August 01, 2010

Good ideas and other interesting stuff…..

I have finally found a place to recycle plastic. At least now I can do my bit for the Namibian environment. Though on closer analysis, this is truly an exercise in delusional thinking since my rather meager plastic bottle and pop can accumulations don’t have a chance of offsetting the CO2 from the unleaded fuel powering the round trip taxi ride I have to take to drop them off.

I have been seeing some good ideas lately, however.

The Pick N Pay grocery store we walk to daily (yes, daily) is busy all the time. We’re pretty much in the center of the city so it’s one of the main sources of groceries for those of us who live here and for folks heading home from the city. Lots of things are packaged to be light to carry. If you have to carry all your purchases any distance (as in our half mile trek uphill to our flat) let me tell you, you appreciate things being as light as they can be. Our dishwashing liquid was running low, so instead of buying yet another difficult to recycle bottle, I was able to purchase just what I needed – a refill!

I’ve also seen refills for fabric softener, clothes washing detergent, household cleaners, dishwasher detergent, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil. All of them are sized to be easy to carry and cost less than the original packaged product. There is a giant economic chasm here between the folks who have money and jobs and the 50% of the working age population that do not have a job and only limited money. It seems some grocery items are purposely packaged in small sizes so that they are easy to carry long distances and because of their size, are perhaps, somewhat more affordable.

We haven’t experienced that much difference in the price of grocery items between home and Windhoek. The prices seem much the same after you convert to dollars and once you get used to the price tags – the N$ 10.99 quart of milk to go atop your N$27.99 package of cereal, for instance. Those are approximately $1.49 and $3.78 respectively in USD. The N$1000 grocery totals at check-out can still make our heads swim though. We have to mentally convert to USD all the time. The $149,000 price tags on used Toyotas really made us gasp until we realized that’s about $20,400 USD.

Here’s another good idea that we could use at home.

This degradable egg packaging protects the eggs much better than the non-degradable Styrofoam cartons at home. You cannot open the package at the store to check for broken eggs, but I haven’t found a broken one yet – ones covered with small feathers – yes, but not broken ones.

Another interesting item of note – there is darn little high fructose corn syrup in evidence here. Soft drinks, cereals, fruit drinks, candies, and marshmallows (all part of our taste tests thus far) are all sweetened with sugar. In general, portion sizes are smaller and not much is very sweet. These cookies are not as sweet as American vanilla wafers.

These gum drops taste more of fruit flavors than of sugar.

Marshmallows – those are a bit of a toss up with US brands – but overall, still not as sweet.

We are seeing far fewer overweight individuals here as compared to home. Most are a very healthy slim body size. Most remarkably, I never see a single overweight college student at Polytechnic. The professor has seen only a very small number of overweight students. It certainly gives one pause for thought in comparison to students at home.
When I do take taxis, I usually hail one just outside the main gate to Polytech. Last week though, I needed to be at an event some distance from the university and then needed to be picked up again afterwards. I called a taxi driver who had seemed very kind to us on a previous trip and who had given me his phone number. He had my cell phone number from the call I placed to him and here is the message he sent when he arrived to pick me up:

And when he came back to get me later:

Can’t beat that. This is just an example of the tremendous kindness we have experienced from everyone we have met thus far.

Here’s another good thing that happens every day. Most days are cloudless and the sunsets look like this.

But on the rare occasion there have been clouds, they look like this:

Can’t beat that either.