Day 004 – Mobile!

1 June 2021

I’ve been in the USA two days and I’m exhausted! Most of today spent getting a car, basic food for my BnB, and driving 45 min to Sausalito to get my PO Box contents. Driving on the right side of the road is weird! And it’s just wrong to sit on the left side of the car with the steering wheel in front of me! I’ve already bumped into several friends and set up times to get together. I’m very happy to be here because of the connections to so many people here. But things are so EXPENSIVE! Aisch.

My BnB host, Curtis, is great. The location is very quiet, suburban, and perfect for what I need for the next two months. I took a few photos for my Africa friends but will post them tomorrow when I have some energy in the morning!

I feel like I’m letting things slide (how typical is that!) but then i remind myself I’ve only been here for two days! I have my African playlists on Spotify in the background and feel a little homesick for Namibia. It feels nice, actually.

I was getting ready to call friends Bev and Steve (21:00) here, and I realized they were no longer six hours behind me but three hours ahead! It was midnight their time in Maryland! Glad I realized it before I dialed! I did call and talk to Tim who lives just north of here and we decided to get together when he recovers from an uncomfortable case of Poison Oak! That’s what he gets for playing Boy Scout in the brush!

I do think I’ll have images, stories, etc. tomorrow. I’m still battling jet lag and too many things to do (now done) to get settled.

Day 003

31 May 2021

Day 1 (from after my post on Day 1 noon(ish) through midnight) was being on a flight or on a layover in Cape Town that was really hectic and confusing – I’ll write about it soon.

Day 2 was flying from midnight through 13:40 California time (add 10 hours for the time change from Doha). The last leg was 15.5 hours in the air! Blargh. Then about an hour to clear immigration and customs, then my daughter picked me up and we talked and ran errands until she dropped me at my BnB in Vallejo.

Day 3 was not quite enough sleep but a quiet morning getting over jet lag, then a really nice afternoon running around with my daughter, and meeting her mom and grandmother, and the grandmother’s care taker, at the gravesite of grandmother’s grandfather, buried in the National Cemetery at Daly City CA. Now I’m back at my Bnb, ready for bed at 21:00, and just jotting off a quick catch up post.

I should be able to add some detail and hopefully interesting descriptions tomorrow. There was just not the time, or energy, to post until now, and I needed to just get this up so people would know I’m here, OK, and having a delightful time catching up with my daughter.

Much on my mind, and I made audio notes during my trip for blogs later, but just no energy tonight. Thanks to everyone who sent WhatsApp (which still works) and email contacts. Small note: My long standing USA cell phone number (1-415-246-2839) now rings through to my new, temporary, number. Anyone in the USA can call me at that number any time. (I don’t recommend you make a note of it because my USA direct mobile number is temporary: 1-415-910-4741 and may show that number if I call you.)

I’m working on getting a routine for posts and photos. More to come tomorrow.

Day 001

At the gate now. An hour before boarding. I am beginning to think this trip is really going to happen!

Windhoek. Hosea Kutako International Airport.

Me, incognito like everyone else!

This used to be a tiny little airport! It was renovated while everyone was staying away. Really nice now. Still relatively small.

On the drive to the airport (thanks David), I realized how much I was going to miss Namibia.

Sorry I havent posted since leaving Oranjemund Sunday – six days ago. Windhoek turned out to  be a lot busier than I planned, but  in a good way. Unfortunately I was not able to see a people I wanted to see before I left. Turns out I’ve made a lot of friends in Namibia. That feels very nice.

I am trying out a folding keyboard I’ve had for years but not used much. It will take some getting used to. I’m spending way too much time correcting myself. Hopefully with practice it will get easier

More when I can. Writing on the keyboard in the boarding area is a bit too much of a challenge!

Can’t get this one to rotate! I have a lot to learn!

Got a note from my daughter happy to hear I was on my way I am very much looking forward to seeing her!

More when I can. Stay tuned. This was “produced” on my Android.

039_The importance of purpose

13 May 2021

Yesterday I started my daily writing for AAC (my writer’s group) without a clear purpose.  I wrote for about 20 min to post it to WITWIA and ended up just stopping instead of making it coherent and “readable”. It became clear to me (as I increasingly floundered about) that I’d lost sight of “to what end” – the question that should be asked before starting any project of any size.

A long-time friend who is also a writer and a professional film director told me a while back that one of the very few “rules” (more like useful techniques) to writing is to be clear on your purpose before you start. I gained a visceral sense of how important that was in yesterday’s aborted attempt to write a WITWIA article. I share this now because I’m committed to writing every day, improving my writing skills, and “put it out there”. After all, that’s what I need to do to get better at it. As a reader of my blog, you are going to be “treated” to experience my learning curve since you are my audience. Sorry about that!

