Thursday, April 16, 2015

Namibia by Elaine Sweet, American Peace Corps Volunteer

Herero Ladies from Namibia

My friend Elaine Sweet, American Peace Corps Volunteer, who had served in Azerbaijan and the Philippines, is now in Namibia, a country in southern Africa. I have her permission to reprint her Easter letter and pictures taken in Opuwo, the capital of Namibia. Her report is fabulous, so enjoy, dear Readers!

Thank you Elaine, for allowing me to share your wonderful Namibia Easter letter and pictures.

From Elaine Sweet:

Easter in Opuwo,
I have now been in Namibia for three months.  It is the new “normal."  I have learned the basic methods of transportation to get around in my area.  First I ask the teachers at my school for a ride to the paved road. Then there are taxis which are constantly going back and forth between the main travel points.   It is not as difficult as I first perceived it to be.  On non-school days, the local people traveling the gravel road will stop for passengers.  There are established pay rates for travel to different points.

My fellow volunteers and I had planned to go to Opuwo and the Kunene River on the border of Angola for Easter.  THEY had planned to go white water rafting.  I had not made a decision about joining in rafting part of that ADVENTURE.  There are crocodiles in that river.

Rise of Full Moon Over Opuwo

I met Sam and Lawrence and we easily got our transport for the three and one half hour ride to Opuwo.  Amy and Nick plus three German volunteers were there to join us for the two hour trip to the Kunene River Lodge.  We waited and waited, but NO Fleu..No Fleu.. No Fleu.  Fleu is a German who has lived in Namibia since he was a child. He is a guide for the lodge.  We met him and partied with him on our previous visit to Opuwo.  He invited us to the Lodge to camp and go rafting.   His Land Rover had a suspension problem midway on his two hour drive to pick up up..  Fortunately we were NOT in it with all of our camping gear.  We then resorted to PLAN B.  We stayed at Ron’s three bedroom house in Opuwo.   We then went to the very “upscale” Opuwo Lodge to swim, watch the sunset, and have dinner.  Plan B was delightful.
Elaine Sweet - Sunset from Opuwu Lodge

Easter Dinner with friends at the Opuwo Lodge

I have found Opuwo to be one of the most interesting places I have ever visited.  It is so eclectic.  The Himba tribe people in their cowhide clothing with red clay on their skin walk comfortably on the streets with little clothing.  Some are talking on their cell phones.  The Zimba do the same except they do not use the red clay.  Then the Herero women wear Victorian full length dresses.  Plus there are all of the OTHER Namibians in what I would call casual “Western” clothes such as jeans and tee shirts.

Himba Lady

In addition to the upscale Opuwo Lodge, there is the local OPEN market with stalls and stalls of everything imaginable.  There is a modern restaurant which specialized in fried chicken and chips.  Then next to a quite modern grocery store is a modern restaurant with a menu of just about anything one would want at affordable prices.  We had lunch before we bought groceries for the weekend.  I had a club sandwich, Ron had chicken burger, and each of the young people ordered pizza, that is, ONE PIZZA FOR EACH OF THEM.  They did share with Ron and me.

The Himba and Zimba women roam the parking lot of the grocery store and restaurant selling bracelets and necklaces to the “white” people.  Queen Elizabeth and Linda are Himba ladies who have a permanent location under a big tree.  Queen Elizabeth greeted me on my first trip to Opuwo and I bought a lot of gifts from her before I left.  I wanted a bone necklace.  She didn’t have any, so she removed the one she was wearing and gave it to me.  She likes Peace Corps volunteers because a past volunteer helped her set up a market in Canada for her goods.  She charges us a fair price.  I bought a bracelet for N$10 that I heard another Himba asking a tourist for N$100.  (The exchange rate is about N$11 to $1 USD)

 We walked up the hill to Ron’s house after having lunch and buying groceries as we moved in to PLAN B .   There were a lot of “foreigners” in the area because it was the long Easter weekend.   Several cars with “white people” were driving past us and I looked up to see cameras pointed at US taking OUR PHOTOS.  Could WE have been an anomaly?

Map courtesy of Wikipedia

Although I enjoy my vacations, my life really is centered around my school and village where I spend most of my time.

We appear to be moving forward with plans for a Library/ Resource Center.  Two members of the Ministry of Education came to the school in response to the letter my principal sent asking for support for the project.  I have been gathering data to write the proposal.  I want to submit it before I leave for vacation in a week and a half.   It still looks like we will need in the range of $25,000 USD.  I hope I am not being too ambitious.

I spent an evening with a volunteer who has been in Namibia for 3 years and is working with the Regional Library for our Oshana region.  It is about 30 km away from my school.  I heard her tale of woe trying to get a large shipment of books cleared through Namibian customs and fees.  She said that it took over ONE YEAR.  This new information is having me reconsider some of my goals about shipments of books. I have already ordered from Darien Books.  The librarian gave me two other established sources where customs won’t be a problem.

One simple book activity she did was to have friends send 2 or 3 books in a brown mailing envelop to her at her school.  Find out what the least expensive rate is for mailing to Namibia and stay under the weight for that rate.  She said that it was about $20 USD.  That sounds like a simple, workable plan to increase the book supply without the hassle of customs.

So…. If you want to help me and my students, this is fairly simple.  Simply mail me a couple of kids’ books. (Any  interesting or classic books grades 1-10.  Used and in good condition is fine.)

   Elaine Sweet       Phone  (081 737 9075)
   US Peace Corps Response Volunteer
   Oshekasheka C. S.
   Post Office Box 2438
   Ondangwa, Namibia   

Students of Elaine Sweet

I do actually spend time TEACHING.  I teach a total of 16 different classes of students.
I have included a photo of some of my students.  We were doing “performance” in Art Class.  These girls wore their traditional clothing to dance in.  The girls in the background just wanted to be in the photo.  YES, they are all GIRLS.  Most of the girls wear their hair VERY short .  (And the female teachers wear WIGS.  I wondered how they could have such beautiful, diverse hair styles every day). 

Photos courtesy of Elaine Sweet and her friends; Map courtesy of Wikipedia

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Tags: travel, Peace Corps Volunteer, PCV, Elaine Sweet, Namibia, Africa, pictures

This is all for now,

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