the application process.

Before this becomes too much of the distant past, I wanted to guide you through what it takes to apply for the US Peace Corps. Over the last few years, the application process has undergone some major revamping to make it a little less daunting and to add a little more fluidity to the application process.

It is a very thorough process, but I saw this as more of a gatekeeper to initially set apart those actually willing to serve or to question people like myself, why I was still doing this? Best advice during this process, stay proactive, keep all your records organized, and stay in contact with Peace Corps.

There is no real “set” time frame on the time of which you apply to the Peace Corps to the time you get accepted. I think a majority of that comes from the application deadlines and also how open a future PCV is willing to serve anywhere around the globe.

  • August 1, 2015 – Started my Peace Corps application
  • August 16-18, 2016– My friend RPCV Morocco, Lindsey, helped in editing my motivation statement
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Lindsey helping me edited my motivation statement and resume. From the doodles, one of my nieces decided to help as well.

  • August 19, 2015- Scheduled a phone appointment with RPCV Kenya, Michael Madej,  to discuss Peace Corps- concerns, interests, advice on applying, what to expect, etc. (Mostly so my family would stop worrying)
  • August 30, 2015- Submitted Peace Corps application
  • September 2, 2015– Submitted HHF (Health History Form)
  • September 3, 2015- Selected preferences on places to serve as well as soft skills questionnaire
  • September 9, 2015- Received an email from Office of Recruitment and Selection asking about my availability to depart as early as April 11, 2016. On my application, I indicated April 30th as my earliest availability, mostly because I thought, if selected, a solid 6-8 months would give everyone (including myself) enough time to get everything together.
  • September 10, 2015– Placed under consideration for Peace Corps Namibia (then Googled how to pronounce Namibia)
  • September 15, 2015 – Skype interview with David Goff
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Skype interview completed.

  • September 16-October 22, 2015- Wait, wait, wait some more.
  • October 23, 2015– Received and accepted my official invitation to serve in Namibia as a Health Extension Volunteer
  • November 2, 2015– Legal kit sent from HQ and started online modules on HIV Basics, Safety and Security, as well as PC Core Expectations
  • November 13, 2015- Completed fingerprints and legal kit and returned via expedited mail
  • November 20, 2015– Placement Office received my completed legal kit
  • October though December– Spent making appointments and digging up medical records for medical clearance.

On that note:

Thank you Gabby from Texas Hip & Knee for you incredible patience in filling out seemingly never-ending paperwork regarding my knee.

Also, thank you Head Athletic Trainer Edwin Detweiler from SWOSU for going to the vault and finding records on my knee surgery from 10 years ago during my soccer days.

  • December 17, 2015– Finally tracked down a Yellow Fever Vaccine
  • February 16, 2016 – My birthday and the day I announced to on my blog about my offer to serve in the Peace Corps, oh and I had to visit Quest Diagnostics to have lab work for G6PD, guess this was unintentional missed during my physical, travel immunizations, and dental appointments.

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  • March 2, 2016– Finally, received medial and dental clearance to depart for Namibia
  • March 8, 2016– Updated resume and aspiration statement

6 months and 1 day, for start until finish.

Even though the medical clearance was a pain in the rear during most of the time, three things particularity made this portion a tad bit easier for me:

1) Being enrolled in my dietetic internship required me to be up-to-date with most of my immunizations, so I only need a few.

2) Part-time employment at Starbucks. This meant I had insurance which covered many of the medical/dental expenses, or made them more affordable for me.

3) Also, PC has a reimbursement program, so save your receipts and some medical expenses are reimbursable.

❤ Krystal

peace corps roller coaster: serving while black.

“Oshike toyolo?”

“Why are you laughing at me?”

A phrase that never seemed too important to learn until the day I needed to use it. Now, I will never forget it.

During my first week at site, I have already experienced some minor highs and some depressing lows. Or as Peace Corps likes to refer to it as “The Emotional Roller Coaster.” I would more appropriately refer to it as “The Emotional Train Wreck,” which all took place in the matter seven days.

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I knew “serving while Black,” would come with its own set of challenges. But, in all honesty, I thought to myself, “it won’t be THAT bad,” until the day, it was THAT bad.

Don’t get me wrong, all PCVs have their challenges. Some black volunteers in other countries, cities, towns, or villages may never experience anything close to what I have experienced. Each PCVs, no matter what their background is, experience is so unique. There is absolutely no chance that what happens to one volunteer will happen to the next.

In joining the Peace Corps and moving to Namibia, I felt that “serving with Black,” for me would be one of the biggest blessing ever.

Woo-hoo!
No one is going to ask me for money, I thought.

Awesome!
No one will tell me I am going to marry or date them, check.

Great!
No one will stare at me.

All of these have been proven false in just one week.

Truth is, in a village, where everyone knows everyone, I’m like the new girl in high school. I stand out.

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At times, I feel like Americans whom look “American” (from a foreigners perspective) are forgiven more quickly for butchering local languages or for cultural faux pas.

For myself, I feel like there is less forgiveness at times.

