19 January, 2014

"How a PCV puts it gently"

I wanted to quickly share this website I found....it's a collection of pictures, trying to accurately describe what PCV life is truly like...and I had to share this! Many of these pictures are pretty close to what we are all experiencing, at one point or another....

So, if you are in need of a few laughs, go to:


18 January, 2014

Traditional Namibian (Owambo) Meal

Hello everyone! I hope all had a wonderful holiday and New Year's celebration! I had such a wonderful, amazing, superb, out-of-this-world, special holiday, and I can't wait to share my experience with you all! Now, sharing this means that pictures and videos need to be involved in the story-telling. And unfortunately, I am at the mercy of the slow internet, here in the nearby town. So...as soon as these pics and videos have taken web-form, I will post about my animal adventure (and I have many videos and pictures - and I can't NOT include many of them - soooo...be ready for lots and lots of things to see)!

Until then, I have, finally, decided to write about the traditional Namibian food I've been experiencing, up here in the Owamboland. Food is a major part of Namibians' culture and lifestyle. And if I had to describe it in one word, it would be: MEAT MEAT MEAT. Ok, that's 3 words, but you get the point. Well, actually, it's meat and OSHIFIMA. So, maybe 2 words. Anyway, they don't understand the concept of not having meat in a meal. One day, I was in Ondangwa, which is a semi-major town. I was at this restaurant which serves many "western" dishes. My friend and I decided to order this certain pizza, but withOUT the ham. The waitress came back to the table about 3 times, asking again to explain what we wanted. She couldn't quite understand this concept of "no meat."

And what kind of meat, you ask? Chicken, beef, goat, pig, oryx, kudu, other "game" meat, frog, fish and some even eat snake and dog...luckily, my family does NOT eat dog. Side note: The other day, I was walking with my niece and cousin to collect water from the well - our water tap was not working that day - and we walked by a house where a young boy was taking the charred hair, etc off of a dog that they had killed, so they could eat it. They put the dog's body over the fire to burn the hair off, and then next, they would cut it up to actually cook the meat. And "how did they kill it?", I asked. They beat it with a stick and broke its neck. And "why did they kill it?", again I asked. Apparently the dog ate the chicken eggs. When dogs eat these families' food, beatings occur. I sometimes hear it at night, in the village. This is definitely a hard concept and fact to understand and accept, being a dog - pet- lover.

Ok - back to the subject of the traditional Owambo meal.....

I've learned that some families' main meal is dinner, while others' main meal is lunch. For my family, the main meal is dinner. We generally cook outside over an open fire. There is also a gas stove/oven in the house, and sometimes they use that to cook pasta, rice and meat.

As for vegetables, they mainly use tomatoes and onion with their meat. Those that have some money, may buy green peppers or cucumbers once in a while. They do eat spinach sometimes, as well - cooked the same way they cook the meat (see video). They enjoy a traditional spinach called, Ombidi. It's basically just a small-leaf spinach that is found growing in the wild. If they do have a garden, they like to grow tomatoes, onions, spinach, pumpkin, squash, and sometimes carrots. But many don't have the money to buy other vegetables, or even the seeds for these vegetables. And since we're talking about growing their food, they do have many fruits growing in the village. Some traditional, some not. I've seen guava trees (we have a few in our house, and it's my new favorite fruit!!), lemons, mangos, paw paw (papaya), sweet melon (cantaloupe), and then some other traditional berry-type fruits. They do enjoy grapes, the few times I have bought them. Though they are very expensive here!

Ok, back to meat and porridge. The Owambo people are very proud of their culture. They are proud of their foods and cooking. Without the porridge and/or meat, they feel they have nothing. So, when those who are unemployed or have little money or who have been affected by the recent drought, cannot grow mahangu for their porridge or have any meat to eat, they feel inadequate. They feel almost lost.

I was talking with my Namibian sister, Anna, about the poverty here, the other day. She agreed with me that there seems to be food available - in the open markets, supermarkets, etc. But people just don't have the money to buy it. Or they don't have land to grow it. And they don't have money because either they are unemployed (never finished school, or continued onto the university), they spend all of their money on beer and liquor, or, she admits, they are lazy. And there really are no jobs in the village. Only a few have small little "convenience" shops or shebeens (bars). So, in order to have a job, you must leave the village. Which means you must have the money for transportation out of the village.

And the layers of the onion continue....

But today, we're talking about how to make their traditional food! I have put together a video, describing how to make "oshifima", or the porridge. It is made from maize and mahangu (pearl millet). If you want to read up on its nutritional value, go HERE.  Mahangu, or pearl millet, is gluten-free, and has protein, as well as many vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, potassium and folic acid. It also contains a phyto-nutrient, lignin. Mahangu is also rich in calories, which is especially helpful if someone only eats 1 time a day, which is the case for many Namibians, at least those in the villages. The government has started to give maize to public schools, so the children can eat a soft porridge during their day, but maize, unfortunately, does not have the nutrients that mahangu does. From my own experience, I have to say that after eating oshifima in the evening, the following morning, I feel wonderful and full of energy! I do truly believe that this mahangu really is a very nutritious food item....

As for chickens, for those who have a little money, they will sometimes buy the frozen kind in the supermarket, but there is definitely a difference between the frozen kind and the kind running around our home – who's meat is a little tougher, and you can definitely tell there aren't any hormones involved.

They eat their meat right off the bone – and sometimes, even the bone itself, thought I haven't tried to bite into a chicken bone yet – my dentist would probably killy mE Oh, and they love sucking the bone marrow out of the chicken bone.

Oh, and the best part of this traditional meal - you eat with your HANDS!! You take a piece of the porridge, dip it in the "sauce" that was made while cooking the meat, and enjoy! You also can use the oshifima to pick up the meat, although many times they pick them up separately....

Well, here is the video! Enjoy, and please respond to this post with any questions you have, as I may have left out many details. And, actually, if I have left out the details, I guess it's because this way of cooking has become the "norm" for me, and so I forget at times how I felt the very first time I saw this, or tried it. I guess you'd say I'm becoming adjusted to the Namibian way of life.... :)

Love & Peace,

Next posts:

1.  "A N/a'an ku se Holiday with the animals!"
2.  "Why the heck did I join the Peace Corps??"