Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Flash Mob?

I forgot to post this a while back. The first week in country when we stayed at a training center together, we were all pretttty bored - and were around each other literally 24/7 camp-style. In order to entertain ourselves we played a heated game of assassin, countless card games, ninja, and a massive game of mafia. We also decided it'd be a great idea to do a flash mob, to the tune of "I Just Can't Wait to be King." We introduced it one day during the song portion of the morning, and the trainers seemed to really enjoy it - though at first they thought we were performing a traditional American dance for them, so they wanted us to teach it to them. This link goes to the second [slightly more unorganized] dance several days later when some of them wanted us to repeat it so they could join in! Thanks to Steven who uploaded this to youtube already!! Also, today is my one month NAMiversary, loving it so far!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Trying Some Traditional Foods

Hoe lyk dit!
[slang for what’s up, sounds like ‘who licked it’ which is kind of weird]

Yesterday was cultural food day for all the trainees! We arrived at the center at around 7:45 am, and got to cooking for the rest of the morning. Different stations were set up around the outside of the center, each for the people from the different regions to cook their traditional cuisine. It was a really fun morning of just hanging out with trainees, trainers, host families, and the PC Namibia Country Director. By 9 everyone was getting pretty hungry, so we got a chance to try the mopane worms, a specialty from Owamboland. I have to say, they weren’t bad – the texture was kind of weird [a little gritty], but if its possible to get over the fact that they are worms, they aren’t horrible. Unfortunately, the fat cakes were being fiercely guarded from everyone until official lunchtime. Four live chickens were brought outside, and a few of the trainees chose to kill them. 

hope the video works! this is round one of the chickens that tried to get away, but moved a little too slow. they were tasty!

At around 1 all the tables were set up and we were ready to eat! We went down two long rows of tables and took samples from every region. I am happy to report that among what I ate includes cow stomach, something related to goat face?, an assortment of mystery meat, sour milk, and another kind of drink that I don’t know how to describe except for it tastes like yeast…

Now I'll describe Smiley! One of the few things I remember from the haze of the first day here is our country director referring to this mysterious smiley character at least 5 times. The mystery was unveiled at Hero’s Day, but all the trainees enjoyed it yesterday. “Smiley” is in  fact a goat head. Here in Namibia all parts of the goat are enjoyed, which is nice since none is wasted I suppose. Many consider the parts of the head to be the best part – Aunty Martha, my Afrikaans trainer, thinks the ears are just “baie lekker” aka very nice! The reason that the head is called smiley is that when they cook it, the lips of the goat curl upwards in the shape of a smile… yep its creepy, but I think I did manage to avoid eating the eyeballs yesterday, I just stuck with the face. All in all, it was a really fun day, though the intense variety of food was slightly overwhelming!

 looks kind of smiley actually...
 mmmm mopane worms - taste like chicken!

I’ll leave you with a sentence my class found amusing the other day – how are words this long?!?!?

Ek vil ‘n grondboontjiebotter en confyt toobroodjie
Translation: I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Doesn’t look so much like English anymore!

Ps. I find out my permanent site placement in less than 12 hours…. The suspense is killing me!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Daily Life


Week 2 of training is almost done wahoo! The past two days we’ve had four hour language sessions in the morning which has been ridiculous. That coupled with medical, cultural, and technical trainings in the afternoon has been SO much information I feel like my head might explode. I have no idea how I’m going to get all these manuals to my site, my bags were pretty full already when I got here. It’s all good though, because its surprising how quickly I can see the language training making a difference in terms of understanding bits and pieces of what my host family says to each other.

On that note, I moved in with a host family exactly a week ago whoa! I won’t go into details, but adjusting to a homestay has been a rather difficult transition for me. This is due to a whole host of reasons, but now that I’ve been here a week I think I’ve better adjusted my expectations of this particular experience, and I will hold off on describing too much of the dynamic here for a while. Let’s go over my day-to-day schedule instead!

6:15 I wake up (horror!)
6:45 Leave the house and walk to my neighborhood’s pick-up spot. Though getting up when it’s still dark is not my thing, watching the sunrise is pretty darn beautiful as there is an amazing view of Namibian mountains on my walk – I’m trying to get a good picture of it to show you all! Also now that school is in session lots of kids are on the way to the primary school I walk past, and seeing them reminds me why I’m here after all!
7:20 Get to the training center, chill for a bit until the person with the keys arrives
7:30 SONGS!!! This is a great part of the day, when we sing Namibian songs! Then we sing the Namibian national anthem, followed by the American anthem, which I also enjoy, though the Namibian anthem is then in my head for most of the day.

8:00 Sessions begin. Generally we have language in the morning. My trainer’s name is Aunty Martha, and she is the most adorable old woman EVER. She sometimes gets us to remember things by singing as well, for example this week we learned “it is lovely to meet you volunteer” to the tune of “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,” and how to greet people and say good night to that of “Oh my darling Clementine.” Awesome.
10:00 TEA BREAK. aka without a doubt my favorite part of the day
10:30 We have more sessions with a lunch break between them, and then all of a sudden it’s 5:00!
Afterwards, sometimes we will go for a “koeldrank,” and then take our 45 minute walk home, which is nice, others we just go straight back to my neighborhood in a suburb of town – suburbs here are called “locations.”

When I get home, I try to spend time with the host fam, sometimes with mixed results. At 6:30 their favorite soapie 7 de Laan comes on, and I hate to say it, but I’ve kind of gotten into it. In fact, I’m just a little sad that a birthday celebration is going to make me miss tomorrow’s episode – this Rick guy has gone seriously crazy, and just drugged his ex-girlfriend to sleep [she said she didn’t want to get back with him], and is about to set her apartment on fire!!! Luckily, I’m sure someone will be able to fill me in, phew.

9:30 Sweet bed.

Thanks to everyone who’s sent emails/messages so far, I’ve really appreciated them and love hearing from you!! I will respond eventually, I am just so so exhausted when I get back, and have been trying to conserve the megabytes (like I understand how that works) on my internet stick. When I can get the internet on my phone to start working I can’t wait to chat with everyone – obviously my phone is malfunctioning, some things will never change.

For now, I will leave you with a sentence that my class came up with after 4 hours [too many!] of Afrikaans class:
Hy sal volgende jaar mense eet.
Translation: He will eat people next year.
Somehow the food session today turned to cannibalism…  good times.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Language Time

Written 8/31

I can’t believe I’ve only been here a week! On Tuesday Group 34 had our language reveal – but only after learning how to greet people in all 6 languages that people will learn for their sites! Greeting is a really big thing here – it is offensive to people when you don’t greet them when walking down the street in your community. I have really enjoyed this custom as everyone is so friendly! The languages that Group 34 is learning are: Oshindonga, Otjiherero, Oshikwanyama, Rukwangali, Khoekhoegowab [also known as KKG and a clicking language], and Afrikaans.  We were all given a little piece of paper that had an animal on it, and we walked around the room making that noise – mine was oink, until we found our group. I will be learning Afrikaans! This is the biggest language group, 14 people, but we’ll be split up into three groups for classes. I probably got this language because in my placement interview I said I would prefer a more urban environment [of course this is relative], which is where Afrikaans is spoken. Overall I am very happy with this language, though I definitely would have enjoyed learning a Bantu language too. Here is how you greet someone in the morning:

A: Goeiemore
B: Goeiemore
A: Hoe het jy/u geslaap?
B: Ek het goed geslaap, dankie, en u?
A: Ek het ook goed geslaap
B: Totsiens
A: Ja totsiens tot later

This language is cool! It kind of throws me off though because a lot of it looks so similar to English, some of it sounds like you’re just speaking English with a German accent, but then when you hear people speaking it fluently it’s hard to understand anything. Either way, training can finally be underway!

Also, today we had a fashion show after dinner! A bunch of the girls and a couple guys dressed up in traditional clothes from the different tribes within Namibia and strutted down the catwalk (aka the dining room of our training center). It was so fun and it ended in a Namibian dance party, in which our trainers taught us the “family dance,” which we told them is in fact known as the Electric Slide in America. Clearly some cheesy dances remain the same in every country...

 Roommates from the training center in Herero, Owambo, and Kavango attire

 Everyone in our traditional clothes!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hero's Day

Written 8/27

Today has been a big cultural learning day! This morning we learned how to wash our clothes properly – there is a squeaking sound that is supposed to be made when hand washing clothes, but Volunteers apparently have a really hard time with it. It’s also time-consuming, so the Volunteer leaders here have mentioned that they often just let their dirty clothes sit in soapy water for a day or two and either stomp on it or stir it around and that does the job well enough. We’ll see which approach I take when I get to my host family’s house next week. We also were shown how to have a bucket bath – and this is about the time where I appreciate my new short hair, because I definitely would be incapable of doing that with long hair.

Afterwards, we went right outside town for the festival commemorating Hero’s day in Namibia. It’s actually a holiday weekend here where Namibians honor the genocide of the Herero tribe that took place by the Germans at the beginning of the 20th century, by recognizing the day that their famous resistance leader died. It also commemorates the beginning of the War of Independence, which started in the 60s. We haven’t delved fully into our Namibian history lessons yet, but that is basically what we needed to know to understand what’s happening today and tomorrow. Also, I recently read that this genocide is what inspired Hitler, as it was the first time a nation carried out a genocide of its own people – at the end of it, estimates point that 75% of the Herero population had been killed. Anyway, for this festival Hereros come from all over the country, and dress up in their traditional costumes. The Herero tribe is split into three groups, which is signified by their separate red, green, and white colors. We took pictures (which was cool because people were taking pictures of us too), saw a blessing ceremony, some marching, and ate fat cakes! We also walked around the grounds to see a lot of families set up in tents, just like any festival in the US. They were serving and selling food and drinks and enjoying each other’s company. We talked to a lot of them, and saw the mysterious smiley finally – I’ll save this story for our upcoming traditional food day.

Women in the traditional clothes. She is being blessed by someone who represents her ancestors whom she communicates her concerns to.

Fat cakes! Fried dough that is basically a donut, yum.

Yesterday I had my site placement interview (yikes!), and although the APCDs will make the decision this weekend I won’t know where I’m going until mid-late September. I will however find out my language next week so we can get going with that training! I am really excited, and from looking at all the site descriptions I think they all will offer great and unique experiences. Hope everyone is doing well, I’ll be thinking of DC as people brace for this hurricane – since when do earthquakes and hurricanes happen there?!?