Archive for the 'news' Category

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!)

Beggars intensify activities

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

An article from the Daily Graphic (23rd of February 2007, p. 29), the most widely-read paper in Ghana.

   Offering alms to the needy is not compulsory. It is done out of generosity or sympathy to help ameliorate the suffering of the underprivileged in society.
   However, some unscrupulous individuals are abusing this moral responsibility of philanthropists. The consider begging as a full time vocation to make money. As a result, a lot more people are now resorting to begging as the easiest way out to amass wealth.
   Indeed, the Tamale metropolis is now inundated with beggars. The are becoming a nuisance to motorists at junctions and traffic lights.
   The virtually take over those areas, knocking at car doors and windscreens for attention. The are made up of all manner of people, the blind, the physically challenged, elderly, young men and women.
   Their modus operandi include the use of children and the wearing of worn out apparels to attract people’s sympathy.
   Sometimes they become aggressive in their over zealousness to the extent that they risk their lives and those of their young guides, especially when the green light is displayed, signifying motorists to move on.
   Majority of the beggars are concentrated at the central business district (CBD), near the central market, popularly called Beggar’s (Barimaansi) Lane.
   Their location is thus accessible to people who need them to give alms to. The alms is usually in the form of money, cow milk, cowries and other materials as requested by Mallams and soothsayers who are consulted for various reasons by those offering the alms.

Here comes the twist… [PC]

   According to one of the executive members of the Beggars Association in the metropolis, Afah Mahama Alhassan, “we had to relocate to the junctions and traffic lights to reach out to more people who cannot locate us”.
   He acknowledged that the practice was not the best, but said “we also need to survive and take care of our families, since some of us are bread winners in the family.”
   Afah Alhassan, who is blind and 55 years old, did not understand why some of them who had made so much money from their ‘trade’ should quit the job of begging since he claimed there was no other work for them to do.
   Enquiries by the Daily Graphic revealed that some of the beggars had built their own houses, acquired taxis, trucks and engage in other economic ventures through their ‘trade’ over the years.
   A 29-year-old cripple, Ramatu Fuseini, who is a seamstress, expressed grave concern over the menace of begging and urged physically challenged persons not to use their unfortunate situation to solicit sympathy from people.
   ”If you are blind or physically challenged, it does not mean you are stupid or incapable of earning a decent living for yourself and family,” she stated.
   Commenting on the issue, the Tamale Metropolitan Chief Executive, Mr Mohammed Amin Adam Anta, said the assembly was mapping out strategies to deal with the problem.
   He said the assembly would soon come up with appropriate measures to either relocate or settle the beggars at a central point.
   In the interim, Mr Anta siad the young boys and girls who served as guides to the beggars were being taken care of under a programme to enable them to go to school or learn a trade.
   The age-old practice of begging has come to stay with us. It, therefore, behoves the TAMA and all stakeholders to come together to find a lasting solution to the menace of begging on the roads.