24 September, 2013

A fish and a tortoise

I had been accepted to join 2 PC committees - the HIV/AIDS and VSN (Volunteer Support Network) Committees – and had been in Windhoek for almost a week. We stayed in a backpackers' hostel (which I really enjoyed), had meetings everyday, fast internet access (I was able to video skype my mom – which was so nice, because it had been a while), malls to browse through, football (soccer) and world news to watch on the telly, taxis at our disposal – if we so chose to not walk the pavement, things to purchase (I bought a guitar!!), nice restaurants and wine to enjoy and hot showers to take. I felt like a westerner again. Well, I guess I never STOPPED feeling like a westerner. I guess I've adjusted to village life so much, that I would even find myself straying into any patches of sand on the ground, while walking around town. Or completely comfortable with eating with my hands – with no napkin. And frustrated with the fact that I couldn't see the stars in the sky at night, while in the city. Yeah, I guess you'd say I had slowly integrated into the village life.

But living a “western” lifestyle for a short time had it's perks. Shaving my legs was much easier in the shower than while taking a bucket bath. My mom and I were able to SEE each other – AND I got to see my little Murray (my cat) as well, and catch up. Life moved quicker – I could get from point A to point B in no time! I found a guitar NOT at a china shop. I was able to update the software on my computer and post videos for my last 2 blog posts. I even ate sushi! And a glass of wine is good for the soul, at least this soul :)

But now it was time to head back to my family. Who I really missed! And work. And the puppies – Tet and Cleo!

Usually, when I leave the village to head south to Windhoek, I can get there in a day (depending on how long I have to wait for transportation). But generally, on my way back up north, it takes me 2 days to get into my village – at least, if I want to get there before sundown – which is always the case. So, on Wednesday, Sam and I headed back up north. We finally got to Ondangwa, which is where the regional PC office is – internet, mailboxes, etc. It was getting late, and I didn't want to risk standing on the side of the road into my village in the dark, so I stayed overnight. The next day, I went to the taxi “hub” in Ondangwa, where I'm guaranteed a ride, at least to my next stop (after Ondangwa, I have 2 more stops before getting into the village). As I sat in the taxi, and waited for it to fill up (the drivers tend to want their cars full before driving away – so sometimes, you can wait a while), I suddenly felt sad. It's back to my hut, and bucket baths, and dirt, and no-matter-how-much-you-scrub-your-feet-they-seem-to-always-be-dirty(sandy), and traditional food, and my own small meals I cook that always end up going bad after a day and so I've wasted the little money I have. But I am also going back to my wonderful family, and the Namibian sky. And honestly, I like my hut and home and work. I just make sure I have a few things that remind me of being a westerner – Starbucks coffee (with a French Press) and the puppies.

Namibians don't consider their dogs to be part of the family. They are there to help guard the house. Although, my family has named our dogs and we feed them pretty well. But still, they don't pet the dogs or play with them. I tried playing fetch one time with Snoop, and he didn't quite get the concept. Anyway, we have Snoop and Penny. And Penny had puppies. I'm not sure I ever put the pictures up on this blog, but at the bottom, is a slide show of them. There were 7 total, born on June 7. We gave all but 2 away – Tet and Cleo. Tet's name comes from “tete”, which means “first” in Oshikwanyama. Tet was the first-born – right outside my hut. And I made the thing cry for over a half hour, before saving her, so I kind of felt responsible for her. So my family kept her :)

