Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...?

Although Christmas decorations have been hung and music played at every school event I’ve been to since arriving at site [including the school diploma ceremony held before Halloween, seriously?], it wasn’t until Sunday that I acknowledged this as legitimate. Good thing, because it was all-out Christmas-time for the pre-primary learners, aka kindergarten.

The day was a combination of part one Christmas ------ and part two Pre-Primary Graduation! 75 adorable 5 year-olds performed in costume the traditional nativity scenes, and then following an extended break for pictures and changing, received their diplomas after shaking hands with the principal. Throughout this all the standard Christmas tunes were played, ranging from the carols to the religious ones to Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas.” Anyway, I thought it may be interesting for you to see the three ways that we sang “Silent Night” today.

First, let’s recap the good old English version:
Silent Night, Holy Night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Now, let’s move onto Afrikaans:
Stille Nag, Heilige Nag
Eensaam hou Josef wag
Met Maris die Moeder so teer
Heil’ge Kindjie ons kniel voor U neer
Slaap in Hemelse rus
Slaap in Hemelse rus

I’m sure you notice that some of these words look similar to English, fun! When it’s spoken at a lightning speed by people here though, it becomes much more difficult to distinguish what people are saying, so frustrating! With my understanding of Afrikaans, the meaning has definitely changed a bit in order to adhere to the intended sound of the song. The words here mean “Quiet night, holy night, alone how Joseph waits, with Mary the mother so tender, holy baby we kneel near before you, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace”

And now Oshiwambo:
Oufiku uyapuki, Aveshe va Kofa
Maria naJosef aveke
Va diinina okaana kavo
Aka ke li nawa
Aka ke li nawa

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about this yet, but there is actually a significant population of people from Owamboland [the far north of the country] in Luderitz. The vast majority of Namibia’s population lives up in the north, above the red line, meaning in a malaria zone. However, due to the huge unemployment problem faced by Namibians, a lot of people come down to Luderitz in search of employment at the fish factories scattered along the coast. My school is in the location in which most of these people coming from the north live, and therefore we have lots and lots of learners whose first language is Oshikwanyama or one of the other 6 dialects of Oshiwambo. The languages up north are Bantu languages, and as you can tell, look absolutely nothing like any language familiar to you. I have nothing but respect for the people in my group who learned these languages. Hopefully I can pick up a little more than the basic greetings by the end of my service, because I think it would really help me with integrating, since it is many people in Luderitz’s first language, while Afrikaans and English are second and third. Anyway, long tangent, but there you go. My host mom speaks Oshiwambo and so do about half of the teachers at my school, so when they switch back and forth with Afrikaans/English/Oshiwambo my head just starts spinning with confusion.

Anyway, the funniest, or weirdest? part of today was when Santa Claus came out, announced as Santa even though in Namibia he is called Father Christmas. Someone had clearly gone to the China Shop in town and purchased the santa suit I was eyeing last weekend. They also purchased this freaky white face with white beard mask. The secretary at our school, Frieda, was perfect for this role because the costume went well with her white snow-bunny-esque boots! She came out unrecognizable, mostly because of the creepy mask, and the reaction of the kinders was hilarious. Each learner was called up one by one to receive a present and sit in Santa’s lap for a photo op. As this happened, their reactions ranged from pure enthusiasm/curiosity, to what looked like thoughts of this is weird/I’m uncomfortable but I’ll sit on the lap because I’m obedient, to downright scared. Two kids ran away crying. It was actually kind of cruel because Frieda stood up to ham it up walking around waving, and sought out the kids she had scared, who proceeded to run away and start crying again! The crowd loved it, and it was pretty funny though I felt bad for them. At the end of this event, 4 long hours later, it was time for everyone to eat cake, another standard for every one of the school events that has happened since I’ve been here. I don’t really know why, but I keep getting put on cake duty when trying to get everything in order, but I’ve learned I’m really really bad at cutting cake into small pieces! It gets super messy, but oh well, the perk of being the one cutting massive amounts of cake is that you get to sample many cakes, delish.

And that was my Sunday!

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