Friday, March 10, 2006

Back in Otjiwarongo and a bit sick (e-mail from Amy)

The Sickness

Well, I'm back in Otjiwarongo. (See Map) I got sick on Wednesday and the Peace Corps told me to get to the doctor- which means either Khorixas or Otjiwarongo. They actually wanted me to go to Khorixas on Thursday, but I didn't think I could get a ride (if it were an emergency I could have, but one full day of a medium grade fever doesn't count as an emergency, even here where people panic if you tell them you're a little sick.) The Peace Corps is worried that I have "The Malaria" (adding "the" to the front of diseases makes them seem less insidious.) I thought that I had "The Flu" on Wednesday since I had only been sick for a day and my fever wasn't even that high, but I'm glad I'm seeing the doctor now. The Peace Corps is just concerned because I'm so far away from everything. (Later addition to this email- Turns out that I had "The Tonsillitis" which was moving towards "The Pneumonia" so it's a good thing I came into town. I'm on antibiotics now and they gave me some wicked pills that scare me a little with Ibuprofen, Paracetamol (or something like that, and Codine. I don't think I'll take too many of those, though. I'm going to be here until Sunday, so I'll email you all tomorrow)

Hiking to Anker

I had an interesting ride home from Otjiwarongo two weeks ago. (see last e-mail) Megan and I went to the hike point, just to make sure that it actually was the place to go to get rides to Kamanjab and we happened to find a ride to Outjo, which is on the way home. I wasn't planning on leaving yet, so I had to get my things. It was a ride in a very fancy car with a nice Nama family. I earned loads of brownie points for knowing some KhoeKhoe and they even gave me some of their biltong (heavily spiced dried game meat) to eat. When I got to Outjo I was going to try to get a hike to Kamanjab, but first I had to buy a Coke to break my hundred and get the right change for the hike. As I was leaving the store I heard, "Amy… Amy!" there was Mrs. /Uiras. She had gotten a hike to Outjo in a huge, open Land Rover and was going to wait there for her husband and the !Guibebs. So I ended up getting a ride all the way back to Anker on Saturday night. There were 7 of us until Kamanjab and 5 to Anker. We bought some enormous wild mushrooms that grow on termite mounds on the way. When we came to the Onguati river we had to get out and push. The river wasn't running, but the sand was deep and the little car was riding very low. Mr. !Guibeb took out a spade that he had brought specially for this purpose and shoveled some of the sand out from under the car and then we all pushed. It was nice, as the sun was setting, to get out of the car and stretch my legs some. I didn't get any of the groceries in Kamanjab because, of course, by the time we came through, the shops were all closed. I got some very nice things in Otjiwarongo. I got hot chocolate mix, some spices, mouthwash, grapes, and some fancy packets of pasta sauce (basil pesto and sun dried tomato.) I can get some things in the shops here, but many things can only be bought in Kamanjab.

Life in Anker

Things are going well in Anker. The Peace Corps visited me last week. I'm not sure I gave a very good impression. I think that Waldo thought I was unhappy, when really I was just very, very nervous about the visit. I don't know exactly why I was nervous, perhaps because I have this irrational fear that they are going to kick me out for some minor infraction or maybe just because I hadn't seen and PC people or really anyone outside Anker in 2 months. I did get some nifty things from them, though. The health office sent me some more suntan lotion (yay! I was almost out) and when I mentioned that it would be really nice to get a water filter (It's not that the water is really unsafe, it's just from a borehole, so it tastes very salty and sometimes gives your stomach some trouble) they pulled one out of the back of the Land Rover and gave it to me. It's really nice, although it's meant to clear bacteria out of water, so it doesn't get all of the salt. I'm thinking that I'll get another water filter for the minerals when I get to Otjiwarongo or somewhere else big. I saw Brita filters when I was there for a little over N$200 (US$30.) That will be great, then I can filter all of my drinking water twice. Still, it's better than the other options- the volunteer who was here before sent her 50 liter water container (meant as an emergency stash) to Kamanjab to get drinking water every couple of weeks and my two main coping strategies have been to add lots of sugar and flavoured-drink mix to it, and also to drink less water- not a really good strategy in a desert. Anyway, in a classic Amy move, I broke part of the filter before I even used it. It kept emphasizing in the directions how you should sterilize the parts before putting them together and at least once a week by boiling them for 20 min. So, being a good rule-abiding person, I boiled the parts before I put them together. Unfortunately, the directions were ridiculously unclear about exactly which parts needed to be boiled and I accidentally shrunk one of the plastic washers and then, on top of that, I broke the screw part off of the filter trying to screw the shrunken washer on to it. Right now there's duct tape covering the hole in the filter. It's all good, though, it's filtering just fine and now I know never to follow the directions. During the visit, I also got into a little trouble from Waldo (it wasn't too bad.) Apparently I was breaking the rules when I went to Otjiwarongo 2 weeks ago- oops. In my defense, the Peace Corps has about a gazillion rules and they make them about as clear as pea soup. I assumed, from what they said, that I could go to any town that was reasonably close by for shopping and R & R and Otjiwarongo is only about a 3 hour drive and all of the other teachers go there at least once a month. Apparently, what they meant was that I could only go to the nearest possible town (Kamanjab) two weekends a month I'm not breaking the rules this time, though because you can travel for health or work related reasons.

