simple fact they were visually appealing. I felt like I was more or less in a New England town. This town sent me into brief shock before realizing how excited I am to return to a town with nice amenities (restaurants and stores) and community organizations (more than 1 school and 1 church whose faith I don’t practice). From this point on the farm lands stopped and it was all towns the rest of the way to Cape Town. This was a bit surprising for me to because I am used to vast open spaces and having to drive some distance through towns, Namibia is a bit like Texas in that sense. South Africa seems to make more use of their land, I suppose it is more suitable for farming but we passed massive industrial farms in a lot of the country growing everything from grapes, to oranges, to chickens. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but South Africa does provide a lot of the food to countries in Southern Africa, especially countries like Namibia were I’ve heard figures as high as 80% of food consumed in Namibia comes from RSA.
The one thing we didn’t see along the way to Cape Town were villages. In every other African country I’ve visited you can be driving along a major road and it will pass by numerous traditional villages. I don’t know much about RSA but I do know there are villages, I just suppose that they are no longer many in the Western Cape as farming and western organized development seems to have taken over.
As most of you know, I’ve been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia since August 2010. I’ve worked on a lot of great projects in the past 18 months but am reaching out to you now for your help with one specific project that I’ve become involved with: Camp GLOW.
Camp GLOW (Girls and Guys Leading Our World) is a leadership camp for bright and exceptional Namibian students, ages 13 to 18, who have been nominated by community volunteers and teachers to participate because they have shown leadership ability within their communities. Many are orphans. Many are vulnerable children. Almost all of them come from rural areas. And every one of these kids would not otherwise have the chance to come to their country’s capital of Windhoek, meet other bright learners like themselves from all different ethnic groups and all different locations from the entire country, or experience anything similar to the opportunity they will have at Camp.
For more information about Camp GLOW, please visit our website at http://campglownamibia.weebly.com/ and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. I helped out at Camp GLOW last year and have signed on to be even more involved this year because of how passionate I feel about the program.
This year, which is the 13th year Camp GLOW will take place in Namibia, the program is being run by FAWENA, or the Forum for Women Educationalists in Namibia, with help from Peace Corps volunteers. FAWENA is a great organization that works hard to improve the access and quality of education for girls in Namibia. They have a great team who are serious and passionate about improving the lives of Namibian youth and it’s been a pleasure to work with them.
Camp GLOW is completely free for all of the remarkable kids who attend, and its funding is dependent on contributions from very generous donors like you. The camp is entirely staffed and organized by volunteers from Peace Corps, Namibian facilitators and guests who graciously donate their time. But funds are still needed for accommodation, food, transportation and materials during camp. FAWENA has already made a contribution to Camp GLOW and is working hard with our other Namibian non-profit partners to raise funds from
organizations and people in Namibia. But now it’s our turn. As a volunteer involved in this project, I’m reaching out to my friends and family for help. Three of my learners will be attending this year’s Camp GLOW: Methew, Laina, and Hilka. All three are incredibly excited to have the opportunity first to visit Windhoek, but also to learn about issues not always discussed in the village and bring what they’ve learned back to our community to get our school’s youth working on fixing current problems the area faces.
You can visit this website to make an easy and secure online donation to Camp GLOW: http://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/camp-glow. A contribution in any amount will be beneficial. A few American dollars goes a long way here in Namibia!
Please forward this e-mail on to anyone and everyone you know who may be able to help. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments. And THANK YOU so much for assisting with this year’s Camp GLOW!
So I realize I am possibly the least reliable and consistent blogger, I’m sorry to all of you who do read this. I figure because we are now in the second month of 2012 I should update this blog before we get too far into the new year without a single post. Anyways life in Namibia is still good. There isn’t exactly a lot of new things to report on. For the first weekend since returning to Iilyateko from my holiday I finally stayed put and enjoyed a weekend in the village! Let’s see it’s nothing exciting but I’ll briefly recap what village life on the weekend is like for an oshilumbu: I have decided I should try to get back into the habit of jogging so I took a couple of jogs this weekend, baked a scone kit my mom sent me and enjoyed breakfast in my hammock, cleaned my room for the first time in 2012 and did massive amounts of laundry. So much it took me two days, the skin on my hands has gotten tougher, but still my soft American skin can only take so much handwashing before it wears away leaving me with massive scrapes. I am also working on the book Gone with the Wind right now, my external hard drive broke on my a week ago so I’ve been forced to find alternative forms of entertainment. It’s kinda nice actually not having it, except when I’m eating dinner I miss being able to watch for the 20th time an episode of How I Met Your Mother or Big Bang Theory, but I’ll survive the next 10 months without it. That’s right can you believe I only have 10 months before I’m stateside, I certainly can’t believe it!
