Category Archives: Instagram

George Orwell called. He said he told you so.


It was a debate of workplace magnitude. To friend or not to friend (on Facebook)? I argued passionately on the side of “not to friend” but to connect via LinkedIn. My coworkers took the stance of friending, far and wide, on Facebook. We were at a stalemate and I wondered if I am simply too cautious or if they are playing with fire.

Let me back up. Over the years, I have worked with several organizations and maintained great friendships with colleagues. However, as a person with a healthy distrust of the Internet, I try to maintain a separation of personal and professional relationships. I don’t want future bosses making snap judgements about my work ethic based on political leanings, musical taste, and photos with friends and family. Until I see some hard and fast rules about ethical hiring and firing practices based on internet searches, I will ardently maintain my personal anonymity. I suppose my inherent distrust of the Web can be attributed to growing up in a pre-Internet generation, along with a hefty dose of Orwellian fear.

My colleagues, on the other hand, are recent college graduates and maintain a sizable Facebook base upwards of 1,000 or more “friends.” They friend classmates, friends, coworkers, and bosses alike and believe it’s impossible to separate the personal from the professional. So, when I told them I prefer to connect on LinkedIn, or friend them after my contract comes to an end, they were offended. They believe anyone with a wide Internet presence; i.e. website, blog, Facebook business page, and other social media tools, is a fool to think they can create boundaries. Maybe they’re right, maybe it is ridiculous to believe my one hold out, a single Facebook page, shares any more or less about my personality and personal beliefs than my blog, twitter feed, or website.

The question to you is where do you draw the line? Is it naive to believe a person can maintain separate personal and professional identities on the Internet?

Image Credit: Unknown


Pipe Dreams


In the Kaokoland region of Northern Namibia the Himba people are a tribe of nomadic pastoralists who are descendants of a group of Herero herders who fled to the remote north-west after being displaced by the Nama. The Himba continue their rich traditions such as wearing loin cloths and goat skinned skirts, rubbing their bodies with red ochre and fat to protect themselves from the sun, and developing intricate hairstyles and traditional jewelry.

Image Courtesy of Clay O

The Himba have held on to their traditions and adapted to outside influences in their own way. For instance, the Himbas have developed handcrafted bracelets; while these would have once been made from ivory the modern version are made from recycled PVC pipes. This unique fusion of a modern material into a traditional art form has started a popular trend and when I’ve had the opportunity to sell these bracelets they have sold out in a matter of days.These bracelets have become popular among tourists and trendsetters who support environmentally friendly, fair trade products.  Due to their success, other tribes in the Okavango region in Northeast Namibia have created a similar product.  I have a new selection of bracelets, purchased directly from the artisans, that are made from the same materials but infuse color into the bracelet’s design. I currently have 15  bracelets, shown above, on sale for $20 per bracelet plus shipping ($4.95).  I also have a selection of 10 keychains on sale for $5 plus shipping ($4.95).  When ordering please let me know what color/design you prefer (all of the bracelets are shown above).  I will try to accommodate your request but please know that supplies are first come, first served.While I may get more of these bracelets in the future, I have a limited supply at the moment. Don’t worry, if you aren’t one of the lucky few to purchase a bracelet I’ll be hosting a giveaway for one of the bracelets soon! 

Update: My PayPal account is having problems. If you’d like to purchase a bracelet or keychain please contact me at rbranaman(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll give you details on where to send payment and when to expect shipment.

The Shitenge Project: Eye Mask


As you may recall I am currently a) trying to figure out how to integrate a plethora of shitenges into my daily life and b) looking for ways to amuse myself between freelance projects, thus The Shitenge Project was born.

Last week, a migraine took me out of commission for several days.  During that time I doped up on meds and kept a cold compress handy for my neck and forehead.  Out of this experience, this week’s project was born.  It’s a variation of an eye mask and is designed to hold a cold compress or a scented sachet.

I started by measuring the length and width of a cold compress and cutting two strips of material an inch wider and larger than the compress.  I ended up increasing the length because I like having the cold compress wrap around my temples.  I was initially going to use a buttonhole but decided on a velcro closure so the compress could slip in and out more easily.  I also included two buttons from my great-grandmother’s button collection for decoration.

I really liked this project because the case is versatile so I can pull out the compress, toss in a lavender sachet, and have an instant eye pillow.  If you are interested in making your very own lavender sachet, it really is a simple process.   You can make a sachet packet slightly smaller than your case (suggested material: cheesecloth) and fill it with 1/2 cup of (dried) beans, 1/2 cup of rice/lentils, and 1/2 cup of dried lavender.

Please continue to leave any ideas for future shitenge projects in the comments section: comments in my last post suggested a place mat project but as I usually eat standing up, a bowl in one hand, and a spoon in the other, I think place mats might be a bit too classy for me.  However, in the same vein, everyone needs a napkin so look for a cloth napkin project coming soon!

The Shitenge Project: Jewelry


As you may recall I am currently a) trying to figure out how to integrate a plethora of shitenges into my daily life and b) looking for ways to amuse myself between freelance projects, thus The Shitenge Project was born.

While I have yet to figure out how to use a sewing machine without a tutor I decided for my second project to try a hand-stitch jewelry design.  I used to create jewelry so I had beads at the ready.  I selected a large chunky bead that I didn’t mind covering with fabric, a funky wooden bead, ribbon, and jewelry wire for the necklace.

