21 December, 2013

Happy Holidays!!

I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday, 
Merry Christmas and Happy Happy New Year!!

I'm about to spend my Christmas and New Year's volunteering with animals at 
N/a'an ku se (click the name for the website) for the next 2 weeks!!
I can't wait to share the pictures and tell the stories...

I hope everyone has safe travels and enjoy your time with friends and family.
Oh, and make your New Year's Resolution to come visit me in the village..... :)

Love and miss you all!
~ Ndapadula

And look who I saw in the Wernhill Mall in Windhoek....
Actually, after chatting with Santa, here, very quickly, I came to find out he used to be a language trainer for the PC many years ago. Small world!

p.s. Look for a blog post very soon - all about Owambo (northern Namibian) traditional food....with video included :)

06 December, 2013

I found my groove...

So the last few months, as I had said previously, have been up and down. But I guess that is normal, here in the Peace Corps. Well, apparently, it happens a LOT. But hopefully the up times begin to out-weigh the down times.

I'll start with the funk, down time I was having....
I had been waiting months for a meeting with my clinic committee. The meeting was supposed to be about the details of the garden they wanted me to start. I had to meet with them, discuss the details and such, in order to begin the process of writing the grant. This didn't seem to be happening any time soon - between my supervisor being extremely busy (being the only Registered Nurse in the clinic, and one other nurse to help), and the committee members either being busy with school, work, or other meetings, and well, things just were moving slow....

I hurt my foot. It wasn't a major injury. I really have no idea how it happened. Maybe from jumping around and exercising in my hut, on the hard cement floor? Well, however it happened, I just started limping one day. The pain was smack dab in the middle of my foot. Now, I have a background in sports medicine. But honestly, I really didn't know what it was. After about 2 weeks of this stiffness, pain and limping through the beachy sand (in the middle of the day in the African heat), I decided to contact my PC doc. I went to the nearby town, to use the a Namibian doctor who is contracted out with the PC. She didn't think it was anything big. I was wanting to rule out a stress fracture. I've heard that in the PC, strange medical problems happen. And this wasn't anything big - just odd. I had never hurt my foot before. Maybe it was from constantly walking thru the beach sand. Who knows. Anyway, the xray looked fine. So I went on anti-inflammatories and tried to rest it. But there were days when I'd come home from work early, just to put my foot up, and not have to walk in the sand. Slowly, the foot has healed. It must have been just a strange strain. But the frustration of this, did not help the funk...

The heat. I lose appetite in this heat. My only privacy, I felt, was in my hut, after work. But there is now air flow in the hut. So, I can just sit there or lie on my bed, and sweat. I would bathe, which felt amazing, but then would immediately start sweating again. Walking home in the afternoon from work was the worst. Here in Namibia, at least in my village, everyone seems to take a "siesta" from about 2-5. People just relax under a tree, take a nap, etc. I never totally appreciated the shade, as I do here in Namibia. But that walk home - wow. Sometimes, there's no wind at all. And hardly any shade. I have become used to this, but at the time, it wasn't helping my state of mind.....

School was getting close to ending their academic year. It'll begin back up in early January. But exams were going to start in a month, and it seemed when I would go to the school for my AIDS Awareness Club, either no one would show up, or the teacher would leave the school at the end of the day. I had a talk with my supervisor about this, and beginning in January, I'll plan on going - with or without the teacher. He's a wonderful teacher, and has helped me a lot. It's just that sometimes, other things became the priority....

So, due to the lack of work, I went through the thoughts of "What am I doing here?" "Why am I needed?" "Am I just putting off my life - as in marriage, family, etc, or the next step in my career - even more by joining the PC for 2 years?" I'm sure these are typical questions a volunteer asks him/herself. But this was all happening at the same time...

But never once did I even consider the thought of leaving.....

I was just looking forward to getting my motivation back during our second  ReConnect workshop - Permagarden! I know I've talked about this alot, and will have to write up a completely different blog post to explain the workshop, but it was wonderful! I got in there, asked questions, dug in the dirt, got dirty, and loved every minute of it! And I brought my counterpart, Daniel, along as well. I was hoping he would learn something as well, and then the 2 of us could go back to the village and begin using this great technique to help the community members start their own garden!

Thanks to Peter Jensen, who is our Permagarden guru, I got my groove back. I found my motivation to keep going. I found work I could do! See, as a health volunteer, many times we have to be self-starters and creative, and find our own work. We don't have a set schedule. This can be good. And this can be bad. 

Also, as soon as I got back from the workshop, my friend Adam, a business volunteer nearby, talked to me about wanting to do something to help the pregnant women outside the local hospital. We call this area outside this hospital, "Tent City." Most of the people staying here are pregnant women, waiting till it's time to give birth. Many walk long distances to get here, and so, I believe, they come here - just to be here when their babies' times come. Many can't afford to stay in the hospital. Many are coming from Angola. I'm still learning a lot about this. So, we came up with the idea of having a meeting with the Regional Director, to discuss what we might be able to do....

