So on Saturday morning we hiked out of Tsumeb to Grootfontein and from there on to Rundu, crossing the red line for the first time. There was a very noticeable difference on the other side. Literally seconds after crossing, we saw our first huts, donkeys, and herds of cattle crossing the road, none of which exists below the red line. As we drove we regularly saw huts and cattle along the road, but there are no towns until you get to Rundu.
Rundu is the main town in Kavango region, right across the river from Angola. It’s a pretty big place, and to us it seemed like the town just sprawled every which way. If you come to Tsumeb, there’s one main street with all the shops, cafes, post office, etc. Rundu seemed much more spread out and I was never really sure where the main part of it was. It was also very sandy. We’re used to walking on paved roads and side walks around here (we are so spoiled) and although many of the roads in Rundu were paved, I don’t think I saw any sidewalks.
We paid a visit to the open market where we had some fried chicken and bought some gitenges (the African cloth women wear as kind of a skirt). We ran into several other volunteers over the course of the weekend (lots of people travelled since we had Friday and Monday off school). We were impressed by the Rundu Pick ‘n Pay (grocery store) as it seemed to have several things our stores don’t stock!
Our final destination was actually a village about 100 km west of Rundu, where we were visiting our friend Kyla, another volunteer. Even though it’s only 100 km away, the drive can take up to 2 hours due to unexpected stops, or cattle crossing, or just plain slow driving – which was the case with our ride. It actually took slightly over two hours for us to cover that 100 km! At least the view was nice – we continued to see homesteads along the road, and most of the way we were following the Kavango River, which divides Namibia and Angola.
We got to the village just before dark. A village (as far as I could tell) consists of the homesteads (homesteads are collections of huts) spread over a few kilometers of the road, with lots of grass and fields between. We mostly walked single file on footpaths between buildings/homesteads. The village we were in had a school and a church and a small convenience shop, but it was one of the more developed villages.
Kyla stays in teacher housing rather than on a homestead, so we still had the amenities of running water and electricity. We had lentil tacos for dinner, which were surprisingly decent (meat is hard to transfer to the village from Rundu in the heat). We opted not to go to the 10pm Easter Eve service at the church because we were all half asleep, but we did get to go the next morning (as it turned out, the 10pm service went till after 2am so we were really glad we didn’t go!).
The village actually has a beautiful brick church, which is part of the Catholic mission that runs the health clinic and some other things in the village. The service was all in Rukwangali so we didn’t understand a thing, but several of the songs were translated from the English so we could at least hum along. There was a lot of standing and kneeling, and I’m not sure there was ever actually a sermon.
Fortunately, Kyla had taught us the Rukwangali greeting the night before so we were ready to respond to all the people who greeted us! It doesn’t sound like a conversation at all, more like a bunch of sounds:
Person A (elder): Nawa
Person B (younger): Eeee (long e)
Person A: Aaaa (long a)
Person B: Awo (short a, long o)
Person A: Eeee (long e)
Person B: Nawa
Person A: Nawa
We got pretty good at it. =)
After church we went to visit Kyla’s host family on their homestead. We brought Easter eggs full of candy which were a big hit, and hung out with the kids singing and dancing (the kids dancing, not us). The family prepared a meal of macaroni and chicken for us, which Kyla told us was a very fancy meal. Oddly enough, apparently it’s seen as rude to watch people eat, so after they brought us our plates of food, the whole family left and went to another part of the homestead!
After eating we went back to Kyla’s house and attempted to dye Easter eggs – however as were working with brown eggs they didn’t turn out as well as we might have liked. We also frosted some sugar cookies, which worked much better. Periodically Kyla had to get up to chase cows out of the yard (apparently one of them ate some stuff she had hanging on the clothesline one day) and once she had to chase a chicken out of the bathroom (we were sitting with the door open). Ah, true village life! We made ourselves an Easter dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans. Delicious! We spent the rest of the evening playing cards (Kyla taught us Set and Five Crowns, both good games) and eating our cookies and chocolate (chocolate courtesy of a care package from Kyla’s family).
On Monday we got up early to hike back down to Tsumeb. We left Tondoro about 8am and arrived home in Tsumeb a little after 2pm, which was not bad at all – but the long ride from Rundu to Grootfontein (250km) was spent very uncomfortably in the back of a pick up truck with two other people. Dylan and I both used our new gitenges to keep from getting sunburned as much as possible. I imagine we looked a little silly.
So now we have officially seen the north, although Kavango is supposed to be pretty different from O-land (the four O regions directly north of us) so we’ll have to make another trip there to compare. It definitely would have been a very different Peace Corps experience if we had been assigned to a village. We appreciated all the comforts of our townie location when we got home. =)
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