Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Neighbor!

Ok I wrote this little bit a longgg time ago and never posted it but I think it will be a good intro to my neighbor! So: I live in this strange little area of houses right behind a nice hotel on the outskirts of town. They’re literally nestled between cliffs on the back and the ocean on the front. It creates a bit of an isolated feel since there aren’t that many houses, no one ever seems to be in the houses, and the cliffs and ocean are both extremely imposing. That, added to the fact that this is actually the first time I’ve ever lived by myself [way to start out!], and that the wind rattles every part of my house, has left me creeped out on occasion now that I’m all alone. Anyway, because no one is ever around, I have to find ways to entertain myself. So, the other day while I was cleaning my kitchen thoroughly, I started singing quite loudly to my country mix on my ipod to keep myself company. I was singing so loudly in fact, that I didn’t hear my neighbor calling my name the first few times from my front door. First, how does everyone know my name?!?!
Second, now this guy probably thinks I’m crazy because he heard my not-so-dulcet tones singing to Taylor Swift – if it had been a windy day like standard Luderitz weather no one would have noticed. He is super nice nonetheless, and I found out he’s from SA and has a daughter my age [who is also a teacher], and works with the crayfish company in association with SeaFlower, a fish factory in Luda. I also found out he lives right behind me, and after our visit concluded and he walked back I could hear him quite clearly speaking to someone in his front yard… meaning he also heard all of my prior singing the past hour. Shoot. 

So that was the way I met Douglas, and since our initial meeting, we’ve become like family! As I mentioned, he literally lives about 20 feet from my house behind me. This is his first time in a way long time living alone, since his wife and daughter are both back in Capetown. He also didn’t know anyone when he got here, so I started going over to his house for dinner about once a week, and have been trying some lekker fish each time! I also introduced him to improvised Mexican food yum. I have learned SO much about the crayfish industry now, and have gotten to visit the factory with him a couple of times. Little tidbit: apparently a lot of the crayfish fishermen catch here get sent to Southeast Asia.
Crayfish tanks at the factory!
Yummmm crayfish!
Anyway, Douglas happens to leave for work at the same time I do, and the factories are in the same direction as the location, so now I get driven to work too! This is SO nice to not show up to work covered in sweat from my trek! This weekend Douglas made a tasty breakfast for us and then we went out to Diaz Point for the first time. I finally saw seals, and a huge group of them at that! They were feeding in the water. Next time I head out there I’ll definitely take pictures. Following that, we saw one of the people who does repairs for the factory catching crayfish on his own, so we got him to give us some, and had a feast in the afternoon! It’s so nice to have my own little family here, with my host mom and sisters, and now I totally have a South African dad, I’m so lucky!! I’m going to be so sad when he goes home to Capetown for a few months in May since crayfish season is ending!

Monday, March 26, 2012

March Madness

[this post was written last week oops!]

First off, Happy St Patrick’s Day! It is a holiday that I don’t think anyone has heard of here. Today I tried my first crayfish and it was delicious! I’m sure I can take some great pictures of them at the crayfish festival over Easter weekend.

Things are kind of chugging along at school. I have to say I’ve been kind of at a low point recently with work. Thankfully, my APCD came for a site visit [on my birthday of all days!] and after talking with him I was glad with what he proposed and think that Term Two will be a lot better. The main problem is that I’ve been way stressed lately with a really packed schedule and SO much marking to do, all of which has to be done at the school because it’s too heavy to take on my 40 minute journey home. That added to select kids being surprisingly mean to me has not been nice. But we’re being proactive and the schedule thing will get fixed next term [fingers crossed] and I’m moving classrooms next week to the room right next to the office, which will hopefully curb the behavior of the naughty ones.

Although some things have been unpleasant lately, I can’t leave out the little things that have been brightening my day:
-       4 out of 5 days this week I received apples, all from different learners. It was so cute and made me feel like such a teacher! Also some of the kids have started saying ‘thank you for teaching me’ when they leave my classroom, which makes me so happy! Anddd I just marked some essays where the kids had to describe what their class would be if they were the teacher, and a lot of them said they would teach like Miss Nowlin, whooo!
-       2 normally very badly behaved kids have dramatically changed their behavior recently. One of them I think has changed because he got in trouble with someone, but the other has changed because he now comes to my reading club after school two days a week! He’s actually trying now!
-       I think I’ve mentioned that my big project right now is getting the library set up and functioning. This past week we’ve been electing prefects to help run it, and it was so exciting to see that almost all the kids wanted this responsibility. They would really thrive on leadership groups/after-school programs, so hopefully next term I can work on that.
-       On my birthday I got 10 cards from my learners. So sweet! Also, let me introduce you to the newest addition to my life here in luda – her name is lulu and she is maybe 4-5 months old. She’s so friendly and cuddles with me when she’s not bouncing off the walls [literally] with energy. 

  Also, I had a huge revelation yesterday. We were celebrating Megan’s birthday after our Shelter House meeting, and one of the committee members started imitating an American accent. The weird voice he made is EXACTLY what the kids have been doing to me! All along I knew they were making fun of me, but had no idea they were making fun of my accent – it doesn’t sound anything like an American accent in my opinion! It’s really nasal and high-pitched/fast/mumbling, hard to do it justice when writing about it. Now I know what they’re doing! 

