Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Guardian

So a couple things: first and foremost, a high fever in a foreign country is insane. I've been sick for the past three days, with a fever over a 100, reaching a peak of 104. but in the 100 degree heat, it actually feels normal. and I was very sleepy. But I'm just about all better now, it was probably something I ate, like that Goat's head four days ago....

Just for your entertainments sake, We've got a small post here about something i may or may not have already discussed. I've received an African name. Some people in my community felt it was important that since I'm "now African" (in their eyes,) its only fitting that I have an African name. Not everyone calls me by it, but it's still nice to have.


I'm actually not sure how you spell it. It's a Damara (khoikhoigowab) name, and i think its pronounced /otorope, with a click. For you non clickers, its sounds like (Toto-rope.) Its an everyday damara word, literally meaning 'Big Brother.' In the figurative sense, and in the sense i think they meant it, it means "My Guardian" or "My Protector." So evidently I've a difference to several people, and thats enough for me.

I'm feeling better.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Two things, both good. Bout time.

So we got two good things on the chopping block to talk about. One involving internet, the other roommates. Let’s start with the later.

For those keeping tabs, my former roommate from TheOrganization is no longer with us. It turns out in the professional world, when one goes on vacation to another country for 6 weeks instead of the claimed 1, almost everyone gets into a tizzy. An incredibly long story truncated, he’s no longer living or working with me. However, it seems to be that I’ll be getting a new roommate quite soon. In the next couple weeks, one of my closest friends will be getting a site change due to complications relating to work. I’m withholding the name, only in the event that someone in his/her town discovers this, since they haven’t been notified yet. So here’s to me having a fantastic housemate.

The second big article, is the availability of brand new, high speed internet. Here’s the lowdown: one of my friends in town decided to open an internet café. As said friend, we’ve made a deal. I give him unfettered access to my movie and video collection, and I get free internet. Which means if anyone ever wants to talk with me via facebook or AIM, just send me a quick email and we’ll schedule something. I think for your benefit, I’ll post the next time I know I’ll definetly be on, so If anyone wants to chat with me, they can. No word yet if Skype will work here or not, but it will be attempted in the next couple weeks or so. Until then, enjoy my company.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

I don't want to get off on a rant here, but...

I’ve been putting off writing only for the reason that it becomes trying on the mind to have to discuss things one would rather not. Much has happened in the past month. Not so much regarding the day-to-day nuances that make up whatever we have here that we call our homely Peace Corps experiences, but more so regarding the subtle thoughts and insights we’re granted to. And because many of you (Including yes, Rob and Andy) who have asked repeatedly regarding personal discoveries and daily emotional musings, we’ll start there. Forgive me if it seems to train-of-thought and jumping around. That’s just me, and there’s plenty here that I’ve needed to get off my chest.

First and foremost, let me congratulate my country on our new president elect. Obviously we know that his upcoming presidency will not be easy. A collapsing economy, crumbling foreign relations, consistent failings in educational standards set for science and mathematics, and a healthcare system that leaves 40 million Americans behind. But I look forward to the day when I get to tell my grandchildren where I was when the first black president was elected. I get to tell my children about the sexism and racial problems that still exist in America, and point out that they can be and have been overcome. I’m proud of the progress that our country has made in under a century. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Yes we can, indeed.

In reading Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” I find myself for the first time interested in the pursuit of American History. I’ve always viewed our history with an awkward eye and an apathetic view. We study history to be able to acknowledge how we came to the present course of existence and to avoid the potholes on the road of time that those before us trekked (at least to my own bored attitude - I’d rather be in chemistry blowing crap up.) Unfortunately, I assumed (and still partially believe… ) that we’re just generally too stupid to be able to recognize previous errors in time to avoid current ones. When we do successfully accomplish that, we then even the score once again by committing new mistakes by which humanity has never seen the likes of before.

But I will admit to learning new things, and gaining perspectives previously thought useless, at the most, boring. Seeing the American system that I grew up in, and understanding how (and more importantly – why) such a system was created completely astonishes me. Although I imagine that could have something to do with the fact that the only countries I’ve seen in my lifetime actually institute new systems of government from scratch are those involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The Constitution, the BoR, and the Declaration of Independence are all truly, truly amazing. And yes, now I know that all my Gburg history friends will smile and or pounce on me, but at least I understand a little bit better now.

But this topic kind of jumps into the next one, something that’s been bothering me quite a bit recently and therefore I feel compelled to get this off my chest, once.

Let’s face it – If you’re reading this, then the probability is highly stacked in your favor that life is (relatively) simple and easy. In discussion with Peace Corps volunteers, you often forget that the whole world and everyone you’ve known isn’t going through the same personal growth and experiences you are. Ergo the outlook changes. I’ve wisely refrained from commenting on facebook status simply because I have to refrain for my own sanity and the preservation of friendships. I’ll make it clear, and let me say again – I feel as if I have to say this, at least so I can say that I DID say it. It’ll make me feel better. And if you get guilt complexes easily….stop reading.

So here: Your life is better than you can imagine. MUCH better. So if grad school is hard, or you’re trying to find an apartment that comes utilities included, or you’re not sure if she’s into you, or really into you, just remember that I’ve refrained from calling you up and reminding you how difficult life can be. I do not want to sound arrogant, but I’m sorry – if the biggest problem in your life is trying to write a 24 page paper in two days, I will introduce you to a friend that hasn’t had a home or a job in 3 years because he can’t afford decent clothing to work in. Really. And he’s a nice guy. If you’re obsessing over a relationship, I can introduce you to a woman I’ve met with 4 kids. She’s a single mother, and HIV+.

There’s nothing can that blunt the mental blow of realizing that these 4 kids will be orphaned in less than five years. Sorry, but no. There’s nothing. At 13, my biggest familial responsibility probably was to cook dinner for my brother once in a while. And even then, that was at the most what, twice a month? I just had to make sure that I was doing well in school and be sure to call if I had to stay at school late. I’ll make it clear: in Namibia we have what are called child-headed households. These are homes where the parents have either left or died leaving nothing but children, forcing the oldest to work and take care of their younger siblings. Imagine being 13, and having to take care of five younger siblings. There’s nothing you can do to ignore this. And there’s nothing you can do to NOT see it. You don’t know how lucky you are. Said to me by a fellow PCV in confidence, “I now thank God that I’m white, male, and born in America.” This takes me into my next rant, which combines unbearable anger with debilitating depression.

Globally, there are aspects of this world that despite our best efforts that will always remain with us. What positively drives me mad is knowing that it doesn’t HAVE to be. I now read books about global epidemics, poverty, economic reform and social problems and realize that the world doesn’t HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS. That these problems are fixable – that the fates of those millions that are hungry, illiterate, homeless, and sickly need not be so. I read books like “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” by Paul Farmer, \ “The End of Poverty,” by Jeffrey Sachs, and “The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing the War on AIDS in Africa,” by Helen Epstein and end up cursing the clouds asking why we’re not attempting to fix these on a massive scale. And then of course my thoughts shift to the big pharmaceutical companies. To the international banking communities that don’t give enough aid for political games. To the corrupted officials and policy makers that plague both the government and aid agencies of the developing world, and the developed. To the individuals that say “What can I possibly do?” or “Why bother?” grumble grumble grumble.

You can ignore all this. Like I said, I just need to rant. Or take a whiffleball bat to international politics. Damn. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, hope you all had a nice holiday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Something to break the silence.

So we’re in the 11th hour. Or month as it turns out. I’ve been in Africa just shy of a year thus far. Eleven and a half months. Now let me check on my “PCV Life Cycle,” to see where I should weigh in, emotionally. Let’s see….”Impatience with self, program” Check. “Blame on program.” Check. “Constant Complaining” Almost. “Lethargy” mwhahaha! Next question! “Haughtiness with new trainers via super identification” …nah. So we’re good. I’m not totally wanting to quit and come home yet, so we’re doing good.

I can’t believe how quickly the months have gone. Sure, community training and language training seemed like a damn eternity…but the last 9 months flew right by…Kind of hard to believe I had friends that graduated, some married, some to grad school…all in the time since I’ve been here. It’s unbelievable how quickly your lives move compared to mine. Maybe I’m having too much skin contact with the fertilizer and its causing temporal distortions in my brain.

Work proceeds as fast as grass growing. Today I was actually busy starting planters of oregano, basil, spinach, lettuce, leek, cucumber, and parsley. I have two trays of basil almost ready for transplanting too that have begun giving off their aroma – smells like mozzarella. Very excited about those. It is also good to note that the one currently operational garden has not died yet. 15 spinach plants, 10 lettuce still alive. So points for me on a working project I’m basically winging.

I’m finding the hardest part about this journal is finding stuff worth discussing and talking about. It’s just that life is so slow here. Weeks go by with nothing new to report or stories to tell. It’s bizarre that its really an absence of everything, good or bad. Nothing good to talk about, nothing bad to discuss. Although I am appreciating the lack of drama here…

I think I’m becoming emotionally constipated – the inability to play music I has been grating on my psyche for a while. My guitar skills haven’t been improving with more practice, I just suck at playing more songs. I get frustrated more often than getting relaxed. I need a piano. damn. I was never really a writer…maybe I’ll stick with yoga.

