DISCLAIMER

The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach nor the Namibia Ministry of Education, but rather my personal views.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Name That Canyon

















Which one of these photos is NOT the Fish River Canyon of Namibia?


FACT: After the Grand Canyon of the United States, the Fish River Canyon of Namibia ranks largest in size.



Here are a few more facts for the trivia buffs, which are a little harder. Identify Fish River Canyon of Namibia or Grand Canyon of the USA for each item.

  • Has a maximum depth of 550 meters
  • Is 1609 meters at its deepest
  • Began forming about 6 million years ago
  • Was formed about 500 million years ago
  • Measures about 161 kilometers in length
  • Measures about 445 river kilometers in length
  • Maximum width of 24.14 kilometers
  • Is 27 kilometers in width, at its widest
  • Is a stunning sight
  • Ancient Pueblo people lived there
  • Ancestors of the Khoi people lived there
  • Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Mathematics Marathon in Keetmanshoop


We made the news!! The following article was published in the Monday, 24 May 2010 edition of the Namibian newspaper. The article along with three photos were featured in the Youth Paper.

"The Keetmanshoop Plato Centre hosted two Mathematics Marathons for dozens of eager and willing students during the first two weeks of the school holidays.

Marathon participants ranged from nine to 18, and represented seven different schools throughout the Karas Region. Participants spent an average of 15 hours learning and practising in math concepts each week, however, many learners participated in both marathons, devoting over 30 hours of their break to strengthening their math performance.

According to Tamara Webb, Manager of the Keetmanshoop Plato Centre, the children's efforts paid off well. 'The three main goals of the marathons were to assist pupils in the revision of the first term's mathematics question papers, to support pupils in reaching an international standard of excellence for their grade, and to offer an outlet whereby pupils recognise mathematics as fun and manageable,' she said. She adds that while the majority of the time was spent on computer-based instruction and practise, pupils also participated in group games and completed written reviews at the end of each week to check their actual mastery and retention of topics learned. 'These marathons were truly a testament to the dedication and endurance of learners who need to heighten their confidence in mathematics, as well as confident pupils who seek greater academic challenges in the subject,' she said.

Participants received certificates at the end of their two-week marathon."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Basic Education Teacher Diploma (BETD) INSET




Ever since Namibia's independence in 1990, education reform has been a top priority. Education spending consistently represents the largest percentage of the budget; yet, many obstacles to quality education remain. The reform process is consciously a gradual one. Teacher education and equitable distribution of qualified teachers are two areas that constantly receive attention. The presence and expansion of the role of WorldTeach volunteers in Namibia speak to these facts. WorldTeach volunteers are typically placed in areas, mainly rural areas, where there is a severe shortage of willing and qualified teachers for the number of learners needing to be served. Also, whereas WorldTeach began as providers of English language teachers, WorldTeach Volunteers can now be found teaching across the broad curriculum, and in special placements such as mine.

According to a United Nations report, "the situation at Namibian independence was that 36% of the nation's 13,000 teachers had no professional training." 10 years later, the government reported improvement, with just about 15% of the nation's teachers lacking formal teacher training. One glaring problem, however, is the distribution of the qualified teachers around the country. In 2001, the Kavango Region in the north, for example, reported that over 30% of their teaching staff were unqualified. I can't immediately locate the current statistics, but I will update this post when I do.

Moreover, the teaching of Science and Mathematics has also presented challenges since Independence. This has been due mainly to the neglect by the previous regime which excluded the majority of Black Namibians from the teaching (and learning) of these subjects. The teaching of English is an area of concern because English only became an official language at Independence. Many teachers are not comfortable with the English language in general conversation, let alone as the primary medium of instruction, which is the policy for grades 5-12 (Home languages may be used as the primary language of instruction in grades 1-3; grade 4 should be used as a transitional year for the language of instruction; home languages, with few exceptions, are still taught as subjects after grade 4).

One tool designed to help bring current teachers to standard is the Basic Education Teacher Diploma (BETD) In-Service Education for Teachers (INSET) program. Begun in 1994, BETD INSET is a comprehensive, four-year professional development initiative for unqualified and underqualified teachers in Namibia's primary and secondary schools.

BETD INSET is primarily delivered through distance learning; however, there are a number of contact sessions each year, held at the Teachers' Resource Centres (TRCs) nearest their schools. The Computer-Based Learning (PLATO) Centres with which I work both in Khorixas and Keetmanshoop are located at the TRCs; so, I have had some exposure to the BETD contact sessions. In a few weeks, I will conduct a workshop for BETD participants at the Keetmanshoop PLATO Centre. This week, however, I was able to witness the formal culmination of their work, their graduation.

The BETD INSET graduation was a very nice and regal affair, which went on without any noticeable hitch or problem. I was the DJ, so the music was especially enjoyable - Hugh Masekela, the Mahotella Queens, LadySmith Black Mambazo, Bob Marley, Bill Withers, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Classical symphonic orchestras (not sure from where), and Michael Jackson (by huge request), to name a few. Someone even asked for my card and whether or not I did weddings; iPods do magic! Missing were the invited governors, mayors, and politicians, but their absence did not cast any shadow over the excitement and pride felt by graduates, family members, BETD tutors, and staff. Governors' Awards were still delivered and presented to outstanding BETD participants, on their behalf.

Of couse, I enjoyed the free food. Eating is important, I'm told. I also enjoyed seeing individuals with which I have worked receiving their diplomas. A few of the teachers have children currently registered at the PLATO Centre, and a few of the teachers have attended my teacher training workshops in the PLATO Centre. Gaining everyone's respect and inspiration was the oldest graduate, in his 60s. More on his story later....

As I have shared from day one and will continue to share until education reform is reality, I do sincerely hope that WorldTeach will eventually outgrow its purpose in Namibia. This will mean that teacher shortages have been eliminated; English education is sound; all schools are staffed with fully qualified teachers; quality teaching practices have become the norm; and all subjects will be supported by eager, willing, and highly competent educators from their home country. As Otis Redding prophetizes, "Change Gonna Come."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Centre Captains Save Opening Day




After exhausting weeks of assessment and planning, the Keetmanshoop PLATO Centre finally re-opened last Monday (29 March). Still the lone full-time (and even part-time) force in the Centre, I could have had a truly painful re-opening.

