Monday, November 23, 2009

T-Minus 8 days!

I cannot believe this year is coming to an end and I have been in Namibia for almost 11 months now! No words can accurately describe my life here. I would be a complete wreck right now if I knew it was the end, but I have another whole year of this amazing chaotic Namibian life. I will be returning to Ogongo in January to become the school's librarian and computer teacher (plus teach a little math on the side) and I cannot wait! With that said, I am now counting down the days until I come home for the holiday. In 8 days from now I will be flying into Chicago. I am going to be home from December 1st to January 4th. I will be spending that time doing everything I have been deprived of all year - eating Mexican, sushi, and ice cream, driving my car, laying on a couch (wow I forgot about couches) watching reruns, drinking Spotted Cow, walking through the aisles of Whole Foods and staring dumbfounded at the excessive Christmas shoppers.

If you care to join me for any of the above adventures, here is my tentative schedule:

December 1st - 4th Chicago
December 5th - 13th Madison/DeForest
Decmber 14th - 17th Iowa (Iowa City/Webster City)
December 18th - 25th Sparta
December 25th - 31st Madison/DeForest
December 31st - Jan. 4th Chicago

Let me know if you want to make plans during any of these times! Unfortunately I will not have a cell phone when I am back. I should have regular email access and will probably be using my parents' landlines and/or cell phones.

Here are their numbers:
Tom Manley 721-0394 or 712-7745 (cell)
Heidi Tumerman 823-7323 or 487-1316 (cell)

Can't wait to see everyone!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ondihole......I love.......

Ogongo sunsets

Punya punya (red wine and coke)

Laughing in English

Grade 6 learners

Ovambo chicken


The milky way

Africa Staudt Haus

My roommate's laughter

African magic

My cat Zizi

Riding in the back of pick ups


Genuine, yet ridiculous inquires

Baboon sightings

My learners' serenades

My Kuku (grandmother)

Meme mumu dresses

I miss......

Mexican food

Having my own car

Take away sushi

Bedi's stories and shenanigans

Spontaneous plans


Snow (believe it or not)



Everything bagels with hummus

Meme Heidi

Spotted Cow


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I want a girlfriend, but I don't know how. Can you help me?
How does a person get the homosexuality?
Can a girl fall pregnant if she makes sex with a very young boy?
Will a person go crazy if they do not make the sex?

- Anonymous questions submitted by my Grade 9 Life Skills class. These are the days I cannot imagine leaving this place.

Hairstyles lead to failing grades

There are many days where the following runs through my head – Wow, this school is really progressing. I am so proud of these teachers and learners. I am so blessed to be here. The teachers are making changes. I love it here. Life is nawa!

And then there are those down days – What are these people thinking? These learners are not understanding anything. The teachers don't care. This place is mass chaos. What am I doing here? Someone just give me a chili relleno with extra guac and a Reese's blizzard.....and a strong margarita! Today was one of those days. To set the preface I will rewind...last week during one of our insufferably long staff meetings we spent an hour discussing the failure rate of our learners and what we are going to do about it. Sounds productive right? Not when 45 minutes of that discussion is spent deciding whether or not shaving the hair of all of the girls who failed is an appropriate punishment. One teacher even tried to argue that these “crazy new hairstyles” are leading to failing. A logical question followed. “If we cut the girls hair, what will we do to the boys.” And the discussion continues....It was not until I spoke up that they realized that the removal of hair was a ridiculously inappropriate form of punishment and will in no way improve their academic achievement. They nodded in agreement when I proposed the solution of helping these failing learners, rather than punishing them.

That was 6 days ago. Today I arrive at school to find a large mass of my learners exiting the gate with backpacks on. When asked where they are going, I get the following replies, “Kegumbo” (to home), “We failed the exams,” “We did not bring N$10 for the teachers.” I make a detour from my normal beeline to the library to enter the office and get some answers. I quickly find out that the decision was made to require all failing learners to bring Engeeshu (ground nuts) or N$10.00 as a punishment. All learners that failed to do so were sent home. Brilliant idea.....lets help these struggling learners by not teaching them. It seems that my obvious solution was lost in translation......

P.S. I have to give them credit for choosing an alternative to corporal punishment (baby steps, baby steps)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Advances in technology

In one of the many boxes of school supplies from Webster City High School, I found a gem that has all the learners, and teachers, marveling. An old-school desk-mounted pencil sharpener with the crank and metal wheel to accommodate various pencil sizes (aren't pencils all the same size?). The first group of learners discover this amazing contraption was a bit hesitant and did not know what to think. After demonstrating a quick turn of the crank and presenting them with a razor sharp pencil, they were running all over the library and school finding every pencil, and colored pencil, to feed the sharpener! The last girl to sharpen her pencil exclaims, “Wow miss! Technology these days....”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rions and Tigels and Beals, Oh my!

I just got back from a two week holiday with Tyler and his parents. I posted pictures on facebook that you should check out! We had a great time and I loved being a part of their first African experience and sharing my Namibian life with them. They got a taste of village life in Ogongo by visiting my school and sleeping on a traditional homestead. We spent the evening drinking punya punya (red wine and coke) by candle light at Jealous Down Bar No. 2. All of the locals welcomed us with exuberance and bottles of Tassenberg, as it is not everyday four oshilumbus (white people) hang out at their shabeens. Our next stop was Etosha National Wildlife Reserve. I have been there a few times before, but this was by far the best. Thirty minutes into the gate we were stopped by an entire herd of elephants crossing the road – with atleast 5 babies! The next night we saw three rhinos and four lionesses hunting at the waterhole near our lodge. Then the last day in the park we arrived at our last waterhole to find an entire pride of lions (4 female, 2 male, 3 cubs) sleeping, drinking and eating from a giraffe carcass. From there we went to Waterberg Plateau for some beautiful hiking, Okahandja to master the art of bartering with craft hawkers, and then to Swakopmund for sandboarding and ostrich egg liqueur.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Living the traditonal life....

