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