029 – Reflections and Projections

Written:               30 March 2019
Posted:                    5 April 2019

I wrote this a week ago, and delayed because it (1) wasn’t finished, (2) had no pictures, (3) was “too introspective”, etc. But I’m putting it out there today because it’s at least there and I haven’t posted in WAY to long! It is all text, and my musings, but here it is.

On 15 April, I will have been in Namibia for four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My last posting on this blog was in July 2018 and I sincerely apologize for taking so long to post, again. What usually stops me is that there is so much to say, it is daunting. The first part of this posting is kind of factual, and catching up. The last part is musing about Peace Corps Service, learning to live in Namibia, and other not-so-well-defined topics.

If you are a younger/ish potential volunteer, I’ll try to include some perspectives of interest, but I’m about 40+ years ahead of the average age of PCVs, and I don’t pretend to understand ‘yall well enough to predict how you will react to this country, or to service in the Peace Corps. Many/most of my PCV friends here, however, are early to mid-20s and they are getting along just fine and enjoying themselves, plus doing a LOT of good here. Google “Namibia Peace Corps Volunteers”, maybe add “blogs” to the search, and you can hear from them directly.

Particularly to the younger potential volunteers: I can offer some hard-earned experience. First and foremost, if you are interested in volunteering, but “just aren’t sure” – DO IT! There are downsides, as there are to anything. The two+ years in another country, learning to live with and communicate with people from a different culture will be one of the most valuable things you ever do. What you will gain is well worth the loss of income for two years. “Hands down”, no qualifications, volunteer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be exceptional and offer things not often available to you in life. I have never regretted it and I’ve been here twice as long as usual by extending twice – which is unusual.

If you are 50+ (which was almost twenty years ago for me!), I also encourage you to “just do it” (I’ve always hated Nike for taking that phrase into the “trite phrase” lexicon). I’ll spend most of this blog talking about you guys and girls – with some encouragement and some cautions. But the basic response is the same as for the younger set. Unless you have a specific reason for NOT volunteering, if you are intrigued but not quite sure – absolutely volunteer. There are, however, some qualifications to this advice for this age group. Not reasons not to do it, just advance notice of some of the things you will run into that the younger set usually don’t deal with (at least not as much).

For a perspective I come from, while I’ve not enjoyed every moment of my service, I have been happy, challenged, and busy every moment I was here. I have always felt it was the right thing to do, for me, and never once regretted it. I am even figuring out how to stay in Namibia and continue “volunteer” efforts when my Peace Corps service is over in mid-August after 52 months in Namibia. I am a “pensioner” (as they call it in Namibia), and being a PCV beats the hell out of living next to a golf course. If you relate at all to that comparison, I encourage pursuing your volunteer service. If you look forward to living next to a golf course or your personal equivalent of that, being a Peace Corps Volunteer probably isn’t the best choice for your next few years. Nothing wrong with it on either side, but it just ain’t the same thing. The PC tag line “The hardest job you’ll ever love” is not a joke, and is not trite. I’ve had some very demanding jobs in my life, but the work I’ve done here is one of the most challenging things I’ve done in a challenging life, and is clearly one that I love and would do again in a heartbeat.

My service, and my blog, is not a travelogue. Many/most younger volunteers, and a lot of older ones, treasure and take full advantage of at least being in Africa to travel, vacation, and experience lots of locations you may never get to see again. You won’t find photos of me jumping off a cliff into an African River (many of which are populated by crocodiles, hippos, and other unpleasant company – not recommended), but many of the PCV blog sites are full of that. And it is a valuable experience. I’ve just had the pleasure of traveling around the world much more than most, not as much as many, but I don’t need to continue looking for new things anymore. I learned a while back that I could easily spend the rest of my life going somewhere else, looking at something new, or seeking something better. Again, if that’s what floats your boat, go for it. Particularly if you are in your 20s. I did some of that, and wish I’d done more. But my life is about something different, now, as much as I still enjoy trying and experiencing new things.

I rarely take vacations here because I am vitally interested in the work I have been doing. For the first two years I was working with an established NGO (the oldest one in Namibia) called Penduka Trust. They help disadvantaged women earn a living. One of the distinct joys of those years was living in a totally unique home made of recycled beer bottles on the edge of a lake in a protected “bubble” that was beautiful, safe and comfortable in the middle of Katutura, one of the most poverty-stricken areas in Namibia. It is part of Windhoek (the latest city in, and the capital of, Namibia), and holds 2/3 of the population of Windhoek, most of the people living in shacks made of corrugated iron sheets with dirt floors and a single water faucet for 20+ families, and a single outdoor pit toilet for the same. Katutura is home to over 200,000 people. There is a lot of material in earlier blogs about Penduka.

The last two years I’ve been in Oranjemund on the far southern tip of Namibia next to the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Orange River. My work here has been to create an NGO (OMD 2030) for the community that is now a Voluntary Association, a legal entity, to empower the citizens of the town to transform the town from a single-industry (mining) town literally owned by the mining company (Namdeb) to a diverse economy. Namdeb has declared mine closure planned for 2021, which removes the economic basis for the community. I haven’t figured out a quick way to describe the town, or my work, in a satisfying way so I’ll leave that to another blog. For now, I’ll just say I feel good about my work as being worthwhile. The NGO is now completely under Namibian management, AND it is funded for all of 2019 with a strategic plan to keep it funded at least through 2021. My project, OMD 2030, is establishing a firm record of actually implementing programs it works on (which is not that common here), and that is one reason we are getting funded reliably. We’re in the process of making some major web site changes, but you can visit http://www.omd2030.com for a taste of what we’re about.