I have had the amazing opportunity to experience traditional Owambo life. I have been invited to many traditional homesteads and loved my time there. Part of me wishes I lived on a homestead here rather than teacher housing! Here is a taste of Ovambo life....

This is the kitchen
The huts are made from sticks, grass and mud. Homesteads have anywhere from 2 to 10 huts that are used for cooking, sleeping, storing grains, working or relaxing.

Martha cooking Oshithima (traditional porridge made from mahangu)

Omalovu (traditional beer made from sorghum and mahangu)

Rauha and her Kuku (grandmother) presenting me with a bracelet as a welcoming gift.

Meme Martha sifting mahangu after she finished pounding

Me, in traditional Ovambo dress, attempting to pound mahangu (very difficult!)

They are much stronger than me! Three girls at a time!

Taking a quick break on our 10 km walk to school.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sporting my new traditional Ovambo dress

Hanging out with cute kids at a braai (barbecue)

Reading pen pal letters from the states

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ingenuity at its best

Thanks to my mom, I have an entire class set of individual white boards and dry erase markers to use in my math class. Everything I bring into the classroom becomes a novelty and I am often met with excited gasps and wide eyes. The introduction of the white boards was no exception. I felt like a magician as they oohed and aahed at my ability to erase the marker from the paper. During the first week of using them a small problem quickly arose – how do they erase them without tissue or erasers? Some learners tried to use old newspaper while others were just rubbing it with their hands – neither one successful. One day while practicing long multiplication on the boards, one of my learners found an amazing solution to our problem. I was walking around helping them when I saw Tangeni, one of my boys in grade 6, get this bright eyed look on his face, a light bulb had gone off. He then proceeded to lift his white board above his head and rub it back and forth against his hair. I then had 25 learners picking up their boards and rubbing them furiously on their heads. Problem solved – who needs an eraser when you have a fro?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Ogongo Press: Baboon Sighting Lowers Test Scores

Yesterday a wild baboon made its way into the small village of Ogongo. While often spotted in other parts of the country, baboons are apparently a rarity here. I discovered this quickly when I was leaving the office to attend my math period and a herd of teacher quickly ran past me. When I asked where they were going so fast, I got a couple brief but excited responses, “Baboon, hurry!” “It is at the clinic!” “Rachel, let's go!” I contemplated joining the wild baboon chase, but turned them down to go teach my math class. Half of the teachers jumped in the back of a turquoise pick up and raced off towards the clinic. I walked into grade 6 to find all of the learners with their heads out the windows, standing on chairs and desks fighting to get a glimpse of the rumored intruder. Shortly entire classrooms of learners, in the absence of a teacher, are running outside yelling “Baboon!” I attempted to start my math lesson, but was interrupted every few minutes by learners jumping out of their seats claiming they saw the baboon out the window. I taught for about 15 minutes and decided it was a lost cause; the baboon sighting was obviously more important than conquering fractions. I ended the period by yelling “Baboon!” and pointing out the window. All 25 learners jumped out of their seats with excitement to find only a few goats grazing outside their classroom. I can safely conclude that very little learning occurred during that eventful day in Ogongo. The next time I hear complaints about learners' low test scores I am blaming it on the baboon.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ethano = picture


Me gusta mi madre

Apologies for the lack of posts this past month. I am going to make an honest attempt at writing small anecdotes daily rather than these lengthy monthly ramblings. Here is the brief update of my life in Namibia. My mom flew into Windhoek on the 18th of May. We spent a few days vacationing in Swakopmund then a few days in Windhoek for my mid service volunteer meetings. She has been living in Ogongo with me now for the past two weeks. She will be here until the end of July! I am so excited for her to experience my Namibian life and for all the incredible things we can accomplish together. She has been nothing short of spectacular thus far – reading to the primary learners, sewing computer covers, organizing the library, decorating my house and keeping me sane!

Check out the blog for the Ogongo Library Project for updates on our fundraising and plans for the library.

Word of the day: book = eembo

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The greatest gift....

My learners enjoy bringing me small gifts that I have come to look forward to receiving. I am just amazed at the generosity of these children who have nothing of their own. The gifts are a surprise every time – random fruit or nuts, guava, half eaten fat cake, used erasers, hand drawn maps of the school, elaborate greeting cards that read “I love you more than fat cakes” or “This love explain how you feel to words.” The day before a math test I got a card that said “Please pray to God tonight that I pass your test tomorrow!”

Today I received a gift that tops all of them......a cat. Serious. Sabina, a grade 6 learner, walked into class today with a large cardboard box and handed it to me and said “okambishi” and sure enough, under the newspaper and plastic, there was a black and white kitten! Cats are not well-liked here, so the learners were shocked at how ecstatic I was and they thought I was joking when I said the cat would sleep in my bed with me...ha. I spent the night trying to get her to eat and not run under my bed out of reach. I am still thinking about a name.....

Word of the Day: Okambishi = cat

Monday, April 20, 2009

High Hopes!

