Storms in all forms
on Marika VSO-ing in Namibia (Namibia), 26/Nov/2010 07:18, 34 days ago
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As I thought my work ended here, in typical fashion various things keep cropping up as a way of wrapping up and as I found myself getting anxious about remembering everything, I’m working from a ‘to-do’ list now. Alongside usual business then, there have been a few dramas along the way recently. We had 3 couch surfers passing through with interesting dynamics shall we say, and a few that just haven’t showed up, perhaps for the best. 2 volunteers’ grandparents have passed away. 2 sad goodbyes to volunteers, firstly ex-PCV Kaitlin, who’d been here 3 years and so seeing that particular goodbye process gave me a glimpse of how I might feel upon leaving Katima in a couple of weeks. Katie was here for 6 months or so and brought great energy, was really easy totalk to and always with a smile, looking at the bright and humorous side of things, even to the points when she had a snake in her bed. They leave behind the Elephant Energy project, which I’ve mentioned before as identifying the needs of village life, focusing on the women, and opening a marketstall, trained up Namibians to run this new business in selling solar powered products that can support the lifestyle. I’m even thinking of investing in a gadget myself for my travels. So we’ve had a number of gatherings and spent a lot of time together.Most interesting this week, was attending Michelle’s workshop that she has been preparing and organising over the last few weeks. It was a 2-day workshop on Community Based Transboundary Natural Resource Management. Although I didn’t attend it all, I managed to educate myself by watching presentations from speakers on human-wildlife conflict, fire management, sustainable fishing and other interesting topics. She had gathered representatives of conservancies from Namibia, Zambia and Botswana and even KAZA (the biggest transboundary project in the world involving 5 Southern African countries). Most interesting was the interpreted story of how elephants can be diverted away from villages using ‘chilli bombs’ and most disgusting were the images of limbs and body parts dissected out from a crocodile. It was during this workshop that I had a realisation that the work we do here is what matters. I have found the work that many of thegirls doing at the IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservancies) office just round the corner most interesting and even though it’s not something I think I’ll ever go into, looking round the room of around 50 representatives of conservancies from around the region and listening to their discussions, I felt a moment of feeling that working to improve the conditions of people living in this wonderfully rich region in wildlife and natural resources, yet also suffering in poverty, meaningful, worthwhile and fulfilling. I had seen a job in the UK of interest to me this past weekthat ticked many of the boxes of what I thought I wanted to try and get into on my return, but during this workshop a small comparison made the job seem so meaningless and irrelevant. Can I consider working towards this interesting but obscure goal of this job at home when there are people here whose basic quality of life can significantly improve, deaths and poverty can be reduced and they can live harmoniously in their natural environment with just a bit of education and support? It just made more sense for a while, perhaps in a global perspective, to be working at this fundamental qualityof life, rather than at higher levels of need that I would probably be working in at home. That provided much food for thought for me these days.I had the pleasure of my first instance of food poisoning last week too, even though I’d been eating the same as others, I had the fortune of a dodgy Zambezi Bream (the suspect) from the open market after all the times I’ve eaten there this year which essentially knocked me out for a few days, lots of pucking the first night, not even being able to keep water down, then not beingable to eat or do anything for 24 hours, and then a slow transgression, taking about a week, until I’m back on normal portions now.The biggest highlight of the week is probably dealing with yet another burglary. Now I can’t be too bitter about this one, as since the last one, I have felt relatively secure within the surrounding burglar bars that make it feel a bit like a prison but has definitely proven to deter burglars, until one night when Michelle and I forgot to lock the front burglar bar door, even though the inside front door was locked. Hard to describe, but imagine that for the last 6 months I’ve conscientiously made the effort to lock us in every night from the inside, by having cut a hole through the netted door (the 3rd front door here by the way) and reaching my arm out to lock from the outside. So on the day as we did a big food shop (which also happened last time and it worries us a bit that we seem to be watched during the day as well) we absent-mindedly left the outside burglar bar door unlocked, only locking the inside door (that reminds one of a stable as it breaks into 2 halves).The evening was filled with very loud thunder, lightning, wind and a huge downpour of rain. This is happening regularly now as we’re in rainy season and is such cool relief to the other hot days, we welcome the storms. This appears to be an opportunity for burglaries though as the thunder is soloud and maybe as suggested people sleep better in the temporary cool temperatures. As the storm passed over and it felt like it was quietening down enough to go to bed, I got to bed but was convinced I heard persistent shuffling in the garden. I continue to be alert at night to noises as they aremany sounds that are comforting and I will miss such as the frogs, cicada, crickets, birds, but also amongst more disturbing noises such as squirrel-like creatures jumping on and off the trees with a thud onto our metal roof, and other things falling off the trees, the nightly choir of the street dogs and so on. Anyway, always in question as to whether I’m still being paranoid; I switch on lights inside and outside the house, shine the torch into the garden, shout a bit, but cannot see anything, so conclude I must be paranoid. This house is so long/big that I don’t check out down the corridor to the other side towards the front door, kitchen etc, so back to bed. I wake up again at about 4.30am not knowing why, lie awake a while, go to the loo (but again don’t check down the corridor that’s just a bit out the way), back to bed, mosquito starts flying near my ear, after a few attempted squats I give in to opening up the mosquito net and getting under it. Not an unusual night overall. We wake up at the crack of dawn to see the front door wide open, wonder how long it was open for and then start identifying missing items. First the living room, the 3 cushions taken from the sofa, the 2 tablecloths, the laptop charger Michelle borrowed from Carol (luckily I’d suggested she put the old laptop in her room just the day before, again questioning my paranoia) and a heavy swivel office chair. The theft that tops all though, was that they took out the whole fridge-freezerwith all its contents and then 3 of the 4 ripe mangos and about 3 of 15 tomatoes sitting on the kitchen worktop. Why they didn’t take lots more food from the cupboards and worktop, I don’t know. When we saw the fridge gap, we could only laugh. It annoys and worries us that the house is so bigwe don’t hear anything even though we thought we were both relatively light sleepers. With the compulsory reporting to the police the next day (as it’s GRN property), I was much impressed with them as I pointed to them the 3 different footprints we’d identified in the morning at the front ofthe house (one of which was barefoot) and as we lost them, the wet sand and sharply trained police eyes found the prints continue round the house through the garden where I was sure I heard noise, over the back fence, through the bush and towards the river. They are quick to blame the Zambians again, but I was incredibly impressed at how they spotted the hard to see tracks and flattened grass, even to the point where we spotted our now empty juice carton littering the ground where they stopped to rest or wait for the possible transport that met them on the dirt road/track between our house andthe river. Unsure at his point whether they had a car or just got into a ‘makoro’ and paddled it over to the island opposite (Zambia), both common occurrences according to the police. So we are without fridge and a replacement not in near sight, but also maybe helping us feel more ready to leave. My thoughts return to what would I find most fulfilling satisfying to do next year in terms of work and how much is that my motive. It feels like the most fulfilling jobs come with the most challenges; the best highs come hand in hand with the lowest lows just to keep things balanced. Do I want to continue this way, tolerate the lower lows for the sake of the higher highs or do I settle for comfort and a more consistent emotional ride? Or maybe I can mix and match?