Tent City
Also, on top of these things, I've been doing a lot of work with the HIV Committee, here at Peace Corps Namibia. We are re-organizing things, and hopefully adding many other exciting events, projects, etc. But more on that later, when we get further along...

So, as you can see, I found my groove! I have lots of irons in the fire, and am hoping to get lots accomplished. I have been visiting other PCVs this week, in Kavango, after 2 wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations with my fellow PCVs. I've had meetings this week, as well, up in Kavango - to hopefully have the HIV Committee collaborate with some of their projects up here. I have 2 weeks back in the village, and then I'm away for 3 weeks - 2 to volunteer with the animals, and then committee meetings in Windhoek. So, I'll be busy, busy, busy! And I've realized that I love being busy. When I'm not, I don't do anything....lol. But I guess that's the same for many people!

Well, here are a few pics from my trip to Kavango....

Beautiful, green Kavango! 

some of the education PCVs in the area were painting the local school

Walking 7k from Amy's village, to get to the tar road, so I can get a ride to Divundu! It was really hot this day....plus, I was carrying my big hiking pack...definitely some good exercise....

my PCV friend, Emily, lives in this village

America, Amy's family's puppy

Amy's hut - made of sticks and clay - a little different from mine in Owamboland

panoramic view of Amy's hut and private area the family made for her

At the Nunda River Lodge - my office for the day!

the closest I could get to the hippos!

And below, if you click on the picture, you can see my facebook album with a few pictures from my clinic. You should be able to see these pictures, even if you don't have a facebook profile...

And in honor of the great Nelson Mandela....
May he rest in peace...

27 November, 2013

Clouds rollin' in...

Here is a panoramic view right outside the fence of my homestead...looking EAST. The sun is setting in the west, the clouds are rolling in, and there is some rain in the distance...where you see rainbows...

An amazing site, on a quiet evening before the storm....

And I'm so grateful to be here!

18 November, 2013

0-140km/h in 2 months.....

Wow - I just realized how long it's been since I've updated this blog. Sorry 'bout that! 

To be honest, it's been up and down a bunch....but luckily, we are on the up-swing right about now! I have alot to say, and am finally getting all of my thoughts together - AND pictures. Because of this slow internet, that is what takes the longest....

So, bear with me - I'm just getting everything organized and put together...and then I'll post! But I wanted you to know that all is well, here in Namibia :) And I have gone from not much work, to a TON of irons in the fire! So, I plan on staying pretty busy, and hopefully will have lots of amazing things happening, in the next 6 months....

A few of the irons include: Permagardens all around the village, AIDS Awareness concert, the building of a maternity ward, and health clubs all around Namibia, Girls' Club at the school, AIDS/Health club at the school, Grassroots Soccer. Oh, as well as applying for a few different international HIV/AIDS conferences - 1 in Spain (!) and 1 in Melbourne, Australia. And these will, hopefully, just be the beginning.....

On a side note, I'm excited about my Christmas and New Year's this year! We get 2 weeks off during that period, and I am going to be volunteering at N/a'an ku se Foundation - wildlife conservation organization and Neuras - where there is a lot of research on these wild animals, including tracking and helping them return to the wild. Neuras also is 1 of  3 wineries in Namibia - which is exactly where I will be to kick off the New Year! Not to shabby, I'd say.....

Anyway, know that I am in the process of writing and updating everything, and will post as soon as I can....

Miss you all

In peace & love,

21 October, 2013

Peace, Hope, Laugh, Love

How to make it through a workday, as a Peace Corps Volunteer -


  1. Try to maintain PEACE with your co-workers. Or at least have your hand ready to shield your face when they start throwing things at you.

  2. When your boss tells you to do something you don't want to do, HOPE he/she does not see this face that you make at him/her.

  3. When everyone is being so serious, and then tension in the workplace gets to be an all-time high, some something silly to make them LAUGH!

  4. LOVE your green sparkly nail polish, even if it's a cheap kind from a china shop, and starts to chip off 3 days later....

24 September, 2013

A fish and a tortoise

I had been accepted to join 2 PC committees - the HIV/AIDS and VSN (Volunteer Support Network) Committees – and had been in Windhoek for almost a week. We stayed in a backpackers' hostel (which I really enjoyed), had meetings everyday, fast internet access (I was able to video skype my mom – which was so nice, because it had been a while), malls to browse through, football (soccer) and world news to watch on the telly, taxis at our disposal – if we so chose to not walk the pavement, things to purchase (I bought a guitar!!), nice restaurants and wine to enjoy and hot showers to take. I felt like a westerner again. Well, I guess I never STOPPED feeling like a westerner. I guess I've adjusted to village life so much, that I would even find myself straying into any patches of sand on the ground, while walking around town. Or completely comfortable with eating with my hands – with no napkin. And frustrated with the fact that I couldn't see the stars in the sky at night, while in the city. Yeah, I guess you'd say I had slowly integrated into the village life.

