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?!?


  1. hope your first fat cakes experience was memorable! i ate them DAILY at my school for the first few months. haha. also, yes, it takes a while to get that squeaking sound - and the clothes have a hard time standing up to that kind of hard washing, i found - but it sure does get the dirt out! i even got a dried red wine stain out using handwashing once, so that's something to swear by. happy hero's day!

  2. If the Peace Corps. can teach you to squeak your clothes clean, and enjoy "bucket baths", then there's probably an endowed faculty position at Vanderbilt waiting for your trainer...

    I can see it now - Claire in a future Tide commercial!

  3. Hey dear! I like your short hair now, too! What a convenience that will be when 'bucket washing'- wow! That whole history about the genocide is soo sad. In Tanzania, they've been having the tribunal/court cases to try murderers from the Rwandan genocide back in the 90's. The court cases have been going on since 1996 and continue still today. Unbelievably sad what humans can do to each other. But, otherwise, it looks like you're having an incredible time! Send me an email if you ever get a chance! <3