Mom, sorry if you’re reading this.

For the first time this past week, I felt myself get so defeated I questioned: Why am I here?. I wanted to scream every bad word that came to my head and throw up the bird on my way out. Because, where I’m from, I would never see these people again. It took EVERYTHING within me not to exit the scene total “Tammy” style.

Sure, the “blending in” is great, until I have open my mouth to ask, “where’s the toilet?” or “can you take me to the bank?” It doesn’t take long for the laundry list of questions ensue as I stumble through all of the canned responses I know.

The “blending in” is great until someone calls you an “American nigger” to remind you that you’re not from here, you’re not one of us.

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This has been a challenging, soul-searching, tear-jerking, blood-boiling week for me, ya’ll.

I think it would be a disfavor to myself and all of you to only tell you about the highlights of my Peace Corps service. And as I mentioned before, EVERYONE’S experience is different, vastly different.

There will be countless times in the next two years I’ll be bent, but I can’t break.

There will be countless times I won’t understand what the hell is going on, but I am here, and I’ll have to roll with the punches.

There will be countless times I will want to take my ball and go home.

I will be laughed at, stared at, proposed at.

I have to remember and acknowledge that this is a two-way street. I am here to learn about Namibia and Namibians, in the same way I can find teachable moments to teach Namibians about America and Americans and African-Americans.

Not only that, I may be the first and very well the last American some Namibians will ever meet.

I have to remember, even across borders, people speak in ignorance. The same way you and I do at times.

I have been so fortunate to have wonderful friends and family back home, as well as my new Peace Corps family to be able to talk to during this past week. Most of them had no clue how my week was, until now.

With all of my struggles of the past week, many people reached out to me, even people I hadn’t talked to in years without even knowing what was really going on.

Eventually, the roller coaster reaches the top and at the top, there’s a beautiful view.

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❤ Krystal

ovamboland.

The last 2 months have flown by.

On 16 June 2016, I officially swore in as a US Peace Corps Volunteer.
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US Ambassador, Thomas Daughton

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Josephine and Shekupe (Kaalina)

On 17 June 2016, I moved int0 my new home in Ondobe, Ohangwena, Namibia.

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We received our site placements about a month ago. But, I knew reading a description of my site on paper, and actually seeing it and living it, would be two different things.

Ondobe is located just south of Angola in the northern part of Namibia. It’s actually one of the last villages before you hit Angola.

The Four O Region, Ovamboland, The North, and Wambo Region are synonymous to one another, and I’m sure you will hear a mixture of these in the next two years. These area represents the regions of Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, and Ohangwena (the region Ondobe is located.)

So, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, here is my new home for the next two years.

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Just so you know, it’s nearly impossible to walk around Namibia without your feet getting covered in sand.

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My room. My host meme, Ottilie, asks, “Does everything have to be USA and Texas?”

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The pigs. We have pigs, goats, chickens, cats, a dog, and the other day I saw a calf roaming around.

 

While in Ondobe, I will be partnering with the Ministry of Health and Social Services while working in the local clinic.  My host meme, Ottilie, will also be my supervisor. She is the Nurse in Charge at the clinic.

I’ve already gotten apologies from friends in Texas about not being able to escape nurses.

My Primary Project:

–          Health outreach and education in the local community
–          Provide nutritional activities, education, etc.
–          Providing life skills to youth due to the fact Ondobe’s students are dropping out at an alarming rate due to pregnancies and risky behaviors.

So, tomorrow is my first day at my new job at the clinic, which is walking distances from my house. Which means, expect some FitBit challenge requests from me again.

two months down.

Today marks 2 months I’ve been in Namibia. Tomorrow, I will officially swear in as a US Peace Corps Volunteer.

The last week has been jammed packed with meetings and presentations and special events to wrap up our stay in Okahandja.

Last Saturday, our group hosted a special American Culture and Host Family Appreciation Event.

Each volunteer split into groups based on the region of the States they lived in, and prepared favorite foods from the region

My group, the Southern group, made BBQ and sweet tea.

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That evening we held a black-tie event, which Jared and I had the opportunity to MC. I had a blast and felt like a celebrity.
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My host family attended the event as well. Each family was presented with a certificate of appreciation for hosting volunteers. My host siblings had a great time. They told me I looked like I was getting engaged. (We’ll talk about cultural norms in another post.)
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On Monday, I was elected as one of VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee) representatives for Group 43. As a VAC representative, I will serve as a liaison between Peace Corps Volunteers in Namibia and the Country Director as well as PC Namibia staff. I’ll also be able to voice interests and concerns among PCVs. I’m more excited to be able to be on the committee with Mandeep. He’s a CED (Community Economic Development) Volunteer. I’ve also been able to spend a lot of time with him during PST because we are in the same language group and we’ll also be living in the same region.

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Yesterday, we finally met our supervisors and/or counterparts for our permanent sites. I will actually be living and working with my supervisor in Ondobe. She offered a lot of insight for my primary and secondary projects once I get to site.

Plus a bonus: I’ll have Wifi!!

