Windhoek Again

So that was kind of an abrupt and low climax to the end of my time in Opuwo. Sorry folks, but I will make it up to you. Tonight the parents arrive and we start our 16 day Safari through Namibia and Botswana…I then head for a 10 day trip in Cape Town with my friends Andy and Todd. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to report and I’ll do some reporting when I can. I was able to get a right down with the Ministry yesterday in an empty car…that was a nice change from my first trip to Windhoek with me sharing the front seat with another guy.

Today I went and bought some gifts for people and had a lot I wanted to get. I bought everything and the people were even nice enough to drive me to places that told me a small box weighing 7kg. would cost me roughly 500 USD to send to the U.S…..WHAT!?!?!? Um…no. I went to three places and all their prices were the same. Crazy expensive. I decided I’d see what I could do about stuffing some items in my bags..which I also thought about shipping, but now just going to sweet talk British Airlines. I hope my parents packed light.

I had a run in with Telecom today and they were not happy. I apparently never paid for one of my months of service…oops. It worked out in the end.

Good lunch at Paul’s coffee shop. I suggest anyone who goes to Windhoek check this place out as it has great food and is for a great cause.

We’re staying in the Olive Grove tonight…this place is really nice. www.OliveGrove-Namibia.com. I think the parents will be pleasantly surprised.

Now I must go find out what flight they are on and when it comes in. Wish me luck.

I’m Stupid

I decided to go to the bakery today to get bread as it’s a little closer than OK. Now I just want to punch my face. They have this great selection of fresh breads: hoagie buns, peasant rolls, dinner rolls, buns, cinnamon rolls. I’m just sad. I guess there’s always next time and at least I had a delicious tuna sandwich today.

My Surprise Nonsurprise Going Away Party

A friend of mine in Opuwo invited me for drinks after work today and this ended up going until we then had dinner. I started receiving messages about a party for me at the office. I passed this off as a joke and kept eating. I then received a few phone calls telling me I had to be at the office for my party. Um…what party? I keep eating. They call again a bit later after I have eaten and ask if they can start without me. Start what exactly? I quickly made my way to the hospital and one person was outside waiting for me. I walk to the back patio and sitting there are probably 50 people…oops. Thanks for the heads up people. The time was around 8pm and this was supposed to start at 6:30. I make my apologies and sit at a table designated for myself and another woman who had recently resigned after being there for 11 years. Speeches follow. I get to speak and make up something on the spot…this went ok. I ended by presenting a donation to the new Epupa clinic. I don’t disclose the amount and don’t really want to. Next up is the director…she disclosed the amount…thank you. Dinner was served for everyone with drinks, even beer and such. All in all thought it was a good evening and was good to see everyone outside of work and just having a good time. Would have liked more informal interaction with my colleagues like this, but I was warned this would be hard to do when I got here so it’s ok. Two more days of work and then it’s outta here.

Network Equipment Arrives

That’s right folks. Christmas came early in Opuwo today. A nice big box came today full of networking goodies both wired and wireless. People are extremely happy to hear that they are one step closer to getting Internet. Now it all depends whether or not they’re willing to pay for the Internet…time will tell, but signs point to yes.

Departure Update

So it appears that I’ll be in Opuwo for a few more days than previously thought. I’ll be leaving on Tuesday of next week. This is good as I won’t have to spend as much time Windhoek. I’ll find some things to write about between now and then.

Segube Passes

For the past 4 months I’ve been teaching a friend of mine, Segube, within the ministry how to use computers. It’s been a test on both parts, but I can honestly say he’s on the right track…a long track…but the right track. My patience has been stretched to it’s limits. I have enjoyed it though and it’s great to see him grasp a concept and remember it. He’s looking to continue his education more formally in Oshakati or other areas so that’s great to hear. I made a test for him and despite it’s difficulty he managed a 67% on the test. I’m more than thrilled with this score and has warranted a certificate for his efforts. I wish the best for Segube and hope that he continues his studies in computers.

Goat Gets Hike By Car

I was riding my bike through Opuwo today on the way back from OK and dodge this crazed goat. He had this look in his eye and luckily my brakes were sufficient. Unlucky for the goat, he ran in front of me and right into the front of on-coming traffic. Sammy the taxi driver gave him a nice wack, but miraculously the goat ran off…i think. Normal day in Opuwo though.

Public Urination

Gotta pee? Just go man…just go. In Opuwo it’s fine to just stop on the side of the road and go for it….in the middle of town. This may not be legal but there certainly isn’t any enforcement.

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Fun little fact.

You Know You’re A Tourist When…Part 4: Secret Money Pack

Buy a distinct khaki purse to put your money in. They are to be used only when on vacation in strange and exotic, though potentially dangerous, locales around the globe. Instructions: Put all of your most valuable possessions in this magic bag and your worries will disappear. Features: the bag makes you and your giant camera, fanny pack, international mobile phone, mp3 player and clean sneakers blend into the local surroundings…you’re practically invisible. But wait there’s more, it tricks thieves through the art of reverse psychology because who could be stupid enough to put all of their money in one, clearly identifiable bag?

