Monday, March 30, 2009

Etosha mark II

We went back to Etosha this weekend. Mark and I had been on call one weekend each and we were very keen to get out of Khorixas!! Siew Wee and Celia went with us (Siew Wee is the Singaporean pharmacist who lives with us, and Celia is a physio from Bristol who works in Grootfontein. Grootfontein isn’t very close to here, about 3 hours if you have a car, but Celia hiked (hitched lifts, for which you pay by the kilometre) and met us in Outjo.
We tried to leave work promptly at 5, but is somehow just didn’t happen. The Gates of Etosha close at sundown (7 pm) so we camped at a lodge about 9 km from the park gates. We got up at 6 (yes, 6 on a Saturday) and drove. We saw thousands of springbok, oryx and zebras. A lot of them. A lot. And wildebeest, quite a few of them. Celia and Siew Wee were really keen to see something else, but Mark and I were just amazed by these prolific animals. They were just loving it; the grass, the water.

It’s not the best time of year to see game, because it’s rained so much. Etosha pan is usually an enormous flat bed of sandy whiteness. But we saw it full of water, stretching away. About 100 km by 40 km. Immense, shallow. In 6 months (or less?) it’ll be dry again.

Later in the afternoon we did see some giraffe, but the whole scene was quite beautiful. We spent the night in another campsite (fantastic hot showers, better than home). And Braii both nights (It means barbeque, but you can cook anything: we had a veggy stew and roast potatoes (or roast sweet potatoes)).

On Sunday (again getting up at 6) we explored north. We’ve decided all this driving is not the way to go. You just find a waterhole you like and sit there for a while…. Like 10 minutes… and the elephant just walks up to you! And drinks. And blows bubbles with it’s trunk. It was by itself, really quiet, and really cool.

There was also this amazing bird, a purple breasted roller. And eagles. And busterds. (Pics soon.)

Etosha is a weird place in a way. It’s so expensive, and the tourists are mostly white, the staff mostly these grinning black people. It’s beautiful, but completely artificial in a way. (I mean, the animals are wild enough, but still contained)

So we came back, and Monday morning waking at 6 am, (the joy of going back to sleep and sleeping in till 7!) going into work. Oh what a change! CD4 counts, difficult patients, patients who won’t talk to you, patients who talk too much, patients who just don’t get it: (when your CD4 count is 50 (normal >500) and haemoglobin is 3 (!) (Normal 12) you’ve something more to worry about than constipation- or potency, for that matter)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

buying a car in namibia

The first 10 days we were here, we were in Windhoek, doing admin type stuff, to be legal to work here. And we knew we wanted a car, but what kind? It was entertaining listening to 2nd hand car salesmen. (Well, it would have been, if it wasn’t so hot when we were looking) Everyone had advice. And stories. The best was the one of the 2 tourists in their 4x4 caught in a river for 4 days surrounded by crocodiles. The roads here are either tarmac, dirt or really rough. The dirt roads get muddy after the rains, then regraded each year. There are so many accidents, especially tourists, that car rental companies can’t get insurance. People go mad with the 4x4 and also too too too fast on the tarmac’d roads (speed limit is 120 kph, many people go 159 kph, because that’s the limit you don’t go to jail for) There are lots of Germans who are familiar with the Autobahn.

We wanted something reliable, powerful enough for the dirt roads of Namibia, but not necessarily a 4x4, we didn’t want something too flashy, and we were aware that the ability to give lifts was a bonus. Based on the difficulty we had with a VW in Western Newfoundland, we wanted something easy to find parts! Well, pretty much everyone agreed that Toyota was the most widespread car in Namibia. So one of the VSO staff scouted for one for us. He found a Toyota Condor. It’s a 7 seater, 2.4 l engine, a bit higher off the ground, (better for clearance, and seeing the animals) and our contact assured us the engine was fantastic. Of course the seatbelts, fuel cap, radio, window winders, back seat security, tires, spare tire restrainer could all be fixed… Well, they have been fixed now, but it took a while, and a lot of Mark’s patience. I would lose it every time I spoke to the guy. The tires really were bald, and we were planning on buying new ones, but didn’t before one of them exploded. Really. I’ve never seen anything like it. It tested our jack and pump, and found both wanting. However Namibian helpfulness was not wanting, and all was well. We now have 5 new tires, and I’m a lot happier about it. Oh, the radio isn’t fixed, tho’. And the starter motor packed it in the day after we bought it. But again, we learnt how to get things done, and it’s all fixed now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pics from Etosha, our house and the OPD

Etosha: giraffes, lions (they were, umm, post coital, frequently), guinea fowl,

Our view, pretty canopy in Etosha (there should be the outline of a bird in there, but I can't find it again) and some really weird bug in the outpatient department.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The water is back...

So the water came back on, after about 48 hours of being off. Just thought I'd reassure you! For some reason it totally freaked me out that it was off for so long. The hospital ran out, and I guess I was imagining babies being born, no water to wash them (though they could open bags of saline, and did, in fact), and more diarrhea, and all sorts. I don't know, it freaked me out. We had electricity (and internet), but the lack of water is much more important. Makes you really appreciate it once you've got it back!

