I’mmmmmm back! I’m alive, I’m still in Namibia, and starting my second term as a teacher in Okahitua!
I dont understand adding pictures, so there should be an attachment to a gallery in this post. If there isnt please send a comment. I’ll fix it next time I go into town and have internet.
The first term ended in April. I spent Easter with a few other volunteers at a friend’s site along the Kavango River, attended a gardening workshop in Omaruru and then came back to the village just in time for the second week of exams. The last two weeks of every term are spent taking exams. At Ludwig Ndinda Primary the entire day is dedicated to the exam. With Easter at the beginning of the month, April was lost as a month for teaching.
As part of my classroom management plan the grade with the fewest names in the discipline log was rewarded with a class movie party. So, the last Saturday of the term my grade 7 learners came to school to watch movies, eat chips and cookies, and drink cool drink. In true village style, the electricity went out an hour before the learners were to show up. I spent that hour trying to come up with a plan for watching the movie incase it did not come back on (I had neglected to charge my laptop that day, so running the battery was not an option). As the learners showed up I was about to give up, and the electricity came back! We watched The Lion King and Pocahontas, the learners ate snickerdoodles and brownies, and we had a photo shoot. Here are some pictures of grade 7 at their party (and picures of my entire vacation)
The term ended and a few days later my mom came and the May-ventures began. Yes, I did just combine the month of May and the word adventure. Why? Because Patty and I were together for almost all of May, and we went on many an adventure.
We started our adventures with a safari around Namibia (Wild Dog Safaris, Tuhafeni was our guide. I highly recommend them). With 10 strangers from England, Australia, Germany, Texas and Canada we headed to AfriCat at Okonjima. AfriCat is a conservancy where they take wild cats that have been found on cattle farms and either reintroduce them to the wild, or give them a place where they can live safely, away from human danger and outside of captivity. While there I pet a cheetah* and we got pretty close to a leopard.
In Etosha not only did the dream I’ve had since August of seeing a giraffe drink water come true, we saw three giraffes drink water with elephants and zebra! It was amazing! We also saw lions eating a zebra, lion cubs playing, and countless other anmals !
After Etosha we stopped in a Himba village.You may have heard of the Himba in the past, or seen them in the documentary Babies. Traditional Himba don’t wear a lot of clothes. As part of the safari we had a stop at a Himba village. Traditionally Himba people are nomadic, this village was on a farm, as a place for tourists to visit. The whole thing felt sort of weird- I did not like looking in on people’s lives as a thing to be seen. But, Himba is very similar to Otjiheraro, so I got to talk to some of the people at the village. It was fun to show off my minimal language skills, and to know that the women were talking about us and thought we couldn’t understand them. Still, even with that it felt invasive. I mean, I know the people there were making money out of it, but I don’t think I would like it if a bunch of strangers came and watched me eat dinner or wash my hair. It just seemed weird. I only took pictures of a few children because I know they like to see themselves on the camera. You may see some balloons in the pictures I have. The Australian couple brought them to give to the kids. They were a big hit! All the kids loved them! I only wonder what happened to all the pieces of the popped balloons. Those could really mess up a goat’s stomach.
We hit up the Skeleton Coast and Cape Cross, where there are more seals than you could ever imagine. The smell was abysmal. Seriously, it was disgusting. Pictures don’t begin to grasp the overwhelming number of animals there were on the beach. There. Were. So. Many.
And then… Sky Diving! My mom and I both jumped out of a plane while we were in Swakopmund and it was AMAZING! Not only was the free fall one of the coolest things I’ve every felt, but the view was spectacular. Once the parachute is pulled you just slowly float back down to earth with lots of time to soak in the surrounding beauty. I could see the ocean, the sand dunes, and desert for miles and miles. It was incredible. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Our last stop on the safari was at Soussosvlei and the red dunes. The sunrise and sunset over the red dunes were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my entire life. We woke up at 4 am so we could climb one of the dunes for the sunrise. It was amazing. It seemed like the sun was a giant ball of fire reaching over the dunes in the distance and peeking through the clouds. The light from the sun also made a beautiful contrast between the red sand and the green grasses around it.
