27 January, 2015

Deep Thoughts on 2015 from the Village.....

Long time my friends…

First of all, Happy Holidays! Hope you all had a good one
Second  - Happy New Year! Hope it finds you all well and safe and happy and healthy!

I had the opportunity to spend it in Zambia – in Livingstone – seeing Victoria Falls – one of the wonders of this world! And wow – it was amazing. I highly recommend making your way to Africa and seeing this wonder! And I’m definitely going back. I went with my good PCV friend, Crystal (check out her blog at     ), and met up with my sister and her boyfriend! So, finally, I got her over to Africa :) We had a wonderful time, and it was great to see them, and learn a little about Zambia, its culture and people.

I also celebrated a birthday while there! Well, it actually just passed, but since I was with family and on vacation, I just decided that would be my birthday celebration. I was humbled by the gift I received from my sister….well, actually, it’s from many people…
It’s a scrapbook, with pictures and letters from family and friends – and they all brought tears to my eyes – good tears, of course. And it came at the perfect moment for me – when, even though I had decided to stay a 3rd year, I needed some motivation, pick-me-up, words-of-advice, inspiration, whatever-you-want-to-call-it to continue on – with a positive attitude. And this book did it. So – to all those who were a part of this gift (and I am in the process of emailing each one of you, individually) THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!!

You know, everyone has new year’s resolutions, etc. They think of the new year as a new beginning. I guess I’ve always been lucky – I always think of the “new year” as beginning on my birthday. I mean, that is the beginning of a new year for me, correct? So, here are my NEW year’s thoughts…..

and I have many….new thoughts, ideas, etc rolling around in this brain…I will try to lay out for you all I’m thinking…

·      I’m excited to finish up a few projects here in the village.
·      I’m ready to get my BIG project (a basketball/volleyball/netball court) going – and hopefully get that done by the end of September, here in the village.
·      I’m ready to begin a new project for my third year, starting in June, in Windhoek! (Still sorting out the details)
·      I’m ready to go home for a month to see my family, friends, cat, and dog – yes, as of my birthday, he is still alive and barking!
·      I have TOOOO many books I need to finish reading while I’m here!
·      Crystal says I should watch more movies – and I have a TON on my computer….maybe I’ll get around to that during my third year….lol.
·      I’m already thinking about my trip around the world after my service, on the way to celebrate my sister’s birthday in Switzerland – and am hoping to include a little more of Africa, WWOOF, volunteering in Nepal, and maybe Southeast Asia. Or maybe I need to shorten my list…….
·      I’m worried about going back to a Westernized world.
·      I worry I won’t fit in with many “westerners”.
·      I worry that this experience has brought on a TON of passion….and I won’t have the patience for people who aren’t, at least, willing to step out of themselves and their self-absorbed, know-it-all ways to listen and learn a little about this world. (See, I’m already showing impatience!)
·      I have to go back to grad school.
·      I have to take the GREs (again!).
·      I have to find a decent graduate program – possibly online, but am looking into lots of fun options (secret for now!).
·      I will probably study Statistics, or Monitoring&Evaluation, or Analysis&Retrieval….or something of that sort.

·      I want a career in International Health/Development.

·      Until then….I need to remember that this blog is what us PCVs call “Third Goal”. It’s about teaching Americans (mainly, since the PC is part of the U.S. government – but really, all westerners) about my host country – the people, the culture, its history, etc. And so, I will continue my best at teaching you all about Namibia and this experience.             I AM THE EYES AND EARS FOR YOU, FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNABLE TO COME HERE AND EXPERIENCE IT FIRSTHAND.

Saying all of that, I do hope you are all learning something. Otherwise, what’s the point in me writing this, or you reading it? Though I do wonder – Did anyone actually take my Food Challenge? Because I never got a response/comment about it. Or did you read Dead Aid? Or Poor Economics?  I have had only 1 person email me, specifically, about these books.

So – now, I want to write about some of the reasons I needed motivation and a smack on the head, to get back to being positive, and continuing on in my service, and trying all I can to help…….

