Otjikondo’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations by Jordan Wilson

Hello!

Sorry it has taken me so, so long to get another blog up. I have been run off my feet!

At the moment, I am now in my final week of our May holidays. The time has flown by far too fast; I can’t quite believe that next time I am leaving Otjikondo, it will be in 14 weeks and I will be on my way back to Scotland! It’s a scary thought.

Anyway, I seem to very good at going off on tangents when I write these things…. my apologies.

Since Christmas holidays I don’t seem to have stopped. After a few days at our friend’s house in Windhoek we hitched back up to Otji with Scott and Stew (the two volunteers in Gquina). It was a long day but we eventually arrived back hot and tired!

I didn’t really want to stop travelling because Christmas holidays were amazing, BUT money was beginning to run short and I couldn’t wait to get back and see all the children again (I’m going to miss them so, so much!)

Over the last 8 months, Otjikondo has definitely become my home. We used to always say that we were going back to the “GAP flat” after our lessons, now, its “we are going back to the house!” Coming back from Cape Town, it was “WE ARE NEARLY HOME!” So as you have heard, first term flew by and second term was exactly the same! Stew and Scott stayed for a week and helped out around the place before they had to return to their own projects. They left after a really good week and it left us at a bit of a loose end. I guess we were just so used to having them around, though just after they left, Jack arrived who is a Particip8te volunteer at St Michaels, just down the road from Otjikodno! Funnily enough, he lives just down the road from me in Scotland. Its strange how things turn out. Anyway, it was nice to see him! But, after all the excitement of visitors and Christmas holidays had worn down, I honestly felt at a bit of a loose end. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to do; I was so, so busy. I guess that it was because in first term we had Nativity and the grade seven farewell to do. This term just felt a little empty. Because of this, I got petty homesick practically all through February, I kept feeling myself welling up and wanting to go home. It was horrible – I really didn’t enjoy February! It came to the end of February and I was so, so happy.

But back to the events of the dreaded months! ATHLETICS SEASON! It’s taken quite seriously here in Otjikondo. Unfortunately, because of the rain, a lot of the training was cancelled and we had to “skoffel” (basically hacking at a load of over-grown weeds that had turned the soccer field into an ordinary green field… bad timing!!). The cancellation of the training was rather frustrating – this was the time when we told ourselves that we would get fit! We just ended up getting a load of blisters on our hands instead! All this “training” was in preparation for our athletics day on the 5th February. Yes, that morning the school all got into their team colours (Green or Yellow) and were singing their way to the field when we saw that the soccer field had turned into a swimming pool over-night! Athletics was cancelled and we ended up watching DVD’s all day with the children! Still a lot of fun. Even though our athletics failed, we still got to take about 70 of our pupils to Outjo to compete against other schools. The children tried their very best and came 4th (only a few points behind the higher places).

Just after athletics, we had a visitor in the Gap flat. Ex-gap, Marianna came for a week. It was nice having an ex gap here and reassuring to know that we are doing a good job! It came to Wednesday the 23rd February ; our half way mark! How scary is that? And now we are half way through our Gap Year. So yes, we did do a lot on February, so I don’t really know why I felt at a loose end, but I did and I felt homesick! But February ended and March began, thank goodness! We were so happy when March arrived. Poor Cat had had to put up with my random out bursts. But she was great; I’m rather lucky to have here as my partner, she seems to talk sense into me! I kind of need that at times! I decided that I would start giving myself aims – a lot of them involved tidying up, so a lot of them didn’t get completed….. It was fun while it lasted though!

In March, we had yet more visitors. Gilly’s sister, Katy, and her husband Ian came to stay for three weeks! I loved them! Ian got us right back into our music (our flute and violin were beginning to gather dust). We went round to their house and played and had a braai. I didn’t realise how much I missed playing my violin! Well I can tell you; it’s been out a lot more since they came! I have even started to teach two grade six boys the violin. They are so, so good, and have picked it up really quickly. You don’t know how proud I am of them! I just hope they find a way to keep it up when I leave! Hmmm what else in March… well I haven’t mentioned the new grade ones! Aw, they are so small and naughty! I love them all! Well, only a few of them are naughty… especially my sponsor child – little Andrew Shikongo! The smallest boy in the class but most possibly the loudest! He also tends to hit himself a lot. He makes me laugh!

On Tuesday 8th March me and Cat went for a trip on a donkey cart… it was all going well until the cart detached itself from the horse: all we can say was that it was an interesting experience!

