Friday, October 22, 2010

A Village Variety

Just call me Link! (the star of the Nintendo Zelda series) Hunting is a favorite pastime of village boys and I often see them carrying around bows and arrows made from wood scraps and various other bits and pieces. Another popular method is to send out the dogs to flush out the rabbits and then a knotty wood club is employed with a surprisingly high success rate.

The mammoth cactus plant on the neighboring homestead. Meme told me the English word for the fruits was ‘opickalipah.’ It didn’t ring a bell at first but I eventually figured out she meant ‘Prickly Pear’ like the one from the famous Disney Jungle Book song. I don’t know how indigenous it is because they are not so common but there is a word for it in Oshiwambo: efauena.

The fruit is covered with those bumps and extremely small hairs and give your hands quite a prickling if you don’t first soak it in water and rub them off. Inside is the seedy pulp which is very sweet and tasty. You can see a few unripe fruits at the tippy top of the plant. The others were all snatched up by the kids who consider anything remotely sweet an utterly mesmerizing delicacy.

I stumbled upon these small plasticky old toys that Uncle Tom gave me in my ‘monkey basket.’ I gave them to the kids and literally within 5 minutes after this picture, they had ripped out the inside stuffing and bitten holes in two of the noses. Most toys do not survive long in Africa. For supporting evidence to this claim, see also the countless (20+) soccer balls that have popped on thorns.

Sunrise with an early appearance of clouds. But it’s just a tease. There won’t be rain for another month I bet and that will make at least six months with no precipitation. Did I mention that these days it is regularly pushing 100 degrees?

Me and our neighbor Meme Berita also secretly known as Bad-Eye Meme. She made me that sweet little basket and says it’s where I can keep my money. So in return I’m printing her this picture and a couple others. Such nice people in this village!

Here is some genius engineering. The kids are very resourceful with whatever scraps they find and whip up these fantastic contraptions. This car even has a workable steering wheel! I’ve seen a couple different steering mechanisms and this one utilizes some thin rubber strips connected to the wheels which are made out of old pop cans.

Here’s Egumbo preparing for the Grand Prix. I don’t know who actually made this car but he borrowed it for the week.

Egumbo always looks so innocent but the next day he burnt the fence down! He and some other kid were playing some make-believe game with matches and the fire got out of control and spread and consumed a huge swath of the wooden fence. And what did they do? They just ran away! But luckily some neighbors saw the flames and came running to help put it out with buckets of water. Now there is a big black charred area and the goats have an easy escape. Meme and other altruistic villagers will have to hack down some mopane trees to get poles to repair it.

This is Leta and Aina who are both in grade 9. Leta used to be Retta according to the school roster. But she kept writing ‘Leta’ on all her papers. So I finally asked her and apparently they made a mistake on her birth certificate. Anyway, she is one of my smartest and most creative learners but unfortunately she is still so reserved with me. I try to initiate as much conversation with her and when I do her English is great! So one day I saw this thing on her desk and asked her what it was and she told me it was a stethoscope. More genius innovative creativity: some bits of foam stuck onto the ends of an old piece of wire. I had to get a picture of Doctor Leta and Aina, her best friend, agreed to be the patient. The next week she brought her homework for me to check and also in the book (I think she secretly wanted me to see it) was a model bird made from cardboard, colored paper, and chicken feathers! I’ll sure miss her.

Here is grade 9 taking a quiz on the Cartesian Plane. Leta is in the pink jacket. She got a 9 out of 10.

Here is grade 8 holding up their dry-erase boards. These and a bunch of markers were graciously donated by a friend and they helped immensely when teaching coordinates, area, perimeter, and countless other topics so here’s a huge thank you!!

This is the aftermath of a lesson on probability that I taught to grade 10. Isn’t my handwriting and organization superb?

Here’s grade 7 playing multiplication bingo, another awesome donation from a friend! They sent over a whole set of boards, counters, and tiles for the announcer and it has been a huge hit with all the grades.


Any guesses? What you are seeing is a pot of boiled cow skin being served up for an afternoon snack! In other words, spiced leather! It’s a common item sold at the village cuca shops. One piece cost N$1. I tried two bites and that was enough. A bit like eating sautéed slug.

Meme chowing down

Tate Ananias the bike guy! He’s about 80 years old I think but still rides his bike everywhere and has the best laugh ever.

