Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hinda's Great Lion Photo! Posted by Hello

Email Number 8

Email Number 8

May 9, 2005
Windhoek, Namibia

Hello to everyone, and to all you mothers around the world, “Happy Belated Mothers Day”! (we couldn’t wish you a happy mother’s day yesterday because we were in the bush watching lions, giraffe, many species of antelope, rhino’s, jackals, zebras, etc). By the way, the photo of the lion that will accompany this email on our blog was taken by Hinda who was less than 3 feet from this young male. Now we understand why you are not allowed to get out of your car in Ethosha National Park in the north of this country. My first thought when I saw the lion coming closer was to close the window but the photo wouldn’t have been as good so I took a chance, left the window open and started shooting.

This will be our last email letter from Namibia. We leave here in 3 days and will be back in the USA on May 13. We are anxious to get home and see all of you but really anxious to see those children and grandchildren of ours. So, we want to sum up a bit about our general experience here in Namibia and also chat a little about our work at CAFO.

We just returned from a one week vacation to the Northwest and to the North. In the Northwest we visited Damaraland – home of the Damara speaking people. The Damara language is one of the “click” languages. To us, it sounds very difficult, and there are probably not many non natives who speak it. Damara is only one of the click language spoken here – there are several, some spoken by the San (formerly called “Bushmen” – this is now considered to be a derogatory term). Also, Damaraland is home to the desert elephant which can only be found there and in Mali. There are only a few hundred of these creatures left and we considered ourselves lucky to have found them. And find them we did. We had to track them for a couple of hours and then we came upon a small group. One of the differences is that their feet are bigger so that they can walk more easily in the sand. We also watched them dig for water with both their feet and their trunks. In our opinion, Damaraland may be the most beautiful part of this very beautiful country, and there are great similarities to our American Southwest.

We spent 3 days and nights in Etosha National Park – a very large park – 20,000 square km. – with a great variety of game and a lot of it. Here is a quick rundown of what we saw: kudu, zebra, giraffe, elephant, sprinkbok, wildebeest, hartebeest, lion, hyena, rhino, jackal, impala, black mamba. One of the nice things about Etosha is that at night in the rest camp, there are lighted waterholes where the animals come to drink and you can observe them from less than 100’ away. Hopefully we came back with some good photos, but Hinda’s of the lion is definitely the grand prize winner. By the way, if you have never heard a male lion roar, it is really something and easy to understand why they are referred to as the king of the beasts. Their roar can easily be heard from several miles away.

Just before we went on this trip, we did a board training session for CAFO, and in our opinion it was not only one of the best things we did for CAFO, but also one of the best trainings we have ever done anywhere. For CAFO, it was their first board training. Six of the nine board members attended. We spent about 4 hours discussing board roles and responsibilities, elements of leadership, staff vs. board, methods of running a meeting, and other things as well. We were very pleased to see that some of the things that were included in the training were used by the members in their afternoon session. The members asked us to give them additional copies of the materiel that we prepared so they can use it with other boards they are involved with. This is one of the goals we hoped to achieve, building capacity and skills that will provide these folks with what they need to move into the future.

At CAFO we compiled everything we did into a manual they will be able to use and refer to including job descriptions, policies and procedures, grant templates, budget templates, etc. We also have a copy that we will take with us to the next place to be able to use again. In fact, some of the things in this manual we developed and used when we fist started volunteering in Thailand in 2000, so it has become an evolving document that we used in India and Uganda as well.

All in all we feel pretty good about this assignment and we hope that we have been successful in passing along some of our skills and expertise and helping CAFO to the next level.

At least one of the grants that we helped with has already been funded, and it seems likely that another couple will as well including a large one that will help CAFO help grassroots groups increase their capacity and be able to make small grants to projects like the goat project that we have spoken about to you before.

We have mixed feelings about Namiibia. It is a very beautiful country and it’s geography and topography are very diverse ranging from desert to ocean to mountains to large river systems. And it’s animal and bird life is spectacular.

We met and got to know many different kinds of Namibian people with very different cultural backgrounds, and of great value to us, we have learned much. To the degree that we have been able to give something, we have also gotten much in terms of our own personal enrichment. Once again we have learned and experienced a different culture.

However, we must be truthful and also tell you that there were many times that we felt very uncomfortable here in Namibia because of the racial separation between the whites, blacks and colored. Even though there no longer is an official policy of apartheid, it still seems to exist. Namibia is a poor country with all of the problems of many African countries: AIDS, poverty, corruption, high unemployment, etc., and the remnants of racial separation make it more difficult to solve many of the problems. But, this is still a young nation. Independence only came about 15 years ago, and Namibia just elected their second president. We hope that the Namibian leadership will slowly be able to deal with their problems and put and end to the discrimination that seems make it more difficult to solve these very huge problems. For instance, the issue of land reform – transferring the bulk of the land that is privately owned by a tiny number of whites, to the majority black community. It is creating many hard feelings, and we hope that it doesn’t go the same way that is currently happening in Zimbabwe. Now Namibia’s blacks have the political power, but they don’t have the economic power, and until that happens, they really won’t be in control of their own destinies. And the coloreds are still in the middle and being squeezed by both sides. They may even be a bit worse off now than before.

OK, enough of this. We made some good friends, and through our efforts, there should be some greater benefits to the orphans and vulnerable children that CAFO is set up to help. We also think that as American and as Jews we have been good representatives of our country and our faith and even brought about some better understanding.

Once again, even though we are sad to leave newly found and good friends, we know from experience that we will add these people to our growing circle of friends that we have made around the world and we will continue to communicate with, be able to continue to help them as we can, and with any luck meet again in another time and place. So our sadness is also sweetened somewhat.

To those of you who supported the goat project financially and with your encouragement, we want to thank you. It was deeply appreciated, and has helped very much.

We look forward to seeing you soon in person and having the opportunity to tell you more about our experience and adventures here in Namibia.

Peter and Hinda