Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Okahandja Market and Elephant Relations (all on Day 1)

We spent six days in a variety of settings and locations.  The group travels well together—we created a system for sharing the back of the bus so that people rotated seats regularly.  Uanee, our driver and guide is a great storyteller and knows so much about Namibia.  He has a deep laugh too and so on the long stretches of the road people could listen to his stories and catch up on some sleep.  I brought my pillow with me and managed to fall into a nice pattern of dozing and enjoying the scenery.

I am going to provide a brief synopsis of each day (took notes on the road) and hopefully provide a bit of insight into this fabulous journey.

Day 1:  Okahandja Market and Evening Lecture with Dr. Betsy Fox

The Okahandja market is a series of stalls made of canvas, cardboard and/or corrugated tin.  There is a top market, and one at the bottom of town. We decided to stop at both markets for about 20 minutes each and scout the Namibian goods.  We told the students that we would only be “stall shopping” because we didn’t want to carry purchases with us for six days.  As soon as one of our students hopped out of the van, vendors came running out of their stalls calling for our students to come to their shop. “I am Elias—come to my shop, I am Matthew, come to my shop next.”  There were lots of had signals and encouraging us to come look.  We made it VERY clear we were only looking and so that reduced the aggressiveness of the vendors.  Josh took great notes on items and prices.  The market at the bottom of town has more wood structures (the whole market burnt 2 years ago, and they have rebuilt, so this place feels a bit more “upscale” and the vendors are less aggressive.  Once again this was a looking expedition.  The group decided that there were more choices and good quality at the first market, yet easier vendors at the second market.  We decided to stop at both on the way home, knowing we could have things on our laps if necessary for the last hour.
Buying mushrooms on the road--the lodged cooked them up for dinner!

One of many termite mounds on the road.
Outside the lodge's restaurant

Our Guesthouse

Listening to Betsy's talk in the restaurant's Lapa
Dr. Betsy Fox is the Director of Human Relations for Elephants Human Relations Aid (EHRA).  The goal of the organization Is to continue to understand the interactions between humans and elephants.  She is a veterinarian who decided to become a vet to be able to work in an African country.  A friend suggested she apply to Namibia in 1990, just as they were becoming an independent country.  She worked for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for 16 years as a vet, and now has moved in a different direction.  She had a slide show of her work with elephants and the significant story for me was describing and showing how their team helped farmers build protective walls around their water wells and associated machinery.  In the past farmers would shoot elephants because their means for water was being destroyed by elephants.  Now they build stone protective walls around the machinery, but leave the open water available to elephants so they elephants no longer have to destroy equipment to access water.  This has reduced the number of elephant deaths from farmers who were unhappy with the elephants' behavior.

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