Missent to Bermuda

I don’t know what’s up with USPS but they keep sending my letters and beautiful presents to Bermuda. It’s killing me. Waiting those extra months for Valentine’s Day cards and Christmas candies. It’s so cruel

But enough about my first-world woes.ย  I just hit ONE YEAR! That’s one year of sand storms, cricket invasions and strange holiday decorations. You know you’ve been here that long when:

  • Sunblock is the new lotion.
  • Lotion is the new make-up.
  • Chocolate and cookies actually solves problems.
  • Fast food become theย warp and woof of high cuisine. I could kill for a Domino’s pizza.
  • Frozen water bottles are your new bedmates.
  • You speak of self testicular cancer exams with great ease.
  • You can knowledgeably answer questions revolving around said exams.
  • Saturday is exciting because that’s when you wash your hair.
  • Men in flower-strewn hats is a normal sight.
  • And realizing you’re the only person in the commissary wearing shoes is okay.

Aight, I’m off to work on a few things. If anyone has any great ideas for picture codes on pregnancy, hit me up. I’m creating a book to explain healthy pregnancy using photos that will start up conversations (like a pregnant woman drinking alcohol). It’ll be a great tool to use with memes waiting around to see the nurse and will give them some additional health education. I’m a poor artist but we’ll see what messages we can get across!

Peace, hugs and all the bunny stuff!

 

Hello, World. It’s me, Weight Queen.

Today I weighted some mamas. Literally. I wanted to make some newly pregnant ladies question my existence and so I offered to help with the intake at the ANC clinic. I helped take down histories and basic stats while a nurse stuck ’em with needles. Blood splashed everywhere thanks to some enthusiastic veins so I hollered my questions from across the room. My Afrikaans is still sorely lacking. And numbers seem to be an easy concept to grasp (especially since I have all the personal ‘n medical “lady issues” down). But phone numbers…ugh. ๐Ÿ™‚

But after wandering through the clinic for awhile and scaring small children (apparently my face isn’t as relaxing and joyful as we’ve thought) I jived over to a local school for my 8/9th grade boys’ and girls’ club. And…nada. Classrooms filled with people making up studies. Like GED and summer school rolled into one happy bundle, shoved into airless rooms and stomped into the hottest hours of the afternoon. But my counterpart and life skills teacher are awesome individuals and willing to push buttons and make it happen next week. We can easily hold sessions outside as long as there’s shade. One thing I’ve learned in Namibia is to keep trying cuz results take time. And to always accept cool drink when it’s offered.

You never know when the Cola Factory will explode and people will be rushing to the streets in revolt against life without soda. Serious as in serious.

Also, you meet the coolest of people in the strangest of places.

Okay, short post for the week…month…quarter? I’m all out of photos and have unfortunately lost possession of my camera. So updates are gonna be text from here on out!

Peace out, Home Dawgs (and others who didn’t go to Amazing U of Washington).

โค

Fuzzy-Wuzzy.

Alright, This week’s been pretty good. I got so much done. It’s difficult to make things happen after a long break. I’ve had meeting after meeting all week long. Truly wonderful to feel so busy! I’ve helped getting the ball rolling on a few projects:

  • Restarting the after school boys’ and girls’ club at a local combined school
  • Career Guidance at the local TRC
  • Fitness classes with different ministry employees
  • So. Many. More.

My legs are honestly numb from all of the running around. And not even my sunbrella (an umbrella reserved for the exclusive purpose of fighting the mind-boggling hot sun) nor sunscreen could prevent my feet from getting a nice burn in the shape of my sandals. Oh, classy tans. I have you all over.

But hopefully all of these meetings and sessions and “accidental” run-ins (I may or may not follow people into small and confining break rooms) will come to fruition. I have also giving some career guidance classes with 10th graders. It was…interesting. You never know how well you’ll handle pressure until your given 45 minutes to prepare for 40 kids ages 15-20 years old. It went over extremely well. I ran out of time and they agreed to cut a little into their break to finish. Made me feel like I got them hooked. ๐Ÿ™‚ Next time I’ll also bring my laundry to wash and shoes to shine!

I also tagged along with a social worker to another town. I didn’t contribute much at all to his sessions. Lots of family members plus translators equals one crowded room without adding me to the room. But the SW goes out again next week and I’ll try to get in on the counseling action. Luckily he has everything translated to English so I’m not left out of the aural loop!

