Finishing the Old and Welcoming the New

Monday, June 22, 2015 – Progress calls for Procedures.. and lots of them.

There is this constant hunger inside of me that has not left my body since we began our training in Okahandja 2 ½ months ago. I haven’t been able to pinpoint what exactly it stems from until I was on my run today and saw a boy walk by me wearing the same dirty clothes that I’ve seen him in since I arrived on Friday. There is a pervasive feeling of body hunger that comes from not having enough to eat, which many of the children in Khorixas clearly experience . Many families, especially in The Location and Donkerhoek even more so, do not have enough money to purchase food for the (sometimes) abundant number of children that they have to support. Pap (the corn meal porridge that is a staple in the Namibian diet) is a very common thing for children to have for their one meal of the day, and that is simply not enough to sustain them. It is barely enough to get them through the day nourished and able to focus on their schooling without thinking of their hunger. It is difficult sometimes to ignore their comments of hunger, either blatantly or through roundabout statements of “won’t you buy me something to eat?”. It sometimes gives me a feeling of despair that no matter what programs I intend to run at the Ministry of Youth throughout my service, there are still children who do not have enough to eat every day in my own community and there is not a lot that will change that sustainably.

The 1,000th sunset photo with at least 1,000 more to go.  Nothing compares.
The 1,000th sunset photo with at least 1,000 more to go. Nothing compares.

As I have wandered around my new town these last few days, I have gained a growing appreciation for my own ability to remain confident and strong in my convictions and beliefs. I can certainly see how, at times, it can be extremely discouraging to be a woman in Namibia – where the dominant gender roles of men are very evident in the way the men carry themselves and expect for the women to “fall in line” as they always have. It is still expected in many households that the woman cooks and cleans (always) and the man expects her to cater to him. I have been lucky enough to have two inspirational host families in my short time as a Namibian citizen. My first host mother was a single Mom of three children and she was an absolute rock – she worked full time as a nurse at the hospital and cared for her children endlessly. She had two male family members who stayed in the house and helped look after the kids, cook meals and clean. She had her own house and was a very giving person to the neighbors who might have needed something, at any time. My family here in Khorixas has to be the pillar of the community. My host father is a human resource officer at one of the schools and my host mother is a nurse (again with the nurses, I can’t get away from them – must mean I had some incredible ones in my family and friends at some point) at the local hospital. They attend the one Lutheran church in the town and are clearly very well respected by their peers. As I type this in the kitchen now, my host father is busy cooking dinner for us since my host mother is out of town for the night. They appear to respect each other greatly and have a sweet, loving relationship going on 27 years. One of my co-workers spoke about the difficulties between women in her culture, saying that many women will be upset at the woman their boyfriend or husband is cheating on them with but allow the man to walk free of blame. She spoke about how destructive this way of thinking can be and how we should hold the men to a higher standard if we hope to achieve more equality in relationships. Despite the daily frustrations of the struggle for gender equality in Namibia, there are constant reminders that show how far this beautiful country has come after only 25 years of Independence. It makes me wonder about where America was 25 years after its Independence and how far we still have to go..

Kunene has a lot to offer - like rock carvings that are thousands of years old.
Kunene has a lot to offer – like rock carvings that are thousands of years old.

This weekend, in celebration of African Child Day, our work is taking kids from a few of the local towns to Etosha National Park for the day accompanied by a program and speeches from some of the local leaders. I am so excited to be a part of this event and keep thinking about how incredible it is that I am in a network of people who want to impact the community with innovative and sustainable work in the same way that I do. The Peace Corps is truly a valuable resource to the changes that globalization has made for our world and I see that spark at some point every day that I have been at work. My co-workers and I talk about the differences between American and Namibian culture, they make fun of how fast and mumbly we are when we speak English with other Americans and we share food at lunch time. It is so apparent why one of the main pillars and goals of the Peace Corps is to foster world friendship and create lasting relationships between these two promising countries. It is a truly humbling experience to recognize that I am the face of the United States for this one small town in Namibia and it gives me all the motivation I need to show them exactly what we stand for.   (When have you ever heard me express so much patriotism?! I guess it took moving to another country and continent entirely to gain a bit of appreciation.. At least it happened at some point, right?)

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At the entrance to Etohsa! So excited.
Giraffes!!  My day was already made.
Giraffes!! My day was already made.
My closest volunteer neighbor who hitched a ride with us.  Naturally, we chose to ride in the back of the bakkie.
My closest volunteer neighbor who hitched a ride with us. Naturally, we chose to ride in the back of the bakkie.
Wildabeast!  All I could think of was The Lion King.
Wildabeast! All I could think of was The Lion King.
Elephants at the watering hole.  I wish the sunset had been the opposite way, but it was incredibly gorgeous regardless.
Elephants at the watering hole. I wish the sunset had been the opposite way, but it was incredibly gorgeous regardless.
Rhinos, springbok, elephant, zebras and a giraffe to end the day.  Incredible.
Rhinos, springbok, elephant, zebras and a giraffe to end the day. Incredible.
Getting lost for 5 hours in the park is totally worth it with views like this.
Getting lost for 5 hours in the park and possibly having to stay overnight while stepping all over pesticide rugs to kill the potential Foot and Mouth disease was totally worth it to experience views like this.

I will be moving into my flat this weekend once my bed is delivered from Otjiwarango and I could not be more excited. I have sincerely loved the time that I am able to spend with my host family and the unique perspective that they have given me during my first week in Khorixas. I am also equally excited to be able to unpack my suitcases for the FIRST TIME since I got here almost three months ago! I don’t even remember what is floating around the bottom of the bags.. who knows what exciting things I have forgotten about that I actually brought with me and didn’t forget 15 hours away? I will finally be able to start making a home for myself and hope for the best with my decorating skills. Lets just say that my tastes can be eclectic and unique. Here are pictures now that I am settled in!

Such a comfortable space - very reminiscent of a dorm room.
Such a comfortable space – very reminiscent of a dorm room.
I know.. a stove, electricity AND a refrigerator?  I swear, I am still in the Peace Corps.
I know.. a stove, electricity AND a refrigerator? I swear, I am still in the Peace Corps.

And that is all the previous posts I have – so now I can try to stay up to date with my current updates and photos.  I hope that this finds you all well and happy.

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