First off, I’ve made it safely to Namibia.
Secondly, it’s beautiful and it’s nothing what I expected.
After leaving Staging in Philadelphia, all 14 of us (yes, our PC Trainee group is small) hopped on a charter bus at 2AM Tuesday morning headed towards JFK airport in New York City. Sure, the drive only took about 2 and a half hours after the driver made, which I’m almost positive is illegal, a U-turn on Pennsylvania highway, but trying to sleep across two seats with armrests jamming into your kidneys doesn’t do you well at 5 in the morning. Sidenote: our flight from JFK was scheduled at 11AM, so we definitely had some time to kill.
But here’s the positives and they are numerous. Our group consists of 9 women and 5 men, myself included. Our age range is incredibly diverse. From 68 to 23. Some of us are fresh out of college, others are fed up with retirement and are looking for a completely new experience. During staging, our PC Staging Coordinators and Directors were genuine and honest. They provided us icebreakers that would make your college dorm RA blush. I’ve gotten to know almost everyone in our group and they all have their own stories, backgrounds, and interests that really show how diverse the US is.
The flight from NYC to Johannesburg was roughly 15 hours. What did I do? Slept. Ate. Slept. Watched La La Land (great movie). Ate. Slept and then looked down from my window seat (great for Instagram story) and saw the continent of Africa. Still hard to believe I am on a completely different continent and in the Southern Hemisphere. No, I don’t think toilets flushed the other way or at least I haven’t noticed.
After getting into Johannesburg, we had about 5 hours to spare before our flight to Windhoek. Customs took about a half hour and then we entered the OR Tambo Airport. The airport was huge on Duty Free, but I’m also assuming that’s because we were in the international terminal. Was I tempted by the Burberry, Coach and vast amount of alcohol that could be purchased cheaply before heading to Namibia? Of course, however, my bags were already over the allotted weight and my carry-on backpack was filled to the brim with underwear, dress shirts, CLIF bars (where’s my sponsorship?), electrical adapters, shoes, toiletries, and a book. Oh, and my skateboard, which I brought as a point of interest and also a mode of transportation. Hoping for some paved roads during PST and at the site I’m assigned to.
The flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek was a little less than 2 hours. Getting through Namibian customs took longer than expected but alas, there was the Peace Corps staff and Country Director right behind customs awaiting our arrival. They were excited and pleased to see that none of our luggage was lost or delayed and we all were safe…despite not showering for close to 24 hours. To be honest, we all looked in pretty good shape, since we were required to be dressed in business casual attire (Tip: Namibian culture are very big on dressing to impress).
From the airport, we piled into two vans with our luggage in a third behind us as we sped along (on the left side of the road) toward our first stop for a few days, which is located right outside the city of Windhoek.
The current site we are at (unspecified for safety and security reasons) is gorgeous. If you look up pictures of Namibia, you see pictures of desert, sand, more desert, Himba people, and probably Etosha National Park. Where we are currently residing is an anomaly to that. It’s lush, near water…almost like a retreat, except there’s the possibility of snakes.
It feels like being back in undergrad. You’re with new people, you’re sharing a room, there’s a community bathroom, lots of icebreakers…except you’re in a completely different culture and on another continent. So I guess not completely like undergrad.
The amount of information that the PC PST (Pre Service Training) staff give you is, pardon my french, a shit ton. Granted we don’t go over it all in a few days but we’ve already had interviews, medical check-ins, shots (nothing better than to start your morning) and stories from resource volunteers. We don’t find out our the language we will be learning until Monday but it could be one of the following: Afrikaans, Otijherero, Silozi, and Oshikwanyama. If you’re having trouble reading those, totally fine, listening to them spoken is even harder. But I’m looking forward to learning one of them. I got a bet on Otijherero or Afrikaans.
Food? Meat. Eggs. Fish. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Worms.
Been here less than a week and I’ve eaten worms. They’re not bad either. Tastes like sorel mushrooms but with more grit. Once you get over how they look, they’re quite the delicacy.
We have tea time everyday at 10AM with Coffee, Tea, and usually a snack (some sort of freshly baked bread with cheese or jam). The place we are staying is entirely run by women who work their asses off raising chickens, running a hyrdoponics farm, knitting and sewing products, crafting glass bead jewelry, and making delicious food for us at breakfast, tea time, lunch, and dinner, along with providing food and drink to all the guests that stop by this place. I cannot give them enough credit. Also, one of our fellow PCV’s, Andy, who imagine Santa Claus but was a sailor for 25 years and has been living in Namibia for almost 3 years, is living here as his site and is affectionately called “Tete Andy” or Grandpa Andy by the Namibian women who work here.
So far about Namibia and Africa. It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful and relaxing (so far until language training and PST classes begin), and the Namibian people are more welcoming than your grandma on Thanksgiving.
I’m trying to tame my excitement about the next few months in PST and finding out our site locations. Fellow Volunteers keep telling us, you will change as a person, expect nothing because you can’t even imagine what you’ll be experiencing, and prepare yourself for a continuum of highs and lows.
…and yes, you can drink the water here.
Cheers from the land of the brave.
PS – If I can download the pictures I took, I’ll put them in a following post. Thanks