Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Friday the 20th

A day in the life of a volunteer going to his shopping town on Friday the 20th (payday)

This country seems to change to a zoo around two times of the month: the 20th when government employees get paid. The end of the month when everyone else gets paid. It's like a werewolf in the presence of the full moon.


Usually I wait in the library for the combi to pick me up. Today didn't feel like a normal day. It's the 20th. The good news was that the grocery store was stocked this month in preparation for payday, unlike last month. Unfortunately neither they nor the OK had dark baking chocolate. So much for chocolate chip pancakes. Will need to substitute cappuccino chocolate for dark chocolate.


I got dropped off for some grocery shopping at 2:30pm and to pick up some contact solution. In 35 minutes I've finished everything I need to do. The waiting game begins! The time on my watch is 3:06pm.


I decide to walk around the streets of Keetmanshoop with my backpack. End up running into four of my grade ten learners from last year and some others who are St. Therese grads.


I walk to sit at the usual combi meeting place, adjacent to the Spar grocery store. As I stroll on the scene a fight breaks out between two drunks. The other people in the crowd don't look all that much better. I turned tail and decided to hang out in front of the post office and revise my Nama flashcards, texting the driver to pick me up there. Who'd start trouble in front of a post office? The phrase, “going postal” doesn't have the same context here.


The driver stops by after almost an hour to pick me up. Sitting in the combi I start to notice something. Thanks to a much harder than expected run during my 6th and 7th free periods, my digestive system was in fast-forward. I go out for runs when I have back-to-back free periods, that way I can stay in the library for learners in the afternoon for reading, research and computers. I also run according to how my body feels - great this day. Anyways, the words to best describe my issue were eminent and catastrophic.


We do a bunch of stops (like ten+) and then make our way back to Spar about two minutes before 5pm. The driver decides to do some grocery shopping after all, knowing that Spar in on winter hours (we're in the Southern Hemisphere) closes at 5pm. In a glaringly ironical moment the driver mutters that he's angry with people here and how they don't do things on time.


Tses people pile into the combi, including and extremely drunk (even by Namibian standards) guy, all of 20 years old. Two of his even drunker friends are right behind him, threatening to beat him up for something he did earlier. One guy keeps banging on the window while we wait for the combi driver to return. We waited for almost 30 minutes. I run into one of my non-PC friends and catch up with life after not seeing each other since March. Meanwhile, the extremely drunk guy's mother exits the combi and gets in the face of the drunk friends. She nearly takes them to town, pushing one of them and almost slapping the other one. The driver finally shows up, unconcerned about recent events.


We finally head back to Tses. The extremely drunk guy started acting strange, kicking the window and some other things. He kept falling on me as we were heading home, so I told him a few things in Nama. The sober people in the combi busted out in laughter, especially my learners and colleagues knowing I don't speak Khoekhoegowab often. Effectively, what I did could translate in English to 'you got served'! I turn up the volume on my iPod and play the soundtrack to the movie Swingers. Dean Martin possesses a disarming power in the song You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You, unlike Motley Crue and Looks that Kill.


I was supposed to be back at the hostel to supervise the Tses Girls Club Movie Night, starting at 6:30pm. We finally left Keetmanshoop at 7:14pm. Thankfully the principal decided to reschedule it for Saturday night. I didn't find out that my club was going to do a movie night until that morning. To think that I passed up a trip to Windhoek for a Harry Potter party for all that? Missing out on a chocolate scone and mint tea at the Craft Centre and then to the mall for The American Fudge Factory?


Speaking of Khoekhoegowab earlier, a couple weeks ago an elderly Nama couple were walking in front of the library as I was telling my class to enter. I accidentally said !gû to my learners instead of go (!gû = go in America talk). The couple quickly turned around, probably in shock, stared at me and smiled. Words fail to describe the moment. It's right up there with the time during training in Omaruru when a group of us went to the Lutheran Church in the location. Enter Dr. Emmett Brown, Mary McFly, a DeLorean, 1.21 gigawatts and the line, “The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”


We're back to PST 2005 in Omaruru, seven Peace Corps volunteers going to Sunday Lutheran service in the location. We walk in and the people there are so welcoming. Children and adults just stare and smile at us and we smile back. Midway through the service, unexpectedly, the pastor calls all of us (the only white people there, by the way) up front about halfway through the service to introduce ourselves. Visitors are not anonymous here. Some of us do our introductions in English or in Afrikaans. At my turn I risk it, not very confident in my Khoekhoe and say, “!Gai //goas.” The congregation erupts in applause. Then go into, “Ti /ons ge a Mike. Tita ge Minnesota za hu ra hâ. Tita ge Tses !nâ //an h
â," the phrases we'd learnt the previous week - Good morning. My name is Mike. I'm from Minnesota. I live in Tses.

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