Saturday, January 26, 2008

Yay to stealing random wireless connections in a country where most people don’t lock their servers!!!......yay!

So regarding new happenings – there’s not much. That’s the beauty in a country and a town where…almost nothing happens, if ever. I think Usakos is just a hair bigger than the town my father grew up in, but not by much. But with the nothingness comes those very perks – the nothingness. The wonderful things of Usakos include:

1) The Sunsets. Holy crap. There are actually so many beautiful sunsets here that we’ve actually created a nickname, AFS. (Which of course means “another f****** sunset.”) There are so many, almost every night, and all beautiful. Colors include gold, pink, red, green, pink, more pink, some more blood red, yellow, goldenrod, and magenta.
2) The nothingness. Really. After 6pm, Ian and I hang outside on our deck and just watch the clouds go by. Since both of us come from Long Island, the quiet nights and evenings in the lazy summer heat are worth watching life slow down.
3) My roomies. Really. Ian and Dai are awesome. Dai is still learning English, but he’s still great to talk to. And Ian’s just awesome. He’s from Brooklyn – how much closer to home can we get? We get along great. We didn’t really plan on it – but we’ve taken to cooking together every night. It’s great – good food, and just talking for a couple hours. Yay food! Yay bonding time with something close to home!
4) Scrubs. I still owe Kristen for giving me all six seasons of Scrubs. It’s always entertaining and saving me hours of boredom.
5) Letters from home. Ok – special shout out to Ms. Jessica Stroup. See, she told me that she sent a package early October, way before I arrived in Africa. I figured by this point, that it was lost among the mailrooms, but No! It finally arrived! I’ll admit – it looked like it was rerouted to hell and back…all edges torn and taped together, water damage…but its here. Yay Candy! How it was not stolen – I’ll never know. Thanks Jess! Btw – I’m thinking about the brewmaster school. J Props also to the Apple girls, and to Andy. Thanks for the “Christmas Gift,” man. *Note to self = don’t open letters from Andy in front of other people.

And we might as well…Some bad things:
1) I work up with a scorpion on my chest. Don’t worry – he squished good. I didn’t want to squish him, but reflexes being what they are…and with the feeling of spiders running across your chest…well, you know.
2) I’m running out of books. With all this spare time that just started, I’m reading like Johnny 5 did in Short Circuit. You receive 50+ nerd points if you get that reference. I’ve read over a dozen books since I’ve been here – and they’ve all given me more perspective. Nice. Oh, and Amanda – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was much better than Beyond this Horizon. Sorry Heinlein, can’t win ‘em all.
3) Culture Shock. Sure, you’re tempered and trained that it’s bad, but most of the time the end result are people shrugging it off. In the beginning, it’s actually interesting and endearing…it’s all a learning experience. But then you realize that it continues past the 3rd week. After the past month of constant questioning as to why I don’t have several girlfriends yet began to somewhat get to me. Then try being reaffirmed that “women are just women, there’s no need to have standards.” At least Ian and Dai both have immunity; the former being engaged and the later having a girlfriend. Plus, I’m going to say here again that scorpions are creepy as hell. Oh, I’m also going to say that hopefully I’ll get to writing letters this upcoming weekend, finally having time to do so.
Taking a note here to say Congratulations to Mama Bear and Andrew for getting engaged! I’m so proud of you two, and I would like to tell you Nancy, that Andrew told me he was going to do this before I left. It’s true. I knew all the details. It’s because Andrew and I share this bond, called “nonexistent.” I’m not an idiot, and currently expecting to still be here when the knot is tied – but be warned: If Guinness is on tap at the reception, I’ll have a legitimate reason to be pissed. (But you already expect that.) They don’t have Guinness in this country, and Jameson’s Whiskey runs at about 60$ American, with the exchange. (Insert pissed off-face here.) Just be sure to let me know when the wedding is – I’ll see if I can find a shaman or local medicine man that can bless the marriage. Shouldn’t be hard, there’s about a half dozen within a stone’s throw from here – I’m not kidding.
In other news, I’m now conducting and training a choir. Its amazing – its small, about 15 people. They’re already remarkable good, but I was asked to teach them some new vocal warms-ups and skills. So for all you Baldwin-ites, we’re going way back to concert choir stuff. So far we’re working on the “Do. Do Re Do. Do Re Mi Re Do” exercise. Going well, and they love it…when they’re paying attention… but regardless! I feel guilty knowing how hard our Mus. Ed peeps worked to do this. Katie! This gives you a reason to visit! You too Kristen! They also asked if I could start a percussion ensemble. Life is good.
You’ll always be surprised about what you miss. You also begin to discover what your real passions are, and what they have been the whole time. I remember that there were times during my senior year of college that I wished I didn’t exist. Having a senior thesis…physical chem….a molecular genetics / genetic engineering project in the works, all compiled with a train wreck’s worth of emotional problems, led to all work and no play, which of course makes Jack go crazy. And looking back now – I’m realizing how much I miss sitting in a computer lab laboring over data wondering why my primers didn’t work, late-night studying with other mol. Genetics students asking why Dr J’s tests were so evil, and trying to figure out why my bomb calorimeters measurements were off. (Probably ‘cause Matt and I hold the college record for most unsuccessful attempts…someone ask Dr. Wedlock if we’re still #1)