Summer’s here. Already we’re hitting 80 degree weather. Oh, and I sent in my absentee ballot last week! I’m not going to tell you who I voted for, I’d rather let you guess.

I’ll try harder to find things to write about. Promise.Happy October. Hope the pumpkins are coming in.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Well, here we go, the first real update I’m attempting from my room via The wonders of technology. And this first real-time post is dedicated to a certain Mr. Axel Kargler, who was amazing enough to send me one of the best books I’ve ever read. The Silmarillion – read it, if you’re into fantasy, and have enough time on your hands. The reason why this is post is for him, is that he asked several questions ages ago in his letter about me and Africa, so I thought I’d post them here for all to read. Thanks again Axel.

.How Much German is spoken in Namibia? Quite a bit actually, since its still shaking off the remnants of turn-of-the-century colonialism, it isn’t uncommon at all to find someone that speaks German. While Afrikaans is the usual language of choice, it isn’t difficult to find those that understand the high influx of German tourists.

.What are your standard meals? Anything exotic? Realistically, I mostly eat fruits and veggies, and peanut butter. The first two because I always did and they’re my favorite, and the PB because its cheap, and a good source of protein. Every now and then when I’m at a party or braai (BBQ,) I’ll get to eat Kudu, Oryx, Impala, or some other kind of antelope. There’s one specialty called “Smilies,” which you need to visit for. So you decapitate a goat, and boil the head. The way the skin pulls back gives it a huge grin. Hence, it smiles. :)

.How are people responding to your lessons on AIDS? I seem to be getting good receptions. Since I’m telling and teaching people stuff they haven’t heard before, I usually hold everyone’s attention. I think it also helps that I’m not a Catholic AIDS worker telling them to stop having sex. Cause really, wtf?

.What else do you do besides that? Hydroponic gardening. Check out the last big post.

. How do people treat you in general? For my sake, I’m treated very well. For many of my friends, they are the only white people around – and for some, the first white person they’ve seen. But since I’m in a fairly well built and established town, I’m not that much of a celebrity. Just a normal person. Which is a very good thing. Very good.

. Who would win in a fight, hippo or rhino? Hippo. If you don’t believe me, try getting near one. Maybe the rhino though, if it had a uzzi...i instantly thought about the Calvin and Hobbes about the Trex flying around in an F14

. When did you get this package? I got this package about 3 weeks after you sent it. But since its been a month since, I suck at getting online when I can. But not now!!!

.How much access do you have to AC, water, and the like? My home has water and electricity (no hot water…yet.) and since I work for the Ministry of Youth, my office has AC. But as I said, I’m fortunate. I have friends that poop in a bucket. Or outside.

.What is Usakos like, is it a village? I think its classified as a town. Its about 3-4thousand people, paved roads, electricity, and water available. About average for Namibian standards, and not a bad place to call home.

.Who is the better hunter, Muldoon from Jurassic Park, or Locke from Lost? Muldoon, cause he hunted dinosaurs… even though that ate him…and he never got lost. Locke got lost.

And like your letter Axel, I didn’t edit this at all. It too is a “rather stream of conscious-y.” Also, thanks for sending a copy of your sermon, I loved it. Keep me posted on your writing.


Friday, October 10, 2008

We need Bill Cosby here

Ta da! New post! Dont get too excited...turns out this is kinda expensive.

But regardless, heres a quick update on my life. I no longer have a Peace Corps roommate. Long story made incredibly short, Ian decided to end his PC experience. It's a shame, but it is what it is. In other news, I've got an extra bedroom to rent, if you would like to have an African experience, or if you need a place to retreat to if the Maverick wins the election.

I've got one hydroponic table up and running, with 15 spinach and 10 lettuce seedlings planted. Lets see if they survive.

And now for a touch of humor, these are Namibian learners (students) that say the darndest things to fellow PCVs...

Submitted from Leah, a physical science teacher:
On a science test she asked what a Sphincter is. His answer: "A mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a man." Nice

and from Eric:
"Describe 4 ways to reduce stress." An Answer from an seventh grader: "1) Have sex 2) Beat children 3) Chew gum, and 4) smoke cigarettes."

That about does it for today. Hope all is well in America. Go Obama!

oh, and a very Happy Birthday to Nicole. I was going to send you a present, but my elephant ate it. His name is Stampy.

Monday, October 6, 2008

So this is a test post. Since lappy is back and online, i've decided to purchase a bluetooth transmitter. So I'm currently in my room, typing to see if this works. Basically, I type into my comp, and it goes through my connected cellphone to get to the internet. Someone send me an email at my gmail account to let me know if this works. If it does, then I can update again, from anywhere at anytime.

;) Cheers

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Well, it certainly has been a long time, hasn’t it? And to those that haven’t figured it out – I’ve lost internet connection in my town. So now its only in conditions like this – when I’m forced to travel to neighboring cities – where I have the time and the facilities to update my progress for all you wonderful supporters.

Before we get underway – there are many thanks to go around before I forget. First to Stu, for sending a kings ransom in movies fitted for my ipod. Now when my computer cord gets here… I know that was overdue! But you don’t call and I don’t have internet! Now for Shannon & Mic, MamaBear & Andrew, and Kristen – for the various edibles, books, and updates on life in general. It’s the little things that get me through the day. Really. And of course Karen, not just for the 2 seasons of Heroes, 4 of Mythbusters, every season of Rockos Modern Life, and so far over 20+ movies, but for well…you get it.

In a nutshell, life has picked up. It’s only taken close to 10 months, but I’m discovering my niche in the tiny town of Usakos (as well as outside.) My hydroponics project has started and is underway…just waiting for my first batch of lettuce and spinach seeds to get large enough for transplanting. I spent a week a while back in arandis attending a workshop hosted by a fellow PCVs roommate. Not only did I learn, I also got to teach on occasion. Fantastic. Pictures Included! Holla!

Here’s me instructing and helping building a hydroponic flat. You’ll notice the very suave and sexy lavender bandana. That’s me – bringing an incredible sense of fashion to the desert. Only beaten by the awesome old man wearing the bike helmet. The only reason I’m wearing a sweatshirt is because it was early in the morning, like 8. Ten minutes later I was sweating without it.

Like now! Btw, both adults in this picture are over 60. They just wanted to help, to learn something new, and were looking for something to do at home. Fantastic.

The eventual Final product. I wish I could have this. In the far back we have spring onion and leek, and up front we have lettuce, spinach, carrots, and tomatoes in the upper right.
Oh, and for fun, meet Puppy.

He’s a desert spider I found while CRAWLING UP MY DAMN LEG while cooking dinner. For your information, he can almost fit fully in the palm of your hand. Maybe 4 inches long? And he’s got teeth. Karen corrected me and called them Fangs. After I calmed down, changed my underpants, and caught him – Natalie and I spent the rest of the night feeding him cockroaches. It was disgustingly awesome. I think he’s tied up in the front of Natalie’s house, but he may have or not already chewed through his chain.

And here are some local girls around Natalie’s that decided my hair was the coolest thing they’ve ever seen and wanted to play with it. No joke, I sat like this for about an hour. The beauty is that none of you have any real idea how long my hair is now. If my mother saw it, she’d probably set fire to it. It took about 20 min to comb the ensuing tangles out.

Apart from the hydroponic project, as I mentioned last time, I began teaching. Here’s the deal – I finally started teaching the “Science of HIV” lecture I made many months ago. So I’ve been catapulted into neighboring villages and communities in order to educate the general population with general facts of HIV, its origins, differing myths and misconceptions, related STDs and STIs, MTCT (mother-to-child-transmission) and anything else they’ve EVER wanted to know. (These Q&A sessions end up being about two hours.)

Class time. There’s Mr. Teacher on the Right.

Myths and Misconceptions. Uh boy…do I ever get questions on these…

Showing a graph of the basic timeline for HIV infection.

EVERYONE Paying attention!!!! Huzzah! Enough to make any education volunteer jealous.

So those are the main events in my life up to now. Teaching and gardening. It’s actually a pretty simple life. Part of me feels guilty for getting more sleep now than I did when I was four. The other part of me though beats the crap out of that part and then usually decides to go nap. But it IS a simple life…I’m usually more amazed at how stressed you guys are at home than I am here, regardless of the fact I don’t have high-speed DSL/T3 TiVO. Although that would probably make it easier…

Also as its been pointed out – it appears to be that I am unintentionally turning into a hippie. It has also been made clear that my reasons are irrelevant. How Nick is becoming a hippie:

1) I’m learning the guitar. Something to do.
2) I spend my day growing vegetables.
3) I haven’t cut my hair in 10 months. Screw you!
4) The bottoms of my feet are pitch black. You try walking around in sandals in a desert.
5) I spend most of my free time now working out and doing Ashtanga Yoga. Say what you want. I’m becoming more flexible and feel fantastic afterwards.
6) I stopped eating meat. No ethical or moral dilemma, its just I don’t think it tastes very good here, and it’s too expensive. Now my diet’s 90% fruits and veggies.
7) Started listening to Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, and the like. Whatever. Its groovy.
8) I rarely shower. Not my fault – we don’t have any hot water! I’m in a desert and the water in my tap can still give me hypothermia.
9) I’m drinking herbal tea. A lot. I found out Windhoek has a Chinatown that’s like two blocks, so I go to the grocery there and stock up on imported tea.
10) I’ve been in a few drum circles. Cmon, I’m a drummer in Africa. Bite me.

Oh, and for those that may not have been paying attention – I got a new phone. The beauty thing is that I have access to the internet through it, I can check my email and even go onto facebook. Seriously, I’ve checked facebook three times while writing this update. For those that discovered, I can even send mail and messages out. But heres the deal. I’m on a phone. A tiny one. So every character has to be entered manually, and I’m guessing this keypad was made for tiny, malnourished fingers, because it takes me frickin forever to type anything out. So just so you know, If you send me an email, I’ll probably read it within two hours. As for a reply, well – guess my response.
Oh, and to all those that have been bugging me to update when they know I don’t have internet –--------------------------------

so there. take that.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Holy Crap, an update! Trust me, not having internet readily available gets to me more than it’s getting to you. So what’s happened since Italy?

Well, it looks like I’m starting to finally find a niche to fit into – and going with my perseverance I’ve decided to create my own jobs. After some 9 months it looks like I’m going to be giving an HIV education lecture in a village several miles away, called tubsis. I’ll be spending the last week of August there for a five day workshop, with one whole solid day dedicated to my lectures. I’ve been asked to give two sessions, one on HIV and that whole dilemma, and the other on STDs and STIs.

Another project I’ve decided to start is hydroponic gardening. For those that don’t know, that is the science of growing plants without the use of soil. My ultimate goal is to create a garden that has enough variety and yield to be able to create an income generation project for some of the locals, as well as give them something to do. Turns out giving the youths something to do tend to work better at HIV prevention than the same classes and giving them the same facts they’ve heard for years, albeit correct or not. But i need to find more wooden pallets!

I'm trying to turn these...
Into these! so far, two planters constructed. now they just need legs...

We’ve got one more thing to work on – a calendar. There are a very selective group of PCVs which are in a committee called the HIV committee, which do things HIV related. (and by very selective, I mean it selects only those that can sign their name to the roster.) One such thing, is create a calendar of our Namibian photos for fundraising. Out of the 13 or so working on the calendar, yours Truly and another close friend, Natalie, are the only two in the “design” committee. In a nutshell – she and I are in charge of what photos go into the calendar, and how it will ultimately look. This may be due to the fact that we’re the only ones that have and know how to work photoshop. Don’t worry, I’ll let everyone know when we’re done. Because you need to buy one. Have a nice day. J

Ok, jobs and projects done… Let’s move on to fun stuff. First – big purchases. I bought a phone. A new phone. They had the technology, its faster, bigger, stronger. And incredibly cheap. As in, I think some office temp will be fired for selling me an expensive phone for so little. But on my salary, well…of course I kept my mouth shut. I have now have relative access to the internet. I can now on a daily basis check my gmail account, as well as facebook. Sweet! The phone also comes with Sodoku, and even Bluetooth. So once I get my laptop back, I’ll be able to update on a regular basis! I’m very excited. Yay for a new phone, which also btw, just looks sexy. In retrospect, this may be my undoing – now I’m going online whenever im bored. I think this may bankrupt me.

And now onto the really good stuff – visitors! That’s right, there are several future endeavors that which will prove to be incredible. First of all – my parents. Both of my parents (and possibly my brother) are coming to visit for a short period of time in December. Much happiness for me this year for not spending Christmas alone and drinking into a stupor. And after that, friends visit! So far on the travel ledger, I see the names of Karen, Rob, and Andy – all of whom have booked their travel tickets to come to the magical land of Namibia in the beginning of February. Things to do so far include a trip to Victoria Falls, and a trip to Sossevlei (sp?) Oh, and I get to spend Valentine’s Day with my beautiful girlfriend in Namibia. I know, let’s play a game. If you’re jealous, raise your hand. (Pssst. If you don’t raise your hand, you’re going to lose the game.) And we have one more! I’ve made the decision to come home for a short visit next June. I’ve decided to come home in time for Nancy and Andrew’s wedding. Why?

Well, first – they’ve been among my closest friends for the past four years. I would HATE to miss a party as good as that one will be. Second, it’s a wedding. If I’m going to come home, I’d rather have it for a good reason than a bad one. Third, Mama Bear will SURE to have Guinness there waiting for me. Ice cold. Fourth, I get to see people I haven’t seen in damn near forever. Fifth, Guinness will be there. Sixth, Karen needs a date for the wedding. And really - how many women there will have a boyfriend from Afrika there in dreds / braids? Seventh, It gives me a reason to go home and see my family. That warms my heart. And after that? Well, I’ll be coming home in six months – I’m sure after that time will fly.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sorry everyone! I know its been a very long time since an update, but of course – the internet has been again down for weeks. This is the first time I’ve had access to the internet since Italy. Many thanks to Karen for posting for me and keep you slightly updated, with pretty pictures.

First of all, the trip was of course amazing. C’mon, what trip to Greece and Italy wouldn’t be amazing? Sure, the flight was painful. Very painful. On the 12 hour flight to Germany from South Africa, I got stuck between two arguing spouses that thought it would be better to bicker over an upcoming birthday than sleep for the entire flight. Apart from that little malady…

Seeing the Jazz band was incredible. Seeing old friends and hearing jazz again brought me closer to home than anything else thus far. Having never been to Greece, I was incredibly excited to see the country. The first day in Greece consisted of a tour of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Much bigger than I expected. Kinda hard here to surmise the emotion and feelings on seeing objects constructed thousands of years ago, in seemingly impossible settings.

Oh, and ill just take this moment to state that one of the best things about this trip, bar none, was the food. Sorry Namibia, but you don’t come close. I made myself sick by overeating Baklava about 3 times. Totally. Worth. It.

For the most part, there were many of us that were actually disappointed with Athens. Not with the ancient arts and architecture mind you, but I’m guessing that it was just too built up and industrialized for our expectations. When we toured the neighboring islands however… Aegina was absolutely gorgeous, and to many – the prettiest town on the whole trip. A self-sustaining island, this is what was in our minds when we thought of Greece. Poplar and olive groves, modest fishing vessels, with Mom and Pop restaurants all over. (Best Feta cheese ever. Actually – you may want to get used to this. This update may be little more than an overly enthusiastic food review.) A wonderful day trip.

Over the next few days we traveled around Greece and performed in several places. We saw the temple of Poseidon, which was my personal favorite. Oh, and on one of our days off, Jimmy, Evan, and I went swimming and stepped on sea urchins. To this day, I still have some of the quills in my foot.

Katie, I know you’re reading this. Just letting you know, that Evan and I were heroes. Truly. The way we looked at it, we prevented the entire band from being attacked from ferocious blood thirsty sea urchins. Evan got the worst of it, but we made up for it later by drinking copious amounts of Ouzo and ordering sea urchin salad for lunch. Revenge is a dish best served delicious.

The next day was spent lavishing on a recliner on the deck of a cruise ship. With more ouzo of course. Nothing like the Mediterranean.

And of course, arriving in Venice was a whole other matter. My beloved Italy. How much I love thee. Seeing my wonderful parents and my beautiful Karen after 8 months -definitely the highlight of my trip. It was fantastic to walk with them among the alleys and channels of Venice, stopping off at every Trattoria for a sandwich and/or calzone. For the record, I spent about 300€ on the entire trip, every euro on food and or wine. Life is good.

We were given some time off over the next couple days, so my parents, Karen, Greg and I decided to travel to the neighboring islands of Murano and Burano. For those that don’t know, Murano and Burano are world renowned islands, specializing in glassware and laced goods, respectively. For those that know of the Venetian glassblowers, Murano is the big cheese of them all. And my mother bought a dress in Burano. Very pretty.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to end. However, it’s good to see that not all good things end at one time. The band left Italy some days before we did, so we had the absolute wonderful pleasure of going to my all time favorite, Florence. If I could live in any city of my choosing for the rest of my life, it would be Firenze. Traveling there with Karen was an incredible experience. It was completely beyond my believing that I was currently in my favorite city of Earth, with the beautiful woman I love, with the company of my parents…and that in three days time I would be back in my little niche of the world in the middle of the desert.

The following day Karen and my parents left Venice, and left me alone in my beloved Italy. As to what I did in Italy completely alone and by myself for a day, well…that’s another story entirely.

The one bad thing about the story – my computer hard drive failed. My computer is currently somewhere in the world, traveling in a box destined to my family’s home in New York. Alas, it’s been 21 days with no word – it’s probably somewhere in Eastern Europe by now.

