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

20170301_184333.jpg

20170301_201509 (1).jpg

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

20170302_111232

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

SDC12995.JPG

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.

SDC12993.JPG

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

20170303_143812

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!

20170303_144243

20170303_161924

[f i v e] Robben Island

20170303_135647

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.

20170303_133418

. ❤ 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.

20170428_220033

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

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?

20160828_164520.jpg

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.

20161204_105809

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.

20161202_204619.jpg

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?

20170307_145110.jpg

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?

20160423_120633.jpg

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?

20161115_183628.jpg

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

cues on queues.

4156

If I’ve learned one thing while living abroad, it’s patience. Extremely patience. At the grocery store, doctor’s office, bank. For meetings, events, and taxis. Patience is key.

In Namibia, when you’re waiting in line, it’s called waiting in queue. And when I venture to any of the places named above, I expect to wait in a queue. Sometimes for a few minutes many times for a few hours.

In most cultures, there are unwritten rules or norms related to queuing up. In Hawaii, customers leave their sandals in queue as a placeholder, then take a seat until their sandals are in front. Other cultures may have a system of complete disorder or disarray, but somehow people always seem to know their place in queue.

In Namibia, there are also some unwritten rules of queuing up. Here’s some tips to help you keep your sanity if you ever come visit me:

4155

Read all signs. Well, technically, these are written. But, read signs, for real. There may be many. Sometimes, they even contradict each others, but they tell you what services can be offered in certain queues. Those are important. Many times, failure to read these signs on your part will make for a long, stressful day.

Elderly get served first. Yes, even though you’ve waited hours, when meekulu walks in, she is now priority. Pro Tip: If you even think about walking passed meekulu(s)* for any service, you better greet each and every one of them as you walk by.

*the plural for meekulu is omeekulu, but for English context, I just added a ‘s.’

Place holding is acceptable. You start to notice this more when you’re nearing the front of the queue. All of a sudden, two or three people are now making their way to the front, out of no where. It’s completely acceptable to leave the queue to run other errands and to return back in front of the man with the white shirt and blue jeans. That man will also vouch for you, that you indeed had that place in queue.

For all the times I have waited in queues, it’s so easy to resort back to how things are done in America and complain while swearing silently in my head. But, for every queue wait in, I’m thankful for the A/C I get to enjoy and sometimes a comfy seat. I truly see what it’s like to be a local while learning to art of waiting.

❤ Krystal

down by the river.

20170227_232848.jpg

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?

20170227_232946.jpg

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.

 

wp-1488277991617.jpg

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.

 

20170227_232714.jpg

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

 

❤ Krystal