Two weeks done and what a wild ride it has been. We have learned so many things in such a short time that it feels like I have been here for months. I’ll do my best to explain all of the events that have taken place since I got here.
The trip here was extremely long. First we took a 15 hour flight from New York to Johannesburg. I have been on long flights before, but this was unbearable. I sat on the aisle which I thought was going to be nice except the person next to me took up half my seat. I spent most of my time leaning into the aisle until I got hit in the shoulder by the drink cart. It was a long plane ride to say the least. We then took a 2 hour plane from Johannesburg to Windhoek. When we finally arrived at the conference center we were staying at in Okhanje, about 2 hours north, we were greeted by a line of trainers singing as we got off the bus. It was quite the sight. We divided into rooms and all passed out within the hour. The next day started a busy week of training learning about Namibia and what the Peace Corps is all about. We all had interviews to determine our site placement. We learned how to bucket bathe and how to wash our clothes by hand. This is a skill that I am still having trouble with. I’m not sure what the technique is but I end up with cramps in my hand when I’m done.
We finally made it to the weekend. We were all exhausted, but some of us were still in exploration mode and wanted to see the scene around the city. A group of us decided to climb one of the mountains that was near our conference center. So we followed a path to about the base of the mountain and then it ended so we climbed the rest of the way up while moving branches and watching out for snakes! The view from the top was beautiful!!! Of course on the way down we found the path that people usually take up and the way back was a lot easier.
The best week started with the exciting news of what language we would be learning. For some of us this would give us some idea of where we would be located for the rest of our two years here. I was told I would be learning Kwangali which is the language spoken only in the Kvango region in northeast Namibia. I was very excited to learn this because this is where I wanted to be placed. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful regions in Namibia. It is along a river with lots of wildlife, although we need to watch out for hippos and crocodiles. Since learning our language it has been nonstop training. We have our midterm language exam in two weeks and we need to be intermediate to pass so I have been working hard every day learning Kwangali.
The other exciting news that has happened since I moved to Namibia is being placed with my host family. They are amazing. The Peace Corps tries to place volunteers with families that speak their language, but very few people in Okhanje speak Kwangali. Luckily, my family does speak it. It has been a huge help for learning Kwangali, since I hear it every day when I get home from training! I have been eating lots of traditional foods and eating the traditional way (with my hands). The family has two kids. Rocky is 15 and the other is a 3 year old girl named Gifti. They are the best training partners I have because they do not speak English very well. I will probably have more stories about my home stay in the coming weeks. I’m still getting used to living in a new home with a new Tate and Nene (dad and mom).
This past weekend we took a trip to Windhoek. We went to Hero’s Acre which is the memorial site dedicated to the fight for Namibian independence. It is a beautiful memorial made with black marble mined from the coast of Namibia. At the front, the Holy Fire burns 24/7 representing the everlasting liberation of Namibia. Hero’s day is August 26th, so there were a lot of workers there cleaning it up and preparing it for the ceremony that’s dedicated to the lives lost. After thi,s we spent the rest of the day traveling to various malls and markets. We went to one of Namibia’s largest shopping malls and it felt like I was an America again. Then we went to the singles meat market. This place was incredible. There were about 30 men all in a row along this long grill, all cooking meats and selling them. We could go up and sample different pieces to determine where the best meat was. We found this guy selling beef tenderloin that was delicious. We didn’t know how much it was so we just handed him a N$10 bill which is equivalent to about $1 in the U.S. In return, he basically handed us a giant steak that was tender and juicy. I can’t wait to go there again.
Well that is basically my last two weeks in a nutshell. I have barely scraped the surface of what has happened since I got here but this is a taste of everything. It has been a whirlwind and I am happy to finally have my first day off. I hope everyone is doing well in America. I will post again before my first trip to the Kvango region.