The stars are aligning and everything seems to be falling into place for myself and my school. Both the newly constructed buildings (one for classrooms, one for teacher housing) are nearing their completion and look beautiful! Grade 10-11 and myself will be moving into our new homes by the end of the month. I'm pretty excited for running water and a flushing toilet! The teachers are finished with their daily computer training, which means we can finally start sports and other extra-curricular activities. I am super excited about this because I am starting the very first ladies' soccer team at Ogongo Combined School. We had our first set of tryouts today and over 40 girls came out! It looks like I have my work cut out for me, but I am ready. Task number one - choose a team, task two – teach the rules of soccer, task three – find other girls' teams to play against!

Let's see, what else....

The past couple weekends have been great. We had a 4 day weekend for Easter and I went to Etosha National Park with other volunteers. It was relaxing and beautiful! We had tons of great animal sightings, including 27 giraffes, a handful of jackels, 3 elephants, and an entire pride of lions! I will try to post a few of the best pictures. It was also great to spend time with some of the volunteers that I have not seem since orientation. Last weekend my roommate and I went to stay at Meme Bertha's, once again to make banana bread (without bananas). Then I spent most of the day Saturday with my principal in Oshakati, finishing the night at home grading a million math tests (majority of them passed!!). Sunday night a played a hilarious game of soccer with some of the Grade 11 girls and boys. We played barefoot in our front lawn by the light of a motion-censored flood light. We could see as long as someone was running in front of the showers every few minutes!

Phrase of the day: Inda hui = Go away!

Sleepover at Meme Bertha's with our 'no banana' banana cake. From left to right: Meme Aili (colleague), Meme Bertha(colleague), Ishuna, Ester, Magano(roommate)

Tangi Unene!

I need to take a few minutes to recognize all of the people who have or are currently contributing to the Ogongo Library Project. I have been amazed by the overwhelming support and involvement of the following groups and individuals:

Webster City High School (The teachers and students of WCHS worked extremely hard to organize a book drive and collect donations. They recently sent 15 boxes of book and school supplies!)

Sparta Cadet Troop 264 (These ambitious girls have been organizing a handful of fundraisers and will be pen pals with a group of my grade 9 girls)

Sparta Brownie Troop 475 (Organizing and conducting a Read-a-Thon to raise money and collect books)

Wong Publications (Donating two copies of The First Days of School)

Alfreeda (Organizing a book and poster drive at her high school in Madison)

Heidi Tumerman (Heading the Ogongo Library project, sending a million books and most importantly being such an amazing and supportive mother!)

In addition to all of the book, poster, and supply donations, we are currently at $1200 in donations. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has contributed in some way! Please check out our project website at

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Multiplication, prostitutes and banana bread

This last week of school went even better than the last! We, including teachers and learners, seem to be getting back into the swing of things again. I am experiencing much more success in my math classes. They are still really struggling, but I can see the light bulb going off for a few of them! My math classes have been a challenge because of the discrepancies in achievement paired with the expectations of the school and Ministry of Education. In order to prepare my learners for the end of year exams, I am suppose to be teaching them long division and multiplication when majority don't know 3 times 4. I was really proud of my grade 7 last week for doing so well on their multiplication quiz. Quite a few of them were even able to multiply 2 and 3 digits numbers. They have their first unit test on Wednesday....we will see how that goes!

Some of my grade 7 learners and I started a Math and Oshiwambo Exchange. There's about 4-5 learners that have been coming into my office during study time. I give them help with their math homework and they teach me Oshiwambo. It has been great! They are getting the help they need, I'm getting to know them better and my Oshiwambo is improving. Last Thursday they made me signs to put up around my place to teach me household words. My colleagues and friends get such a kick out of me trying to speak Oshiwambo. I often have them laughing hysterically just by saying things like “Andi hole ovula candi hole efundja!” (translations: I like the rain, but I don't like the flood) What really gets them rolling on the floor is when I don't say it correctly or use the wrong word without knowing, like frog (efuma) instead of flood (efundja) or prostitute (oshikumbu) instead of goat (oshikombo). I told a group of my colleges that “I know many animals – like elephants, dogs, fish, donkeys, prostitutes and cows.” They fall in the same category right? Laughter is everywhere here and so contagious! That is one thing that I know I will miss greatly after going home – laughing all day long.

So the chefs in my family will appreciate this next story. As of two weeks ago, I became the best cook known to Ogongo. I earned this coveted title after a sad attempt at chocolate chip cookies. They were thin, slightly burnt, and not enough chocolate. Yet they were pieces of heaven to the residents of Ogongo. I get asked everyday at school when I am going to bring my “little cakes” again. Then I absolutely wowed them with banana bread! One of my colleagues and good friends, Meme Bertha, is a very good cook and has her own catering business. She said that she must learn to cook like me, so I stayed at her house on Friday and spent Saturday morning baking. Fortunately, these batches turned out tens time better than my first! I am thinking about organizing a bake sale for a small fundraiser.

Word of the day: toilet = okandjugo

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Back in the Game...

Now that I have the internet, I guess I have no excuse for not blogging on a regular basis. Life in Ogongo has started to calm down a bit. We started school last Monday, after being closed for 5 weeks. I hit a rough spot around week two of the unanticipated holiday. I had this overwhelming feeling of helplessness. The flooding was greatly affecting my villages, learners, colleagues and friends,but I kept hitting dead ends when trying to find ways to help. I was stranded in my village knowing that learners weren't able to get to school and even worse, people were losing their lives due to the flooding (Over 100 people have died in the northern regions). On top of all of this, I was struggling with the fact that I was not even able to do what I came here for – to teach.

