One year slump? Plus, 5 things to experience in Aus!

I apologize that it’s taken me so long to put up another post. The reality is I’ve had a large case of the “one year slump”.  It stems from being away from site more than it does the “one year mark”. My last blog post was about helping train new volunteers and then my trip around Namibia with my daughter…those were both “highs”. 

When I returned to site there was a two week National Campaign to immunize people 9 months to 39 years old with the Measles and Rubella Vaccine. I spent the first week in the “location” at the primary school assisting the nurse while she gave shots, giving out “shot certificates” and putting permanent marks on the left pinky of everyone who received a shot. The second week, we went out to the farms. This entails LONG bakkie (pick up truck) rides over rough terrain to reach the workers on various farms. To give you a sense of what this feels like, imagine getting in a pick up truck at 6 or 7 am, riding for at least 2 hours before you reach the first farm. Getting out of the truck, educating the workers who have gathered around about the MR injection, administering the injection, giving out certificates, marking pinkies and then getting back in the bakkie to ride another hour or so before we reach another farm only to do it all over again. We are not traveling on paved roads, and sometimes we are not even sure we are on the right path and have to turn around to search for the right path. Several of the farms have paths that only 4 wheel drives can maneuver because of all of the rocks. It makes for very long days but luckily the nurse, the HIV Counselor, and the driver are fun people to hang out with so there’s lots of conversation and music to help the time pass. We had a flat tire one day and spent the better part of the afternoon dealing with that. We were on a farm looking for one guy who needed the vaccine and while we were trying to maneuver the broken piece to lower the spare tire, the nurse started walking down the dirt path.  She came back an hour later with the guy we’d been looking for. He got his shot, we changed the tire and headed on our merry way.

I then went home for a two week visit for some much needed time with family and friends.  One of my best friends in the world had by-pass surgery so I could offer some assistance with after surgery care as well. I enjoyed seeing those I got to see, but look forward to seeing everyone else next summer! 

After returning to Namibia I spent 10 days with another new group of trainees (this time Education Volunteers) to help them begin to get acclimated to this beautiful country and its many tribes and cultures. Peace Corps Namibia always has a few volunteers who spend time with the new trainees just to make them feel at ease as they are getting familiar with this country. It’s a great experience and I feel lucky and honored to have had the opportunity to do it twice while here. The next new group will come in April, 2017 so it will be someone else’s turn. I should be heading home in May, 2017 because my niece will be getting married at the end of May and I must be home for that! 

I don’t know if I’ve already shared that I’m part of a group here called VSN (Volunteer Support Network- Peace Corps loves acronyms!). We are a group of elected individuals who are responsible for supporting volunteers as they go through their service.  We are not counselors or mental health professionals, we actively listen and help them discover their own thoughts and ideas for resolving situations. It has been one of my favorite parts of being a volunteer here and is the reason I’ve been able to get to know so many volunteers all over this country even though there are only a few of us in the south. I’ve spent the better part of my career listening to young people…this isn’t much different!

 

Change tracks….

The other day someone asked me what five things would I show people when they visit Aus. 

Here’s the list I came up with….

1. The horses of Aus…a must see. They run wild, are beautiful and play when the weather is cool.

2. Eagles Nest at Klein-Aus Vista…These are chalets built into the side of boulders…fascinating and beautiful.  All designed and built by the owners of the resort!

3. The location (where the poor people live) and how warm and welcoming the people are.

4. The biking/hiking trails through the mountains finishing off with a “sundowner” which is a drink while you watch the sun set. The sunsets here are absolutely beautiful, I haven’t been able to capture an image that even begins to show you how gorgeous they are. And then, the night sky is something to behold. NO ambient light so the stars sparkle and shine!

5. We’d have to attend a braai (cookout), it’s just part of the culture here…you are not in Namibia if you haven’t attended a braai!

 An indoor "Braai" pit at my friend's house (Karin and Steve).

An indoor "Braai" pit at my friend's house (Karin and Steve).

Thanks for reading!  I’m starting another blog challenge so hopefully it won’t take so long to see a new post!

And….I’m going to start looking for a job before long. Any ideas or possibilities are more than welcome!

Allison

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. it means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” – Unknown

A Busy Six Weeks

The past six weeks have been so busy I haven’t had a chance to update my blog, I am sorry. Here’s what’s been going on…I got to greet the new Peace Corps trainee’s at the airport as they arrived in mid-April. and spent time with them in Okahandja over the course of their training.  It was a joy to witness this group of 33 Health and Business Trainees eagerly anticipating their new world. I spent the first 10 days with them helping them get settled in the “Pre-Service Training” routine. One of the things that I realized was just how much I have learned over the past year. It was one year ago that I was one of those “newbies” who understood very little about this vast, beautiful country and the lovely people who inhabit it. It made me proud of how far I have come and eager to share in their enthusiasm. It was quite rejuvenating! I then got to spend another few weeks with them for “technical” training. That is the term PC uses for gaining the knowledge to work in the Sector for which we were assigned. Since I am a Health Volunteer, I spent time with the Health Trainees teaching skills for working in Community Health once they get to their sites.  I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such an intelligent and energetic group. They will get sworn in on June 16th and then they will all be sent to their respective sites. All of the Health Volunteers will be going to northern Namibia which is sad for me since I’m in the deep south but at least we have cell phones and occasional meetings. I know a few of them are already planning trips to come visit me in Aus! There is 1 Business Volunteer who will be coming to Luderitz (an hours hike from Aus) so I’m looking forward to spending time with him. Here's a pic of most of them with me and Andy Moore (another gr. 41 volunteer who was training them).

 Me and Andy Moore (Gr. 41) with most of Group 43 Trainees

Me and Andy Moore (Gr. 41) with most of Group 43 Trainees

Not long after I finished with the trainees, my daughter (Abby), came for a visit. After plane issues and missing her flight over the pond, she finally arrived 36 hours after she was supposed to, a bit travel weary but happy to finally make it here. We rented a bakkie (a 4 wheel drive pic up with covered back) and took off on a road trip of a life time. Since I have never been to the north, we concentrated on that part of Namibia and if you are on facebook, you definitely saw some of our pictures. We visited Waterberg Plateau, Rundu, Divundu, Bwabwata National Park, Kamanjab, Etosha National Park, Erindi Private Game Reserve, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and spent our last night with my host family from training in Okahandja. I believe my favorite stops were Erindi and Swakopmund. Here are some pics from our excursions. 

 

 Hiking trail sign at Waterberg Plateau

Hiking trail sign at Waterberg Plateau

 Campfire at Waterberg Guest Farm, Waterberg Plateau, Namibia

Campfire at Waterberg Guest Farm, Waterberg Plateau, Namibia

 Our morning view of the Kavongo River

Our morning view of the Kavongo River

 We saw lots of termite mounds!

We saw lots of termite mounds!

 We rounded a corner in Bwabwata National Park and surprised an elephant. He trumpeted so loudly when we ran upon him, we were just as surprised (and scared) as he was!

We rounded a corner in Bwabwata National Park and surprised an elephant. He trumpeted so loudly when we ran upon him, we were just as surprised (and scared) as he was!

 Our chalet in Etosha.  The watering hole is directly behind where I was standing so we saw lots of animals!

Our chalet in Etosha.  The watering hole is directly behind where I was standing so we saw lots of animals!

 And here's the watering hole at Etosha.

And here's the watering hole at Etosha.

 In Kamanjab

In Kamanjab

 Himba girl at Himba Village, Kamanjab

Himba girl at Himba Village, Kamanjab

 Himba children

Himba children

 Flamingos in Walvis Bay

Flamingos in Walvis Bay

 Walvis Bay

Walvis Bay

 House that has been buried by the moving sand dunes.

House that has been buried by the moving sand dunes.

 Oysters and champagne on a boat, what could be better?

Oysters and champagne on a boat, what could be better?

 Yep, we climbed the dunes.

Yep, we climbed the dunes.

 The Stiltz at Swakopmund...I highly recommend staying there!

The Stiltz at Swakopmund...I highly recommend staying there!

We did not drive south. As much as I wanted Abby to come to Aus, it is an 8 hour trip if all goes according to plan just to get there and we just did not have enough time to do everything we wanted to do. Because of her flight issues, unfortunately, we had to cut out Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Even so, we had a glorious time. It was so wonderful to put my arms around her and laugh and talk and cry and giggle and I think we only got cross with each other once (when I was being a bear because my cellphone was stolen). It was an epic journey! Thanks Abby!

Back to reality in Aus. It’s good to be here and time to get involved once again. I’ve been re-energized to study Afrikaans with more gusto and have started on that already. I spent today in an Aus Development Committee meeting where many issues were discussed. There are so many issues in this small community that the community has very little power over. There is a concerted effort on members to improve things, but things happen very slowly. Poverty and alcohol seem to be the biggest hurdles. There are many other issues, but they mostly stem from poverty and alcohol in my opinion. 

When we were in PC Training, we were told about the “life cycle” of a volunteer. As much as I don’t think we all react the same way or have the same experiences, I do agree that generally we all seem to have ups and downs. The beginning of my service was so fraught with working with an unpleasant person that once that situation was rectified I have had many “ups”. Today, however, I had one of my most heart wrenching experiences. If you read my blog about Grassroots Soccer than you know how successful I felt it was and I still maintain that the program was successful, but I discovered that 4 of the Grassroots Soccer (grade 6 and 7) girls went to school drunk today. The school called the police, who picked them up and talked with them. There were 2 “repeaters”  (only one was a Grassroots Soccer girl) so they were beaten in front of the other girls and they were all threatened with being beaten in front of their school peers if they do it again.

The girls came to the clinic this afternoon and we talked about what happened, how they got the alcohol (red wine), how they paid for it (yesterday was government payday), why they made the choices they made, and the repercussions of their actions. Unfortunately, I did not get a real sense of remorse or shame from any of them and that is what hurts. These are 11 and 12 year old girls. We are going to meet tomorrow and I’m going to start an alcohol prevention program with them. These are the moments when I really question my service and whether or not what I do makes a difference.  The reality is that if I can change the future of a few people, this will have been a successful experience because those few people will create future generations who might make different decisions. This seems small in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not small for those few people and their future families. THAT is what keeps me motivated! 

“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” Frederick Buechner

 

Hangingin there! Thanks for reading…Allison

I've Been Here a Year!

One year ago, I stepped outside my comfort zone to move to Namibia for this 27 month stay as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It’s been an incredible ride…many ups, many downs. Here’s a small recap of some of those experiences…

The ups:

    Walking through the location (where most of the residents live in this settlement) and             hearing people yell “Allison”.

    Arriving at the school, being spotted, and then having 25 or 30 kids come running to me             for a hug…all at one time.

