Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas Everyone! (group e-mail from Amy)

(Sent from Omaruru, Namibia on Christmas Eve about 5PM)

Dear Everyone,

Merry Christmas everyone!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION—even if you don't plan on reading the email, read this—

In about two weeks I'll be going to my permanent site. If you intend to send something to me from now on, you should probably send it to

(Her Name)

PO Box 90




I know it looks a little sketchy, sending something halfway across the world with a PO Box, a city, and a country, but I'm 65%-75% certain that it will get to me (That's pretty good odds considering I live in the middle of nowhere in Africa.) So, feel free to send me letters, poems, love notes, etc. We all go a little crazy over the mail. Someone was saying today that he got some little trinket in a package and he was saying that he wouldn't mind if someone broke his camera, ate all of his food, and burned his clothes, but if they touch even the stupidest trinket he got from home, he'll kill them : ). OK, now for the actual email. You can stop reading if you want to.

I'm back, safe and sound in Omaruru. I got some cups and a fork and knife set (no spoons, which kind of confuses me since you can live without knives and forks, but anything you'd eat with a spoon you really can't eat any other way) from my host family for Christmas. It's really strange thinking that Christmas is tomorrow. Before we left, one of the host families decorated their lime tree with blinking Christmas lights.

I've been a little sick the last few days (just a little stomach trouble, and the Peace Corps is keeping me well medicated, so nothing to worry about). My host mother bought me a coke and mixed in some salt. She told me that's what you're supposed to do for stomach trouble, which is interesting because all the medical people say you should drink water with sugar and salt in it, which is basically what she gave me.

We came back to Omaruru in the covered back of a bakkie (pick-up truck). There were five of us and some luggage in the back. It was great. I broke out my harmonica and started playing (badly). It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. It was actually something that I thought I might be doing in Africa. This is the thing, Africa isn't just different from what I expected, it's crazier than I expected. You can pass a Herero woman dressed in what looks like a patchwork version of a British Victorian dress and a Himba woman, walking bare-chested with a skin skirt, and a woman wearing western clothes all on the same street.

I'm going to miss my host family, but I am really excited to get to my permanent site. Today we're going to decorate one of the thorn trees around here with popcorn chains and paper snowflakes and we're doing a gift exchange tomorrow. I got a vegetable peeler, kitchen knife, can opener, and a box of ground cinnamon. I think it's an OK gift. Mainly I'm thinking that practical gifts are best as most people don't have anything more than a bed, a stove, and a refrigerator at their flats. We're also going to have a bonfire with smores and earlier some people at the embassy sent us cookies. We're really eating our way through Christmas.

The engagement went off without a hitch. It was really neat. They showed up at ten o'clock at night with buckets of food. I literally mean buckets, they came with macaroni salad and potato salad in the basins that they use to wash clothes in. The bride and groom sat at a table in the front. There was a pastor who gave a very impassioned sermon and there was a whole ceremony where the man gave Deborah (my sister) a watch and a ring. They also poured a cup of sparkling grape juice and everyone who was there drank from the cup.

Funny story—One day we were having a braai (a barbeque) and they were talking in rapid KhoeKhoe when they leaned over to me and whispered, "Do you have a problem with witches in America?" I wasn't sure that I understood them, so I asked them what they meant and this was the response, "You know, the people who walk around naked at night and turn their backs to your window."

Well, needless to say, I didn't know. They told me that witches are a big problem in Namibia. Later on in the week they were all talking in KhoeKhoe again and they leaned in to me and whispered, "The woman across the street turned into a cow." I replied, "She got really fat?" and they looked at me like I was the thickest person they'd ever tried to communicate with. They pulled me into the kitchen and Gazzah ( who has the best English skills) said, "No, she actually turned into a cow and all those witchy things. One of the neighbors saw her walking naked at night." So apparently this isn't a hypothetical problem with witches. It's a problem with the neighbor across the street. I don't take it too seriously because the rumors that go around the location are crazy.

There was a rumor that Dan and I were a couple and that's why we went to Dylan and Sandra's house (not Mario, which was the actual reason.) It was a little weird, but I'm kind of getting used to being led around like a kind of dumb puppy.

Earlier today I made a telescope. Jay, one of the IT guys learned how to make a telescope from a light bulb from his host sister (mainly you just take the metal part and the filament out and then you fill the glass bulb with water.) I'm thinking that, between this project, the RISK game we made out of markers, paper and rice, and constructing my own cell phone tower (which apparently involves going onto my roof at dusk on a clear night with a compass and a self-constructed pole) when I get out of the Peace Corps I'm going to be like MacGyver. I'll just need paperclips, twine, and chewing gum and I'll be able to make anything.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. I read Till We Have Faces, The Secret Life of Bees, and I started Naked by David Sedaris, but I accidentally left it in Karibib, so I borrowed Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress from someone. I think if I keep up this pace (and I don't have television at my permanent site, so I think that it's likely I will keep up the pace) I will run through all the other volunteers' books in 6 months. I guess when I hit that point I'll just have to figure something out— write my own book, or take up woodcarving, or learn how to raise goats or something.

I'm doing well. I hope everyone else has/had a Merry Christmas. I miss you guys.

Much love,


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