So there’s my Greece and Italy story – not altogether complete and exciting, but it’s the truth, and hopefully makes up for the fact that I haven’t updated in a month.

If you’d like to help, you are more than welcome to donate to the “Help Nick Install Internet at Home” Fund.

Cheers, N

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hey Everyone!

Karen here, giving a quick update for Nick...

As I’m sure many of you have guessed, Nick has been without internet since he got back from Europe, and he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to make his next post... here’s hoping it’s sometime in the near future. *fingers crossed* And to make matters worse, a gang of angry dik-diks attacked Nick and his laptop upon his arrival back to Namibia. They came out of nowhere and cornered him. First he tried to fight them off with a stick, then he threw his shoe, then he sang a little Phil Collins hoping that deep down they were lovers and not fighters. Luckily Nick escaped unharmed, but his laptop didn’t fare so well. It is currently somewhere between Africa and the US on its way to be fixed at Best Buy. If only they had Best Buys in the African desert.

Thanks to everyone for sending letters and packages. They really make living so far away a lot easier. Special shout outs to Nancy and Kristen for sending super awesome packages. And Nancy, you sent him root beer? Seriously? You’re my hero, and I’m sure his too.

Let’s see, Europe = amazing. Compared to making sand castles in the desert and eating bugs, Nick absolutely loved having a two week respite in Greece and Italy. Hanging out with the jazz band, getting to see me and his parents, great food, amazing sights...really now, what more could a guy ask for? I promised to post a few of Nick’s pics from Italy, but I’ll leave it to him to write a more detailed post about the jazz tour and everything he's been up to since then when he gets the interwebs back.
A pretty shot of Venice and one of its many bridges.

Another shot of buildings along a canal in Venice.

St. Mark's Basilica in the Piazza San Marco.

Nick happy to be in Venice surrounded by pigeons.

Gburg College Jazz band performing in Santa Margarita Square, Venice.

Nick, Jimmy and I... too special for our own good.

Nick's awesome parents dressed up outside the Ca' Del Sol mask shop in Venice.

Gotta love laundry hanging to dry throughout the city.

Nick and I walking to the Duomo in Florence.

Nick, his dad and I outside part of the Duomo.

An overcast day, but still a nice view of Florence taken from the top of the Duomo.

Nick and I in Florence. Yay Italy!

Well, that's pretty much it for now. Nick just wanted to let everyone know that he's alive and not just ignoring his blog or email. Maybe the internet gods will smile on him again soon. Until then, if anyone would like to make a donation to the Keep Nick Sane in Africa Fund, letters, movies, books, phone calls and whatever else are always appreciated. :-) His contact info is still:


Nick sends his love and misses you all!


Saturday, May 10, 2008


Way too much to talk about, and of course, little to no time to talk about it.

Lets see, since we've spoken last, I've attended and worked at Camp GLOW, and we finished our reconnect this morning. Finally.

And thats not the whole story. I will also soon be on my way to Italy and Greece, for some family time, some Jazz, and some girl time.

Life is good.

Oh, and congrats to Kristen for winnign the Haiku contest! Def my favorite, and I even had some other PCVs judge to help remove bias.

Her on its way! Dont worry Kristen, I'll give it to my parents in Italy and they'll get it to you. I'm not going to say what it is....I'll let Kristen post a pic of it here when she gets it.

Much love!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dont get excited. This wont happen often.


ok, real quick about this one, these are bracelets we are selling for funding for Camp GLOW. I'm bringing 10 to Europe. If you want one, im selling them for $10 american. Give the money to my parents or Karen. You know you want one! I'll write more on them later.
Sunset from train in swakop. Milan in front of the worlds largest quartz cluster! Thats a big rock.

My roommates from Training. Theres Roshn, Milan, Me, Obie, Paddy, Dave, and Kengo.

A lone bird on the boardwalk of Skakopmund. One of my favorites. "I'm lonely..."

A hyena! I think it looks like Brando in this photo. Nice puppy!

Me playing with some children in Location in Tsumeb. My hair has since grown. Big Time.

Shells in Swakop. These were the ones I was talking about when Dave was waiting for me. I just like this photo. I love my Camera.

Lion in Etosha! Yay Simba!

Bushmen Paintings! Taken near Spitzkuppe.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hey guys! Just came online to say that I'll be in Windhoek all next week - working at camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Its a student and female empowerment camp, where we work with young girls and help them with self esteem, study habits, saying no, things like that. It should be fun!! Hopefully I'll have quick internet there, so maybe ill update as we go along. Hopefully...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Alright, I promised that last week’s post was dedicated to your questions. But since I kind of put it off until I had a chance to really download, ponder, and write about them, I’ll take this space and do that now.
So now I ask you, thusfar, have you found more bliss living in a strange land or have you found more disillusionment? I would hardly say that living in a desert offers some sort of bliss, short of heatstroke. Imagine it like entering college – For the first couple of months you’re all excited, ready to meet new people and have new experiences, all ready to learn and make a difference in the world. Then a couple months pass and you realized you’re still here, and haven’t really accomplished all that much.
Do you feel useful there, like you're making a difference? Or do you feel more like an anthropologist, absorbing a culture, ready to share it with anyone who will listen? At this point, the latter definitely. That’s actually part of TheOrganization’s goals, which is to share the target culture with our American culture. Hopefully, in the coming weeks I’ll prove to be more useful and hopefully making a difference.
5 months down, 22 more to go. How do you feel about that? I’m 6 months in…and in 6 months, I’ll be helping the next group of volunteers that enters this country. What the hell just happened? 5 Down, 20 to go…
Do they have toilet paper there? If so, is it soft and fluffy? We’re one of the lucky ones. We get the soft and cuddly snuggles style toilet paper. For Free! Most volunteers aren’t as lucky, those that are actually in the wilderness have to use tree bark and pinecones.
Have you climbed many trees there? Nope. Sorry, there just aren’t that many around. And actually once you begin to really look around, Evolution really did its job well here. Every plant that stands above 3 feet is covered in thorns and prickers.
Do you see many birds? Unfortunately no, but I heard that when you go to the Caprivian strip (look it up on a map) you see hundreds of different kinds of parrots. To date, I have seen a handful of macaws and one African Grey parrot.
Time for Rob’s:
I would like to know which group of people (class age gender etc) respect/listen to you the most. None. Cause no one does. Maybe some of the teenagers. They’re always anxious to hear about the history of rap in the US. The adults treat me like adults, nothing new or surprising.
What is your favorite mode of transportation over there? Truthfully, getting picked up by white people. I’m not trying to be racist, but it’s a simple fact – they have really nice cars. Rich or poor, its nice to have money. And they typically drive safer.
Do you do laundry there? How do you do it? This is actually a good question. For the first couple of weeks, Ian and I would do our laundry by hand, and then hang it up on our clothing line outside. After we got tired of that, a local woman approached us and offered to do our laundry for a small fee. It’s an incredible deal, and frankly, both sides seem to think they won. Ian and I pay the woman N$100 a month to do all of our laundry (About 15-20$) In addition, she also Irons everything, including our socks and underwear. We never even asked her to, but we’re also not complaining.
What would be something that Namibians could obtain as a people, which would significantly improve their quality of life, or way of life? Meaning, what change could be made to common thought or their material possessions which you think could really improve their way of life? Nothing too drastic mind you, but something within reason... something manageable.The problem with this, is that there is nothing “within reason…something manageable” that would describe as you ask. There isn’t anything within reason, if there was it would already be implemented. But to indirectly answer, something insignificant that would greatly change their quality of life, would be the view of women in the eyes of men. I could write an entire post on the sexism here and how I’m sometimes ashamed to be male. But trust me, just the idea that women could truly be equal would have the greatest impact on this country.
Have you blessed the rain? Everytime. When I’m alone in the house, I also dance on the porch.
Is the landscape as beautiful as they say? Better, depending on where you are. Not so much by me, sand looks like sand. But there are beautiful spots. The new Title Photo of this site was taken by me at Swakopmund. One of my favs.
What kind of aminals have you seen? Lions, Hyenas, Oryx, Springbok, Jackals, Kittys, Owls, Impala, Giraffe, Wildebeest, Zebras, and Baboons.
Has the general cynicism gotten to your optimism? I haven’t come home yet, so I guess not.
Are they good at poker? Nope. No one even knows how to play! They gamble constantly, but never at cards. Obie and I hosted a poker game couple months ago for the volunteers - $450N Jackpot, and no local wanted in. Shame. Although probably for the better.
The next couple come from my cousin Jim, who emailed some really intricate and interesting questions, so I decided to answer them here. Here ya go.
1) Can you give me an overview of what you do and how it is designed to help the HIV/AIDS epidemic?
As a health volunteer, there are many facets to our assignments. Generally, we are to improve the quality of life in our communities through almost any means, excluding treatment. There are those among us that do AIDS outreach programs, HIV/ AIDS education and training, TB awareness, Seminars involving substance abuse, gender awareness, STD awareness and fact assemblies, that kind of thing. Personally, my current “assignment” is to keep the youth busy. Because of my location, there is an incredibly high unemployment rate, with a very large population. As a result, most teenagers and children are bored, leading them to experiment with alcohol and sex. Teenage pregnancy is devastating here. Consequently, many like me are forced to come up with events that give the local youth something to do, other than the aforementioned activities. Personally, I am currently conducting / working with a choir, and will hopefully set up a Girl’s Club at the local youth center where I work. I am anxious to start the club, as it will also grant me a way to address the incredible sexism problem here as well.
2) What aspects on a local level have you found to be most damaging to HIV/AIDS Interventions?Ooo….This is the question, isn’t it? Locally, there are of course many problems. Gun to my head, the most damaging aspect to HIV/ AIDS here would have to be the relationships between men and women. There’s a new book that just came out that apparently right on par with this very question. I just ordered it, and am waiting for it to get here. It’s called “The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight against AIDS,” by Helen Epstein. She argues that we cannot understand AIDS in Africa, without first understanding the arrangements that underlie the sexual relations here.
Should you visit, you’ll discover all too quickly about multiple-partner relationships. It is not at all uncommon to find that many hold several relationships at one time – everyone has girlfriends in other towns, up to 6 or 7 at a time. Personally, I feel one is enough – any more than that invites too many problems and is overly expensive. (But that could just be me.) As the country slowly becomes westernized, we’re finding that the control of women’s sexuality and property is becoming contested.
This also ties in with Gender issues, where we find male authority exerted over every facet of life here. Domestic and sexual violence unfortunately, are only too common. The problem arises from this behavior, which is reinforced by society - where men must discipline their women in order to maintain power and gain respect. “But its ok, I’m a man.” ….dammit.
Gender issues, promiscuity in relationships, alcoholism…they all tie in – it’s an incredibly complex and multi-faceted web of grief and turmoil.
3) Is there any information that you think is under-represented at the international level? over-represented?
Underrepresented: Not corruption, but the effect that corruption has over the HIV pandemic. Everyone knows about the scourge of African corruption and the countless dollars being siphoned into various pockets, but its not really understood exactly what’s missing, what could have been in place instead. Oh, and that abstinence-only sexual education doesn’t work. At all.
This is also an important point: I think that the world needs to understand that if they want the AIDS issue to change, the country needs infrastructure. AIDS and HIV outreach meetings and programs will fail if the country doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to keep it running efficiently or even reliably.
Over-represented: The fact that AIDS is a problem, and countless people are dying from it. I liked Jennifer Connelly’s line from the movie Blood Diamond, which to me mirrored the AIDS epidemic in Africa: “I hate writing about Victims, but its all I can fucking do.” It gets tiring. The problem that its constantly announced in the same fashion numbs the population to the problem. In my case, HIV seminars are hard to do since they become bored so easily – they’ve heard all this since the 1st grade.
4) Are there any questions that you think people arent asking that need to be asked?
I think Americans need to ask and to make sure they fully understand where every dollar of their donations go. Get proof if you need to. I do think that someone needs to stand up and ask, “Hey, Southern Africa is getting worse re: AIDS. Shouldn’t we perhaps discuss alternate methods / solutions, instead of putting money into programs that aren’t working?” I do think someone should ask why overseas volunteers are only located at the grassroots level – I think that if we had a volunteer located somewhere within the Administration, we would definitely have more support and be able to get more done.

