Thursday, November 24, 2011

What are you thankful for?

For my last official class period with my darling Grade 7’s, I decided to give them a math break and do a little Thanksgiving celebration. It seemed the right platform to segway into my goodbye cards since I won’t see them much from here on out. I started with having all of the kids put the desks in a circle so that we could all see each other. After giving a mini (abridged) lesson on Thanksgiving, I explained that I wanted us each to write down two things we were thankful for. Afterward, I would collect them and re-pass them out so each learner ends up with someone else’s thankful thoughts. The first thing I noticed about this activity was that they were SO excited. I think just moving the desks into a circle formation was super exciting. I am really going to miss that enthusiasm when I go home…

After writing their thoughts and exchanging papers, I said that each person would stand up and read the two things on their paper. Then I showed that I had a card for each person along with a brand new pencil to write their math exam with. This last statement literally got applause. Applause. For a pencil. It’s the little things J

I turned on some quiet music through all of this and we really treated it as a final shout-out to each learner and a goodbye to me. We clapped for each kid (even whistles and the traditional Owambo “shrieking” as I would call it) and made our way around our circle of thanks.

I would like to share some of their thoughts with you because some were extremely insightful, some were extremely practical, and others were just funny. Here are some examples of the things they wrote (the first two are mine):

· I’m thankful for my feet for bringing me all the way to beautiful Namibia.

· I’m thankful for all of my Grade 7 learners because they are some of the most special people I have ever met.

· I am thankful for my family because they take care of me.

· I want to thank Miss Hannah for being here with our class this whole year.

· I thanks for all my parent are alive.

· I thank for God give me leg to go to school.

· I am thankfull for my family didn’t past away.

· I am thankfull for my shoes that cover me on bloken (broken) bottle.

· I am thankful for my dog.

· I thankful for my school shoes.

· I thank for school because they teach me something I can’t know.

· I thank for my family because they always help me when I was young.

· I thank God for give my gift he give me legs, eyes, and arm so that I can see, I can walk, and I can hear.

· I am thankful for my brain.

· I thank God for give me memory so that I can think and pass my grade.

· My mother who pay for me a school fees.

· I thank my father who pay for me a school shirt.

· I thank for given life.

· I want to thank America for Miss Hannah.

· I am thankful for movies.

· I am thank Miss Hannah because he teach me math.

· I thank my family because they are the one who take care for me.

· I thank my teacher because they are the one who teach me to read and write and respect parent.

· I thankful for my mother who born me.

I obviously have a lot to be thankful for this year. Thank you for caring about me enough to read this. I am so thankful for this experience as well as thankful for being home in exactly 3 weeks.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season. Remember what the holidays are about this year and be with the ones you love.

Love,

h

What are you thankful for?

For my last official class period with my darling Grade 7’s, I decided to give them a math break and do a little Thanksgiving celebration. It seemed the right platform to segway into my goodbye cards since I won’t see them much from here on out. I started with having all of the kids put the desks in a circle so that we could all see each other. After giving a mini (abridged) lesson on Thanksgiving, I explained that I wanted us each to write down two things we were thankful for. Afterward, I would collect them and re-pass them out so each learner ends up with someone else’s thankful thoughts. The first thing I noticed about this activity was that they were SO excited. I think just moving the desks into a circle formation was super exciting. I am really going to miss that enthusiasm when I go home…

After writing their thoughts and exchanging papers, I said that each person would stand up and read the two things on their paper. Then I showed that I had a card for each person along with a brand new pencil to write their math exam with. This last statement literally got applause. Applause. For a pencil. It’s the little things J

I turned on some quiet music through all of this and we really treated it as a final shout-out to each learner and a goodbye to me. We clapped for each kid (even whistles and the traditional Owambo “shrieking” as I would call it) and made our way around our circle of thanks.

I would like to share some of their thoughts with you because some were extremely insightful, some were extremely practical, and others were just funny. Here are some examples of the things they wrote (the first two are mine):

· I’m thankful for my feet for bringing me all the way to beautiful Namibia.

· I’m thankful for all of my Grade 7 learners because they are some of the most special people I have ever met.

· I am thankful for my family because they take care of me.

· I want to thank Miss Hannah for being here with our class this whole year.

· I thanks for all my parent are alive.

· I thank for God give me leg to go to school.

· I am thankfull for my family didn’t past away.

· I am thankfull for my shoes that cover me on bloken (broken) bottle.

· I am thankful for my dog.

· I thankful for my school shoes.

· I thank for school because they teach me something I can’t know.

· I thank for my family because they always help me when I was young.

· I thank God for give my gift he give me legs, eyes, and arm so that I can see, I can walk, and I can hear.

· I am thankful for my brain.

· I thank God for give me memory so that I can think and pass my grade.

· My mother who pay for me a school fees.

· I thank my father who pay for me a school shirt.

· I thank for given life.

· I want to thank America for Miss Hannah.

· I am thankful for movies.

· I am thank Miss Hannah because he teach me math.

· I thank my family because they are the one who take care for me.

· I thank my teacher because they are the one who teach me to read and write and respect parent.

· I thankful for my mother who born me.

I obviously have a lot to be thankful for this year. Thank you for caring about me enough to read this. I am so thankful for this experience as well as thankful for being home in exactly 3 weeks.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season. Remember what the holidays are about this year and be with the ones you love.

