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 cafĂ©, 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.