Aware of the chaos-potential, I came to my senses and ran to a local senior high school on the morning of the Centre’s opening day, and gave an inspiring and captivating “value of community service” speech to grade 12 leaders. Five responsible young boys rose to the challenge (took the bait, hah!). These boys were Centre-saving and also morale-saving, I can admit.

Over the past two weeks, I have not had a single visit or check-in from my “partners” in the regional office or host Teachers’ Resource Centre, which has been frustrating. I submit regular (unsolicited) planning reports/updates; they knew that this was Opening Week. I was not sent to Keetmanshoop to plan and physically run the Centre alone. What will happen when I’m gone in less than two months? I have been weary about the non-existence of a counterpart since last October, when we discussed this assignment. (deep breath). Ok, so, my volunteer “Centre Captains,” as I’ve knighted them, were the bizzomb (great assets)! I must also give propers to the Teacher Ambassadors that have worked with me over two long meetings, and on various afternoons to support the planning and re-opening process. (Teacher Ambassadors are another resource I created and nurtured through compelling arguments at local school staff and principals’ meetings. I have one or two teachers tasked to represent the interests of each school in town and help market and support the Centre at their school).

I had to rush an orientation with the Captains and at different times throughout the first afternoon, I needed to corral them all outside to check-in and reinforce an expectation or rule (like learner-confidentiality) that I missed during the rushed presentation. Overall, though, I was pleased with the adeptness, sensitivity, and computer savvy of my young leaders. At the end of the day, they were also “complaining” about their hurting feet, from standing and moving around the classroom all afternoon; ‘twas wonderful.

The Centre Captains helped manage outside traffic; they helped orient new computer users to keyboarding and mouse basics; they helped users log-in and log-out of the educational learning software; they answered basic mathematics questions raised by young users; they guided learners on how to navigate through lessons; they alerted me to technical problems they couldn’t (and I didn’t want them to) address/fix; they kept me aware of time (there are three groups of full-time users registered for each day); and they helped me with some decorating of the Centre’s walls and doors!

During a recent business trip to meet with the learning software providers in South Africa, I collected t-shirts, which I will present to the volunteer Centre Captains. I will also create official applications and a formal description of their tasks/duties for Centre files and for their central reference. At the end of the term, I will present them with certificates of service. I will also leave the recommendation, for whomever is tasked to manage the Centre, to keep a record of their hours and author a letter summarizing their hours and service at the end of the next term. These boys are all college-bound; this community service may have a place in their admissions and scholarship/bursary applications. (I'm pictured with my top captain, Nahvad, who wants to become a mathematics teacher).

ABOUT THE REGISTERED USERS – Keetmanshoop Computer-Based Learning Centre
For the remainder of the 1st term and all of the 2nd term, there are now 150 registered learners, from nine(9) schools throughout the community. Learners were selected at the school-level, based on varying criteria established by each school. Each selected learner, along with a parent/guardian and a teacher, signed a commitment form and received an official registration letter/card, which the learner must bring to each of his/her assigned sessions (2 hours/week). The learners are in grades 5-12, and range in age from 10-22 years. The 22 year-old, is in grade 9! Actually, many learners registered to use the Centre are above the average age of learners in their grade, based on being held back or starting school very late; so, I'm happy that they may benefit from the additional instructional support. (I’ll write a post on social promotion or transfer policies later). I plan to have counseling sessions with all learners before I leave, to get more about their story, and to help them establish goals for their time in the Centre. I expect that the counseling sessions will present a few challenges, based on time, yes, but mainly based on language barriers. We’ll see. The main academic focus of the Centre is mathematics. PLATO is the name of the educational learning software used in the Centre.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meeting Namibia's Premier - The Right Honourable Nahas Angula

Nahas Angula is one of the first names I learned when researching the foreign land of Namibia where I’d be living, partnering, and working for at least one year. Angula’s name popped up in my Google searches, and stood out because he is a fellow alumnus of Teachers College, Columbia University, having earned his M.A. and M.Ed there in 1979. He is the current Prime Minister and was the first Minister of Education of the newly independent Republic of Namibia.

From the time of my arrival in the country, I’d been dropping little hints about wanting to meet him. I mentioned it to various government and education ministry officials, with whom I work and with whom I know he works, but no one really paid attention to my hints and no action resulted. Then, after receiving my admission offer to an EdD program at Teachers College and learning that he is the keynote speaker at a Teachers College Distinguished Alumni event next month, I decided to just go out on a limb and try to reach him directly. It would be good, I thought, to introduce myself and get his support for and guidance on future fieldwork I may wish to conduct in Namibia.

I found the fax number to the Office of the Prime Minister in the yellow pages (those books are effective pre-internet relics, by the way), and then faxed a brief letter of introduction requesting to meet him during my trip to Windhoek on Friday, 19 March. I followed up with a phone call, during which the secretary reported to not have received my fax; so, I confirmed the number, sent it again, and then left it alone. About an hour later, my cell phone rang and an unidentified cell phone number appeared on my caller ID. “You sent a fax to my office, wanting to meet with me?” inquired the caller. It was the Right Honourable Nahas Angula, Prime Minister of Namibia, himself.

Luckily, I am always ready for “unknown” callers because of my partnership work; however, I was indeed surprised by his direct outreach and personal response to my request. We spoke for a few minutes and established that I would arrive at his office at 1:50pm the next day, after he swore-in the new Members of Parliament.

During our meeting, the Prime Minister was very relaxed and welcoming; although, I didn’t really stick to my script or get any of my prepared questions answered. I wanted him to help me expand my current list of books and policies to read and review; I wanted to hear his opinion on the ideal roles of foreign partners in Namibian education; I wanted to get his recommendations for people I should contact regarding my studies; and I wanted his advice on approaches to my research.

Instead, it was a loose, comfortable, and honest discussion that ended up focusing more on my current work and constructive dialogue about the challenges associated with my volunteer project - computer-based learning centres. He actually switched the direction of charge to me, by requesting my formal involvement on a computer-based learning project he has in mind for a foundation he began in the North. Of course, I accepted. Since our meeting, we have spoken via e-mail on his project and I plan to join an exploration team he pulls together in mid-May.

My meeting with the Premier, a title used interchangeably with Prime Minister, was a success, was memorable, and hopefully opened the door to ongoing dialogue. Nahas Angula’s role in this country’s liberation struggle and rebuilding, especially in regards to education, places him in an invaluable position in my quest for knowledge and understanding and support of our global struggle for equality and equity.