P.S. It is raining right now in Luderitz. HUGE DEAL. The last time I saw rain was in early December when I was at Reconnect in Windhoek. It's awesome!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I finally got the sandboarding video to load! Only 3 months late :) this is me zooming 80k down the dune and wiping out in the end!

Two Weddings and a Funeral

Well I went to the weddings back in October and have had this written for forever, but better late than never ne?! When I was on my way to site visit, I had the chance to go to an Owambo wedding in Windhoek. It was certainly interesting, for the cool cultural things that I saw, and mostly because it represented what I find fascinating about Nam – that traditional and modern exist alongside each other at all times. The night before the wedding was a traditional Owambo ceremony, and I caught the end of it, when the bride-to-be sat in the middle of her family room as friends and families came up to her while everyone sang. The last person to come up to her was her grandfather, which apparently was a really big deal because he left his farm to come see her. It was cool!
The next day we actually went to someone else’s wedding, also Owambo, but the ceremony was pretty modern. Apparently before the wedding begins the bridal party spends time together, so they all showed up late, and had to scramble for seats in the way too small church, leaving me feeling all kinds of awkward because I somehow ended up in the same row as the bride’s parents […?] and I don’t think many of her close friends made it inside the church. Ah well. The wedding was pretty standard as far as I can tell, half in Afrikaans (which I’d only been learning for 2 weeks, so I didn’t understand anything), half in Oshiwambo. The interesting part though came when the minister decided to speak in English [hooray!] and give a 20 minute speech about domestic violence. He incorporated it alongside the idea that the marriage vows of ‘obeying’ your spouse do not mean violence is allowed or to be tolerated. He went on to talk about how God doesn’t expect the wife to endure violence and adultery. Although I would never think to hear about this topic during a wedding, it was so cool to see how engaging and passionate the minister and then the oshiwambo translator were about this. In this society, cheating is so common, and I’ve already talked about the high prevalence of domestic violence. It was really awesome to hear the minister include the expectations of monogamy and equality into his sermon, especially because ministers are so influential in such a religious country.
After that wedding, even though we missed the actual ceremony, we went to the reception for Bride #1 from the night before. It was a reception with swag [apparently she is the niece of Namibia’s first President!]. I followed my Principal’s wife around, as the men were sitting off together, and we went to check out the food in the kitchen. I was a little taken aback when I walked in and almost stepped on a cow… skinless, chilling on the floor. I just stared at it for a while, and realized the only portion with skin was the head, which I noticed from an ear poking out from a trashbag covering. Then I saw a massive bucket of potato salad with flies swarming around it. One of the women mentioned to me that once when they had a bucket that size, the women didn’t have a spoon to stir it, so someone just used her arm, and reached down so her entire arm was in the salad stirring. This was the point at which I decided I was going to try and stay away from eating at future wedding receptions, or else fear some stomach issues. [Ed. note: at this point in my service, new me will definitely and without a doubt eat free and delicious food at a wedding reception. What was I thinking!?]

            Anyway, fast forward to the present. Last week in our daily teacher meeting my principal told us that one of the young male teachers at my school was going to be absent from school for the next two days, as his child had died. As far as I know his son’s death was unexpected, he was only a few days to perhaps a week old. Later during the day I found out that classes were being cut short and all the teachers would be attending the funeral.  We all headed over to the hospital, and stood outside singing as some people went to view the baby. The minister read some prayers [all of this was in oshiwambo], and then we all stood by as the coffin was placed in the bakkie. The coffin was so small, I have never seen anything like it. We then all followed a slow car procession to the cemetery that is right next to my host family’s neighborhood. As we walked to the back of the cemetery, I noticed something that fundamentally gave me a reality check. As we went further into the cemetery [which I assume is relatively new to Luderitz from the recent dates on the tombstones], I realized that the graves on the right side of me were different than those on the left. Once we reached our spot for the funeral I understood why. There is a whole section of the cemetery that is for children, specifically babies. Their graves do not have tombstones, and naturally are much, much smaller. Sometimes living in Luderitz gives me a bit of an illusion that my life is not that different than life in America. Moments like this one serve to remind me that I don’t live in America, I live in a developing country, a country where maternal healthcare is not up to standards. Anyway, that aside, the service began, again everything was in Oshiwambo so I, along with half the teachers who also didn’t speak the language, stood in support as several other teachers led in the hymns. The minister gave a sermon, after which they lowered the baby’s coffin into the grave. After this, my colleague placed the first shovelful of sand into the grave. He then stood next to it and watched as all of the males in attendance each took turns shoveling sand to fill the grave, while the women sang owambo hymns. After the grave had been filled the men all went to the back of the cemetery’s plot and collected rocks. All of the children’s graves have a rectangular piling of rocks on top of the grave in place of a tombstone, with a wooden cross at the front that has a plaque with the child’s name and dates of birth/death. The men arranged this, and after another short sermon the service was over.  Definitely some interesting cultural experiences.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Zonal Athletics


Most of the Diaz Primary School track and field stars at our zonal athletics competition! Don't they look so awesome in their uniforms!?!?! We got third out of the four schools I think [although it really seemed like we were a solid second...] but everyone had a good time on a beautiful Saturday morning! Still blows my mind that they all run on the gravel/rock-laden dirt barefoot.

