28 June, 2013



Or, in English:

I am thankful...

And today, I am thankful for our trusty protector, Snoop! He followed me all the way to work, and sat right outside the clinic, wagging his tail anytime I would pass by the door, or sit outside. Too cute...(and the locals laugh because they think it's funny that I like to pet him, and then they say "Yes, he likes you!")

And I guess now is the perfect time to let you know that I also have an Oshiwambo name! It seems everyone here has 2 names - and I don't just mean a first name and surname. But instead, 2 first names. Or you could say it is a regular and traditional name. 

Well, soon after I got here to site, I was sitting with my younger brother and niece and nephew, and told them I wanted an Oshiwambo (the name given to the Namibians who live in the north) name. 

They talked amongst themselves, laughed a little, while one said "no, we can't give her THAT name", and then they finally came up with a name for me: 


It means "I am thankful". 

And I think they chose that name for me because I am always saying "thank you"! But, I also feel like it's very fitting, because I am very thankful for my life, and where I am now, and how I even got to this place, and my American family and friends, my Namibian family and friends, and where my this journey will lead me. 

So, maybe the kids have a sixth sense, but I think it's perfect!

So call me Ndapandula! :)

(And here's a picture of Snoop as he was escorting me in to work today)

26 June, 2013

A village sunset...

I'm hoping these pictures (taken with my iPhone) bring to justice the beauty I get to witness every night...

This is the sunset the other night, out behind my hut. Although usually, there aren't clouds, and the colors of the sky blend together- from orange, to yellow, to pink, to a turquoise....sometimes, the clouds make for an even prettier view...with added colors and lights...

(The second picture is supposed to be a panoramic one- so I'm not sure how this will upload thru the app that I'm using on my phone). 


Peace & Love,

24 June, 2013

A typical (work)day

I thought I would share with you a typical work day....and as of right now, I am still in the 3-months-of-observation stage. During this time, I am supposed to get to know the people in my village, meet the important people within the Ministry of Health and in the village, find out the needs of the community so I know in which direction I should be focusing my main project, and adjust to my new home life. 

Right now, winter is settling in, and so mornings and nights are a bit cold. I set my alarm clock for 6:15, but usually I am awakened around 5:30 by a combination of the rooster, my brother cleaning his truck with either a dance tune or church song playing on the radio, and the squeaky house door opening and closing. Either my sister, Anna, or niece,  Tuuli, light a fire outside, or are fetching water to put on the stove inside, to warm for my Meme to bathe. I can hear her go into the bathing area because it is next to my room (hut). I'm able to fall back asleep somewhat, but there is something comforting about listening to her humming a tune while bathing. And when she is done, I then can hear Anna take her turn bathing. Anna usually is singing as well, and after her bath, she usually yells a "Johanna, wa lele po!" (or, "Good morning!") At this point, it's about 6:30, and I know Meme will soon be walking by my hut, as she has about an hour-long walk ahead of her to get to the school where she works, and we always have a morning chat that usually consists of "Good morning", "how are you feeling today" and "have a nice day" - and usually in a combination of English and Oshikwanyama. So I prepare myself to get out of bed at this time, so as to not miss her...but I always dread getting out from under the blankets, where I'm snuggled up nice and warm, while the air in the hut feels so cold. But nature is calling, so I pull myself out of bed, throw on my coat, slip on my flip-flops, grab some toilet paper and head out to the latrine (toilet). I then realize how my hut is much warmer than the air outside (yes, every day, I have this realization) and quickly walk to the latrine, do my business, and hurry back. As I walk back, I can't help but notice the beautiful sky I'm walking towards. At the horizon, the sky is a pretty pink color, changing to yellow, white and then blue....as the sun rises. There are no clouds - just a rainbow-colored sky! 

Before going back into the hut, I make my way to the house, to put on my water for my coffee. I have come to the conclusion that, no matter what my lifestyle is, or where in the world I may be living, I still need at least 1 cup of coffee every morning!  

Some days, the bucket where we keep the water in the kitchen is empty, so I go fetch some from the tap outside. And some mornings, there is no clean pot to put the water in to boil, so I have a quick dish-washing session, put my water on the gas stove to boil, and then hurry back in to my warm hut and get the coffee ready in my French press (my one American luxury!). Still feeling a little cold, I usually warm myself up by doing some exercises in the room. I'm still trying to find the best time to workout, and mornings seem to be the best right now. I save the "sweaty" workout sessions for later in the day, but the cold mornings usually consist of some yoga, lunges and push-ups. This gets some blood flowing, and helps me warm up and wake up for the day. I don't want to sweat in the morning, because I usually bathe in the evening. I have tried to bathe in the morning, but the cold wind and air is just something I cannot seem to accept- no matter how hot the water in my bucket is! I would rather bathe after my day's work and workout, while the sun is still somewhat up, and the air is a little warmer.  And I'm sure this routine will change, come summertime....