Fortunately my spirits rose quickly over the past two weeks. I took a much needed vacation with a fellow volunteer, Adam, whose school was also closed and was also feeling some of the same frustrations. We took a road trip to Okahao, Opuwo and Ongwediva to visit other volunteers. We spent two nights in Okahao with Jen, going to her school and celebrating her birthday, along with EricaEmily, Aleks, Chris and Chloe. The celebration included custard filled donuts, punya punya (red wine and coke), laughing and a lot of venting! It was really great to be able to share my frustrations and successes with other volunteers going through similar situations. I'm not sure what I would do without them here! After Okahao, Adam and I took three different hikes to get to Opuwo, home to the Himba, Dhimba, Herero, and of course, Will, Carmen, and Ayoola. Opuwo has an amazing mixture of culture – modern and traditional. Walking down the main street of Opuwo I observed all of the following: a Herero woman in a Victorian style dress with big shoulders and elaborate headress, a man wearing a Fubu jersey with aviators, many topless Himba women wearing only goat skin skirts and traditional jewelry, a boy standing on the side of the road in only his underwear and knee high socks, many learners in clean cut uniforms, Dhimba men carrying walking sticks, wearing brightly colored traditional “skirts,” and the occasional Oshilumbu (white person). Opuwo is also home to The Diplomat, a hopping bar with a disco ball and sunken in dance floor! And the greatest part about it was that everyone thought I was an amazing dancer...ha...little do they know, I lack any resemblance of rhythm. We ended our road trip with a relaxing weekend in Ongwediva, where we met a bunch of other volunteers and stayed at a nice hotel (with amazing food!). On Friday night we saw Gazza and Tate Butey in concert (two popular Namibian artists). Aside from the obvious lip syncing, attempted pickpocketing and tear gas, it was a great show!

After being rejuvenated and re inspired, I returned to Ogongo with high spirits ready to begin teaching again! It felt great to be back in the classroom and see my learners. I missed them more than I realized! And they were so ecstatic to be back as well – I would be too after spending five weeks of cultivating and pounding mahangu! I spent all of Sunday reconstructing the timetable for the whole school to include the two new teachers. The teachers seem to be happy with the new schedule and very grateful of the work I put into it. I am crossing my fingers that it will not have to be changed again! This week at school was great, but quite exhausting. I was ready for the weekend. This morning I walked to the Agriculture College with Rouja, Paulina, Beatrix, Amalia, and Hallelujah to cheer on the Ogongo soccer team. We watched two intense the intense heat. There is another two games tomorrow morning that I am thinking about going to. The soccer team trains everyday outside of my house and every since one of my colleagues told them that I was a pro soccer player, they keep asking my to play with them. I don't think they understand that it is possible for me to have played soccer for 10 years and not be a star player. I think they are just impressed that I girl can play, since that is not common here (unfortunately). One of these days I will get up the nerve to practice with them. Until then, I will just enjoy watching them – quite pleasing to the eye!

Word of the day: eskola = school


Friday, March 27, 2009

Iyaloo = thank you/cheers/any celebratory remark

I finally got the internet working on my laptop! Unless its some cruel April Fool's joke, it will stay working indefinitely (or at least for awhile). Everyday seems to be April Fool's Day here. The bus driver showing up without the bus, promises of teaching housing hindered by the World Cup, finding out that learners will no longer be camping after spending 8 hours and $100 shopping for supplies. School will only be closed for one week - psych - 5 weeks later.......I am half anticipating Ashton Kutcher to jump out from behind a donkey yelling "You've been Punk'd!"

In case this glory does not last, I am going to post as many pictures as possible now. I have also started an album on Facebook.

My home!
I live in a small compound that has four flats- mine is the door to the right of the trees. I live next to/with eight Grade 11 learners and another teacher. The building behind the trees is my shower and the outhouse is not pictured - thankfully located far from my windows.

Apparently that is all the pictures I can upload........April Fool's!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ogongo Library Project

As previously stated, I am working on fundraising project to build and equip a new library at my school. My mother and I are collaborating to make this possible. Please take a minute to look at the blog that my mom created with more details on the project.

Flood Update: I am still out of school (until March 24th), but the flood waters have receded quite a bit and things are looking hopeful!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Candihole Ejundja!

I've had numerous request for more blog posts and pictures,which makes me happy that you are reading and enjoying them! Unfortunately my internet access is minimal and very sporadic. I have taken a lot of great pictures, but uploading them is a nightmare and takes about 10 minute per picture. I heard that it is easier to upload pictures to Facebook, so I will try that for all of you that are on the big FB. As for blog posts, I am going to try to write a few journals every week and then just post them all at once when I have internet access.

Tuesday, March 3rd
Thank you so much for everyone who showed interest in helping with my fundraising efforts. I now have 4-5 book drives starting back home – that is amazing! I really want to make this new library project a reality! My mom, Heidi, is heading fundraising efforts back home for the library and has some great ideas. Keep watching my blog for an update about how you can make a donation and have a book dedicated to you and put in the new library!

I recently remembered a blog worthy story from my very first night in Ogongo. Prior to coming here, the only information that I had about my living situation was that the village was building me a new house! So were are driving to my placement in the dark, way out in the middle of no where. I was sure that I was going to be living in the bush and I would have to ride a donkey to get to my stick hut. Then in the distance I see these bright christmas lights. The driver says, “Your place is there” and points to the oasis of red, yellow and green lights. As we get closer I realize that the lights are decorating a local bar called “Chris Pub” and my place is a small flat right next to the shabeen. Anyways, we pull into the compound and it is hard to really see the house and even the faces of the people who are anxiously greeting me. Then my principal brings me into my flat and after she turns on the light it is clear to me that this is not a newly built house. I will spare you the details. One of the first things my principal says to me is, and I quote, “We could not build you a new house because of the World Cup.” At first I thought I misheard her or maybe something was lost in translation, but then she explained. So they get all of their cement shipments from South Africa and their order was put on hold. Apparently there is a shortage of cement coming from South Africa because they are using all of it to build facilities for the upcoming World Cup. Therefore, it is the World Cup's fault that my house was not built. I've started to blame all of the misfortunes or delays here on the World Cup.