In addition to working I finished the entire first season of Star Trek. The one with the man who doesn’t age…what’s his name…(wikipedia…) Patrick Stewart? Steward? I don’t know. But he’s taller than his hair and hasn’t aged since the Enterprise. Is kind of eerie.

Otherwise, that’s all I have to say for this week. Meetings may seem boring and not the blog-worthy event but without meetings you’d have no programs, no programs equals nothing to do but watch people in spandex prance through the universe. Which I whole-heartedly would enjoy doing but then leaving my flat for food would end up being a chore. And the moment food becomes a chore you have something seriously wrong with your life.

Commander out. Energize! (And for my parents and non-cool individuals, that was indeed a Star Trek reference.)

For the Mama

Since I have been informed, razzed, ranted on and shamed at my lack of “Africa” posting…here’s a small one for the Mama-San.

A day in my life is pretty…well, boring. I have a few clubs, a few meets, a meeting, a running-through-the-store (hoping meal-matching items will jump into the cart). I’m pretty sure I’ve broken my schedule down before but reading through my five previous posts is too depressing.

I usually try to get in a bit of “face time” at the clinic or have meetings with different groups (Ministry of Ed, Catholic AIDS Action, etc.), homework help/university application help at the TRC, Literacy club at the library and dance class with the ladies from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare. Once a week I add on the after school club with my 8th grade learners.

Since school is just starting back up things are insanely slow. Kids don’t want to go to class, and hate to stay even later just to hear about picking out careers. But I’ve been filling my time up with different (and hopefully more interactive) topics. Like rights of a youth in Namibia. Plenty of kids are unsure what is required of them, their schools, the government or their parents. It’ll be nice to lay down the law (literally) and see where there’s confusion, what things they worry about and how I can help connect them with any resources they need.

I’m also hoping to expand the club with my counterpart to include 9th grade and reach out to some of the learners at the high school. It’s nice to offer kids things to do on weekends…and who doesn’t want to watch me attempt Zumba!? The TRC staff is amazing and completely interested in supporting learners in developing study skills and reading ability. I have all fingers and toes crossed that we can gather some learners together and get a schedule down.

But to add photos to this thing…

 

On the Road to Luderitz (Kolmanskop) This would be a delightfully creepy house at Kolmaskop. It’s a tiny abandoned mining town that’s been featured all over National Geographic. I didn’t have a permit, so no visiting. But this was taken during my Christmas sojourn into the wilds of Luderitz (a wonderfully developed coastal town with plenty of cafes and cheese).

Ms. Kayec 2012

 

A few of the boys (yup) stole the Ms. Kayec contestants’ outfits and dressed up during the lock-in. I was a judge for the event and lemme tell you, those kids got strut.

Stone Town Rooftops

From the rooftop of our rented house on Zanzibar. Amazing sunsets, gorgeous sunrises and AIR CONDITIONING.

Spice Tour Vanilla Beans
So this is what organic vanilla beans look like…hmm. I’d rather buy that disgusting bottle of artificial flavouring. Mainly ‘cuz money wasn’t meant to be spent on one ingredient but rather the whole dish. And boy do I shell out money for food.

 

Okay. Hope that was enough photos for you, mama. I’ll try to be better at blogging, especially when activities pick back up and I’m flooded with photo ops.

But you know me. I forget the camera every day of my blessed life. ๐Ÿ™‚ Miss everyone (and Sonic Slurpees!)

 

Pink Elephants and Panicking Panthers

I like to hoard things. Small scraps of fabric, pieces of paper…all plastic containers. For the most part my stash comes in handy.You never know when you’ll need to make a scoop out of a milk jug or patch a pair of jeans. But my current craving is postcards and yarn. I LOVE receiving mail. Postcards, letters, emails. BOXES. Everything piece is glorious and I enjoy going over things again…and again. Below is the wonderful collection of postcards that I’ve already collected since living in Namibia.

Wall Postcards

Don’t see one from you?? WELL, SEND ANOTHER! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lost in the Mail Package Label

My mom mailed my Christmas package many a month ago and here it is, middle-late January. It did a slight detour to Bermuda…and Cairo. But it came extra wrapped in awesome packaging slathered with arabic and fun. I kept the tags (of course). In fact, if you’d like to send presents…here’s a list of things I do happy dances to receive:

THINGS TO SEND IZZY

Light Items (Pay per Weight boxes and to fill small crevices!)