See, while Penny had been pregnant, she started sleeping at night close to my hut. My family said that when it was time to give birth, she'd probably do it there. I guess she felt safe near me. Anyway, this one night, I had trouble falling asleep. I had gotten used to hearing the donkeys and goats and roosters and cattle. But around 11:30 that night, I kept hearing this crying sound that wouldn't stop. It sounded like it was coming from the field behind my hut. I thought “oh my gosh, will it ever shut up??” I was trying to sleep! I finally got up, and looked out of one of my windows. Ok, now the sound seemed to be coming from the other field across the way, at least I thought. I laid back down. It would not stop crying. I considered going outside to check on this animal. But then, I thought “Johanna. What are you going to do if you find a goat or donkey with some problem?? You have no clue how to handle these animals! You're from NY – NOT the village.” Eventually, the crying went away. I tried to fall asleep. Then it started back up. I couldn't take it. And then I remembered – Penny is pregnant. Now, I've never been around a pregnant dog, have no clue how long the pregnancy lasts, and definitely had never seen puppies being born. So, around midnight, I got up, grabbed my flashlight, and opened the door to my hut. The crying was coming from my right side – right next to my hut. I turned the flashlight in that direction, and there she was. A tiny little puppy, struggling in the sand – with the sac still attached! She was the only one. And where is Penny?? Maybe it's another dog's baby?? All of a sudden, Snoop came up to me, wagging his tail like he always does. So I whispered for Penny. And here she comes – jumping up on me like she always does! Ok, this doesn't look like a dog who just gave birth. And to just one?? There's got to be more! And then I thought, I don't know much about animals, but I remember hearing that if a mother senses a human's touch on their baby, she may not go back to it. But again, I have no clue. I decided to wake up Nafimane. I knocked on his door, and said “Nafimane, I think Penny just had a puppy!” He followed me over to the puppy, and tried to get Penny to go to it. She wouldn't. So he wrapped the puppy and sac up in a shirt, and carried her to a spot on the homestead, and again, tried to get Penny to go to it and clean it. She wouldn't. So, we brought the puppy into his hut and he put a rope around Penny's neck and dragged her inside. Finally, she started cleaning it. Then, all of a sudden, Nafimane said “here comes another”! And Penny proceeded to have 3 more! They were precious! With their eyes shut, and shaking from the cold, they were crying and trying to huddle together near their mother. And Penny was actually really enjoying being a mom. She became very protective. This was my first dog birth!! It seemed she was done, so I left and went to bed – with a huge smile on my face! I couldn't wait to see them in the morning!

That next day, I went to Nafimane's room – Penny had 3 more – a total of 7 puppies!!! Some white with black or brown spots, 2 all-black, 1 black with some brown. How sweet they were! Over time, we named all of them –
Bear - Nafimane thought it looked like my dog from home, so we named her after my Bear
Ngwan – as in “ngwangwana” - which means “confused”. This poor puppy always seemed lost and confused!
Black Mamba – the all-black one. Nafimane chose this name after the deadly snake, here in our neck of the woods
Cleo – he was white with brown spots, acting like a little devil – barking at everything. He was learning lots from following Snoop around, and how to be a guard dog. My little brother, Hedimbi, and nephew, Junior, named him
Johanna – well, we joked about this name. She was white with pale brown spots. She was the “oshilumbu” of the gang. “Oshilumbu” means “white person”
Tet – as explained earlier – the first-born
#7 – we gave him away very early on, before we could come up with a suitable name

We all pitched in to feed these puppies, because after a while, they were sucking the life out of Meme Penny, and she was becoming extremely thin. So, we started feeding them milk, and eventually soft porridge. All but 2 were given away to other family members. Only Tet and Cleo were left. They greeted me every morning, jumping up on me, and getting in the way of my feet, to the point where I felt like I was constantly kicking them, by mistake of course! They would greet me when I came home at the end of the day. And at night, while sitting by the fire, they would lay down under my legs. I guess they felt protected. And Tet would always try to jump up on me. Really, all she wanted was my lap. As soon as I put her there, she would calm down. And one cold night, poor Cleo was shivering. So, while we were sitting at the fire, I put him inside my hoodie to keep him warm. My family would roll their eyes. They couldn't believe I was treating these dogs this way! So, after realizing that these dogs are THEIR dogs (although I would LOVE a dog, I had NO intention of taking one back with me to the States), I decided that I'd better calm down with the love. These dogs needed to learn how to be a dog in a village. For this family. But every once in a while, when no one was watching, I'd pet and play with Tet and Cleo! And actually, the day I left for Windhoek, Tet followed me all the way to the clinic. I decided I'd better take her back, or she may never find her way back. And when we got close to the house, I could tell she realized where she was – and started running faster and further away from me. And then she would stop, and turn around to make sure I was still coming. What a cutie!

Ok, back to my taxi ride....