Love,

h

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bull in a china shop

Hey guys,

As my time in Namibia comes to an end, I realized that I never really touched on a subject that spreads from the cities to the villages: China. I may have mentioned this before, but all throughout Namibia, mostly in the north, there are places called China Shops. These are not places where wedding china for fine dining is sold. They are shops run by actual Chinese people. Most of them carry similar, if not exactly the same items including electronics (radios, cell phones, etc), clothing, lingerie, luggage, giant bins of shoes, knives, crappy plastic toys, etc. They are typically reasonably priced and easily accessible. I think it is important to mention here, though the Namibians shop at these stores, they don’t think too highly of China or Chinese people in general. “Chinese” is also a pretty generalized term for anyone of Asian decent (kind of like in the states too…)

This dislike is not arbitrary – there are definitely reasons though not every Namibian you encounter can express them. For those of you who keep up with the news, you know that China has been and is a strong presence in many parts of Africa (as with the rest of the world). In Zambia, the recent elections were extremely influenced by this strong presence, almost to the point of not truly representing the Zambian citizens. It’s obvious why China is interested in places like Zambia and Namibia; the natural resources are abundant and there is exponential room for growth in almost every governmental sector. Obviously, international interest in Namibia is a good thing, but most citizens will agree that the government has given too many rights (including business ownership and citizenship) to too many Chinese people. Understandably, they do not want to see their country being run by outsiders again – it’s only been 21 years since Namibia gained independence.

I bring all of this up because it is a topic I encounter probably every week. For example, at a staff meeting the other day we were talking about purchasing locks for some of our classroom doors. A colleague of mine took the floor (which is a rare occasion in itself) and explained that by no means should we buy locks from China. They will only break after a few uses and possibly even poison us. Instead, we should try to buy products from South Africa or America if possible. I kind of coughed out loud at this since a truly “Made in America” product is pretty hard to find. Also, Namibia is one of a small pool of African countries that still admires American people and products.

Another example – I showed the Karate Kid as a reward for some of my classes and when Mr. Miyagi came on the screen, the entire class started laughing. I paused the movie here to ask why they were laughing. It was not because he was old, not because he was trying to catch a fly with chopsticks, but because he was “Chinese” (which any true KK fan knows he is actually from Okinawa.) When pressed further, they told me Chinese people look funny and don’t know what they are talking about. These learners couldn’t express the exact source of their opinions, but they sure had them. On the other hand, they LOVED the American characters and all wanted to look like them and act like them.

Now, I know there are racial stereotypes everywhere, and some of them are incredibly reinforced with proof, but I felt I needed to do something to show the kids that America and Americans have been just as influenced by the Chinese and do not make perfectly working products in perfect stores with perfect workers. After school the other day, I was hanging out with some of my kids in the library. I decided to do a little “Made In” activity with them. I sent them on a little scavenger hunt to find as many items in the room (including clothing) with “Made In _____” labels and write down the places they found. Of course, everything I had with me from home was either made in China, Taiwan, Cambodia, or some other foreign place. We proceeded to look at these places on a map and see how far away they are from America. I explained that just because you buy a product from America, it doesn’t mean it was made there. I think that concept is hard for some of these kids to swallow since every item they consume is typically made right on their homestead.

I guess with this whole activity and post, I was trying to see how these village kids create ideas about the world and attempting to give them some knowledge to back up their opinions in the future. I am proud of my country, but also don’t want them to idolize it as this heavenly utopia. I guess I’d also like it if they wouldn’t feel the urge to laugh every time they see an Asian person…someday the novelty will go away (since I don’t think the Chinese presence is leaving anytime soon…)

I don’t blame Namibia for being wary of the Chinese presence. I do think the government is relying on them too much for things they could better control themselves. Being such a young country has left them vulnerable to outsiders looking to make a buck. With so much potential and limitless room for growth, Namibia and Namibians need to take charge of their future – and never buy a Chinese lock.

Bull in a china shop

Hey guys,

As my time in Namibia comes to an end, I realized that I never really touched on a subject that spreads from the cities to the villages: China. I may have mentioned this before, but all throughout Namibia, mostly in the north, there are places called China Shops. These are not places where wedding china for fine dining is sold. They are shops run by actual Chinese people. Most of them carry similar, if not exactly the same items including electronics (radios, cell phones, etc), clothing, lingerie, luggage, giant bins of shoes, knives, crappy plastic toys, etc. They are typically reasonably priced and easily accessible. I think it is important to mention here, though the Namibians shop at these stores, they don’t think too highly of China or Chinese people in general. “Chinese” is also a pretty generalized term for anyone of Asian decent (kind of like in the states too…)

This dislike is not arbitrary – there are definitely reasons though not every Namibian you encounter can express them. For those of you who keep up with the news, you know that China has been and is a strong presence in many parts of Africa (as with the rest of the world). In Zambia, the recent elections were extremely influenced by this strong presence, almost to the point of not truly representing the Zambian citizens. It’s obvious why China is interested in places like Zambia and Namibia; the natural resources are abundant and there is exponential room for growth in almost every governmental sector. Obviously, international interest in Namibia is a good thing, but most citizens will agree that the government has given too many rights (including business ownership and citizenship) to too many Chinese people. Understandably, they do not want to see their country being run by outsiders again – it’s only been 21 years since Namibia gained independence.

I bring all of this up because it is a topic I encounter probably every week. For example, at a staff meeting the other day we were talking about purchasing locks for some of our classroom doors. A colleague of mine took the floor (which is a rare occasion in itself) and explained that by no means should we buy locks from China. They will only break after a few uses and possibly even poison us. Instead, we should try to buy products from South Africa or America if possible. I kind of coughed out loud at this since a truly “Made in America” product is pretty hard to find. Also, Namibia is one of a small pool of African countries that still admires American people and products.

Another example – I showed the Karate Kid as a reward for some of my classes and when Mr. Miyagi came on the screen, the entire class started laughing. I paused the movie here to ask why they were laughing. It was not because he was old, not because he was trying to catch a fly with chopsticks, but because he was “Chinese” (which any true KK fan knows he is actually from Okinawa.) When pressed further, they told me Chinese people look funny and don’t know what they are talking about. These learners couldn’t express the exact source of their opinions, but they sure had them. On the other hand, they LOVED the American characters and all wanted to look like them and act like them.

