Another Memorable Hiking Experience!

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Hitch hiking is a way of life in Namibia and many parts of southern Africa. It is a very safe way to travel as it serves all parties involved. Car owners benefit from extra cash for petrol by taking in as many passengers as possible and village folk get easily accessible ‘public’ transportation. Generally, there are set fees to go between towns/villages and you pay when you arrive at your destination. The main difficulties with hiking is the unpredictable condition of the car, and never knowing how many people they are going to jam in or how long a trip will take. It definitely requires PATIENCE and a lot of deep breathing! It is very common to have a baby or a chicken on your lap, be jammed in the back of a pickup truck with 10 other people (often not-so-nice smelling!), stop at the side of the road every 20km because one passenger has to go to the bathroom or wants to buy onions from the roadside stand. Anything goes really! And the beauty of it is that no one complains or gets frustrated.

So, Friday was another memorable hiking experience for me – thought I would share it detail. I had plans to go to Amy’s for a Friday pizza night and sleep over. Bunya is about 80 km away from my house and can be easily hiked. I got to the road around 3pm and while waiting for cars to pass, I met a teacher from the local high school who was hiking in the same direction. We flagged down the next car, and it happened to be Mr. Denis, a teacher from my school, in his rickety old VW Golf, that was making the most atrocious noise. Seeing him under the hood of his car on a daily basis at school should have told me not to wait for the next car but the other teacher faithfully jumped in, so I did too.

After stopping to pick up his girl friend, grab some ‘cool drinks’, and to chat with a friend at the roadside the car needed a push to get started again. Once we had gone about 20kms, the car started smoking inside and out. Mr. Denis pulled over, all the while apologizing to me for making me late, and popped the hood. While I was looking at my watch and wondering if it would be rude to grab my bag and flag down another hike before it got dark, the others in the car were eager to help fix the problem. Within 10 minutes, there were 5 or 6 passerby’s helping out, a can of oil exchanged, and lots of joking around. Unfortunately, after a couple more tries, Denis decided to leave the car and hike to town.

So, all 5 of us waited at the side of the road for another hike. While waiting, a bunch of kids came over and an older lady to see the ‘sirumbu’ (white thing), a couple men came to chat with the others and we were invited to a hut for beer. No one complained or stressed. One of the men that was in the car before I got in was in a rush (I use the word rush very loosely here!) to get to town to buy medicine for his animals that were dying – yet he had a smile on his face the whole time – and was more concerned about me missing my pizza dinner! 

The group let me jump in the first car available and although it was already a full car, I squeezed in. While the Zambian reggae music blared and my face was shoved into an old man’s smelly armpit, I realized that this was the Africa that I had imagined.

I definitely don’t love hiking but  it provides a great opportunity to interact with locals. Most Namibians are more than happy to give up their seat in the front for me, want to chat about why I am here and how I am liking their country and then of course, want to know if I will marry them, their brother or their uncle!

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Challenge and Change

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It’s been a bit of a rough week…

When I returned to work on Monday morning, I was surprised to see that the school had hired a Namibian math teacher to teach my classes. Needless to say, I was in shock. While I know this is best for the school in the long term (as they have been looking for a permanent math teacher for years), I was disappointed in the way it was communicated to me and the lack of alternative plan for me. I was brought here because there was a need for a math teacher. That was a huge motivator for me and kept me going when things got tough. Now that the need is no longer there, what do I do?

After negotiating with the principal, it looks like I will continue to teach my grade 8 classes and will take on a ‘management and administrative role’ the rest of my time. I am not sure exactly what this will be but I have proposed that I be a support to the math and English department – help implementing more creative lesson plans, team teaching, looking for new resources and supporting the students. While it sounds ideal, this will take a lot of initiative and discipline on my part and I don’t know if I have the motivation to be successful in the role.

I also returned to find out that the previous weekend, one of my grade nine students was arrested for robbery of a local bar. He and his gang broke into the bar owners house, tied him and his girlfriend up, stole the key for the bar and raided the bar of its stereo equipment, jukebox and cash. Then, they returned to the bar owners house to take turns raping the girlfriend. To make the story even worse, the girlfriend is one of my favorite grade ten students. She is an absolute sweetheart and now I can’t stop thinking about it or her. She finally came to school on Friday and she didn’t even look like herself. Sure, we have crime at home – but we rarely know the faces of the criminals or the victims.

Lastly, I am having a lot of trouble dealing with the boredom. After such a jam-packed, exciting vacation, I am going crazy with NOTHINGNESS! Weekends are the worst. Getting up at 5:30am during the week makes sleeping in impossible so by 11am today I had done my laundry, baked bread, gone for a walk and done the school’s typing. Then what??? Watched a movie, one episode of Dexter, took a nap, finished the novel, Room, and typed this blog post. Do you think 6pm is too early to go to bed???

Back to Village Life

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I arrived back in northern Namibia today after three wonderful weeks of vacation. It was awful to see Kayla off – especially when one of the last things she sobbed was “Just come home!”. And yes, a big part of me wanted to be boarding that plane with her, but I know that I have lots of work left to do here before I leave.

