Thursday, March 31, 2005

Email Letter 4 (Complete Version)

Email Letter 4 (Complete Version)
March 30, 2005
Windhoek, Namibia

Dear All,

(This is a re-do since the original one got corrupted somehow)

Since it has been some time that we have written and much has happened both at work and “at play”, we have decided to write two separate E-letters: this one about work, and the other – E-letter 5, about our personal experiences and travel.

So, here we go:

We should tell you that we have been pretty busy at work doing a variety of things which of course keeps it more interesting.

We usually get up at 6, exercise while it is still cool, shower and eat, and head off to work about 7:45 or so and get to work at 8.00. If we are working in the office we stay until 5 or so.

In the office we have been helping to develop procedures and guidelines which the CAFO people have been using pertaining to proposal guidelines and proposal evaluations; fundraising and marketing techniques; strategic planning outlines; office and personnel policies and procedures; board training outlines; computer training; etc., etc., etc. So far, so good. As we did in Uganda last year, we will put all of this in a manual so that it will be easy to refer to when we leave. In a few days we are going to conduct a ½ day staff training about some of those things just mentioned so that we can answer questions, and do some hands on training.

We are never sure of how much of what we do will continue when we are gone, but our past experience tells us that some of it does, and we hope that it is more rather than less. In Uganda for example, it was quite a bit.

Here, we are beginning to see some of the things we have done being put to use and that is gratifying to us. Our goal is to build capacity rather than do it ourselves even though sometimes that is easier and faster. But it is now what we are about.

We have also just spent about 9 days on two different trainings: one in the far north of Namibia near the Angola border, and the other about 100 km south. In both of these trainings we have focused on helping grassroots groups organize around issues

The first training was in Rehoboth, some 90 km south of Windhoek. Rehoboth is where the Bastyrs live. Bastyrs are “coloreds” who migrated here from South Africa after suffering much discrimination. They are known for their toughness.

One of the problems in the Rehoboth community is youth violence and alcoholism. We were able to help the group there focus on how to begin to address the problem. Several of the group members were black women who normally “take a back seat” to the more educated non blacks in the group. Our facilitation helped them to become more vocal, and participate in the discussion which led to their suggestion to plan a meeting with the mayor and town council to discuss ways to address these problems. Just yesterday we learned that in fact this meeting with the Mayor will take place this coming Sunday. Everyone felt pretty good about the fact that a plan was created by different factions in the community working together, and will lead to some kind of positive action. This was also a good example of blacks and non blacks being able to work together to solve a common problem.

We also did some computer training in Rehoboth and one of the “learners” was a woman. She told Hinda that she had previously attended a 3 day computer workshop in Afrikaans and still could not master basic computer skills. As a result of Hinda’s teaching skills, this woman told us that even after ½ day of English training with Hinda she was able to learn. What’s Hinda’s technique? She taught her mouse dexterity by playing computer solitaire ! Hey Hinda, you’re supposed to be working, not playing!

We also spent about a week in the north on the border with Angola. Very different community and felt much more African than here in Windhoek which is pretty white. The north is where the Oshwambo people live, who comprise about 60% of Namibia’s population, and who speak Oshwambo.

Similar problems with OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children). We worked with a very small grassroots group which was meeting for the fist time together and helped them begin to prioritize the problems that they felt needed to be addressed. In this case it was to begin a campaign to educate the adults in the community about the problems of OVC. We met with them a second time and they got to the point of planning how to strategize. It was a small, but hopefully an important beginning and we hope they will continue on their own with some follow up support from CAFO.

One of the young women in the group told Hinda she was her “Kuku” – grandmother in the Oshwambo language. For those of you who want to call Hinda “kookoo”, it is now OK to do so!

These problems about OVC can be pretty bad. In Namibia, an orphan can have either one or no parents. A vulnerable child is one who is at risk of violence, abandonment, becoming orphaned, facing abuse, etc. Here there are a very large number of child headed households. Picture this: Your child, or grandchild of 8 or 9 being the head of a household and the sole provider to his or her younger siblings. Most of these kids don’t go to school. While the government can issue waivers for the cost of uniforms, and other cost items, they don’t do so willingly, and thus the bottom line is that poor children, whether OVC, Child Head of Household, or whatever, don’t get an education, and we all know where that will lead.

Never the less, we and others keep on working the problem, and even small victories are still victories.

Next week we are going back to Rehoboth with the PR guy from the US Embassy who we convinced to donate books to start small libraries in two elementary schools and a kids shelter. In one school there is a beautiful library room, but it is empty. Now it will have at least 100 books to begin with and the other school also 100 and the shelter will get 50. We are also hopeful of the US Embassy donating a re-furbished computer to CAFO. So that is some more good news.

We got to know this PR guy in an interesting way. When we were at a national conferece on OVC, he was trying to photograph the US Ambassador who was making a speech and his camera broke and he also didn’t have a press badge. Here comes Peter to the rescue with his press badge and camera that did work. So, one hand rubs the other – right?

That’s about it for now.

