[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.