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Just so you know… October 15, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Uncategorized.

… I have officially finished my placement here in Namibia. Friday was my last official day, although I’m still tying things up.

I am now on holiday though, so later this week, I am popping up north to visit some friends, and then I’m back to Windhoek for a few days, before hopping on the Intercape to Cape Town next Wednesday. I’m then around the Cape for a few weeks, returning to the UK on 7th November. I will try to write a bit more before leaving isabelleinnamibia behind, but I warn you,…this is the beginning of the end.

I am also officially unemployed at the moment, so if anyone knows of any jobs going in international development based in London, please let me know and I will bring you home a small giraffe!


Dune Rider September 17, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Uncategorized.
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As I stood at the top, I could see the ocean in distance, from where the chilling fog was rolling in across the desert. Another ocean peaked and troughed beyond where I was standing, as the sand ebbed and flowed for a thousand kilometres, with dunes reaching hundreds of metres above sea level.



I was standing atop Dune 7, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and the Namib Desert, and it was time to go down. I dug my front foot forward, shifted my weight angled downwards, and I was away. The sand was initially sticky against the snowboard that was strapped to my feet, but as the fog dampness burnt off, the sheer gradient of the dune and the wax on the board led me to fly straight down at top speeds.


I’d picked the perfect day to go sand boarding. With my parents safely off on a boat trip to see seals, dolphins, pelicans and the dunes from the sea, I snuck off for a little adrenaline-hunting. I was the only boarder wanting to go that day, so I had Wayne, aka Mr Sandboard, all to myself. This meant that he would zip me up the dune on his quad bike to slide down as many times as I liked.


After a year without surfing (doh!), this was the next best thing. The first few runs were a little messy, landing backwards and upside down on my first run (sand down my shorts), and getting a face-full on my second run (sand everywhere else). But soon I was shooting down, carving up the sand as I went. My stoke was officially back to play, and despite getting sand everywhere, it was certainly the rush I had been looking for.


That alone is worth a trip to Namibia.



New photos March 3, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Uncategorized.

There are some new photos on my Flickr website. If you are interested…

(it takes about 20 minutes to upload 6 photos, hence there aren’t too many!)

Here sea-doggy! November 8, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Eco-goodness, Namibia, Out of the city, Uncategorized.

Suddenly there was a splashing commotion at the back of the boat, and a seal leapt aboard and hopped up on the bench I was sitting on. Alarmed by the immediate presence of this big wet sea creature with teeth, I sprang out my seat, and watched from behind a bench as Isak began hand feeding him fish. After reassurance from the skipper, we leant forward for a better look and to stroke its oily wet fur. By the side of the boat, another seal poked its head out the water, barking for attention; on clocking him, my new friend barked back and then threw its hefty weight overboard with a splash. And with good reason – the new arrival was a feisty bugger and a fair bit larger than the other. This one was so eager for fish he started head butting and biting the skipper. Throughout the day we were visited by this furry wet cuteness, growing with size with each visit. The last one apparently weighed about 800kg, who also had hopped up on my bench and squashed me – how many point do I get for being sat on by a massive seal?!

n500333783_4151_5008.jpg  Jillian and the monster seal that sat on me!

Walvis Bay has a huge seal colony at the end of the vast sandbar that stretches about 10km out to sea, known as Pelican Point. Although wild, a few seals have become tame over the years, and commonly board boats for fish. We discussed the ethics of this, but couldn’t actually see much wrong with it as the seals aren’t dependent on humans for their food, they aren’t trained to ‘perform’ and certainly aren’t harmed; and they put on a great show for gawking tourists like myself. I really like seals. They are so much like big wet dogs, very playful, and so cute. Although they move strangely, like a dog wrapped in a bin liner (not that I have seen this, nor would I encourage it!!). And if anyone could tell me what mammal group seals come from, I would be most grateful – to me they look like a cross between a dog, a mouse and a tortoise.

Seal napping on the bow of ship  Seal colony at Pelican Point

As we pulled up to Pelican Point, you could smell the seals before you could see them clearly. The whole sand bar was covered in thousands of seals, lazing in the sun and playing in the sea. But there were also many silent lumps half-covered in sand. This month thousands of seals have been washed up on the shore, and they are dying from starvation. Seals need to eat about a tenth of their body weight a day in fish, and without the presence of sharks to stabilise their population, there simply is not enough fish to go round. There is very little fishing here, and regulations appear to be strict so as to not deplete the fish population. Just before I moved here, I was working in an office opposite the Namibian Embassy in London; I remember one day hanging out the window with the other staff to get a better view of an anti-seal clubbing protest (they were making a lot of noise and a few of them were naked, so worth a peek!). I thought of this whilst we passed the mass open graves at this seal colony.

It takes about 3 months for a seal to die of starvation, and judging by the corpses, it is a wide-spread problem. And it’s sad that these beautiful creatures are suffering such an ill fate. Seal clubbing is illegal in Namibia, but has taken place before for this exact reason. Now the seals have overpopulated and are dying in the sea and on the beaches, causing all sorts of health risks to both the animal and human populations. Don’t get me wrong, as a vegetarian (ignore oyster and previous chicken comments) I don’t like the thought of animals being killed, but if it would bring the end to their suffering, protect the environment from diseases and even create some sort of income for the poor or unemployed, then it may need rethinking. If Brigit Bardot and the rest of her supporters are giving the Namibian coast dwellers such a hard time is just because seals are cute, then they may need to revise their campaign and start acknowledging all the environmental and social implications of this situation.

I’m on the fence, but let the debate begin…

A confession October 14, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Uncategorized.

We spent out last night the Nakambale Cultural Museum, which is set up like a traditional wooden homestead, where we camped in tents and traditional huts and ate a traditional meal. I should first mention my first experience of a traditional meal was at the HIV and AIDS centre earlier in the week, where everything from the mealie pap (porridge-like goo) to the spinach was packed with sand. Mopane wormI also sampled fried mopane worms, a local delicacy, which is a small thorned caterpillar resembling something early-evolution and tasted a bit like mackerel; and before you start, I know I’m veggie, but I did think it through, and after eating cockroaches and other weirdness in Thailand, I thought ‘why not!?’. But sadly the fermented maize meal drink lead me to upend the entire meal (and all the sand) about an hour later. I should also mention that Namibians really struggle with the concept of vegetarianism, as chicken and fish are commonly understood to be vegetables. Conversations about such matters go as follows: Me: I’m vegetarian, I don’t eat meat. Namibians: No meat!?! Only vegetables? Me: Yes, no meat, only vegetables. Nams: What about chicken? Me: er,…no. Nams: So no meat and no chicken. What about fish? Me: (I do actually eat fish, but it’s easier to explain that I don’t). No, fish is a meat, nothing that has blood. Nams: OK. No meat, chicken or fish. Beef? It does get a bit tiresome and confusing having to list off all animals that I won’t eat, and understanding that certain animals are not included in meat. Oh my. But back to Nakambale….so we sat along long benches in front of various pots, which were unveiled to show mealie pap, spinach, beans and a few whole chickens, with far less sand in than my previous experience. And here I should announce my confession: after 11 years of vegetarianism, I was brought down to tearing chunks of freshly slaughtered and roasted chicken off its bones and stuffing it with pap and spinach into my anxious mouth. Yes, I denounced my vegetarianism for one evening, and I must admit, I quite enjoyed it (the fact that I said the chicken was rather good prompted other volunteers to comment that it clearly was my first chicken in a while as apparently it was a bit on the tough side). Anneke, a Dutch veggie, also shared this experience with me. And before I get the I-told-you-sos, about-bloody-times and my mother rejoicing that Christmas will be Christmas again without my ‘eating disorder’ (a phrase coined by my brothers), I should emphasise that this is not a permanent change. For starters, it was a one-off. I became vegetarian on a pre-teenage whim, and have since forgotten why I am. I’m still not a fan of eating the flesh and blood of another creature and certainly don’t like the idea of where packaged meat comes from (read Fast Food Nation, and it will likely turn you off it as well). But it’s not so much on a health or moral reason now and is veering towards just not liking it. And from becoming veggie at such a young age, I never learnt how to cook meat, and have gotten so used to ignoring the meat isle in the supermarket or dishes on a menu, that I haven’t ever missed it. But on this occasion, I just thought ‘When in Rome…’, and thought it’d be nice to enrich my culture experience. But I’m a long long way off from sampling the kudu, giraffe, croc, ostrich or beef steaks that everyone keeps telling me is just so good here. But I’ll keep you posted.

