Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Culture and other things about Namibia (email excerpts from Amy)

Culture - things I've noticed.

1. This is a male dominated society. At the engagement there was one open chair and Pat said that Elizabeth should sit in it, which seems like a reasonable thing to do, but my host mother had Elizabeth move so that Pat could sit on the chair (he gave it to one of the elderly women instead, but it shows you how different the Namibian culture is from the American culture. In Namibian culture if there aren't enough chairs, and there often aren't, women and children sit on the floor.) There is also often an order that people eat in- men first, then women, then children eat what's left over. I am often not held to the same standard (because not only are teachers highly honored, but the fact that I'm American and white still, unfortunately, gives me a higher status in the culture. Still, students often behave better for male teachers and men are given more status in society.

2. This is a much more communal place. In Africa, you share. If I have some candy then it is expected that I will give some to others. There is often only one cup of juice or something and you take a drink and pass it on to the next person. I told you earlier that Anker has a traditional leaders' office. These are the descendants of chiefs and kings and whatever else they had before. There are maybe 12 of them, but only about five are around Anker. The way the community makes decisions is to get the whole town together, argue about whatever they are talking about, make sure that everyone says what he or she wants to say, and then the traditional leaders get together and decide what to do. No votes, just a decision. This is how many of the small villages make their decisions. It's a much more communal way of deciding things.

Other things---

1. I don't think I will ever get used to the broken glass. It's everywhere; in the street, on the school yard, in the playground where the children are playing. Most of the kids around here go around barefooted and I worry for their poor little feet.

2. I don't think I can mention enough times that it is really, really, really hot here. I'm not sure exactly how hot, partially because they do everything in Celsius, but I think it is well over 100 degrees F on most days. It's a dry heat, but still.

3. When they say "rainy season" what they mean is that it's the season when there are occasionally clouds and a couple of times a month it sprinkles. If it were Minnesota we'd call it the "freakishly dry and hot season".

No comments: