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.
Its kind of a thing here (as an annex of South Africa, Namibia went through apartheid). As we all know that story I wont bore you with the details, but I’ ll illustrate with a scene that just went down.
I’m on my way to Botswana (woot!) and just found a ride to meet Matt about and hour away. Its in a smallish van crammed with 13 very sweaty people. Seeing that a white person was getting in, the two front passengers got out of the car to offer me their seats (incidentally they are a woman with a baby and a very old man). When i refused to take their seats and climbed into the back instead, the driver almost cried. He shook my hand maybe four of five times -through the window – repeating: “this is why I love Americans – black, white, we are all people.“ Aw.
Okay two depressing posts in a row is strictly against my policy… especially since my life is otherwise so joyous. But i just have to describe the scene thats passing before my eyes as i type this post.
So one teacher comes in with two boys, a fourth grader and a fifth grader. One boy has two large rocks in his hand and was apparently trying to stone the other one to death at school. So (as punishment) one teacher starts to beat the first kid, repeatedly slapping him across the face and yelling. Meanwhile the other teachers in the room are debating the merits of black pens versus red pens, and I’ m grading tests.
The whole time, another teacher is literally laughing her head off, taking pictures of the boy with rocks in his hand and showing all of us, calling him “a future criminal“ and “a murderer“ to his face. Hes just staring at her with hatred but shes cracking up about her “future murderer“ joke that she finds hilarious. Then the teacher that was beating them sends them away, threatening that if she sees it again she will beat them to death. Then the children leave and we continue our red/black pen debate.
So I wish my experience was such that I would only blog about cheerful things like chickens and puppies (oh wait, I kinda do…). But the reality is not so unconditionally joyous – and at some points I feel the need to share with you the more shocking aspects of life here. This is one of them so get ready.
It happened when I was grading this week’s essay prompt: “If Only I Would Have Listened”. Though there were no other guidelines on the subject of the essay, coincidentally almost all of them dealt with rape and (informal) prostitution. I decided to type them all here. They might seem impersonal to you, but if that’s the case, keep in mind that these were written by my Grade 9 students – all kids that live in my village and I see everyday.
“Last week on Saturday we went to a bar called The System, but there is no under 18 getting in so we asked a boy to buy for us alcohol.
When it was 21:00 one boy came to our group and said ‘I want one girl from your group to be my girlfriend’. Then one of my friends said, ‘If you want one of our school friends, you have to supply for us alcohol before you will take her to be your lover.’
So when he went to buy alcohol my friend said, ‘Let’s go home so we will be gone before he comes back,’ but I refused. When he came back he said, ‘I want this one;’ then I refused, so that boy he started beating me until people ran and took me away. My one friend said, ‘I told you we should have gone home but you refused.’ And I said ‘I should have listened.'”
“Last week Friday me and my friend we went out to a bar to look for some girls. Then one girl came to me to ask me to buy for her a sweet. Then I said ‘No problem just wait for me here.’ After that I come out to propose to that girl. Then she accepts me to enjoy the whole night.
After one week one of my friends came to me to tell me that ‘the girl you proposed to that night is pregnant and that girl is very young to you, you raped her from now you’re going to spend your life in jail.’
Then I asked myself, why should I done this stupid thing? But you begged me to not go out with a group of school friends now I pregnated a young girl such as that one.”
“Last month we went with my school friends to the bar at Sauyemwa. I was with my friends and my sister. One friend of my sister was a girl and she asked me, ‘do you drink also?’ Then I said ‘no’. When my sister saw me walking with them she started calling me and I said, ‘I’m going with them,’ then one guy came to me and said ‘I want to go with you’ and I said ‘no’. The boy said, ‘if you say no, I will do what I want with you, girl.’ Then I said ‘Okay we can go then.’ We went to his friends house to sleep we started to do what that boy want to me. When we were finished he called his friend again to come to me and we slept again.
If I could have listened to me friend maybe this would not have happened to me!!”
“Two weeks ago I was with my friend who does not listen to what her parents are talking. In the afternoon she was in a group of her friends and they were going to a bar I asked my friend “Where are you going with those people who are drunkar?”
The sun set and they were meeting with some crazy guy who wanted to drink the alcohol. That guy, when he saw my friend then they bought a bottle of beer. They drunk the bottle and my best friend she still needed some alcohol. The guy bought her more then she drunk.a
Then that guy took her at some small shrubs and raped her. When she was feeling pain she took a bottle and threw it at the man who raped her and that man died there. When the family of the boy came they also decided that she should die also.
In the prison she started thinking, ‘If I could have listened to what my friends and parents were talking maybe I could not done this.’”
“Last month my school friend and I went out to the town of Rundu. My friend told me, don’t go out this night because you are drunk and these boys they are going to do to you bad things and it’s your first time out of the village.
Then I was not even listening to what she was saying. One of these guys that I was with started saying, ‘Lets go to my house because I see that you are drunk and you can not even want to move.’ Then I started saying, ‘Its okay lets go to your house.’
You know that a boy, if you are drunk and he is not drunk, do you think that he will feel pity for you? I was with that boy and I fell pregnant. A boy was not even using a condom and I was not knew when I was with him in the house.
At the end of the day I fell pregnant a baby without his father until now. If I could have listened to my friend all of this maybe could not have happened. Now I am suffering alone.”
“One of my friends, I told him that, ‘don’t go to the shebeen (bar) during nighttime’ but he did not listen to me. When he was socializing then he drank alcohol then he raped a young girl of 13 years old in the village.
My friend when he went to the shabeen during nighttime he lost self control so he raped a young girl of 13. Then my friend is arrested in the jail because you are not allowed to do that in the rule of Namibia.”
“One night I went out with a group of school friends. My best friend begged me that I must not go there but I did not listen.
At the bar we found lots of men and one of them proposed to my group member and the girl accepted the man. When the girl danced with the man she put her hand in his pocket and she took the money in his pocket. After dancing, the man and the girl went outside. From then the girl dodged the man and then she ran away home.
We waited a moment and she did not come back. Then the man came back and asked me if I saw my friend, and I said, ‘No I did not see her’. That man he started to beat us so that we would go call her back. Then he took out a knife and stabbed me in the eye. Until now I am only having one eye. Also he raped me and I got a disease. If only I would have listened!”
So I may or may not be excessive with my videos. But this one was actually made by my Grade 9 class. The original purpose was to make it for my family at home, to thank them for donating a group of Harry Potter books, and to give them a taste of what school life is like. In the end, I thought I’d share it with the world beyond my family. As most of the students have never seen/used a video camera, they really had fun with it. The result was that much of their footage was of the ground, or really shaky. But I made due with what they came up with and here’s the final result. (Sorry that it’s so long!)