The Loo Lady September 29, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Uncategorized.

The Loo Lady I’ve been working for more than a week now and am getting a real grasp of what my job entails. And since many of you begged the question, ‘what exactly are you going to be doing?’, I thought it’d only be fair to share. Officially, I am an Organisational Development Advisor (oooh!), which great, makes me feel very grown up, and makes a nice change from being a ‘student’ or ‘graduate’, which is generally sneered at by all.

I will be working in the Ovitoto conservancy, a marginalised strip of land, between vast white-owned farms, where the Herero people have been allowed to pick a humble living. There are 19 villages there, with a population of around 3500 people. And I made my first visit there with my boss Alessandro and Nadia, to visit our ECO-C (Environmental Community Outreach Centre). Heading north out of Windhoek, towards the next major town of
Okahandja, we took a dramatic turn off onto a dirt track, which took us on a wiggly route round desert peaks and over dried river beds. 40kms later we arrive in Okandjira, the main ‘town’ of Ovitoto. My classification of town will be severely altered by the time I leave. This ‘town’ consists of about 15 metal shacks (which few of us would tolerate as a garden shed), a dirt track, a primary school, and two brick buildings – the police station and the regional councillor’s office. The latter is where our FO (field officer) Milly is based, with whom I will be working closely; mainly because I don’t speak a word of Otjiherero, which is her and the conservancy’s mother tongue.
On the edge of town is the ECO-C, which wasn’t quite what I expected (to be honest, none of this was). Within a dusty, gated allotment was a very new, very nice metal shack and a shipping container. The shack is where the caretaker, Shauno, lives. The shipping container is divided into three small compartments, to become our Business-in-a-Box, space to be rented to anyone wanting to set up a local enterprise. It is also the site for any training sessions we will run.So what use is this to the community, I hear you ask. Now the main structures are in place, the action can begin. The aim of the centre is to showcase and offer training in appropriate and affordable, environmentally-aware and energy-efficient technologies to the Ovitoto people. For example, we shall be offering training in shack-insulation (as they are like ovens in the summer, but freezing in the winter), recycling and gardening. Gardening? Yes, part of the dusty allotment will be transformed into a Home Gardening Scheme for the community to learn to grow vegetables, for subsistence as well as commercial reasons. Another reason for the visit was to inspect the new irrigation system, which will supply our Home Gardening Scheme. Anyone interested in using this training to develop an enterprise will receive culturally-aware business support and space in the Business-in-a-Box. 

And why do these people need all this hippy technology?Well, when I say there are a few metal shacks, each one is where a family of up to 6 live. And these shacks have no water, no electricity – not much more than 4 sheet metal walls, a metal roof and a dirt floor. They cook around a fire outside, and I haven’t learnt yet where they wash or pee, as I didn’t see any taps or toilets. Whilst we can’t help with the water situation, we can help with the cooking and toilet situation, which can then lead onto income-generating activities. I have been introduced to a new cooking ‘stove’, called a Tsotso stove, which uses 75% less firewood than an open fire, and is also more efficient in cooking, far safer and affordable. Firewood is becoming scarcer and is expensive to buy. So I’m currently in touch with a new lady about coming along to train our keen Hereros in how to make and use these amazing stoves (Mr Difficult from my previous blog has been scrapped). I spoke to her today, she’s very excited about our project, but her baby’s due next week, and so she won’t be able to meet me til the week after (they deal with pregnancy very differently over here to the way they do back home!)!! 

