Thursday, June 26, 2008

Our first Safari!

We went to a game park called Mahungu about 2 1/2 hours away and left at the crack of dawn. This particular game park is a one day drive through where you take your own vehicle un-guided over designated roads that take you through a variety of terrain like dense bush and open fields (keep in mind: no fences!).

There were 6 of us in our 7 passenger 4x4 and we had a wonderful day of seeing all sorts of animals. We saw:
Impala (their version of a deer),
Kudu (curly horns and cool stripes),
Zebra (self explanatory)
Roan (a browny-red antelope),
a whole group of Baboons (the little playful ones were so cute),
Warthogs (think Lion-King),
Hippos (mostly far off in the distance but our little lunch spot was right beside water and it was evident that we were in the hippo land and we saw one poke it’s head out at us, thankfully it decided our lunch wasn‘t appetizing),
Cape Buffalo (one of “the Big Five”, we saw 3 of them behind a bush not too far from our car and let me tell you they did not look impressed with us and barely took their eyes off of us),
Wildebeast (big and grey, kinda beast like)
And elephants…here’s where the story comes in.

We had been driving all day and we were desperate to see an elephant. So we’re driving slowly along, scouring the bush when suddenly one of our group, Mackenzie, shouts “Stop the car!” There it was, our first encounter with a wild elephant. After looking at antelope all day I could not get over how incredibly massive this creature was - this must have been a bull elephant because he was huge and just off to the left of the road behind a tree. We were so excited and all wanted pictures so we crept forward until we were just on the other side of the tree from the behemoth.

We were all in awe at how beautiful he was and wished he wasn’t so hidden so we could get a better shot. Now during this, Kimmie, a nurse who has been in Namibia for a couple years, was explaining to us what cues elephants give you when they are mad. One of the first cues is that they will flap their ears at you- but as this is also the most efficient way of shooing flies, this cue is difficult to interpret. (Do you see where this is going?!) It started to flap its ears a little, but we were on the other side of the tree and therefore felt quite safe.

Then the elephant decided to try and relocate away from us, so it started to walk the opposite direction, crumpling bushes on its way. The atmosphere in the car was intense with excitement. We all wanted to follow it (Mackenzie was videotaping and we all wanted the perfect shot), so Daryl, who was driving, started backing up (Mackenzie loudly saying “Back-up“ over and over). Apparently we were approaching too fast for the elephants liking, so he turns around and stomps the ground, madly flapping his ears at us. Our lives flashed before our eyes, and Mackenzie was frantically screaming “DRIVE FORWARD” over and over. Daryl threw the car into gear and hit the gas, while I was frantically trying to close my electric window, wondering why they ever designed them to close so slowly. Seriously, I almost wet myself…but the elephant turned around again after a few steps and lumbered across the road behind us into the bush.

Although in that moment all we could think of was “Jurassic Park“, Kimmie wasn’t scared and said that the elephant would have given us more warnings before stomping our car. We’re such rookies! After the adrenaline had worn off, we couldn’t stop laughing at ourselves, and the whole thing is on video! Later at the very end of our day we came across another 6 elephants drinking at a waterhole, and being a little gun shy, gave them plenty of space. They are magnificent creatures.

You have to check out some more of our photos!:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Our home-sweet-home

We moved into our final destination and are so happy to have a place to call home. It is a one floor house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and large yard. We live in an area called Tutungeni, which is very close to the river that separates Namibia from Angola and we get to view marvellous sunset on a regular occasion. Many of the houses still have bomb shelters in the yard, a legacy of the pre-independence skirmishes between Namibian rebels who were in Angola and would launch artillery at the South African forces stationed in Rundu.

We have adopted the house gardener, Mr. Kamocha, who is here faithfully 2 days a week. He is an elder at the church, has about 3 teeth from the looks of it, speaks very little English and walks an hour and a half to get here for 7 am despite his badly arthritic joints. From what we can gather, he has been working at this house for about 10 years.

