package with care.

In my time away from home, it’s nice to receive letters, postcards, and occasionally, care packages from home. Collecting packages from the post office can sometimes come with a hefty custom fee (note to senders: don’t mark any items in packages as new and please pay all the customs fees when you send the package). Nevertheless, receiving packages from home always comes at the “right” time, and adds excitement by having reminders from home to share with host families and fellow volunteers.

With the fair share of Hot Cheetos, Tampax, and socks volunteers receive, sometimes care packages include strange items. After receiving a few thoughtful but in the context of Peace Corps, useless items, I asked volunteers globally, to name some of the weirdest items they received in a care package.

My mom once sent me a blank personal check. There are no banks in my village, and if there were, I don’t think they would take out-of-country checks.

Katie

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Katie was teaching learners at school about types of dance. She received a pair of pointe shoes in a care package to teach them about ballet.

Sarah

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Sarah received a bar of soap shaped like a cat. She is still trying to figure out if it was created with a mold or actually carved out, and so am I.

Linda

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Unable to fit one hiking boot in her suitcase when she departed for Namibia, Linda’s sister kindly sent her other hiking boot to her in a care package.

Vashalice

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Vashalice’s mom collects back scratchers. Assuming she may need an extra hand, Vashalice received a back scratcher in the mail, I think her mom was right.

Thank you all for sharing!

❤ Krystal

letter home- september 2016.

I haven’t had time to finish any post lately, so decided to share an email I sent home to family and friends almost exactly a year ago. Funny how things change in the matter of one year. Enjoy!

Wa lala po nawa! (Good Morning!)

I can’t believe yet another pumpkin spice latte season is upon us. And while you, my friends, are enjoying the break from the intense summer rays, and relishing in the crisp air that autumn has in store, I am now on the cusp of summer. It’s really hot! I thought living in Texas would be the best preparation for me, and in some cases it is. But, with little cloud coverage and no humidity most days, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the Namibian sun.

Some things I thought I would never get used to 1) Taking a cold shower. Yes, I have an outdoor shower which only has cold water. I just imagine that I am rinsing off at the beach and it gets me through the misery. 2) Waking up by 7 am most days. I am actually really proud of myself. If it’s not the roosters or kids (goats and humans), it’s one of my host siblings knocking on my door to ask for sugar, matches, or the key to the house (I have the spare key to the main house just in case I have to tinkle at night). 3) Cooking using a crockpot and kettle most days. I have access to the main house, but since I keep all my food in my room, it’s easier to prepare meals on my own, in my room. Pinterest has been a god sent, and I have learned to make cakes, bread, soups, sweet potato fries and much more in it. I also learned I can boil pasta and eggs in my kettle, so that’s another PC lifehack.

So, you probably want to know more about what the heck I am doing here. Besides blogging and cooking and hanging out with the kids (who sometimes drive me crazy). Well, as some of you know, the first 3 months are site are meant for building connections in my community, learning about the needs of the community, and learning the language. So, in the grand scheme of things, the first 3 months I haven’t done much. I say that in the sense of. I am not teaching nutrition classes (yet), I am not planting gardens (yet), etc. This time is more about “taking the temperature” of the community and making sure the work that will be done is sustainable.

Ten days ago marked the end of my 90-day probation where I am allowed to beginning projects. My current project is the Girls Club. Believe it or not, although I am very excited to get it up and going, I was not very enthusiastic about it from the beginning. Mainly because I don’t see myself as a teacher and it is extremely stressful for me to prepare weekly agenda with the limited resources we have. And.. we all know the attitudes teenage girls have! LET’S BE HONEST! The first week about 1/3 of the initial sign-ups showed up, and the information in the toolkit was boring. Like, I was even bored. So, week 2, I decided to change things up. I found a flipchart and had the girls write down topics that wanted to cover in Girls Club. Each week we will dive into the topics they are interested in and go from there. Topics the girls want to talk about: HIV/AIDS, relationships, and of course fashion to name a few. Each week, I find a little more confidence in leading these future leaders and hope that the change in the club material will excite the girls more and gain a little more interest from their fellow learners.

This weekend, I decided to get my home garden going. Our first attempt at germinating our seedlings failed when I woke up in the middle of the night to a black bull outside my window eating our seeds. So, while it was still cool out yesterday, I took the kids (host siblings, not goats) out to collect materials for composting. Lucky for us, there is plenty of cow/goat/donkey poop around. Guys, I picked up cow poop with my bare hands and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. We also collected lots of green stuff (pulled leaves off of trees), brown stuff (dried leaves and mahangu reeds), and “good soil” (the kids convinced me it was good, but we had to break it up with excessive force, so we’ll see). After about 2 to 3 hours of collecting the goods, we started our compost pile outside my room. Well, I had to add water this morning which was leftover from my coffee, since our water was still out this morning. Everyone is excited about beginning the garden, I hope the excitement last as we continue to get the hardest part out of the way, which to any of you who have ever started a garden know actually starting a garden is hard work, and I can understand why some give up before the harvest.