And finally toilets. At the moment, they don’t have such a thing in Ovitoto. But due to the desert/lack-of-water situation, our common flush system isn’t likely. So I have been researching compost loos all week, which are ridiculously expensive; but yesterday, I was introduced to the Otji-toilet. I never thought I would get so excited about a toilet. Nor did I think that ‘UDS’ aka ‘Urine Diversion System’ would become a common part of my rapport. ‘The Otji-toilet’ is a Namibian-designed, crap-in-a-bucket-whilst-in-a-shed loo. No water needed. And if you leave the… err…’product’ in a well-ventilated bucket for a few months, you can use it as fertiliser…for the Home Gardening Scheme (do you like how it all links together!?!). I do personally have my reservations about using human poo as veggie fertiliser, especially with the huge amount of meat and total lack of fresh fruit and veg these people eat, but I chatted with a very enthusiastic lives-in-a-tree German eco-scientist about it and he reassures me that it’s fine, and not even that smelly. Er, lovely. When you start realising how much an obscene waste of water a flush toilet is, it is quite horrifying. I must say that I have learnt more than I’d ever like to know about human waste and its decomposition in the heat of the Namibian desert, but it’s all part of the job.We’re going to get one of these wondrous Otji-loos installed at the ECO-C, using local resources, as well as run a training workshop for anyone wanting to build their own.And no, it’s not a colonist-tainted attempt to ‘civilise these people’, they asked for the toilet, and are very excited about it. Anyway, there are cows and goats wandering everywhere; I can’t imagine you would get much privacy round the back of your shack whilst doing your business. But these folk sure love their cows. There are further plans, involving solar power, a super low-cement local-material brick that interlock together like Lego and some biogas production system, which I’ll keep you posted on. It is very exciting, because there really is bugger all in Ovitoto. I was only there for a few hours and it really struck me. I’d hate to say that what I felt was pity, but I truly felt sorry for these people, because they scratch a living from nothing, whilst I have had the luxury of so much more that they aren’t even aware of. And that could be said is the difference…it’s not as black and white (pun intended) as rich and poor, but more haves and have-nots. 

I’m going there on my own the week after next for 4 days to get to know people. I need to be presented to the Honourable Chief Kapuuo (they like their titles) before I can start anything, and then negotiate my way around the different villages (I have a feeling a donkey might be my transport) with Milly. She’s lovely, with the cutest little boy. It’s quite daunting, as it is proper hardcore out there, and I bet someone will try to feed me meat. But I need to get on with organising this training, and find out what these people really need and want. It’s just so exciting to think of it all together, and the benefit to the community could be incredibly positive. I just hope it works.  I should also explain that this project is being funded by the GEF/SGP – UNDP, which stands for the….Global Environmental Fund/ Small Grants Programme, which is part of the United Nations Development Programme. Development is acronym central. And if you are interested in finding out more about the super-eco technologies that I will be working with, do visit the Habitat Research and Development Centre at www.hrdc.org.na . Truly brilliant things going on here that we can all learn a lot from.

Crispy and dusty September 28, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Uncategorized.
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Injuries sustained from handwashing: 2. Number of times I’ve dreamt longingly of fabric softener: 4.  Violent attacks: 1.