    Walking…everywhere!

    Being a part of those “aha” moments when a learner understands something about HIV             that they didn’t know.

    Condom Demonstrations….I know this sounds strange but they can be so much fun!

    Pick the banana…its an energizer that I do with learners that ALWAYS leaves us                 laughing…they think I’m crazy!

    Having a learner talk with me about a serious concern, knowing that they feel                 comfortable sharing it with me.

    Watching 16 learners get their “Grassroots Soccer PC Skillz Certificates” and realizing             just how proud they and their parents were. They learned so much and want to             make a difference in the fight against HIV.

    Making a cultural mistake and realizing that everyone loves me anyway!

    Persevering through a very difficult situation until changes were made that helped this             community.

 

The downs:

    Riding in a combie (van) for 12 hours when it’s usually a 7 hour trip.

    Ear deafening music being played in almost every combie ride thus far. (several of you             were recipients of audio clips to share the joy).

    Hot…hot combie rides where no one will open a window. (What??)

    Never getting warm in the winter…it’s just as cold inside as outside.

    My struggles learning Afrikaans…not a talent of mine.

    The challenges of transportation and the stress that goes along with that.

    Being in a car that hits a guinea fowl, stopping to pick it up so they can cook it for dinner.

    Seeing a family cook their dog for food.

    And most importantly, missing my family and friends. 

 

Short but quick! More to come I promise...I've just been busy!

 

I don't know where I got this quote but it means a lot to me...

Plan in decades. Think in years. Work in months. Live in Days.

Grassrootsoccer

 All 16 learners with Berta Boois (one of my counterparts for this program) and myself after the ceremony.

All 16 learners with Berta Boois (one of my counterparts for this program) and myself after the ceremony.

Today marked the culmination of the Peace Corps Skillz program for 16 learners ages 11-13 that began in January. 15 of them were girls and we had 1 boy who stuck with us, even when we talked about sensitive subjects. To say he was a sport is to put it mildly!  He should get extra brownie points for dealing with all 15 girls twice a week for a few months!  

 

 Singing

Singing

The PC Skillz program is a program that was developed between Grassroots Soccer and the Peace Corps to teach youth about HIV risks, healthy living and making good choices. We had a graduation ceremony today where the learners performed a 2 Act Drama, sang songs and walked across the stage to get their certificate! It was a joyous occasion!  We also played “pick the banana’ with the entire audience which created much laughter!  A shout out to Grassroots Soccer for supplying the equipment, the manual and the encouragement to complete this intervention program. If you are interested in learning more about this program go to www.grassrootsoccer.org.

 The narrator for the drama!

The narrator for the drama!

 Act 1- Say No To Peer Pressure

Act 1- Say No To Peer Pressure

 Act 2- Multiple Sexual Partners Increase Your Risk For HIV

Act 2- Multiple Sexual Partners Increase Your Risk For HIV

One of the learners ended the program with thanks...here's what she said.

"I would like to thank you all for attending this event. Thanks to Grassroots Soccer and to Mrs. Allison for making it possible for us to gain the relevant information regarding HIV/AIDS. This Peace Corps Skillz program was a huge training for us, the youth. We will share our knowledge with our peers at school and with our households because we strive for a ZERO HIV/AIDS nation world wide. IT STARTS WITH ME!!!"

I don't know if anyone helped her with this, but she got it right! Today was a red letter day for me...just knowing that some of the youth in Aus have learned more and are willing to share the information to help combat HIV.  WAY TO GO LEARNERS!!!

"It will be impossible for us to eradicate HIV as long as any corner of the world is cut off from the education and services that we know helps stop the spread of this disease." Alex Newell

Unfamiliar Experiences

Challenge #9 = Crazy Moments...When living abroad, unfamiliar experiences come with the territory. Tell us about it!

Snow in Africa…who’d have thought? 

A 2.9 earthquake last week…I thought the house was going to fall down, it was sooo loud. (and yes, I know that’s not a huge earthquake, but it was a new experience for me)

Boy wiping his butt with his hand after pooping outside beside a tree. (The same tree that is in the picture above!)

Teenage boy sitting on a bucket toilet while pooping in the main room of the house, not disturbed by my entering the room.

Doing condom demonstrations and making them fun!

Painting pictures and hanging them in my flat, then being asked for them by random people. And, when I give them one, they ask for two. 

Guard at Orange River checkpoint asking my black Peace Corps friend if she was sure she was from America because he didn’t think there were any blacks in America.

Eating different kinds of meats (donkey for example, as well as parts of animals I never thought I would eat). Also, learning to eat with my hands.

Cooking something in the pot I bought in June only to realize that sometime over the past 8 months, it developed two holes in it and can’t be used anymore. Now I’m learning how to do without a pot.

When it’s your birthday and you want a cake or to celebrate, you must pay for everything, after all, it is your day!

Learning how to greet people in eight different languages. And, learning the local handshake. And, knowing it is polite and expected to greet every single person you see, every single time!

When there is a celebration the culture is to invite yourself, if you wait to be invited, you will never go anywhere.

When visitors come to my flat, they ALWAYS ask for something (food, drink, pens, pencils, sweets, money, and the list goes on).

Kids always asking for “a dollar”, always.  (1 Namibian dollar is equal to about 6 American cents). I never give them one or I would be bombarded by kids!

Friends had a LARGE pet turkey named Koeloe. Koeloe got to roam the house. He died a few days after Christmas…sad day.

Negotiating with a combie driver about a ride somewhere, getting it all settled, then having to wait HOURS until he has the combie completely filled with passengers.

Not having any transportation so every time I go anywhere I go on foot. I walk more than you can imagine and think that when I leave, I will miss that part of this experience. I will not miss having to find “hikes” every time I have to travel outside of Aus.

That even in this dry country every now and then there is fog.

Flies…sigh! They are a constant source of irritation. When walking, they will fly around my face, I swat them away, they return immediately. Persistent little buggers. 

Thanks for reading…until next time!

Allison

As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal. ~ Robin S. Sharma

#BloggingAbroad

Connections

I've joined a Blog Challenge late so here's my first try:

Challenge #8 = Details It's time to go micro! Hone in on one particular detail of your life abroad, in pictures and/or words.

Connections…that are what is making this adventure so rich. My world has expanded with the introduction of this beautiful Namibian experience, but it’s really the people who are making it all worthwhile…here are some of the people I’ve met, some are a part of my daily life and some I saw only once but they made an impact on me.

Matlida- A Grade 6 learner who lives in the location. She was the first student I met in June and she makes me smile every single day. She calls me her ‘Ouma” which is Afrikaans for Grandmom!

 This was taken at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Peace Corps in Namibia. I am in a traditional Nama dress that three of the ladies at the clinic had made for me!

This was taken at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Peace Corps in Namibia. I am in a traditional Nama dress that three of the ladies at the clinic had made for me!

Auntie Martha- My language teacher during training. She taught me that even if learning a foreign language is hard for me, I can be successful as a volunteer. She is one of the most loving and caring individuals I have ever encountered in my life!

 Maureen sitting in front of the main building at Klein Aus Vista.

Maureen sitting in front of the main building at Klein Aus Vista.

Maureen-A fellow volunteer who helped me survive training…I think we helped each other a bit. She was my first visitor to Aus and we spent a glorious day out at Klein Aus Vista, a resort 2km from my flat. Maureen eventually went home, I think the Peace Corps and Namibia would have benefited if she had stayed. We used to text every single day…I miss her.

Little Boy-He came to the clinic during the winter (It was VERY cold-it snows in AUS) without shoes on. His presence made me begin a shoe drive for the children of AUS. 

Jacob Watkins-A student at my old school (Rocky Mount Academy) in Rocky Mount, NC who singlehandedly gathered shoes for the children of AUS. I brought back a HUGE suitcase after I went home for my son’s wedding. More shoes are on the way. Kudo's to Jacob for taking on this project...he's made many, many children happy in AUS.

Karin and Steve(And Siska and Pokles, their furry children)- The couple I met in Aus who have taken me under their wings. They have included me in family functions, given me a place to take a hot shower (heavenly) and to sleep over occasionally, helped me find rides to Windhoek for meetings and the list goes on and on!

Little Girl at Farm-I met this little girl while on outreach one day and quickly understood that happiness has nothing to do with material possessions or even minimum daily comforts. Happiness is a state of mind when you are thankful for what you have, not bitter about what you don’t. She is a happy child!

Jessica(and her son)-One of the nurses at the clinic. She is kind and caring and has welcomed me from the moment we met in June! She works hard and expects others to work hard as well. She cares about the patients who come to the clinic and it shows.

Abed-One of the HIV Counselors at the clinic. He is Oshiwambo and I’ve learned that he likes to give the opposing point of view just to get a rise out of those in the conversation. At least I hope that’’s what he’s doing when he says some of the things he says.

Berta (and her daughter Kayla and daughter's friend Celestine)-The cleaner at the clinic and also my Afrikaans tutor. She smiles, laughs, pushes me to study, and generally makes the world around her a nicer place to be. She brings joy to my life every single day.

Three Boys-These three boys were left to live at home alone while their parents moved to the farm for work. The oldest boy is 11 and he makes sure there is something for the younger boys to eat every day. They made an enormous impression on me because I hadn’t realized before just how many children are fending for themselves. Interventions have been taken and the boys lives have improved. 

Naughty little boy-This boy is one of the first kids I met in AUS and he is generally into EVERYTHING! I caught this picture during the Marmer Primary School Beauty Pageant and he looks angelic. Even naughty little boys can be angelic sometimes. Nobody’s all good or all bad.

 Another picture from the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Peace Corps in Namibia.

Another picture from the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Peace Corps in Namibia.

Stephanie- A fellow PCV who lives in Swakopmund where she can buy any kind of groceries she wants! ( I am envious of that) We just connect! She is one of the nicest people I think I’ve ever known and she helps me stay sane.

 Kevin, Gail, Stephanie, Catherine, Michael, Sinthu and me. (All PCV's)

Kevin, Gail, Stephanie, Catherine, Michael, Sinthu and me. (All PCV's)

Gail-Another PCV (who's second from the left above). She texts every day so I don’t feel as isolated from Americans as I am. She has an uncanny sense of humor and might just hold the record for number of housing/host family issues experienced since entering Namibia. She makes me laugh. 

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Dr. Brené Brown

Thanks for reading!  Suggestions are always welcome!

#BloggingAbroad

 

By the numbers

Here's a different kind of post....

1 is the number of snakes killed at the clinic today.

2 is the number of boys I saw poop this week. One was 2 and squatted behind a tree using his hands as toilet paper, the other was an older teenager sitting on a bucket inside his house not at all embarrassed by our arrival. 

3.7 is the number of miles I walk to and from the location.

6 is the number of scorpions killed at the clinic today.

7 is the number of girls who played with my hair today.

8 is the number of people who work at the Aus clinic. (2 nurses, 2 HIV counselors, 1 community health assistant, 1 cleaner, and 2 security guards.

8 is the number of people sitting on the floor of the van hiking to Keetmans this week.

9 is the number of boys I saw trying to kill a lizard in a tree with rocks.

11 is the number of home visits we did today.

14 is the number of condom demonstrations I have given.

22 is the number of times I have explained Grassroots Soccer while trying to get it organized.

62 is the number of HIV positive people in my settlement.

71 is the number of cards and letters I have received (they are all hanging on my wall). Thanks!

83 is the number of minutes I exercised today.

121 is the number of times I’ve had no water in my flat (I’m not complaining, many people here         don’t have water).

274 is the number of days since I came to Namibia.

1,294 is the number of people the clinic services, which includes surrounding farms and farm         workers.

84,711 is the number of steps I’ve taken this week.

Short and to the point...hope you like it!  Sorry there are no pictures, I'm having technical difficulties! 

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined." Henry David Thoreau 

Comparisons

This blog post will be more of a comparison blog. How things are different in the US as opposed to Namibia….let me know what you think.

Traffic: It’s crazy in the US, right? In this vast country of 2+ million people, there are only about 200,000+ cars on the road. For a country the size of California doubled, you can imagine how long you can drive without seeing another car. That doesn’t mean they don’t have traffic jams or accidents here. In big cities like Windhoek, the capital, the congestion is as bad as I’ve ever seen it anywhere in the world. Accidents occur out in the bush all the time because of wild animals and drivers doing stupid things (no different than the US). 

Public transportation: Available some places more than others in the US. In Namibia there is a train and the trip from Keetmanshoop to Windhoek (500km-a 5 hour drive) takes about 12 hours unless the train stops randomly for long periods of time, then the trip is longer. There are also a few buses that traverse the length of the country called “Intercape buses”. The buses are fairly expensive but safe. Riding on the train and the buses are the only means of transportation that are safe at night. Then there is the ever present “Combie” (Pronounced coombee). This is a van that holds anywhere from 9 to 16 people. To find a combie ride I have to go to the “hike point” in that community and the hike points are different depending on the direction you want to hike.  So, for example, if I am in Windhoek and want to travel south by Combie, I go to “Rhino Park” and find a Combie going south to negotiate a seat and a price. I won’t be able to find a Combie going to Aus, so I will get one going to Keetmanshoop, and once I have arrived in Keetmanshoop I must go to the Puma Gas Station and find a “hike” to Aus. Probably the most time consuming part of “hiking” is that once you find a ride, they won’t just leave, they wait until their car or combie is completely full before they will leave. And, if they get a better offer to go somewhere else, they will tell you to get out and make your way with someone else. It can be very frustrating at times but can also be an adventure. My biggest challenge is getting a hike from Aus to Keetmanshoop or to Luderitz. I’ve been very fortunate in that the medical transport drivers will usually save me room in their vans or ambulances if they know I need a ride. Many people rely on taxis in towns and cities but there aren’t taxi’s where I live.

Drivers Licenses: There are no traditional drivers education classes in schools here but there are a few ways to get help from a “consultant” when learning how to drive. You have to be 18 to attempt the drivers test so most people who do it get the book and study so they can pass the written test. Once they have done that, they have to “practice” driving with a licensed driver for any length of time between one week and 18 months (the length the learners permit is valid). Any time during that period, they have to go back to do the driving portion of the test. If they pass that portion, they receive their license BUT if they want to carry people in their cars, they must get a PDP (Public Drivers Permit). This entails having a medical exam, eye test, and a criminal check and needless to say it takes a while to complete this process. Only a small percentage of Namibians have their drivers licenses. None of the people who work at the clinic know how to drive and they are shocked that I can drive.

Education: This is one of the systems that is so very different from the US system. There are public and private schools here but the private school students have to take the same public school exams. The school year runs from Jan. until Nov basically broken into trimesters. Primary school is grades Pre-primary through 7 and Secondary school is grades 8-12. It is required by law to attend school until age 18 although my observations have noted that nothing happens if you are not in school at any age. Beginning in grade 4 all of the standard exams are given in English because it is the national language. In grade 1 students must pass 2 of their subjects to move on to the following grade. In grade 4 students must pass 4 of their subjects to move on to the next grade. In grade 9 students must pass 6 of their subjects to move on. If you do not pass the required number of subjects, you repeat the grade. Also, for those students who do not pass grade 10, they usually just stop going to school. There is a bit more confusion for me in that if you are in grade 5 for example and you pass 2 of your subjects with high enough marks, you can still move on to the next grade even though you have not passed 4 subjects but one of those subjects passed must be English. And, basically the grading scale is that A’s and B’s are 50-100, C’s and D’s are 23-50 and failing is below 23. Once a student has reached the 12th grade, if they have done well with A’s and B’s, then the government will pay for their college education. They will pay tuition and give them a living allowance. If a student has finished grade 12 but did not do as well on the exams (still passing) then the student can still go to college either paying for it with their parents help or maybe getting a corporation to help. The mining companies are really interested in those who excel in the sciences or accounting for example.The students get a “certificate” when they finish grade 12. If they have not passed 6 of their exams they will still get a “certificate” but it will show what their scores are so future employers will see how well they did or did not do in each subject. 

Health Care: I won’t even comment on US Health Care!  In Namibia the public health care system is widely used by a large portion of the population because of the high poverty rate. The cost to go to the clinic to see a nurse or a Dr. is N$4.00 which is less than .40 US cents. If a public patient cannot pay, they are seen anyway.  If a private patient comes to the clinic it cost them N$60.00 which is less than $6.00 US Dollars. There are clinics all over the country that are overseen by hospitals in that district. For example, Aus is in the Luderitz District in the //Karas Region. The Doctors from Luderitz answer the nurses questions and make the decisions if it is not a routine sickness. If they think a patient needs to be hospitalized, or to be seen by a Dr., they will have the nurse arrange transportation and appointments for the patient. If there is anything serious, the patients almost always have to travel to Windhoek for care so there is medical transportation to and from Windhoek every week, sometimes many times a week. Some clinics have Dr’s who work at the clinic but Aus does not because it is such a small community. The Dr’s do come to the Aus clinic about once a month. Our facility has 2 nurses, 2 HIV Counselors, 1 Community Health Assistant and 1 Cleaner. This clinic services about 1,300 people in and around Aus. All medications are free here. There is a high prevalence of HIV, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, and malnutrition all over this vast country.

Groceries and food: Many small communities do not have grocery stores but they might have little markets that sell basic items at higher costs. So unless you live in a town or city with grocery stores, getting food is a daily challenge. It requires resources for the “hike” to and from a town with a grocery store as well as resources for the groceries. Many people will get help from combie drivers who regularly travel to larger areas to pick up a few things here and there. In a settlement like Aus, the government will drive around every once and a while in large trucks and give away canned fish or maize meal to those who need it. And even though food is challenging to have at times, the philosophy here is if you have a meal and someone stops by, you share, even if you don’t have enough to share. Everyone just takes smaller portions. There have been many, many times when someone stops by my flat to chat and will say “I’m hungry, what do you have that I can eat?”  I make my own bread and I usually have butter or peanut butter so that is what they get. One day a visitor asked that question and I let her cut her own pieces of bread and spread the butter on her bread to discover later that she ate almost all of the bread and finished my butter. Completely finished it. That is normal here. Another difference is that many of the soups and stews will have large pieces of meat still on the bone and when eating the meat, we eat the meat with our hands making sure there is not a morsel of meat left on that bone. When a goat is slaughtered for a braai (cookout), every single piece of that goat is used except for the hide. Nothing goes to waste. One of the staples here is called Pap, or porridge. It is made out of maize meal and depending on what meal it is for it will be flavored or served with different things. For breakfast, my host family during training made Pap and loaded it with sugar and milk. For dinner it would be regular Pap served with some sort of meat and meat sauce that we would pick up the pap in our hands and dip into the meat sauce for flavor. Pap by itself has very little flavor or nutritional value although it is very filling. 

Electricity: If a house has electricity, there is a box inside the house with a meter on the box.  To have electricity, people have to go to the settlement office to purchase whatever dollar amount they can afford and they are given little slips of paper with a number that they have to punch into their metered box. That number will only work in that persons house. Then the person can monitor how much electricity so they will know when to buy more. When it runs out, they must go back to the settlement office to purchase more. If it happens over a weekend or holiday, they must wait until the office opens again. 

This is enough for now. I’ve put off loading this onto the website for far too long. 

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, Christmas and that 2016 proves to be all that you hope for! I had dinner at the US Ambassadors house for Thanksgiving with 8 other Peace Corps Volunteers, the PC Country Director, the Program Manager and the Financial Manager. It was a huge spread that we were all very thankful for. The Ambassador and his wife were extremely kind and welcoming. For Christmas I had 6 Peace Corps Volunteers come to my flat so we cooked a big Christmas Eve meal (I even found a turkey to cook), sang carols and generally had a good time. On Christmas day we were all invited to my friends (Karin and Steve) house for a big lunch. We sang  American Christmas Carols for them and again had a wonderful day of fellowship. While a few of my PC friends were here we had the opportunity to go visit Orange River and Fish River Canyon. Magnificent views....google them. Fish River Canyon is supposed to be the second largest Canyon in the world falling right behind the Grand Canyon.

Thanks for reading!

“The years tell a story the days never knew”  by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Here’s hoping that 2016 tells a story worth repeating!

 

Community Health

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending time with Owen, a Community Health Assistant (CHA) in Aus, going out into the “Location”. Namibia has recently implemented this new program where every community has a CHA. Their purpose is to go into the community and see people where they live, finding out what they need, what their issues are whether those issues are medical or social and then making a plan to address those needs.

 Owen

Owen

Most of the visits we had this week were to find out why students were not attending school. To give you some reference here’s a bit about education in this small community. There is only one school and it is a primary school that has pre-primary through grade 7. After grade 7 each student must go to a secondary school in another town. They can either live with a family member or live in the hostel at the school. There are fees involved so many of the children from here can not go (although beginning in January there will be no school fees, just hostel fees). The school and hostel fees are not very much but when you make so little (or you spend what you make unwisely) there is not enough money for school. Consequently many of these children end up dropping out. It is mandatory to attend school in Namibia until age 18. The school year runs from Jan-Nov. in three terms with long breaks between each term.

 Marmer Primary School

Marmer Primary School

Here are a few cases we have discovered. 

