Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things that Concern Me

*Learners think alcohol abuse will destroy their lungs
*Advice learners give to parents: Parents should beat their kids so they don't do bad things
*How empty the fridge is getting
*That my allergies have finally kicked in
*How my dog has decided to act like a puppy again and jump all over me
*How my dog can't play fetch (waste of a perfectly good tennis ball)
*How many confiscated sticks I have in the corner of my classroom
*How some of those sticks are actually wire or medal rods
*How some of those sticks are teacher's
*How my learners are failing English
*How my learners think that 2 x 2 = 22 (seriously)
*That half my holiday plans consist of preparing for the next school year
*The amount of girls that have dropped out due to pregnancy
*That I'm gaining weight
*My lack of nail polish options
*How my Chaco tan isn't as awesome as I want it to be
*How the new 'eco-friendly' coffee I bought tastes too eco-friendly (read: dirt)
*The fact that I drink the coffee anyways
*How one of my friends is being treated at her school
*The lack of rain and the consequence to farmers in Namibia
*My lack of interest in learning the local language
*The fact that the increasing temperature forces me to keep the windows upon at night, allowing all the kinds of creepy crawlies (spiders, scorpions, snakes, pretty much all animals whose name begins with s-) to enter my room
*That my mosquito net is not thoroughly tucked into my bed and said creepy crawlies will attack me while I am sleeping
*That the failure of my kids finally shows my failure as their teacher
*That the learners aren't stressed over final exams
*How much the learners sleep
*How I've watched all media on my computer and have to start re-watching everything
*That my school is expected to start using an online program to store data (learner info, timetable, conduct forms, etc) yet the Ministry of Education still hasn't gotten us internet
*What's going to happen to my dog while I'm gone for the month
*That I have too much free time to write lists like these

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lots to Update

Hey all,

So I seem to have forgotten to update what's going on in my life.  Not much besides school has happened since my sister visited in May.  During the August holiday I helped the new volunteers for a bit, then relaxed at a lake (yes there are lakes in Namibia!) for a few days.

To bring you up to speed on the goings on at school, I'll provide you with a few random poems I wrote as well as some amazing pictures of amazing kids at our recent cultural festival.

40 Minutes

Good Morning
Morning Miss
Chat Talk Chat
Sleep Draw Hit
Silence Now!
Giggle, Glare
Blah Blah Blah
Rip and Tear
Silence Please
Stare and Sleep
Blah Blah Blah
counting sheep
Where's you pen?
Stolen Miss
And this was when?
cough and shift
I don't care
Blah Blah Blah
learners sing
ring ring ring
sit and sigh
Thank God!  Goodbye!


I tell them when it's due
They tell it back to me
I write it on the board
So all my kids can see

I then repeat the due date
I give them time in class
They tell me yes yes yes
They understand enmass

The date it's due comes round
I ask for finished work
'Aye Miss!  You did not say!"
Frustration starts to lurk

Extensions are then given
So marks can be put in
I tell them seven more times
They nod with happy grins

The time again arrives
When late work must be given
"Aye Miss!  You did not say!"
They played instead, were livin'

A third and final date is said
Loud and clear for all
The time, it comes, they say 'aye'
I have reached my wall

Nor more missus nice girl
No more happy teacher
"In my class and get to work!"
I've become a life skills preacher

And still they look me in the eye
They say it won't be done
"Give me zeros. I don't care.
While we all have some fun."

What to do, oh what to do
A teacher's big ordeal
Force them in to finish work
or fail while my stress heals

But as a teacher, teaching
And trying to do well
I sit and stress and worry
Though success? I cannot tell

Am I helping all my kids?
Am I helping them enough?
This job of mine I always love
Though almost all is tough

I hope and pray they see it
How much I want their success
But getting them to understand
Is the beginning of my test

And some fun pictures from the cultural festival we had last weekend.   Here's a little background.  Every year the Erongo region picks a school to host this festival.  Learners of all ages create something (song, dance, drama) to describe their culture in the form of a competition.  My school was blessed to host it this year.  Early Saturday morning tents went up and kids got dressed in their traditional garbs.  I borrowed a friend's Herero dress and shocked everyone in attendance by wearing it for part of the day.  The kids were sooo excited!  I've never been so respected by them.  Maybe I should wear one everyday!  I wasn't even allowed to carry the camera case!  On the other hand it's incredibly hot and during this summer weather I don't know how people wear it all day, every day!