Frankly I feel great about OMD 2030. Together with Sue Cooper, a Namibian imported from the U.K., who has lived in Oranjemund for many years, we created OMD 2030 literally from nothing just over a year ago. We used the excellent work by two consultants that had been working with Oranjemund for a couple of years to help guide us in the initial implementation and still stay in touch with one of them as she continues to work to help the town survive and prosper. Remembering that as an entity we are barely over one year old, check out our latest Newsletter  – written by Sue: The “i” – OMD 2030 Newsletter, March 2019.

If I leave after my PC service ends in mid-August, I am reasonably confident that OMD 2030 will continue for many years. I might stay on as a consultant/advisor in some capacity if I can do that without getting in the way of a new PCV to arrive here in June. We’ve been able to get three more PCVs to come to Oranjemund in June: one in Business for OMD 2030, one for the Town Council, one is Health for HIV/AIDS education and youth empowerment. We are also asking for one Peace Corps Volunteer as a teacher for the government primary school to arrive in October. Three of the Trainees arriving in Namibia in April (this month!) will land in Windhoek on Wednesday, 10 April – next week.

There is a reasonably good chance that I’ll stay in Namibia indefinitely after the Peace Corps. It isn’t that I just want to stay here, which some federal bureaucrats insist is my reasoning (it isn’t). There is a very specific and significant program I am passionate about bringing to reality – a National Museum to be located in Oranjemund. The museum, part of the National Museum of Namibia, will highlight the cultures of the //Kharas Region, and feature the artifacts from the shipwreck of the 1533 Portuguese trading vessel “Bom Jesus”. I want to write a blog just about that shipwreck, but if you are curious before I get to it, just Google “Bom Jesus” (that is BOM, not BORN) and you can see all kinds of information on this internationally famous wreck. You can go to The “Bom Jesus” – the age of exploration discovery. for a 20 min video. With a search for “Bom Jesus” on the internet, you can see all kinds of stuff, including National Geographic coverage. Working on a museum to feature that shipwreck and the culture of this region is what I want my life to be about for the next 3-5 years, in Namibia. We’ll see. It would, without exaggeration, change the economy of the //Kharas region, the southernmost part of Namibia and the poorest region in the country by being an internationally visible attraction to a part of the world that has been largely hidden because of restrictions that came with being the source of the vast majority of gem quality diamonds in the world. See The “Sperrgebiet” Tsau-/Khaeb National Park. I might write a blog about that, also.  We at OMD 2030 are applying to be able to run the concessions in the southern coastal area of this park, soon to be opened to the public for tourism. This is one of the ways OMD 2030 will finance itself, and ensure the economic turnaround for the area.

Now for a “tidbit” for the younger potential volunteers: There is a very active emphasis on volunteers staying in touch with each other and supporting each other while you are in-country. In the past three years, the Peace Corps Namibia headquarters (in Windhoek) has done a great job of making this a choice assignment. You’ll make lots of American friends and have some familiar culture to bolster your time here. More importantly, you will have the opportunity, and the encouragement, to make very good friends in the community. The majority of your reason for being here is cultural and personal. If you do nothing else other than help Namibians understand America better, and then help Americans understand Namibia better, you will have been successful. There are many opportunities to make a difference in specific development-typical ways such as projects, fundraising, training, etc. but your primary work is to make friends. Make sure you understand the three missions of the Peace Corps (see https://www.peacecorps.gov/about/). They mean it.

If there is one opportunity for improvement, in my opinion, it would be on helping you, as a volunteer, understand that your service here is about serving the Namibian people and draw your strength from what you produce in that arena. Often this should be quietly with no fanfare (in my opinion). Your projects here are about leaving something sustainable for Namibia, not about getting the headlines or photos of yourself and your American friends in the papers or blogs. There is an element of learning humility early in your careers that shouldn’t be overlooked. One of my favorite sayings is from Nelson Mandela, and I am certain this is a paraphrase: “A cow gives milk to the whole village but it does not make noise. But when a hen lays just one egg that can’t even feed one child it crows and makes noise that everyone can hear.” Don’t mistake your ability to get an article written about you, or to receive very justified and necessary acknowledgment from others, or getting together with your American friends for a touch of the familiar, with making a sustainable difference to your community and integrating with, and learning from, another culture. ‘Nuff said. Everyone’s experience is different.

From this point on, I’m writing this just before publishing it. The rest was written a week ago.

I’ll try to make the next post more informative about Namibia and the work here in Oranjemund. Like a lot of people, I dream of writing – but the reality of writing just doesn’t seem to be a discipline I’ve been successful in developing. So I won’t make a promise – but the experiences I’ve had here are extraordinary.

Finally, I’m reaching out for support if not from you, directly, then for a referral to someone who can help. There are many, many projects that OMD 2030 is actively pursuing, but carefully, to make sure we can succeed at whatever we take on. (See page 8 of the newsletter for an idea of what’s up.) These cost money – not a lot usually – but some. If you are interested in helping out the people of Namibia financially and being assured your money will be used wisely, please let me know via direct email, through this blog, or however you would like. Do NOT send money yet – I need to make sure you are approached with a vehicle for contributing that is completely safe for you and for us, and (at least until August) in accordance with Peace Corps regulations. OMD 2030 is almost entirely unique in this country, indeed in a lot of countries, in that as an NGO we have audited financial statements by a Chartered Accountant (equivalent to a CPA in the USA) for our first year of operation. That has been in the plan from the beginning and demonstrates professional, transparent, and accountable financial operations.

