Monday, June 2, 2014


During summer everything is alive.  The rain allows long-forgotten seedlings to flourish.  The typical yellowed landscape makes way to an almost Irish greenery.  Before you eyes the changes awaken new life in every living thing.  The animals become livelier; the people happier.

For a while all is good and awake.  But like all good things, it recedes with the same mystery as its arrival.  The days gradually become shorter, until one day it appears to sleep as much as the inhabitants.

The lushness, like the sun, fades to its dry, brittle self.  New growth becomes sparse, and the wildlife leaner.  Hardships begin to arise, and with it the redder emotions of the human species.  Aggression, frustration and anger are the meals of the season.

With shorter days comes the distancing of the sun.  Its departure carries with it the heat, the passion, and the joy.  It is during these times that people show their strength to persevere.  This is when we survive.

It is the winters, not the summers, which allow for real growth.  Organisms use no thought or gumption when the living’s easy, when all components of survival are in easy reach.  Winter, on the other hand, is what separates the hardy from the frail.


It is that ability to survive the cold, the dry, the lonely, which makes our roots stronger.  When we can soften those reds, and allow ourselves to survive the winter, that we truly become our strongest.

Monday, March 3, 2014


When you first join the Peace Corps, and they sit you down Day 1 in a foreign country, they warn you that your emotions will be like a roller coaster.  There will be days when you’re up, and days when you’re down.  And some days both, several times. 


Personally, I don’t like that analogy.  Roller coasters will make you scream, laugh, or puke.  But they’re fun, especially the frightening parts.


No, emotions in a foreign land are more like the ocean.  They are always present.  At times they may be so gentle and quiet you forget that they’re there at all. 


There are days when that gentle lull crashes so beautifully and peacefully that you drift away to a content and pleasant place.  You can lay there and float to dreamland, as if on a cloud.  The white noise is easily forgotten, but its constant soft presence unconsciously calms and soothes.


Like the ocean, the tides of emotion are bound to change.  It’s slow, sometimes.  You don’t notice the change.  It creeps up on you, inch by inch, becoming more powerful and noticeable.  That lullaby from before gradually becomes louder and louder until the crescendo rocks your very bones.  At times like this, being in the ocean of emotion is very tremulous.


The waves are gigantic, slowly pulling you out into the abyss of the deep unknown.  The more you fight to get to the safety of the shore, the greater the pull of the undertow becomes.  Wave after wave, you are sucked under, unable to breathe.  Your chest lights on fire and panic sets in as your body is thrown in all directions.  You have no control over yourself.  And as soon as you are able to emerge to take a breath and gain your bearings, another one descends upon your head. The only way to get back is to let those waves, those immense emotions, drag you where they will until they spit you out, crashing you into the sand.


Scrambling away from them, you find a safe distance and then collapse like a rag doll.  Your muscles are like jello.  Even if you wanted to move, both your body and mind are so exhausted you wouldn’t be able to.  You lay there for a while, catching your breath and mentally checking that you’re still whole.  The bumps and scrapes, over time, will fade and be forgotten.


You fear the ocean for a while, with its ability to drown you into nothingness.  You swear that you will stay away.  But you can’t.  You can hear the interaction of the water and the sand.  You try not to look, but eventually you unconsciously return to the shore and sit, watching.


The tide begins to recede.  The waves shrink and the pull has disappeared.  You debate for a while, then call yourself a chicken for giving up.  So, up you get and slowly you begin your journey back to the water.  You slowly make you way back in, ankle to knee to waist, until you laugh as you realize that there’s nothing to fear.  You decide to dive in whole heartedly.  You laugh as the waves raise you up.  You become more confident in your ability to master them.  When waves arrive that are too large to go over, you expertly dive under until they have passed.  Your friends join you in times like these.  Competitions begin and enjoyment is felt all around. 


Like these waves, though, this time of excitement, of supreme joy, disappears until you are back to the quiet lullaby, the gentle rocking.


You know that the cycle must continue, that the fear and pain and inability to breathe will return, but at that moment every muscle in your body has released a sigh and relaxed.  The sun is warm, your towel is dry, and you lay down to come peacefully down from your emotional high.  Maybe you try to read a book for a while, or even to write one.  Everything you see is beautiful.  You listen to the laughter of children testing the waters of their own ocean, and you smile slightly.  Your eyes close and you let the sounds flood you until you have drifted.


And just before your consciousness fades for a while, you think to yourself, ‘I will overcome everything when it arrives, but for now, it is time to be calm.’

