Top Ten Things I've Learned about Namibia (so far!)

After one month in Namibia, WorldTeach volunteer Bryan Belous was ready to compile a list of the top ten things he has learned about life in his new home (so far!).

1. In a previous post I said that Namibians are generally quite soft spoken. I lied. In fact, I think it was a grievous lie. People in Omatjete are loud and boisterous. My favorite is when people yell greetings to each other across the street. Back home if you pass someone on the sidewalk you might say hello (emphasis on might). Here you apparently say (yell?) hello to anyone and everyone you meet.

2. Straight talk. It seems that people in this town don’t beat around the bush when it comes to saying what they think – at least that’s been the case at my school. Staff meetings are always interesting when colleagues argue with each other over random things. And the presence of a person doesn’t seem to determine whether something is said or not – if you did something wrong, I will let you know, and if you are not there, I will let everyone else know! This one also seems to be true for the learners. I don’t think I’ve heard a learner say, “Please sir, may I borrow a pen?” I have, on the other hand, been commanded several times to, “Give me a pen.”

3. African time. The word “now” has three main uses: “now, now, now”,  “now, now”, and “now!” Haha. Let me clarify. One “now” means that something will take place in the future, usually with a tinge of “it may or may not actually happen.” “Now, now” means yes, it will probably happen, but not immediately. And “now, now, now” means that whatever it is will actually happen right away.

Besides the varied uses of the word ‘now’, people are not too worried about time. I can’t say that I’ve noticed anything ever starting on time here.

4. Fat cakes might be the best food ever. Basically, a fat cake is like a giant deep-fried Timbit. They show up here and there at school and I have yet to refuse one. My goal in the next month is to learn how to make them.

5. Sometimes I feel like Old Macdonald had a farm and all the animals escaped and are hiding out in Omatjete. Donkeys, goats, chickens, cows, etc can be found on any given day in any given place. My personal favorite is waking up to the roosters at around 5:15 am every morning, without fail. The only bad part is that you can’t hit snooze.

6. One of my favorite things about Omatjete is living right next to the school hostel. From about 5:30 am until around 8:00 pm I can constantly hear the sounds of children at play. This generally takes the form of one of several things – children singing, laughing, dancing to some improvised rhythm, playing soccer (often with plastic bags that have been tied into a ball), or chasing after one another. When I use the washroom I usually get a wave from those nearest the fence separating my home from theirs. I am constantly amazed at how these children live with such apparent joy given their circumstances – 150 kids staying in two small classrooms, sleeping on the floor with nothing but an old blanket/sheet and, if they’re lucky, a small foamy; eating three meals of porridge everyday, a few sharing from one container and all using their hands; etc... I will write a whole post about the hostel in the near future. Stay tuned…

7. I’ve figured out how to cope with the freezing cold water that I use to shower. When I wake up in the morning, I stick my head under the freezing cold water just to wet my hair and wash my face and I wait until evening to have an actual shower. By then the water is slightly less frigid because the sun has had the day to heat it up.

8. Doing laundry by hand is always interesting. It takes forever! Haha. Also, I never fail to get some passerby that stops to point out that I’m doing laundry by hand. I have learned only this week that I’ve been washing the wrong way. Apparently the technique I’ve been using is more common with the Ovambo people in the north and stretches your shirts. The Herero people use a different technique that keeps your clothing in pristine condition. I’ve also learned that you should hang your laundry inside out so that the dust can’t coat the outside of it while it dries. I have progressed, however, to the point where I can do laundry and not be soaked by the time I’m finished.

9. Sunsets, clouds, and sand. The natural beauty of this place is very apparent to me. Yet there is certain harshness to it. The sand will burn your feet, the trees all have thorns, and the sun will fry you in no time at all, but there is a strange splendor to it all.

10. The people are wonderful. As much as I don’t always understand what is going on and as much as that frustrates me, the people here have never failed to be kind, welcoming, and friendly to me. Everyone says hello, asks how I’m doing, asks how I like Omatjete, and checks to see how I’m getting along. Even complete strangers will strike up a conversation about everything from teaching at school to Donovan Bailey. It makes life a little less intimidating to know that there will always be someone who will help you along your way. I only hope I will become a little more like them.

***I’m actually not sure if these are the TOP ten things about life here. They are only the ten that came to mind as I was writing this. Ask me again in a year and I’ll probably have a better idea about what should be on this list!

We would venture to add one more thing to the list...

11. Living in Namibia as a WorldTeach volunteer is an amazing experience AND there's still time to apply! Applications for our Namibia summer and semester programs are accepted until April 15. Click here for more information!

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