I splash some water on my face and then go back to the house to grab the boiling water for my coffee. I then throw some eggs or oatmeal into the pot and let that begin to cook. As breakfast is cooking, I go back to the hut with my hot coffee, and while that is steeping, put my sunscreen on and change in to my work clothes. 

After getting myself put together for work, I go back in the house for my food. Some days I will stay in the kitchen to eat, while other days, I bring it back to my hut, and finish gathering my bag full of Oshiwkanyama notes, fruit, lunch and sometimes my computer.  I then brush my teeth, using a bucket as my sink, and when done, dump the used water out over the fence behind my hut (where the kids have also set up my own little clothes line for when I do my laundry).  

I put my "walking" sandals on, and throw a nice pair of "work" sandals or shoes into my bag. The sand I walk thru every day is like beach sand- very soft, but you sink into it. I have tried to wear closed-toe shoes, but they get filled with sand 5 minutes into my walk! So, sandals are the best option - I just have to rinse the sand off my feet when I get to work. 

I leave the house around 7:40, for my 20-minute walk to the clinic. I know my sister has wanted to walk with me a few times, as she leaves around 7:20 to go to her school (she is a teacher as well) but, to be honest, I like to walk by myself - to gather my thoughts for the day, and enjoy the scenery and sounds all around me. Between the donkeys, goats, birds, chickens, cattle, the sounds of kids in the distance as they make their way to school, and the occasional car driving around the village (not many people own cars, so it's a rare thing to have to move out of the way for a car, as it weaves around the trees, through the sand)..... it's kind of a "meditative moment" for me...

Ahhh...and the kids. Well, lately, it seems my solo journey to work doesn't last very long. I usually end up being escorted by a group of kids, who are walking in the same direction to school. And even if they're running late, they will slow down to walk with me, or speed up until they are next to, or just behind, me. They stare at me, and then laugh, and then talk amongst themselves. So I will greet them in Oshikwanyama. They smile and respond. Then I greet them in English. Now, let me just say that greeting each other is very important here in Namibia.  And when I greet an older person in the village, I always greet in Oshikwanyama (although I have had a few instances where they greet me first in either English or Afrikaans. Afrikaans is one of the Namibian languages - traditionally spoken by whites and also spoken in South Africa. So, when an elderly person sees me, they assume I speak Afrikaans (which is very close to German) or English. And when I ignore both, and greet in THEIR language of Oshikwanyama, they are usually delightfully pleased, and smile.) BUT, when I speak to the kids, I make sure to use a little English. They are all learning English in school, and it is an official language in Namibia- but when they go home, they are speaking their native tongue. And so they don't get much practice with English outside of school - and it is very important that they learn to speak it, if they want to go on to the University. And so from the greeting,  we either walk in silence, or attempt to have a conversation in one language or another. And if I look their way, I usually catch them looking at me, they smile, and then turn away. They are all very sweet. And they love it when I try to speak their language! So I'm starting to use this daily walk as a teaching session for myself....

When I finally get to the clinic, I first walk around and greet everyone. Again, greeting is very important- and shows respect. We then "dust" the entire clinic- countertops, doors, walls, etc., using soap and water. Our clinic opens at 8, but we usually don't start seeing patients until around 9.  Tea break is around 10. I will usually collect money from Julia (the receptionist) and Pene (my counterpart) and walk outside to the Memes selling fried fish, bread and fat cakes, and buy bread for all of us for the break or lunch. (I've developed an addiction to this bread! It's sooo good!) The Memes don't speak English, but love it when I attempt to greet them and have a conversation in Oshikwanyama.  Again, this is another time I like to use as a language teaching session for myself. They have no problem trying to help me pronounce the words correctly, and I think they just enjoy watching this white girl trying to speak their language! Ha! 

During the day, I am either 1. having a language tutoring session with Julia,  2. talking with Pene, or helping her with counting and separating medications for the nurses to dispense to the patients, or cleaning, or preparing the HIV room for testing.  She is also the HIV/AIDS coordinator and gives the Health education to the women who come for their first antenatal visit.  I observe these sessions, and maybe one day I'll be able to give it- but for now I just help with the logistics of making enough room for all the women, and sorting out the lab results from previous visits. Or 3. Self-study: I read information on my computer that the PC has given us. There is info on teaching, HIV/AIDS, information technology, neonatal and maternal care and info, fun things to do in Namibia, and so much more. There are also guides and books from the Ministry of Health, explaining all different health issues and policies the country is facing. So, between all of this reading material and studying Oshikwanyama, I am able to keep myself busy. 