Now, I know there are racial stereotypes everywhere, and some of them are incredibly reinforced with proof, but I felt I needed to do something to show the kids that America and Americans have been just as influenced by the Chinese and do not make perfectly working products in perfect stores with perfect workers. After school the other day, I was hanging out with some of my kids in the library. I decided to do a little “Made In” activity with them. I sent them on a little scavenger hunt to find as many items in the room (including clothing) with “Made In _____” labels and write down the places they found. Of course, everything I had with me from home was either made in China, Taiwan, Cambodia, or some other foreign place. We proceeded to look at these places on a map and see how far away they are from America. I explained that just because you buy a product from America, it doesn’t mean it was made there. I think that concept is hard for some of these kids to swallow since every item they consume is typically made right on their homestead.

I guess with this whole activity and post, I was trying to see how these village kids create ideas about the world and attempting to give them some knowledge to back up their opinions in the future. I am proud of my country, but also don’t want them to idolize it as this heavenly utopia. I guess I’d also like it if they wouldn’t feel the urge to laugh every time they see an Asian person…someday the novelty will go away (since I don’t think the Chinese presence is leaving anytime soon…)

I don’t blame Namibia for being wary of the Chinese presence. I do think the government is relying on them too much for things they could better control themselves. Being such a young country has left them vulnerable to outsiders looking to make a buck. With so much potential and limitless room for growth, Namibia and Namibians need to take charge of their future – and never buy a Chinese lock.

Bull in a china shop

Hey guys,

As my time in Namibia comes to an end, I realized that I never really touched on a subject that spreads from the cities to the villages: China. I may have mentioned this before, but all throughout Namibia, mostly in the north, there are places called China Shops. These are not places where wedding china for fine dining is sold. They are shops run by actual Chinese people. Most of them carry similar, if not exactly the same items including electronics (radios, cell phones, etc), clothing, lingerie, luggage, giant bins of shoes, knives, crappy plastic toys, etc. They are typically reasonably priced and easily accessible. I think it is important to mention here, though the Namibians shop at these stores, they don’t think too highly of China or Chinese people in general. “Chinese” is also a pretty generalized term for anyone of Asian decent (kind of like in the states too…)

This dislike is not arbitrary – there are definitely reasons though not every Namibian you encounter can express them. For those of you who keep up with the news, you know that China has been and is a strong presence in many parts of Africa (as with the rest of the world). In Zambia, the recent elections were extremely influenced by this strong presence, almost to the point of not truly representing the Zambian citizens. It’s obvious why China is interested in places like Zambia and Namibia; the natural resources are abundant and there is exponential room for growth in almost every governmental sector. Obviously, international interest in Namibia is a good thing, but most citizens will agree that the government has given too many rights (including business ownership and citizenship) to too many Chinese people. Understandably, they do not want to see their country being run by outsiders again – it’s only been 21 years since Namibia gained independence.

I bring all of this up because it is a topic I encounter probably every week. For example, at a staff meeting the other day we were talking about purchasing locks for some of our classroom doors. A colleague of mine took the floor (which is a rare occasion in itself) and explained that by no means should we buy locks from China. They will only break after a few uses and possibly even poison us. Instead, we should try to buy products from South Africa or America if possible. I kind of coughed out loud at this since a truly “Made in America” product is pretty hard to find. Also, Namibia is one of a small pool of African countries that still admires American people and products.

Another example – I showed the Karate Kid as a reward for some of my classes and when Mr. Miyagi came on the screen, the entire class started laughing. I paused the movie here to ask why they were laughing. It was not because he was old, not because he was trying to catch a fly with chopsticks, but because he was “Chinese” (which any true KK fan knows he is actually from Okinawa.) When pressed further, they told me Chinese people look funny and don’t know what they are talking about. These learners couldn’t express the exact source of their opinions, but they sure had them. On the other hand, they LOVED the American characters and all wanted to look like them and act like them.

Now, I know there are racial stereotypes everywhere, and some of them are incredibly reinforced with proof, but I felt I needed to do something to show the kids that America and Americans have been just as influenced by the Chinese and do not make perfectly working products in perfect stores with perfect workers. After school the other day, I was hanging out with some of my kids in the library. I decided to do a little “Made In” activity with them. I sent them on a little scavenger hunt to find as many items in the room (including clothing) with “Made In _____” labels and write down the places they found. Of course, everything I had with me from home was either made in China, Taiwan, Cambodia, or some other foreign place. We proceeded to look at these places on a map and see how far away they are from America. I explained that just because you buy a product from America, it doesn’t mean it was made there. I think that concept is hard for some of these kids to swallow since every item they consume is typically made right on their homestead.

I guess with this whole activity and post, I was trying to see how these village kids create ideas about the world and attempting to give them some knowledge to back up their opinions in the future. I am proud of my country, but also don’t want them to idolize it as this heavenly utopia. I guess I’d also like it if they wouldn’t feel the urge to laugh every time they see an Asian person…someday the novelty will go away (since I don’t think the Chinese presence is leaving anytime soon…)

I don’t blame Namibia for being wary of the Chinese presence. I do think the government is relying on them too much for things they could better control themselves. Being such a young country has left them vulnerable to outsiders looking to make a buck. With so much potential and limitless room for growth, Namibia and Namibians need to take charge of their future – and never buy a Chinese lock.

Bull in a china shop

Hey guys,

As my time in Namibia comes to an end, I realized that I never really touched on a subject that spreads from the cities to the villages: China. I may have mentioned this before, but all throughout Namibia, mostly in the north, there are places called China Shops. These are not places where wedding china for fine dining is sold. They are shops run by actual Chinese people. Most of them carry similar, if not exactly the same items including electronics (radios, cell phones, etc), clothing, lingerie, luggage, giant bins of shoes, knives, crappy plastic toys, etc. They are typically reasonably priced and easily accessible. I think it is important to mention here, though the Namibians shop at these stores, they don’t think too highly of China or Chinese people in general. “Chinese” is also a pretty generalized term for anyone of Asian decent (kind of like in the states too…)

This dislike is not arbitrary – there are definitely reasons though not every Namibian you encounter can express them. For those of you who keep up with the news, you know that China has been and is a strong presence in many parts of Africa (as with the rest of the world). In Zambia, the recent elections were extremely influenced by this strong presence, almost to the point of not truly representing the Zambian citizens. It’s obvious why China is interested in places like Zambia and Namibia; the natural resources are abundant and there is exponential room for growth in almost every governmental sector. Obviously, international interest in Namibia is a good thing, but most citizens will agree that the government has given too many rights (including business ownership and citizenship) to too many Chinese people. Understandably, they do not want to see their country being run by outsiders again – it’s only been 21 years since Namibia gained independence.

