We’re in Namibia! So far our experience has been: exhausting, exciting, a little nerve-wracking, awesome, confusing, and familiar.
Let me explain.
Exhausting – We left home Sunday morning to go to our “staging” event in the States. On Monday, we took a bus to JFK, waited around there for about 5 hours, took a REALLY long and horribly cramped overnight flight to Frankfurt, waited there for 9 hours, then took an even longer, but more pleasant, flight to Windhoek, arriving in the airport IN THE DARK at 5am on Wednesday. Whoa. But it didn’t stop there. We got on a bus for 2 hours to our training site (which I can’t name for security reasons), arriving there around 8am, and started our training sessions by 9:00!! No food, no nap, just dropped our bags off in our rooms, used the bathroom, and walked to the training hall. We did some name mixers, which were really hard to think through in the state we were in, but it did keep us up and moving. I’m kind of struggling to remember what else we did…got a binder of stuff (including our schedule, which I’ll get to later), talked about security, got a shot at the end of the day (which wasn’t until 4 PM!), took a tour of the town we’re in… All I know is by dinner time I was unable to follow conversations, had no idea what I was eating, and seriously thought I might pass out if I didn’t go to bed soon. So by 7:15 I was dead to the world, curled up on my bed under my mosquito net. Dylan somehow managed to stay up for another 2 hours playing cards, but I think our whole group was in bed by 9:30. I got TWELVE hours of sleep that night, and felt much better the next day.
Exciting – In the midst of all that craziness we got our first glimpses of Namibia and of Peace Corps. SO great! We were greeted at passport control by the Country Director (CD – you’ll have to get used to acronyms), the Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) and the Administrative Officer (I don’t know her acronym). They all shook our hands and welcomed us to Peace Corps. Then we left the baggage claim area (all bags arrived fine), and there were several Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders (PCVLs) and trainers waving a banner and singing for us and videoing us as we came out. That was good for waking up a little! Then when we arrived at the training site we were greeted by all the trainers singing and dancing in two lines we got to walk in between. Later in the day we took a tour of the town we’ll be in for the next two months of training. There’s actually several grocery stores, a few banks, a post office, a hardware store, several internet cafes (yay!), and some other things. It’s a decent size town. Oh, by the way, it was FREEZING when we arrived in the morning (literally, 30 Farenheit) and HOT (80 Farenheit?) by the time we took our tour at 2:30.
Nerve-wracking – Mostly because we still don’t know where we’ll be going after these next two months. We still don’t have cell phones. We don’t know the Peace Corps system very well. We’ve been told that training is the HARDEST part of the whole Peace Corps experience. We haven’t started in depth yet, but we had a long day of sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, then placement and medical interviews today. Just think how busy we’ll be when we really get started! We’ll find out early next week what language we’ll be learning. A couple days after that we move in with a host family. And about 2 and a half weeks after that, we’ll finally find out where our permanent site will be! We’re all trying to practice patience…
Amazing – We have a great group of people. It’s been constant getting to know each other since we arrived, and I can tell we’re getting closer. When we have free time in the evenings, people gather to talk or play cards or chill and read. We’re all very much in the same boat so we have a lot to talk about (and have done a lot of speculating about those sites we’re patiently waiting for). There are no cliques, everyone hangs out with whoever’s around. Our PCVLS are current volunteers so they’ve shared a lot of their experiences with us. We’ve also gotten psyched up for the next two years from our info sessions and meeting language trainers and all that good stuff. We’re even excited just for this weekend – we’ve arrived on a holiday (August 26 is Heroes Day) and there’s a big celebration near our town tomorrow that we get to go watch!
Confusing – For all the information we have gotten, there’s a lot we haven’t gotten and some things that everyone tells us we’ll learn about later in training. So I feel like I’ve gotten partial bits of information on a lot of topics, and not necessarily the whole picture in anything. Also, it’s already been a little up and down. Especially on Wednesday when we were so tired – first I was excited with all the dancing and stuff, then I’d get really sleepy, then excited to meet someone, then really sleepy… A little glimpse of how up and down things will be for the rest of our time here.
Familiar – Okay, for one thing we still have running water and electricity here. That may change when we move in with our host families next week, but right now we are all enjoying the hot showers! The food hasn’t been too weird, usually rice or noodles with some kind of gravy sauce and a meat (I think we’ve had chicken beef and goat so far). They are definitely big on meat here. Also, we can drink the tap water! Not just here, but in almost the whole country. Where else in Africa can you do that? Other than that, I’ve really enjoyed the sense of being back in Africa. So many things remind me of Rwanda – the way the Namibian trainers kind of ramble on during their sessions rather than hitting a few main points, the fact that none of our sessions have been on time yet, the walk down a dusty road between our sleeping quarters and the training center, the fact that we have a tea break every morning, etc. The landscape reminds me more of Kenya. It’s very African, and I’m glad to be back in Africa.
That’s a rough summary so far. We’re really glad we’re here, still glad we signed up for this (although I wasn’t so sure on the plane ride over). It’ll definitely get harder from here on out, but I know we’ll still be glad we did it in the end.