We thoroughly enjoyed our month-long vacation, especially getting to see other parts of Namibia. Swakopmund is a wonderful town and it seems more like something you’d find in Germany than Namibia. It was cool and windy there (it’s in the 90s elsewhere in Namibia) to the extent that we wore our jackets all the time and took advantage of the hot chocolate and tea sold at streetside cafes. It was actually really nice because in our heads December is still supposed to be winter time, so I for one appreciated that it was actually cool enough to enjoy a hot chocolate!
Swakopmund has, not one, but three well-stocked book stores, one that even had a café and lounge chairs (like walking into a very small Barnes and Nobles). It is also one of only two towns in the whole country that has a movie theatre (the other is the capital). And as far as I know it is also the only town besides the capital that has international food – Mexican, Chinese, and Italian. It was glorious. Dylan and I started each day by buying some pastries and hot chocolate at a bakery and eating on the beach. Aside from the amount of money we spent there we could’ve stayed forever!
Following Swakopmund, we went back into the desert to go camping with two other couples. Spitzkoppe is a series of big granite mountains rising out of the otherwise flat desert floor. It’s only recently become a tourist site, mainly because of the cave paintings to be found there, although also for the hiking and views from the top. The whole site, including campgrounds, showers (fed by water tanks), a small restaurant, and guided tours, is run by the community (there is actually a village called Spitzkoppe at the foot of the mountains). We pitched our tents, left our bags, and were free to explore!
Spitzkoppe was described to us as a giant playground made up of boulders and that was a pretty good description. We would pick a point we wanted to reach and then start to clamber up rocks in the hopes of getting there. I’d say usually getting down was more difficult than getting up because there were no paths and often the rocks were quite steep. Fortunately they were also very rough so our sneakers got a good grip! The only problem we ran into was hiking mid-day when the rocks actually got too hot to touch – we definitely needed our hands on the slopes we were trying to climb, so we had to call it a day that time.
When we weren’t hiking we hung out at our campsite or at the restaurant playing cards, cooking, or eating. One couple has a dog, Patches, who they brought along so we spent time playing with him too. He might as well have been a mountain goat, he could climb anything! We did see some goats and some kind of gazelle/antelope type animal jumping among the rocks.
Our hitchhiking experiences between these places (and back up to Tsumeb) varied widely – from a choir tour bus to the backs of bakkies (trucks) to a lorry to a Mercedes benz. Surprisingly, even when we were 6 people and a dog we were able to get rides! The worst was trying to get a ride into Spitzkoppe, which is off a gravel road off of another gravel road with nothing else in the same direction. The campsite ended up sending a car for us in that case – a bakkie which already had 5 people in it. Most uncomfortable ride ever.
For Christmas we stayed at the house of another volunteer in Otjiwarongo. We were 11 people total, but there was plenty of space as long as people slept on the floor. =) We spent most of the time cooking – Asian food Christmas Eve, cinnamon rolls and pumpkin pancakes Christmas morning, chicken and a variety of other dishes on Christmas Day, and all kinds of cookies. We’re still without an oven at our place in Tsumeb, so the cookies were especially exciting.
On Christmas morning, we each got an orange (courtesy of Sarah, whose family tradition is to have an orange in each stocking) and a bag of candy (courtesy of Marsha whose house we were staying at). We played a lot of cards and watched Christmas movies and ate our cookies. =)
Coming back from Otjiwarongo, we met up with Patches, the dog who had come camping with us, who we would be pet-sitting for the rest of the holiday. He was a lot of fun, and also a handful. He’s super energetic, loves sticks, can jump high, is relatively big to begin with, and likes to sleep on the bed. We really did enjoy having him – many hours spent throwing sticks around the yard, chasing him around the house, watching him play with the neighbor dog, and cuddling with him when he finally got tired. =)
We had a few visitors over the next week from people traveling through Tsumeb on their way north or south. On New Years Eve we made tacos (which meant making tortillas, salsa, and guacamole from scratch) and played games with our friend Kyla, who was visiting.
When we weren’t playing with Patches, we relaxed, read, played games, or watched movies. After all the pressure we felt during Phase 2 to get ready for the school year, we felt comfortable just sitting around during the last week of holidays. Patches’ owners, Steph and Kevin, picked him up a few days before school started and we were back to our own quiet existence.
School started, as scheduled, on Thursday the 12th – that was just for teachers. I went to school from 9 to 11 and did nothing but greet the other teachers. It was just like coming back to school after summer break and greeting all your friends who you haven’t seen for months – except I didn’t have any close friends and couldn’t understand three quarters of the conversation. It was nice to see people and catch up a bit, but we didn’t do anything school related.
On Friday we were to arrive at 8 for a staff meeting that was to start at 9. This was one of the most frustrating mornings of my life. Of course we did nothing from 8 to 9 (many teachers didn’t show up till 9) and of course the staff meeting didn’t start on time. One of the teachers got a crossword puzzle from a magazine for everyone to work on. I was helping because it was in English – easily the best part of the morning. After we’d been sitting around chatting and doing nothing productive for three hours (I took out a textbook and tried to work on lesson plans briefly, but the other teachers asked what I was doing and were incredulous that I was already doing lesson plans), the staff meeting started at 11. It involved much debate and no actual decisions, and finished at 2, a couple hours after we were supposed to have gone home.
The most interesting thing I learned is that all teachers and all learners are required to participate in Athletics (ie. Track and Field) during the first term. The logic for this is that, if the learners weren’t forced to run, none of them would sign up for the school team. So everyone has to run, and the fastest are put on the team. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.
On Monday we have a full day from 7:00 to 1:00, which will be registration for 8th and 11th graders. The fact that learners are still registering the day before classes start tells me that I will definitely not have a schedule and possibly will not know what classes I’ll be teaching until the second or third day of school. That’s just the way it is here, we were warned about it and expecting it, but it’s worse to be in it and watch it happening than to hear about it. It’s really hard to stay motivated to be prepared and on top of things when it seems like nobody else is. Dylan’s school is way ahead of mine as they have the subject allocation and time table worked out already!
Anyway, we’ve had a nice relaxing weekend and at least now I’m prepared for school on Monday – I know nothing will be planned and I’ll have to create my own productive activities. I’m nervous about the actual starting, especially going in with so little idea of what I’m doing. But this is where you just have to let it go and go with the flow… Wish us luck! =)