March was going so, so quickly!

On Sunday 13th, after church, me, Catherine and our little orchestra of recorders, were invited to Reiner Stommel’s heritage centre in Oenitzaub to perform a concert for him. It was a great experience. The concert kind of went down the drain and we ended up running around the centre, singing, dancing and playing our instruments! We all had a great time.

Monday 21st March also brought in Independence day – 21 years of independence for Namibia. All week in arts we had been making independence flags and collecting sticks to stick them on – the result was pretty good. On the Friday morning, before we all set off on our long weekend, 240 children, along with staff, marched down from the school, down to the gate house, waving 240 paper flags; you can only imagine the noise! Once there, we all lined up in front of the flags and the celebrations began! Each class did a performance and so did the cultural groups. It was all really good. After the celebrations, we set off on our way to Windhoek for the weekend. We travelled all the way down in the back of a pick up truck, and it started to rain. We arrived in Windhoek, rather wet, at our friend Steph’s house where we were staying with her, Stewart, Scott and Jack! The weekend was fantastic – had pizza, went to the mall, went paintballing (I have a war wound on my leg as a result), watched movies and went to her grandparents for a braai – their house was like something you would see on Grand Designs! I honestly feel part of their family now, they are so, so welcoming and have looked after us really well. I was a great weekend which fuelled us for the second half of the term back at Otjikondo!

Nothing much happened during the rest of March and soon enough, April arrived which meant Otjikondo’s 20th anniversary, Project Trust visit and May Holidays! It was destined to be very busy.

At the beginning of April, the clocks went forward, or so we thought… Cat and me turned out to be two hours ahead of everyone else in Otjikondo, and probably in Namibia. We had turned our clocks forward, when actually, they were meant to go back! It would only ever happen to us! It finally came to the week of the anniversary, and things couldn’t have been any busier. We spend a lot of our time cleaning; it was well worth it though, as the school was spotless! Time was also spent finalising the drama, last minute costume fittings, praying for the rain to stay away and in general running around frantically! EVERYBODY arrived at once on the Thursday before the anniversary. The Gap flat ended up being rather busy! John Fraser brought Scott and Stewart up and then there was also Grace who came (she was an GAP at Otji in 2006). She was great, and we all got on really well and had a great laugh!

The anniversary went really well, it also went really quickly! The morning began with the most beautiful church service. Then there was a little music concert outside the library while all the guests got a tour of the school! The day ended with speeches, a lunch and an amazing drama performance by the children – we were all so proud of them. All and all, the day went by without a hitch. Everyone had a great time.

After the anniversary, there was one week left until the May holidays so everyone was frantically running around trying to get everything finalised; marking, cleaning, packing, saying goodbye. Two of the teachers were away on a course so me, Cat and Grace were in charge of grade One, Two and Wings. We attempted to do a fitness DVD with all the grades… you can only imagine! It was a really good week bar the fact that our music concert had to be cancelled because of the rain. Though, the next morning we were all set to leave – to Rundu!

Our holidays had begun!

First stop Rundu!

We travelled up with a bus of children from St Michaels (a school down the road). It was noisy but very fun – the boys sang to us all the way! We made it to Rundu in the evening and found ourselves a rather nice little guest house: “Garden Route Guest House”. We only stayed there for one night and then the next morning we hitched along the Caprivi to Katima Mulilo (all the way up me and Scott had a little girl fast asleep on our knees) and stayed there for the night before we crossed the border into Zambia! The Caprivi was beautiful, I felt like I was in a completely different part of the world compared to the area of Namibia we had just left behind – lots of little stalls along the side of the road, people walking up and down the road with no civilisation in site – who knows where they were going? Vegetable stalls at the side of the road! It was amazing… and we saw an elephant: just a glance, but it was beautiful. We arrived in Katima rather late – our plan had been to get right to Zambia, but our driver advised us to stay in Katima because it was far too late and there would be no way we would have got to Zambia. So, the next morning we got in a taxi and went to the border. Our driver was great, he helped us get to the border and then organised us a lift at the other side! Some people are so, so friendly here. We were driven to the first town from the border and THIS is where we met Henry, our taxi driver and lifesaver! He took us to Livingstone and drove us round and round looking for somewhere to stay. Unfortunately, we had forgotten that it was Easter weekend, and that meant that EVERYWHERE was fully booked. Henry took us back to his house in the Township; it must have been smaller than my bedroom (which is actually rather small) but himself and his family took us in for the night and basically saved us! At first glance the house didn’t seem much. First you walk into the smallest living room, to the left is a tiny kitchen and to the right, the family bedroom, where Henry, his wife and his two year old son sleep! Their toilet and shower were both outside – the shower being a bucket and jug and the toilet being a squat hole! When we arrived at the house, Sylvia (Henrys wife) served us all lunch – rice and chicken. It seems that she just waits on Henry – before lunch she came round with a bucket of water and washed our hands for us and then did a small bow. I suppose Henry goes out and earns the money while she works in the house. That’s the way it is here! I don’t know if I liked that part that much! The rest of the day was spent exploring the township – including the local pubs, where there was quite a serious pool game going on! We went back to the house for Shima (Zambian Pap), fish head, orca and tomato salsa. It was nice… well the fish head was a little dodgy! Henry and his wife took us out that night into the town! It was great. Henry’s family were lovely. I loved his son Lameck – the smartest two year old I have ever met. He was a right laugh! I loved staying with the family but sadly we had to leave the next day to a backpackers (we felt like we were crowding them a little). That night we went to an Arts café where there was an open mike night. The music was absolutely fantastic; you just couldn’t help dancing. The next morning we went to Victoria Falls. WOW! There was so, so much water, and they were stunning! We got soaked and had to put on these stupid ponchos, we looked rather stupid, but it was a right laugh! We managed to get right to the edge of the falls, it was rather scary how easily you could just topple over! Anyway, next stop, Zimbabwe!

I loved Zimbabwe! You go to countries and yes, people are friendly, but here, they are genuinely friendly and they mean everything. People just seem to go out their way to help you. Our taxi driver from the Border to the backpackers gave us a brief lesson of the history of Zimbabwe. It was great!

The backpackers we stayed at in Vic Falls Town was so cool. There were so many colours and a lot of reggae music! We just chilled out at the backpackers and then the next night we got the train down to Bulawayo! The train was amazing. We were staying in first class, and it was the spitting image of the Hogwarts Express! I even had a fantastic sleep. Our morning on the train was pretty busy. We ventured up to economy class and said hello to everyone – they were all so friendly and we had a right laugh. Our aim was to get to the engine room and yes, we did manage this, but this involved a few obstacles! We got off the train at one stop to move to the very front of the train. Unfortunately, while we were off the train, it started to move! We had to run along the side of the train and grab onto one of the ladders that were attached. I felt like I was in some kind of Western movie! We eventually made it to the engine room and I got to pull the horn!

We arrived in Bulawayo and spent a few hours there at the art gallery. I actually really liked Bulawayo – very busy and colourful! We weren’t there for long because we had to get our lift to Harare for the Arts Festival. After hours of travelling, we finally made it to Harare, rather late but ready to begin festival life the next day! The majority of our first day was spent lining up at ATMs; none of them seemed to be working! We eventually got money out and then went to look at the gallery. That evening we went to a debate about the arts in Zimbabwe. It was very interesting; I didn’t realise how hard it was for the arts in Zimbabwe. There have been people arrested for only expressing their opinions! I think it’s very unfair! I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the festival, because I’m sure you will get a little bored. Basically it was fantastic music, late nights, lots of art, LOTS of dancing and a whole lot of fun! We met a load of really nice people and had a great time! HIFA 2012? If I have the money.

On Monday 2nd May, we said our goodbyes to Grace and Chris and then went on our way. That night we stayed at a lady’s house in Bulawayo – because yet again, there was nowhere else to stay (again, it shows you how friendly people here are). Next morning we set on our way to Maun, Botswana where we spent the night with some of the volunteers there. From Maun we went to Windhoek and then from Windhoek we went to Luderitz, where we have just left! Luderitz was amazing! All the Project Trust volunteers in Namibia were there and we had a right laugh. We all teamed together and painted the crèche in the location. I have to say, we are a pretty good country group and we all get on so, so well! Now, we are in Windhoek, back at Steph’s house and on Sunday we head back up to Otjikondo for our final term!

Our holidays have been amazing and we have experienced so much in such a short space of time. Who knew you could do so much? I think it has just made me want to travel my whole life. Guess I will have to start saving. Anyway, I have been typing for ages, so I’m going to go now.

Hope I didn’t bore you too much!

See you in three months,

Jordan X