Word/Phrase of the Day: Efundja = flood

Wednesday, March 4nd
Some of the older learners have been telling me about a wedding tradition practiced in Namibia that is called a labola (sp?). After asking for a woman's hand in marriage, it is customary, and required, for the groom to give the bride's family a large gift/offering. In some tribes, the groom is expected to give up to 15 or 20 cattle. In other tribes it may be a few goats, plowing equipment, or money. This tradition is still practiced, to some extent, almost everywhere in Namibia and many people are questioning its worth. It is stopping some couples from getting married because the groom is not wealthy enough to offer what the family is expecting,therefore not receiving their approval. It is then causing couples to move in together and bare children out of wedlock. My learners were very insightful about the issue and compared both sides of the issue. One interesting point that they made was that the relationship between husband and wife would change if this tradition was abolished. Now, many husbands feel that they “own” their wives and take on the attitude of “You better do as a say because I paid a lot for you!” This dynamic would change if groom's no longer “paid” in order to marry their wives.

Word/Phrase of the Day: Otandi ilongo Oshiwambo = I am learning Oshiwambo

Monday, March 9th
Last night, about 100 learners came to camp at the school. They set up mattresses (if they were lucky to have them) and blankets in the classrooms. Two memes (mothers) came along to help with the cooking. They set up a fire and made enough food for 100 kids faster than I cook for myself! Unfortunately today we had to tell the learners that we could not stay open and they had to go home for another two weeks. It took a 2 hour staff meeting to come to that decision. It was one of the first times that I have really seen my colleagues debate something and express their opinions. It was also the first time that I felt comfortable expressing my views during a staff discussion. It felt really good to be a part of the discussion rather than a spectator. It was hard to make that decision, knowing that the learners have already lost almost 3 weeks of classes. It is going to be difficult to compensate for that lost time. Now I have another two week holiday! I am hoping to visit some other volunteers during this time off.

Word/Phrase of the Day: Ondishi Oshiwambo kashona = I know a little Oshiwambo

Wednesday, March 11th
Due to the flood craziness, these past two weeks have been a roller coaster ride. To quote a friend, I have been “fluctuating between excessively hopeless and overly optimistic.” Everyday is a new challenge – walking 10 km to get out of my village because the road is washed out, walking back 10 km with numerous bags of groceries, entertaining 10 grade 11 girls for two weeks, coping with the fact that over 30 people have died due to the flooding in my region alone (mostly drownings), sitting through a 3 hour parents meeting in Oshiwambo, purchasing and transporting food for 100 learners that are camping at school, finding out that we cannot have learners camping and being forced to stay closed! But I have learned from my Namibian friends to find light in everything that I do and to celebrate the small successes (like not having rain for 3 days, being able to greet in Oshiwambo with ease and baking two dozen delicious chocolate chip cookies).

Tomorrow I begin my journey across northern Namibia. I will spend the day in Oshakati with Frans, a friend and former colleague. Then tomorrow night I am going to Okahao to celebrate Jen's birthday with her and a few others. Saturday I will attempt to hike all the way to Rundu (about 8 hours east of me). I will stay there for most of next week, visiting different volunteers and their schools. Then I will be back in Ongwediva next Friday for a night out with Jocie and a bunch of the other volunteers. I am really excited to visit some of the volunteers that I have not seen since orientation and to experience their schools/villages.

Word/Phrase of the Day: ondongi =donkey

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Northern Namibia has been affected recently by flooding coming from Angola. Unfortunately my village has been hit pretty hard. There are natural lakes here called Oshanas that are formed from rain water and flooding from the north. It is typical this time of year for Oshanas to form, but this year they have risen extremely high and are flooding other areas of the village. The main road to enter Ogongo is washed out in numerous places and many people have had to evacuate theirhomes. The school facilities have not been affected directly, but we had to cancel school for 10 days because many of our learners have to cross the Oshanas to get to school. At the beginning of last week, learners were literally swimming to school in water that was up to their chest and shoulders. They would come to school late, soaking wet, and freezing! As you can assume, very little learning took place during those few days.

It is unclear as to when the flooding will recede. It could take over a month! We are brainstorming ways to get the learners to school, since it is very hard to compensate for a month of missed classes. One option is to have learners camp near school. The government will hopefully provide tents and possibly food while they camp. The other option is to use the facilities of a nearby college, but it may cost the school quite a bit of money.

With that said, I currently have two projects that I would like to raise money for. Read below to see if there is a way that you could help out!

1)FLOOD RELIEF: You can donate money that will go towards either buying food and supplies for camping or paying to use the college facilities. Any amount of contribution is greatly appreciated. A small amount of U.S. money can go a long way in Namibia!

2)NEW LIBRARY: Due to lack of facilities and resources our school does not have a functioning library. For a school that has students in 1st -11th grade, all learning English, having access to many kinds of literature is a necessity. This is why I have made building a new library one of my priorities. Here is how you can help:
1.Make a financial contribution. This money will go towards the construction of the facility and the furniture within (shelves, desks, chairs, etc.).
2.Donate books and other resources. It is difficult to buy/find novels and picture books in Namibia. I would gladly accept the following (used or new): picture books, teen novels, non-fiction, periodicals, magazines, old textbooks, posters, supplies for checking out books (checkout cards, card sleeves, date stamp, etc). Have a book drive at your local school or church!

