Ekulo, At Last!
Hello! How are you? So we greet everyone we see, but now it is in English, which is significantly quicker. We moved to Ekulo on Monday, Jan. 6, after our swearing-in ceremony. The ceremony, which is supposed to be a big deal (but for us was just another Peace Corps hoop to jump through) was held at the Ongwediva Trade Center, a very nice hall. There was a cultural group playing xylophones and three girls dancing. Then some official speeches, blah, blah, blah. Can you tell how deep my level of cynicism for the Peace Corps staff has gone? However, there were a few funny instances in the ceremony. For example, we all sang the Namibian national anthem just fine, then messed up on the American national anthem. The problem was that the music started abruptly and we thought it was an intro — then (too late) we realized it was the actual song, but at that point we had missed the entire first stanza.
After swearing in, the Peace Corps staff informed us that they still didn’t have our Peace Corps I.D.s, but they wanted to collect our passports anyway, and have us sign this form to be notarized by the police that would say we did have a passport (somewhere). It just astounds me that the Peace Corps is doing stuff like this down to the last minute. In the end, they didn’t get the police forms to us, so we just kept our passports. I don’t trust the Peace Corps with them. They take disorganization to a whole new level.
So our last morning all together was very chaotic. We tried to take a group photo, while we were running around signing forms, greeting our new principals, saying good-bye to our host families (who came to the ceremony) and saying good-bye to each other.
Then we drove with our principal back to the RDC to pick up all our stuff. Now, we had gone shopping on Saturday to buy stuff for our new house, so we had quite a lot of stuff. We loaded it all into the back of our principal’s pick-up (called “Bakkie” here) and headed down the road to our new home. We saw a lot of other volunteers along the road and at Shoprite where we stopped to pick up a few last-minute groceries (mainly cold stuff).
Let me tell you how nice it is to finally, FINALLY have our own place and not have to move out of it for two years. Now, living with other people is fun, and you all know we’ve been doing it for six months, but having our own place is like the best thing ever. It’s mainly the simple things we appreciate now, like being able to do whatever we want whenever we want.
The first thing we did was clean. The dust storms and bugs had taken their toll on the house since the VSO couple moved out a month ago. We spent our time gleefully arranging the house, organizing the kitchen, decorating, doing laundry… we were in domestic heaven! Cleaning the oven/stove wasn’t so fun though. That was more like domestic hell. Zac repaired all the screens — but even so, a lot of bugs get in the house every night — so I sweep them up every morning.
Then there’s the cat. It is the male Namibian version of Molly — meaning it’s really skinny and even more psycho. It sits outside our door (which is open) and meows as though it wants to come in. At some point, it decides that it can come in, then it constantly rubs on your feet (it likes to lick toes). The cat has no aversion to being stepped on. When we kick it out and close the doors for the night, it goes to all the windows meowing.
On our second day at Ekulo, the water went off for a couple of hours. Apparently this happens a lot.
On our third day at Ekulo, a random herd of pigs came by and we had to chase one out of our yard. We’re not sure if this happens a lot.
On our fourth day at Ekulo, I made a pot of popcorn. I will make sure this happens a lot.
It is now our fifth day at Ekulo. We are sitting in the staff room (and have been for the past 2 1/2 hours) awaiting a meeting that may occur at any time. No one is talking to us. I fear this may happen a lot.
Thus is our new life at Ekulo. We’ve escaped Peace Corps inefficiency and disorganization and entered into staff meeting inefficiency and disorganization. I’m beginning to think this is a Namibian thing. And sometimes, when I’m extra cynical, I think all people are inefficient and disorganized. But on an optimistic tone, what else do I have to do for the next two years? What’s the hurry? What’s the rush? It’s not like I’m missing anything.
I think during my two years here, I will reach a whole new level of spiritual detachment. Before I came, I had to detach myself from things, from comfort, from personal mobility (car), from people, from friends and family… but here I can reach the ultimate level. I can detach myself from time, from the very essence of life. Time is so loose and irrelevant here that you can begin to believe that it is infinite, that it doesn’t matter at all, that time was created for some other place, that it doesn’t apply here, that hours were meant to be spent sitting around waiting for possibly nothing to happen.
Consequently, we are developing many bad habits. For example, if I have a simple task to do, I will drag it out for as long as possible. I am becoming an anal perfectionist because I have the time for it. If anyone thought I was an organizational neat freak before (the only people thinking this are probably my college roommates), you have no idea the degree I have taken it to here. Because I have the time.
However, I am developing some good habits as well. For example, with no TV, movies or Internet, I read all the time. With stores so far away, I am more likely to try and make something myself than go buy it. Zac made a very impressive contraption of kite string (don’t leave home without it!) paper clips and safety pins that enables us to slide our mosquito net as needed. I am very proud of the clothespin bag I made out of a hanger, plastic lining and duct tape. (Did I mention that there is not much to do here?)
We are also working on becoming creative cooks. You can’t buy as much pre-made, pre-packaged stuff here, so we’re cooking from scratch, so to speak. Especially desserts. We’re probably going to be the only ones to go live in the middle of nowhere in Africa and actually come back fatter!
So, the teachers at the school are polite, and we go through the whole greeting thing, but after that they’re not very much interested in us. Maybe they just take a while to warm up. It doesn’t help that Zac and I aren’t the most outgoing people. In fact, I think I’ve become a lot shyer here. It’s hard to have confidence when you never know what’s going on. So think of us whenever a new person moves in or you meet a foreigner. Even if they appear to know what’s going on — they probably don’t and would love it if someone would just talk to them and help them know what’s going on.
This afternoon we’re going to Omuthiya (1 1/2-hour walk) to see what we can buy there. Then, whatever we can’t find we’ll buy in Ondongwa on Saturday. It’s mostly just things we need for the house. We can never buy too much though because we have to be able to carry it.
On Monday the learners will come and I have to do something with registration, but I don’t know what. The rest of the week is spent in a very inefficient, disorganized manner. I don’t even know what I’m teaching yet. I guess we start classes in earnest on Jan. 20, so hopefully I will know by then.
It is now 12 p.m. (we’ve been here for four hours) and the meeting still hasn’t happened. Aaaah, Namibia. Land of the brave.