  • liquid or powder water flavoring (like peach tea!)
  • seaweed sheets
  • CANDY (I highly recommend things that don’t melt…so…gummy jolly ranchers)
  • photos (printed) are always nice
  • DVDs (especially old ones from the library sales)
  • Seasoning packets (Szechwan chicken, General Tsao’s chicken any asian flavoring, gumbo mix, Ranch dressing)
  • thin rice noodles (vermicelli)
  • Dark chocolate always welcome!
  • Super fine pens (Pigma Micron pens (blue, black, brown) and maybe some nice drawing paper? ๐Ÿ™‚

Heavy Items (so only if you’re getting fancy and sending flat rate or love me enough for the postage):

  • M&Ms (pretzel or peanut!)
  • Gigantic bags from Halloween…shoot, did I miss the window?
  • Dried soba noodles/ramen packets
  • Japanese Curry bricks
  • New York Times Crossword puzzle books!!!!! (I’m on to the last 3 puzzles in my “Tame” edition)

 

But when all things are stamped and sent…I mean SAID and DONE, I love me some postcards. Feel free to add to the wall. I need some pretty pictures of your faces and towns.

My other obsession (well, that we’re discussing) is the yarn. Glorious, delicious, beautiful yarn. I’ve learned to manage without my blocking pads, pins or even the correct size needles. You just take whatcha get. Here’s my ghetto blocking.

Ghetto Blocking Blue Shawl

It’s a slew of needles in my spare mattress. The plastic covering on the mattress is horrible to sleep on in the heat but perfect for drying damp yarn! I’m afraid no pattern + incorrect needles resulted in over-blocking and a sadly scrunched up shawl. Maybe round two will work out nicer.

Blue Shawl Close  up

But we can’t be too demanding. This IS only PoshCorps. Last photo: a few of the attendees for the Practicial Skills (aka CRAFTING!) Workshop that I facilitated with another volunteer in the north.

Craft Workshop

We even made a piรฑata for the office party! It was pretty snazzy.

Pinata!

 

 

Moro!

Finally! I swear, Mom, I’ll post more. Nah, I’m just joking. In my defense, it’s loads easier to send emails than wait the three days for my post to upload. ๐Ÿ™‚

BUT I’ve managed this one, so PRESENT! I’ve traveled a little, hitting up Zambia and Tanzania. GORGEOUS water. Actually, it could have been croc-infested and filled with slimy algae and I’d still swim in it. It wasn’t until I moved to two deserts that I realized how much I love the ocean. Never leaving you, boo.

Image

Here’s a picture on the beaches of Zanzibar. Awesome boats, massive tortoises and plenty of sand. It rained every day and was lovely. I’m returning, if only to get my visa’s worth. Stone Town had an amazing night food market and there was delicious “Zanzibar Pizza.” Press out a smidgen of dough, throw in tons of slaw, some extra veggies and an egg. So blimey delicious. If anyone’s going, I have an awesome contact for cheap accommodations and great tours!

Okay, so I’ve put together a list for future Nam volunteers who care to search the web for what to pack. It’s pretty rough, but I get bored when I run out of dance-party music, so it gets a little wonky towards the end.

Would-a Could-a Packing List
Little room

  • More yarn
  • Wool socks (My mother’s a psychic and sent me some along with a fleece jacket)
  • COLD WEATHER CLOTHING. It snowed in Aus this past winter, so it does get cold in Africa. Prepare.
  • External hard drive
  • TV shows on said hard drive (You say you’ll never watch Princess Mononoke anime? WRONG.)
  • Extra phone battery (only if you’re bringing an UNLOCKED phone)
  • Way more candy. WAY WAY more.
  • Spice packets are fun to receive in the mail but I recommend bring some with you. You never know what special meal you’ll want to cook for your host family!

