Thursday, November 3, 2011

"i just wanna live my life!"

alright so before i begin trying to articulate the inarticulatable (hows that for an english teacher making up a word!) i must first just tell you that i literally walked in my hut door covered in little black hairs. yeah, i know that may sound sketch but heres the sich: i told my little brother that i would shave his head for him at school (because i was doing the same for myself, of course) and then soon after (i suppose i should have predicted this) a flock of learners headed over and lined up, waiting for me to shave their heads. since our school is a hostel school, half of all of the learners live on the school premises and all learners are required to keep their heads shaved (even girls) and thats where i came in. secondary project? barber! well, in the spirit of sustainability, i decided to hand over the reigns (ie, hair clippers) to one of the learners so that i could "supervise" and by that i mean hang out with one of my fellow teachers--and someone who just might be the female Namibian version of ME!

so despite the hairs and dirt and whatever else encapsulates my bod right now, i decided that its about time i posted an update! so we officially completed our pre-service training 2 weeks ago--and how eventful it was. we truly formed a family in okahandja--with fellow pcvs and namibians. thats why moving to site was nothing but bitter sweet. this is kinda for my fellow pcvs but heres a glimpse into our lives as trainees: chris and i ate chicken on the sidewalk, vegas and i got giddy, we danced at gios as grandmas shouted "all the way from america," held committee meetings at none other than club o, syd and i emceed the family appreciation day,  bagshotted each other…a lot, had dance parties with 10 year old neighbors to britney, facilitated romance (more than once), swam at the lodge, played buffalo, top 3 bottom 3, chanted swear us in, indulged in jam jars…and oh i could continue but instead…

so fast forward and here i am, in my village of about 5000 people. the token american. the lone white--pretty much ever. describing my life in ndiyona and the whole community is just not possible--a blog would not do this village justice [here is my plug to encourage you to visit, so that way you wont have to rely on a few words to understand my new home!] but aside from that i suppose ill give it a try! my village is purely fascinating.  its on the verge of becoming a town (and yes, that requires official government classification and development) so its quite evident that the development is welcomed by some but leaving others unsettled. so now its time to tell you about my favorite thing: village dichotomy. its evident everywhere everyday. and im slowly losing site of how fascinating these things are, but i suppose thats what integration is all about. well lets talk about my host mother for a bit: she speaks barely any english and we live in a homestead without electricity.  each day i see her walking towards the river carrying an empty bucket that she'll soon fill to bring home for her daily bath.  ok now its time for the village dichotomy: while she's walking down the dirt road in search of water, she's updating her FACEBOOK status on her phone (obviously). and as we walk around the village which is drizzled with mud hats covered in thatched roves, those same thacthed roof sometimes have a satellite dish attached to it (cmon even peeps here watch roseanne) so the struggle between modernity and development with traditions and conservatism is certainly alive.  

its like any society: where there are people trying to maintain traditions struggling with progressives who hope to implement change to improve their lives. but here its different: ndiyona literally means "waiting for tomorrow" and while the translation doesn't originate from the ideals of development, the translation is relevant and often referenced.  many adults in our village lack an effective education for 2 reasons--the education system under the apartheid regime purposely kept the standards for blacks low and if a final tenth grade exam isn't passed (even now) that learner is no longer able to continue with their schooling.  so while many adults lack the education credentials, they often talk to me about its value and significance--something they understand more that anyone. and they have so much hope for their children but are cautious at the same time.   one of the biggest challenges that children face is complacency.  the older generations before them have always been told that they are inferior and thus eventually their ambitions dissolved. and parents tell me that their children sometimes lack effort and enthusiasm because that intangible trait of craving education is sometimes lost when their parents grew up in a society where they were "inferior" despite their greatest efforts. and thus enhancing ambitions and cramping complacency is something that together we will need to overcome.  although one problem exists: there are those parents who reveal to me that they fear that if their child is too successful he or she will leave the village and escape to the large towns which is where opportunity breeds. but in a namibian family, who will be there to take care of the elders? and thats why no matter what i do for the next 2 years here, i want to involve the community-at-large and do so in an inclusive and sustainable fashion.

well one thing i do know ill be doing is teaching, of course.  and while i don't start officially start teaching until january (the start of the new school year)  i have been co-teaching math classes at the junior secondary level. so in the next few weeks, im trying to adapt to the school environment and procedures here so that i can get rid of those kinks before i have a class of my own. like this for example: each class begins like this: 

--good morning class, how are you?
--[children stand]we are fine sir and how are you?
--i am fine, you may have a seat
--[children are seated and class begins]

ok so when i taught my first class i got the first part down, but unfortunately not the last. so as i taught the first 5 minutes i realized that the learners were all still standing and failed to even mention a word about it.  oops. ok so as i was writing this i thought id let you know that one of the teachers at school literally just walked in the staff room and picked up my laptop and told me that i "must" get him one [uhhh no!].  those kinds of things are said all the time. so i make fun of namibians and always do it back to them…like for example i told my friend i like his watch and that he "must give it to me" its kind of my favorite thing to joke about….although when namibians do it, well, they're not joking. and speaking of the teachers at my school, well i went with a few to rundu last week (the large town about an hour away from our village) we got a ride with some man coming from caprivi on his way to the north and so as we got in we realized that there were already about 12 kids in the back, but we made room of course, i mean were going to the big town of course.

