Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm Back!

Hey friends!

Sorry for the delay in posting, I’ve been trying to load a video and it finally worked! Also the last couple weeks have just been mayhem, as I spent every last free minute with my friends who are now incredibly far away from me. Currently I’m at my site for good! Let’s back it up to this past week, since Thursday was SWEARING-IN!!

So the end of training finally came, and we took our final LPI [language proficiency interview] on Monday. My mid-LPI was with an incredibly hard grader, so I was happy to not have him again, but instead I got the other notoriously hard grader, dang it! We had a very strange 30 minute interview/conversation, in which there was a scenario, I had to pretend he was my host mom and I wasn’t feeling well – so I told him, hey I don’t feel well, I have a headache, I’m nauseous, and have a stomachache. He then proceeded to say something involving babies [babatjies]. I thought it was obvious I had food poisoning, so him bringing babies into the equation really confused me – he couldn’t be saying I had eaten babies… so I asked him if he meant babbelas, which means hangover. Nope, he started cracking up. Then I remembered earlier that I had mentioned my host sister was pregnant, because I’d just learned that word, and realized he was asking if I was pregnant. Oh man, good times. Anyway, after that very entertaining conversation, on Tuesday I found out I passed!!! The “requirement” for our language proficiency is intermediate low, and 36 out of 39 people scored at or above that, with scores ranging from intermediate low to intermediate high! I received an intermediate-mid proficiency, wooooo!!!

Wednesday we went to Windhoek to see the PC Office, and do some last minute shopping, more important for people going to remote areas far from amenities. The important thing that happened during this visit, was that on the way back we FINALLY saw giraffes!!! The drive back to our PST town goes through a game area, and everyone always talks about seeing cool animals, but I guess we were traveling at the wrong times of the day. My friend Mo was keeping watch of outside, and she just started screaming “giraffe giraffe giraffe GIRAFFES!” we saw a lone giraffe followed by a huge family of them. Took long enough, so worth it. Other notable things with animals – the bugs are starting to get crazyyy as it gets hotter and hotter. Wednesday night a cockroach crawled over my foot in the bathroom, and I am proud to say I did not scream… mostly because everyone else was asleep. I then proceeded to fight a war against the moths that were trying to take over my bedroom.  We could have lived together in peace if they weren’t so big and dumb. Some of them just couldn’t sit still and flew into my head, then when I turned the light off they gravitated towards me. I ended up killing 8 in one night… I won that battle, though it cost me precious sleeping time.

Thursday was the big day! Our awesome driver Edwin came and picked me and all my stuff up, as all the southern volunteers were to leave straight from the ceremony, and we got to NIED. The swearing-in was great, our Country Director Gilbert Collins led the swear-in that anyone working for the US Government does, and then the Ambassador led the Swearing-in as Peace Corps Volunteers. There was a performance by a Youth Choir, many speeches, and we performed a song that was well-received by everyone. It was great! Just 20 minutes afterward, my counterpart was ready to leave, so Brett (closest volunteer to me and therefore travel buddy) and I got going with her.

This trip down south was one of the more epic trips I’ve been on, and I feel confident in saying I’ve been on many an adventurous roadtrips, with 12 hour journeys to Canada for 18 years behind me, in addition to the ridiculous ASB travels with 25, 18, and 24 hour rides respectively. This too ended up being a 25 hour experience, though it should have only taken 9 hours to get to Luderitz. Here’s why. We get going, and just outside Windhoek we stop at this factory looking place. Brett and I are confused because the car is PACKED already, there are two children, and three adults total in our car, in addition to all of our stuff, which is a lot more than we came with because PC has given us a lot of manuals/books/various medical items and big green trunks too. Well, we find out this place makes tombstones, and my counterpart and her husband also run a funeral business. We are adding a massive granite tombstone to this car. I had no idea those things were so heavy! They add the big part to the back, another smaller stone with the name to go below our feet in the back seat, and the car looked like it was about to touch the ground it was so heavy. We were doomed. In Mariental, we pull over to the gas station and I realize smoke is pouring out of the front of the car; the engine cannot handle the weight. We proceed to wait for help; it never comes, so we end up staying the night in a sweet chalet hotel-thing. The next morning we get to the gas station at 8, and proceed to wait for help again until 12, all the while Brett and I entertaining an 8 year old and 5 year old, which we were not entirely successful in doing. My counterpart’s husband comes with another car, and we were under the impression he would drive Brett and I with our luggage. Nope, he put the tombstone in this car as well, because the funeral was Saturday and they needed it asap. This was exactly the same situation as the last car, minus two children who really hadn’t made much of a difference weight-wise at all. We were doomed again. This was a bakkie, so three of us were now stuffed into the front seat [there is a middle seat, but I have no idea what kind of size person its meant for, not me for sure], with my legs basically resting on the stick shift, fun times. We took the gravel road, which was faster for getting to the south, but also a bit more dangerous. On our way to this road we passed a baboon just chilling on the side rail of the road, so cool! Sure enough, about an hour into that drive we get a flat tire.  We decided to call this trip NAMbles. Brett and I proceeded to entertain ourselves by taking jumping pictures and throwing rocks across the road. Luckily we had a spare so we got going pretty fast after that incident. It was HOT in that car, like my cool drink became extremely hot instead of refreshing. Thankfully, though I love Brett, we finally dropped him off in front of a hotel in a town near his site, and kept moving, leaving me some more room to sleep a little for the next two hours. This part of the trip I saw a donkey-driven cart, oryx, kudu, and springbok. I always wondered what oryx looked like, since I eat it often. Eventually I made it, and now I'm here at site! gotta go now internet's going to run out!