I believe these bags were actually designed and created by thieves. It’s genius. It’s always around your target’s neck. It’s a prominent color, khaki. It’s big enough that everyone puts their passport, credit cards and cash in it. It’s a perfect Win, Lose.

Seriously though, if you’re robbed it’s almost always because you were being careless…sometimes just bad luck. You went down the dark alley at night. You flashed your cash and someone saw. You were wearing really nice things and someone wanted them. You left your valuables sitting out in the open in your rental car. My advice is really just to think when you’re traveling. Be aware of common scams, know the bad areas of town, don’t take out more cash than you need that night, don’t be flashy. If you’re white in Africa you’re a likely target, it’s just the reality where I’ve been. Crooks are opportunists so don’t give them the opportunity. And please, don’t buy a special bag to hold your money. Put your money and cards in your front pocket and don’t have too much on you. The companies that make those bags are opportunists…think about it.

Questions and Answers

More questions have rolled in, this time from the class of 2018. So here go a few:

Do you wish you could stay longer?

If the job would change then maybe, but honestly looking forward to coming home for a while.

How old are you?

I’m 26…I was born in 1982

What do you eat and do you like it?

I eat food and I love it. Specifically, the same stuff you eat in the U.S., but there is no fast food where I live.

Where do you sleep?

I have a bed in my own house. this makes for good sleeping usually.

What do you have to play with?

I play soccer a lot, I have a bike that I go for rides around the area, I have a computer for most of my entertainment

What do you do there?

During the week I work, evenings I work out, coach soccer, do some blogging, graphic design. Weekends I like to go on long bike rides, go up the pool at the local lodge, a lot of relaxing.

Have you seen a zebra up close?

10 feet close…lots of them, but none where I live.

Do you enjoy it there?

For the most part it’s great, but would be nice to have more friends/family here with me. It’s relaxing…no tv, no traffic…very quiet.

Where do you stay?

I have my own house within the grounds of the Opuwo hospital

Do you like to take pictures?

Definitely, try to get pictures whenever I can. I actually have a cool project I am working on every day…it’s a secret though.

Have you seen a monkey?

I see a monkey every time I look in the mirror. I have seen some baboons in Namibia…Ms. Reid has also seen them.

Can you speak any of their language?

Aiya…no, not really.

What animals have you seen?

Deep breath…ostrich, elephant, lion, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, oryx, kudu, seals, pelicans, seagulls, cats, dogs, baboons, big birds, small birds, scorpions, snakes, dolphins, goats, sheep, cows, springbok. Still waiting to see cheetahs, leopards, hippos and rhinos.

Do the kids have some clothes like us?

Kids have tshirts, pants, shorts, shoes…basically the same only most only have one or two of each.

What is your job in africa?

I am the regional IT advisor for the Ministry of Health…I fix computers, provide training and give recommendations for the future.

How do you live without electricity?

I have electricity. Most people in Namibia have electricity. Clean water is another matter.

Have you gotten to ride an elephant before?

I don’t believe so…maybe when I was little, but not here. Wild elephants are not very gentle.

Is Namibia exciting?

Depends what you find exciting. I think the whole place is so new and different than the U.S. that that is exciting enough. You can find excitement if you’re looking for it.

Do you know anybody there?

I do now. I didn’t before I arrived.

Why are you there?

I wanted to volunteer my time and knowledge. Get out of the every day work thing.

What is your favorite animal that you have seen in namibia?

Seals and Elephants…both exciting stories.

Are you allowed to ride elephants in africa?

Not sure on this one. I imagine no, but then again if you manage to get on top of one without getting hurt then maybe.

Have you been teaching anything to any children?

I get to play soccer with some kids so I get to help them with that. Other than that I unfortunately don’t get to work with many kids.

Final Week

Clearly no one had any guesses for my earlier post regarding how much time I have left….except my wise acre brother…so I thought I’d give it away. This week is officially my final week of work in Opuwo. Yep…that was fast. Granted, I won’t be leaving the African continent for another month, but this will be the last week in Opuwo. It’s a bittersweet feeling as most moves are in life. I’ve enjoyed the people, the climate, the daily interactions, the work, the fun, the relaxing, the sports and most of all the simplicity of life here. I can honestly say that I am sad to go, but I have much more to do in my life that would not be possible if I stayed here. I hope that it retains it’s small town charm and ambiance, but like everything it will change. I feel fortunate to have experienced it as it is today in 2008. No definites, but I’d like to return to Opuwo.

Everything Must Go

I put some of my items on sale this week and I can honestly say that the people around the office are talking to me at much greater length than ever before. People are literally fighting over what I’m selling. I’m not selling anything great: iron, sleeping bag, mattress, etc….must be my unbelievable, unbeatable prices. Seriously though, any future volunteer, I recommend you have a steady supply of items that you sell the entire time you are here and you’ll get more done.

