I am in the Secondary Education group of the Peace Corps in Namibia

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By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 01, 2001 - 4:15 pm: Edit Post

Elizabeth, or "Aniros" as she is known in Namibia



I am in the Secondary Education group of the Peace Corps in Namibia.

During my first school holiday, I toured the surrounding villages with my neighbor, Gaseb, and a man from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. We drove around the Erongo region in one of the Ministry's large Chevy backie (truck) to recruit young unemployed Namibians for a Ministry sponsored environmental work camp. The purpose of the camp was to teach them trades while building environmentally friendly rest camps for tourists. The roads between the villages we visited were all dirt roads, which occasionally crossed a dry riverbed. Now, most riverbeds are small enough that they don't cause a problem when driving across them. However, the large dry riverbed of the Khan, or King, River has always presented a challenge during my travels. Every time I've tried to cross the Khan, it was either a raging river or a sandy backie trap. My backies have always gotten stuck when we try to cross the sand of the Khan riverbed. This tour was no different! When we crossed, the loose sand sucked in the tires and no matter how much we pushed or dug-out, the Chevy would not move!

After spending two hours trying to free the vehicle, Gaseb left, running across the desert in search of help. I spent several hours waiting on the riverbank, sweating under an Acacia tree and listening to Baboon calls. Gaseb finally made it back...with an 80-year-old man and his donkey cart! We hooked the truck up to the donkey cart with a rope. The men thought that it would be better if they pushed and I drove the donkey cart forward. Little did they know I had NO idea how to do this! They tried to teach me to use a donkey whip, but it hit me more often than it ever touched the donkeys. In the end, the cart didn't help at all. The poor donkeys could never have moved that Chevy tank. We all spent another 8+ hours sitting on the dry bank of the Khan River. Later that night a tourist in a 4x4 stopped and was able to pull our backie out. I had plenty of time while we were waiting to practice driving a donkey cart. A skill I know will be a big plus on a resume.

A Note from Ian:

Ian and I are very lucky in that the majority of our co-workers are our age. We get together often since our closest teacher friends live next door to us. The following story is a piece that Ian's written about our neighbor, Gaseb. By far, his is the most interesting character in our circle of friends! Enjoy.

In the immortal words of Vonnegut, "Listen"

Listen: Gaseb and I are playing chess. Gaseb is my neighbor. He could be anywhere between twenty-five and thirty-two. He has one of those faces that defy time. His features were set and finished in his teens and modulate only in the most trivial ways. Maybe he has a beard, maybe he shaves, etc. We are sitting on my back porch at dusk. As we play the pieces are slowly enveloped by shadows. We are drinking tea. Gaseb puts a lot of sugar in his tea. All Namibians put too much sugar in their tea. It fills half the cup. In the staff room we can go through half a pound of sugar in a day. That's just for tea. We play chess in spurts and fits. Sometimes we will play five games in a day. Then we will not play for months."I am in retirement", Gaseb will say. "I have retired. ReTIRED." He will say the words like that, grotesquely emphasizing the first or second syllable. I play well against Gaseb. Most of the time I win. If I play a good clean game and promise myself to use nothing from the chess book I leaf through in the bathroom, I do fine. If I take chances, I tend to lose. That's how Namibians say "causing trouble": taking chances. Today I am taking chances. I am opening on my second move with the King's bishop. This might mean nothing to you. It also means nothing to me. It is something I read in a book while sitting on the toilet. This is why it fails miserably. Within minutes I am loosing. Soon afterwards I have lost."Aaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaa!" Gaseb yells, his throaty long hysteric laugh. He stands up and walks across the sandbox that is our back yard, ducking under the clothesline and stepping over the disheveled gate, which separates our two homes, laughing all the way--the same long throaty laugh. Like a scream. At his door he turns around, "I'm waiting for you." I pretend to ignore him. "Buruxa, do you hear me? I am WAITing for you aaaaaaaaaahahahahaaaaaaaaa!"Then he disappears into his house. These fits of Gaseb's make the losing worthwhile. Far more entertaining than his losing fits, which are still humorous. It has gotten to where I enjoy winning and losing equally. That's the way life is going these days.

It can't help but be fun. Even when itís miserable."

