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.
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.
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.
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!!”
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!
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