November marks 6 months I have been in Namibia.
Roughly, two to four months after moving to site, Peace Corps plans a weeklong workshop to reconnect volunteers with their group, ours is cleverly called Reconnect.
At this point of service, volunteers gather with mixed feelings, emotions, challenges, and ideas from the preceding months in hopes to gain some more direction for the upcoming months leading up to our mid-service training which is scheduled around our one year anniversary at site.
During PST, there is a large emphasis put on working together but also being okay with the small successes. That message is presented in many ways here in Namibia. Namibia’s prosperity plan is appropriately called Harambee which translates to “pull together in the same direction.” This plan calls for unity and encourages Namibians to work towards a common purpose.
If you ask anyone who has ever served in the Peace Corps, most commonly they will say, “it is the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I believe this is true.
In the US, but even more so in developing countries, seeing is believing. At times, there is a lot of disappointment. Miscommunication is a daily norm. There is a lot of expecting more than you get and sometimes even getting more than you expect. There is daily emotional whiplash- one second you will want to throw a piglet (and maybe you even will) and the next minute you are beaming ear-to-ear because you spoke in the local language and people understood you. You miss friends and family members birthdays and anniversaries and wonder if this is all worth it. Some days you feel completely empowered and others you feel completely deflated.
Peace Corps is tough.
Peace Corps is exhausting.
Peace Corps is emotional.
Peace Corps is all of these things. My load became a little lighter when I learned this Southern African phrase at Reconnect.
Ubuntu: I am what I am because of who we all are.
Ubuntu reminds me that yes, this job is tough, but I am not alone. It reminds me that there is strength in numbers. The burdens of navigating challenges in Namibia, as well as worries back home, become bearable. It reminds me that we are stronger together.
I typically try to keep my personal ramblings and my blog separate but I wanted to share some thoughts I jotted down a few months back:
Today, I realized that I joined Peace Corps Namibia to do two things: nutrition education and HIV/AIDS prevention education. As of today, I have done both. Not that I set small goals for myself, but the reality is, if I do anything more in these two years, I have already exceeded my expectations of my experience.
So far I have done the following during my service:
- Had dinner with the Global Peace Corps Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet
- Taught LifeSkills
- Created a girls club
- Spoke in the local language in front of a group
- Navigated a foreign country by public transportation
- Weighed children in a village
- Conducted nutrition education and assessments in my village
- Initiated plans for a community garden
Like most things in life, I realize I can’t embrace the distance I’ve traveled by creating a list of pros and cons I have encountered on the way. In Peace Corps especially, it doesn’t work like that. I don’t want to romanticize anything about this journey for myself. I want to remember the good, bad, and the ugly. I want to remember the days where I feel raw to the core and the days I am elated and overjoyed. I know the road ahead of me may have detours and bumps, but I am happy that I have good support of family, friends and newfound friends to go with me. I hear that a lot of this experience is about the change in myself, and I really beginning to believe that more and more each day.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Peace Corps Namibia Group 43 is my favorite group of strangers. Strangers who I have cried with and laughed with. Strangers who become my sounding board on a day-by-day basis. Strangers that will be the only ones who understand what Peace Corps is about and how to say the right thing when situations don’t seem right.
Ubuntu is the spirit I have with not only my community, but with my new friends who are now my forever Namily.