Mountains and Oceans and Deserts

As my eyes move across the wall in my office, slowly tracing the sporadic and futile attempts of the wasp to reach an exit point through the window, I am transfixed and focused on how helpless this small creature looks.  It has no idea that the window is merely a foot away.  It has no idea that each time it rears back and collides into the wall over and over again, it is doing damage to itself in ways that it will not realize until its adrenaline has worn off.  It does not understand that if it took a step back to reevaluate and reassess the circumstances, it would be able to see the flight trajectory (potentially.. I am not an expert on wasp eyesight and how far they can see) to the outside air where it so desperately wants to be.  I listen to the buzzing become louder and more frustrated, watching with no expression and no emotion, as the creature moves farther and farther away from its target without even knowing it.  This continues on for some minutes before the wasp exudes an intensely loud audible vibration that I was unaware was even possible for such a small insect, and flies across the room to the opposite side of the wall with great force, smacking into the hard drywall and landing on the floor – finally defeated.  I study the still, lifeless wasp lying on the ground, wondering how its short life played out and if it knew just how close it was to getting to its desired destination.  Watching it grow its elephantine energy, putting forth all of its effort into colliding into the wall over and over again, hoping for an escape that it might have known would never come, made me feel helpless in my attempts to create something meaningful here.  The wasp was so close to the answer – merely a foot away from what would have opened into a new life, a new chance to build a nest and start a family, creating a project for its other wasp friends, but it was so focused on emitting all of its energy in that one moment.  Instead of stopping to rest for a moment, conserving energy and evaluating a new plan of action, it burned out and released all of its strength into the wrong place, making it unable to see another path that was right in front of it.

And then I sit back after re-reading this post and think.. why the hell am I so focused on a wasp and its story?  These metaphors for life can come out of the most mundane and routine experiences if you look hard enough.  Note to self: I need to get out of the heat before I lose it completely.

In any case, the last few weeks have been full of excitement and seeing other volunteers and a little bit of vacation time in there as well.  We had a week-long training in a mountain side conference center close to the capital city where we were able to take long walks through the gravel roads and pretend to train for the 10k and half marathons that many of us would be running the following weekend.

Sunset view from our hotel in Windhoek. How lucky am I?
Sunset view from our hotel near Windhoek. How lucky am I?

After a week of sessions that brought back too many memories from our almost three months of initial Pre-Service Training when we arrived in Namibia, we were all very excited to make our way to the coast where we would spend the weekend and run our Lucky Star Marathon.  This was the first time I ran anything more than a colorful 5k to benefit some charity back in the States, so I was nervous about my ability to complete anything more than that.  Thankfully, the coast offered us a chilly, overcast day for our race that made it much easier to bear the thought of running 6.2 miles in.  We had an encouraging group together with some of those brave souls running a half marathon  (22.2 km) while the rest of us completed the “Fun Run” 10k.. not sure whose idea it was to call it a fun run, but they should not be in charge of naming anything anymore.  Although, after running, I do feel more motivated to run the half next year, if this heat doesn’t get to me first.

10k runners at the finish line!
10k runners at the finish line!  And a new Wambo friend.

Coming back to Khorixas after a week and a half of being gone was a rude awakening to the intense heat that the summer will bring to my dusty community tucked into the Kunene mountains.  The first day we were back, it reached 108 degrees during the middle of the afternoon – I had to remember that I am living in Africa and I have led a privileged life these last 6 months here in regards to the heat (or lack thereof).  It was especially difficult to get used to again after needing a fleece and scarf while we were wandering around Swakopmund, being next to the ocean and the beautiful dunes that lie between this town and Walvis Bay.

Sand dunes in Swakopmund nearby where Mad Max: Fury Road was filmed. So epic and so beautiful.
Sand dunes in Swakopmund nearby where some of Mad Max: Fury Road was filmed. So epic and so beautiful.

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Memorable highlights of the weekend include, but are not limited to: finally drinking a beer that tasted different than dirty sink water (thank you for discovering the most delicious Bock, Jordan); sharing pizza with seafood on it from an Italian restraunt; climbing to the top of the dunes to watch the sunset in a mass of clouds that ended up being a large sandbox playground for us instead; eating INDIAN FOOD (aka the source of all things holy and delicious in my life) and sharing a great bottle of Pinotage with people I care about; walking around during the day in a jacket and feeling so thankful that I was shivering (its the little things, man); collecting smooth rocks from the coast to add to my collection at my flat (yes Mom, I’m collecting rocks again); eating probably THE best oyster I’ve ever had in my life at a seaside bar after not having seafood in months; seeing a huge flock of flamingoes every day we walked past the lagoon; and last but not least, meeting people at every point of our trip who either know someone who lives in Khorixas or grew up there themselves.  Damaras are everywhere in Namibia.

Thousands of flamingos near the bed and breakfast we stayed at in Walvis Bay. Such a wonderful weekend.
Thousands of flamingos at the lagoon in Walvis Bay.
More flamingos, because I have never seen African flamingos. Or flamingoes in the wild in general.
More flamingos, because I have never seen African flamingos. Or flamingoes in the wild in general.
Lunar Eclipse.
Who wouldn’t wake up at 3:30 in the morning to watch a Lunar Eclipse for an hour?  Even though you can’t really tell this is the moon.  Thanks, iPhone.

I came to really appreciate the time that I had away from my site and the ability it gave me to reflect with the other volunteers who are experiencing similar successes and failures on a daily basis.  It can seem like a lot at times, when 5 really terrible things happen in a day’s time – but then somehow, the day is redeemed by the 6 really great things that happened in between the bad moments.  And sometimes those numbers are reversed.  Sometimes nothing good happens, sometimes nothing bad happens – it is the recipe for becoming a more flexible, resilient and understanding person than you were before which has allowed me to learn a lot about myself.  Cheers to the small steps that we take every day in order to accomplish something bigger than ourselves, no matter the frustrations and setbacks along the way.

Swakopmund is gorgeous - I can see why locals are always asking me why I don't live here..
Swakopmund is gorgeous – I can see why locals are always asking me why I don’t live here..
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