I'd like to call this "A Day in the Life of a PC Nam Trainee" I've been trying to upload this video for forever, so hopefully it'll work this time. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Apologies for not posting much, training is a whirlwind! I swear in next-thursday whooooo!!! Anyway, site reveal/visit: Monday the 19th was the big day: Site Reveal! The trainers had us wait until the very end of the day, then brought us outside the training center to find a life-sized Namibia, country borders outlined with string, and papers representing site placements scattered within the borders. One by one each of us was given our Site Description, and with just the name of our School we searched the country to find out specific city. Waldo, my APCD helped me out by telling me to just go far down, as my site is the furthest south of all the volunteers. I’m going to Luderitz!

I am so excited about this placement! I will definitely put up a page with more of the specifics of my site, but Luderitz is an urban area and it is a town on the coast of Namibia. The only con to my site is that it is incredibly far from other volunteers – the closest person to me from Group 34 is a little over 2 hours away, and the next closest is probably 5 or 6 hours away. Lucky for me, there are a couple PCVs from the group before me in Luderitz. This town is quite isolated – you can only access it from one road into town, and there is literally nothing on that road for a solid two hours outside of town. Anyway, getting ahead of myself. It was great finally getting this news because that Friday was our departure to site visit. We met our supervisors [aka for me, my school’s principal], and had a workshop Thursday and Friday, then we were off for our week at site!

My site visit was different for reasons that aren’t super interesting so I won’t go into why, but I actually ended up in Windhoek for that weekend instead of going straight to Luda. I was with my principal and his wife, and we went Owambo wedding celebrations all weekend! It was a cool experience, but I’ll describe that another time so I can focus on describing my actual site visit. Sunday afternoon I got to Luderitz, after a fun-filled 8.5 hour car ride. I met my new host family, and I am pumped because they are the sweetest people ever. The first six weeks at site I’ll be staying with my principal’s sister, who is an HOD [head of department] at my school, and her two daughters, who are a senior and a sophomore in high school. This is great for me since I have two real-life sisters this age! I was dreading having another host family since my current situation is nottt so hot, but I am actually really happy to live with these people.

On Monday we went to school, and I observed some classes, and met the faculty and staff. Everyone is friendly, and I feel positive about my future workplace. My principal is a huge go-getter. They recently opened a bakery to provide the OVC [orphans and vulnerable children] learners with bread in addition to their daily meal at the soup kitchen, and it’s actually the only school in Namibia that has a bakery. He really seems to take advantage of resources available to them, and I’m looking forward to working with him further on more of his projects – one of which involves the library, which is awesome! Also, something unique as far as I’ve seen in schools is that the learners begin with classes in English in pre-primary [kindergarten] here, whereas most other schools teach in the mother tongue until Grade 4. This bodes well for me because my future learners will be much better at English when I get them than they would have been in other regions – I’m teaching Grade 6!

Luderitz itself is a really interesting town. While many of my friends will live in towns where everyone experiences the same relative rural poverty, Luderitz hosts a variety of lifestyles. My future house is close to the center of town, right next to the hotel that many tourists stay at when visiting. It’s an incredibly nice house, the likes of which I probably won’t be able to have in America for a very long time when I come home. This is definitely not the norm for PCVs, good karma has finally come my way and I seriously got lucky! However, my school is about 4K away from my house, and it is in a location where there is intense poverty. Appearance-wise, I think it works best to describe Luderitz as a big rock, with some sand on it at parts. My school is surrounded by a big hill, which made of rock. On top of this rock are hundreds of shacks made of corrugated metal, and that is where many of my learners live. The shacks look like they could blow away with a strong gust of wind – obviously since they are haphazardly placed on the rock, these homes do not have electricity or running water. This striking contrast of life within my town that I will see every day is going to be very interesting. 

 the view from my permanent house's driveway... yeah, i can get used to this.
 the view from the grounds of my school.