  1. An elderly couple who live in a tin shack with no water or electricity. Neither one can get out of bed very easily so their daughter and her three babies are living with them to help out. The father of the babies also lives with them and can’t find a permanent job so he’s doing odd jobs when he can to help support all of them. They are living off of the elderly couples pensions (the word pension here means welfare-all the elderly people get N $1000 per month. At the current exchange rate that is about US $72.00). The woman has pain in her eye that keeps her up at night and can’t walk because of old ailments. The man had his leg amputated a while back and is experiencing phantom pain that he is positive comes from stitches that were left in. The plan for these two people is to get them transportation to the clinic so they can be assessed by a nurse.
  2. A 13 year old girl has not been to school in several weeks and she has an 18 year old boyfriend who is a school drop out. They are sleeping together. We spoke with the school first then we spent some time with the girl. She had many reasons for not coming to school but says she wants to become an office worker one day and recognizes the need to get an education. We then went to the family home to speak with the adults there and spoke with her Aunt and Grandmother. They said she is disrespectful sometimes and that the real problem is the boyfriend. Their house is tin with dirt floors and many, many people live there. We counted how many and came to about 18 who are in and out all of the time. There is no privacy and if you put something down, it will be picked up and taken by someone else before you can turn around. Beds are shared and the Aunt and Grandmother are not ever really sure who is where. We then went to speak with the boyfriend and his Grandmother. We talked with him about the legal consequences of dating someone so young and that he could be charged with rape and put in jail. He was insolent and would not even look at us while we talked. We have checked on the girl several times and she is back in school (there is one teacher there who is very fond of her and trying to motivate her into being at school too!) so that’s a beginning.  Our plan for her is to help her apply to go to an all girls boarding school in Windhoek. She says she is willing to go but we will see what happens. There is no money in the house to pay for her to go to secondary school in another town so for her to continue her education, this is the best bet.
  3. A 16 year old boy who dropped out of school in grade 7. He does not like school and does not want to go to a traditional secondary school. He is good with his hands, likes to fix and build things. Also likes to draw.  I gave him some paper to draw on and he’s going to draw a picture for me. I’ll post it when I get it. He lives with his older sister and younger brother. There are also 2 other brothers who are away at secondary school. There is no father in the picture and the mother is in the north of Namibia working to support her children. A family friend is housing them and taking care of them. The older sister has finished school and is working at one of the lodges in town. Our plan is to look into a vocational school for him. His sister showed us things he has fixed that now work. They were electrical and electronic things. Seems a good fit and he sounded like he’d be interested in learning a skill.
  4. Three brothers who live in a tin shack with no parents around. The parents moved to a farm for work and left the children to fend for themselves. They are 13,11 and 8. The 13 yo has not been attending school since February because he spends his days trying to find food and wood so his brothers have something to eat. The younger two boys are still attending school regularly. There is one family member who is supposed to be looking out for them but we have yet to locate him. We asked them where they are getting food and they’ve been eating the maize meal that the town gave out last month but it is finished and now they are eating pop (it’s like a porridge). We immediately got them some more maize meal and a bag of meat. Over the weekend the town was giving out fish to the people in the location so we got a portion for them and are giving some of it to them every day. Our plan is to locate the family member to see what he says about the situation and then to get a referral out to the Social Workers so they can come assess the situation to get these boys more permanent help. I am also going to get them some clothes and shoes (thanks Jacob Watkins!) this week.
  5. A 15 year old girl who was in grade 8 in Rosh Pinah (a town about 100km from here) living with a family member. The family member left Rosh Pinah so she had nowhere to live. Her older sister has submitted an application to the school in Bethanie (a town about 60km from here) where she can live in the hostel. They are waiting to hear from Bethanie. Our plan is to contact Bethanie so hopefully she can begin grade 8 again in January.
  6. A 16 year old girl who was in grade 9 in Bethanie. Her accommodations fell through so she had to come home. There is a teacher there who was very encouraging who has helped her re-apply including a spot in the hostel. The teacher has told her she is in but our plans are to make sure that is the case. 
  7. A 15 year old boy (grade 7) who has not been to school for the past 3 days. He couldn’t give any explanation about why but promised he would return on Monday. He is one of the kids in the house described earlier that has 18 people living there. We checked on Monday and he was indeed back in school. 

This week we were mostly concentrating on locating the kids who have not been in school to see why and see what we can do to get them in school. School fees are certainly an issue, but there are many other social problems going on in this small settlement. Assessing the needs is challenging because there are so many.  In thinking about it and studying it, my opinion is there is an underlying feeling of hopelessness because there are so few jobs and so little to do. When I leave, I want to have left a mark. I want to have made a difference for the kids of Aus. And to do this, I think I must start with after school programs. There is a group of students who want me to help them with reading, but there are few books so we are starting with short stories about dogs. The principal at the primary school is in support of this but getting it actually started has proven to be rather challenging. There are many road blocks that I am weeding through presently. I’ll keep you posted!

 One of the tin houses in the location.

One of the tin houses in the location.

Thanks for reading….I spent a week in NC for my son’s (Andrew) wedding in September. We welcome Amber into our family with open arms, although if feels like she has been a part of our family forever already! They've been dating since high school. It was a picturesque event held on Bald Head Island. If you’ve not had the chance to visit that gem of a place, I highly recommend it. So many of our friends and family were there to celebrate the nuptials, thank you to those who made the trip…it was wonderful to see everyone even briefly!  It was rather hard to get on the plane to fly back to Namibia since I probably won’t go to the states until I am finished with service (June, 2017). That’s a long time and I really do miss everyone! Yes, I’m homesick sometimes. Cards and notes and packages are greatly appreciated!!!

“Just remember there is someone out there who is more than happy with less than what you have.” – Unknown

Berta's Namibian Life

I have met so many people in this beautiful country that I want to share with you.  This blog post will highlight one of them, Berta Boois. She is the cleaner at the clinic and she is also my Afrikaans tutor. She is patient with me but also demands that I work hard learning the language. I need someone pushing me because I have this mental block about languages and she is helping me overcome it. Her English is very good and getting better by the day!

 Berta in her kitchen

Berta in her kitchen

 Berta in her room she shares with both daughters

Berta in her room she shares with both daughters

 Berta's house

Berta's house

 Outhouse on left (with a bucket toilet), View of Aus, Corner of Berta's house on right. 

Outhouse on left (with a bucket toilet), View of Aus, Corner of Berta's house on right. 

 Berta's Water Source. She does have electricity but it is pre-paid and if it runs out on a Sat. morning, you have to wait until Monday to get more. There are boxes inside the homes that you have to input a code that is printed on your receipt once you have purchased electricity. 

Berta's Water Source. She does have electricity but it is pre-paid and if it runs out on a Sat. morning, you have to wait until Monday to get more. There are boxes inside the homes that you have to input a code that is printed on your receipt once you have purchased electricity. 

Berta Boois…Born October 24, 1979 to her mother ( a housekeeper for others) and her father (a railroad worker). She is the 5th of 6 children and the only girl. She is a hard worker who was born in the Aus Clinic, where she now works. She completed primary school (which is through grade 7) in Aus, then went to Karrasburg (about 350 km’s away) for grades 8 and 9. She then went to Bethanie (about 110 km’s away) for grade 10. That completes her education. While she was in secondary school in Karrasburg and Bethanie, she stayed in the school hostel and when she came home during holidays and occasional weekends, she came to Aus to stay with her grandfather (“oupa” pronounced oh-pa) because her parents had moved to Rosh Pinah for work. 

Berta’s parents are still living and moved back to Aus quite a long time ago. They live in the “location” (the poorest section of Aus) and Berta goes to their house every day for lunch. Berta’s oldest brother farms, another brother is a truck driver, and another one is a petro jockey (gas station attendant) in Rosh Pinah. Her other two brothers live with her parents. One has built his own room next door to her parents and the other lives with them. Neither brother contributes financially and that makes things extremely difficult for Berta’s parents who live on their pension. One of these brothers has a Grade 12 education and official work papers (which makes getting a job very easy). He will get a job, move away and get involved with some girl, spending all of his money and time on her. He never sends money to his parents or helps provide for them at all. Then he gets tired of his work and quits or is fired, moves home and mooches off his parents until he gets the notion to work again. This cycle has gone on so long Berta describes it as “this is just the way it is”. The brother who lives at home in the room he built next door is the youngest of all of the kids. He has a girlfriend (who is engaged to some 60+ y.o. white man in Keetmanshoop) with whom he fathered a son. The girlfriend won’t take responsibility for their son so Berta’s parents are raising him. Another drain on their meager pension. 

 Berta's Parents House

Berta's Parents House

 Berta's brothers house

Berta's brothers house

Berta has 2 daughters. The oldest (Vanessa) is 14 years old and currently in grade 8 in Keetmanshoop (250 km from Aus). Her father lives in Kavongo which is in the northern part of Namibia so she does not see him and he does not help support her at all. She does want to see him but it is expensive to travel so far and therefore not possible at this point. School fees are really hard for the poor to pay but somehow Berta gets it done, but I’ll go into more about that later.  When Kayla was in Grade 1, her father was working in Rosh Pinah and one weekend when Vanessa was visiting he moved up north without telling Berta and took Vanessa with him. She found out that they were gone and soon discovered there was nothing she could do. She went to the police who said the father had the right to take his child and Berta didn’t have the money to go up north to get her daughter back. She was gone for 2 years. Can you imagine the anguish Berta felt not knowing how her daughter was doing, not knowing if she was in school, not knowing if she was being fed and because of poverty, she was not able to do anything about it. My heart aches just thinking about her situation. The father brought Vanessa back to Berta after two years and has not seen her much at all since that time.

Berta’s other daughter, (Kayla) is 11 years old and lives with Berta in the location.  She is in grade 5 at the Marmer Primary School in Aus. Kayla is a nice girl and I’m going to start tutoring her in reading as soon as I return from my visit home. Berta is currently researching schools hoping to send Kayla to a better school next year. Her father works with Scorpion ( a mining company in Rosh Pinah), he see’s his daughter when possible and he gives Berta N$500 each month to help with child support.  N$500 is less than $50 US Dollars to give you have a reference. He is a Baster, which is one of the many tribes in Namibia. They are very proud of their Nama and Dutch decent. Afrikaans is their native language. You will notice in the picture below that Kayla is much lighter skinned than her mother.

 Kayla, puppy, Berta, Kayla's friend

Kayla, puppy, Berta, Kayla's friend

The primary school here does not do a very good job of preparing the students to move on to secondary school.  Many of the local children finish primary school (grade 7) and then they don’t go on to secondary school. There are many reasons this is happening but partly because there is no secondary school in Aus and sending your child to another town means they have to live with relatives or live in the hostel and that can be more than the budget allows. Another problem is that the students who finish grade 7 here, can not go directly into grade 8 in other places because they are not as prepared as they should be.  Why isn’t something being done about that? Good question and one I keep asking. I get so many answers it is difficult to discern what is really happening. For my part, I will be helping the Life Skills teacher when I return from the wedding and I’m starting a “reading club” for the kids to help them learn to read English (the national language). All of their standardized tests are given in English starting in Grade 3.

Back to Berta. Here’s a recap of her work history. She started doing housework for a lady in Rosh Pinah. She worked there for 2 years and describes the lady as very nice. Then she went to work for the Scorpion Project doing cleaning and was there for about 4 years. Then she moved to Aus and got a job doing housekeeping at Klein Aus Vista ( a beautiful resort-look it up on the internet) and was there for approximately 4 years. At that point she got a job at the Aus Clinic. The advantage of working at the clinic is that it is a government job so she has better benefits. She has asked for a transfer to another clinic or hospital so she can move from Aus. Aus is a vary quiet community and with no secondary school, no grocery store, no bank, no other shopping at all and it would make things better for Berta and her daughters. They could all live together and the girls could further their education without it being so financially difficult. I hope Berta gets that opportunity although I would miss her tremendously if she does!

A bit about Berta’s finances. I’ve asked her permission to include hard numbers so you can get a sense of what her life is really like. She does NOT want pity. She has a joy about her even while working hard and worrying about making payments. Here’s the run down of her monthly income and expenses in Namibian dollars:

Income from pay N$4100

Income from two ladies who rent one room N$300

Total income: N$4400

Deductions from pay N$2100 (which includes health insurance, pension, and funeral expenses (for her parents, her kids, herself and one brother).)

Water N$500

Electricity N$300

Hostel fees etc N$300

Air time (phone) N$30

Rent N$150

Total deductions: N$3380

Right now, Berta is making another N$300 per month from tutoring me but I’m not including that because it is temporary. Normally she is left with about N$1,020 (about $100 US dollars) for groceries, clothes, emergencies, birthdays, and anything else that crops up. Can you imagine? She does all of this with a smile on her face, a ready laugh and a twinkle in her eye. She is a joy to know and my life is much richer having met her. 

Berta’s daughters have never owned new clothes, they wear “hand me downs”. They’ve never owned a cell phone. They’ve never asked for new things, it’s just understood that it’s not possible. Berta bought a bag of apples this week (a real treat) and while I was visiting Saturday, Kayla offered me one. That’s the reason for the quote at the end of this blog today. Berta has raised her girls to know they must work hard and get educated if they hope to make enough money to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. She s a bit hard on them because she has worked so hard over the years and she knows what it’s like to struggle every single day. She wants a better life for her girls. Some ideas are universal aren’t they?

 Me, Berta's cousin, Berta.

Me, Berta's cousin, Berta.

 Every location in Namibia has a "Headman" a sort of unofficial "Mayor" and this is where the "Headman" of the Aus Location lives. 

Every location in Namibia has a "Headman" a sort of unofficial "Mayor" and this is where the "Headman" of the Aus Location lives. 

 The Location in Aus just received 18 new toilets from the government. The government came in and poured concrete, ran water and sewage lines and built a toilet with a shower. Most of the people use "bucket" toilets that the settlement office employees empty every Mon,, Wed., and Fri.

The Location in Aus just received 18 new toilets from the government. The government came in and poured concrete, ran water and sewage lines and built a toilet with a shower. Most of the people use "bucket" toilets that the settlement office employees empty every Mon,, Wed., and Fri.

 The Location

The Location

On another note. This past Thursday, a baby was born at the clinic that was only 23 or 24 weeks. He died soon after birth and has been in the morgue below the clinic since Thursday. Today, the grandmother came to claim the baby so he could be taken for burial. I went with the nurse to help get the baby ready. He was so beautifully formed, just very small and he looked like a doll. The grandmother brought clothes and blankets and a diaper and after dressing him, we put him in the tiny casket made out of pressed wood and then added all the other clothes that had been originally collected for him. It is their tradition to bury everything that was supposed to be for the baby with the baby. It was another touching, sad and spiritual moment to add to this experience I am having. I believe the image of that baby will stay with me forever. 

“There is no act of faith more beautiful than the generosity of the very poor.” Abdullah in Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

A quick update

During the past month, I traveled to Luderitz to work at the Luderitz Hospital doing data work for the CDC concerning HIV treatment and compliancy. It was interesting to learn how they collect data and how it is reported to the CDC. There is one employee who spends her days inputting data into the CDC computer from all over the //Karas Region. She was going on vacation so they wanted me to learn how to do her job. The interesting thing about the whole process was that I learned how to do it, spent 3 days doing her job and then while she was gone, they did not have me come back to do the job for her. Not because I didn’t do a good job, but because no one got around to finding me accommodations for the 2 weeks while she would be gone. I stayed with a Peace Corps Volunteer while I was there for the 3 days but told the nurse in charge that I could not impose on him (26 year old Carlos, thanks!) any longer. Life in Namibia! Here are some pictures of Luderitz. It is a beautiful town on the southern coast of Namibia.

 Nest Hotel in Luderitz

Nest Hotel in Luderitz

My friends Karin and Steve brought me a wonderful mattress and box springs so sleeping is good again!  I owe them so much because they really look after me in more ways than I can count. I dog sit for them when they travel so have hot water with some regularity and anytime I need a shower, I head up to their house to get clean!  

I went to a funeral this past weekend of a 46 year old man who died on Aug. 11th. Namibians always have their funerals on Saturdays and this funeral took place on Aug. 28th. It was a moving ceremony and I here are a few pictures. There was one song/chant sort of thing the congregation did when the family members spoke that felt soulful and sad. I plan to learn more about that song as soon as possible because it tore at my heart. 

A quick post to let everyone know I’m doing fine. I will be home in less than two weeks for Andrew and Ambers wedding. I can’t wait to see as many people as I can! 

"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." - Margaret Mead

Adjustment

Here’s the picture of my flat that didn’t seem to load in my last post…sorry about that! Technology can be a challenge here! And, here’s a picture of my flat with snow falling! It has been extremely cold and windy lately. There’s no insulation in the houses so if it’s cold outside, it’s cold inside. I have one little portable electric heater that I keep on in my bedroom. The rest of the house is cold…just think about that for a moment! :)

 Flat

Flat

 Flat with snow

Flat with snow

The past month has been different, lonely, boring, challenging, and exhilarating. I suspect that this is just a sample of what my life will be like for the next two years. Ups and downs abound. 

One Saturday Jessica (the nurse who works at the clinic where I work and live), wanted to cook donkey on a fire in a black wrought iron pot so I contributed to the purchase of wood and with some of the spices. It was an all day affair. I cooked some chicken in my oven with chicken spices because I needed to cook the chicken and because I was not sure I wanted to eat donkey although I’ve already had it once at my host families house in Okahandja. I did eat a bit of it and it was ok although I prefer to eat chicken. Many Namibians don’t eat chicken and consider it not meat and believe me, this is a meat eating country! Another thing I have gotten used to is always being a bit hungry. Getting groceries is a difficult proposition so I’ve only been to the store once since I moved to Aus. Makes for interesting food choices!  There is a butchery here but everything is so expensive, I haven’t utilized it much. And, there is no bank in Aus, so getting money can be another issue. I’m not complaining, just trying to explain what it is like to live here.

A positive thing that has happened is that the lady at the Namib Garage, Elise, invited me to a meeting one night at Steve and Karin’s (her son and daughter-in-law) house. I went to the meeting and met some lovely people who really care about Aus. They try to implement change on a continual basis. They feed the pensioners (the old people), they feed the children, they clothe the children, they hire the workers, they help when asked in so many ways I can’t even list. I feel like this is the first time I’ve been in touch with the people who can help me help this community!  Karin and I instantly bonded and I feel like we will be good friends. She has offered to let me shower (hot water!!) at her house,  she wants me to help feed the pensioners, and she even offered to let me eat lunch with them every weekday at the Garage. She worries I don’t have enough food. And, she’s really worried about my not having hot water and about having to hike when I go somewhere. It’s good to have someone here who cares. Here’s a picture of Karin and Steve and their two dogs. There’s also a picture of Koeloe, their pet turkey!

 Karin and Steve and the two dogs!

Karin and Steve and the two dogs!

 Koeloe, the pet turkey

Koeloe, the pet turkey

I spent an afternoon with one of the farmers I met on outreach and his wife. They are a lovely couple who have been here for most of their lives and have had workers on their farm who have been with them for years. They talked about their biggest challenge with the workers is when the workers are taken to town. They take all their money and use it on alcohol. They don’t understand how to have one or two drinks, they drink until all their money is gone and then usually end up in fights. Their farm is 160km from Aus, the closest town, so the workers do not have the opportunity to do this very often but when they do, it usually ends this way.

My greatest challenge at site is that my site counterpart was under the misconception that I was her employee for 40 hours a week. It was clear fairly quickly that she wanted control over all of my projects and time. Once I realized that this was going to be a major issue, I phoned my PC Supervisor and told her about the situation. There are other factors involved that I will elaborate on at another time (and some I won’t include), but the most immediate struggle centered around my site counterpart wanting control over my every move. Those of you who know me well, know that I am a very independent person who likes to have the freedom to explore options and in this small community, I needed to have the freedom to see what community members believe would help. The good news is that my PC Supervisor drove to my site (a 700km trip each way) to have a meeting with my site counterpart. It was a productive meeting in that my site counterpart got the message that she is not in charge of me 40 hours a week. We agreed on a schedule where I would be at the clinic working with TB patients every morning for a few hours and then I will do some health education one afternoon and home visits another afternoon. We will see how this all pans out and if my site counterpart can’t get on board with this, I will find alternate living arrangements (I already have an offer) so I could have more freedom to help the people in this beautiful settlement. Since the meeting my site counterpart has been out of town and on “outreach” again.

The past few weeks have been so challenging that I have considered throwing in the towel on a number of occasions. I’ve even talked with my family members and a few friends about it  but, and this is a big BUT, I have not really had the opportunity to get to work yet AND I really want to help the people of Namibia. I think I can make a difference, particularly with some of the children so I’m dealing with my site counterpart as well as possible and trying to trudge through these adjustment stages. Two of my favorite PCV’s who went through training with me have ET’d (Early Terminated) and it’s sad to see them go but also helps me realize that if I do throw in the towel, I'll be alright. I want to be sure I've given it my all and so far, I'm just getting started.

Last week, I helped do TB educational training for workers in several businesses. Here is a picture from those sessions. We did these trainings because there is a new case of TB in the community and we wanted to share more information about the disease so they would know what to do and how to proceed if they suspect they or someone they know has TB. 

 TB Education

TB Education

This week is outreach again. It was fun (although very long) days seeing people I’ve seen before. Here are some pictures.  

 Farm workers housing at one of the farms.

Farm workers housing at one of the farms.

 Farm workers kitchen at a different farm.

Farm workers kitchen at a different farm.

 Family Planning Education

Family Planning Education

I'm having difficulty loading pictures, I've got a lot more but will try to get them up at a later date. Thanks for reading!

Thank you for the cards, mail and packages!  It seems to arrive in Aus a bit faster than it did to Windhoek.  It absolutely makes my day to see something in my mailbox and know people care….please send more!!!  Allison Daniel, PO Box 13, Aus, Namibia 9000

“Just remember there is someone out there who is more than happy with less than what you have.” – Unknown

Swearing In and a week on site

On Thursday, June 18, 2015 the 31 of us who flew to Namibia together were sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers. It was an emotional day because we have worked so hard, made strong friendships and within an hour of swearing in, some of our group headed to their new towns/cities/villages for their two years of service. Others of us have so far to travel that we had to wait until the following day to leave.  It is dangerous to travel at night in Namibia because of the animals on the road. 

 

The ceremony itself was very nice. I got a bit teary every now and then mostly because we have worked so hard and have had stayed so incredibly busy that knowing our support group was scattering into the wind is a bit daunting. I will miss this great group of people and I am thankful our paths have crossed. 

On Friday, June 19th my ride came to take me to Aus. It was a long day and we arrived just as it was getting dark. My flat is a nice 2 bedroom, 2 toilet rooms, 1 tub/sink room, a hall closet, and a kitchen with room for the round table already in place. There is also a wardrobe in my room so I can hang some clothes…what a treat!  I have electricity and water, although no hot water.  There is a hot water tank but it’s not working. There is a requisition in to fix it, but it might take a while. Here’s a pic of my house.

 

Saturday I walked around this beautiful quaint little town with the nurse in charge of the clinic. She showed me the PO and the one gas station/few groceries store and the other small grocery store. Neither store carry very much at all and what they do have is a bit expensive. Mostly there’s not much inventory. There is also a meat store that is supposed to be pretty good. One of the best sellers of meat here is called Biltong. It’s dried meat and everything I’ve had so far has been fabulous. 

 

Sunday I took a walk to get the lay of the land. I introduced myself to a police woman and she invited me to her home when she got off work so I went with her. She lives in the location. The location is where the majority of the poor live. Once I was at her house, I met a few children and before I knew it I was walking around the location with a group of kids. They showed me where the school is, where their houses are and basically where everything is located. Their houses are mostly made of tin with no windows at all. It must get stifling hot in the summer in those houses. The 10 yo girl, Matilda, and the 7 yo girl, Elizabeth, took me under their wings and became my new best buds. After the tour, we went back to where the police officer lives and we played ball in her yard. There is a shebeen (a bar run by a local) right next to her house so there were lots of men milling around. One old man grabbed my hands and said hello, then tried to kiss me on the lips…he was so drunk. When I left, the kids walked me back to the clinic and they wanted to see my house. I did not want them to see how large it is for just me by Namibian standards so I got them to help me clean up some trash on the clinic grounds and then sent them on their way.  

 

On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I went on “outreach” with the nurses. We left early in the morning and rode for hours before getting to the first farms. I met some really interesting people, saw how the farmers and the farm hands live and also saw some wonderful scenery. Namibia is an incredibly beautiful country. Here are some pics from the days.

 Outreach truck

Outreach truck

 Rhino

Rhino

 A lodge that will open next July or August. They've been building it for 15 years. 

A lodge that will open next July or August. They've been building it for 15 years. 

 

On Wednesday, I took medical transport to Keetmanshoop to do my shopping. I needed groceries and some basic things like a broom. It takes about 2 hours to get to K so it was a whole days journey. Ran over to the the nurses quarters at the hospital in hopes of seeing 2 volunteers there. Got to see Katie and that was a breath of fresh air! Missed Catherine but I’ll catch her next time.

On Friday, I hung out at the clinic and also found a tutor for Afrikaans. We will start on Monday. I’m really excited I found her because she is really interested in helping me have conversations in Afrikaans. Lets get this going!

Today is my birthday (57) and for those of you who know me well, you know it is one of the most important days of the year so being so far away from home has been challenging but I went to the corner gas station/market and bought cake flour and made myself a bday cake last night. I’m going to celebrate today with Jessica (one of the nurses) and Anneline (my new tutor). I also treated myself to time at the hotel paying $10 nam dollars per half hour for internet. I have ordered a netman from the post office that should arrive on Thursday so will have better access once I get that all set up. I also washed my hair today (and it’s been a while…yuck) so I feel better. With no hot water and the temps so cold I haven’t been willing to submerge my head so I’ve been wearing it up and using dry shampoo!  Again…yuck!  

 cake

cake

Thanks for all the b’day messages via fb or whatsapp. It’s nice to know I’m being thought about and it has helped tremendously!!

For now, thanks for reading…let me know what you like and don’t like. 

Oh...my new address......PO Box 13, Aus, Namibia 9000.  Please send me mail!  PIcs, cards, anything! Thanks!

“We learn something from everyone who passes through our lives.. Some lessons are painful, some are painless.. but, all are priceless.” – Unknown

After Shadowing a Current PCV

Whew! Shadowing a current Health PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) in Keetmanshoop for 4 days was loads of fun. JJ, one of the language trainers, negotiated with our first driver who took us to Windhoek on Wednesday morning. We (Catherine, Phil, Jacob, and I) got dropped off at Rhino (a combie/taxi hiking point in Windhoek) and caught a combie to Keetmanshoop. With four of us, we didn’t have to wait too long before the combie headed out of town. A combie is a 13 passenger van. The drivers mostly drive back and forth from one place to another all the time for hire. Combie’s are usually a bit higher in price but they are comfortable and they also carry a cart behind the combie for everyone’s bags or luggage. We paid $60 Namibian dollars to get from Okahandja to Windhoek and $170 Nam dollars to get from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop. On the drive to Keetmanshoop, the combie stopped in Mariental so everyone could go to the bathroom and get something to eat if they wanted. It’s about an hour drive to Windhoek and another 4 to 5 hour drive from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop.

 On the way to Keetmanshoop

On the way to Keetmanshoop

When we arrived in Keetmanshoop. the combie driver dropped Catherine and me off at the hospital nurses housing where we met Katie Maus. She’s the volunteer we stayed with and she volunteers at the hospital. Katie is the nicest young lady who took us under her wings to show us “life in Keetmans”. Her housing is like a suite style dorm in the states. There are 6 bedrooms with a shared kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room…yes, Katie has a washing machine!  Catherine’s site is Keetmans and she is going to be living in one of those rooms in two weeks.  There will be 2 Namibian nurses (one male and one female), 2 PC volunteers (Katie and Catherine), and 2 Czechoslovakian volunteers living in their “suite”.  It sounds like it might be a great setting for a sitcom…where are the networks? 

We spent the first day touring the hospital and meeting many of Katie’s co-workers and friends. I particularly enjoyed meeting two of the social workers Kaite works with. We talked about the challenges they face and how they handle situations. We also got to deliver some crocheted bears for the pediatrics ward which was fun. There’s an organization in the US who sends Katie bears they have crocheted and all they ask is to receive a picture of each child who receives one.  (Sounds like a project for the clinic where I will be in 2 weeks).  We spent a bit of time in the TB ward talking about the way they distribute and monitor TB regimens. The least surprising aspect of health care to me is that the patients have a tough time complying with treatment regimens….sounds exactly like the U.S.  I do think the reasons they have difficulty are different in many cases, but the ultimate goal of treatment is to complete the regimen. If TB patients do not complete the regimen, it takes much longer to complete each subsequent course. Katie has worked it out with the hospital staff to only speak Afrikaans to her every Thursday. Because there are so many languages in Namibia and English is the national language, almost all workplaces speak in English so to continue to improve her Afrikaans she ONLY speaks Afrikaans on Thursday. What a great idea and one I will copy!, Thanks Katie!

Day two started at one of the local secondary schools in Keetmanshoop. Another PCV (Megan) is a teacher there so we went to the school to do a presentation on re-usable sanitary napkins for the girls.  You never know how something like this might go over, but the girls were very interested in learning more about these and all they have to do to receive one is to see the “Life Skills” teacher to fill out a form and they will be given one.  This is another one of Katie’s projects that could definitely make a difference in many girls lives.  Katie told them “sometimes when your period starts your family might not have money to buy you pads…here’s an option that you can use over and over and over again”.  They really were very interested in them and I believe there will be many, many re-usable pads being used in Keetmanshoop in the future. Girls don’t really use tampons here and they don’t even want to consider it, it’s just not done very often so this is a very good alternative. 

After the visit to the school, we had a tour of Keetmanshoop and I saw the “hiking point” for for my new home. I’ll be seeing that “Puma” gas station a lot over the next 2 years, I guess. We spent the next two days with 3 other PCV’s (Megan, Aaron, and Mark) and the 2 other trainee’s (Jacob and Phil) who rode down here with us. It was a whirlwind of activity with so many people staying under one roof. The entire experience was a glimpse into what my next 2 years will be like except that I’ll be off on my own and will have to work hard to have time with American friends. I plan on making lots of new Namibian friends along the way.

Hiking back to the training town was our first hiking experience without someone else taking the reigns. Aaron walked us to the hiking point where we waited about 10 minutes until a pick-up truck with an enclosed back stopped to see if we needed a ride. He was only going part of the way but it was in the right direction so we climbed in the back and sat on a “chinese” mattress for the couple of hours it took to get where he was going. We then got a ride on a combie to Windhoek and then found a taxi to take us to the training center. All in all it took about 5 hours. I was expecting to have to wait in the sun for quite a while and that did not happen to us this time. I’m sure it will in the future. I do feel more secure about hiking in Namibia now. It is the main mode of transportation for most people. Very different than the states.

 Catherine and Phil in the back of the truck.

Catherine and Phil in the back of the truck.

 Jacob and me in the back of the truck.

Jacob and me in the back of the truck.

This past week we had our 2nd LPI and I didn’t do so well. I did not improve a level, which I should have, but it had only been 2 weeks since the last one and we shadowed during that period and I did not work as hard as I previously had. Our next LPI will be at reconnect in September…right before I head home for Andrew’s wedding.

 Here's a pic of me with Auntie Martha.

Here's a pic of me with Auntie Martha.

I did, however, get chosen to do the “Thank you” speech in Afrikaans on American Cultural Day. American Cultural Day was Saturday and it is a time when the American’s cook for the trainers and the host families and one trainee from each language thanks the host families for welcoming us into their homes and including us in their families. Here’s my speech:

“Goeie Middag dames en here. 