But living a “western” lifestyle for a short time had it's perks. Shaving my legs was much easier in the shower than while taking a bucket bath. My mom and I were able to SEE each other – AND I got to see my little Murray (my cat) as well, and catch up. Life moved quicker – I could get from point A to point B in no time! I found a guitar NOT at a china shop. I was able to update the software on my computer and post videos for my last 2 blog posts. I even ate sushi! And a glass of wine is good for the soul, at least this soul :)

But now it was time to head back to my family. Who I really missed! And work. And the puppies – Tet and Cleo!

Usually, when I leave the village to head south to Windhoek, I can get there in a day (depending on how long I have to wait for transportation). But generally, on my way back up north, it takes me 2 days to get into my village – at least, if I want to get there before sundown – which is always the case. So, on Wednesday, Sam and I headed back up north. We finally got to Ondangwa, which is where the regional PC office is – internet, mailboxes, etc. It was getting late, and I didn't want to risk standing on the side of the road into my village in the dark, so I stayed overnight. The next day, I went to the taxi “hub” in Ondangwa, where I'm guaranteed a ride, at least to my next stop (after Ondangwa, I have 2 more stops before getting into the village). As I sat in the taxi, and waited for it to fill up (the drivers tend to want their cars full before driving away – so sometimes, you can wait a while), I suddenly felt sad. It's back to my hut, and bucket baths, and dirt, and no-matter-how-much-you-scrub-your-feet-they-seem-to-always-be-dirty(sandy), and traditional food, and my own small meals I cook that always end up going bad after a day and so I've wasted the little money I have. But I am also going back to my wonderful family, and the Namibian sky. And honestly, I like my hut and home and work. I just make sure I have a few things that remind me of being a westerner – Starbucks coffee (with a French Press) and the puppies.

Namibians don't consider their dogs to be part of the family. They are there to help guard the house. Although, my family has named our dogs and we feed them pretty well. But still, they don't pet the dogs or play with them. I tried playing fetch one time with Snoop, and he didn't quite get the concept. Anyway, we have Snoop and Penny. And Penny had puppies. I'm not sure I ever put the pictures up on this blog, but at the bottom, is a slide show of them. There were 7 total, born on June 7. We gave all but 2 away – Tet and Cleo. Tet's name comes from “tete”, which means “first” in Oshikwanyama. Tet was the first-born – right outside my hut. And I made the thing cry for over a half hour, before saving her, so I kind of felt responsible for her. So my family kept her :)

See, while Penny had been pregnant, she started sleeping at night close to my hut. My family said that when it was time to give birth, she'd probably do it there. I guess she felt safe near me. Anyway, this one night, I had trouble falling asleep. I had gotten used to hearing the donkeys and goats and roosters and cattle. But around 11:30 that night, I kept hearing this crying sound that wouldn't stop. It sounded like it was coming from the field behind my hut. I thought “oh my gosh, will it ever shut up??” I was trying to sleep! I finally got up, and looked out of one of my windows. Ok, now the sound seemed to be coming from the other field across the way, at least I thought. I laid back down. It would not stop crying. I considered going outside to check on this animal. But then, I thought “Johanna. What are you going to do if you find a goat or donkey with some problem?? You have no clue how to handle these animals! You're from NY – NOT the village.” Eventually, the crying went away. I tried to fall asleep. Then it started back up. I couldn't take it. And then I remembered – Penny is pregnant. Now, I've never been around a pregnant dog, have no clue how long the pregnancy lasts, and definitely had never seen puppies being born. So, around midnight, I got up, grabbed my flashlight, and opened the door to my hut. The crying was coming from my right side – right next to my hut. I turned the flashlight in that direction, and there she was. A tiny little puppy, struggling in the sand – with the sac still attached! She was the only one. And where is Penny?? Maybe it's another dog's baby?? All of a sudden, Snoop came up to me, wagging his tail like he always does. So I whispered for Penny. And here she comes – jumping up on me like she always does! Ok, this doesn't look like a dog who just gave birth. And to just one?? There's got to be more! And then I thought, I don't know much about animals, but I remember hearing that if a mother senses a human's touch on their baby, she may not go back to it. But again, I have no clue. I decided to wake up Nafimane. I knocked on his door, and said “Nafimane, I think Penny just had a puppy!” He followed me over to the puppy, and tried to get Penny to go to it. She wouldn't. So he wrapped the puppy and sac up in a shirt, and carried her to a spot on the homestead, and again, tried to get Penny to go to it and clean it. She wouldn't. So, we brought the puppy into his hut and he put a rope around Penny's neck and dragged her inside. Finally, she started cleaning it. Then, all of a sudden, Nafimane said “here comes another”! And Penny proceeded to have 3 more! They were precious! With their eyes shut, and shaking from the cold, they were crying and trying to huddle together near their mother. And Penny was actually really enjoying being a mom. She became very protective. This was my first dog birth!! It seemed she was done, so I left and went to bed – with a huge smile on my face! I couldn't wait to see them in the morning!