I think the locals have to sit down and really ask themselves if their culture is important enough to them, and worth the time and energy it needs to be saved.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Haiku Submissions

To submit your Haiku,

Just comment with your poem, and your name.

Read the post below if you have no idea what I'm talking about

Good Luck!
Looks like I may have several chances at internet yet, turns out for Dai that if he were to cancel his wireless card subscription, it would cost about N$3000. Until he gets that resolved, I get internet time. Not much, perhaps a week or so….but that’s otherwise a week I wouldn’t otherwise have. Hopefully for a while.

So let’s see, since last we spoke I have gone on several adventures, as it were. The first was to Oshakati, a rather large town ‘bout 10 hours north of here. The ride sucked, and the week was uneventful. We sat through what was the Ministry of Youth’s annual plannery meeting, a week long meeting discussing what we’ll be doing for the year. Kind of worthless on our part, since most of what was discussed was beyond the Ministry’s control. What was originally a discussion about youth employment and occupation turned into a debate about how come “we” don’t get paid enough. Whatever- stop whining and focus.

Oh, and the several of us that were there were introduced as the volunteers from the “United Nations of America.” I didn’t know we took over the world – kudos to America! Who knew Colbert was right?

What became more interesting and fun on behalf of the other American volunteers that met up with us was where we were sleeping that night. Since it was a 9-10 hour drive up north, we ended up getting there last. AND since this was a plannery meeting for the entire Ministry throughout the whole country, beds were scarce. Suffice to say, the first night Paddy, Rashid, Ian and I slept in the dorm kitchen. The following morning the Matron told us we couldn’t sleep there, but refused to find us beds to sleep in. So the second night we met up with Jenn and Carly in the female’s dorm and the 6 of us slept in their kitchen. All the names I’m mentioning are fellow volunteers in TheOrganization. We scrounged around and found some mattress and pushed them all together. By the third night, the matron was getting pretty pissed and started locking the kitchens, but still refused to go out of her way to find us places to sleep. So then we relocated to the conference hall. This continued on and on moving about for the week that we where there. Nothing really big or monumental about the visit, just a good week seeing other volunteers and having a good time – Drinking after hours and talking about our site placements. Only really interesting thing is about Oshakati is that it’s a very heavy malaria-containing area, and during our week visit there was a massive cholera outbreak there due to the rainy season’s floods.

After the week’s formalities ended and it was time to head home, some of decided to go a little off-roading. We had originally planned to go to Etosha, a wildlife game-park, with Mr. Hermann prior to his death. Since the reservations were still in our name and had money on the line, the organization was gracious enough to let us continue onward to our journey. So we went to Etosha, the sixth largest game preserve in the world. Or national park. I can never remember the statistics…but anyway. We camped at a private camp called Halali, located about 70km towards the interior.

A word to those that wish to ever go on an African wildlife safari: Don’t go into the rainy season. First of all, it rains - A lot. We ended up buying tents and camping and were soaked every day (kinda like camping with Ish…) but don’t get me wrong, the landscape is very pretty. Green everywhere is a wonderful thing. It’s like, postcard pretty. And you get to see plenty of rainbows. But unfortunately rainbows don’t have fur, teeth, horns, talons, antlers, claws, beaks, or tusks, so they get boring after a while.

See, because it’s constantly raining, the animals aren’t confined around the watering holes to survive. There are only a handful of watering holes (~50?) in the entire park that have water year round. Supposedly, if you were to come here during the dry season, there would have been dozens of different kinds of animals there. During our short weekend, we did however shell out for a night safari. But expectedly we didn’t see anything, shy of dozens of impala and springbok. They look like deer, that’s it. Oh, and we saw the ever elusive African cat, ‘cept it was a kitty. It was very interesting to see a tiny kitten alone on the African savannah. All of those on the safari were taking bets on how long it would last for. We named him “Dinner.”

Ironically, we really didn’t see anything much until we were leaving the park. We ended up paying a game warden / officer to take us out of the park. During the 70km drive out back towards civilization, we saw lions, giraffe, wildebeest, black-backed jackals, hyenas, zebras, oryx, springbok, and a plethora of pretty birds. To see a small handful of photos I took, check out Dave’s page on the right among the links (Dave in Namibia.) Dave has access to internet, so he posted a handful that I took.

Trust me, when I get a chance to go back to Swakopmund and use that internet café, I’m bringing some photos to post finally.

But we’re still on the journey home – after we reached Tsumeb, a rather large and famous town in the North, Ian and I decided to find an efficient and safe way home. We ended up hitchhiking and found a free hitch to Otjiwarongo, and from there took a 8 hour train ride home. It was really cool actually, since the train was a gift – it was an old sleeper car from the United States that was used in the 50’s. So we napped almost all the way home…with a picturesque sunset as the conclusion to a pretty wild ride.

Next comes Easter! TheOrganization was again kind in giving us all Easter off for the holidays, so everyone kinda went nuts. As luck would have it, it turns out that Swakopmund is the holiday location for anyone who’s anyone in Namibia. A beautiful coastal town, it’s no surprise Brangelina chose this place to hide/make babies.

Not much to the adventure here, just a great weekend of fantastic beach time and relaxation. It’s nice that swimming in the Atlantic kind of puts off the homesickness for about a week or so. Let’s see, Dave came to Usakos a day early just to kill most of his travel time, after which we obtained a free hike from a two guys that decided to leave their wives home with the kids to go fishing together for Easter. My favorite quote from that car ride, as from one of the drivers: “So guys, which American actor is your favorite? Mines Seagal. He take no shit.” Priceless. Dave, if you can think of any, please feel free to leave.

