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  • Writer's pictureLynn Nestingen

Landed in Namibia: A Whirlwind First Week

Updated: 5 days ago

Landed. Greeted. Piled into a van. Drove through Windhoek. Arrived in Okahandja.

That’s how it went after taking a flight out of Johannesburg to landing in Windhoek.

From then on, it has been a whirlwind of training modules, cultural immersion, playing Rummikub, learning Afrikaans, and simply hanging in Okahandja, our training site for the next two weeks.

I planned to post weekly, but time got away from me, and here it is almost five weeks later! Nevertheless, here is a glimpse of week one, with the anticipation that I will post more regularly as I settle into a routine here in Windhoek. Your patience and grace are appreciated!

Just a quick note about flying out of Denver....I was lucky that Kahri, Ron, and Amy helped haul my luggage (two 50-pound checked bags, a carry-on, and a backpack) into DIA for an 11:30 a.m. flight on Sat., May 11.

Everything went smoothly except for being flagged at security for what appeared to be "a rock" in my carry-on. A rock? Yes, it turns out it was Philip's ashes that I brought along to sprinkle somewhere in Namibia. Philip, indeed, was my rock, and he is still with me with every step on this journey. That was the best start to my adventure that I could ever ask for....

After flying out of DIA, I I arrived in Newark later in the afternoon where I met three other PCRVs - Colton, Jana, and Marianne - before we boarded at 9pm for a 14-hour flight to Johannesburg, S. Africa.

We were put up at an airport hotel in Johannesburg and I was thrilled to use their gym for what would likely be my FINAL run on a treadmill for the year. I was on a total running high and a great way to start the day before our 1pm flight to Windhoek, Namibia.

Upon arriving in Windhoek later in the day, we were greeted by a contingency of Peace Corps- Namibia staff! In addition to photo ops, they also brought a bowl of Namibian Fat Cakes for us to try which are sweet, moist deep fried dough balls. It was definitely a "taste" of what's to come for food in Namibia!

The hand symbol that we were quickly taught for this picture symbolizes the shape of Namibia, "Land of the Brave." More on their interesting and sobering history in future posts...

I am fortunate also to be here with six other volunteers each bringing their own stories, experiences, backgrounds, values, personalities, and interests, and I'm learning from each of them about generosity, kindness, confidence, commitment, and so much more!

From left to right: Fitz (Ian), Marianne, Me, Colton, Jana. Fitz is serving the Ministry of Health in Gobabis (218 km east of Windhoek), Marianne is also with the Ministry of Health in Mariental (268 km south of Windhoek), and the rest of us are currently stationed in Windhoek. I am with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Colton is with the Scouts of Namibia, and Jana is with Star for Life.

One more PCRV, Ron, arrived a few days later and is serving with an organization called Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (OYO). Their mission is to use the arts - both visual and performing – to create awareness and mitigate the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other social problems among the youth of Namibia. Sounds like a really cool organization that I look forward to learning more about with my passion for the arts, as well!

Back to my first week…

We spent the first three days at "King’s Highway" Retreat Center, attending training sessions on cultural norms, safety and security, financial responsibilities, housing, language, etc. from a 8am (sharp!) until 4pm (give or take).

We were also served some wonderful Namibian meals with two kinds of meat at each meal (beef, pork, chicken, or lamb) plus a rice or potato and a salad. There were thee cooks at each meal and a delight to talk with and practice our Afrikaans. I was able to quickly pick up and say "baie lekker!" which means, "Very tasty!"

We started learning Afrikaans with the instructor, Joel. I must confess, it's not easy at my age, but that's just an excuse—I'm determined to learn it! I've been assigned a private tutor (we all have tutors), and I'll start working with her on Thursday. I CAN do this, is my mantra for learning a new language at my age.

On day 3, we were introduced to our host family, Desmond and Junibell. Des and Juni (J=Y) are long-time PC hosts and they proudly shared that I was volunteer #53 to stay in their home.

Their house was relatively large with 3 bedrooms, a living room, dining room, two bathrooms , kitchen, and tv area. They also had a fairly large covered patio with an outdoor fireplace and a 8-chair table where we ate most of our meals. Sand covers many of the road and completely surrounds the houses in lieu of any grass.

Desmond and Junibell were extremely generous by buying fruit and serving full meals when I was able to join them for dinner. They were also very excited to teach me how to play Rummikub on the first night, and every night after! I worked on mastering some nuances by googling some "tips" and managed to win two times!

They also introduced me to a Braai, which is sort of like a BBQ with meat and bread. Below, Desmond is cooking lamb, sausage, and chicken (which they say is really a vegetable and NOT meat!)

The next day, I experienced a kettle of goat head—mandible and all. Yes, I did "try" a bit of brain but passed on the eyeballs. I love this picture with their adorable granddaughter (I forget here name) as she sucked on the end of a bone for its marrow.

Part of our training also included a tour of Okahandja with the local police, and here are some photos from that excursion.

While some parts of the town have housing with gates, there are also many "informal settlements" where over 100,000 people live in tin shacks or shanties, often housing nine people or more per dwelling. Electricity and water are often not connected, and there are usually no toilets within the dwellings.

We also stopped at what I believe is called Commando No. 1 of the OvaHerero (below), a site or memorial in Okahandja used for the gathering of the Herero people of Namibia to commemorate their deceased chieftains on Herero Day. (see below). It is also known as Red Flag Day and Red Flag Heroes' Day and annually held on August 26 the day and place where Herero chief Samuel Maharero's body was reburied alongside his ancestors in 1923. Maharero was a Paramount Chief of the Herero people in German South West Africa (today Namibia) during their revolts and in connection with the events surrounding the Herero genocide. Today, he is considered a national hero in Namibia.

**I have to confess that I had to do some online research to help me better understand the context, but it has become apparent over my time here that this is a significant part of the history of Namibia, and I plan to learn and share more over time.

Also along the way we enjoyed grilled/prepared lamb.

One final highlight at the end our week was a hike with Kaekoo, the PC Training Manager, and the four other PC volunteers to the top of Pride Rock in Okahandja on Sunday, May 19. It was a "spiritual" morning hike, and I was thrilled to get some exercise after sitting in training sessions for most of the week.

And there you have it...while it took me long enough to pull this together, I'm relieved to finally share an update as promised. No shame in saying that it truly has been a difficult first step with incredibly slow upload speeds along with so many details involved in making Namibia my home for a year.

I hope to get started on week 2 in the next day or two, including a safari, as well as the Swearing-In Ceremony. But this will have to do for now since I've already delayed posting anything for nearly a month!

I truly had to dig deep to let go of my desire to make this as polished as I could, but at some point I had to GTJD (Get the Job Done - mom knows ;-)

Until my next post—Livin’ for the here and now – Hic Et Nunc

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