Etosha

What a weekend!

Thursday the 21st of March is Namibia’s independence day and we decided to celebrate in style.

Abby and I excitedly jumped in the back of a bakkie for our 3 hour drive. For the first time we were the only ones sharing the ride, what a luxury! We lay down, stretched out and listened to music.

Once we arrived at Otjiwarongo we settled in to our Hotel for the night, another luxury, we used the air conditioner the entire night! Amazing!

The next day Abigail and Danny picked us up and the 4 of us headed to Ryan’s humble abode in Ombika, right at the beginning of the Etosha National Park.

The 5 of us were reunited! Having only known these people for a few months it is crazy how close we’ve all become, it felt great being together again! We headed in to the location to meet some of Ryan’s local friends. They were very accommodating and celebrating independence day in style, with drinks and a braii. Yum! Our motto for the weekend quickly became “everything works out” as well as another one that is a little too inappropriate for this forum.

Then we went back to Ryan’s to enjoy some more time together and an amazing few of the full moon from the roof (we were later informed people can be considered witches when they go on roofs, woops.)

The next day we got up bright and early (and a little seedy), jumped back in the car and headed into the park. It didn’t take long before we began seeing giraffes, kudo, springbok, hyenas, lions, elephants, wilderbeasts, zebras and everything in-between.

To say it was amazing is a huge understatement. This is an experience that I really cannot describe and will never forgot. Seeing animals in the wild, interacting at the water holes just blew my mind.

There was one moment when we saw a herd of elephants that we forgot where we were and jumped out of the car to get pictures. We were promptly reminded by tourists nearby to get back in the car, they convinced us by pointing out a hyena a few metres away.

That evening we enjoyed a huge buffet at camp Namutoni in the heart of the park. We booked a campsite and a room. In the spirit of luxury we socialised at the campsite and slept in the room, air conditioner blowing all night.

The following day we went back through the park and came across my now favourite watering hole, Chudop. It was packed with every different kind of animal, we sat there in awe for at least an hour. The animals became a little skittish (particularly the giraffes) so we looked around and saw a hyena slowly walking towards the watering hole. The other animals backed off, but didn’t leave. The hyena sat himself in the water, covered himself in mud and enjoyed a dip, not going near a single animal. He eventually left and came back about 10 minutes later with his friend. Again, the animals backed off and again the hyenas simply wanted a dip in the water. This was an experience of a life time.

That evening we watched the sunset over the mountain and enjoyed cocktails on the balcony of the lodge.

This may sound a little corny, but I am so grateful that my life has taken me here and that I’ve been able to meet these 5 truly amazing people along the way.

Abby, Abigail, Ryan, Danny, Thad 💙

Kids quotes.

Okay so I need to keep up with this blog better, it feels like so much has happened! So I will keep it simple this week and just share some of my favourite quotes from the week and my favourite story.

Quotes

“Miss Katie you should wear makeup, all ladies must wear makeup to look pretty.”

“Are there any black people in Australia Miss Katie?” – Yes there sure are, the first Australian’s are black people. “Ohhhh and then they turned white?!” – No they are still black. We then googled Indigenous Australian’s.

“Miss Katie, what is the big, fat teacher’s name?” She said this and acted out what a fat person looks like.

“Miss Katie you are inbetween fat and skinny.”

“Thank you for not beating us.”

After I yawned in class. “Miss Katie do all white people get black and red under their eyes when they are tired?”

“Miss, your hair feels like a dolls hair.”

“What is in your nose?” – A nose ring, like an earring but for your nose. “God will punish you.”

When I was eating an ice treat. “Miss, white people don’t eat ice. They all eat ice cream.”

“Miss you are my Mother. I want to be your daughter.”

“Have you cut your hair, why are some bits smaller?”

“Miss, is it true koala bears kidnap people?”

Story

Abby and I went to Swakopmund for the weekend and decided to treat ourselves by staying in a Hotel (hot showers, wow). We were leaving on Sunday and asked the reception if we could leave our bags until we were picked up at 3. While we were out for the day the driver called and said he would be later than expected, around 5. So we wandered back to the Hotel at about 5. “Oh we are so glad you are back! We were worried, we called the police.” I am constantly surprised by how lovely and caring the people here are!

These beautiful children make me laugh every single day, I am so lucky to be here!

Sunday.

Woke up this morning to the sound of rain! Granted, it only lasted a little while and it’s now back to a cool 36°C.

Walking through town.

But, while it was cooler Abby and I decided to go for a wander and explore our new town a bit more, mainly in search of food. As usual, all the children came out to wave at us, which is personally my favourite thing about walking in town! Turns out, everything is closed on Sundays and by now we were starving. So we called the town taxi driver to take us to our favourite tourist lodge on the other sound of town. Unfortunately the town taxi driver (yes there is only 1) was “at the farm”. So we called the back-up taxi driver, who is not really a taxi driver but will drive us if we call (and pay).

So we greeted the usual patrons and wait staff, ate our usual meals and we were ready to head home. Fortunately our driver stayed at the lodge and waited for us, unfortunately, he had an agenda.

Our favourite place.