Me and all of my fabulous kids!

This little one isn't sure whether she likes me or if I frighten her.

My housemate and adopted mother in her traditional Nama dress.  I love this woman!!!


Reenactment of a traditional Herero wedding

Boys acting like little men doing their Herero marching



Items used at a Herero wedding

Some of my special learners.

My favorite running buddies!



Sorry I don't have explanations for all of the pictures.  I really only know about my own Herero culture.  They are all still beautiful though!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba….I’m Lovin’ It!

Term 2 has begun.  Classes are in full swing, and so am I.  Every time I step into that classroom  I reaffirm my belief that teaching is my destiny.  It doesn’t matter how horrible a day I’m having, or how the learners make me want to pull my hair out.   I still absolutely loooove teaching.  My kids, though misguided and crazy at times, are fantastic!  They are truly good kids. 


I think I’ve been too emotional about teaching, though.  I’ll admit, I’ve cried several times in front of the kids.  It’s devastating to see such potential being wasted.  I tell my kids several times a week that they all have the potential to pass school and be successful in life.  And I fully believe it as well.  The problem is that they don’t.  They’ve had so many teachers that don’t show them respect, that I felt that showing them that I cared so much about them that I’d cry about it would help them see they were worth it (and no, I wasn’t faking the tears to manipulate them, they came naturally).


But maybe I’ve been too emotional with them and not parent-y enough.  Every Friday night I show a movie.  I use this as a way to give the kids something to do (instead of sneaking around doing naughty teenager-y things) and also as a fundraiser for the library.  My prefects and I decide how to use the money to help the library be a relevant and beautiful place for them.  Previously I bought some books when I was in the capital, but due to an amazing donation from a school my mother works at, reading books will soon not be a problem!  But that story is for a whole different update.  Stay tuned for the arrival of 600 books!!!!! 


Back to the Friday night movie.  One of my prefects, while we were talking about various things, asked if I would listen to some advice of his.  Of course I would.  I would be a hypocrite if I asked them to listen to my advice without listening to theirs as well.   He told me that I cried too much, and that I needed to be more firm with the kids.  I also gave too much trust.  I replied that I gave my trust on purpose because I wanted these kids, many of whom have never had the trust of an adult, to see that someone believed them to be good people.  His response was that they talked about me in the hostel, and about how I would leave all my things out for them to take.   And it’s true.  Several of my things have gone missing.  It makes me sad, but then again, I should have also tried not to assume these teenagers were perfect. 


So, from now on, I am going to be the tough, yet caring, teacher, who shows the kids that she loves them by being firm and strict.  No more tears from me!  And, all my supplies will stay locked away so as not to taunt my kids into taking them.  Though I still believe it’s only a select few that would steal from me.

I don’t care how many times I need to reevaluate my teaching methodologies, though.  I know that it will take me years, no, decades, to perfect it.  I will change how I approach kids both as people and learners.  I know that I will cry sometimes (now in the safety of my home, not the classroom) because of things that happen at school.  But I also know that I will love every second I am with those kids.   Nothing will every change my mind about how I feel about teaching. 

If I walk away with only learning one thing during my Peace Corps service, it’s this:  I am a teacher.  It is not my career, it is who I am.  And every day I teach is a day that I love my life.

So thanks, Mom, for suggesting that while I was lost in college.  Best advice I’ve ever received.

Here are some photos of me with my kids.  God I love them!!!!
Me and my boys!

Trying to look tough but failing miserably!!! I'm more confused than anything.

Gotta do the Namibian pose with my girls!

Another thing I love is my housemate.  She is 63 years old, and a (almost) retired Namibian teacher.  She has been teaching for over 30 years, and has been a principal as well.  Now she's at my school, helping out with our life skills classes and counseling.  I am so thankful to live with her.  She is a godsend.  Without her I am sure I would have been lost during my first few months in the country. 
Every evening we sit down and just talk.  Most of it is teacher talk.  You know the kind, where all teachers ever seem to talk about is school, what happened that day, and how to be better.   She has so much knowledge and patience.  Had she been anyone else, she probably would have been fed up with me and my constant questions.  But no, she is amazing!  We can talk about anything.  There is nothing too taboo to talk with her about.  And she's not afraid to tell me when I'm doing something wrong.  I wish more people would do that!  It'd help me adjust so much faster. 
I thank every higher being I can think of that I live in the same house as her.  If I could, I'd adopt her!  Or get her to adopt me!  Somehow we'd be stuck together for the rest of our lives!