So I thought I’d fill you in a bit on differences between life back home and out here. You may notice the running theme of laundry being the bane of my life. I don’t have a washing machine where I live (actually my landlord has one in the room above my flat, which I can hear whirling,..like the swimming pool, no invite to use that either!), nor have I located a laundrette that is open when I need to use it. And yes, I have washed my clothes since I’ve been here; my boss kindly let me use the machine at his house, but I have also been forced to handwash. Now this is something I have only practiced on the few items in my wardrobe that require care and attention. in concept it seems rather straight forward…if only! My little hands just aren’t cut out for it, and I discovered a new muscle in my hand, when I strained it ringing out a T-shirt. Oh the pain. And another time, I near took off my nail. My hands and arms were aching more than after a 4 hour surf.

And they don’t have tumble driers either. Since it’s so hot and dry, it makes sense. So everything dries in the sun. And everything in my wardrobe now seems to be made of cardboard. I tried softener, but it just won’t hold up against this bruttle sun. But at least things dry quickly.

Another reason to discuss laundry is because it has to happen so often. Luckily it is so dry here, that even in the mid-day heat, you don’t sweat. It’s almost impossible, because there is zero humidity, which means you barely notice the 30 degree heat. Rather pleasant.
However, being a city in the desert, there is a monstrous amount of dust and dirt.  And Windhoek found it’s name due to the fact that it is so windy. So you can see my problem…. I’m crispy in the morning and dusty and dirty by the time I get home.

Just the other day I was the victim of a brutal attack. I was wandering home, minding my own business, when out of nowhere this tall, dark, fast-moving shadow advances towards me. Panic rises, and I try jumping out the way to avoid it, but it chases me and hits me with full pelt. For a moment, I was stunned, blinded and utterly confused. And then it was over and I was alone. I was left disorientated and coated in dirt. For my attacker was in fact an embarrassingly small, but viciously powerful mini-cyclone – just a whirling-pillar of wind, dirt and street rubbish. I was so dirty that when I got home and took off my sunglasses, my whole face was a shade darker apart from where my sunnies had been. And I had tumble weed in my hair.

Yesterday afternoon, the sky went dark, the birds stopped singing and the sun stopped shining. Back home this is common, but over here, where the sun shines brightly from dawn til dusk, I was concerned. I looked out my office window to see that it wasn’t just a cloud, but exactly half the sky was a dark brown, whilst the other side remained bright blue. I looked across the hills to see that the view was murky. It was the on-set of my first sand-storm.
The air became thicker, and as the sun began to set, the dust cloud glowed an ominous red. It was time to go home, and my side of town was still blessed with bright blue skies, like something out of an apolocalyptic movie. For fear of being attacked again and having heard horror stories of being trapped and lost in sandstorms, I ran most of the way home, choking on the blowing dust, anxious to make shelter before the darkness took over. I made it back in record time and shut all the windows and doors.
I waited.
And nothing happened. 
I later found out that dust storms are common but rarely come into the city itself, due to wind channels or something. Well, at least I know what to look out for when I’m out in the veld.

Welcome to Africa.

Non-stop excitement September 24, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Uncategorized.
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Clouds spotted: 0. Wildlife spotted: 100s. Meat eaten: none. Meals skipped due to being vegetarian and not being about to find anything to eat because all people eat is meat: 3. Trips out of the city: 2 (read below). Homesickness: none yet, I’m far too excited. What a week it’s been, I just don’t know where to start. I’ve not only been doing some cool and interesting stuff, but I’ve found out what my job entails and started getting my hands dirty… I’ll begin with last weekend… my Friday night was spent at the theatre, with some of the new and local Windhoek volunteers, watching the Namibian ‘Vagina Monologues’. It was in this funky warehouse theatre. The Windhoek vols then took me on a wee bar crawl of
Windhoek’s finest bars (promising). They are incredibly friendly and have given me the inside info on life in Namibia as a VSO volunteer.
Saturday, Ben (a guy I know through work back home who is now living out here) offered to show me round town. Since everything shuts down at 1pm on Saturdays, and we only met at 1, our options were limited, but I got my bearings a bit. Mid-afternoon, standing on a deserted main street of this capital city, Ben suggested we drove out to the Daan Viljoen Game Park, just outside the city. ‘we’ meant me, since he didn’t have his license on him (which is compulsory over here – they like their IDs and formalities), so I had my first Namibian driving experience in his battered VW combi-van. This became more challenging when we went off-roading in the game park. But my! What a stunning country this is! It is properly Lion King Land (the Disney version!). The game park is non-predatory, so all the animals there are veggie (finally, another vegetarian!), and we saw them all! Hartebeest, kudu, baboon, giraffe (lots), wildebeest, wild boar (and babies!) and zebra.