So currently I’m back in school teaching and my teaching load is much more reasonable this year. I am teaching English and Arts, opuwo! It’s so much better than last year when I was teaching English, Arts, PE, Life Skills, BIS, and pretty much any other non-promotional class offered! It’ll be nice because I can better prepare for my lessons and I can also focus more time on the library, cinema and English Club.
But before I tell you too much about this year let me step back a few steps to very briefly recount my holiday. So A friend of mine and myself decided we wanted to see more of Africa, so not quite realizing how far away Tanzania was we set off to Dar-es-Salam. Six days after leaving our village, two days of hitch-hiking, 2 days of buses, and 2 days on a train, we arrived in the big city! The train was a really cool experience however it was not at all how I expected. You’d think after having lived in Africa over a year I’d learn to lower my expectations but for some reason I was expecting first class on the train to kinda look like economy on a cruise ship. This was not at all the case. The train was maybe 20 years old, but it looked more like 50-80 years ago and it was the shakiest thing I’ve ever rode on. Even as we were passing through the beautiful Zambian and Tanzanian country side you could see cars along the side that had derailed and were just left. Once we got to the big city I was overwhelmed initially not by the city’s size, but by the heat and humidity. It was intense (and yes this is coming out the lips of a girl who spent half her life living in Houston, Texas; but imagine Houston without AC, miserable! Sam Houston was right when he said the weather there was miserable). Dar-es-Salam was a really cool city though. It’s really neat how much Arab/Persian influence there is there. Also pretty much everyone speaks Swahili, both English and Swahili are the national languages but we found a lot more people speak Swahili than English. Just a recommendation for those travelling to a foreign country, don’t start your city tour in a market. My friend and I were walking from our hotel, in a residential part of town, I think that was predominately Muslim, there was even a mosque on our street, to the town centre and we stumbled upon a market just after leaving are hotel so we thought we’d take a peek. Having every vendor greet you in a foreign language and some start shouting because you don’t even know how to reply or even say hello was not a lot of fun. But incase you make it to Eastern Africa, all you need to know is Jambo (hello in Swahili). It was nice though to be able to walk around without people pestering you and if you say no they turn to look for someone else. Here in Namibia Windhoek is fine, but in the north people literally follow you to try to get your attention. (Just an example of something that happened as I was trying to leave Oshakati in a taxi, a man, who I didn’t even acknowledge, was trying to grab me, then once I got into the taxi and closed the door he was reaching through the window trying to touch me, even as the taxi drove off he ran alongside it for a minute trying to grab at me, but there was none of that in Tanzania, probably because there are so many Muslims and they on the whole were 10 times more respectful than men here in Namibia.) In Dar-Es-Salam we checked out a few local markets, went to their National History museum (in case you didn’t know, we are spoiled in the US and Europe with wonderful museums) and went to the fish market. The following day we boarded a ferry to Zanzibar. The ferry was pretty swanky, we chose to pay $5 extra American dollars for first class which was awesome because that meant we were able to ride on the very top of the ferry. Once getting to Stone Town things were a little different. We had a man literally follow us all the way to our hotel and this continued the whole time there, people follow you hoping to get a handout. The hotel wasn’t bad, but it was certainly something else. It was four stories and let me tell you after not having climbed more than one step in almost a year and a half four flights of stairs were killer every morning to get breakfast. Stone Town was pretty neat though, however not what I expected. It isn’t exactly a beach town, you gotta go elsewhere on the island for swimming. Every evening though there is a seafood braai and you go to the park where you pick our the skewers of seafood you want and they bbq it for you and bring it to you. They also have this really yummy drink, sugar cane juice, which they also squeeze ginger and lime into. The town is similar to a European town with narrow alley ways and apartments above the shops. We also spent an afternoon on a spice tour. It was really cool to see the spice plantations and learn what nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, etc. look like before they are ground up. After spending a few days in StoneTown we left for Jambiani, which was absolutely amazing. It was kind of a couply place, so my friends and I were the only ones at our hotel not on some sort of romantic vacation, but it was cool because our hotel was literally on the beach and the water was turquoise blue. It was difficult to go swimming in near our hotel because there was too much coral and it was shallow, but we went snorkeling because there are a few reefs and it was amazing. To me it kinda reminded me of swimming in a Chinese Restaurant’s fish tank filled with exotic fish. The last couple of days it rained in Zanzibar so we spent the time relaxing. After Zanzibar we hoped on a few buses to Malawi. Let me first start I LOVE Malawi. It’s so gorgeous and there’s just this chill vibe about it that I really, really like. I also realized how spoiled we are in Namibia. Volunteers frequently, or really all the time, complain about combi’s (mini buses). However the combi’s we have in Nam are all relatively new and in decent condition. Also Namibia has fairly strict rules with overloading, so yes we squeeze 1 extra person where there may not be room, but in one combi in Malawi, which was intended for 14 people, we squeezed 22 people into, 1 baby and 2 chicken, and luggage, it was ridiculous. Another combi we got into we had to wait for the men to push the combi to get the engine to start everytime we stopped to let someone on or off. This same combi we got stuck with for 30 minutes because it didn’t have an emergency break, the police weren’t concerned with the fact there were way too many people in the combi, or the door was broken, or no one was wearing a seat belt (to be honest the seats weren’t even fastened to the floor), or it looked like the combi had caught on fire at one point, but they noticed there was not emergency break. The lake was so insanely gorgeous though and there were so many big trees, and mango trees. We picked the right time to go because it was Mango season so mangoes were like 4 for 20 cents. It was amazing. I only saw Nkhata Bay in Malawi and people say it’s unique but I’d go back to Malawi to check out other places in a heart beat. They also have some excellent hiking I’ve heard. Malawi is significantly poorer than Namibia. I noticed there were fewer private cars, government facilities weren’t nearly as nice, and the towns weren’t as developed. However people seemed to be trying to make some money. In Owamboland (in Namibia) you see so many people idly sitting around in the middle of the day doing absolutely nothing, my region does have a 70% unemployment rate, but in Malawi you’d see people bringing Mangos, avocados, fish, bananas or whatever to town to try to sell it. Namibia is so weird because of the south people say that it’s semi-developed, however if you come visit the part of the country where I live you might disagree. The thing that’s nice about all of Namibia is there is visible development all over the country.
After Malawi we made our way back to Namibia, stopping in Livingstone for New Year’s Eve, which like always was a great time! I spent time in Windhoek with friends when I came back. It was nice to have some city time before I returned to the village. It was funny though because upon arriving I hadn’t taken a shower in an insanely long time and everything in my pack was dirty and I just wanted to be clean so instead of doing laundry and waiting for things to dry I hit the stores to buy some new clothes. It’s better though now because my wardrobe was looking rather dingy. Handwashing truly takes a toll on your clothes, but I guess so does wearing the same thing over and over again. I swear though when I was at the mall people were giving me looks because I was greasy and smelly, and in Windhoek, or really all of Namibia people take a lot of pride in how they look and are always dressed quite nicely.
So this has become really long so to wrap it up shortly the trip was really fantasitic and I am so excited to see more of Africa! I really wanna go back to eastern Africa, but I also finally feel brave enough to face the craziness of western Africa!
School this year has been pretty great so far. I’m realizing the first year of teaching just really isn’t fun. This year I more or less have more respect from my learners and they are much more talkative so it has been a lot of fun. I am just really excited for Arts too because it mean I get to do lots of Arts and Crafts which are my favourite as most of you know!!!
Sometimes you don’t realize the little things you do or say until someone points them out. In my case my learners love to copy things that I say frequently. Apparently I say “Oh my goodness” a lot because they walk around the school yard squealing “Oh my goodness”, they even seem to know when I am going to say it before it comes out of my mouth because they say it with me. I think I am okay with the fact I say this particular phrase a lot though because it could be something a lot worse. I’ve learned that I also like to draw out the word “okaaaayyy” and I say “how’s it going” a lot. The good news is though these are simple words or phrases at least they understand and using English. Randomly they’ve also decided they really like the word daft, one of their spelling and vocabulary words from last week. This exchange goes both ways though because there are so many things I’ve found myself saying that I would never have said a year ago, for example “are we together?” or I describe learners as serious or clever more often than I should or I’ve started to use the adjective proper quite a bit. The one thing neither of us can seem to master is each other’s accents.
Living in Namibia, and more specifically my part of Namibia I’ve become pretty ignorant about what is going on in the world, though after spending the day reading magazines with story after story about the American recession I am feeling like it’s kind of nice being removed from this situation. Anyways I have managed to read a little bit about Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt while I’ve been here. I am not too concerned about a revolution happening anytime soon here but after watching Blood Diamond and listening to K’naan I’ve realized how easy it would be for someone to come in and easily enrapture Namibian youth, especially the boys at my school. Blood Diamond got me thinking because in the film you see these young boys firing upon innocent people without remorse for their actions and as this is happening my learners are laughing, as if the killing of innocent people is something that is funny. It wouldn’t be difficult for the right person to snatch all of these boys who are not fazed by violence and living in poverty unaware of other options besides the life of a farmer what they see around them in their village. Then on top of that I’ve been listening of K’naan who raps about the power of significance and that even though some of these learners might be successful in school and have the option of going onto university they don’t because the allure of making a name or being a part of something is just too tempting. Tribalism already present here in Namibia, as well as huge divide between wealthy and those living in poverty, so with the right leader a lot could be lost. I know that this situation is something that is very unlikely to happen, but how do you teach children and adults compassion and especially those without adequate access to reliable information not to judge a person based off their tribe, family or nationality?