On my departure from his private office, I had another memorable encounter, with the just retired Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Libertine Amathila. She was patiently waiting for Mr. Angula to head to her farewell celebration in Parliament Gardens nearby. The photo included in this post includes the three of us, outside the building, before they whisked off in their motorcade.
The following is a link to information about Nahas Angula, from the Teachers' College Press Room.
ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER – FUNCTIONS (from the OPM website)
The Prime Minister of Namibia is appointed by the President in terms of the provisions of Article 32 of the Constitution. Further, Article 36 of the Constitution stipulates that "The Prime Minister shall be the leader of Government business in Parliament, shall co-ordinate the work of the Cabinet and shall advise and assist the President in the execution of the functions of Government" and Article 34 stipulates that where it is regarded as necessary or expedient that a person deputize for the President because of a temporary absence from the country, the President appoints the Prime Minister to deputize for him.

In terms of the provisions of the Public Service Act of 1995, the Prime Minister is also responsible for the overall management of the public service.

By virtue of his responsibilities of advising and assisting the President, as the leader of Government business in Parliament, as the co-coordinator of the work of the Cabinet, and as the political authority responsible for the public service, the Prime Minister's task involves co-coordinating the work of the government at inter-ministerial and inter-governmental levels and for projecting the good image of the government.

Independence 2010 - Thank Moses!









Last weekend was a colourful, diverse, educational, and festive reflection on the anniversary of Namibia’s independence from South Africa. It was definitely a very different “celebration” than the one I encountered last year, which I don’t classify as a celebration at all (see March 2009 post, “Whose Independence Is It Anyway”). I can point to at least three reasons for the change in tenor.
  1. This year (2010) marks the 20th Anniversary of Namibia’s Independence, “0”s and “5”s usually prompt more attention

  2. This year, I celebrated in the capital city, rather than in the coastal retreat of Swakopmund
  3. I participated in the nationally-planned central activities, which had the benefit of greater financial investment and marketing.

During the weekend, I had my first dance-club experience in Windhoek, which was freeing. I attended my first international football/soccer match, which resulted in a 0-0 draw, but was fun anyway. I got pelted with candies and smiles at a parade down Independence Avenue. I went to a gospel concert where I learned new dance moves (watch out Kirk Franklin). And I saw constant images of the many types of people and customs that classify Namibia as contrasting and beautiful.

Current and former Heads of State and other dignitaries from Zimbabwe, Angola, South Africa, Malawi, China, and Cuba, among other supportive countries, came to Windhoek to witness and participate in formal festivities, especially the day-long celebrations at Independence Stadium. Ah, Independence Stadium. That was an experience.

While the VIP gates, processes, and controls at the stadium were fairly well identified, open, and managed by uniformed officers, the other nine(9) entrances for the general public were jammed, closed, unmanned, and daunting for most of the morning. I, along with two friends, waited in one of these lines with the hundreds of others for about 2 hours, with each of us taking turns checking out other lines and trying to decipher the organizer’s system or plan. Still confused, we finally decided that we would leave the line - it hadn’t moved in the whole two(2) hours we were in it – and either wait in a more direct, shorter line (that also led to locked, unguarded gates) or move to another venue altogether. After watching the chaos of new busloads of would-be spectators arriving, laughing at the impatient (and naughty) children hurling their bodies over the walls of the stadium, and figuring that entry before the end of the morning’s events was slim to none, we continued walking around, scouting out the location of the afternoon’s football game between Namibia and Botswana.

And then, like I blessing, came Moses. I was so glad to see that blinding green suit; it would be our actual ticket in. Convinced that “money talks,” I now know that a fly green suit does the same trick, which is probably safer in the midst of anti-corruption commissions. But, it wasn’t an easy ticket.

Who’s Moses? you ask. Well, Moses “Black Door” Shilongo is a local performing artist, who also happens to be the ever-present husband of the WorldTeach Namibia Field Director, and as such, part of WorldTeach Volunteers’ social network/family in-country. I always have random “Moses sightings” when roaming the streets of Windhoek, but this was an especially welcomed encounter. Black Door, Moses’ stage name, was scheduled to perform IN the stadium, so we promptly each grabbed one of his items (his RED suit, equipment bag, box of CDs) and became his (un)official entourage. Little did we know, at the time, that he was having trouble gaining entry as well. A classic and common retort we received from the uniformed Namibian officers at the various gates to which he was sent was that, “We are not working on ‘African Time’ anymore. Why are you late?” Further, the officers were not a part of the organizing committee and the majority of them basically had no idea where to send the entertainers or any permission (or desire) to abandon their post to help us actually get answers.

After about 90 more minutes of shuffling around from gate to gate with the other entertainers also stuck outside, we finally made it to the big stage and took our places in the open arena, with impressive vantages of the crowd, room to breathe, and perfect positioning for pictures of performers. Thank goodness, because the Himba performers, bodies covered in their traditional red ochre, were getting way too close to Black Door, having actually rubbed against his vulnerable bright green suit, causing even more frustration for the artist who was ready to about-face home.

Yes, we’d missed the parade, the arrival of dignitaries, the formal swearing-in of the president, the announcement of the new cabinet, and the distribution of the lunch bags; but, we were able to hear some of the presidential address and participate in some of the closing morning formalities (Anthems of Namibia and the African Union). Without Black Door, we would not have gotten in before all the dignitaries left, we would have been crunched into the stands when we did get in, and I would not have gotten the cool experiences and pictures afforded me through the eyes of the performers of the day. Good Times. Happy Independence, Namibia!. And Thank Moses.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Start Spreading the News


“Start spreading the news: I’m leaving today (actually in August). I’m going to be a part of it (again) in ole New York.”

I just received and accepted an offer of admission to resume doctoral studies at Teachers College Columbia University in the fall. This time, I will be pursuing a doctorate of education (EdD), rather than a doctor of philosophy (PhD). Over the past years, I have come to understand the difference in the two degrees. While the PhD is primarily geared at nurturing academics for university teaching roles, the EdD is more geared towards equipping senior-level practitioners and executives with the tools of applied research. I will be a student in the department of International and Transcultural Studies, in the programs in Comparative and International Education Development, with a concentration in International Education Policy Studies.

