There is unmapped territory in all of us.
Last Thursday I was notified by WorldTeach that I had to leave Uis due to the violence and because the PeaceCorp pulled both of their volunteers from the site. The school was notified on Thursday late morning and by the afternoon I had all of my belongings packed and was in a car heading to Omaruru en route to Windhoek.
It is just so amazing how, at any moment, your life can seem normal and in a routine and perhaps mundane…. Then in the next moment, everything can change so drastically. With such short notice, I barely was able to say goodbye to my learners and colleagues. Although, Uis at times, felt like I was trapped in the middle of bush, it was my home and I really did love it. I loved the solitude and being surrounded by the natural beauty of Africa and people who appreciate not who you know, or what you have, but who you are and welcome long talks and wasted afternoons by an open fire with no care except for the company in that moment. People who don’t plan for the next job, next day, what the weekend plans are, but are content with the present.
Now, in Windhoek, I can’t help but miss everything desperately. I was given a choice to be placed in another location in the Erongo region or head home. I thought long and hard about this decision and decided that I must come home, albeit two months early. Now, sitting with this decision I feel almost incomplete. I committed to a year of volunteering and it feels like it was ripped from me. I know living here has taught me a lot about myself but also how to be flexible and to go with where the wind me. However, I can’ t help but feel like I didn’t complete what I set out to do. I didn’t get to immerse myself for a full year without the conveniences of technology and the luxuries of home.
I already miss the learners’ faces and when I did get a chance to say goodbye to a few favorites, I couldn’t help but have tears come to my eyes. I will miss them a lot and know I must return to this magical place.
I just read this quote and loved it..
“When you think you have yourself all mapped out, there’s always an unknown path to appear. Take it.”
I truly can’t believe how fast time flies when you are with family and friends. I had the most wonderful time at home. I got to see nearly all of the people I wanted to with the exception of about five important people. (I promise I will see you in December when I am back for good)!
It was so strange being back in the U.S. after such a long period of time and although I have changed so much, so little had changed at home. Everyone was nearly doing the same things, my Mom was busy as ever running around the grandparents to their various appointments, Jo planning and getting ready for the wedding, and the Chef….well, being the typical Chef. Nothing really changed however I felt completely different. Everything looked different and felt different. Especially in the first week. Everything we appreciate like being able to visit the grocery store whenever we want or running to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks or even meeting a friend last minute at a restaurant around the corner. All things I typically take for granted aren’t available to most people, especially here in Africa. The simplicity of it sounds sort of cockamamie but being so spoiled in my upbringing, I really missed it. I also realize here, we don’t need much. In the U.S. we are so consumed with how everyone looks at you and how you spend your time. Who/where you are and whom you are with takes over why you are doing things. Here, none of the superficial stuff matters. People don’t care if you are wearing yoga pants to the coffee shop (ahem, if there was a coffee shop) or whether you brush your hair perfectly (or not at all in my case..). The most important thing here is family and it’s as simple and raw as it gets.
(Ben and I when he visited Boston)
While I was home, I visited my old office at BIDMC and they donated a whole box of goodies for the kids. Yesterday I gave out a few of the pens and pencils and sharpeners. The kids were thrilled. (Thank you Donna and the team who donated all the goodies for the kids!)
So I thought I would summarize a few things that have changed since I have been away..
- One of my kids, Mathias has been going to my flat every single day and watering “our” (all I did was buy the seeds for him) garden. And now look at it! During the first term, Mathias was the biggest trouble maker in my class, I constantly kicked him out and sent him to the principal’s office. Now he is my second in command in the class. (As my family tells me at home, just one… just one) Maybe this is it?
(We have grown collard greens, cabbage and apparently tomatoes are on their way – hurray!)
2. Loretta. Still amazing.
3. Alyssa, PeaceCorp volunteer is no longer in Uis – sadly. Apparently due to violence in the area the PeaceCorp decided to remove her because of her safety. Sad but true. While I was away I heard that the China shop was robbed and the owner got beaten up pretty badly. Additionally, according to some of my colleagues, a sexual offender that was being held at the local prison in Uis, (population: 300) is now out and about. Excellent.
4. New Principal! I have a new principal and she is wonderful. I returned around 9pm on Wednesday evening and of course hadn’t slept in over 40 hours by that time and the following morning attempted to teach all of my classes. Around 10am, I was beat and went during the break to lie down and by lie down I mean sleep. I tried to get up but literally couldn’t and so I had Loretha tell the principal that I needed to rest. Apparently, she nearly finished Loretha’s sentence and said, “that sweet girl she must be exhausted.” Love her already.
Things that haven’t changed.
- The kids. My favorite kids ran up to me when I arrived and hugged me until I think I turned blue. It was a nice way to arrive. Loretha did nearly the same thing and couldn’t stop smiling saying, “Oh Cummings! You didn’t get as fat as I thought you would.” At least you know Namibians tell you how they really feel.
- 5:45am wake up with Loretha – hmmff.. still hard for me.
- Uis is still so dry and sort of brown. There isn’t much green because the weather yesterday and today has been hitting nearly 95 degrees. You really can’t do much but stay indoors and read or go for a walk fully covered. However, I do have some green in my backyard – hurray!
- Esther, my senior who I adore, while I was at school came into my flat and reorganized and cleaned my whole flat. She used to do this last term sort of unexpectedly and on Thursday while I was at school did the same thing. Even if I am in the flat and perhaps sleeping and she walks in, she will run in and give me a kiss on the cheek. She is as sweet as ever.
- Spiders here are still big.
All in all, I think the adjustment this time around is going to be difficult as I am coming from home versus traveling around Africa as I was in the first term. Since being back I already miss the luxuries of the first world, family, the Chef, daily yoga, and of course the assortment of green food.
Ps. Yesterday a goat was killed outside my flat. There is still blood over the wall. Welcome home.