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Africa News, Week #8 1/2

It was Independence Day in Namibia on Monday, the 22nd, and not a lot has been happening this week. So, to celebrate and slack off like local bureaucrats, we’re going to turn this week into ten days. Then we’ll have one more week of news about a week later, our last before heading back to the US. 

The special event on Saturday evening was a music presentation put on by Loren’s young adults in his honor. Loren will be celebrating 25 years as a Brother with his family in Minnesota this summer, and the youth wanted to honor him and show Loren’s family some African songs and dance. They were well rehearsed and put on quite a show, and they had asked David to record it on his camera. He was glad to do that, but the only problem was that it was in a dimly lit hall at 6:30 in the evening. So the movies came out rather dark, though the sound is great. Also, since one group of youths couldn’t make it Saturday night, David and Loren went to their village on Tuesday and recorded their performance in good outdoor light.

This week started well, with a Sunday to Monday campout at Mark & Loren’s favorite spot. The weather was warm enough that a dip in the pool felt wonderful. Then we barbecued t-bone steaks, had baked butternut squash, and fruit salad—a feast. The river is quite high right now; it encircled a clump of bamboo trees I had walked up to two weeks before. David got some shots of a couple boys fishing with traps—going into the shallow water themselves to set the traps up. We enjoyed sitting under the trees and reading—it’s so quiet and peaceful. Monday’s lunch was sausages and beans, with rice pudding for dessert. (I had made the rice pudding at home in the microwave, following the German directions—with the help of their very clear graphics showing the steps.) 

When we got home Monday, Berthold was back from his latest trip to Rundu—ecstatic, triumphant! He finally got to take the test and made 100%. So we celebrated with a dessert of ice cream, bananas, and some chocolate sauce that Mark was able to whip up quickly. (One of our more fattening days!) 

To go camping, Mark and I had taken a day off from the computer center. Even at four days, it seemed like a long week. My students are struggling with English, finding it hard to understand who called whom and the difference between “Returned your call” and “Please call back” in the telephone message taking lessons. They had to deal with lots of new vocabulary, like: cartridge, stuck, stack, jammed. But to get back at me, they are making me try out phrases like “I’ll see you tomorrow morning” in their language. Then they go home and have a good laugh, I think. 

Mark is still battling viruses in various computers. Remember that game at Chuck E. Cheese’s where you bop little monsters that pop up? You beat one down and two more appear? That seems to be the game he’s playing now. The good news is that the LAN we use for computer classes is staying clean; only stand-alone computers have been infected. After someone in the women’s residence accidentally left on the gas, they ran out of cooking gas after only about 3-4 days of use on the new tank. So Br. Mark had a meeting with them, got them to discuss any and all issues they had regarding living together (biggest problem? Sharing the cleaning duties. Some things are the same the world over, I think.) They were happy each cooking their own meals, buying their own TP, providing their own dish soap. Then Mark said he’d remove their need to determine who was guilty of leaving on the gas by paying for that one tank himself, but they must come up with the price of the next tank before he’ll give it to them. Such are the lessons they learn having to share living quarters! 

David’s big project this week has been getting 3-4 broken/cracked panes of glass in our double front door replaced. At first he thought he’d try it himself and spent several hours chipping away old putty, but then Danny the builder happened by and David decided to ask his price to install them. After dropping one of the panes he had bought in Rundu, David was glad he had decided Danny’s quote of about US$3 each was well worth letting him do it! He put two panes in on Saturday, and after David buys a couple more panes next week, he’ll be able to finish the job. It will look so much nicer. I told Mark it’ll keep the cold air from finding its way in, and he said, “Don’t laugh—it gets much colder in the next few months!”

The next step in recording the dancing is to get these recordings into a form the youth can keep and view. We figured a DVD would work well for that. But the files are so large, they’re hard for our little laptop to handle. The next thing to figure out is, do we make each song into a separate movie, or if we put them on a DVD as they come off the camera, will it play on a DVD player? Should we make short movies out of each clip? THEN we found out that David’s camera saves videos in a format that the movie maker program doesn’t recognize. (My camera saves in a different, OK format.) We checked for a newer version of the movie maker program, but it only works on Vista. Sorry, Microsoft—you’re losing another customer fast! The Mac version handles both formats. Then, after a long day of frustration, I accidentally discovered that the camera software we have installed to deal with David’s camera actually can change his files into the right format. Hallelujah!! Now we just have to figure out which of our choices works on DVD. That’s my project for next week! 

The other night our dinner-time entertainment was seeing a wayward bat flying past the doorway, up and down the hall of the residence.  That occasioned another spate of stories about local wildlife contacts. Besides the occasional hippos and crocodiles in the river, there was a rampaging elephant not too many years back, a cape buffalo (critters with nasty dispositions) that ran into a village fairly recently and gored a man with its horn for some reason, and more snake stories (lest we become complacent). There was also another snake-bite death recently, and now four women are in the hospital being treated for snake bites.

We met a Peace Corps volunteer in training (from Pittsburg, PA) this morning, when she came to Mass with her host family, with whom she will stay the first three months she is in Nyangana. For some reason, we started recounting these stories when they she and her family joined us for coffee after Church. She didn’t seem to be too frightened by the animal stories, since she has spent a semester in Africa and a month in Australia (near what used to be called Ayers Rock). She is one of a class of 29 volunteers, who will bring the total number in Namibia to 100 or so.

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