That next day, I went to Nafimane's room – Penny had 3 more – a total of 7 puppies!!! Some white with black or brown spots, 2 all-black, 1 black with some brown. How sweet they were! Over time, we named all of them –
Bear - Nafimane thought it looked like my dog from home, so we named her after my Bear
Ngwan – as in “ngwangwana” - which means “confused”. This poor puppy always seemed lost and confused!
Black Mamba – the all-black one. Nafimane chose this name after the deadly snake, here in our neck of the woods
Cleo – he was white with brown spots, acting like a little devil – barking at everything. He was learning lots from following Snoop around, and how to be a guard dog. My little brother, Hedimbi, and nephew, Junior, named him
Johanna – well, we joked about this name. She was white with pale brown spots. She was the “oshilumbu” of the gang. “Oshilumbu” means “white person”
Tet – as explained earlier – the first-born
#7 – we gave him away very early on, before we could come up with a suitable name

We all pitched in to feed these puppies, because after a while, they were sucking the life out of Meme Penny, and she was becoming extremely thin. So, we started feeding them milk, and eventually soft porridge. All but 2 were given away to other family members. Only Tet and Cleo were left. They greeted me every morning, jumping up on me, and getting in the way of my feet, to the point where I felt like I was constantly kicking them, by mistake of course! They would greet me when I came home at the end of the day. And at night, while sitting by the fire, they would lay down under my legs. I guess they felt protected. And Tet would always try to jump up on me. Really, all she wanted was my lap. As soon as I put her there, she would calm down. And one cold night, poor Cleo was shivering. So, while we were sitting at the fire, I put him inside my hoodie to keep him warm. My family would roll their eyes. They couldn't believe I was treating these dogs this way! So, after realizing that these dogs are THEIR dogs (although I would LOVE a dog, I had NO intention of taking one back with me to the States), I decided that I'd better calm down with the love. These dogs needed to learn how to be a dog in a village. For this family. But every once in a while, when no one was watching, I'd pet and play with Tet and Cleo! And actually, the day I left for Windhoek, Tet followed me all the way to the clinic. I decided I'd better take her back, or she may never find her way back. And when we got close to the house, I could tell she realized where she was – and started running faster and further away from me. And then she would stop, and turn around to make sure I was still coming. What a cutie!

Ok, back to my taxi ride....

We finally left. And as we were driving, we passed something laying in the road. The driver turned around to go back and see what it was. Actually, all the cars started turning around. It was a dead puppy in the middle of the road. It broke my heart! And everyone in the car was laughing. So now, here I am, numb with emotion – having to go back to the village, and just heart-broken now from the puppy that had been hit – and having to mask my emotions because the Namibians were all laughing, and just wouldn't understand this oshilumbu's reaction. Thank God for my sunglasses.

And so onto the next taxi ride – after being pulled in every direction by the taxi drivers to go in THEIR car. I eventually made it back to my homestead. I really did miss this place. But a part of me felt somewhat down. I'm sure this would change – after a day or 2 being home, I'd be back in my groove.

I greeted my Meme, Nongula, Tuuli and the 2 little ones – Tuuli (little Tuuli) and Jaden. It was really nice to see their smiles again. We quickly caught up on each others' week. Then, I asked where the puppies were. Meme said “They are dead”, in a very nonchalant sort-of way. I thought she was joking. I smiled and said, “Meme – this is not funny!” She said “Yeah, they are dead. They died a few days ago.” WHAT??????!!!!! I asked what happened! Still in shock that she was serious. Still waiting for the punchline. I thought she was playing a joke on me! And here is where the language barrier can become very frustrating. Between Meme, Nafimane and Anna, I believe I got the whole story. Apparently, a few nights ago, some animal got to them. I asked “What kind of animal?” They said “A bear.” A BEAR??? In the village?? I asked some of my co-workers, and apparently there is some sort of “bear-like” animal that is around this time of year. Anyway, it got to the puppies – probably because they were not fast or strong enough to get away. And I think it bit them, or something. Nafimane said maybe it was a poison. I thought, ok, maybe a snake??? This American is lost, when it comes to getting this whole story. Well, the next day, Cleo was vomiting blood and then died. On Wednesday, the day before I came back, the same thing happened with my sweet little Tet.

Ugh. Ok, it's official. I was sad. Very sad. And I had to hold back my tears.

And everything I was doing on the homestead for the rest of that night and the next day, reminded me of them. Even when I went to sleep, I swear I heard little high-pitched barks – like Tet and Cleo always made at night.

I couldn't let my family know how sad I was. They just wouldn't understand. They would probably laugh at me. And I know that they're laughing wouldn't have been out of being mean – but instead, just making light of the situation, and kind of making fun of me. They would think it's funny that any human would be upset over the loss of a puppy, or animal, for that matter.

It's now my second day back to the village. I'm feeling better about the village life, itself. And at the clinic yesterday, a Prevention (HIV) Officer from the nearby hospital stopped by to talk with me. He wants my help with some of the projects! So work has got my mind re-focused again – with even more possible exciting things I can do.

And Tet and Cleo – well, you are very missed by this oshilumbu....

And even Snoop and Penny seem a little down these days...and Nafimane told me Snoop has been looking for them in the mornings....

And apparently this bear-like animal came back the other night....

But there ARE really good things going on in my world as well... :)

And such is life. I just hope Penny doesn't get pregnant again.....

Here is one of the last pictures I took of the 2 cuties! (I'll post more pictures of the puppies once I get better internet access :) 
Cleo is on the left, and the black-spotted one is Tet :)

~ Oshi ya twa numwe noshima ~
A fish is cooked with a tortoise.
(i.e. You have to take the bad things with the good.)

17 September, 2013

Making Omalodu (traditional beer)

And now for the making of Omalodu...the Owambo traditional beer!
My family gave me my own bucket of sorghum to make this beer. Below, in the slide show, I explain all of the steps. Once the sorghum is beaten off the stalks (like the mahangu in the previous post), it takes about 3 or 4 days to make. Because there is no sugar or anything else added, it's not alcoholic...though it seems it fermented a tiny bit....

And below this picture slide show, are 2 videos!


Here is a slide show of the steps in making the Owambo traditional beer, Omalodu:

Here is a short video of a few of the steps to turn the sorghum grain into a fine flour. It's called "pounding". The kids from the village would laugh at this white girl trying to do this! It's pretty difficult, but I told my niece, Tuuli, that I want to help pound mahangu or sorghum anytime they are doing it as well...because this American needs much more practice!

And a video of Meme trying my omalodu for the first time:

14 September, 2013

Beating Mahangu

Here are some pictures and a video of my first attempt at beating mahangu. Mahungu is a grain (millet) that is used for soft porridge, oshifima (a harder porridge – almost like hard mashed potatoes), oshikundu (a drink), traditional “bread” (made with some sugar and salt – no yeast, and either fried or boiled in a plastic bag), and many other things I'm sure we haven't even had yet! After it's been harvested, the grain needs to come off the stalks. I know there are machines that do this, but that costs money, and so most people, at least here in the village, BEAT it. After this beating, then it is pounded into a fine flour. I will have another blog post with a video of me attempting to pound sorghum, along with some pictures, during the process of making the traditional beer, omalodu.

But for this post – it's all about mahangu!

Here are some pictures of the day I helped. We all went out into the field to help – me, my brother and sister, my niece and a few other kids from the village – all helping in this process. After the long day of work in the sun, we cooked food for all the kids – they sure worked hard! Now, before you watch the video, understand that this was my first time. These kids are experts! The motion is a weird one – sort of like a golf swing or a slap shot in hockey – with no follow-through. And I was really watching these kids to try to do it the same way – but, well, no such luck this first time. Maybe next season.....

my brother and sister, Nafimane & Anna
I told them I wanted to help this particular day. They laughed. They warned me that my skin would probably itch from the dust of the mahangu, and that my hands were too soft (they say this alllll the time! They would even let me get near the fire for a while – they said my hands and skin had to “roughen up” a bit). Anyway, they were right – my neck was itchy afterwards, and I was only able to beat the mahangu for a short time, before I developed blisters on my hands....

my brother, Nafimane

Ahhh...but I'm slowly building up the skin on my hands, and so maybe next season will be better....

One more thing to note about this day...

As we were out in the field, under the hot Namibian sun, listening to some fun Namibian music on the radio, working our butts off, a plane flew overhead....

They said “Oh look! The President is in town....”

My village is next to the President's....and I had this moment thinking, “wow – what a dichotomy...here we are in the field, laboring over harvest....and there is the President, flying high above us, in his private jet....”
In Namibia's National Anthem, there is a line “Contrasting, beautiful Namibia...” - and this is just one of the many examples I've witnessed, bringing truth to this line in the song....

05 September, 2013

Update on Food Challenge....


I want to hear from all of you!!
Did you try the Food Challenge for a week??

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read all about it here:

And for those who have tried it, 
I would LOVE to hear all about your experience, thoughts, ideas, etc....

Leave your comments at the end of this post, or, if you'd rather let me know privately, you can use the Contact Form on left-hand column, near the bottom of the page,

Happy Eating!!

03 September, 2013

Pig Drama

Just a quick update...because I know you are all on the edge of your seats to find out the rest of the saga of the pig:

Yesterday morning, Nafimane (my brother) brought her home.....

But there are no piglets with her....


I'm hoping to dig a little deeper into this story and find out more details....

Stay tuned....


p.s. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read all about it here: (click on these links) Part I and Part II 

p.p.s. oshingulu = pig in Oshikwanyama

02 September, 2013

Sweets & Gifts

Here in Namibia, a “sweet” is ANY kind of candy – hard candy, chocolate, cookies, etc. And children LOVE sweets. Here in the village, they really don't eat many – there are some hard candies in the cuca shops, and cookies and other sweets in the shopping town, but people don't usually spend the little money they have on these treats.

Well, every time I walk by the headman's house and say hello to the children, they greet me back...and then ask for sweets. Well, actually, when they translate to English, they more or less tell me “Give us sweets”. So, one day, I told them next time I went to town, I would get some for them. When I finally saw them again, it was during their exam week. I told them, after exams, they would get their sweets. Finally, it was that Friday – the last day of exams, and I gave them a package of lollipops! They loved them....

This past weekend, I went to Ongwediva for the Annual Trade Fair. There were lots and lots of booths set up by Namibian businesses, universities and government agencies. My reasoning for going, was to be able to speak with people from the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Water & Sanitation. I wanted to find out my options for possibly getting seeds, a fence and a water pipe for our clinic garden. I was told that I actually may get some help (free, or close to free, of charge) with these items. Success!! Now, is follow-up time, to actually make sure this can happen....

Anywho, after talking with them, I walked around outside, browsing all the booths that were selling little items. Many of these booths carried the same items – we call them “China shop” items. All around Namibia, people from China have come and set up shops. They carry anything from clothes, to mattresses (very thin ones), to bags, to plates, to blank cds, to solar panels, to wardrobes to hang your clothes, to sunglasses, to toys – and everything in between. The quality is, well, not the best, but they are usually inexpensive, and sometimes you can do a little haggling, and get a better deal...

Well, one of the booths had these little bags that I've been wanting to get for my brother, Nafimane. He's a soccer player, and one day was playing soccer at school with some of the teachers – withOUT his shoes. And, of course, he came home, limping. I told him, that if you're a soccer player, you need to carry your shoes with you at all times! Ha! He laughed. Well, I wanted to get him this little bag to carry his shoes with him...and I finally found it. So, of course, after that, I realized that the rest of the kids, AND my older sister, AND my Meme, would feel bad if I didn't get them anything. So, here goes Johanna – shopping at the trade fair for the whole family! I found a little phone holder for Meme, because the puppies have ruined the one I made her. Then some earrings for my sister Anna (32yo), sunglasses for little Jaden (1yo), little slingshots for Hedimbi (11yo) and Junior (5yo) (they LOVE Angry Birds – so I thought I'd get them their own slingshots), and a play phone for little Tuuli (Nongula's daughter), who is 2 years old.

Then I needed to get something for my niece, Tuuli, who is 15 and Nongula, who is the girl who watches little Jaden during the day. I decided to get them each some nail polish – one sparkly purple, and red for the other.

Since I came back from the weekend, I only gave out some of the gifts – to those who were around. I was waiting to give Tuuli and Nongula theirs later today, or tomorrow. There is another girl from the village who is staying with us. I had no clue she was going to be here, and so I didn't get her anything, and felt it would be best to hand out Tuuli and Nongula's gift AFTER she left. Of course, I have no idea when she is leaving. Sometimes, it seems, children will stay with other families for a few days – and my Meme is friends with her parents. So, maybe there is a reason she is with us....

Well, this morning, before I went to work, Tuuli said “Miss Johanna. You said you had gifts for us.” Ugh. I felt really bad doing this in front of the other girl. So, I went into my hut, took the nail polish, and gave them their gifts (Tuuli and Nongula were so happy). As I did this, I told the girl, I was sorry I didn't have anything for her – but next time, I will get her something. She said “ok”, but looked sad. It broke my heart. So I said “Wait one minute – I will be right back.” And I went back to my hut. I was going to give her my own nail polish. See, after being in sports medicine and then massage for the last almost 20 years, and unable to grow my nails, I decided I was going to start growing them and looking like a girl, and maybe even paint them! Well, of course, just when I decide to get all girled-up, I come to a country where we eat with our hands. And having nails, just becomes a very messy problem. So, the nail polish that I had brought with me, I really don't NEED. And if I want, I can always get more. I grabbed 3 colors – blue, purple, and a clear, sparkly one. I was going to let her choose 1 color.

As I brought them to her, she at first got very excited and thought she could have all 3. I told her she could pick just one color. Then, of course, I realized, you don't show these kids something and then tell them they CAN'T have it. (Maybe, if I was a mother, and had children of my own, or had worked more with children, I would have already known this fact!). She looked down and a little sad. So, I said “Ok – you can all have and SHARE all of these!” These girls so soooooo excited! They were jumping and dancing and singing! To be honest, these girls work hard, pounding mahangu, cutting meat, cutting firewood, making oshifima and other foods, and their hands are dirty most of the time. I really didn't know if they would even like, or want to use, the nail polish. But, at the end of the day, girls will be girls. And when they get a the opportunity to dress up, and look “girly” they love it!

As I said goodbye for the day, and started my trek to work, I could hear them laughing and singing....and I hope I just made their day....

It really is the little things in life that mean the most....and I am learning this more and more everyday....


Here is a picture of Jaden, with his new glasses, and his father, (my brother), Grape
(notice Jaden's shirt - "Monster Trouble" - and yessss he is! But adorable trouble..

01 September, 2013

Updated pictures

I was finally able to upload newer pictures of my hut and home...

You can view these on the My Home tab

Enjoy and hope you all had a great weekend!


27 August, 2013

Food Challenge!