For a moment, close your eyes, and imagine you are living in another place. It could look exactly like the one you live in now. From the outside, many things look the same. Many things don’t. But, everything else – the food, the greeting, the handshake, how you bathe, how you cook, the social interaction, the work place, the expectations, the education, the language, the way of thinking – is all somewhat different. Everything. It’s not like just going from NYC down to the deep south in the States. In that case, it’s still America, and even though people have different views about things, I have realized, generally, no matter where you live, how you were brought up, your education, your family (or no family), etc – Americans all have some of the same values, thoughts, and ideas. Now, take those all away. Even if you’re imaging people dressed the same as you, standing on a road that looks just like yours in your town. Nothing else is the same.
I think the hardest challenge, and also most educational, has been learning how to live and work in a culture you are trying to understand, and getting the people to understand you, whey they don’t understand why you’re not like them. 

Confusing? Try living it. For 2 years.

I am sometimes in complete awe of these people, here in the village – their physical and emotional strength, their way of life, how they are happy happy people, and they don’t let things get to them, the way us westerners do.

And then sometimes I just want to scream out my frustrations at them - sorry I have to say this à“And you wonder why you are a developing country! Ugh”. There are certain aspects to the way they live, I can’t wrap my brain around, and I just can’t get myself to learn to do, or even want to do. I know you’re asking “What, exactly?” Well, to be honest – there are 3 big frustrations. (I want to preface this first, by saying that not all people here are this way – but it does seem to happen very often – and I hate making generalizations, but these are my real day-to-day frustrations)
1.     They don’t stand up for themselves, or for what’s right or wrong.
2.     They are scared of authority, and so are scared to approach it – even in a non-threatening way – to make things better.
3.     Their work ethic. It’s very important to show up for work. But production/results is something that is not engrained in many.

I don’t want to offend anyone who is reading this, and again, I stress, it is not ALL people here. But among many PCVs, this is a common frustration. I wonder if it’s this way in all developing countries? Maybe I need to go find out for myself….

I have also really struggled with projects. Every time I would have an idea, it would either be shot down by someone, or no one would help. And even if I openly asked “How I can help you? Are there any projects you are doing that I can help you with?”, they would say “No”.

So why the hell am I here??

There was always an excuse as to why something couldn’t get done, or why we had to postpone it. I’ve tried to be hard-headed, and still continue doing it, and nobody shows up, or nothing happens.

And when I feel that I’m constantly doing nothing, I get lazy. And when I get lazy I don’t do anything. There’s no middle ground for me. It’s all or nothing. And I hate it. I like to be busy. But I started finding myself becoming very lazy…..and this needed to change!

And my birthday book helped to change it!

So, there you have it – I have vented a bit. :)

The reality now, is that things are good. I’ve actually been very busy –
And I only have 1 term left….There are 3 terms in a year, and the first term ends on April 17, and then the learners have exams)

I’m doing another Grassroots Soccer program at the school, along with a Health Club.
My counterpart, Daniel, (who is awesomely motivated!) and I are also having another Grassroots Soccer program in the nearby village – a village in which our clinic serves. It takes about an hour and a half to walk there. And yep, no car. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can find a ride back to my village after the club is finished each day. But I’m planning on a big ol’ NO to that….We will be going there 1-2 days a week. Yep – trekking thru the bush to another school, to help these kids!! Can’t wait!!!!

Oh, except for this Namibian sun and heat….and the beach sand I have to walk thru. Man, you would think I would have gotten better at walking thru it by now! Maybe in the next 4 months I’ll become an expert :)

I’m also meeting with my brother and niece, every day after school – to help them with their English. Nafimane really wants to become an electrical engineer. He’s in grade 9. He MUST pass grade 10, in order to go to trade school for this. He failed grad 8 3 times (here, if you fail even 1 class, you fail the entire grade). So, this is our goal. Pass grade 9 this year! Then, we’ll attack grade 10. And really, their lack of English skills, is what’s holding them back…..so this is my goal…..

Not that I’m an expert in the English language…ask my mom….but I try...

Oh, and still want to start that chess club…

So – things are looking up – in every direction – especially this Namibian sky! At night!!!

Except for the lack of rain….

This is the rainy season. Well, it’s supposed to be the rainy season. And then, in March, they start cultivating. Except it’s the end of January, and, at least, my village has gotten very little rain. The maize and mahangu have not even sprouted out of the ground. This is not good. I just hope that the rainy season will be a little later…instead of none at all….Otherwise, there will be many, many hungry people…..

So, cross fingers and toes that the skies open up….sooooooooooon……

Oh, and one more thing on my list:
I’m helping a super motivated lady, in my village, get her business going even further. No, I’m not a business volunteer, but have gotten lots of info on how to teach basic finance, and am going to help her. I looked into getting her a Kiva loan. Well, apparently, these loans are actually from some microfinance institution, which she takes the loan out from (with approximately a 25% interest rate!) and then when you give to Kiva, you’re actually giving to that loan company, and she, in turn, pays them back. Is this wrong, or no?