so i obviously wanted to tell you all about my weekend in rundu because i got to meet up with my pcv friends, but my first few hours were just so namibian that i must focus on that. so when i arrived in rundu, i grabbed some food with one of my friends from my village and then we parted ways cause i was supposed to meet up with my friend sydney right outside rundu. well i never got there, and thats pretty typical of namibia. so as i explored the town a bit before getting into a cab i was walking down the street when a man shouted my name of his car.  then my phone vibrated and it was a teacher (the same man from a  second ago in case that wasn't clear) from my school--he told me to walk down the street and that i "must" meet him. so i walked down that same street and chatted with him for a bit and clearly expressed that i had plans and had to go. as he acknowledged my plans he summoned me into his car and i was gracious because i wouldn't have to get a cab to my friends place. but wait this is namibia! so as we drove it became a bit more obvious that we would taking a detour. we ended up at  a car repair shop (?) [also each question mark represents every moment that i was super confused but merely chuckled to myself…ok i loled] where we switched cars and i was driving with this random man from caprivi (?)  before i could even ask any questions. then we ended up at someones house (?), then a gas station, and then a college (?). there lacked an explanation for any of this (but hey, free tour right?) thats one thing you truly have to appreciate about namibia--people here are not stuck on time or agendas (and while that may get frustrating in the professional setting) its such a change of pace to JUST BE and not constantly be thinking. "americans think too much" i was told--and perhaps they're right, perhaps we could learn from just living and experiencing. so anyway, i did finally get in that cab and well even the cab took me on a little tour of his own--we picked up his wife and 3 kids at the grocery store (?) and minutes later he pulled over to buy some mattresses on the street (?). whats funny about all of this is that its not funny to anyone but people who aren't namibian.  like why are their 4 screaming kids and a bunch of mattresses in my cab!! but thats what you're for!

oh and once i was finally able to meet up with my friends in rundu--we had such an amazing weekend. we ate REAL pizza at the lodge along the river facing angola, went out dancing to some trippy namib techno, [almost] had a movie night, danced with 40 year old brits, reunited with my suga mama (finally), made some namib friends (sorry my lady pcv friends, i also offered some of you to them…but we'll get to that later), late night wimpies. but id go into detail on our weekend but i think i could sum it up like this--ruigo, sydney and i were walking back to the lodge to meet some friends but then we passed a shebeen blasting "i just wanna live my life" out the doors--so what else could we do then literally sprint inside and get our dance on. also did i mention it was 2pm in the afternoon? so ruigo merely watched with a bit of confusion as syd and i got our dance on inside as namibians literally crowded around us--so curious and so amused. they clapped and shouted [in local language of course] "oh man these americans our dancing to OUR tracks!" and thats when one man walked up to syd and handed her 10 namibian dollars. yeah we were that good. ok, i suppose i cant take credit for the profit.

so let me give you a glimpse of what its like to live at my homestead: well there are several families living on the homestead all somehow related to the chief (were not always sure how, but who's checking?) and each family lives within its own thatched in area to create the facade of privacy.  facade you ask? well, even i have my own thatched in property but its purely for show.  the lack of personal space must be repeated because its so apparent. but somehow its refreshing. tonight we had a family game of frisbee--well it was actually just supposed to me and my little bros playing and slowly it seemed as if the entire village got word that a frisbee had entered the premises and soon after people poured onto our homestead until we played some made up version of frisbee. so it was going well--ya know, typical frisbee--but this is where the difference between playing frisbee in namibia and the states becomes evident. so typically, in the states a game could be interrupted because, lets say, dinner is ready. well, this is what happened tonight: my brother got a text that there was a newly born calf in the woods behind our homestead. [and just to give you an understanding of the importance of cattle ill say this--people come to the chief almost daily to document the births and deaths of cattle because it all must be recorded] so without much hesitation or questions asked, the frisbee stood idle on the sand and about 10 of us headed to the woods in search of this lost calf. well, there it stood and we literally had to chase it out of the woods and towards a tree near our house and we tied it up with a rope. clearly the chief has dibs on the baby cows. 

ok so living at such a large homestead invites sometimes uninvited guests and by guests i mean permanent residents. well, take the bushman for instance. i might live in a rural village in the kavango but even our villagers have their stereotypes of the people who live deep inside the "bush." well, that leads me to the fact that a "bushman" showed up one day recently and has been here ever since. and as peculiar that might be, just remember that theres also a random white man living here! anyway, the bushman (he's introduced himself as something different each time so ill call him this until further notice) is obsessed with hanging out with me. but he doesn't speak english at all. so heres what were doing: im giving him english lessons in exchange for rumanyo lessons. and he always tells me that never did he ever [fingers up, lets play never have i ever] dream that he'd be friends with an american. and that smoothly segues to how my brother always mentions that he never thought that the day would come that he'd share a bowl of food with an american--yes, and then he proceeded to film me eating with him with his cell phone. but a little documentation never hurt anyone!

so each day after school, my brother and i take bike rides around the village together. biking on dirt roads (covered in sand) is so much harder than he makes it look but im getting used to it. and so we ride by the school, the church (which i now attend mass because its such a reputation booster in a devout catholic community!), and the shop on our way to the kavango river. a 15 minute bike ride typically takes upwards of 2 hours though. and thats ok. i wouldn't be doing my community justice if i didn't mention the significance of greetings. so as were riding bike, we repeatedly get off and greet the elders and shake hands with kids, and hug friends. but regardless the greeting is always the same:
--metaha none
and i wrote it all out just so you could envision me shouting this as im panting while riding my bike over piles of sand.  and when i greet them in rumanyo, which of course i do, its met with a sense of confusion (huh isn't this guy white?), curiosity (if he greets then he must speak fluently) but mostly appreciation. and thats the most important thing. i constantly appreciate that my community has so graciously welcomed me as one of their own and are so eager to learn from me and i am from them.  actually that last point shouldn't be lost in the sentences covering this screen. my community (except for the boy who still wont get within 5 feet of me bevause he thinks i just might bite him) has reached out and taken me in as one of their own.

i hope that you're all well despite kim kardashian's impending divorce. missing you all