I bring all of this up because it is a topic I encounter probably every week. For example, at a staff meeting the other day we were talking about purchasing locks for some of our classroom doors. A colleague of mine took the floor (which is a rare occasion in itself) and explained that by no means should we buy locks from China. They will only break after a few uses and possibly even poison us. Instead, we should try to buy products from South Africa or America if possible. I kind of coughed out loud at this since a truly “Made in America” product is pretty hard to find. Also, Namibia is one of a small pool of African countries that still admires American people and products.

Another example – I showed the Karate Kid as a reward for some of my classes and when Mr. Miyagi came on the screen, the entire class started laughing. I paused the movie here to ask why they were laughing. It was not because he was old, not because he was trying to catch a fly with chopsticks, but because he was “Chinese” (which any true KK fan knows he is actually from Okinawa.) When pressed further, they told me Chinese people look funny and don’t know what they are talking about. These learners couldn’t express the exact source of their opinions, but they sure had them. On the other hand, they LOVED the American characters and all wanted to look like them and act like them.

Now, I know there are racial stereotypes everywhere, and some of them are incredibly reinforced with proof, but I felt I needed to do something to show the kids that America and Americans have been just as influenced by the Chinese and do not make perfectly working products in perfect stores with perfect workers. After school the other day, I was hanging out with some of my kids in the library. I decided to do a little “Made In” activity with them. I sent them on a little scavenger hunt to find as many items in the room (including clothing) with “Made In _____” labels and write down the places they found. Of course, everything I had with me from home was either made in China, Taiwan, Cambodia, or some other foreign place. We proceeded to look at these places on a map and see how far away they are from America. I explained that just because you buy a product from America, it doesn’t mean it was made there. I think that concept is hard for some of these kids to swallow since every item they consume is typically made right on their homestead.

I guess with this whole activity and post, I was trying to see how these village kids create ideas about the world and attempting to give them some knowledge to back up their opinions in the future. I am proud of my country, but also don’t want them to idolize it as this heavenly utopia. I guess I’d also like it if they wouldn’t feel the urge to laugh every time they see an Asian person…someday the novelty will go away (since I don’t think the Chinese presence is leaving anytime soon…)

I don’t blame Namibia for being wary of the Chinese presence. I do think the government is relying on them too much for things they could better control themselves. Being such a young country has left them vulnerable to outsiders looking to make a buck. With so much potential and limitless room for growth, Namibia and Namibians need to take charge of their future – and never buy a Chinese lock.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

To develop or not to develop?

Five weeks. I have almost been here a year. This has been my reality for 11 months. How strange. I’ve been thinking of the future more as the days go by. Thinking a lot about the word “development”. People could argue that what I am doing in this country is selfish and is not doing a damn thing. I must admit that I partly agree. A year seems like a long time, but really it’s not. I feel like a year has given me a lifetime of stories but not really done much to contribute to my Namibian community. Sure, there have been some donations and some close learner connections, but it is easy to overlook those and ask what I’m really doing on a bigger scale. Development is typically understood to be a positive thing and can be interchanged with “progress”. I struggle to decide whether I am aiding that development or simply imposing a warped version of my Western ideals on a few kids. There’s no answer to this I don’t think., but the questioning only intrigues me more and pushes me into continuing my “development” or attempted development work in the future. I see the opportunities for progress here. I see my fellow Namibian teachers talking “solidarity” and marching their way to the Regional Office. Namibia has limitless potential – I just often feel unequipped to support this potential in an effective and sustainable way. I’m not trying to say that what we are doing here is wrong. Those donations and lessons and connections are huge. I just feel that this experience has served as a catalyst to push me past education into the world of sustainable development.

In other news…our End of Service conference is complete. We are now officially on the last leg of our journey. Keeping up the motivation has been hard for all learners and teachers and has been keeping me up nights. I’m trying to finish strong and am really hoping to see some improvements in my kids’ scores. Sometimes I feel like being a special education teacher has helped me so much in teaching here. Other times, I feel like the parameters of my special education mind limit my expectations of my kids. Professionally, I have been working on pushing past those barriers and expecting the most of my kids since I know they have it in them. It is just easy to rejoice in all of the little victories and look past the fact that 70% of your class is failing the National exams…

K, I attempted to put some pictures at the end of this, but as usual, it didn't work. There are some on facebook for those of you who are my friend. Missing you all and wishing you a very happy November.

Love,

h

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pink Pangea

Hey guys. This post is a little sneak peak at a story I am writing for a website for women travelers called Pink Pangea. I am hoping to write more before I leave. Enjoy!

To the average woman, being proposed to is something that typically happens once in a lifetime and usually involves a guy, possibly down on one knee, presenting himself and the offer of spending the rest of your life with him. This moment is usually pretty special and is a story that is told over and over again throughout the years. Throughout my year as a volunteer teacher in a small village in northern Namibia, I can honestly say that I have been proposed to at least 147 times. I should back up here. In Namibia, the word “propose” is used where the western world might say, “aggressively hit on”. What these two definitions have in common is that they both produce stories that warrant multiple retellings.

