Friday, November 25, 2011


It published the post before I was finished.

world tour blog:

I hope you enjoy following our travels. Peace Corps, it's been real.

This is it.

Well, I guess it's true what they say about the second year of Peace Corps going by a lot faster than the first year, because it's been a whole year since I posted on this blog. Whoops. As a PCV, things that seemed noteworthy when you were first starting out don't really seem worth talking about anymore, and the days kind of slip into a rhythm so that you don't notice how much time is passing. Then after a while you realize that months have gone by, and it's nearing the end of your service. How strange it is to think back on this first months, when two years seemed like an eternity, and realize that you're finished.

I officially COSed on Wednesday, and am now an RPCV. I wish I had been more faithful about posting about my life here, but really the second year was much like the first. There were ups and there were downs (but not as many as the first year). At the end of my service, when I look back and see what I value most, I find that it's the relationships formed with my learners, my host families, my community and the other Peace Corps Volunteers.

And now, as an RPCV, what are my plans? Well, first and foremost, Sarah Bennett, Sarah Gibney and I are going on World Tour. And if you haven't lost faith in my blogging abilities completely, you can follow are journey on our world tour blog, at this address:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another learner guest post

Lutaka Musipili Philimom, grade 7

Dear Americans

Hallo how are you there in USA? I am doing fine here in Namibia to Kabbe.

My name is Philimom I am a boy of 14 year Our teacher is Mrs brown Emilly She teach us English and maths. I think I will get an A in maths.

I wish you Good Luck to meet me other years coming. I like to be a piote [pilot] One time I will meet you in USA.

Yours faithfully

Philimom Musipili Lutaka

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Learner Guest Post!!

So I gave some learners the option of writing a letter to America to post here. Here are some letters I got back. Enjoy!

Letter 1: Thikukutu Given, grade 7

Hello. How are you? I'm awesome here in Namibia. My name is Thikukutu Given. I'm a friend of Miss Emily Brown. I am in grade 7, Miss Emily teaches us English and Maths and I am a clever boy because I always participate in English and Maths.

One day miss Emily was sick and I went to visit her there I met her friend Kait and I even did some Maths work there. I enjoyed staying with Miss Emily and Miss Kait. I even watched some movies with Miss Emily.

Greating to you all and your family. Even Mr. Skip and Miss Brown too the parents of Miss Emily.

Letter 2: Lutaka Mutwamezi Philosophy, grade 7

Hellow!!! My name is philosophy my surname is Lutaka the use to call me my culture name Mutwamezi I live in Kabbe Area in Linyandelo village means we suffered alot

I wish you to pray for me to pass

Best wishes!!!!


Okay, so this post is about a month overdue but first of all I want to thank all of my family and friends who donated money so that I could take learners to the Lucky Star Marathon! You all are wonderful, wonderful people who made twelve Caprivian learners from Kabbe very very very very very happy. I've posted pictures on facebook already but now that I have internet at my school again (for now, until someone breaks it again) I'll recount the story titled "the time I decided to transport twelve learners from the village 3000 kilometers in 3 days so that they could run in a marathon."

Each year Etosha Fisheries hosts a marathon in Swakopmund. For those of you who don't have a map of Namibia handy, Swakopmund is on the coast about 300 k West of Windhoek. It's also the most magical place in Namibia, because not only does it have TWO of the three movie theaters in the country, but it also has a Thai restaurant. So anyway, each year there is a marathon which runs from Walvis Bay, about 40 k south of Swakop, up to Swakop. Part of what makes this marathon important for this story is that they also have a learner relay, so teams of 4 learners each run about 10.55 kilometers and together finish the length of one marathon.

When I first heard about the marathon I thought, hmm I like Swakop, it has thai food, I should go there. Then I remembered that I'm an education volunteer and work with children and that every time I go for my daily 5 k run learners run next to me shouting "Miss Emily! Miss Emily! Miss Emily! Miss Emily! We can walk as fast as you're running!" And run in crazy circles around me until the annoyance of trying to run in 35 degree Celcius heat with small boys pointing out my pathetic running ability forces me to say "Good for you. Now let's see how fast you can run to thaaaaaaat tree way over there." So, I thought to myself, these kids like running, they've never been and might never get a chance to go to Swakopmund, and this is the first time in their lives they'll be exposed to the idea that if they work hard and train for things good things might happen, I should train learners and take them to this marathon.

