Tuesday, January 15, 2013

T.I.A. (This Is Africa)

Pretty sure I've seen this truck
in my neighbor's yard in NH...
While teaching a Namibian class for the first time was certainly an exciting aspect of our week up north, for me the memorable highlights happened outside of school while exploring Omungwelume (ohm-gway-loom-ay) and getting a taste for Namibian culture.

Because it had been getting dark when we arrived, Monday morning offered my first real look at the village of Omungwelume. Jessie and I sat on the back steps planning our lesson, and I snapped the following picture of the farm across the street. Not entirely unlike NH, actually.

That afternoon, after our sessions, a group of us took a walk around the village and enjoy the peacefulness of that beautiful afternoon. We found a massive fig tree that was fun to take pictures under (the shade circle was probably about 100 feet in diameter), got to see the traditional homesteads a bit closer, and encountered the biggest bug we had yet seen in Namibia: a millipede that was about 10 inches long and about 3 inches around.

How's that for a bug?

 After wandering around a bit, we started to make our way back to the school, but right outside the gate, we were stopped by a couple in a bakki (a pickup truck) named Ruben and Monica. They asked about us, where we were from and what we were doing in Omungwelume. They invited us to one of the local bars in town to meet some people, and then offered to drive us there. With a few glances at each other, we figured 'why not?' and hopped into the back for our first bakki ride- a major milestone. We picked up a couple more people on the way, and a few minutes later, we arrived at the village center and got out. We had been taken to a restaurant that Ruben and Monica's friend had just opened, and they invited us in for dinner, but we had to turn them down because some of our group mates were cooking for us back at the house. We decided to explore 'down town' a little before heading back though, and let me tell you- I have never felt like such an outsider. Because it was just before dinner time, it seemed like the entire village was sitting outside all the various bars, shops, and houses along the main road, and here we were, a group of ten white people walking down the street like some sort of parade. People stared and whispered  but it wasn't malicious. Most seemed excited and curious, and nearly everyone said hello. I started getting really excited about meeting the people in my own village. 
One of the side streets in Omungwelume.
The hospitality continued throughout the week; on another afternoon stroll later in the week, we saw many of our learners eagerly waving at us as we passed them cultivating in their fields. Several ran up to us and invited us back to their house to try cultivating for ourselves. We followed and got a mini lesson before trying for ourselves. Essentially cultivating entails going at the land with a hoe, pulling up all the weeds and getting the dirt ready for planting. While it wasn't extremely strenuous, it is definitely not something I would want to be doing for hours in the sun before going to school, which is what many of our learners must do. We stayed and chatted with our learner, her sisters, and her mother for a bit and they introduced to a local treat: frozen custard. These were not only delicious (vanilla custard frozen in plastic baggie), but were also the first frozen thing we had seen our whole time here- we were very thankful for them!

Another amazing treat that is readily available in Namibia are mangoes. They have juicy, fresh mangoes in every store, and we were even able to buy some that our learners were selling one afternoon, fresh from being picked that day! Not only are mangoes cheap and available, but every kind of mango juice one could ever want as well! I am going to be in mango heaven all year. =)

Angelina's homestead. You can see one of the
huts, and one of the concrete rooms in the
 background. Also, a murala tree.
Thursday was our last night in Omgumwelume, and we went to Bret's, girlfriend's parent's house for a traditional Oshiwambo meal. We drove to their homestead and had to wade through some ankle deep water that had accumulated due to the rain in order to reach their gate. Homesteads are pretty cool. Basically there's a big square fenced area, this is considered the "house". Inside the fence are a bunch of smaller building, some concrete, some traditional wooden/clay huts. Each of these is considered a room in the house. While traditionally all of the rooms were huts, most people have cement buildings for the various living quarters, and the huts are used for food storage, beverage storage, cooking, pounding grain, etc. Also inside the fence are various gardens for growing herbs and spices. Outside the fence are the fields where they grow maize, sorghum, and mahangu (pearl millet), and/or raise cattle or pigs.

Mahangu porridge and chicken.
After getting a tour of the homestead, we sat down outside to try the oshikudu, which is a weak fermented beverage made from millet flour and sorghum. It tasted like liquid bread, carbonated with a hint of lemon- definitely an acquired taste. Pretty soon, dinner was ready. Out came clay pots with chicken cooked in a stew with murala oil, and plates with mahangu porridge. This porridge is like bread dough, but made with mahangu. In this meal, there no plates or silverware, everyone eats from the communal pots with their hands- pretty cool if you ask me! The food was delicious. The porridge had a texture like bread dough but with a little sand in it (I later found out this is exactly the case, hey, T.I.A. right?) so that took some time to get used to, but it tasted good. After we ate, we talked with Angelina's family for a bit and then headed back to the school (Bret wanted to get us back before dark because the roads are dangerous at night with all the animals on the roads). We settled back into the hostel for our last night, preparing for the long trek back to Windhoek the next day.

The ride home was interesting. Because I knew what to expect, I was able to see past the initial looks of the towns. Driving through Oshakati a second time, I saw some larger stores and modern strip malls that I had missed on the way up. I could see dirt roads extending deeper into villages, I could look at a homestead and have an idea of what it was like on the inside. A few hours outside of Windhoek, we stopped to get fuel, food and to stretch our legs. We had stopped in the same town on the way up and I remember thinking it was small and not nearly as nice as Windhoek. Driving into town on the way back however, everything seemed so big, and really nice. The supermarket we stopped at seemed massive, and the selection incredible. It's amazing what a little perspective can do.

Well I think that's as much as I can write for now. I'll try to post again when I get up to my village on Friday (let's home my Netman works!)

Till then,

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is all so exciting! I'm glad that you are getting excited to meet the people in your own village and it sounds like you will have a lot of fun with your students when you meet them. Have fun during the rest of your time in Windhoek!!