Start sending the money, should be the actual title of this post. It should be an interesting transition after three years of no real salary to suddenly have a US$60,000 bill (the approximate total of annual tuition and fees). It is definitely time to begin hunting for work and fellowships. I’m pretty sure that I have secured housing, so I won’t need to deal with that.

In any event, I am excited to have my next journey semi-mapped out. I was a mere 22 years of age when I began the PhD program at TC. I was focused, ambitious, engaged, bright, and somewhat accomplished (for a first-generation college graduate from the inner-city); however, I lacked exposure to truly place the degree and my future in the most appropriate and satisfying context. At that time, I made the difficult decision and voluntarily left the program, but at least with a master of arts in hand. I always knew I would return to the higher degree and I have never stopped enjoying applied research. With the travels and work I have embraced over the past nearly 15 years, I am now ready to resume doctoral-level study and the Comparative and International Educational Development programs appear to be the good fit.
Over the next few weeks, I will try to meet the current Prime Minister of Namibia, the Honourable Nahas Angula. He is a fellow Teachers College alum. I have already met the current Minister of Education, the Honourable Nangolo Mbumba, a few times. I will, however, also try to meet with him again before June. I would like to share with them my goals for conducting my doctoral field work here, and hopefully receive their blessings, support, extended partnership, and guidance. I have already received an open invitation regarding my graduate studies from the Ministry of Education Directorate of Research, Science, and Technology.

I Need Help

Snippets of my Popular Phrases Solo on Friday, 5 March 2010:

“Ha---Rold! Sit Down!”
“Yes, ‘more than’ means ‘bigger.’ “
“No, the computer room is full. Sessions will begin at the end of March. Today is just for testing these learners.”
“Whoa, Panduleni! Check your work. Is that really the correct answer?”
“Ha---Rold! Sit Down!”
“Who turned their computer off?!? Chanique! What did I say about touching that button?”
“Yes, Ronaldino? You may go to the toilet.”
“This is called a mouse. Hold it like this. No, like this. Relax your hand and fingers. Good.”
“Who called me?”
“Ha---Rold! Sit Down!”
“No, you may not enter today. The computer room is full. We are just testing these learners. We will officially re-open at the end of March.”
“Yes, I see, Marchelle. You entered the right answer. Great job. Now, click the forward arrow for the next question.”
“A penny is a coin we use in the United States. Those are pennies in the box. How many pennies do you see? Een? Twee? Drie? Vier? Vyf? Baie.”
“Theresa, did you say you can’t open your account? Okay. Let’s see if we can find the problem. One minute.”
“Ha---Rold! Sit Down! If I have to say that one more time…..”


That afternoon was pure energy. I had about 40 learners show up for a session that was designated for 25 pre-selected learners (the maximum the Centre could hold). The goal was to administer a mathematics assessment and expose a few learners to the Centre’s resources and rules before it fully re-opens. So, after admitting the originally-selected twenty-five, I had to deal with the other 15 who simply would not leave the front door. I should be happy that the interest is high, but it was truly exhausting.

Within the class of 25, I had another three sub-groups.

1. Those learners who never touched a computer before and needed basic orientation
2. Those learners who never used the PLATO software and needed guidance on how to log-in and navigate within the system
3. Those learners who spent much of the past year in the Centre, apparently doing whatever in the world they pleased. (they were the most unfocused and disruptive of the bunch).

So with the four populations of learners, all primary school age I might add, in extended testing mode, often wanting affirmation and to share praise received from the computer, and without fully functioning air-conditioning units, and as the only adult in the room, I had my hands completely full. Yes, I needed and still need help. All super-puns included, and you can let it mean what you like.

The experience, as always, though, was instructive. I had not had such a draining time with any group of learners in my former Centre in Khorixas. I also had already conducted the same exercise with 75 other learners from seven other Keetmanshoop schools, without this resultant admitted sense of chaos. I guess it was time I got a sense of the classroom management problems that other volunteers had mentioned often. It was also good to see the challenges that would face those who would assume leadership hopefully before and definitely after my departure here in Keetmanshoop.

I already have signs on the doors explaining the current activities of the Centre and the fact that the Centre will not re-open until the end of March. I immediately began drafting a flyer for grade 12 learners to apply to become Volunteer Centre Captains; they can help manage crowds outside and answer basic questions inside. I also immediately began creating big posters with the Centre Rules. Finally, I drafted a request for teachers to shadow me in the Centre as Senior Teacher Ambassadors. I already have a group of teachers from each of the nine schools to serve as “regular” Teacher Ambassadors,” for the purposes of planning and general advocacy, but I needed them to step up their game. The lure for these “Senior” ambassadors was a t-shirt (I picked up a few during my business trip to meet the software account personnel in Johannesburg in November), and a certificate (which I would make look so nice and official that framing would be likely).

I will see how many assistants my efforts have yielded by Friday, 12 March. Until then, grant me the strength. Or at least help me learn how to say all of the phrases above in both Afrikaans and Nama/Khoekhoegowab.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Theft is NOT Culturally Relative

Though extremely well-written and engaging, the article that is the subject of this post (http://matadorabroad.com/my-day-of-african-justice/) had a few elements that moved me to comment, and probably rattle the innocent intentions of the author. But, as I said in the final comment (that the article’s author or some other moderator decided to remove), I engage in such “debate” regarding what I deem as cultural misrepresentation all the time. I do it with friends, family, and colleagues, in whatever forum, from whatever country, whenever I feel so moved. It’s not personal, nor about the length of the author’s story. In the case of this article, I read the piece, had a reaction, hit the reply button, and posted my opinion.

The article, “My Day of African Justice,” is about two volunteers supposedly from the Namibian town of Khorixas (where I served last year) who had their items stolen continuously over the course of a year, eventually discovered who took them, personally retrieved the items from the home of the thief, were forced to leave the recovered items with the police as “evidence,” and were then forced to appear in court, where and when the thief was found not guilty and they were told that their items were missing and would not be returned.

You can read the article yourself. It’s a fun read and paints vivid pictures. I’ll bias it a little, though. Within the article, I most directly took issue with the phrases, “African style of justice” and “Namibian sense of fairness.” I also felt that something was missing from the story. Exactly who allowed this to happen?

