Adventures Of A Sassy Black Girl In Africa

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Official Peace Corps Volunteer

Hey all!

Thanks so much for the holiday wishes and e-cards. I am just getting to a computer now thanks to the lighting that blew out my modem in my school computer...so I probably won't get regular email access again until sometime in February when I can visit schoolnet (the company that services school computer labs in Namibia).

But other than that, everything is well. I have officially moved into my new home in Omuthiya, Namibia. My permanent home is much more modern then my CBT family was. The family that I am living with actually lives in Windhoek (the capital city) and I am staying in their vacation home. So now they are here for the Christmas vacation which is great. G HILSEN
Hanne og Oleer. 2. januar skal jeg i kirke.
I ønskes de bedste ønsker for et godt nytår, og så er vi spændt på at høre om rejsen- "live"
KÆRLIG HILSEN
Hanne og Ole

Official Peace Corps Volunteer

Hey all!

Thanks so much for the holiday wishes and e-cards. I am just getting to a computer now thanks to the lighting that blew out my modem in my school computer...so I probably won't get regular email access again until sometime in February when I can visit schoolnet (the company that services school computer labs in Namibia).

But other than that, everything is well. I have officially moved into my new home in Omuthiya, Namibia. My permanent home is much more modern then my CBT family was. The family that I am living with actually lives in Windhoek (the capital city) and I am staying in their vacation home. So now they are here for the Christmas vacation which is great. They are fluent in English and are just as city as I am. It was so funny when they met me because they thought that since I was from America I would look like Beyonce with the full weave and yellow skin. I think it was anti-climatic when I looked like any other Namibian on the block.

Most days on the homestead is spent watching TV. In Namibia, a television is a status symbol so you want to have it on all-day and as loud as you can so everyone can hear that you have a TV. This would be okay if my room was not next to the TV room but most days I am right along with them watching NBC (Namibian Broadcasting Channel...there is only one channel). My favorite shows are the "soapies" which are the South African soap operas. They are so trashy and good at the same time....like a good Zane novel. My favorite is "Generations". They have an all-black cast and they switch between English and traditional dialects (they have English subtitles).

Other than that my day is pretty routine. Each morning I get up at 7:00am and go for a walk to the water tower. Not because I need water but because I like to walk in the morning. I walk about 4 kilometers to the grooving music of Erikah Badu (shout out to my girl Mia). Then when I come back I greet everyone because in the morning I sneak out so I am not asked by everyone - where I am going (oto ningi peni?) Then I eat my breakfast of bread and tea. After I go and hand wash my clothes and hang them on the line. My family finds this the most amusing thing...because I don't make the "swish swish" sound that they make. To be honest, I just put my clothes in the water, swish it around with my hand for about a minute and then rinse. It is just too hot to put too much effort into it, especially since it will just collect sand later. Then I bathe and get dressed. By this time around 10, our neighboe Benjamin comes around. He lives across the field. He picks me up and them we walk over to the community library to play chess. I never really liked chess in the US but now I love it...we are probably equal in skill so it is always a challenge. We play until about 4 then I walk home to cook since I don't have electricity in my kitchen and need to cook before the sun goes down.

For Christmas I went to my family's other farm...(I swear that my family is loaded). My tate came to me and said that we were going to spend Christmas in the "bush". I was like "Aren't we already in the bush". Then he laughs and says that we are going to the real bush where we will live in traditional huts and kill animals to eat. At that moment, I thought "this is getting a little too real for me". But being the good sport, I said that I would go. So on Christmas day, my host family and it seemed like everyone else from the community got into 2 flat bed trucks and headed into the forest. Sitting in the back of a "bakkie" or pick-up truck we travelled for 2 hours on bumpy dirt roads under the blaring heat. Again I thought "this is getting a little too real for me". Then we arrived and I realized what he meant. In Omuthiya, we had electricity, water and best of all a tv. But here all there was some huts and a tin hatch to cook under. We unloaded the trucks and the women began preparing the meal. They told me that they were going to kill a goat to celebrate Xmas. Now I don't know about you, but when I want meat, I just go to the Stop and Shop to get it. But in Namibia, if you want meat, you have to either shoot it or catch it. When I saw them capture then slaughter the goat..."it became a little too real for me" and I started to be sick...I had to sit down and prepare the potato salad.

