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

red, braai, and blue.

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I always look forward to holidays. It seems that once the 4th of the July hits each year, the final months of the year fly by. For many American expats, getting US holidays off of work is a rarity, unless the holidays are also observed in our host countries. In Namibia, shared observations of holidays include Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, New Years Eve and Day, to name a few. All other holidays are just days.

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To make up for holidays missed, many times PCVs organize celebrations on weekends before or following the holiday. This year, Independence Day fell on a Tuesday, so to make-up, we held a braai the Saturday following in a town central to many Ovamboland volunteers.

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A braai is in many ways similar to what Americans call a barbecue. And just how Americans use the word barbecue as a noun and a verb, the word braai is no different.

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Yeah, Rachael and I braaied pizza. Mmm. Sweet Baby Ray’s!

One of Peace Corps goals is to share American culture with our host country- colleagues, family, and friends. Fortunately for us, most Namibian’s main food group is meat, so it didn’t take much convincing to involve locals.

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Celebrating Independence Day abroad not only brings together PCVs, but also other expats as well. This year, many World Teach Volunteers joined the festivities as well as PCV’s colleagues, significant others, and friends.

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Namibia celebrated 27 years of independence on March 21 of this year, while the United States celebrated 241 years. Being from a country almost 10 times “older” than Namibia, I’m reminded each day the amount of patience that should continue to go into the work I am doing.

During the 2016 holiday season, I started a tradition of using a tablecloth at special events in which everyone signs. Each year, I will hand embroider each person’s writing to remember all my friends and family who I have shared special occasions with during my service and even after. This will most likely be the last big celebration with the current group of volunteers. Group 42 will COS in later this year, and a new group of education volunteers will arrive in August.

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Happy 4th, y’all!

❤ Krystal

11 years in the making.

I have never been known for having a good memory. My older brother would get upset with me when he would start reminiscing about good ole days, and I couldn’t remember the slightest details. He can recall Christmases from when we were in diapers, road trips across the country, and what pizza toppings were on a pizza during a family movie night in 1996. Even if I exhaustively jog my memory, I come up with nothing.

My freshman year of college, I took Intro to Public Speaking. This was a required class, but I enjoyed it because it served as a sort of therapy for me. During this time in college, my parent’s had recently divorced and I was going through physical therapy for my ACL tear. It was a rough time for me to say the least, so I found solace in writing down and presenting my thoughts (I’m sure I was a wreck), but I remember one thing clearly:

In this class, I decided I was going to bungee jump at Victoria Falls.

Okay, let me back up a little.

One of my classmates was Zambian. She gave a speech about a fear that she overcame. That fear was bungee jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge. She described the fear, exhilaration, excitement, and adrenaline she experienced during her jump, and from that day on, I put bungee jumping at Victoria Falls on my bucket list.

One problem.

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In 2006, I had no clue where Zambia was even at. Let alone Victoria Falls. Was it in South America? Or an island off of Australia? As I told you before in a previous post, I’ve never been a traveller, so putting something on my bucket list was okay. I mean, if it happened it happened, and if not, it was a stretch goal after all.

In the years following college, I can’t say I actively devised a plan to achieve this bucket list item aside from pinning it on my Pinterest. When I moved to Namibia, I realized Victoria Falls wasn’t too far away.

So, last month I  found myself in Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe and Zambia are neighboring countries) to run in Victoria Falls marathon (I only ran (walked/jogged) the 7.5k fun run). During my weekend, I realized, this was my opportunity to fulfil a dream over a decade in the making. As soon as I checked into Shoestrings Backpackers, I booked my ticket to jump at Shearwater Bungee in Victoria Falls.

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On June 17, 2017, I was the 9th bungee jumper from Victoria Falls Bridge. All of the feelings my classmate described that day in 2006, were #allthefeels I experienced in my jump.

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What bucket list items do you want to fulfil? Wanna bungee jump at Victoria Falls?

Come visit me! I don’t think I’ll jump again, but I’ll watch.

❤ Krystal

the truth about fomo as a peace corps volunteer.

When I was growing up my parents were strict. I jokingly tell people that the pastor’s kids had more freedoms than my older brother and me. My parents had parental locks on MTV, BET, and VH1 (Larry figured out the code, P.S. Don’t use your children’s birthdays, hehe). Sleeping over at friends houses were few and far between and I knew nothing about sex until I was 14 or 15, since I was excused from the “Facts of Life” education at school. So, growing up it’s safe to say, I dealt with a lot of FOMO (failure of missing out) because in many cases I did.

As a college student, I made sure I never missed out on anything. Going to the library parties Wednesday through Saturday night, football games, university events, movies, Spring break trips, you name it, I was probably there. This trend continued through my 20s as my way of making up for lost time.

Then, I joined the Peace Corps.

27 months away from my close family and friends.

27 months of missing out.

Missing out of life events such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other significant milestones.

Besides many trivial things I am missing back stateside during my time in Namibia, these are real things. These are times I can’t get back or recreate. These are times I couldn’t prepare myself for prior to leaving for service, although I did try.

It has become so easy for me, and I am sure for other expats, to dwell on everything we’re missing at home. Recently, my friend, Carrie, challenged me to think of things I would be missing if I chose to not come to Namibia. With a little bit of thought, here I go:

    1. Making Lifelong Friends

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      I mean, I could make lifelong friends anytime or place, but in April of last year, I began a journey with volunteers who will always just “get it” and “get me”. Volunteers from all over the States who will appreciate what it takes to be a PCV. I have made friends who continue to challenge me, support me, and relate to me on a daily basis. In addition, I have gained friends from Namibia- from PC staff, colleagues, host families, and neighbors. Being a volunteer in Namibia means gaining a namily, that’s for sure.

    2. Learning a New Language and about a New Culture

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      Why would I want to re-learn French when I can learn Oshikwanyama? I learned a language I never even knew existed in a country I never knew existed before applying to Peace Corps. Each and every day I learn new things about a culture I would have never known about without taking the leap to travel outside the borders of my own.

    3. Traveling to New Countries

      Before Namibia, the only stamp in my passport was from Mexico (not even sure if that counts if you’re from Texas). I have never been an avid traveler, but by the end of my service, I will have a handful (or two) of stamps added to my collection.

    4. Discovering New Skills and Hobbies

      I taught myself to hand embroider. I’ve practiced more of my calligraphy and doodling (yes, there’s an art to doodling). I made my own sourdough bread and reignited my love of gardening. Yes, the life of a volunteer is hectic, but I also have a lot more downtime than I have ever had (or will ever have again). Watching movies and TV shows get old, so learning something new is never a bad idea.

    5. Strengthening Old Relationships

      Although I am thousands of miles away, there is something about distance that helps strengthen relationships. Not only in romantic relationships (but, those too). Being away from family and friends has allowed me to make more decisions about me, and what makes my life meaningful and fulfilling without other people’s anxieties and emotions influencing them. I have gained a greater sense of independence and realize more of my ability to do things (and do them well) on my own. Distance has made me better at planning communication with people back home while also determining which relationships have been worth sustaining in my time away.

    6. Increasing Knowledge and Skills for Future Endeavors

      Peace Corps, for me, offered an opportunity to change my career path while gaining two years of hands-on experience. I have also had the ability to acquire knowledge and refine skills that may make me more marketable post-Peace Corps. Granted, there is still plenty of time between now and COS (close of service), these are still important things to consider IMO.

    7. Realizing How Much “Grit” I Have and How to Survive on Less 

      Endurance. Passionate. Excellence. Courage. Perseverance.