We spent the majority of the morning walking on the beach, admiring the ocean and the view, and pissing off Dave while I scrounged in the sand trying to get the perfect photo-shot of seashells. It wasn’t until afternoon that we met some more volunteers that came to Swakop for the weekend. We checked into our humble abode, which resembled a weekend house on Fire Island – 8 people to share a 6 person bungalow, ‘bout 100m from the beach.

Other small things done during the weekend: a visit to the Swakop Aquarium, outdoor market shopping, walking a couple of miles toward Walvis Bay to see a derelict and marooned fishing vessel offshore, watching Carly unhinge her jaw as she tried to bite into a burger bigger than her, late-night barhopping Namibia style, BBQ with good friends, and make a trek to the “Kristall Gallerie.” Milan and I decided to go for the sake of going. Its home to the world’s largest extracted Quartz crystal cluster (14 tons.)

I think Milan summed it up best : “Dude, that’s a huge fucking rock.” Rocks are awesome.

That about sums up the weekend, but I feel as though I have to put this quotation from us in. Its stupid, but then again, so am I. On one of the nights, we decided to play Kings, a popular college drinking game. One of the minigames involved is called “Categories.” The rules are easy. The first person names a category, say, “Colors.” Everyone then goes in a circle naming colors. Red, blue, magenta, cyan, you get it. It goes round and round, until the first person that times out, runs out of things to name, or repeats something said. They then have to drink. That being said, there were only 7 of us…

Milan: Ok, my turn! Categories…ok….continents! North America!
Roshn: Europe
Lily: Africa
Dave: Australia
Carly: South
Me: Antartica
Melissa: Asia

Way to go. Gotta love this place.
So at the time of writing most of this update, it’s my birthday and has been for quite a bit. Many thanks to Connacher for calling – dude, it was awesome. And don’t worry, I’ll have more “interesting” stories ready for you. Perhaps some that won’t involve leprosy.

Yep, sorry guys. Only those who call get the REALLY interesting stories. Much love of course to Karen and my parents. Less than two months ‘til I get to share a gondola ride with either my mother or Karen… There’s nothing slightly creepy or unnerving about that statement.
Birthday was boring and uneventful. Sat around reading about DNA/RNA transcription and translation, in the vain hopes I don’t continue to become dumber here as my brain atrophies. I miss my sciences. Kudos to those that send me Science magazines and journals – it’s helping quite a deal.

Thanks for all the facebook lovings! Life is good.
Ok, let’s have some fun! Inspired by Kristen, I’ve come up with an idea! It’s a contest of sorts, and by sorts, I mean it’s a plain contest. Here’s the deal: you have to come up with a Haiku about me in Namibia. It can be philosophical, humorous, anything you want. It’s just for fun. Simple rules – it has to be a haiku. For those that don’t know, those are poems that have three lines. The first and last only have 5 syllables, and the middle has 7. For example.

This is a Haiku
‘Bout me in Namibia
Now just make your own.

Submit as much as you want, as often as you want. We’ll let it run, then I’ll pick a winner and see if I can find something to send you. Awesome! Everyone’s a winner.

Except all of you that lose. You won’t be – you’ll be losers.

The competition will start whenever you read this, and it’ll end April 18th. It’ll go that long for a couple of reasons: 1st, I don’t get much internet to come and check. 2nd, I’ll be traveling that weekend, so hopefully I can find something on the road worth sending, 3rd, hopefully I’ll have internet after I’m done traveling to said location and 4th, I think it’ll be enough time to acquire quite a collection. If there’s quiet a few, I may award several winners. Get writing!

Oh, and just as a note: I still haven’t cut my hair since I got here, and haven’t shaved in a couple of weeks. I think it’s a cross between Ted Kazynski and Billy Connelly, from Boondock Saints when he’s in Jail.

So just in case anyone’s wondering if I’m actually doing any work here, the answer finally is yes. Nothing big, but its still something – science tutoring. Turns out I miss my sciences too much, so I’ve decided to offer science counseling and study strategies for anyone interested. So far its been somewhat of a small operation – 46 registered and said they were interested, 1 showed up. But, in her defense, she probably works harder than the other 45. Her curiosity and desire to know about basically everything also makes our conversations bother educational and entertaining.

I’ll give you tomorrow as an example. Today we were discussing the cell cycle and patterns of cellular growth, and eventually the topic shifted to cloning – something she has never heard of in her life. So in order to both educate and entertain her, we’re of course going to watch Jurassic Park tomorrow. Since it is based upon a true story, (the dinosaurs now all live on the island of Madagascar) it should be no problem explaining the process of cellular stuff. Thank you, Mr. DNA.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

hey guys. sorry for the long wait, but heres the deal.

I've lost the ability to reliably use the internet. Currently, I'm 120km from home in an internet center paying through the nose to write this. So unfortunately, its short. I have lots to say, but it'll just have to wait.

Waiting is.

oh, and i just realized i could open commenting up fully. Now anyone can, eg. anonymous users. but do me a favor please and leave a name, ok?



Saturday, March 8, 2008

Some arguments you never see coming.

And I’m of course not referring to forgetting your significant other’s birthday, who put who’s hand in a bowl of warm water whilst they sleep, or even accidently schmearing your roommates mango body butter on a bagel for a rather surprisingly delicious breakfast delight. No, this week’s update comes from a whole new genre. We’re not going to discuss weekly updates of the ole’ Usakos variety (due in part of the lack thereof…) but rather general musings and interesting conversations I’ve encountered thus far.

The first as I’ve said - is an argument I don’t think anyone coming here would expect.
Apartheid – good or bad? Usually one’s answer is fairly certain to predict. Apartheid seems to be in that list with global warming, egg yolks, Cher on tour, Ann Coulter, and fake suntan cream – almost universally despised despite a few advent fans in the wings huffing glue. Honorable mentions to this list include the movie Blair Witch 2 and those that actually cared what their GPA’s were. What usually strikes one as odd is when one argues in the other light, especially when it comes from the least likely source.

Fact: Hearing an old, black, native African tell you life was better under Apartheid will make you stop, collaborate, and listen.

It’s something that when you get to the bottom of it, you can almost believe despite the years of the obvious ethical and moral offenses. Simply, his argument was, well, simple. Once the whites were removed from power and Namibia was granted its independence in 1990, the blacks and coloreds (an inoffensive and “appropriate” term here,) gained power. Unfortunately, so goes the argument, those that took power were undereducated, contained an unbounded lust for power, and most appalling trait of corruption.

Now I am not of course attempting to commit a causal oversimplication and overlooking the years of a lack of an affordable and reliant education and health system for the underprivileged majority – it just takes you by surprise when someone that underwent the some of the worst human rights violations of the globe tell you that life was better under this regime. I was rendered speechless when he closed his argument.

“Look, life under apartheid f’ing sucked – our schools sucked, our jobs sucked, we had no health system, and no way to support ourselves. But at least when the white man was in power, he made his ass sure to get things done. And sure, he took from us. But it really doesn’t compare when your brother takes more. Look at now, our schools and health still suck, and we still have no job. The difference is now we’re told that things are better. How? ”

These are stories that you never hear about.
Warning: offensive language ahead, but apparently only for Americans.
“Hey, my nigger – want some bananas?”

I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t realize he was speaking to me (Obviously!) After all, there are several reasons why he would address me as such. Sure, l admit I’ve lived a hard knock life – what, with Khol’s running out of Khakis, Cory stealing my towels to dry his car, and tvlinks pulling off old episodes of Felicity off its site. But still…

I’ve always found linguistics to be an interesting thing. The inherited power that comes with words and the emotions that so easily develop have always seemed to be an interesting facet for our behaviors. But once again, I find myself beside a situation that I wouldn’t have predicted prior to my arrival. Here in Namibia, the word nigger carries almost no negative connotation, but rather it carries the meaning reinforced by almost every crappy exported American rap song. It’s a term of endearment, brotherly love, and what appears to be a deranged sense of love.

Fact: Hearing two little children call each other niggers in front of their grandmother and father will make you stop and do a double take. Multiple times.

I’ve wondered several times it would really be worth the effort to explain the origins of the word and it’s assumed meaning. I mean, it is very interesting to hear how such a polarizing word to change substance, but would it really be worth the matter? Doesn’t this neutralize the word as New York wanted to when it hosted a “public burial” for the word? Is it different? How? I’m thinking I’m not going to say anything and they’d be better off. What do you think?

