15 May, 2016

It's been 3 years.....

It's a Sunday morning, here in Usakos. It's actually windy and cold! A few days ago, the weather changed from hot hot hot to cool during the day and pretty cold at night. It's actually been a nice break from the heat. Of course, it keeps me from wanting to get out of bed in the morning....

Last weekend I went to the coast (Swakopmund) to buy a few things for the staff, here at the orphanage, as well as some items for the library we're putting together for the kids. I found a world map! Success! I was also able to visit with a few other PCVs - and that will be the last time I see them - at least, here, in Namibia.

June 3 is my COS (Close of Service) date. I leave Usakos on May 26 to go to Windhoek to finish up the last of my medical and admin tasks, before they release me. Then, I will be just another American tourist in Namibia. It's weird. It's exciting. It's scary. It's sad. After 3 years in a place I can now call home, I must leave. Well, I guess I don't HAVE to leave, but I'm ready. I want to. I want a job. With real money. And a car. Where am I going? Ah, the world has become smaller now. Who knows. I'm trying to break into the International Development field - one which is pretty difficult if you don't have a Master's degree and/or 10 years of experience. So I'll take what I can get for now. I've started applying everywhere. I would love to stay in Africa, and continue getting more experience here. But again, most jobs require you to have a Master's and tons of experience. But a few have shown up to be potential jobs with my small amount of experience. Most of the other jobs I've applied for have been in NYC or DC. Both of which I wouldn't mind living at all! I've applied to about 8 jobs now, and have been rejected by 2. No worries. I know this will be a long process. I'll get back to the States and stay at my parents' house until someone wants to hire me. I'd love to have something by September, but if not, I'll get some sort of job, to have a income, until something bigger comes along....

I know I haven't written in a while. Honestly, I wasn't sure what to write. I mean, life here has become my "normal" and really, how many of you would blog about your normal days? And who would want read it? Also, I've been going thru, what feels like, a breakup. Yes. Where a guy breaks your heart, makes you cry, and it takes months to get over. You don't want to talk about it. You don't want to talk about him. You don't want to do anything which will remind you of him. Nothing. Just try to find a way to move on. And learn and grow from the experience. Well, I've had my share of heartache, and it sucks. Each time is worse than the last. But this time, really got to me.

But it wasn't even a guy. No, I wasn't even dating anyone. It was the Village Sports Court Project.

It took me about 2 years to prepare for it. Then came the day when a group of 13 from Courts For Kids, from the US, came to Namibia, to build this court in the village. They were the ones who raised the majority of money which funded this project. On December 31, I picked them up at the airport in Windhoek, took them to a local touristy restaurant, and the next day, we journeyed to the north to get started. The plan was to go to the village that evening, and they would have their first Namibian traditional meal. The next 4 days, we would be pouring concrete for this court, as well as putting in the basketball/netball posts - which I designed with a fellow PCV.

Well, we didn't make it to the village that first night. The principal was supposed to meet us at the school, to open the gate and the rooms for us to stay in. He told me he couldn't make it, to greet this group from the US, who raised money for HIS community, to help with this court. First heartbreak.

Luckily, I have some friends who own a lodge in the nearby town. Although they were out of town, and the lodge was closed for renovations, they had their security guard let us in, and we all crashed on the floors in a few of the lodge's rooms. We had pizza that night, and everyone still had the excitement for being in Namibia, and beginning the process of building the court the following day.

Early the next day we made it to the village. It started with a meeting with the Community Sports Committee, who was going to make this dream a reality. I won't go into a ton of detail, but there were lots of setbacks. First, I thought, and was never told otherwise by locals, that this time of year would be great to do this - we could stay at the school while it's closed for the holiday and everyone living in towns comes home to the village for the holiday, and so we would have lots of local support. But I was wrong. Businesses shut down - so we had a few setbacks getting all of the materials on time. Oh, by the way, the contractor tried to pull out the last minute - said we should do it later in the year. Luckily, they changed their minds. As for people coming home for the holiday - well, they come home for weddings and parties, and that is all that is on their mind. Then there was a TON of rain. Then the cement mixer broke down. Then there were disputes on the actual process of building the court. And I struggled getting community support. Overall, everyone involved played a part in the hiccups we had, as well as the success.

And the CFK group was amazing! They remained positive, worked their butts off, and were able to get a great cultural experience! I had 10 PCVs help me as well. They were my backbone, as well as a good friend from the States who came to visit me (I wouldn't have made it thru without her! Thank you Cherrie!!!). They each had tasks, and followed thru on all of them to make the situation and experience as good as it could be, for the CFK group, and for the building of the court. I feel like it was a whirlwind for me - I was constantly "putting out fires", trying to hold everything and everyone together, on the phone, running around, etc. At the end of the 5th day, we had only 1/6 of the court poured. Then I was to take the CFK group to Etosha National Game Park for a few days. There, they were able to see lots of animals, and take in more of Namibia.

I know I sound negative about this whole project. I put my heart and soul into it for 2 years. So, yes, I was pretty disappointed. BUT on the positive side, the group of Americans had an amazing cultural experience, the community committee finally pulled together and I'm sure there were lots of lessons learned and skills transferred, and I learned a TON about project management and delegation. Yes, this project was a success.

The update on the court: Although the business we used as our contractor changed management recently, they, and the village community, were able to finally finish pouring all of the concrete and put up the posts!! The final touches will happen at the beginning of June. Coca Cola will be coming in to paint the court with a big "Sprite" logo, and possibly even put up a fence around the court!

I have never done anything like this before - work with concrete, design a basketball court and posts, manage such a big project. I have learned so much from this - One major lesson is that next time, I will put the locals more in charge of the project. That was one downfall - maybe they didn't realize the extent of this project, or what it entailed - though I tried to keep them in the loop, maybe it just wasn't enough. My sister, who is a talented, insightful and very intelligent woman gave me this advice: She said that in the business world, there is a saying of "Fail fast". In other words, don't take 2 years to fail and learn from your mistakes so you can move on to the next better idea/project. I will always remember these words - in all aspects of life.

After I COS, I'll be heading up north to say goodbye to the people in the village, as well as my Namibian family. I'll make sure to get lots of pictures of the court at the point, and share them with you!

And then, on June 13, I'm off to the beach......
I'm going on, what PCVs call, a COS trip! I'll be headed to Zanzibar (meeting up with a PCV from my group), a few stops in other parts of Tanzania, then Uganda, Dubai, Prague, Venice, Milan and then to Switzerland to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend for her 40th birthday celebration, along with my parents. Then I'm off to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and finally to NYC at the end of July! I'm looking forward to this trip, seeing my family, and making it back to the States to see all of my friends and family! I can't wait to pick up the phone and just call a friend, and not have to worry about the call being dropped, or reception being bad. You don't realize how much you miss everyone until you've been gone for 3 years.....

I want to thank everyone who supported me and Onamunhama during this court project - whether it was emotional or financial. Without you, NONE of this could have happened! I want to thank Courts For Kids and the amazing group of college students who came to visit! I hope to stay in touch with them - they really are such a wonderful, kind, hard-working group of kids!

Here is the project in their words:

And a video of the project, created by Dre Vidal, a fellow PCV:
(my Namibian brothers are being interviewed in this video!)

And here are some pictures of the court being built:

In the next post, I'll update you on the orphanage and these awesome ladies and children I get to work with everyday......I'm sure gonna miss them :(

Hope you are all well!!

Peace and love,