First Namjournal

This post is the first in a series which relates my experience in Namibia in August and September of 2003.

Sylvanette Guest House here in Okahandja. We traveled for about 90 minutes to reach this town, about 70 km north of Windhoek. Today, Bob took me on a brief tour of the town. I walked around in the downtown and we drove through much of the community. I saw the sights of Okahandja and No-Aib, the poor section on the other side of the highway.

Bob showed me the schools that I will be working in. I also saw photos of the program activities to date. The teachers and students from Canby have been doing marvelous work here in the schools. The Bear reading room has been a great success. Prior to lunch, Bob took me to “The Shops”, an area by the side of the highway where there are numerous open-air booths. In the booths are native people from this area and from all over southern Africa, vending their handicrafts. Each booth brought a new assertive vendor, anxious to have me negotiate a special deal with them. I saw many wonderful handicrafts, made of wood, stone, cloth, reed, and metal. It was difficult to say no and move on, but I was resolved to not make a purchase today. I can walk to this area in about five minutes from where I am staying.

Other than not having my luggage, I am quite comfortable. The weather is quite pleasant. It is about 75 (Fahrenheit), with a slight breeze. The land features and vegetation are very similar to eastern Oregon or Colorado. Sandy soil, with quite a few rocks. The vegetation is sparse, but not overly so. There are a number of ornamental plants around the guest house and in the town. Among these are abutelin, begonia, impatiens, lantana and bouganvilla. I noticed quite a few palms and dracaena-like plants. There seem to be a number of acacia trees or something very similar. The guest house is very nice. I have a nice room. It has its own bathroom and a desk, two beds, and the computer table. It even has a TV, but at this point I have no interest in that. I did notice a rugby match on earlier when I went to visit Bob.

The food has been great. I must be careful not to overdo it. For lunch, Bob took me out to a lodge. We did not see any animals, except a peacock and several burros, but I had a great meal of local fish, which was reminiscent of catfish, and wonderful vegetables. My iced coffee was like a mocha!

On Monday, Bob and I will go to the secondary school to meet the agriculture teacher. I will listen and hopefully observe. On Wednesday, I will travel to Windhoek and expect to visit at the University of Namibia with Richard Trewby, the director of the Centre for External Studies. It is with Mr. Trewby that I would have been working had I been awarded the Fulbright.

The people are friendly. I have heard at least four different languages today, maybe more. I was told that there are no English language churches in this town of about 20,000. However, I have seen many churches in all parts of town.

I look forward to hearing from you all. Thanks for your encouragement and your prayers. Bob has shared with me several aspects of Providential intervention in this project. It is truly amazing to see the good work that has already occurred. In the days ahead I will do my best to faithfully report.

<I took out personal messages to my family and to Max here.>

Report 2

Okahandja, Sunday, August 10, 2003 0900 hours

Jet lag is still playing tricks on me. I did not sleep well or long last night. After a dinner of Oryx Schniztnel at the Okahandja Lodge, I returned to the guest house to read and relax. I found it hard to go to sleep. So, I will probably crash early today and sleep well tonight. At the lodge, Bob introduced me to several of the staff, whom he had met when he stayed there for several weeks. There were a number of German tourists there, enjoying the sounds of a live band performing covers of American hits, in Afrikans and English. I recognized “Blue Eyes Crying” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” among others.

I am reading a book about education reform in Namibia, edited by an American and a Swedish professor who have consulted with the Namibians on education policy and teacher education since before independence. It is an enlightening book. We are going out on a car tour later today and will report on that next time.

A mailing address, if you are interested is: Scot Headley, P.O. Box 906, Okahandja, Namibia. I noticed yesterday how slow my email box opens here. So, although I may be sending email messages out, it will be infrequently that I check my email for incoming messages. It seems that it will be more efficient for me to read messages posted in the discussion areas at the Namibian Journal. Therefore, if you really want to be sure that I get a message send both an email and post it in the discussion area. Remember, the discussion areas are not private!

I have a cell phone. The number is 011-264-8-128-07115. If that does not work try 011-264-08-128-07115. This is reserved for urgent messages. Remember, I am in a time zone eight hours to the east of Newberg, Oregon.

<Family notes here>Report #3 Sylvanette Guest House, August 10, 2003, 11:15 hours.>

About an hour ago I spoke with an Air Namibia agent in Windhoek. My luggage has arrived and they will drive it out to me here. It will arrive sometime this afternoon. After the call, Sylvannus drove Bob and I out to “Five Rand Camp”, or as it is now known, “Five Dollar Camp”.

Five Dollar Camp

This is an area about 2 km south of town that is owned by the municipality and is a home for about 4,000 people. Originally, this area was a private farm and the farmer leased out small plots for 5 Rand a month to settlers. Now the municipality collects 30 dollars a month for rent. Water is supplied and there are toilets. There were several phone stations. Most of the people who live there are Owambo, from the north. Many are employed in town. I saw a tent that was used as a Baptist Church and a pre-primary school. Church was going on while we drove through. I heard singing and clapping and preaching. I heard “Halleluiah”. Each one of the plots in this area had a hut of sorts, made from corrugated metal or fiberglass and bits of wood and all sorts of odds and ends. Some of the huts had four walls, some did not. Some were well-roofed, others were not. There were several nice looking homes in this camp, small but made of stucco or block and well built.

In this camp were people sitting in circles on chairs drinking home brew. This brew is a traditional beer. The ingredients are purchased in town and the folks add water and let it ferment for several days. I was told that it tasted awful. I also saw numerous beer bottles and broken bottles all over camp. There were rubbish heaps at the edge of the camp. One little girl was picking through a pile of bottles and glass. I saw drying meat, hanging from lines strung in front of huts. Sylvannus told me that much of that meat was intestines and other internal organs. I also saw a brazier with meat cooking on it. Next to it was a slab of ribs, probably beef. There were several barber stalls, but not as many as I saw at No-Aib yesterday. The predominate commercial enterprise was the shabeen, Shabeenwhich is a bar and/or bottle store. There were quite a few of these throughout the camp, in both the more sedate side and the area characterized by Sylvannus as the red light district. A number of these establishments had pool tables. Sylvannus told us that white people that are in the camp at night would be viewed as intruders or police spies.

There are different groups and areas of social status within the camp. There were many children, some with soccer balls, some with small toys. Some were dressed in rags, some in good clothes. Many of the people knew Sylvannus and he greeted them. Men spoke with him affectionately and with humor. He sees many of them as his patients at the clinic in town. Bob and I were introduced to many of the men, including one whom Sylvannus described as the biggest diamond smuggler in the country.

The NamWater truck was in the camp, and there were several water towers from which the residents obtained their water and carried it away in jugs and buckets. I saw one garden plot, but it was dormant, with several melons left on the soil. Sylvannus told me that water cost too much for the folks to have much success with their efforts at growing produce. There were numerous goats, some wandering around, others fenced into two kralls. I took several pictures, but I felt self conscious in doing so. How did I have the right to be a “tourist” in a place like this.

After leaving the camp, we drove a little out of town, I believe to the south. Sylvannus wanted to show us a Youth for Christ training center. He said his friend ran the place. I told him I wanted to visit this place and meet the staff. He said, “that is why I wanted to show you that it is here”.

Syllvanus was looking at a travel guide before we left and he pointed out to Bob and me an add for a lodge at Victoria Falls. It was very reasonably priced for a package to travel there. I wonder about investing in that trip. It could very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Bob agrees that it would be worth the price. He insisted that we must get to Etosha.

Sylvannus also said that Heroes Day would be a great event in town. The three Herero tribes would all be represented with parades and pageantry and a full day of celebration. Many tourists will come to this annual event which memorializes Herero heroes from the past.

Report #4 1220 hours Okahandja, Namibia


I met the high school agriculture teacher this morning for a brief time. He and I are going to meet at the guest house this afternoon. His name is Nambosora Katjatako. He is young and quiet. This is his first teaching assignment. He received training in agriculture at NeuDamm Agricultural College. He grew up in a village and raised cattle and sheep. He said that for preparation in agricultural education, Namibia was sending teachers to Zimbabwe for a 2 or 3 term program. His students are in national exams for the next two weeks and then they go on holiday until about September 8. He will also be on holiday during that time (and I assume will be traveling to his home). I hope to learn about him and what his background and aspirations are. It seems from what I have learned about the national system here, curriculum is developed and sent out from the national Ministry of Education. There is a national-wide assessment system as well, with all students tested in the same manner on the same content at the same time. Indeed, my initial impression is that it makes Oregon’s system to be completely controlled locally in comparison…..

I will speak with Nambosora this afternoon about what he likes and dislikes about the curriculum and try and discover what he uses in the way of methods. While everyone I met at the school was very welcoming and the principal seemed very happy that I am here, there can be no observations over the next several weeks, as students will be doing nothing but writing exams….

Water is precious here so the hydroponics projects should have great potential. The only enterprises I have seen in the community are: a small nursery, vegetable farm (which you have already heard about), a large slaughterhouse and packing plant, a number of small herds of goats and at least one large one, some cattle, poultry and other fowl in peoples yards, and two egg production facilities. Everyone agrees that water is the limiting factor. Water can be had, at a hefty price and the poor folks apparently can’t afford enough to even do vegetable gardening. I now know why Bob’s attempt to purchase the farm is so vital to the overall success of the project.

It seems that there is great potential here for the following reasons: people are used to living on the land, this is a crossroads and could be a bigger tourist area than it already is, there are several open-air markets in town and I would think produce and other products including ornamentals could be vended roadside and to guesthouses and restaurants that cater to tourists. An agricultural college is not to far away from here (30 miles?). Also, there is a large water treatment plant outside of town that could potentially serve as some sort of an internship site for students in water quality testing and management. One final note, Okahandja is supposed to be the “garden city”. There are a few municipal beautification projects and residents seemed willing to invest in plant stock. However, the city’s lack of commitment in maintaining the planters does not indicate that they are living up to their reputation. So, again, some type of coop work experience program is possible.

Bob hit the nail on the hand about wanting to develop leadership and entrepreneurship development as part of the ag curriculum and I would guess in its present from, totally lacking. Kids need to see hope for the future in their own competence and creativity and that there is opportunity to get a return on their investment of hard work. So, indeed, the AGBE concept has great potential. However, at present I am not sure how to get there from here. I was invited to teach in science in grade five or six. Due to the testing and holiday schedule described above, that is not possible at the high school level. So, you might think about some sample lessons that you can deliver “Canby style” when that is possible in September. Each day that I learn more, I will pass it on to you.

I am inserting a note about my meeting with Nambosora Katjatako, the ag teacher. He is young, bright and with a great heart. He is well prepared from a technical point of view, but no prep as a teacher. The system has constraints built in: 45 minute periods of 30-35 students. Standardized, national curriculum. Mostly academic in grades 9 and 10 and probably half wash out at end of 10. Space not available nor time for much hands on. He recognizes the need, but realizes that bigger things need to happen. (what would happen if the school was willing to abandon the national curriculum for one group?, what would happen if a bold principal and a willing teacher said, ‘to hell with’ the test, we are going to allow the next cohort to do it a completely different way, we will get the community support and we will make it happen…what if!)

I have not interacted in the classroom yet with students. After I teach next week, I may be able to give you an idea of how kids will react, I am sure that your Canby colleagues and your students have filled you in on that. I have found the kids to be courteous, happy, and respectful.

I look forward to hearing from you and let me know what else you want to know. As far as what we will do during the 2 weeks you are here and school is not in session. Be prepared to be a tourist. I can’t promise to be a very good guide, but I want to go to Etosha, as we previously discussed. If your budget will allow, I would like you to consider traveling to Victoria Falls with me, as well. I may not be able to afford it, but I may never pass this way again, so I would really like to go there.

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