If the “Shipwreck Museum” project gets going (I’ll have a better feel for that after some meetings in the capital city, Windhoek, in late April), there will be a need for finding a sponsor for my staying in Namibia to work on it because the Peace Corps here in Namibia has a policy of not extending anyone after three years. The fact that I’ve been here four, already, is an exception based on the work done here to date. But the Peace Corps will be in the past after August. All I need is a place to live, food, medical care, and basic transportation – no salary. It’s not much, less than USD $2,000/month for a year or two, then the project will be self-sustaining. Please let me know if you would like to discuss being able to support a part of this project in that way. We can make sure your help is transparently and accountably well used with regular reporting.

This blog doesn’t have a huge audience, but it is a caring one. Many of you have already demonstrated that with past fundraising projects I’ve run through the Peace Corps.

Regardless of whether or not you’ve contributed in the past, I appreciate you caring about the work here in simply reading this blog. At this stage in my life, I’ve found purpose and meaning and it does my heart good to know you, as readers, care about others that deserve help in parts of the world you may have never visited.

All my best.






028 – Finally, a new blog. So what am I doing now?

Written: 1-30 April 2018
Posted: 1 May 2018

Updated: 7 July 2018
(So I accidentally published this, back in May, as a “New Page”, not a blog post. Sorry about that! The post is unchanged from 1 May.)

Wow – no post since October. If I try to make this a “catch up” I’ll never get finished writing. That’s one the things that has kept me from posting. So much has happened. I’ll just start at … now.

Peace Corps Service for me has shifted – a lot. Arriving in Namibia in April 2015, I was originally assigned (after training) to Penduka Trust. In June, 2017, I extended my service and by my choice was moved to Oranjemund, Namibia. My extension to a fourth year was recently approved by the Peace Corps (normal service is 26 months. So far I’ve been here for 36.), and as of now I am scheduled to leave Namibia, and the Peace Corps, around August 2019. Assuming I pass the physical soon, that will become official. I’ve now been in Namibia longer than any current PCV, and I’m still happy with the decision.

As an older volunteer, but also with so much time in-country, my perspective differs quite a bit from a more typical PCV. I don’t tend to “hang out” much with the other PCVs (other than Brett – he and I share a two-bedroom home in Oranjemund) but I enjoy the interactions when they do happen, and usually feel welcomed by them even though I’m a couple of generations ahead of most of them. We are getting more older volunteers in the new groups, however. I guess Peace Corps is figuring out we have something to offer! Plus. Oranjemund is VERY remote and Brett and I don’t have many PCV visitors.

The job I have here is difficult to describe in brief, but I’ll give it a shot.


Oranjemund, Namibia, is right at the mouth of the Orange River where it empties into the South Atlantic. The river is 5 km away on the south side, ocean 6 km on the west side. There are hundreds of km of sand all around the isolated town. It is VERY remote! What communities are close by (Alexander Bay, Rosh Pinah) were all created by Diamond Mining operations, and are even lower population than Oranjemund. Rosh Pinah is active, but Alexander Bay (South Africa) is spookily quiet and almost uninhabited. Many small diamond mining independent operators live and work out of there. Current population of Oranjemund is unknown, but estimates are somewhere between 4,000 – 10,000. Estimates vary widely.

Oranjemund used to be a mining town completely owned by Namdeb – the Diamond mining company 50% owned by DeBeers and 50% by the Namibian Government. In 2011 it was “proclaimed” a town, which meant Namdeb gave the land (not buildings, infrastructure, etc.) to the Town Council, the Local Authority that is in charge of any Namibian town by law.

The “Town” was started in 1936 as an area to house workers at the diamond mines, mostly on contract coming from Northern Namibia. Some houses were built for mine management, most of which were from South Africa, and dormitories/compounds built for the workers. In the decades after that, stores, a theatre, etc. were slowly added until it started to look like a town. Virtually all of the food was raised in farms owned, and run, by Namdeb. All of those farms have at least changed hands and now belong to individuals, but by far the majority of them simply closed and are abandoned.

Since the first Town Council was sworn in (2012), the town has been trying to get less dependent on Namdeb and start becoming a “normal” Namibian town. It hasn’t gone very fast, and not very well. It used to be that you needed a permit from Namdeb to even enter the town, and they weren’t easy to come by. In October of 2017, the need for a permit was removed and now anyone can drive into Oranjemund at any time.

Describing the history and current situation in Oranjemund is beyond my meager talents to do in a blog, but I can refer you (if you are interested) in a few places to “catch up” on the situation. There are photos, stores, and some such on these sites.

Here is a nice YouTube video about Oranjemund.


And to get more of idea of how remote it is in the Namib desert see the YouTube video of taking off from the Oranjemund Airport (Yup, we have one. It was built to service the Namdeb executives and to permit the Diamonds to be flown to a final destination). Pay particular attention just after the 1:05 mark, and at about 1:30 the town of Oranjemund (small green patch on the other side of the “lake” which is really a very shallow area sometimes containing water. Later in the video you can see the Orange River. But notice the sand – everywhere – around Oranjemund.


My Job In Oranjemund:

I report to the CEO of the Town Council. My job started out as working with the Economic Development office of the Town Council, but within six weeks of arriving, it changed to be the Advisor to OMD 2030, described below. The original form of OMD 2030 was as a “Steering Committee” made up of representatives of the major stakeholders in the town transformation: The Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Constituency (kind of like a county in the USA), Namdeb, and the citizens of the town. It was a good effort, but it didn’t accomplish much due to rivalries, mis-alignments of stakeholders, lack of a clear direction, no real objectives, etc. etc. I was asked to be Advisor to the group in July, and shifted my responsibilities to function as a Programme Manager until OMD 2030 could get on its own feet. That never happened, however, so we’ve taken a new step.

