Saturday, December 17, 2005

Greetings from Karibib (group email from Amy)

Sorry it's been so long since I sent my last email, the Peace Corps has been running us ragged and I live in the location (the area where the black people had to live during apartheid) so it's about a 40 minute walk to the tourist center in town, where they have Internet.

I have been spending the past few weeks in Karibib. My host family is amazing- Bertha and Gotfried //Naobes (the "//"stands for a click). Bertha runs the soup kitchen at the Lutheran church and was very excited to hear that I was a Lutheran (I've given up trying to explain the intricacies of my religious affiliation to people with minimal English skills, they just want to know if I'm Lutheran or Catholic and I've decided that I'm Lutheran).

A few days ago I got a letter from my cousin Alena with family pictures and they went crazy over them. They were especially excited to see my grandparents (age is a big deal in this culture) and in my broken KhoeKhoe I managed to tell them that my uncle is a pastor in a Lutheran church. I heard them telling each other about it later on that day.

I figure you all might want to know what my days are like here so I thought I'd write "A day in the life of Amy"

I usually get up at 6:15. My host mother is already up and I eat breakfast of either the Corn Flakes the Peace Corps provided (Made from real Mealies!) or oatmeal and tea or Nescafe (instant coffee). I take a shower (strangely my host family's house doesn't have a mirror but I'm getting used to that).

At about 7:15 I head off to model school which is basically 3 weeks of classes to teach us about teaching techniques. I go across the river. The definition of "river"in Namibia is very different from the definition in America. In Namibia "river"means broken glass and trash filled ditch that occasionally fills with water. I get to school and prepare for the lessons. At 7:45 there is a school assembly where the children sing and pray and announcements are made.

We have 6 periods from 8:00-12:30. I teach three of them and I'm supposed to observe at least 2 others, so I'm busy. Then we usually have a meeting to discuss problems or whatever. Then I usually go to Dylan and Sandra's house for lunch (their host family sometimes has a video game player with original Mario on it and that's a good way to spend an hour in the hottest part of the day). After that I have language class from 3-5.

Then I go home, eat dinner and plan the next day's lessons and, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I study my KhoeKhoe. At 8:30 we watch "When You Are Mine"<insert steamy spanish soap opera music here> which apparently everyone in Namibia is obsessed with. I usually go to bed at about 9:30. That's my busy busy life.

Actually the last week hasn't really gone like that. One of my host sisters is getting engaged and there is a whole tradition around what you're supposed to do. The entire bride's family gathers at my house at night. Then the groom's family comes and we lock them out and tell them to go away. We even turned off the lights and told them "we are going to sleep now, good night." The grooms family brings a pure white goat (if the girl has never had a child) and they slaughter it and eat it.

This goes on for any number of days and the bride's family insults the groom and his family and the groom's family gets on their knees and begs them to give the girl. Also the groom's family brings a package of food and no one from the bride''s family can touch the package or everything is over and the girl is theirs. It's all very complicated and ritualized. They explained what the reasons for all the rituals are, but I just don't have long enough to tell about them.

Anyway, that's how it's supposed to go, but on Wednesday the groom's family showed up with a goat that had a black head and that was too small and my family got really angry (because it's like an insult to the woman's honor to have a goat that's not pure white) and then they slaughtered the goat without asking for permission before my host father showed up and my family got really angry and told them to leave and there was an angry, heated discussion in my living room until one AM. I went to sleep, but apparently they told the groom's family to bring another bigger, white goat as well as the little one and to pay the electricity (because the groom's family is supposed to bring the light into the bride's house) and to bring the groom and the grandparents.

This all happened on Wednesday. On Thursday they showed up without the groom or the goat and without paying the electricity AND the packet of food they brought was small and my family got really angry and my host father said that no one could talk to them and stormed out (after telling them that they were treating us like dogs). Anyway, I was scared that the engagement was off, because they told us that this never happens. Usually the groom's family does whatever the bride's family asks. So yesterday I got back from school and there was a big white goat and a bunch of wood and I heard that the groom was coming and they paid the electricity.

And yesterday night there was a long discussion where my family insulted the groom's family (the idea is that if they get angry they are not humble enough and they might abuse the bride so they don't deserve her) but the game was back in it. They asked them to describe the bride and they said she was like an egg and my family said, "you'll break her." It was less heated. Anyway, tonight is supposed to be the engagement at 10, so I'm pretty excited.

Other cultural experiences of note, Dan and I had goat head at the church choir party. They apparently have decided that I'm in the church choir because I can kind of fake singing the KhoeKhoe songs so they think I'm brilliant in KhoeKhoe, but I never sing in church, just at practice. I don't really understand it all, but what can you do?

There was a Christmas party for the choir (Christmas is HUGE here) and goat head is a delicacy, so they served it. When I say goat head, I mean that they singe the hair off a head of a goat and they boil it- teeth, eyes, brain, tongue, everything. Anyway, I ate a little bit to be polite and then surreptitiously snuck the rest onto the plate of a little kid sitting next to me. It didn't taste bad, but I had seen the singed, boiled goat head and that turned me off. Also I wasn't entirely sure which part I was eating which kind of freaked me out.

Last Saturday I had my mid-test for KhoeKhoe. I got Novice-mid, Dan got novice-high, but everyone else in the KhoeKhoe group got novice-low which is the lowest possible score. We're supposed to be at intermediate-mid at the end of training (in like 2 weeks) but I can't see how that would be at all possible. I'm just hoping to get to intermediate-low. I figure they can't kick us out if all of us fail the test.

Karibib is a nice place. There's a supermarket where I can get just about anything I want (if I can afford it). I've been going to the church in the location on Sundays. It's a really long, hot service. Last week the sermon was in 4 languages. The preacher preached in Afrikaans and it was translated into Otjiherero, KhoeKhoe, Otjiwambo, and English. Sometimes it took so long to translate it all that the preacher lost his place in the sermon. There is a lot of singing and it's all ridiculously amazing. They sing a cappella in 5 part harmony here all the time. I'll burn some of my videos onto a CD and send it home one of these days.

OK, I should probably finish up. I miss you all a lot. I was feeling a little homesick the other day, thinking about how I won't be home for Christmas. I will be thinking of you all and I will definitely try to be better about sending emails. I think it will be easier when training is over. And to all you teachers, if anyone has any great 6-7th grade ESL/ physical science tricks I'd love to hear them.

No comments: