Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Nam Rob" Takeover

So I first met Rob at my PST, he showed up in his dirty Namibian hat and was brutally honest with us, a little too honest for Peace Corps liking, but me and my entire group were glad that somebody was telling us what life in Namibia was actually like. He was pretty much brutally honest all the time. "Nam Rob" had soon become his name because there was a new Rob in country, me. We got along great with constant Rob compliments because Robs are, in fact, awesome. My experience here would not have been the same with out Rob and that is definitely true. He is a great kind of guy and always up for some kind of adventure. He was some one I could confide in and always ready to "learn" me something new. One of the highlights of my time here is when he came to Gobabis, where I live in Namibia, because the water was shut down in his town, we did a Power hour that went terribly wrong, home made pizza, wiffle ball, Pentatonic E scales, and talked a little bit about our how we got to be who we are today. If you know "Nam Rob" you are lucky and it is an honor to take over the name and the blog. I guess I will explain more of who I am next time but for now I am hiking out to Rundu for Thanks and Giving and have to get out early. Until then...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Taking over

So I have been talking with my good friend Rob Narciso and we've decided that I will pass on the "Namibian Rob" blog to him since I'm leaving. We think it would be really cool to have an continuous blog passed from Rob to Rob until there are no more Robs in Peace Corps. He's in Gobabis and from Jersey. Anyhow, this is my last post. Later. Robert Neiberger

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A bit old

Cape Town I took Bailey’s Reo Liner down to Cape Town for a few days during the August holiday. It was a pretty miserable ride. The bus was overbooked and I sat next to a fat woman who had three bags with her taking up a lot of my space. Some people sat on the floor so it made stretching out impossible. It got better as people got off but it started out pretty badly. I arrived in Cape Town and checked into Cat and Moose hostel which is located at the far end of a super touristy street. It was a nice place and pretty low-key. I met up with Edward and Quinn and the three of us went to McDonalds. You have no idea how happy that first bite into a McDonald’s burger made me. The following day the three of us went down to the docks and took a boat over to Robben Island, the prison that housed Nelson Mandela and several other political prisoners during apartheid. The tour guide around the island was really good and we apparently had some kind of US statesmen on the tour with us. The tour of the actual prison wasn’t as good. All the tour guides are former inmates of the prison which is cool but the particular person we had wasn’t that good. We went back to Aznac Backpackers which is where Quinn and Edward were staying. After signing up for a wine tour in Stellenbosch the owner gave me a free night. I moved all my stuff over and canceled the rest of my time at Cat and Moose. The owner of Anzac also recommended a place to eat. We went to a Brazilian steakhouse and it was amazing. Early the following day we caught the 6:45am train to Stellenbosch after eating a hearty mega McMuffin at McDonalds. We checked into Stumble Inn backpackers and went on a wine tour with two British people on holiday. They had been traveling Africa for two months and were almost finished. The tour guide was a Namibian Afrikaner living in South Africa. He chain smoked pretty much through the whole tour, he was a bit bitter and jaded, but overall a nice guy. He was very practical in his approach, “it’s just fermented grape juice. Don’t over think it.” I learned several things about wine but I don’t have a sophisticated palette. We went to two wineries in the morning, 9am is a good time to start drinking, had lunch, and then went to two more wineries. We went back to the hostel and had a quick nap. I met a guy named Warren who was traveling because he’s starting a tour company and wanted to get his route down exactly before starting the business. He joined us for dinner at a local burger place and then we all went out for Guiness on tap. It was a pretty fun night. The next day we had more time so we relaxed a bit and then caught a train back to Cape Town. Edward and I hiked Table Mountain and Quinn stayed at the hostel. At Table Mountain Edward stopped to tie his shoe and I went on ahead. I missed the turn to go up the mountain by the easy route. Luckily for me I found the expert route just a few minutes away. The expert route involved some light bouldering at first and then a nearly vertical rock face to climb. I said “screw that”. I’m afraid of heights and not interested in climbing. I went back down and ran into an Afrikaner who told me he got stuck on that same route the day before. He was doing it again but this time he wanted to make it all the way. I just went back down and waited for Edward. Edward didn’t show up and at dark I left. He came back to the hostel about an hour later. He waited for me at the top and I waited for him at the bottom. Quinn, Edward, and I went to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. The restaurant had chop sticks. The Vietnamese don’t use chops sticks. The end of the trip had arrived and the following day I headed to the bus station to get on a dirty bus and sit next to a man who was fairly large. Not fat, just a big guy. The seats aren’t even the width of my shoulders so the two of us sitting next to each other was uncomfortable. He spent part of the time leaning on me so he could sleep; 22 hours later I was in Rehoboth and happy to get off that bus. Also it was raining on the last day and the bus leaked. Water was coming in through the air conditioning and windows. It was a pretty bad bus ride. Now on to NaDEET NaDEET stands for Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust. It is located in the middle of nothing. There’s no internet, cell phone service, or running toilets. There are a few bunks, a hall; several pit latrines, and some solar panels for heating water and generating electricity. It was pretty awesome and reminded me a lot of Boy Scout camps. There was a grant from the European Union to send all the grade 7s in Hardap region to NaDEET for a week so each school could learn water conservation and energy conservation. The learners also learned how to cook using solar cookers and solar ovens. I could build a solar oven myself and I might do it before too long. The bread was delicious. We went dune boarding and that was pretty cool. Overall it was a good trip and only one kid got sick.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A walk through the Namibian Healthcare system