On 23 February, OMD 2030 voted itself into being as a “Voluntary Association” by Namibian Law – a non-profit legal entity that doesn’t belong to anyone but itself. The constitution we developed stipulates that members cannot represent their organizations (Namdeb, Town Council, etc.) but join as individuals. The Mayor, CEO, Chair of the Management Committee, Namdeb Manager of Town Transformation (and other Namdeb managers), and Chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce are all members. However, the management committee is made of association members that are not any of those persons. OMD 2030 is now a citizen led legal entity that has the mission to “… assist stakeholders in transforming Oranjemund from an economy dependent upon Namdeb to an economically diverse and culturally rich town offering citizens opportunities to create an excellent standard of living.” The steering committee was disbanded at the same meeting the Association was created.

My role, now, is to be Advisor to the Management Committee (MC: six of the members voted into “office” by the general membership). I am working with the MC to get the organization established literally from nothing. While there are associations in a few – very few – Namibian towns that share some relatively minor similarities in mission, there is literally no precedent for this kind of organization. The job of “creating” a new Oranjemund is unbelievably complex. While a good foundation now exists (the Association), the work ahead of us is enormous, and scary. Plus we are not yet funded. For the first time since I got here, there is a reasonable possibility we will actually have a budget and that appears to be due to the stakeholders’ increased confidence that the correct platform is finally in place to do what needs to be done in the community. Saying I am the Program Manager is somewhat misleading, however, and frankly is a outside of the Peace Corps mission. I do not, and should not, manage anything – we are here as advisors.  The fact that we are creating this non-profit out of nothing, however, requires a “driving force” and until a sufficiently experienced and dedicated individual is found and trained, that responsibility lies with me and with the newly formed Management Committee. I have no direct authority, and shouldn’t have any. But part of what I need to do here is to help the MC find a replacement Program Manager before the end of my time here in Oranjemund. That is going to be difficult, as there are very, very few qualified people in Namibia to run this type of organization – particularly not the kind of organization we are intending to build! So – I’m an advisor and very clearly the managerial responsibilities lie with the MC of the Association.

So what is “Town Transformation”, anyway?

The Town Council is deeply vested in trying to get the properties and infrastructure legally transferred from Namdeb so they can sell homes to the many, many people that want to call Oranjemund home. But the very old infrastructure, much of which was not build to ordinary standards because it was essentially a “dormitory” for Namdeb workers, is vexing because it breaks a lot. Water outages due to broken water mains, electricity failures, etc. are common. The Town Council is responsible for all of that – sort of. Until the legal mess between Namdeb and the Town Council is worked out, it is all very frustrating for everybody.

And – many people who WANT to be part of the Oranjemund community are moving out because they can’t buy their homes. This is a major problem.

And none of these items address the really critical job of literally creating a community feeling here. When Namdeb was running things, people felt included and part of things – but everything was set up and arranged, and paid for, by Namdeb. It is a community that isn’t used to being – well – a community! Many people here know that, and want to work on it, but the roadblocks to doing impactful work on creating a community have precluded effective action.

OMD 2030 is tasked with all of that – among other things. I’m concentrating on locating and enrolling the individuals in town that orient to community and trying to develop ways that their efforts can make a difference.

None of this affects a very central issue of needing to attract new businesses, and population, to Oranjemund. That, alone, is daunting. Sheesh. Oh yeah, and to build a Tourism industry, and Agriculture, and Drylands research – you get the idea.

Why does all of this matter? Take a look at Kohlmanskop – that was an active town until around 1956. It is just up the Atlantic Coast from Oranjemund, around Luderitz. Matter of fact, Kohlmanskop was abandoned because they found bigger/better diamonds around Oranjemund. Lots of interesting history there I’ll write about another day.


Probably Oranjemund won’t be quite that drastic, but in all seriousness, it could.

On the other hand, there are some seriously big projects that MAY come here, which would revitalize the economy.

In the mean time, I am attempting to help the community take responsibility for their own growth by attracting new businesses and residents, and forming community groups to help the existing poor residents as well as ensure a better way of life for everyone.

Back to Peace Corps jobs in Namibia, in general:

This is a very untypical Peace Corps job, and there is no equivalent in Namibia. It remains to be seen if the Peace Corps decides to continue to support this type of position when (if?) I leave. However, CED (Community Economic Development) is assigning PCVs to increasingly “modern” positions with government and NGO institutions throughout Namibia. The number of PCVs assigned to Town Councils is growing. We have a PCV at Arandis and at Keetmanshoop, and a PCV with the Regional Council (a Region is kind of like a state in the USA) for Kunene Region. They actually work with the Councils directly, and in some cases have been very effective. There is also a PCV that works to help rural communities benefit from natural resources by creating income opportunities for using their resources sustainably. She is now doing that on a national level, after starting in rural areas with elephants literally in her front yard. Other CED PCVs work with groups in vocational training, education for adults, and in the more traditional Peace Corps positions helping groups with making handcrafts, building local organizations, etc.

Currently there are approximately 140 PCVs in Namibia. About 30 in CED, only about six currently in Health (CHHAP), and the rest in education (SUPEP). On April 12 or so, new trainees arrived in country for 10 weeks of training: about 17 CED, and 16 Health volunteers. They will stay for 26 months unless they extend (as I did), which is not rare but is not the normal situation.

So What about Namibia?

