Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry something!

(Last Thursday)
So today was our ‘graduation’ ceremony. We finished up teaching our respective classes, and handed out certificates to those that attended. All in all, our four-day workshop was an astounding success. Everyone who I spoke to loved “The Science behind HIV,” and commented that it was one of the most interesting and informative workshops they have ever attended. I’m feeling pretty good. I was even asked to redo the entire lecture to our language trainers in Okahandja. Granted, there were several people that either couldn’t believe or accept the current hypothesis that HIV originated from Chimpanzees…but you can’t win them all, Hasselhoff.

There were six sessions given by the 13 volunteers stationed here in Tsumeb. Figure that at two people per group. They included the Science Behind HIV, The Truth of STD’s, Condom Use and Demonstration, Stigma and Discrimination, Making Good Life Choices, and Alcohol Abuse. Now that we’ve finished with the workshop, we’re all enjoying coming together and sharing our favorite questions and comments made throughout. Feel free to admonish us all you want, but some of them really were worth sharing. Disclaimer: Some of the following lines may be a bit graphic for some of our younger readers. Andy, turn the monitor around. Ok, I’ll give one example, regarding HIV: “If I have an open cut on my arm, and someone ejaculates on it, can I get infected?” Certainly an interesting way to go about it, I suppose. I also think the rather young girl asking if she could get pregnant from swallowing during oral sex gets an honorable mention. Take notice of how the statement was asked. If she could - Not, if anyone could.

Ok, I think that may be enough for now – Andy, its safe to turn the monitor back around now.

I’m just amazed that we could all keep straight faces throughout these sessions, with talking about penises and vaginas and what-not. Not one person had to say alternative names for any of these dirty words at all (No banjingos or she-shwas here, folks.) But keep in mind this also is coming from the group of individuals that began convulsing into hysterics when Obie said he, “had to tap” the watermelon to see if it was ripe. Oh, and tap that, he did. This isn’t mentioning how funny “biltong” can be pronounced. Nothing dirty – just makes you laugh. And in the pants-wetting-laugh-kinda-way.

Most of us are in our mid-twenties. Obie is in his early thirties. I love this place.

At time of writing, there are only 5 days until Christmas. What the hell? It’s somewhat difficult to imagine the Christmas season, when you’re sitting under a mosquito net with Victoria Falls flowing down your back. It must be like an obnoxious weekend in Florida – everyone displaying beautiful second degree sunburns, while listening to Christmas Carols and Jingles at the line at Pick-‘n-Pay. I still have no idea why they sing Frosty the Snowman. When one of the neighboring girls asked what snow was like, I felt obligated as a global volunteer to help her better understand what American experiences are like. Accordingly, I went inside and scrapped frost off the kudu head in the freezer, condensed it into a ball, and threw it at her.
I don’t think she has a strong appreciation of American Culture…Yet. Maybe I should acquire one of those huge inflatable lawn ornaments?

*As a side note for those of you that don’t know, Mangos and their skin contain a substance which resembles the active ingredient in poison ivy. Many people that have a heightened sensitivity to poison ivy can develop similar symptoms upon consumption of said fruit. We actually have a volunteer here that cannot be in the same room without someone that’s recently eaten one – hives, rashes, she breaks into it all. All of that being said, the skin around my eyes is getting puffy, itchy, and irritated. I think that’s what I get for eating up to 8 mangos a day…before lunch. I think it’s time that I take it easy.

(Oh, and Andy – you can drink the tap water. As for the conditions of septic tanks and latrines and the like – well, let me put it this way: I’ve had to get vaccines for typhoid, cholera, and dysentery. You make the call.)

If you haven’t figured it out by now, each one of these segmented headings denotes a different day of typing, another train of thought ran aground. Unfortunately I do not have daily access to the internet as I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now – so once again here we are, two days until Christmas.

And I can assert I couldn’t feel any farther from the Christmas spirit. It could be the 95+ degree heat, it could be the language classes pushing into Christmas Eve, or it could be the organization already threatening to remove people from the program. Regardless, I haven’t figured it out, but it doesn’t feel right.

I’ve determined that you really don’t know what Christmas is like with your family, until that option becomes completely unavailable. I’ve celebrated this holiday with all available members of my family my entire life. Hell, in college I even brought some home to add to the mix. Namibia is different. Obviously. It feels as if there’s barely any holiday spirit (if any at all.) We volunteers have begun to sing Christmas carols to lighten our mood, but somehow it only reinforces the fact that: a) we’re alone, b) we’re away from everyone we’ve ever known and cared about, and that, c) we’re alone. Having locals ask who Rudolph is becoming somewhat disheartening.

I think I’m taking it better than some thus far – I’m not crying myself to sleep or dreaming of tinsel dreams and gummidrops. Of course, it may have to do with the fact that I’ve been listening to my recordings of John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. Say what you want – there’s nothing like the Muppets singing Christmas carols to instantly make me feel much better, and to bring me back memories from throughout my youth. “…and don’t worry, we’re going to catch them red-handed!” – “What colors are their hands now?” – Classic. If only I had a recording now of Animal singing “Silent Night.” Perfect.

Muppets aside, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without family, food, or snow. Hell, I’d take two out of three.

I hope you all receive what you requested for the holidays. Happy Holidays Everyone!
September 24th, 9:00pm – Namibian Standard Time. From here on out, I write without a script. (I was so excited for that, completely by chance, I swear…kinda ironic statement, but what the hell. Perfect moment)

Christmas Eve, slowly ebbing into the dawn that is Christmas Day.

I really wish I could write here. About something - anything. Turns out Christmas Eve isn’t all that big in Namibia. We ended up eating dinner around the television, watching year old Spanish soap operas that have been dubbed into English. (Thank Heavens for small favors, I guess.) For the first real time since I arrived, Christmas has made me feel alone. We were scattered once dinner was consumed, and I found myself alone outside just watching the sky. Really unremarkable, actually. Just a sad realization that if I were home right about now, my family would all still be nitpicking on fruit, pastries, and coffee while I hogged the fennel on the corner of the table. I want my fennel, dammit!

I’m not writing this to sound depressing - just stating that I’m thinking of home. There is an actual fantastic reason to be happy right now. Today, on Christmas Eve, and completely unexpectedly, I received 4 letters, from four different people. I got letters today from Karen, Amy S, Amanda, and Karen’s mother. Holy Crap, did those letters save me from this holiday. It really is true, you live and breathe in anticipation of letters. Many emotions were felt, so all I’m going to say, “Way to make me tear, guys. Thanks.” You guys saved my holiday.

Oh, and everyone congratulate Amanda on getting into Grad school. If someone could do me a favor, and lightly pat her fanny in a fatherly/un-fatherly way and let her know how proud of her I am, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. Oh, and as long as we’re congratulating people, here’s a shout-out to my old roommate along with all the other Gburg-ers on finishing Finals, as well as my brother. C’mon, you guys know you did fine. You don’t need me to tell you that. It’s all good.

I‘m going to go back to John Denver and Kermit dueting. Happy holidays everyone!

Sorry it took so long to get to posting. You wouldn't believe how difficult its been...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

!Gai //Goas!

David Sedaris has nothing on Khoekhoegowab. Sure, I imagine French may be difficult for some to master, perhaps to pronounce – but I guarantee that it pales in comparison to the constant clicking and guttural gasps that attract mating water buffalos. At least one has the benefit of attempting to deduce the meanings of words in a romantic language. Regardless of where in Europe you are, I’m pretty confident you won’t be surprised when you order a bottle of l’agua – excluding if it’s sold at nine Euro a bottle. Clicking however, is a world of its own.

With four different clicks, each click can completely change the meaning of a word. For example: “!a” – to hang, “‡a” – to skin (as in a goat,) “//a” – to wash, and “/a” – to squeeze. I’ve begun to memorize nouns in hopes of expanding my vocabulary, but unfortunately I’m memorizing the most useless words found in the language. Similar to that of Sedaris, the locals stare at me as I rattle off the most useless garbage I can muster in my attempts to impress them.

“Micky Rooney is sailing the Space shuttle? Where?”
“Who is this Ozzy Osbourne, and why does he carry olives in his pocket?”

I’ll admit, my situation is enjoyable. I’m currently residing in the town of Tsumeb, in the north of Namibia. Its one of the green places in the whole country, combining both the offering of torrential downpours at a moments notice, with the thrill and excitement of still being able to be run over by a donkey cart. We’re currently undergoing several hours of class a day, half devoted to learning obscure vocabulary and grammar, and half devoted to learning what exactly I’ll be doing. (*Note: I still haven’t a damn clue.) We’re all having fun though, from playing with the neighborhood kids, to asking our native language teachers obscure questions with equally daunting vocabulary, most of which doesn’t make sense.

“Teacher, how would I say that I’ve been studying alchemy for the past fore-night, in the hopes of transfiguring an 8-cylinder carbine light socket into a cornucopia of miniscule ideals?”

Those are my favorite, right up there with Paddy learning how to say, “That’s what she said,” in Afrikaans.

But I truly am having a great time. Sure the classes are boring and mostly uneventful – but it’s somewhere along the walk home I realize I’m walking with an African sunset on my back, while eating a mango I plucked from a tree I just passed. It’s kind of easy to zone out and ignore the severity of reality around you, but I’m taking it one day at a time – one mangled lesson at a time. Life is good.

!gai !goise, everyone.

Later Edit* I just finished taking my first oral test. I thought I had done very well, until it was later pointed out to me that when the instructor asked what color her thermos was, I kindly thanked her and commented that I already had coffee earlier that morning. Swing and a miss.
For the past several nights, I’ve been agonizing over what exactly to write about. Nothing has really happened in the past several weeks apart from language classes and workshops. It bothers me immensely that I’ve been promising you all stories worth taking the time to read. Let’s be honest, that’s likely why you’re here now - in grip anticipation of rhino charges, African anecdotes, or at the very least side conversations worth record. Alas, I’m unfortunately stuck in a state of limbo. As usual, language classes are proceeding as expected with lectures taking up the remainder of my shaking sanity. At the very least I can say that I’ve begun teaching workshops.

Today I begun teaching a workshop for the community entitled “The Science behind HIV and AIDS.” The Peace Corps set us up to teach workshops to the community of Tsumeb on the topic of our choice, in order to evaluate and prepare us for further teaching. I chose to mirror my bioinformatics thesis: explaining where HIV came from, it’s mechanism for infection, et cetera. Thanks Dr. James – here’s my education at work. I’m hopeful so far, as this appears to be information that the community hasn’t ever heard. Hearing that HIV was most likely crossed over from chimpanzees – I can see a look from around the room…I think I may have encountered one of those legendary moments I’ve heard about teaching, where everyone seems to be giving you their absolute attention, mesmerized by every thought they construct, and impatiently waiting on the next word falling from your tongue. We’ll see how the next couple of days go since I’ll be giving lectures and workshops until Thursday.

But ah dear reader! Your presence has reminded me of something of the upmost importance. Since you are here, I am in need of some form of opinion. Just because I’m over nine thousand miles away (~ a shitload of kilometers,) that doesn’t mean I can’t ask for helpful insight. Just a disclaimer, it’s about ethics and morality (as these are a few of my favorite things.) Here’s the deal – I’m having problems discerning whether or not the end justifies the means. Since such a situation is taken on a case-by-case basis, I’ll give you the one I had in mind. You see, sexism is incredibly strong and quite powerful here in Namibia. Previous attempts to start women empowerment workshops has usually met with failure. This comes from the male half of the population being ill-equipped and unprepared for societal change. Trust me when I say you don’t want to see the results of a woman marching into her home and telling her expecting (and usually impaired) husband that she refuses to cook. The Department of Youth and the Department of Education of Namibia have therefore decided to wisely invest some money and time into male-geared workshops, in hopes of creating more accepting and tolerant men. So finally I come to the point: the men of Namibia (generally speaking,) will not attend such a workshop, unless they feel that they get something out of it.

Never mind the prospect of a fitter, happier, and more productive relationship – they need something of substance on which to feast. Now I’ve been in conversation with my peers over the matter for the past couple weeks, debating whether or not the utilization of this inherent sexism to achieve a desired end is ethically right, let alone possible. Basically, we would appeal to men by appealing to their masculinity. Seems to be simple enough, but I’m wondering whether or not tapping into this well is necessarily a good idea. It would start with asking men who has the harder job, men or women. (To my female readers, you know how I feel – so no bashing me. Feel free to bash others.)

Here in Namibia, men would of course, say that they are the ones in the more stressful situations, what with work and all. Obviously women have it easier with the whole mothering, parenting, cleaning and cooking thing – but I digress. Since we have addressed that men obviously have the harder living conditions, it is only obvious that men make hard decisions- this is therefore must make us men. But perhaps we can lead the ducks to water…what is easier: drinking away your problems, or working through them? Hitting your spouse, or taking the time to sit and discuss problems? The point would be made, that since drinking and violence are the easy answers out, these must obviously be the choices that men do not take. Men do not take the easy way out – a real man always chooses the harder of the two paths. This is what makes him a man.

We’re constantly approaching this from different angles in hopes of finding a more successful way of going about this, but I’m more currently wondering whether or not in this case that the ends justify the means. Sure, we’re reaffirming the inherent problem associated with sexuality and sexual disparity, but at least we’re contributing to a more cohesive society. I’ve been jumping all around the issue, playing Devil’s Advocate when possible (I wish Cory were here to laugh with me.) But now comes time to ask for you, Reader, to give your opinion! What do you think? Ethical, or not? I’m hoping for some sort of discussion to result, so have at it.

In the meantime, I’m going to figure out how to say that, “No, I’m sorry – but boiled, decapitated goat heads give me gas.” Ah, the beauty in learning a foreign language.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hey everyone, still alive!

