28 March, 2013

Details, details...

Language lesson for the day:

Details are important, especially when speaking in Oshikwanyama!

For example:

oshikombo = goat
oshikombe = broom
oshikombu = prostitute

This lesson will especially come in handy when going to the market, and trying to tell a local you want to buy goat meat...
(true story!)

Stay tuned for more Kwanyama tips...

Peace -

26 March, 2013

On my way home...

Here is the main road Amy (another Volunteer) and I walk on our way home from training everyday. This road is B1- one of the main highways in Namibia - and leads to Windhoek, the capital.

In this picture, we are actually looking back towards town...and the storm clouds coming in....though they really did not produce any rain today. When it does rain, it only lasts for about 10 minutes. We got caught in the "rain" yesterday, but were so happy to be cooled off somewhat....

25 March, 2013

I found my Harry....

Wa uhala po? (How are you this afternoon?)

Hello again!! I really need to catch you all up to date…..and I have a lot to tell…but if you don't mind, I'd like to talk about my present day….and so the things I will write about in this post, will be explained much MUCH further in future posts. I guess I just wanted to let you all know what my thoughts are today….

I FINALLY started a separate, hand-written journal. I want to remember everything. And I'm sure there will be times that I'll want to  put it down, but may not want to share with the world….especially after my last roller-coaster of a week. Let's just say, this really IS the toughest job you will ever love. And everything they've told us we will feel, well, I've felt it this week. Again, I promise I will go further in to detail with EVERYTHING. But for today, this is how I've been feeling….and so I'm just going to copy from my hand-written journal, my thoughts on the last, almost 20 hours: (sorry it's kind of long! I have sooooo much that I want to say! And even trying to text/email my friends and family has been tough to explain it all. So, I hope this will give you some insight as to what my Namibian life is, as of right now.)

24 March 2013
I went to m room last night after dinner - it seems that's when bedtime happens here at my host family's house.  We eat around 8pm. I hate going to bed right after, but at the same time, I like having some quiet time to myself - to either study or reflect or both.  The girls (9 year olds) are great, and English is easier with them, but I'm still trying to figure out the culture, etc. Anyway, as I'm in my room, looking at my entire life in bags in the corner, I couldn't help but feel powerless (PC says this is normal). And I think a lot of my PCV friends feel the same at times. All of a sudden, we're on the PC's time and our families' time. Everything is different. I don't speak the language (though I actually feel like I'm making SOME slow progress in this area), and I can't help but think "What the hell am I doing??" I just want to eat with a fork and knife. I just want a napkin. And soap to wash my hands (don't worry, I use mine - it's just not a common thing to keep it near the sinks). And go for a run. (Again, I'll further explain these things in future posts.). 

So I started taking a few things out of my bag to help decorate my room and remind me of home - and who I am. A picture of a sunflower, mardi gras beads and a picture of my family  (side note: ATTENTION Mom & Dad, please send another! I only have 1 small one)  I didn't have enough room in my luggage to bring all of the things to make me feel "home", so I can't wait for my mom to send the others…..And then I came across this journal. Zan gave it to me. Everyone at both of my going-away parties signed it, and wrote a little note. I purposefully did not read it while I was in the States. I wanted to wait until I got over here. So I opened it up, and started reading.  And then came the tears. I missed everyone and everything I know and am familiar with. I miss not being able to just pick up the phone and talk to those back in America. For one, the time difference. Secondly, it's expensive. I have apps to talk/text for free, but I still use up my data. Internet is not readily available. And especially free wifi. So true communication is difficult. And I wonder what everyone back home is doing. (So to friends and family who are reading this, even if I don't respond right away to your email, PLEASE send me updates on YOUR life! I want to know how all of YOU are doing!!)  

