Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hinda and Peter in the Wildflowers Posted by Hello

Leopard at Tsaobis Posted by Hello

Cheetah at Tsaobis Posted by Hello

Email No. 2 from Namibia

Email Letter No. 2

February 24, 2005
Windhoek, Namibia

Dear All,

So far, so good. All is well with us, and we hope with you too.

We have had some interesting experiences since the last time we wrote which we would like to tell you about. So sit back, relax, and enjoy! Once again, what follows is in the order that we jotted notes rather than in chronological order.

We will also try to publish this with some photos to our blog at so try to check it there as well, especially for the photos.

As we have told you before, Namibia is populated mostly by blacks, but because of colonialism and apartheid, many blacks in Windhoek live in segregated areas, and much of these are what you would refer to as a slum. Well, the “Babylon” area of Windhoek is pretty bad. It is an ironic name of course, because the original Babylon was considered one of the wonders of the ancient world, and this Babylon is the antithesis of that. The housing is made entirely of scraps of sheet metal that must make the inside like an oven in this heat; no running water in the houses – some communal pumps; no electric; very high unemployment; and nothing to do but hang out, drink, etc.; and when it rains, as it does now in this season in buckets, these hovels just kind of float away. One of our co-workers took us there and we will go back and meet some of the folks and take some photos. And of course only blacks live there. By the way, to add to the irony, the government is building a new presidential palace for N$500,000,000 which in $US is about $80,000,000+! Somehow, we are not surprised.

Not far from Babylon, in a slightly better area, we visited a woman who has taken in 10 orphan kids (due to AIDS) and cares for them. Very small house, but as clean as a whistle – even the dirt yard is swept and clean. What it can come down to is where there is a will, there is a way. We plan to go back there and help her if we can.

We also visited one of the programs funded by CAFO and there we saw our first “boomslang” – a very poisonous snake that climbs trees. Very fast, but obviously very dangerous to be so close to the children. The program has 92 children, and is run by an assistant pastor and several volunteers. We were not particularly impressed with it – lots of broken glass and broken windows which is not very safe for the kids and tells us something about how poorly it is managed. This was good for CAFO to see, since they had given them a small grant and is a good learning experience to see how these programs actually operate. We all talked about it afterward. More site visits are necessary.

As an aside, Windhoek, and Namibia are very clean, as compared to Uganda. Part of the reason is the low population density. Namibia has the 2nd lowest population density on the planet. And while on this subject, here are some not so nice statistics: Namibia has the highest TB rate in the world; is in the top 5 countries with the highest incidence of AIDS; has the highest level of income disparity in the world – the difference between the top 5% and the bottom 50% is 50:1!.

Here at work we are well into the swing of things and here this some of what we are doing: computer training for the staff, and today we are going to go to another town for 3 days and do some computer and other training there; developing job descriptions; policies and procedures; developing fundraising plan; this will be the first of several training trips we will take; have set up very good contact with the US Embassy who have agreed to donate small books for small libraries for some of the orphan programs. Also have tentatively scheduled a site visit from a major Canadian foundation that CAFO had applied to, but we are helping to move it along – there was some mis-communication between them that we straightened out. Our goal in all of this is to pass on some of these skills of ours and they can do much more themselves. Actually the CAFO folks we work with are a pretty competent group.

Last week we took a short hike in a nature preserve on 25 km from here. In addition to seeing wildebeest, eland, eagles, baboons, we also met “Jack Daniels” a very funny 62 year old Scot doing some temporary work here. So now we know the real Jack Daniels.

For those of you who like beef jerky, here they have “biltong” and game chips made from game such as wildebeest, eland, springbok, , etc. We will take your order by return email if you are really interested in eating these beautiful animals. However, is it any different than eating deer, elk, or even pigs, chicken, beef, etc. It seems that here, ostrich is the cultural equivalent of our turkey. The headlines in today’s newspaper is that Namibia is now one of the top hunting destinations. More about that later. There are many different points of view as you can imagine.

This past weekend we went on our first long trip. Round trip about 480 km, (300 miles), some 200 miles or so on gravel roads. Most of the roads here are gravel, expect for those “tar’ roads which for some inexplicable reason go mostly to those places that whites and tourists visit most often.

In any case we went to spend the weekend at a leopard and cheetah reserve where the two leopards and 3 cheetahs, and 4 caracal are kept in large enclosures because they have either been injured, or somehow can’t be returned to the wild. And also a vervet monkey, also know as a blue monkey because of his BIG BLUE BALLS – REALLY BIG AND VERY BLUE. Leopards and cheetahs are beautiful. The leopards are wild animals and will never change. But the cheetahs, at least one of them, CP is pretty tame and we went into his enclosure to pet and photograph him. Very rough tongue – like sandpaper and coat is rough. The cheetahs and the leopards, even though both have spots, are very different from each other in terms of looks, how they hunt, and their temperament. No one goes into the leopard enclosure unless they only want a one way trip. It was interesting to see the leopards “stalking” the camp’s resident dogs. Lucky for the dogs there was a fence between them, or else, adios doggie!

Hope the photos are good – will try to send some.

The place was kind of a rest camp B&B and so for dinner, we ate Oryx. Well, we ate it, because that’s what you do, and that’s all there was. According to Hinda, the best food for the weekend was the homemade carrot cake and homemade bread. Agreed.

These “guest farms” seem to us what we might imagine a plantation in the south of our country to have been. Owned, and managed by whites, and lots of blacks to do the cooking, cleaning, upkeep, etc. It was interesting to see. By the way, these “guest farms” and real farms are huge – thousands and hundreds of thousands of acres, and all owned by whites, in fact 95% owned by whites. We believe that this is going to change, and it is already. The government is “encouraging” the whites to sell to blacks and is providing low interest loans to buy some of these farms. At some point, we think the encouragement may become a bit stronger, and it will be an interesting situation here, hopefully not like the violence that is taking place in Zimbabwe over the same issue.

The scenery is dramatic. Because of the rains, lots of green and beautiful wildflowers. The part of the country we visited is semi desert. Hills, mountains, low vegetation, little water. We went on a ‘sundowner” (to watch the sun go down over the mountains and have a drink and some snacks). Went by 4 x 4 up into the hills and then short hike to the top to watch the sun set and enjoy the colors and quiet. Very very nice.

We have just returned from doing a 3 day training in Rehoboth, a small town about 100 km south of here. It was an interesting experience which we will tell you more about in our next letter, but only to say now that we visited a number of programs for orphans, and this gave us a pretty good idea about the scope of the problem, and even in little ways during these past 3 days we were able to provide some small, but important kinds of help.

OK, this is long enough. May have to post the photos separately on our blog, but will try to do it all at the same time.

Finally, here is a photo of a cheetah, a leopard, and us! Enjoy!

Love and hugs to all of you.

Peter and Hinda

Friday, February 18, 2005

Email 1 from Namibia

February 7, 2005
Windhoek, Namibia
Email Letter No. 1

Dear Friends and Family,

Once again you are “somewhere in the world with Hinda and Peter”, and that somewhere is Windhoek, Namibia. We arrived safe, sound, hot and tired on Sunday January 30 after 22 hours of flying (5 from Seattle to NY, 15 from NY to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then the next morning, 2 hours to Windhoek. So, here are our first impressions without any particular flow, but rather from some notes as things occurred to us.
We spent the first 3 night in a very nice B&B owned by a friend of a board member where we are working. Very nice and friendly, but we felt we needed some more privacy (not a shared kitchen and living room with a teenager and his girlfriend. So, after some intensive looking, we found a beautiful 1 BR “flat” in a private home with a fantastic view of the city and nearby hills, patio, storage area, carport, fully furnished and has a gardener for $N2,500 (about $415). Windhoek and Namibia are pretty expensive, and so this was a very lucky find for us. It takes us about 10 minutes to drive to work in our rented 70’s something VW “bug” ($US 200/month) that barely runs but gets us around the city, (which is quite small and quite modern – built by the South Africans). By the way we drive on the left and sometimes it is a bit confusing. However, there is very little traffic so we are pretty safe. There is even a traffic helicopter that flies around every morning, we can’t figure out why since there are less than 100 cars on any road at any time and from Saturday afternoon until Sunday night, the roads are virtually empty.