      I don’t think I truly knew what grit was until I joined the Peace Corps. But, I’m positive that I have had in inter-weaved in my personal makeup my entire life. Many days as PCV are disappointing. Many days I must revisit the drawing board. In all of the unpredictability, these things are predictable. So, why do I do this? Why am I still here? Grit. That’s the only way to explain it. I have the desire and need to achieve and love the feeling of accomplishing a long-term goal. Yes, enduring a variety of hardships in my living and working environments may not be for the faint of spirit, but in a crazy way, having grit breathes life into me.

      Also, no promises that I won’t try to serve lentils 101 ways after Peace Corps, but living minimal really makes you think about what is important in life, and what brings true happiness (the secret is: it’s not things).

So, with all the FOMO, there is a joy to be gained. JOMO, if you will (I didn’t make this up). I’ve found joy in having time to get to know myself absent of fears and anxiety. Even if I am missing milestones back home, there are so many experiences I am gaining here. With more one year of service to go, I continue to look forward to the months ahead.

❤ Krystal

c a p e t o w n, s o u t h a f r i c a

In March, I took a wonderful vacation to Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is located on the southwest coast of South Africa. It is a city of wonders, beautiful people, breathtaking landscapes and of course delicious food. Many Peace Corps Volunteers living in southern African countries take a trip to Cape Town once or even twice during or after their service because it’s like a small taste of America located on the continent (they have a McDonald’s and Burger King, y’all). Although this was my first time to Cape Town, it definitely will not be my last.

my top [f i v e] favorite attractions in cape town, south africa:

[o n e] Lion’s Head

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This was the first place I visited the evening after I landed in Cape Town. Told to be the “easier” hike of the two mountains in Cape Town (the other being Table Mountain), Lion’s Head offered a fun, yet challenging climb, and the reward of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean view. Even if you don’t make it to the top, the views and the people you meet along the way make it all worth it. For a moderately “in-shape” person, allow for about an hour and 15 minutes to climb (take pictures, chat with friends, take more pictures). If you plan on venturing to the top for a sundowner, make sure to bring a flashlight for the trip down.

[t w o] Greenmarket Square

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Nestled between St. George’s Mall and Long Street, Greenmarket Square is a place where artisans from all over the continent bring goods to sell. Anything from handmade dolls and paintings to kitchenware and radios made of bottle caps, are some of the goods you can find here. The artisans are friendly and make it worth the trip. For a Peace Corps Volunteer, the market provides a place to work on your negotiation skills as well, even if you end up spending R700.

[t h r e e] The Neighbourgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill

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If you happen to be in Cape Town on a Saturday (which you should be), head on down to The Old Biscuit Mill where each and every Saturday the Neighbourhoods Market is open with food, food, and did I say food? The Old Biscuit Mill is located in the hip and trendy Woodstock Neighborhood, and is open Monday through Saturday.

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On Saturday, venture on down and buy yourself a mushroom kebab, freshly squeezed lemonade, tuna noodle stir fry, handcrafted chocolate, a Belgium pretzel, and whatever else you can carry, then walk outside to purchase souvenirs to take home. But, do this all before 2pm, that’s when they close.

[f o u r] VA Waterfront

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There is something about a fresh ocean breeze which that makes anyone feel alive. VA Waterfront is a popular Cape Town destination place for food, fun, and shopping. The VA Waterfront offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic shore, Table Bay Harbor, the City of Cape Town and Table Mountain. Go for the fun, go for the food, go for H&M!

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[f i v e] Robben Island

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Robben Island is located about 7k from the coast of Cape Town. Built between 1962 and 1969, Robben Island was a political prison during South African apartheid rule. All prisoners, including South African’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, were members of political parties who opposed apartheid. In 1997, only one year after releasing the last prisoner, Robben Island re-opened as a museum and offers tours throughout the day. The tour includes a ferry ride to and from Cape Town (from VA Waterfront). Many of the tour guides are former prisoners of Robben Island. The tour cost is about R230 (you must purchase tickets in advance).

Visiting Robben Island offers one a lot of perspective on a history that is not too distant. Walking through the prison blocks, prison yard, and prison cells reminded me of freedoms which are not free.

In some ways, I feel the tour was rushed, but even still, I think Robben Island should be on your to-do list.

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. ❤ Krystal

q&a peace corps namibia edition no.1

After living in Namibia for a year, I constantly forget that friends and family back home still have many questions related to how I survive and function here.  I thought it would finally be nice to answer some of these questions for all you curious people out there.

Q: What do you eat in Namibia?

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A: Pretty much anything I can afford within my PC stipend. As a PCV, I am given a monthly stipend to buy essentials- food is obviously one of them. So, I am in control of many things I eat. My normal grocery list contains items such as bread, protein sources such as tuna, beans, or lentils (if the prices are right), vegetables, and chocolate. When produce is in-season, I typically purchase it from my neighbor, but all other times, I will buy from the store in my village or shopping town.

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Kapana and oshifima from the open market in Ongwediva.

 

When it comes to traditional foods, I typically eat those foods with my host family, because, I really don’t know how to prepare them well at all. Since my host family is large, there is usually more than enough to share. Some nights, I am in the mood for oshifima (traditional porridge) and ombidi (wild spinach), and my host family lovingly shares with me. I do enjoy trying new foods and traditional staples and snacks.

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On weekends, I may find myself away from site to run errands or visit volunteers. If I am in a town, there are typically a few decent selections of restaurants to dine at. Not necessarily chain restaurants, but some tried and tested places. Local hotels or guest lodges serve burgers, pizzas, or green salad, but it also comes at a high cost on a volunteer budget. Volunteers also enjoy cooking together.

Q: What is a koombi?

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It’s hell on wheels. Okay, it’s a large van. One or both of these statements are true.

A koombi is a large van which is a common form of transit when traveling across the country. For every koombi in this country, I have a comedic story to follow. Koombis are one of the most frustrating forms of traveling IMO. Most fit between 15-20 passengers, and drivers won’t begin the trip until almost all of those seats are filled. So, the trick is to get to the koombi early, but not too early, or you’ll be waiting for it to fill up. But, not too late, because then that means you may be on the road well after dark, and then the driver won’t take you to the location you paid for him to take you, and then you’ll have to pay for a taxi, but because it’s so late you’ll have to sit in a taxi for 45 minutes while the driver takes a nap waiting for more customers, then it will rain because it’s not dramatic enough unless there is rain…

Koombis suck.

Q: Do you shave your legs?

A: Sometimes, but not most of the time. I mean, as a PCV there is no requirement to do or to not do so. I personally have found it to be a chore these days than anything. I live on a homestead with an outdoor shower. So, shaving requires extra time for me to stand outside naked. I’ll pass. I could shave my legs in my room. But, then that requires me to make a trip or two collecting water to lather and rinse while trying not to end up covered in sand while doing so. No thanks.

Q: What time zone are you in?

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Namibia is in the West African Time (WAT) zone. During daylight savings time, most of Namibia moves to West Africa Summer Time (WAST) for the summer months (beginning of September to beginning of April in Namibia) so we share the same time as Botswana and South Africa.

So, throughout the course of the year, I am anywhere between 6-8 hours ahead of CST.

Q: What is the main religion in Namibia?

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Many Namibians identify as Christian. The two largest Christian groups in Namibia are Lutheran and Roman Catholic. Other religions practiced in Namibia include Isalm, Judaism, Buddhism, and Baha’i Fatih.

Q: Do people in Namibia speak English?

English is the official language of Namibia, although there are multiple langauges spoken in the country. During apartheid rule, there were 3 official languages of Namibia: Afrikaans, German, and English. After Namibia’s independence in 1990, English became the official national language. Although English is the official language, it is regularly spoken by a small percentage of the population and rarely the first language learned by Namibians. Oshiwambo and dialects of Oshiwambo are spoken in nearly 50% of Namibian households, followed by Damara/Nama (11%), and then Afrikaans (10%).

❤ Krystal