Saturday, December 17, 2005

You eat the feet?!?!

I’ve been in Africa for 36 days now, though I feel as if I’ve been here for months. So much has happened that it frustrates me to know that nothing I write now could ever do justice to this past month. That being said, here are my random thoughts:

  • When PC says, "Namibians are heavy meat eaters," they are vastly understating the truth. So far I’ve eaten sheep, goat, buffalo, donkey, pork belly, something they call "game", springbuck, goat head; more meat in the last month than I’ve eaten in the last 2 years combined.
  • Namibia is only 15 years old, which is easy to forget sometimes. The aftermath of apartheid is palpable; for the first time in my life, I’ve been the victim of racism.
  • So far, I’ve had shots for polio, yellow fever, MMR, HepA, HepB, meningitis, tetanus, and typhoid. As our PCMO Doren says, "Africa is trying to kill you."
  • I’ve found "the best cup of coffee in the middle of nowhere."
  • My host family laughs at me as I walk around their house, stop by each note I’ve posted naming different household objects in Afrikaans, and try to formulate sentences.
  • I’ve become friends with people here faster than I knew I was capable. As much as it blows my mind that my best friends and my family are over 7000 miles away from me, it amazes me that I’ve found some really great people here in Namibia who I feel will remain a part of my life long after this.
  • It is not easy to be a woman in Namibia.
  • My malaria pills give me dreams in Afrikaans and Khoekhoegowab (the click language).
  • In a country of only 1.8 million people, 1 in 4 Namibians are HIV positive. If you are not infected, you are absolutely affected.
  • It is springtime in Namibia. Here in Omaruru, the temperature dances around 105 degrees daily.
  • On my first day at work, I watched 2 sheep being slaughtered in the yard at my office.
  • Children here are infatuated with the idea of "America." They are always asking me, "What do Americans think about Namibia?" I don't know how to tell them that they don't.
  • The stars surround us at night. Africa showcases a different night sky.
  • I’ve walked completely through my sandals.
  • PST is hard; emotionally, physically, mentally-- it is hard.
  • As part of Damara tradition, my host family cooked goat head and feet two nights ago in preparation for a funeral. Caught slightly offguard, I questioned, "You eat the feet?!" My host grandmother and aunt, who speak only KKG, thought the words sounded so funny that they spent the remainder of the night laughing and saying over and over, "You eat the feet! You eat the feet!"
  • I’m in a group of 58 of the most interesting and unique people I’ve ever been around. Everyone has a story to tell. Stimulating? Of course. Overwhelming? You wouldn't believe it.
  • Namibia has the greatest disparity between rich and poor of any country in the world. Poverty here is unlike any poverty I’ve seen before.
  • I’ve taught my host brother and sister how to play UNO, and now they cheat to beat me by speaking to each other in KKG.
  • In small towns, it is critical to remember that everyone is watching and everyone is talking.
  • My quote for the moment, compliments of my great friend Luke: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." -Thoreau

    --Thanks to everyone who has been keeping me up to speed with news and well wishes from home. Communication here is close to impossible, so even if I don't respond, please know that you are greatly appreciated. Be well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's great to read your update. Congratulations on completing your first 36 days! I'm sure that you have had incredible challenges. On the food front, Gary, the meat eater, will be so proud of you, although I understand that you probably long for more fruits and veggies. We salute you for your fortitude and service. As my hubbie always says, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Be strong, be well. We think of and pray for you Caitlin. Sue & Gary

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your life sounds amazing. What an adventure! The exchanges you are having with your host family and kids are revealing, eh? We Americans really know nothing about third world poverty, not yet anyway. I dont' know how well I'd do with the food, though...goat feet and head?
I just returned from India where we ate nothing but mushy vegetables and legumes. That was hard enough. You're a real trooper and, with you there, lots of people will now learn about Namibia. You're doing a terrific job with even that. Have a very Merry, and unique, Christmas.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Is the first word that comes to my mind! As I have said before I have great respect for you. I am enjoying reading your accounts and can't wait to share this one with the kids! You know Patrick will find the food choices quite interesting! You remain in our daily thoughts and prayers. Have a very merry holiday season!

3:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caitlin, more than anyone I know, your new year promises to be the most exciting. As the year begins, you will be sworn in as a full-fledged peace corp volunteer. Congrats! We are so proud of you. Your work is important and makes a difference in the lives of many children. Thank you for making the world a better place. The classrooms of Namibia are fortunatete to have our Bia. Stay well and know that you are much loved. S

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a great beginning. Remember you have a cousin close by. We haven't heard from Casey since she left. Take Care and stay safe.

3:00 AM  

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