I regularly interact with citizens of various African countries who have very distinctive politics and legal systems, so I don’t really know if I buy the existence of an “African style of justice.” What goes on in Namibia, in Zimbabwe, and in Nigeria, where most of my local friends call home, can hardly be considered the same. Secondly, I regularly interact with Namibians of various ethnic and tribal backgrounds. The commentaries made about the others’ value systems are sometimes a bit biting. Just today, I endured comments by a “Coloured” suggesting that barbaric natures of discipline are culturally appropriate by “Oshivambos” and “Namas.” Just from today's comments alone, I’m pretty sure that Namibians across the ethnic and class spectrum have different notions of fairness.

Within the back-and-forth banter I had with the author, I was taken aback when she asked me, “Is there really a need to defend Khorixas, Namibia, or even all of Africa?” against her story. Here lies a bigger issue that I’ve thought about often.

From the first days of my orientation as a volunteer here, I have found myself defending Namibia, it’s teachers and educational system, and it’s road to progress, from what I deem to be gross mis-generalizations. My underlying mission is to have people think about allegations they make and reflect on the cultural context, to be sure that they are truly accurate. Once evidence is available, I am accepting. It’s just curious that I am so defensive. I think it is because I consider myself a member of many communities that have been culturally misrepresented in the past. That, and because of my studies and leanings toward holistic analysis, anthropology, and empathy.

In any event, I asked the author about more details (location and timeline) in her case, because it reeked of corruption, but she didn’t share them. My closest friend in Namibia is a magistrate and it would be interesting to see if she knew what actually happened and why. I guess I am not as accepting of such blatant injustice as the author (although I do not know the whole story and all the actions they took). I think I want to know a somewhat different Namibia, one that has civilians stealing (as they did my housemate's clothes from our outside line), but one that does not have members of the legal and judicial system obnoxiously laughing in the face of victims.

Her reported case leads me to wonder how useful it would be to have regular “crime against volunteers” reports sent by volunteer program heads to a partner police division in their respective countries. This way when things that are so blatantly wrong happen, there is at least one place for an attempt at recourse.

Theft is not culturally relative. You simply do not break into someone’s home, take what is not yours, identify yourself, and then get away without much constructive ado. This is especially important when volunteers, individuals requested by the host country’s government to meet specific areas of need, are the victims. Perhaps I am a bit too na├»ve and I have too much faith in partnerships and contracts, but until it is proven otherwise, my optimism will stand.

You can read the article (http://matadorabroad.com/my-day-of-african-justice/). Enjoy. The website is also very informative.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Huis is Naby die Kantoor!






“Are there lights in Keetmanshoop?” my mother probed.

I replied, “Well, there are street lights and I live next to the hospital and a mining training college that has flood lights and…”

“Tam,” she then politely interrupted, “can you see all the stars throughout the sky like you could in Khorixas?”

“Yes,” I unhesitatingly answered.

“Then," she directed, "you don’t have lights in Keetmanshoop.”

“Oh,” I humbly conceded.

Though a more established town, Keetmanshoop and Khorixas have many similarities. I am still in a fairly isolated environment, without many unnatural obstructions like artificial lights, as my mother so keenly points out, and with many soil-eroded dirt roads. Keetmanshoop, with a larger population, has more available resources. There are actual bank branches (not one meager satellite office/room), two large grocery stores (and many little butcheries and tuck shops), and extended operating hours for services (everything does not close at 17h00). It still cannot be classified as a “city,” though, and there are many conveniences that I must still forego. In other words, no KFC! (big sigh, I’m serious, big sigh)

Four neighborhoods, in addition to the “central business district-CBD” (their terminology, not mine), comprise the town of Keetmanshoop. I live in Kronlein, located southwest of the CBD. Kronlein was the area reserved for Coloureds (not classified as black, not classified as white) during apartheid. To the north of Kronlein is Tseiblaagte, the area where the Nama people were located during apartheid (the Nama people are very light-skinned Africans whose ancestors are from one of the earliest tribes on record in Namibia). Close to the CBD is the newer residential area of Noordhoek. And east of the CBD is Westdene, a well-developed residential area that accommodated whites during the apartheid-era. With the exception of Tseiblaagte, most areas and schools are now integrated. Almost all of my colleagues are from this area and attended school during the segregation period. The school pictured with me and the nun, for example, used to be called the Roman Catholic Coloured School (now Don Bosco Primary School), when the manager of the Teachers’ Resource Centre was a student there. There is a private school, Keetmanshoop Private School, that opened in 1994, after the end of apartheid, which I believe is 100% white.

Afrikaans is the predominant language spoken in this area; although, Nama (the same as the Damara language of Khoekhoegowab, with the four distinctive clicks, spoken in Khorixas) is also spoken. I have spent a few weekends with colleagues who have been helping me practice both. I find it funny when I am being corrected, but I just keep repeating the same error because of the fact that certain sounds/pronunciations simply do not exist in the English language. I’ll get it; it just takes time, practice, and patience.

My home is quaint, with many new country-style wood furnishings (I'll post pix later). I also have a good deal of privacy (almost too private) because my house is enclosed in a gated area and I do not have any housemates. What is even more exciting is that my home is a stone’s throw away from the learning centre I was sent here to manage. This is a good thing because Keetmanshoop records the country’s hottest temperatures during the summer (NOW). I am warned, though, that Keetmanshoop also records the country’s coldest temperatures in the winter (my fleece and velvet blankets are waiting in the closet).

I feel very safe here; although, on one of my school visits last week, I witnessed my first fight, complete with a young boy armed with a steak knife, yes, a steak knife. Fighting with knives is reportedly a common practice around here. I am told that it is mainly around the shebeens (bars), usually at nights and on weekends, and mainly in the Tseiblaagte neighborhood (although none of those criteria were met for the fight I saw - it was at a school, during the day, in Kronlein). My impression is that the children are fairly bored; it’s a bigger town so not everyone knows everyone; there are not many social and cultural outlets; and they get into trouble because they are fairly disengaged in their schooling. Everyone seemed drawn to the commotion, probably because they are also bored and looking for excitement, however false and misguided. I was disturbed that I was one of the few adults in the masses that was actually trying to diffuse the situation and disperse the crowd. Even the security guard seemed unaware of exactly what to do, so she just did nothing.

