ARMOURED GROUND CRICKETS: I’m sorry, but these things always startle me. When “footing” to work, I encounter them on the street and I always stop (very briefly). Their hindlegs are super-long and they are huge! They look like something from the Jurassic Park era. I never scream or run; I don’t think they’ll attack or bite. But I definitely have a moment of pause; they are creepy. I’ll try to get a better picture, but you have to see them to understand.
THE 13h00 LUNCH BREAK: Everything basically shuts down at 13h00 (1pm) for a one-hour lunch break. Stores and post offices close, and most people go home and cook/prepare a meal; so do I. Seems cool and definitely forces me to take needed time to rest and eat. Problem is, it becomes hard to get the energy to return back to work! It’s typically hot outside after lunch and I usually have to walk back to the office. On numerous occasions, I have had to drag myself out of the house after eating a nice meal and chillin’ at home.
(NO) PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Lack of access to public transportation is definitely an issue for me here. There are really no official (government-sponsored or endorsed) forms of transport to or from my town of Khorixas. Those wishing to leave without private autos must wait at a “hike point” for a vehicle that is going towards their destination and is willing to take passengers. It is a business for some folks, and the locals know the basic rates to common destinations, but there are no real standards for the ride. This morning, I traveled from Windhoek to Khorixas with three other Volunteers and about 15 bags (and a computer) on a mattress in the back of a covered pick-up truck (also called a bakkie). The ride is about 4.5 hours and we ended up picking up another teacher, her daughter, and her three bags along the way. Got motion-sick a few times, but managed.
WALKING ON GRAVEL ROADS: I am a fairly patient and ready walker. While living in the Eastern U.S. (DC and New York), I rarely drove, even though I had a car. I adjusted to the style and pace of the environment (and I didn’t want to lose or fight for a parking spot). The adjustment here has been a bit more trying. Over the first three months, I spent a lot of time “in the field” visiting the local schools and conducting outreach for the computer centre. This meant walking from place to place on untarred, rocky, sandy paths and roads. I have “Easy Spirits” that I thought would serve me well. Remember the whole “looks like a pump, feels like a sneaker” campaign for Easy Spirit shoes? NOT! I can say that my “Easy Spirits” have definitely been very “hard on my soul (and sole).” I have battled many blisters to prove the challenges and have needed to soak my tenderized feet on numerous occasions after a long day in the field and at work. Luckily the town is small. When walking, I sometimes get offered a ride by a colleague heading my way. It’s not often enough, though.
And I guess my story about blowing a car tire on gravel roads (see post, “C28: The Road Less Traveled”) may suggest that I am not quite used to DRIVING on gravel roads either.
SMALL TOWN LIFE: I’ll just call it that. The bank is the biggest doozie. We have one bank, Standard Bank, that is a satellite office to the main branch in the town of Outjo. Our office is open for just three hours per day (9h30 – 12h30) and only during the week (Monday – Friday). There are basically only three employees and only two working with customers at any given time. Everyone must wait in the same two lines, either the enquiry line or the other line. Small business owners, seniors wanting to cash their pension cheque, security guards needing to deposit large amounts of coins, and me must all see the same person. When I went to deposit my stipend check, I was in line for over an hour. Luckily (and unfortunately), I haven’t gotten many checks. (See “Just Got Paid” post).
MORE SMALL TOWN LIFE: Another issue with being in my small town is the lack of social and entertainment outlets. Most of the stores close by 18h00 (6:00pm); the only things left open are the bars. There are no real nightclubs, restaurants (outside of the two lodges), or places to go after dark (or during the daytime, for that matter). It can feel a bit isolating at times; but, I manage by reading, writing, resting, focusing on my project, and watching mind-numbing television. I also have a few friends in town and “visiting” is a common activity.
The few examples above are just a few and while they are all real concerns, they are mild. Overall, I am enjoying the professional opportunities and challenges that have come with my work here. This job actually feels like the best fit I have had in my career. It complements my academic training in anthropology, education, and public administration; it benefits from my background as a successful product of under-resourced schools and communities; and it challenges my professional abilities and skills as an educational planner and community organizer. As such, I am fairly certain that I will accept the offer from the Namibia Ministry of Education to extend my stay beyond the initial one-year contract period and help develop their math and science computer projects in other parts of the country.