But the tears were also of joy and motivation, and the deep down strong feelings I have inside for helping these people. I finally felt like myself again, for a moment. (Again, the PC said that at times, you will not feel like you.)  The reason I'm here. What I'm going thru at this moment, is completely worth it. It's real. It won't kill me. This truly IS the toughest job you'll ever love. It's just differences in culture. And we are all the same. Halfway around this world. We laugh, cry and have joy for the same reasons. We just do things in a little different way.  All of a sudden, I found my motivation again. Motivated to learn this culture (don't worry, I will get into LOTS of details soon). Motivation to learn the language (Sam, a current PCV who is in the region where I will probably be - the north - told me that those who have some education, speak some English. It's those who don't speak English, and only their "mother-tongue", who are the less educated -  and the ones who I may be able to really help. So, the better I can converse in Oshikwanyama, the more people I may be able to educate.) So, language is SO important. Meme Maria (which means mother or madam - or ma'am for those in the south! And "Meme" is pronounced as if you were french - Mae-mae) is a true Kwanyama. She came from northern Namibia. She explained that the language is their culture. It's who they are. Who I will be living and working with (again, I'll explain more in future posts). Anyway, I found my Harry. My Lion. My motivation to go after these challenges……

I fell asleep - hot, no air circulating in the room, under the mosquito net…..and satisfied…….

This morning was Palm Sunday. I went to church with Meme. It's a Lutheran church. Her cousin (a female) is the pastor. Women are becoming pastors more and more, after Namibia gained their independence (another side note: there is a big Women's Liberation movement happening in Namibia right now!). Today's service was a little different - it was the men's service. They were in charge today. It lasted 3 hours and 20 minutes. Normally, it's only 2 hours long. I think it was longer because of it being Palm Sunday. Lots of different groups of adults and kids singing and taking collections for different things. At one point, all the men and boys went up to the alter, and stood before the rest of the congregation. A man spoke to them. He told them that they all need to make sure to be "real men." That a real man does not take his wife for granted. He told them they need to give and not just take. And a real man does not hurt or injure or kill his wife. (Apparently, there are many men who abuse, even to the point of death, their wives. This is a big concern in Namibia. And I'm still trying to find out more about the repercussions of these actions…..). (Another side note: So far, those Namibian men I have met, are WONDERFUL! They are happy, giving, helpful. So, please don't take what I wrote as the norm. I am still learning about their culture and way of life. I've been reading the paper a lot as well - and again, will go in to further detail in future posts!). Anyway, church was looooooong. Oh, and it was all in Oshikwanyama. BUT, I was pretty happy that I was able to understand a word, here and there. Meme had to translate a lot for me. And luckily she had all the songs in a book. So I sang along, not knowing what I was singing, BUT, for the most part, I pronunciated the words correctly. (Success!!!)

We came home from church, and Mwalonga had lunch ready for us. (She's Meme's cousin/nanny/housekeeper). We ate porridge (oh don't worry - there WILL be a blog post about this!), spaghetti (no sauce - though the girls used "tomato sauce" - or ketsup - as we call it in the States), veggies (the frozen kind I remember growing up eating - with tiny pieces of carrots, green beans and corn) and some meat in a soup. I didn't ask what kind of meat - I don't want to know (again, wait for the post about my first culture shock with food that happened earlier in the week!). Though it was tough to bite in to, so I'm assuming it was goat.  The girls wanted to play checkers and cards, but Meme told them I needed to rest, since church service was so long, and honestly, I didn't mind taking the break.  We'll play checkers and cards later -

And so now I get to start this hand-written journal…AND update my blog (which I do at home, and then will upload it when I get to the cafe with free wifi tomorrow). Maybe I'll shut my eyes for a little as well. I have a TON of studying to do again tonight, but this afternoon, Mwalonga is going to show me how to do my laundry - and then of course, I'll play with the girls!

So….today is a good day. :)


Kala po nawa na oshi iwete…..
(Stay well and see you later….)


p.s. Here is an album of some pictures I took today at the house! Enjoy!
(for those having trouble viewing the slideshow, click here for the direct link:  Meme Maria's house







You'll actually look forward to your morning commute. Life is calling. How far will you go? Learn more about the Peace Corps

23 March, 2013

Some quick inspiration....

Some words of inspiration we were given as we began our training to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers in Namibia:

"If you are planning for a year, sow rice.
If you are planning for a decade, plant trees.
If you are planning for a lifetime, educate people." - Chinese Proverb

21 March, 2013

America to Africa...

Ok…..I know it's been a week since I have written….

