Quick Update: Luderitz!

I guess there’s no rains down in Africa 

After nearly 9 hours sitting on a cramped bus we arrived in Luderitz! Travis, my travel partner and shadowing host, got us off the bus early so we could walk and I heartily thanked him for it.

Our transport 


And no leg room 

Turns out we were about a mile from his flat and the hike was welcomed.

It was dark when we arrived so I couldn’t see much, but high on a hill, proclaiming its location with somewhat less enthusiasm than Hollywood’s, were large lit letters spelling out ‘LUDERITZ’.


So, I’m here and I’m tired, dirty, hungry, and would pay real American dollars for a decent glass of wine. At least I got to eat, shower, and rest. I’ll find that glass of vino with my name posted above it in lit letters, like Luderitz’s but with a bit more gusto, tomorrow.

Stay tuned


Quick Update: On my way to Luderitz !

I’m heading to Luderitz in a few hours! Because of the distance (685km!) it will take 8-9 hours to get there. I’ll be going by bus and my more experienced travel partner in Travis, the PCV I’m shadowing. 

The Peace Corps put me up in a really nice hostel and I was able to (finally) take a shower and sleep in a comfortable bed. 

Just woke from a great sleep and now need to get ready. 

Stay tuned!


Namibia: Full of It

“The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Namibian Government”

The view from Gross Barmen

This passed week may not have been the busiest week I’ve had in Namibia so far, but it certainly was the fullest. Let’s see…

We kicked off the week hosting a 4-day Small Business Workshop that was so well attended that we literally had standing room only. I was expecting 20, maybe 30 people showing up, to my surprise we had well over 50! And people kept coming!

Better still, the folks we hosted found the information we presented useful according to the feedback we got.

I have to say that though the Peace Corps group I’m in is small by group standards ( there are usually 30 or more volunteers per group, there are only 14 in our group) my teammates are exceptional people! The Peace Corps did an excellent job picking these folks and I count myself extremely lucky to be among them. The presentations I’ve seen and was part of would have been well received anywhere in the world.

The workshop sessions were in the mornings from Monday through Thursday. Our afternoons were fill with language studies and other cultural information sessions. Friday, however, was different. That was the day we ( the trainees) learned our duty assignments.

As you might imagine, the days leading up to Friday was so full of anticipation that it was hard to focus on the job or study at hand, and our trainers seem to enjoy stoking our emotions. The morning sessions on Friday covered the site selection process, which is pretty involved. I knew the Peace Corps provided our housing at our assignment sites, but I didn’t know how much went into it.

When you think about the places that Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) wind up images of mud huts, thatched roofs and dirt floors may come to mind, and there certainly are some of that, but each location is check 5 ways to Sunday for safety, access to clean water and so on. So, a PCV could be living in the aforementioned hut while another PVC in the same country might have more modern accommodations complete with indoor plumbing, electricity and even WiFi!

Every one of the 14 in our group would care less whether we wound up in huts. We are here to help and the best way to understand what is needed is to become part of our environment. That means we must live as the people we are here to serve live. So, for example, if we need to train local women whose families have historically lived off of raising cattle in the nuisances of business management it is better received if we do so by going to where they live, living as they do, understanding their lives in intricate detail before we teach anything.

Back to Assignment Friday. There apparently is a tradition, at least in Peace Corps Namibia, where there is a small ceremony when assignments are revealed and that tradition was carried forward on Friday. The trainees are all blindfolded and stood before a large outline of Namibia. Placards with the names of our assignment sites are placed in the approximate geographical locations within the outline. Then the trainees are all led to their assigned placards and handed an envelope. Blindfolds are removed and everyone learns where they will spend their 2 years of service all at once.

We got our assignments!!!!

It was a lot of fun, and everyone was happy with his or her assignment. I would up Arandis, a small town near the west coast of Namibia built by an Australian mining company in the late 70s to house the uranium miners and their families. I don’t know the details of my job yet, but I do know I’m replacing a PCV who is transitioning out.

In one of the sessions leading up to our assignment ceremony it was stressed that regardless of our assignment description it is actually up to each PCV to define his or her job for the next 2 years, and we are encouraged to take on secondary assignments, especially in areas that may need addressing, but may not be currently getting enough attention. AIDS/HIV awareness is one. Though great strides have been made in controlling the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Southern Africa the disease is still present and spreading. Education is a key tool in reducing the spread of the disease and that is one area the Peace Corps has historically helped.

So, whatever my primary duties are, I will likely take on other projects while in Arandis. I will, of course, write more about this later.

After our assignments were revealed our trainers turned us loose early to allow for some much needed celebration. Many of us wound up at a local sabeen (bar) and had a few beers while chatting about our assignments. It was an exceptional day and evening, and one of the best I’ve had since coming to Namibia.


Today (Saturday) our trainers sponsored a “team building” event at a local spa called Gross Barman. It’s a hot springs made into a resort with cookout spots, pool and other amenities.

We had a blast!

Steaks, chicken, sausage, kabobs and more. We ate and played until we were full of it all. What a great way to end a great week.


Ok, getting tired and need to sleep. This really is an adventure.

Stay tuned.


Namibia: Speaking In Tongues


“The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Namibian Government”

We are halfway there!!

Last Friday (5/12/17) was about the midway point through our training period and it is when the Peace Corps performs interviews to see where the trainees are in their acclamation into the local environment, to assess the trainees’ proficiency in language skills, and to give feedback on areas where the trainers feel the trainees needs to improve upon.

Our trainers not only teach, but watch us for signs of emotional stress or other problems typical of being dropped into a completely different environment.

Site of the Old Home Uprising, an event that led to the fight to end apartheid in Namibia

On the first point I was told that I’m acclimating well, no issues were observed and that they are looking forward to my full integration into the Peace Corps. (In case you are wondering, I am NOT an official Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) yet, I’m a Volunteer Trainee. I must successfully complete the 9 week training course that I’m 5 weeks into and be deemed proficient on a long list of skills and knowledge before I’m actually sworn in. If all goes well I should become a card carrying PCV in early June of this year.)

As for areas where I need improvement, my trainers found none. A relief given that I personally feel there are MANY areas I could improve upon. One of which is my language skills, or rather, my lack of them.

I’ve been told that I’m too hard on myself for not picking up Afrikaans in the three weeks we’ve been exposed and tutored in it. That may be true, but it’s also true that I could be, and should be further along than I am. I think I know why.

One of the many graves at the Old Home Site

When I was younger many things came easy to me. If I needed to know something I could read about it, mess around with it to understand basic principles and concepts and I’d be good. Language, however, was always foreign to me (pun intended). I haven’t been in a learning environment in many years so the combination of my belief that I could just “pick it up” and my long forgotten study habits yielded a less that desired proficiency in my ability to speak Afrikaans.

In short, I was lazy and so my Afrikaans sucks.

Luckily I have time to ‘unsuckify’ my Afrikaans skills and that’s what I intend to do. For the next 4 weeks I will live, breathe, eat, sleep and perform other bodily functions in Afrikaans!

Just so you know, on my midterm Afrikaans test (which wasn’t an official test, but merely an assessment for suggestions on where I needed to improve) I was given a ‘Novice Intermediate ‘ level, which isn’t bad at all and about where I figured I’d land. It means that I am about where my trainers expect me to be at this point. I could have done better had I been better prepared by studying more. I will be much better prepared next time.

I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but next week we will host a Small Business Workshop, which should be fun, but I am very much looking forward to the week after where I’ll venture to Luderitz in southern Namibia. Ocean, wind, stark history, breathtaking beauty… it’s all there and more. I’ll be shadowing Travis, a PCV whom I met earlier during one of our training sessions and appears to be a great guy to hang out with and learn from. I hope to take a boatload of photos there.

One final thought before I end this post: To all of you who are mothers, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day.

Stay tuned,


Namibia: Major Trials and Minor Tribulations

Under African Skies

“The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Namibian Government”

We are entering week 4 of our 9 weeks of training and the two biggest items on our schedule is the Small Business Workshop that’s scheduled for most of next week, and the language test that’s this coming Friday.

We, the trainees, will be hosting the workshop. The presentation we gave to our trainers on various aspects of small business management last week was a dress rehearsal for the workshop, which is open to any small business owner or potential owners. I cohost a talk on business management. Each session is about 1.5 hours long and it can be quite informative.

The training and discussions we had leading up to the preparation for the workshop was much needed because it gave us insight into how tradition and culture affects how Namibians think in terms of business, which is very different than the way Americans do. We take pride in punctuality and credentials while Namibians are more focused on relationships and ability. Timeliness is far less important here especially in social settings where business dealings are often discussed.

Beyond that, Namibian small business owners make the same mistakes or lack the same knowledge that their counterparts in the U.S. might, but with an emphasis on money and time management.

Money management, or rather the lack of it has roots in cultural differences. Here it’s natural, and even expected in some instances, to share. If someone dies, for instance, it affects the whole village and everyone is expected to pitch in to help with the burial and ceremonies. Even if you are no longer living in the village, but you have relatives still there then you’ll need to contribute. These and other incidental financial stresses can and have cause small businesses to fail. It may seem obvious that a budget would help, and it might, but setting one up requires a full understanding of all financial burdens, which are often overlooked because they so integrated into the culture.

I am not the best person to be talking about money management so I’m glad I’m not hosting that particular session.

Time management is yet another culturally rooted issue. Many Namibians have recent histories in a subsistence agricultural environment, a way of living that does not adhere to tight schedules. Seasons change, weather changes and the pace of life ebbs and flows to a slower, more natural rhythm. Business, at least how we in the West sees business, moves at a much faster pace. Schedules are created and become the cadence by which business is conducted. It’s a concept that, while not foreign to Namibians, can be hard to adjust to.

