Ethical giving September 25, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Culture, Goodness, Home and away, Money, Namibia, VSO.
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Earlier this year, my old housemate Matthias went home for his father’s 60th birthday. It sounded like they had quite a party, but with a warming message: instead of receiving any presents, Matthias’ father would rather accept money to donate to worthy causes that Matthias knew of in Namibia. Together they raised over 3000 Euros, a hefty amount by any standards. (more…)
Benevolence September 25, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Goodness, Home and away, Namibia, Ovitoto.
Since I found out I would be coming to work in Namibia, my parents’ church in London, St Mary’s of Kilburn, has shown incredible support towards my placement. The parish and congregation were so generous in helping me with my fundraising prior to my departure, and have shown keen interest in my activities whilst I have been away. Every week they pray for “Isabelle in Namibia”, wishing me well and that I am kept safe from danger. I find this most overwhelming though, as, whilst my parents are active members in the congregation now, they have only been in the area for a few years, and I have only turned up on the rare occasion that I have been in London on a Sunday. But the parish overlooks time, and sees any new member as part of the family. (more…)
The Himbas September 20, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Cows, Culture, Education, Home and away, Namibia.
It was in Damaraland where we visited one of the last surviving, truly traditional groups in Namibia, the Himba people. The Himbas are a group of matrilineal nomadic cattle herders known for their defiance against the pull towards modernity. Despite the rapid developments in towns across Namibia, the Himbas continue to live in a traditional way, abiding by their tribal laws, dress and rituals, despite the discrimination they face from other Namibians for being “the ones left behind”. In order to be accepted into society or to send their children to school, they are expected to conform and reject their traditions. But it is their traditions that define their identity and existence, and so their children remain uneducated, unemployed and unaccepted. With their life in the village, it is easy to forget that a world of technology and development exists, and whilst the Himbas are self-sufficient and live a more-or-less sustainable lifestyle through their cattle herding, they do encounter modern life when they visit the growing towns around Namibia, which they find challenges their ethos. (more…)
Namibia, the Land of Contrasts September 20, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Home and away, Namibia, Weather.
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As I drove around the country with my family, I was continually surprised and amazed by the stunning scenery that makes up this wonderful country. In just a matter of kilometres you can find dramatic rock plateaus and a giant underground lakes in the middle of the flat veld, to vast salt pans of an ancient prehistoric lake. Damaraland alone is totally indescribable in beauty and contrast. The geology of the area lends plays tricks with your eyes, as the formations around you morph in shape and colour as you pass. Huge clusters of smooth and spherical Dolomite balls litter the plains like piles of giant beans. Other outcrops are aggressive and sharp, the result of thousands of years of techtonic activity and baking sun. (more…)
My birthday September 10, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Creatures, Culture, Namibia, Time out.
For the first year in many, I spent my birthday with my parents. Being an August Bank Holiday birthday, I’m often away, but this year, my parents decided to join me. And being such a unique event, I thought I’d share it.
I woke up in the Bush Chalet at the Waterberg Plateau, with all sorts of clattering going on as my Godmum, Louise, friend Cynthia and my parents set about preparing breakfast for their first morning in Namibia. Considering we’d driven the women pretty much straight from the airport to the Waterberg Plateau, they had far too much energy. I stepped out bleary-eyed to a chorus of “Happy Birthday”, before being ushered out to the patio of our chalet, which had the most incredible view, positioned half way up the wall of this stunning plateau. For once, I had presents to open, and in the warm sunshine no less (it almost always rains on my birthday – British Bank Holiday timing!).
Oop North August 22, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Culture, Eh?, Namibia, Out of the city.
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“Drive North, and a few kilometres before Omuthiya, turn left onto the gravel road. We’re on the right a few kilometres down. You can’t miss us.”
It took me a long time to find a map with Omuthiya on it, but his directions to the Okashana Rural Development Centre were spot on. Drive 700km due on the only road north from Windhoek, take a left, then a right, and you’re there. Spot on.
