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Africa News, Week #5

We just enjoyed a “normal” week, with not too much out of the ordinary, so the letter will be shorter, and we had the time to post several more photos.

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Our weather has turned a bit cooler—last night we felt good sleeping under the cover of a sheet and didn’t have the fan running at all. This morning, we took a walk to enjoy the sunny, dry air. This time, David got some shots of two oxen pulling a sledge loaded with firewood, a few thatched huts, and one distinctive bird with iridescent blue on its wings. During the week we’ve had several rain showers, so the corn is perking up and farmers were out planting beans—about a week later than their natural cut-off date of Feb. 15th, but hopefully with the prospect of enough more rain to get the beans well established.

David and I contributed a dinner again this week—a Friday night dinner of spaghetti (or rather tagliatini ) and marinara sauce with mushrooms and olives; patty-pan squash; onion bread; and, for dessert, apples cooked with a bit of fig jam. Usually Fr. Charles’s dog, Smart, gets all the leftovers, but last night Loren carefully packaged the leftover sauce and pasta—he said Smart wasn’t getting any of that. The seal of approval! After dinner we watched “Evita” on Fr. Charles’s new DVD player. It’s the good life here.

Berthold was frustrated yesterday by the bureaucracy at Namibia’s version of the DMV in Rundu. There was too long a line of people wanting to take the driver’s license test by the time he arrived at 8:30, so next time he’ll have to arrive about 7:30. Some other aspects of the testing process also make it difficult. And he grew up in the Rundu area, so it’s not a foreign system he’s dealing with, just government. (Berthold has a bicycle, and Fr. Charles, who drives a pickup, was complaining about the way people in the area expected him to provide rides to and from parishes he is visiting, often having to take people to the hospital on his return trip. I asked Berthold if he was sure he wanted to be able to drive—at least he wouldn’t be asked to take passengers on the bicycle!)

The other event this week that provided a topic for discussion happened to David and Loren on their Thursday shopping trip to Rundu. After purchasing some vacuum cleaner bags and an empty cooler in the back of the pickup, David went one way and Loren another, leaving the pickup unattended for about 4-5 minutes and forgetting to lock the canopy. In that time someone stopped by and stole the auto store bag with vacuum cleaner bags in it and one cooler. Apparently thieves with cell phones patrol the parking lots and call their friends in vehicles into action whenever they see a chance to score (I’m sure they were disappointed to find two vacuum bags for a Shop-Vac in the bag rather than some valuable auto parts).  In front of most of the supermarkets, people parking a car with something inside hire a guard to watch over it while they’re in the store. At least the problem provides a bit of honest work for the guards.

From there, everyone contributed stories of petty thievery and more harmful assaults, especially in Windhoek. But they all agreed the situation is much worse in many other African countries. Another night, Fr. Charles mentioned that the bishop in Rundu once fenced in his property to protect his crops, and almost immediately the fence was stolen!

From my (David’s) perspective my week has been fairly quiet-trying to outguess the rain as to whether I should bring the clothes in from the clothesline and in the process not doing a very good job of outwitting the weather. Next week I am scheduled for another workshop on small business enterprise. My major accomplishment has been to make good progress on reading Michener’s, “The Covenant”, his 1235 page tome on the history of South Africa. Since Namibian history parallels to a large extent that of South Africa, with the added wrinkle of German colonization, I am finding it an engaging read.

I participated in an outdoor version of the Stations of the Cross yesterday afternoon (I should say sort of participated until about #5, when I remembered that I had not turned down the heat on the pasta sauce and hurried back to find it boiling away. While it burned on the bottom I was able to salvage most of it. Then I burned it a second time! It was fortunate that we ended up with dinner last night.) I am taking a lot of pictures here of liturgical events and am not sure what the end result might be--perhaps some sort of photo-essay presentation. Or perhaps seeing whether Maryknoll Magazine folks would have an interest in some of the better ones.

Sad news of a distinctly African flavor—there was a funeral for an eighth grade boy yesterday. He and his brother were out walking and his brother accidentally stepped on a snake. The snake reacted by biting him. What a memory his brother has to carry through life. For us, the lesson is—yes, there really are snakes here—watch where you walk! (And Br. Mark just told me a couple boys found a poisonous snake yesterday in a tree near the priest's house--so now I have to look up, as well.)

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