Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pink Pangea

Hey guys. This post is a little sneak peak at a story I am writing for a website for women travelers called Pink Pangea. I am hoping to write more before I leave. Enjoy!

To the average woman, being proposed to is something that typically happens once in a lifetime and usually involves a guy, possibly down on one knee, presenting himself and the offer of spending the rest of your life with him. This moment is usually pretty special and is a story that is told over and over again throughout the years. Throughout my year as a volunteer teacher in a small village in northern Namibia, I can honestly say that I have been proposed to at least 147 times. I should back up here. In Namibia, the word “propose” is used where the western world might say, “aggressively hit on”. What these two definitions have in common is that they both produce stories that warrant multiple retellings.

As a lone woman traveling in northern Namibia, knowing the local definition of “propose” definitely comes in handy. At the beginning of my Namibian experience, I was walking with a learner of mine who asked me if I had been proposed to by any of the local men. I replied with an adamant, “oh no no no no” to which she replied, “but that tate (man) just said he wanted to be your boyfriend.” That’s when the light bulb turned on and I realized yet another word that provided another brick in the ever - growing language barrier. Women of all types get proposed to by men on a daily basis in Namibia (just like the rest of the world) – being an outsider just gives that much more incentive to men on the prowl.

Once you have your technique down for side-stepping these proposals (or accepting them if that is your style), there are many wonderful things to see and enjoy in northern Namibia. If you want to get to know the locals, it is best to check out one of the many shabeens, or bars, that populate the main streets. While it is perfectly acceptable for women to physically be at these shabeens, what you order and how you act will be closely monitored. I have a favorite bar in the north’s capital city, Oshakati, called L G Bar. It is a lovely place that is one of the closest things to a real restaurant that the north offers. I have made it a routine to hang out there on the weekends, typically on Friday afternoons. The owner and staff are lovely and I’ve hardly had any unwanted “proposals” there. However, one aspect of my Friday trips has always perplexed me. The most popular beverage in Namibia is the national beer, Windhoek Lager. I’ve grown very fond of it and often crave one (or two) after a long workweek. When one of my favorite waitresses comes over and asks what I would like, I say “a Windhoek draught, please” and am answered with a look that I can only describe as a mix between confusion, disgust, and disappointment. At first, I thought it was a fluke. Then after several weeks of facing the face, I took a moment to look around. For one, there were hardly any other women in the bar. Secondly, of the ones that were there, none were drinking beer. They may have had hard ciders or vodka drinks, but none were partaking in my beverage of choice. That’s when I realized it: women don’t really drink beer here! It seems my waitress was just reacting to this smiling oshilumbu (white person) who ordered a drink that made her stand out even more than her curly blonde hair. This isn’t to say I have had any trouble getting my Friday beer; the face fades quickly and it’s back to smiles and pleasant conversation.

There are definitely different roles and expectations for women in Namibia as there are in many other countries. Luckily, Namibia is incredibly laid back and allows women to make some blunders with no more than a face or a laugh. If you can join in on the laughing, or make a face back, you have already taken a step towards cultural immersion. Regardless of the occasional slip up, traveling women in Namibia will be welcomed warmly. And who knows, they just might return with the most incredible proposal story.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Daily Life

Dearest Friends, Family, and Followers,

It is time again to write a blog of all of the fabulously random things that happen in my life – these events are what make this place so incredibly special and hard to leave. Here we go…in no particular order:

· Today a learner came into the library and whispered something to me that I didn’t understand. Then she started spelling C-O-R-T-E-X. Uh…yeah, I was still confused. Then she said, “it is used to prevent menstruation.” Got it.

· Yesterday, we had the day off for International Teacher’s Day. It was lovely. I walked to the little settlement up the road from me, Omayuunda, to buy some bread and a cool drink. While I was in the shop, a woman in business casual came up next to me in the que. I greeted her, as usual, and she greeted me back. After a minute or two, I heard a deafening “cock-a-doodle-doooo!” To my surprise, this smartly dressed woman had a rooster in her handbag. I think I like that better than the stupid little dogs.

· Today, the wind has been CRAZY! I look super tan because there are literally thousands of grains of sand on my face and body. Makes for some pretty cool little cyclones though.

· I went to town last Saturday to meet up with Bret. I was walking along my road, hoping for a car to stop when a bakkie approached me. Two gentlemen were in the car and said they could give me a lift to Oshikuku. I gladly accepted and hopped in the front, in between them. Right when the one tate shut the door, the music was up and raging. I mean raging. Now, this is pretty typical for Namibia, but what makes this experience noteworthy is the type of music that was playing. It was not local music, or popular American hip hop, or even Celine Dion. It was Michael Bolton. Yes, good ole Michael. The driver had an excellent voice and was clearly feelin’ the lyrics to “I Wanna be Your Sole Provider”. And I have to admit, so was I.

· I went to a learner’s homestead last weekend. I love visiting the homesteads and often wish I lived on one instead of in the teacher housing. Anyway, I had my camera to take a few pics of the beautiful scenery, etc. What ended up happening was a full blown photo shoot, costume changes and all. Even the housekeeper, who had been busy peeling beans, took a moment to put on her best shirt and beads to have her picture taken. Taking pictures here is a little different…people need to SEE every single picture immediately after it has been taken. Sometimes I just say, “Great! It looks just like you,” so we can move on! Needless to say, cameras are a hit here.

· I swept a lizard out of my house for the third time this year.

· There are these incredibly annoying bugs (my mom knows how much they anger me) that kind of look like wasps but apparently don’t sting. Well, they are everywhere. Everywhere. They make little nests like wasps too and they are ALL over my house. Under beds, on the ceiling, on the toilet bowl cleaner (seriously). I am telling you about these annoying creatures not only because I hate them, but because they poop. A lot. I mean, I know everybody poops, but these guys make mouse sized turds. We thought we had a mouse problem until I physically watched a couple of these buggars drop a mean deuce on our kitchen counter. Sweet.

· I ate the best onion ring I have ever eaten in Namibia. I hope to do it again soon.

· I have been quietly buying uniform items for kids who either don’t have them or have used the mess out of them. I gave one girl a shirt, shoes, and socks, and in exchange, her grandmother brought me traditional porridge and owambo chicken. Pretty awesome trade.

· I showed some of my classes the karate kid and now during break time, I look out and see 7 different groups of kids re-enacting the last scene. Wax on, wax off.

This is my life and it is kind of wonderful. I’m sure there are a million more things I could share, but I will stop there for now.

Love you all!