And last, but not least…
I finally finished making a video that will be used to help raise money for a big Basketball/Netball/Volleyball Court that I’m trying to build here! I haven’t gone into much detail, or won’t be using this video quite yet – until the group of Americans have committed to coming to the village! As soon as this happens, I will let put out all of the info….

Well, I must be getting back to work…and studying for that GRE….

Here is one album from my vacation in Livingstone, Zambia. As soon as the rest are synced, I will post the album. Enjoy!

Peace & Love,


p.s. GRE word of the day:

VENERATE: (verb)
To respect deeply

p.p.s. Here is a great article about serving in the PC - and what we learn....

26 November, 2014

Poor Economics

Happy Happy Thanksgiving!! Onda pandula! (I am thankful!) 
I almost forgot it was Thanksgiving - but I'll be celebrating next week...with Owambo chicken instead of turkey...

Now, back to business....

I assume all of you have completed your homework,
and read "Dead Aid", written by Dambisa Moyo.
If not, click HERE to get it :)
(AND - if you know any country leaders or politicians, 
please pass this book along to them...)

Now, for your next assignment, 
read "Poor Economics"

Click below:

There are MANY books on this topic, and now you can consider me 
your guide to these Aid books...
It's a very interesting topic, and one that can open your eyes 
to developing countries, specifically Africa, 
and all you thought you knew...

Yours truly,

20 November, 2014

Holidays and Rain...

Hi all! I know it's been awhile....
After my amazing vacation with my parents, I headed back to the village. I had been gone for a month! I had a few meetings, including our HIV/AIDS Technical Group, here for PC in Nam. We are working on a few things, to help volunteers sort thru all of the information we're given, and find the best programs/activities to use - as well as ones which we can report to PEPFAR. See, every quarter, we have to send in a report to headquarters in Washington, on our activities at our sites. Well, some of this reporting also goes to PEPFAR - since they help fund the PC and our programs here in Namibia. They've recently changed some things, so our group is trying to put it all in laymen's terms for the volunteers, and make life and reporting a bit easier...We'll see if we will succeed....

I have also been talking with our new Country Director and APCD, and we are working on moving me to Windhoek to begin my third year of service early, helping in the PC office! Although we thought it might be December when I begin, it looks as though it may be closer to February...I hope, at least. School, here in the village and all of Namibia, is about to finish their academic year. For most PCVs, this means a lack of work...

So, I was hoping to get to Windhoek soon, to start working there, but until I do actually leave, I've already come up with some ideas for next school year:

  • Continue with Grassroots Soccer - at my school, as well as area villages' schools
  • Continue to try to get more interest in gardening and my NAWA program
  • Bring my counterpart, Daniel, on any other workshops/trainings - he loves learning and is always willing to keep trying and using the ideas we've been taught (even though he struggles with English, I believe it's getting better!)
  • And here's the newest....Start a Chess Club at school in January!! I bought a small chess board, and decided to teach my brother. Well, my older brother asked me to teach him, and as we were playing (from what I remember!) he told me that especially here in the villages, kids don't know how to play - and mostly because they think that only white people can play chess. Well, I'm about to change that thinking! I want both boys and girls to join the club, and we'll even make our own boards and pieces out of different color bottle caps, if we must. I'd like to also have a tournament halfway thru the year - and maybe give the winner his/her own chess board & pieces. 
And of course, I'm still working on my Court&Field Project...which will happen sometime next year. We are in the works of an American group coming here and also collaborating with a Namibian group at a college in Windhoek. Let's hear it for Namibians helping Namibians! But I will keep you updated as I get more info and plans become more concrete....(literally!).

But yes, I do look forward to moving up to the next level, and working at the PC office. I want to learn all I can about management, admin, and technical training. And who knows where this will lead..... :)

And so, until January and the start of the next school season, I have a few trips I'll be taking...
First, we are celebrating Thanksgiving the week AFTER because on November 28, Namibia is having its national elections for President, as well as Parliament. Volunteers are not allowed to leave site for about 5 days surrounding this time. They don't expect any problems - Namibia is a very safe, calm country. But just to make sure all volunteers are safe, we must stay in our villages during the time. So, the following week, we are going to try to find a turkey (though turkey is not a huge item in the supermarkets here) and attempt to make our own Thanksgiving feast, in Opuwo, with a few volunteers who stay there. After that, we are going camping at Epupa Falls! It's now the beginning of the rainy season, so we are hoping the levels are high enough to see some nice water falls...