Windhoek is pretty warm now – mid to upper 90’s, but dry. Also, this is the rainy season, and when it rains, it POURS, so much so that many of the streets are flooded and we can’t drive. In fact, when the rivers which cross the street and which are usually dry flood after a rain, there are signs telling drivers how deep the water is, so you can take your chances to drive through. We are at about 5,600’ in elevation here. Our apartment faces east and is on a high hill, so it is pretty breezy and comfortable. We eat breakfast and dinner out on the patio, looking out over a garden of lovely plants across the city. We have been cooking on a small BBQ we bought, and take lunch to work.

We, and everyone else here lives behind locked gates with electrified barbed and/or razor wire, and in some places such as ours, there is a guard outside all night.

The city of Windhoek has a couple of hundred thousand people and is pretty modern. Southern Africa is very different from East Africa, and has a history of apartheid – more about that in a bit. There are supermarkets and upscale shops. Prices are high, food is less expensive than in the US but most other things are twice as much. For example, a 20 inch TV in the States costs around $100 here it is $200.

Namibian food is heavily influenced by German and south African culture and is heavily weighted toward meat. In addition to what you would expect such as beef, lamb, chicken, and pork, how about ostrich, zebra, crocodile, and most all of the many wild antelope species, e.g. gemsbok, springbok, oryx, etc. There are many game farms and trophy hunting is very popular. We are having a hard time with that and are certainly not eating any of the game.

This country of 1.8 million is populated by blacks, “coloreds” (mixed), and whites – only about 5%. The lingua franca is Afrikaans, but the official language is English, in that Afrikaans was the language of apartied, and when Namibia became independent in the early 90’s, you can understand why English was chosen. Many people do speak English, but not all, especially as you get further away from the capital.

The different groups live very separately – no surprise. It does not seem that there is much socialization, and many if not most neighborhoods are also separate. We work in Katatura which is black, and before independence was the place where blacks were forced to live. In fact, different tribes or ethnic groups had to live in different sections, and the house addresses are still marked showing the ethnic group identification, (not use any more). This neighborhood is all black and mostly poor. We work for CAFO – Church Agency for Orphans – and they are in the building of the Council of Churches of Namibia. All are co-workers are very pleasant and we will introduce them all at another time, except to say now that of the 5, 4 are colored and one is black. The problem with HIV/AIDS is huge – a pandemic, and most of the 87,000 orphans here are orphaned because one, or both of their parents have died from AIDS. This figure is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade. Perhaps the west will eventually come to the conclusion that there will never be peace in the world and an end to terrorism until we put an end to world poverty and diseases such as AIDS and malaria. It really doesn’t take much. Did you know that in the USA we only give one tenth of one percent of our GDP to fight world poverty and disease? (And we spend about $4 billion a week in Irqq).

In general, our perception is that there are a lot of whites who may if they had their own way might want to revert back to the “good old times”, and seem like they might be rednecks”, but we really don’t know for sure. Just a feeling. In any case, the white community owns much of the wealth, even though they are a very small numerical minority.

We have begun to accomplish some things already including drafting a board orientation, setting up a couple of small data bases, and helping to organize the membership records. On Wednesday there is a big conference on Orphans and Vulnerable Children which Peter will photograph, including a planned group photo with the children and the President of Namibia, Sam Njoma. By the way, in about 6 weeks, this president who led the movement and struggle for independence will be replaced by a new person: Hifikipunye Pohamba. What a great name. However, we don’t know anything about him yet.

Some of the street names, many in Afrikaans, but some great ones in English including Nelson Mandela Street and Robert Mugabe Street. Can you believe that the British High Commission is on Robert Mugabe Street! Talk about poetic justice. And, do you know anyplace in the USA where you can drive on Fidel Castro Street! Also Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, streets.

For directions, you turn left at the first robot, then right at the next robot, etc. Is a robot a stop light? Yes it is!

OK, that all for now. We will try to get this to you and then separately we’ll send some photos of where we live – perhaps tomorrow or the next day.

We did develop a small “BLOG”, but for now this email will be easier. In any case when we post things there we ill let you know.

Love, hugs, and peace!
Peter and Hinda

View from our patio Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sunset at Peter and Hinda's Posted by Hello

Dinner with Hinda and Peter in Windhoek Posted by Hello