Tuesday, March 28, 2006

No News is Good News

It seems Namibia (and most of Africa, I suppose) is experiencing a bit of an energy/water crisis. The heavy rains we’ve been having have caused destructive flooding in many towns and villages which, I’ve been told, has contaminated many water sources and tampered with many people’s electricity. Though the water in Omaruru appears to be okay to drink when it is working (Omaruru water is actually the water that is bottled and sold in stores in Namibia), the electricity in town has been inconsistent as of late, making daily routine for those of us who have been blessed with a life of lights and power outlets a bit of a learning process. Needless to say, finding an internet connection has been that much more difficult, hence the lack of blog activity. I hear the rainy season will near its end come May, so hopefully I will be able to stay more connected. We shall see.

I had a surprise visit from my friendly Associate Peace Corps Director (APCD) Waldo a few weeks ago. It was, of course, great to see him (Waldo is a pretty upbeat guy), but I was most excited about all the mail he delivered! For reasons unbeknownst to me and everyone else, it seems that sometimes the mail-gods smile upon me, and other times they keep my letters and packages for themselves (I’ve also sent out a few letters that I don’t think have reached their final destinations either…who knows). Apparently some of my mail had been routed through the Windhoek PC office and had been sitting there for weeks. But Waldo’s recent delivery made up for it, and I received an outpouring of positive energy from the states. So, many thanks go out to my mom, Cindy, Sam, Josh, Mark, Megan, Uncles Tim, Paul, and Dan, Grandma Gokey, Timmy, Ann, Kelly, Patrick, Danny, Molly, and John and Debbie Verity for thinking of me. You are appreciated:)

Thanks also to those who have emailed or commented on my blog. I think the semi-frequent activity on the blog may have fooled some of you into thinking I have this unbelievable internet connection that allows me to update as often as I choose to, which is not the case. Usually, I type up my entries on my computer at work during my lunch hour, and then save them to a floppy disk. When Omaruru has power I do get online, I send 3 or 4 different entries to my brother in an email and he posts them sporadically on the blog over the course of a week or two. So, if you’re feeling neglected because I haven’t responded to you, please don’t; I can probably count on two hands the number of personal emails I’ve written since being here. But know that, at one point or another, I did read yours and it did brighten my day:)

So, let's see, updates from Ruru. A few weekends ago, my roommate Wendy, our friend Rachel, four Grade 12 learners from the hostel and I climbed the Omaruru Mountain (I believe there’s a pic in my power point slides). Though not a strange activity for my roommate and me, this was uncharted territory for our fellow hikers which definitely made for a memorable day.

We started out at 5:30am so as to avoid as much of the afternoon heat as possible. The kids had come over the night before to make “fat cakes,” a traditional Namibian bread sort of like a donut, which we had for breakfast with tea before heading out. The base of the mountain is about 5km from the school so by the time we arrived, the early morning stars had receded and the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. These kids had never done anything like this before, and they were unable to hide the apprehension they were feeling as we stood at the base. “It looks really high... won’t we fall off?” little Wendy, one of the learners, asked. I reassured her that we would take it slow and see how we felt once we got higher.

When I told my Namibian friends I was going hiking on Saturday morning, they were confused. As I explained previously, “hiking” refers to hitchhiking; very few people really hike mountains in Namibia. Perhaps because of this, the mountain has no trails to follow-- you pretty much just go up. As I was walking along and chatting with Joseph, another learner, I happened to glance down at his feet and, to my horror, saw that he was wearing flip flops! The early morning departure must have made me a little delusional because it completely slipped my mind to check the kids’ footwear. “Joseph!” I yelled, “You’re going to tear up your feet!” “It’s okay, miss,” he replied, laughing a bit. “I will wear them as far as I can and then I will carry them if they get in the way.” Granted, most young people here go without shoes and have developed a sort of leathery second skin on the bottoms of their feet, but this was not typical, sandy, friendly Namibian terrain. I checked the rest of the kids’ shoes, found that they were at least close toed and close healed and made Joseph promise to tell me if his feet started hurting.

As we began to move upwards, we were greeted by the screams of a rather large family of monkeys, who were no doubt confused as to who these strange creatures invading their home were. The kids assured us that the monkeys were harmless and would run away from us, and sure enough, the higher we got, the higher the monkeys went to move away from us until they had reached the top and moved to the other side.

The hike was difficult. The recent rains had made the mountain incredibly overgrown to the point where even if there had been a trail it would have disappeared underneath the foliage. The two boys who had shoes, Gabriel and Stephanus, decided that the best route for them was the most direct route, and they more or less ran straight up the mountain while the rest of us used a sort of switchback ascent and struggled to pull ourselves up and over the huge boulders and prickly bushes. We moved slowly, following a pattern of step, stop, look, step, and often tripping and falling over the hidden rocks and thick grass. The last time I hiked the mountain was in December after months without rain and though still difficult, the sandy terrain had allowed me to wear my Chacos without any problems. This time, the prickly bushes and trees that had taken over the mountain left my feet bleeding and my pants ripped, exposing my scraped up knees and legs. However, since Joseph was wearing shorts and at this point carrying his shoes, I kept quiet.

Overall, it was an excellent day. We reached the top and the kids ran around taking pictures with my camera and shouting to hear their voices echo in the valley below. The monkeys continued to torment us once at the top which made for some amusing exchanges. We finished off the last of the fat cakes and after a good rest we began our descent. The way down was done mostly on our bottoms and we reached the base at just before 11am, about a 4 hour hike. It was impossible not to see how proud these kids were of what they had just accomplished; though exhausted, they were loving life. “My father will never believe this,” little Wendy said to me as we walked home. “You’ve done more this morning than the rest of the kids at the hostel will probably do all day long,” I said. “All year long!” she corrected me.

I’ve been trying, to no avail, to find an easier way for me to post pictures besides burning them to a CD and sending them home. Hopefully we’ll figure something out soon, but for now, you will just have to trust me... the pictures are great.

(note from Nolan: I held this entry up for a while, so that Cait could get the photos to me, but we've been unable to do it digitally. If the entry seems a little old, that is why. So, she'll snail-mail me a CD with the photos on it, and I'll throw them on the blog when it arrives.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Blog readers:
Caitlin has asked me to gather gently used running shoes, which the La Crosse running club will help collect and she's asked me to secure 45 used copies of Things Fall Apart by Achebe. These will be used in the classrooms where she works with Namibian teachers.

If blog readers want to help purchase books or pay for shipping books and shoes, it would be great if you could send me any contributions toward this effort. I will send a box to Namibia sometime next month.

All your support and good wishes for Caitlin's work are greatly appreciated. Thank you and many blessings.

6:36 PM  

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