Hugs and kisses to all,
Peter and Hinda

Peter and Hinda "Flintstone" Posted by Hello

Leapord at Dustenbrook Posted by Hello

Rainbow in the Namib Dunes Posted by Hello

Sunset in the Namib Posted by Hello

White Rhino Baby Posted by Hello

Email Letter Number 5

Email Number 5
March 30, 2005
Windhoek, Namibia

Hello to all of you!!!!

Here is number 5 of our emails. This one will tell you of our travels in the last 10 days. We took a trip to the south of Namibia and spent a full week in the desert. It was wonderful. Most of this country is made up of desert but there are many different faces to the desert here, from the tall red dunes of the Namib, the desert that looks like the moon, to the rounded red dunes of the Kalahari. All very different but all very beautiful. The Kalahari (also red sand) is more a savannah with lots of grass – the dunes are stationary as compared to the Namib where they are constantly moving.

Before we tell you about the desert we need to just tell you of a couple of experiences we had on weekend excursions close to Windhoek. On both of these we went on what is known as a “game drive”. This is where you get into a large open 4 wheel drive vehicle with 8 or 9 other people and drive around “guest farms”. These are farms that sit on several thousand acres and have wild game running around on them. On the first one we saw lots of game; giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, etc, but the hit of the day was the 4 white rhinos that came within 3 feet of the vehicle. We were so close we could have touched them, if we had the nerve. Peter’s photos will have to suffice. There were three adults and a baby. All babies are cute even white rhinos. On the second drive we saw many wild animals again but the highlight of this drive was the leopards that came up to the vehicle to be fed. They are really beautiful animals and to be so close to them is breathtaking.

Not only do you see game on the farms but as you drive along the roads you see many giraffe and antelope. So many that you begin to expect it and grow complacent about the sight.

Now for the desert. First, we drove about 6 hours on a gravel road (here the gravel roads are wide and compact, so you can drive 75 miles an hour with no problem) arriving in the Namib Desert. This desert has the highest, oldest and most beautiful dunes in the world. It is noted that if you ever see a tall red dune in a movie or advertisement it was photographed in the Namib. We had to cross a couple of rivers to get there, which meant driving our 4 wheel drive truck up to its hubcaps. It had rained for a couple of days before we arrived in the desert and caused major flooding. It also caused the river to flow across the desert at a fast pace almost reaching a dry pan that only gets water in it every couple of years.

This desert is hot, 112 degrees during the day and down to 70 at night. We stayed in what is known as luxury tents, these are canvas in front and stucco in the back. Has king size bed and lots of luxurious space. Meals were buffet style and for dinner, not only did they serve the normal beef, chicken and fish but also all the wild animals we had seen during the day, including Kudu, Oryx, Springbok, Ostrich, Hartebeest, Impala and crocodile. We stuck to the boring stuff since the thought of eating one of those beautiful wild animals is difficult to take. Different culture, I guess.

From there we went to a town on the Atlantic Ocean called Luderitz. On the way we passed through an area that has many wild horses. They live along the road and you need to be careful not to hit them as you drive by. We stayed in a delightful bed and breakfast where they brought breakfast right into the room. It’s an old German town that has lots of unemployment and decay but it is just outside one of the largest diamond mining operations in the world. Between 1910 and 1931 over 600 million karats. Living conditions were and continue to be very harsh. The wind blows all the time, everything is covered with sand, very hot during the day and cold at night. The owners of the mines are all white, mostly German, and the workers are all black. Living conditions for the blacks is worse, of course, than for the whites. In the early 1900’s they worked all day and at night slept in places that looked like small boxes, just enough room for a cot and not much else. They are still mining taking out some 4 million karats a month. Since you can’t visit the working mines we visited some of the ghost towns where mines have been closed. It was interesting to see the desert taking over the houses, photos aplenty at this spot.

From there we traveled another 4-5 hours on gravel roads to a place called the Fish River Canyon. This is the second largest canyon in the world, second only to our Grand Canyon. It is very beautiful and the place we stayed was amazing. It was cottage built into the rocks. Huge red rocks and the cottage fits right between rocks. We felt like the Flintstones. It was a truly delightful place that we will remember always.

And to top it off we spent the last two days on the Kalahari with the San people formally referred to as Kalahari Bushmen. “Bushmen” is now considered a derogatory term. Their language is one of the “click” – Khoisan” languages and is very interesting to listen to. Most non San people cannot speak it including us of course. Yes, they really do exist and we learned a lot from them about medicines and hunting. As we were walking on a guided walk with them, one of them saw a scorpion. As you know, scorpions are pretty poisonous. He rubbed his hand in his armpit and them put his hand near the scorpion that promptly fell asleep and he was then able to pick it up. In order to continue to hold it, he once again rubbed his hand under his arm. Interestingly we stayed in a very fancy air-conditioned cabin and they live in the desert. We had trouble getting the air to work and the water didn’t work all the time. Power was shut off from 10pm to 7am. We have stress and heart attacks. They live in the desert with no water, no houses, no air conditioning, no stress and no heart attacks. Who has it better?

