Closing the Chapter

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I have been home for just over a month and it has been a roller coaster of emotions.  Overall, readjustment has been a lot easier than I anticipated.  Everyone around me has been so supportive and patient with me and I truly feel that I was missed.  I have been fighting the tendency to simply fall back into my old lifestyle and routines, but it has been hard.  As I expected, the materialism of this society seems to bother me the most and I am annoyed by the ‘excess’ that surrounds me.  It is so hard to not get caught up in it all.  Some days I find myself contemplating whether or not I should get an iphone, a gym membership or update my wardrobe.  And then I get angry at myself and feel guilty.

To be honest, I have procrastinated on writing a final post because it officially means the journey is over.   I know the experience is never really over, as those kids pop into my thoughts on a daily basis, but the task has been accomplished and the box is ticked.  So…what now?  I am struggling with finding ways to incorporate what I learned and observed into my life here – both in my career and in my personal life. No doubt, Namibia and those children will be with me the rest of my life and I am so thankful for that!

I am also SOOO thankful to everyone who has supported me through this journey and read my blog.  Sharing the experience this way was very helpful for me and something I really enjoyed doing.  I am definitely open to discuss or meet with anyone who wants to hear more about the experience or see more of my photos.

Once again, a special thank you to my Mom, Dad, Jan, Alisa, Kayla and Jamie for their weekly emails, calls, packages and endless encouragement.  Also, thank you to everyone who donated money to help make this journey happen – I couldn’t have fulfilled this dream without you.

I would like to end off by encouraging everyone to get out there and explore this amazing continent!  Africa has a lot to offer, explore and teach us…

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

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Out of Africa

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Tomorrow I start the two day trek home and while I am extremely anxious to get home, I do feel a tiny bit sentimental about leaving the continent.  As I sat at an outdoor café in Maputo this morning, I actually teared up, which came as a surprise to me as I have felt kinda numb the past few weeks.

No doubt, I will miss Africa.  The simplicity of life, the dependence on community and family and the vibrant culture.  I have gained such admiration and compassion for Africans.  No matter where I visited, the destructive, unfair, colonial history that these people were forced to face has so obviously shaped them.  They have overcome so much and continue to face challenging conditions.  They are strong people.

There is a freedom and peace here that is much harder to find at home.  At home, there is something wrong with you if you aren’t in pursuit of more – further education, a better career, financial wealth.  In Africa, I have found that it is acceptable to just ‘be’.  Living and getting by with what you have is the norm.  People are able to relax and enjoy their free time without the pressure to always be ‘doing’.  I will miss this.

Physically, I will miss the sun and the dependability of it.  In my entire time here, there have been less than 5 days that the sun didn’t shine!  And who doesn’t feel better when the sun is shining?

What am I taking back with me?  I definitely know that I have grown in many ways due to this experience.  Very little surprises me anymore.  I have found patience and understanding that I didn’t know I had.    I have learned to live more simply and am better in touch with what I ‘need’ versus what I ‘want’.

It would be impossible to live in rural Namibia and not find a deeper appreciation for life in Canada.  I have taken so many things for granted.  Growing up, with the support of my parents, I honestly did have the chance to pursue any future goals that I had.  Until this year, I thought that was universal.

On a smaller scale, things I am grateful for but overlooked before:

sidewalks

seatbelts

toilet paper

pedicures

bagels

customer service

fresh produce in supermarkets

our lakes and rivers – free of crocodiles, hippos and parasites

pedestrians having the right of way

Things I will NOT miss:

public urination

public nose picking

being asked for money

crotch sweat

shebeen (bar) music all night

hitch-hiking

sand

fear of mosquitoes

mosquito nets

being stared at

I suspect that the question people will ask me now is “what next?”.  And while I have no idea what lies ahead, which I am strangely comfortable with, I do know this: I know what makes me happy, I know that I can get through just about anything and I know that I am loved.  Knowing that, I’m not too worried about the future.   Right now, I’m just so excited to get home, spend Christmas with my family and SQUEEZE my gorgeous nephew!

Moz Photos

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Tonight is my last night in paradise.  I head back Maputo tomorrow to spend a couple more days exploring the city and eating seafood.  Tofo has been wonderful – except the diving.  I had my first and last dive on Friday as it was horrible.  I got extremely sea sick and spent the ENTIRE dive puking.  While others on the dive saw an octopus and shark, I saw vomit!  Needless to say, the ocean was extremely rough and after it took two days to recover, I decided not to try again.  Very disappointing!  So, I have had to settle with lounging on the beach, swimming, napping, eating … poor me!

As promised, here are some photos of Moz.  I have been EXTREMELY lazy with photos this vacation, so I only have a few.

Maputo waterfront

Tofo beach

The b&b I am staying in - overlooking the ocean

 

 

Ahhhh Mozambique!

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I have been in Mozambique for 6 days now and although I am anxious to get home, I am so happy I came.  This is definitely a different part of Africa, unlike anything I have seen or experienced yet.  Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, so the main language is Portuguese and there is definitely a European feel to the country.  While Maputo, the capital, is in need of some major renovation since their civil war, it has a ‘spunk’ to it.  You know you are still in Africa, as you are greeted by every person that passes you, but the palm trees and extremely laid back attitude reminds me of the Carribbean.  The people are extremely friendly, although very few speak English, and the food is amazing… seafood, Portuguese chicken, fresh salads, awesome coffee and desserts… oh ya, and mangos on every corner!