The library

The library is running relatively well. I spent most of last week hand making library cards out of 3 X 5 index cards and I made a really nifty box for the cards out of cardboard and duct tape. I think that this system will work, as long as I can teach the learners that they can't just put books that they've checked out back on the shelf without telling me that they returned them and as long as they stop trying to sneak the books out without checking them out when I'm not looking. I was trying to figure out how to fine students for keeping books late, as monetary library fines really won't work (nobody would pay them), and I decided that taking away checking out privileges, coupled with a sign listing the late books and their borrowers ( to add a little positive peer pressure) is the best option. I also gave up on the sellotape front. I had been adamantly avoiding using sellotape (Scotch tape), knowing that it dries out and turns brown with age, but I really had nothing else except a glue stick (unless I wanted to use duct tape) and I realized that the books will probably make it longer if they are sellotaped than if I leave them broken, since trying to keep the learners can't from looking at certain books is an exercise in futility (they actually spend more time going through the damaged books box than looking at the shelves of undamaged books.)

Food in Anker

I have been learning just what is available to buy in Anker. I only bought a few things in Otjiwarongo a few weeks ago, since I wanted to be sure that I could get a hike back, but I forgot that all of the shops in Kamanjab would be closed when I went through. Then, last weekend I just forgot to start looking for a ride early enough, so I've been stuck here in Anker and I haven't been grocery shopping in almost a month. I have loads of cash- almost N$1200 (US$200) but I've been going around to each of the shops trying to find something that I want to spend it on. All of the shops are like variations on a theme. Some of them have more, some less, but they all have the same basic things plus a few odd additions. Here is the basic rundown of what I can buy in Anker- cornmeal, flour (white or brown), sugar (white or brown), sunflower oil, salt, washing powder, baked beans, canned weird mixed vegetables, packets of mixed spice with names like "piri piri" which bizarrely means "goat goat" in KhoeKhoe, 2 different types of pasta, rice, sometimes potatoes, sometimes shelf-stable milk, sometimes phone cards, cream filled biscuits, potato chips with flavours like "chutney" and "fried chicken", soap, shampoo (not really for my white-people hair, though), baby powder, Tea, instant coffee, batteries, matches, penny candy, thread, Coke, and just about any type of alcohol I might ever imagine wanting (that's just in the shops- I don't even go into the bottle stores because it just depresses me to see the massive selection of alcohol that my grade 6 or 7 (or 4) learners can choose from and also I don't enjoy being harassed by drunk old men.) Those are the things that are available most of the time, then there are the weird things that show up on the shelves. It's like the shop owners just figure, "Why not, I don't really want this, I'll sell it."- maybe there will be one pair of size 10 Kudu skin shoes, or a box of Q-tips, or a single pair of scissors, or two skeins of teal yarn- they stay on the shelf until someone buys them and then you might never see that item in the shops again, or maybe they'll get another one, you just never know. It's a little odd. Unfortunately, none of the shops sell bread, which is one thing I would buy loads of if they sold it. I don't really understand where other people get all of their bread from, since they eat plenty of it. I think they all must know where the magic bread tree is and I am just out of the loop. The shops really aren't aimed at my diet- they sell things for people who eat porridge and a meat dish almost every meal and who keep goats, cows, and chickens (there's no place to buy meat or eggs and milk is sometimes there and sometimes not.) Basically, I'm not going to give up going to Kamanjab for groceries, since at least there I can get canned fruit and tomatoes, soup mix, meat, bread, juice, cheese, chocolate, yogurt, and fresh-ish produce. I can even get real coffee there. I'm sorry- I'm sure you are all really sick of another rant about food by now since it seems like I talk about food every email and I really should stop because I'm making myself hungry for all of the things that I have run out of. I'm really just tormenting myself. Oh, here's another challenge with cooking here that I forgot to mention in my last email- I don't own any measuring cups or measuring spoons, so it's all guesstimating.

More about food

Other people have been giving me some food. Miss Julianne found out that I didn't have any more eggs and she sent someone with 6 eggs for me. Also, the Geisebs were making sour milk and I made some off-hand comment about it and later that day they sent me almost a litre of sour milk. Now I have to figure out what to do with a litre of sour milk. I've been mixing just a little bit with potatoes and cheese and that's pretty good. I'm still getting used to sour milk. It helped when I stopped thinking about it as spoiled milk and started thinking of it as yoghurt, but I still don't drink it plain and I can only take a little bit of it when it's mixed with porridge and sugar (the other teachers call it "Damara salad" but you can buy it in cartons in the grocery store as Oshikandela.) I have a recipe for cheese and I'm thinking about trying to make some, since I don't think I can use up my litre any other way. When I got sick the Geiseb daughters started bringing me food and many people came by to check how I was doing.

Are you an Angel?

Mervelly asked me in the middle of class on Monday if I was an angel. That's not a question you really expect to have to answer in the regular course of teaching, and I really wasn't prepared for it. The problem is that I know why she asked it and it troubles me. In KhoeKhoe the word for white person (/hun) is the same as an archaic form of the word for gods (not God- which is Eloba, but for the gods) which apparently has transformed into the word for angel. Mr. Albertus, my KhoeKhoe teacher told us that the reason for this was that when the white people first came, the KhoeKhoe speaking people thought that they weren't like them- they thought they were too good (which is ironic.) Mervelly told me that Mr. !Naruseb, the KhoeKhoe teacher told them that white people were angels- although I think she maybe misunderstood what he was trying to tell the class. I really don't like the not-so-subtle white privilege that is pervasive throughout Namibian culture and I try to fight it when I can. When students admire my hair ad nauseum and tell me again and again how much they wish my hair was their hair, I try to tell them that I wish my hair were more like theirs so I could braid it into the elaborate hairstyles that they sculpt their hair into and so it would stay where I put it. I don't like them thinking that only white-people hair can be beautiful. Still, it's a little difficult to know what to say when a student asks you if you are an angel. I told her that we're like the little block houses out of the classroom window; this one is red, that one green, but inside they aren't really that different. She gave me a sort of patronizing smile.

Well- that's it for today. I'll write more and reply to your emails tomorrow. Much love.

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