All in all it was a wonderful trip and we will have good memories for a long time. Namibia is a beautiful country. We will be seeing more of it both as a part of our work and also on our own.

Lot of love and kisses, Hinda and Peter

OVC Kids Pre-School Posted by Hello

"Mama" Kanana - Runs OVC Nursery School Posted by Hello

OVC Kids in Rehoboth Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Young Himba Women and Girl Posted by Hello

Young Himba Women Posted by Hello

Himba Boy Posted by Hello

Email No. 3

Email No. 3
Windhoek, Namibia
March 3, 2005

Hi Everyone,

We feel as though we have been in a National Geographic special. Last Saturday we spent half a day with in a tribal village with a group known as “Ova Himba”. They are a band of people that live in the Northern Region of Namibia approximately 8 hours drive from the capital, Windhoek. Of course, once you get there you could be 80 hours away from the capital; there is no electricity, water, plumbing, or any other modern convenience. People live in small round clay/mud huts with roofs made of straw. Food is cooked over open fires and eaten with hands. Minimal clothing is worn and what is worn is made of animal skins or scraps of material. Men wear loincloths and women wear, mostly, goat skin coverings on their lower bodies and nothing on top, except for elaborate hair decorations also made of animal skins and pieces of plastic bags, yes, plastic bags like the ones you get groceries in at the supermarket.

The women also cover their bodies with a cream made from fat and crushed rock, the color of ochre. They spread it over their entire bodies including their hair and it makes them have a slight red glow. (Perhaps the color is similar to full blood American Indians). See accompanying photos.

All of the men except for a couple of adolescent boys were working in the fields, so we spent all of our time with the women and children. All very friendly and warm, with the women taking very good care of the children. It was evident that they care a lot about their young ones and treat them very well. They were happy to spend time with us since most tourists just come and take photos of them and go away but we actually took photos and then sat on the ground with them for several hours and shared food that we had brought. We also had two translators with us both of whom the women felt comfortable with since they were both from the same tribe, knew the language and customs and were quick to tell them that we were volunteers here helping their people.

These people are meat eaters so they have goats and cows that they use for milk and meat. They also hunt when necessary. Some vegetables are grown but they do not eat fruit since it is not found there. We shared some dried fruit that we had and they loved it. They were very curious about the prunes and wanted to know if they could grow these if they planted the seeds. We also brought them apples, bread, cookies, lollipops and tobacco.

The children were well behaved and lined up for the distribution of the cookies and lollipops. Since the lollipops were all different colors they were licking each other’s to see what the different colors tasted like. Sadly, non of the children attend school, therefore they are all illiterate.

The women also danced for us and guess what? Hinda got to dance too, she didn’t bare her breasts but did dance with the women and you can see the photos when we get home.

One of the really interesting things was a young woman who was a member of this tribe but lived in town. She no longer dressed in skins but wore western clothing and we spent a long time talking to her. She was having a difficult time leaving the village but wanted to live in town. Town is a very small place where there is high unemployment, high alcoholism and some of the poorest people we have seen so far. She was struggling with having gone to the modern world and now wanting to stay there but how to leave her. family? It was truly a dilemma but how do you go back to primitive ways when you have seen the lights of the city?

The was truly a once in a lifetime experience that we are so lucky to have had.

We see and hear from all over about what we would call the non official, but never the less real vestiges of apartheid. Very little relationship between the Afrikaners, whites, colored, and blacks. It does not feel comfortable to us, and we can sense that many of the Afrikaners and whites would not be unhappy to see apartheid return. It won’t of course. Also, we are concerned about the land reform going on which we hope won’t happen like it is in Zimbabwe, but we don’t feel comfortable about it..

A week or so ago we spent a few days south of here doing some training and got to see many orphans and vulnerable children. Many are living in some very poor areas where the housing is more hovels than houses, and in many cases just squatters camps. Never the less, there are many poor people who hardly have 2 quarters to rub together but who in any case, take these kids in and who have started some small programs with what little resources they have. The most they have is love and caring, of which there seems to be plenty and that is the most important thing.

Peter as usual is learning a new language – this time it is Afrikans which seems to be the lingua franca of Namibia. You only need to say a few words and faces light up. People like it when you learn their culture and language. Already Peter is getting many requests to take photos for this organization or that one. He was the official photographer at the recent Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s conference where he took the official photo of Namibian President Sam Nujoma and the kids. Get ready George!

Here are some funny expressions:
Panel Beater = Collision Repair
Slap Chips = French Fries
Robot = Traffic Light (“go 3 robots and take a left”) No one knows the street names because they change so often, but the number of robots stay the same.

At work, we are doing a bunch of infrastructure and systems things including developing job descriptions, policies, fundraising plans, proposal evaluation procedures, reviewing proposals, development of a board training session and formation of a board nominating and executive committee. Working hard and having fun. The boss says he hasn’t ever worked this hard, and from now on only wants older volunteers!

So, that’s it for now. Our computer is broken for the time being so hopefully we can send this tomorrow.
Love, hugs, and peace!

Peter and Hinda