Thursday, January 10, 2013

Coffee, Kids and Animals (not necessarily in that order)

How can anyone question a morning routine that includes having French pressed coffee delivered to my room and being able to air dry after a shower? We are winding up Day 4 in Namibia and I enjoy being here for numerous reasons.  This morning after I woke up and heard Steve knock on my door I realized although leading the trip is more challenging than being Paula’s co-leader, I really am enjoying being here and interacting with our wonderful group of students.

Yesterday we had our first game drive at Okapuka Game Farm.  Climbing into the open air Land Rover got everyone excited about heading out.  At first the drive was rather quiet.  We drove to the little lake where two crocodiles hang out, and although our guide John drove all around the lake, we never spotted any crocs.  Apparently they were underwater and not making an appearance for us.  However, we were treated to wonderful birds including a snowy egret, lilac-breasted roller, Kori bustard and guinea fowl. Then we hung onto whatever we could grab as we drove across a dry riverbed.  All of a sudden we saw an Oryx, the national animal of Namibia in the distance.  There were four together and were rather skittish as we drove near them.  But then we drove more and saw a sable, a native antelope to South Africa.  They are elegant animals and rather expensive, but apparently a desired animal for a game farm.  We also saw warthogs, blue and black wildebeests, springbok, and red hartebeest. However the most magical time of the game drive was coming across a group of giraffes drinking where they could find water in the riverbed.  Of course I love giraffes and find them majestic animals and our guide turned off the car motor and let us enjoy the rhythm of the giraffes.  Two young giraffes chased each other, other nuzzled with each other and they just seemed to be appearing from all over so we felt surrounded by giraffes.  I heard so many camera clicks and saw so many smiles when I turned around to get a look at the faces of my students.  It was such a highlight for all of us and I think eliminated any homesickness worries. 

Scroll through quickly if you don't love giraffes, but the faces are cute...

Today was a school day—teachers began school meetings today and when we visited the schools, AI Steenkamp wanted us to come back tomorrow morning at 7:30 to settle placements, and St. Barnabas is having us come on the last day of meetings which is Monday.  So Paula and I will go with the four Steenkamp students, meet with the principal and then come back to Wadadee house for a 9:00 departure to the farm.

Seeing that the school visits were short and we were back by 10:00 I thought it would be good to see if MaryBeth was available to provide an orientation to our students.  She thought the timing was great and so at 12:30 we headed back out to the Bernhardt Nordkamp Centre.  Our plan was to hear MaryBeth talk about her program and have a little time with the students who will be participating in the after school enrichment program.  All of our students could hear her passion about providing the best opportunities for the children of Katutura.  Her discussion of the after school program reminded me of some of the philosophy of the KIPP schools.  She has high expectations and believes the students and parents must want them to attend her program.  She provides instruction in Reading and Math—an hour for each subject in grades 1-7. That instruction is from 2:30-4:30 and then until 6:00 they can stay at the centre and play games, learn sports or spend time in the library.   She also feeds them lunch, provides them with school uniform and supplies after they have attended for a year and teaches them manners and solid behavior.  We observed the good behavior as they were excused for lunch and walked single file to get a sandwich and mug of juice and then return to the covered area to eat.  MaryBeth has created a centre that has incredibly high expectations and supplement the relatively low level of education in most government schools in Katutura.  Grade 4 students probably read like our second graders.  Last year our students did a lot of teaching, but this year she has hired teachers (not all trained, but at least in the university).  She has created a non-profit organization in the US (KINDLE—Kids in Namibia Deserve Love and Education—I will look it up when we return from the farm but you can search it if you are interested.) and the centre is well supplied.  Her friends and family have spent 3 years collecting books, games and supplies and sent them all in a container that arrived last week.  Apparently it had been well organized, the books categorized but corrupt officials in Walvis Bay, the port of entry took shoes and other things they wanted before throwing everything back into the container.  It has been a challenge to get the centre ready prior to the start of school.  All of us could hear the passion, care and love for the children as she described her work.  The best part of the day was after lunch when we still had an hour before our ride, and I introduced myself and told the children they could play games, give tours or talk with our volunteer teachers.  I was really teary eyed when I saw different children walking over to our students who were standing in a line, and take their hands to show them around.  The image that stands out to me is a young boy walking with Josh (former PLU football player and secondary history) and taking him to a classroom to play games.  No one was ready to leave and everyone said it was the greatest day.  I think they all needed a “kid fix” and this was a great one—the kids were so welcoming.  I even played connect 4 with two Grade 3 boys and lost a couple of times.  When I told them they had beaten a university professor, one of them jumped up for joy and we gave each other high fives.  So I too got my kid fix and lost out on the diagonal twice.

Having to organize many aspects of the trip is time consuming—everything is good though, although I don’t feel I get the luxury of spending time writing my blog creatively.  Hopefully my evening time will be less consumed with program details…We head to the farm tomorrow so I will be out of contact for a few days. Hope all is well with you.


  1. My thoughts and prayers are with you all! I love all of the pictures, and especially the stories. Campus is lonely without you all!

  2. It's fun seeing all of your pictures, especially those of the BNC kids. I know there are probably many new faces but I definitely recognize some of the kiddos from last year. I enjoy reading about what you're up to over there since I hold my own Namibian experience deep in my heart.