December is usually a time for business, shopping and reflecting on the year’s outcomes for most people in the States. I believe it is the opposite here, in many ways, as everyone slows the pace down in order to go back to their family farms and relax for most of the month. The town becomes less crowded as you walk through it, less people are traveling in and out of my town (which makes transportation a bit tougher) and there is a quietness at my workplace that rivals Sunday mornings in a small town back in North Carolina where everything is closed because “Gawd did not work awn Sundayyy, yawwl!” So here is a toast to this final month of 2015, which has seen both major improvements into the possibilities of 2016 in Khorixas and Namibia as well as a time for greater understanding of this beautiful, frustrating place. Oh, and finding out that my favorite restaurant is not serving PIZZA. Thank God for Delisha’s and all of the happiness it brings to people who just miss that college life sometimes.
The desperate mooing of the distanced cow could be heard from the beginning of town all the way to my flat where I was struggling to lock the metal door that perpetually harasses me, sometimes into a state of frenzied anguish, sometimes into a fit of laughter at how a Namibian door has managed to defeat me for the day. I finally spring the lock closed into its stainless steel enclosure and toss my keys into my floral carry bag that has become one of the recognizing factors in my community of when I go into town to shop. Its also a nice reminder of Bonaroo and the happy days I spent camping there with some wonderful people last summer, back before I ever though I would actually complete the Peace Corps application. My walk towards town on my way to pick up produce usually involves passing the locally owned Craft shop (where local crafters can showcase their work for the tourists popping through on their way to Twyfelfontein), the Wambo mall (which consists of a shebeen and a barber shop) and two China shops (self explanatory, I believe), but today it encompassed another oft-seen sight throughout Namibia – a lost cow who appeared extremely anxious about her current situation. I slowed my pace to watch the cow as she tilted her head back and forth at the four-way intersection, wondering which way the rest of her group went while intermittently mooing into the dead heat of the air surrounding her, hoping that her farm-mates would find her or give her some sort of direction to assist in her struggle. She stands silently for a moment, tail drifting to the left and then to the right, her ears straining to hear any familiar sounds that might lead her towards the right path. The nearly one ton animal gives one last, long, mournful moo in my direction before picking up speed and sprinting (well, as much as a cow can sprint) across the road and into the bush on the other side of town towards the location. I stand motionless and wonder why I am so transfixed on this singular lost cow when I see animals who are missing their pack (mostly goats.. those damn things are loud when they are alone..) quite frequently. Stray dogs abound, some feral cats can be found in areas with large concentrations of people and rubbish and farm animals seem to be infinite in my small town, wandering from patch of grass to the random trash pile where they peruse through, looking for the least plastic containing item to munch on before heading back to the farm. So why has this one, cream colored cattle caught my attention? I continue my heat stroke inducing walk towards our local “OK Value” grocery store, passing a few people I have not seen in a while since I was in the capital city for a week, and give them my greetings despite their varying levels of inebriation. As I round the corner, passing another barber shop and our local petrol station, I smile to myself and shake my head at my connection to that poor lost cow. I think most volunteers can relate to the feeling of being lost in a place that felt familiar only yesterday and has suddenly turned into a maze of confusion and frustration. Khorixas has been my home for the last 6 months and most of the time, I feel very happy and encouraged to be here in this community, but there are certainly times when I drift farther away from the comfort that I have created for myself here. Whether that is due to a particularly un-savory encounter with someone new or a leaking shower head that has slowly driven you mad for the last half of a year, it can take its toll on your mind and overall well-being without you even realizing that it has been chipping away at your happiness. So what do you do about it? Wait for someone else to fix the problem or take matters into your own hands and rely on the people who you have come to care for and who look out for you at every turn? As one of my favorite fellow volunteers said recently in his blog – “put some water on that shit!” and use what resources you have in order to make this experience everything that it should be.
Mooing Mama cow, this one goes out to you – I hope you found your friends and some water as well. This drought has not been easy on the farm animals, which I believe is representative in my leaking shower saga. While some places in the United States recently encountered debilitating and damaging floods, most of Namibia has been suffering (I think in this case, unlike most, this word is applicable) with a three year long drought that has severely affected people’s farm land, animals and ultimately, their livelihood. It seems so unfair and inequitable that some parts of the world are overly abundant, to the point of destruction in many cases, and others are gravely deprived of the simple resources that are necessary for life to continue on, much like the protruding bones on cows that I have seen and the constant leaking of my shower that reminds me how easy it is to get caught up in the perceived importance of priorities. All aspects and situations are real in their frustrations and complications, despite their oppositional interactions.
So, here is a cute photo of some kids who came to my second Cleaning Up Campaign in a different part of Khorixas. Showing the community that all parts of the town are important.
It is great to see the turnout of the cleaning campaigns as being mostly youth based, since they are the ones who will carry on the importance of a healthy environment into the future to their friends and families who are not as aware of the education available. At least, one can hope.
So lets see, since the last time I updated the blog, I have celebrated a few birthdays (American style, with a homemade cake and all)..
.. I have explored some new areas of my town that are often over-looked when it comes to applying resources that we have available..
.. We opened my site-mate’s care package where a huge jar of Nutella exploded during transit (thank you, NamPost, for ever being the bane of our existence) and we still ate a lot of it anyway..
.. We created a new Thanksgiving tradition, including grilled chicken, jalapeno garlic mashed potatoes, My Cousin Vinny and feeding stray Ministry of Youth cats..
.. Had a Friendsgiving full of homemade mulled wine, bacon and green beans, TWO PIES, even more chicken.. and IPAs, that sweet, sweet nectar of the Gods..
.. My flat has come close to flooding on a few occasions thanks to a leaking shower head and a lack of understanding of how plumbing works..
.. and I got creative on how I wanted to solve this problem, for myself, with the help of two scavengers who have been at this DIY Peace Corps game for far longer than I have (props, Taylor and Emmy)..
.. saw the final product of my pocket knife saga on Wednesday morning finally pay off.. NO MORE LEAKING SHOWER! ..
.. 132 Peace Corps volunteers in Namibia came to the capital city to celebrate 25 years of Peace Corps service that coincides with 25 years of Independence in Namibia..
.. we got to hang out at a beautiful hotel for the week of the All Volunteer conference and meet a lot of new volunteers from all over the country..
.. and of course, witnessed more of the most breathtaking sunsets that Namibia has to offer. One of my favorite parts of being in this country.
In all, I would say that I have spent too much time recently focusing on the frustrating factors that will inevitably inhabit all of our lives at some point throughout our service. I waited for others to make a change or take responsibility for a problem that I was perfectly capable of handling on my own, while learning to ask for help from the right people. Sometimes the most important part of the process is finding out who you can rely on in a place that does not always feel like home the way you used to know it, and sometimes that is realizing that you need to feel a bit more connected to home. In this case, it was both, and I am forever thankful for the new friends I have made here in Namibia as well as the ones back in the States who have sent me words of love, reminders of good times, and anything that comes in my mailbox. Who would have thought that my least favorite place in Khorixas would bring some of the greatest happiness to a small metal box behind a line of memes waiting for their pension?