Lots-a-room

  • America pillow! (Travel with two covers = clean case upon arrival!)
  • Small (aka non-camping) backpack
  • Good cooking utensils, especially if they were already at hand. Why not? They’re definitely items I gave away Stateside that I could have hoarded. This includes a travel knife.
  • Hiking boots (I lucked out and a friend brought mine, otherwise that shipping fee would have been devastating)

What you probably will want to bring but shouldn’t:

  • 29 pairs of socks (only need a few good wool pairs for winter and some for athletic shoes)
  • Waffle iron
  • Deodorant (the roll-on kind is widely available and so much easier to hand wash out!)
  • Mosquito nets, bug repellent, etc. (These are provided at training) **DO bring good sunscreen, 3 months of prescriptions and hoards of contact solution.
  • Industrial strength but still business looking shoes (I’m talking to you, Keens), very nice but I’ve never worn them outside of training and I doubt hiking’s that fashion-forward anywhere.
  • Lotions. Admittedly the bulk of my suitcase was composed of cremes, but I now just use coconut oil for everyday. AND it doubles as conditioner. I do save the good stuff for winter but it’s not needed in Costco size.
  • Batteries. Unless you have loads of battery powered items. In which case, trade them for solar powered or buy re-chargable batteries & charger.
  • Towel (camping or regular) is not necessary. Just turn Namibian before you get here and buy 2.5 meters of fabric, hem and voila! Towel-blanket-sheet-scarf-dress-skirt-sunshade all in one!

Things I should have DONE before leaving:

  • Write down all card numbers and contact information for my parents should something happen to my wallet…or its contents
  • Figure out how to cram a sewing machine into my suitcase
  • Guaranteed that I had music for ALL moods. Mudvayne and Nine Inch Nails make for an interesting dance party.
  • Backed up my laptop.
  • Open a debit card account with my parents for cashing in money gifts and my $22 of income tax return.
  • Buy/try on lots of clothes and leave them with family. My mom can mail me a new skirt that I like (and FIT) for Christmas. Just keep in mind that people tend to change sizes while here. Elastic is a beautiful thing. This also goes for just about anything else. You like a certain tea, yarn or soup packet? Done.
  • If not done already, set up your parents’/friends’ Skype accounts. Or remain stead-fast that Skype doesn’t work on Macs and hide from family.
  • Contacted volunteers already in country. I cyber-stalked the bejeezes out of a few but never asked questions. And now I have a waffle iron sitting empty.

ย 

Alive and Sunburning in Africa!

Not much has happened since my last post. I have managed a nice little sinus infection that’s rapidly helping my ears fill with fluids and turn my body into a boat of ickiness. Lots of drugs and phone hugs are putting me back on the right path. โค

I have unfortunately lost my counterpart for one of the school programs. I’ve been told that Peace Corps is about watching your projects fail and learning from the experience to push out one success. The most skilled volunteer could complete very little without a little elbow grease and a pushy attitude. I’m working on the ‘tude. Slowly working my way into helping out different organizations, and firmly establishing that secretary is not a hat I wear. I’ll teach typing, not do it for them.

…back to the school projects…

Lucky for me, the principal is obsessed with helping out his learners and he chased down (literally!) another teacher for me! We’re starting on a different project but I’ve hoarded all of the HIV club materials and am hoping to unveil them at a later date. I’ll be helping out with Life Skills. Many health and education volunteers work with the program. I am lucky to have drawn a counterpart who wants to focus on the issues concerning at-risk youth. We’re planning self-esteem sessions and I’m thinking hard on ways to encourage learners to support each other to make healthy (and just darn SMART) decisions. Lemme know if you have any ideas. I’ve raided the Peace Corps Volunteer Lounge for material but always feel bad about taking away books. I took some and photocopied others but it’s not the same as a MASSIVE binder. I love the clink of closing three rings. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have also started giving homework help at the local Resource Center. It’s hard to remember what Teacher Otterson was writing on the board in 10th Grade Chemistry but I’m working on it. Pretty terrified for the mathematics the learners are bringing in tomorrow. I know, homework help doesn’t sound like a HIV-related program, so how does that apply to Peace Corps?

Drop-out rate for learners in Namibia is abysmally high. Through after-school programs targeting studies and fun activities, we not only keep kids off the streets (and out of bars), we push them to finish their studies. The multitude of job opportunities only increases as you progress up the grades. Hopefully with enough health material mixed into the program + a better job we can smash HIV prevalence.