As a lone woman traveling in northern Namibia, knowing the local definition of “propose” definitely comes in handy. At the beginning of my Namibian experience, I was walking with a learner of mine who asked me if I had been proposed to by any of the local men. I replied with an adamant, “oh no no no no” to which she replied, “but that tate (man) just said he wanted to be your boyfriend.” That’s when the light bulb turned on and I realized yet another word that provided another brick in the ever - growing language barrier. Women of all types get proposed to by men on a daily basis in Namibia (just like the rest of the world) – being an outsider just gives that much more incentive to men on the prowl.

Once you have your technique down for side-stepping these proposals (or accepting them if that is your style), there are many wonderful things to see and enjoy in northern Namibia. If you want to get to know the locals, it is best to check out one of the many shabeens, or bars, that populate the main streets. While it is perfectly acceptable for women to physically be at these shabeens, what you order and how you act will be closely monitored. I have a favorite bar in the north’s capital city, Oshakati, called L G Bar. It is a lovely place that is one of the closest things to a real restaurant that the north offers. I have made it a routine to hang out there on the weekends, typically on Friday afternoons. The owner and staff are lovely and I’ve hardly had any unwanted “proposals” there. However, one aspect of my Friday trips has always perplexed me. The most popular beverage in Namibia is the national beer, Windhoek Lager. I’ve grown very fond of it and often crave one (or two) after a long workweek. When one of my favorite waitresses comes over and asks what I would like, I say “a Windhoek draught, please” and am answered with a look that I can only describe as a mix between confusion, disgust, and disappointment. At first, I thought it was a fluke. Then after several weeks of facing the face, I took a moment to look around. For one, there were hardly any other women in the bar. Secondly, of the ones that were there, none were drinking beer. They may have had hard ciders or vodka drinks, but none were partaking in my beverage of choice. That’s when I realized it: women don’t really drink beer here! It seems my waitress was just reacting to this smiling oshilumbu (white person) who ordered a drink that made her stand out even more than her curly blonde hair. This isn’t to say I have had any trouble getting my Friday beer; the face fades quickly and it’s back to smiles and pleasant conversation.

There are definitely different roles and expectations for women in Namibia as there are in many other countries. Luckily, Namibia is incredibly laid back and allows women to make some blunders with no more than a face or a laugh. If you can join in on the laughing, or make a face back, you have already taken a step towards cultural immersion. Regardless of the occasional slip up, traveling women in Namibia will be welcomed warmly. And who knows, they just might return with the most incredible proposal story.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Daily Life

Dearest Friends, Family, and Followers,

It is time again to write a blog of all of the fabulously random things that happen in my life – these events are what make this place so incredibly special and hard to leave. Here we go…in no particular order:

· Today a learner came into the library and whispered something to me that I didn’t understand. Then she started spelling C-O-R-T-E-X. Uh…yeah, I was still confused. Then she said, “it is used to prevent menstruation.” Got it.

· Yesterday, we had the day off for International Teacher’s Day. It was lovely. I walked to the little settlement up the road from me, Omayuunda, to buy some bread and a cool drink. While I was in the shop, a woman in business casual came up next to me in the que. I greeted her, as usual, and she greeted me back. After a minute or two, I heard a deafening “cock-a-doodle-doooo!” To my surprise, this smartly dressed woman had a rooster in her handbag. I think I like that better than the stupid little dogs.

· Today, the wind has been CRAZY! I look super tan because there are literally thousands of grains of sand on my face and body. Makes for some pretty cool little cyclones though.

· I went to town last Saturday to meet up with Bret. I was walking along my road, hoping for a car to stop when a bakkie approached me. Two gentlemen were in the car and said they could give me a lift to Oshikuku. I gladly accepted and hopped in the front, in between them. Right when the one tate shut the door, the music was up and raging. I mean raging. Now, this is pretty typical for Namibia, but what makes this experience noteworthy is the type of music that was playing. It was not local music, or popular American hip hop, or even Celine Dion. It was Michael Bolton. Yes, good ole Michael. The driver had an excellent voice and was clearly feelin’ the lyrics to “I Wanna be Your Sole Provider”. And I have to admit, so was I.

· I went to a learner’s homestead last weekend. I love visiting the homesteads and often wish I lived on one instead of in the teacher housing. Anyway, I had my camera to take a few pics of the beautiful scenery, etc. What ended up happening was a full blown photo shoot, costume changes and all. Even the housekeeper, who had been busy peeling beans, took a moment to put on her best shirt and beads to have her picture taken. Taking pictures here is a little different…people need to SEE every single picture immediately after it has been taken. Sometimes I just say, “Great! It looks just like you,” so we can move on! Needless to say, cameras are a hit here.

· I swept a lizard out of my house for the third time this year.

· There are these incredibly annoying bugs (my mom knows how much they anger me) that kind of look like wasps but apparently don’t sting. Well, they are everywhere. Everywhere. They make little nests like wasps too and they are ALL over my house. Under beds, on the ceiling, on the toilet bowl cleaner (seriously). I am telling you about these annoying creatures not only because I hate them, but because they poop. A lot. I mean, I know everybody poops, but these guys make mouse sized turds. We thought we had a mouse problem until I physically watched a couple of these buggars drop a mean deuce on our kitchen counter. Sweet.

· I ate the best onion ring I have ever eaten in Namibia. I hope to do it again soon.

· I have been quietly buying uniform items for kids who either don’t have them or have used the mess out of them. I gave one girl a shirt, shoes, and socks, and in exchange, her grandmother brought me traditional porridge and owambo chicken. Pretty awesome trade.

· I showed some of my classes the karate kid and now during break time, I look out and see 7 different groups of kids re-enacting the last scene. Wax on, wax off.

This is my life and it is kind of wonderful. I’m sure there are a million more things I could share, but I will stop there for now.

Love you all!

~h

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Term 3!

Hello!! Whew, how time flies. I seem to have to greatest intentions about keeping up on this blog, and the next time I think about it, 3 weeks have gone by, then 5 weeks, then…well, you get the picture! Needless to say, I apologize for not keeping everyone better informed…some things just seem so hard to explain via blog. Anyway, I intend to give you the abridged version of the last few months.