In fact, the last few nights have been really really cold (like 20 degrees according to my crap thermometer...) It feels so much colder. Anyway, cold mornings+cold shower are unpleasant, so this morning, getting up at 5 am to use the euphemism, I turned on the hot water heater!! Lovely hot shower.

The last 2 days have been quiet at work, not sure why, maybe because of lack of water, or because it's Namibian independance day on Saturday (21st March). And I must say, Much Appreciated.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Identity theft, no water. new roomy

So I opened a bank account last week: Mark did it in Windhoek, with minimal fuss and bother. It seems to be a bit more difficult in Khorixas, but possible. Anyway, it turns out I have been black listed in Namibia for bad debt! Someone, in 2007 (!) used my name and date of birth (Come on, who is called Alice Bond Jermy Gwyn!) to get store cards, and "racked up" 4000 N$, but didn't pay it off. Strange, eh?

So they asked me to come back in, and photocopied every single page of my passports (I have my last one, going back to 2002, for some nice visas I have). Anyway, should be alright now. Makes one wonder, in what other countries is ABJG a persona non grata. I'll probably never find out.

We've had no water for 2 days. It's stressing me out a lot, but not Mark, and he's probably right. the big pipe getting water to Khorixas has 3 leaks. Rumours abound, I bet no one really knows when it'll be fixed. Some said 40 minutes ago, some say Friday... Mark has just come back with about 35 liters, tho'.

AND we have a roommate: Siow Wee, a pharmacist w. VSO from Singapore, tho' she spent 10 years in Manchester.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Some of the tribes in Khorixas

For quite a number of days I’ve been wanting to describe the groups of people we treat in Khorixas, and when sweating in bed, trying to fall asleep, I’ve thought a good deal about it.

I have to admit to considerable ignorance about Africa. I thought that talking about “tribes” was a politically incorrect way of referring to people here. It is certainly incorrect in the sense of tribes, sitting around the tom-toms and so on. But there are tribes here, and can be distinguished by language, dress and to a certain extent features. There are 11 groups of languages in Namibia, but lots more dialects than that I’m assured! In Khorixas you would do well to know 5. : Herero, Damara, Oshivambo, English and Africaans. (And I thought I was fancy knowing 3) Our Nigerian colleague described the importance of tribes: when you are out of Nigeria, everyone is just Nigerian, but if you return to your country, all of a sudden tribal relationships become extremely important.

Damara is a click language (there are 4 groups of clicking languages in Southern Africa). And our dialect is Damara/Nama. If I ever get organised I’ll get a teacher, but I’m picking up words. “Please” and “Thankyou” have no clicks, nor does “cough” or “epilepsy”. “Breathe” does. Typically the Damara have orangey coloured skin, with freckles, almond eyes (shape, not colour), high cheek bones. They are one of the San (used to be known as bushmen) tribes. Despite the mythology that goes with the San, I’ve not been witness to anything mythic yet. I love to listen to the nurses and patients talk, and wonder how my information about things gets translated (is there a word for antibiotic? Peptic ulcer?)

The Herero are traditionally herders: cows and goats. They measure their wealth in cows. 100 years ago they adopted Victorian/German attire and so wear long dresses with petticoats, aprons over the top. You could think of Anne of Green Gables, (even puffed sleeves!). Often it’s made of a patchwork material. And on their heads! I have no idea how it’s made; a sort of twisting of material creating horns on either side of the top of the head. It’s a bit fierce.

Both of these populations are minorities in Namibia, but quite common in Khorixas. The Oshivambo, on the other hand are a majority tribe. They come mostly from the north, and are the tribe that really spearheaded Swapo (the "rebellion" that made Namibia an independent country, and now has a majority rule)

I’ve just watered my herb garden, my seeds have just germinated, and I’m typing under the lovely double mosquito net Doreen gave us. It really could be worse.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Trial of pics

Etosha National Park

Well, Mark and I must be settling in a bit. Last week was quite tiring, hot days, working pretty hard, but getting used to what is and is not possible in Khorixas. I got used to it to the extent that on Saturday, when we stopped in Outjo on the way to Etosha, and went into a bakery and saw, oh my such a spread!! There is such a strong German influence: apple strudel, good bread, sausage rolls, ginger cookies... Really a delight, and such a treat. The thing is, one can really live well with out these things, but one appreciates it a lot more if it's hard to come by!

We went to Etosha, which is enormous, and agreed with each other that it was just nice to be out, seeing something different, it didn't matter if we didn't see any animals: Oryx, Springbok, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, squirrels, guinea fowl, lions (mating), gnus, lizards, impala (lots) warthog, meercat, white capped jay and red capped wood pecker. Big bird about ½ the size of ostriches with a peak at the back of head. Looked like a really large heron, with affronted, mincing gait. Other black birds with white flashes on wings, vv large.

People talk about the "big five" and are a bit snobbish about zebras and giraffes, but we found them amazing. A giraffe is just so strange! It was amazing to watch them from the car, just nibbling. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know ostriches were in Africa (I thought they were Australian)

Lions can be very active: hunting and fighting, but often spend up to 23 hours a day just lazing around, so I guess we were lucky to see them mating! Meercats make me think of Maya, for some reason. I think she told me once that they were her favorite animal.

All in all an expensive way to spend the weekend, but only 3+ hours drive away, and once we have a tent, much cheaper...

lots of love,