So a few weeks back I was hanging out with some friends in Rehoboth for the fourth of July. We were having a BBQ when the door to my flat suddenly stopped working. The handle turned but the inside pieces didn’t move. After about 45 minutes or so I became exceedingly frustrated and punched the window above the door. It was a stupid move. I generally have a good hold on my temper but when you get to the end of my fuse there’s a massive keg of dynamite. Anyhow I cut my hand up pretty bad. I called a colleague and went to the hospital with her and two friends. My friend Martin was supportive and helpful. While my friend Chris made jokes the whole time. Mrs. Pretorius took us to the hospital and spoke to the nurses and registrars while I elevated my bandaged hand. We saw a doctor within five minutes. He shot some local in my hand and went about sewing it up. It took 11 stitches. I didn’t pay anything. The following day I went back with Mrs. Pretorius to get the bandage changed and make sure the wound wasn’t infected. We waited about an hour before a nurse changed my bandages and rubbed iodine in everything imaginable. I paid N$20 or about $2.50 US. I was having difficulty closing my hand because of the swelling but I had no nerve damage. I skipped school the next day and went to the Ministry of Works to see if someone could come out and fix my door. We jerry rigged it well enough to slightly function but it was still having problems. I waited two days for someone to come take a look. No one did. I went back to school on Wednesday and Thursday but I had difficulty writing things on the board so I ended up making hand outs and having children write notes off my laptop. It wasn’t the most exciting lessons but I needed something. On Friday I went to the clinic to get my stitches removed. It was 7am and there were 42 people in front of me. The clinic didn’t open until 8am. I left and went to the private clinic that Peace Corps sent me to last year when I had a lung infection. I was seen within 10 minutes and paid N$236.00 or roughly $29.50 US. The stitches came out without incident. They put new bandages on and lots of various antibiotic creams. The next day I went to Windhoek for my closing of service (COS) conference with some more friends. The door was still broken. I arrived back to Rehoboth a week later and the door is more broken now because all of our jerry rigging makes it worse. The ministry still has not done anything.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The "n" word comes to Namibia

Last week I had a disruption in my classroom that I had never imagined. One of my learners was talking so I asked him to answer a question pertaining to the topic. When I called on him he replied, “What nigger?” The class immediately roars with laughter and shock. I was pissed. I start to move towards him as I yell for him to leave my class. He leaves without any hesitation and I go back to teaching and continue my lesson as normally as possible. The irony of the situation was not lost on me and I almost burst out laughing later in the class period but I needed to keep my angry face so the learners understand it’s a serious matter. The question then became, “What punishment is acceptable for this child?” He knew he was saying something rude but he didn’t realize the full extent of what he was saying. I went and discussed it with my principal. The next day I went to Windhoek to see some friends before they left. I returned and heard nothing about it for the rest of the week. I asked another teacher to explain what the word meant to the learner and why it was such a big deal. He did this both in KKG and in Afrikaans so the learners could understand fully. I approached the principal the following Monday with (what I thought was) a fair punishment. I said the learner is not allowed to attend classes for 3-5 days and instead has to work with the janitors to clean the school yard. I thought it was comparable to an in school suspension type of punishment. She agreed it sounded like an alternative to beating him. Wednesday I had a meeting with my HOD, the learner, and his parents. I told them what happened, why it was wrong, and what I recommend as a punishment. My HOD translates because my Afrikaans is not good enough to handle this complex of a situation and their English is not good enough to understand me. The parents are in favor of us beating learner and sending him on his way. We informed them that corporal punishment is illegal in this country and because these are official proceedings that cannot be a punishment. The parents then argue that missing three days of school is too much and that they would rather pull their child out of school than have that child clean the school yard for three days. They stated that missing any school would be too much and that if the child is going to miss school as punishment they will just take him out of school. I don’t understand this mindset. It’s completely illogical. The notes of the meeting were sent to the principal and she decided that he will clean up the school yard from 1pm to 5pm for three days. I don’t think he or any other learner in this school will ever say that word again because of the punishment and the commotion is caused. As a side note when we talked to him about what he thought the word meant he said he thought it was a curse word like “fuck or shit or asshole.” Still, not a word to say to a teacher.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fish River Canyon

After nearly dying (I’m not being melodramatic) on the Naukluft hiking trail; myself and eleven friends decided to go Fish River Canyon, which is the world’s second largest canyon. I wore my running shoes instead of my hiking boots hoping that my feet would fare better than they did at Naukluft. The first day we made the descent into the canyon I learned a very important lesson. I don’t rock climb because of a horrible fear of heights. At Fish River Canyon I learned that heights are a relative term and I don’t like places that are great depths either. I was one of the slowest people down the near vertical descent. The first day involved a lot of light bouldering over large rock slides. After a few hours of hiking it became very apparent that twelve people might be too much diversity in hiking. By the end of the first day the six of us who also hiked Naukluft had descended and gone 10km. The rest of the group had not and didn’t meet up with us at night. This creates a problem because I was sharing a tent with a person who didn’t meet up and food with a girl who didn’t show up. I had the stove, gas, and Martin had food so we ate but she had to bum food off another group member. Day two came and we took a leisurely morning waiting for the other group. They caught up and we agreed on a hiking strategy. The front group would stop at 11am and wait for the others to catch up (likely around 12) so we can all eat lunch together. The group started hiking and this time broke into three groups. Three members sped ahead, myself, Martin and Kim held back and helped the final six who were having problems with blisters, pack size, and bad knees. The three of us hiked in front but always stayed in sight and were always careful to help and give advice about easy paths to those behind us. The three of us made it to the front group at 12:15pm after leaving the back group at a river crossing. The back group caught up at 1:30pm because they decided to stop for lunch. It was decided at lunch that four people (the four fastest were a food group) would finish the hike in four days and the rest of us in 5. Martin and I stayed behind in the slow group because of our other food group member. By the end of the day the slow group had made it to roughly the 27km point of a 90km hike. Day three I realized there were several people in the group I didn’t want to hike with. I have no problem carrying food or gas or anything that will help that will help the group but, if someone has packed too many personal/unnecessary items, I won’t carry that for you. At that point it’s your own fault for your problems. By the end of day three I was worried. We hadn’t made it to the 50km marker and we only had two days of food and gas left. Some in the group talked about turning it into a six day hike and I was very against that idea. Had they tried I would’ve walked alone and done it in five if I had to. Luckily for us day four had several short cuts and we were able to take those all the way to the 80km marker though we really only walked about 18km. Day four was great because it put us all at ease. I wasn’t the only one worrying and we nearly split a second time. At the end of day four we found a nice sandy beach that we camped on and I went for a swim. Day five was an easy hike about 10km to Ai-Ais. We were in by about 9:15 The first group was supposed to wait and meet us to discuss transport out. they were gone by the time we arrived because they got a ride with some people from NWR (Namibia Wildlife…) and arranged for a combi to take the rest of us. Some people were pretty upset they didn’t wait for us but I didn’t care much. I was pretty happy that we made it to the end without me skipping any meals. However after Naukluft and Fish River Canyon I seem to have lost another 10 pounds or so. It’s hard to keep up caloric intake if you have to carry all your food. On the other hand, I’ve been eating like a mad man since coming back. On another awesome note, my friend Matt Flick has return to Peace Corps after being medically separated for seven months. We’re all pretty happy to have him back.