With the lack of rain, all the wells (or pits dug in the ground) have run dry. There are only a few places left where you can find standing water and they become meccas for all the village cows. Notice that the water is about the color of pencil lead.

This is the water hole. It’s called Omuwandi which is the name of that type of tree which is one of the coolest, tallest, stateliest tree in the village. I’ve read that is called a jackalberry tree in English and it produces some sweet, slightly gritty, plumlike fruit.

Meme and Tate Makwani at his cuca shop – The Namib Straker 02 which you can see is open 7 to 7. It sells nothing but homemade alcoholic drinks.

Here is the other type of cuca shops that is made from mopane poles, palm tree branches, bark ties and other natural materials. This particular shop was built just last week by Meme Emilia herself with some help from the neighbors. I’m not sure what prompted her to enter into the liquor business but now a lot of her time is spent brewing okanyatau, epwaka, tombo, omalovu, which she sells for a dollar or two a cup.

The brewing process: the very pinnacle of cleanliness and sanitation.

Meme handing me a mug of okanyatau which looks and tastes like sour wine infused with barnyard sediments. Actually it’s fairly palatable and I’ve never gotten sick yet.

My desk in my room. Notice the ubiquitous jar of peanut butter, my infallible book of crossword puzzles, and the mega mug of oshikundu.

My parents sent over a bunch of Frisbees and one day I gave them to grade 7 and they went wild. It was complete chaos before I showed them the proper technique and towards the end most were starting to get it although I think they had more fun just flinging them every which way.

Here are some more donations: Yoyos! I certainly have some very generous and compassionate friends and my most sincere thanks go to all of them! The yoyos quickly became favorites, and I’ve taught a number of kids to do the basic up and down and the power throw. They haven’t mastered walking the dog or the around the world but are amazed when I show them my limited skills.

Some grade 5s enjoying puzzles and toys.

Me and my four favorite grade 10 learners. Rautia, Linda, Monica, and Lusia

Grade 7s playing with Rush Hour, yoyos, and Rubik’s Cubes.

Linda contemplates her checkers move against Emma and behind them, Genesia and Timoteus fight over my photo album full of picture of home (they can’t get enough of the picture of me as a 7 year old)

Erika and Ndakulilwa puzzle over the sliding numbers. I don’t think anyone has been able to solve it yet! Except me that is… my best time is under thirty seconds

More yoyo madness. Simson, Martti, Evelina, Aino, Markus, Nepando

The four starlets again. Completely on their own volition they came to sweep out the library and organize all the books and games. “It’s our lucky day!” was their comment after I gave them all a bunch of stickers, candy, and a pen and pencil.

And finally, the Grade 10 class picture. There are a few missing, namely the two girls who got pregnant, one who dropped out last month, and two boys who didn’t want to be in the picture for whatever reason. Top to bottom, left to right: Selma, Hilka, Evelina, Salmi, Hilma, Rautia, Titus, Linda, Olavi, Tomas, Ileka, Sir, Bartholomeus, Solomon, Johanna, Monica, Jacobina, Lusia, Asser, Lempie, Leena, Aino. I printed a copy for all of them

I say goodbye to all the Grade 10 on Monday as it's their last exam of the year. I will probably see the ones that stay in the village occasionally and I do have some plans to go visit their homesteads. For the other grades, there is only a week or so left of formal teaching then the long protracted extremely inefficient exam schedule starts. The school year ends December 9 and then I have a few days left before heading down to the capital and getting on the plane.

Whew! That was a long internet session after a month in the electricity-less village. But a stretch of time like that goes by fast as it is filled with soccer games, village visits, reading, crosswords, and of course, teaching. Speaking of crosswords, I finally took some time to accomplish a longtime goal of constructing my own puzzles and after some seriously difficult word weaving, I have two completed grids with a couple more in the works! I now have to get some snappy clues whipped up and then I'll send them to Will Shortz for his all-important approval.

I'm in town for the weekend catching up on some errands, stocking up on food, and hanging out with some volunteer friends. Time for burritos! Hope you are all well. Prosperity, Puzzles, and Peace. ~ Paka

1 comment:

switters said...

Great Blog, keep up the great work.

Darrell B.
Namibia PC 03-05

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