We finally left. And as we were driving, we passed something laying in the road. The driver turned around to go back and see what it was. Actually, all the cars started turning around. It was a dead puppy in the middle of the road. It broke my heart! And everyone in the car was laughing. So now, here I am, numb with emotion – having to go back to the village, and just heart-broken now from the puppy that had been hit – and having to mask my emotions because the Namibians were all laughing, and just wouldn't understand this oshilumbu's reaction. Thank God for my sunglasses.

And so onto the next taxi ride – after being pulled in every direction by the taxi drivers to go in THEIR car. I eventually made it back to my homestead. I really did miss this place. But a part of me felt somewhat down. I'm sure this would change – after a day or 2 being home, I'd be back in my groove.

I greeted my Meme, Nongula, Tuuli and the 2 little ones – Tuuli (little Tuuli) and Jaden. It was really nice to see their smiles again. We quickly caught up on each others' week. Then, I asked where the puppies were. Meme said “They are dead”, in a very nonchalant sort-of way. I thought she was joking. I smiled and said, “Meme – this is not funny!” She said “Yeah, they are dead. They died a few days ago.” WHAT??????!!!!! I asked what happened! Still in shock that she was serious. Still waiting for the punchline. I thought she was playing a joke on me! And here is where the language barrier can become very frustrating. Between Meme, Nafimane and Anna, I believe I got the whole story. Apparently, a few nights ago, some animal got to them. I asked “What kind of animal?” They said “A bear.” A BEAR??? In the village?? I asked some of my co-workers, and apparently there is some sort of “bear-like” animal that is around this time of year. Anyway, it got to the puppies – probably because they were not fast or strong enough to get away. And I think it bit them, or something. Nafimane said maybe it was a poison. I thought, ok, maybe a snake??? This American is lost, when it comes to getting this whole story. Well, the next day, Cleo was vomiting blood and then died. On Wednesday, the day before I came back, the same thing happened with my sweet little Tet.

Ugh. Ok, it's official. I was sad. Very sad. And I had to hold back my tears.

And everything I was doing on the homestead for the rest of that night and the next day, reminded me of them. Even when I went to sleep, I swear I heard little high-pitched barks – like Tet and Cleo always made at night.

I couldn't let my family know how sad I was. They just wouldn't understand. They would probably laugh at me. And I know that they're laughing wouldn't have been out of being mean – but instead, just making light of the situation, and kind of making fun of me. They would think it's funny that any human would be upset over the loss of a puppy, or animal, for that matter.

It's now my second day back to the village. I'm feeling better about the village life, itself. And at the clinic yesterday, a Prevention (HIV) Officer from the nearby hospital stopped by to talk with me. He wants my help with some of the projects! So work has got my mind re-focused again – with even more possible exciting things I can do.

And Tet and Cleo – well, you are very missed by this oshilumbu....

And even Snoop and Penny seem a little down these days...and Nafimane told me Snoop has been looking for them in the mornings....

And apparently this bear-like animal came back the other night....

But there ARE really good things going on in my world as well... :)

And such is life. I just hope Penny doesn't get pregnant again.....

Here is one of the last pictures I took of the 2 cuties! (I'll post more pictures of the puppies once I get better internet access :) 
Cleo is on the left, and the black-spotted one is Tet :)

~ Oshi ya twa numwe noshima ~
A fish is cooked with a tortoise.
(i.e. You have to take the bad things with the good.)

17 September, 2013

Making Omalodu (traditional beer)

And now for the making of Omalodu...the Owambo traditional beer!
My family gave me my own bucket of sorghum to make this beer. Below, in the slide show, I explain all of the steps. Once the sorghum is beaten off the stalks (like the mahangu in the previous post), it takes about 3 or 4 days to make. Because there is no sugar or anything else added, it's not alcoholic...though it seems it fermented a tiny bit....

And below this picture slide show, are 2 videos!


Here is a slide show of the steps in making the Owambo traditional beer, Omalodu:

Here is a short video of a few of the steps to turn the sorghum grain into a fine flour. It's called "pounding". The kids from the village would laugh at this white girl trying to do this! It's pretty difficult, but I told my niece, Tuuli, that I want to help pound mahangu or sorghum anytime they are doing it as well...because this American needs much more practice!

