Sunday, August 21, 2011

Magnificent Monday: Rocks!

This weeks theme is 'Rocks'. Interpret that any way you can and join the fun!

There is a wall in Namibia: well, there are quite a few actually, but this wall is a very special wall - it's a work of art! Not many people have seen or heard of this artistic wall: they wouldn't have, it's just been built. Built by a group of volunteers from USA, Canada, Germany, UK, Namibia, and myself from New Zealand. We volunteers, who care about elephants, gave up our spare time, paid out big money on airfares and volunteer fees, sweated in the hot sun, got filthy, went unshowered for a week, and were sleepless while some farmer's jackass was getting it off all night with with all those happy jennys! All night long! heehaw, heehaw, heeeeehaaaaw. How could he?

Why Build a wall?

Why on earth would anyone want to travel halfway around the world to build a wall in Namibia? Who would bother?

Well, lots of people do. Every year 100's of volunteers of all ages, head to Namibia's Damaraland to devote their time and effort to Elephant-Human Relations Aid, EHRA and their desert elephant conservation efforts. Elephants seeking water from farm or village water points will often break down tanks, or pumping equipment - even ripping pipework out of the ground. EHRA recognised the need for rock wall protection to prevent damage. Simple and effective: walls built just high enough for an elephant to get their trunk in, but stop them breaking or turning over the tank. A drink of water, and the small herd can go on their way. A complimentary program is also run to educate the community to value the desert elephants as being unique and attracting tourists, thereby creating job opportunities. Wildlife conservation can only be effective if local communities can be fully involved with them reaping benefits also.

In August 2008 I joined a team and we built a wall just south of the C35 road Ugab River crossing.

August 2008 at EHRA.
Do locals want walls?

Kay and I re-visited Namibia in 2009 and we visited much of the area I was in with EHRA the previous year. I drove into the small native community causing a bit of consternation with the locals. But we found a young man who spoke English and he asked why we were there. I held out a small photo album and presented it to him, asking if he knew the local man who is smiling in the front of the above picture smiling behind the two women.
"Oh yes, I know that man."
"Will you please give him this book of photos?"
With that, he beamed and I showed him myself standing in the photo and said I helped build the wall behind him.
"It is a beautiful wall. We love this wall! No elephant damage."
We were made welcome by the families but had to be on our way. That little photo album may become a prize possession in a little hut with not much else in it.

That sounds like that community is pretty happy with EHRA, and the work the volunteers do.

Our first day's effort.
Why volunteers?

For locals to build a wall requires money: they just don't have it.
Easier for them to shoot the elephants.

Going back to Namibia and EHRA in May this year was different than the first: I knew what was expected. Plus this time I was going with eyes wide open scrutinising every little flower, insect, lizard, and up early for the sunrises and sunsets with camera working overtime. The elephants were just a bonus! The difference in the country between the August 2008 dry season and the late rains of this year into May, was remarkable. Wildflowers everywhere, insect life buzzing, lizards scuttling away at every step; it was a very beautiful time to see the country.

Cooler weather meant building our wall was much less stressing. We made good time. The girls - some who had signed on for several weeks - really got into it, dressing our wall with sparkly chunks of white or green quartzite. Crystals of quartz delicately mortared into the wall glittered in the sun. Namibia is an ancient land, rich geologically, and valley floors are covered in quartz and marble fragments, and other semi-precious stones. It is a geologists or gem hunters paradise.
Our gang.
The Great Bling Wall of Namibia.
Our wall became the Great Bling Wall of Namibia. Not just a wall but a work of art.
It's the only one of its kind. Not just made from rocks of granite or marble - but bling. Those crazy girls!

I wonder whether elephants will be so blinded by the glare they'll walk right into our wall and knock the whole lot over?

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David said...

Such a worthwhile endeavor as it serves both the villagers and the elephants themselves!! No doubt the villages are thankful for all of the volunteers efforts and that was a great gesture to present the photo album to the man in the pic. Would love to do something like that someday!! Great story, thanks for sharing :)

eigroj said...

What anice blog Jim,, so inspiring... i tried sharing it in my fb page so my friends can read it too... keep it up ... im followng it..

Debra said...

Jim – that little photo album should be a prized possession, as it holds the memory of your life work: creating better quality of life for others. I’m always amazed by your traveling adventures, and wonder how I’d fare in some of the rugged places you traverse.
Your stories help raise awareness of our need to bless all God’s creatures.
Between your words and photos, I catch a good glimpse of nature in parts of the world I’d never see otherwise… “Wildflowers everywhere, insect life buzzing, lizards scuttling away at every step; it was a very beautiful time to see the country.”
Thank you for helping us see.
The bling wall is a tour de force!

Jim said...

David, yes it was a great moment when I presented that photo album to know in return that the small community did appreciate our making that wall, and it was doing the job it was built for, so they would not shoot the elephants. It's about giving them the ability to learn to live with wildlife.
That's why I was thrilled.

