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