I need to introduce you to our new house mates: Abby and Molly, two year old beautiful black Great Danes. They live outside and love to bark at anyone and everyone who walks by whether day or night…very good watch dogs. :) People are terrified of them because they are so darn big but of course they are super lovely once you get in the gate! I am having fun getting to know their personalities and learning that to teach on old dog new tricks is no easy task! The missionary family who we are house sitting for have 6 young children who are constantly in and out and playing in the yard, which would make consistency in training tricky, but they loved being stimulated all the time and I'm sure the dogs miss those kids very much. As of yet they don’t have a clue how to “sit“, “come” or even catch a ball and the couple of times I have tried to teach them, they are so distracted by each other it is pointless. I even tried locking one up in the entrance way but the other would not leave to come and play! So funny! Training aside, it is wonderful to be greeted every time I open the door even though it means getting slobber on my shirts because they are so tall.

It’s been fun to get a few items to make this place a little more “ours”, and I, Sabrina, have been busy scrubbing walls, floors and furniture to get some of the sticky finger marks off from the wonderful kids! It will take weeks before it is all scrubbed but it will get there. We feel so blessed to have such wonderful accomodations while we are here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Opening Day at OVC

One of the main areas of ministry that we are involved with in Rundu is the Kaisosi Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s project. The idea of the program sprung up from the compassionate response of the pastor of a local church in Kaisosi, a neighbourhood village next to Rundu. The pastor was moved by the great need of all the underprivileged and orphaned children in his area, and the idea of organizing an after school program for some of the kids was born. Presently there are about 170 kids that are registered in the meal program and another 30+ kids that show up for the games, songs, stories and extra leftover food. The program began about a year ago but it still is very much in its infancy.

The project has been operating outdoors, but there was a need to get a building for the OVC project to expand the programs available to the kids, such as computer classes, a class room for after school help, a library, a kitchen for the rainy season, and storage. The US embassy, together with a large number of individual Canadian donors, gave funds toward the project to help cover building expenses.

So at long last the building was up and we had a huge “Opening Ceremony” for the community to come out and see what this OVC project was all about. It took days to prepare for the party. The cooks slaughtered a cow the day before and it took them 24 hours straight of cooking…they worked all through the night over fire in the middle of their winter (gets down to about 5-10 degrees at night). But of course even after all the “planning”, this is Africa and things are just done differently here.

The program didn’t start on time, to no one’s surprise, but all the official people were there, including the mayor of Rundu, school principles, the head of the District Hospital, and even NBC (Namibian Broadcast Coporation) recorded the proceedings. Then the speeches started. Next time you are at a wedding/banquet, just be glad you’re not in Africa - there is no rush here and the microphones weren’t working so barely anyone could here what was going on.

For the most part the kids were honoured, and the kids were given a chance to play on a brand new playground. It was such a joy to see the smiles and laugher of the children on the playground equipment. Inevitably one tire swing broke after only about 3 hours, after 30-40 kids piled on to it! All the children were also given a blanket that day to help get them through the cold evenings.
Our joy was tinged with disappointment in that we wanted all the children to get served food first, which is counter to the usual situation in Naimibian culture where the important adults get fed first, and eventually the kids are remembered. In the end some of the kids had to wait up to 4 hours, while others got tired of waiting and left before getting any food. Attempting to feed over a thousand people is a huge undertaking, and with all the volunteers sleep-deprived and undermanned, chaos soon ensued. People are in such need and so desperate it is hard to ensure that things are done fairly, so people were attempting to get as much for themselves without much concern for others. Even after a positive day of media coverage and community support, our enthusiasm was tempered by the reality of how far we still need to go.

If you want to see more photos please click here:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

First impressions

The best word to describe our state of mind is overwhelmed.

There has been a real sense of urgency since getting here. The long term missionary family who have been here for nearly 3 years are leaving this coming Sunday (meaning we have only had a 11 day overlap). Rob is a doctor who has been volunteering at the Obstetrics and Gynaecology ward of the state hospital full time and has made huge headway in gaining respect and love from the community here. Not only has he managed to put his heart and soul into the hospital, he has been involved in getting the OVC project up and running. The project is still very much in its infancy stage and we have agreed to try to take on some of the responsibilities, as he and his family of 6 kids (including one darling little Namibian girl they have adopted) are going home to Canada for a year before returning for another 2 year term.