Africa, and Namibia, just aren’t what almost everyone in the USA pictures. National Geographic has very recently done some soul searching about how they have portrayed things here. The latest edition of Nat Geo is REALLY interesting, and they do an admirable job of self-evaluation without falling on any swords. When I was a kid I used to go to the attic and look through decades of stored-away Nat Geo magazines, often with the not-so-lofty goal of seeing bare breasts! I’m not sure that was an enlightened way of learning much about another culture, but I doubt if I was the only teenager doing the same thing. More than that, and as recently as shortly before leaving for Namibia in 2015, I still envisioned Africa as villages, leopard skin loin cloths, and kraals. Africa is much more developed than I even conceived of. Getting to know the “real” Africa has been gradual.

I’m feeling bad about not having more images, but if I don’t post this now, it may be weeks before ANYTHING new gets on the blog. Please stay tuned and I’m really going to try and put more up here. There are LOTS of projects that need help, and this blog only lays out the larger picture.

Notes and contacts help me motivate to post more, as does “following” my blogs with the button in the lower right corner. It may not be visible unless you scroll UP towards the top of the blog – then look for the “FOLLOW” button. No advertisements or releasing your contact information, it only sends you an email when I post a new blog. Thanks for reading!

027_Penduka through Leave in the USA

Written 7 October 2017
Published 7 October 2017

A lot has happened since April, and wrapping up my involvement in the Poultry Program at Penduka, which continues without me. (See the previous posting.) I may have said this before, but one of the reasons I don’t post more often is that I always think of posting as having to be complete – a whole story/narrative – and that takes time. And the story keeps getting longer every day. So it seems daunting before I begin, so I don’t, and don’t, and don’t, etc. I am beginning to have suspicions that I may not be a writer at heart!

There aren’t many images in this post. You’ll bump into them. But I hope words catch your attention. More photos in later blogs, I promise.

Apologies to all (as is becoming usual), and a sincere Thank You to my friends, family, and occasional other reader that all sent me a note asking for another post. I appreciate the prodding – really.

As you know if you’ve been to WITWIA before, I don’t tend to make my blog a travel log. I try to spend more time talking about the country, the people, the customs, and my inner experiences in Peace Corps service. Today will be a little bit of an exception because there is so much to catch up on. In many ways, what you see below is not necessarily common for Peace Corps Volunteers. But it is/was MY experience. And I can add it to the growing public library about what it’s like for a Peace Corps Volunteer. In my case, a 50+ (+++) “older” volunteer. But it’s different for everyone. If you are thinking about doing it – just do it. It will be more than worthwhile in a way that is meaningful to YOU. And there is no way you will be able to know what will happen before you just commit and show up in country. It’s worth it.

Part of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is returning to the USA. And it is full of adjustments. The Peace Corps spends about a week getting returning volunteers ready to experience the readjustment, and it is time well spent. More on that week (COS – Completion of Service) in a later blog.

After getting the completed Poultry Program on sustainable chicken feet (early April, 2017), the Peace Corps in Namibia asked me and one other PCV to meet the new group of volunteers (Group 45) at the airport when they arrived in Namibia for the first time. That is SOOOOO much fun! There were 17 CED (Community and Economic Development) volunteers – the same program I am in. G45 was small compared to most because it was not combined with new Health volunteers. My group in April 2015 was 31 when we got in country (22 left standing when the group ended service in June 2017). But only 15(12 at COS) of us were CED, and the 16 (10 at COS) were Health volunteers.

Oone of the smart things the Peace Corps does is that when the new volunteers get on a bus right after arriving, there are only one or two other people on the bus that takes them from the airport to where they will be for the next couple of months of training.  Those “other people” are PCVs with experience in-country for a minimum of one year to be able to just talk and answer questions. I appreciated it a lot when I was new, and I love being able to do it for the new trainees. No one official, just PCVs like the trainees expect to be after a couple-three months of training.

Even more fun for me was when G45 was taken to Penduka for their first four days of service! What a unique opportunity. It never happened before, and probably won’t happen again only because of the group sizes. Having them at Penduka was close to (actually in) Windhoek and made it easier for Peace Corps Medical staff to travel back and forth. It also gave the “new guys” a chance to enter a different culture relatively gently.

A memorable event happened at the end of the second full day at Penduka. Peace Corps Namibia hosted a dinner at Penduka for the new Trainees, and we invited 10 personal friends of mine from the surrounding community. The Trainees got to meet “real” Namibians not associated with the Peace Corps, and just chat and have dinner. It went really well and both groups reported it to be a huge success! It is an evening I will always carry with me as a warm memory.

Within days after G45 left Penduka for Okahandja to continue their two months of training, I left for the USA on a four-week vacation gratis from the Peace Corps. Gratis was the economy class air fare part back and forth to San Francisco, my home of record, and the leave time. The rest was on my bank account. The extra leave is granted to any PCV who extends service for at least 13 months.

I spend most of the rest of this blog talking about that trip even though it was in the USA because what struck me so distinctly was experiencing the USA after spending over two years as a volunteer in a developing country.

After flying back to the USA, I visited (in order):

  • San Francisco, CA, where my daughter and my extended family met me at the airport! THAT was fun after having been gone just over two years. I only stayed one night, then….
  • Milwaukee, WI to visit some of my oldest friends, Roger and Kris.
  • LA/Woodland Hills, CA to visit Pat and Sharon, who go back almost as long as friends, but whom I unfortunately don’t get to see very often.
  • San Rafael, CA to stay with my Mother-Out-Law, Posie, for over two weeks and see my daughter, her mom and family, and LOTS of friends in and around Sausalito.
  • Bethesda, MD to stay with and see Steve and Bev in their new (to me) home. Again, very close friends for many years.
  • While in Bethesda, I took a jaunt down to Arlington, VA and spent a few hours with Carl and Pat, the ex-Peace Corps Country Director for Namibia. Carl was kind enough to drop me at Dulles to catch my flight back to Namibia via Johannesburg, South Africa.

