We arrived a little after 8am to find the trainers and a few host families already setting up their cooking fires. All the cooking was done outside the town hall, so mostly the fires were on the ground plus one grill area (literally a cement block with a grating over it). There were a couple chickens wandering around (not for long…) and mysterious bowls of meat at almost every table. We split up by language groups for the cooking, but roamed around a lot to see what everyone was doing!
Catching and killing the chickens was pretty much first on the list of things to do. I did not participate in either of these events, although I did watch the catching part, which was hilarious! While most of our group watched the chicken slaughtering, I was busy washing the pork skins for our stew. I regretted asking what I could do to help when they assigned me that one.
The first food to be finished and tried was the mopane worms. These basically look like slugs or caterpillars, a couple inches long and about a centimeter thick. I watched a group try them before I went for it – they all managed to swallow so I figured I could do it. Dylan had no trouble other than saying it was a little chewy. And after I tried it, I had to agree. They’re really not that bad IF you can forget what it looked like before you put it in your mouth. Which is rather a tall order. I won’t be eating them again soon, but if I have to I probably can manage one or two.
Another major project going on was the fish cleaning. It took about 5 different people at least a couple of hours to cut off the fins and scales and take out whatever parts of the insides you’re not supposed to eat. That fish was later kind of mushed/cut up and put in a stew. I’m afraid I didn’t even try that one (neither did Dylan).
Once the various meats (including beef, lamb, sausage, chicken, game of some kind, goat, and fish) were in the pots, everyone started making their bread products. At the Afrikaans table we made “rooster brood” or grilled bread. Basically you make little balls of dough and cook them around the edge of the grill. Not a lot of flavor, but good bread. Most of the other groups made fat cakes, which I have already described in detail. One other group actually made loaf bread, which tasted kind of like sour dough bread. Thank goodness for all these bread products later when we ate our meal!
The cooking took a looong time. We didn’t actually get the tables set up and everything ready to serve until about 1:00 – five hours after starting! We were all pretty hungry by that time. The trainees were served first (later we have a day where the trainees cook American food for the trainers and host families) and I feel like my plate was heaped mostly with strange bits of meat. I did say no to some things – the fish, lamb, and cow stomach (which I had had a small bite of earlier – not good). On the other hand I said yes to a bit of smiley (goat head) and was given the NOSE of the goat. In the end, Dylan ate that and I had a little bite of someone else’s smiley part (maybe part of a cheek?).
We also had two drinks to try – sour milk and a fermented grain drink. We had similar drinks in Rwanda that I didn’t enjoy much so I excused myself from the sour milk tasting. Dylan had both drinks and said he could probably manage a glass of the grain stuff if he had to, but not the sour milk!
The best things were by far all the breads – the rooster brood, fat cakes, dumplings, and loaf bread. I tried to alternate bites of meat with bites of bread. I think the general consensus from the group is that we can’t handle cow stomach or mopane worms or certain parts of the goat head. But we did really well trying everything!
It was a long day Monday waiting for this information, but now we know where we’ll be living and working for the next two years! While we were in session, the trainers used string to outline a map of Namibia in the sand outside the training center. They used rocks to mark major cities and all of our placements (a paper was under each rock with the name of the town), then they gave us a folder with a description of our site and e had to go find it and stand on it. It was a really cool visual way of seeing where you are in relation to everyone else.
Dylan and I are going to be living in… (drumroll please) …Tsumeb! Tsumeb is a pretty large town (for Namibia) similar to the town we’re in now for training. It’s about four and a half hours north of Windhoek, just to the east of Etosha National Park (Namibia’s big game reserve). Everyone we talked to – the trainers, the PCV’s, our host mom – said Tsumeb is one of the most beautiful towns in Namibia. It’s also fairly well developed, so the house we’ll be living in (with another PCV from the group before us) will have running water and electricity.
Now, this is a huge coincidence (or God-directed happening), because we actually know (or kind of know) a Nazarene missionary couple who live in Tsumeb and who have lived in Namibia for decades. We haven’t actually met them, but know of them through my family’s work with Nazarene missions. We contacted them when we arrived in Namibia, and today were able to tell them we’ll be living in their town! At least we know there’ll be a church there. =)
We also know a bit more about our schools. Dylan will be teaching grades 8-10 at a combined school and I’ll be teaching grades 6-7 at a primary school. Both our schools are fairly big. It sounds like we’ll both be involved in computer training at our schools in addition to teaching, and it looks like I’ll have some math classes as well as English! I’ll be getting help from Dylan on that one. To some extent we won’t really know what our schools are asking of us until we get there and talk to the principal – which will happen next week when we go for site visit.
Our group is definitely spread out all over Namibia. We have people all the way down in Luderitz and Bethanie, which are almost in South Africa, and then people in the Kavango region all the way to the northeast, and everywhere in between. I think everyone is pretty excited to know their sites and even more excited to go visit this weekend! Our supervisors will be coming here to our training to pick us up and take us back to site on Saturday. We’ll spend Monday-Wednesday at our schools, and then we’ll be making our way back to training by ourselves on Thursday.
In the meantime we have our mid-term Language Proficiency Interviews on Wednesday this week – I keep forgetting about it because it’s so overshadowed by finding out our sites and all. We’ll have to keep up a conversation in Afrikaans and be graded on our progress so far. We haven’t actually had a lot of conversation practice – we’ll often start a conversation with our host mom in Afrikaans, but it very quickly turns to English because her English is far better than our Afrikaans. So this should be a good progress check for us as well, to see how we do conversing with a random person.
By the way, I love reading through emails and comments on the blog even if I don’t have enough internet time to respond. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!