Friday, October 8, 2010

Bucket List Progress Report

Bartend at a shabeen..............check.
During the August holiday Jen and I convinced our bar owner friend to let us bar tend at his shabeen in Windhoek. We got t-shirts made for ourselves and some friends with "Chillarz Lounge" printed on it as well as some classy slogans. (Check out my facebook photos) The shabeen is in the location in Katatura, therefore most people are shocked to see Oshilumbu (white person) let alone get served drinks by one at a bar there! We had an incredible time serving beer and dancing to Namibian house music and Shakira's Waka Waka. Jen and I have a grand scheme now to open our own shabeen named "Shilumbu Spot."

Sleep in a haunted house..............check. Sort of.
Ok. So Namibians are very superstitious and believe in ghosts, tall tales, curses and crazy witch doctors. One night we are hanging out with some friends and they start telling ghost stories. My favorite.....The Curse of the Stolen Diamond. 15 years ago, a man was working in the mines in the south. He succeeded in stealing a diamond, quit his job and moved back to the north to show off his riches. The first thing he did was build a beautiful new home. He did not even live there for one week before creepy shit started happening and finally the cursed ghosts scared him away for good. Every since, not only has no one lived there, but no one has been able to spend an entire night inside the fence. Everyone who has attempted in has run away screaming bloody murder. Some German missionaries even tried to come and bless the house to scare away the ghosts, but failed. So, logically, Jen and I responded to the story with 'Where is the house and can you get us inside?'

Of course, Ronny, the guy who told us this story had some sort of connection to get us the keys to the house. He actually owns a bar right next to the haunted house and is a police officer in Oshakati. So we made plans, packed our things and faced the challenge of staying in the cursed diamond house. One of my friends, a very superstitious Namibian, begged me not to do it and said goodbye to me like it would be the last time. Other friends just laughed at me in disbeliefo(crazy oshilumbu!). We met Ronny and his bar and had a few beers to boost our courage. He handed over the keys and they escorted us to the gate, but refused to go any further. Imagine, three grown men afraid to step foot inside the fence of this house. We creeped up to the front of the house, flashlights and keys in hand. Rock paper scissors to see who goes in first. I lose. Trying to hide the slight tremble of my fingers, I find the padlock on the rusted iron door. I attempted to insert the key into the lock. Failure. I try again. Failure. I open my mouth to yell at Ronny for giving us a bogus key when Jen's light flashes over the padlock. I realize that the key I was pushing on was not even touching the padlock when tried to insert it. Something was stopping us. We hesitantly move to the windows. Jen holds her flashlight up to the glass as we attempt to peer inside. To our surprise, we only saw blackness. The light failed to pass through the window. Attempt number two....nothing. After the key mysteriously failing and the flashlight not working through the window, we started to worry. A little. Our last attempt to get inside was a row guest houses on the far side of the property. We wade through the yard of overgrown grass trying not to think about the snakes that we were repeatedly warned about (by the three grown men). We get to one side of the guesthouses to find no doors, only tall windows. We ease around the corner to the end up the narrow building to again find only windows. Where are the doors into this f-ing place? We had looked on three sides of the building to only find these small unreachable windows. The only path to get to the remaining side of the building is behind a rotting wall completely overgrown by trees and tall grass. Determined, Jen and I proceed to practically crawl on our hands and knees through the jungle corridor to reach the fourth wall. We stand up and shake off the spiders and cobwebs from our arms and look down the wall. No doors. (If this were a horror movie, I would have added the sound effect of a hollow creaking door). A long line of guest houses and not a single door to enter. This is the point in the night where I had to decide if I had a few too many Windhoek Lagers or if I was becoming a believer of Namibian superstitions. Feeling slightly defeated for not being able to spend the night inside the house and slightly spooked for the reasons we could not enter the house, we jumped the fence and trudged back to Ronny’s shabeen. The guys, having scampered away in fear quickly after we descended on the house, were enjoying some wine with coke. I sat down, ordered a Windhoek and tried to hid my trembling knees under the table.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Namibian Bucket List

• Horseback riding through the game park
• Hunting at the cattle post
• Bartend at a shabeen
• See Victoria Falls
• Make a Waka Waka video of my learners
• Sleep in a haunted house
• Fishing with the memes
• Shabeen Crawl
• Sew my own traditional dress
• Volunteer in an orphanage
• Organize a health fair at school
• Crash as many weddings as possible

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So much to look forward to.....

This is going to be short and sweet but I wanted to leave one last post before I left the country. Yes I am leaving Namibia....forrrreeeever! Or maybe just for two weeks. I have a month long holiday from school (much needed) and Jen and I are going to Spain for two weeks!

Her parents planned a trip to Barcelona and we found cheap flights, so we said why not Spain? We are spending 5-6 days traveling up the coast from Barcelona and into Southeastern France and will end up back in Barcelona for the remainder of the trip. I am super psyched because I have never been to Europe! My colleagues were shocked when I told them this because they still think that I am a rich American that has been everywhere in the world. Even after telling them I am a poor college grad, they refuse to believe that Namibia was my first step outside of North America. (Side note: while I would not consider myself anywhere near to wealthy by American standards, after living here a year I have become overwhelmingly thankful for what I have been given!) So we will be in Spain for two weeks and will return to Namibia just in time for my mom and step dad to arrive. Jen and I will then be piggybacking my parents trip and taking a 4x4 truck up the west coast of Namibia - Sousseveli, Swakopmund, Skeleton Coast, Opuwo and Epupa Falls. We we end the journey back in Ogongo.

Next term will start up again in the end of May. My mom is staying again for a month or so. I have a lot of exciting projects in store for term two. With my mom there, we are planning a schoolwide Health Fair for the learners. We will have information on nutrition, HIV/AIDS, dental hygiene, exercise, eye care, etc. We have started a fundraiser called Eyes On Ogongo that is going to provide visits to the eye doctor and prescription glasses for the neediest learners. $75 will sponsor one child....let me know you are interested in helping out!

My second project is a teachers' workshop. I will be conducting a day long workshop for all of my colleagues addressing corporal punishment, classroom management, team building and postive behavior support. I am super excited, and a bit nervous, about doing this! I really hope it is successful. Also in the plans for term 2 is a school trip to Etosha National Park. We are rewarding the top learner in every class with a trip to the country's wildlife reserve. None of my learners have ever even seen a giraffe or zebra and they live just a few hours from Etosha! Most of my colleagues have never even been there! (Makes me feel a bit guilty having visited the park three times now)

These past few weeks have been a bit of a struggle for me at school....not a bit, a huge struggle. I almost got to the point of resigning as a teacher. I have gotten through it and now I have so many exciting things to look forward to in the next few months!!!

Adios amigos!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A few Saturdays ago, Charles, Imms and I spent some hours perusing the open market in Oshakati. It took me quite a while to find the true gems within this market. From one side of the street, a passerby would see a cultural array of baskets filled with traditional grains, spices, and nuts with the occasional stand selling fresh vegetables. From the other side, all that can be seen is a line of venders selling imported trinkets – rasta necklaces, bootlegged cds, socks, soccer paraphernalia, acrylic lingerie, lip gloss in every color and god knows what else. It takes some expert navigating and forceful refusals to marriage proposals to get into the heart of the market. Once there, one can find anything from vibrant traditional dresses to dried caterpillars, which I tasted for the first time last week and found them surprisingly bearable. I have sat and watched memes sewing on old school crank machines and old men slaughtering and hanging slabs of meat twice my size. Charles was on a mission to find the perfect gift for Jen. We were on our way to Okahao to celebrate her birthday. Imms ran into a ‘sister’ of his (aka a women somehow related to him by at least 5 degrees of separation) who was selling beads and necklaces. I encouraged Charles to buy Omagwe, the traditional belly beads, for Jen. I bought some as well. We spent a good hour at Jen’s attempting to secure them above our large hips and debating the significance of the beads. Here is what I learned……
All women wear the Omagwe beads from when they are a small girl, even infants. They are worn right below the waistline, hidden from view and only removed for adjustment as the girl/women grows. I have heard numerous explanations for why these beads are worn.
1. They are fertility beads and are worn until a woman gives birth.
2. They are worn to keep away the witches.
3. They represent purity and virginity and are taken off after marriage.
4. Their only purpose is to keep women thin, with feminine curves.
5. You where them to show that you are a girl. White beads are worn until you have a child and any color thereafter.

All of these have been proven wrong in some context or another, so I am not sure what to believe. I think I will go with the fourth explanation until I get further proof. Not sure it is a good alternative to Weight Watchers, but the beads do make me feel pretty!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Proof I am still alive

Riding home from Oshakati in the bed of a pickup with 5 kids and 4 grown men, I saw a small herd of red hardabeest and an oryx. I have yet to see a giraffe there, but I am told it is possible. That is my new goal in life……spotting a giraffe outside of Ogongo.

Something is perplexing me….too strong of a word….I have had a few short contemplations about something. So my learners have a pretty good sense of humor and I am able to joke and even be sarcastic with them. Thank god they have finally caught on to my sarcasm….most of the time. Anyways, so a few weeks ago I was packing up my things to leave grade 7 as I caught Tangi trying to jump through the window. I quickly stopped him and jokingly asked him, “Are you a monkey?” (No) “Then walk through the door like a human being please.” He looked at me like I had just slapped him across the face. He said something under his breath in Oshiwambo and stormed out the door leaving me a bit confused. Then last Friday I was hanging out with some of the little ones in the library. They were hanging on my arms and legs and just being silly. I started tickling one of them and said “You are such a little monkey!” The older kids that were around scoffed at me and she immediately dropped from my arm, slapped me on the calf and started laughing. Do these kids have a thing against monkeys? Perplexed.

After living here over a year, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on Ovambo culture and what was or wasn’t culturally acceptable. I learned quickly, mainly through trial and error, that the meme at the cuca shop will be highly offended if I give her money with my left hand, my colleagues will seek me out and scold me if I do not greet them first thing in the morning, andthere are certain words in oshiwambo that you never say in front of a kuku (grandmother). It is acceptable for me to flaunt my chest, but the second my skirt creeps above my knee I am scandalous. I offer my guests something to drink immediately after entering my home (even if it someone I don’t know or don’t like) and I have found myself curtsying and placing my left hand on my right arm when I hand anything. I thought I knew it all. I was wrong. Two days ago one of my closest learners, Lukas, was in the library with me after school. I can’t remember the exact context, but I made reference to someone acting like a monkey. “Miss, you are very much insulting. You cannot call someone a monkey.” He was unable to explain why. Later, over a few 40s of Windhoek Lager, I asked a friend to explain. To my horror, I learned that “monkey” is what the white colonists called blacks during apartheid. What I thought was a playful pet name was really a derogatory racial slur……coming from a white girl. Shit. I quickly realized that there is a lot about this culture that I don’t know and have yet to learn about. A learner at Jen’s school made another girl cry by telling her that her mother smiled like a black mamba. I think I will steer clear of using animal names for awhile.

Dear Mr. Dell Inspiron,

I thought I had lost you for 4 whole weeks and I don’t think I can go through that again.  Suicide crashing is not the way to go.  You hold many of my prize possessions and you are my only connection to the world outside of Namibia.  Isn’t that enough to keep you going?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Home is where the heart is....

And I've got mine plastered all over this place. It feels so great to be back home in Ogongo. I have been going going non stop since I got back, hence the lack of communication. Ombili! Here is a quick update (of the good and the bad).

In the past month.....

  • School started. I am teaching math grade 7, Computers grade 5-12 and Library grade 1-7.
  • I braii-ed (bbq) Springbok and Oryx. Delicious.
  • I sweat myself to sleep in this heatwave.
  • A donkey gave birth in my backyard.
  • I learned all of the possible swear words in Oshiwambo.
  • I started playing tennis and basketball.
  • An important leader in our community passed away and then 2 days later we lost a grade 1 learner. Rough week.
  • I taught a group of friends how to do the electric slide to the sound of Michael Jackson.
  • I went horseback riding through my village
  • I ate bone marrow and sheep's tail
  • My friend saw a giraffe a few km from our village. I am still looking....
  • I watched a man named Tupac break dance on the side lines of a soccer game while wearing an Obama bag as a do-rag