I’m rounding up white boards and projectors for all of my projects. Just put a poster on my bedroom wall that reads “PEACE CORPS DREAMS & THINGS.” So far I have a few dreams (can we say craft co-op?) and Zumba classes. The staff at the hospital and another ministry are excited about dancing the weight away. You’d be amazed by what part of other cultures have made it to Southern Africa! There was even a Zumba Day event in the capital earlier this year!

And the fingers twitch.

I’ve always had a dirt brown thumb. Ask anyone. I’ve killed off any plant from aloe vera to a bamboo shoot. Trust me. My best year involved a cactus.

But HERE is my final piece of glory. My back patio is pretty plant-unfriendly. Lots of brick and lack of dirt. But my craft heart still beats so I started hoarding eggs. Okay, speeding ahead before you send me to the asylum. Knocking just the tip off eggs gives the perfect calcium-rich and fiscally sound transplant trays. You just fill each shell with a little dirt and store back on the carton.

I transferred the beauties over once the baby spinach started to sprout and lined ’em up all nice and pretty. Above you can see a comparison “tray” that I’ve made out of cut up water bottles. We looking how the spinach grows with eggshell transplant vs direct planting. I’m not going to say it was for nothing, but about 5 days later the Hitchcock birds living in the rafters of my building snatched each sprout away. Don’t worry. I’ve already decided to build a very elaborate scarecrow/hire a small boy to guard the greens. ๐Ÿ™‚

On a completely different but still whole crazy note: here’s my new obsession. Plastic bag upcyclement. You take the grocery sack and cut it into circles (see the white bit in the bowl?). Link ’em all together and stitch around with you working colour. Alternate wrapping with stitching in the row below. There are plenty more blogs out there that give much more descriptive (and less convoluted) blow-by-blows on this. I’m just too frantic about leaving the weaving unattended. I just keep going with this. I’m actually running low on plastic bags (after pooling resources with other volunteers)!

It’s a great project and I hope to incorporate it with a girls’ club at one of the local schools. Cheap and easy. All you need to purchase are the needles and just have your learners start hoarding…

Oh yeah. My real job. I’ve started the ball rolling on too many projects! I have a breast cancer awareness/screening event in the community (pending Ministry of Health approval), an antenatal care analysis project (hopefully traveling to nearby Aranos to visit another AWESOME volunteer and look at statistic woes), a HIV/AIDS awareness club at a local combined school, career informational sessions at the local Teaching Resource Center (TRC) and (hopefully) a reading/literacy club at the library.

I guess it’s not too bad once you skip past the “planning” stage. I still have (now several) gardens in the works but there’s so much red tape I’ve set them off my official list of projects for now. I’ve settled into my flat and am enjoying getting recognized on the streets. The bakery lady has my order memorized and I plan on living off creme-filled elephant rolls. You know, fluffy goodness made from puff pastry dipped in sugar and rolled like a heart? Yup. She then fills them with creme and dips the ends in chocolate. I’ve literally developed food coma so fast I didn’t have time to lay down.

Amazing.

Still kickin’ it!

I’m alive and kicking (sorry to disappoint). AND there’s yarn here! WHOOT WHOOT! I’ve moved myself into the fantastic town of Mariental located in the southern-ish part of the country. We’re the ostrich capital of Namibia! I’m totally going to hunt one down and go on a Swiss Family Robinson-style ride!

 

Note: Africa gets bone-chilling cold. I’ve already had pairs of wool socks and fleeces sent to me. Who’d a thunk? It’s not too bad, especially compared to this past Seattle winter, but I’ve managed to develop poor(er) circulation in my appendages.

 

Best note of all…MARIENTAL HAS SHEEP! Which means some lovely little lambs are gonna mysteriously develop a condition where the hair follicles break over night resulting in massive amounts of hair loss… and I may just mysteriously get some nice fleeces to spin…

 

Okay, back to work. I’m connected with the Ministry of Health and Social Services. They have a regional office, a hospital AND a clinic in town. I’ll hopefully be working with teaching ANC classes and throwing some dirt around in a garden. TB and HIV+ patients on medications need a balanced diet to have the most effective treatment. This is where I can step in a teach small gardening classes and help build a community garden. We’re still EARLY EARLY on in the whole process (only been here a month) but life is movin’!

 

Send me letters and love!

 

โค Izzy

and izzy picked up.

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