Please email me at if you are interested in making a contribution. If you are going to donate money,please send checks to my mom, make them out to her and she will deposit them in my account. Here is her address:
Heidi Tumerman
13077 Katydid Ave.
Sparta, WI54656

Despite the flood and school cancellation, I have had quite an enjoyable week. From dance parties in my kitchen to soccer games on the small amount of dry land, these Namibians have really shown me how to keep their spirits high! This last weekend I traveled to Raucana Falls with 8 other volunteers. We camped at a beautiful campground right on the river. On Saturday we went to the falls, which are right on the border of Namibia and Angola. We hiked down to the bottom of the falls and saw a crocodile and many small monkeys! I will try and post some pictures of the falls in this post. It was worth walking 5 km in/out of my village through flood waters to see Raucana Falls and all the other volunteers!

It has been quite easy filling this time off of school. Monday was a surprisingly sunny and dry day. I spent the day washing clothes and hanging out with my grade 11 learners. We had a mini Oshiwambo language lesson. I learned all the animals and how to say “I don't know Oshiwambo” and “I am learning Oshiwambo.” Then I taught them how to make jewelry. We sat out in the sun making earrings,bracelets and necklaces. The girls were in heaven! Tuesday I learned how to make Oshithima, which is a traditional porridge. It is a staple food here, eaten at least once a day. We had an impromptu beauty pageant and modeling sessions (see pictures). I ended the day with a movie party in my flat – 10 girls, 4 bowls of popcorn and Little Miss Sunshine!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ahh.....where to begin? It has been two weeks since my last post and so much has happened! I am in my third week of teaching. My classes are starting to run more smoothly. The learners are slowing adjusting to my methods of teaching. They are used to traditional learning consisting of teacher lecturing, oral repetition, and copying notes from the board. Schools here are starting to move towards a student-centered teaching approach, but it is a slow transition. It took me 20 minutes to explain the concept of working with a partner. It also took an entire class period for my grade 6 learners to draw bingo cards in their notebooks. They are all perfectionists – to the extreme! Many of them could not even handle ripping up paper to make markers for their cards. They insisted on drawing lines on the paper and using a ruler to cut perfect square pieces. They depend on rulers for everything! I have even seen learners use a ruler to draw the “equals” line that you put under a math problem. This often makes it difficult to get anything done in my math class, but it serves well in art class. They are amazing drawers! My learners also love to sing. So far we have sang The Hokey Pokey, Shake Your Foot, and Alive, Awake, Alert. I am so thankful for all my years of learning camp songs! Even my grade 10 class loves to do the hokey pokey! My high schoolers back home would not be caught singing and dancing like that. I love their enthusiasm and love for music/dance here! Today, as I was walking to my math class, I heard my grade 7 learners singing. I expected to find a teacher in their leading them, but instead I found 10 learners standing in front of the class singing an amazing song in Oshiwambo while the rest of the class clapped and sang along. It was beautiful. I will try to record them singing and post the video online.

I can't remember if I said this in a previous post, but my school recently received 20 new computers! They hired someone to come and train all of the teachers to use them. The trainer, Magano, is actually my roommate. She will be here until March or April. They have computer class everyday from 2-5 PM. I have not been allowed to bring my classes into the computer lab yet, but hopefully soon! The computers are set up in the school library, which is a project that I am going to start working on soon. If I had to guess, there are maybe 100-200 books in the library, most of which are old textbooks. I really want to get more picture books and novels in there, but those kinds of resources are very scarce here. I'm sure a book drive back home will happen sometime in the near future! I would love any help and/or donations in that area!

I have had so many moments when I have thought, “Wow, I am right where I am suppose to be.” Ogongo is definitely starting to feel like home. I have adapted, faster than I expected, to the ways of life here. There are still many reminders throughout the day that I am not in America anymore. I am really living in rural Africa. Some of these pleasant reminders include: donkeys, chickens and cows in the school yard, chasing goats out of my kitchen, walking 20 yards to my outhouse (often greeted by frogs and lizards while in there), almost getting run over by donkey drawn wagons, falling asleep to the sound of pouring rain on my tin roof, brilliant pink and purple sunsets, washing all my clothes by hand (which I have grown to enjoy very much), riding in a taxi with 6 adults and a baby, paying $2.00 (US) for an hour taxi ride and 40 cents for a doctor's visit, including 2 prescriptions.

I will leave you with a handful of anecdotes and random thoughts on my life in Namibia:

 The school bell that is suppose to ring between classes sounds like a fire alarm. It is common for the electricity to be out, therefore we have to ring a bell in the schoolyard that involves banging a large steel bar against a pipe hanging in a tree. I have taken over the responsibility of official “bell ringer.”

 A conversation between myself and a colleague:
Meme Benisia: Do you eat meat?
Me: Yes
Meme: Oh...because Kimberlee (the previous volunteer) did not. She only ate
the muscles. That is good that you like to eat the organs and bones as well.

 My grade 11 neighbors get a kick out of mocking my laugh. They say, “I am laughing in English” and let out this ridiculous deep chuckle. This has turned into a running joke of doing things “in English.” The other day they were pretending to run and jump in English.