6 Months!

OHMYWORD! I can’t believe I’ve been here for six months! I am SO excited that I’m still loving it here, despite my occasional ride on the struggle-bus at work. Also, every single member of Group 34 is still proudly here [knock on wood], which is mind blowingly awesome and completely unheard of! As Matt would say, ‘we don’t just survive we THRIVE!

6 months by the numbers/ilovemakinglists
-       Articles of clothing that have been destroyed: rainbows [casualty of swakop], and both my other pairs of summer shoes minus the chacos… hence why I now wear chacos everyday, but they are the most practical after all! A great number of shirts/sweaters are now rocking some sweet stains and assorted holes. But frankly, I still think I look good [in reality I look like such a bum compared to some of my colleagues]
-       cool animals I have seen roaming about: baboons, kudu, springbok, oryx, and all other assorted antelope, GIRAFFES, ostriches, peacocks, and dolphins swimming outside my house! Mission avoid-contact-with snakes is still a go.
-       Foods I have tasted [**and found out what I was eating]: mopane worms, owambo traditional beer, some part of a goat head, regular goat meat, tripe, kudu, springbok, oryx, and other assorted antelope, makakala, lots of pap aka porridge, many types of fish I can’t remember all the names
-       Interesting things I’ve seen: Hero’s Day in Okahandja, a couple of different kinds of church services, an Owambo Wedding, an Owambo funeral, a flashmob at the mall in Windhoek [awesome!]
-       insights I have found myself thinking often: I am totally ok with spending the majority of my monthly paycheck on baking supplies. Also, if it’s not email, facebook, news, or pinterest what do people do on the internet??? Why is there a kind of juice here that tastes like that pink medicine I had to take as a child?!!? Why do approximately 88% of my daily conversations revolve around the wind?! My feet are going to be continuously dirty until I return stateside…  it kind of magnifies my chaco tan though so it’s cool!
-       Number of bugbites: surprisingly few [apart from something that bit me on the face last week, that was an uncomfortable look], thank YOU wind for blowing most of the creepy crawlers away! Minus the flies, which I’m convinced spontaneously generate on a 5:1 ratio, as in every time I kill one in my classroom five more appear from nowhere… and the ant infestation in my house, which I am surprisingly apathetic about
-       Number of propositions I have received from people on the street: too many to count. But let me leave you with the latest entertaining one. The other day when I was on my way into Pep three guys stood in my way to stop me. One of them reached out his hand to shake mine, and didn’t let go. This is normal to an extent, but then he literally would not let go for way longer than usual as he talked to me. After I jerked my hand away I responded to his question of where I work, and he told me he must come see me there sometime. I said, ‘ahh I don’t think so I am busy teaching there.’ And he exclaimed, ‘ah but I must come set up a time….’ And I couldn’t quite hear what he said. I asked him to repeat himself two times, and I finally understood that he was saying he needed to set up a time for my body to be under his. Ok seriously, lame proposition, I expect more creativity. Of course, I responded with an inappropriate laugh and walked away saying I was busy. 

This was my backyard as I left for work a couple days ago... awesome
Top 5 Awkward Moments Thus Far:
1.     Far too awkward to ever go on a blog, but if you're interested email me! 
2.     The stranger sleeping in my bed incident
3.     So back in training as I’ve mentioned I didn’t get along so wonderfully with my host fam. They made tripe one night and sat and watched me swallow it down to be polite. They knew I hated it, but for some reason, decided to serve it to me again, 6 days later. However, this time they just brought it to me in my room. Well, I was pretty sick and tired of eating meals alone in my room by the end of training, and I also had a stash of peanut butter for my breakfasts/lunches. I proceeded to finish the jar of peanut butter on a sandwich, then put the untouched tripe wrapped in a napkin in the empty jar, and threw it away. The next afternoon I found said jar… emptied and washed of its contents, sitting in the pantry. No one said a word about their findings, but oh boy did I feel awkward.
4.     This would be a tie between that time when I had a crowd of Grade 7s dancing in unison towards me, and I was expected to know the dance, and the first day of school this year when I didn’t notice a teacher going in for a kiss on the mouth with me after we hugged each other [in front of about 20 other teachers]
5.     One afternoon recently I walked out of my classroom and noticed about 8 teachers hanging around. I went up to say hi to them, and one of them proceeded to rub my stomach and ask me why I was getting fat again. I was too shocked to speak because a) no one has ever said to my face that I’m getting fat b) I was wearing an outfit I thought I was looking pretty good in, and I've actually finally been getting back into shape! and c) I live in a town, where even though my movements are certainly watched, comments like that are not normal. Awk sauce.
Anyway, life is good here! SO happy it's March, and I'm starting to have things in the near future to look forward to :)