camp o-yeah.

Camp YEAH (Youth Exploring & Achieving in Health) is a health camp hosted by Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterparts in Namibia. Each year, in-school youth apply and are then invited to a week-long camp to engage in topic discussions and activities that will empower them in making healthy choices regarding their health and the health of their communities.

This was the inaugural year of Camp O-YEAH (the ‘O’ stands for O-Land) which was hosted in Oshakati. 18 youth from across the four regions of O-land (Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati, and Ohangwena regions) gathered for a week of activities involving teamwork, goal setting, and of course, health awareness and education.

Victoria’s very first time in a swimming pool.

This year, I was able to bring Victoria as a camper to Camp O-YEAH. Victoria is a grade 12 learner in my village. Although quiet and soft-spoken she always has a way to light up a room. She wakes up early each morning to walk 3k to school. She spends hours studying under a torch or lantern, because there is no electricity at her home. As the winter days have become shorter, this gives her less and less daylight to not only get home from school each day, but to complete her chores while continuing to make time to prioritize her studies. Victoria wants to become a tour guide when grows up and has determined the path to get there.

During my service, I have asked myself many times, “Am I doing the right things the wrong way?” I’ve struggle with community “buy-in.” I’ve struggled with finding counterparts who see the bigger picture and realize it begins with smalll daily actions. Victoria has been one who sees the bigger picture.

Camp O-Yeah opened up a world of possibilities for Victoria.

On day 1 of Camp O-Yeah, each camper was given a dream book. They were told to decorate their books anyway they wanted to. Within their dream books, they could write anything they wanted inside— thoughts on life, studies, draw pictures or write poems— anything. Their books were for their eyes only, and campers could choose to share the contents of their books if they wished.

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On a few ocassions, Victoria shared a few entries of her dream book with me. The content she shared with me made me realize even moreso how beautiful and courageous this young lady is. Each day she battles many obstacles to receive an education, change her fate, and have a voice in her future.

So, whether or not I ever find out if I am doing anything right during my last year of service, there is one thing I know: Victoria came into my Peace Corps service at the right time, and if in any way I am able to impact her life in a positive way, that will make all of this worth it.

❤ Krystal

down by the river.

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The Kavango River: separating Namibia from Angola.

It still amazes me how different the landscapes are as you travel through Namibia. This weekend I spent some time in Rundu. I knew I was getting closer to town when I saw vivid green foliage, traces of water from recent heavy rains, and elephant crossing signs. Yes, seriously. I live in a country where elephants and people can cross paths (although, it wouldn’t be a great idea). How crazy is that?

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One of the many beautiful peacocks roaming around Camp YEAH over the weekend.

Each year volunteers in the Kavango Region host Camp YEAH. YEAH stands for Youth Exploring and Achieving in Health. The camp focuses on educating youth about the risk of HIV/AIDS and other issues affecting youth such as teen pregnancy. Volunteers and counterparts select motivated learners from their communities to participate.

This year, we will be introducing this camp to Ovamboland, creatively rebranding the name to Camp O-YEAH. Camp O-YEAH will be held during the first week of May. I have been put in charge of getting all the kitchen/nutrition stuff in order for camp. Since this is my first time being on the operations side of any camp, I figured this was a great opportunity to check out Camp YEAH, but also see how a camp kitchen is run.

When I completed my dietetics degree, I never thought I would use any food management concepts again. Not because I would never need to, but because I never wanted to EVER again. (Never say never, my friends!) I fell in love with the community health aspect of dietetics, and not so much with the food management or clinical side of it. Dietetic professionals know that creating menus to feed the masses takes a lot of time, math, tears, and preparation. Move to Namibia and add in converting everything from US to metric, and it turns into one heck of a good time.

I watched as a team of two volunteers with the assistance of a few locals cook and serve three meals per day to approximately 50 campers and staff. I was thoroughly impressed and mostly relieved that some school kitchens in Namibia are equipped with appliances found in commercial kitchens in the States. (They had a tilt skillet, y’all).

Mariah and Winnie cooked and introduced delicious new foods to the campers while reminding volunteers of the yummy foods we sacrificed for two years.

 

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Delicious cheese…oh, and chili.

 

For me, planning six days, 17 meals including 5 tea breaks, and 50 expected attendees will make anyone want to pull their hair out, but I think it will turn out just fine.

 

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Speaking of hair, do you like my new style? Can’t beat a new look for $10 USD.

 

❤ Krystal

 

malaria immunity. what’s your superpower?

Meme insisted that I got tested at the clinic.

I carry sickle cell trait.

Let’s clear a few things up before I go any further.

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) also known as Sickle Cell Anemia is an inherited form of anemia in which mutated (sickle-shaped) red blood cells do not carry enough oxygen throughout the body. Because of this, the red blood cells “stick to the walls” and cannot pass through capillaries. As a result, this causes chronic pain (sickle cell crisis) typically at the location of the “sticking,” which is often crippling for those who suffer from SCD. SCD is common in those of African descent, but similarly Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, and Asian Indian ancestry can also have SCD.