These are just two of the many subtle, but significant challenges we face when dealing with culture in a business environment. What makes it easier is that Namibians, at least the ones I’ve met, are eager to learn, open to help, quick to adjust, and want their endeavors to succeed.

Okahandja’s defunct train station

The lubricant that is supposed to ease our integration into local society are the skills we learn at speaking one of the local languages. While English is the official language and most Namibians can speak it, in social settings one of the many native tongues are used. The most common and most cross cultural besides English is Afrikaans, and that’s what I’m learning. Namibians, like most people in whatever country I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, appreciate an effort in speaking their language. It shows respect and a sincere effort to understand them. That respect can translate into real relationships, and through those relationships one can better understand and address what’s needed. It’s really why we’re here.

As long as the testers aren’t too picky about grammar and pronunciation I think I’ll be ok. I’ll confess to a wee bit of pride, it’s been two weeks a few hours a day for language classes and I can greet and hold a conversation as long as the other person is patient and doesn’t speak too fast. By the time I graduate in five weeks I should have a firm handle on Afrikaans. I’m glad too, I’ve been told that volunteers who are unable to acquire at least a basic understanding of the language they’ve been assigned may be sent home. I’ve also been told that it’s highly unlikely that anyone will get sent home because of poor language skills. Even so, I want to do well.

On a completely different note; I’ve been wearing the same clothes for about 6 weeks now. So, Sunday I bought two shirts. A collard shirt and stylish v-neck tee. I don’t intend to have a large wardrobe ever again, but man should not wear the same shirt more that 3 times before washing it. These additions give my clothes washing schedule some much needed breathing room. Now, if I can just find a decent pair of Levi’s!

And I’m losing weight. I haven’t weighed myself, but my clothes are all baggy. I don’t count this as a problem because I was feeling a bit doughy before I left. That dough is leaving. What I need to do is come up with an exercise routine that doesn’t require covering long distances or the use of weights since I can’t walk when I want to and hand weights are impractical at the moment.

I’ll work on that.

Now that my clothes are ill-fitting I may need to do more clothes shopping, just not here in Okhandja where the choices are not the best. It is a small town and I’m surprised to find what variety I did, but it’s better in Windhoek which is about 40 minutes away. I’ll work on that too.

One last thought: I’m asked a lot about where I’ll go after graduation and what I’ll be doing. As of now I have no idea. I hear rumors that I could go south towards South Africa ( wine country!!) or west towards the Atlantic (beach time!!!) because of my Afrikaans training. There’s even a chance I’ll stay in Windhoek. But I currently don’t know where I’ll ultimately land.

As to what I’ll be doing exactly, I still don’t know. In two weeks I will know, because that’s when shadowing starts. It’s where I follow around the PCV I may be replacing. So, when I know, you’ll know.

That’s it for now. More to come so…

Stay Tuned


Namibia: It’s all part of the Adventure

“The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Namibian Government”

Yesterday the dogs that my hosts family owns ate my jeans.

I wasn’t in them at the time.

To be clear, they chewed a hole about the size of saucer and several smaller holes into my favorite pair of jeans which where hanging outside to dry.

It wasn’t a vicious act, the alpha male actually likes me and I believe he was welcoming me into the family. Dogs don’t speak Afrikaans and can barely manage a hand (paw) shake, but they can chew. So I take it as a small kindness that the pups decided to gnaw while my jeans were on the clothesline and not on my person.

It’s all part of the adventure.

One that same day the bulb in the ceiling light of my room literally exploded when I flipped the light switch on. The lamp is enclosed so no glass shards on my bed to deal with. Another small kindness.

On Saturday I ate goat, chicken, fish, some Mopane worms, sausage, and more in a cultural exchange cookout. It was a lot of fun for the people attending, not for the goat and chickens which were killed, dressed (as in to prepare to cook not as in to wear a tux), seasoned and rendered tasty by several local cooks following traditional recipes. There were side dishes of local collard-like greens, boiled seed that tasted very much like boiled peanuts, and many other foods from Afrikaans, Oshiwambo, and other households. I ate until I couldn’t anymore. ( Yes, I did eat Mopane worms. They’re kind of chewy and have a somewhat nutty flavor.)

What I DIDN’T eat, but are everywhere are large bugs called Armored Crickets or Armored Katydids. These dark red to brown, slow moving insects are about the size of a large walnut with spindly legs and thick, spiked exoskeleton. They eat pretty much any protein they come across including dead Armored Crickets.


Armored Cricket

These bugs are not to be trifled with. When attacked they will squirt a stream of toxic blood at you, or throw up. A weird defense tactic. I supposed upchucking will gross out the attacker, giving it second thoughts about eating the Armored Cricket, as if the spiked shell, blood squirting and a nasty set of mandibles aren’t enough.

Did I mention that they are everywhere?

There’s so much to tell you about and so little time to do it. I’ve already been in-country 3 weeks and I still have so much the learn. Things should slow down in 6 or so weeks.

Stay tuned.