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

 

what i know now: packing guide for peace corps namibia

 

dscn1530

wOnderlust, they were so close.

 

As I approach my one-year mark in Namibia Group 45 is counting down the days until their departure. I wanted to create a guide for those heading to this side. Last year I posted a list of what I was packing for my 27 month Peace Corps service. If you have perused a few other Peace Corps Namibia blogs (Little Backpack, Big World and Alex Yonkovig to name a few), I think you will be able to get an idea of what to bring and not to bring, so my guide is obviously not all-inclusive. Knowing what I know now, here are some suggestions for you. This guide will be most beneficial to health volunteers, but here ya go:

LUGGAGE
Stick to 2 bags (3 max). I should’ve listened to this advice. One should be a larger suitcase or duffel bag with wheels and the second should be a backpack. PST is not your final destination. Having luggage with wheels will make moving easier on you and all the people around you. You will be walking a lot and a backpack is more functional. I brought a small duffel bag, which was clearly the wrong choice. Also, keep in mind you want something durable enough for commuting 8,000 plus miles, but also durable enough because it will collect dust for the next 2 years.

LOCK your checked luggage!  LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage! 

Things WILL go missing. Pocket knives, jewelry and especially electronics have been known to go missing in Johannesburg. Don’t even think about putting your valuables in your checked bags unless you want to arrive in Namibia without them.

Less is more.

FOOD
I brought lots (probably too many) snacks and spices. Because you know, after one month in Namibia I was suffering and devoured all of my Krave beef jerky. I would suggest bringing some ethnic spices or seasonings that you can’t live without, and also a few of your favorite snacks, but, don’t go overboard. It takes up valuable weight and space, and it is always nice to have items like that arrive in a care package. Surprisingly, you can find similar spices in major shopping towns/cities such as Windhoek. Volunteers have found sriracha, Heinz Ketchup, Oreos, and even Pop Tarts.

There is food in Namibia. You won’t suffer…too much.

CLOTHES
Health volunteers will most likely be placed in northern Namibia. I spend most of my days out in the community, so my dressing code (what it’s called here) isn’t too strict compared to maybe a CED volunteer who may be required to dress more business casual. I brought one nice pair of dress slacks and four or five skirts. These were acceptable during PST, but not functional or ideal for me at site. I would recommend keeping the business attire to a minimum. (You honestly could probably wear the same thing every day at PST, but don’t.) Health volunteers, don’t waste valuable space on a lot of business wear.

Ladies, if you choose to bring dresses or skirts, make sure the hit your knee or below. I know the game we play. I’m 5′ 11″, sorry the ‘six’ key on my laptop is broken, but you will feel eyes looking at you if you decide to wear anything shorter. It’s just not appropriate in Namibia. Cute, form-fitting, and trendy is fine. Short is not.

Group 45 will be arriving during some of the cooler months here in Namibia so take that into consideration when packing. You will not need a winter coat by any means but pack a light sweater or cardigan. Maybe, even bring a light jacket, mornings and nights will get pretty cold during those times.

Don’t go out and purchase a lot of new items. If you’re unsure, go without, and you can purchase it here for a fraction of the cost. Bring clothes you are comfortable wearing at home. Those are the clothes you will be most comfortable wearing here. Don’t, I repeat don’t, go buy a whole new wardrobe. You will be here living and working, you won’t be a tourist or on vacation (most of the time) so don’t spend too much time at REI.

WORKOUT
If you work out at home or you are considering working out during service, bring workout clothes and even some equipment, if you must. If you don’t want your nice athletic wear getting ruined, DON’T BRING IT! Because you will snag your $40 reflective running tights on the fence post on your homestead and it will be the saddest day ever. Volunteers have brought kettlebells, yoga mats, and resistances bands from home. All of these things are also available in-country as well if you rather not tote these items across the globe.

OUTERWEAR

20170202_162247

Bring a hat, umbrella, and at least one sweater.

Most of the time it’s sunny and sometimes it’s cold.

FOOTWEAR
As a health volunteer, my Chacos sandals are my go-to. I choose Chacos over Tevas because I think the soles can outlast the northern Namibian terrain. I’ve seen acacia thorns do damage to some of the sturdiest soles. I wear these almost every day because of the amount of sand I trek through to get to and from work.

Bring at least one nice pair of shoes for church, weddings, retirement parties, or even a PC event.

Slippers are a must around my room because of the insects. Oh, and shower shoes.

HOUSEHOLD ESSENTIALS

20170202_083805

I just make cold brew coffee in my Nalgene now.

You can get all household essentials in-country with your settling-in allowance. I think a volunteer even purchased an iron and an ironing board with theirs. If you bring a water bottle, bring one that is 32 oz or smaller. My Nalgene carries 1500mL, which is a pain to travel with (there I go complaining about water), but it gets heavy. I would even suggest a thermal type of bottle. Wait to buy sheets here. They have several bedding stores to purchase them. You won’t know what your living situation will be for the next 2 years right away, so just wait to purchase bedding.

TOILETRIES
Toiletries, such as toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, etc., you can find here. Unless you are brand loyal, only bring enough for training.

Ladies, if you don’t have a DivaCup. Get one (or two). Feminine products can sometimes go weeks without restocking, especially in a village.

Sunscreen is provided by Peace Corps Namibia unless you need a higher SPF. I think PCN provides SPF 30.

NATURAL HAIR LADIES AND GENTS
Bring products from home. I think there is one store in Windhoek that sells natural hair products, although, I haven’t been able to locate that store yet. Many women here do not wear their natural hair, so the product selection is slim or non-existent. I have found some alright brands, but they do some damage to your PC stipend. So, stock up on your shea butter, jojoba oil, oil treatments, and do yourself a favor and bring a small spray bottle also.

E-READER
I received mine as a gift a few years ago and was a little hesitant on bringing it, but I’m so glad that I did. I didn’t even have much time to read for enjoyment back home, but you will have plenty of downtime during your few months in-country and at site. Volunteers love to share books. If you have an electronic reader, BRING IT!

SLEEPING BAG
You will hear mixed reviews on bringing a sleeping bag. I’m from Texas, so when I got to my permanent site in June the nights were cold for me. I slept in my sleeping bag every night. If you choose to bring one make sure it is compact. Like super compact. A sleeping bag is also useful when overnighting at other volunteer sites or if you plan to go camping while you’re in Africa.

EAR PLUGS
Ear plugs! Bring ear plugs. I can promise you the first few weeks or even months you may have a hard time sleeping from the dogs, chickens, and other noises. Also, save the little courtesy pouch from the international flight. It has a sleep mask which I use on the weekends to sleep in until 745a.

See you soon and happy packing!

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

[servant] leading to change.

My senior year of college, I was co-captain of my soccer team. I’ll admit, I was never the best player on the team, but I was voted by my teammates “Most Improved Player,” for two years consecutively (hey, I won something). I didn’t always have the right answers, but on and off the field I led by example.

When this translated into a business setting, I naturally developed a leadership style leaning more towards servant leadership. Servant leaders put the needs of others first which helps people to develop and to perform at their highest level. So, if this means sharing workloads, encouraging, and supporting, count me in. 

For me, I rather show people how to lead than show people how to follow. 

The word sustainable gets tossed around a lot when you’re working at a grassroot level. The idea of meeting people where they are is alive and well. In order to achieve sustainability, you must first approach change. 

As a health volunteer, a lot of my focus is on behavior change.

When I leave Namibia next year, I hope that positive change was inspired through my actions on a daily basis from my willingness to get my hands dirty or lend a helping hand. I want my actions each day to reflect my support and committment to change in my community.

I hope a decade from now that one person who thought they were following me will realize they were actually leading.

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week four: Change and Hope.

bless our hearts.

20170111_165416.jpg
Lowering of the flags in Eenhana, Ohangwena, Namibia.

 

Culture, defined simply, is a total way of life for a particular group of people. Similarities of thinking, speaking and behaving are ways we define ourselves and those like us. Humans are complex beings. It’s amazing that through all of these complexities, there is one thing we all have in common. Humans, by design, notice differences.

Americans, defined simply, generously teach people how to do things the right way. Bless our hearts. Subconsciously and sometimes consciously, we’ve place superiority over other cultures due to this mindset. At times, we look at these differences and instead of accepting them for what they are, we label these differences as right or wrong.

20161230_063959
Heading home from my morning jog.

 

There are numerous cultural differences between back home and my new home in Namibia. Everything from manners, beliefs, knowledge, morals and values, laws, religion, government, food, family dynamics, clothing, the list goes on. But, each day I have to decide to let those differences make me love my host country more while providing myself with the opportunity to learn or leave a sour taste in my mouth while deciding whether these differences are right or wrong.

20161106_154746.jpg
Katie and I enjoying kapana, oshifima and oshikundu our taxi driver, Thom, treated us to.

 

For myself, I make a daily effort to not use the words “America” or “American,” while speaking to HCNs. Unless I am responding to specific questions asked or comments made, I don’t use these words. I want to avoid comparing Namibia to America at all cost.

While perusing PC blogs I came across Tim and Lindsey who are Texans (whoop) but also RPCVs from Namibia. I think this hits the nail on the head, Tim writes:

“I believe the most important fundamental about adapting to a new culture is to not constantly compare the new culture to your own…it [comparing] kept me from fully enjoying and embracing the new culture because I was so focused on the differences between the two.”

Similarly, I don’t want only focus on the differences between cultures, that will certainly cloud my experience of living abroad. Being completely submerged in a culture different from my own is not an opportunity many of us get our lifetime.

So, if it means eating with my hands, running barefoot through my village, or even sitting amongst locals and not understanding a word being spoken, I want to fully embrace the culture right in front of me.

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week three: Cultural Differences.

i’m not needed here.

As our plane descended, I peered through the window and was taken back by the stunning landscape of Africa. The endless hues of copper, bronze, and gold emerging to the surface of the Earth in a kaleidoscope combination I’ve never seen before. When we finally landed, I stepped onto the tarmac at Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek, Namibia, and felt an overwhelming sense of peace and was honored to be in a country with wondrous landscapes, unbelievable beautiful, and people who needed my help.

But, the truth was: Namibia didn’t need me.

20160610_170547.jpg

“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story

American media spends a lot of time showing disparities of people around the world. American media also spends a lot of time showing images of children starving in Africa. Before moving abroad, I too had the impression, I am embarrassed to admit, that Africa was stunning and all, but her people were suffering. Even if it wasn’t an idea I vocalized, the images I grew up watching only solidified this message. I too made the story of Africa’s suffering the only story. I grew up feeling sorry for people I didn’t know. I pitied children who didn’t have backpacks to carry their books and those who had to walk miles to fetch water. I wrongly thought a lifestyle void of material objects was equivalent to a lifestyle of misfortune and destitute.

Don’t get me wrong, there are people here in Namibia who are suffering. HIV infection rates are among the highest in the world. Children are orphaned from the disease that has taken their parents and guardians. There is an inequitable distribution of income; the haves and the have-nots.

But, this is only part of the story. The incomplete story.

20161221_140521

Namibia has the population of roughly 2 million people, but when you choose to believe the story of suffering for an entire nation, you miss the story of innovation.

At the age to 23, Kared Soini, having never stepped foot on an aircraft, built his own airplane. After studying welding at a local vocational center, he realized his passion for mechanics and is doing everything he can to pursue his dream to become an airplane manufacturer.

If you are focused on the story of suffering, you miss the story of bravery.

In 1996, Emma Tuhepha became the first Namibian woman to publicly state that she was HIV-positive. But instead of giving up, she became an activist and went on to co-found Lironga Eparu, which means to survive, to help others like her.

When you only focus on the story of suffering, you miss the story of independence and reconciliation.

A war and the overlooked “first genocide of the twentieth-century” took a terrible toll on the nation of Namibia. Bullets and bombs followed by apartheid rule robbed the nation of a generation. Namibia, a country younger than myself, continues to press forward after hundreds of years being held back.

20161223_192259.jpg

Selfishly, I had a mindset that people in Namibia needed me. They needed my ideas and services. They needed my giving hand and my knowledge. They needed me.

Each day when I see a child smile just because they can, or a meekulu raise her hands in thanks because the rain falling from the sky means the mahangu will provide food for the year, or when I hear my host family sing hymns and read scripture from a tattered old Bible, because God is still faithful. I realize the reality was…

I needed Namibia.

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week two: The Danger of a Single Story.

5 traits of global citizenship & what to do about.

As a blogger, I realize that not everyone will read this blog let alone agree with what I say here. My promise for 2017: I am going to blog about topics that may make people (even my family & friends) uncomfortable and sometimes may not agree with. And you know what? That’s okay. In my effort to practice more self-authenticity, I need to “rock the boat”. For myself, I find so much value in reading blogs, articles, and books I may not wholeheartedly agree with because when my mind is stretched I gain more understanding, perspective, and acceptance (or tolerance based on how you want to view the glass).

Global citizenship is not necessarily indicative of the places you’ve traveled or stamps you’ve collected in your passport, but it’s a mindset of how you view yourself and others in this big, wide open world. Since I’ve only lived in two countries, some may not see me as the best spokesperson for global citizenship, but can’t we all be global citizens?

20170104_102320 (1).jpg

As a global citizen, I recognize that my actions (or lack of) have consequences for people in communities locally, nationally, or internationally. I realize that yes, the world is a complex place and yet through those complexities, we are all intertwined through connections and interdependencies. We are all human after all.

Being born in one of richest countries in the world, I am not ignorant to the opportunities this has allowed me. I’ve had the opportunity to go to college (twice), purchase a car, vote, travel across the country and live abroad. It has taken me the better part of 30 years (okay, 29 years & 11 months & 7 days) to learn to embrace and come to some understanding of the world around me and how my actions, big or small, shape the world. To echo the sentiment of Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity, I also see it as my social responsibility to invest in people because I was born in a country that has given me so much. This was not my choosing, but a privilege, as most privileges are —not a choice. I am not mad about it, but instead, I am grateful.

If you’re like me, some of the following |5| traits of global citizenship may resonate with you, so here’s what you can do about it.

|1| Your Emotional Intelligence is on Point.

High emotional intelligence and global citizenship are not mutually exclusive. Global citizens tend to have an uncanny ability to tap into and recognize their own emotions and feelings, as well as those of people around them. We all have experiences that have shaped our worldview. Experiences that have sparked passion and empathy. Some of us discovered this during our time in college, some of us even earlier, and some of us while living abroad. Emotional intelligence is a wonderful trait to navigate most social situations. Having high emotional intelligence shows your level self-awareness, self-control, interpersonal skills, empathy, and motivation. Some of the most important qualities to impact the world.

What to do about it: Lead by example. Become an advocate for things that matter.

|2| You Pay Attention to the Details.

We ask questions…then ask some more. Global citizens aren’t satisfied with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without knowing the ‘why,’ and seek clarity even when the issue is complex, which is often the case. We realize that answers are never black and white, but often shades of eggshell and heather grey, or is it gray? Global citizens try to treat the problems and not just the symptoms. The work we do may not always be appreciated and the changes may not come overnight, but we relish in the mess and the seemingly impossible. We plan and aim for success against all measures and expectations.

What to do about it: Engage with people. Start a non-profit. Volunteer at a local charity. Help does not need to come with dollar signs, time is just as valuable.

|3| You are the Life of the Party.

Our energy is contagious. Our energy is inspiring. Global citizens have a light that cannot be dimmed. We listen to and respect other people’s points of view which attract people to us. We harbor a belief that sharing experiences, especially the raw, nitty gritty details, can inspire positive change. We realize that although we’re not unique, we adhere to what we value and exemplify those values in which we cling to dearly. And that, my friend, is what fascinates people.

What to do about it: Share your message with others by speaking to churches, schools, or other organizations within your community. Become a freelance writer. Write a blog. Tell your story.

|4| You have Compassion for People.

As global citizens, we realize that the world is so large, and we’re so small, but still have the ability to show compassion despite borders (literal and metaphorical). For some, helping others is more than a philanthropic venture. Compassion is a difficult trait to learn, but when given the opportunity we embrace the discomfort to foster understanding.

What to do about it: Partake in random acts of kindness. Foster a child or family. Spend time with someone of a different background than yourself.

20170104_102339

|5| You have an Overall Positive Outlook on Situations.

We don’t see the world as it is, instead, we see the world as we are. But, we are not naïve. Global citizens look for the best within the worse and realize there is always another perspective or another pair of shoes to walk in. So what do we do? We lace up another man’s pair and get moving. We’re trailblazers and realize the truth is in the journey. We’re never stagnant and always evolving.

What to do about it: Become a mentor or a tutor. Volunteer.

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week one: Global Citizenship.