My naam is Allison en ek lewer hierdie kort toespraak, namens almal van ons wat Afrikaans geleer het. Ons wil u almal hartlike bedank, dat u ons met ope arms, as eie familie in u huise ingeneem het. Ons voel nou tuis in Namibia.

U het ons waarlik baie gehelp soos met Afrikaans, al het u vir ons gelag as ons sukkel. Ons het geleer hoe om met ’n groot familie saam te leef, en om wonderlike kos met mekaar te deel. 

Die vriendelikheid en vrygewigheid was uitstekend. Ons waardeer die roosterbrood en al die ander hulp wat ons kon kry.

U het ’n spesiale plek in ons harte en u sal altyd onthou word. Wees versekerd dat ons u altyd sal kom kuier. Bly lekker en dink ann ons.

Baie, baie dankie!!”


 Giving my speech.

Giving my speech.

My language trainer told me she was extremely proud of how fluent I sound and she was grinning the whole time I was talking. I really needed the encouragement after not improving on the LPI!  Auntie Martha is such a wonderful language teacher and I feel extremely thankful to have been put in her class. I’m glad our paths have crossed!

As far as the food goes for the day, we split up into regions and had quite a variety. The south made gumbo, rice, beans and banana pudding. Other regions did pizza on the grill, chili, cheese cake, homemade bread and humus, Waldorf salad, taco’s, brownies, funnel cakes, and a few other things I can’t remember. Everyone enjoyed the food and there was nothing left over!

 The crowd at the American Cultural Day....there's a pizza in the bottom left corner!

The crowd at the American Cultural Day....there's a pizza in the bottom left corner!

Today is my last Sunday with my host family. When I got up, my host mom was already in the kitchen starting a big Sunday meal since I am leaving. I am going to miss this incredibly welcoming and generous family. They have taken me under their wings and treated me like part of the family. They have certainly made my adjustment in Namibia much, much easier. I plan to stay in touch with them and yes, they are on Facebook! 

Thanks for reading! I don’t know how frequent my future blogs will be because I don’t know what my connectivity will be but I promise, I’ll post when I can. And I’ll finish with a quote about new beginnings…

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” – Carl Bard

Weeks 5 and 6 of Training

Weeks 5 and 6 are behind us! A lot has happened since my last blog so I’ll try to bring you up to date. On Wednesday, May 20th (Alan’s birthday) we found out our sites for service. The PC Namibia staff drew a map in the sand behind the training center and they placed rocks with names of towns written on pieces of paper placed under the rocks. We (all 31 of us) were blindfolded and led to our rock/town and then once everyone was placed, we took off our blindfolds. When I took off my blindfold, I discovered that I am a very long way from any of my fellow trainee’s. This country is massive in land size but very sparsely populated and most of the volunteers are in the northern part of the country where the majority of the population lives.  I’m going to Aus. It’s in the southern portion of the country between Keetmanshoop and Luderitz (a quaint harbor town). I’m in the //Karas Region where they mostly speak Afrikaans, English, Nama, and Oshivambo. I’ll be working with a health center doing HIV/AIDS Prevention, Health Awareness, Self Employment Projects, Community Development Projects, Prevention of Alcohol and Drugs, and Positive living with HIV. These are all the items on their wish list, we’ll see what I can accomplish in two years!  There has not been a volunteer there so it will be a new experience for them and me. Here’s a map of the country for reference. And here's a picture from “site day”.

 I'm the lone person way down here in the south!

I'm the lone person way down here in the south!

On Friday we had a birthday celebration for everyone having birthdays this month. There was "pin the tail on the tiger" and "musical chairs" and cake and ice cream for everyone. Thanks go out to the "birthday committee" for putting on a great celebration.

 Melody and Rachel getting into the spirit.

Melody and Rachel getting into the spirit.

On Saturday of that week, I took a hike up to Pride Rock with some fellow trainee’s and a few of their host family members. It’s not a difficult hike although the air is thinner at this elevation and it makes a difference. The view from Pride Rock is beautiful so I’ve added a few pictures to show you. While we were there, we had a few minutes of silence so everyone could really appreciate the beauty. It was peaceful and serene. Take a look…

 Panorama from the top of Pride Rock.

Panorama from the top of Pride Rock.

 Taking in the surrounding beauty.

Taking in the surrounding beauty.

Monday night May 25th, I had my host dad ask me tons of questions in preparation for the LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) the following morning and my host dad said he thought I was very prepared. Then, on Tuesday, May 26th, when we had the LPI’s it was evident we where all nervous and you could feel the stress level at the training center. One of my friends  ate  14  cookies before her interview because she was so stressed. At this point I will interject that language learning is extremely difficult for me and even though I’m in the easiest language here, I still struggle. I was very nervous and when it was my turn for the 20-30 minute interview my heart was racing and my brain was not working. I went into the room with my examiner and we had a nice little chat in the beginning. He started by asking me to tell him about myself so I described myself and told him about my three children. Then he asked me what my hobbies were so I told him those (including painting…BIG mistake!). Then he asked me what countries I have travelled to so I told him (should have limited those as well!). THEN, he asked me to describe my favorite painting that I have painted and since my mind was shutting down at that point, all I could tell him was what colors I like to paint with and for the life of me I couldn’t remember anything I have ever painted!  As I’m writing this it occurs to me that I should have described the beach scene I painted last summer with Beth Bullock and Kim Harward that’s hanging in Kim and Doug’s beach place. But my brain simply couldn’t even think of anything!  THEN he asked me to describe Greece to him. Ugh, other than it was warm and sunny and beautiful I could not think of a single thing to say. (The Greek travel business would cringe if they saw this!) To say that I shut down is an understatement! Thankfully the interview concluded and when I got out of there I "cried my eyeballs out".  I cried because I KNEW he had no concept of what I did know in Afrikaans. I KNEW that I had messed up and I was extremely worried I wouldn’t make the benchmark of Novice High. There’ s no punishment for not making the benchmark, but there is definite pressure to at least make that level. I was so disappointed in myself and that’s a bad feeling. I was prepared, I just couldn’t keep it all together. Sigh.

The following day during the morning meeting, Angelina (the head of language training), brought the LPI certificates in and said that about 40% of us did not meet the language benchmarks set for us. She also said there were a few really outstanding people….don’t get your hopes up, I was not one of them!  She then proceeded to hand out the certificates. When I received mine, I was afraid to look but was relieved and disappointed when I saw I had reached the benchmark of Novice High. I was relieved because my interview was so bad and I was disappointed because I knew I could have done better. At least it was behind me. The next LPI is scheduled in about 2 weeks. I’m already trying not to stress!  Here’s a picture of me studying before the LPI.

 Studying for the LPI

Studying for the LPI

On Friday the language trainers taught us more about where we are going and they brought some traditional outfits for us to see.  In the area where I am going, the women wear pretty dresses and many wear white scarves on their heads. I tried on one of the dresses from the Herero tribe and here’s a pic so you can chuckle at me.

This week I will leave my host family for 5 days and travel down south to shadow a current volunteer. This will be my first experience “hiking” in country. Where I am going is about 570km (355mi) straight down the B1. To “hike” we will go to the hiking point in the town where we are staying and hire a taxi to take us to Windhoek. In Windhoek, we will have to hike to the area where taxi’s gather who are going to Keetmanshoop and negotiate with one to take us there. The PC has been training us on what to look for, how to negotiate, how to be safe, etc. when hiking. For our first trip out, one of the trainers will accompany us, but we will have to make our way back at the end of shadowing without his help.  I’m headed down to Ketmanshoop (which is on the way to Aus) with 3 of my friends so it will be comforting to make that first trip back in the company of others. Apparently this is the way it is here and I’ll just have to get used to it. Another adventure!

Here's a shout out to the seniors at Rocky Mount Academy.  They graduated last night and I heard it was a wonderful evening. I'm sorry I missed the ceremony but know that each and every one of you are headed to college and starting your next big adventure. Thanks, Colby Kirkpatrick, for letting me know I'm not forgotten! Congratulations Class of 2015! Good luck to each and every one of you.

I don’t know what kind of connectivity I will have while I am gone so it might be a bit before I post another blog. Take care and thanks for reading!

“Life is a blank canvas, so you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”― Danny Kaye

Week 4 of Training

Week 4 of training has come and gone! The days are long but we have made it to the half way mark of training. It’s hard for me to believe that in another 4 weeks we will be swearing in as Peace Corps Volunteers and then heading all over the country. We will find out where we are going this coming Wednesday!  Apparently the way they inform us is pretty neat…can’t wait to share.

Namibia is a very large country in land mass (twice the size of California) with only about 2.2 million people. According to the locals, you can drive for a long time without seeing another person. It is more populated in the north (where I’m not going) along the Zambezi River. I’ve been told I’ll be in the central or southern part of the country. I’ll let you know next week.

During our “health” training, we have learned a ton about HIV/AIDS, alcohol abuse, and gender inequality, just to name a few. We’ve played with condoms that smell like bubblegum (someone told me they don’t taste like bubblegum…I did not check for accuracy) and I’ve seen more wooden penises than I care to see. We used them for instruction on how to accurately use a condom. I certainly didn’t think teaching that skill would be in my repertoire…thanks Peace Corps. 

On Saturday we went to a resort called Gross Barmen.  If you are interested in knowing more about the resort you can google it. We (all 31 of the trainee’s, plus the language teachers and the PC staff) took kombi’s (12 passenger vans) to the park and hung out at the pools and had a cookout. Gross Barmen has a huge hot springs pool, sauna, steam room, spa and several outside pools. It was a fabulous day of rest and relaxation. Here are some pictures from Gross Barmen. 

 

 Lydia, Olivia, Stephanie and Mama Rosa enjoying the hot springs.

Lydia, Olivia, Stephanie and Mama Rosa enjoying the hot springs.

 A view of the edge of the pool, the restaurant and bar, and the lake.

A view of the edge of the pool, the restaurant and bar, and the lake.

 The lake with Christine in the right corner following a lizard with her GoPro.

The lake with Christine in the right corner following a lizard with her GoPro.

 The Hot Springs Pool.  Over on the left, there is an area where you can sit under a waterfall of hot water. It was delightful.

The Hot Springs Pool.  Over on the left, there is an area where you can sit under a waterfall of hot water. It was delightful.

 The large outside pool.

The large outside pool.

 They even had a baby pool!

They even had a baby pool!

 Hanging around the small pool.

Hanging around the small pool.