Now, Abby and I are always very careful about who we give our numbers to and we made sure to call this particular driver from Abby’s number only because he was quite interested in Australia. Now once we got in the car he immediately asked Abby “tell me what can I do to be with Katie?” I immediately felt awkward. He kept going on like this for the next few minutes (whilst driving extremely slowly) as we reminded him that he has a wife and two children at home. We lied and said we had boyfriends at home, though none of this deterred him. At one point he told me we should go into a room, lock the door and “work out a solution that makes us both happy”. He even tried to convince me that he truly loves me by saying “that even though Abby is more beautiful my heart wants you”. Thank goodness we were at Abby’s house by now because there was only so many more times I could say no to this man, and in all honesty I was starting to feel uncomfortable and slowly reaching for the pepper spray. We went into Abby’s, locked the door and had a drink (the Australian way to calm down).

After our drink we walked back to my house to put some movies on Abby’s hard drive. I turned the tap on to wash out my bucket and the tap fell off, spraying water everywhere! I gave a bit of a yelp and Abby came out to help. We desperately tried to both stop the water and put the tap back together, to no avail. By this stage we are both saturated, along with the windows and floor. I finally figured out how to shut off the water and so far this story ends with that, going to be a shower-free few days by the looks of it! Hopefully the school handyman can fix taps.

Oh. One more thing. A few people have been asking why I haven’t been sunburnt yet (fair question to ask a freckled, red-head). Well, yes I do slather sunscreen on everyday. But also, and more hilariously, everytime I step into the sun, either a student or teacher will remind me that I will turn black if I stand in the sun and then push me back into the shade. Bless 😆.

The Valentines Day assembly, and one of the events when I was ushered back under the shade.

Update:

I forgot we had no water and just went to the toilet, woops. Learning new things every day.

Almost famous.

While my time here in Africa has been amazing, I thought I would take the time to share a struggle I have had, because we all know social media rarely shows the difficulties, but that they are apart or life, no matter where in the world you are.

Uis has a population of about 3500 people and ALL of them know something about me. Privacy is non-existent here and I must say I do not envy actual famous people!

Abby and I were walking down the street to a shop last week (about 1km), and it genuinely took us hours! Every second person came out of their houses to greet us and have a chat, we are known as “the new white teachers in town”. Next time we will have to take water and snacks for the journey!

When we finally got to the shop I was waiting in line to pay when I heard people speaking KhoeKhoe behind me. Now I have only picked up a few words here and there, but some words don’t change, one of them being “Australian”. I turned around and smiled because I know they are not being rude, just curious. This has been a frequent occurrence in the past week, I will often here my name, white lady or Australian in random sentences and know they are speaking about me.

On Wednesday I travelled to the bank in Omaruru. After coming out of the bank I was stopped by a group of people and asked if I was the new teacher in Uis. Omaruru is 1.5 hours away from Uis!!

The other thing about Uis people is they are very concerned about my “private life” and I use that term very loosely here. I stayed out until 9pm last Friday night (scandalous, I know) and the next day was asked by multiple people why I was out “so late”.

The on Tuesday evening Abby and I went for dinner at the Brandberg lodge, the following day I was asked by teachers AND learners what I had for dinner at the lodge, how did I get there, how did I get home and what time I got home. I have to hold back laughter every time I am questioned about my activities, it feels like I am 15 again and have a curfew.

The learners always know when I am doing my washing (yes I live in the school playground) but there doesn’t seem to be people watching as I wash my clothes. I am also not allowed to hang my underwear on the line, in case men see it. Yes, seriously.

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Getting ready to wash. 

It is a very unusual feeling knowing that a whole village is watching you. During orientation we were told to enjoy it but I am finding that somewhat hard. I like to think of myself as an independent person and knowing I will be questioned if I go to a friend’s house or stay out past dark is difficult to get used to; but I will learn (and hopefully the excitement about the new teachers in town will wear off).

And to think, I thought Echuca was a small town!

Though there are upsides, I don’t always mind these little ones following me home.

Teaching day 1.

What a day!

Today we begun with an assembly at 7am. The whole school sang a welcome song to me and wow do these children have amazing voices! They started together and then rounded off without any instruction from the teachers. Hopefully another visitor comes at some point so I can film it.

Then I had my register class, 4A. Each class lines up in front of their door, boys in one line and girls in the other, only when they are welcomed into the class by the teacher are they allowed to come in.

Each period is 40 minutes long, as any teachers would know, this is a very small amount of time!

This week I have kept it simple, each class will begin with rules and star charts. I gave each learner a star chart with 40 boxes. Every time they get 10 stars, they get a prize and a note home. Well! I had no idea how well this would be received! One of the other teachers came to tell me how the class would not stop talking about the stars and me. And here I thought I was being super strict. Woops!

Halfway through period 2 (about 8:15am) my principal came in to my class and said there was a car leaving for Onaruru in 10 minutes and I should go with them so I can open my bank account. Onaruru is about 2 hours away, also the closest bank, doctors and decent supermarket are there. Obviously my first question was “what do I do about the rest of my classes?” “It’s okay I will keep them busy,” she replied. Ummm okay! So I walked back to my house (which is in the school playground) to get my passport and things, only then to get back to my classroom to be informed that the car has left. I have 5 classes again tomorrow, but I am expecting to be pulled out of class to go to Onaruru. This is a great example of how well the Namibian people look after me. My principal wanted me to go because she knows I have to open a bank account in order to get the stipend from the Government.

