Oh My Africa – September 2014

Namibia “has begun the construction process of a historic solar project”, according to The Namibian, a creatively-titled English-language newspaper over here.

Why historic? Because it’s the country’s “first utility-scale ground mounted PhotoVoltaic (PV) power plant.”

Why is this in my collection of weird, funny, and ridiculous things in Africa?  Because Namibia, the land of 300 days of sunshine a year, the land with a sun on its flag, just now, nearly 15 years into the 21st century, stopped piddling around with coal long enough to build a solar power plant.

This may have something to do with its serious energy deficit, and that it imports nearly all of its energy from other countries, and that those deals are on the verge of expiring, but hey, at least they’re doing something.

As the Namibian reports: “The 4,5 megawatt (MW) renewable energy power plant will supply over 1% of Namibia’s domestic power generation.”

Hey, like I said, at least it’s something.

Baked mud

The sun. It don’t mess around.

 

Sometimes the universe is with you

Motivation is not always easy to find.  In my case, I had a big idea rambling around in my head, waiting to be put into action.  I sat on it for a while, wondering if it’d stick with me and prove itself legitimate, not just a passing thrill that I got excited about after a couple of beers.  It did, but still, I wasn’t acting.

Fresh off the plane from a visit to the States, where I spent time with friends and family, the number one thing I miss about life in Namibia, I was in a bit of a low this week.  Returning to a country where, besides my man and our animals, I’m pretty much on my own, can be disheartening.  However, I tried to light a fire under my butt, saying, “Look, you’re not going to live in Namibia forever.  Make the best of it while you’re here, and then when the time comes to move on, you’ll know the years weren’t wasted.”  And so, I gradually pumped myself up for the year ahead and tackling my big idea.  Although I was still half-exhausted from the long, nearly-sleepless flight, I stuck with the mantra “make the best of it” and pushed forward.

But as the first days slipped by and the load of farm work waiting for me quashed any productivity I had for my personal plans, I began wondering if I’d dreamt too big.  Thoughts like, “you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re gonna screw it up”, and, “stick with the projects you’ve got, and maybe later you can start something new when you have more time”, totally deflated my let’s-go attitude.  And even the current projects, like writing a blog post, seemed monumental.

But this morning I knew I had to post something, I’d neglected it the whole time in the States.  I just had no idea what to write about.  So, of course, I procrastinated and piddled around on the internet, rather than committing to writing.

Slowly, though, a message started to reveal itself.

My sister’s boyfriend posted something on Facebook about no more zero days.  An email from a writer’s mailing list had a quote from Amy Poehler about taking risks, getting out of your comfort zone, doing what you’re afraid of, even if you think you aren’t ready.  And here on WordPress, a (again, writing) blog I follow, talked about taking little actions until you get the results you want.  The message was persistent: do something everyday towards your goal, even if it’s small.  You’ll never know if you don’t try and even if you fail, you learn something new.

I got straight over to my blog and started typing.  My butt was lit.

It all sounds so trite, I know, but sometimes the trite stuff is exactly what you need to hear.  The cosmos knew it, and loaded me up with a big helping of it.

So, moral-of-the-story #1 is:  Procrastination isn’t always what it seems.  If you’re paying attention, you might just find what you’re looking for.

But, don’t forget moral-of-the-story #2:  No giving up.  Do something everyday, no matter how small, that moves you closer to your goal.  Because we all know, a little bit, over time, adds up to a lot.

As for my big ideas, small steps, alongside the farm work, are making me feel that they’re achievable.  Maybe, I’ll even make some friends along the way.  Or at least find better conversationalists than my cats.

The cat face

Oh My Africa – June 2014

We’re all guilty of stereotypes.  I believe it is human nature to categorize things, especially unfamiliar things, into nice, tidy standards.  But in a self-perpetuating cycle, publishers are using our stereotypes to sell products which further the stereotype, because as it turns out, we really do judge books by their cover.

The folks over at the blog Africa is a Country recently posted about a meme created to show how African literature routinely gets the “acacia tree treatment”.  Basically, they write, “the covers of most novels ‘about Africa’ seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King.”

Their proof:

bookmeme

As if all of Africa exists in a permanent state of sunset.

After reading the blog, I was compelled to see if it was true for Namibian books as well.  Though there aren’t many works of literature set in this country, there’s a whole heap of photography books.  Let’s hope their contents vary more than their covers:

So, Namibia is a sandy, lonely place with elephants, trees, and a sun.  Like all stereotypes, that frustratingly ignores all the rest the country has to offer.

According to a book cover designer interviewed on this topic by the Washington Post, publishers package books based on readers’ expectations because that makes them comfortable.