A carrier of Sickle Cell Trait is a person who only inherited one mutated gene of SCD. Remember dominant and recessive genes in biology class? In most cases, carriers of  sickle cell trait are asymptomatic and commonly do not have issues related to SCD, although there are always exceptions.

Interesting research shows that carriers of the sickle cell trait are IMMUNE to malaria, because SCD stems from mutated red blood cells which carried malaria.

Now, malaria is a real nasty disease. Malaria is caused when an infected mosquito transmits a parasite, most commonly P. falciparum, to its host. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, chills, and vomiting.  If left untreated, malaria can lead to more severe symptoms including death.

Does anyone like needles? Nurse Anna laughing at pain.

Don’t get me wrong. Being genetically resistant to malaria is really cool. But, it does not make me immune to mosquito bites or mosquitoes buzzing in my ears a night. So, I make sure to sleep under my properly installed ITN (insecticide-treated net) and wear insect repellent.

Doctors still recommend carriers who live in malaria zones to take daily prophylaxis, especially during the rainy season – which is now in Namibia.

Hey, the more you know.

❤ Krystal

rustlin’ up some grub.

There are a few life lessons to be learned from watching The Lion King. Particularly, “grubs are slimy yet satisfying.”

Every day of my PC Namibian life is an adventure. I learn so much from the children I share a home with. They are so adventurous and fearless. But, aren’t most children?

Yesterday’s adventure led me to oshuungu from a nearby mopane tree.

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In many countries, edible insects, such as grubs and caterpillars offer a source of nutrition as well as income. Dried mopane worms have 2-3x more protein than beef by weight. 100 g of dried mopane worms contain about 430 calories and 50-60 g of protein. For comparison, 100 g of cooked beef is about 290 calories and 25 g of protein. Since mopane worms feed on healthy green foliage, they contain many of the required vitamins as well as significant amounts of fat, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and other minerals.

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My host siblings think it’s funny when I do things that really only children do in the village. Things such as running barefoot through puddles, hanging upside down from trees and getting excited to gather oshuungu provide pure entertainment and laughs from all.

Over the weekend, my youngest host brother, Mengela, was out playing and came home with branches filled with plump mopane worms. I begged him to take me next time. Ask and you shall receive.

On Monday, Mengela escorted me to the mopane tree where he had collected his harvest. After giving him a boost into the tree, I stood below, nervous yet excited to collect my very own mopane worms. As Mengela climbed from branch to branch, I stood to assess the tree for worms at the ground level while collecting a few (okay, one) mopane worm(s) in my reach as Mengela climbed his way up and through the tree limbs.

He climbed higher and higher, yelling, “Meme Krystal take,” and as he tossed down branches with mopane worms munching on the bright green leaves, something dawned on me.

“Mengela,” I shouted, “are there snakes in this tree?”

“No,” he responded firmly from above.

Not even a minute later, I saw slithering movement from the corner of my eye.

“Mengela, it’s a snake,” I squealed.

I watched as it dangled from a lower tree limb trying to hold on. But, it was too off balance and dropped to the ground. Once on the ground, it’s lateral undulation caused it to quickly blend into the grass below.

I ran quickly away. Everyone is safe.

Here’s a recipe for mopane worms:

After cleaning, heat oil in a pan and fry your mopane worms until their done.

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❤ Krystal

 

from the ground up.

I enjoy gardening.

In my early 20s, I shared a garden plot with a few colleagues when I worked for Chesapeake. It took a while to realize I cared more about hot compost and blossom rot and sweet potato curing than the average working young adult. I was captivated by sustainable gardening. Although, back then, I didn’t know sustainable was more than not using chemicals and pesticides.

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After returning back to school, I dabbled in home gardening. Bone meal and trellises and garden gloves and worm casing and lady bugs, I soon realized I was spending a lot of money for a tiny harvest.

Here’s one thing the US has wrong about gardening.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to grow a garden. 

We rely on fancy tools, seeds, and fertilizers which make gardening expensive. Many times we take on a backyard garden as if it’s a commercial farm. We start too big. And then our gardens fail.

 

Enter the idea of permagardening. Simple and teachable methods to link nutrition and agriculture which can be implemented anywhere around the world.

Upon returning to site after this workshop, I was on a mission to get serious about our household garden. I knew that this would require some help from my host family. So, I gathered my host siblings.

The type of permagardening technique we used is called double-digging. Double digging not only breaks up the top soil but increases the ability for the soil to hold water as well as adds air to the soil.

I use the term soil loosely because what we are dealing with here in northern Namibia is sand. Sand lacks essential nutrients for plants to grow therefore many plants cannot thrive in sand. During the hottest portion of the day, sand can increase in temperatures to about 120 degrees F. Not an ideal environment for a garden.

