Last day at the clinic

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
Trip End Jul 17, 2013

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Where I stayed
Pos 3
What I did
Pos 3

Flag of Namibia  , Omaheke,
Thursday, June 27, 2013

I just want to start by talking about the differences between Herero and San, physical differences that is. Aside from the San being malnourished and older than they appear (most of the time), there are traits that make the game "spot the San", as Dr. Tim calls it, quite easy. Beautiful high cheekbones are only second to a lighter complexion than the Herero as far as obvious traits go. Comparison of clothing is also quite useful, if their skin tone and bone structure don't do it for you. The San I’ve been in contact with wear nothing short of rags: clothes with holes in them, clothes that don’t fit right, if you are lucky enough to find a San wearing shoes they are usually tattered and look like they should have been thrown away more than a year ago. The Herero don’t seem to have those problems… The women tend to wear traditional dress, which consists of extravagant and long dresses. The dresses are meant to make the women look like cows… Not even kidding. They have four layers under their skirts, which are designed to make their bums extra large (like a cows) and they wear hats that resemble cattle horns. Now, I should mention that there are exceptions to these “standards.” Every once in a while someone is raised a San, so they might have a darker complexion and might lack the distinct cheekbones. I highly doubt a San would ever be brought up as a Herero though… Call me crazy, but I am sure the Herero are much too “good” for that. (Do you sense a bit of distain yet?)

With all of this being said, it was quite easy to differentiate between the Herero and the San at the school Dr. Tim took Zoe, Sabine (I have been spelling her name wrong in the previous entries… my apologies), and me to visit. In the morning we left for Pos 8 (which is past Pos 9, which is past Pos 10… in all seriousness… don’t ask me where Pos 10 is). We had been invited to watch a traditional day that the school children were putting on. This was thought to include traditional dance and traditional food.

Pos 8 was not our first stop though. We visited one of the Pos villages on the way (Pos 9 maybe?) and found it seemingly completely deserted. There was a dog, a very skinny one as always, but that was about all. It was quite interesting, especially since I believe Dr. Tim had informed at least one woman that we would be coming by.  Finally, we saw a woman walking across the “street” and towards us. 

I later learned that she was coming from the shabean. The shabean is essentially a bar that the Herero run. Because the San have no money, or very little of it, they are always hungry, and most of the time malnourished. Alcohol, conveniently enough, stops the hunger, which the Herero make sure the San are aware. Shabeans offer alcohol at extremely low prices… A few Namibian dollars for a drink. So, often, the San go to the Shabean and drink all day and curb their hunger pains. This then is a vicious cycle as they give all of their money to the Herero, who then employ the San for $10-$20 per day to wash the Herero’s clothing items, which gives the San money to go to the Shabean again instead of saving the money to buy food for their children or a blanket or clothing, etc. I’ve learned from Dr. Tim that the San live in the now and aren’t overly concerned, or concerned at all for that matter, about tomorrow, which helps explain a bit of their behavior. 

Anyway, back to the woman. Dr. Tim greeted her by name (I’ve forgotten it since). He asked how much Herero pay for daily clothes washing, and that is where I go the $10-20, which she responded after she laughed at the question. She asked for a ride to Pos 3, which of course we couldn’t give her, as we were on our way in the opposite direction. Dr. Tim asked if the woman knew what her big problem was, and she responded with something like not having money or needing a ride. He said no, and informed her that it was going to the shabean and spending all of her money. He then compared the price of the alcohol that she gets at the shabean to a $2 egg for her kids to eat. She then began talking about how expensive sweets are. Dr. Tim said not to feed the kids sweets… eggs were good and as much as alcohol at the shabean. She said the kids refused to eat anything but sweets… And you can see where this argument went. She definitely didn’t want to hear what Dr. Tim had to say about her alcohol consumption. This would be a good time to mention that the woman was drunk while we talked with her, and that it wasn’t even 9:45 in the morning. Also, her son was smiling and swinging on the tree near us during this whole conversation. 