And then the big trip: Around the New Year's Eve time, my friend Crystal and I are headed to Victoria Falls to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend! We'll be there for about a week and a half. Some things we're planning on is a 2 day/2 night camping safari in Botswana at Chobe National Park, a lion, cheetah and elephant walk, rafting on the Zambezi (!), a traditional Zambian dinner, checking out the local markets, volunteering at nearby schools/villages, seeing Victoria Falls, viewing the Lunar Rainbow over the falls, and possibly trying out the gorge swing and zipline! This will be my Christmas/Birthday trip to myself! I can't wait to see this part of Africa, and share the experience with my sister as well!

Well, that's about all for now...but all is good here....
Penny, the dog is not pregnant again. I had my hair braided for the first time (and will probably do it again! I really thought people in my village would laugh, but instead, they shook my hand and said "Thank you!"). I can open a can of tuna with a knife - therefore, it's official that I can survive anywhere! It's hott hott hott here, but it's also the beginning of the rainy season - which means cooler temperatures after the rain. My little nephew (2 years old) is learning how to speak some English - which is the cutest thing ever to hear.

Peace & Potatoes,

Here's picture of me with braids:

Speaking of Opuwo - 
here's a nice story about the Himbas - who live in the Opuwo area!
Click on the picture below:

And my mother finished making LOTS of videos of our trip! 
If you want to see all the fun you missed out on, click on the link below:

23 October, 2014

An Oryx Holiday A visit to Cape Town

 To repeat the last paragraph of the last blog.....

Cape Town Airport is very large and beautiful. One of the passengers told us it has been voted the best airport in Africa. After going through customs, and making sure we had the right date on our passports, we met Grant, our guide.

He drove us to The Paradiso and we had wine with 3 appetizers...salmon and peach salad, a veggie antipasto, and butternut ravioli. Then he drove us to our self catering apartment which had 2 bedrooms each with its own bath, and a kitchen with an eating area and a small area adjoining with a sofa, fireplace and tv. Then we went to sleep.
On the left on other side of the 8 foot high barbed wire fence was our apartment.

Wednesday morning was cool and windy. Grant came about an hour late because he was involved in a hit and run accident. Someone backed into his van while he was sitting in it with the door open. They stopped for a minute and then took off. He tried to catch him but traffic got in the way.
Nevertheless, we had a fine tour of the southernmost part of the greater Cape Town area. We drove along the coast. We stopped at Kalk Bay which was a lovely little artsy town; 

Simon's Town where we saw a statue of Just Nuisance who was a Great Dane that the Royal Navy had adopted during WWII. He drank beer, slept with officers and was given a full military funeral upon his death. (This should be a movie!) 
Touching his nose brings good luck.

an area called The Boulders- a penguin colony and we found many of them living in the bushes. 

We continued on to Table Mountain National Park which is nowhere near Table Mountain. All along this drive the scenery was spectacular! 

The highlight of our visit to the park was getting to Cape Point...which you may have never heard of...and The Cape of Good Hope which is the furtherest south western point of Africa. Cape Point was absolutely breathtaking to behold. They are only about a 1/2 mile from each other.
The Cape of Good Hope

Cape Point is just east of the Cape of Good Hope.

While unsuccessfully looking for zebra for Diane, we did spot Bontebok, an relative of the antelope, baboons, and two ostriches which walked alongside our car. 

We went up the western side of the peninsula and eventually back home, where there was a cloud covering Table Mountain which Grant referred to as a tablecloth. 

A couple of interesting observations along the way. We saw the US Embassy which was situated next to a large prison and Cape Town rush hour traffic was bumper to bumper. It reminded us of Los Angeles.

We walked to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant called The Fat Cactus. This was at the request of Miss Johanna because it's been over a year and a half since she had Mexican food. We had chips and salsa and guacamole dip. She had a large chicken burrito and 22 Marguaritas. John had a pork quesadilla and 2 Kraft beers. Diane had  a spinach quesadilla and a strawberry Marguarita.

Day 2 
Grant picked us up and we drove through the downtown area. There were brightly painted houses...buildings which were occupied by former slaves...from India and Pakistan. Now this is a big Muslim area. 