If you are traveling around Namibia apparently Gross Berman is a popular destination although there were not many people there since this is winter. Speaking of weather, it has gotten down to 43 degree F several mornings but by mid day, it hits 80. The beauty of this weather is that the houses are cool. It is also very dry here. Namibia gets the least amount of rain than any other sub-saharan African country. The amazing thing to me is that the water is safe to drink. There is very little green because of the arid climate. It has not rained at all since I got here but during the rainy season (Jan-April) it apparently rains about once a day for a short period of time. I’ll let you know after I’ve been here through a rainy season. Currently, I am in the central part of Namibia about 72Km (45miles) from the capital, Windhoek. 

Thanks for reading!

“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.”   By: William James

Week 3 of Training

Another week of training is finished so we can mark off “Week 3”!  On Friday night some of the trainees went to a restaurant where they had karaoke. Some of my fellow trainees can really dance and sing!  It was a joy seeing everyone release the stress from the week and enjoy themselves.  

Saturday was the Namibia Cultural “Braaivleis” which means “roasted meat”. Our language trainers and host families showed us how to cook goat, chicken, warthog, bread, veggies, beans, and all kinds of other things on small campfires. We (not me) slaughtered and cleaned two goats and killed many chickens. I did pluck the feathers off of one chicken and believe me, I have a much greater appreciation for every single piece of chicken (or any meat) I eat. Each language group had their own way of cooking and cleaning so that was really fun to witness. I never knew you could cook bread in a cast iron pot on a fire!  There is no waste when cooking here and they used every single part of the goat except for the skin. One of my fellow trainees decided to take the skin home with her and she is going to try to make a rug out of it. I can't wait to see the end result. I spent much of my day at the Afrikaans area because I wanted to learn how to cook like the Afrikaans speaking people since that is the language I am learning. Here are a few pictures from today’s event.

 

                                                      Ephraim skinning the goat while Kaitlin watches.

                                                     Ephraim skinning the goat while Kaitlin watches.

                                                             Learning how to slaughter a chicken.

                                                            Learning how to slaughter a chicken.

                 Intestines and other organs hanging from the tree to dry out before cleaning and cooking.

                Intestines and other organs hanging from the tree to dry out before cleaning and cooking.

At home...on Saturday, my daughter, Abby, graduated from college. It was the first “event” I have missed and while it was sad to miss it, I got to FaceTime with my family as they gathered for a celebratory dinner. They even had a bottle of champagne and we all toasted together. I toasted with my water bottle, but that’s ok. I'm so proud of her. Here’s a picture of them all. 

 

                                                          Amber, Andrew, Kevin, Abby, Alan

                                                         Amber, Andrew, Kevin, Abby, Alan

And today is Mother’s Day. I’m going to make a cake for my host mom this afternoon. And while this is the second “event” I am missing with my children, I trust I will talk with them today at some point. As I write this, it is 4 am in North Carolina so I hope they are all fast asleep and feeling happy about their day together yesterday. I miss them.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Swami Sivananda. “Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret to success” Right now, I’m putting my heart, mind and soul into learning Afrikaans. We have our first “Language Proficiency Tests” beginning May 22nd. It will be a 15-20 minute conversation with a PC Afrikaans Tester. Wish me well!

Week 2 Of Training

This past week was spent in training every day beginning with two hours of language being taught by the dearest, sweetest teacher in the world!  Auntie Martha is kind, patient and she obviously loves teaching Afrikaans to our group of six. There are five other trainees learning Afrikaans but they have another teacher.  Martha's first language is KKG which is a “click” language but she loves teaching Afrikaans better. Her English is wonderful too; I’ll have to ask her how many languages she knows. Auntie Martha has 5 children, two of whom are still alive. She’s 13 years older than I am and doesn't have a wrinkle on her face…lucky!  Here’s a picture of Auntie Martha with some of us who are learning Afrikaans.  

 

Kevin, Catherine, Megs, Me, Auntie Martha, Allie, Stephanie, Tony

The weather is getting cooler, in the 50’s at night and low 80’s in the day. It is dry here so unless you are in the direct sun it doesn’t feel hot. They are having a large mosquito population this year so we are using sunscreen and mosquito repellent. I have a mosquito net over my bed as well. So far I’ve only gotten a few bites, thankfully. 

My days start at 6:20, when I get up to shower (yes, I have a shower AND hot water!…at least for now), eat a bit of breakfast because I have to take anti-malaria drugs after food, then I walk to the training center. (It’s probably about a mile and a half from my house) On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we start at 7:30 because we start with song. We are learning quite a few different Namibian songs, in different languages. Some of the songs I’m not even sure what language they are in! At that point we have language classes and then take a break (called tea). We have all different kinds of classes after that but typically we split up into the two groups (CED-which is business, and CHHAP-which is health) I’m in the CHHAP sector so I’m learning quite a bit about AIDS/HIV. 

One day this week we went to the local hospital and had a tour by one of the doctors. They only have 4 doctors and 30 nurses. They have a TB ward, a Pediatric ward, a Mens Ward, a Women’s ward, a one room ER, and a Maternity ward. They have a very up to date ultrasound machine! The Dr. who showed us around told us they have not had one death in the Maternity ward in the three years he has been at this hospital. That is amazing!  In the pediatric ward there were 2 little children who were there for malnutrition and the mom’s were sitting beside them comforting them the whole time we were there. The love and concern on their faces was evident. Having seen hospitals in other developing countries prepared me for what I saw, but some of the other trainee’s really struggled with the realities. 

Today, Saturday, May 2nd, the Herero Tribe was having their coronation so a bunch of us went over to watch some of it. There were lots of beautifully dressed women (and men) and lots of pomp and circumstance (dances, marches, speeches) for the Coronation of the new Leader of the Herero Tribe. If you are interested in knowing more, do a bit of research about how the German’s tried to kill every single Herero in the early 1900’s in Namibia. They came pretty close to accomplishing their goal, but the Herero have fought hard to re-populate and there is great pride in their culture. They have overcome many odds to get where they are today! Below is a picture of two of the Herero women. The hats represent the horns of the cattle they breed. 

I’m good, mentally and physically. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing…I know this. I do miss everyone! 

I’ll end with an Eleanor Roosevelt quote:  “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”  

I’m trying!

9 Days In Country

After long days of traveling, we finally made it to Namibia. There are 31 of us in our group and 7 who are over 50! Whoop, whoop!  The Namibian people have been so welcoming and kind, they greeted us with song when we arrived where we are staying for the first six nights. The Peace Corps staff has been incredibly organized, informative and helpful. It was wonderful that all 31 of us stayed together the first six nights because it gave us a chance to get to know one another.  On Tuesday of this week we got to meet our host families for the first time. Then on Wednesday we moved in with them…

I have internet in my new home!  My host family consists of Wandie, Llewellyn, Waylin (7), and Gabby (3). There is also a brother-in-law who lives here. Wandie and Llewellyn have been married for 9 years. They have welcomed me into their home with open arms. I am their ninth Peace Corps Trainee so they have this system down pat!  Here's a picture of them...

This past Monday, I found out that I am learning Afrikaans. We started language lessons on Tuesday, my teacher is the sweetest lady and incredibly patient with me (and believe me, I need someone who is patient!). I actually answered a question in Afrikaans this afternoon while at the market.  And, when I got home, I told my host family “I am dead tired” in Afrikaans. You can only imagine how much they laughed about that!

Our days in training are long and information filled. We typically have language training in the morning, then different topical sessions the rest of the day. Today we watched films and talked about Malaria, then we discussed diarrhea for way too long!  The good news is, I know what to do when diarrhea hits…aren’t you glad you know that!  

With 31 people you can only imagine the different personalities present but so far it has been congenial.  I am quite sure that over time, tempers will flare and words will be exchanged…just hope I’m not a part of it.  It is an extremely stressful time, we are learning new languages (there are 7 different languages being taught), we are eating new foods, learning new cultures and adjusting to so many different things all at once. I’ve already cried twice. Most of you know that I don’t cry very often so it surprised me but I obviously needed it. 

Before I left the United States, I received an e-mail from the Mid-Atlantic Region Peace Corps Office asking me to answer some questions because they wanted to highlight my departure on their blog. The link to that is here:

I miss everyone but am so busy that I’m handling it pretty well. And, I’ve been able to talk with several people on the app “WhatsApp”.  If you get it and send me a message, I will get it when I’m home.…and respond.  I’d love the connection!  

Two Weeks Before Departure

During the past six weeks I’ve finished working at RMA, traveled to Alabama to see my friend Beth, spent time at the beach with my cousin(s) Lucinda (& Jan), enjoyed the company of my brother Andy, been honored at more than one party (thank you everyone!) and have checked off my “to do” list as quickly as possible even though it seems to continue to grow. Two weeks from today I will be on the first leg of this journey at “staging” in Philadelphia for one night then off to Namibia the next morning (April 14th-my brother Andy’s birthday). 

This past Thursday, I participated in a conference call with other volunteers in my group (there are 32 of us) as well as some of the staff in Namibia. They offered lots of information and answered questions that we all had. My group consists of Health Volunteers and Economic Volunteers. My area of “Youth Development” falls under the Health sector. It was confirming to hear the staff in Namibia laugh and talk about everything, I can’t wait to meet them. It was also fun listening to some of my fellow “trainees”…we are embarking on this incredible adventure together so hearing their voices for the first time and imagining all of these new friendships added to my excitement! 

A few days later we received an email with our mailing address (get those cards and packages flowing!). Apparently packages and mail can take several + weeks to arrive so if you want to send something now, I’d love it and thank you in advance.  If you send Flat mail or US Postal Service packages the address is: Allison Daniel, c/o Peace Corps Namibia, PO Box 6862, Windhoek, Namibia, 9000. If you use FedEx or DHL or other services that require a physical address use: Allison Daniel, c/o Peace Corps Namibia, 19 Nachtigal Street, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek, Namibia. I’ve posted the address to the “Contact” page of this website as well.

The first 2 months of my experience will be PST (pre-service training) in the city of Okahandja where we will live with a host family after the first 6 days. In the beginning we will be with other trainees in a hostel like situation. Sometime during that first week I will find out what language I get to learn and that will give me an idea of what region I will be assigned to. We will have training in safety, security, technology, health, language, and culture to help our adjustment and effectiveness.

On May 20th (my son Alan’s birthday) I will be given my site assignment. Training will continue with all kinds of tests in language, culture, safety etc. until final evaluations on June 15th (my daughter Abby’s birthday). The official “swearing in” ceremony is scheduled for June 18th. That is the point when I will become a Peace Corps Volunteer provided I can pass all those assessments! That same day I will move to my permanent site to begin my 2 years of service. 

It might be difficult to communicate, particularly in the beginning so if I go “off grid” for a while, don’t fret, I’ll be back…maybe intermittently but I’ll be back!