We ate about 8 pm that night (they apoligized to me for the late dinner but then I explained to them that in our family, Aunt Zelda and the crew also ate late too) After we all played Uno and then went to bed. That night I shared a double size bed with 3 other grown women in stick hut with snakes and other wildlife surrounding me....lets just say that it was not the most comfortable sleep I ever had. The next morning, I went with the traditional healer to the forest to collect some herbs. There she was telling me about the witches in Namibia putting hexes on people and if I ever had one put on my me, I should call her...I am watching everyone now.

So Christmas was interesting and now I am spending New Years with some Peace Corps friends. We are heading up to Epupa Falls...I think...the adventures never end.

Have a wonderful New Years!
Jenny

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Returning From Okaku, Namibia

Hello All!

How are you all? I am great! I just returned from my community based training in Okaku where I have learned to:

1- Live without electricity (which I found surprisingly easy once I learned to rise and sleep with the sun)

2- Live without a shower (I did develop a continuous rash on my arms...but I think it is because I did not wash the soap off good)

3- Learn to live in a house where people are speaking another language (I learned to smile and say "OK" (Eewa) a lot)

4- Tell the difference between store bought chicken and "Owambo" chicken (the owambo chicken was just killed that afternoon and tasted too much like chicken for me. And it was also tougher)

5- Walk through 1 foot of sand without burning my feet (I do have to admit that I my feet are ALWAYS ashy...because the vasoline makes the sand stick to your feet)

And the most important one...living without air conditioning in the middle of an African summer...for some reason the heat only bothers me sometimes..most times I just try to sleep during the hottest times of the day.

But living on the farm with the Amwele family has been the highlight of my time here:

Each morning they would wake me up at 6:30 by knocking on the door and ask if I was sleeping (Ku kwatha?) . Oh course not! the rooster woke me up about 5:00am..but I still say "Ila mo!" (which means "come inside") And they tell me that my water is ready for my basin bath.

I rise from my mosquito net (which feels like a veil) and grab my basin and my new basket of toiletries. When I leave my room, I open the door and put down my sheet which prevents others from seeing inside and also the bugs from flying inside. This is the time when I must greet everyone. In Owambo culture, most of the day is spent greeting other people. And you just can't greet everyone at once, OH NO! You MUST greet everyone individually...first the eldest (kuku) then meme & tate, and because I am considered a meme in this culture (I was told because of my size I am thought of as rich, which gives me meme status), I have to wait for each of the children to greet me. By this time, the water has gotten a bit colder and the dog has drunk half of it :) So I enter into the bathing area which is really just a cement block room. I don't know where it comes from, but there is always a strong scent of urine in the bathing area. I am not sure if I am suppose to pee in there too, I never asked. So I bath from the bucket of water, pouring it into my basin, lathering up and then pouring the basin over me when I am done. I also brush my teeth there.

So I leave, and again I must be greeted by everyone that did not greet me the first time because you cannot pass anyone by without greeting them. And I go back to my room and dress for the day. When I am finished, I go to the eating area to eat my breakfast of two pieces of wheat bread and tea. I have eaten this same breakfast for the last 3 weeks. Then, meme brings my lunch and I walk about a kilimeter to the school.

However, last weekend I was flown down to Windhoek (the plane ride was 1.5 hours) to see a specialist about my ankle. Peace Corps wanted to make sure everything was healed up. When I arrived in the capital city, the first thing I noticed was that it was so much cooler than in the North. I actually had to wear my sweater at night whereas in the North, I am burning up most times. They had a driver pick me up and we jumped into this diplomatic SUV. I was stayed at the medical office apartments which was furnished with a fully furnished kitchen, a deep bathtub, a big screen tv and two full size beds. I was so surprised that it was so nice. I have to get sick more often!!

I flew in on Sunday morning but all the shops are closed on Sunday so I just walked around the city and eventually found a bookstore. I bought so many books because you cannot find books in the North. Then I came home and watched TV for the rest of the day. The next day my driver (whose name was David) picked me up in my Hummer and we went to the hospital for x-rays then to the foot specialist. But after we took a detour and went shoe shopping in the city. Since we were in a diplomatic vehicle, we could park anywhere and everyone was looking. I felt like a celebrity.

On Tuesday, I scheduled an appointment with this German spa for a pedicure before my flight. (I can't help being the princess..besides when would be the next time I could go...I live in the BUSH) So David and I jumped into the SUV and went to the spa. It was so beautiful there and so relaxing. So after David took me to the airport and I came home to my mudhut in the sky.

So I have to go now since the computer room is closing..but I will be back tomorrow to relay some more stories of Namibia.

Hope all is well!
Jenny