Since it’s been a good few months since our project in Ovitoto ran out of money, and it looks like a few months more til we get any more money, we have started taking up consultancy tenders to bring in some extra well-needed funds. This was my first tender application and I was very chuffed that we got it. Our mission: to financially assess this long-standing rural development centre, and suggest strategies and activities that could make it financially sustainable. My boss, being a whizz with numbers and spreadsheets, was in charge of all things numerical; I got to deal with the community. Out comes my VSO Participatory Tools Handbook (aka my workshop bible). (more…)
The Bush Bar August 14, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Culture, Eh?, Home and away, Namibia.
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“Oi, shilumbu”. All faces turn towards me, as alerted by the incredibly observant token drunk. As all eyes look on, he continues yabbering on, the only word I could pick out being shilumbu (meaning white person). After his wildly gesticulating arms rest on his lap as he leans uneasily on a high stool, I reply, “Yes, I am a shilumbu. Hallo”.
Peels of laughter erupt over the heavily beating kwaito, and the resident drunk springs back into life.
“Yes, You are shilumbu. Al Quaeda forever. Bush must die. We will not release your hostages. We will not. Taliban. Ja!”, Tate Drunk announces, arm punching the air, swaying and bouncing off the bar and other punters. (more…)
Workshop on Wheels August 10, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Eco-goodness, Education, Home and away, Namibia, Oh..interesting, Ovitoto, The job.
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Last week, I was involved in the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia’s (DRFN) “Workshop on Wheels”. The idea is simple yet genius. Hire a coach, fill it with people with an interest in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, and travel around the country looking at different Energy focused projects. All expenses paid. I approached the DRFN a few months ago about the wonderful wood-efficient stove, the Tso-Tso Stove (meaning Twig-Twig, referring to the small amount of wood needed for cooking on it), and they decided to include us as one of the visited projects.
As I have previously mentioned, we did a training for seven community members before Christmas on how to make these wood-efficient stoves, with the idea that they can set up a business in manufacturing these stoves. Since many people cook on open fires, even in urban areas, and wood is a non-renewable and limited resource, these stoves are important towards tackling desertification as well as global warming (on a very small scale though! But every little counts!). As so little wood is needed for cooking on them, as they are incredibly efficient, it saves the amount of money people spending on firewood, or on the amount of time they spend collecting firewood from the veld (some people walk up to 15km to collect firewood). The stove is also a lot safer to use, especially around children, and incredibly quick to cook with.
As you can tell, I like this stove a lot, but it isn’t so easy to convince people to use them. People traditionally like a good ol’ fire to sit around: for heat, for light, for the communal aspect of it, and for many, the religious aspect of the Holy Fire. Whilst the Tso-Tso Stove is cheaper, safer, quicker and healthier, for the general public, nothing beats an open fire under the stars. (more…)
Bootilicious August 6, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Culture, Gender, Namibia.
“Sista, are you African?”
“No, I’m from the UK. I’m English”
“Ahh. I can see you are white and what-what, but your body, it is like an African, not a white person. Are you sure you are not African?”
Unlike back home, a big round bottom is highly appreciated here and the African women sure have them. And apparently so do I. (more…)
Alcohol gives you AIDS July 24, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Culture, Danger, Namibia, Ovitoto, Violence, VSO.
My intention of doing this alcohol awareness campaign wasn’t to tell the kids not to drink; it was to educate them on what alcohol is, how it effects you physically, socially and emotionally, and to open a discussion on how alcohol is used in their society and what the consequences of these activities are. The legal age to drink alcohol in Namibia is 18, same as back home, but having been an underage drinker myself, I know that kids start drinking at a young age, and that by telling them not to will just encourage them to go out and try it.
I used some of the excellent resources that the Portman Group and Drink Aware Trust produce to figure out ways to develop this workshop. But the reasons and situations of kids drinking alcohol in the UK differs hugely from why and how kids drink alcohol here in Namibia. After weeks of research on alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and HIV and rape statistics, I decided to scrap most of what I had found out and get the kids to tell me what they knew. They weren’t going to care about statistics, or understand about the function of the liver or how many units were in a bottle of beer. I had to go local, and so roped in Milly and Tjono for translation (and later proven, crowd control).