Ok – I know I keep saying I'm going to write about food on here – because it is such a major part of Namibians' culture.....and I promise, I will! I want to get a few more pictures to post. It's been tough – for instance, at the wedding this weekend – I really wanted to take lots of pictures when they were preparing and cooking their food – but I did not want them to feel like they were on display, like I was a tourist....But I will get continue to get a picture here and there....

Until then....

I want to challenge all of you to get outside your comfort zone, when it comes to food!

Here in the village, we cook outside over an open fire, as well as on a gas stove. The oven will work, but it uses a lot of gas, and so we rarely use it. And even for those who have some electricity, they do not own microwaves, or even refrigerators or freezers (though some may have a small refrigerator).

Ok – here is the challenge:

For 1 WEEK, you are not allowed to use your refrigerator and freezer. If you want/need to keep something cool, you can buy ice, and place these things in a bucket of some sort (NOT a cooler, because most of those here in the village do not have a cooler). But once in a while, they do have access to buy ice – and they have lots of buckets! Anything you want to use for the week, that you currently have in the refrigerator and/or freezer, you MUST REMOVE at the beginning of the week. Then, you are not allowed to open those doors until the week is over.... :)

Here are some other rules:
  • You are allowed to cook using the stovetop, outdoor fire (NOT grill!), and 1 meal in the oven (seeing as how they rarely use it, since it costs a lot of money).
  • Generally, we only go to our shopping town 1x/week or every other week. But – I will allow you to go to the supermarket 1 TIME at the beginning of the week, and a SECOND time at some point – if you need to pick up items you forgot, or would like to cook meat that day/evening – so make a good shopping list, or you will only be eating whatever is in your cupboards :)
  • Here are some tips on foods that keep well (at least, from what I'm learning):
  1. fruits seem to stay well for about a week - sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on the fruit
  2. eggs will stay well for almost 2 weeks, as long as you don't buy them cold (already in the cooler)
  3. milk will last a few days, again, as long as when you buy it, it is from the shelf, and not the cooler
  4. they say veggies will last longer if you bury them in the ground, where they will stay cooler – I haven't yet done this, but feel free to dig a hole in your backyard if you'd like to try! (and then, report back to me on your findings!)
  5. Most veggies will last up to a week. I am still trying to figure out if leaving them out in the open is better than putting them in my metal green trunk the PC gave us. I am purposely doing this now, because I think I had a mouse in my hut at one point. Though, I may also try to buy some plastic shelves to place the veggies in. Again, let me know what works for you – any advice would be great!
  6. Sometimes, canned veggies are the easiest....(though not my top choice)
  7. As for drinks (juice, soda, beer, etc) – again, you can buy ice to keep them cool, if you would like
  8. bread will last about a week and half – though, sometimes mold likes to a grow within 4 or 5 days
  9. I have been able to get yogurt, and it last for 2-3 days
  10. On a side note about meat – my family will often buy red meat, and then dry it – this will allow them to use it later in the week, or even a few weeks later. If you would like to try this, here is how you do it: (this is how my family does it, but feel free to Google other methods)
  • Cut the red meat into thin strips
  • Add vinegar and salt
  • Hang on some sort of rope/line in a room (we have a hut where we do this), ideally, where the air is warm, dry and low humidity
  • When you are ready to eat it, just stick it in a pot and cook!
    11. It's really a crap-shoot, what will last through the whole week (or 2, in my case). Sometimes, I               have to accept that the money I just spent went to waste, because the food did not keep well....
    12. Last point about cooking – most of those who live in the village DO NOT have a blender, juicer,           toaster, or any other appliance. So, I think it would only be right to not allow you to use these.               Knives, forks and spoons are all allowed!

So – I will check back with all of you in a week or so! And I would LOVE LOVE LOVE your feedback!!! First of all, any help I can get in this department – as far as how to prepare and cook food – would be great (though I'm beginning to get the hang of it)! Also, I want you all to get a glimpse of how many people, at least here in the villages, live on a daily basis. It's do-able. We're just not used to doing it their way...because we have become so reliant on electricity and appliances. And you all have the luxury of living in your air-conditioned houses with any appliance you would like...so, enjoy these luxuries, while you live without the use of a refrigerator and freezer.

I hope you find this challenge educational - and maybe even fun! If you can't go to Africa (or a developing country), this is a great way, to at the very least, learn a little something about how other people in the world live....
Plus, you'll be ready when your electricity or refrigerator goes out!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me, 
or contact me here:


Happy eating!!

(Peace & Love),

You'll actually look forward to your morning commute. Life is calling. How far will you go? Learn more about the Peace Corps

24 August, 2013

Tears of gratitude

I know this is the biggest tease ever, but I had to share something quickly with everyone....

I am about to go to sleep in a tent at the home of our cleaning lady's parents. Her name is Olivia. She is getting married tomorrow. And I'm her photographer!

The party started tonight...and will end Monday night. I will write more about  the entire celebration later, including pictures...