Pretzels

Let’s analyze these pretzels i’m eating.

‘Hold on for a wild taste ride ’cause our twisted snacks just won’t be tamed!’

I bought a bag of pretzels, this was not in the arrangement.

‘Each pretzel you pop transports your tongue to a place where sweet honey, tangy mustard and grilled onions fill the prairies with flavour – Pretzola style!’

Are these pretzels or drugs? I like honey, tangy mustard and grilled onions…ok…tell me more. Wait…shouldn’t they fill my mouth with flavor and not some prairie? Additionally, I like my tongue and I’d rather it stay in my mouth.

I really can’t bear to read more as they want me to taste a fresh ocean breeze…i’d rather not remember the smell from the Cape Cross seal colony…not a very fresh breeze.

All in all though…these are good pretzels and I don’t even really like pretzels.

The Verdict

Due to the flooding of my inbox of people just dying to know if computer equipment came today I thought I’d post about it. The long and short of it is kind of. While at work I physically received nothing that resembled computer hardware. I did receive a comment that led me to believe that everyone thinks I have done nothing while I’ve been here…I might have to fight them later. I heard…again a rumor…that there might have been some computer equipment in the back of a car that arrived this evening transporting a new volunteer from Windhoek. Big day Monday. I’ll let you know how things go so I can actually ‘do something for once’ to appease the masses.

Toilet Paper

My toilet paper has puppies on it…does this mean that South Africans do not like puppies?

You Know You’re a Tourist When… Part 3: Staring

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Now get your head of the gutter and think about it. That’s what tourism basically is. Places around the globe claiming they are the greatest in the world and people should come and have a look…have a long look…buy this plastic replica. It’s the only point in your life where you feel obligated to stare at something until it is permanently etched into your brain because people say it’s great. Why not stare at something you think you should stare at? I am repeatedly delighted to see a goat outside my door. I stare at goats, but not in an unhealthy sort of way. Pick your poison and stare away…enjoy and let it soak in. Put the camera away quickly as a world behind the lens makes it feel almost fake.

In the case of viewing people, in most cases, both sides are doing the staring. I think the people of Namibia are more fascinated with white people than you are of them. This makes for a lot of fun on both sides as you might catch them staring…you look away…they keep staring…they will win the staring contest.

A couple of my own personal experiences: The Eiffel Tower…it’s pretty at night…I’m not waiting in that line to go to the top…is there a crepe stand nearby that has Nutella? New York City…wow, that’s a lot of buildings…more buildings…more buildings…$6 for a beer?…ooh, pizza. Mona Lisa…where is the Mona Lisa?…culture through osmosis…I’m here…is that it?…next please. Costa Rican volcanoes…um…pass.

I’m not sure what the point of this post was, but that’s ok.

That’s A Mystery

Guess how many weeks of work I have left?

Light In My Opuwo Tunnel

A switch has been flipped and rumor has it that some computer and networking parts might be finding their way to Opuwo…wait for it…tomorrow! Rumors are known to run rampant in these parts so I’m not putting all my hopes in one handwoven basket. However, it’s nice to see that I might actually have a snowballs chance in Opuwo of doing what they really wanted me to come here for. Local area network to allow widespread Internet. Cross those fingers for me, would ya?

You Know You’re a Tourist When…Part 2: Language

You get off the plane. You’re pumped. It’s vacation time. You’re taking in the sights. Then it hits you. You’re hungry. Um…do you have a menu in english? You don’t understand me? Can I just have a hamburger? No…a hamburger. No…A HAM-BUR-GER!

This does happen. You have this romantic view of traveling and how perfect things are going to be and then you realize that no one understands a word that is coming out of your mouth. The simple becomes arduous. Some of us go into hermit mode, cower in the corner and say nothing. Others try shouting. I’M FROM AMERICA…A-MER-I-CA…YOU KNOW, THE UNITED STATES OF… No matter who you are, first piece of advice, see if they understand your language. If they do, cool. If they don’t, good luck. Your best bet, speak clearly and slowly…not loudly. Spinal Tap’s 11 is just too high. The person is most likely not hard of hearing…they just don’t understand. This is when drawing pictures, pointing to maps and smiles are always good. No, they shouldn’t know how to speak English, it’s their country. Preach all you want about how ‘Americans should speak American,’ but only while in the U.S.. Outside those borders you’re the guest…act like it. Try to learn some of their language. If you love hamburgers find out how to say it. You’d be surprised how far a simple ‘hello’ in a native tongue will get you. Sure, they’ll probably respond with something you don’t understand, but that’s where the smile kicks in.

I deal with this problem every day and it can get to you sometimes, but that’s the nature of the traveling business. I figure it’s best to make the best of it and don’t worry too much, you’re bound to run into someone that understands you eventually.

What’s the biggest misunderstanding you have ever encountered while traveling because of a language difference?

Time Change

The time changed this weekend by moving an hour ahead so the result is that it is now a 6 hour time difference between Eastern Standard Time and Opuwo time. Plan accordingly.