Saturday, November 18, 2006

the routine

Something I’ve learned in one year: pay attention to the day of the month. Teachers are paid on the 20th, other gov’t employees are paid the last Friday of the month. Peace Corps volunteers are paid every three months but only if a male baboon is spotted by the country director before the first harvest moon.
Right now we’re sort of at the end of the cycle – everyone is staying put in the village. I was the only one in the kombi to Grootfontein this morning. Great Fountain was more of a ghost town than normal. It was eerie.
Even the newspaper recognizes pay day’s special carnival atmosphere. A story might run, “Anticipating a repeat of last End of Month Weekend Windhoek police have reminded residents not to discharge their firearms as this poses various safety concerns and is generally disruptive.” End of Month weekend has the same connotation that Halloween does in the states.
Tonight the pensioners in the village get paid at 5pm. There’s been an assembly outside my place for about 11 hours now – it’s like a Herero tailgate. Tates and memes are lounging (men in lawn chairs from the China shop, women perched in the back of pickups in full-on traditional garb). Meat is being braai’d. Kids are running around beating each other with sticks. There’s even the make-shift mini-mart that operates out of the back of an old Southwest African Army troop transport. (It has a olive colored tent that extends off the side like a hotdog vendor in the states – under the tent you can buy xxl 2Pac and R. Kelly shirts as well as maize meal and Tafel lager.)
Not only are the elderly here but a class of “hangers-on” – people who want to get in on that sweet pension action. Otherwise the money finds its way to the unscrupulous vendor with the enticing wares. The guy in the truck follows the pension people around, setting up shop in order to take full advantage of the monetary windfall/immobility of his customers. There’s another wandering salesman here in Namibia who commutes the 300km between Omaruru and Grootfontein selling ice cream. I’m not sure why he picked that route but I’ve considered getting a hike from him and his yellow van with hand-painted Mickey Mouse.
Since I had nothing better to do (and why you shouldn’t do stuff on that rationale) I took a taxi to the local air strip this morning. That was my intent at least. There was some kind of cultural misunderstanding – but I didn’t realize this until the commander saluted the cab and we entered the army base. I spoke some Otjiherero to the guy in charge of the landing strip (he was the one wearing a mesh camo wife-beater) who directed us elsewhere. We ended up going back to town to find “the guy in charge of the airport.” This turned out to mean disturbing a man who was literally eating a bowl of porridge when I walked in. I tried to explain what it was exactly that I wanted and why I was in his living room. This was not the guy, nor did he know who I should talk to. Felt bad for bothering him but he wasn’t particularly surprised that I had somehow gotten my way into his house. Still don’t know who I’m supposed to talk to about the airport. Peri nawa.

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