I didn’t see everyone I wanted to, but managed to have a good balance of running around visiting people and relaxing, with some good time with my daughter which was of primary importance to me.

Just a few days after returning to Penduka from the USA, I left for Okahandja (about an hour drive north of Windhoek (Penduka), and spent about a week helping to train Group 45 in week seven of their nine-week training program.

Back to Penduka for about 10 days, and then I left Windhoek and flew to Oranjemund on 15 June, where I’ve been ever since!

Now, some perspectives on the various parts of the visit to the USA. Everything since late May after returning from the USA will have to wait for a future blog. Honest, I’ll try to get another post sooner than it has been.

Trip to the USA:

I tell people that I had three distinct impressions of my trip:

  1. Most people in the USA have absolutely no idea of how much we take for granted compared to many places in the world, especially to Namibia/Africa. It’s not a bad thing, but it affects our ability to even comprehend some things other cultures, particularly developing countries, deal with on a daily/hourly basis.
  2. I feel incredibly lucky to have been born in, and raised in, the United States. It is not as exceptional as many people think it is in all ways, but it does include many distinct advantages, all of them at a cost (not monetary) that many USA citizens are not aware of. All of the analysis aside, I’m very happy to be from the USA, and lucky, and thankful.
  3. I do not miss being in the USA at all. I miss my family and friends, and look forward to visits, perhaps to moving back one of these days – who knows? But living in the USA is a “been there done that” kind of thing for me.

More could, perhaps should, be said of any of the above. But I’m trying to keep this posting manageably readable at least in length. (Added after finishing – I failed!)

One thing I will comment on: I really like Namibia and may retire here although I hate the word “retire”. Let’s just say I may stay here. Someone asked me a while back why, of all the places I’ve visited or lived around the world, Namibia is my favorite? I replied that it isn’t that. The question of “favorite” in anything doesn’t work for me. I don’t do well with the “favorite” concept because it’s just not how I think about things. “This” is what it is, it doesn’t have to be compared to something else.

Through a combination of lots of luck, some personality characteristics, some decisions, and a generous amount of being willing to risk (which hasn’t always worked out well!), I’ve experienced much more of the world that the vast majority of people, but not nearly as much as many people. I do not feel the need to continuously look for the next experience – I have a lot of them. Nor am I looking (any more) for the “better” place or experience. I could spend the rest of my life – in fact could have spent my entire life – in that search and at this age still would not have touched a small part of the wonderful places, and people, in the world. I’m here, I’m 68, I like it here, and I’m fortunate enough to have a challenging project to keep me sufficiently stressed and enjoy occasional moments of feeling like I’m in the right place at the right time for me, and perhaps for some others if I’m lucky. I’m contributing what I can, insufficiently most of the time in my opinion.

If I can build a life here and continue to feel that way, that feels like success to me. Yes I’ll miss living next door to lifelong friends, but good friends tend to stick around and be available regardless of how long we are separated geographically. And I’m constantly making new acquaintances, and a very few of them, if we are lucky, eventually become friends. I seem to be missing the community gene that requires I put personal connections ahead of all else – something I’ve seen in abundance here in Namibia. This is a culture built around community.

I am content, very grateful, value my friends and acquaintances, accept the flaws I have that I know about, and look forward to tomorrow. Plus, being here still has a certain amount of feeling “exotic” to me – there are moments when I look up at the constellations of the southern hemisphere, or at a gemsbok (oryx) two meters from me grazing on the grass in my back yard (literally), or a jackal running away from me, at night, back into the Namib desert, or a flock (herd?) of ostrich(es?) running wild through the fields, or the people sitting around a conference table with me, and I think “I’m in friggin’ Africa!” Not too bad.

That’s why Namibia.

Now, back to the USA.

It turns out to have been a god send to spend the first few days in a suburb of Milwaukee with good friends. The area they live in is old and still has the “walk two blocks to the grocery store” feeling to it (which is also the reality in their home). Two blocks another direction is a good restaurant, two blocks the other direction is a nice open area/park, and the entire area – and their home – is not at all pretentious. It was a really helpful re-entry to the USA from Africa. The Peace Corps stresses to PCVs returning to the states that re-entering the USA is often more difficult than acclimating to the “foreign” country, in my case Namibia. And they are right.

I know Roger very well and getting back together with him is like putting on a well-worn and comfortable jacket – it just fits. I so appreciate his friendship. It was also great to spent a few days with Kris since we’ve never had that much time to just hang out, previously. In my book, she rapidly caught up with Roger and I now feel I have two very close friends even if we don’t communicate all that often when one or the other of us is wandering around the world. I did just write him a note, and look forward to his reply and to hopefully SKYPING with him soon.

From Milwaukee on to LAX, and UBERed to Woodland Hills to see Pat and Sharon. It was my first UBER experience. Which is the end of the notable aspects of that event. Except for the traffic up I 5 in LA. I had (thankfully) forgotten. In Namibia it is not uncommon to drive on an open highway at 150 km/hr and not see another vehicle on the OTHER side of the road for 10-20- sometimes 30 minutes at a time. This is a relatively big country, with a very small population. Good for vistas, bad for the economy.

