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  • Writer's pictureLynn Nestingen

Embracing Work Culture and Navigating Corridors

Updated: Jul 14

I can hardly believe that it's already been seven weeks since I first arrived in Windhoek! If I could sum up my experiences so far in a few words, it would be: listening, learning, reflecting, greeting, meeting, and simply soaking up the culture.


To get started on my "weekly" posts (ha), let me first introduce M'baeva, the Ministry driver assigned to transport me to/from work each day.


A driver, as a Peace Corps volunteer, you ask?


Yes, this is definitely not your typical PC assignment, and I feel fortunate to work as a PCRV here in Windhoek. However, walking alone is discouraged for volunteers in this capital city because of safety, and it is my understanding that each site is asked to provide some sort of transportation for PC volunteers.


While I could also ride a bike each day, I am expected to dress up in professional attire which makes a bike ride in a skirt or suit a little more complicated. Perhaps I can figure out how to bring a change of clothes in my backpack, but for now I do appreciate the lift.


M'baeva is from the Herero region and speaks mostly Otjiherero, a Bantu language.   Fortunately, however, his English is relatively good and we manage to carry on a fairly decent conversation. I'm certainly learning a lot about the Namibian culture on my daily commute to/from the office!


M'baeva is extremely patient with all my questions about work, language, and community, and he calls me "Doctor." It's awkward to hear, but having a PhD in Namibia is highly respected, and it's encouraged, and even highly advised, to use your credentials on all correspondences and in greetings. I am accepting it, but it still feels a little odd to hear it on a daily basis.


Back to M'baeva. On my second day at the "office," we toured the Owela Museum—one of three national museums in Windhoek. Sadly, Owela is currently closed to the public and has been since 2020.


Of course, initially it was closed due to COVID-19, there are now significant infrastructure challenges that it faces in 2024 making it difficult to safely reopen.

M'baeva is pointing here to the mother and son of his uncle who were from Okeseta, about 10 km outside Gobabis, a burial site of Munjuku Nguvauva, the father of Kahimemua Nguvauv, both tribal leaders of the Ovambanderu, a Herero clan in Namibia.


M'baeva had not been to the museum since he was a young boy. What a heart-warming moment, but also a little heart breaking, on our walk through the museum to see a little glimpse of his national pride for country and family as we walked through the dark, sullen halls.


As mentioned, this historical and zoological museum has been closed to the public for the past four years, as well as the Alte Feste Museum across the street. It appears this may be part of the bigger conversation for my role here as a PCRV. Nothing like a bit of imposter syndrome as a PVRV here in Namibia. I'm humbled...


Moving slowly from one room to the next, we used our phone flashlights to illuminate where time stood still. Unfortunately, many of the photos that I took inside did not turn out because it was so dark, even with my phone flash.


On the lower level towards the back of the Museum, a dedicated room for children to participate in hands-on activities still had small stools and random artifacts dispersed where kids once learned about their culture and heritage.


In another area on the lower level, a line of life-sized dioramas depicting different regions of Namibia were covered in dust. The zoological area included taxidermied animals such ascheetahs, birds, and warthogs stood frozen in space.


The air smelled musty and chalky, and it was clear there was water damage throughout, with a few crumbling walls and fallen ceiling tiles.



It truly broke my heart to see the museum in this condition as I imagined it would feel way worse if it were my own as a Namibian.


Indeed, I felt very privileged and humbled to have this behind-the-scenes tour of this national gem, but at the same time, I felt a sense of overwhelm for the scope and magnitude of work that lies ahead if they want to reopen at some point in the near future.


MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, ARTS AND CULTURE


Just as a recap from previous posts, my entire service here for the year involves working within the department that falls under the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture (MoEAC). I am assigned to the Department of Lifelong Learning, Arts and Culture (LLLAC), which is one of three departments within the MoEAC.


The Deputy Executive Director, my primary supervisor, Mr. Gerard Vries, is in charge of the LLLAC. Within LLLAC, there are four directorates (yes, it has taken me a bit of flow-charting to sort through all the organizational layers).


