Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happy (Early) 4th of July

Even though it isn't the Fourth of July yet, we attended the annual Embassy family party to celebrate.  (Not to be confused with the official party which I seriously doubt will include a bouncy castle!)  Since we are in the Southern Hemisphere, it is winter here right now.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day!  I had the boys in long sleeves, but they would have been okay in t-shirts.  Oh well, saved me from having to put sunscreen on their arms.
That's my boy, going up the slide!
Justin and Rob were partners in the three legged race.  I competed with Ryan tied to my leg.  He thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Doesn't Justin look comfy?

After the three legged race, Justin decided a game of tug-of-war was in order.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Rob and I went to visit Penduka, a small community not too far outside of town.  From what little we had read and heard, we were under the impression that it was a tourist type destination.  We knew that it was an organization that helps disadvantaged women by teaching them how to make craft products that can be sold.  I envisioned a large gift shop with smaller areas where you could watch the women working on the projects.  There is indeed a small gift shop and you can see the women at work, but Penduka is not there for the tourists, it is there for the women.  It is a no frills operation focused on helping women in need become more self sufficient.
A map painted on the wall of one of the buildings shows the layout of the community, which includes some bungalows for housing some of the women.

One of the small buildings was for bead making.  Glass bottles are collected throughout the city and then broken and molded into beads for jewelry.  The women who make these beads are all deaf.

View out to some of the bungalows.

Outside of the main building.  This building houses the gift shop as well as the sewing area, the pottery area, and the batik printing area.

I was very impressed with their TB program.  They provide treatment to people with TB.  The people are monitored to ensure that they take their medication.  Before they take it, they are given some food.  Being fed is a motivator to come and it helps reduce some of the side effects of taking the medication on an empty stomach.  During treatment, patients are taught how to make simple bead crafts.  They are paid for each piece they complete.  The catch is, no payment until they have finished their treatment.  I thought that was brilliant!  Who wants to give up all of that free money? 

With so many charity scams and mishandling of donations, it was nice to be able to see something in action.  It was also nice to be able to buy some crafts that were actually made in Namibia.  So often the things you find here are brought in from other countries and the prices are marked up.

Here is Ryan wearing the apron that I bought him at Penduka.  I loved the colors and the animals on it.

Justin looks pretty cute in his apron too.  They had some with gorgeous embroidery, but I knew I would never allowed those to be used as aprons!  Now my boys have aprons to wear when they "help" cook and when I want to help protect their clothes when they are eating.
Here is the Penduka website:

Here is a shot of the area around Penduka.  I took it through the van window on our way home.

Here is a picture of one of many barber shops set up along the way.  Why you would need so many places to cut hair is beyond me.  I suppose it is a way to try to make some money without much in the way of start up costs.  Unemployment is incredibly high here.

More random homes/businesses/storage sheds

Back in town we stopped at this little shop.  Someone had told Rob they have the best fries in Windhoek.  Well, the fries were good, but not great.  They must not like crispy fries here because they just don't make them that way.  At least they are potatoes and probably contain trans fat.  How can that be bad?  Our vote for best fries in Namibia is definitely out at Okapuka game lodge.  Kind of far to drive for fries though. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Game Drive Afternoon Trip

We FINALLY made it to the Okapuka Game Lodge.  It is only about 40 km away from Windhoek, so it is one of those things that we could do any afternoon.  Of course that means it is something we hadn't gotten around to because it is so close and doesn't require a lot of advanced planning.  Fortunately, we went with a couple who is only here for a couple of months.  That means they have a tighter timeline.  That was the motivation we needed to go. 
Warthogs were everywhere!  I took this shot while sitting at our table.  We snacked on some fries while we waited for it to be time to leave for our drive.  Rob and I agree that the fries were the best that we have had in Namibia.  Very reasonably priced too.

We saw two crocodiles while we were out on the game drive.  While we were snapping pictures of one, a warthog came trotting down the path.  It saw the croc, returned back into the brush, and made a wide detour to get around.  Not that I really had any desire to see a creature mauled by a crocodile, but it would have been interesting to see how fast that croc could move.  He looks so harmless just resting there.  I've seen enough nature shows to know better though!

We saw probably about 20 giraffes in all.  We didn't get close to a lot of them though.  I was amazed at how well they can blend in to the the landscape.  They are obviously tall and I would have thought that would make them stick out.  Their coloring matches up with the dry bushes and trees though.  I find giraffes one of the most interesting animals to watch.  They are graceful and just different.  Very neat to view them here as opposed to a zoo.  I get better pics in a zoo, but it just isn't the same.

The tour guide feeds the rhinos, so we saw plenty of them.  I liked this picture because you can tell how close they got to us.  It would have been easy to reach out and touch them.  Our guide assured us they were vegetarians, but that doesn't mean anyone wanted to run around and play with them.  These guys are BIG.  We saw a couple of them have a disagreement and I sure wouldn't want that horn coming my way!

These are springbok.  We saw tons of them as well as kudu, oryx, sable antelope, blue wildebeest, hartebeest, eland, and the like.  Our guide had the facts about which were the fastest, which could leap the highest, which were the largest, etc. etc.  They eat a lot of these animals here.  I have tried some when we went to Etosha.  Not horribly impressed, but I am not big on game meat.  We saw one oryx with only one horn and it was facing the wrong way.  Our guide told us it was from incest.  "Incestuous antelope" became my favorite phrase of the day.  The little oryx looked a bit like a unicorn reject.

I love all the birds' nests hanging from the trees. Namibia has a lot of interesting birds, but they are fast, small, and hard to get pictures of unless you have patience and a good camera.  We also saw baboons, but they were fast and uncooperative with getting their pictures taken.  Baboons cause a lot of mischief here. 
Nice fire going at Joe's Beerhouse.  We had an early dinner so it wasn't cold yet.  When the sun goes down, winter can be chilly here, especially if there is a  wind.  Joe's is  a tourist "must" for eating out in Namibia.  I opted for a beef steak rather than some of the more exotic game choices that are available.  Our poor waitress seemed a bit confused by Americans who didn't want sauce dumped all over their meat.  The garlic butter on it was perfect!  Why would we want to mess with that?  They really love their sauces here.  Unfortunately, I don't find them very appetizing.
A friend told me that the boys wouldn't do well on the drive.  I know a lot of places don't allow small children because it is hard to get them to follow directions precisely if wildlife get out of control.  I think our boys would have been fine as long as they weren't sitting on the edge.  I would have felt that they were safe, but I sure wouldn't have enjoyed myself.  They would have been bored.  Justin is so clueless at spotting things too, I wonder if he would see a rhino unless it touched him!  They got bored just looking at a few pictures.  The comment Justin made was along the lines of you saw a rhino, cool, let's go play now.

So Mom, Dad, Meredith, or other potential visitors.  I will take you to Okapuka if you visit us.  It is close, the game drive itself is short (only 90 minutes) and inexpensive.  You get to see a little of the wild without it being inconvenient. :)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Rant, Rave, and Well Deserved Praise

I love to shop at Kohls for clothes for baby and toddler items as well as some other basic odds and ends.  When our Chinese rice cooker died, Kohls had the best price on the replacement (okay, I only compared with Amazon, Macys, and two or three other sites), especially since I could get it at 30% as a Kohls charge card holder AND get $10 back for every $50 I spent.  I am a regular Kohls customer for things like that. 

This week my two kitchen wooden spoons arrived in a box big enough for a bed pillow, but they had it dropped shipped from their supplier so can't blame them for that, and my other items did not arrive.  Box came with packing slip and some baby items that were not at all what I ordered.  Not even close.  Sigh.  So I want to return the things that aren't mine and get the things that I ordered and paid for.