Sorry for the lack of updates. Real Quick: I'm in the town of Tsumeb, in the north - receiving the last of my training. I don't have regular internet access (I'm actually supposed to be in class right now...) so I just wanted to sign on and let everyone know that I'm alive and well. I'm living with a host family (a grandmother and two baby girls.) So far, its going wonderful.

I have to go back to class before they realize I've left, so trust me, I'll have another massive update when I have the ability.

FYI: Please keep commenting. Trust me, I look more forward to them than anything else thus far. They really get you through the day. If you're still keeping up with this jounal thus far, than you know I love you, and look forward to EVENTUALLY having the ability to post pictures.

Happy Chan-uh-na-kah, Merry Christmas, and all that Jazz ~

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Racing against...what?

I would have liked to start with the good, the bad, and the ugly - but unfortunately most are usualy one and the same. (Or at least intertwined to a point not worth elaborating on.) I guess the best way is just to write, and see what comes from it.

So I've begun my shadowing in Walvis Bay, following a young female volunteer who's already been here a year. Since its Sunday evening, I haven't gone into work with her yet, but its at least nice to walk around the Bay and the lagoon area.

Regarding my permanent site, I had discovered that my roommate and I weren't the only Americans around. Jessica, a young woman with the World Teach organization, has already finished her term of service and will be leaving somewhat later in the week. She was at least gracious enough to invite Ian and I to her place for an inpromto-Thanksgiving meal.

While Africa doesn't have turkey, we made due with chicken which was enjoyed by all. Jessica was a great hostess, and spoke to us for hours what living in Usakos is like, and what to expect as Americans. "Usakos is like Africa, USA style." To an extent, it appears to be true. Since there is a significant white population in town, our presence has gone somewhat unnoticed. Well, so far.
But since life is all about collecting stories, its about time I shared one.

A while back, it seems that Jessica was in need of a ride and decided to hitchhike. Unable to find a traveling family or taxi, she reluctantly climbed into the cabin of a big-rig with a Zimbabwian named Francis (or FaFa, as he likes to be called.) Suprising her basic instincts, Fafa turned out to be an incredibly friendly and funny guy, regailing her with stories of his travels. As luck or fate would have it, he decided to drop by on Thanksgiving to pay his respects.

We met Fafa, and he truly seems like a nice guy. He expressed this sadness for Jess's end, but was happy to meet us. Fafa is a trucker that travel all around Southern Africa. He leaves from Walvis Bay with fish from the coast, and transports them to Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, and the Congo. Since Fafa is lonely most of the time on the road, he spends his air time (phone time) calling friends and travelers close by just to keep him awake at night. We decided to shoot the shit, and after about the 3rd RedBull chased, it was enough for Fafa to tell us the glory that is trucking in Africa.

"Well, shit - heres some deal. Pumba. you know, Pumba...with the horns? Good meat. Hitting them with a big rig kills them dead. Dead dead. But heres the secret, you gotta hit them STRAIGHT ON. None of this driving over them with the tires - that makes them explode. What you gotta do - is drive directly over them! And then hopefully - the triple axels smash their head in. You get out quickly and finish them off if you have to. If its night time, i throw their sorry ass into the back. But if its daylight, i gut them then and there. Best to do it quick, tick bites can be nasty bitches."

....So I guess there you have it. If you have any choice in the matter at all, hit a warthog from head on.

While it seems Usakos is closer toward Westernization than most, you don't often have to look far to get a strong sense of reality. While Ian and I went exploring the 4 streets of our town, we had noticed that one of the stores was nothing other than a coffin maker. Just past the open door in the visible eyeline, were dozens of children sized coffins.

The next is something that isn't easy to listen to, and isn't easy for me to talk about. The first thing, is that the Grandmothers of Africa are the closest thing to Guardian Angels I have ever seen. There are entire families composed of children and Grandmothers, who have been forced to bury their own children - victims of HIV/AIDS, and related causes. But the worst of it continues. When these Grandmothers die, there's no one left to care for these kids.

As a health extension volunteer, we had to have one day of training devoted to what are called, "child-headed house-holds," where the oldest child is forced into the position of being the guardian and role model for their younger siblings. Theres much more to comment on what it must be like for these families, but I truthfully think I don't have the stomach or the heart for it right now.

To finish up on the lighter side, I'd figure I'd answer all the questions laid out by my younger cousins, Nicole and Sophia. I figure since they had the courage to ask questions, I'm sure you had the very same ones.