Hi Eigroij, thanks for sharing. Your linked post shows fantastic scnes of old buildings built from rocks. Exactly what I was hoping people would link in with!

Thanks Debra. Those young kids who put their time, effort and money into building that wall are amazing. That giving attitude will stay with them for life.

Melissa Tandoc said...

Thanks for sharing the Great Wall of Namibia. You're right, we never heard of such from that place. But aside from being the main attraction, what makes it so unique is the care and support the people had in building it. Oh, it's interesting to see that album 'someday'. Wishful thinking...

Great you guys!

AJ said...

So this is the bling wall! :) Thank you for sharing. There's always something new to learn. Would love to see a photo of the wall.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like such an incredible experience. And I am sure your return visit and photo album gift meant the world to that man.

Stephanie - The Travel Chica said...

This sounds like such an incredible experience. And I am sure your return visit and photo album gift meant the world to that man.

John in France said...

Jim, you are amazing! Every small bit helps, and you have done so much for them.

photos by jan said...

What an awesome gesture for you to gift the photo album.
Those girls and the bling making your wall that much more special.What a wonderful thing you have done. I am proud to know you!! My is not so dignified,just a bit of a grin. I hope it is not offensive. I will have it up in a bit.

Jim said...

Hi Melissa, yep you never know what people get up to in the desert with a pile of rocks! The girls were so funny with the way they carefully sorted out the quartz crystal rocks and carefully placed them so they were on show.

Hi AJ, I wanted to show some photos of the bling wall but I had trouble getting Mr Linky to show up and had to trim the size of the post back and resize the photos before it showed up. So I'll try uploading another photo of the wall without us all around.

Jim said...

Hi Stephanie, That was quite a cool time as we drove up to the little local community. Just a few huts, block and corrugated iron , nothing in them apart from beds on the floor and cooking pots .
They have so little, and the water is so precious to them to look after a few goats, donkeys and if lucky enough a few cattle. Really nice people!

Hi John, I get a lot out of it too, seeing my efforts benefit people and helping them to change their attitudes to seeing elephants as part of the life they all need to share together.

Jan, you post anything you like. I know it will be good!

Cathy Sweeney said...

Awesome, Jim! Yet another worthwhile endeavor that you had undertaken. It must have been so rewarding when that young man beamed about how much they loved the wall. Gotta love "The Great Bling Wall of Namibia".

photos by jan said...

I changed my mind posted something a little more meaningful..hehe wasn't brave enough for the other.

BlogNostics said...

Where there is a wall there is a way


Malaysia Asia said...

Hi Jim, thanks for sharing this beautiful cause. In fact, my partner was just in Inner Mongolia under the Horqin Reforestation Project last week. It was an amazing experience coming from her.

Eileen Ludwig said...

Walls with a purpose, Great and only time I know walls to be good!

Sharaholic can be customized by going to your plugins or widgets and finding where they are defined. Make it your twitter name for now I tweeted and erased AddAny and just put Jim

Abhisek said...

The best part is when the world is moving towards an unpleasant future,some people like you are still there to make it pleasant.It's great that you are participating in such tasks.Thanks for sharing the Great Wall of Namibia Jim. :)

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Jim - You are so passionate about this work and you are surely making a huge difference in the lives of the communities you work with in particular and the world at large. Thank you for being YOU!

Debbie @ European Travelista said...

This blog was a wonderful reminder that there is so much to do out there. All we have to do is find a cause that we are passionate about and act in what ever manner we can.

Thanks for reminding us all.

Rachel Hoyt said...

GREAT post, Jim! I love the line about the jackasses & jenny's keeping you up all night. LOL. I also love that the gals decorated the wall with bling and that you so thoughtfully took a photo album to the local man after the project was complete. I agree. I bet that photo album is VERY special to him. :)

thepinaysolobackpacker said...

Jim, you are amazing! I really love your advocacy and all. thanks for sharing! I'm learning a lot from your blog. :)

Bec Owen said...

You are truly inspiring, Jim! What a wonderful story...and I agree with other readers...I bet that photo album is treasured!

Thank you so much for sharing your fabulous adventures with us...I get to 'visit' places I might never see otherwise.

adventureswithben said...

Great twist on the theme.

Rachel Hoyt said...

I had a lot of fun with this prompt. Google helped me find out about Ancient Rock 'n Roll. :)

Erin in Costa Rica said...

That is awesome, helping the elephants and the locals. It was nice to read this after reading a recent story on elephant captivity and mistreatment. Thanks for sharing!

JIM said...

Great post Jim is so wonderful to see people coming together like this. Robert Frost in his poem "Mending Walls" states "Good Fences make good neighbors" This illustrates his point!!!

betty-NZ said...

Awesome work you all did! Thanks for sharing it with us.