This is where science and knowing your environment comes in.

Our biggest task was to improve our soil and we didn’t have to leave the homestead to find all the right materials to do so.

Carbon Nitrogen Microbes
Charcoal Chicken manure Goat manure Egg shells (calcium)
Brown Leaves Coffee grounds Cow manure Wood ash (minerals)
Green leaves
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Host sisters and I pulled overgrown plants around the homestead to add nitrogen to our garden.

Healthy doses of carbon, nitrogen, microbes, as well as calcium, will change the sand into soil over time. This will make a soil rich in organic compounds needed to grow a healthy, sustainable garden.

Cost: Nothing (Except some time and hardwork).

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Collecting rainwater from the roof runoff. One less expense.

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Buried a few palm leaves to provide some shade for the young plants. Also, added twigs and branches from a neraby neem tree to serve as mulch. Neem is also a natural insect repellent. Dark green leaves- Black-eyed peas

My host siblings are thrilled and eager to assist in beginning and maintaining our garden. They have even started growing mango seeds to plant in the garden, although I remind them our garden may be too small for a tree.

❤ Krystal

 

career assessment report.

This year I decided to return back to school to studying dietetics after spending four years in the corporate world. I decided to pursue this career field based on my personal interests and character strengths. 1) I have a passion for health and fitness, mainly through nutrition health. 2) I love serving others, and helping them reach their personal goals. 3) I love learning new things, and dietetics is an ever-evolving science with new techniques and facts emerging every day.

My main areas of interest include sports nutrition emphasizing collegiate sports.  After obtaining my DTR, I plan to continue my education to become a Registered Dietitian. Being a former collegiate-athlete, I recognize the importance to nutrition when competing in events. By being about to work hand-in-hand with student-athletes and parents, I will be able to teach the importance of nutritional health and how it direct effects physical health, especially when meeting demands of competing at high levels of competition.

General Dietetics Specific
Work Experience (not  related to dietetics)

Chesapeake Energy Corporation- Land Technician, September 2010- July 2013; Paycom Payroll, LLC. – Payroll Specialist, November 2009- September 2010; Bath and Body Works- Sales Associate, August 2010- September 2012

Work Experience (related to dietetics)
General Skills

Organization

Time Management

Event Management

 

Dietetics Specific Skills (skills you learned from dietetics classes or work)
Volunteer Experience (not  related to dietetics)

Read2Win Fort Worth- Volunteer Reader; SWITCH- Leader

 

Volunteer Experience (related to dietetics)
Club/Activities (not related to dietetics)

Oklahoma City Landrunners Running Club,

Club/Activities (related to dietetics)

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics- member, current

Award/Certificates Received (not related to dietetics)

 

 

Award/Certificates Received (related to dietetics)
References (not related to dietetics)

 

References (related to dietetics)

dietetic technician program

>>–> follow your dreams <–<<

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I am still coming back to reality from the last week. I guess I graduated last weekend. Milestones such as this sneak up on me so quickly. Plus, it has been a difficult concept for me to grasp, since 1) Commencement isn’t until May and 2) I still need to take my board exam.

Last Friday night, I was able to celebrate the marriage of two friends in Oklahoma City. Then, I rushed back to Texas on Saturday morning to take a cat nap, study a little, and head to my final exam for my Anatomy and Physiology II class.

When I finished my exam, I called my mom to tell her how it went. I cried in relief of it being over with. I also began to cry about all of the life events that have transpired in the month and days prior. It was finally a chance for me to be still(ish) and absorb the moment.

Once I approached my neighborhood, I told my mom I would have to call her back. I walked in and to my surprise, my mom was standing there waiting for me. However she pulled this off, I do not know. But, all that mattered was my mom was here. I gave her a huge hug as I cried like a big 28 year old baby.

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I want to thank all of my friends and family who have supported me over the last two years:

Josie and Dennis D: Thank you for the room and board, delicious food, shoulders to cry on and listening ears. Thanks for checking my car for flats and making sure I bundled up when I weather got cold. Thanks for celebrating my promotions and giving me advice on approaching serious subjects. I love you both and thank God for you both.

Rachel W: Thank you for the text messages and phone calls throughout this time. You always lift my spirits. You are a great friend.

Libby D: Thank you for the beer and/or wine and pep talks. Thanks for helping me pronounce all those stupid medical words and visiting me on my coffee breaks. Thanks for telling me like it is and keeping me grounded.

Carrie H: Thank you for the continued encouragement throughout this entire journey and reminding me that not everyone can do this. Thanks for listening to my blubbering tears through the phone and letting me know that it was going to be okay. I love you so much, sis.

Stephany P: Thanks for being my voice of reason. You are always there to help me think out loud and really dig deep. Thank you for your support, emails, text, and calls.

Brent and Kyle: Thanks for being my study relief with good laughs and company. I needed that.

❤ Krystal