So, at the beginning of this term I made an announcement during morning assembly that anyone who wanted to train for a marathon should meet at the big tree after afternoon study. I didn't tell the learners where it was right away, because I didn't want them to train for the marathon just because they wanted to go to Swakop, which somehow made them all think I was taking them to America. Whoops. But anyway, I paired down the 40 learners who showed up to train to the 12 best runners who came the most consistently, and preemptively put in my request for regional transport about 5 weeks before the actual event.

To give you an idea of what it's like to try to organize events in Namibia, I'm going to now recount to you the story within this story titled "How I got transport for the marathon."

Now, in America, I'm pretty sure when you put in a request for something like transport, they file that request, tell you whether there's transport available for the event, and, if there is, on the day you have requested transport for you can show up, get in a bus with your twelve learners and be driven to and from the place you have requested to be driven to and from. Not so in Namibia.

I put in the request for transport, was told I would be given two GRN bakkies (pick up trucks) with two drivers who would drive me to Swakop 2 days before the marathon, and then back the day after. Ok great. My friend and fellow PCV in town checked several times for me, and every time I went to town thereafter I checked in to make sure everything was all right with the transport and was told each time that there was no problem. On Monday of the week of the marathon, I called the transport office to quadruple check that it was available. The conversation went something like this, "Hi Mr Tawana, this is Emily Brown." "What? Who?" "Emily Brown. The teacher in Kabbe." "Who?" "The Peace Corps Volunteer." "???" "I'm the one who is trying to take those twelve learners to Swakopmund this week for the marathon." "Okay. You are the one taking two bakkies to Rundu." "Right. Two bakkies and two drivers to drive us the Swakopmund and then back." "No, I'm afraid that won't be possible. All of our drivers are in Windhoek for a workshop." "?!?!?!?!?!?! Um, sorry?" "All of our drivers are in Windhoek for a workshop." "?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!" "Do you have any teachers who can drive?" "Um. No. Let me check." After frantically asking my principal, I found one teacher at my school with a drivers' licence, which didn't really solve the problem since I had two bakkies now with one driver. Peace Corps Volunteers aren't allowed to drive, and on top of that I don't know how to drive a stick shift on the wrong side of the road and didn't really want to try with 6 kids' lives in my hands.

I called Mr Tawana again and asked if we could have a combi instead. He said no. I called the coordinator of the marathon to see if Ethosha Fisheries was providing regional transport, which I heard might happen. I was told by the woman in charge that they would find transport and not to worry, and she would call me back later that day. I breathed a sigh of relief. When I hadn't heard from her by the next morning, I got a little worried so I called again. She informed me that the bus providing transport from Katima was full, and asked if I could find my own transport. I explained that I called her because my own transport had fallen through. Atata.

I asked around and found out that last year a Caprivi volunteer paid a Combi driver to drive him and his learners to the marathon and then was reimbursed by the circuit office. The next day I went to the see the circuit inspector to see if they could do this for me. The circuit inspector was out, so instead I talked to the acting circuit inspector. I explained the problem and he said, "so the problem is that you have two bakkies but only one driver? So if we find another driver will that solve the problem?" I said yes, and he promised to find a second driver. I thanked him profusely, and headed off to the transport office to check on my bakkies. When I arrived at the transport office I was told to go to another section of the ministry because the transport officer was in Windhoek. When I got to the other office I asked the man sitting behind the desk about the bakkies. He replied, "We are having a problem of bakkies. I don't feel well. I'm going home." Translation: There are no bakkies. "!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!" "Let me make a phone call." After calling the acting transport officer he sent me back through the winding corridors back to the transport office, where I explained my problem and the acting transport officer said that there were no bakkies at the moment, but he would make a few calls and try to pull them from the field. Close to extreme exasperation I sat down to wait, while the other man in the office talked to me about the bible for 45 minutes. While I was waiting I got a call from my HOD saying someone from the ministry of youth (a separate ministry altogether from the ministry of education) had called because he had a bus on which he was transporting learners from other schools to the marathon, and that I should go to see him to see if there was room.

I walked all the way across town (in above 40 degree Celcius humid Katima weather) and went to see the ministry of youth guy. After waiting for about 30 minutes he showed up, and explained that the Marathon people had given him N$10 000 for a bus, but a 22 person bus cost N$14 000, they had a donation from another sector of N$1500 and the schools were going to cover the rest. I said okay, and asked how much, and was told that each team would pay 625, but since I had 3 teams and we wouldn't all fit, I had to pay close to 3000. I asked why, and he said it was because we would need to get a bigger bus. I asked how much more a bigger bus would cost and he said he didn't want to call to get a quotation because then they might charge more than 14 000. "?!?!?!?!?!?!?!" So, to clarify, I was expected to give him a random extra N$2000 without getting a quotation? Yes. But, he said he heard I had one driver and one bakkie, so we could fit one of my teams in the bakkie and one of my teams in the bakkie and the other 8 could go in the bus and then I would just pay the 1250 for my two other teams. Resisting the urge to bang my head against his desk I explained that I actually didn't have that bakkie anymore, so really I needed to get all of my learners on this bus. As we were negotiating, the guy from the ministry of education called and said he had gotten one bakkie. Then the acting inspector called to say he hadn't found another driver. Fine. I agreed to put 4 of my learners in the bakkie and the other 8 on the bus and to pay the difference of N1250 (thank you again to all of my wonderful family and friends who donated!!!!!). MOY guy then informed me that they were just happening to give us the 27 seater for the same price as the 22 seater so we could just put the luggage in the bakkie. Wanting to scream at him for trying to rip me off but feeling relieved that my learners were going to Swakop I said fine.

The next day we loaded the learners onto the bus, along with MOY guy and his family, because even though there wouldn't have been space to fit all of my learners on the smaller bus, there was room for him to bring his family on a free vacation. Ahhh corruption. But anyway.

After overnighting in Rundu, we arrived in Swakopmund at around 2:00 the next day. After we unloaded the bus at the coast the learners all rushed toward the ocean. This was the first time any of the Caprivi kids had ever been to the ocean. For some it was the first time they were out of their region. Their excitement and wonder was worth every exasperated second of getting them to Swakop. After taking countless pictures of my learners playing in the ocean, and after collecting seawater to bring back to the village to keep ghosts out of their houses, we went to register the kids to run.

The next day we woke up early to get the kids ready and got the starting point just as they were about to start. After they started running I went from checkpoint to checkpoint to see each runner in each of the 3 teams cross the checkpoint. Although my runners weren't the fastest, the look on each of their faces as they crossed the finish line was priceless. I was so proud of all of them for completing the race that it obliterated all of my feelings of stress and exhaustion. After the marathon was completed we had an awards ceremony. Each of the runners received a T-shirt and a medal which they proudly put on, and my school won a raffled box of running shoes! Each of my runners won a pair of sneakers, with some left over to be distributed to other learners at the school.

After the awards ceremony we took the learners back to the beach, where they ran in and out of the water under my supervision. While they were swimming I looked over to see them pulling something huge out of the water. I ran over to see what they were doing, only to discover that it was a dead seal that had washed up on the shore. Atata.

After explaining how to use the beach showers and imploring them to keep their clothes ON while showering, they got dressed and we walked to the small museum. We went inside to look at displays and they asked me questions such as whether the taxidermied animals were still alive. Afterwards I bought each of them an ice cream cone (they all chose chocolate except for one brave learner who asked for "pink") and we boarded the bus to start the 19 hour journey home. Although exhausted, sunburned, dirty and smelly, the trip was absolutely amazing. I will certainly be bringing learners again next year.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

third term!

Well I'm about 3 weeks into my third term of teaching in Namibia. While many pcvs in the education sector really really hate teaching, I think I lucked out a lot with my placement because I love teaching. There. I said it. I love teaching. So much, in fact, that I'm considering getting my teaching degree in America when (if?...when) I return. There are definitely things I don't love about teaching in Namibia. I hate the bureaucracy, and being forced to make ridiculous files, the unrealistic expectations of the management, the frustratingly low levels of the learners. Sometimes my learners drive me insane. Corporal punishment makes me feel physically ill. But there is little I love in this country more than being in the classroom. One day last term I was giving grade 7 a "pep talk," meaning they were being noisy and I was feeling cranky and trying to make them be quiet and listen to how to add and subtract fractions(yes, even though I love my learners, Miss Emily does have her cranky days) and I finally said in exasperation: "I am here for you!!!! You are the most important people in my life here!!!" And while I was saying this I had a moment of clarity where I realized that this was actually completely true.

Volunteers in other sectors have more free time to spend in their communities doing projects and what what but when you're an education volunteer you don't have much time to spend outside of the school. I spend all of my time with learners. I go to school at 7 in the morning and stay until 4:30 at night. I run with them in the evenings (I'm currently training them for a marathon in Swakopmund!) They come to my house to watch movies with me on weekends. They write me letters asking me to be their best friend. Actually, they are my best friends in my village. These learners are the most important people in my Peace Corps life. They're the reason I'm here. And even when my secondary projects fizzle out, or school bureaucracy makes me angry, I still love those kids. And even when they don't listen in class, or knock on my door at 6 in the morning on a saturday, or break my pens or steal my sticky tack I still love 'em.

