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.

 

 

stop saying, “there are children starving in africa.”

You’ve probably heard this a time or two growing up as your parent’s way to guilt you to join the “Happy Plate Club.”

I may even be guilty of repeating this.

There is so much harm, confusion, manipulation in this statement.

What is the message we are trying to relay?

Children starving so let’s help them by eating all your food.

Do you want to become a starving child by skipping one food group?

Why Africa?

Africa is a continent. Namibia, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mali, Zimbabwe and 46 others are countries in Africa.

I don’t have children, so I honestly could be speaking out of turn, but I do not think to teach our children (nieces, nephews, cousins, etc.) that disparities such as hunger, HIV/AIDS, rape, child trafficking, only happen to other people in other places on the globe. I think this is why so many of us lack compassion. We have the illusion that these problems are never our problems.

Here’s the thing. Yes, there are starving children in ugh– Africa. But, there are starving children in America.

If it’s one thing I have learned living in Namibia, is that Namibians don’t waste food! Foods that may seem taboo to most Westerners are edible and eaten here. I’ve tried cow lungs, chicken feet, along with an unidentifiable mutton curry and people I encounter on a daily basis are not starving or malnourished. They simply use everything God has given them. They don’t waste.

We need to stop using this statement as a scare tactic to have children not waste food. It’s insensitive and caters to a false stereotype about Africa. Africa; Namibia, and other countries have their problems, but America does too.

I can only imagine the tables turned and a parent telling their child, “Finish your food, there are wasteful children in America.”

things no one tells you about being a pcv.

If you Google “Peace Corps Blogs,” you will stumble upon a whole network of blogs from current and returned volunteers. Blogs that will make you laugh  (and laugh some more) some that will make you cry. Ones that will inspire you and empower you. Some that will make you think, “I can do that,” or “I want to do that.” While others will make you think, “why would anyone want to do that?”*

In my preparation for Namibia, I too found myself referring to many PCV blogs, vlogs, and any PC media on the daily. Of course, many of these blogs provided me with lists of what to pack and what not to pack, or what to expect (which, any PCV can tell you the answer is: kapenasha.) Most of these blogs I found to be very helpful. Even if my bags still ended up being overweight. I’m working on the meaning of “packing light.”

I have compiled a list of Things No One Tells You About Being a PCV. Enjoy!

  1. You’ll be tempted to use a dirty plate, fork or spoon, once or twice. And once or twice, you’ll actually do it. If you are one of the lucky PCVs, you will have no kitchen sink, which means handwashing everything. It’s fine. It’s soothing. But, some days I just want a heaping scooping of peanut butter, just one scoop.
  2. Sand. You will eat sand, you will be covered in sand. All the time. Aww, you’re cute, you must have read all the PC blogs from Micronesia with volunteers in their hammocks overlooking the ocean? (I’m guilty, too.) Well, in Sub-Saharan Africa there is sand. Lots and lots of sand, and most times no water. No, no water.wp-1466343276370.jpg
  3. You will wake up next to an insect (dead or alive) more times than you like. You get used to it. One morning, I woke up and was sharing a pillow with a praying mantis. I was awake, he was still praying. Then, there’s the morning I woke up cuddling a with a moth. He didn’t make it. Just expect to find bugs. The more you prepare for this, the less traumatic your service will be.20160715_064822.jpg
  4. You’ll have a pet spider (maybe even two or three) in your hut. Luckily, in Namibia, most of these are non-venomous, so I let them live to eat other pests such as mosquitoes. Refer to your Spiders, Snakes and Scorpions handbooks from PST and you’ll be fine.20160906_094551.jpg
  5. You will also lose track of how many times you pee outside, in a bag, or in a container, because, you have no choice. I think my bladder has shrunken. I will walk 1 km home from the clinic, and the second I see the pit latrine, which is about 100 m from the gate of my homestead, I sweat bullets while scurrying across the yard before it turns into “Bridesmaids in Namibia.” It’s like an awful Pavlov’s dog experiment. TMI. But, do what the locals do, sometimes you just can’t hold it.
  6. Your ADLs will be a community attraction. I mean, host family still watches me wash my laundry (and sometimes they take pictures of me while doing it). The spotlight is ALWAYS on. As long as no one is hurting you or over-violating your privacy, roll with it, and then blog about it in good fun.20160812_193121
  7. You will find a new hobby or revisit old ones. Meditation, photography, blogging, baking, reading, exercising. You will have plenty of free time between the 24/7 in which you’re Peace Corpsin’.
  8. You will learn new meanings for words you’ve known all your life, ready?
  9. Yes = Maybe or No.
  10. Maybe = Maybe but most likely No.
  11. No = Yes, No, or Maybe.
  12. Although being a PCV 24/7 is many times exhausting, you appreciate the world and your community on an entirely different level.

*Links in the post are current and returned PCVs in Namibia who post regularly. Add them to your list of blog reads.

❤ Krystal