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.