From Nicole:
So did you see any interesting animals yet???? So far, I've seen Warthogs, Baboons, and a couple of Stray Giraffes. I'm still hoping for a cheetah. :)
Did you meet any interesting people, did u make any new friends??? PLENTY. Many are current volunteers, many are wonderful locals.
What are you eating? Lots of stuff - mainly sheep and donkey meat.
And how did you get the food? Mostly purchased for me so far, there are groceries here, believe it or not!
Is it hard making conversations?? Not yet...Most people speak English, and those that don't are being incredibly helpful with me speaking Damara/Khoekhoegowab. That clicking is hard to do.
What was the most exciting thing you have done or/and seen so far? Lets see...I've held an 8foot South African Python, visited a small Damara children's choir in the middle of nowhere, and found a spider in a bathroom that my roommate referred to as, "a Daddy-Longlegs injected with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ooze."
Is it stinky there? Not really. Smells Dry.
Are there any plants there? Plenty. Although most of where I am looks like Arizona. Have your dad look up pictures for you.
How many people do you estimate are positive with HIV/AIDS a day?? I'm told in my area that those aged 18-25, 1 in 5 has it. I visited a doctor however, that "positively asserts" that close to 40% of the population has it.
And my last question what is your favorite cookie?? Well, I take two Oreo double stuffs, and take away two of the layers, and put the remainder together - to get the Star Destroyer of Oreos. Quadruple Stuffed!
and what do you want for christmas?? No idea. Really. I haven't got the foggiest.

From Sophia:
Hi Nick did you get my letter? Not yet. All my mail arrives in Windhoek, the capital, which is about 3 hours away. They'll bring it later, hopefully at the end of this week.
Did you go hunting? Only for stuff in my luggage. Not really food.....yet!
Did you find all my letters in your bags yet? Sophie, every time I did in my bags, I'm finding more of your "notes." :)
If you did go hunting, what did you use and what did you get? A rubber band, a paperclip, and a little super glue. I caught nothing.
So if you got my letter can you write back? When I get it, I sure will.

Ok, that took long enough. If anyone similarily has any questions, feel free to ask. I'll be more than happy to answer, given enough time.

Oh, and to Robbie - the only DVD I forgot to bring, was Shaun of the Dead. I'm pissed.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Welcome those to our Thanksgiving cheer! Since one of my many responsibilities here is to help educate cross-culture experiences, I've decided to aid in the teaching of Thanksgiving to Africa - by means of one of my favorite meals - the Turduckin.

Now to those of you that don't know, the turduckin is a turkey, crammed into a duck, which is stuffed into a something else. I've decided that since we were somewhat underachievers in that regard, I now give you the Africa recipe.

First we start with a scorpion, cram that into a macaw, then into a snake, then into a Dik-Dik. Cram that bad boy into a chicken, and then a rooster, then an even bigger rooster! Stick all that into Eagle, then an Impala, then a Leapord, then a cheetah. Split this between two adult Lions. If theres any free space after that, cram a couple Toucan's in there. Stick both of them into a water buffalo, followed by an African Black Rhino (I know they're endangered, but they're delicious,) cram that into a Hippo, and plunge in all into a Grand African Elephant. Stick in the oven at 450 degrees for 140 hours. Deep fry for an additional 40. Garnish with 30 heads of lettuce, and a Baker's dozen worth of carrots. Should feed 6,000+ People.

Happy Gluttony Day to all. I miss America.

Now if you don't mind, I have to figure out who will clean the outhouses.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oh wow, You guys get two posts in one day?!? It must be my Thanksgiving gift to you guys!

Speaking of which, since I'm spending my Thanksgiving alone in a desert, no doubt eating cherry Pie filling as Robbie so eloquently taught me, I would like to take an opportunity and give a real post.

So I found out how to access the internet. Seems I can use his comp when hes not here and everyone else is gone for the day. Like I said, I'm in the town of Usakos - and I'm telling you, It's smaller than Gettysburg. Like, much smaller. 4 streets in total. The surroundings look more like Arizona than anything else, so the culture shock isn't too heavy.

It is amazing however, to see the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I'm not even speaking of those on the street that obviously have it. I'm referring more to the poverty and unemployment. Its astounding. Here in Namibia, there is the "town," and what is referred to as, "location." Town is what we're all used to - suburban homes, stores, shops, etc. When you think "location," you're thinking of a Sally Struthers commercial, at best. It is poverty like nothing on this planet. As a side effect that Namibia suffers from HIV/AIDS, the unemployment in my neighboring location is around 90%, with no exaggeration. Out of the 2000+ tenants, more than 1800 are unemployed.

The youth center I'm working at though offers hope to those around. Ian (another PCV, as well as my roommate) and I have already begun a project, which is to rebuild the computer lab. For my gburg peeps - I swear, if Adler ever saw this comp lab, you'd find him in a pile of his own vomit and blood. I think they tried installing Vista onto either old commodore64s, or the old Apple computers that ran the original Oregon Trail.

But the work has been started, with a long way to go.

