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