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Irene Harvley-Felder grew up in Sanford and graduated from Elon University in 2005 with a degree in English/Creative Writing. After graduation she worked briefly as a copy editor for The Education Center in Greensboro before joining the Peace Corps. She arrived in Namibia in November 2005, completed training in the town of Omaruru, and was sworn in as a Volunteer in January 2006. She is currently teaching at a primary school called Baumgartsbrunn, which is located 45km south of Windhoek. She will complete her Peace Corps Service in December of 2007. Irene can be contacted at: irenefelder@gmail.com

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November 7, 2006

After skimming what I wrote, I realized it was time for a little lesson in Namlish:

1. Catch me one photo: Take my picture.
2. The Other Side: Used to refer to whatever is across the street. In our case, there is a college of Domestic Science and Agriculture for 50 girls across the street, but we just call them "The Other Side."
3. I Will Come Now: Used to make somebody stop asking you when you're coming. It doesn't mean anything. Maybe you're coming next Tuesday, maybe you have no intention of ever coming. Usually this sentence is uttered by a person who is walking away from you.
4. Make A Turn: to stop by, to visit, to run an errand, to take your car out for a destination-less spin on payday because it's the only time of the month you have money to fill your tank.
5. Part and Parcel: Just a useful phrase. Feel free to throw it in anywhere, it doesn't have to make sense, but it certainly does give you more words to say. Examples: You are part and parcel of this netball team. That is part and parcel of the problem. Would you like to be part and parcel of this committee?
6. Somehow: A kind of verbal hiccup. Just use it whenever you need a word to put between, in front of, or behind some other words. Examples: I am somehow hungry. Today was somehow. Q: Did you get there? A: Somehow.

Teaching in NamibiaThis morning it was hot as soon as the sun came up, and by the time 8th period rolled around I was sweating buckets. It doesn't help that my classroom is adjacent to the kitchen. The smell of cabbage combined with the heat was enough to make me nauseous. One of the vocabulary words today was "melt," and I had no trouble explaining it. I'm reading aloud Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to grade 6 and 7, and grade 6 is on the chapter about the prince's chocolate palace. They're so funny, I'm not sure how much of it they're getting, but several of the grade 7s have come up to me randomly to tell me they found a golden ticket, so some of it must be getting through. Also, every time I read a passage that refers to Augustus Gloop as "the fat boy," they crack up. Somehow, fat is funny.

Since I last wrote, a lot of sketchy financial things have been going on at school. I knew our financial situation was dire, but I didn't know just how bad it was until last week when the principal announced that our bank account was N$1,000 in overdraft. And this week he informed us that we are actually N$4,500 in overdraft, he just didn't "have the heart" to tell us the first time. To make matters worse, the big annual fundraiser, the School Bazaar, got cancelled. He told me a week ago I was in charge of finding sponsors for it, which was really too late to do anything at all, but I gave it my best shot. He gave me a list of farmers whose workers' children attend the school, but after the fourth one started yelling at me about how the school always steals money, I gave up. Apparently what the principal failed to mention when he gave me this task was that last year, and the year before, some of the teachers running booths at the bazaar just pocketed the money at the end of the day. N$8,000 disappeared last year alone, and the farmers found out about it and decided together not to give any more money to the bazaar. And of course there is the ongoing saga of the school safe, which was robbed at the beginning of the term, just after the school fees were locked inside it. A big hole was somehow burned out of its door, but there was no other sign of break-in in the building, and it has yet to be investigated. Also, the amount of money inside it at the time is somehow unknown.

Corruption a huge problem here. Earlier in the year the government started an anti-corruption campaign with the catchy slogan, "Blow the Whistle on Corruption." To drive the point home, red plastic whistles were distributed to schoolchildren around the country, including to the schoolchildren living in the hostel with me at my old site. Let me tell you, it was a loud couple of weeks before they finally managed to lose or destroy most of them.

I've decided to just start tuning out anything that has to do with finances. It's not my problem anyway, and it just pisses me off. And why should I waste energy getting pissed off about money when there are so many other things to be pissed off about, for example, the Youth Center. One of the German volunteers on the other side was asking me how often Timoteus was opening the youth center on our side, and I was like, what youth center? Turns out the Germans painted one of the empty rooms on our side a few years ago to use as a game room, and they filled it with games. I had never heard about this room, but I was intrigued, so I tracked down the key the next day and was shocked to find a room full of brand new toys and games, including a ping pong table, paddles still in their plastic wrappers, kites, board games, and dartboards. In the corner were two big stacks of mattresses, one of them brand new, one used and mangled-looking. A grade 7 boy passed by as I was looking around, and I asked him if he'd ever been in the room. "No miss," he said. What a waste! Timoteus told me he couldn't open the room because they were using it to store mattresses infected with scabies. But as that is clearly one of the lamest excuses ever uttered, I'm arranging for the mattresses to be moved to a different empty room so I can start opening it in the afternoons. It's things like this that make me wonder whether there is such a thing as sustainable development.

Irene Harvley-Felder with studentsNothing as exciting as the marathon this week, but Jason did make a turn last Saturday, and we went with the Germans to look at the ghost house again. We found out that it was built in 1907 by a German guy who invented some kind of soup spice, and at one time he owned 60,000 hectares of land. He left at the end of World War II when it was becoming apparent that the Germans would lose and South Africa would take Namibia. We decided there had to be some kind of forbidden-love story to go along with the house, perhaps with a worker and a daughter of the spice-king whom we've named Brunhilda. We're going to try to work the story into the treasure hunt/camping adventure we're planning for our learners. Other things: Working hard to get all the donated books catalogued and shelved before the year ends. Started taking pictures for students who wanted them, and they're cracking me up with their "cool" poses and all the girls wanting to take a picture with the same boy. Taught the grade 1s "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" song. They've got the hand motions down, but the words are just sounds that somehow sound like words, but aren't really. Oh well, perfection is overrated.

This Friday, the volunteers in Group 26 will arrive from the U.S. I think there are 60ish of them, and I'm supposed to go to the airport to greet them and hand out fat cakes. They get here on the one-year anniversary of our arrival. It doesn't seem like it's been a year. I remember vividly how it felt to step out of the plane and into the heat, to stand on the flat tarmac and look out at the flat land, and even what the country looked like from above: a blank sheet of rust-colored paper. I'm happy that I'll be home for Christmas. Last year I was in training, and I spent Christmas Eve playing Truth or Dare into the wee hours, and then on Christmas morning, I washed my clothes in a bucket. This year, I look forward to having enough pecan pie to make me ill, enough Bing Crosby to make me wish I were deaf, and 24-hour access to a washing machine.

(NOTE: The contents of these e-mails are mine personally and do not reflect the opinions, policies, or positions of any institution or individual mentioned, including the U.S. Government, U.S. Peace Corps, the Government of Namibia, or its citizens. - Irene Harvley-Felder)