Mahangu, porridge, pap, oshifima. Chances are you will see me use these words a lot over the next two years.
Mahangu is one of many traditional foods in Namibia. It is prepared in some form or fashion in most Namibian households. On my homestead, it’s used daily to make oshikundu (a traditional drink) and oshifima (a stiff porridge used as you would a dripping bread).
Several times throughout the year, my host brothers head to the farm to harvest mahangu. They have been at least twice since I’ve moved in. All I know is 1) “The Farm” is very far away 2) Harvesting mahangu is very, very hard work. Mahangu is harvested and then pounded down to create a flour-like product which is then used to make oshifima.
Before I get too ahead of myself, here are a few Cultural Fun Facts I wish I would have known sooner, and I am sure other PCVN can relate.
Fun Fact #1– It is considered rude to smell your food before you eat it. Still trying to break this habit.
Fun Fact #2– It is rude to refuse food. You can usually say something along the lines of thank you, but I ate, I am full.
Fun Fact #3– It is traditional to wash your hands before you eat (and also hygienic). At a family meal, we pass around a wash basin filled with soap and water for us each to wash our hands.
Fun Fact #4– You should only eat oshifima with your right hand. Whoops again!
Fun Fact #5– When offering a homemade food or drink, it is customary to taste it in the presence of the person. It shows that it is indeed nawa to consume, kinda like a modern-day wine bearer, but of your own offerings.
This weekend my host family celebrated a season of a bountiful harvest of mahangu.
We all gathered around the coffee table.
We feasted on oshifima and goat meat.
It was delicious.
I can compare this experience to what we do in America on Thanksgiving. It’s a huge celebration. There is singing and prayer and lots of laughter.
Unfortunately, my host mom was not home at the time due to a death in the family. So, my host sister, Lucia prepared most of the meal with the help of my brothers to braai (similar to BBQ) the goat meat.
As we sat around a crowded coffee table rejoicing over the abundance of oshifima and meat for dinner, I began to realize how thankful I am for a family who has accepted me into their house as their own.
Although there is still a period of transition for me between Fort Worth to Okahandja and now Ondobe, I am at HOME.