Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas at OVC

Before we left for our 10 day adventure we tried to sort out some plans for the Christmas celebration at the OVC project that was scheduled for 4 days after we returned. We hoped that the committee and volunteers would take ownership for their event and plan while we were away, but weren’t surprised when we arrived and absolutely nothing had been done.

On Sunday after church, three days before the celebration, we met with a few of the committee members to plan an event for 300 people. We tried to plan a menu, a program and sort out many of the details, but this is Africa and planning is not done the same way as home. In Canada this would never fly!

Monday morning Mom and I went shopping with a couple of the cooks and filled up the back of the truck full of food. We bought huge bags of chicken, rice, potatoes, tomatoes and the lot. It’s hard to comprehend, but a meal like that is only for very special occasions in the village that we work with. Some of the kids had not had rice before and chicken was very rare. So although it was a big job, there was an element of excitement in our task.

We then spent the rest of the day frantically trying to put together gift packages for each of our 180 kids… not an easy task! We used the remainders from other give-aways, as well as some recently received packages from Canada. The gift packages all had some basic school supplies in them like paper, crayons, markers, pens and pencils and then we tried to put a few items in each bag that were age specific. Our favourites were the packages for our youngest orphans that contained lovely cuddly stuffed animals, a rare treasure for them!

The morning of the event was spent running last minute errands, checking on the hardworking cooks (of which there were about 20) while mom and Kimmie worked away on the gifts. We were truly African when we were still at home trying to organize, label and package the gifts at 3pm when the program was due to “start” at 2!

Daryl had the opportunity to share the Christmas story and it was a great success. We also sung some Christmas carols which the kids loved. The most successful part of the day for us was having the kids eat FIRST(!!!), before the elders and caregivers. This was a huge feat as it is very counter cultural and has yet to happen at any of the big celebrations at project. Everyone participated in the celebration feast in a relaxed way, all the kids lined up without pushing and shoving and chaos did not ensue.

The gift giving also went amazingly well as we called the kids one by one to receive their gifts. There were many smile s on many faces. After that we had the opportunity to honour the volunteers and cooks by giving them a small financial gift that had been donated by some of our supporters. Daryl and I also ordered custom t-shirts for all of them but unfortunately this is Africa and they weren’t done on time.

We were setting ourselves up for disaster but it was far from it. We thank God.

For more pictures:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dunes with mom

The much anticipated visit from with my mother has been fantastic so far. After her arrival, and getting over the excitement of seeing one another, we spent a few days in Windhoek eating great food and catching up on sleep. Then the adventure really began.

We drove South West to the world famous (and Namibia’s number 1 tourist attraction) Sossousvlei in the Namib dessert, the oldest desert in the world. Our drive there was fantastic as we were surprised by the panoramas as we drove through ever-changing landscapses. Sossousvlei is known for the tall, majestic red sand dunes, which get their colour from the iron content found in the sand. We stayed overnight just outside the park gate so that we could get in at 6am when the gate opens, as the colours are more dramatic in the soft light of morning.

“Dune 45” is one dune in particular that you are allowed to climb, and so all three of us slowly made our way up taking in the breathtaking view of dune upon dune. After having lots of sandy fun on top (see pictures!) we made our way down and drove further on to make our way to “Dead Vlei” which is a pan of 900 year old fossilized trees and a beautiful sight. By the time we did all this the sun was full blast at noon and it was time to seek some shelter. What an amazing morning!

It took a couple of days for us to get to the Atlantic coast with more surprising landscapes along the way. The desert landscape changed dramatically to light yellow dunes and it was amazing to see them literally disappear into the sea! Mom never ceases to amaze me as she was keen to participate in Quad biking in the dunes (especially after she learned that it was not a regular bike that you have to use your “quads” for!). So we took an amazing 4 hour tour of the dunes on our Quad bikes stopping to learn about the flora and fauna, and the 10 000 year old fossilized foot prints, jewellery and pots, and human skeletons from when the bush people lived in the dunes with all the animals.

Mom was also keen to go sea kayaking in the lagoon near Walvis Bay, and we paddled along side colonies of seals and dolphins that were jumping right beside us, and thousands of flamingos. I have to say that Swakopmund also offered really nice shopping (surprisingly Daryl didn’t enjoy that part quite as much as mom and I, but made sure to sample the great coffee).

The journey continued in the North West region of Namibia to Twyfelfountein where we admired the most extensive and oldest rock art in all of Africa. Then we had the chance to visit a Cheetah Conservation Project to see those amazing animals run!

Other than me successfully bursting a tire, we made it home to Rundu safely and were thrown into the midst of OVC Christmas planning…