Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Week 2

Here I am in week 2 of teaching and almost one month of being in Namibia. To be honest, it is difficult for me to remember not being here. Even being in Windhoek seems like ages ago. As I took my usual evening walk today, through the oshanas and herds of goats and donkeys, I couldn’t help but laugh at how crazy and awesome it is that I am here. I know that sounds cheesy, like I am trying to have a forced “Africa” moment, but it was truly genuine. I’ve always loved solitude but I don’t think I ever really knew solitude until I came here. There’s something incredibly freeing about walking around your neighborhood and greeting everyone you see (since it is only about 4 people) and strolling at the same pace as the giant bulls and donkeys. I’m not going to say it has been all butterflies and roses, but something about the positive moments here outweighs the negatives by like a million. The brilliant sunset can often wash away the frustrations of an unorganized school day.

Ok, here are some more updates on the past week. Teaching has been going well. I must say, it has been hard to let go of some of my Type A, anal, teacher tendencies, but I think overall it is good for me. Having teaching experience has been my savior here, but it also makes you think about all the resources you used to have at your disposal and how they are absolutely not present here. I understand that resources do not equal a perfect education, but they sure do make it a little easier. I think I mentioned this before, but my teaching periods are only 40 minutes. With the rate that I have to speak and the variability in the schedule, it is hard to get much accomplished. I have had to adapt and be more flexible in my planning, while also upholding my basic teaching values (being prepared, being fun, etc). I am sure at the end of this, I will be a much different, and hopefully better, teacher.

I am teaching everyone in the school computers. This is not really my idea of a good time. I am also teaching math (which I LOVE) and wish I had more of those classes! Since I do not (and I am attempting to take the word “wish” out of my vocabulary), I have decided to put my energy into making my computer class fun for both me and the learners. I knew I wanted to teach some of the older students through projects instead of just basic keyboarding/vocabulary skills/etc. I knew that I would not enjoy teaching that and that my distaste for the class would shine through in my teaching. In order to prevent that, I decided to start the year off with a music project I am calling Heart Songs. Most of the kids are really into music (as you all know I am), so I am having them do varying levels of projects on the computer based on their favorite song; a song that touches their soul. Some will be using pictures to create a slideshow to the song, others will be creating a document with their favorite lyrics, and others will be creating pictures that represent the feelings they have when they hear the song. The kids are already pretty into it and so am I. I am just realizing that projects like this take so much more time than they would at home. The cool thing is, projects like these encompass so many skills and allow the kids to practice them in an interesting way. Overall, I am feeling much better about my ICT class and where it is headed.

As I said before, teaching math is awesome. It is definitely my favorite subject to teach. I am teaching grade 7 and they really are awesome. Whenever I call on one of them to answer a question, they stand up to address me and the entire class. It is really adorable. They also stand when I walk into the class and say “Good Morning Miss, how are you?” I never got that kind of treatment in the states J I feel really good about the prep work I did for that class. I put some routines and incentives into place right away and the kids are already really into them. It is definitely my favorite class of the day!

Other than that, kids are still coming to the library door and staring or saying hello and then just standing there. I am trying to be more ok with this, but it is definitely going to take some getting used to. I am sad to report that I have not seen the chicken since Sunday…not quite sure what happened there. I was hoping to have a nice braii on Saturday with some traditional Ovambo chicken that I slaughtered myself. Maybe he is just up a tree…he does enjoy a good tree climb. I will keep you posted.

One last thing…some people have been asking me what kind of supplies they could send over here. Really, anything would help. The one thing I will ask is if anyone has an old digital camera with the computer cable that they are willing to give up. I am hoping to use pictures a lot in my computer class, but it is extremely difficult with only my camera and 300 learners. If you think you have an old one to spare, contact me and we can see about getting it to my mom or sister to send to me!

Thanks again for all the messages, you guys are the bomb.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

back to school, back to school

Hi loved ones! First of all, I want to thank everyone who sent me messages/calls after my last post. The last few days have been nuts and definitely the hardest of my life. All of the kind words and check-ins have made it much more bearable. Ok, let me fill you in on the past few days:

I didn’t really go into detail about my place, so here it goes: I have a lovely room with a huge desk, a twin bed, and a nice closet. Thanks to Rachel (the past volunteer), it already felt pretty homey when I got here. I have a beautiful, blue mosquito net that kind of makes me feel like I am in a princess bed. I think I mentioned this before, but there are two cats here. They are very cute, but very hungry and I hardly have food for myself, let alone two cats. Oh yeah, and there’s a chicken. Did I tell you about the chicken? I thought he had wandered into our backyard (and our kitchen) and thought it was nice so he stayed. Little did I know, Rachel apparently left him for me (thanks Rachel) as a gift. The stipulation is that I have to slaughter him myself; no consultation from my roommates. I understand that I eat meat and I know where it comes from, but the idea of me chasing around this chicken is just too much. I have already chased him out of our kitchen several times, and let me tell you, that guy is quick. If I could have some assistance, I would be more than happy to have some real free range chicken. I have three roommates who are all very nice and work at the school as well. The school is just across the sand road from my house.

There has been lots and lots of rain the north. It is normal to find lots of flooding this time of year. My area is not necessarily flooded, but there are many oshanas (areas that fill up during the rainy season) around. Given that the road is sand, it is quite a messy walk to work. The school consists of several buildings all positioned inside a fence. The buildings are extremely run down. Most windows are broken, there are cracks in the concrete, broken doors, etc. Many desks are falling apart and chairs are in pieces. I would love to be able to use some fundraising money to get some new tables and chairs. One area that is not really that run down is the area that I am in: the library. Rachel did an AMAZING job setting up a school library/ computer lab. My desk is there and that is where I will teach all of my ICT (technology) classes. There are lots of different books (if anyone would like to send more, please do!) and some great resources for learners and teachers. I have been doing my planning in the library with some windows open. Learners will literally peek their heads in, stare at me, then run off laughing. Several have knocked and come in to introduce themselves. They have been extremely polite, but many don’t really say much past hello. I work my butt off trying to make conversation, but I think they just sort of want to check me out and just be around me. Speaking of being around me, I made a baby cry at my first staff meeting. My coworker has an adorable daughter who seemed very interested in me at first, then burst into tears when her mother tried to introduce me. I must have looked like an alien. A super white, curly haired alien. I had never made someone cry just by looking at them…let’s hope this was the first and last time.

So school is pretty unorganized this during the first week (like most schools) so I am looking forward to getting into more of a routine and schedule. I have so many ideas and am excited to put them into action. I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed with the amount of classes I have, but I know I just need to get started and get into the groove.

I haven’t had too much time to explore Ogongo since I have been busily preparing for classes and then extremely exhausted at night. I did, however, get to go to the nearest big town, Oshakati, yesterday. I went with a coworker to file some paperwork I needed in order to start working. The main way to get around here is hiking (hitch hiking) or taxis. We eventually caught a ride (once we were dropped off at the tar road) and made our way to Oshakati. Surprisingly, I ran into 3 other volunteers from WorldTeach at the office I was going to. It was really really nice to see them. Once our business was done, we went to the huge lot of taxis waiting to take people. This experience was overwhelming…the taxi drivers literally fight over you, wishing to fill their cars so they can take off. It is not like in the states…the taxis must fill (or overfill in some cases) before they will take off. After we selected a taxi, we waited a good 45 minutes to fill up and get back on the road. All in all, I was happy I wasn’t alone for my first Oshakati experience. I think I am going to meet up with some friends this weekend, so I will give it a shot on my own.

Ok, I must make some dinner and get myself to bed. Please keep the emails/messages coming and I promise I will get on the responses tomorrow!

Love you all,


Monday, January 17, 2011


please send me things! i have an address!! if you are going to mail actual things (not letters), there are flat rate boxes that will be the least expensive way to get things to me. Know that it will take some time, so let me know if you plan on sending something! K, here it is:

Hannah Wilkinson
c/o Ogongo Combined School
P.O. Box 3056
Oshakati, Namibia


and so it begins

I made it. I am sitting on my new bed, in my new house, with my new roommates, in my new city, Ogongo. So much “new”. New can be really exciting, but equally, if not more, overwhelming. I just finished my first day of school and am trying to take deep breaths to help me take in one thing at a time. I know I am supposed to be here, I am just having trouble stifling all of my fears and anxieties. I also know that this will pass with time, but time is too big a concept for me to accept right now. In order to alleviate some of the craziness going through my head, let me tell you about the past few days.

We left Windhoek on Sunday morning around 8:00. We were split by region so I was in a kombi (bus) with just two other girls going to the Omusati region. Throughout orientation, I was thinking that leaving the volunteer bubble would be no sweat. Wrong. Saying goodbye and leaving the comfort of like-minded people was way harder than I anticipated. Obviously we are all here to go outside of our comfort zones, but that is much easier said than done. After a long goodbye, we all parted ways and started the many hour journey north. Here is where it gets interesting.

The driver of our kombi was really nice and was driving very safely (almost too safe), but just fine after our previous kombi experiences. I was starting to perk up a bit and got even more excited when the driver turned music on. Just then, I got word that in another kombi headed north, the driver had gotten a speeding ticket for going 160 kph. I was terrified when our last driver was going 145 kph. You have to understand that the roads are very narrow and people are passing left and right. To be going 160 kph is just plain scary. I was very happy in our slow moving kombi, listening to pleasant music (I have to interject here that a cat just jumped through my window onto my bed with me. Yes, this too is new.) Next, our driver put in a CD since the radio was on commercial. The first song was Michael Jackson’s “Got to be Starting Something”. I really love that song and so do the other girls in the kombi. We showed our enthusiasm and starting singing along. I’m not sure if it was our enthusiasm, or if our driver just really loves the song too, but he put that song on repeat. Not just once. NINE times. NINE. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. That is a lot of “mama say mama sah”. Needless to say, we were dying with laughter and had to put our respective iPods in. Five times was my limit. After the 9th time, I get another text from another vehicle headed north that says their driver has pulled over to “take a nap”. This is the same driver who got the speeding ticket. Apparently it was siesta time, so he just pulled himself over to rest. Again, my slow moving, music repeating kombi was sounding just fine.

That was until we reached Tsumeb. In Tsumeb, we were gassing up and buying some snacks at the petrol station. When we get back to the vehicle, we find our driver is missing. We don’t see him for about 25 minutes. He literally went across the street to the grocery store and came back with four bags of groceries. He then proceeds to go through the bags and meticulously chose which items he wants with him in the front seat. This takes another good 10 minutes. Meanwhile, we are sweating like crazy in the back of the kombi. This experience is definitely a test of patience. Luckily, things like this make me chuckle, especially when I am with other people. What didn’t make me chuckle was getting moving in Tsumeb, only to stop again and pick up some friend of the driver. There is definitely a language barrier, so we weren’t sure what we were waiting for (for 15 minutes). Luckily she was cool, but we were sort of in the mood to get going. We found out that, even with a nap, we were two hours behind the other kombi heading north! I guess going 160 kph will get you a cushy lead.

Soon after, we crossed the Red Line. It separates the cattle in the north and south. The cattle in the north are completely free range and wandering just about everywhere (except south of the red line). Once you cross it, the terrain and the vibe really changes. It was hotter. There were more people walking around. There were more shabeens (bars). Things were more spread out.

After going a while in the north, our vehicle stops again. Apparently we were picking up another person. The three of us are hoping to get to our sites before dark so we have some kind of idea of where we are, so this time, it was less funny. Once we get the guy, we are really on our way…after we drop off the groceries our driver bought at his house in Oshakati. And after we stop at another gas station.

Long story short, it was quite the process to get to the north. An 11 hour process to be exact. They dropped us off one by one in what was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. You just drop off someone you have become really close with in the middle of nowhere. People say “middle of nowhere” all the time. I really mean it.

I was welcomed in my home by my principal and roommates. I was really hot, tired, and felt crazy. I was showed my room (which is really awesome) and a tour of the house. We have a large sitting room with nothing really in it, a kitchen, three bedrooms, and a bathroom with a separate shower. There are two cats hanging around (as I mentioned before), a chicken in the backyard, and donkeys hanging out between my house and school. I have definitely had several “what am I doing” moments. The worst part was trying to get organized in a new place and get ready to go to school in the morning. Too many things to think about. I want to write about the first day, but I must do it another time…this will already take forever to load!

Ok, hope to talk to you guys soon.

Love you much,


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hakuna Matata

Here I am, back in Windhoek, after a wonderful week in Tsumeb. I am back on my top bunk, sweating a bit from the heat of the day. My chaco tan is back with a vengeance and my summer freckles are almost in full swing. I hear the Midwest has had some snow, eh? J

Anyway, I am not only writing to make you guys jealous of my sun and fun. I also want to update you on my incredible safari this past Sunday. I don’t even know where to begin…pictures take lots of internet credit to upload, so I need to stay up really late one night when the internet is free and upload some more shots. In lieu of many pictures, I will give you some highlights of what we saw. Get this visual: 12 volunteers from the US and Canada, entering Etosha National Park, the one Namibian in the car puts on the opening song of The Lion King. Ok highlights…go:

*A buttload of giraffes and zebras. I mean these guys were EVERYWHERE

*Warthogs!! (and many Warthog Crossing signs)

*Kudu (big ungulates with curvy horns)

*Springbok: Ok, this deserves an explanation. So there are lots of springbok in Etosha. For those of you who don’t know, springbok are sort of like antelope, but cooler. We came up to a larger group of them and slowed down to take a closer look. Upon inspection, we noticed that a lone female seemed to have something coming out of her backside. Upon even further inspection, we realized it was a freaking baby springbok. She was giving birth. Right there and then. As if by some strange magic, the song Circle of Life happened to come on just at the same time. It was quite a moment. A moment that was directly replaced with a dropping stomach feeling when our trusty driver, Camberona, (more stories about him later) told us he thought the baby was dead. We had to admit, the baby (before being completely born) looked grayish and wasn’t really moving…Camberona, having the “been here, done this” mentality, swiftly drove us on to the next sight. Needless to say, we were all a bit stunned in the van at what had just occurred. We managed to move on and enjoy some more wildlife. In order to get back to the exit, we had to go past where the springbok was in labor. As we went past, we saw the baby sprinbok, fully birthed now, with its mama licking it! It was alive! It was a miracle! We promptly put the circle of life back on and stayed to watch it attempt its first steps in life. Pretty cool moment.

*A male lion. YES. A MALE LION. We were freaking. It was just chill walking around in the savannah, its beautiful mane flowing in the wind. Beautiful.

*A male elephant. YES!!! We saw piles and piles of dung and places where the bush was so trampled that we thought we might drive right into an entire elephant family. We never did find that family, but we did manage to see a beautiful, majestic male elephant, all alone in the middle of a field. It was probably the highlight of my day. It was just incredible.

So, those are some of the highlights of the trip. Obviously, the entire experience was just awesome. We ended the day with a big braii. I could definitely get used to this.

We came back to Windhoek yesterday with our trusty driver, Camberona. Let me just tell you, if you think you have seen bad driving, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve been here. This guy is a hoot, along with most other Namibian drivers. Just to give you a taste…we passed an ambulance on the way back to Windhoek. Yes, we were on the highway and we passed an AMBULANCE with flashing lights. I felt like I was on Cops in a high speed chase. It was quite the adventure.

Ok, more later. Thinking of you all!

Wa tokelwa po nawa (Have a good night!)


p.s. i'm obviously not engaged, but that was an awesome engagement spot!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tree of Life

So let me tell you about my bathroom. There has been this long, winding trail of a dirt like substance on the wall for some time now. One of my roommates, Tanya, asked me if I had noticed that it had grown. After taking a second look, I realized that yes, it had grown quite a bit since Monday. Upon further inspection, we noticed that this lovely trail of dirt was made by termites. We proceeded to make a mark on the wall at the top of this trail before teaching yesterday. When we came home, the trail was well past the line. They were very busy. Obviously, this has become quite an attraction with the rest of our group. Everyone knows that any good attraction must have a name. Because of the pattern of the trail and the many branch like side trips the bugs took, I decided to call it the Tree Of Life. The Tree of Life has had many visitors.

Anyway, today during one of our sessions, we were talking about teaching writing. As a partner activity, we had to write down a noun that describes something we have experienced in Namibia. Once we wrote it down, we switched with other partners and were told a writing assignment we were to complete about the noun. Well as fate had it, my partner Bret and I received the noun “Tree of Life”. As a writing activity, we were asked to write an acrostic poem. I would like to share it with you here:


Reaching the ceiling

Everday growing


Out of control

Freaking me out

Living art



Eating and regurgitating

Needless to say, we were cracking up as we read this to the class. Oh Africa and your wall bugs.

Other than that, I have just been enjoying teaching and hanging out with the other volunteers. We take turns cooking and the other night my group and I cooked out some burgers. It was our first time using a wood grill, but we succeeded. The kids have been great and being in the classroom just reminds me why I am really here.

One of our students came around our hostel this evening and a couple people and I played frisbee, soccer, and four square with him. I forgot how fun four square is.

Sunday is safari day. I will write more after that!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Hey guys. Today was a crazy day that is kind of hard to explain. We had some teaching time and some surreal time walking through a real life shanty town. I don’t really know how to explain it or how to express anything about it eloquently, so I thought I would share an excerpt from a free write that we were asked to complete post outing.

