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Africa News, Week #7

Saturday – Groups of ladies came for retreat/vigil  in observance of International Women’s Day (Monday—what did you do to celebrate the day?); they prayed and sang through the night--at least David can attest to the fact that they were singing at 10:30 when we went to bed, at 2 a.m. when he got up to go to the bathroom, 5 a.m. when he got up to turn off the fan, at 7 a.m. when we got up for the day, and at 8 a.m. when we arrived  at morning Mass. (At the end of Mass, Fr. Charles asked men to stand up in honor of these women and only a handful of the men stood up – we thought it strange. Later, when we discussed this with Berthold, he said he thought only the spouses had been asked to stand. Mark said, “That explains why they looked funny at me when I stood up.”)

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Sunday – Mark, Loren, Berthold, and we took a drive to Munangu Lodge, about 100 km east and then south for 20 km, almost in Botswana. The lodge is along the Kavango River (same river that flows east past Nyangana Mission and empties out into a large delta in Botswana, disappearing into the desert!), and we enjoyed watching the river go by as we drank draft beer and feasted on pannini sandwiches and real lettuce salad. There was an observation deck above us for later in the year when elephants and other animals take turns coming to water each day on the opposite shore, and hippos swim in the river.  The resort was very quiet, but the number of bungalows, tent-buildings, and campsites suggests it gets quite busy at times.


We stopped at Mission Andara on the way back (neighboring mission; where Berthold grew up). David had seen a picture of an old waterwheel in a book on the history of the Mission Church in Namibia and wanted to see it if it still existed. The metal frame was still there, but the wood blades had long since fallen away. They now have an updated mill pond dam, turbine, and electrical generator that generates all the electricity needed for the mission, hospital, and hostel. It was installed in the mid 1980s and is still working and requires little maintenance--undoubtedly a product of fine German engineering! As we walked back to the car, the priest’s dachshund came across a baby Spitting Cobra. Unfortunately, after growing to full length of a meter or so, spitting cobras are not fun to meet up with. So after show and tell, it met its demise. Oh, why is it called a spitting cobra? Because it spits its venom into the victim’s eyes, where it is very hard to remove. Even the baby can spit venom in an attacker’s eye.

Paula’s class took its first test this week; one student had to catch up, having joined class late, and another was sick on Tuesday, but they were given the test on Thursday so the agony didn’t go on and on. All did decently—which means Paula passed the test. Thursday, the students complained of hunger—their cooking gas had run out, and Mark refused to start them on another tank until they had paid for the first tank. He’s not worried about getting them to settle up at the end of the class on their last tank: no $$, no certificate.

Besides testing and starving students, Mark got to deal with a virus detected in the network—it had been introduced by putting in an infected flash drive. The LAN isn’t connected to the Internet; one stand-alone computer in the center is designated as the Internet access computer.  Apparently, it is badly infected. And the virus detection program on the LAN didn’t recognize the virus, but Br. Mark’s heftier virus program on his personal computer named it. He has been able to quickly reinstall the networking program a couple times, and the worker who constantly uses the Internet gets to wipe that computer and reinstall everything. Viruses!!—I don’t know if I’d rather come upon a virus or a snake!

Deacon Berthold was sick Monday for his driving test, so they rescheduled him to Friday. While he was waiting early in the afternoon for his Friday appointment, the test administrator announced that he was leaving to drive 900km to attend a soccer game—his favorite team was playing and he couldn’t miss it. This wasn’t just a vendetta against Catholic priest-types—he left several applicants sitting there. This was Berthold’s  fourth 100km trip to Rundu in the attempt to get his driver’s license. So we can be grateful—our bureaucracy works pretty well in comparison!

There was another instance yesterday of “what are they thinking?” inefficiency: Br. Loren and Danny (a local builder who is well respected for his ability to handle all kinds of problems) are just finishing the building of a cement block bike shed. As they were hanging the door—the only style and size of outside door available locally, they discovered that its 81cm width didn’t quite fit into the 80.5cm, door frame—the standard size and all that is available locally. Danny had to cut out one side of frame, cut away bricks one cm., and move the frame over to fit door. Also, the door is of fairly flimsy metal, so Danny added metal cross-straps to reinforce it. Mark keeps muttering about “made in China; everything here is made in China.”

We’re looking forward to a special event this evening, but that will be part of next week’s news. Also, David has another little project planned. He’s not too busy lately—the last few mornings he has been taking walks and picking up litter along the road. This morning (Saturday—no school) we walked together and hauled back a few grocery bags-full of cans and bottles he had cached along the way. There’s no recycling here, so no one is competing with him for that job!

Life in Nyangana flows around us—children chattering as they hurry to school past our windows, nuns ringing bells at dawn for the Angelus prayer, nurses and doctors going to and from work at the hospital, funerals, school game days, cows passing by on their way to pastures. Keep up your prayers—we’re staying well and hopefully contributing something positive to that flow.

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