I was trying to keep this short and sweet, but this week at the clinic, two Red Cross volunteers from Germany are coming from my neighboring town to follow our Red Cross/USAID team for the day. We planned on going out to the community garden, which I haven’t seen yet. So, it will be another adventure for me, and hopefully, this will be another way to meet and form connections with my community. Wednesday is my Girls Club and Thursday I will head out with Helvi, a Health Extension Worker, to help with rapid HIV testing.

This weekend, I was invited to be a judge for a beauty pageant in Outapi. My friend, Mandeep, is the PCV at the VTC (Vocational Training Center), and he has put a lot of hard work into planning a business bazaar in his community. Somehow a pageant fits in there. So, that’s my plan for the weekend.

Other than all the craziness, I am still blogging and journaling and soaking everything in!

Miss you all!!

blogging tips for a peace corps volunteer.

Blogging is my creative outlet.

I’ve been able to share some of the most fulfilling, challenging, and heartbreaking times of my life over the last four years on this blog. Living abroad, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Moving Wright Along, although I had every intention to.

To my surprise, there is WiFi in Namibia, although many times it isn’t as speedy or reliable as the connection I am used to and sometimes it takes traveling between 40-70k to find decent internet. Many times this proves to be extremely frustrating, but it doesn’t mean that Moving Wright Along has to take a hiatus.

If  you are a Peace Corps volunteer and want to blog through your experience, here are some tips that I hope you can find useful:

Be Consistent

I say this after not posting consistenly in about a month. Do as I say, not as I do.

But, whether you post weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly, be consistent. Your time abroad may be the only glimpse family and friends back home have to your new home. They trust your insight, perspective, and voice. My blog is hosted through WordPress which has a scheduling feature which is clutch. I can draft multiple blogs and schedule them to post at a future date (usually at times I know my friends and family are awake back home).

Draft Offline

Trust me on this one. I have lost many drafts and have had pretty much any blogging woe you can imagine. Like I said earlier, internet and data services abroad aren’t always as reliable, fast or friendly. I’ve found that drafting offline saves a lot of headache and heartache. I’ve found success in drafting offline using pen & paper, Word, or even notes on my phone. This gives me time to edit my ideas and thoughts prior to sharing with the world. Which leads me to my next tip…

Be Culturally Sensitive

I like to read blogs about other Peace Corps volunteers around the world. But, I find a fair share of blogs that RANT about customs and norms of their host country. I get it! You had a bad day and took it to your blog. Remember, if your friends and family can read your blog from a world away, ANYONE in the world can read your blog. As a Peace Corps volunteer, we encounter challenges within our host country. I, for one, have dealt with many which I choose not to share publicly in a blog, but rather leave as thoughts better suited for my journal.

Your experience abroad is your truth, and no one can take that from you. But, you should avoid painting that as the only truth. Avoid making generalizations and stereotypical comments in your postings. What’s worse than a culturally insensitive PCV? I really don’t know, but it can’t be good. Need ideas on what to write about? Join the Blogging Abroad Challenge.

Switch up your Style

Blogging doesn’t always have to be a long narrative. It can be done using pictures, videos, and even audio. Seeing the sights and hearing the sounds of your host country can be a wonderful addition to your blog. Linking other Peace Corps volunteer blogs is another great way to build cultural understanding as well as accomplishing Goal 3.

Choose a Friendly Host

I’ve been loyal to WordPress since 2009. Back then, I was interning for SportChassis and blogging about over-sized luxury pickup trucks driven by over-sized people such as Shaq and Dennis Rodman. I have dabbled a little bit with Blogger and Tumblr, both are pretty user-friendly especially for those new to blogging.

There are many other hosts to choose from, just do your research. I love WordPress because of my familiarity with the software (although, takes some getting used to), ease in ability to personalize website, low cost for the domain, and popularity, of course.

I hope these tips help and feel free to share!

❤ Krystal

peace corps and long-distance relationships.

During the application process, Peace Corps inquires about relationship statuses of all applicants. And for obvious reasons, they are casting for the next MTV’s Real World. I mean, after half a century of Peace Corps volunteers, they know the toll distance can take on relationships.

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Volunteers have extreme highs and lows throughout their 27 months of service and sometimes those ups-and-downs are difficult for someone on the “outside” to grasp. Romantic partners may worry from afar, but they still have no control over situations thousands of miles away.

I can’t tell you that a long-distance relationship is easy because it is not. I realize many things are out of my control (I think I need to write a blog post called: who is in control?). Some days the network is just down or the WiFi signal is only strong enough to connect in short phrases of “can you hear me?” or “what did you say?”

I originally wrote the post to give tips about navigating a long-distance relationship, but I realize there is no true answer across the board. But, I will tell you the two most important reasons why a long- distance relationship as worked for us.

Openness

“Big talk” and the tone was set early in our relationship. We’ve defined our relationship and what that entails during and after my service. Of course, openness includes honesty, trust, and patience. Since we’re able to discuss these things, I believe we’ve been able to build a stronger foundation.

Support

Having support back home can make or break a volunteer’s service, IMO. I have been extremely fortunate to have a boyfriend who has supported my decision to continue on with Peace Corps and “accomplish the goals I set out to meet.” Peace Corps is important to him because it is important to me. Having a boyfriend who can provide sound advice especially when my emotions are whack has been beneficial for me. I won’t go into sappy deets.

Another bonus of our long-distance relationship is we don’t argue much. We realize the times we talk are valuable and there’s little time or energy to be upset with each other.

Welp, there you have it.

❤ Krystal

 

 

everyone seen’ a rhino, say yeah.

 

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First animal sighting of the canine Adidas and Nike behind me.

 

Living in Africa Namibia, I think everyone back home assumes that I encounter dangerous wildlife on the daily.

The most common “wildlife” I see in my village are goats, cattle, dogs, and chickens. Think of the animals you would encounter driving down a back road in Oklahoma, and those are exactly the same everyday animals I see in Namibia. I know this because I’ve driven many back roads in Oklahoma.

Northern Namibia is home to one of the oldest national parks, Etosha. Etosha was established as a game reserve in 1907 and covers over 22,000 square kilometers in the Kunene region. Etosha is home to hundreds of mammals, reptiles, birds, including some threatened and endangered species, oh and it’s only about a 2 1/2 hour drive from my home in Ondobe.

My friend, Mandeep, invited me to Etosha with him and his mother and sister who were visiting from New Jersey. Justin also came along and drove us through the self-guided safari.

Okay, I’m finished talking. I know you just wanna see animals.

*As I am writing this, I am trying to watch YouTube videos of rhinos, elephants, and lions. Let me remind you, these are wild animals. Catching the best snapshot is in no way more important than protecting your life. All of these photos were taken from the safety of a vehicle, and I hope that if you decide to visit Etosha or any national park, you will also practice common sense to protect yourself from a dangerous animal encounter.

Man, I am bossy today.

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Some wildebeest fighting while others mind theirs.

 

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When you see it.

 

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Jackals waiting for leftovers from the lion’s feast.

 

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Are they black with white stripes or white with black stripes?

 

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Kori bustards are the largest flying birds. So, pretty much I’ve seen pterodactyls. Life complete.

 

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A line of elephants leaving the waterhole.

 

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Springboks are like the goats of Etosha. They are everywhere!

 

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Beautiful ostrich. Supposedly, the black ones are male and the brown ones are female.

 

Although I don’t have a picture of the rhino (I mean, I do, but it’s so far away), as we headed back towards the north gate we looked over to see a large gray body slowly walking through the savannah. So, we seen’ a rhino and I would call this a successful trip to Etosha!

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Then, there are these 3 crazy animals.

❤ Krystal

you’re invited to camp glow.

I’m writing to ask for your help with one of our main projects in Namibia.

We’re currently raising funds for Camp GLOW (Guys and Girls Leading Our World). It’s a leadership camp which focuses on gender equality and will take place in Windhoek at the end of August. We have 44 campers from all over the country, meaning youth from different tribes and cultures coming together (many of them seeing the capital for the first time) and exploring ways to set goals, break stereotypes, and become the leaders of Namibia’s tomorrow.

I’m sending Teopolina, a Grade 9 learner, to camp this year, so it’s consuming my every waking thought. Because of Peace Corps policy, I’m not allowed to post our fundraising link directly to Facebook. I know it’s summertime and you’re all really busy, but if you can give even $10, every little bit counts.

Follow this link:

https://donate.peacecorps.gov/donate/project/camp-glow-namibia-2017/ where you can find more information about Camp GLOW and how you can help.

If you can think of anyone else who would be able to make a contribution please send the link along to them.

I’m eternally grateful for any help you can give.

Thank you in advance!

❤ Krystal