Of course, that’s assuming we pass our final language test and assessment on Monday (not worried about that). We’re really starting to make progress in Afrikaans – we can pick out words on TV shows, more easily express ourselves in conversation or understand conversations around us. Far from fluent, but we’ve come pretty far in the last seven weeks.
Since we’ve been back from our site visit it’s gotten harder and harder to sit through our training sessions. Now that we’ve seen where we’re going, we’re anxious to go there and begin assimilating, using our language, living the lives we’re going to live for the next two years. No more sitting in the classroom, we’re ready for the real world! At least we’re almost there.
Our group is pretty unique so far in that no one has ET’d (early terminated) yet. In the last several training groups, at least one person has quit after site visit, deciding Peace Corps isn’t for them after all. It looks like our group will all at least make it to swearing in! The next hurdle after that is Phase 2 – six weeks, from the end of October through the end of November, where we’re all at site. Our first big dose of what Peace Corps will really be like.
Dylan and I were talking today about how different Peace Corps has been from what we expected. We’ve had fairly modern conveniences like water and electricity and a nice house. There are western-style toilets everywhere here and most that I’ve seen have toilet paper (an improvement on Egypt and Rwanda!). We’re learning a European-ish language, not some obscure Bantu language. And with that, many people who speak Afrikaans also speak English. I was expecting to struggle to communicate, but it’s so easy! Even with teaching, the kids we’re working with already speak English. I was thinking I’d be teaching grammar and vocab like I did in Egypt, but secondary students here are learning things like personification and metaphors and similes! Of course, we also expected to live in a hut on a traditional homestead in the middle of nowhere, totally isolated from other volunteers. But lo and behold, we will be (and have been) living in a big town and actually sharing a house with another volunteer. I have yet to see rural Namibia. Some people will have that experience – those who are going really far north are actually in huts, a few of the people going east are living on farms, a lot of people are in fairly small villages. Just not us.
There’s also very different motives for people being here. I think a lot of people joined Peace Corps because they wanted to travel and be somewhat productive, and because they didn’t have something better to do in the States. That definitely does not apply to everyone. Some people are interested in development work, some people really wanted cultural immersion, some people are really here to help others. It’s a totally different feel though from HNGR where we were going to “walk with the poor” and figure out how our world fits in with theirs and what responsibilities we have as “rich” Christians in this unbalanced, unjust world. Compared to that, Peace Corps feels more like a simple cultural exchange.
Forgive my cynicism. We haven’t really started yet and I may still be proved wrong!
In the interest of keeping everyone up to date, I should also mention that my school assignment has been changed from Nomtsuob Primary to Otjikoto Secondary School. This was due to some miscommunication between Peace Corps and Nomtsuob Primary about what I would teach. My principal wasn’t flexible enough to work with Peace Corps guidelines. Otjikoto is another school in the location in Tsumeb, although I’ve been told it’s much deeper in the location than Dylan’s school is. The principal of the school recently transferred to Windhoek, so the English Head of Department is currently acting as principal and she’ll be my supervisor. From what I’ve heard, they want me to teach computer classes as well as English. However, if I learned anything from my experience with Nomtsuob Primary, it’s that I can’t necessarily trust what I’ve been told, and things could still change. I feel at a distinct disadvantage now, having not seen my school or met my principal yet. I’m trying to keep an open mind and stay flexible!