016_A couple of days around Penduka

Post Title: 016_A couple of days around Penduka
Written Date: 10 Jan 2016
Posted Date: 14 Jan 2016

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I had a really nice SKYPE with my family the day after Christmas (my time) when they had just finished Christmas Dinner in California. Delightful! It is so nice to be in touch with family. My understanding of what a family brings to life has been evolving the past several years, and especially noticeable (at least to me) in this part of life in Namibia. I’ve never been great about staying in touch – an old family tradition in my opinion. But I’m working to be better at it. A lot of the reason for that is realizing how much people can mean to each other, and special ones (family) have a place in the heart that is hard to describe.This place is changing me.

Family is a mixed bag, of course. There are “not so fun” parts as well as the “really great” parts. But the overall experience is – well – one I’m glad to have started to understand and take part in as I grow older. I wish I’d been able to express it more fully over the years to my own family, and daughter, and to people I care so much about. There are some people I really would like to hear from, it’s lonely over here. But it doesn’t impact how I feel about them.

I miss people, but I – honestly – don’t miss being in the USA at all. Sure it helps that I have a nice place to live, but as much as I love Sausalito (it is more of a home than I’ve felt since I left Dallas as a 17 year old kid) I like being here, wherever “here” is. I guess that’s just in my blood.

This blog is about photographs and people – drawn from two not particularly important days in the last month or so. Just so you’ll get a flavor of who I work with here, and what they are like. It is indicative of life here at Penduka, but not “typical”. It’s just a shot in time – not a complete picture.

Since there are an increasing number of photos, I feel obligated to point out the obvious – I am NOT a professional photographer! And unfortunately one of the key aspects of the technical skills is that the black skin of most of the people here simply doesn’t show up as well in photographs, even with “fill in” flash. I’m working on it, so forgive my inability in some cases to properly show the expressions that make good personal photos. Especially Kauna. You’ll see more, and better, pictures of her as I blog.

17 Dec 2015: The Christmas Party for the staff.

Most of the 33 people of Penduka went on holiday Dec 18 for at least two weeks, so on Dec 17 we had a lunch/party.

 016_Dinner Group 1016_Dinner Group 2


One of my favorite people in my entire life is Kauna – the “new” General Manager of Penduka. I work very closely with her trying to make available whatever experience and skills would be useful to her as she struggles to bring a Namibian style order to the chaos of Penduka. It is a very, very tough job. This is the first time Penduka has a Namibian General Manager promoted from within. She is invariably upbeat, and very capable. She simply lacks the experiences and training that most of us from other cultures have along the way. She is already a very good friend, is a valued colleague, and I value her and our professional relationship, and respect her, more than I can describe here. You’ll hear more about her, and the Penduka structure, in following blogs. Christofine is at the bottom of the picture. She is totally deaf and works in the sewing department.

 016_Kauna & Christofine


Just before lunch, finishing a large customer order – pretty much everybody from every department around the table installing drawstrings in Penduka produced bags for a Safari company here.  It was an amazing “team” experience for everyone. This group is starting to pull together.

016_Women installing drawstrings

Lots of laughter and jokes – wish I spoke better Oshikwanyama, or Afrikaans, or Herero, or Oshindonga, or NSL (Namibian Sign Language). My German actually helps a little bit (not in this room, but around Namibia).  This is Leena (not the same as Liina) just after telling a joke I didn’t understand at all! She works at the Namibia Craft Center in Windhoek downtown, selling Penduka items to tourists. She’s probably going to start working back at the Village soon.

016_Leena after joke

And below, Just after lunch, checking out the sales ads: From Left, clockwise: Elizabeth, Leena, Diina, Sofia, Kahaka, Helena (on this side of the table).

016_Checking out the sales

Kambalantu with Grace (not his daughter). Grace and all of the kids that show up here regularly are a great example of raising children by a village. The kids are taken care of and loved by whomever happens to be near them. Including me!

016_Kambalantu & Grace

Kambalantu I’ve mentioned before. He was a freedom fighter (literally a revolutionary!) in the war for independence from South Africa that resulted in independence in 1990. Doesn’t look like a guy that carried an AK-47 supplied by Castro for 14 years, does he? He is a GREAT guy – and the driver here at Penduka. Consider for a moment our “forefathers” in the USA. Same deal if you were living in 1800. A neighbor and friend.

David (below with some grey/white haired guy) is the supervisor of the guards, takes care of the poultry farm and garden, grounds maintenance (mowing, etc.) and maintenance on site. Very hard working, and works as a part time policeman for Katutura on the rare evening he isn’t fixing up Penduka.

016_David and me

The four guys (all the males except me!) – Top Clockwise: Leonard, Kambalantu, David, Fillipus

016_Leonard Kambalantu David Filippus (Top CW)

And now something I don’t get AT ALL! It’s a common thing here to have dry red wine with Coke. Go figure. They say it makes the red wine sweeter. Yes, I tried it. If I can eat mopane worms, I can try this. I prefer mopane worms.

016_Liina David Coke & Wine!!!!

And, of course, with only minimal alcohol and no music at all: Dancing! This is Rebekka – stone deaf since birth. Who needs music to celebrate?


Below: Hilini (Grace’s mom), Jenny and Kauna. Still no music.

016_Dancing 2

Victoria, and Kauna’s daughter, Selma. (Hilini in the background). Aw, who needs music, anyway, when you’re among friends?

016_Dancing 1

23 Dec 2015: The impromptu PCV Christmas Dinner for our unfortunate colleague from Zambia.

Just before Christmas, I had to go into town to get a Peace Corps Volunteer from Zambia that was robbed of passport, money, phone, everything. She was not hurt at all, fortunately. I put her up at my home for a few days until the Peace Corps could get her back on her feet so she could finish her vacation. This is Christine (“Teen”) just before we started dinner.


Teen tells me there are about 300 PCVs in Zambia, and they are ALL in very remote areas! Zambia is only slightly larger than Namibia, but it has 15 million people (Namibia has 2.3 million if you use a generous estimate). The Zambian projects are Education (that’s what Teen does), Agriculture and Fish Farming (raising fish for protein). As a reference the Namibia projects are CED (that’s me, Community and Economic Development), Education and Health. And we have about 140 PCVs in Namibia.

The taxi driver that day was David (PCVs world wide are not permitted to drive at all) – I’m getting to know him, and a few other drivers, pretty well. Somebody remind me to write about taxis here – it is a VERY different “system” than the USA. David owns a farm with a lot of “cattles” (that’s their word for what we call cattle) in his farm with his family in Northern Namibia. His cattles are dying, literally, because they have nothing to eat. The drought is devastating life for a lot of people here.

016_David Taxi

That evening, a bunch of PCVs from Namibia who were in town got together with Teen (Zambia) so she would have at least an impromptu Christmas dinner. On the Penduka patio, from left clockwise: Cristal, Donna, Christine (“Teen”, Zambia), Mariah, Daviun, Gail.

016_Impromptu PCV Dinner before XMas

A little earlier, there was a beautiful rainbow over the eastern part of the reservoir (picture doesn’t do it justice).


And a little after dinner started: Sunset. Just a normal one for Africa.


Yes, I love it here. And I miss you all. Please write or comment. As wonderful as it is at times, it is a LOT of work, and it gets lonely, socially.

Love to you all,



I’m watching an episode of “The Newsroom” relaxing after spending a few hours putting this blog entry together. Yup, that’s how long it takes, at a minimum. At least for me. How I wish I could write like Aaron Sorkin! Sigh.

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