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And let the s***ing begin… November 15, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Eco-goodness, Namibia, Peculiarities, Raaah!.

Otji-Toilets built:2. Blatant misogynist sexist behaviour exhibited: countless. Near-death experiences: 1. Babies I have given birth to: many, so it seems! Cows seen: are you kidding?

The toilets are finished!!! The first actual material thing I have had a hand in making happen since I got here has been completed. Oh the joy! We now have two colourful Otjitoilets installed at our ECO-C, which is now the talk of the town. The people of Okandjira can now poo in private. I’m so happy for them.

But it hasn’t all been easy…

On first hearing about these toilets, I contacted the Clay House Project, another GEF sponsored project that surprisingly make houses of clay, as well as these wonderful little toilets. Being a Namibian product, using mostly natural materials, we got very excited, arranged a meeting with the guy and ordered two. We would have 2 CHP builders, we would provide a few guys to help (and get trained whilst helping) and it would take about a week. Easier said than done. 
The initial problems were in sorting out accommodation for the builders (they ended up camping in the container at the centre – they didn’t like it!), then rounding up competant local builders to help and then bring it all together.
But the biggest nightmare was in getting the materials to the ECO-C in the village. Okandjira is 50km up a hilly dirt track from the supplier in Okahandja, and no, the supplier would not help. So we were looking into doing runs with a backie (pick-up trcuk) to transport the 4 tonnes of bricks, and a tonne each of gravel and sand – we calculated it would take about 10 hours, covering 800km and far too much in petrol. Our CHP man, Christian, then phones the supplier himself and manages to persuade them to deliver the materials for us! Problem solved,  but why wouldn’t they do it for me?! Well firstly Christian is a guy, secondly he is German – with Afrikaaner builders, this clearly makes a difference.

So last Tuesday we met at the building suppliers and got the truck loaded up. On hearing what the materials were for, the lady there took us round the back to a massive shed. In there was a HUGE pile of poo – massive. She then started felching around in it, found something and thrust it in my face. “Worms”, she said brightly. So I could see. Apparently they ‘feed’ the earthworms poo and they turn it into high grade compost within a week, which is far faster than our toilets alone. So we are adopting worms to put in our toilets.

The materials make it fine to the centre, but then we have the dilemma of where to put them, as they have to face south (something to do with the sun). I suggest possible options, justifying them with logic in relation to aesthetics and convenience. I am ignored. You see, I was trying to explain this to my boss (Italian man), Christian (German man) and the two builders (Ovambo men); I didn’t stand a chance. So Milly and I quietly watched them work up a sweat, debating the position of these toilets, until low and behold, they wander to where I had suggested originally and unanimously ‘decide’ (ahem….agree) that it is a suitable site for the toilets. Why can’t men accept a suggestion from a woman?

And so Monday, I go up to visit these newly built toilets. As my boss is out of town, I get a lift with Tjizembua (our partner organisation’s MD’s adopted son, obviously). All is going well as we zoom up the highway towards Okahandja, when SMASH, the windscreen shatters, showering me in glass. Amazingly Tjizembua keeps control of the car, and we pull over a few minutes later at the Ovitoto turn off to assess the damage. Basically a brick had fallen off a truck in front of us, and near smashed through the windscreen on the passenger side (where i was sitting). Luckily most of the driver’s view was spared, but I was left covered in glass splinters, and speckled in blood from the cuts. I should emphasise that I am ok, the cuts were entirely superficial, but it gave us both a good fright.

Anyway we trooped on to Okandjira to see the wonderous toilets at the centre. A fair few villagers are there, asking about it, although abit too shy to use it. Tjono the ECO-C caretaker is over the moon, especially as he has been invited to do further ‘toilet training’ with CHP in Otjiwarongo. As I go to the office with Milly, people stop us to ask about the toilets, saying they all want one in the village. Music to my ears. The next step is to get some of the local guys trained in building them and then it is wormy compost loos for all!! Hurrah.

 I stayed in Okhandjira most of the day as Tjizembua had to go to another village to slaughter a goat, and I was amazed to see him return as clean as he ha left. Very skilled these Hereros. And they sure love their meat.

Whilst at the office with Milly, I was discussing with her the Otjiherero I have been learning. Turns out that when I thought I have been greeting people, I have in fact been announcing that I have just given birth. Uapenduka means ‘Hey, how you doing?’, whilst Uapanduka (which I’ve been saying to my boss’ housekeeper everyday) means ‘I’ve just had a baby’. I always thought she was laughing with me! Doh!

My next project is organising Home Garden and Shack Insulation training for 40 people from across the 19 villages. Again it involves transporting materials to the centre, getting everyone together for the 4 day training, and hope it doesn’t rain, as the workshop shall take place under a tree in a field, I kid you not. At least we have toilets, but I can see the catering is going to be a nightmare!



1. Olly - November 15, 2006

Will your fascination with toilets ever cease?

2. Isabelle - November 16, 2006

It’s not my fault, it’s what I’m here to do. And it’s becoming an embarrassing social problem..once i get started talking about toilets, I just can’t stop. There are multiple different uses of poo, it’s amazing, if not a little icky.

And dearest brother, I like that you take this opportunity to abuse me instead of enquire after my welfare after my near-death experience…. you heart-less beast!
sister x

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