Monday, January 27, 2014

Our First Weekend

Monday January 27, 14
Lindsey and I are sitting at the kitchen “island” both creating blog entries and talking about our social weekend. Rather that chronicle the entire weekend, I’ll use bulleted fragments to give you a sense of our first full weekend in Namibia.
·      Maria at our house from 7:30-12:00—Maria works at Casa Blanca during the week and we have hired her to help with cleaning and household chores.  She taught me the art of washing and drying in Namibia.  Even though we separated lights and darks, Lindsey and I had some of our light colored undergarments color in the wash.  We CANNOT figure that out.
Tony creating the clothesline

Maria hanging--she said she goes faster than me

·      Katutura Single Quarter Market—We drove Maria to her house in Katutura, other wise she would have taken a taxi home, and because she was helping us we offered to drive her, and then Lindsey and Tony could have their first glimpse of the Single quarter.  During the time of apartheid, Blacks were relocated to Katutura and housed in small cinder block homes.  Single men, mostly laborors from the Ovambo group were house in dormitory like rooms and that area became known as the Single Quarters.  It is now an outdoor market where there are along rows of wood burning grills where fresh beef is cooked.  Lindsey said one of her favorite sounds was hearing men hack away at the beef to prepare strips for the grill. Several men offered us tastes, and we had two tastes but didn’t buy a newspaper full of meat and spices like the locals.  Maybe another time. I didn’t take pictures this time, but am including some pictures Steve Leitz took last year on our visit with the students.
Shoes anyone?

meat before cooking

All of the grill stations use wood, and someone is always chopping

·      Shopping and lunch—we needed to purchase a fan for Lindsey’s room and stopped at a store called Game.  I believe the layout of the selection of items in the store would be similar to a WalMart in the US.  We selected a fan and picked up a couple other items like another set of towels and waited in line10-15 minutes.  The line moved efficiently and there was a system that would announce “next customer” and display which cashier (1-12) was open.  There were just a lot of people ahead of us in line.  All of us were hungry so before doing our grocery run we ate at Flaunt.  Great salads and a tasty grilled chicken salad.  Lindsey wanted to pick up some treats at the bakery, two doors away, but it was 2:00 and that is the Saturday finishing time.  Oh well, we know we will be regulars.  Our new find at the Super Spar is the hummus from the deli.
·      First house guests—Amanthi’s* parents came over for a evening snack of hummus, cheese, fruit salad, nuts and crackers.  Alwis, Amanthi’s dad helped Tony put Lindsey’s 19 piece fan together.  Lindsey, Renuka (Amanthi’s mom) and I wondered if we would ever get to eat.  Seeing they didn’t arrive until after 7:30, we didn’t eat until around 9:00! Whoa is all I have to say, but at least the fan was working! (*Amanthi is student from Namibia at Ohio Wesleyan who spends holidays with our family.  I met her mother, a high school math teacher when I was here in 2010 on the Fulbright Hays award)
·      Lunch at Juanita’s—I followed Juanita in our car to her amazing house on the outskirts of Windhoek at the base of Windhoek’s surrounding hills.  No one will ever build behind her and we saw mongoose and guinea fowl while we drank wine in her back yard.  This was our first home cooked meal—sage chicken, orange sweet potatoes, bean and mushroom casserole and a green salad.  Juanita’s son and 84 year old mother joined us for a varied conversation—Dave had traveled with no set agenda in India for six months and spent about 4/6 months with a guru who also spends time in CA at an ashram she started there.  Juanita’s mother talked about antique collections and South African diamonds.  It was a fascinating afternoon furthering our connections to people in Namibia
·      Chocolate chip cookies and Sunday dinner—it has become a tradition that every time I come to Namibia I bake chocolate chip cookies with Emmy and Edwin’s children.  They had been waiting all afternoon for the baking event, and we finally arrived  around 5PM with chocolate chips and brown sugar from the US.  In addition to baking, we were surprised that Emmy and Edwin had planned  a delicious braii with ribs, chicken, potatoes, Emmy’s infamous Herero bread 
Delicious Herero bread

Lindsey plans to gain bread making skills from Emmy
      and a new treat called “roastabraat”_ which is a traditional bread of the Baster group cooked over the fire ( I probably butchered the spelling but it translates as roasted bread).  We ended the evening with an early celebration of the youngest Maiai’s 9th birthday (need to recheck the spelling of her name)  with gifts from the US.  Paula and I had found dresses this summer and I picked up some Barbie dolls for the girls and Asics jerseys for the boys.  It was a fun ending to a great dinner--gifts from the US are always exciting.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"I am Namibian"

Friday January 24

My normal practice with timing of my arrival time to a meeting has altered since I have been here.  It’s like I double the amount of time needed to arrive on time, just because I constantly adjust for getting lost.  So this morning, I arrived at the US Embassy just after 8:30 for a 9:00 Security Briefing. The briefing was really a review of wise practices and also a good discussion of residential safety.  I hear regularly that the crimes here are more “crimes of opportunity” and so I learned about prevention strategies that included not leaving out electronics, using the iPhone in the house, and not walking alone ns isolated places.  We feel safe in the house—we have a gate and really are connected to Casa Blanca.  Both the house and hotel are monitored 24 hours by a security company so when Lindsey and Tony didn’t turn off the alarm quick enough after returning from dinner and the church concert, the company was called.  Fortunately Olivia, the manager of Casa Blanca was on the grounds and saw that it was Tony and Lindsey and so canceled the visit from the alarm company.  We have learned that we only have a short time to punch in the alarm code.

After the meeting at the embassy, we decided to make a picnic lunch and hike at a game reserve.  Daan Viljoen is a state run park that has hiking trails and accommodations.   

 At the registration the ranger at the gate asked if we were Namibian, and we told him we were from the United States.  He noticed the University of Namibia decal on the side of the car and asked about that.  I told him I would be lecturing for the university (I have learned the language that makes my work understandable over here) and he said, “So you are working here, eh? So you ARE Namibian.”  That meant we paid $N10 per person, and $N10 for the car.  With the current exchange rate in our favor, that was less than 4 US dollars for incredible scenery, great views of the Windhoek area and up close animal viewing.  Our first sighting of an animal was a warthog as we were driving to the reception area of the park.  As we were hiking up a hill we heard a grunting type sound.  We knew there was something nearby but kept hiking.  We kept hearing this low grunting sound and as we turned the corner we saw a rather large baboon run off.  I thought that was cool.  We hike a bit more up hill and heard more of the grunting sounds that went along with some screeching.  We recognized the baboon noises, and it was clear to us some baboons were not happy about us hiking so nearby.  We stayed on the path, kept moving and I grabbed a stick just in case. 
 We passed by 3 different baboon families—I am sure the presence of adorable babies created the commotion and cacophony of screeching and grunting.  I was in the lead and Lindsey relates  how “terrifying” the climb was for her—she was sure she was going to be attacked.  I know baboons can be vicious but I felt they moved away as we approached their trees, or just stared.  We were committed to the full 9K+ loop, because Lindsey was not going back. We made it past that group of baboons and a little later on in our hike I was able to stop and take pictures of baboons perched on a rock.  Lindsey refers to them as the “nice group.”  Apparently they never felt a need to shout at us—probably because they felt safe perched above where we were hiking. 

The hiking trail had orange arrows so we followed those—it was hard to match anything to the map though so we never knew where we were.  We did feel we were hiking for quite a while.  At the top of one of the crests, we found a shady tree and ate lunch while making eye contact with a zebra across the way.  During our hike we also saw kudu, oryx, chameleons, lilac breasted roller birds, and other birds I don’t yet know the names of.  Lindsey also screamed and jumped when a thin brown snake crossed her path.  We were hiking for three and a half hours right in the heat of the day.  We started right at noon, and FINALLY got to the lodge restaurant at 3:30.  We had seen the “trails end” sign 30 minutes earlier, so by the time we got to the restaurant we were desperate for ice cold orange Fanta soda. 

Leaping Kudo captured on Lindsey's phone

 This was the best drink I have had and I am guessing this will remain a highlight for some time.  After this hike I have learned to always carry more water than you think you need, make sure to pack the sunscreen, not just apply at home, and always bring the camera.  We have found a great spot to hike with visitors, and we know we will go again—the experience will always be different.
2nd round of Orange Fanta

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My New Office and More Driving

Thursday January 23
I am not sure if braver or more settled is the correct term, but whatever the descriptor, I am feeling able to attempt more on my own.  Today I was going to meet Juanita at the Khomasdal campus of University of Namibia-perhaps 6 miles from the house.  She offered to drive to our house and let us follow her.  Instead I told her we would navigate on our own.  I wasn’t willing to drive in the morning—I definitely needed Tony to do that, but I gave him directions, called Juanita when we were off the B1, and made it to the Khomasdal campus without any wrong turns.  We parked in the main lot and when Juanita met us she recommended I drive down the hill to get to her office.  Don’t get too excited yet—driving down to her office is inside the campus compound and the road is narrow enough so there was no need to navigate the correct driving side—still another step for me. 
     Juanita’s office is great-spacious and airy.  It is comparable to the size of my PLU's dean’s office.  She has new cabinets with glass, and apparently she has been waiting a few months for people from maintenance to finish putting in the shelves.  This  weekend she will have her son help with the final touches of these two new units on the side wall of her office so she doesn't have to stack books and binders on the floor.  She also has a great 3 dimensional picture that she designed and created with her son who definitely is artistic.  He did all the drawings and painting and Juanita added fabric and other materials to create a 3 dimensional mural. I know my photo doesn't do it justice but at least you will have visual image.
Juanita's picture/mural

My office will be down the path from Juanita’s.  It’s situated in the original theater building—by the color of the bricks, I think it might have been a black box theater.  My office is part of the new space Juanita and another colleague created to support struggling learners.  There is an open office with a nice size round work table, file cabinets and shelves.  There is a phone hook-up and I will have access to the internet.  It will be a great working space with good lighting from the outside. Next door on one side of me is a small computer and on the other side is a new bathroom.  I am set and when I go on campus for meetings on Tuesday, we’ll get everything set up.  
Outside the building of my office

Tile and stone work in the bathroom
The exciting ending to my morning on the Khomasdal campus is that I drove home! After taking a right hand turn out of the campus there are two quick rights to get to the highway.   I missed the turn for the B1, it happened rather quickly.  So I had to drive a ways before I could turn around comfortably.  Getting onto the highway was the true excitement of my second major driving expereince.  There were about 8 workers wearing red jump suits marking dotted lines on the road.  Tony said their process was similar to laying lines on a soccer field—a chalked string made taught and then marked on the road.  There were a couple of challenges. One was the worker waving a red flag that provided no sense of how to proceed or where to go.  The second issue that I was driving in the merging lane with the workers between me and the highway.  I needed to move onto the highway and so when there was an opening between the groups of workers, I quickly darted onto the main road.  Wow!  There wasn’t really anything protecting the workers from cars. I realize every system is different and was glad I made it home safely and didn't hit anyone getting there.  It feels good to have completed two drives.  We are meeting Paula and Steve for dinner tonight and I am letting Tony drive. I'll drive again tomorrow.

Driving lessons and Dinner

(Wednesday, January 22
PS The books have arrived)

After Paula finished her PLU business in the morning she came over to the house to give me a driving lesson.  I gave her husband a tour of the house, I offered him something to drink, I needed to show her something—almost anything to delay the start of my lesson.  We both laughed when I realized what I was doing, so I decided to just take the plunge and get in the car.  I am not a fearful person but for some reason the thought of driving a manual car on the left hand side of the road scares me.  Lindsey wanted to come along for the ride, plus she wanted to record some of the driving on the flip camera.  As I backed out of the driveway, Paula told me to turn onto the main road—Lindsey’s comment was, “I didn’t think we were going onto main roads.”  We drove on the main roads around our house, filled the car up with gas, and even drove one from one entrance to the next exit on the B1 (a highway). Even though I hadn’t driven a gearshift car for over 30 years that part was easy—I never stalled the car and decided learning to shift in a car is like riding a bicycle—once you learn you just do it. Using the mirrors, STAYING on the left hand side, and looking the right direction is a bit trickier.  I only drove a bit on the wrong side after turning out of the gas station.  So I will continue to practice and make sure I always look both ways, just to be safe.  I did find it easier when I saw a car turning ahead of me to visualize my next steps.  So more practice tomorrow and through the weekend.

In the evening I had dinner with my Namibia dean Charmaine, Juanita whose time is Head of Department, Early Childhood Education, and Pam who is a faculty member in Inclusive Education.  We spent 2.5 hours together talking about education, families and plans for the year.  The university in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders is very involved in developing an Educational Policy for the country.  There are five broad categories including professional development, assessment, and leadership.  I will be closely involved with the professional development piece, specifically a teacher induction policy along with a mentor program designed to train teachers who work with developing teachers.  Listening to education talk at dinner got me thinking about the different patterns that exist among educational institutions.  Government schools became fully funded last year—that meant parents didn’t have to pay for books and “stationery” (pens, pencils, rulers, notebooks…).  In the past families paid school fees and the amount charged really depended on location.  Township schools charged very little per family while other schools could charged more, which meant those schools had more resources.  In order to reduce the discrepancy among schools the Ministry of Education changed that model.  The transition to this new way of funding part of education creates challenges for administrator, teachers and families.  Schools that charged high fees don’t have the same amount of money while other schools have a lot more.  Both those situations create unique challenges and it was interesting listening to educators who are also parents listen to the different ways schools and families are coping.  School just started last week, and so in the second year of implementation schools are still discovering ways to maximize resources.  So in addition to the specifics of my work here, I will be able to observe the changes in schooling in Namibia.  Interacting with new people is always exciting and dinner provided me with more insight into the reality of education and gave me the time to interact with three educators who are passionate about having education as a tool to support the children of Namibia’s growth and development.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Books, groceries and Paula

I still have 62 pounds of book scheduled to arrive at the US embassy in Windhoek.  I also packed many books in our suitcases.  So when I met this afternoon with Juanita, the colleague who will be my partner this year,  it felt good to be able to give her numerous books that will be informative resources for her college courses and her own education research.  I think in the US, college professors become accustomed to receiving book samples from publishers—they arrive in our university mailboxes for review and the hope we will select the text for one of our courses.  Juanita told me that doesn’t happen in Namibia and so she was thrilled to have a variety of books with research based methodology for reading and math at the elementary level.  I also created more space on my desk in the den!  Meeting with Juanita was the start to map out my year.  Although we didn’t develop a specific plan we talked about the areas I could help teach in the education program as well as my focus of new teacher development.  There are universal needs for new teachers and there will also be country and region specific needs for teachers in Namibia.  I think that understanding the needs of new teachers provides a strong foundation for a new teach program, but in order to make a difference for new teachers and the students, it will be important to learn about the challenges and highlights of early career teachers in Namibia.  Juanita and I are meeting with the Dean of Education for dinner Wednesday night, and we plan to continue the discussion of my plans for the year.  Juanita and I seem to share the same passion for helping educators develop into strong, informed and effective teachers.

A cleaner desk after filling 2 bags of books for Juanita
In addition to my afternoon meeting with Juanita, Tony, Lindsey and I went to the SuperSpar for our first big shop. I experienced another juxtaposition of feelings. By the time we arrived at the shop, Paula (one of my best friends from WA) had a full grocery cart.  She is here with the PLU J-term and this was our first time seeing each other.  We had coffee together and it felt normal chatting and catching up with each other, but when I looked around I was in a Namibia supermarket. It was great to see her and I am glad we planned to go to the PLU house for dinner.
In Namibia with Paula
Tony, Lindsey and I spent a lot of time just wandering through the store isles. We have a variety of food choices and there is a strong German influence in the types of products available.  One of the best discoveries of the day was a new (4 months old) bakery named Flaunt.  In addition to mini lemon meringue and apple crumble tarts that are baked daily, there are wholesome breads, savory pies, meals like chicken lasagna, and a variety of spreads like hummus and pesto.  The manager sensed our excitement and described the different items. We came home with her recommendation of a lamb and mint pie (delicious lunch) and a few tasty tarts.  We plan on sampling weekly and choosing our own favorites to serve when we host visitors. 
Lemon meringue and Apple Raisin Crumble
 While at the grocery store, we picked up a lot of fruit so we could make a fruit salad as our contribution to the evening dinner.  It was their first day of teaching and Paula was baking her 4 cheese macaroni with a green salad. Everyone enjoyed the large fruit salad. We had a great evening with the students and listening to their excitement about the teaching and their students as well as hearing all kinds of stories about the trip to Etosha.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First day "on the job"

It’s Tuesday morning and the house is quiet.  The windows and doors open to catch the cool morning breezes. The birds have become quiet and I hear dogs barking and cars driving past the house.  Yesterday evening I wrote some notes about my first day “on the job.”  (That term takes on multiple meanings in my family.)

I knew that on Monday we would go to UNAM to take care of Visa and transportation matters.  In an email I received prior to leaving the US, my Namibian dean requested that I contact the director of Human Resources first thing on Monday.  I sent her an email around 7:00 AM and called at 9:00.  There don’t seem to be message machines and no one picked up the phone.  Since I hadn’t received an email reply, we decided to visit the local Mall to pick up phones and a few other items.  Rather than trying to navigate a local taxi, we called the transport company used by the hotel and PLU.  Gerry, who had driven for our students two years ago, picked us up.  As I climbed into the car, Olivia, the manager from Casa, told me I had a phone call from UNAM.  It was Emelda, the dean’s secretary told me that we needed to go to the University and talk with the Human Resources director as previously arranged.  We changed plans immediately!  I hadn’t interpreted the email correctly: clearly, “checking in” means in person and not via phone or email.

Our experience at HR was welcoming and left all three of us with a warm feeling.  The director Sophia was friendly and informative.  She was relieved to see that our passports had three-month tourist stamps. Not to worry, she said, and assured us that everything would work out.  She was also surprised that we hadn’t received our official visas because she had been involved in the process earlier. Sophia also gave Lindsey some ideas for different volunteer opportunities and even part time jobs.

  Emelda had instructed us to pick up the car keys after meeting with Sophia so we went upstairs and met Sarah, the assistant to the Director of External Relations.  She knew our names and her greetings felt so warm and welcoming.  I later learned that she had arranged our transportation from the airport to Casa. Sarah told us that she had to find out about the car, but if we went to the Education building in “X Block” she would relay the information to Emelda by the time we got there. I had met Emelda before and it was nice to see a familiar face. Emelda had received information that the car WASN’T ready, which was different than what she had said on the phone.  However, we had a good chat and she called a friend to drop us off at the mall so we could take care of securing cell phones. 

Our Mall experience was fine but I was SO ready to get home after two hours. We stopped at Mugg and Bean for coffee and a late breakfast.  Tony ordered a bacon and cheese omelet, and actually got a toasted cheese and bacon sandwich on brown bread. Standing in front of the kiosk at the MTC phone store and looking puzzled as to how to get a number to be served—the machine requested a mobile number in order to proceed. A woman who had just received her ticket came and asked if she could help.  I told her that we needed to purchase cell phones and she directed us to a local “variety” store, telling us that it would be less expensive that way. On her recommendation, we went to JeT and were helped by Hilena.  I know the spelling of her name because after she finished setting up our phones, she put her name and number in the contacts.  Everything seemed to take a while—even finding some little bits that were on our list—eye solution for Tony and anti-itch cream for Lindsey’s mosquito bites.
            After sending the information to all those who had requested my contact details, Lindsey and I decided we needed to chill around the pool.  The phone started ringing 10 minutes after I sent out the information—I  just have to get used to the phone—answering and messaging.  So we ended our day with a swim, lemonade and trail mix.
This is our pool.
We swam in the main pool while waiting for our filter to be switched on

