Saturday, July 08, 2006

Long weekend, a drive-through wedding, and some traditional tea (email from Amy)

Long weekend in Otjiwarongo

It was a fun weekend in Otjiwarongo last week. I did basically everything I needed to do and it was great seeing everyone. At one point there were 24 of us sleeping at Megan's place. She has two extra bedrooms and a living room, but it was still a little tight, with seven sleeping bags stretched out across the floor in the room I was sleeping in. I finally bought a sleeping bag, which will definitely make for warmer nights, but I had to borrow a sleeping pad from Matt P who has about 5 of them. We had a braai (barbecue) and we bought almost a whole oryx and 6 lbs of beef brisket for N$12 (less than US$2) per person. We also made braai bread, potato salad, French silk pie, and lettuce salad so we had plenty of food to eat. We watched a bunch of movies—High Fidelity (I've just started to enjoy some books by Nick Hornby, so it was even more interesting), Sliding Doors, a bunch of Adult Swim cartoons, and Holes (that was my contribution.) I traded some books with other volunteers, I bought a copy of National Geographic, and I got some music from my friend Mike—Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, U2, and a bunch of other hippie save-the-world kind of music.

Many letters

I mailed 55 letters asking companies for donations of books, magazines, and toys for the school and hostel, causing some of the other volunteers to label me a super volunteer which is funny since sometimes I feel intimidated by the quality of those same volunteers. I think we all feel like all of the other volunteers are better than we are sometimes. I sent the letters to book donation charities and to book publishers. I'm betting that I'll get a donation or a response from about 10% of publishers and from about 50% of charities which will mean 16 responses for the letters I sent.


I got my cell phone fixed which is probably really good for my mental health. I bought a new electric kettle (I kept the last one on one of the burners of my stove because it was the only flat place near enough to the outlet and I accidentally turned on the burner and melted it. It was not a good thing, since that's my main way of getting hot water. I MacGyvered a temporary fix that involved using duct tape to cover some exposed wires and hanging a one litre glass Coke bottle from the handle with twine, but now I'm just going to use that kettle to transfer water to my water filter.) I bought fabric because one of the hostel matrons said she would make me a traditional Damara dress for me if I brought her 6 metres of fabric. I also bought N$400 (US$60) worth of groceries including a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables (marrows, squash, apples, mushrooms, onions, avocados) and some really good cheese and yogurt, plus some emergency supplies in case I get stuck in Anker (powdered milk, dried onions, frozen vegetables, extra phone cards, extra tins of canned tomato paste.) I now have a tendency to hoard food, making sure I buy extra non-perishables whenever I go to the store, regardless of my current food situation. Someone in my group said she thinks all PCVs have an unhealthy relationship with food and that's my little phobia—running out of food and being unable to get to the store.


At All-PCV conference we talked about a study that someone did showing that Peace Corps service is 3 times more stressful than the death of a spouse, 4 times more stressful than divorce and 5 times as stressful as being jailed, so really, other than a little hoarding, we should all be thankful that I am as well adjusted as I am, and that I haven't started doing really strange things---yet. Other than a few staples which I decided to buy in Anker instead of hauling them 300k and a few perishables each week, I should have enough food for about a month. I also bought supplies for the library and for teaching. I think I talked everyone's ears off. I have a tendency to do that when I'm around other volunteers. It comes from not having anyone even remotely near me. Luckily Silas (or as the Hereros in his area say, Silasah) was there and he's pretty isolated too, so we just talked each others ears off and everyone was happy.

Drive-through wedding

After a thoroughly enjoyable four day weekend, I headed home. I started looking for a hike at about 11. I ran into Luke who was also looking for a hike up to Opuwo and we got into a combi together, that's when things started going a little crazy. We got in at maybe 12 o'clock, then we drove around the location for 3 hours. By this time Luke and I were getting a little stir crazy so when they said they just needed to pick up a trailer from the location we decided to get out and wait at a park, figuring it would be nice to stretch our legs for a bit. We thought it would be a few minutes. They finally came back after 2 hours. Apparently the driver of the combi was a pastor and they made a turn by the church and—get this—he performed a marriage. Yes, he actually told a combi full of people that we were leaving, as they say here, now now and then went and performed a marriage. Only in Namibia. Anyway, since we headed out of Otjiwarongo 5 hours late I didn't get into Kamanjab in time to catch anyone going into Anker and I missed the first half of Tuesday. I decided not to feel bad about it because there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I figured that leaving at 11 o'clock for a 3 hour journey would be enough, but apparently no.


I had three pack slips waiting for me when I got back. When I get packages I usually only get a pack slip at first. Then I sign it and I tell everyone I know in the village that I'm looking for someone who is going to Kamanjab. It usually takes 3 or 4 days to find someone. They get the packages and bring them to me. The long and short of it is that I don't know what's in the packages or who they're from yet. My headmaster, Mr. !Geiseb, is getting them, but he's in Otjiwarongo for the weekend, planning a funeral. I think two of them are boxes of donated books because they were sent to the school address. (Later addition to this email--I came over to the Geiseb's house and the packages were there- two from my family, including the one with food that we were afraid had gotten lost and one with a CD of photos and music and one from Little Brown and Company with donated books.)


This weekend I did a bit of cooking. I made Thai peanut sauce (with peanut butter, coconut milk, and some of the fresh produce I got in Otjiwarongo) and pizza on Friday and I plan to make chicken noodle soup and tortillas today or tomorrow. If I cook a lot of food on the weekends and keep it in the fridge I tend to eat more food during the week which is definitely better for me.

Funny teaching stories.

Kalina asked me on Wednesday if there was freedom in America. I think it's because I was telling everyone that July 4th was Independence Day in America. I'm not sure that she knows that we got it well over 200 years ago as opposed to 16 years ago. I also have run out of white chalk and we are fast running out of any colour other than dark brown, not a particularly helpful colour on battered green boards. I suppose I'll have to try to buy some in Kamanjab or Otjiwarongo if it gets really desperate. I keep holding out hope that we just lost a box or it's hiding somewhere in the school, but I have a feeling that the kids stole it all and ate it. They like to eat chalk and paper and chew press-stick (plasti-tack) like gum. Don't ask me why—I don't understand half the stuff that they do.

Traditional Tea

Oh, the kids also asked me for about the hundred and fiftieth time if I wasn't afraid to live alone and if I wasn't scared that people would send cats to bewitch me. In case you're wondering—no, that's not high on my list of worries. Some girls came to ask me about the English names of certain plants for their agriculture class. I am now something of an expert in the names of plants in the area just because they keep asking me all of the time. The girls told me that some of the plants are good for medicines and some you mix in with tea. Then the next day they brought me an armful of !oararasen. It looked like dried rosemary. You mix the leaves in with black tea (although I only had rooibos—a type of traditional southern African tea) and it tastes nice-- spicy and savory, like a mixture of mild cloves and thyme. It was very good.

So that was my week. I'm pretty sick of kids this week. I'm hoping that a nice weekend will be just what I need. Hope you all are doing well.

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