There's No Place Like Home

The month of May was devoted to travel, like all of my school breaks seem to be these days.  There is no option of staying in the village, because one, I’d be by myself, and two, I’d be stuck for a month.  That doesn’t sound fun or safe! 


I left the first instance I could after the kids left.  I spent the week with another volunteer and her visiting family.  Now, this woman is absolutely amazing!  She is in her 60’s, and has dreamed of being in the Peace Corps since she heard it on TV as a child.  Of course, life gets in the way of plans, so she waited until she was retired to join.  Her name is Ruth, and I hope to one day be just like her.  Actually, we are very similar.  They call me Baby Ruth.  I think it’s a huge compliment.  


So, when she invited me on her family vacation, I jumped at the chance.  I was worried that I would be intruding a bit, but found myself welcomed warmly.  Her family is just as amazing as she is.  And no wonder, they were raised by her!  We spent the week visiting various places.  Most of the trip seemed to be in the car, which was fine because I was able to get to know her children.  Thankfully the three teenaged grandsons were sitting in the back, so we didn’t have to hear (or smell) them!


I am so thankful that they were so open and friendly with me.  I especially enjoyed hanging out with her grandkids.  They were so funny and fun!  I did use some of my time with them as ‘babysitting’.  I knew that sometimes the adults would want some adult time without the bickering or energy of teenagers, so when I noticed that happening I would pull them aside.  It wasn’t a chore at all.  As seen by my resume, I love hanging out with kids!  It’s one reason I became a teacher after all!


A week of relaxation followed this, in which I did absolutely nothing!  It was amazing.  I’d sit at a friends house (she was gone for most of it), watch TV or movies on my laptop, and nothing else.  Maybe I would read.  I enjoyed being able to zone out and not be constantly travelling.  I also was able to update my movie collection a bit. 


My sister Michelle arrived in Windhoek on May 5th.  I had informed her that we would be hiking for half of the trip, with the potential of camping as well.  She agreed to this, most likely because she had absolutely no concept of what that really entailed!  Right out of the airport doors we caught our first hike.  It was incredibly easy.  We didn’t even have to flag anyone down.  We were walking down the road by the parking lot when a man pulled over offering us a ride to the city. 


(Now, don’t freak out about this.  It happens quite a lot that people will pull over when they see volunteers travelling with heavy bags.  They know that we are hiking and are kind enough to give us rides.)


Our driver was very nice.  Very, truly, extremely racist, but very nice.  We even stopped for a drink with him.  When he noticed Michelle was a bit uncomfortable (either because we were having a drink with a stranger, or his racism, or that fact that he was a strange man), he made sure to let us know that he had a girlfriend that he loved.  Welcome to Namibia, Michelle!  We started off with a bang.


Let me fast forward the rest of the trip due to the length of this post.  If I keep going on like I have been, this will soon become a novel!  We spent the night in Windhoek, where she was introduced to wild game meat.  (yummy Oryx!).  We hiked to Tsumeb to get our rental car for Etosha.  Once there, we were surprised (pleasantly for me, and horribly for Michelle), that there had been a mix up and they only had a stick shift available.  So, Michelle had a 5 minute lesson on how to drive stick and we were off for 2 days in Etosha. 

  We saw pretty much everything except for lions.  That was sad, but partly due to our inability to sit for hours in the middle of the night waiting for them at the watering hole!

Within minutes of entering the park, this is what we are greeted with.

The entrance to the park from a tower.

These antelope get awfully boring after say, about 1000 of them!  But they are still gorgeous.

Gotta love baby season!

Elephants are still definitely my favorite animals.  Ever!
My sister Michelle and I after a day of driving through the park.  I was so happy to be able to share this experience with her!

More happy elephants at the water hole.  This is the same hole we could watch at night (had we not been sleeping)


We drove back, dropped of our car, and hiked to Rundu.  The back of a closed baki (truck) and lori (big rig) later we were there.  The next morning we went to get a hike to Katima.  A few hours later, frustrated and close to tears (in Michelle’s case), we finally got a combie ride.  We arrived in Katima, and had an amazing evening relaxing.


After getting our visas, we went to the nearest town for a bus to Livingstone.  Unfortunately we had no Zambian Qwatchas, so we exchanged with some really shady people.  The bus was also not going to leave for half the day, and we were not willing to walk around the shady town with our things, so we paid for a taxi.  The 200 km drive took us over 3 hours due to the potholes in the road.  By potholes, I mean they would be small lakes if ever filled with water!  The car would swerve from side to side to avoid them.  All this did was made me appreciate the infrastructure of Namibia.  If they’ve done something right, it’s road maintenance.


Three days in Livingstone was definitely not enough.  We hang out with other volunteers, went canoeing followed by a game drive and evening cruise.  We danced  and went to see Victoria Falls.  While we were there, Michelle and I signed up for the package deal of extreme sports.  First we zip lined across the gorge of the Zambezi.  Next we bungee jumped (which was freaking awesome by the way!), followed by a giant swing, which we did together.  Ever since then, I’ve decided that I should quit any real job I ever get and become an extreme sports junkie!  It’s addicting.



It takes a village to free a bus from a ditch.
Hanging out with the adorable local kids.  Laughter was the only language we shared.
The cutest little girl I've ever seen!
The Zambizi seen from our game drive.  No hippos here, unfortunately.
So many babies!  I love it!  Inside the Victoria Falls Park.
Michelle and I on our way down to the bottom of the falls.
We didn't get a picture of us bungee jumping, so I had to make do with this one (artist rendering courtesy of me!)
A tiny portion of the falls.  Unfortunately most of the time it was covered in mist and not camera ready.
What I like to call the splash zone.  Walk across the bridge and you've taken a shower.
We hiked back to Namibia, where we spent the next two nights in a tree house.  Yup, you heard me, a tree house.  We went to this out of the way camp where they have camping and tree houses along the Okavango River.  Our house happened to be at the end, with no one next to us.  We relaxed during this time, falling asleep to the sounds of hippos and elephants.  One night, while walking back from the main area, I swore we were going to be eaten by a hippo.  We could hear them so close to us, but it was so dark we couldn’t see anything!  And, being idiots that we are, we only had my phone as a flashlight.  Thankfully I’m assuming they were still in the water, which was maybe 20 feet from us.

The view. Amazing, right?
Sorry it's blurry.  I had to take a night shot.  This was the main hangout area.
We then got a hike by another car  After two hours we stopped at back in Rundu.  It was fate that brought us to our next hike, a mother and her daughter, returning from Livingstone as well.  This woman was reluctant to give us a lift, but , most likely out of pity, did.  We soon got to talking and I learned that she did skills training in the field of Agriculture.  We got to another town right before dark (she was very uncomfortable driving at night, as was I in hiking at night), and stopped at a guest house.  They only had one room left, which was a family suite with two rooms.  We shared and continued our journeys separately the next morning.


Once back in Windhoek we rented another car for our voyage to Sossusvlei.  We began later than I hoped, and the journey took longer than I had anticipated.  Poor Michelle felt a bit uncomfortable on the windy roads, so we made sure to take the curves slowly.  We also made sure to watch out for animals (thankfully we were alert and slow, because some springbok walked in front of us).  We arrived, searched for our campsite, and set up camp.  Early the next morning we drove to Deadvlei, where we attempted to climb the tallest dune there, Big Daddy.  The wind was strong, the journey was tough, and I was about done with it half way up.  We (or maybe I) decided that we’d had enough so we had fun and ran down it instead.  After some steak and a beer, we went to bed and drove the long journey to Okahandja. 

The amazing mountains we passed to get to the dunes.

Enjoying the view.  Or taking a needed rest after about a quarter of the trek.  Dunes are tiring!!!

Michelle being patient with me while I caught my breath.

Centering myself after the climb.

Michelle was so excited to find a candy bar with the name of her favorite movie on it!