Some final thoughts that were with me throughout the day…
For the last nine months, it was familiar and easy to say that I was going to Namibia on an 11-month Fulbright.  Now that I am here, that deep sense of familiarity is gone.  When I walked on the UNAM campus, I knew the buildings and offices.  I knew how to get from the administration building to the Education block.  But as I walked under the bridge on the way to the academic buildings, I felt the new person on the block.  The directions are familiar but I don’t yet have a sense of belonging.  At the same time, I realize that in two or three months, things will feel different. This place will become my workspace, my place of being comfortable.  Not felling settled is a new feeling for me.  I feel rooted in Washington—at PLU, around Lakewood, and in my house.  Here in Namibia, I am building something new.  It’s not the US—the pace, the customs, and the interactions are different.  People here are friendly and welcoming, and I know that navigating my new environment will be supported by the easy interactions I have already had with people.  I am not homesick for Washington; I just know that this is an adjustment period and I need time to put down roots and feel settled.
            One final note—many of you know that my biggest Namibian fear was driving and navigating my way around Windhoek.  When got our car in the evening, I drove about 1 foot into the driveway—baby steps.  Going to dinner last night, Tony drove and I was pleased to provide perfect directions to the Ocean Basket restaurant, probably 4 miles from the house.  It’s next to the Super Spar grocery store, so I have the directions to one location clear in my head!
Looking the part, but I only drove about 1 foot.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Beginnings and travels to Namibia 2014

(This is the start of my year long adventure in Namibia.  I am here on a Fulbright Award and will be teaching at the University of Namibia and collaborating with university faculty in Education to develop a program to support first and second year teachers)
Beginning with a 12:55 PM departure from San Francisco and a 2:00PM arrival in Windhoek, Namibia, this trip was the longest in duration of any of my previous flights to Namibia. I believe it was 40 hours in total.  If you live on the West Coast, just subtract two hours from your current time, and then reverse the time of day to determine what time it is in Namibia.  (My dad says it is easier to add 10 hours, but I prefer the “minus two” subtraction method.  Anyway, my afternoon arrival in Windhoek was really like 4:00AM. ) I managed to sleep some on all four flights, so by the time we arrived at our house I had enough energy to unpack some suitcases and walk to the store for food and basic supplies before finally hitting a wall at 9:15 and sleeping until 6:00.
My journey to Namibia began as a “non-compliant” traveler—a Fulbright term for someone who requests a change to the original itinerary.  At the end of December, after returning from a great Christmas with my family in Lakewood, my mom took a fall and hit her head while climbing into a shuttle van at San Francisco Airport. She was admitted to the hospital and we all gathered in San Francisco and created a schedule for one of us to be with her and my dad during her recovery.  She’s now recovering well at home. As a family, we decided I needed to move forward with my Fulbright project, but instead of visiting Wales with Lindsey, Tony, Baby Beatrice, and the rest of my Welsh family, I requested a delay in my travel so that I could spend some time at home with my mom. Fulbright emailed me with the message that “Non-Compliant Travel Approved for EVANS, JANET WEISS MS.  So here I am finally, after a crazy and intense three weeks, sitting in the living room of our new home, beginning a blog, and anticipating and trying to imagine what it will be like to live outside of the US for eleven months.

The house is amazing. 
It is a large two-story, four-bedroom house. Downstairs, in addition to the kitchen, living room, dining area and indoor barbecue, we have a study that is currently piled with books for my work and for UNAM faculty.

There are also two bedrooms downstairs with lots of built in closets—plenty of room to keep everything we brought to live here for a year.
The rooms are spacious, light floods in through the windows, and the kitchen is well apportioned. We are staying in the main house that belonged to the previous owners of the Casa Blanca Guest House.  University of Namibia now owns the Casa compound and so it a convenient and fabulous accommodation for Fulbright Scholars with families. Thank you, Lindsey, for choosing to join us for the year.