Pat has been a friend since the early 90’s, but after I left LA, we lose touch for a year at a time or sometimes more. After our early years of friendship, he met Sharon – a wonderful woman, delightful to be around. I’d spent time with them a few years ago, and it seemed like I hadn’t been gone at all. This time was a little different. Pat and Sharon are very grounded people living in a very ungrounded geographic location. Pat is a musician/programmer/car enthusiast, and Sharon is a major executive/delightful wife/contributing singer to Pat on occasion. He took me for a Sunday morning drive in his relatively new Porsche which was really fun and a significant catharsis in his life, I think. But the environment actually got to me more than the winding roads through Topanga Canyon. The opulence, emphasis on image with the people we … “saw” is insufficient, it is more like “experienced” … at a really nice brunch on the PCH, and the sheer visibility of MONEY, was beyond jarring to me after living in Katutura for two years in the surroundings of absolute poverty. I literally started to feel nauseous, not with judgement but with environmental shock. To this day, I feel badly about asking him to take the slow route home – but he graciously endured the I-5 traffic (really bad) in a high performance car just for my comfort. Disappointing to him I’m sure, but as is typical for Pat, he didn’t show it. Sorry, my friend. You’d have to spent a few months here to really understand, I’m afraid. At any rate, he said he got a charge out of making an ex-fighter pilot motion sick. I’ll accept that.

Back to San Rafael/Sausalito and living in Posie’s home for a while experiencing family and the old neighborhoods. During that time, I never got tired of being “there”, but relatively quickly started missing being “here” (in Namibia). It was odd. Everything was strangely familiar but otherworldly, but I still was in touch with the sense of knowing the streets, environments, and businesses so well from having lived here so many years.

I’m not going to comment on the family experiences and personal feelings but the time there was great – particularly the time with my daughter. She made a point to be available for some full days, and I so much appreciate(d) that. Thank you.

One event was really fun – we eventually got about 12 friends together at Posie’s house and I showed them some photos of Namibia and talked about Peace Corps, Africa, cultural experiences (and snakes) for a few hours. All part of personal enjoyment in getting to see old friends. As an added bonus, it was also fulfillment of Goal 3 in the Peace Corps: “To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.” It was really nice to see everyone, and I’ve been very badly behaved in not following up with more personal communications to you all after the fact. I’m intent on changing that over the next few days now that this blog has gotten me back on the keyboard.

Also notable was the evening my other family and I all saw “Hamilton” in San Francisco thanks to Dana’s longtime boyfriend, Robert, with whom I am fortunate to have an excellent relationship. Through perseverance and monitoring multiple computers at the same time months earlier, he managed to get six tickets, and was extraordinarily considerate in inviting me to join his new family and his son to see the production. It was sold out for months before – and I know why, now. I started out being underwhelmed, but within five minutes was caught up in it, and ended the performance with it being one of those experiences you never forget because it was so extraordinarily magnificent. Wow – thank you, Robert.

The family eventually took me to SFO to depart on yet another lengthy stay away from the USA, and I jetted off to Dulles to stay with Steve and Bev in Bethesda for about four days. I didn’t do much sightseeing – mostly hung out with them because they became extremely close and trusted friends over the course of a few years of living maybe 20 feet apart, both on boats, in Sausalito. They have a very special place in my heart and my life. While there, I also visited with Dan and his wife. Dan was a temporary Director of Programming and Training in Namibia Peace Corps, and circumstances caused us to get to know each other well. I hope to stay in touch with him over the years, and intend to follow up on making that possible.

Bev and Steve and I did a little bit of sightseeing, most notably to the larger location of the Air and Space Museum near Dulles – fascinating. It brought me back to my Air Force days when I was an active member of AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) and virtually lived for flying. I subscribed to, and actually read (!) Aviation Week, and led a truly focused life based on flying. My aircraft in the Air Force (F-4 Phantom II) was now a relic on display. Seeing it was one of the “feeling old” moments that increasingly pop up along side my new, fresh Peace Corps experiences.

F-4 at Smithsonian with ADG 2

The aviation period of my life changed – one of the “choices” referred to early in this tome. I still miss it, but not all that much. As I said, my life has been interesting and full of different experiences and I have a few, but not many, regrets.

A low key lunch visit in Arlington with Carl (the ex-Peace Corps Country Director for Namibia) and Pat ended up my trip to the USA. Becoming a friend of theirs has been a joy in my life. Unusual circumstances over the past couple of years created the opportunity for me to get to know him personally to a degree unusual for PCVs and Country Directors, and I will forever feel grateful for that opportunity. His warm and gracious support of PCVs around the world was a large part of what made that possible. He has been a gift and valuable resource to the Peace Corps, and continues to support the agency and the PCVs at every opportunity. And thanks for the ride to Dulles, Carl.


Wow – much longer than I expected and woefully short of images. But the above is part of returning home, at least for a while, from a Peace Corps Volunteer’s perspective.

Next up in the blog (sooner than it has been) will be a description of working with a new group of volunteers in Namibia, and moving to Oranjemund with my new service. Then in later blogs, LOTS about Oranjemund.

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026_Poultry Update for Penduka

I know, I know – it’s a LONG time between postings. Sorry. This has been a very busy time since I got back from Kunene/vacation (my last post). I’ve been back to the USA for over a month, spent a week training the new group for Peace Corps to replace my group, been to Close of Service for my group (41), and moved to my new posting in Oranjemund. Following posts will cover all of that.

But for now, here is an update – possibly the last one for me – on the poultry project. Again, thank you to everyone for the donations in the (USA) spring (fall here in Namibia).

The old layers were taken out of the hen house in May and slaughtered to make way for the new group (the ones you kind folks bought for Penduka).