Living overseas presents challenges, and returns are one of them.  With the time difference and the often crappy connection I have for phone calls, e-mail customer service would seem the way to go.  I explained the situation.  Questions were asked of me.  I responded, but of course the same person didn't get that e-mail.  Trying to go over things (guess they don't read the whole thread or the notes that they take) is like a game of telephone and the message doesn't get through. 

I gave up and called as I had done on a previous occassion.  Nicest customer service on the phone.  Very polite, very helpful, and the problem was dealt with.  Not only was it corrected, but it was corrected to my advantage as a courtesy for my inconvenience.  Nice.  They have kept me as a customer.  I hope that as they look over my order history they can see that I am a reasonable person.  I know that there are people that try to scam companies over things like toddler boy socks and bath tub ABC letters, but I am not one of those people.

Specific kudos go to the supervisor who just knew that 20189 is State Dept zip code and that they could not schedule a UPS pickup so I could return items.  The wonderful woman who spoke with me on the phone honored the prices of my original purchase OR the current sale price, whichever was to my advantage.  Now, how much money is Kohls out?  In my mind, they aren't out any. They have kept a customer.  For me, it wasn't about the money either, but about customer service.  Thank you, phone customer service.  Now to get your e-mail representatives with a more efficient, helpful way of doing things.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Rice Cookers and Fighting Eland (Two Different Subjects)

Such exciting happenings in the Weber household. Our rice cooker died, or was at least very sick. It would sometimes shock you when you touched it. Hmmm, not a good sign. Our outlets all have individual on/off switches so I could just turn off the power before touching it, but really it seemed like a sign to get a new rice cooker. We bought it in China for something like $10 to $12 US and it had a good run. During our move from China to Japan it got dented, but it kept on working. Now, after just over five years of faithful service, it was ready to get a new one. The replacement ended up costing $70. We have only used it once so far, but it seems to be of a better quality. Time will tell how it holds up. Now I just need to remember that it is 110 volts and not 220 so I don't plug it in directly and blow it up. (Left: old cooker, Right: new cooker)

Before swimming lessons, we stopped off at the petting zoo. We saw two elands (or is the plural eland just like the singular?) butting heads and pushing each other around. These guys are taller than I am and were being quite aggressive. I wanted to take video or at least get a picture, but my camera was in my purse and I didn't want to let go of Ryan's hand. The animals roam free and we weren't too far away. Ryan was trying to be a peacemaker and I feared that getting out my camera might just be the distraction that allowed him to enter the fight himself. I got a shot of one of the eland a bit later when we were further away. Doesn't he look calm and friendly in the picture?

See how exciting our lives are?  Maybe you have had a rice cooker die lately, but how often do eland fight right in front of you?  Hopefully after our day trip on Saturday I will have something a bit more exciting to post. :)  Just wanted to put something up since I said I would post more often.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I Just Want to Plug In the Humidifiers!

It is winter now.  The long summer rainy season is over and humidity levels have dropped drastically.  Time to plug in the humidifiers in the bedrooms.  I put it off longer than I should have because I knew it would not be a simple task.  We have three humidifiers.  One came with the house and it has a skinny European style plug.  One that we brought with us is from the States (okay, probably made in China, but a US brand) and has a US plug and needs a transformer to convert the voltage.  The one we purchased here has a round European plug.  Now, to get them plugged in and operational...  Pictured are some of the many styles of adapters we have.  Here in Namibia they have the most ridiculous plugs, just like in South Africa and who knows where else.  The prongs are huge and make me think that these are training plugs, kind of like they make the fat crayons for toddlers.  I figure out a configuration that works, but wouldn't you know it, when one of the adapters is plugged in, it turns off the power to the outlet.  All of the outlets have on/off switches, and to push the adapter in far enough to make contact forces the outlet off.  It took probably about 40 minutes to get three humidifiers plugged in.  The outlets alone are a reason not to live here.  I hope that the next place we lives has something more sensible that can use a universal adapter.  I feel like I have enough adapters that I could open my own Radio Shack.