For those of you who won’t get a chance to see Kay’s photos anytime soon, I thought I would post a bunch more photos of the vacation…

Dune 45 - On our way to climb it!

At the top!

Our camp - so cool!

Breakfast in the desert

Sesriem Canyon

And now, back to village life…. I am very proud of myself though, for surviving my first kombi experience yesterday. A kombi is a rickety minibus that informally goes from one town to another without any schedule. It is the cheapest way to travel over long distances and is the method most locals use. So, I decided to give it a try to go from Windhoek to Rundu yesterday. While I had heard a lot of negative comments and warnings about taking one (mainly because they take so long to fill up and don’t leave until they do, they jam in more people than there are seats, they stop very regularly, drive very slowly and can be in very poor condition), I had a relatively good experience. I arrived at the pickup point at 8am and the kombi left by 9am. Although it had more people than it should and I was uncomfortably squished the entire time, we arrived in Rundu by 5pm.

I was nervous about entering the house after it being empty for three weeks, especially because we had an attempted break in a couple weeks ago (I wasn’t here, but Bev, my roommate, was). The house was in perfect condition except for a new infestation. At the front door, in the little foyer area, the ceiling and upper walls are covered in wasps. I flagged down one of my students who was passing by and asked him to have a look but when he saw what they were, he wouldn’t come near the house. Apparently, these wasps tend to swarm you and are rather deadly! Yay! From cockroaches to wasps! So, Bev and I are trapped in the house until someone comes to spray the area tomorrow evening. Guess it is going to be a lazy Sunday!

Tips for Road Trips in the Namib Desert

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After spending the last three days in the Namib Desert, we had some useful tips we wanted to share with you:

  1. DO NOT assume that all highways are paved roads.
  2. DO NOT expect to go faster than 40 km/hr – which means a 300 km journey will take 7.5 hrs!
  3. DO NOT be surprised when a river intersects the highway.
  4. DO know how to change a tire – just in case!
  5. DO wear a sports bra (as it is a very bumpy drive J)
  6. DO bring a roll of toilet paper for road side bathroom stops.
  7. DO bring lots of munchies.
  8. DO bring a fully charged cell phone (although it doesn’t really matter, as there is no service).
  9. DO bring a fully charged ipod with HOURS of music selection.
  10. DO NOT expect to see road signs, kilometer markings or ANY other cars or people.
  11. DO secure hubcaps before your trip.
  12. DO bring extra clothes and rain boots in case you need to push your car out of mud.
  13. DO NOT stop laughing!  What else can you do in the middle of no where???

And most importantly, (information that would have been nice YESTERDAY)… DO NOT attempt the trip in a compact car (like a white Nissan Tilda)…4X4 only!

Yes, this is the road!

Sweet Swakop

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We arrived in Swakopmund this afternoon and found out that we have free internet so we thought we’d post a couple more photos.  During the 7hr drive here we watched the landscape turn from lush green to dry and arid and then out of no where, the Atlantic appeared.  It definitely doesn’t feel like Namibia here – gorgeous beach, cute little guesthouse and palm trees.

Our cottage in the 'Secret Garden'

We had a yummy seafood dinner tonight at The Tug on the water.  We ate calamari, kingklip, prawns, mussels, vegetables, appetizer and wine – all for $45 CDN!  The wine is cheaper than diet coke – $2 for an 8oz glass of decent sauvignon blanc.  Kay is drunk all the time LOL!

Time Is Passing TOO Quickly!

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Kay has been here a week and we have been having a blast. Our time in Cape Town flew by and we arrived in Namibia yesterday morning. Cape Town was unforgettable. We agreed that it is the nicest city we have ever seen. Very clean, very friendly, and walkable – great restaurants, wine and shopping- sunshine, oceans, mountains, animals – HEAVEN!

While Robben Island was a little disappointing (maybe because we were both drugged on Gravol to avoid sea sickness on the boat trip!), the rest was better than we expected. We spent hours walking along the waterfront, shopping, and sitting in cafes.  We took a peninsula bus tour one day that brought us along the Atlantic and Indian Oceans where we saw penguins, seals, dolphins and baboons. The baboons are a problem in Cape Town as they hang around the tourist sites and steal food. We saw one grab the lunch right out of a little girl’s hand and then try to grab a bag of chips from a little boy!

Cape Point - where the two oceans meet

After 2 days of driving (22 hr bus ride and 6 hr car ride) we made it to Etosha National Park yesterday and checked into our lodge in the park. The weather is beautiful here and the lodge feels like a resort – very relaxing. We got up at 5am this morning for our safari and it was more than worth it. Within 10 minutes of leaving the lodge we saw a roaming male lion 10 feet from the Jeep. We were freaking out! That was followed by herds of springbok, zebra, wildabeast, oryx, and a black rhino. And then on the way back, we saw two more lions – male and female, just lounging in the grass by the side of the gravel road.

Black Rhino!

JACKPOT!

DOUBLE JACKPOT!

Tomorrow we are off to Swakopmund, the Namibian town on the Atlantic Ocean, for three days. Hope the weather stays nice so we can get in some beach time…Kay is on a mission to return with a little bit of African colour!