What does that mean for us? That’s a good question! We have been bombarded with many people to meet and are attempting to understand how systems here work (and don’t work), along with many other details. Our brains are full at the end of the day and in some ways we will just have to take one day at a time. We can’t be Rob or do all that he does. He has spent so much time developing relationships and trust with the community, that it would be foolish to assume we can walk into his shoes. What we do have to remember is that God has brought us here to serve the people of Rundu, and we can only do our best…we have so much to learn. It’s rather complicated to explain all the details, but we would very much appreciate your prayers as we learn how use our time in this amazing OVC project.

As far as the hospital is concerned, we have had a tour already and met some future colleagues. The hospital itself is quite big and both of us were impressed by the large size of the pharmacy and physiotherapy department. We are in the midst of deciding when we will start work and what are schedules will look like. We will keep you posted.

We are currently living with Kimmie, a fellow AIMer that has also been here for just over two years and is a nurse at the hospital: we have been grateful for her help in adjusting to everything new. We are also living with Shelly, a nurse from Australia who went through orientation with us, who will be here in Rundu for 6 months. We will be moving into Dr. Rob’s house once they leave and are very much looking forward to feeling settled.

Jumping right in

Upon arrival in Rundu, we immediately headed to the Orphans and Vulnerable Children project (OVC), an after-school activity and meal program on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. The program starts at about 2pm when the kids wander over from the bushed beyond. The kids play games, sing songs and hear stories, then eat a hot meal (likely their only protein of the week) before dispersing around 5:30pm when the sun is setting. You will hear us mention much more about the project as we will both be significantly involved in it while we are here.

However, the day we arrived was extraordinary. We were blessed to participate in a huge clothing and gift give-away which had been organized by some of the other short term missionary families working at the project. There are about 200 kids in the program and each one went away with one warm sweater/top (as winter is almost here), one miscellaneous item such as a T-shirt, hat, pair of shoes, or underwear, and then a whole slew of crayons, pencils, a toothbrush and a pack of toothpaste along with other random things. What fun! The process had to be strictly controlled to eliminate chaos and ensure fairness, so we accompanied each of the kids one at a time as they made their selections. At the end all the local volunteers for the project were also given presents and you should have seen their faces!! We were inspired by the hard work and energy put in by the missionaries and volunteers here. What a great way to start.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Heading to Rundu

We headed off to Rundu last Monday afternoon, 9 of us fitting into an 8 passenger “Combi” (the “record“ is 22 adults and children). The journey north usually takes 9 hours, so we went half way to a town called Grootfontein. We stayed at an awesome lodge which is home to Moufassa, a nine year old male lion who pretends to be a large house cat. He was living in the house until he was four but eventually outgrew it and now has a very large space outside all to himself, on the other side of a secure fence! Moufassa loves to be petted and growled loudly throughout the night.

The lodge also has two cheetahs: unlike Moufassa, attempting to pet the cheetahs would be a very bad idea! There were also two gargantuan Ostriches: you can see that I was a little scared on getting close - he had just spat on me! Along with the exciting big animals, there were meerkats, caracal cats, and pearl spotted owls. All in all a fun little overnight stay.

The next morning in Grootfontein was spent visiting fellow AIM missionaries working hard with dedicated locals at a soup kitchen for the local school. We also visited the biological father of Christy, who is in the custody of the Rineers, our leaders here in Namibia. They are in the process of trying to officially adopt her. It is a very long story but in short she was brought into the Rineer house at 2 years old after severe malnutrition. She is now 6 years old (and let me tell you one of the cutest kids ever!) and adoption still has not gone through. It was challenging to see what difficult surroundings her birth family lives in and how big she is in comparison to her siblings simply due to having proper nutrition and a safe place to live.

As we approached Rundu it was amazing to see the landscape change from bushes and trees to clumps of little mud huts along the highway, with the huts become more frequent as we approached our little town. Having seen so many pictures ahead of time, it was similar to some of our expectations, but lots of intrigue. In many ways we were just happy to finally get here.

If you want to see more photos, see link below: