I’m Justine, and I’m part of Unlock Foundation’s Young Professionals Network. I decided to get involved with Unlock the moment Scott mentioned that I could. I met Scott in JFK Airport while we waited to check-in for a flight to Johannesburg en route to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. We were both newly hired WorldTeach teachers posted to semester-long assignments and were relieved that we could travel together toward this great new adventure. Scott and I bonded quickly during our orientation with other volunteers who were only going to be in Namibia for the summer. Our friendship also developed because we soon discovered that we were the only two WorldTeach people going to the Kavango region and because, well, Scott’s fantastic and could probably befriend a tree.
For my Unlock Blog Post, I’ve decided to share with you three early entries I made to the personal blog I kept during what ended up being two semesters of my teaching in a Namibian high school. I tried to make enough changes so that it would be relevant and relatable for Unlock readers, but not too many to change my overall first impressions. The first two posts were written while Scott and I were still finishing our orientation period in the capital, and the third was completed after I had spent a few days in the place that would be my home for the next year of my life. By the way, the town of Rundu was about half way between Scott’s village and mine, so we met there several times during our teaching assignments.
I hope you all enjoy these posts. I’ve added some pictures to make it more fun and I hope they help illustrate why it was so important for me to be a part of Unlock!
June 8, 2010
I’m finally on a computer I can spend some time on. I’m borrowing another volunteer’s computer and will just pay her for the internet use.
Things here have been going swimmingly. The flights were uneventful, which is how I like them. There were some issues getting into the country, since our visas weren’t ready, and they didn’t believe our lies about being tourists, and the tourist visas are only for three months max, and I didn’t have a return flight. In the end, however, it all worked out, and our passports are currently at home affairs to get stamped with our real visas.
We’ve been very busy with orientation lessons and activities, but everyone is very nice. The biggest steal was that I got into the smaller room at the hostel. One of the rooms has twelve people in it and the other, ours, only has four. Sweet!
We’ve had a bus tour of Windhoek and its surrounding area, which was great. Windhoek has been called “The Cleanest City in Africa” and it certainly earns that title in the main downtown areas. Windhoek, like Cape Town for South Africa, contains both of Namibia’s extremes within it. There are many lovely/wealthy housing areas as well as townships/slums. The pictures below aren’t great since they were grabbed from the bus, but I hope you can see a little bit of both.
June 10, 2010
Metaha! (That means good afternoon in Rukwangali, which is the language they speak in Kavango, where I’ll be living in another week.)
I’ve also learned tons of other useful words and phrases. Ame nahara kulya (I like to eat). Mweneni! (Be quiet/be still!). Tani vere ezimo lyokupwaga (I am sick with diarrhea). Kuvhura mulikidenge mvhuu asseblief? (Can you please direct me to the hippo?) Nzira zipi ngandu? (Which way is the crocodile?) Kupiko sikombo? (Where is the goat?) I was also able to purchase a Rukwangali/English dictionary, which was exciting. I’ve been having private language tutoring for an hour each day for the past couple days. Today is my last session.
Another interesting lesson occurred when we went out to a traditional Herero restaurant and I learned how to eat goat head (Pictures below). There was some discussion afterwards about whether it was a sheep head or a goat head, but they have very few sheep here, so I am assuming goat. I ate tongue, and eyeball, and cheek meat. I wasn’t the biggest fan, mostly because it wasn’t cooked with any spices or anything. All the other food was very tasty though, including the sour goat’s milk . . . so yummy, tasted like goat cheese and yogurt combined!
June 18, 2010
Oh my God! I had just written about a page and a half worth of this post and the internet quit and I lost it all. I’m now going to learn from this mistake and always type my posts on Word and then upload them. I’ll see if I can recreate the amazingness that was this post. Just so you know it was very funny, clever, and everything else good. Basically, imagine this post except a thousand times better . . . I swear.
OK, so let’s see, a lot has happened since I last wrote to you, my faithful reader. (I mean that quite literally, thanks Mom!) First things first, while still in Windhoek these things happened:
1: I ate mopane worms (not actually worms, but caterpillars from the mopane tree, very delicious, much better than goat head).
2: Jocie (our WorldTeach field director) invited Scott and me over for dinner. She made mac and cheese, guacamole, and banana bread (with chocolate chunks! I know what I’m doing when I get home.). This + wine + whiskey = dinner of champions. Side note: We also watched two movies on DVD, “The Neverending Story” and “Did You Hear about the Morgans,” ten dollars (Namibian dollars not US!) for anyone who can guess which one was awesome and which one was not.
3: I enjoyed hanging out with the small group since the summer folks left, i.e. Jocie, Scott, and Moses, Jocie’s husband (check him out on Youtube-Black Door).
Tuesday: Scott and I leave Windhoek for Rundu in a government car avec driver all to ourselves. Rundu is the capital of Kavango. The drive up is beautiful. The picture below is of the rush hour traffic we faced the whole way. I’ll give you a hint on the traffic: imagine Montana, now remove two-thirds of the people and double it in size.
There is an imaginary border in Namibia, called the Red Line. It indicates a number of things, but two key issues are the demarcation of hoof and mouth disease (above the line livestock can roam freely; below the line they have to be fenced), and school funding (above the line, historically the schools receive fewer funds; below the line they are much better). When we crossed the Red Line there was a marked difference. As soon as we passed the sign “Welcome to Kavango,” we saw roaming livestock and clusters of huts. Side note: From what I can tell so far, these two sights more than any others perfectly describe the village where I live now.
Once in Rundu, Scott and I split, I headed 120 Kilometers West to Nankudu and Scott headed 200 Kilometers East to Divundu. The drive from Rundu to Nankudu can barely be described. The sun was setting and had backlit all of the trees in the MOST dramatic fashion. It created the most perfect gorgeous silhouettes ever--with the exception of that scene in “Gone with the Wind” where Rhett is saying good-bye to Scarlett before he joins the army . . . I know you know the one I’m talking about, so don’t lie.
