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

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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Photo from Krystal W.jpg

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

mother bear project.

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Sometimes being a PCV is about spreading goodwill. As PCVs, we partner with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), CBOs (Community-Based Organizations), and FBOs (Faith-Based Organizations) to help maximize effort. One organization in which many PCVs are able to work with during their service is The Mother Bear Project.

The Mother Bear Project is a non-profit organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was founded “accidentally,” by Amy Berman, who we like to call The Mother Bear. The Mother Bear Project is dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear.

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Knitters and crocheters from all over the world dedicate many hours to create each lovable bear. You can see from the photos how each bear is truly unique and in some ways, match the unique personalities of their learners.

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Becoming a bear maker is easy. With a $5 USD donation to the Mother Bear Project, you receive the pattern to create your bear. If you don’t know how to knit or crochet, you can sponsor a bear. Once you receive the pattern, you need at least 3 colors of yarn and ta-da! (I’m sure it’s a little more complicated than that, but you get the picture.) After completing your bear, you can sign your name on the tag included with your pattern and the Mother Bear Projects adds a felt heart to each bear before sending to partners, such as Peace Corps Volunteers, to hand deliver.

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Aren’t they precious?

❤ 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

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