Not much happened in Okahandja, and then we drove to my village.  As Michelle drove, I could see the wheels turning in her head about how in God’s name she was going to get back all by herself!  I promised her that I would give her great directions and she wouldn’t get lost.  I don’t think she believed me! 


My village was quiet, as there were no learners there yet.  I showed her around, and she was able to see what my real life is like here.  It was pretty slow.  I spent some time preparing for my lessons, and we made some bread.  Then we ate it while watching TV and movies.  Do you see a pattern?  I watch a lot of media here during my free time. 


The first day of class was devoted to the kids being able to ask Michelle questions.  I thought it would be great.  I thought they would ask tons of questions.  I thought they’d jump at the chance to ask her anything they wanted.  What did I get?  Silence.  The kids were so boring!  They didn’t want to ask her anything!!!  I was so disappointed.  I didn’t help that our of the 250 kids we have at this school only maybe 80 were there that day, and most of those were the grade 10’s that I don’t have.  So, all in all, those three days we quite boring but she was able to get a real understanding of what life is truly like here at my school.  Early in the morning of the second school day she (with thankfully a girl needing a ride all the way to the city) drove to the airport, and began her 30-something hour journey back home.


If I learned anything from my holiday, it’s that I love the comfort of home.  My sister being here reminded me how much I love my family.  It had seemed as if nothing had changed in the 10 months since I had seen her.  We had gone back to the way we were.  Of course, I  have changed much since then, but nothing in a way that would change our relationship.  I was sad when we parted, but also realized, to my relief, that her being here did not make me want to quit and jump on a plane home.  I am still quite happy here, and though I do miss my family, I know that I can and will be successful in Namibia.  She showed me that I can be both a homebody who loves her family and an independent world travelling individual.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

They're Baaaack!

Exams.  All kids must take them.  There’s no getting out of it (unless you happen to not show up, in which case you probably deserve to fail!).  Three times a year, the learners in Namibia scramble frantically, looking over half-written notes and reading through long-forgotten textbooks.  The days of exams are pleasantly quiet ones.  Screaming, laughing and sports have ceased.  The library is full of silent studiers and study time is actually used properly.


Here’s how exams work here.  Like I stated previously, there are three exam periods per year: April, August and November (or October if you are in Grade 10).  Each school is given a two week timetable  to administer these exams.  Back in America, you may be wondering why so much time is needed to test these kids.  Namibians have a plethora of subjects to write: English, Home Languages (in the case of my school, Afrikaans and Otjiherero), History, Geography, Math, Entrepreneurship, Life Science, Physical Science and Agriculture.  9 subjects!  That doesn’t even include what we call non-promotional subjects, which they don’t write (Basic Informaiton Science, Religious and Moral Education, Life Skills, PE, and Art).


So, 9 subject to write exams on.  Ok, so now two weeks makes sense.  But wait!  Some subjects have more than one test!  I’m not completely positive about the other subjects but for English there are 3.  3!  One on reading, one on writing, and one on listening.  I believe home languages have 4!  Imagine you’re a Namibian learner.  Wouldn’t you dread these exams as much as my learners do?  There are too many exams and not enough time, so we’ve had to give some of them outside the normal timeframe.  My listening test, for example, I have to give during normal class time.

Wait, wait, wait!  Normal class time?  Your kids have to take 2 weeks worth of exams and still go to class?  That’s right!  The first 2 hours of every school day are devoted to exams.  Think, the kids have 5 periods of class.  How and what are the teachers supposed to present in class when the kids are preoccupied with exams?  Worse is when the learners have already taken their exam, so why pay attention?  Luckily for English, I can use this time to allow the kids to finish writing and editing their letters to their American pen pals. 


Exams are usually a time where teachers can finally relax.  No more lesson planning or active teaching.  There’s less work to do.  Just make sure that marks are complete for the term.  Not so in my case.  As you can imagine marking 3 exams (at 120 learners each)., none of them are multiple choice, and Paper 2 has 2 essays.  240 essays to read, in pretty poor English.  Side note:  I’ve become pretty dang good at deciphering their attempts at writing in English!  I attribute this skill to my time ‘reading’ kindergarten work.  All of this marking must be done during those 2 weeks of exams (if I want to leave for holiday on time).