Sunday, February 16, 2014


It has been over a year and a half now since I began my journey of self-discovery.  I have cried and survived and thrived.  I have been tired and inspired.  And I have finally begun to dream of being home again.  I am exhausted so often, that I dream of the things I always took for granted.  I miss the ease of buying food as I please.  I miss being clean (though while I am luckier than most volunteers in the world in that I have running water and a shower, it’s sometimes very hard to convince myself that jumping into a freezing downpour is worth it). 


I miss putting time and effort into my physical appearance.  It’s hard to care about cosmetics at 6 in the morning when it’s still dark and I can barely see my face because there’s no lighting in my room.  I miss men with dirty minds keeping their dirty thoughts to themselves.  I miss sitting inside a car, wearing a seatbelt, while traveling.  I miss having a plethora of opportunities to be with my family.  I miss washing machines and clothes that are more than pretend clean.


Despite that fact that many of my conversations now center around my dreams of first world wonders, I know that I am and always will be absolutely in love with Namibia.


I love the mezmorizing shades and contours of the clouds which meander across the sky.  I love the subtle change of the landscape as precious rain falls, transforming the barren bush land into a lush feeding ground for life-giving herds.  I adore the fact that in Africa we share, regardless of how meager that sharing may be.


I love the scree’s and cha-churs of a thousand avians migrating across the mighty expanse of wilderness.  I will never forget the barely perceivable munch of masticating worms as newly green trees slowly return to being bare.  The rays of concentrated light breaking through the clouds, highlighting the beauty of the world, will always warm my heart. My olfactory senses being bombarded by the smell of newly fallen rain and animals and LIFE will always make me smile. 


I am awestruck by the sheer expanse of inspiration at every turn of the head.  The unidentifiable shades of an African sunset will always keep me guessing for words no tongue or pen or lens have ever accurately conveyed.  My heart skips a beat at the fiery tips of Thornwood trees as said sunset crashes into the horizon.  I love the rejoicing of voices young and old as the sky turns slate and thunder shakes their bones.  And I love the fact that at many times laughter and smiles are far better forms of communication than nouns and verbs.


As my time here begins to speed up, I know that these little things will become so much more important than the comforts of home.  Of course I will love those comforts, but while I may be back in America in less than a year, my heart will always be in Namibia.

Friday, February 14, 2014


It’s difficult sometimes.  Caring.  If I didn’t care, I’d sleep like a baby.  I’d be able to dream sweet dreams and finish a book every week.  If I didn’t care, I’d be free to explore the world.  I’d be free to relax and enjoy life’s little pleasures.  I’d be at the beach.  I’d buy new clothes and wear them at fancy restaurants.


If I didn’t care.


Instead, I find myself constantly worrying if I’m doing enough.  My nights are plagued with doubts and fears.  Am I doing the right things?  Am I going to be able to help?  My books are visited intermittently, whenever a minute or two can be spared.  And even then I am distracted, or inspired, and have to drop it.


Instead, I travel halfway across the world to stay put.  My explorations are of the imagination instead of the landscape.  I think of the beach as I take sandy steps to school.  Waves of worry crash around me, their thunder deafening.  I sit here, 100 kilometers from purchases and sigh-inducing meals.


Instead, I buy sweets for Valentine’s Day, and don’t eat a single one.  My shopping cart overflows with pens and tape and art supplies, stickers, crafts and glue.


Instead, I see all of the positive changes.  I see learning and friendship.  I learn about who they are and who I am.


Instead, I am living the true dream.  I am changing, growing.  I am happy because I care.


Caring is the most stressful, frustrating, hair-pulling, and rewarding emotion.


And I rock it like a neon fanny pack!

Saturday, February 8, 2014


All I can see is the black of my eyelids..  I lay in bed, sleep not far away.  Out my open windows I hear the rustle of leaves sweeping the sand.  The soft chatter of my neighbors is unintelligible both from the distance as well as the rolling sounds of an unknown language.  Gates screech and clink, bidding adeu to the day.  In the distance a bird squawks, once again challenging you to identify its species.

An old car complains as its owner attempts to waken it from its slumber.  The jingle of reigns from a donkey carts mingles with the coughing pickup.  Ting, ting, ting.  The rain dances lightly on the tin roof, promising new growth on the morn.  Goats cry to each other, wishing all a good night.  And there it is, the sound of youth, returning from rest, welcoming the new year with eagerness and exhilaration.