We saw a few McDonalds  and a Subway. 

Although Parliament is in Capetown, the capital is Pretoria.  We also went past the stadium that was built for the 2010 World Cup and is referred to locally as the Toilet Bowl and if you saw it from above you would understand. 

Unfortunately, it is only used for a few concerts every year. When it is used for soccer games, it is a loss because it is the poor people who follow soccer and they cannot afford to pay high ticket prices. Then we went to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Center which was down on the waterfront area...very pretty and modern. A lovely place to just watch the water and relax or eat or shop. 

Table Mountain was  closed today so we headed out to the wine yards as they call them. Grant took us to the area of Stellenbosch. In this area there over 200 vineyards. Ernie Els was the first one we went to and was absolutely beautiful. We ended up having lunch there overlooking the vineyards in the valley and the mountains in the background. At one point Johanna was artistically challenged to take a picture of the Ernie Els wine glass against the scenic background. She took at least 20 pictures to get it just right. We were proud of Johanna for her uniqueness. When it was all done, the wine steward said, "Oh yeah, everybody does that!"

This is the Ernie Els Vineyard.

 John bought a golf shirt and we took some pictures of Ernie's trophies. 

Then on to a second wine yard called Muratie. The very first  owner was Lauren's Campher who fell in love with a slave girl who lived in a fort in Cape Town which was a three day walk. When she was freed, he moved her in with him. When he died he left the vineyard to her. This was very out of the ordinary...having a slave own land. She sold it. In 1763 Marvin Melck bought it and then sold it. It didn't get back into the Melck family until 1987. In 1927 Georg Paul Canitz bought it. On a regular basis he told his wife he was going to the chapel to pray. She thought he was wonderful. In reality he was visiting his mistress. When he did she found many pictures of her under the floor boards. Many of the names of the present day wines come from the people involved in this tale. 

And the third one we visited was Warwick Wine. Very nice. Warwick picked the present logo based on a story of a silversmith in love with the nobleman's daughter. The nobleman would not give his blessing and locked him in the dungeon. The daughter would not eat so the nobleman agreed to let the two lovers marry if the man could make a cup that two people could drink from at the same time without spilling. Within a week the silver smith did just that and the two were married. When the owner died he left the vineyard to his wife who became the first woman vintner in South Africa. John and Diane drank from the replica of this cup which represents love, faithfulness and good luck.

We returned at 4:45, and sat around for an hour and then went down to Checkers, a local grocery store and John and Johanna bought themselves dinner including a Lindt chocolate bar. 

We really didn't do too much today but we had the chance to see how beautiful the Cape Town area is. (And we had 15 sample glasses of wine!) 

Day 3
Today was the perfect day! The sun was shining, there were no clouds in the sky, and the temperature was perfect. Grant took us up to Table Mountain and we were able to get right on the cable car. This car has a revolving floor for its 65 passengers and an announcer with a great sense of humor. 

At the top we took MANY pictures of the Cape Town area. 

After this we went back to the Victoria Wharf and had lunch. John had steak tartare, Diane had white asparagus risotto, and Johanna had hake and angel hair pasta. 

At 1:00 we boarded the Nauticut and went to Robben Island. It took an hour to get there, with a 2 hour tour and then back home. We did see Nelson Mandela's cell but all decided we needed to read up on this part of history a little more. Our second tour guide had been a prisoner from 1977-82.He had been a student protester in high school at the time.

Grant brought us home. He was a terrific guide and we saw practically everything we had on our lists. We highly recommend him!

We had a quick glass of wine to finish it all up and then went out to DaVinci's for dinner. Africa's pizzas have no mozzarella but feta cheese instead.

Day 4
John and Diane took a walk in City Garden. It is a lovely park with families and couples strolling down the brick walkway. Many were feeding the squirrels and pigeons. We also saw 4 high school musicians- three trombones and a trumpet, playing on the street. 

We gave them a tip. Then we walked back to our place, had the leftovers from previous nights, packed up and had our driver take us to the airport. Johanna had to go to a different gate so we said our good byes early. It was a wonderful vacation and we want to come back here again.

IF our trip still interests you, I am loading videos onto You Tube almost every day. If you search You Tube for "An Oryx Holiday" there are about 8 of them. And I am only half done!!

Thans for reading our blogs. We would encourage everyone to visit Africa someday.