But wait again!  My job’s not over yet..  Once I’ve finished my marking I must give it to another teacher to moderate.  This means that she goes over the marks I gave to make sure they are correct.  Lo and behold I have more work to do!  I have to moderate her work as well!


I’m afraid that by the time the holiday comes around I’ll be half brain-dead.  Why don’t you mark while you’re invigilating (supervising) their kids during their exams, you ask.  Well, dear reader, I can’t.  Technically I am not allowed to do anything but stare at the kids (though I have to admit that I wrote this post while invigilating!).


So, if you don’t hear from me in 2 weeks, know that either my head has exploded, or that I am curled up in bed crying from the stress (or eating cookie dough.  Both are valid reactions to stress!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dear America

P/Bag 1234



Dear America


First of all I will like to greet you on this most wonderfull day.  I am hoping that you are well.  I am fine.  Please you must tell me if you are fine or not fine.  Do you remember that time we used to send e-mails instead of writing friendly letters in school?  Those waves were gigantic!


I am writing this letter to tell you about the pen pal program I am doing with my learners.  They are all having a letter from a learner in California, the place to be.  The teacher there and I we decided to scan and e-mail the letters instead of sending them in the mail.   Me I thought it will be faster.  This is not what is happening.  The letters they were coming right before exams.  I am using any free time I am having with them to write back.  The learners thye are being very excited to write, but it is giving me a headache for trying to edit them so the American learners can actually understand them!  Me I am thinking it is worth my time so my learners can see different cultures around the world and be getting better at English.


Please give me the number of your brother/sister.  I will like to have a America boy/girlfrinend.  My number is 081@#%$^%#@.  What are your favourite colour?  We must meet there at California for two weeks.


Your friend



Sunday, March 3, 2013

I need, like, 5 more hours every day!

God I’m tired.


 I know I said that all the time back home, before I had ever had a real job.  But that was nothing!!!  I get to work around 6am, do some last minute preparations, and then go to our daily staff meeting.  This is followed by classes and marking all day.  School usually ends around 1pm to 1:40pm, depending on the day.  From 2pm to 5pm  I’m in the library.  Some days I’m free after that.  Wednesday’s I watch the grade 10’s study from 7 -9pm.  The other days I’m either teaching computer classes or going on my evening run.  Overall, I rarely have any time to just sit and relax.  Weekends aren’t even my own!  I usually have to mark 120 essays during that time.


Despite my lack of time, I’ve decided to make myself even more busy!  During 2 of those library hour, every day, my library prefects will take over so that I can have afternoon remedial classes with about 60 of my Grade 8’s.  And boy do they need it!  I now understand why teaching is the second most stressful job!  It’s never done!!!  But despite that, I want to do more.  I want to give everything I have to these kids.


So my days are completely full, yet there always seems to be more to do.  I’ll randomly find out that I’ve been put in charge of something without my knowledge.  Or that there’s an important meeting in 2 days that I have to leave school for.  So many things!  My principal, bless her heart, warned me that I would burn myself out and that she was worried I was doing too much.  I've been asked to extend my computer classes.


I can tell that I’ve got to keep more aware, though, despite my constant state of fatigue.  I’ve gotten a bit angry at my classes for not behaving nicely.  Granted, I think any teacher would be angry about that, but I should still try to understand  that my teaching method is different (aka I don’t have a stick in my hand.  I need to preface that with the fact that my teachers don’t use it on the kids, but it’s still there as a threat).  I also need to watch the things I say.  I was talking to my kids about they need to solve their problems differently instead of beating each other.  American learners don’t do that (ha!).  As soon as that came out of my mouth, I felt horrible.  And thankfully a kid called me on it.  She turned to me and said, “But Miss, we’re not American learners.”  And they’re not. 


Overall, despite my inability to keep my eyes open past 9pm, I’m having the time of my life.  I love my village, my school, my community and especially my kids.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or even a Starbucks!).  I guess that’s why Peace Corps motto is, “The hardest job you’ll ever love.”

Monday, January 14, 2013

Planes, Trains, and Broken Bakis

After travelling around the country, I was more than ready to return back to my village home.  Living out of a suitcase was not easy at all, especially when things randomly became missing.  I had been living in the city for about a week, doing nothing but planning for the school year. 

