My vacation in Swakopmund provided me with a much-needed break from the routine of village life and, when I arrived back at Olukolo after my four adventure-filled days, I felt ready to conquer three chaotic weeks of exams.
Term one has been a rollercoaster of emotions for sure. There are some days that have dragged on forever and others that seem to have erased themselves from my calendar. At times, I feel so content in my decision to move to Africa that I have to keep reminding myself that the whole experience is real life and not a dream. Yet, there are other times when I curl up in bed with the fan blasting in my face, wanting nothing more than the familiarity of home. Living here has tested my ability to live and work in a new culture in a foreign environment. It has stretched my patience, flexibility and endurance. It has showed me the beauty and tranquility of the countryside and revealed the intense loneliness that arises as a result of having little more to do than stare at the goats and palm trees.
Living in Onantsi has toyed with my emotions, played tricks on my mind and reduced me to someone whose happiness is fully dependent on the minor setbacks and achievements that occur every day.
Despite the challenges that accompany living in rural Namibia, I have come to love the tranquility of my site and the pace of life that surrounds me. I know that, when this year is over, I will miss the soundtrack of bleating goats and mooing cows. I will miss the villagers who walk by my house and greet me everyday with walalapo meme, or the kids at the neighboring primary school who write me letters and linger around my house after school hoping that "miss Erika" will show up and give them a piece of candy.
Most of all, however, I will miss my learners. Over the course of the term, I have gotten to know my students and form relationships with them. I have witnessed their emerging personalities and watched curiosity overcome their shyness in the classroom.
I have relished their successes and felt downhearted by their failures. I realized that much of my happiness during the first term was fully dependent on the performance of my students. If I gave them a test and they did poorly, feelings of frustration and helplessness would invade my thoughts. If they did well, I would be overcome by an overwhelming sense of pride in their achievements.
One of my favorite days in the classroom during my first term of teaching, occurred shortly after I returned to the village from Swakopmund. It was the last day of normal classes before the ordinary teaching schedule would succumb to three dreaded and chaotic weeks of exams and, in honor of April Fool's Day, my school staff allowed all students to dress up for "Funny Day." It was the first time I saw many of my learners without their uniforms and I decided to commemorate the day by setting aside five minutes for pictures at the end of class.
Some students wore their normal clothing.
|8B boys (Petrus, Sakaria, Moses, Shapumba and David)|
|Toini and Annastasia (8C)|
|Group of 8B students (Ester, Jacobina, Timoteus and Anna)|
Despite my the overwhelmingly positive lens through which I view my Namibian experience thus far, I am certainly ready for a break. I need time to unwind, to escape the monotony of Onantsi and to fulfill my overwhelming wonderlust.
Fortunately, the end of term one signifies the beginning of a month-long break from school. It will give me time to relax, to catch up with friends and to explore bits of this diverse and beautiful continent.
Though our travel plans are not yet set in stone, my friends and I have sketched the basic itinerary of our vacation. We are going to spend the first few days in Windhoek at mid-service training with all the other volunteers. At training, we will regroup and recap our experiences so far--sharing stories of our successes and failures and discussing how we can make the most of our remaining two terms.
After mid-service in Windhoek, we are planning on making our way to Maun, Botswana, where we will spend a few days relaxing in the Okavango Delta before traveling to the ancient Shona ruins of Great Zimbabwe. If all goes well, we will continue eastward, to the beautiful Lake Malawi before venturing back to Namibia via the legendary Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park.
The tentative itinerary has the potential to be a wonderful vacation, but we have decided to remain flexible and open-minded about the route.
After all, this is Africa and, if I have learned anything at all in my time here so far, it is that flexibility is paramount and that nothing quite goes according to plan.