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Today, I’m picking up my outfit for swearing-in and packing, again.

Can’t wait to post pictures. Ya’ll will love it.

❤ Krystal

orlando.

While I was in the process of updating my blog about my life in Namibia, I received horrible news about yet another mass shooting in the US.

My heart is heavy. My stomach is in knots.

I’m trying to wrap my mind around the terrible event that took place in Orlando but when irrational things like this occur there never seems to be an answer.

At least not immediately.

Today, prior to the news I felt an overwhelming sense of being a proud American. Proud to serve my country in a way some only dream of as a US Peace Corps volunteer. As the news broke, my American proud turned into a dark cloud of embarrassment, grief, and anger. This is not America. Not again.

My heart hurts because I feel helpless in Namibia.

My heart hurts because I don’t understand how someone can take away a life as if it doesn’t matter.

My heart hurts because I have LGBTQ friends.

My heart hurts because no one deserves to die in a nightclub.

My heart hurts because it could have been my friends.

My heart hurts because someone lost their friend.

I’m so tired of this hate.

Tonight, as I head to bed with tear-filled eyes, I just want to hug my friends back home. People no different than you or I. Friends with feelings and emotions much like mine. Friends who are afraid to grab dinner and go dancing to celebrate the end of weekend.

No matter your religion, color, sex, or sexual orientation. NO ONE SHOULD BE AFRAID TO LIVE.

Hug your friends and family tight.

To my friends back home and my new PC family, I love you and I’ve got your back. 

♡ Krystal

ove okuninga ove.

One of my biggest fears of moving to Namibia for the Peace Corps was the fear I’d over sleep for anything and everything important. I’ve never been a morning person. Like ever. I’d even go back to sleep wearing my backpack while waiting for the bus in elementary school, see I’ve always been great at time management. While working in corporate America, my biggest struggle was making it to work on time, snoozing for an hour was a norm in my world.

Six days a week, I am up no later than 0600 and most mornings earlier so I can catch up on studies and get my eyebrows on fleek before training.
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If anyone would have told me that I could possible get up before the sun everyday of the work, I’d call them crazy.

To my standards, this is early. So, so early. In Namibian standards, this may be considered a late start on the day.

Technology has made it incredibly easy to still see what’s going on back in the States, as while as sharing with you all what’s going on in Namibia.

Here are a few things I never knew before moving overseas:

I never knew how much time and preparation went into making food over an open flame. I’ve only truly been camping once in my life. I don’t think our menu got very complicated either. Probably beans and hotdogs. Preparing food over a fire may be my reality when I move to site in June. Who knows? I think seeing traditional Namibian cooking, literally from farm to table, makes me appreciate the love and hardwork anyone puts into a meal.
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I never knew how well I could get along with 32 different people who are just as bright, intelligent, or maybe as crazy as me. I learn so much from each person everyday, whether through a group or individual conversation.

When I first left for Namibia, so many people told me how much this two years was going to change me. I choose not to focus so much on the distance future.

I reflect on each day and see how being surrounded by people who are more like the person I want to be is really how I can learn to challenge my own thoughts and ideas. This is where change and growth begins.
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I never knew that I would have more room in my heart to love another family as if it were my own. Hanna has welcomed me into her home as a sister, daughter, and friend. I have had so many special moments living here. I’ve laughed so much with my new family. I’ve shared excitement when the kids brought home good marks on their reports cards. I’ve help consol a few tears when someone turned off SpongeBob. I really love my host family.

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I never knew how small actions could be so rewarding. Like sharing batteries with my family when our power went out,
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Or introducing them to chocolate chip pancakes,
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Or even spending time color with them.
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As you can see, Namibia has been great.

Oshi li wete,

❤ Krystal

on the go.

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Okahandja is a beautiful town of roughly 24,000 people, and probably about the same amount of dogs and chickens. I’m still learning my way around, and actually found myself walking an almost 8-miles round-trip to find the mall. I wasn’t lost. I know where the mall is. I know where my house is. I just don’t know the relation of my house to the mall. I’ll figure it out.

Days are still jam packed with language studies. I now know how to say “I have two brothers” which is “Ondi na ovamwemememati vavali,” and “I don’t need a man,” which is “Kandi pumbwa omusamane.” I just can’t use them together, that would be weird.

I’ve also learned to say, “cats are the devil” and “carrot.” You know, useful conversation starters?

Since I know how curious you are, I wanted to post a few pictures of things I see on the daily during my commute. I think colors here are even more vibrant than the States.

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At least once a week, a truck driver parks his cattle in front of the training center. It’s very common to hear cows mooing during our training sessions or lunch breaks.

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I found French pressed coffee in Namibia. The lady who owns this bakery sells mini French pressed coffee, muffins, and I believe she even makes her own shampoo. I plan on buying shampoo before I move to site.

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Each evening I get to witness a beautiful sunset. This is one of many. I swear I could take pictures every evening of this, although pictures never do it justice. I don’t think this will ever get old.

❤ Krystal

This post is part of the Blogging Abroad Challenge.