We've been busy with training, and in transition from one lodging, to now, our first host family (post to come soon!). So, let me catch you up to date…(I have lots to tell, so it's going to take a few posts - but, I promise, I will get you all caught up to the present - where I am now living with my Meme (Mother) Maria, 2 9 yr-old sisters, 1 2 yr-old brother, and a cousin/nanny/housekeeper my age.) 

hot and sweaty after lugging my luggage
around the Philly airport
Last Tuesday, we all arrived, and met up at "Staging" (initial orientation) in Philadelphia. Final papers were signed and handed in (including our Trainee/Volunteer Registration form, designation of beneficiary, bank info for our pay AFTER our service, and eligibility verification), visas and passports were handed out, and our first day of orientation began! Everything went smoothly…we each had a roommate in the hotel, the other volunteers were great (18 others - 3 retirees, the rest between 22-26) and the staff really helped make this endeavor real for all of us!

After staging, we were able to enjoy our night out with new friends, have dinner and drinks, and discuss our excitement, dream-like state feeling, and of course, our excessive luggage. Side note, I really did pack a lot - as did everyone else - so at least I wasn't alone! BUT in my defense, the Peace Corps gave us a pretty big list of things we should bring :)

me and Denise waiting at 2am
for our bus to JFK
Anyway, we finished dinner around 10pm. And had to be down in the lobby to meet the bus for the airport at 2AM. My roommate, Kaitlynn, and I wanted to re-pack our luggage (for the 273rd time!), so we figured we may be able to get about an hour nap in. As we finally got comfy in our beds, one of the other girls, Crystal, came in to hang out, and well, no sleep occurred. But we were all too excited to care…..So at 2am, the 19 of us gathered all of our luggage in the lobby of the hotel, and waited for the bus to arrive at 2:30. Once it arrived, and everything was loaded up, we drove about 2 hours to the JFK airport. I was too excited to sleep during the trip. Around 4:30am, we unloaded our luggage from the bus, dragged ourselves in to the airport, and found a spot to settle in. The South African Airlines check-in desk didn't open until 7:30….for our 11:15 flight.
Cherie and alllllll of our luggage!
Kaitlynn, Naroung and CJ



our resting spot before check-in at JFK


Some people slept, some of us found other things to occupy our time. I couldn't sleep. I was so tired, that I thought, "If I lay my head down on my luggage for just a second, I'll be out for 5 hours." So, I stayed up. We played some music, laughed, Bonnie played her ukelele, and stories of our lives we were leaving, and those we were hoping to create, began to unfold….(or it was the lack of sleep talking!).

We finally were able to check in - that took some time for all of us to get thru….and made our way to our gate…just to sit again for a few hours. At this point, I still refused to sleep….I was waiting for my 15 hour flight….

Once we boarded, and got comfortable, Kaitlynn (another volunteer) and I decided it was best if we waited for the first meal (they would be serving "dinner", a snack, and then "breakfast" once we were over Africa - along with drinks - which, if you've never flown internationally, are free). Kaitlynn and I had our airline food, which wasn't half bad, a drink, and then I was off to dreamland…finally after 32 hours of being awake!

Magen and CJ
The rest of the flight was up and down - still tired, my neck hurt, despite the travel neck pillow (I was REALLY missing Lisa, my chiropractor and the other massage therapists at this moment!), and at one point I felt sick to my stomach. Other than that - I was headed to Africa! Nothing would bring me down!!!! (On another side note - since I haven't talked much about my emotions during the course of this travel, I have to admit - when I said goodbye to my parents in Albany, the tears started to come. I didn't expect that. I mean, of course I'm going to miss them, but I didn't think I was the emotional, sappy type. Maybe I'm becoming that way….And then as I was waiting for my plane to take me to Philly, my eyes began to tear up again. I couldn't help but think - "Gosh, Johanna. Couldn't you have just moved to California?? Did you really have to go all the way to Africa??? And why are you putting off your life 2 more years??" (Life, as in marriage, kids, etc.). And now - here I am - about to leave everything that is familiar to me. Everything I'm used to. It was a moment of sadness, fear of the unknown, tears for those I'm leaving…but not regret. For some reason, I'm supposed to go to Africa. I truly believe that. I believe everything happens for a reason - and this is just the obvious next step for me. What will be next? I can only hope and pray that it will be something greater than I could ever have dreamed. And after the PC? Well, only time will tell…

and hopefully it will still be that amazing dream that is on its way…..

