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

typical days.

“My life hasn’t really changed.”

Any time that thought crosses my mind and comes close to coming off my tongue, I have to stop myself. I mean, I know my life is different than it was in the States. But, since I am finding some normalcy in my day-to-day routine, I so easily want to believe everything is the same, when I know in fact, it’s not. I mean, come on, I have WiFi!

MY TYPICAL DAY IN THE UNITED STATES

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I woke up each morning.

Okay, who am I kidding? I woke up around 11 am. Usually, to the sound of neighbors mowing their lawns, which always seemed quite early. I would get up and go through my late-morning routine: take a shower, brush your teeth, etc. Then I would go to the kitchen to eat a piece of string cheese or two, maybe a sandwich if I was feeling fancy, and also because it was always too late for breakfast. I would spend the next hour or so deciding what to do with my day before work. Plus, I had to pretend like I did more than work and sleep. Would I go shopping? Go to the gym? Hang out with a friend? No matter what I decide, I would never have enough time to do it, but I chose one of my options anyway. I would quickly rush out of the door and into my car to gym, Kohl’s, or go see friend. Rushed back across town to home to get ready for work, depending on the day of the week, I would even squeeze in picking up my brother from school. Finally, I would arrive at to work without absolutely no time to spare. I would eat a slice of pumpkin bread and make myself a matcha water and work until close. After work, maybe grab a drink with friends at our favorite spot. Repeat.

MY TYPICAL IN THE PEACE CORPS

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I wake up in the morning no later than 7 am to the sound of chickens and maybe even some dogs. I put on my slippers and walk down the hall to the bathroom. If occupied, I wander outside about 100 m to the pit latrine. While outside, I’m greeted by my host siblings in the local language and also a few giggles and waves. I get dressed, make a French press coffee, and a bowl of Jungle Oats. I ride with my host mom to the clinic and greet patients in the local language while entering the clinic. Attend the daily devotional in the front of clinic with patients prior to opening. Spend the morning attending HIV/AIDS support groups, Life Skills lessons at the secondary school, or making house calls around the village with a Health Extension Worker.

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For lunch, I walk 1 km home because there is no microwave at the clinic, and it’s nice to get some fresh air and steps under my feet. Return back to clinic after lunch. Work on ideas for girls club, read through Peace Corps documents, study Oshikwanyama, or make conversation with memes selling food under the large tree in front of the clinic. Knock off of work anywhere between 3 pm and 5 pm, depending on the workload that day. Exercise with my host siblings or go for a run through my village. Watch the kids cook oshifima (traditional porridge) and meat outside over an open fire. Some nights I make air-popped popcorn to share with them and we watch a movie outside under the Milky Way.

Some of my favorite past times:

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– Watching my host siblings feed the pigs and just do chores in general. I’m amazed by the extent of housework children do at their ages. I wasn’t even allowed to touch matches, let alone collect firework, start a fire, make dinner, use a machete to cut melons, etc.

– Asking a million and one questions about everything, and getting “Yes” and “No” responses (mainly because the kiddos don’t understand what I am saying)

– Walking to the corner store to greet the pregnant Meme and to  buy lemon creme cookies to share with my host family.

– Finding new recipes to make in my crockpot.

– Starting conversations with the secondary school learners on what they aspire to be when they graduate.

❤ Krystal