In three weeks, we will pack our bags and leave what has been our home for the last two years. On July 17 we will officially become RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers).
As a way to commemorate the end of a very special time in my life, I’ve written a list of the top 30 things I’ll miss, the takeaways and the lessons I’ll carry with me the rest of my life about my time in Namibia.
While there are many hard parts about being a volunteer, the benefits outweigh the tough stuff. I will try my level best here to share the best parts of our service. These are not in any particular order. You can find #25-30 here.
#19 Eating new foods
I love trying new food. Whoever said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” clearly has not been hanging out with me. 🙂 I got to try a lot of new food here that I wouldn’t have at home. I ate some stuff Americans might consider weird: mopani worms, porridge, oryx, zebra, springbok, cow intestines, fat cakes, maguni fruit, etc.
When visiting villages, I grew a newfound respect for how hard some people work to grow and prepare their own food. Pounding mahangu is no easy task! I’ll really miss Namibian braais and the meat, guava juice, and all of my friend Hamutenya’s traditional food. She’s an amazing cook.
#20 Hearing American music, especially the Star Spangled Banner in Namibia
I loved hearing old American tunes while in a store, in a combi or blaring on someone’s phone. Songs that you thought were dead are very alive here in Nam and they transported me to a different place in my life at home. I have the Star Spangled Banner on my ipod (I played it on 4th of July in my classes last year) and when I heard that song come on shuffle it always made me smile and be more aware of my surroundings. Many times I’ve heard the Star Spangled Banner play on my ipod when in Divundu or town when going running passed all the mud huts. At model school during pre-service training the learners sang our National Anthem it made me tear up. It’s special to see a group of non-Americans sing your National Anthem.
#21 Learning to live without and learning to accept what comes
I tried my best to live a simple life before Namibia, and after living here I know that view has gotten even stronger. You see how you can have a happy life with very little. Things that we take for granted at home are seen as luxury items here. Pens are something I never thought of as something lucky to own. I’ve seen kids fight over pens, suck the last bit of ink out of them to get this maximum use, and get so incredibly excited when they receive one as a gift.
While our level of depravity hasn’t been nearly as bad as it could have been, our service did not come without sacrifice.
As an American one of the most challenging parts of PC service has been adjusting to things that come up. I like to plan but here things just get in the way. Have an idea of how your day should go? It won’t go that way. Have an idea of how the lesson will play out? It won’t play out that way. What takes you 10 minutes at home takes 60 minutes or longer here. At some point and for some things you have to just go with the flow – otherwise, you’ll end up angry. You have to try your best to embrace the chaos.
#22 Hitch Hiking
If you don’t take a combi (12 passenger bus) to get to and from places, then you “hike” or hitch-hike as Americans call it. It’s less scary than it sounds, it’s more like an informal taxi service. It is actually pretty cool – the haves help out the have-nots (and the have-nots help out with petrol cost). There are prices set by the government as to how much it should cost to go from one place to another, but you can negotiate with the driver.
There are “hike points” in towns throughout Namibia that people go to in order to find a driver going in the same direction as you. This requires some patience, but it can also be fun. It feels a bit wild and crazy, as hitch hiking at home is not something you would ever do. We’ve met many cool people hitch hiking all around Nam. Hiking together can be a great way to bond with people. Josh and I have had picnics in the back of covered bakkies, met kind people who thanked us for serving their country by treating us to a free ride and food and sang with strangers in cars to mutually favorite songs.
#23 The moments of pure frustration and the moments of pure magic
There’s a lot of frustration but also a lot of magic that’s happened during my Peace Corps Service.
Part of the hard part of Peace Corps is that it’s only two years. But that is also what makes it special.
You can feel utterly hopeless and hopeful in the same day or even the same hour. The pendulum of extremes really swing far here. You can feel so angry at a class, and then your friend helps build you back up or a different learner comes to tell you they care, and you’re reminded that you have family here. It was a good reminder that you have to take the good with the bad.
#24 Visits with friends and family from home in Namibia
It was really special to see friends and family here during our two years. We had nine visitors come from the United States! Some got to attend classes with me and with all our visitors we got to see some of Africa’s wonders. We felt really honored that our friends and family included us in their vacation time and money. Thanks to these visits now I have memories of our time in Africa with Americans who were part of our life before Nam and will be after. It was an incredible pick-me-up to see familiar faces here.
Numbers #10-18 to follow next week.