Stay tuned for more….. :)

Kelly ready for the 15 hour flight!




flying over Africa...



You'll actually look forward to your morning commute. Life is calling. How far will you go? Learn more about the Peace Corps

13 March, 2013

Johannesburg!!

in the Johannesburg airport

Just wanted to give you a quick update....

I made it through 32 hours of no sleep, a 15 hour flight, and am now sitting in the Johannesburg airport...waiting to get on our last leg of plane rides....to Namibia! 

As soon as I have more internet time, I will update with the details, pictures, etc....

So far, everything is going wonderful!!! The other volunteers are fabulous! There are 19 of us, total. 
Our training in Philly was great! It was mainly very general - safety & security, culture and the Peace Corps' missions and goals. This definitely made me realize exactly what I'm about to do....

But, as promised, I will give many more details of this training, the other volunteers, our travel, and Namibia info - once I arrive at our training center in Okahandja!!!

Till then....

Peace & Love,
Johanna




You'll actually look forward to your morning commute. Life is calling. How far will you go? Learn more about the Peace Corps

10 March, 2013

Here I go!!!

Well, this is it. I'm heading to Philly tomorrow morning for "Staging." The next day, we fly over the pond.



Wow. It's here. I'm excited, nervous, scared, thrilled, blessed, jumping-out-of-my-skin, and yet....at peace. (Corps, that is). Seriously, though, I guess I'm feeling pretty ready for this. It took 15 months, from the time I applied, to the time I'm leaving, for this to come to fruition. I'm ready to learn. Ready to help. Ready to grow. Ready to live another culture for a while. Ready to learn more about the world and it's people. Ready to become a better person. Ready to share my knowledge - and hopefully make, even a small, little, impact.

Ok - after saying that - I'm actually exhausted. I think I've thought everything through a million times. I've packed and repacked hundreds of times. I hardly got any sleep last night (after a wonderful party of family and friends!). And I'm supposed to get up at 6 am tomorrow, in order to get to the airport - for my 2 long days of traveling (see this post for the entire itinerary). But I'm not complaining :)

Tomorrow we begin our orientation/training in Philly. As soon as we land in Namibia, we continue....and for the next 2 months, I will be training M-F - in language, safety & security, culture, etc. I'll be living with my first host family for about 5 weeks. After 1 month of training, we will find out where our permanent sites will be - as well as visiting that site, and shadowing a current volunteer. After the 2 months of training, I go to my permanent site, where I live with another host family for about 6 weeks. So, basically, the first 3 months of my experience in Namibia will be filled with lots of adjusting and learning. After that, I am hoping I will begin to find my own routine...and adjust to my new way of life....

I will update this as often as I can, but until I get over there, I really don't know what my communication options will be. I know I'll have a local phone number and probably a smart phone of some sort. As for the internet, I really don't know how often I'll have access.....

Sooooo.....here goes something! I'll check in as soon as I can, and will start sharing my photos, videos, and stories!!!

Peace & Love,
me


You'll actually look forward to your morning commute. Life is calling. How far will you go? Learn more about the Peace Corps

01 March, 2013

9 days and counting...

I'm sitting here, in my parents' comfortable home in upstate NY - with heat, electricity, running water....and reflecting back on everything I've experienced so far up till this point in this crazy life, and wondering what the future will bring....

I finally packed up my life, and Murray (Bear is staying with my landlord in TN) in to a Dodge Caravan (2013, 3600 miles!) and drove out of the place I have known for the last 12 years....

Maybe there was a reason I never bought a house in TN. Maybe there's a reason I lived out in the country, for a few years in a small little house where the pipes would freeze, and winters were cold due to old heaters in the house. Maybe there's a reason I followed the singer/songwriter dream, learned all about internet marketing/promoting. Maybe there's a reason I worked at Vandy Sports Medicine. Maybe there's a reason for each one of my clients - and wow, did I learn sooooo much from each of them - from family and kids, to life, to God and religion, to photography, to music, to the world that is out there just waiting for me to find - we talked about everything! Maybe there's a reason I stopped pursuing music, became Lead LMT at Massage Envy. Maybe there's a reason I became a massage therapist, and learned, not only basic massage techniques, but also reflexology and energy healing. Maybe there's a reason that all of my finances worked out the way they did, finally allowing me this freedom to move about the world. Maybe there's a reason I have had one failing relationship after another, am still not married, and have no kids. There's got to be a reason. 