And a video of Meme trying my omalodu for the first time:

14 September, 2013

Beating Mahangu

Here are some pictures and a video of my first attempt at beating mahangu. Mahungu is a grain (millet) that is used for soft porridge, oshifima (a harder porridge – almost like hard mashed potatoes), oshikundu (a drink), traditional “bread” (made with some sugar and salt – no yeast, and either fried or boiled in a plastic bag), and many other things I'm sure we haven't even had yet! After it's been harvested, the grain needs to come off the stalks. I know there are machines that do this, but that costs money, and so most people, at least here in the village, BEAT it. After this beating, then it is pounded into a fine flour. I will have another blog post with a video of me attempting to pound sorghum, along with some pictures, during the process of making the traditional beer, omalodu.

But for this post – it's all about mahangu!

Here are some pictures of the day I helped. We all went out into the field to help – me, my brother and sister, my niece and a few other kids from the village – all helping in this process. After the long day of work in the sun, we cooked food for all the kids – they sure worked hard! Now, before you watch the video, understand that this was my first time. These kids are experts! The motion is a weird one – sort of like a golf swing or a slap shot in hockey – with no follow-through. And I was really watching these kids to try to do it the same way – but, well, no such luck this first time. Maybe next season.....

my brother and sister, Nafimane & Anna
I told them I wanted to help this particular day. They laughed. They warned me that my skin would probably itch from the dust of the mahangu, and that my hands were too soft (they say this alllll the time! They would even let me get near the fire for a while – they said my hands and skin had to “roughen up” a bit). Anyway, they were right – my neck was itchy afterwards, and I was only able to beat the mahangu for a short time, before I developed blisters on my hands....

my brother, Nafimane

Ahhh...but I'm slowly building up the skin on my hands, and so maybe next season will be better....

One more thing to note about this day...

As we were out in the field, under the hot Namibian sun, listening to some fun Namibian music on the radio, working our butts off, a plane flew overhead....

They said “Oh look! The President is in town....”

My village is next to the President's....and I had this moment thinking, “wow – what a dichotomy...here we are in the field, laboring over harvest....and there is the President, flying high above us, in his private jet....”
In Namibia's National Anthem, there is a line “Contrasting, beautiful Namibia...” - and this is just one of the many examples I've witnessed, bringing truth to this line in the song....

05 September, 2013

Update on Food Challenge....


I want to hear from all of you!!
Did you try the Food Challenge for a week??

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read all about it here:

And for those who have tried it, 
I would LOVE to hear all about your experience, thoughts, ideas, etc....

Leave your comments at the end of this post, or, if you'd rather let me know privately, you can use the Contact Form on left-hand column, near the bottom of the page,

Happy Eating!!

03 September, 2013

Pig Drama

Just a quick update...because I know you are all on the edge of your seats to find out the rest of the saga of the pig:

Yesterday morning, Nafimane (my brother) brought her home.....

But there are no piglets with her....


I'm hoping to dig a little deeper into this story and find out more details....

Stay tuned....


p.s. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read all about it here: (click on these links) Part I and Part II 

p.p.s. oshingulu = pig in Oshikwanyama

02 September, 2013

Sweets & Gifts

Here in Namibia, a “sweet” is ANY kind of candy – hard candy, chocolate, cookies, etc. And children LOVE sweets. Here in the village, they really don't eat many – there are some hard candies in the cuca shops, and cookies and other sweets in the shopping town, but people don't usually spend the little money they have on these treats.

Well, every time I walk by the headman's house and say hello to the children, they greet me back...and then ask for sweets. Well, actually, when they translate to English, they more or less tell me “Give us sweets”. So, one day, I told them next time I went to town, I would get some for them. When I finally saw them again, it was during their exam week. I told them, after exams, they would get their sweets. Finally, it was that Friday – the last day of exams, and I gave them a package of lollipops! They loved them....

This past weekend, I went to Ongwediva for the Annual Trade Fair. There were lots and lots of booths set up by Namibian businesses, universities and government agencies. My reasoning for going, was to be able to speak with people from the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Water & Sanitation. I wanted to find out my options for possibly getting seeds, a fence and a water pipe for our clinic garden. I was told that I actually may get some help (free, or close to free, of charge) with these items. Success!! Now, is follow-up time, to actually make sure this can happen....