Ok, so as you know I have started a newspaper club at my school. It has been going well, but I have been struggling a bit with how to make it more sustainable after I leave in just a few short months. It seems like something I am interested in and that people like, but doesn’t seem like I am going to be able to find someone to hand it over to when I go. My intentions have always been to do things that are sustainable so that being a volunteer doesn’t become such an outside role – rather a means of helping develop what is already there. I have some wonderful grade 10 learners who I think would do a great job working on the paper next year, but unfortunately we are losing grade 11 next year, so they will not be around. I will continue to brainstorm how to keep this going because it seems to be a good, fun thing for the school. Also, I have the September issue ready, just have been unable to upload it. For some reason my internet connection has not been strong enough to upload the files onto the website. I will continue to work on it because this is a special issue. Tomorrow starts the Namibian National Readathon Week. It is an entire week devoted to celebrating literacy in all forms. To commemorate this week, I had my kids in my computer classes (grades 7-12) write stories on this year’s topic: The Namibian environment, our flora and fauna. I got some really creative, special stories and was so excited to be able to involve some of the younger kids. They really got into it! Hopefully I will get it online soon so you guys can participate in Readathon as well!

Other news…we had holiday #2 a few weeks back and I had a lovely visitor, my mom! How crazy it was to have my two, seemingly opposite worlds collide. It was a nice mix of vacation and showing mom around my village and daily routines. Overall, it was an incredibly refreshing, special time for the two of us. I am so grateful she made the trip.

Term 3 is in full swing and I am feeling really good about it. I feel really good about my computer classes and feel like I am finally getting in the groove – of course, with only one term left! I am struggling with the end of this experience approaching…though I am happy to see that my school will be replacing their volunteer position with a full-time, Namibian teacher. That is the whole point of World Teach – to bring in people with new ideas and skills until the posts can be filled by local teachers. I think it is a great step for my school, but ending this experience will definitely be bittersweet. Anyway, enough of that.

Two major things happening with school lately are as follows:

1. 1. Denny – my mom’s wonderful fiancĂ©, coordinated a bunch of people at home to donate money for soccer uniforms for my school. Ah-mazing. They have not arrived yet, but believe me, I will be posting pictures of the school team proudly wearing their new jerseys. If any of the donors are reading this now, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. My entire school, teachers and learners, are incredibly grateful, so, tangi.

2. 2. Ever since our term 2 exams, I have made it my personal mission to find some organization somewhere that could help supply my school with calculators. I was invigilating (proctoring) some math exams and was struggling to watch 5, 6, or even 7 kids sharing the same calculator. Many of these exams are really long and kids struggle to finish within the allotted time. This problem is fueled when kids are waiting in line to use a calculator. After some research, I happened upon an incredible organization called Charitable Calculators. This organization is out of the states and collects old calculators from people no longer using them and then donates them to schools in need. I filled out their application and heard back from a phenomenal woman named Marian (same as my mom…good sign, right?). She told me that the organization unanimously approved my application and had 45 graphing (!) calculators to send to me, free of charge! This woman is so incredible, she is even paying for the incredibly expensive shipping out of her own pocket. She was willing to fly them out here herself to ensure they made it, but could not get here in time for the November exams (the time when the kids really need them). Anyway, they should be getting here by the end of the week and I couldn’t be more excited. How awesome that there are organizations like that and people like Marian in the world.

Other than school, I have been hanging with my friends, playing some badminton (schooling everyone of course), cooking, trying to remain calm as the heat gets more and more overwhelming, and hanging with my learners. I have gotten to know some of them so much more over the past term and really love their company. I’ve learned some traditional dances, tasted some incredible traditional food, been given the sweetest gifts of palm fruits, flowers, and cards, and gotten some pretty amazing hairstyles from these kids. They really are incredible.

Village life is pretty slow and really quiet here, but I really do love it. Besides, when it is 95 degrees outside, what can you really do?

Ok, I am sure there are more things I could share, but I will end for now. I hope the beautiful fall weather is beginning…make sure you do all of the wonderful activities fall brings (in my honor of course since it is my favorite season!)

Love you all,

xoxox

h

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August Edition

Hey guys! My apologize for sucking on the blogging...however, I have good news! The Ogongo Combined School Newspaper Club has published its second edition of the Ogongo Star! I am sure you guys have been waiting on the edge of your seats for this! Well, wait no longer...the link to the August edition is below. As always, I am really proud of these kids. It is one thing to take on extra academic responsibilities throughout the year, but taking on extra responsibilities during examination time is pretty spectacular. The exams here are actually a big deal...they are not like taking the ISAT at home where you relished the excuse to wear comfy clothes to school and have no homework. These kids study hard and these exams have a pretty heavy hand in deciding their future. My lovely OCS Newspaper kids went out of their way to make time to create some pretty unique stories for this edition. This may be the last time you see writing from my grade 12 learners, as their schedule from here on out is pretty much focused directly on exams.

Anyway, I appreciated all of you positivity about the last issue and would love to hear any suggestions/comments/questions for WM :) that you might have!

Thinking of you all and hoping your summer isn't going by too fast.

~h

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ogongo Combined School Newspaper Club

Hey there. I know it has been too long since my last blog post, but here is some evidence of the business that has taken over my life. I recently started the Ogongo Combined School Newspaper Club and just this week, we finally published and printed our first edition. I am SOO excited about this and so are the kids. They worked really hard on this and are very proud to share their efforts with the rest of the school. Needless to say, I am like a proud mother here and want to put my child's work on the refrigerator! Since you guys cannot see my refrigerator, I would like to use my blog as a way to share all of the incredible stories, puzzles, poems, etc. that my kids have created. Unfortunately, you will not be able to see the amazing cartoons and puzzles that these guys made since they were hand drawn and had to be pasted on the paper and copied. Just imagine them as really unique and clever - because they are! So here is a link to see what the OCS Newspaper Club (consisting of grades 10 and 12) has made. I would appreciate any feedback/suggestions! We are already hard at work on the next edition and hope to make this a monthly thing.