It won’t be the publishing houses then, who step up and teach people how other parts of the world really are.  So, as the Post points out, we’ll have to do it ourselves, through social media and blogging; show the world through our own words and pictures how life on our side actually is.  We’ll have to be brave, honest, and open.  But readers will have to be, too.

Maybe then, by the time my book is finished, they’ll be ready for a bit more unconventional photo for the cover:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The mystery of the black cat and the full moon

Like most places in the world, every month or so, we get a full moon here on the farm.  Generally, it is a welcome occasion.  There is a local theory that it brings rain, but otherwise, it simply allows us to move about at night without clinging to a flashlight (or torch, depending on your English proclivities) or walking into things.  Plus, it’s pretty.

moon 'n cloudsThere is one drawback, though.  When the full moon slides into the sky over the hill in the east, it takes the sanity of one of our three cats with it.

She isn’t ever really normal.  Normal is not a cat adjective.  But back in the States, this little black cat of mine had no reaction to the state of the moon.  Maybe it was because we lived in an apartment and the outdoors were not a part of her life.  Maybe coming to this Namibian farm has brought out the leopard inside of her.  Maybe her brain is flashing images of huge yet very slow lizards, or hordes of giggling mice traipsing through the kitchen, champagne in one hand, cheese gobs in the other. I don’t know.  She simply cannot control the instinct telling her that she must go outside.

the cat

The little black cat, covered in dirt, and probably hunting something.

It seems to only affect her in the winter.  She’ll patrol the room, pacing back and forth, mewing and squeaking, informing us of her distress.  And this is when we are still downstairs eating dinner.  We can hear her through the wall (which, to be fair, is made of logs and fairly porous).  Once we climb into bed the fun really begins.  Like a pouting 4-year-old, she stomps over us to get to the window above our heads, wails her misery to the world on the windowsill for a few minutes, and then leaps down again with a four-footed landing and stomps back the other way.

This is then repeated throughout the night.

Jay and I used to just sleep through it, or pretend to.  I felt guilty for subjecting him to my apparently PMSing cat, but once we got some sleep again, we’d laugh it off and forget about it.  Til the next month.

But this time, I thought of a solution.  It was so simple, it was aggravating to think of how much sleep was lost by us not having thought of it before.

Water.

My cats hate water.  Unless it is going down their throat – by their own doing – it is evil. I tried to give them a bath once when all three became infested with fleas.  I walked away from it bloody and wetter than they were.  When a stream of water comes their way, they will do anything to avoid it.

Thus, needing a water-launching device and not owning a water gun, I turned to the syringes left over from multitudes of cow injections.  Once the needle is off, those things can shoot surprisingly far.

Problem is, our little syringes only hold one round, and it’s easy to miss a small black cat even with a full moon.  Which is, of course, exactly what happened.  So I stepped it up a notch.  With a whole glass of water in my mouth, I headed toward the warbling.  The first squirt hit the ground, and the cat bolted across the room, still singing her woes.  I caught up to her, and let out another squirt.  Another miss, another puddle.  She was hiding behind the bedside lamp now, by Jay’s head.  He seemed semi-asleep despite the commotion, but I was on a mission.  I shot the last of my water and hit the cat square on.  She took off again, silent this time, and I climbed back into bed for a triumphant sleep.

The cat spent the night and those to follow on the lonely chair by the glass door.  I suppose she was either mad or she wanted to keep an eye out in case those oafish lizards wandered by.  In any case, it seems mother nature had heard her distress calls.  One night a gust of wind blew the door open and by the time we noticed, the cat had long ago disappeared into the night.

Luckily, she returned by morning with that innocent cat look on her face, despite the headless mouse in the shower.  I have no idea if it was meant as a gift, to say all is forgiven, or if she brought it as proof, to say “I told you so”.

I don’t believe that I will ever figure out my cats.  I don’t intend to try.  I would only like to sleep.  And, if it’s not too much to ask, keep decapitated wildlife out of the bathroom.

the gift

Thanks.

 

Oh My Africa – May 2014

This month’s OMA is brought to you by our one and only neighbor to the south.

I just recently discovered this comic strip but, apparently, it’s pretty popular down there, possibly even the most popular South African comic strip, despite the fact that its premise is a black woman (Eve) working as a maid in a white woman’s house (Madam).  The website claims they “have become icons of a changing South Africa”.  I don’t understand…

Anyway, here’s a recent one in honor of President Jacob Zuma’s re-election.  As far as I know, Zuma has no musical inclinations – it’s supposed to be a metaphor.

This might have something to do with the claims that the national South African television broadcaster, SABC, banned campaign ads from parties competing against the ANC (Zuma’s party), or ads that spoke negatively of them.

Just a guess.