Okay, as I’m hiding in my hole, I’m going to write a post about winter in Kavango.
Both of my month-long breaks from school yielded a huge change in life in the village – after December break, I came back to a lush green land, with maize so tall you couldn’t see beyond your own house. But after April break, it was dry, brown, and FREEZING cold. With the weather change had to come a huge change in lifestyle. Soooo here goes
1) Freezing weather. It would require a full winter jacket, gloves, and a hat each morning as I walk to school. Except that of course I didn’t pack any of these things, as I thought I was moving to AFRICA. But the benefit is that we have an excuse to make tea and huddle around the fire, talking late into the night, which is great.
2) Hunting for birds. No, not chickens as per usual – just these wild, sparrow-like birds that live in trees. Who catches them, you ask? Young boys with slingshots made from carved wood, old tires, and elastic. The boys walk around, slingshots in hand, and shoot (seemingly) randomly into the trees, finding their mark wayyy more often then you’d think, given the massive height and thickness of the trees, and the tiny mark that are the birds. Then the catch is de-feathered and stuffed into to pockets of school uniforms, and saved till later when the fire is going. They cook the birds by throwing them into a wooden bowl, to be mashed up via mortar and pestle – bones and all – and then thrown into a pot for sparrow stew. Yummmmm. When I asked the purpose of hunting this new prey, they said, “Protein”. Then I asked them (jokingly) if they ate mouse, and the response was: “Some”.
3) Kanjata. In Rukwangali this means “burrs”. I was laughing with my friends about how few words we’ve learned since we arrived – but the words are very indicative of our lives here: cow (ngoma), porridge (yisima), crocodile (ngandu), walking (kugenda), nothing (kwato), burrs (kanjata), hot (upyu), hospital (sipangero), go away (tuzeniko!), don’t touch me (wa ha kwata nge). Anyway, all of a sudden there are these kanjata everywhere. I find them in my hair, on my floor, on my pillow and in my blankets, in my underwear (how’d that happen?), stuck between my toes. And they are SO painful. Just now I sat down on the sand to take a picture, and stood up with about fifteen of them on my butt. The worst part? That when you pluck them out of your skin, they leave a tiny single spike that’s permanently wedged in beneath your skin, like a splinter. How badly do you want to visit me now?
4) Darkness. The sun sets at 5:45 sharp – and it’s only getting earlier! So our days are cut super short, and I spend a lot more time curled up under my blankets watching Parks and Rec.
5) Cold showers. Actually they were cold before. But now they’re freezing. I can only shower at 2:00 pm after I’ve walked home from school (so that limits me to being clean on Wednesdays and Fridays). Also my shower is infested with bees, so as I’m standing there shivering with my wet, goose-bump infested naked body, I have to look out for the swarm of bees threatening to attack my most obscure parts.
6) The Harvest! This word has a new meaning for me. I never appreciated it before, as it was something other people did, and maybe only increased the prices in the grocery store for me. But here, it means a lot of hard work. We’re mainly harvesting maize and mahango. First we pick it, then we dry it out on the roof, then we pound it to loosen the kernels (my arms are a lot stronger now), then pull each kernel off by hand and burn the leftover husks. Finally, the dried out kernels will be pounded into a fine powder to boil into porridge! I took some pictures of the harvest activities this week.
And of course I can’t resist putting pictures of my sisters!
You know those times when you’re sitting around a campfire, and everyones telling ghost stories, and then you’re done with the ghost stories, and someone asks you to share your most embarrassing moment. and nothing that embarrassing has ever happened except maybe someone pulled down your pants in kindergarden once – but you don’t want to tell that story because it’s lame and not original and not really applicable?
Well I have a new embarrassing story – and it’s that everyone that I know (imagine aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, family friends’ children, siblings, random people i met in some shop and gave out my blog address, PARENTS), now has access to some very intimate, shockingly personal, embarrassing moments of my life.
If you ever have a moment when you’re down on life and need a laugh – just imagine this happening to YOU. But for now, here are the silver linings I can think of:
- Nothing can really ever embarrass me again. Ever.
- It could be worse (maybe?)
- Perhaps some people will be happy for me. That I’m happy.
- …Or it will get them to open up about their own personal lives to me
- As I’ll be here for at least a year and a half more, I’m hoping people will have forgotten by the time i de-board the plane in America
- As James said: “it’s only going to come up once every Thanksgiving”
- And you know when someone advises you: “If you can’t say it to your Grandma… don’t say it at all?” Well… I learned my lesson.
As for now, I might not write an update for a while, as I’ll be hiding in a hole.
After a brief two-week stint in the Land of the Free/Home of the Brave… I am back in Namibia! In case anybody is wondering, the original adjustment back into the US didn’t take long; I ate about four Chipotles a day and got quickly used to having my nails and toes regularly manicured. I also stood in each [scalding] shower for about 28 minutes with a sly grin on my face, like nothing should EVER be allowed to feel that good. But above all, it was absolutely amazing to see my family and just relax in my own home, switch on trashy TV and eat grilled cheese sandwiches at all hours of the day.
Being in the US made me appreciate the following things about Namibia:
- Morning greetings, which involve a series of seven back and forth “eeee’s” and “ayyys” until you’re satisfied that the other person is actually doing well
- Well-behaved children. As I explained to my mother – who was surprised to see me washing dishes on my own accord – my four year old Namibian sister does it, so I should probably learn.
- Nighttime walks through the village, looking at the stars.
- The whole rural lifestyle. In which you have to stop on the highway for a passing herd of cattle. And fresh air and candle lit huts and the river and the smell of the fire at night.
- Aaaaand my celebrity status – dare I say it? Gotta love being the only whitey in a ten mile radius.
And then I found this cool abandoned church to read in, and was discovered there by three boys who taught me how to correctly aim and fire a slingshot.
And in the midst of all this excitement I also got to go to Sossusvlei – one of the most famous tourist attractions in Nam (Google it.) – with Matt and his dad and dad’s very good friend. We stayed in a castle-like hotel which pops up out of nowhere amidst miles of desert. Who knew mounds of sand and a few dead trees would be one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen? Props to Crony for the greatest four days since I’ve been here. Oh also Matt you can take credit too. Speaking of… THAT also happened.
Here are a few pictures from Sossusvlei:
Back in the village not much changed since I left. Though Eveline can now stand on her own; funny how I mark the progression of my life through her accomplishments. Adjusting back into village life slash food took a couple days but I’m back on track! Then I went back to school and remembered how much I love teaching! The kids came back with a refreshed attitude and we jumped into our new unit: Harry Potter!!! Which obviously makes me way more excited to go to school. We’ll see how well the culture translates the meaning of the book – so far they cracked up for four minutes when I explained to them what a mustache was. I’ll let you know how it goes.
THEN, this weekend, I was the celebrity judge at the Mr. and Miss Ndiyona Beauty Pageant (in Matt’s village) – thus getting to perpetuate the value that those who look the best, win at life. It was really funny to see Namibian students parading around in flashy outfits, when usually they’re so withdrawn and conservative. Some of them were even wearing bathing suit tops with no shirt, very scandalous. Now I’m feeling less guilty that I break the cultural taboo of hanging my undies outside to dry. Some other weird dichotomies to ponder:
- Satellites on a hut
- Women bathing on the river, bare asses flapping in the wind, but unable to wear shorts in public
Also! I got a new camera from my wonderful parents, so the kids at the center really had a fun time playing with it. Here are some gems from my very first week back.