 Many of my learners are still struggling with English. A common mistake that they make is using “help” instead of “borrow/lend.” Everyday I have learners asking me, “Can you please help me a pencil?” They have memorized the typical greeting of “Hi, how are you?” “I am fine,” but they don't quite understand the meanings of the different words; therefore when I simply say “Hello” to a learner, they will respond “I am fine.” I got taught some of my learners alternative responses. Now I hear words like super, fabulous and awesome when I ask “How are you?”

 As I mentioned before, it is very important to greet people here. The mornings at school are always fun because when I walk into the office, I must greet every teacher that I see individually. I have mastered the greeting process in Oshiwambo, but I'm still working on making sure that I greet everyone. This is hard when I am still learning names and faces and I can't remember who I have already greeted. Those who have been missed are not hesitate to tell me! I often get comments such as “Rachel, why did you not greet me this morning?” or “Rachel, what is wrong? Are you sick? (No, why?) Because you did not greet me this morning, so something must be wrong!”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

First week of school!

Wa hula po (good afternoon)

I have officially finished my first week of teaching in Ogongo! It was a crazy, amazing, frustrating, and interesting week. I arrived on Saturday night to a 2 room flat with absolutely nothing in it - no bed, table, chairs, nothing! The owner brought me a mattress to sleep on until my things arrived. Luckily they delivered my things on Sunday. I now have a bed, fridge, stove, desk and 2 chairs! I am still living out of a suitcase though, because I have no storage for clothes or anything. I have a roommate. Her name is Magano. She is living in Ogongo for 2-3 months because she is doing computer training for the teachers at my school. The school just received 20 new computers! This is very exciting, considering the school does not have a phone or enough classrooms for all of the students! I am teaching more classes than expected. I teach Grade 6 and 7 Math, Grade 5-7 Art, Grade 5-9 Life Skills and Grade 10 Basic information Systems (computers/library).

The schools here are so drastically different from the states, I don't even know where to begin! The conditions of the school are unbelievable. I will post pictures soon so you can really see what I am talking about. The classrooms are rundown with very old desks and chairs that are almost all broken. Learners often share desks and even chairs. One of my classrooms has 45 learners and 30 some desks! One big difference is that the learners stay in one classroom the entire day and the teachers rotate. This means that I don't really have classroom space of my own! I have to carry all of my supplies and resources from class to class. There is also no time inbetween periods, therefore class doesn't usually start on time. On a good day, I get about 30 minutes of teaching time. It is also common for teachers to not go to the classes they are teaching - especially if they are non-promotional (art, PE, computers, etc). My principal is amazing! She is new to the school as well and has alot of great ideas and high expectations for the teachers and learners. She is getting her Masters in Special Education, which is very rare here! I am going to be working with her to start a remedial tutoring program for struggling students. THat is very exciting!

I am living next to 2 flats of Grade 11 learners. The are incredible girls and my saviors! They have been teaching me how to cook traditional food, do my laundry and I even learned how to make a broom from grass! They love learning about the States and using their English with me. They have also been a great help in learning Oshindonga!

Ok I have been on the internet for way too long! I have so much more to share, but no time! I am considering getting internet in my home and then I can send more updates. I hope everyone is doing well - especially in the cold!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A few pictures

I am still trying to navigate the computers/internet here and figure out the best way to upload pictures. I added a few on here, but it was difficult for me to add captions. These pictures are mainly from Etosha Wild Game Park and my practicum teaching in the north. I will figure out a more efficient way of uploading photo albums when I have more time at a computer!

Wa lala po!

Today is my last day of orientation in Windhoek. Tomorrow (Saturday) morning I will be picked up by a bus and driven up north to my placement in Ogongo. This last week of orientation has flown by! We got back from Tsumeb on Tuesday and the past few days have been full of training sessions. We had language training every day in Oshindongo – the language of my village. It was very difficult to learn and I definitely need to do some studying! Here is a taste of it:

Wa lala po = Good morning
Wa hula po = Good afternoon
Wa tokelwa po = Good evening
Ka lale po nawa = Goobye
Tangi = Thank You
Meme = mother/or woman older than you
Tate = father/or man older than you
Ombwa oya sa = the dog is dead

Yes, that is correct, one of the key phrases that I learned was “the dog is dead.” I also learned how to say “Hey white person, what do you want?” and “Run, whitey, run.” Our language instructor, Meme Shiivute, was one crazy woman! Ten minutes into the first lesson, she asked us to write sentences in Oshindongo (without teaching us any vocab!) and the second lesson she said that she was only going to speak in Oshindongo. She told us a few great stories about her life and growing up in the north during the apartheid. Prior to independence, black students were required to repeat 2nd grade and 8th grade just because they were inferior to the white students. She finished school and completed her teacher training. Her husband was put in jail for political reasons and her family was in danger. So they moved to Windhoek and she has lived here since.

It still hasn't hit me that I will be teaching in a small village for the next year! I have had some great cultural experiences thus far, but I still feel like I am on vacation with 30 other Americans. I cannot wait to get to Ogongo on Saturday! I have a few anxieties about teaching/living/getting around, but I'm so excited to get settled, meet everyone in my village and get back into a classroom! It has only been a month since I left WCHS and I already miss teaching!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I have a new phone number. The new number is 011-264-81-367-7527. The address I gave before is still correct. This is my cell phone number. It is extremely expensive for me to call the states from my phone - so if you call I may not call you back right away - just keep calling! I do not have to pay for incoming calls or incoming texts. I can also send text messages to select providers for pretty cheap.