We climbed one dune before breakfast, and then after breakfast we climbed another dune, rightfully called Big Daddy. At over 300 meters high, this dune was huge! It was absolutely worth the climb though, the view from the top was amazing, although the wind can get pretty strong. While we were at the top there was a sand/wind storm that was so strong it busted my mom’s camera. If you take a closer look at the picture of us at the top, my arm is completely covered in sand.
Leaving Soussosvlei and the red sand behind us we finished the first phase of our trip. The second phase we rented a car, stopped by the village for the 50th birthday party of my host mother, and then drove north up through the Kavango and Caprivi, leaving the car as we got into Botswana. The plan was that I would drive most of the trip- I am not allowed to drive unless I am on holiday, so this was a treat for me.
Well, like most things in Africa, things did not go quite according to plan. About 80 km out from the village, on a day when we were planning to drive over 300 km, a warthog ran into the road, hit the car, and messed up the radiator. A tow truck had to come from Windhoek with a replacement car.
On our first day driving, we ended up spending 7 hours on the side of the road. Lucky for us, we packed water and a package of double stuff oreos (thanks go out to my cousin Clare who sent them to Namibia) and had books to read. To make matters worse, the rental company was out of automatic vehicles, and the replacement was a manual. I don’t know how to drive a manual, so my mom had to drive from that point on. In a stick shift. On the opposite side of the road. With the fear of a warthog popping out and ruining another day. As you can imagine, it was stressful.
We spent two nights in Western Caprivi at Nunda Lodge, a beautiful lodge along the Kavango river. Every night we fell asleep and woke up to the sound of hippos. Think Bowser from Super Mario Bros laughing, that’s what hippos sound like.
We drove across the border to Botswana and left the car there. Getting through Customs was yet another adventure. Between Namibia and Botswana we had to get out of the car and walk on a disgusting carpet that is supposed to kill foot and mouth. Then we got to Botswana side customs, and the official told us that we did not have the proper stamps in our passports. So we went back to Namibia side, stood in the wrong line twice, got our stamps and went back on our way.
Botswana was amazing. Muchenje lodge where we stayed was amazing. Everything, including laundry, was included in the trip. We went on a boat cruise where I saw an elephant swim, went on game drives where we saw lions eating a buffalo, had sundowners next to elephants, and even went on a night drive . Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures at the moment. My mom took my memory card with her to print out pictures and send them back, so they will be online eventually (like every picture I take)
After Botswana we went to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe side. The falls were amazingly beautiful, and amazingly wet. The mist was so strong that it felt like I was standing in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. Those pictures are also with my mom.
We didn’t go bungee jumping at the bridge. Instead, we did the gorge swing, zipline, and flying fox. The Flying Fox is by far the scariest thing I have ever done. It is supposed to make you feel as if you are a bird: you are connected to a line on your back side , and you have to run off of a platform and jump into an open gorge. Its terrifying. Everything in your body tries to fight this urge. Its awful. The zipline was super fun though! The gorge swing was amazing! Imagine bungee jumping, but instead of being tied by your feet and going upside down, you are connected with a harness. You just fall straight down, and when you think you are going to hit the water you stop. Its an incredible feeling. Sorry no pictures- Patty has those as well. She also has pictures of our walk with lions. Those will be up in a few months.
My mom and I separated in Vic Falls. She went back to the US, and I headed back to Namibia. Term started that Monday, and I had a wedding to go to that weekend. It was a really cool wedding. It was between a Heraro bridge and an Italian-Namibian groom, so there were both Heraro and western celebrations.
Now I’m back at school for term two. I decided that this term instead of trying to fit in as much of the syllabus as I can, I’m going to focus more on understanding and develop the learner’s ability to solve problems on their own. I have the learners work iindividually, in partners, in groups, and as a whole class. It has only been two weeks and I can already see changes in how they think about and answer questions. They are starting to get the idea that being able to explain how to get the answer is much more important than the actual answer. Then, once we get the basics down we can go on to more complex things in math.
That’s all for now! Please forgive me for my lack of updates, I only have internet on a cell phone when I am in the village and typing long paragraphs on that is exhausting. I will try to upload a short update weekly this term, but I can’t promise everything.
Stay well everyone! Enjoy your summer! Happy New Year!
* the cheetah was asleep and on a doctor’s table, but it sounds way cooler to just say that I pet a cheetah.