I arrived in Nankudu just after dark. Hannah, my roommate and a British teacher in my school from a program called VSO (Voluntary Service Organization), greeted me at the house we would share. She had made a lovely dinner which I ate with her and her Namibian boyfriend Abraham, who lives with us. Ari, a year-long WorldTeach volunteer who lives 2 kilometers away, came over with a friend to say hi. I then unpacked and went to bed early.
A note on the house: AWESOME! (Below is a picture of the outside.) Highlights include:
1: Rooms, so, so, so many rooms. Hannah and I each have a large bedroom. We also share an equally large office, which I’m sitting in currently on her computer. There is a kitchen, a dining area, a bathroom, a guest room, and a large play room which sports a hammock hung from the ceiling and a worn out twister board taped to the floor.
2: Brace yourself for this one: a washing machine. Shoot, most people I know in New York City don’t even have one of these in their apartments.
3: Two refrigerators: that’s right, I have my own.
Wednesday: Hannah and I went into school at 6:30am; classes start at 7:20am. My commute is, sigh, a whole 30 seconds. It is quite sandy though. Actually, everything here is very sandy, including somehow my bedroom, even though I’ve already swept it twice since I’ve been here. Ko sure (that means “at school” in Rukwangali), Hannah introduced me to the principal, the teachers and the secretary. All very nice. I think I remember half a name so far, but I plan on putting some serious effort in next week. I also went and “taught” my classes. Kandjimi Murangi (that’s my school) is very understaffed, especially in the humanities. For the past couple weeks my classes have just been sitting and waiting for yours truly to arrive. The classes were fairly awkward, mostly because I didn’t have textbooks, class lists, or syllabi yet. So we introduced ourselves and chatted a bit in English, which is the Namibian national language. I wasn’t really expecting to be put in front of the class that day. It was supposed to be a holiday, but the school moved it to Friday instead, so that didn’t help either with the kids’ willingness to be in class.
Anyway, all of my students, called “learners” here, were very nice. I’m teaching 12th grade History, 11th grade Geography and Development Studies, along with computer classes and PE once a week. My PE learners are the same as my History class. We have PE on Wednesday so I did some warm up exercises with them and then let them play soccer, which was really fun. They put the kids I worked with at a New York City afterschool program to shame. They were all good sports, with no arguments about goals, and there was always agreement about which team touched the ball last as it went out.
In between my classes and PE I had a break in which I finally got textbooks, class lists, and syllabi. I also went wandering around a bit by myself, and met up with Ari for a lovely riverside walk. Currently, it is the dry season, so the Kavango River, which separates Namibia from Angola to the North, is much narrower than it is during the wet season. As a result, we were able to walk along some very broad flood plains.
After PE, I came back to the house and made dinner and went to bed at the late hour of 7:30pm. Now many of you know that I am a fan of going to bed early, but even for me this was very early. Nothing like an overwhelming experience to exhaust you!
Thursday: Went into work again around 6:30am. There were no classes, because there was a celebration of the holiday we had moved from Wednesday to Friday. It was fun, with the kids putting on different performances, including plays, poetry reading, traditional dancing, and choir singing. Some of the plays were in Rukwangali and even the performances in English were hard for me to understand, so that was not so hot, but the singing and dancing were awesome! There was this one dance move that was very similar to the Harlem Shake, and some of the girls were so amazing at it.
After the performance, I went home and had lunch and then took a nap for about two hours. I then went for another walk, came back, made dinner, read, received a much appreciated call from my mom and then went to sleep. Made it to 9:30pm I think.
Friday: I was supposed to get a ride with the principal into Rundu today, but he texted me at 6:30am telling me he could no longer go in. So I quickly readied myself and went to the road to hitch hike. Hitch hiking is the only way to get into Rundu, or anywhere from here, and is much safer than in the US. I needed to go into Rundu for several reasons, but the biggest one was that I had to go to the Ministries of Finance and Education to set up my stipend, which I probably won’t receive for another 2 or 3 months.
So back to the hitch hiking. When I got to the road a pick-up truck was passing. I waved at them and they stopped, but no dice, they weren’t going to Rundu. I then started walking East. At 7 in the morning it is very cold here, it can drop into the 40’s. I walked for about five minutes and a big SUV type thing came roaring past. I waved, but they drove right past me. They then stopped a little later and backed up a bit and waited for me. Yay, a ride! The car, which had the steering wheel on the left, which was odd since Namibians drive on the left, due to their having been a former British colony. The car belonged to two Angolans, hence the steering wheel was on the wrong side for Namibia, but they were driving on the left—correct—side of the road. They worked for a bank that was setting up a branch in Namibia. They said they stopped for me because they were curious about why I was here, since white people hitch hiking on the road isn’t so common. We talked a bit, and they drove me directly to the Ministry of Finance and then refused any money.
The Ministry of Finance chore went very smoothly. I then headed to the Ministry of Education where I was met by Hannah who helped me immensely in that process of filling out papers and what not. We then ran a few more errands, and I met her friend Karin, another VSO volunteer who lives in Rundu. After our errands were complete, we hitchhiked back to Nankudu which took forever!
On this drive, Hannah heard from Abraham, that the house had been broken into. To make a long story short, they didn’t get into my room, and only took the pens and pencils I had bought to give as gifts to my learners. They took Abraham’s clothing, and some of Hannah’s CD’s. From now on we will have to remember to lock a padlock on the door, not just the regular lock.
From now on I will try to update more regularly. Sorry for the freakishly long post. Off to watch the England soccer match with Hannah and Abraham at the local shebeen (bar)!