Oh, that reminds me – major bonus points to the person that finds me someone at the admission center of a medical school. Remember, bonus points! I’ll bring back an animal for you. I’ll aim for an elephant or giraffe, but it may be a squished scorpion. (Just as cool! Use it gross out your parents, or like me, put it in your roommate’s bed whilst they sleep. Mwhahaha!) But I digress…

I love learning. I loved staying up late reading, studying, rereading, quizzing, and rereading material. I loved learning. And I still do. It’s true – ask my mother; She’s sending me my biochem and mol. genetics textbooks. I need my science fix. If any of my former teachers and professors are reading this, Congratulations. Sure, you’re all married, have kids, and have tenure at an accredited institution – but if you’ve ever needed validation from an unemployed 22-year-old in the middle of the African Savanna, you got it…I wonder how much money it would take to get the Science Center named after me? Oh well. Oh, and as a tribute to them, and if you couldn’t already tell, I miss them more than anything. They’ve taught me more then they’ll realize – and I’ve learned more from them than I did from any textbook. They taught me how to think, to see, to feel, and live. Yeah, I know that sounds cliché and corny – but it’s true. I miss talking to you guys.

One more thing I realized how much I miss. The ole’ burg. While digging through the organization’s library, I found a book on Lincoln’s life that I checked out. Shamefully, having spent four years in Gettysburg – I know almost nothing regarding Lincoln and the war. But when it came to the excerpts regarding Gettysburg...damn. I miss that town. Seminary Ridge, the sunsets, the wonderful fall and spring breezes…I always get my Bullet-Hole cravings and wanting to eat dinner late on the library steps or the fountain. Guys, Usakos needs a Lincoln diner – Let’s get on this. I often wonder if this teaching thing will work out…hell, it would be awesome to start a biochem department in gburg… we’ll see. I’m sure my profs would LOVE to have me as a colleague – just ask them.

Well, maybe not Ish. But I’m sure he’ll laugh when you ask him.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Once again we have one of *those* updates, granted by the powers that be along with my schedule. Since I’ve lost a great deal of time, I’ll just a quick update on the general, and make notes of the special things that have either made me smile, or just plain noteworthy. Since we’ve spoken last, I’ve since moved location twice. I’ve left the green, magical valley of Tsumeb, and retreated to Okahandja to finish my training. After spending 9 days in the Oka, I’ve come to my permanent place of residence, Usakos. I’ve officially become a Volunteer – I’m no longer a “trainee.” My roommate Ian and I have moved into our permanent house and have already begun repairs and renovations. That’s the general. Now for the smaller things.

#1. Guitar. I’ve bought a guitar. Nothing special – I’ve just always wanted to learn, and now I’ve got the time. It’s a Valencia, and actually very pretty. I purchased it off a volunteer that was heading home, so it came in a nice package including strings, a tuner, and the ever apt “Guitar for Dummies.” I’m in the good. Now just waiting for the calluses to take hold. My only complaint is that it came with 3 nylon out of 6 strings. I have spares, but I’m too afraid that if I take the strings out, I won’t be able to put them back in. When I muster the courage to try, I’ll post pictures of my failure. So far I can play several progressions, but nothing too special. (AàDàE, DàEmàGàA) I can’t handle the barre needed for the F chord, but I’ve got two years. Regarding melody lines, I can play Old McDonald’s Farm, but it sounds like Old McDonald’s Craptastic Farm of Crapiness. Andy, do me a favor and send me the tablature for Part-Time life. By the way, are you finished writing “Pirates and Ice Cream” yet?

#2. The Tjinenes. Which is pronounced “She-nay-nays.” Here’s the background: Near the end of our week long cram session at Okahandja, we decided to have a talent show. It wasn’t so much a talent show, as it was a skit night. Basically it gave everyone a reason to go up and do something fun and interesting before we all went our different ways. We had people sing on guitar, we had a pair do an impressive salsa dance, and even one certain Mr. Kennedy untangle a Rubix cube to a background of Europe’s Final Countdown.

Four of us decided to get together and throw together an impromptu a cappella group. A music major, two music minors, and a choir enthusiast. Awesome. We decided to name ourselves the Tjinenes for several reasons. First, it’s the Oshiwambo word for “The Huge Ones.” Second, it sounds somewhat erotic and alluring. And Lastly, we thought it had a 80’s Motley Crew kinda ring to it. So there. In the period of about 4 hours, we put together three songs. The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and Another Irish Drinking Song – and yes Cory, I sang the solo on Irish. It was amazing. We’re going to try and record them – If it’s possible, you’ll see it up here. Well, worth it – every second. (The looks of their faces on Irish proved it.) On Carmen Sandiego, we changed all of the countries to different Namibian cities. It rocked.

#3. My Speech. At our graduation/ceremony event, one person from each language group was asked to give a speech our tongue of study, in front of government advisors, administrators, friends, family, the media, our teachers, the PC staff…All the movers and shakers. Obviously this wouldn’t be an interesting story if it was anyone else that gave a speech in Khoekhoegowab. The speech took 4 minutes, and had 75 clicks in it. When I get an ample amount of time, I’ll try and post it up here. Adding the clicks take a long time. But I digress…as I said, the media was there. It turns out we made National news, with my speech getting some air time. Unfortunately, Ian and I do not own a tv set, but I received about a dozen text messages telling me what was going on. Now I’m getting people stopping me in the street telling me that they saw me and complimenting me on my pronunciation and articulation. :-D The languages learned include Afrikaans, Khoekhoegowab, Oshiwambo, Oshiherero, Silozi, and Thimbukushu.

#4. My home. As I said, Ian and I moved in. And our house is huge. Totally huge. Three bedrooms, a huge kitchen, a living room, a breezeway, nice bathroom, and a ginormous yard, our house is awesome. Just a little minor work, but we’ve already begun that. Painting and all that jazz…I feel like I’m back on Prof. Deckman’s farm…except here that animals eat you.

#5 My Language Test. Ok, there are two stories here. One including me, where I accidently reveled some of my anatomy in the test, and the other includes Phil Collins. Now for the explanations…first one – As it turns out, the word in Khoekhoe for cup, or xlab, is very similar to a slang and very derogatory term for a part of male anatomy. Unfortunately, it was somewhat made worse when I attempted to say that I was holding a white cup. In the end, we had to stop the recorder because my judicator was speechless for about ten seconds, before exploding into laughter. Wonderful. Thank Heavens for small favors - I didn’t try and show off with my adjectives and tell her it was a petite, small white cup.