Poverty. Today I saw poverty. Teaching with 3 kids and trying to ensure each one succeeds. Little kids, big kids, tin roofs, cardboard walls, rocks to hold the roof. We complain of mosquitoes and moths while they smile and say Happy New Year! I don’t want to feel BAD for them. Sympathy. Us vs. Them. Black vs. White. Everyone says hello! Lucas comes to school in a clean shirt and jeans after waking up there. I was in a movie. Felt not really there. I could smell it, touch it, say hello to it, but was I really there? Why am I there? I don’t belong there. Do I walk into their yards and expect them to speak in English? Would that ever happen to me? I believe in education, but struggle with the American “I know best” complex. I want to be here. I KNOW that. I want to teach these kids and have them teach me in return. My soul is here. My body just doesn’t always know what to do. Awkward. Feeling guilty for being who I am and coming from where I do. We can’t help it, but we also can’t help those feelings. Save the world. What are we saving? Have we asked if they want saving?

Not sure what else to say about that…it is something that I will continue to process throughout my journey here.

On a lighter note, a truly Namibian thing happened to us today. We were all riding in our little mini bus to get to the shanty town I mentioned. Our field directors were in a rental car behind us since they weren’t sure of the directions and needed to follow the bus. At one point, a fellow volunteer received a phone call from our field director saying that she lost the bus and asked us to ask the driver to turn around and meet her back at the school. We promptly told the driver who said “ok” and continued on his merry way. We all said, “ we really need to go back NOW. Jocie is lost!” He continued to say “ok” and keep driving. At some point he realized that we were kind of freaking out and said “Oh!! You mean Now Now Now?” Silly us. We forgot that in Namlish (Namibian English), now means sometime in the future (or maybe never), where as Now Now means soon, and Now Now Now really means… well, now. Once we said “turn around now now now!” he whipped us back to the school.

Ok, enough for now. More teaching tomorrow. Love and miss you all!


Sunday, January 2, 2011


i have a phone now! if you have skype, google voice, or a phone card of some sort, totally call me! incoming calls are free, so i would LOVE to hear from you! here's how to reach me:

011 264 81 679 8446

hope to hear from some of you soon!


happy new year!

Hello 2011! I have to admit, I wrote a pretty awesome blog on NYE, but unfortunately it would not upload…I am hoping this one will work! The gist of the post was delicious meat, beautiful weather, more delicious meat, dance parties, and, did I mention, delicious meat? How did you people let me be vegetarian for so long? Obviously you can see that the braii (barbeque) was fantastic. The meat was so fresh and seasoned to perfection. I could write an entire blog about it, but I won’t J

Today was another beautiful day…probably our hottest yet. We had the morning free, so a few of us decided to take a walk into town to get a few more items we needed. Windhoek is a cool place, but (I think I mentioned this before) not always the safest for travelers out alone. If you take the necessary precautions, you are fine…you just don’t want to set yourself up for anything. Because of that, we decided not to take any purses/bags or anything else that might draw attention to ourselves. We did, however, need to be able to bring a few choice items: money, phones, etc. Via our field directors’ advice, we (the women in the group at least) decided to pull the old “money in the cleavage” routine. Cell phone in the cleavage doesn’t work as well…depending on the cleavage that is. Anyway, our trip was extremely successful and we got to see some places we hadn’t seen yet. I tell you all of this because of what just happened to me about 15 minutes ago. It had been a kind of sweaty day, so I decided to take a shower before getting ready for bed. As I got myself into the room with the shower, put my soaps on the ledge, got my towel situated, I start to take off my clothes. As soon as I pop my bra off, what do I find? A ten Namibian dollar note! The note went somehow unnoticed for 8 hours! It was like Christmas all over again. I think I am gonna like this money in the cleavage business.

Tomorrow we are leaving out hostel in Windhoek to venture north to Tsumeb. There we will be staying at a hostel (with a pool) and running some summer sessions at the local school. We are partner teaching with another volunteer, running two hour sessions Tuesday through Friday. I will be teaching around grade 8 math with a really wonderful Canadian volunteer, Tanya. It has been really fun and exciting to plan lessons again…I really had missed it. When the weekend comes, we will all head to Etosha National Park for a little mini safari. I’ve got my binoculars and my sun hat all ready to go. I will definitely take pictures and try to post them soon!

So as you can see, it’s a big week coming up! I am really really enjoying all of your emails, calls!!, and messages. Keep em coming!

Write more soon,