I was also happy to discover that I shall get my own office. Instead of my name, it says "Health Officer" on my door. I guess its ok to be grateful for small favors. I also accidently discovered about 250+ pounds of mushrooms in our basement, which evidently fall under my responsibility for planting and selling. I'll fill more on that later when I discover more.

If I don't post for a while, everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Sorry guys - nothing too extensive today, Just letting everyone know I'm in the town of Usakos. It can be found on almost any map - its about two hours west of the capital of Windhoek. Yesterady was wonderful - we went to the tourist city of Swakopmund, and then to Walvis Bay. Its amazing - swakop looks exactly like Long beach from home.

At the end of this week, I'll be heading to Walvis Bay to shadow someone, and then It's off to Tsumeb. What a hell of a journey.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Finally! Something Respectable!

Ok, please forgive me –Once again, Yes, It’s been quite a while. The first post you see here was written a while ago. Enjoy.
Well, it certainly has been a little while – and certainly more than enough has happened since we’ve spoke last. Let’s see, I’ve since successfully negotiated handling my Staging, lasted the 15.5 hour flight to South Africa, and am now currently lounging about in my mosquito net in Okahandja, Namibia. First, let’s go over the basics.

Staging was held in Washington DC, where the Peace Corps put us up in the Georgetown Holiday Inn ( which wasn’t bad by any standards.) Basically, it was three days of varying lectures on how difficult this journey would be, basic security, traveling logistics, etc. There’s 69 of us in total, all either teaching, or doing what’s called health extension (HIV/AIDS, sanitation, nutrition…) Basically, any time I had off I went with new friends in search of dinner.

It was a rather exhausting 15+ hour flight, but we knew it was worth it once were begun to fly over Angola. We reached and landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. Upon meeting our Peace Corps liaison, Waldo, we proceeded to gather our bags and venture towards the hotel – where we were pleasantly surprised. Evidently, no group prior had ever had lodgings so good.

It was an amazing experience to see how our cultures differently. I think it was most noticed when a rather large group of us decided to go out for dinner. There were about eight of us, and I ended up splitting a dish with Loren, one of my fellow trainees. She and I ended up ordering 2 beers, and a special South Africa steak. (About 80Ran, the currency of South Africa. Currently, its about 1$=6.3R) About a half hour later, no exaggeration, the waiter returns to tell us that they are out, and implores us to order something else. Loren and I eventually decided on a chicken curry, at about 23R. When our check came at the end of the evening – it was for the steak. We calmly explained that we didn’t end up getting it, but rather we ordered 2 beers, and the chicken. He ended up bringing a receipt for 3 beers, and the curry. When we corrected him again, he brought a receipt for only 2 beers. Upon our final attempt, he looked at us and told us he would have to reenter the order into the computer, handed me the receipt for the two beers. “Well, Chief?” Dinner for two = 30ran ($4.80)

The next morning we departed for Namibia – with the good and the bad. Let’s start with the bad – the flight attendant made me check my carryon (Because it weighed 19.9 kilos – nice!) but it had my expensive camera in it. They then proceeded to LOSE THE BAG, AND MY BACKPACK. All my expensive stuff. Both cameras, my DVDs, all my contacts and glasses, easily everything I never wanted to lose. In the Johannesburg Airport.

But quite literally, as I wrote this, the airport delivered both bags – with everything in it. I can now go to the bathroom again. Quite an interesting Saturday night. Tomorrow I have my interview with the Health Extension placement officer to see where in the country I’m placed – and what, by chance, I’ll be doing. We’ll see.
November 11, 2007

And here we are now, more than a week later. It really is an amazing experience thus far. As I wrote before, I’ve started my language lessons. Afrikaans, and Khoekhoegowab (Pronounced Quay-quay-go-wab.) And yes, it’s a clicking language. Theres four different kinds of clicks, each coming from a different spot in the mouth. So far the lessons are going well. Hopefully I should be able to converse with my neighbors when the time comes.

So here’s the schedule for the next couple of weeks: This upcoming week is basically loaded with language classes. Not really much else, apart from additional shots (which we call, “candies”,) safety and security seminars and general health lectures. After that, we’re going to our permanent site locations alone for a week. Basically, it means they’re dropping me off in some backwater village in Africa and it’s my job to survive for a week straight, using only a week and a half’s worth of language lessons. If you’re following along with a calendar, then you’ve discovered that I’ll be alone in a strange place for thanksgiving. Needless to say, it’s a very interesting situation. Assuming I survive that far, I have to then HITCHHIKE to another volunteer’s location to shadow him for a week to further understand a “week in the life of a volunteer.” After that, I have to “find” a way back to Okahandja. (Key word for hitchhiking again.)

