Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grocery Shopping

My trip to the grocery store. Getting groceries is my one regular activity where I get to leave town. Leaving after school at 1PM, it is about a 60 mile drive on a dirt road and takes up the rest of the day. I look forward to it every Friday, a chance to get a bit of normalcy, whether its eating at my fried chicken spot or simply walking around a town. Grootfontein, isn’t large by any means but the streets are paved and its a goat free zone. These trips however, are also an exercise in patience. 
Before we can leave Coblenz, we drive around to homes with the driver taking money and orders for various things. We pick up additional passengers packing the van to max capacity and then some. Its never a comfortable drive, I once had to sit on a beer crate on the return between the driver and passenger seat. It was really only difficult when the driver had to shift gears, 2nd gear was the worst, my leg just didn’t want to give up the space. In the middle of the drive one of the brake calipers clamped up, brought the van to a halt. Removing the tire took over an hour because of a busted tire iron. We ended up borrowing one from a passing truck. Removing the break took another hour as we had to borrow some tools from a second passing truck. Once the brake was off all of the brake fluid leaked out, pretty sure that wasn’t good for the remaining brakes that were functioning before. It was dark by now, and these deer like animals kept popping up on the road, keeping our speed down I made it home just shy of midnight. One of my longer trips to get groceries for sure.
There was the time we were heading back to Coblenz, car beyond full because of a funeral that was happening over the weekend, music was bumping and everyone was drinking. Things were going fine until a door popped open and we lost a passenger. After a few rolls in the dirt she stopped, we weren’t going that fast after all, maybe 15 mph or so. Figuring out everyones stuff to a good deal of time as well. The driver had a lot of orders that day and once we were in Coblenz it took about an hour for him to drop me off. I would have walked the three miles to my principals farm but it was dark and I had just bought things for my house. This trip was about 11 by the time I got home. 
So the next time your out running errands be thankful you have your own car and that your neighbors do to.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Home

Finally moved into my own place yesterday! It was a great feeling to completely unpack and get my things settled. I’m now staying in the teaching housing on the school grounds. The place is basically a one bedroom apartment, I’ve got plenty of space and hot water. The cold showers at 5 am on the farm made it a bit un-motivating to get out of bed. I will try to get some pictures up but we’ll see how it goes with the slow internet I might just end up throwing my computer through a window, where’s the 3g Namibia? 
Speaking of the farm, I murdered a goat the other week. My principal was missing seven cows for a few days and when he found them he was in a good mood. Such a good mood that he decided I would slaughter a goat for dinner. The cattle are on a communal area where they all just kind of wander all over the place, sometimes they get stolen but frequently misplaced. I have a feeling that was not the last animal I will kill while I’m here.
It’s been Africa hot, think Las Vegas without the AC or buildings. I have a fan which has been my savior, plus it has the ability to blow the air in different directions! Up, down, left, right, but it does have one direction it can’t blow, straight. Go figure. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Settling In

So I am now officially a volunteer! Swore in the other day and left the comforts of Okahandja for my permanent site at Coblenz. Unfortunately, I still won’t be teaching until January, the wait is killing me. When I do get a chance to jump on the internet I like reading up on all the teacher updates from my UCI friends. I would like to be able to add some conversation about the struggles of teaching and vent a little as well, I feel like I’m missing out!
So for the next six weeks I am supposed to establish myself here in Coblenz, observe some classes, and keep myself busy. After those six weeks the school year ends and I get to go to the beach. Its hot as hell and I can’t think of a longer period of time where I wasn’t in the water. I have about a month break so I will be able to make up for all of this  inland living. 
I hope to get a lot of planning done during this down time. I sort of know what subjects I will be teaching, although nothing is ever certain. Teaching is mostly done out of their textbooks which aren’t bad in themselves. Its that teachers do not do any planning really, they just go through the textbook and students are expected to memorize everything. The classes are really boring, but the students do really well for what they are given. If classrooms were run like this in the states the kids would revolt and start throwing things. 
My secondary project is looking like its going to be helping the other teachers develop teaching strategies and some better habits. There are many issues in accomplishing this but I figure I got two years. We’ll see how it develops.
Saw a herd of giraffes the other day driving on the highway and next weekend there is a good chance I will be camping in Etosha national park, google that one.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Giddy up

Ah hell. 
Arrived in Coblenz yesterday, I am in the middle of nowhere. Good luck finding this place on a map. To get to Coblenz involved a 3.5 hour drive from Okahandja, an hour and a half of that was on a gravel road heading deep into the bush. I’ll be here in Coblenz for a week, then head back to Okahandja until October 20th when I’ll make my permanent move to Coblenz. 
I am staying on my principals farm this week and I was promptly woken up this morning by cows and roosters. I was able to check out the school which has around 500 learners. This would make you think that a school of 500 must mean the town is sizable but the learners live at the school and return home only during breaks. 
My “shopping town” is Grootfontein, about 85 km away. Driving an hour plus on a dirt road to get groceries could take some getting used to. Overall I am really excited at the prospect of living here for the next two years. I’m going to start looking into buying a horse, I’ve been told they’re cheap. 
It’s no Newport Beach or high-rise condo on Ocean Blvd but Coblenz is going to be home. The craziest part is the fact that I’m looking forward to all of this. I ready to get teaching, unfortunately the real work won’t start until January when the next school term begins.   