Anywho, after talking with them, I walked around outside, browsing all the booths that were selling little items. Many of these booths carried the same items – we call them “China shop” items. All around Namibia, people from China have come and set up shops. They carry anything from clothes, to mattresses (very thin ones), to bags, to plates, to blank cds, to solar panels, to wardrobes to hang your clothes, to sunglasses, to toys – and everything in between. The quality is, well, not the best, but they are usually inexpensive, and sometimes you can do a little haggling, and get a better deal...

Well, one of the booths had these little bags that I've been wanting to get for my brother, Nafimane. He's a soccer player, and one day was playing soccer at school with some of the teachers – withOUT his shoes. And, of course, he came home, limping. I told him, that if you're a soccer player, you need to carry your shoes with you at all times! Ha! He laughed. Well, I wanted to get him this little bag to carry his shoes with him...and I finally found it. So, of course, after that, I realized that the rest of the kids, AND my older sister, AND my Meme, would feel bad if I didn't get them anything. So, here goes Johanna – shopping at the trade fair for the whole family! I found a little phone holder for Meme, because the puppies have ruined the one I made her. Then some earrings for my sister Anna (32yo), sunglasses for little Jaden (1yo), little slingshots for Hedimbi (11yo) and Junior (5yo) (they LOVE Angry Birds – so I thought I'd get them their own slingshots), and a play phone for little Tuuli (Nongula's daughter), who is 2 years old.

Then I needed to get something for my niece, Tuuli, who is 15 and Nongula, who is the girl who watches little Jaden during the day. I decided to get them each some nail polish – one sparkly purple, and red for the other.

Since I came back from the weekend, I only gave out some of the gifts – to those who were around. I was waiting to give Tuuli and Nongula theirs later today, or tomorrow. There is another girl from the village who is staying with us. I had no clue she was going to be here, and so I didn't get her anything, and felt it would be best to hand out Tuuli and Nongula's gift AFTER she left. Of course, I have no idea when she is leaving. Sometimes, it seems, children will stay with other families for a few days – and my Meme is friends with her parents. So, maybe there is a reason she is with us....

Well, this morning, before I went to work, Tuuli said “Miss Johanna. You said you had gifts for us.” Ugh. I felt really bad doing this in front of the other girl. So, I went into my hut, took the nail polish, and gave them their gifts (Tuuli and Nongula were so happy). As I did this, I told the girl, I was sorry I didn't have anything for her – but next time, I will get her something. She said “ok”, but looked sad. It broke my heart. So I said “Wait one minute – I will be right back.” And I went back to my hut. I was going to give her my own nail polish. See, after being in sports medicine and then massage for the last almost 20 years, and unable to grow my nails, I decided I was going to start growing them and looking like a girl, and maybe even paint them! Well, of course, just when I decide to get all girled-up, I come to a country where we eat with our hands. And having nails, just becomes a very messy problem. So, the nail polish that I had brought with me, I really don't NEED. And if I want, I can always get more. I grabbed 3 colors – blue, purple, and a clear, sparkly one. I was going to let her choose 1 color.

As I brought them to her, she at first got very excited and thought she could have all 3. I told her she could pick just one color. Then, of course, I realized, you don't show these kids something and then tell them they CAN'T have it. (Maybe, if I was a mother, and had children of my own, or had worked more with children, I would have already known this fact!). She looked down and a little sad. So, I said “Ok – you can all have and SHARE all of these!” These girls so soooooo excited! They were jumping and dancing and singing! To be honest, these girls work hard, pounding mahangu, cutting meat, cutting firewood, making oshifima and other foods, and their hands are dirty most of the time. I really didn't know if they would even like, or want to use, the nail polish. But, at the end of the day, girls will be girls. And when they get a the opportunity to dress up, and look “girly” they love it!

As I said goodbye for the day, and started my trek to work, I could hear them laughing and singing....and I hope I just made their day....

It really is the little things in life that mean the most....and I am learning this more and more everyday....


Here is a picture of Jaden, with his new glasses, and his father, (my brother), Grape
(notice Jaden's shirt - "Monster Trouble" - and yessss he is! But adorable trouble..

01 September, 2013

Updated pictures

I was finally able to upload newer pictures of my hut and home...

You can view these on the My Home tab

Enjoy and hope you all had a great weekend!