From there, all of us volunteers are broken into smaller groups which are sent throughout the country to finalize our training. From what I’ve learned so far, there are about 8 or 9 volunteers, including myself, that are going to the town of Tsumeb, which is just outside of Etosha National Park. Yay animals! Other towns people are going to include Olukonda, Grootfontein, Outjo, and Khorixas. We’ll be in our respective towns for about 3-4 weeks to finish everything up. After that, we all come back here for a weekend to celebrate our training and to be officially sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers.

Oh, and I think this is a good a place as any to mention that I saw a wild giraffe. And for some reason, I was pictured Andy riding him.

I would like to take this moment to send a Thank You to a “Sister Karen,” from the “Blessed Church of Jesus,” for the card and gifts she sent. You see – Karen sent a card, candy, and plastic bugs. Now normally, there would really be no use for such toys… But as it turns out, when you’re in a country where scorpions are an everyday occurrence, leaving one in a bunkmate’s bed yields a better-than-average reaction. We were actually awoken by the cries and cursing of one said bunkmate. Thanks Karen!

That being said, my roommates are really incredible. Check it out, we’ve got David - a 30-year-old business advertiser, Rosh’n, Obie – a 34 business man that we terrorize for being “old, Paddy – a 22 year old that I actually met on the Amtrak leaving Penn Station on that fateful, Kengo, and Milan. All amazing guys, all amazing people.

Forgive me for this update jumping all over the place – it’s a lot to recall and to write down chronologically. To finish this update, I’ve decided to make some points that I couldn’t really fit in anywhere else.
- My mosquito net makes me feel like a Disney princess.
- When you haven’t eaten anything real for about 6 hours, the stomach of anything sounds appetizing.
- You never know how much you miss Bounty TriplePly™ until you no longer have it.
- “Your Mom” jokes in foreign lands aren’t as funny as they are at home.
- It’s almost impossible to click appropriately for class when you had peanut butter for breakfast.
- If a bunkmate mislabels both their Imodium and laxatives, hilarity will ensue.
- Its difficult to explain to every teenager why they can’t “meet Tupac
- Playing “I spy,” on a 15-hour plane ride are grounds for homicide. No one would commit me.
- If a bunkmate catches you switching their labeled Imodium and laxatives, they have every right to duct tape you the ceiling.
- If you’re reading about the history of Jews, you get pissed when you get to the part about them wandering the desert, because they didn’t have to wear Khakis and ties.
- You know that all the vaccinations are starting to take their toll, when you discover a volunteer digging a hole in the back yard of the training complex because he’s “digging for diamonds.”
*Note – that’s a true story.
- Colbert needs to know that there are bigger threats than bears.
- Listening to Toto never gets old.
- However, listening to people singing to Toto gets old very quickly.
- If there is an ample source of water nearby (or running water for that matter,) you don’t need to acquire drinking water by squeezing it out of elephant turds like they did on SurvivorMan. The locals will make fun of you.
- If anyone’s thinking of something I would need…Blistex. A desert, as it turns out, is a very, very dry place.
- The Bugs here are the size of Volkswagon Beatles.
- There WERE pictures to post with it, but the Internet is too slow to accomidate. :(

I think that’s about it for now. Until next time…

Thursday, November 8, 2007

You've come back from the Crusades? And Alive?!?

YES EVERYONE! I'm alive.
Sorry about not writing here, I'm being situated in a town called Okahandja - a town north of Windhoek, the capital.

I'm really sorry I can't write much here, (time constraints) My training center doesnt have any internet access, and they close by the time our classes are done.

But just so everyone knows, I'm taking constant Afrikaans language lessons as a secondary language, with my primary language, KoeaKoeaQuwab. Don't worry, I definetly spelt it wrong, but its the one with all the clicking.

I'll keep in touch, and i'll write when I can. In two weeks - I visit my permanent site for a week. Hopefully, It won't take for me as long to write. (They charge by the data transfer.)

See you soon


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Of course there's stress already!

Hey everyone!

Doing fine, and doing well. Just coming on real quick to let everyone know that staging is finished - and of course, I have already been volunteered for extra responsibility. I am a group leader, one of 5 responsible getting all 70+ of us to the airport. Should be fun, seeing as I have to get up in 5 hours...

Much <3 to everyone.

Next time you hear from me, I'll be where they presumably filmed the Lion King.

Keep a weathered eye.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Send Me On My Way

Well, its that time. Sometime in the next few hours (I hate coffee...) I'll be on the way to a great adventure. I hoped I packed everything - It was difficult to pack around my collection of lucky lead weights and the 5lb bags of flour I brought for cooking. In any event - I'm ready. My bags ARE on the heavy side, but hopefully I'll slip under the radar. Its a good thing I have my grandfather's beautiful blue eyes. (Note to self: Be sure to give those back upon returning...) Let's hope my inherited sex appeal wins over the airport security.