I started by cutting two strips of material approximately twice the width of the large chunky beads (if I was really meticulous I would have measured the width of the chunky bead and then doubled it but instead I eyeballed it).  I didn’t measure the length but instead fit the necklace and bracelet to my wrist and neck.

Next, I sewed the sides of the fabric together to make a tube.  If I were an actual seamstress, I might own something called a loop turner, but instead I used “found” objects (aka a mechanical pencil/cuticle stick/small tree branch) to laboriously flip the material inside out.  Once I flipped the fabric tube, I ran a piece of ribbon through the tube (for the necklace) and inserted my chunky beads.  After placing a chunky bead inside I slipped a funky wooden bead on the outside of the tube until I hit my desired length.  Rather than sewing the ends closed, I took a bit of flexible jewelry wire and wrapped it around the ends to hold the beads in place.  I then cut and tied the ribbon to my desired length and voila, my necklace was complete.  I used the same method for the bracelet but instead of using flexible jewelry wire and ribbon I simply fit the bracelet to my wrist, tied the ends together, and cut off the excess material.

Ta-da! The finished product: A funky fabric bracelet and necklace.  This was really simple and would be a great project for an old necklace that needs to be revitalized for yourself or a child.  The best part is that if it gets dirty or you get bored of the design you can slip off the material and make a new necklace/bracelet in minutes.

Please leave any ideas for future shitenge projects in the comments section but please remember I’m a novice seamstress!

Where Were You When… The Twin Towers Fell


Join me for the Where Were You When? Series and share your story about how major world events impacted your life.  

Image Credit: Where Were You? Events That Changed The World 26-episode series graphic

A decade ago I was a new college graduate, renting a room from a family friend, and embarking on a new career path.  I was fortunate; when the hijacked planes hit the Pentagon and the Towers, I was surrounded by great friends who helped shoulder the grief, shock, and distress with good old-fashioned escapism.  A lot of people have exceptional stories about how the Twin Tower attacks greatly impacted their lives and while my life didn’t change drastically that day, the events opened my eyes to the perceptions that people around the globe hold of Americans.

In the days that followed, the aftermath of the attacks didn’t alter my life largely; things slowly returned to normal, and television returned to regularly scheduled programming.  However, America’s role as a world player became more explicit and how we were represented as a government, nation, and people became increasingly clear.  I realized that the actions of a few individuals could skew the perceptions of many, thus, it did not take long to make the conscious decision that I wanted to be a part of changing that perception.

I chose to make a difference through service; I volunteered with refugee agencies, increased my knowledge on human rights issues, and 2 1/2 years ago I became a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia.  I used the opportunity to promote a better understanding of Americans to Africans and share my experiences of African cultures and people with Americans.  While the tragedy of the terror attacks still weighs heavy on the nation’s collective mind, I hope that one thing that we can take away from this event is that personal interactions, open-mindedness, and embracing different religions is vital to win the “war on terror”.

For another perspective on this day and a new entry into the “Where Were You When?” series visit Kenya’s Expat Extraordinaire blog Yet Another 9/11 Tribute at So Long And Thanks For All The Fish.  If you’d like to be a part of this series please drop me a comment so I can share your blog here as well.

One Step At A Time


Title:  Otavi Community Based Rehabilitation Project

Location: Otavi (Location), Namibia (taken in March 2011)

Background: One of the projects that I initiated in Namibia was an awareness/fund raising event that helped people living in the Otjozondjupa region of Namibia gain access to disability equipment and share disability awareness.  From that event we were able to raise funds in order to provide services and wheelchairs to residents in Otavi, Grootfontein, and Otjiwarongo.  Pictured above is a woman who lives in Otavi and was provided a wheelchair to help her with her mobility and functionality within the household.  We stopped by her home to ensure that the wheelchair was properly aligned to prevent sores and share some physiotherapy activities that her children and grandchildren could practice with her to improve her mobility.

History: Many people living with disabilities are excluded from aspects of daily life due to the prohibitive cost of rehabilitation equipment. The availability of wheelchairs, crutches, and other adaptive equipment can substantially increase the user’s quality of life by providing mobility and freedom.  In Otavi alone there are more than 50 people living with physical and mental disabilities. Unfortunately there is not a system in place to ensure that these individuals receive the care or support that they need.

Democracy, Equality, Reconciliation


Title: Democracy, Equality, Reconciliation

Location: The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa (taken in August 2007)

Background: After the fall of the Apartheid state, South Africa’s democratic parliament drew up South Africa’s new constitution.  At the heart of the constitution are seven fundamental values which are represented by pillars that visitors see upon their arrival at the museum; Democracy, Equality, Reconciliation, Diversity, Responsibility, Respect, and Freedom.

While the words emblazoned on these pillars have come to represent the values of a nation who fought against apartheid they also remind us of the contributions women made to ensure that future generations could live in a free, non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic country.  As Nelson Mandela once said;

To be free is to not merely cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

National Women’s Day:  Yesterday, August 9th, was the 55th anniversary of Women’s Day in South Africa.  This day honors the 20,000 South African women who staged a peaceful march on the Union Building in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the “Pass Laws” that limited their freedom of movement.  The women stood silently for 30 minutes and then sang a protest song that was composed for the occasion: “Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!” meaning “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.” In the years since this phrase has come to symbolize the resilience of South African women, their sacrifices in the struggle for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, and the courage and strength of all women.

This is an important holiday; not only to remind South Africans of the incredible courage of the women who stood up for their rights on August 9, 1956, but also to remind people around the world that liberation is only complete when women are free of all forms of oppression.