All on the stunning backdrop of rolling hills of veld and bush against a crystal clear blue sky. I’m still buzzing from it. I was like a small child in a zoo, except, there were no bars or fences. JSunday is pool day. In the desert? Oh yes. The volunteers introduced me to the Olympic pool, which is clean and cool and great place to spend a Sunday, reading, chatting and swimming (only 70p entry!). Although this was also my first suffering from the altitude.
Windhoek is 4500ft above sealevel, which you don’t really notice until you attempt any exercise. Particulary swimming. After one length I was panting like a fish out of water. I was told this is normal for newcomers. I managed 4 lengths before residing by the pool. Another example of this altitude is that I managed to tan through factor 40 sunscreen in half an hour. The pool also happens to be in Katarura, the township area of Windhoek, so we were in the racial minority. Not that it was a problem, but it certainly did attract a lot of attention.
There are a lot of white people living over here, mostly Germans and Afrikaners. But they are on the whole rich and scared, and can be found locked in their fancy 4×4 cars, in the old white districts, behind their electric fences with their evil barking guard dogs. I happen to live and work in one of these districts, and needless to say, haven’t gotten to know any of my neighbours because I never see anyone apart from the black gardeners and labourers from the other side of town.

It does mean it’s hard to get around, as no taxis come up here. But I was entertained to be woken by the sound of said guard dogs fighting with baboons, as the baboons are attracted by the swimming pools that these unenvironmentally conscious people have in their gardens. This district and my street backs onto the…er,…well nothing really. A big shrubby, veldy hill, which sprawls onto more deserty hills, hence the baboons. Need to watch out for snakes too. I’ve already had a fright with a threatening looking spider above my bed. It was relocated to the garden, as it looked like it would hurt me. Next weekend I’m heading up to the north town of Oshakati, for the second part of In-Country Training, when we find out about things that can kill you. Surely we should have had that in Week 1?! VSO sure like to test us.

So far, so confusing… September 15, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Uncategorized.
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Rare sighting of an Isabelle in the veldOk, it’s not been long since I last wrote, but I can only access this level of technology from the city centre, and since I’m here, I thought I’d write.
And also I spent ages uploading my photos to my USB pen to find out that I messed it up, so no pictures for now, but I can tell you that it’s mostly dusty brown hills, speckled with greeny shrubs, with an expanse of bright blue skies.
The town, I mean, capital city is rather spread out and a real mix of German and African architecture, kind of hard to describe. And everything is surrounded by electric fences, barbwire or guards. Including my new home….

I moved in this morning and I must say, it isn’t what I expected. I’m living in a flat within a mansion, in the poshest part of the city, Ludwigsdorf. When we pulled up this morning, there was a luxury speedboat in the drive, which is odd, since I didn’t know there was any water around that would fit a boat (!?). Anyway, I have my own pad, with the biggest bed I have ever seen, a smart little kitchen and bathroom. It’s all new and clean, and I have a little garden too. The landlord is an incredibly well-off German chap called Arndt, who mentioned that there is a swimming pool around the back, which I am yet to see, or receive an invite to. Hardly what I expected for a placement in Africa.
The only draw-back is that it’s on the very edge of town. Getting around here is tricky, as taxis run like buses: they only do certain routes, you hail them down in the street, and you share them with whoever else want to go that way. So to get out, I need to walk down to the main street (about 15 minutes up and down hills) and wait for a taxi to come, and hope it is going that way. It took me 3 taxis and 30 minutes today, for a 10 minutes drive. I dread working my way home! And it isn’t safe to go out after dark either. Some of the other volunteers got mugged at machete point the other night, which was ironic since we had just had our security brief with the police that day! Oh my! (they are fine, and seemed to find more humour in it than fear!).

So all the other volunteers left for their placements this morning, many embarking on 8+ hours drives across the desert, to the hotter north. It is much more different up there apparently. An example is that in my Afrikaans language training, we learnt the basics you would expect; the oshavambo class learnt how to say ‘this is my first born, how many children do you have?’ and ‘who has taken the wooden spoon?’! Seems like I have to mug up my German, and balance that with Afrikaans, and learn pleasantries in whatever the local language is in the 3 regions I will be working in!

Tonight I’m off to the theatre with the other Windhoek-based volunteers to see the Vagina Monologues, and then on to a club. Again, not what I was expecting but I’m not complaining.

Better go, I have to get my shopping back to my house and then get myself back into town somehow before nightfall.
Oh and my contact details have been updated with address and mobile number. My new UK mobile doesn’t like being here and is refusing to cooperate, but do leave me messages here, or email or text my Namibian mobile if you want to say anything (absolutely anything).

Totsiens!! (afrikaans again!) xxx

Hallo! Hoe gaan dit? September 13, 2006

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Uncategorized, VSO.

View across WindhoekHallo von Namibia!

This is my first in country post, and as you can see, I’m getting down with the Africaans. I have to learn it for my job and had my first lesson yesterday.

This is Day 3 of In-Country-Training, and it has been pretty mindblowing since we arrived.
Leaving wasn’t as traumatic as I was anticipating as I met up with the other UK volunteers at Heathrow, then collected 4 Dutch vols and a Ugandan in Jo’burg airport, and met the final 2 Phillopino and 2 Indian volunteers when we finally arrived in Windhoek on Sunday afternoon, after 20 hours of travelling.

Flying in was rather an experience as the airport is pretty much just a runway in the desert. In the same way, Windhoek is just a (rather Germanic) city in the desert. Surrounded by peaks of desert scrub, there isn’t much around. Although it is very hilly, which means fantastic views all around. What first struck me is how quiet it is. This is the capital city, with wide boulevards criss-crossing the city, but barely any cars. Nighttime is particularly eerie, although it must be one of the few capital cities where you can see the whole Milky Way from the centre. It’s very dry, rather hot (summer is just starting here), quite cool at night. Today I saw a cloud (which is rather an occasion!). Everything is rather clean. You can even drink the tap water.

There are 20 volunteers from all over who have just arrived. We’re living in an apartment near the VSO office. The staff are super and have made us feel so welcome. This week we are covering basic stuff like security, visas, health, and overall background before heading off to our placements this weekend. It’s very laid back, and most of the training is done in the office courtyard under a tree.
Yesterday we were split into groups and dropped off at different parts of the city, with instructions to find certain establishments and find info from certain people. My group went to a primary school, a secondary school, a teacher training college and the Social Security Commission – it was so eye-opening, chatting with staff and students. Everyone here is so friendly and kind, and so happy to talk openly about life in Namibia.

Since I am based here in Windhoek, I just move across to a different hill. I am visiting my new accommodation tomorrow. It’s on the last street of that part of the city, meaning that is backs onto a desert mountain. Apparently it is quite common for baboons, meerkats and impala to come down and play in your garden. I’ll keep you posted on that!
Windhoek is pretty developed for an African city. I met some of the other Windhoek-based volunteers last night, and they have invited me to see the Vagina Monologues on Friday night, which is showing at the National Theatre (only 3 quid a ticket!). They are a terribly friendly bunch. I have friends!!!

Better head back to HQ – my second Africaans lesson starts soon.
Photos will follow, i promise. But it’s not that safe to take your camera out so I’m playing it safe for now.