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!”