During my short visit I also had the chance to meet the Regional Councilor of the Karas region, because his office is in Luderitz, and the Mayor of Luderitz. I was so excited about this site again after talking with the Mayor, who said they are working on raising funds to build a battered women/children center in Luderitz, something that is desperately needed given the high rates of passion crimes and domestic violence in Namibia. This is literally exactly the kind of secondary project I would be interested in, especially after working with the YWCA in Nashille, so I am really looking forward to working with her and the other Health PCV in Luderitz on this! 

Wednesday early morning I began the trek back to training, and after a 5 hour combi ride [listening to loud gospel tunes the whole way], a 12 hour overnight train, a taxi ride by a man we call Mr. Smiley, and yet another taxi with other PCTs we ran into on the side of the highway, we all were happily reunited on Thursday afternoon at our favorite sketchy bar. Fun visit, and knock on wood all of us are still here, which is awesome! That's all of my epic description, have a great day friends!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fun Facts About Life in Nam

  • The black mamba I referenced in one of my first posts is a reality in my neighborhood. In case you didn’t know, it is among the deadliest snakes in Africa, and in my ‘snakes and scorpions’ book it reads under the mamba description “deserves respect.” A couple weeks ago the school I pass on my walk every morning set fire to a huge chunk of the grounds in order to get rid of a mamba. Unfortunately, the fire only killed the baby, so mama mamba is still on the loose - little too close for comfort. I try not to think about this when I cut across the fields on said walk and look wherever I step.
  • There is a craze here that began with a chain e-mail (wait flashback to 5th grade anyone??) called the Illuminati. Essentially this epic e-mail has convinced a HUGE amount of people across Namibia (including a member of my host family and a PC trainer) that Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and assorted other celebrities are Satan-worshippers. This sounds ridiculous, but it is actually not a joke. In addition, wearing or making peace signs mean you’re a part of the Illuminati aka a devil worshipper as well. It’s just too bad that I still blast Gaga every morning and afternoon in my room…some things I know I can't change.
  • Going off that I guess, people here are extremely religious. I went to Catholic school for 14 years and was active in Campus Ministry in high school, yet this is by far the most religion I’ve been surrounded by in my 22 years. It’s a little much. On my site visit a teacher yelled at her learners when she found out they didn’t go to church the day before (umm, they were 5 years old… it probably wasn’t their choice not to go?) Because of this intense presence, I’ve adapted and have caught myself head-bopping to some Christian pop-rock on the way to school occasionally. I’m going to be real weird after two years here.
  • To say that people here are obsessed with meat would be a vast understatement. It’s actually pretty funny, except I’ve learned I really hate lamb and goat, so it’s not as funny when I have to eat those… I’ve been in the clear recently, I think my family picked up when I started raving about chicken. That, or I’ve gotten better at pretending that ambiguous colored meat is some kind of cow (except for last night, which was cow... intestines. tripe mmmm.) Seriously though, it’s almost impossible to be a vegetarian here, as chicken, pork, and goat aren’t considered real meat. Also, on my drive down to Luderitz (of which I was awake for only maybe 2ish hours) with my basic Afrikaans understanding I picked up on no fewer than 3 conversations about meat. Once again, chicken was under-appreciated – they involved beef [bees], fish [vis], and pork [vark]. 
  • People here take greetings seriously, it's generally considered rude not to stop, say hi and ask how people are doing. This was one of the first things we learned from our PCVLs [Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders], so all of us promptly started greeting everyone we walked past on the street. A couple weeks later we found out that in this town you only greet people you know because it’s a relatively big place not a small village… oops. At least we were friendly!
  • This country is huge. Some of my closest friends will be a 16 hour drive away from me – I’m in the southwest, they’re in the northeast. Sad day… Similarly, the diversity of lifestyles is crazy. I will live in a house in an urban setting, in a town with plenty of people and access to modern amenities.  My friends in the north and northeast will be living in huts on homesteads, some with no running water or electricity. Long post about my permanent site LUDERITZ to come!
  • There is nothing that makes me appreciate life in Nam more than the sunrise or the sunset. They are gorgeous, and I have given up on adequately capturing them with a camera – you’ll just have to come visit and see yourself :) 

 woooo mountains! my town is surrounded by them