  1. Adult Education - tertiary education such as CLDC=Community Learning Centers, FLP=Family Literacy Programs, ASD=Adult Skill Development, AUPE=Adult Upper Primary Education

  2. Arts - National Art Gallery, National Theatre, College of Arts, National Arts Council)

  3. National Heritage and Culture

  4. National Library and Archives


The other two directorates within the MoEAC include the Directorate of Formal Education (primary/secondary education) and Finance & Administration. However, I will not directly work in these directorates, but perhaps tangentially throughout the year.


The particular office where I work is located on Luther Street, also referred to as "Government Office Park." There are several tall (3-4 story) ministry buildings in this 5-6 block area, with a steady stream of activity involving cars, people, and vendors.



My office is located on the 2nd floor down two long corridors. Most of the office doors are usually closed, and it sounds like the employees are either traveling to the 14 different regions throughout Namibia and/or are simply working behind closed doors.



We were instructed that it's critical to "greet" everyone we see and take time to chat with our co-workers, which I mostly do to continue building relationships. They suggest that we don't just walk down the hall if a door is open, but be sure to stop and say "hello!" You can imagine that it takes me a while to finally make it to the end of both corridors when even just a few office doors are open!


On a more practical note, TP was an immediate touch of reality for me upon arriving at my office. When I put down my backpack, Marnga, a general services employee, proudly walked in and handed me one pen, two pencils, a ruler, and four rolls of TP. Since then, I have learned the hard way that keeping "your own stash" is essential because so far TP seems to disappear from all stalls within two hours, tops—if it is even replaced.


Marenga has been with General Services since 1995 and is responsible for lining up the drivers, equipment, keys, stationery, etc., for the Directorate of Adult Education. He's also helping to line up my bed and hot water at the house where I am staying.


Marenga is always wearing a big smile and we joke around about him planning to come back to America with me when I leave in a year.


I know it might sound trite, but I am finding it's the small things that may appear different, but at the end of the day, we are all one, same humanity with the same needs. Enuf said...


As far as I can tell, there is little in the way of fundraising or grant writing in the Ministry, and it is mostly government-funded, hence the lag in technology, infrastructure, program growth, etc.


My mind is certainly churning with ideas on some of the skills and concepts I might be able to impart, while also recognizing that 10 short months is not nearly enough time!


It certainly looks and feels great on the surface, but there are deep challenges in the system that contribute to the economic disparities here and raises questions about equity, liberty, justice, unity, and more.


So far, my internal dialogue about disparity has been one of my most significant considerations as a PCRV, and I’m not taking it lightly.  Perhaps with time, I'll gain more clarity.





I think I'll stop here so I can get this out to the world. I promise to start writing more regularly, making it a daily routine to write, rather than sporadic writing marathons.


I'm also focusing on establishing a routine for exercise. Currently, my workout setup at home revolves around using a jump rope, which has been a lifesaver! Oh, and lots of steps!



Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my engagement with the four Directorates I'll be working with this year.


Vrede en vriendskap! Lynn

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4 Comments


Regina Nestingen
Regina Nestingen
Jul 12

Thank you, Lynn, for taking the time to keep us all posted on your health, happiness, and experiences. I'm so proud of you for taking on this amazing adventure and by the way it sounds, challenging opportunity. Sending all our love and prayers -- Carl and Regina

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pattie
Jul 06

Hi Lynn,

I love reading your updates. Sounds like you are adapting well to culture and the entire environment. We are all thinking of you and sending good health and love💗

Pattie

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richardproe
Jul 02

Hi Lynn, Sounds like your adventure is everything you expected and more. Thanks for sharing. Richard

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Fran Schneider
Fran Schneider
Jun 28

Thank you Lynn! This was a huge update and everyone here continues to keep you in their prayers and thoughts. Any rain there yet? Sending all the best, hugs, smiles and love.

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