Thursday, October 11, 2012

August Holiday

The past holiday was incredibly short, so naturally I decided to travel almost as far as I could from Luderitz in the shortest possible time frame. After taking a nice hot and sweaty combi to Windhoek from Luderitz, I decided I was done with public transportation for a while. If the two children vomiting in the row behind me didn’t do it, then maybe the fact that I thought the combi wasn’t even going to stop to let me out in Windhoek because no one understood English or Afrikaans, or because the ride was wayyy overpriced for my budget.

On the homestead!
Once in Windhoek I met up with two other good Group 34 friends, who had just finished Camp GLOW [Girls and Guys Leading Our World], and after two  days of treating ourselves in Windhoek/pretending that we aren’t actually on a budget, we were off! We were on the way to visit our friend Alex, who stays in a village maybe 30k outside of Ondangwa, one of the major towns in the north of Namibia, which is the part of the country where most of the population lives besides Windhoek. Now, to get a ride into the village, we needed to get there by a certain hour or else we would miss out! We also needed to get there because her host sister was getting married the next day, and we wanted to see the traditional Owambo wedding. So, typical, we ended up taking the long way, meaning no fewer than 8 separate hikes. We had an assortment of characters who gave us lifts – from a nice German who worked at a cement factory and explained the mechanics of precision field burnings, to an eccentric man who asked questions such as “what is the square area of an ostrich egg” [to which Mo responded “When would I ever need to know that?!?” as he gave a haughty look when we, as teachers, didn’t know], to an exceedingly uncomfortable 2 hours wedged between a lot of legs, a couple suitcases, and a huge bag of maizemeal in the back of a VERY slow-going closed bakkie, during which I kid you not this woman did not pause for more than 2 seconds to breathe as she spoke to us in a stream of half-Oshiwambo-half-English… Ayyyyy june.

The view from Alex's homestead
As in Nam, everything works out somehow, and even though we arrived about an hour and a half later than we were supposed to, we got a ride to the village! And wow, Alex lives in the bush. The whole ride in we wondered how Peace Corps even found this village. We were truly driving in sand for about 45 minutes as the sun set, nothing ahead of us except the occasional palm tree, and oh wait so many COWS. I forgot to mention, as you get farther north you cross a checkpoint called the ‘red line.’ You cannot transport animals/other assorted things across it, and above the line you are officially in a malaria zone. Also once we passed this line all of a sudden there were a lot more cars on the road, and there were cows and goats EVERYWHERE. I’m pretty sure Alex said something about the land being public/animals roaming freely, which would explain it.

After we reached the homestead, we greeted many extended members of Alex’s host family, most of whom do not really speak English. An elder man is a tate, and woman a meme. The evening greeting goes as follows in Oshindonga:
Me: Wa tokelwa po Meme?
Meme: Ee-ee
Not a real party without some meat!
Me: Nawa?
Meme: Ee-ee. Wa tokelwa po meme?
Me: ee-ee.
Meme: Nawa?
Me: ee-ee.
[In Oshiwambo nawa means good!]

Anyway, after a nice dinner of some sandy pap and traditional chicken we were off to bed, pretty exhausted from our travels. We woke up the next morning and prepared for the wedding! Alex procured some Owambo traditional clothes for us to wear, which we were so excited about!

The ceremony as usual started about 3 hours after it was supposed to, and I did not understand most of it. Towards the end though someone stood up and translated solely so that we could understand what was going on, which was so nice! After the ceremony ended picture time began, and before we got a chance to slip out the three of us were asked to go pose with the wedding party, only slightly unexpected since we had not met anyone in the wedding party before. After we returned to the homestead from the church, SO many memes greeted everyone as we walked in with the traditional high-pitched cheers, waving horse-tails in the air [see video!]. We got a tour of Alex’s homestead and saw a glimpse of life in the village before it was time to eat! Something got lost in communication, but another of Alex’s host sisters told us to go check out the wedding tent. Naturally, as we went to check out the wedding tent we ended up awkwardly standing right behind the bride and groom as they were getting introduced as man and wife to their closest family and friends… the bride quietly told us to just come inside already. From there we were unsure of what to do in order to not make the situation even more awkward, and after a stress/inappropriate laughter-filled couple of moments, someone took pity on us standing next to the food table and showed us to a couple of free seats. And so we got to eat while listening to our favorite Namibian songs as well as “It’s Your Wedding Day!” a song that I had not yet heard before! Afternoon turned into evening as we walked around the rest of the village, watched the sunset in the sand with Alex’s adorable adopted host son, and danced the night away as the evening's entertainment [aka a crowd of Namibians that preferred to watch us dance rather than break out their far superior dance moves]. In fact apparently the next week almost all of Alex’s learners wrote about how they watched Miss Alex and her American friends dance after the wedding. The next day it was already time to leave and get back to site for Term 3! Well worth the three day trek back to the bucht!

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