After texting my principal repeatedly about transport back home, I came to the conclusion that it would be up to me to figure out how to get a backpack, suitcase, bags of food, and a dog the 100 km.  I was thankful that there was another volunteer living in my shopping town, so I was able to relax the night before attempting the journey.

At around noon, I attempted to cart all of my things the 2 km to the hike spot. Within ten steps I was stopped by some church-going youth, who insisted on helping me find a taxi.  I was sure that not only were they incredibly nice people, but that they probably felt a bit sorry for me.  After thanking them profusely, I was driven to the hike spot.  Within half an hour, a baki had come to drive me and a few others to the nearest village 60 km away.  From there I would wait some more to find another hike.

Now, the back of a baki is what we in America would call the bed of a truck.  It is covered, so I didn’t need to worry about sunburns.  Since I had Eddie, my new dog, I wanted to get in last, so that I could get out quickly if something happened with him.  He was still very nervous, but cautiously exploring his surroundings.  More and more people seemed to appear out of thin air as the baki was loaded.  This particular car had a trailer, so we didn’t have to attempt to sit with all of our things.  Nine adults, three youth, one baby and a dog later, we were on our way. 

Eddie was sitting on my lap for two reasons.  One was that I could hold him if he freaked out (which he did), and also because there was no other room.  Within minutes my feet were falling asleep.  I was used to being squished, though, so this was no big deal for me.  I attempted conversation, but like most baki rides, silence falls pretty quickly.

Everything was going well until the road became gravel (which took, say, one minute).  As soon as that happened, I felt warmth all along my legs.  Yes, Eddie had decided that he was so frightened he’d let me know by peeing on me.  Not much I could do about it though.

Every few bumps he would try to wriggle out of my grasp, which became tighter and tighter. 

All of a sudden, about twenty minutes later, dust was flying through the cracks in the window, covering all of us.  Eddie, not liking this one bit, decided to pee once more.  My almost dry pants were now soaking, again.  The dust was the result of the rusty metal of the trailer bending, leaving the trailer itself dragging on the road. 

The baki pulled over after the Herero women in the back started banging on the window.  It took a while for them to move all of the luggage to the roof of the car.  Some things could not go on top, such as blankets and grocery bags of food.   Therefore, they ended up in our sardine can of a baki.  I was fine with that.  But when the two jugs of petrol were shoved in as well, I was a bit angry.  Of course, since I was nearest the back door, they had to be placed right next to me and my freaked out dog. 

We continued our journey.  Every time the baki went over a bump, Eddie would freak out and the roof of the cover would bend close to our heads.  I was just waiting for the moment it decided to break and drop all of our heavy things on our heads.  Thankfully it didn’t.  

More knocking on the window ensued as soon as some of the women noticed one of the bags falling off.  Car stopped.  Bags repositioned and tied.  Our journey continued.  This happened maybe three times.  We still had many km to go when Eddie decided to show me some more ‘love’.  By this time I had resigned myself to the fact that I was covered in dog pee and that there was nothing I could do about it.  I just held him tight and hoped that no one would notice. 

The petrol container by my knee wasn’t able to properly seal, ensuring that my leg was soaked in the flammable liquid.  By this time Eddie had calmed down, most likely from the fumes exuding from the leak.  I was covered in four different types of liquid by the time we reached the next hike point: my own sweat, Eddie’s urine and saliva (that dog drips  the stuff!) and petrol. 

I got out, and to my relief, no one could tell that my jeans were soaking wet.  I was fed up and tired by that time.  I sat down and started reading one of my books while Eddie explored around me. 

Not long after, another baki showed up to take us the rest of the journey home.  Unlike the last ride, the driver of this car was incredibly nice and let Eddie and me sit in the front.  Thank God!  Eddie laid down on the floor and was content.  The two gentlemen I sat with worked at a nearby farm and were willing to drive us back to my village (at a price, of course.  Thankfully this price happened to be whatever I could pay to help with petrol.  I should have just wrung out my pants!) 

I decided to talk to them in as much Otjiherero as I could during the half an hour journey.  They seemed very excited that I wanted to practice.  Every once in a while one of the men would point to an animal outside and ask what it was.  Usually it was a cow (ongombe)  or a goat (ongombo).  He once tried to test me by saying ozongombe ovengi, to which I responded, ‘many cows’.  He laughed. 

