Friday, November 18, 2005

Day 10 (16-Nov 21h10)

Not much happened today. We got assigned our language groups, but I already knew that I was going to learn Afrikaans. After a morning language session (mostly remedial), we had ham biscuits, then talked about some cultural issues. After lunch, we opened our new bank accounts, got our typhoid shots, then went over the details for our technical training. It’s still a little unclear, but us three IT people will be training the other volunteers on computer skills and also have the opportunity to run some classes for local kids in a neighboring village. We’ll also have some field trips to nearby schools and meetings with some IT people from PeaceCorps and the community.

I found out today that I’m very likely going to Windhoek for my assignment. But it looks like the other two assignments are in huge towns as well, so there never was much of an option for small urban. This Sunday I’ll meet my supervisor for the assignment and get more details. I’m now looking forward to having a really nice place to live and being near everything (including the PeaceCorps headquarters), but it will be more challenging to do anything in the community. We’ll see.

Okay, ready for your first Afrikaans lesson? Gueie Mora! (Good Morning) It’s pronounced Kwi-a Mor-a, and the “K” has a coughing sort of sound, like your hacking up phlegm. There is also Gueie Meddah (Good Afternoon) and Gueie Naat (Good evening). We where told this morning by our new language instructor that it’s appropriate to use Gueie Naat after 3:00 pm. So, this evening, about 4:30, Jay (other IT guy), Matt (a Science teacher) and myself went downtown to visit the Dragonfly (the American-owned coffee shop). On our way, we stopped to greet some women in a park. They looked at us funny, not responding to our “Gueie Naat”, and as we were about to leave they asked if we were just learning Afrikaans. After we admitted that we were beginners, they told us that “Naat” was only “for when the sun goes down.” We had a good laugh over that. I’ll be bringing that up with our language instructor tomorrow morning.

We ended the day with gender groups again. This time, we talked about cultural issues, mostly involving relationships and sex. It was pretty funny, a group of 30 guys (with the trainers) all sitting in a circle, making sex jokes and finding out just how much our two cultures have in common. About the only thing we found that we differed on was that in some Namibian cultures, having multiple “wives” (not married) is acceptable and highly regarded. Other than that, we agreed on the cultural norms for everything else, from homosexuality to dating. We did pick up a neat trick with underwear; Namibian men wash their underwear in the shower every day, then hang it to dry and swap with the previously washed and dried underwear. Pretty nifty trick! Then you only have to own two pairs of underwear!

I think this is the point in our trip that things start getting interesting. We are all close and comfortable with each other, but now getting too close. I’ve seen some typical relationship stuff happening, from talking behind backs to making fun of someone right in front of everyone. It’s sad to see the abnormally high levels of respect wash away with increasing comfort and more typical relationships, but it was bound to happen. I wonder now what the first big argument will be over… Some of the girls have already started the process by stealing all the guy’s pillows during our gender discussion last night. We nearly snuck over and shut off their hot water in retaliation, but cooler heads prevailed.

Last night we had another spider incident. This time, I was getting up to blow my nose (midnight-ish) and another guy was brushing his teeth, and we both saw at the same time a huge-ass spider crawl out from the bathroom. Acting like the manly men we most certainly are, we screamed and woke up the rest of the guys. We then followed it around trying to take pictures while stumbling over each other every time it made a sudden move in our direction. It was quite a sight, eight half naked men tripping over each other, up and down a hallway no bigger than walk-in closet. We did manage to catch it using a garbage can lid and plastic bag, after which we hung it outside, planning to use it in a grand retaliation against the girls the next day. After forgetting about it most of today, we finally did let it go under the justification that it would report back to the company of big-ass spiders in the woods that they should certainly not go into our bunker. Either that or stage a full-scale invasion. I guess we’ll know tonight.

[Appended 23h38 after watching an episode of Firefly in the courtyard outside]
Time to take our anti-malaria drugs (one pill once a week). Most took them this morning because they sometimes cause vivid dreams and hallucinations. Since I got nothing last week when I took it, I waited until tonight to take it. Here come the dreams…

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