-** WARNING – POST CONTAINS PARTIAL NUDITY FOR CULTURAL PURPOSES. ** Why I even feel the politically correct need to warn about a few women’s breasts in this post is frustrating and a rant for another day, but in terms of what is deemed acceptable in the United States, you have been cautioned – these are not male nipples, they are female in origin.
I just realized how unintentionally existential this blog post title is, but I think that everything comes to mind for a certain reason, so I’ll leave it. The last few weeks at site have been busier than usual, with lots of trips to neighboring towns and events packed into a short amount of time. Sometimes it feels as though the days and hours are endless, especially when I am at the office from 8-5 listening to the vast array of languages that surround me perpetually. My three closest co-workers all speak Oshiwambo, the cleaners, nurse and secretary speak Damara and the social worker speaks a close relative of Silozi. I understand more than ever now why it was stressed to us that Namibia is not a traditional Peace Corps country to serve in – the official language is English and most people speak it pretty regularly, especially when it comes to different tribes communicating together. In my region, only the older generation who was taught before Independence still speaks Afrikaans, so I am not forced to continually practice my language skills. It becomes very important to be self motivated and do my own studying or to make sure that I am greeting my community in Damara daily, or the many other languages that are spoken throughout. I’ve become a professional greeter and can pretty much muddle my way through saying hello in Damara, Otjiherrero, Oshiwambo, Silozi and Afrikaans as well. It really is so important in this culture to make sure that you are saying Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening and ask how someone is before starting straight into the reason that you are calling, inquiring or simply walking into a store. Although it takes a lot of time once it is consecutively added up, I respect the way that this is set up – it allows you to stop and take inventory of the people around you and the space that you can give your brain to really listen to what the person is saying, as opposed to the fast paced “you better get to the point and stop wasting my time” attitude that is so common in the United States. Just as slowly as some days pass, when I am itching to change out of my business casual clothes and into my running or yoga attire, other days and weeks fly by without giving me a chance to catch up and process all of the things that I just experienced. So much can occur in a single day that it feels like a lifetime was lived – there is an awesome infographic that our Staff showed us during PST where you can go from feeling completely elated because your coffee turned out perfect in the morning to deflated and wanting to give up because you found out that a project got cancelled without your knowledge and you were investing parts of your soul into it. It can leave you feeling exhausted at the end of the day, even if you have not done much or accomplished what you intended to accomplish. Odd feelings to battle when you are usually a pretty energetic person, but it has allowed me to take more consideration of what my body needs on a daily basis as opposed to simply pushing through because its what you are “supposed to do”.
There are still photos from throughout PST that I have not posted or talked about, so I am going to attempt to upload a few and then get back to the present.
There is a gorgeous farm outside of Kamanjab where a fellow PCV lives that I have spent a few weekend at – I’ve seen much wildlife and appreciated the shooting stars that we see every night out there that make me feel connected to the world in a way that I never have before. It is quite a beautiful ride we are on in this life.
A few weekends ago, we had a group of three professors from California come to the Kunene region to do a cultural tour of some of our most popular destinations. I was lucky enough to assist in the preparations and tour around with them to the Damara Living Museum, Sesfontein and back to Khorixas where we got to learn about traditional medicines, eat ash bread and dance like the whitest person they have ever seen. It was wonderful to be able to share my new knowledge of such distinctive tribes, speak a little Damara and bridge a cultural gap between my American roots and the traditions I am learning about and beginning to adopt. I feel very privileged to be working for the Ministry of Youth, in this regard – I’ve had countless opportunities to feel empowered and had meaningful experiences early on.
Last stop of our busy Saturday was meeting the San people in their village to talk to them about what resources they were in need of and if there was a possibility that the Professors could allocate teachers and funding to build an Upper Primary School. Much of their struggle, according to them, comes from a lack of education and resources available to them in the changing modern culture of Namibia. They cannot get jobs because their schools only go up to Grade 8 and the nearest Secondary School is too far away when they have no way to obtain transport cheaply. This inevitably led our Ministry to think about the ways that we are serving our region and whether or not we are doing everything we can to create changes in neighboring communities that sustain. Food for thought as well as something for me to ponder as I search for meaningful work throughout the next two years.
Last weekend I went back to Kamanjab again to visit the Cheetah Conservancy and have a relaxing weekend – I never underestimate how refreshing it is to leave site and gain a new perspective on your home as well as the beautiful places that are so accessible and close by. I have always held a deep passion for traveling and experiencing something new, but I have found that I equally enjoy coming back to my home and falling in love with the place that I have made my own.
Their personalities are so similar to house cats, its insane. You forget that they could easily rip you apart in moments when they purr and play with your feet – they even meow!
This has been a pretty picture heavy post, so I’ll conclude this for now and wish you all the best – thank you infinitely for all of the love and support. I couldn’t ask for better people in my life.