Just before they “left” for a higher purpose (dinner), they looked like this:
Layers in a row_170226_P2260003Layers Group Shot_160226_P2260011

Liina collected one of the last batch of eggs from this group – they had been laying very productively for about one year. It is normal for layers to be producing most strongly in the first year. Liina collecting eggs_170315_P3150015

And two or three times a week she (or Phillip) would have this many eggs, or more. Liina with eggs_170315_P3150017

A few days later – this is now the same group of layers looked:
Slaughtered Layers_2_170606_141102I know – gross.

Here, Kauna and Kaino were doing a part of the slaughtering. They processed about 109 hens in two days. Slaughtered Layers_3_with Kauna_170606_141048

And these are the eggs that would have been harvested by Liina the next day after the hens has laid them. These are not just the yolks, these are the “in process” eggs taken from the slaughtered hens. What looks like yellow yolks are the brown shells before they are fully formed. It only takes 1-2 days for a hen to produce a new egg, so these are from about 25-30 slaughtered hens. They are really good fried! Plus I had all the fresh gizzards and livers I wanted! (Which was a lot, by the way. )Slaughtered Layers_4_eggs_170606_141128

Then the new batch of layers were released into the hen house, and would have begun laying by mid-June.
New Layers_170611_113429

So the cycle continues. Another new group of layers should be purchased around the first part of 2018 and will replace these hens in June or July.

But how about the broiler project? If you recall, donors contributed about US $3,500 out of the US $5,000 estimated for the broiler project – cages, chicks, food, other equipment, etc. The cages arrived in good shape, and on 27 April the first group of day-old chicks arrived.
Broilers one week_1_170527_091104Broilers one week_2_170527_091116
Before they think how cute they are and start to name them, remember they will be dinner in seven weeks!

Their lodging was all ready for them. This shows part of the cages for 400 chickens, 50 in each cage, and added 100 every two weeks (that is/was the plan). The broiler house is new (this is the inside) and has a concrete floor for sanitary reasons.
Broiler House_2_170527_155155Broiler House_1_170527_155030


And here are the chicks after two weeks. They are already big enough that the food and water is outside the cages. Broiler Chicks 1 week_2_170611_104851Broiler Chicks 1 week_1_170611_104832

It is about this time that I left Penduka, so this is probably the last shot I’ll be able to post of the poultry project.

The bottom line is that your contributions were used directly, and effectively, for the poultry project. Some of the budget items were shifted – for instance we decided to build the new house for the broilers instead of putting the cages under an existing shed, but it worked out MUCH better! The chicks are growing, and the first group of 100 only had four die of the “learning curve” with any new project. The second group of 100 didn’t start for four weeks instead of two, but the first group should have been sold by now. Some slaughtered, some sold live in Katutura.

The contributions you made have positively improved the lives of the women of Penduka, and of Katutura. Thank you so very much. Precisely none ($0.00) of the contributions were misused, or taken up in administration fees. The profits from the broiler project will be used to expand the program, and the vendor of the cages wants to work with Penduka to build a much larger broiler house, including an abattoir (slaughter house) for a much larger poultry operation. They also are already using Penduka for a training location for other poultry operations that are starting up in Katutura, and in parts of Namibia, after people came to visit the Penduka operation.

This is one of the things – only one – that makes Peace Corps service so rewarding. Getting to experience the support of the people that contributed from 10,000 miles away, watching the Namibian people use the funds you donate to improve their lives and nutrition, and the sheer joy of being able to work with these folks in their efforts. and seeing it become self-sustaining.

I’ll post soon – I promise! – about my trip back to the USA, then training the new group of volunteers, and then my moving to Oranjemund and my new post, here.

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025_Back from Vacation, and matching donations now possible!

Written: 26 March 2017
Posted: 26 March 2017

Last night (Saturday), I returned from a nine day vacation in the Kunene Region (used to be called Kaokoland) of Namibia – North West corner of Namibia, next to Angola, and just east of the Skeleton Coast. It was serious four wheel drive country, and this was definitely not your usual tourist jaunt! We were in the heartland of the Himba people, the tribe that adheres to their customs more closely than any other tribal affiliation in Namibia. Fascinating! I’m going to make a post on that trip, with photos, soon.

For now, I wanted to let everyone know that a friend of mine has offered to make matching donations for new donations until the grant to start the Sustainable Poultry Project is filled! Thank you so much, “J”.

We need to raise another US $2,000 or so to complete the grant, so if you haven’t already contributed, please consider doing it now! You will need to let me know via personal email, or on this blog with a comment, so the exceptionally generous donor can match your contribution. Your donation will be doubled! 

I feel a little like NPR! But we really need your help. Also you could mention this to people you know who might be willing to contribute anything! I’d LOVE to complete the grant in time to announce it Thursday evening this week when Penduka is hosting the American Ambassador, the Turkish Ambassador, the Governor of Khomas Region, and the Mayor of Windhoek with the entire Municipality Council! The Thursday event is a big deal!

Go to https://donate.peacecorps.gov/donate/project/sustainable-poultry-project/, or use this link to DONATE, or tell people to go to www.peacecorps.gov/donate and search out the project under my name, or under “Namibia” (Sustainable Poultry Project).

100% of all donations go directly to the project, I am personally responsible to the Peace Corps for grant accountability, and when this is done the programs for eggs and broiler chicks are self-sustaining; never needing another grant to keep producing eggs and meat for the community around Penduka Village, and making a profit for Penduka Trust. 

Penduka helps empower women and their communities to improve their own lives. Please help us fulfill this mission statement.