OCS Newspaper Club July Edition

Thinking of you all and wishing you the sunniest of summers :)

~h

Saturday, May 21, 2011

p.s.

We were on the front page of the Namibian (the big time newspaper). Check it:

Rivers and quick sand and toe nails, oh my

FYI...this is a long one...sorry!

I’m not even sure where to begin this blog post! It has been so long and so many things have happened. First things first: the floods are finally receding and school is back in full swing. We are compensating our missed days by going to school on Saturdays and public holidays (which is no fun), but at least everyone is safe and dry. It has been harder than I thought to get back into the swing of things, but it does feel good to be productive again. There is much work to be done to finish up exams and marking and filling out the loads of paperwork that is necessary when you teach every learner in the school! Ok, now let me back track.

When I last wrote, I was getting ready to attend my mid-service conference for World Teach in Windhoek. I got there safely and it was nice to have the chance to catch up with everyone. We had a few sessions reflecting on how things were going so far and where we would like them to go during term 2. We got to share stories of successes and hardships and all the funny things Namibia has brought to our lives. We had a nice closing dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse, a pretty cool restaurant/bar that is definitely worth checking out if you are in Windhoek. We ate crocodile, kudu, ostrich, zebra, and drank some good brews. It felt good to be in a restaurant again! There really isn’t a culture of eating out here in Northern Namibia. Because of this, I definitely took advantage of every restaurant I met throughout my holiday! So mid-service wrapped up, but me and Bret and Karen (the people I was going on holiday with) stayed in Windhoek for another night in order to catch an overnight train the following day. We checked out some more of Windhoek (which is actually a pretty cool place) and prepared ourselves for a 12 hour train ride. We arrived at the train station about 45 minutes early and found our first class seats (definitely not the greatest, but at least it was a seat!). We departed about 30 minutes late, but were just happy to be on our way. Our first class cabin had an actual television in it with a DVD player. We were pretty stoked about the idea of watching movies on our overnight train. That is, until they started playing the movies… The first one was called The Buttercream Gang in The Adventure of Treasure Mountain (or something like that). Apparently this was an old made-for-TV American flick that has religious undertones and was meant to bring families together. Since this is Namibia, I ended up watching the movie twice. When they like something here, they really like it. There was no option to drown out the sound, so I found myself drawn into it the first and second time. After this family friendly flick, they played a pretty graphic and violent American action flick. I guess they were playing for a varied audience. Anyway, the train was moving slow, but at least it was moving…until around 11:30 pm. At this point, the train stops cold. Karen is sleeping, but Bret and I were awake and slightly confused. Finally, a man comes around saying the train “is broken and cannot go on anymore”. There was really no explanation other than it was broken and that they would be arranging buses to get us to our destination. The man added that this had happened in the past and that arranging buses would probably take until around 1:00p.m. the following day. So there we were: stuck on a train in the middle of nowhere for possibly 14 hours. Somehow, we managed to laugh about it and notice how pretty much no one on the train was complaining. We noticed what a stark contrast this was to how Americans would react if we were at home. Back home, people would have been questioning and shouting and insisting on talking to the highest power they could to chew them out. Here in Namibia, people quietly got on their cell phones and told their loved ones that they would be late and then hunkered down to get some sleep. It was truly appalling. Luckily I had some Haribo gummies to give us some comfort until we were finally able to get some sleep. Around 3:00a.m. I awoke to find we were moving again. No explanation. But we were moving so I was not going to question it! We finally got to Keetmanshoop around 12:00 p.m. and from there were escorted onto a bus to take us to our final destination of Grunau. The bus was much faster than the train so we got there around 3:30. We were trying to make it to the Gondwana Canyon Roadhouse where we were going to camp for four nights. It was still quite a few kilometers away on a beautiful dirt road. Lucky for us, we found a nice Afrikaner couple who had a farm not too far from there and took us all the way in the back of their bakkie. I think I have mentioned this before, but I have learned here that things have a way of working themselves out if you just let them. I am sure that happens back home in the states, but I think we are all so used to instant gratification that we often are too impatient to let things work themselves out. Here you can’t be impatient or you will drive yourself crazy! Therefore, I have seen that things always work out (and usually in a really fun or crazy way!) Anyway, we got to the Roadhouse and it is really awesome. It is Route 66 themed (but not in a cheesy way) and has a lovely bar and restaurant. Our campsite is great and is situated very close to a hiking trail that goes up into the rocky cliffs. We set things up and then head inside for a celebratory beer for making it to the south. The next few days consisted of hiking through the gorgeous terrain, eating lots of good meals, relaxing by the pool, and star gazing. On one gorgeous day, we hitch hiked to the nearby Gondwana Lodge which boasts a really awesome hiking trail as well. We hiked the trail (bushwacking the last kilometer or so since the trail kind of disappeared), ate some lunch, then tried to find a ride home. Again, we had to be patient and just let things work themselves out. And they did. We were picked up by the craziest bunch of South Africans I have ever met. It was three older men and one younger guy, rocking some tunes and pounding some liquor. They had multiple coolers and were more than happy to give us an ice cold Tafel lager upon entering the vehicle. I don’t think the driver was drinking (at the time), but the others were busy filling their cups with ice and whiskey and then engaging in violent cheers-ing where half their drinks would end up on their laps. It was a wild ride to say the least. We made it safely and were kind of sad to see our new friends go.