So I'd say, I'm pretty lucky.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cultured out

This weekend was a busy weekend! On Friday Sam Nujoma, the founding president of Namibia, came to my school. He was in the region for the king of the Masubia tribe’s birthday celebration, which took place in Bukalo on Saturday, so he came to my school on Friday. My school is named after him, so I think he visits quite often when he’s in the area. Sam Nujoma is extremely popular with the Namibian people: he was a freedom fighter and the first president after Namibia gained independence so people , associate him with defeating the Apartheid regime. Thus, my school went crazy preparing for his arrival. School was cancelled on Thursday so the learners could clean the school grounds (so illegal – can you imagine that happening in America?), and on Friday tons of people showed up to see him speak. I got to shake his hand which was pretty cool – unfortunately I entrusted my camera to a learner to take pictures and he somehow missed that. A band played for the event, and learners performed from the school choir and culture group. Caprivian culture groups wear reed skirts and dance a really intense hip shaking dance which is actually really great. It’s crazy how people can move their bodies here: I swear all of my learners can dance. A dance group from the village also danced spell. For that the women wear big skirts with a lot of fabric underneath and kind of shake their hips while clapping.
After the dancing Sam Nujoma gave a speech. When I asked one of my cleverest learners, what he thought of Nujoma’s speech he answered “when he said he had been in SWAPO (Namibia’s main political party) for 46 years I thought he was very old. Also, he doesn’t speak English properly.” I will reserve judgment on that in case the Namibian government is checking up on this blog. Nujoma also donated N$2000 dollars to my school to build new class buildings which I didn’t know we needed but okay.
On Saturday I went to some of the event in Bukalo. Bukalo is about 10 k from my village and kind of the capital of the Masubia nation. The Masubia are the main tribe in the Eastern Caprivi, which is the side my village is on, but there are also Masubia people stretching into Botswana. In Caprivi there are two main tribes: the Masubia and the Mafwe. The two tribes don’t get along very well and there’s a lot of tension between them. The Masubia people speak Subia and the Mafwe people speak Sifwe, which is why the Caprivian language is Silozi even though the Lozi tribe comes from Zambia. It’s a bit confusing. The Khuta, or tribal court, for the Masubia people is in Bukalo and it’s where the king lives. All villages also have smaller khutas which are run by the village headmen, or indunas, and it’s where disputes are settled. The Khuta in Bukalo is extremely formal. Women must wear sitenges, and before you enter, or even if you are just walking past the entrance, you have to kneel down on the ground and clap. If you forget you have to pay the king in cattle. When you come before the chief you also have to kneel down and clap the whole time you are in his presence. Men can kneel down on their knees but women have to get even lower, so their hands and knees are on the ground.
But anyway, this weekend was the Subia king’s birthday so there was a cultural festival in Bukalo which happens this time every year. I only went to part of it because I was feeling a bit cultured out after the event on Friday and several other events that have happened at my school this term. Kaitlin, Andrew and I showed up while they were still giving the speeches. We wanted to go inside the main arena where the king was sitting so that we could see him better. From what I could see he was dressed in leopard furs, and in front of him on the table was a leopard skull. He’s actually pretty young, in his 40s, and I have heard tell that he didn’t actually want to be king, but he was somehow forced into it because there were no other heirs. We weren’t able to get into the main sitting area because it was full, and I’m not sure we were actually important enough to sit there. Everyone who entered or exited had to kneel and clap, and anyone who passed before the chief had to kneel and clap before him. Since there were no seats in the arena they let us sit with the band who were right next to the sitting area. Sam Nujoma gave a speech, and after he finished there was an entertainment break when the band we were sitting with got up to play. The band had gone to eat lunch so they were late arriving back, so while they were waiting they kind of just focused the cameras (the news was there) where they were sitting, so basically just on we three random white people. Then the band finally got back, so they got up to play, with the cameras still focused on them with us in the background. Awkward. Made more awkward by the fact that the song the band played was about “shooting the mukuwa” with two female dancers shooting at a “boer” to the sound of drum beats. The boer, or “mukuwa” since there’s no differentiation in the language between boer and white person was differentiated with a big belly made of pillows stuffed under his shirt to show that the white man was well fed and greedy. The boer was defeated and everyone cheered while meanwhile we makuwa were sitting in the background watching awkwardly while being filmed. It was a very uncomfortable experience.
After the song finished the current president of Namibia, Pohamba, spoke for about an hour. By the time he was finished we were pretty done also, so even though there were more speeches and dancing to follow we hiked back to Katima for hot showers and pizza, both of which, to be honest, are more rare in my current life than watching important people give speeches and Caprivian dancing.