Now for the other story – as I heard it, a friend of mine was asked in her test about her interests. She, like almost everyone else, answered music. Her teacher decided to take it a bit further and asked what bands she liked. She began rattling off bands she just knew, hoping to answer the question and move on. From what I heard, it went like, “uh…..I like Coldplay, uh……Direstraits……U2……and uhhhh, Phil Collins, I guess…” Evidently, they spent the next 15 minutes or so talking about Phil Collins. Damn. Got the wrong test.

Usakos should be getting highspeed internet by the end of Jan. But since we’re in Namibia, I’m guessing that means next October. But here’s me keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully, later in the week I should be getting my new mailbox. Don’t worry, it’ll be one more thing to post when I get it.

Oh, and because I keep getting messages and emails asking, I don’t really NEED anything. I guess if anyone’s interested, the only thing I think I would like would be Jazz Cds. I realized my selection is incredibly limited. Since I basically have the time as well to listen, it would be nice. Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton (vibes. Hinthint,) Winton Marsalis, Nat King Cole, Dennis DeBlasio, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy G, Thad Jones, Count Bassie, Louis Banfa, Louis Armstrong… cmon guys, help me out. I feel ashamed. (As I should be. Kristen, you can kick my butt when you see me next.)


The older I get, the more I wish I were born several years earlier. Here’s why – here in Usakos, we have lots of spare time. Tonight, I spent my time watching Ghostbusters I and II. I can’t stand it – the comedic timing, the writing, and the acting – just perfect. I wish Bill Murray gave touring lectures on micromanagement and economic reconstruction to third world countries. I’d go see it. “You’ve never been in the outside world – I have. They expect results.”

Way back when we were all in DC awaiting our flight to South Africa, we saw PJs that were sold – and had onesies in our (meaning, my) size that looked like their jumpsuits. I’m going to regret not buying one for the rest of my life. And to think what my life would have been like, if I went with Second City vs. the organization…damn

“Kinda makes you wonder…if she’s naked under that toga. She’s French, you realize that.”

So we have a dog. No, we didn’t buy one (not yet anyway,) the previous owner left it here. She’s a bit ragged, and its somewhat obvious that she’s been dealt a rough hand…but she’s with us now, and we’ll see how far it goes. She’s been a good dog so far – and we’ve named her Axey.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be getting our new post box address. Skippy!

Its well after tomorrow morning. Which means, New Address!!! Here ya go. I’m sharing the box with Ian, so feel free to send him stuff too. But mainly me. I like stuffs too.

Nicky B
P.O.Box 167
Usakos, Namibia

No word yet on the whole internet thing. I’m hoping we come up with a more permanent solution soon. This whole waiting thing is killing me. Damn.

Peace out homies.

Friday, January 4, 2008

I'm sorry guys, for the incredible long delays I've been giving...

Once again, I'm back in Okahandja. That is, until the 9th of January. I'm currently here finally finishing up my training, so hopefully I'll see it through.

Since I don't have time, time, or time to write here, I'll just hit the highlights thus far that I promise to discuss at a later date:

- I bought a guitar.
- My hair has now grown longer than it ever has.
- I successfully taught a classroom of 80 people ( I was asked to give a workshop on the HIV science stuff to all the other volunteers.
- I move to my permanant site in a week
- I aced my language test (first one.)
- In a private conference meant to discuss our strengths/weaknesses, my facilitator said I was among those with the most potential, and that she would take great interests in my accomplishments in the months to come.

On a different note, its hot as hell here. damn.

Thank you to all those that are mailing me letters - they keep my days and nights well enjoyed, I spend hours re-reaading them.

When I get to Usakos, I'll see what I can about getting a permanent landline installed.