Fiction writing is not my forte. I’ve tried it off and on over many decades, and I think I get boring quickly. Some authors are exceptionally good at it, of course: for years, I’ve enjoyed the work of Orson Scott Card, for example, who can create entire worlds. Isaac Asimov is remembered among numerous other things for the “Foundation” series, where he also makes a fictional world and social society. The list goes on, of course. The point being, I’m NOT good at that.

Telling a story about something real comes much more easily to me than creating the details out of thin air to make a fictional story more realistic. My attempts at fiction aren’t published – and won’t be any time soon because they are lousy, and they are really short. I mean REALLY short – like getting lost a few sentences in. But you can puruse the earlier 30 or so blogs on this website to see my very early attempts to share life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia.

Or you can stick with me on this journey with WITWIA as I learn to write in a way that (hopefully) will make you look forward to the next blog. Then I’ll be able to describe better what goes on with a 70+ year old man starting a new and exciting part of my life that will most likely end up in some significant traveling.

I’ll also start to throw in some images/pictures/videos to make it more interesting. But bear with me, I’m not there yet.

In 10 days, I leave my house here in Oranjemund, Namibia, and go to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, for a week to do all kinds of stuff and see some people. Then 17 days from now, I depart Windhoek for the San Francisco area for a couple of months. Here’s how it looks from there – and all the reservations in the USA are done and dusted, or “sorted” as they say here.

San Francisco Bay, California, area June and July, then

Taking the California Zephyr train to Chicago with a dear friend I’ve known since I was 23.

Kansas

Wisconsin

North Carolina

Maryland

Starting early September, I’ll either go back to Oranjemund to stay, or go back for a while and leave again, or not go back and start wandering around the world. Lots of factors will impact that. I’ll let you know what happens!

Follow my blog (button on the lower right of the home page) and you’ll get an email whenever I post. And THANK YOU to those of you who have commented or liked something. That all goes to encourage me.

038 One unfulfilled desire…

8 May 2021

Oddly enough, it was a Spanish language PBS film, watched in Africa, that reconnected me to my failure to achieve a long held desire. Since I first lived in a country other than the USA, 48 years ago, I’ve wanted to be fluent in another language.

Mind you, saying “I’ve wanted to be …” is kind of like saying “I’d like to be an author” and it pretty much bypasses the work required to get there. In all honesty, I haven’t applied the effort I’ve felt was necessary to achieve this desire. Ever. Disappointingly, when I came to admit that to myself just before coming to Africa after having lived, worked, or traveled in 45 other countries, lack of effort has only been one of the more minor problems, here.

I was able to get along on a day to day basis in German when I was living in Germany. I had all of the incentives and positive reinforcement needed. I recall very clearly going into a jewelry store in Bitburg, Germany, and haltingly managing to communicate with the owner in German as I shopped for some kind of jewelry. I did all of the right things, plowing ahead even though I knew I was butchering the syntax and grammar. I needed to make mistakes to learn, and I made plenty.

For some reason, early on in life, I learned that being embarrassed about not knowing is simply not productive and creates a lot more social interaction problems than it seems to solve, and actually serves no purpose. So I struggled, waved my hands a lot, laughed at myself and got frustrated with myself, and managed to often get the extremely helpful shop owner to offer the correct German word for what I was trying to say and could only allude to. I tried, I did try, and walked out feeling like I had not done well but had learned something, and felt good about at least trying.

 Then – the memorable thing happened that has lived with me the rest of my life – about 45 years of it since then. As I left the store, I waved with a smile on my face and said “Auf Wiedersehen.” The shop owner smiled, waved back, and said in perfect, accent -free American English “Good bye, my friend. And thank you for working to learn our language.”

What an amazing gift, to just work with me and give me the space to screw up over and over and over, without being condescending or impatient. Sometime when I am trying to communicate with someone and I am having a hard time understanding them, or they are struggling to understand me, I remember that store owner and try to live up to the model he embodied.

Here in Africa, I’ve had many, many chances to relive that lesson. Namibia’s official language is English. But the language makeup of the country is quite varied and complex. Just for fun, I’m going to give you some of the WAY too simplistic explanations for the language landscape in my adopted home.

