Thursday, April 9, 2009

On Being African

I am not sure if I’ve ever been someplace more different from the U.S. Sure, Barack Obama and Britney Spears are known to some here, but beyond that, life is just…SO different.

We walk everywhere. We don’t have a car, so it’s an absolute necessity. We are getting used to it. I had never realized how much vehicles isolate us from those around us. We have had many pleasant, spontaneous conversations with strangers on our strolls through town.

It is sunny all the time here (LOVE that). And hot (less fond of the heat). Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Afrikaans is the main language spoken in Namibia. It is a combination of Dutch and tribal languages. However, it is not uncommon for someone to speak 8 or 9 different languages here, due to the multitude of tribes in a relatively small area.

The currency is the Namibian dollar. The exchange rate is around 10:1 with the US dollar, but it fluctuates quite a bit.

Family is seen somewhat differently in Africa, and you find few examples of the traditional nuclear family. Often many generations will live together in one house, or a child will live with their aunt and uncle, or with an older sibling. Sometimes couples are married but live apart due to employment (this is especially true with mining).

Food is different here, very basic. Plain pasta, plain potatoes, plain rice, etc. And lots of meat. Every kind of meat: beef, lamb, goat, pork, zebra, ostrich, alligator, snake, you name it… In fact, they don’t consider chicken or fish to be meat. I am pretty much desperate for Mexican food. And Italian. And Chinese. And especially Mom’s cooking. The familiar…

Grocery store stock is very fluid. If you see something you want, buy it now, because it won’t be there later.

People here are… cautious. They want to be friendly, but they have been hurt so badly in the past that they are sometimes suspicious.

There is this thing called “Africa Time.” Basically, it means that time is not the focus. It is not unheard of for someone to show up 3 hours late for a party, but that’s okay, because the party doesn’t start until people get here. They are very relational people, and finishing a conversation in more important to them than being on time to their next appointment. Let’s just say I will be glad to return to American time. I can embrace Africa time while I am here, but I have no intention of adopting it as a permanent lifestyle. Josh, on the other hand…


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