Yesterday was the “graduation” of one of NaDEET’s 4-day intensive Community Education Programmes: “Mitigating Climate Change through Sustainable Living and Practices.” For this particular course, we had partnered with an NGO aimed at rallying and empowering women in rural communities. They had helped recruit adult participants from the small town of Rehoboth.
As it happens, the NGO Director is somewhat of a media mastermind, and she had also coordinated about 18 members of various print/broadcasting press corporations to drive down to NaDEET for the last two days, to “get the scoop.”
They descend on our quiet dune valley with their enormous camera lenses and their little notepads, upon which they scribble furiously when they aren’t demanding chilled water or softer blankets from us. They snap random photos of me drinking tea or the other volunteer plugging in the overhead projector. They marvel over our solar-cooked banana bread, make disparaging remarks about the long-drop composting toilets, and outnumber our actual participants. The NGO Director, wearing a stylish safari vest--Crocodile Hunter meets Banana Republic-- strides back and forth, ordering everyone around and trying to ignore the fact that her high heels are causing her to sink into the soft desert sand.
The media gets an introduction slideshow and a tour of NaDEET Centre. When they go around and introduce themselves, there are curt nods or averted gazes as each competitor publication’s journalist is presented. When the Informante reporter introduces herself, everyone gasps. The Informante is a Namibian national newspaper whose motto is “You conceal, we reveal”; essentially, it is a gossip rag akin to the National Enquirer. The most recent headlines, according to their website:
Katima man catches wife cheating, demands his five cows back
Chinese foreman fires man and forces him to walk home naked
Katima taxi driver scalds ex-lover over N$100
…and my personal favorite:
Mistress almost causes hullabaloo
So we’re all curious to see the angle they’re going to take on this community programme.
This night is to be Enviro-Dramas -- where the participants, in small groups, will do mini skits to express all that they’ve learned here this week. We’re waiting for the NaDEET Director to arrive before they begin, so the rest of our staff decide to kick things off with a reenactment of the acclaimed Mealie Pap Rap. However, 2 out of the 4 people are too shy to actually rap (they‘re worried, I think, of what the Informante will make of it), so it ends up being me doing most of the verses with everyone joining in for the chorus. When we finish, there's still time to fill/kill.
Elizabeth (our Sustainable Living Kitchen Manager): And now we have a surprise for you! Elissa and I are going to sing a song.
This is not only a surprise for THEM.
We end up shuffling and singing this Nama song I sort of learned a few weeks ago, featuring all sorts of clicks. I’m not exactly sure what it means, but I’m very good at the chorus (which goes “Gloria” x 12. So I think it has something to do with glory, although it is entirely possible that it's something like "Cecilia" or "Clementine"). Everybody in the audience gets a huge kick out of me trying to sing this. Nobody joins in the way I had hoped, though I believe I see NBC’s cameras rolling. It would be just my luck to star on Namibian national television, butchering a beautiful language and stomping off-rhythm.
Elizabeth: And now we have another one!
Elissa: (whisper) We do?
Elizabeth: "Hier die kan toe!"
Elissa: (whisper) Maybe we could ask for some collaboration, for some audience members to come up and sing with us?
But no. This is a tune that I’m sure they all know, but they love sitting in their canvas fold-up chairs and watching the silly American go at it. It’s an Afrikaans song about the magnitude of Jesus’s greatness and we’re doing the turn, turn, turn part of the chorus when the NaDEET Director finally arrives.
‘WHAT are you doing?’ I have a feeling she’s thinking. We gracefully make this verse our last and introduce the upcoming Enviro Dramas.
Best line of the skits: “This isn’t a dog house! It’s a solar oven!”
It’s actually hard to see the dramas, since the media is crowding around the front and setting off their camera flashes right and left. Some of these media people have an overwhelming attitude of entitlement: if you don’t do what they want, they know they have the power to “ruin you.” Or at least the power to do something. So we meekly scurry around and fetch them chilled water, and let them block our views of the skits.
Still, I have a feeling that unless anything phenomenally juicy goes down tonight, Informante is going to be disappointed. It would be amazing to get our parabolic solar cookers and recycled firebricks on a page with these almost-hullabaloo-causing mistresses. But I'll settle for sharing a page with anything relating to hullabaloo.