More About Elizabeth, or "Aniros" as she is known in Namibia

Latest News on Elizabeth's Travels in Africa

I am in the Secondary Education group of the Peace Corps. My service began in October of 1999 and will finish this December of 2001. I teach Physical Science to grades 8-10. Unlike the United States, Namibia's education system combines Chemistry and Physics into one class called Physical Science and it is taught for three years. My school's name is Petrus !Ganeb Secondary School (PGSS) and it is in Uis, Namibia in Southern Africa. I have one other Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) at my site. His name is Ian MacDonald and we both work at the school together. He teaches English.

The house that Ian and I share is not what I expected when I joined the Peace Corps. It is a three-bedroom cement house with a galvanized iron roof. The house is just across the dirt road from the school. We have electricity and water (most of the time), a stove and a refrigerator. We were each given Peace Corps Medical mosquito nets to sleep under. Mosquitoes can spread Malaria, but for the most part, because Uis is so dry there are no mosquitoes around. There's barely enough rain to keep the grass growing in the veld.

Uis is in the Erongo region, formerly Damaraland during apartheid. The majority of the people in our town are Damara and speak Damara (a tonal language with four different clicks) or Afrikaans. Ian and I received language training on Damara for 3 months before we arrived in Uis. My Damara name was given to me by a co-worker and close friend. He decided that I was going to be "Aniros" which means "little bird." Just about everyone in the location of Uis calls me by this name, including the staff at PGSS. As far as my Damara skills go, I can only say the basic greetings and basic survival sentences like "I'm hungry", "I'm thirsty, please can I have some water" and "Please call the doctor, I am sick." Ian and I have just started teaching ourselves Afrikaans, which is much easier to learn since the structure is like English in many ways. You can also hear Otjiwambo and Otjiherero languages in Uis from time to time.

I am also the advisor of the Environmental Club at PGSS. There are 20 kids who come every Tuesday to learn about the Namibian wildlife and environmental issues. Last year, we made a trip to Brandburg Mountain to see the desert elephants and to visit the "White Lady" , a popular tourist stop where ancient rock art can be seen. We've also started a recycling project since there's no trash pick up in the location of Uis. Some of the learners in the club have learned enough about nature, the environment, and wildlife to get them started in a career as a tour guide.

EXTRA NOTE TO READERS:

Here's a guide to common Namibian vocabulary:

Learners = students

Backies = trucks

Combies = vans

Braii = BBQ

Veld = the vast open fields of savanna grass and bushes

Is it = common phrase used as a response to most any statement (like hmmmm)

I grew up in South Minneapolis and graduated from Southwest High School in 1994. I studied at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. In 1999, I received my BS in Mechanical Engineering. I also have a minor in Spanish.

Since October of í99, Iíve been in Namibia working as a Physical Science teacher for Petrus !Ganeb Secondary School. I teach grades 8, 9 and 10. About 375 ďlearnersĒ in all.

Namibia gained itís independence in March 21, 1990. There are about 1500 people living near the school where all black Namibians were forced to live during the Apartheid system under South African rule. About 500 live in town about 6 km down the paved road (the only paved road within 120 km).

The Peace Corps

During my trip to Central America (í92), I started to really see the LARGE differences between the haveís and have notís. Seeing so many people living in tin shacks along the mountain roads, knowing how blessed I was with a comfortable home in the US, I realized how much injustice there is in the world. I wanted to change that. In joining the Peace Corps, I was able share with others the education that Iíve been lucky enough to receive.

Given my technical background, Peace Corps told me that I was able to join their secondary education section. I had a choice of Africa or the Philippines. I choose Africa and they told me that Namibia was the country. My first response was ďNa-where?Ē. So, donít feel bad if you donít know the country. Very few Americans do. So, I looked on the map, figured that the country was probably going to be a warm place and agreed! Boy, is it warm!

U.S. Peace Corps:

http://www.peacecorps.gov/rpcv/career/index.html

Hobbies:

I LOVE TRAVELING! Before the Peace Corps, Iíve been to Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Ecuador, Venezuela, Spain, Ireland and a bit of Germany. Other interests are volunteering, roller blading and water-skiing.

By Anonymous (68-235-136-238.atlsfl.adelphia.net - 68.235.136.238) on Sunday, September 04, 2005 - 1:04 pm: Edit Post

I love this woman


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