K, now I will fast forward to Hobas. Hobas was our next campground and is kind of a base camp for people intending to hike Fish River Canyon. We ended up staying two nights because our original date to descend into the canyon turned out to be cold and very very rainy. We had heard from an NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) worker that it would be best to wait since the descent is slippery and steep as it is. When our nicer day finally came, we made our way to the main lookout point and saw the canyon for the first time. It was absolutely breathtaking. By this time, our third hiker, Karen, had decided she wasn’t up for the hike. That left just me and Bret. After a few photos, we made our way to the start of the hiking trail. It was hard to see how the hell we were going to get down such a steep rock face. Upon closer inspection, we saw the chains put into place to help hikers from plummeting to their death. Now, I have done hikes with chains and ropes before, but never with a pack as heavy as the one I had. I immediately regretted having more than two outfits (for a month mind you) and just about everything else that was in my pack. Bret and I stayed one chain length apart to ensure we did not pull or push each other into a compromising position. Those of you who know me well know that heights are not really my favorite thing. Or even my second favorite thing. I have gotten better over the years, but during this descent, I had to keep my eyes down and keep putting one foot in front of the other. The descent is about two kilometers and took us about two hours to complete. Bret finished first as I was struggling with my balance with each step. I finally made it to the bottom and found Bret hanging out on a beautiful sandy bank right on the river. I immediately tore off my things and got into the water. Water had never felt better. At this point, we had made friends with two people from another group that descended that day, Gail and Jared. We hung out with them for a bit while we rested our shaky legs and ate some biltong (jerky). Most people choose to complete the descent and then camp on the sandy bank before starting the actual trail the next day. We thought that sounded like a great idea. We cooked a nice meal and juse laid our sleeping bags out on the sand to rest for the night. As I gazed at the beautiful night sky, I thought to myself “the worst is over, now you can just walk and enjoy”. Silly me.

I am not going to get into the details of every single day we were in the canyon (if you want to know, just ask!), but I will tell you, the descent was not the end of the hard stuff. NWR uses the word “trail” loosely. You really just walk where you can when you can. The first two days of hiking were composed of 8 hours a day of bouldering and climbing (things I do enjoy, but wear on you when you have a huge pack on and shaky legs). Needless to say, the terrain slowed us down quite a bit. After 3 days in the canyon, we were feeling pretty good physically, but the immensity of the canyon was starting to feel a bit daunting. We had started our river crossings, and again for those of you who know me well, you know that slippery wet rocks are even lower on my love list than heights. I was being kind of a baby, but I was making it across and trying to keep my focus. Oh yeah, I did get stuck in quick sand that one time…yeah…they are right – it is both quick and sandy. Thanks to my obsession with Bear Grylls, I managed to get myself out. I felt like a cement statue of myself, but I got out. You’d think that would be the worst of it, right? Then came day 4. We had had a great morning where we covered lots of ground and were feeling really good. We get to the river and know we need to get to the other side. The crossing is pretty wide, but at this point there is really no other choice than to cross the damn thing. As we start to cross, I am feeling pretty confident. I am giving myself out loud pep talks and am starting to think I am getting pretty good at these things! Bret made it over before me (obviously) while I ha about ¼ to go. All of a sudden, I sense the current getting stronger and stronger. Pretty soon it is difficult for me to even pick my foot up and move it further. The water which was once up to my shins was now up past my waist. I start to freak. It is all kind of a blur, but the water ends up taking me down. I float a ways, trying to regain my stance. I manage to get up only to get knocked down again. With all of my strength, I get up one more time. During all of this, I can see another group of hikers watching me from the side we came from. I also see Bret drop his pack and come trudging out after me. He manages to get to me and somehow guide me back to land. All I know is my legs have never shaken as hard as they did then. Once on dry land (after I thanked Bret profusely), we had time to assess our current situation. It was clear that the dam had been opened and that the river would be rushing from here on out. We were meant to cross it about 8 more times, but clearly that was not going to be an option. While we are trying to figure out what the hell to do, we see a group of three hikers get stuck out on some rocks while their path to dry land is overtaken by the river. Their rock island was getting smaller and smaller while ahead of them were rapids. Obviously, we were freaked and not sure what to do. We composed ourselves and decided the best option was for us to try to go ahead and get help for these people who were stuck on the wrong side. As much as being in the river when the dam opened sucked, it was actually a better option than being stuck on the other side! So, we moved on. We studied the map and came up with our own route for going up and over mountains in order to avoid river crossings. We climbed mountains and watersheds and walked in places where people might have never been. Thankfully, Bret has wonderful map reading skills and was able to guide us to where we wanted to be. We dropped back down by the river just about a 45 minute hike from a shortcut that would lead us to the emergency exit. We weren’t out of the water yet though – there was still a river crossing between us and safety. We camped on the sandy bank where our off trailing dumped us and decided to conquer the last leg of our journey in the morning. It was a pretty quiet that night since both of us were pretty emotionally and physically drained. Oh, and freaked out. Morning came (after little sleep) and we trudged on to figure out how we were going to complete this one more crossing. The river was raging. I mean raging. As we are approaching the place where we need to cross, we both see something big and white on top of the cliff opposite us. Neither of us say anything until we see two tiny people walking down the cliff. Then we realize that the white object is a truck! A truck! We both start freaking out and waving and shouting. Pretty soon we hear people close to us say “we are here to help you!” We jog towards the voices and see about 5 guys in black Speedos on the opposite side of the river. They have ropes and gear and a canoe! They are incredibly nice and tell us where to go to wait for them to cross the raging river. The relief I felt at this moment is indescribable. I felt exhausted and exhilarated and like I was going to cry all at the same time. Long story short (or not so short), they get us across the river in a boat and back up the cliff to where a truck is waiting to take us to safety. It was surreal. Turns out the people that saved our lives were actually just tourists who had come to hike the trail and then found it to be closed. Instead of doing something lazier for their holiday, they spent it saving the lives of 14 people stuck in a canyon. Amazing. Anyway, they took us to the end of the trail, Ai-Ais, where there are hot springs and showers and beer and food. We couldn’t have asked for anything more. Whew, I know that is a lot. There is still a lot of my holiday left, but I think that is enough for now. Just know I am safe and miss all of you even more than I did before. K, more later.

Lots of love,

~h