October 1, 2002 - The Examiner : Greetings ... from Namibia

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 10 October 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: October 1, 2002 - The Examiner : Greetings ... from Namibia

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, October 01, 2002 - 7:23 pm: Edit Post

Greetings ... from Namibia

Read and comment on this story from the Examiner by former reporter Robert Hite who decided to take a 27-month adventure of serving in the Peace Corps at age 41. He had wanted to do it right out of college, but it did not work out.

"I think of it this way: I could work another 24 years or longer, retire and possibly not be in good enough health to be a volunteer, or I could do it now and live with the experience for the rest of my life," said Hite. Read the story at:

Greetings ... from Namibia*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Greetings ... from Namibia

Former reporter finds challenge in Peace Corps

By Robert Hite

Special to The Examiner

photo: news

Caption: A postcard from Namibia highlights the Herero people, one of several ethnic groups that make up the Namibian population.

Imagine the reaction a man in Eastern Jackson County would get if he told a woman she looked fat.

A slap in the face, a choice name or intervention from her husband or boyfriend come to mind. Here in Namibia, where I was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer Aug. 5, the woman's response might be a smile or even a "thank you."

Herero women - who belong to one of the 11 ethnic groups in Namibia - consider it a compliment to be called fat. That's one of the cultural differences I have been learning about since I arrived here in May.

Another difference is that women take a back seat to men - sometimes literally. I went to an Herero funeral with three other volunteers. Drivers were hired to transport people to the funeral. Few people own cars in rural communities.

The small Toyota truck was parked with nine women in the truck's covered bed. Seven of them were dressed in traditional long dresses. The dresses are worn with several layers of skirting. A headpiece is worn with it. A stiff portion of the piece protrudes out like the horns of a cow, symbolic of the importance of cattle in Herero culture.

The other two women were my American colleagues ­ Jen Bell of Portland, Ore., and Ericka Riddle of Salt Lake City. Jen's husband, Dave, and I offered to ride in the back, like most able-bodied American men would.

However, we were told to ride in the truck's cab because that is the way of the local culture.

Hereros make up about 100,000 of the 1.8 million people living in Namibia. There are about 85,000 Namibians of European descent. The Germans colonized this part of Africa from 1884 to 1915. This was during the Europeans' "scramble for Africa." It was not peaceful.

One Peace Corps training session was on the Hereros' history during colonization. The German military brutally forced the Hereros from central Namibia, then known as Southwest Africa. There were about 96,000 Hereros, and the Germans killed about 80,000 of them. They killed those who would not sell their land to the Germans, even though the selling price might have been a handful of tobacco.

With that history, it surprises me that so much German culture remains in Namibia. There are towns named Luderitz, Sprizkoppe, Grunau and Swakop-mund. German architecture is obvious in Windhoek, the nation's capital. Many streets have German names. There are German restaurants that remind me of The Rheinland on the Independence Square. There are more than a few BMWs and Mercedes Benz on the roads, too.

I have a lot to learn about Namibian history.

I decided to take this 27-month adventure at age 41. I wanted to do it right out of college, but it did not work out. I think of it this way: I could work another 24 years or longer, retire and possible not be in good enough health to be a volunteer, or I could do it now and live with the experience for the rest of my life.

Certainly, that experience will not include telling a woman she looks fat.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

Top Stories and Discussion on PCOL
Sargent Shriver and the Politics of Life911:  A Different America
USA Freedom Corps - "paved with good intentions"PCV hostage rescued from terrorists
GAO reports on Volunteer Safety and SecurityPeace Corps out of Russia?
Help the New Peace Corps Bill pass CongressUSA Freedom Cops TIPS Program

Top Stories and Discussion on PCOL
Senior Staff Appointments at Peace Corps HeadquartersFor the Peace Corps Fallen
Senator Dodd holds Hearings on New Peace Corps LegislationThe Debate over the Peace Corps Fund
Why the Peace Corps needs a Fourth GoalThe Peace Corps 40th plus one
The Case for Peace Corps IndependenceThe Controversy over Lariam
The Peace Corps and Homeland SecurityDirector Vasquez meets with RPCVs
RPCV Congressmen support Peace Corps' autonomyPeace Corps Expansion:  The Numbers Game?
When should the Peace Corps return to Afghanistan?Peace Corps Cartoons

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; PCVs in the Field; Humor; COS - Namibia



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.