long time, no post...
Long time since the last post, I'm not going to try to vividly re-enact the last month, basically we had our first school break, I hiked the Fish River Canyon and almost died stranded in the desert.
Back in Otjituuo our Principal surprised everyone the first day back by announcing his departure, effective immediately. That was a huge shock and disappointment on many levels. For one thing he was a great principal, he had single-handedly come in and re-invigorated a very troubled school, every one of the staff was literally crestfallen when he told the staff, assuming the school would then revert to the dark pre-//Hoabeb days. From my own personal perspective it is a great loss because as one of the only non-Herero people he was also an outsider here and I shared that bond with him, whenever things got too much to deal with he could sympathize. Then there is the loss from the point of view of sheer staffing -- now we only have 9 staff for nearly 400 kids. Oh, and he was the only staff member with a vehicle, so to get to Grootfontein means going down to the junction and waiting with my hand out for a couple hours to flag down a truck with cattle going to Grootfontein.
The first week of class was ok -- each day I gradually had 10 or so more kids, a gradient that surely effected my lessons as the week went on. Right now we are working with fractions in Maths class and I especially liked doing demonstrations with beans and macaroni with the small class, but by Friday we were back to copying off the board and repeating steps in determining greatest common factor. In English I am doing a section on letter writing. Through Peace Corps' "World Wise Schools" program I got linked up with a teacher in upstate New York -- we have been exchanging emails and my kids are writing letters, drawing pictures and I'm taking photos to send to the States. The crazy part is that the teacher I'm paired with has a sister that lives in Windhoek who did a session for Peace Corps. In a country the size of California with the population the size of Pasadena, Americans tend to stand out.
It's also getting mighty cold around here -- like gloves and wool hat cold. My hot water was out for the first week which made bathing in a tub filled with hot water from the stove necessary. I've also taken to wearing my fleece pretty much always. Apparently as with the rains, it's unusually cold for Namibia and just this morning I heard about snow flurries in the Eastern Cape -- it's only snowed once in recent memory in Namibia and it was hail so it doesn't really count. Oh, and we've been having periodic power failures. Because Namibia imports about 50% of its energy from Eskom, the South African utility company, and they've had one of their reactors down this year for maintenance there is sometimes "Power-Free Sundays" where entire regions are without power.
I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new color iPod, I broke my three-year old darling in a fit of hubris (I was showing another volunteer how to open one). It’s stuck in customs hell in South Africa – hopefully it’ll be cleared by the time we have the all-volunteer conference in Swakopmund next week.
Oh wanted to shout out Brian & Marsha, the first Peace Corps volunteers in Otjituuo who found this blog somehow – everyone still remembers you guys around here, it’s cool to think of the continuity. I am still mistaken for Jared, the immediately previous volunteer, but you guys were certainly the trailblazers in setting up shop here. As far as the staff at Otjituuo is concerned I didn’t recognize the names of the police officers you mentioned. I think those guys tend to have a high turnover, the new officers are one Damara-Nama man named Timo and a Caprivian named Mundia. Like I said, David left last week, but Meme Kalunduka is still here as is Ndjarakana, Kavezepa and Tjiriange. We also have a new teacher from Ovamboland and my neighbor, Ms. Kandingua who is from a cattle post near Okamatapati. Other than that the everyone is basically the same.
Another bit of news is that I secured funding for at least one school trip, through the Namibian Nature Foundation we’re going to have a trip to Waterberg Plateau Park, as well as to Windhoek for the best learners. I put in a request for money from Go Green! / Ned Bank for a trip to Etosha, that is still pending but the signs are looking good. The final trip would be for 15 learners to go to Germany along with 5 staff members. We are still in negotiations about that but remarkably that is looking like it will be easier to fund than the trip to Etosha…
Last bit of good news: we are FOR SURE getting a cell phone tower put in this month, the chiefs are meeting with MTC (the Namibian telecom) this afternoon about the exact placement of the tower but it seems like it’s going to be about 12 km from my house which will be awesome. Really looking forward to not having to bother Kalunduka or the secretary if I want to make a phone call or need to receive one.