Practicum Teaching, Etosha, and Tsumeb

I am currently in Tsumeb - a medium size town in the north. I spent the last week in a small village north of here. We did our practicum teaching in a hostel school there. For four days, I taught a group of students for two periods each day. Since learners have a break from school, they had children from the village come in for our classes. It was quite interesting because there was a huge range of ages! Since I am one of the few to be teaching grade 5-7 this year, I got the youngest learners. I had a class of learners that ranged from 2 years old to 8 years old! The oldest student was in grade 2. This was quite a struggle because only a few of them knew English! In Namibia, learners have classes in their native language for the first few years of school and then in grade 3 or 4, all of their classes are conducted in English. It was also a struggle trying to teach this class with toddlers in the group! I spent half the time teaching with a baby on my hip! It was a great experience though. The children are amazing! There were 7 and 8 year olds taking care of their 2 year old siblings. I did not see a single parent the entire time we were there. When asked what they did the night before, most learners said they plowed the fields, cooked dinner, worked outside, or took care of younger siblings. They LOVE to get their pictures taken. Everytime I took out my camera I had 10 or more kids posing and begging me to take their picture. I really want to post pictures on here, but I still haven't found a computer with USB access.

To reward ourselves and take a break, we have a few days off. Yesterday we drove through Etosha National Wildlife Park. It was unbelievable! I saw a ton of zebras, springboks and wildabeests. We also saw a male lion! Apparently it is very rare to see one in Etosha - we were very lucky! He was just chilling in the shade. The most amazing part was seeing an African elephant! It was walking next to our bus and then walked down the road right in front of the bus for a ways. We also saw a giraffe from a distance, wild dik-diks, warthogs, and a handful of African birds. I will definitely be making a trip back to Etosha in the next year! Today, we have the whole day free in Tsumeb, which is a nice town. Since it is Sunday, we struggled finding anything that was open. After a long trek, we found a gas station with one computer! The hostel we are staying in is great. There is a pool and very nice rooms. There are birds all over the hostel, including a beautiful peacock!

We drive back to Windhoek tomorrow (Monday) and spend the rest of the week in the same hostel as before. I am very excited for my language training this week. I will have daily lessons in Oshivambo. Friday we are having a braii (traditional BBQ) with live music to celebrate the end of orientation. On Saturday we all travel to our placements and then I start teaching on Monday (19th). I am very anxious and excited to get to Ogongo, get settled in, and start teaching!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Let the journey begin...

This is an updated version of my journal (I found a USB drive and uploaded an old journal). Happy New Year from Namibia! After 4 flights totaling 20 hours, I have arrived in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. We spent New Year's Eve in a posh hotel in Johannesberg – quite an experience! On the first of the year, we flew into Namibia and took a large bus to our hostel “backpacker” in Windhoek. Our bus driver, Mr. Cassinga, provided us with the fine entertainment of Enrique Inglesias' “You Can Be My Hero”.......on repeat. Apparently he is quite popular here, along with Celine Dion, R. Kelly, and 50 Cent. We are staying in Windhoek for four nights at the Backpackers United with an outdoor pool, shaded cabana and catered food. With all of these plush accommodations, I feel like I am on vacation rather than teaching in rural African village for a year! It will be a rude awakening once I move to my village on January 17th, but I guess this is a nice transition into my placement.

My schedule for the next few weeks is as follows: 4 days in Windhoek for orientation, 5 days in a north central village for practicum teaching, 2 days traveling through Etosha National Wildlife Park and staying in Tsumeb, and then back to Windhoek for the remaining 4 days for finish up our training. World Teach does an amazing job of preparing their volunteers for the full cultural experience teaching in Namibia. We discuss all kinds of teaching strategies – from specific subjects to general classroom management and the Namibian education system – as well as Namibian culture, language training, dealing with culture shock, and much more! In addition to being very educational, this orientation has allowed me to meet so many amazing people. There are 31 volunteers total, which is the most they have ever had. We have only been together a few days and I can already tell the group dynamic is just perfect. It is such a diverse group – in terms of background, age, experience, and careers, yet we all have this common passion for helping others that ties us all together.

Since I have only been here a brief time, I have not been able to experience the Namibian culture, but there are a few things that we have discussed that are quite different from American life. One is the way that you are expected to greet others. Greetings are very important and it is quite offensive if you do not take the time to say “Hello, how are you?” and wait for the other party to answer and reciprocate the greeting. This holds true not only in social situations, but anytime you have an interaction with someone whether you are at the grocery store, eating at a restaurant or running into the post office to drop of mail. There have been a few times where people have been refused service because they failed to greet someone. Wait, they value being cordial and friendly? What a concept! Another big cultural difference is the concept of time. Namibians are very laid back when it comes to time and schedules. Everything seems to move at a slower pace and they do not feel the need to rush through life. In theory, this seems wonderful, but I can see where I will have many challenges, especially once I am teaching and wanting to accomplish so many things. I'm sure I will have many stories about these two big cultural differences in the future.

I am hoping to get to an internet cafe and update my blog as often as possible – maybe 1 to 2 times a month. I would love to hear from all of you – via blog comments, email, snail mail or phone. I will list my contact information below, including my cell phone number. There are a few ways to call me. You can purchase a calling card that allows you to call Namibia. You can only get these cards online. You can use or It seems a little sketchy (with many hidden fees) but you can't buy them any other way. The cheapest way is through Skype. If you are not familiar with it, it is a free program you can download and use with the internet. It is free to call other people with Skype or you can call cellphones or landlines for a small fee. I won't have internet often to use Skype, but you can call my cellphone on Skype and it is much cheaper than a calling card or anything else.

Here is my address for the next year. I would love to hear from you!

Rachel Manley
Ogongo CS
PO Box 3056
Oshikati, Namibia