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!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

So I’ve been thinking recently (as I’ve been known to do occasionally…) about what my purpose is. This actually wasn’t the product of an idle mind, but poised by a remarkable student here, way beyond her peers. I responded with what we basically learned during college, “Maybe you’ll never find your purpose – lots of people don’t. ” (Thank you Avenue Q…) That at 16, she’ll have plenty of time to figure it out. But I couldn’t help myself…

So what would my purpose be? Curing AIDS seems more than impossible. Even aiding the blatant sexism and racism here is beyond daunting. Becoming a father and husband? Believable – but can that be labeled as a purpose? Kinda hard to make gross extrapolations of the culminations of one’s life at 22 (regardless being stuck in the middle of a desert) – but I think I have an idea.

I think the purpose of my life is to lose every game of “Never have I ever.” To my more responsible and or innocent readers, I’ll explain: Never have I ever is a drinking game. Its played thusly: everyone is given the same number, usually 3 or 5. One person states something they’ve never done, perhaps Bunjee Jumping. Then all of those who have actually done said action, in this case Bungee jumping, must lose one number. Down to four. First one to zero loses. Or in my case – wins.

After all, why not? I got all my senses – I should indulge them. After all, prof Gimbel always points out that the real point of life is to collect good stories. Generally, I think I’ve collected some good ones so far….

For the most part, they were each events, some taking no more time than a week. Most a few minutes – but who cares? Just to say that I’ve done them make me feel proud that I’ve made the uphill climbs – and gives me hope for everything to come. Mark my words – if they let me bungee jump naked over Victoria Falls, I’ll do it. (We’ve heard rumors.) Because c’mon – how many people have you ever known to bunjee jump naked, let alone above the “clouds that rumble?” I mean sure, perhaps I should aim a little higher regarding m purpose – but for now… eh – what the hell. At least I’m fulfilling mine.

You gotta go after the things you want while you’re still in your prime.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Another minor update...

Hey hey guys – not much happening in ol’ Usakos. Following the organization’s procedure, I’m not allowed to start any projects for the first couple months…which basically means I’m still sitting here pretty damn bored. I’ve read just about everything I brought with me, and more than.

Usakos is one of those towns where very little happens, if any happens at all. So needless to say, the days are slipping by more or less unnoticed. I really wish there was more to report on…but alas, we really don’t do much these days. Ian and I starting playing basketball in location with some of the neighborhood kids, almost all better than I. Been jamming on the guitar as well, also getting nowhere fast. I suck, but at least its fun to do – can almost play Tears in Heaven, so I’m ok. Maybe this weekend Ian and I will paint our rooms, no idea. It depends if we get the supplies we need…which of course is up in the air.

Sorry for so little – there doesn’t seem to be much here I know, but hopefully these updates will become more frequent. This is supposed to be this week that High-Speed gets installed in the town. If I can afford it…hoorah. Oh, so far, the only big thing worth mentioning is the heat. Last night, it was almost impossible to sleep. At 2am, it was still over 100 degrees. I hope you’re all enjoying your cold weather. I’m pining for it, in the biggest way.

As it turns out, this whole experience is starting to grind on my mind. Just by talking to people do you really start to see how difficult these problems are that we’re here to aid. For those of you that speak to prof. Gimbel, let him know that the largest argumentative fallacies are circular arguments, and appealing to tradition.

“Because my father disciplines his women, it means I have to. I’m very traditional.”

I hate hearing this.

Ian and I got into a debate several days ago with a couple of the local teenagers about the role of women in society. They all admittedly agreed that women have no place in the working world, because that’s the way it’s always been done – giving women equal opportunities isn’t “the African way.” I thought this was an interesting point, and I pushed on stating that cars and cell phones aren’t inventions of the African culture, but that doesn’t stop them from being used in the larger sense. So why and how can you choose what to believe? There are plenty of people here that take hypocrisy to an entire new level. Seems to me that they’re mirroring religion….but that’s another debate.

“So tell me, what happens if they bring in a woman that can do your job better than you can?”
“That’s impossible….unless she’s a lesbian.”

Sigh. It’s too hot today.

Hope everyones doing well. Hope to hear from youz guyz soon.


Oh, even though it took forever to write, attached is the speech I gave at the swear-in ceremony. Good luck with the clicks.
‡Gurose, !gôahesa Waldotse, gangans ‡hapeba ‡gae‡guis !aroma.

//Khati ta ge ne ra sao /gapi !gôahesana, ra //khore//hare neba /khis !aroma: Amerikab ‡nû-//khaebasas, Denise Mathius; !naga-‡nôa Ministers Petrina Hainguras ‡Urusib dis; !a-!kho-mai-aob Kai//khaes dib; P.S Damaseb; danab R. Mererob Local Economy Developments dib; tsî /o-aisase Andreas Kukuris di danab A. /Nanub tsî hoa khoen hîa neba hân. !Kho-!oahehâse tsâsen re.

//Khati ta ge Khoekhoegowab xrups /ons !nâ ta ge sida di Namibiab familin tsî /hûhasiga /gapi !gôahesa ‡an!gâs, tsî gangansa ra mâ, //în di /khais, tsî hâs !na. //Khati //na !gâi Namibiab //gâu!nâ-aon tsî /hosan îa da ge khoedibasen !aroma.

Sida ge /gam kurikha Namibiab !nâ nî hâ tsî nî sîsen, tsî ra //khore !gâise da nî !kho-!oahesa. Ne da go hâ /gam //khâkha Namibiab !nâ kha ge kaise go //khoaxa i. Gangans //nas !aroma.

//Khati da ge ra //khore sida di mû-!gâ-aon /kha sîsen //aresa, Namibiab omkhâisa ai!gû-us !aroma.

Khoekhoegowab xrups ge //khati Amerikab masenxa-sîsenaon, xrup /gamdisi hû/as dina ra gangan neba hâs !aroma. //în ose da ge neba netse ga hâ tama hâ.

Kai Gangans.

Now imagine speaking that on national TV. I can recall nothing. And I only know about 6% of the words I spoke. For a language lesson, Kai Gangans = Thank you very much.