I am home.  A singular sigh escapes.  Muscles relax and I drift away to the symphony of home.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things that Concern Me

*Learners think alcohol abuse will destroy their lungs
*Advice learners give to parents: Parents should beat their kids so they don't do bad things
*How empty the fridge is getting
*That my allergies have finally kicked in
*How my dog has decided to act like a puppy again and jump all over me
*How my dog can't play fetch (waste of a perfectly good tennis ball)
*How many confiscated sticks I have in the corner of my classroom
*How some of those sticks are actually wire or medal rods
*How some of those sticks are teacher's
*How my learners are failing English
*How my learners think that 2 x 2 = 22 (seriously)
*That half my holiday plans consist of preparing for the next school year
*The amount of girls that have dropped out due to pregnancy
*That I'm gaining weight
*My lack of nail polish options
*How my Chaco tan isn't as awesome as I want it to be
*How the new 'eco-friendly' coffee I bought tastes too eco-friendly (read: dirt)
*The fact that I drink the coffee anyways
*How one of my friends is being treated at her school
*The lack of rain and the consequence to farmers in Namibia
*My lack of interest in learning the local language
*The fact that the increasing temperature forces me to keep the windows upon at night, allowing all the kinds of creepy crawlies (spiders, scorpions, snakes, pretty much all animals whose name begins with s-) to enter my room
*That my mosquito net is not thoroughly tucked into my bed and said creepy crawlies will attack me while I am sleeping
*That the failure of my kids finally shows my failure as their teacher
*That the learners aren't stressed over final exams
*How much the learners sleep
*How I've watched all media on my computer and have to start re-watching everything
*That my school is expected to start using an online program to store data (learner info, timetable, conduct forms, etc) yet the Ministry of Education still hasn't gotten us internet
*What's going to happen to my dog while I'm gone for the month
*That I have too much free time to write lists like these

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lots to Update

Hey all,

So I seem to have forgotten to update what's going on in my life.  Not much besides school has happened since my sister visited in May.  During the August holiday I helped the new volunteers for a bit, then relaxed at a lake (yes there are lakes in Namibia!) for a few days.

To bring you up to speed on the goings on at school, I'll provide you with a few random poems I wrote as well as some amazing pictures of amazing kids at our recent cultural festival.

40 Minutes

Good Morning
Morning Miss
Chat Talk Chat
Sleep Draw Hit
Silence Now!
Giggle, Glare
Blah Blah Blah
Rip and Tear
Silence Please
Stare and Sleep
Blah Blah Blah
counting sheep
Where's you pen?
Stolen Miss
And this was when?
cough and shift
I don't care
Blah Blah Blah
learners sing
ring ring ring
sit and sigh
Thank God!  Goodbye!


I tell them when it's due
They tell it back to me
I write it on the board
So all my kids can see

I then repeat the due date
I give them time in class
They tell me yes yes yes
They understand enmass

The date it's due comes round
I ask for finished work
'Aye Miss!  You did not say!"
Frustration starts to lurk

Extensions are then given
So marks can be put in
I tell them seven more times
They nod with happy grins

The time again arrives
When late work must be given
"Aye Miss!  You did not say!"
They played instead, were livin'

A third and final date is said
Loud and clear for all
The time, it comes, they say 'aye'
I have reached my wall

Nor more missus nice girl
No more happy teacher
"In my class and get to work!"
I've become a life skills preacher

And still they look me in the eye
They say it won't be done
"Give me zeros. I don't care.
While we all have some fun."

What to do, oh what to do
A teacher's big ordeal
Force them in to finish work
or fail while my stress heals

But as a teacher, teaching
And trying to do well
I sit and stress and worry
Though success? I cannot tell

Am I helping all my kids?
Am I helping them enough?
This job of mine I always love
Though almost all is tough

I hope and pray they see it
How much I want their success
But getting them to understand
Is the beginning of my test

And some fun pictures from the cultural festival we had last weekend.   Here's a little background.  Every year the Erongo region picks a school to host this festival.  Learners of all ages create something (song, dance, drama) to describe their culture in the form of a competition.  My school was blessed to host it this year.  Early Saturday morning tents went up and kids got dressed in their traditional garbs.  I borrowed a friend's Herero dress and shocked everyone in attendance by wearing it for part of the day.  The kids were sooo excited!  I've never been so respected by them.  Maybe I should wear one everyday!  I wasn't even allowed to carry the camera case!  On the other hand it's incredibly hot and during this summer weather I don't know how people wear it all day, every day!

Me and all of my fabulous kids!

This little one isn't sure whether she likes me or if I frighten her.

My housemate and adopted mother in her traditional Nama dress.  I love this woman!!!


Reenactment of a traditional Herero wedding

Boys acting like little men doing their Herero marching



Items used at a Herero wedding

Some of my special learners.

My favorite running buddies!



Sorry I don't have explanations for all of the pictures.  I really only know about my own Herero culture.  They are all still beautiful though!