Monday, May 14, 2012


For the start of the holiday I hiked with some friends on the Namib-Naukluft hiking trail. It’s a 120km hike in the Desert Mountains with searing hot temperatures during the day and freezing temperatures at night. The first day was pretty easy with some light hiking (15km) around some hills. There’s a shelter between 14 and 18 kilometers each day hike. The shelters are four foot high walls with a roof but a noticeable gap between the walls and the roof. Day two is when the trouble started. I had a few hot spots (spots that will likely blister) on my feet at the end of day one but nothing too bad. I had one on the back of my heel and the balls of my feet each had one. Day two is when I noticed that my hiking boots from Florida might be great for hiking on the soft ground in Florida but they weren’t up to standard for a semi dried river bed full of sharp, jagged rocks. By the end of day two I had two popped blisters, one on each foot. I started taping my feet to provide a bit more protection but the chains were difficult. When I say chains, I’m referring to chains set up by the park service that help you climb up and down rock faces. Most of these inclines are about a 75 degree angle and the chains aren’t entirely necessary but they’re helpful for people like me who are terrified of heights. The rest of the days passed without incident. We woke around 430am everyday and broke camp by 530am so we could hike before it became too hot, we finished before noon most days. However, we decided to do the eight day hike in seven days by combining the last two days into one 30km day. We woke at 330am and left camp by 430am. We started up a mountain and nearly reached the top by sunrise. This is considered one of the hardest days because it has one kilometer of chains to assist you going up the mountain. We agreed no chains in the dark but the sun was rising when we reached the first set. The only difficult one was up a waterfall. It wasn’t a fast flowing waterfall but it made the chains wet and there was slippery green moss on the rock making foot holds difficult. To add to our problems, baboons were occasionally dropping rocks down on us. None of us got hit but it certainly scared us. We pressed on for several more hours. I started struggling when we reached a dry river bed for (what seemed like) the hundredth time. The sharp volcanic rocks were cutting my feet. To make matters worse it was hot. Really hot. I drank four liters of water that day but by the end of the hike I was down to my last 1.5 liters and I needed to conserve some. I became pretty dehydrated. When I finally walked into the shelter (I was the last person) I had difficulty walking a straight line, felt like vomiting, and felt extremely cold despite the hot sun. I drank oral rehydration salts and rested. I was, by far, the worst off in the group, though we all had aches and pains on the last day. The following day I noticed that one of the blisters on my left foot looked infected. I was still pretty dehydrated so I got a second opinion and she agreed it looked infected. So I sliced it open with my pocket knife and drained the pus out. When I got back to Rehoboth I soaked my foot in a bucket with salt water. I’m supposed to hike Fish River Canyon (a much easier hike) in about 4 days but I’m not sure if I will. I need to see if my feet can recover fast enough.