Our conversation lulled as the school came into sight.  I thanked them and brought Eddie and myself to our house.  Finally, with probably a hundred pounds of stuff with me, I had finally returned home! 

By the way, I have never been so thankful for a shower as I was at that point!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Comin' Back to Kansas

Well, my vacation has finally come to an end.  I have spent the last weeks travelling around the southern part of the country, seeing the sights and meeting new people.  There have been ups and downs along the way, but it was an incredible journey so far.  I can't wait to continue it in May!

After leaving Swakopmund, some friends and I rented a car and drove tedious hours through desolate (though beautiful) land to arrive at our camp sight in the Naukluft Mountains.  Now, when I say mountains, I don't mean those beautiful ones full of trees and lakes.  No, these mountains are comprised of rocks.  We camped there for three nights.  It was amazing to see the stars with absolutely no lights to pollute the skies.  During the day it was incredibly hot, and due to the lack of trees, we had no respite from the sun's rays.  So, we snuck into the lodge part of the resort and relaxed in the shade there.  Thankfully there was no one else there, so the owners were content with our presence there.  He did seem confused that we would be content camping without electricity or hot water.  We had flashlights, so we were fine on the light aspect, and the heat during the day heated the pipes so that our afternoon showers were pleasantly warm. 

Lovin' the cheap tent.  Good thing it didn't rain!

One of the plethora of amazing sunsets in the country.

Feeling like Indiana Jones with the bumpy road.  Almost wish I were in Disneyland.


While we were enjoying our desert camping experience, we took a day trip to Sossusvlei, which has some of the most amazing red dunes!  We arrived at the entrance to the park around 6:30 in the morning, and drove the 65 km to the dunes.  From there, we trekked our way up some of the largest dunes in the world.  The path was difficult and tiring, but thankfully the sun hadn't turned the sand hot yet.  At the bottom of the dune was a pan full of dead trees.  A pan is a lake bed, who's salt stays on the surface.  This gives the ground a whitish look to it, which amplified the beauty of the landscape.  While the going was tough, I would definitely go back and climb more of those magnificant piles of sand!

From Sossusvlei, we travelled to yet another coastal town.  (I'm not sure if you have come to the understanding of the intensity of the heat during summer, but the coast is definitely the place to be during December!)  Luderitz is a southern town with a huge German influence.  Upon arrival, I felt as if I had been transported to a small coastal town somewhere in Europe, not southern Africa.  I spent almost two weeks there, which gave me plenty of time to relax. 

I was afraid that Christmas away from my family would be difficult, but with so many friends surrounding me, it was amazing.  There were no Christmas trees to be found, so we made due and took a palm frond and decorated it with plastic bag ornaments and popcorn chains.  A cardboard star completed the picture.  We had a white elephant gift exchange from the local China Shop.  I received colored pens (which I was stoked about) and a bar of chocolate. 

We also made our own Namibian versions of Christmas songs!

We went rock diving (ok, it was only about a meter above the water, but still fun) many times, into the frigid water.  Let me tell you,  the Atlantic Ocean in southern Africa is some of the coldest water I have ever been in!  I thought the Pacific was cold in California, but this took the cake.  It didn't matter though, because it was something to swim in, which is rare in this country.  After swimming for many days, we received a rather large wake-up call.  All of a sudden multiple red blobs could be seen around us.  Those jellyfish were reasonably easy to avoid, but the small clear ones were not.  Thankfully I was not stung, though one of my friends was.  From then on, we stayed in one of the coves.

Finally, things had to come to an end, as they always do.  I had decided to join a committee with the Peace Corps, and the meeting for it was a day after I was supposed to be back at my site.  So, I floated around volunteers houses for a few days, until the meeting.  I am now currently staying at one of the flats the Peace Corps has for volunteers, waiting until I can go to the meeting.

I will also be purchasing a Christmas present to myself while I am here.   As both protection and companionship, I will be adopting a dog from the SPCA.  While I know that having a dog is a huge responsibility, I also know that I will be incredibly happy with it.  I'm just not quite sure how hitchhiking with a dog (and all of my things) will be.  We'll see!