Next for your amusement: Here is a list of common beliefs about America that I’ve heard. Now granted, many aren’t common, I may have heard several once or twice. But regardless - Enjoy.
- Because I live in New York, I’ve met and am friends with Jay-Z, Beyonce, Eminem, and the women that appear in music videos.
- There are no poor people. Anywhere. Except for Kentucky. (That’s pretty funny ‘cause I’ve actually heard that.)
- Every women can be domesticated and trained, no matter how independent they are. (That made me giggle.)
- Even though New York City has a population more than four times than that of ALL of Namibia (total pop. ~2mil) , I should know everyone.
- HIV/AIDS doesn’t exist there, or that we have a cure.
- Colin Powell is black
- Americans aren’t overweight – that’s impossible.
- Brad Pitt really is in a Fight Club, and George Clooney is incredibly rich from all the money he stole in the Ocean’s movies.
- Everyone owns a house like on MTV’s Cribs. Apparently I own a pool shaped like a dollar sign.
- Most of the single people that date in the US are like the people on “Next!” (I thought that was funny until we learned it was a true belief. Then it made us depressed and sad.)
- Flavor Flav is a man of unparalleled sex appeal. (…wtf? Heard this twice.)
- Excluding gangs, there are no racial tensions, violence, or profiling in America. (…)
- Women that work are lesbian, despotic, volatile or psychologically unstable. Perhaps all of the above.
- That also goes for single women above the age of about 18. Just forget it if you’re above 27.
- All Americans know where Namibia is, as well as its local politics. (uhh…….right)

From here on out, these are just points of interest and random sides. First word of note: My trip later this spring to Italy and Greece was completely and finally granted, approved, and signed-off on. Skippy! And here’s the super-diabetes-inducing-sugar-chocolate-sauce on top: I get to meet both my parents and Karen there.

Like my father says, “Life is like sex. It’s always good – but sometimes, its great.”

So fyi, if you feel like sending or writing to me at all in April, you may just give it to them prior to May – it’ll in all likeliness get to me earlier, and certainty, safer.

This is me taking a moment to thank Shannon – who sent me about 40 books on CD. Shannon, I figured I’d tell you here because you’d find out much sooner than a letter – I got it today, and I’ve read two already: Inherit the Stars, and The Two Faces of Tomorrow, both by James Hogan. Both are awesome – great recommends. Loved them. Thanks so much! Oh, and of course – the jazz is just plain sexy.

By the way, if you ever wondered what Mango body butter taste like, it taste the same way it smells -Delicious! Not that I would know that, but it’s what I’ve heard.

I think I’ll make my next update specifically for you guys: Ask anything you want, whether it be about me or this place, or perhaps recipes involving nothing and sand. I’ll be honest, because after all – truth is stranger than fiction. And in Namibia, that what’s strange makes for interesting reading material when one is at work with nothing to do. (I’m on to you.)

I figure if you read this far, Congratulations. I’m impressed with your commitment - even I haven’t read this far yet. My suggestion: take an aspirin, and go lie down. Keep your feet in an elevated position, and don’t have someone try and suck the poison out.

That just creates an awkward situation for everyone.

Monday, March 3, 2008

So tonight ended up much better than it started. So let’s start there – other than TheOrganization, there are numerous global organizations interested in the betterment of other developing nations. This includes the World Teach organization, the Japanese organization that Dai belongs to, and what is called VSO. VSO stands for Volunteer Student Organization (I Think…), which is a British organization that accepts applications from any country.

We discovered sometime last week that there was a VSO volunteer that operates in and around Usakos. His name is Rob and hails from Nottingham, England. A really nice guy, he’s been staying for the past couple days with us. He primarily works in Swakopmund, but he has weekly excursions into our neck of the woods. So far, the arrangement has been pretty nice – he’s been staying in our living room rent free, and he’s been cooking for the house since he moved in. Dinners are fantastic, and always go late with conversation. Topics of conversation have so far included Namibian history with the Dutch, the English, and Germany, English history – Margaret Thatcher, what the British think of Tony Blair, the differences between socialized medicine and welfare in Britain, France, and Us. The War of 1812, current global political trends…Been pretty nice so far.

Once again and to no one’s surprise, Usakos has been pretty benign and quiet. We’ve begun to worry about the state of the Youth Center. Without a head director, there seems to be little drive or motivation for other people to get things done. Neither Ian nor I have been able to give our presentations. It seems that “later” is always a better time, even with a lack of anything better to do. Later tonight will be the preliminary service for the death of Mr. Hermann, with the main funeral being held this coming Sunday. It doesn’t look like it’ll be a great weekend.


Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd of course there’s nothing really to report on. Sorry I couldn’t update this past weekend – this weekend was the funeral of Mr. Herman, and there have been multiple thunderstorms this weekend, making the internet connection spotty. A minor word on both counts…Mr. Herman’s family decided to bury him in traditional Damara style. Basically this means that I could have had my own child, had him baptized, had his communion, and had his confirmation all before this was finished. For every hour that you were all asleep Friday night, I was standing either in the church or the cemetery. 7am to 3:34pm. Basically your midnight til 9:00am. It technically started at 4:00am at the family’s home, but we figured our presence would have been inappropriate, and we do love sleep after all. I won’t say much more about the funeral, just because there’s some things you really can’t put into words.

The thunderstorms however, are from another world entirely. From what it sounds like, Usakos has had more rain than it has in a decade. The very cool thing is that the land around Usakos is predominantly flat in one direction; luckily, this is the direction that my window faces. We were rather quick to discover that any rain we get passes quite quickly. But we also discovered that the thunderstorms we get are rather incredible – these thunderclaps are vibrating the walls, which is very impressive when they’re made from cinderblocks. Last night was VERY pretty, it seemed my room was being lit up every couple seconds or so for a good half hour.

At this point, I’m given props and shout outs to Karen and Kristen, both for calling me this weekend! Very awesome and very cool. I’m going to ask either one of you to comment with my phone number, since I have no idea what you guys are punching in to get to me. Please, everyone – feel free to call me. You can actually hear how excited I get when I get to talk to someone. ‘specially if I like you. And I promise, I’ll always have more than enough time to talk to you. J

So this following week it seems we’re heading north. Far north. Like, a 14 hour drive north. We’re heading to a town called Oshakati, which is not too far from the Angolan border. Namibia is broken up into Ministries, rather than the USA’s departments. We have the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, et cetera. I happen to work for the Ministry of Youth, which every year pays its employees to attend a week long conference to discuss our ideas for the year. It should be entertaining, and it at least gives me an opportunity to see some more of the country. Don’t worry, more will come when I find out more about it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Time is truly an interesting thing when you are given an opportunity to examine it.
I distinctly remember the first semester of my senior year in college. And towards its finale – the unrelenting feeling of hopelessness regarding the upcoming day. Every second could be counted, every moment can be recalled. Between all the different stresses that lingered, a lifetime was indeed lived in a week. A homework assignment would be given, and a lifetime would have been lived by the time it would have been handed in. Hours spent at home, the lab, or the library…doing daily tasks from write-ups, reviews, to my thesis…every second was accounted for (with vivid detail.)

And now where I am there are no assignments. No labs, no meetings, no reviews, no assignments. I’ve been in Africa for as long as that semester, and I’m astonished by how quickly this time went, and how painstaking the former was. I can’t believe there since has been another class that has been subjected to Dr. James’ lab. I wonder how they all did…
I’ve been here already for one college semester. These days are flying - I’m guessing I’ll be home before I know it……or before YOU know it! Mwhwahahaha!

Now since I really don’t have anything much to report on or talk about…I’d figure I’d get you guys to do some talking by asking a question. Here’s the deal: are there any instances in real life where there is a difference made between someone winning, versus another guy simply losing? I’ll explain: about four doors down from where we live is a bar owned by some funny and kind Afrikaners. To our great amusement and entertainment, they have a pool table. Ian and I go when we can, and shoot a few games over a couple beers to talk about the day. I’ll admit, he’s a much better player than I am – he’ll have all but one remaining when I’ll have only gotten one in.

But earlier, I had won a game against him based on luck than anything – he accidently grazed the 8 ball and sank it prematurely, effectively handing me the win. Now, it isn’t so much that I beat him – more so, he lost rather than I won. I cannot on good conscience say that I’ve beaten him. Now in a game with rules and regulations – I would have won (albeit undeservedly.) My question: are there real life instances where is a distinction between a winner, and the guy that didn’t lose? (Winner/Loser vs. Someguy / Loser) Someone ask Gimbel – I’m curious as hell.

So not every day is a great one, and not every story is a good one.

Last night (Thursday night, 21st) my supervisor was killed in a car accident. Ian and I were eating dinner, bullshitting over the day when Dai came in and told us the news. Apparently he tried to overtake a truck by passing, and hit an oncoming truck at 160km/hr. It really is a complete shame – he seemed to be the one person to go to really get things done. We went and saw the car this morning. Completely unbelievable. If I had a photo it would not do it justice. I have never seen a car wreck look this bad before. It looked like that the car first was pushed underneath the oncoming truck, and was then rear-ended by the one he was trying to pass (he was driving a 4-door Nissan.) The whole car completely sandwiched and is maybe 8 feet long now. There is not one inch of this car that wasn’t destroyed.

Afterwards, we went to his sister’s home not far from here to give our condolences. I ended up meeting his widow and son, and his mother. I held the hand of a woman older than my grandmother that was mourning for her son younger than my father. I’m guessing these are the lessons I’m supposed to be learning in a Harsh Reality.

A very surreal moment. Sorry, Mr. Hermann. You will be very much missed.


