Archive for October, 2008

Back to Africa

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

It took a bit more than a year, but the job I’ve been hoping to get for quite a while is finally happening. After 20 hours of flying and a night in Jo’burg, I arrived in Windhoek, Namibia, being greeted by a fellow ex-Peace Corps Volunteer and two friends. It was a warm welcome back.

Image credits: the CIA World Factbook and myself.

The job, which will begin after a work visa is issued and a contract is signed, is firstly a web programming/database designer post and secondly a sharing post. Statistics about the Namibian education system are collected in an “Annual Education Census” from each school principal and sent to the central office in Windhoek for entry into a database. Our primary goal is to decentralize this data collection, letting the 13 Namibian regions (think somewhere between states and counties) input the data into the database themselves. This will require a web interface for data entry that sanity-checks all inputs and is easy to use by an entry-level computer user. We’ll also be creating simpler ways for Governments, NGO’s and other organizations which require statistics about the education system to obtain them.

I’ve been away from home for 5 days now and I have to say it’s been tough. A lot of stuff has happened in the last month, including my last grandparent dying. Our family came together and friends came to support us, and it was really very nice. Of course it also showed me what I was walking away from to take the job in Namibia, and that was the hardest part. I’m also going through some cultural adjustment, despite being in the fairly cosmopolitan capital, and in general just trying to be at peace with my place in this city. But looking forward, I’m happy to be here and I’m sure the work will be very rewarding.

The ex-Peace Corps Volunteer who greeted me at the airport has taken me on two hiking/walking/running events where locals or ex-pats get together and do some kind of activity. The first was a “hash,” which was a mountainous hike with primarily ex-pats and loaded with ceremony, sexual innuendoes, and at the end, a wonderful cookout. The second was a 5K suburban run/walk with a bunch of locals and ended with a few drinks to share. Both helped to get my mind off the people I’m missing from home and also helped warm me up to the people I might be seeing every week.

I have a temporary cell phone number: 011-264-81-405-3722. Phone cards exist for around $0.25/minute, AT&T is near $1/minute. Namibia is currently 6 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight time, so don’t wake me up!

I’m thinking to go the 6 hours to the North of Namibia to visit my local family and friends for couple days before returning to Windhoek and starting the job. I’ve found an apartment which is coming available next month which isn’t ideal, but it is cheaper than the backpacker where I’m staying, and will be a good place to base myself out of while I’m looking for a more permanent place. The goal would be a safe/peaceful location with enough space for visitors who wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor…. (hint hint – this would be your cue to check plane fairs to Windhoek [airport code: WDH], and remember to clear your cookies each time you check the same fare, because they raise it each successive time, those bastards!)