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nam Time

So its been almost a month. I knew keeping this thing up was not going to be easy but at least I am able to provide some perspective.
Namibia is an amazing place, vast and empty but surprisingly well developed. I have been staying in small town outside of the capital called Okahandja. It is a dusty town, I’m fairly sure the whole country is, from the look of things. The people are friendly and nearly everyone speaks at least 3 languages. Our group started at a dorm-like center but we have since moved in with host families. 
I’m staying in a large home with a large family. 2 brothers ages 5 and 14, 3 sisters ages 11, 17, 23, and my host mom. Its an adjustment for sure, I have never had to live with kids before but so far its been working out. 
Today was especially important because I found out where I will spending the next two years. It is a town called Coblenz. I don’t know much, I have yet to do my research but I will be visiting the site this Saturday and spending a week there. Apparently there is lots of cows, and was told to take many movies. Great, California would have paid me to teach in Fresno! Really though I am looking forward to my site, I might buy a horse. 
I have been doing language training for the past few weeks. Its really difficult and the grammar structure is out of control. The language is Otjiherero and only 4 out of the 38 volunteers are learning this language. Namibia has a great diversity of languages and while Otjiherero may be difficult it doesn’t compare to the click language of Damara. My group has 5 or so people learning that one.  
I know I am short on details but they’re coming, I promise, this is just an overall update. I have lots to talk about. Like the vivid dreams my malaria meds have been giving me or the nighttime flatbed truck ride home. 
Animals seen: Baboons, some Kudu, a Warthog, and an Ostrich

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Staging Part 1

The journey has begun. I packed up my life (turned out to not be very much), a duffel bag and a backpack, and had to buy a few supplies too. Flashlight for the dark, some teaching supplies for teaching and a big knife for fighting. But before I get any good use out of the stuff I have to go through staging in Philadelphia. This is the meet up, an orientation if you will, before I set off for the ridiculous. Where I get to meet the entire group heading out to Namibia and sign my life away over two days. Peace Corps historically has had a male to female ration of about 1 to 2, with group sizes from 20-30. So running the numbers in my head here, theres bound to be a few lookers. Updates on this soon.   
My day started with leaving at three in the morning for a three hour car ride, to take a one hour delayed four hour plane ride to Chicago, an hour layover, and a two hour plane flight to Philly. I have done much much worse ( 25 hr bus ride Lima-Cuzco). So I’m not complaining only sharing. I look forward to grabbing a cheesesteak, getting to the hotel, and meeting some new faces, in that order.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In the beginning....

  It is a perplexed look I see on people’s faces when I tell them where I am moving. Without having to say a word I know the questions that are about to come. Where is that, why are you going, Nam…Nam bee-ah can you say that again? Namibia, I say. Trying to sound clearer in speech but mostly just in a tone of helpless annoyance. I have had the same awkward conversation about a hundred times and my responses have become so automatic it is like ordering a sandwich at Subway. “I know what is coming next and no Maria, I do not want to make it a combo. We all know that sugar water is a profit generating monster, good for your wallet and the makers of dialysis machines. Diabetes, no thanks.” 
 For me, the reasons are quite clear why I want to leave. I’m young, still have most of my hair, and am entering a profession that is increasingly becoming marginalized in the United States. Teaching is difficult. Frustrating most of the time with brief moments of satisfaction, just enough to keep you going and actually think that maybe you are doing something worth something. When the support around you erodes, you start to doubt whether what you are doing matters and that is bad for teachers and bad for the community. 
So to the community I say, piss off. I am going to go to a place where children are the future, the hope, and the reason to keep struggling. I need the outside motivation, pressure, and esteem to perform my job with a strong sense of responsibility. This exists in the US, there are many people working very hard and who are very passionate about education. Perhaps in a few years I will be in a position to join those ranks but for right now, the environment is toxic and I need to be doing cool stuff right out of the gates. This means I am going to struggle and struggle hard. I am going to have the opportunity to develop professionally in some pretty ridiculous circumstances and hopefully a lot of good is going to come from it.
Being a teacher means I get to forever be a student, a lifelong search to learn and be exposed to new things. “Like those Nat-Geo pancake titties that are about to be all over the place. I’m thinking I’ll gather like six pairs of those things, start my own tribe, and never come back.” But more importantly, I get to share what I learn and have an audience that is forced to listen. Which I think, is pretty cool, along with Nat-Geo pancake titties.
We’ll see how things go, I don’t really know what to expect but that’s what makes it fun.
“What’s up Namibia, how you be, things are going to get weird when I arrive, I’m trying to get involved and also not get AIDS.”