“A child in sport is a child out of court,” read the back of a t-shirt worn by a teacher pictured with a few of his learners at this weekend’s athletics tournament. I somewhat agree. Organized sports and arts programs are constructive ways of channeling the energy, competitive spirit, and creative/expressive talents of children. I was glad to see so many competitors and spectators at the event (even though the busted bleachers made me feel like any minute I would fall through).Ooh, and I even learned a few school chants/cheers in Afrikaans. “Es lekker om de Suiderlig de vies” (It’s good to be from Suiderlig HS) (Too bad I didn’t learn how to spell it).

Keetmanshoop is some of the same and a lot of the new. Still dusty, still hot, still dependent on the sounds of birds and laughing children to alert me to the start of the day. But much bigger, more challenges, and more opportunities to make an impact. I miss the familiar and loving faces of the community I served in Khorixas, but each new experience is welcomed.
The title is an attempt to say, "My house is near the office." in Afrikaans.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Big Packdown – Part 2




It’s pack and upack time again. On Monday, 1 February, I moved out of Khorixas, my home of the past 12 months, and I relocated to a home in Keetmanshoop, another, albeit larger, town in Namibia. As I drove out of Khorixas, I was quiet and was not able to keep back a few of the tears. The year was eventful and I have a lot of memories to hold dear and close.

Keetmanshoop is located in the south of Namibia in the region of Karas; while Khorixas is located in the Northwestern region of Kunene. The full 1000km trip, with stops and meetings, took about 13 hours. We departed Khorixas at 8:30am and arrived at my new place at 9:30pm. As such, I haven’t actually seen Keetmanshoop yet because it was dark when we arrived.

Packing was interesting. Unlike my trip TO Namibia in December 2008 and my study abroad experience in 1993/94, I CANNOT carry all of my current belongings all-by-myself (see my post on packing). I arrived in Namibia with simply a duffle bag; a large suitcase, a small suitcase, and a backpack, so about 3.5 bags. As shown in the photo, I now have at least twice that many bags and all kind of extra knick-knacks. My possessions have definitely grown over the year.
A few big items that I have now that I did not have when arriving in 2008 are:

* A Standing fan (the heat in the desert is a bit wicked)
* A Night/Reading Light (although I didn’t really use it because I was usually too lazy to turn off the overhead light AND it attracted bugs closer to me)
* a Big Blanket (it actually does get cold during the winter nights – ask my mother and my girlie, Denise)
* a Toddler Tub (yes, for me. Laugh if you like. I have no running hot water and sometimes a soak, even partial body, is necessary)
* Books and Files (textbooks, country guides, academic records, centre documents)

I also packed consumables (pasta, canned food, oatmeal, spices), cleaning supplies, insecticides, and toiletries (big Costco bottles of vitamins I’ve never used and why do I have 10 bottles of hand sanitizer?) that will relieve the bulk once they’re used up. Oh, and I also have a small suitcase entirely full of items for the Centre and schools. So that doesn’t really count either.

My packing also felt out-of-control because I have expanded my clothing wardrobe over the past 12 months – dresses, skirts, blouses, pants, shoes. I honestly do not know how I have like 30 pairs of socks. Underwear, yes, but socks? Some clothes do not fit any more (yes, a little “freshman 15” – all in the hips and thighs); others, I simply do not wear; while still others, mom sent to me from the States and I have yet to actually wear them. Accordingly, I donated a bag of clothes to the Catholic church in Khorixas and passed others on to friends of similar size. I’ll deal with my shoe-collection later.

Luckily I had a bakkie (pick-up truck) to transport me to Keetmanshoop and I was the only passenger, so I kept all the big items. I can donate the blanket, fan, light, and toddler tub before leaving Namibia. My mini-library of books and files will definitely remain with me for future reference and research.

The trip wasn’t really that bad. I learned more about Herero culture (I think I’ll do more research and write a post about various marriage rituals and customs in the country), I shared with the driving, and no one blinked at the amount of luggage I brought.

And my new home is nice. I have running hot water, which I’ll soon use to wash my hair. I’ll miss my housemate and actually having a housemate, though. I’m by myself in this house. And I’ll miss the TV, universal DVD-player, and satellite dish from Khorixas. BUT, I guess I’ll make do.
By the way, I did NOT pack the baby in the suitcase pictured in the photo.

The Gods Must Be Crazy


The ethnic group “depicted” in this 1980 cult South African movie, "The Gods Must Be Crazy" actually does still exist. The San, or Bushmen, are a nomadic people whose customs and beliefs (not necessarily those of the movie, however) have stood the test of time and colonialism. They live primarily in the deserts and farmlands of Southern Africa and are not really integrated into mainstream society. There are at least a few projects that are aimed at formally educating San children with textbooks and classes. I have to explore just how these projects work and accordingly, the impact of such interventions on their cultural heritage.

One of the more focused and enthusiastic grade 11 learners from the Centre failed to report to school at the beginning of the year. I asked the principal and a few teachers what happened to him. They explained that his mother is San and they believe that the learner could not afford the school fees (about US$120 for the entire year, including room and board) and uniform. He never approached school staff for help, though. Last year, they noticed his tattered clothing and rallied teacher support to get him a decent uniform. This year, he simply did not appear.

I was very concerned because this learner was always polite and respectful, and he appeared to be content. He was also making above-average progress in mathematics. What’s more is that he was a senior. I wanted him to not miss out on a high school diploma. We checked around over the course of the week and I found him only on the morning of my departure.

After speaking with him, he admitted that the problem was financial. I asked him to write a letter introducing himself and his goals, and articulating what he needed to make it through the year. I left him with four exercise books and a few pens. I also gave his teacher about US$25 to buy him the appropriate school uniform. He was elected to the Learners Resource Council(LRC) and needed a special shirt. The amount would be more than enough and could also buy additional undergarments and school supplies.

The costs that could make or break this child and other similar children’s opportunities are extremely minimal. I may start a tertiary school scholarship fund for at least one learner from Khorixas each year. If you would like to support this initiative, please let me know.

Whose Standards?

Namibian newspapers over the past few weeks have been filled with stories about education. There’s one theme of stories that center on overcrowded schools and enrolment dilemmas. And there’s another theme of stories around the standardized test scores results and the abysmal performances throughout the country.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, learners in grades 10 and 12 are required to pass nationally-standardized tests in order to move forward. Less than half of the learners actually make the mark. In my town of Khorixas, there are two schools with grade 10 learners. Of the cumulative 135 grade 10 learners, only 27 scored high enough to be passed to grade 11.