I had planned on volunteering in Maputo this whole week with a local development organization, The Chissano Foundation (www.fjchissano.org.mz), but they had some potential investors in town so they were occupied.  I was fortunate to spend a day with the Project Manager, Celio, who took to me to a farming project they are working on and showed me around.  They have built an agricultural school where local farmers can come and learn more efficient agricultural practices.  It was nice to see some of the country side and learn a bit about development from the agricultural side.

So, I decided to escape the city early and head for the beach… and now I am in paradise. I arrived in Tofo yesterday and had to drag myself out of the ocean to get to an internet cafe to write this.  The beach is pristine and the water is turquoise. The area reminds me a lot of Nai Harn beach, the beach I lived on during my year in Phuket.  It isn’t touristy or developed at all.  Sandy roads, little restaurant stalls along the shore, locals selling fresh coconut juice and mangos along the beach. I am staying at a b&b that is a 5 min walk from the beach and they are taking great care of me.  I have an ocean view from my room and the breeze is wonderful.

All in all, I am pleased.  And I haven’t even gone diving yet!  Tomorrow I will do my first dive – sooo excited!  I will update you when I get back and post photos of the area soon 🙂

Bye Bye Namibia

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Today I leave Namibia.  It is a surreal feeling.  I really wanted to include some of my feelings in this blog but I don’t think I have processed it all yet.

This past week has definitely been bitter sweet.  My last day at school was wonderful.  The principal held an assembly with the whole school to say goodbye and thank me.  Teachers came up and spoke and a couple learners did too.  Then the whole school sang and danced for me.  I felt appreciated.  And naturally, I cried.

On my way to Mozambique now for two weeks of vacation before heading home.  Really looking forward to it!  I will update you when I arrive 🙂

 

 

Girl talk, Gossip and Giggles!

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This is my last weekend in Namibia and in the midst of packing and organizing, I have had a bunch of female learners over to visit and taken some of my clothes and stuff I have collected over the year.  We played cards, ate, gossiped and laughed.

Yesterday I made breakfast for the leaders of Girl’s Group.  It was their first time having pancakes and they weren’t too sure how to eat them.  Namibian’s usually eat with their hands, so using cutlery is a novelty (especially a knife!) and it was hilarious watching them try to maneuver the knife and fork.  Eveline gave up and resorted to using her fingers!

Kalina and Eveline (who never gives me a nice smile for the camera!)

There are a bunch of girls that I am really going to miss.  One of them, Ritha, a grade 10, has a special place in my heart.  Unfortunately, she has had a difficult year as she faced a traumatic event in earlier in and confided in me.  We’ve written letters back and forth, she has come to visit many times; we’ve gotten very close.  Months ago, in an emotional and honest letter, she told me she was pregnant and was very, very upset with herself for letting it happen.  Since then, her boyfriend has left her, her father has kicked her out of the house and she is now living with her unemployed, alcoholic mother.   Naturally, she is terrified to become a mother, especially when she cannot support this child.  They have virtually no income – her mother gets a monthly government check equivalent to $45 CDN.  And she is worried that she won’t be able to become a nurse, which is her dream.  She wrote her grade 10 exams, fingers crossed she passed, and then she hopes to go back to school in 2013.  And she faces all of this with a huge, gorgeous smile!

 

Ritha and her cousin... look at those smiles!

With some of the donated funds I received before coming to Namibia, I have been able to buy her food monthly, provide her basic toiletries and today she left with bagfuls of stuff (something that is a huge no-no in the world of sustainable development, but I couldn’t let her suffer!).  Watching her walk away today was extremely difficult as I have no idea how she will manage, although I know she will.  I can’t help but wonder what more I could have done to help her, to help them all.

Anyways, it was a wonderful weekend and I have to say, I think I  am ready to leave Namibia!

Witches!

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This is a topic that I have been interested in since I knew I was coming to Namibia and read past volunteer blogs.  All year, I have been trying to collect information on the subject but it hasn’t been easy.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Namibian’s definitely believe in witches and witchcraft.
  • If you are a witch, you don’t admit that you are.
  • In the area that I am living, there are at least two known witches.
  • Witches are active at night and don’t sleep.   Some of my learners have even said that this is why they don’t like going out at night.
  • Witches can put curses on families or individuals.
  • Curses are believed to be the cause of the recent death of a grade 3 girl at my school as well as a grade 8 girl that died last year.
  • Witch doctors are witches who have learned to use their powers to help people.

So many questions!  I have such a hard time wrapping my mind around this topic.

Based on what I have read online, belief in witchcraft is common in many parts of sub-Sahara Africa and more so in the rural areas.  In many areas, witchcraft accusations may be a direct reaction to the increase of AIDS-related illness and death.  Socially, it is much easier for a community to explain death by witchcraft than by AIDS.  Of course, this doesn’t help reduce the spread of AIDS or the belief in witchcraft!

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