The official national language of Namibia is English because if any one of the native languages was chosen it would cause internal problems with the others saying “why not me?”, plus English gave Namibia an advantage in international affairs which is an advantage of significance and is especially important for a new country trying to make their way in the big, bad world at large. But it is MUCH more complicated than that. If you are interested see the scholarly paper “A Critical Analysis of Namibia’s English-Only Language Policy” (https://www.lingref.com › cpp › acal › paper2574)

So here I am, a native English speaker, in a country that has one of the most complex language landscapes in the world. Here’s what I mean:

  1. About 50% of the small Namibian population of roughly 2.4 million is Owambo. Other ethnic groups include Kavango (9.3%), Damara (7.5%), Herero (7.5%), white (6.4%), Nama (4.8%) Caprivian (3.7%), San (2.9%), and Basters (2.5%).
  2. Oshiwambo (the language spoken by the Owambo people ) has seven major dialects, only two of which have a written form. But anyone that speaks an Oshiwambo language can pretty much get along in any of the other dialects – but it’s not as straightforward as it might seem (of course).
  3. Expand that basic principle of distinctly different dialects within a language group, and the most commonly quoted number of different languages within Namibia is roughly 30, the least I’ve seen being 13, and the most being almost 40 – depending on how you count a language as being different “enough”.
  4. Now recall that the population is only about 2.4 million, with 30 different languages.

When I first arrived in 2015 as a Peace Corps Volunteer I felt deficient and uncomfortable with my inability to understand sometimes. PLUS, the American Accent is rare here, and is difficult for many Namibians to understand. (Of course the tendency to TALK LOUDER IF THE ACCENT IS DIFFICULT is prevalent! And amusing.) Only after being here in Namibia for a while did I come to understand that even the Namibian people have trouble understanding each other! I didn’t feel quite so bad, then.

My first two months in the country, during “Pre Service Training”, I was given instruction in Afrikaans. I was not a star pupil but managed too do well enough on the post-training language test to “graduate”. My examiner (Patrick – a Peace Corps Namibia employee who has become a friend) was dutifully asking me to explain (in Afrikaans) some useful conversational topics such as explaining what color my pants were, how to get to the post office, and how to tell a taxi driver to slow down. Pretty rudimentary. Then he asked me to explain what it was like to fly a fighter airplane! OMG! In the years since, we have chuckled over that one many times.

At my first posting I was working with 32 disadvantaged women in a single village from a number of different ethnic groups. I tried speaking Afrikaans, but only two of them spoke Afrikaans, and they didn’t want to! Afrikaans is unpopular in some areas of Namibia due to it being the language of Apartheid. Lots of trauma and associations there.

So – I took advantage of the Peace Corps policy of reimbursing language training and hired one of the local women to help me learn Oshiwambo – specifically the Oukwanyama dialect. I launched into it enthusiastically and would ask various women during the day things in Oshiwambo hoping to continue to learn more. But for some reason I was having real trouble with it. I would get the pronunciation of a word down, then say it to someone else and they would look baffled, and uncomprehending, and tell me “no, no – that word should be <whatever>”.  I would then lose confidence. Only later was I told that they (in a “fun” way – not maliciously) were messing with me and having a ball doing it! If I said it properly in the Oukwanyama dialect, the Ondonga dialect speakers would claim not to understand and clarify how it should be said. And vice-versa. Of course I didn’t understand it was six of one, half a dozen of the other to them. I’ve come to understand it was a sign that they liked me and had a ball messing with the American! A good bonding and social integration activity, but useless for learning a language.

All of that contributed to our fun, but detracted from my ability to learn the damn language! Rats.

So two years later I move to Oranjemund where the predominant language is Afrikaans (of course – two years after my Afrikaans lessons with no practice) but almost everyone speaks English. I have made lots of friends here, and the Afrikaaners want me to learn more Afrikaans, my Owambo friends want me to learn Owambo, my closest friend is Ovaherero, my domestic who has become literally a friend is Damara, and speaks Nama, and I still haven’t learned to deal gracefully with the “clicks” that are part of the !Kung/KhoeKhoe (or whatever) languages that the US viewer became familiar with in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” Those clicks are no big deal here – just a part of the language. But my tongue rebels. If you want a good example of daily use of the click language(s), watch the short, interesting, video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CblldKTrLM, plus you will have the added benefit of knowing how to trap a porcupine, in case the opportunity arises!

PLUS – everyone (almost) speaks English. So … I haven’t yet learned to fluently speak another language. Doesn’t look good for the future at this stage. Sigh…

And for those who want to give me a different excuse, no – it isn’t because I’m old. Really.

Please “follow” this blog (button at the bottom right corner of your screen). I’m working to get better at it (but ONLY in English!) and it really helps to know people are reading it!