Tonight I had the honor of being part of a traditional ritual, where the bride and her bridesmaids (she has 14!) sit in a hut, and are greeted by guests. Only 3 guests came. But this was expected (I think!). And when the guests arrived, they greeted each of us separately, but we were supposed to be rude, and not shake their hand or respond. Apparently, they have to "earn" our greeting. We all had a very hard time keeping a straight face, and pretending to ignore or be rude to these people. We all were aware this was a ritual, but still, we had to do it. It was pretty funny. Eventually, we could respond to the guests' greeting...but not shake their hand yet. (Thankfully I was sitting next to my supervisor's daughter, who speaks English, and was able to talk me through this entire ritual). 

So.... The point of this is...these "guests" are supposed to bring gifts. They brought in a big suitcase. After some time, still trying to "win" the bride's greeting, and ours as well (which was pretty funny to watch!), they opened the suitcase and in it was the flower girls' dresses, the bride's dress, veil, gloves, jewelry, the rings, 2 white umbrellas, edged with the color of the bridesmaids' dressed - maroon, and the bride's shoes. 

The bride finally "accepted" the guests, and we then went outside where a group of men had been singing all night - waiting to see the bride. There were many people, and they were singing and dancing and having a grand ol' time!

Besides wanting to share this story, I also had to share with you the overwhelming feeling of gratitude I had, while sitting in that hut. I looked around the room, and saw Olivia's bridesmaids of all ages. Some dressed in "westernized or modern" clothing, and some in traditional dresses. And I had this out-of-body experience of some sort...I just couldn't believe I was sitting in a traditional hut, surrounded by beautiful Namibian women in traditional dress, in a village, in Namibia, in AFRICA, and was able to be a part of this ritual! I mean, this is a common occurrence here in Namibia, and in the villages. And yet, 6 months ago, I had no clue this was even going on! And all of you- in the U.S. or any other country- you have no idea about what is going on here. Just like these Namibians have no clue what you are all doing. It's just an odd thing to think about - or maybe I'm just weird. But we are all in our own little worlds, doing our own little thing, meanwhile, another person, maybe the same age as you, on the other side of the globe, could be doing exactly the same thing as you! Or maybe not. I don't know...maybe I am weird. But tonight I realized that I am able to get a little peek of what another person in another country is doing. And then I start thinking about what, maybe someone in China, or France, or Chile, or Iraq is doing at this moment...

So anyway, there is my brain for ya'll! 

Oh, by the way...since I am her photographer, Olivia bought me a bridesmaid's dress!  So I guess I'm considered to be part of her wedding party! Wow. 

And as I was pinching myself, a little confused how I ended up here in Africa - who would have thought?? - and just so grateful that I am getting this experience, and out of nowhere, my eyes started filling up with tears...

I just couldn't believe that I was getting this opportunity- AND to be asked to be included and participate!

Oh, and Olivia's dress? I have never seen anything quite as beautiful! I will post pictures later, but it is a white gown of satin and lace and even some sparkles! She is going to look amazing....

And I just hope my camera cooperates and helps me get the most perfect pictures for her big day!

Peace & Weddings,

p.s. many women here have decided that I should marry a Namibian, specifically, an Owambo man....


23 August, 2013

Life is funny....

So, there I was, in Nashville, USA
All stressed and worried over things that no longer matter
I had priorities which kept me, now looking back, away from people I truly cared about - and who truly cared for me
Or, I should say, my priorities were a little warped
Because I thought certain things needed to be a priority
I was in a rut
A comfortable rut

And now, here I am in Namibia, AFRICA!
And man, let me tell you
If you ever need a wake-up call from LIFE
Or need your head re-adjusted
Or need a new view of people and the world (one of my MAIN reasons for joining PC)
And need to get UNcomfortable for a while

Because then
Only then
Will you find what you are truly made of
And what truly makes you tick
And you become stronger because of it
And you realize that the things in this life that make you happy
Are really never those things you THOUGHT were "making you happy"

And only then
Can you get yourself back on track
And find the real YOU
Even if you now have another home on the other side of the globe
It has helped to bring out YOU
The best in you
The worst in you
But the TRUE YOU!

And of course
I'm still learning
And growing

So, ask me in 21 months if this still remains true

But for now,
Even through the frustrating, stressful times
The times I have no clue what the heck is going on around me
Or how I can even help
Or just want a shower
In a house with white walls and clean floors
And a sink with running water
And I miss my car
And I'm losing my independence I have worked so hard to create and manage
And never liked relying on anyone else
(Now, I see that probably was a mistake on my part -
in past friendships and relationships)
I'm loving this personal journey that I'm on!

Peace & Love,

(By the way, PINK - especially BRIGHT pink - is the traditional Owambo color - and it's kind of funny - I'm finding myself buying new flip-flops, hut shoes, and other clothing that have this color in it...and all these years I stayed away from it...even though, this was one of my favorite colors growing up...just ask my mom - my room was made of pinks and purples...Funny how, years later, I'm returning to the original Johanna!)

You'll actually look forward to your morning commute. Life is calling. How far will you go? Learn more about the Peace Corps