We’re hoping that this weekend will get our mind off of it. According to Damara tradition, the funeral cannot take place for a week. This weekend we were all planning on going camping out in the desert, on the outskirts of the mountain Spitzkuppe. You can look it up online – I’m hoping to take plenty of pictures, including those of Bushmen Rock paintings. Very cool stuff. We’ll be leaving tomorrow morn, and coming back Sunday morning, so its no big trip – just an opportunity to do something fun. All we got packed is food, a sleeping bag, and plenty of water and sunscreen. I’m jealous of all you guys getting snow and wind. It’s been about 115 for the past couple of days…damn its hot…

As it turned out, this weekend was exactly what I needed. There’s nothing like camping, and there’s especially nothing like camping when it’s done in the middle of an African savannah. We left early around Saturday morning, just in time for the sun to be hid among a grouping of rain clouds. Spitzkuppe is a series of mountains, mainly used by the local population for “semi-precious” mineral mining. Basically this means that you can buy unpolished topazes and aquamarines alongside the road en route. We decided to start climbing early, and attempted one of the smaller peaks that overlooked our camp site (around 250m.)

Word of warning – never take 4 guys, and put them into a situation in which they feel the need to prove themselves.

Since we easily accomplished such feats and were of course, REAL men – we audaciously decided to climb the main peak of Spitzkuppe, which is a measly 1,584 meters. Between 3 and 4 hours later, we finally reached what would be our summit, about 150-180 meters from the top. Unfortunately, one needs climbing equipment to reach the summit. (Ish, this is one more reason for you to visit!) We saw Bushmen rock paintings, rock springs, endemic insects, and a family of Marmats, small mammals that resemble a cross between Brando and foot long guinea pigs.

We spent about an hour at the top, to both admire the view and to wait for our brains to receive ample supplies of blood. After the cramping and dizziness wore off, we gracefully tumbled towards the bottom. While it does help to have gravity on your side, we’ll admit that going down hurts much more than going up. Sudden pressures on your ankles, and enough rough rocks to ache the hands of a blacksmith, everyone received their share of bruises, cuts, scrapes, sudden and unexpected brushes with death, tumblings, food cravings, and minor bouts of dehydration. Oh yes – in the 26 hours we were gone, the four of us drank about 10 liters of water. Not a whole lot….but all in all, a fun time for everyone!

Note to Kristen: I received your message!!!! And no, it wasn’t too late to call, but since I was in the middle of nowhere, I had absolutely no cell phone reception. Damn this African terrain, why can’t it be like America with cell phone towers every 90 feet?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Well at least this is a week worth reporting on. Finally. No, no…I haven’t discovered what I’ll be doing for the next two years yet…but at the very least there have been reportable events. I guess the first of which should be the package received from my SPECTACULAR grandparents. Here’s why – or rather, what they sent: three different kinds of salami, a sketch pad, a king’s random in cookies and cheese-its, a 9-month aged imported provolone loaf, a bag of delicious chesses, and 2 sticks of Italian sausage. This is of course a God send, because I can guarantee that these are the only two sticks of Italian sausage in this entire country. Go ahead – insert dirty joke here…sigh.

But it’s ok, I can understand why you’d be jealous for not having my grandparents. Hope you’re enjoying Puerto Rico guys!

This week I also took a day trip to Windhoek. Ian and I have been hard-pressed for finding furniture in this country. At the very least we needed the basics – perhaps a desk, some shelves, and a rug. Luckily, Windhoek has what’s called, “Game” – essentially a WalMart. We went for the day to pick up some of the bare necessities, when one of us suggested going to the organization’s head office to pick up some ill forgotten mail. As I’m sure I’ve stated elsewhere, once we moved to Usakos, the mail was no longer delivered since we basically would set up our own mailbox (which we did.) However, during this empty time of receiving mail in Usakos and not receiving any from the main office, we had a plethora of mail to pick up. While most of these were dated from December to January, that didn’t stop me from ripping each open and exclaiming gleefully. Just so you readers know I wasn’t ignoring your mail, I’ll let you know what I received: 2 letters from Mamabear, 2 letters from Shannon, 2 from Karen, 1 from Mr. Kent, 1 from Ms. Werse, 1 from Kristen, 1 from Ms Basta, and packages from both Karen and my Uncle Sam and Aunt Sue. You are all incredibly awesome. Incredibly. Way to almost make me cry. I say almost because men in Namibia don’t cry, no,no - we alienate. Oh, and the rug makes an INSTANT upgrade into daily life – its brand new, so it smells like a dorm room. Its fantastic.

Valentine’s day was awesome for basically the same reasons. My parents had sent three packages over the course of a week and half, all of them arriving on V day. We’re talking toys, watercolor paints, cookies…these care-packages rock. I should have gone to a third world country rather than college. Also a great thing was getting the Greece/Italy Jazz trip underway. It was FINALLY granted to me by the organization, which means this coming May I’ll be sipping on Italian Wine in St. Marks Square in Venice watching my beloved Gettysburg College Jazz Band. Life is / will be good. Also included in this day was a wonderful phone conversation between me and Karen. Trust me – nothing makes you feel more relaxed and laid back than hearing a familiar voice on the other end of a phone call. ‘Specially hers.

Random Entry. Ian and I are thinking of getting a dog. Something big and fun, like a Scottish sheepdog or something. We also decided that when we get one, it should be an African name. So far, ShakaZulu is our favorite. “Dammit Shaka! Not the drapes!”

Finally, yesterday was also interesting. The three of us were invited to a Track meet in Karabib, a town about 30km away. It turned out that once we got there, we became ‘Honored Guests,’ and I was asked to help with the event. Fast forward twenty minutes – I’m in the middle of a field, grading and acting as a Shot Put judge for elementary and middle schools. When everything when said and done, I was invited to come and give a workshop to the students on shot put.


I’m going to take this time and state that everything I learned about shot put, I learned while on the Track team in middle school. I’ll give $20 dollars to anyone that can relate my current life to what I’m actually supposed to be here for. Oh, and the $20 isn’t American. It’s Namibian. There’s no way I’d give you 20 American dollars. I know its unfair…but here’s a list of what I could buy with $20 American here:
1. -A week’s worth of groceries
2. -A week’s worth of alcohol
3. -Toilet Paper. Lots of toilet paper.
4. -10+ Gallons of paint.
5. -A Pick-ax to break up that damn boulder impeding our garden
6. -Phone Cards!
7. -Computer Speakers
8. -Ummmm……more food!
9. -About three week’s worth of electricity.
10. -About 35 international stamps.

So there you have it. $20 can get you all that and a cup of coffee. (But not the good kind, they only have that instant-mix crap here. Sorry Andy)

But the day was fun, and we all got sunburned. I look midly entertaining, since my bandana shielded the top of my head, so the result looks like a reverse snowboarder’s burn. Its only burned where the goggles would have been. I also scared a woman half to death because when she commented that I burn easier than she does, I mentioned that Ian is LIKE a vampire since he’s Irish. He burns in like 20 minutes. She thought I meant he literally WAS a vampire. She was seriously afraid of being bleed dry by the neck. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up. It took about 20 minutes of Broken English / Namblish to calm her down.

Afterthoughts: Please please please, what I want more than anything right now are your photos and drawings. I’ve found they make me the happiest over anything that can be sent. Any photos of us, or you and how you’re doing, your new environment, or any place that would make me smile. Anything. Kristen, I absolutely LOVE the Calvin and Hobbes you drew – They’re both on my wall. Best Strip Ever. Best Moment Ever. Amanda, the Pastel of Cemetery Ridge was beautiful as well – that too is on the wall. Think you could do a pastel of Andy and I sliding down the Rice stairwell on his mattress, or a pastel of Nelson shooting a blowdart through the door and shattering his monitor? No? Oh well, I’m hopeful.

Just finished reading Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. I think I’m going to vote for him.

…when you think about it, I’ve already been here for 4 months, going into my 5th. I’m a little more than a 1/5 done. Wow.

I want to take a minute and say that during the time it took to the following paragraph, a downpour started that took of all 1min10secs and that I think it flooded our backyard. Here, when it rains, it frickin pours.

It’s really amazing when you realize how you’re being tested. They always tell you here that if you’re impatient, you become patient. And if you were patient, you become more patient. What amazes me isn’t the dealings with everyday life here – one quickly assumes the Namibian lifestyle of expecting almost nothing getting done. As I’m sure you’re aware, I’ve been saying that Usakos has been expecting high-speed internet any time this week for the past month or two… What really gets to me more than the shove-offs and put-downs of everyday living are the thoughts from home. Even when I’m actually doing work (shut up – no jokes,) I don’t think I can make it more than an hour without thinking of sleeping on the dock, having a few beers and playing darts with Cory, hanging out in my PJs with Karen watching movies and eating junk food, “killing shit” with Connacher, laying on the couch with Brando watching movies that he certainly shouldn’t be seeing, working on the boat…all the good’uns.

But at least I can say that the Spamalot soundtrack makes everything better.

Here’s to the brighter side of life!