I want to be clear that any situation I explain about the San, despite how it may come across, is not to say that they are bad parents or anything along those lines. I think it is important that their lives are exploited… the world should know what they live with, just as during the Holocaust the concentration camps should have been exploited, same with the way the Native American treatment in the States. No, some of them don’t help themselves, but at the same point would you help yourself if you are conditioned to feel worthless and know that unless some crazy world intervention happens you will always be considered worthless and treated like you’re worthless to everyone that has any power over you? I would probably live in the moment as well.

Moving on.

Dr. Tim explained that before N/a’an Ku S Lifeline Clinic, a woman went to volunteer in Pos 8 and got very sick with diarrhea. Some people heard of her status and came to help. Long story short, if I have all of the details correct (which I probably don’t), they ended up building a school with barracks and showers and all sorts of wonderful things. Don’t get me wrong, this still isn’t like the American school system I am used to, but for the conditions that most of these villages face it is quite marvelous.

When we arrived, children greeted us right away. None were San though. I was confused as to how there were so many children that attended school in such a small village. Dr. Tim explained that they come from Pos 9 and 10 as well to join Pos 8 in taking advantage of the facilities. We said hi to the children and continued to look for some of the San kids, which is how “spot the San” came about. A few of them were found, and Dr. Tim asked them to show us around. We saw their barracks, which seemed large and spacious until we found out that two sleep in each twin (if not smaller) bed and then some sleep on the floor. They also showed us their showers, which are also fueled by cold water. We saw the remainder of the school as well. When we were done we stood around and waited for the show to begin. Dr. Tim was told 10:00 start time, but it was evident that was not going to happen by far… I’m really beginning to think that Namibians are on a completely different time system.

While we stood around, the children began to take action on their curiosity. At this time I also noticed that there were very few San children… Maybe 1/20 of the children were San, if that. It was apparent the whole while that everyone was incredibly ecstatic to see us, but I think they were all too shy to do anything about their excitement for a good twenty minutes. Zoe and Sabine also have decent-length hair, but they both had theirs up. My hair happened to be down, as I was letting it dry from my shower before braiding it. I began to feel little fingers touching it, as well as quick hands rubbing down my arms as children rushed by. Then, of course, they spotted my shoulder tattoos, and they had to move my hair away from my shoulders, giving them another reason to play with my hair. Soon I had a child’s hand in each of mine, and eventually two on one hand and one on the other. They all wanted my attention (I say MY, but what I really mean is all of us that were there as guests) to the extent that the ones that had already claimed me would shoo the others off when they tried to grab my hand.

And don’t even get me started on them wanting their pictures taken… Oh my goodness. They all spotted my camera right away… “Photo here! Photo here!” came from every direction. And even when I tried to get a great shot of one of the children simply being a beautiful child, everyone would “photo bomb” or  the subject would realize what I was doing and throw up “gang signs”… How these poor African children know about gang signs when they probably have never even ridden in a car let alone watched TV I do not know.  Or the other thing that really killed me: I would capture a great picture of someone actually being natural, and everyone would realize what I took a picture of. Sooooo all of these children would begin doing what the subject of the picture did. For example, I took a picture of a young boy leaning against a tire. He didn’t notice, but everyone else did, so all of the kids rolled tires and began sitting and leaning on them. Also, there was a girl in a tree that I took a picture of… before I knew it 10 kids were in the same tree trying to get my attention. UGH!

Finally the show was about to start. One of the girls that took a liking to me even fetched me a chair, and soon other people brought chairs for the other girls. Dr. Tim had set up his camera elsewhere. A prayer was said and the national anthem was sung. All of the teachers were Herero, but everyone made sure that they at least informed of us what was going to take place in English, which was nice since the four of us were the only ones who really needed that. Herero children said where they were from; another group of Herero said what their names mean, etc. After every single Herero child, approval sounded from the crowd (Dr. Tim said there was only one San parent in attendance, which is impressive considering they have no transportation, the rest were Herero parents and attendees). The San girls did their traditional dance in their traditional clothes. They are so marvelous, and I got a couple of videos of the show. Despite how incredible they did, no one applauded for the girls. One of the teachers literally had to ask the crowd to applaud and begin the applause. When the Herero did their “traditional dance” (it consisted of singing, clapping, and a boy stomping his foot that had a wooden plank attached to it), the crowd LOVED it. Needless to say, we weren’t amused nor were we impressed. It’s so disheartening to see how people can treat other human beings.