FYI - They told us to expect to not have contact until roughly November 3rd. Please refer to here for all Nick / Nick-Africa related events. Any news can be found here first, so please stop annoying my parents. They are dealing with enough stress as it is, as they transform my old room into the Pet/Ironing/ Sewing/Weightlifting/Workshop/Firing Range/Greenhouse room.

One of my favorite professors from Gettysburg College recently told me, "Life is all about collecting good stories."

Armed with all the needed items, I'm waiting for my real life to begin.

I'm ready to go.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beautiful World

My, My, My, Its a Beautiful World.

Sorry to all those that have been checking for updates - the last two weeks have been somewhat of a blur. Let's explore.

I've traveled (with beautiful weather,) from state to state basically seeing all those I really needed to see before I depart this continent. From Pennsylvania, to Jersey, to South Carolina, I've spent the past two weeks seeing all the assorted family and friends that I've haven't seen in quite some time.

But now here we are - only 6 days left. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared, but I'm more excited I think at this point. I've gathered all my supplies and am currently staring at them wondering how I'm going to fit it all together, and subsequently trek it across the African desert.

I'm excited for the next couple of days, because I get to see the lovely ladies from the Planned Parenthood that I've been volunteering for. I'm taking this space to tell you this, because I cannot express how much they've taught me in the months that I've been there, as well as how much they've given to one that they have only known for so long. They are truly wonderful people and I will miss them very much. I have no doubt that the skills I have gained there will be put to use where I'm going.

There will be more to this post, don't worry - its just hard attempting to cram the past two weeks and my current antipation into coherent statements.


I can't wait. Less than one week.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Mixed Emotions

So theres 20 days left.

We've been giving our mailing addresses, so if anyone would like to write to me, you can reach me here:

Nicholas Boire, PCV
Peace Corps
PO Box 6862
Windhoek, Namibia.

You can still reach me at
My group is fortunate enough to have contact with volunteers currently stationed in Namibia. They've been helpful giving advice regarding mailing:

"The best method for sending a care package is by simply using the US postal service. I've found that packages sent in a big padded envelope get here much quicker than a box. Boxes take anywhere from 1 month to 5-6 months. It really varies on this one. I think as a rule of thumb, keep it small. My experience with packages has been diverse: 1 padded envelope sent from California got here in 10 days using regular ground mail. Another package sent from NYC using the more expensive way to send it, got here in exactly 1 week. Other packages took anywhere from 1 month to 2 months. If for some reason you need something shipped that is expensive or important, I know people have used DHL (there is a DHL office in Windhoek)

...the only other thing I wanted to add is that in sendingpackages via the post office, we've found that it's helpful to "holy"them up -- address them to Father Joe Schmoe, or Sister Jane Smith,and say that they're coming from the Sister [whatever] at BlessedChurch of Jesus. Writing holy phrases ("Thou shall not steal," "Jesusis watching," "We miss you at church, Sister Jane!" etc.) on the package helps too."

So basically, feel free to address me as Father Nick.

I think a church just burned down somewhere.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Life So Changed

Well, everyones just about received our staging information - seems to be that we're heading to our beloved Capital for a couple days in prep for our main voyage.

I've added additional links on the right for those interested, that are merely the blogs of other volunteers I'll be meeting (or have met,) and am going to be servicing with.

26 Days Left. And then 26 months left.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Foundations of Stone

Yes, to those returning here - it is truly a different look. What once was a place for the ramblings of an idiotic mind has now been reformatted into what shall become hopefully, a story. As it stands, in one month I will be entering into what has become a 26 month commitment in the Peace Corps, serving as an HIV/AIDS health extension volunteer in the African country of Namibia - where I shall remain until December 29th, 2009.

The biggest reason for this experience is to celebrate life for what it is - and for what I make of it. Life isn't just what happens when it's sunny out, on vacations or weekends, or during snow days. Life consists of the conversations you have, the strangers you've met, the trees you've sat under, and the smiles you've had a hand in creating. It's about eating something that you have no idea what it is. It's about following the unpaved path that leads off the road. It's about Life is everything - and every action I do from here on out will determine if I will be a good man, or not.

I am bringing with me the hope for a new perspective. I am bringing my drawing books and pencils, and crayons for the children. I am bringing all the courage I can muster, and the understanding that I will be knocked down and picked back up. I'm excited for the people I've already and haven't already met, the places I'll visit and live, and the things I haven't heard. I'm excited to meet new friends, try new foods, and to see the young man I'm inevitably forced to become.

If you happen to be traveling throughout Africa, please stop in for a cup of coffee. I'll always have room for a friend.
Take the Adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! ‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new!”

Add to Technorati Favorites