I must say, I am glad I stayed at school today. At break time one of the smaller learners (maybe 6 years old) walked into my classroom and naturally I bent down to say hello, well, he put his tiny little hands on either side of my face and said hello. It was adorable!! Most of the younger learners can only say hello in English as they talk in their mother tongue until Grade 4, so I think that was his way of welcoming me. I didn’t have time to ask of course because he ran away as quickly as he came.

The other thing I did with the classes today was get them to write about their family and 5 interesting facts. What I learnt from this exercise: most of the kids have fallen out of trees and been bitten by dogs; many of them have lost a parent or sibling; many live with Grandparents; they love sweets and meat; the ages of my Year 7’s range from 12 to 17; and they are very honest!

Uhoh! The children have figured out where I live, all I hear is “hello Miss, hello Miss”, and banging on my window.

Uis.

Yesterday Abby and myself travelled the 10 hours from Oshakati. On the 10th hour of travelling in the bakkie (ute) we were wondering if we were ever going to see civilisation again, when out of nowhere, literally, we came upon a village. “This is Uis”, our driver exclaimed. We made it! We drove into Brandberg Primary School, around to the playground, which had a portable in there. My principal was waiting there with the key, this was my new home. I met my housemate, Selita, a new teacher at the school also. 3 great things about Selita, she teaches kuakuakovab, she comes from Swakopmund and she is super nice! She has already told me she will take me to Swakopmund to meet her Mum.

A bit about the house: it is literally in the schools playground, it has electricity and water (though only cold) and it is on a slight lean. It feels like my cupboard will tip over at any moment.

Friday morning I woke up at 5:30am to the sound of a Rooster crowing, apparently he is our neighbour and will wake us every morning. Probably a good time given that our staff meetings begin at 7am every morning, the learners begin at 7:20 and finish at 1:10.

I found out I will be teaching English, Maths and ICT with grades 4-7 and I will have grade 4A as my homeroom. The learners were all very curious about seeing the foreigner and stood outside my window waving and laughing at every chance they got. I was hoping to have a day of observing before getting into teaching but it did not work out that way, so I winged the whole day. Luckily each period is only 40 minutes long and all children love to talk.

The biggest struggle of the day was when I tried to teach ICT to 35 students with 2 computers. No idea how I am going to do this for a year, definitely time to get creative! (Anyone with suggestions please comment).

This morning while having introduction with my principal, she put one of my biggest fears to rest. In Namibia corporal punishment is illegal, however during orientation we learnt this new law is not often recognised and that we may be exposed to this at some point during the year. Fortunately my Principal is very law abiding and makes each teacher sign a contract saying they will not use corporal punishment. I really hope they take it seriously.

Overall the day was a success! The teachers were all very friendly! It is a staff of 13, nice and small!

Anyway, time for a cold shower to wash off the sand. Gang gans.

Hiking 101

This morning we woke up bright and early, at 6am, to discover we were locked in our room, and by room I mean hot box. Luckily we had friends who could unlock it from the outside.

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Our little van that we pack into everywhere we go. 

Then we travelled to a little bush school to practise teaching. This also did not go to plan. We literally drove around the bush for about an hour trying to find this school. I’m sure you’re wondering why we didn’t ask for directions. Well, we did, about 20 times. Unfortunately, the Namibian people don’t give directions the way we are used to. They simply point straight or curve their arm to represent a turn. But we did finally make it to school and wow is it different from Australian schools! The learners are so shy and quiet it is very difficult to get any participation from them. This will definitely be a challenge when I get my classes. I’m hoping I can bribe participation with treats and prizes.

When we got back in the van, our in – country director, Damaris, told us we were getting a surprise. We drove for about an hour out of Oshakati, through 2 small towns and stopped at a mall. “Ooh are we going shopping?” Abby asked and we all hoped. Ahh no. Damaris split us into pairs, gave us the name of a school and told us to find our own way to the school and then back to the Hostel. Then she left us there!

In Namibia a big part of life is hiking. Most volunteers cannot afford or want a car over here so they must learn to hike and we all know the best way to learn is to do! Myself and Cher set out (after having a big, hardy meal of KFC), we flagged down a car and asked if he was going to Oshakati. He was! Unfortunately he did not tell us that he wasn’t going right away. We sat at a ‘hiking pick up point” for about 45 minutes waiting for more people to come. You see our driver Nathaniel refused to leave until his car was full. So we sat in the hot car, waiting and sweating. As Westerners, waiting is not our strong suit, but Namibians rarely recognise the social construct of time, often showing up for meetings whenever they can (something we have been warned to be patient about. ) Eventually we filled up the car with 3 women and a baby. After that, hiking back to the hostel was a piece of cake! (Sorry Mum and Dad, I was careful I promise, even packed my pepper spray.)

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Waiting, waiting,waiting.