I am also in the process of still trying to meet all of the "important" people. I was able to get to a nearby town to meet my supervisor's supervisor, at the district level. And hopefully next week I will be going to the regional hospital, to meet the person above the district supervisor. Also, this week is AIDS Awareness Week. I briefly met 2 of the teachers at the local school who teach life skills, and will be in charge of different events this week at the school. They told me they will come pick me up at the clinic one day this week, so I can be involved with the activities. I'm excited to see what they will be doing, because next year, I'm hoping to have a bigger role in these activities. 

Lunch is from 1-2, and then we close at 5. 

Sometimes, I am able to leave the clinic a little early, but at the end of my work day, I walk 20 minutes back home. Some days my mother or sister are walking by the clinic at the same time, and so I'm able to have company on the walk home. Once back home, I   greet anyone who may be at home. We catch up about the day, and then, since it is getting colder, and the sun is setting earlier, I fetch water and put it on the stove to heat for my bath. Although some days, I use the outside fire to heat my water. And sometimes, the house is so busy with movement and cooking and cleaning, that I don't bathe until after dark. But I try to avoid this, now that it's getting colder once the sun sets. When it was warmer, I actually loved bathing when the moon was out! Again, another "meditative moment" for me :)

We then eat. Food will be a whole separate post, because there is a LOT to say about it! But we either cook a traditional meal over the fire outside, or cook rice or pasta inside. Some days I cook my own meal- and make a little extra, so I can have lunch for the next few days as well.  I also need a little break from their food. Although it's very tasty, it is usually made with a lot of oil and salt, and we eat the meat right from the bone- fat and all. My stomach is just not used to this , and although I haven't had any major problems, I like to just eat some bland beans, vegetables and rice/pasta once in a while. (Again, there will be another separate post on food, food, glorious food!)

Even if I cook my own meal, I will usually eat with the family. They are so much fun to be around, and as I learn the language more, I'm hoping to be part of all of their conversations! But they really make an effort to speak in English, and so I need to make more of an effort to speak their language. But we sit around the fire, laughing and playing with the little baby, Jaden. I usually make some comment on how the "diamonds in the sky" are just beautiful! And I try to teach them about the different constellations and stars. Apparently, when they see a shooting star, it means someone passed away...

And yes, around the fire is where we like to exchange our cultural differences and learn more about each others' traditions and lifestyles. Even though I'm "out in the bush", in Africa, people are people are people. And we all have the same thoughts, wants, likes and dislikes....

And so my night with the family ends around 8 or so, and I go to my room, brush my teeth, climb into bed, tuck my mosquito net under my thin little mattress, wrap the 2 blankets around me, open my Kindle to read a little, and then fall asleep to the sounds of the goats, chickens, donkeys, dogs, and my family inside the house - usually singing and laughing and playing with Jaden....

And their love for life has given me an even newer excitement and love for my life...

And that is a typical day, here in the village...

16 June, 2013

The Plight of the Pig

Ahh...our pig. 

Well, here's the 'tail' of "The Pig That Got Away".....

It's been about a month now, since I was told our pig escaped. Yes, you read that correctly - the pig ESCAPED. 

I have only seen this pig 1 time - when I first arrived at site. She is surrounded by a fence made of thick wooden sticks, and in a very small space and hardly has any room to move. I thought "wow, that is no way to live. And here these people of the village pride themselves in not using factory farms and their animals roam and eat until its their time. I don't understand." 

I asked why they didn't make the fenced area larger for her to move around, and my brother told me that she is very mean and would get out. Ok. Got it. I am going to agree with this, since I would hate to come in contact with the pig one night while walking to the latrine. Even though she has no room to walk around in her little fenced area. But, this is how they do it out here...and I'm the foreigner, so who am I to disagree?

Anywho, apparently the pig got out of her cage. So, of course, I asked "How did she escape?"  

Well, apparently, another pig helped her get out. 

What?! Another pig HELPED her? 

Of course, I asked "How did this other pig help our pig escape?"

The answer is that the other pig dug at the dirt, until the wooden fence could move. 

Ok. This is just too much for me to grasp. ANOTHER pig helped dig a way out for OUR pig to escape. 

And even though my brother laughed as he told me this, he still said it, as if this is a common everyday occurrence. 

So, the plan was to look for the pig that weekend.

Of course, I ask "How does one look for a pig in a village?"

They tell me you just walk around. And when I asked "How do we know someone else won't take our pig?", they told me, no, this wouldn't happen. Apparently, that is a big no-no here in the village. My other sister, Heeno, also told me that usually the pigs can be found at the bore holes where the water is. 

Ahhh...ok...makes sense now. 


This girl from NY is still confused about how another pig was the accomplice. 

Anyway, the weekend passed, and we didn't look for the pig. About 2 weeks later, my brother was supposed to go looking for the pig, but ended up tracking down some thieves in a nearby town (10km away) ON FOOT by following their footprints in the sand. But that's a whole other blog post...

So I finally told Nafimane, my brother, that the next time he goes looking for this pig, I'm coming along! I have for to see this - for real!

And the plan was- we would find this pig, and then have a feast!

Well, the other morning, on my way to work, as I was walking with Nafimane on his way to school, he tells me "Oh, Miss Johanna, (which, by the way, I think is so cute when the kids call me that) we found the pig!"

I said "What?? You found the pig? Where was she??" 

He said earlier that morning, he was wondering what his dog, Snoop, was doing- because he wasn't on the homestead as usual. And then he heard Snoop barking near one of our neighbor's homestead. A kid from that family and Snoop had found the pig! AND Snoop knew it was ours! He was trying to herd it back home. So Nafimane made up a new fence, and this time, tied one of her legs to the fence so she wouldn't escape again. 

And guess what....

She's pregnant. 


So - here is my view of the story. And when I tell the Namibians how I see it, they laugh and laugh and laugh!

So, the pig gets her boyfriend to help her escape. They run off together. They have some fun. She gets pregnant. And now she wants to come back home?? AND to top it all off, she just saves her own life, because if she was not pregnant, she'd be dinner! I guess she knew she had to do something to save herself, after escaping like that....

Haha! Wow....

And so my friends, here is a picture of our runaway pig....

She is home now, and who knows if we will ever have the feast...especially if she keeps getting pregnant....

A bag of plastic

I wanted to share with you a picture of the bags I'm crocheting! This idea was given to us by a current PCV. These are made from good ol' plastic bags from the grocery store! The bigger one is not quite done yet....

I'm planning on making other things, as well, such as cell phone holders, change purses, and more! My Meme and sister, here in Namibia, want me to make them a bag as well. 

So, if you have any extra plastic bags hanging around your house, and you want to recycle them, send some my way!

Or, go ahead and make your own! Here is how you can do it yourself:

1. Fold plastic bag vertically, until it's about an inch thick (this makes cutting much easier)
2. Cut the very bottom and handles off and toss aside
3. Continue cutting approximately 1-inch strips
4. Use these strips to link together as your "yarn" for your bag
5. Crochet away! 
6. Be creative with size, shape, color, etc. 
7. These can be great gift ideas, as well as fun things for school projects, and more. 
8. And smile- because you just helped the environment!

(The first bag was made as one big section that I folded over and sewed up the sides to creat the bag. The second was started with one long strip, and then circling around it to create a bag. The handles will be thicker than the first, and added on at the end.)


   I just realized the title of this post is a tease...because no, I have not seen any giraffes yet! Sorry! But yes, that day will come, and I will definitely share the pictures! 

    I am feverishly working to update blog posts, pictures and videos on my computer, here in my hut, for all of you. I have so much to tell....and will get it all out when I can get my computer around some sweet internetness....

   But until then...

   If you want to get an idea of the place I am living in, the people, the village, the language, and many of the thoughts that are running through my (sometimes crazy, sometimes confused, but always happy) mind....then I highly recommend reading the book "Giraffes Tell Secrets".  The girl who wrote it was a Peace Corps Volunteer, here in Namibia. And to top it off, she was living in the general area that I am - "Owamboland" (pronounced Ovamboland), AND in a village where she had to learn to speak Oshikwanyama!

   She was an education volunteer, but you will still get a very good description of the village life, here in the north...

   Hope you are all well and I can't wait to share my stories! 

   For those who have already heard a little about our pig, well, the saga is over, and you won't believe the ending! My next post is going to explain it all....

Enjoy your weekend!


   p.s. Find something that will make you laugh everyday :)

09 June, 2013


The skin on the top of my hands has been rubbed off from washing my clothes by hand. My flip-flops keep coming apart and are more "flopping" than flipping. The skin on the palms of my hands are blistered from learning how to beat mahangu (a part of the process of making the grain into flour, and will be explained more in a later post). And the blisters tore while I was learning how to make the traditional oil, ondjove, from omahuku nuts.  

But the cattle, goats, chickens, dogs, and some random children in the village kept me company. My brother plays Namibian music on his radio everyday- which sounds more like "Island" music! Our brand new puppies make me feel like a kid again. My heart warms when my little 11-month old cousin, Jaden, smiles at me every morning. Every day I'm adjusting more to the "Owambo" way of living (that is , like northern Namibians, especially in the villages). I am slowly able to communicate with the people of my village in their language.  New and exciting passions are developing for me, thru my observation at the clinic. I fall asleep, listening to my family sing songs, in perfect harmony, a capella, in  Oshikwanyama. I get to see diamonds in the sky every night. And right now, the radio in my Meme's house is playing Frank Sinatra. 

But most importantly, I'm learning, living, changing, and growing in to my true self....the Saricorn way....

I promise - updates are on their way - including pictures and video! If only the hut had a decent Internet connection - and 3G would be even better - but ahhh...such is this wonderful life