When the show was finished, we said goodbye to everyone and received and gave tons of hugs, as well as took a few last minute (demanded) pictures. We headed to back to the house for lunch. Dr. Tim managed to find some petrol. It’s quite funny how difficult such a task that we take for granted back home happens to be here. The finding of petrol meant that we could take another journey in the opposite direction to a village called Skoonheid.

Before we left for Skoonheid, I noticed that the biltong and meat shop was open, so I jaunted over there and purchased some dried meat. Honestly, I have no idea what I got, and I’m not sure the quality is all that fantastic… but in a town of only a couple of hundred, one can’t be picky. I’m sure Pos 3 will only add flavor (of some kind) to the biltong.

Dr. Tim told us that Skoonheid is a bit different than other villages that we have seen. Apparently it is a resettlement, and there are actually real structures for the people’s homes. Again, don’t confuse this with any sort of similar living standards to what we are accustomed to (and by we I mean anyone who can even comprehend having internet access and the ability to read this blog). The primary purpose of our trip was to give deppo shots to the woman, because a lot of them were thought to be due or past due. We would also hand out condoms. It seems funny, but condoms are quite the find. Yesterday we put out a box in the clinic and by the end of the day there was only of the condoms left (and there weren’t that many patients or even visitors, I promise). 

Skoonheid was quite a drive through quite the terrain. By terrain I mean “roads” that are literally sand. All of the roads I had experienced up to that point were a semi decent mixture of sand and rock. Not this, this was pure sand. Kudos to Dr. Tim for getting us in and out of there without getting stuck (we definitely don’t drive a vehicle that is suited for such roads… no 4 wheel drive, no Land Rover, no Jeep, no SUV or truck… you get the point. 

When we arrived the place seemed practically deserted. There were chickens running around though and a couple of dogs. It was obvious this wasn’t like any of the Pos villages. There were even horses tied up in a “yard” or fenced in enclosure, however you choose to classify it.

After a bit of searching, we found some people who directed us to Anna who eventually helped gather women. We went to the clinic in the village, which I assume was supposed to be open for us, and found it locked. We then had to improvise. Zoe found an empty bottle that she used for the used needles, and we made the vehicle/metal shop our clinic for the evening. Women lined up with their medical passports, and Zoe administered the shots. I simply ran around and took pictures of the children (and some women who requested that their photo be taken).

All of the women were seen, and I stole Magdelena away for a few minutes and captured her beautiful smile on camera. She had come with us to translate.

We went back to the house and Dr. Tim dropped us off. He was headed to another Pos (9 maybe? I can’t keep them straight). Sabine and Zoe worked on making some keesh for supper while I worked on blogging, as usual. 

Tomorrow we are off to Windhoek. I made the incredibly hard decision to return and follow through with my plans to go to Neuras. I would love to stay here for another full week… but I just don’t think I can. I’m torn between what I should do for my future and what I should do for my heart and emotions… It’s not a good combination. I really feel that my soul would be much more satisfied if I spent more time giving affection to these people and helping at the clinic, but I know that stating that I was at a research facility for a week will be more beneficial for my future. 

This also brings up another dilemma… I, yet again, am not certain what I want to do with my life. It’s frustrating. Every time I manage to participate in and take advantage of an opportunity that should give me clarity and direction, I end up more confused and back to square one. If I wasn’t so squeamish, I am completely convinced that being a medical professional and traveling to underprivileged areas would be the best career plan (aside from no income, but who needs income when you are making a real difference?). But I am squeamish, so that won’t do. And I only know math, so that really won’t do. Half of my undergraduate career is finished and I can’t even make up my darn mind and find any form of direction. 

So, I’ll go to bed tonight convinced that I will just be a professional student, and then I will never have to choose a career and direction for my life.

Goodnight world. 

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