Archive for April, 2011

Easter Weekend

April 29, 2011

Easter Weekend was slightly crazy with a lot of people coming up to Opuwo meaning I didn’t have to go anywhere.

Five (new) VSO vols and on Sunday about 700 Peace Corps. Choosing hard drinking over deep conversation I mainly hung out with the VSO crowd.

On Friday night to show them the twin wonders of Opuwo it was up to the Country Lodge and then to the Coffee Shop. After that the plan was to stop by a shebeen to get a flavour for authentic Opuwo life. As I had to be up at 6 the next morning I said “well maybe I’ll just come for one drink…”. Yes, right.

By 2.30am we’d been through Spongae (broken jukebox) and ended up at my mate’s Okalunga Hasho bar which has another bar just to the side just in case you fancied a change for ten minutes.

Most bizarre part of the night was seeing a bunch of people grooving away to Craig Bloody David. And not in an ironic way.

Saturday morning the alarm went off just after I’d closed my eyes and I had to get Jimmy to take everyone on a Himba village tour. I just about managed to find Jimmy, break the good news to him he was driving (which thankfully he was happy to do) and we were off with me snoozing in the passenger seat.

The tour went well with only a few people having to come out to the cars and lie down or drink water before returning.

Little snooze (major sleep) in the afternoon to recover before rallying to Marjolijn’s for a brai in the evening. This was excellent fun and I for one felt a bit more chipper after a sleep and then a couple of Tafels.

Sunday all plans of a trip to Epupa or anything much were scrapped in favour of sitting around at the lodge and admiring the view.

In the evening back to Marjolijn’s this time for dinner and poker (played with a proper set of chips brought up from Windhoek – how these big city people live!).

I think a fun time was had by all. Certainly I had a good time. The new Opuwo resolution is to go out more.

Everyone left on Monday morning (some at 4am the crazy fools). Not that I saw them as I was busy sleeping.

Shout Out: I’ve been asked to say hello to Kat’s mum Anne who apparently avidly sometimes once by accident read this blog. So “hello Anne”.

Not to criticise your parenting skills as I’m sure Kat has many outstanding qualities but you should know that she came to Opuwo and had the lack of grace to win at poker (N$30 for her N$5 compared to my second place of N$20 for N$10).

This is just bad form really and probably something you should get a handle on. I mean it’s not actual law that people must lose to me at poker but, you know, it is kind of the done thing. And avoids the three days of petulant crying from me.


With a Flash and a Bang

April 13, 2011

Finally; an electrical explosion that’s not my fault.

During a thunderstorm the other day a flash of lightning also caused a massive blue fireball to jump out of my ADSL router frightening the bejesus out of Mr Cat who was snoozing nearby (of course I wasn’t scared, well, maybe a bit).

Investigating the various bits of ozone-smelling kit that had moments earlier been prized working components keeping me linked to facebook 24×7 I found that not only had the router died a death but also the power surge had blown up my laptop through the LAN cable.

Fiddlesticks was a word I should have used. I may have been a bit stronger in my expression.

The power surge blew up a  lot of stuff all over Opuwo. A friend of mine also lost his laptop and a lot of people are at the very least now lacking an ADSL modem.

At work our internet line was ok but our leased line connecting all of the actual critical stuff was out for the count.

I headed to the Opuwo Teleshop to find it besieged by angry customers holding various bits of melted plastic and, as usual in Opuwo, we all spent the time chatting away until getting seen.

It transpires that the contract says the equipment (though owned by them until the end-of-contract) is entirely the customer’s responsibility. Faced with the prospect of not being able to browse cats that look like Hitler in the evenings I was therefore forced to splash out on a new router.

Thankfully I was also able to borrow a work laptop. As I don’t have a PC in my office and being (apparently) the IT bod not having any sort of computer would put a bit of a spanner in the works.

The work line was a little more complex not being a straight ADSL link and it turned out that as with the routers our termination box had bitten the big one.

This left our HR and Finance departments twiddling their thumbs (well ok doing filing and the like but not able to pay or process anything) as I entered a three-way ballet with the line service provider, network connectivity provider and various unnamed offices in Windhoek.

As luck would have it though (and thanks to the special efforts of one of the local Telecom engineers) a second-hand STU was found and installed (avoiding the week or so lead-time for one to be sent by goat from Windhoek) which following a bit of jiggery-pokery worked. So having prepped everyone for a week or so of downtime I was able to wander around actually for once with good news that the system was back and everyone could do whatever it is they do (above my head).

Being British I have naturally written a strongly worded letter to Telecom head office bemoaning the lack of surge protection on their network and demanding at least eight cows in compensation. Naturally I assume this will serve no purpose at all.

So goodbye Mr HP laptop. You have served me well even with Vista on and in the harsh Opuwo environment. I salute you sir.

Grumblings Down Below

April 7, 2011

For the past few days Namibia has given me the superpower of being able to wee out of my behind. Thanks Nam!