And what I'm learning in life, is that things truly work out the way they are supposed to. The more you try to force something to happen, the less likely it will. If it's meant to be, it will. There IS reason for everything.....

A week ago, I was so consumed with attempting to pack up my apartment, throw unneeded things away, sell my car, retire my massage license, suspend my phone service, see friends one last time (though I KNOW I'll be back - at least to visit Nashville), purchase things I may need in Africa, rent the Caravan....and finally packed it all up, that I didn't have time to think about Namibia and my new job. See, I'm a planner. Or at least I try! Leaving Nashville seemed to go very smoothly...so I'll take the credit of creating a smooth transition. But I can't plan this next step. I'm still not certain exactly what my job will be, what projects I will create, where I'll be living, what my living conditions will be like, where I'll travel....

And now I'm unemployed, carless, and living at my parents' house. Ha! Not exactly where I thought I would be at this time in my life. But again - there's a reason. Most people who join the PC do so right out of college, or once retired. People my age usually are in the middle of their careers and/or raising and taking care of a family. Not me. But I think this is actually the perfect time for someone to go on this adventure. I have gained life, love, people, and business experience. And this opportunity in the PC will give me so much more about the world, life, and people. I'll then be able to continue on with another job and my life, with even more experience under my belt!

But man, I'm sure going to miss hot showers! Ooh...and mexican food. And chocolate. And the gym. 

Ok...but besides all of that, I think I'm ready. Though, yesterday, I attempted to pack my things in to a big backpacking backpack and a duffle bag (with wheels - thank you Mom & Dad!) - about 2 1/2 feet long. Wow. I'm feeling overwhelmed. This really is happening. And I'm going to have to repack again and again, leaving some things behind, until I can fit it all in these bags - a total of 100lbs, 50lbs per bag. That'll be a workout right there - carrying around a 50lb backpack and pulling a bag. As for a guitar - I'm either going to buy one over there, or have my parents bring it when when visit this Christmas.

I had to take an online safety and security training class. Talk about reality. I know they have to warn us about things, and will be training us exactly how to keep ourselves safe, and at the end of the day, most PCVs have no major incidents. Usually it's just theft they deal with. But still. Kinda scary. Too bad I never took those self-defense classes. lol

And yet, I feel this overall sense of peace and calmness. Knowing I can't, and don't have to, plan this next step. I'm completely open to everything I'm about to witness and experience! I'm headed back to school...and bring it on!! I'm ready for a new way of thinking....and living....and how to really give back to people and the world.

I really don't know what my communication options will be once I get there. I do know that many PCVs use smartphones. I have an iPhone 5, which is available in Namibia. Which means I may be able to use that - and connect to the internet. I'm not sure how often I'll be able to get my computer hooked up to the internet, though. The first 3 months will really be transition for me - 2 months of training - with my schedule pretty much dictated by the PC - and then during the first 6 weeks in my permanent site I'll be living with a host family. Soooo....after all of that, I'll get settled in my own place, get my own routine going, and will hopefully be able to communicate much more with all of you! But I promise, I will upload pictures and videos and stories as much as I can during this transitional time....

I've updated my Contact tab - with a little more info on how to get a hold of me....so check it out when you get a chance!

I'll probably post one more time before leaving America - which is Tuesday, March 12! Please, stay in touch and send me your addresses! I'll make sure to send out lots of postcards to all of you.... :)

In Peace & Love,
~Johanna


my backseat driver - keeping me company on the trip home to NY!


and here's some random info...
Since this post is titled "9 days", check out the band ninedays
I became friends with one of the guys while in Nashville, and they are getting ready to record a new album! 
It's been a while...and will be great to have them back!


You'll actually look forward to your morning commute. Life is calling. How far will you go? Learn more about the Peace Corps