The computer centre can also attest to the fact that many learners are seriously struggling, at least in mathematics. Of around 400 learners in grades 5 -12 that have taken an adaptive mathematics assessment/placement test in Khorixas, 95% have scored on a grade 2 level, according to international standards. While some of the issues may relate to language and contextual challenges, an observation of the learners’ responses to some basic mathematics questions confirms that they simply do not have a firm grasp of the fundamentals.

The case for standardization is strong but when less than half the population actually meet the standard, a full and comprehensive reform is necessary. The curriculum, teacher training, teachers, school administrators, parents, regional and national Ministry leaders, and learner attitude all need attention. The upside is that Namibia as a functioning democracy-for-all is merely 20 years old (March 2010) and is developing rapidly. The school system is still an evolutionary work. It should be interesting to see how this new nation and its children are performing in the next ten(10) years.

See the Namibian Institute for Educational Development (NiED) website (www.nied.edu.na) for more information.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

African Ubuntu

“The Apartheid Museum is depressing. I can’t see how people go there.” These are the words of a South African with whom I was dining last year. (I should note that from the early 1900s until 1990, Namibia was a colony of South Africa, was then called Southwest Africa, and also suffered through apartheid laws and policies.)

Just as I can in many parts of the United States of America, I note that the subject of race and discussions of segregation and racial abuse are overwhelmingly avoided in both South Africa and Namibia. I have had a few frank talks with my fellow countrymen and with locals in each of the other two countries, but by and large, in the year 2010, most people I observe (in peron or via various media outlets) find the notion of race-based discrimination fairly idiotic and not worthy of discussion. In many instances, past atrocities committed in the name of race, specifically “white” violence against “Blacks,” are so perverse and out of the realm of current imagination that many fail to believe such inhumanity ever existed at all.

We are INDIVIDUALS, part of the human race, right? This is great, logical, and shows progress in each nation; but, it is a completely opposite way of thinking for many, and flips history on its head. It also fails to produce sensitivity to the realities of the impacts of past racial oppression (educational inequities, ghettoization, disproportionate incarceration rates of certain groups, self-hate, political apathy, hatred and distrust of others, struggles for a sense of belonging, and the list goes on and on.) Without understanding and acknowledging our history, we can never truly move forward and have a real sense of togetherness.

I am glad we are thinking and acting a little more like humans with sense now; but, I must ask, How does logic all of a sudden just appear and become the new status quo of a generation? In the United States, attending a mob lynching of a Black man was once an acceptable family affair for some Southern Whites. Violence against Blacks for the crime of simply being Black was legal within the lifetime of many of us still participating in this grand life experiment. And now, everything is fine? And we should equalize white racism with black racism? In the countries I mention, Blacks never spent hundreds of years oppressing and brutally breaking the spirit of Whites in the name of Black superiority or Black domination. The reverse, however, can be said about Whites. All racism needs to end, but different forms of racism and the different roots of racism must be understood in order to effectively deal with it. Otherwise, the potential for resentment to brew is high.

I recently finished reading, “The Long Walk to Freedom,” Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. I also recently watched the movie, “In My Country,” a fictional story revolving around actual trials of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an entity created to help address apartheid-era crimes and suffering after the fall of apartheid. Many elements of each piece stood out at me and I took notes on more than a few occasions.

The notion of “ubuntu” was a key element of the movie and I believe of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Ubuntu can be described as an “African” ideology/philosophy that encourages compassion, forgiveness, and a sense of oneness. In the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in the spirit of “Ubuntu,” perpetrators of crimes committed during apartheid were offered the opportunity to fully disclose the details of their actions and were made to face their victims and also hear their victims’ stories. If the crime was deemed to be “politically motivated,” the perpetrator was given full amnesty for their crimes and was “forgiven.”

The label, “African,” also stood out both in the book and in the movie. In the book, the term “African” was used by Mandela to refer to Blacks. Distinctions such as “Whites,” “Indians,” and “Coloured” were used to describe non-Blacks, seemingly regardless of their country of birth or family history. In the movie, however, a white journalist/writer in post-apartheid South Africa referred to herself as “African,” especially in pushing forward the African philosophy and seemingly propagandist agenda of Ubuntu. As “Africans,” she said, “we forgive.” It seemed a rather convenient identity to have once the tables of power had turned.

The controversy around amnesty for criminals was definitely present. At a press conference in the movie, one journalist asked that since the majority of the victims were Black, if it could be said that Blacks had a special capacity for forgiveness. After the question, another cynical journalist commented that it could rather be said that Whites had a special capacity to get away with murder.

In his book, Mandela spoke of having private meetings with government officials to discuss a peace plan while he was incarcerated in Pollsmoor Prison. He didn’t even tell his close friends and fellow leaders about his intentions. In my first opinion and admittedly without conducting much research, these meetings seem to be where the concept of Ubuntu truly gained its power and growth in contemporary South Africa.

Outside of the prison all around the country, people were upset, violence was on the rise, and justice was sought as an accompaniment to future freedom. Post-apartheid South Africa could have been extremely bloody and unpleasant for all involved, with Blacks seeking revenge, reparations, and other compensation for their inferior treatment under apartheid law. I’m just an under-informed American observing after the facts, but Mandela’s release, the exoneration of other political prisoners, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission all seemed like strategic and necessary tools in saving lives and attempting to keep South Africa from being burned to the ground. The approach of full disclosure and accompanying amnesty, however, seemed contrived. What is even more sad is that Black-on-Black crime still seems to be a problem. Where are the compassion, forgiveness, and “ubuntu” in that?

We can and will get along, but it must be done honestly. I do hope we get to genuine understanding and interracial harmony; but, I do not want it under false pretenses or with a sense of conscious or unconscious denial. We must visit the “depressing” museums, engage in the awkward discussions, see the images that haunt the minds of our brothers and sisters, and find ways to help individuals relieve the silent deadweights and emotional burdens of our racist and torturous pasts. Schools and governments must do their part to educate. And we must continue to educate ourselves. The Long Walk to Freedom has not yet ended In any of Our Countries.

Oh, and I do believe that race is a social construct that has less to do with biology and exact science and more to do with politics. Because of how and how long notions of race have been perpetuated around the world, however, I believe that it will take quite a while to completely change our ways of thinking about it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Are You Here?: 2009 in Review

My 12 months as an education volunteer for WorldTeach Namibia has definitely increased my focus on questions and challenges related to policies and contracts governing foreign investment in education. In addition to my association with WorldTeach, I regularly interact with many other foreign aid organizations, mainly through the volunteers sent to actualize their missions. My housemates during the 2009 year were members of the United Kingdom’s Voluntary Service Organization (VSO) and Nigeria’s Technical Aid Corps(TAC). In my town, there are also members of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Peace Corps Volunteers, and VSO members from Kenya and Canada, to name a few. Based on our conversations, my observations, and my general interest, I often wonder how the organizations began their relationship with the host government, what specific mission and outcomes they have or hope to see, and why particular individuals have selected and been selected to join.

While I envision that there are different types of partnerships and missions that guide foreign-sponsored projects, I am somewhat concerned about those that do not appear to have a clear capacity-building component or structure. I have seen at least two volunteer-led projects completely stop once the volunteer departed the country. This seems a bit absurd. Yes, a few individuals benefit from the expertise or leadership that was provided by the volunteer during his/her service; but, this is a short-term fix, and I would argue that it is not a “fix” at all.

These issues appear to be product of incomplete or improperly managed policies and contracts, on the side of the host country government or the foreign sponsor, or both. I would like to explore these theories further over the next few years, hopefully through a doctoral program that can offer the appropriate tools, mentorships, and critical analysis for and of my findings/propositions. In the meantime, I am working closely with my partner organizations to train future project managers, formally document guidelines and operations manuals, and constructively dialogue about my concerns.

The above said, I decided to accept the invitation to continue volunteering in Namibia beyond my initial 12-month contract. I also decided that I will not continue “volunteering” for long; I extended my contract for only six more months. A full-time paid position with the Namibia Ministry of Education may soon be created for which I am aptly suited, however. The position would take responsibility for planning, overseeing, and evaluating computer-based learning centres focused on mathematics and science around the country. Currently, this comprehensive job is simply an additional duty for an employee with other primary duties with which the job must compete. As such, the centres are not getting the full attention they need and deserve to optimally function. It is not likely, though, the job will not likely be created before mid-year.

This week, I officially began work on my extended contract in service to the Namibia Ministry of Education. I have already “left” the “stewardship” of the Kunene Region Directorate and am now in the hands of the national office, more specifically the Directorate of Research, Science, and Technology. For the next 6 months, the national office will be responsible for my living allowance, housing, transportation, and other basic needs.

I felt the difference immediately upon my return to Namibia last week. A driver was there to meet me at the airport and shuttle me to a hotel they secured for my stay in Windhoek – meals included. And I had a direct cool and comfortable ride, not a hike or stuffy van, back to Khorixas. They still need to get their act together regarding my next assignment, though. I’ll either be in the northeastern region of Caprivi (in the town of Katima Mulilo) or in the southern region of Karas (in the town of Keetmanshoop).

In Katima Mulilo, my goal would be to help document, expand, and strengthen the current work of the centre in operation. In Keetmanshoop, my goal would be to reopen the centre, that has been closed for over six months, by marketing the centre’s potential and getting key parties to invest their time and energies in the centre’s planning and operations.

Over the next three weeks in Khorixas, I am focused on being a supportive observer, helping only when asked. I will try my best to not initiate any project-related tasks, such as developing marketing materials/letters, selecting learners, or registering learners. Not taking charge will be extremely difficult; however, I need to know that the individual assigned to run the Centre can actually do it without me. I will also refine the operations manual I authored, and I will gather and review data to evaluate the learners who were registered in the Centre in 2009.

Non-Rewarding Travel

I suppose that nothing in life comes free. I utilized frequent flyer miles to get back to Namibia this month and my experience was yet another adventure for the blog and for future gasp-inducing tale-sharing. My flights were all classified as “Reward Travel,” but I found many of the “rewards” questionable.

I spent a total of 32 hours in the air and an additional 12+ hours in five different airports over my three day “Reward Travel” journey back to Namibia. I left Los Angeles International Airport on the morning of Tuesday, 5 January and arrived at Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windoek, Namibia on the evening of Thursday, 7 January.

Ten(10) Lessons I Learned

1. Do everything you can to NOT have a center or middle seat during such a long flight. Call the airline each day and beg if you think it will help your case.

2. Use (your mother’s) additional miles to get BUSINESS CLASS accommodations when the trip is this long. The benefits on the plane make the flights bearable and the benefits extend to the airports, cushioning the wait time between flights.

3. Singapore Changi Airport is the bomb! FREE mints, FREE movie theaters, FREE game zones, FREE internet, rooftop swimming pool, (butterfly, orchid, cactus) gardens and clean areas for relaxation(including FREE chair massages), FREE city shuttle and arranged tours (though my wait was not long enough to take it), and more.

4. Ask a flight attendance to tell you the actual contents of the Japanese appetizer mixer bowl served with the in-flight lunch plate BEFORE you ingest it all.

5. Always keep airsick bags in your purse (probably related to lesson #4 above)

6. Each time the drink cart passes, request boxed juices, even if you are not thirsty, to build a ready arsenal to “unparch” yourself when you finally wake up, the lights are off, everyone is sleeping, and you don’t want to risk annoying the mess out of all the other passengers (and stewards) with call-buttons, lights, and conversations (although the unparching can lead to a potty trip, which will wake everyone up anyway).

7. The "succulent sandwiches" on the light meals menu for Singapore Airlines are actually quite succulent, namely the curry chicken and the tuna. Two thumbs up for fresh potato bread!

8. Two mini-pints of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia may not be the best closer to the four-course, in-flight, Japanese dinner, with the mystery seafoods.

9. Singapore Airlines serves ice cream! (cautions noted in lesson #8 above)

10. Try to smile and take cheap comfort in the fact that the year is not 1510 and your intercontinental, overseas travel is not available solely by donkey(land) and boat(sea).

Nevertheless, when I reached Windhoek, Namibia, I stayed in my hotel and slept for the good majority of three straight days, only rising to tend to my most basic needs. I had another 4.5-hour drive to reach my house in Khorixas, Namibia on day four….It will take a while to get back into a regular sleep-wake-work schedule.