Not sure anyone will want to make a comicbook hero about it though.

No ill effects other than being unable to stray more than 40m (or 4 seconds) away from a commode. Unless I sneeze in which case the safe distance is halved.

Oh and after three days I have a deep affinity with a certain Johnny Cash song.

I will of course keep you updated blow-by-blow (so to speak).

Well That Went Well

April 5, 2011

Number One: Can of Mushrooms

Both of my can openers are a bit shady. Trying to open a can of mushrooms to make dinner for a friend who was staying I only managed to make a series of punctures around the lid.

Pushing down on the top to try to force it open I had just thought “hmm this might cut me” when the top popped up and sliced my thumb. For a moment I could see right into all the tendons and stuff before they were obscured.

Hand Injury Opening Mushroom Can

Nice. Application of VSO-supplied eyepatch though stemmed the bleeding and after a few weeks almost good as new.

Number Two: Power Cord Shuffle

As part of moving our Digital Video Conferencing (DVC) equipment from a room now full of servers (or rather full of noise from one server and a switch) I knew it would become necessary to sort out the endless spaghetti of cables (mainly power) running in that room.

This would allow extraction of the DVC stand and kit leaving just what connections were needed for the stuff staying behind.

Not wanting to risk service interruption during office hours I decided to do this on Namibian Independence Day (which was a holiday).

Although all the network kit is supplied through a UPS I thought it might take longer than the 20 minutes of runtime promised to sort out the cables so I cleverly shutdown our big HP server and a tower Linux (critical for internet) server. Left the switches, routers and telco gear on which the UPS now said it would support for 55 minutes.

Unplugging, untangling and replugging actually took less than 10 minutes of crawling around.

HP server came back up in a blaze of fans.

Linux box was dead.

Somehow the front fascia had been knocked and the pole from the power switch no longer lined up with the microswitch inside. Application of screwdriver to fascia, snapping noise and a manual push – power up.

Except it didn’t boot. Not properly anyway.

Of course this box operates “headless” without a monitor or keyboard so all I knew was (a) LAN lights were on but (b) no network service from that box.

Plugged in a monitor and keyboard to find that; eth0 was still eth0 (external) while eth1 had now become eth2 (internal). Erm.

Quickly rejigged some config to point now to eth2 but alas lots of stuff like ISC DHCPD complains about eth1. Drat.

Using a Windows-style intervention I rebooted the computer to go through HW detection again and; it picked up eth0 and eth1.

All again was well. Once I’d undone my eth1-eth2 changes that was.

Of course if I’ve just trusted the UPS and kept the server on then this wouldn’t have happened.

Number Three: DVC Equipment Skillz

So today I moved the DVC equipment which I had disconnected during the great server/power rewire. Huffed and puffed to bring the (bloody big) cabinet and kit into its new home.

Plugged it all in and everything powered up apart from the actual video conferencing box.

I then spent forty minutes tracing cables (which had helpfully all been cable-tied out of sight inside cable runners in the cabinet) and checking voltage.

Until that was I found the switch on the back of the DVC box. The power switch. Which was off.

10 seconds later and all was well.

We Need a Bigger Boat

April 1, 2011

Road Near Oshakati (source:

In response to the literally single email I have received asking about my wellbeing as Namibia declares a state of emergency because of flooding: I’m fine thanks.

The heaviest rainy season in 15 years has caused severe flooding throughout much of the north of the country with rivers bursting their banks, roads washed away and many villages and homesteads cut off.

The Government has declared a state of emergency and is mobilising to help those affected. From our point-of-view in the Kunene Region the Kunene River has burst its banks along large stretches and we face the ever-present risk of another Cholera outbreak.

Peace Corps have evacuated a number of their volunteers from placements and VSO are thinking about putting their disaster plan (plan GLGB *) into action.

More information:

I myself managed to get stuck in a river in the capital Windhoek after someone had helpfully removed all the road closed signs but am pretty insulated from the worst of it being in Opuwo which is a long way from any rivers.

With the rains predicted to continue now into May it’s likely to get a lot worse before things start to get better.

This does somewhat vindicate that vol who went mad and was last seen building an Ark in the hills near Angola. Doesn’t excuse the eating of their own feces though.

* Plan GLGB:

GLGB is, or rather was, the official VSO disaster response plan. It stands for “Good Luck, God Bless” and is famously the last phrase usually said to volunteers by VSO staff as they’re evacuated by helicopter from the floods/fires/civil wars kicking wildly at the hands of volunteers clinging desperately to the landing skids.

This has evolved over the years from “Don’t let them take you alive!” and “Wait until you see the whites of their eyes!“.

Technically following a diversity review the phrase is now “Good Luck, God Bless if you believe in such things, or Deity bless, or Deities bless, or not, or Richard Dawkins bless or indeed no blessings, whatever” but that’s a bit of a mouthful.