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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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|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.

 

 

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