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This passed week may not have been the busiest week I’ve had in Namibia so far, but it certainly was the fullest. Let’s see…
We kicked off the week hosting a 4-day Small Business Workshop that was so well attended that we literally had standing room only. I was expecting 20, maybe 30 people showing up, to my surprise we had well over 50! And people kept coming!
Better still, the folks we hosted found the information we presented useful according to the feedback we got.
I have to say that though the Peace Corps group I’m in is small by group standards ( there are usually 30 or more volunteers per group, there are only 14 in our group) my teammates are exceptional people! The Peace Corps did an excellent job picking these folks and I count myself extremely lucky to be among them. The presentations I’ve seen and was part of would have been well received anywhere in the world.
The workshop sessions were in the mornings from Monday through Thursday. Our afternoons were fill with language studies and other cultural information sessions. Friday, however, was different. That was the day we ( the trainees) learned our duty assignments.
As you might imagine, the days leading up to Friday was so full of anticipation that it was hard to focus on the job or study at hand, and our trainers seem to enjoy stoking our emotions. The morning sessions on Friday covered the site selection process, which is pretty involved. I knew the Peace Corps provided our housing at our assignment sites, but I didn’t know how much went into it.
When you think about the places that Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) wind up images of mud huts, thatched roofs and dirt floors may come to mind, and there certainly are some of that, but each location is check 5 ways to Sunday for safety, access to clean water and so on. So, a PCV could be living in the aforementioned hut while another PVC in the same country might have more modern accommodations complete with indoor plumbing, electricity and even WiFi!
Every one of the 14 in our group would care less whether we wound up in huts. We are here to help and the best way to understand what is needed is to become part of our environment. That means we must live as the people we are here to serve live. So, for example, if we need to train local women whose families have historically lived off of raising cattle in the nuisances of business management it is better received if we do so by going to where they live, living as they do, understanding their lives in intricate detail before we teach anything.
Back to Assignment Friday. There apparently is a tradition, at least in Peace Corps Namibia, where there is a small ceremony when assignments are revealed and that tradition was carried forward on Friday. The trainees are all blindfolded and stood before a large outline of Namibia. Placards with the names of our assignment sites are placed in the approximate geographical locations within the outline. Then the trainees are all led to their assigned placards and handed an envelope. Blindfolds are removed and everyone learns where they will spend their 2 years of service all at once.
It was a lot of fun, and everyone was happy with his or her assignment. I would up Arandis, a small town near the west coast of Namibia built by an Australian mining company in the late 70s to house the uranium miners and their families. I don’t know the details of my job yet, but I do know I’m replacing a PCV who is transitioning out.
In one of the sessions leading up to our assignment ceremony it was stressed that regardless of our assignment description it is actually up to each PCV to define his or her job for the next 2 years, and we are encouraged to take on secondary assignments, especially in areas that may need addressing, but may not be currently getting enough attention. AIDS/HIV awareness is one. Though great strides have been made in controlling the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Southern Africa the disease is still present and spreading. Education is a key tool in reducing the spread of the disease and that is one area the Peace Corps has historically helped.
So, whatever my primary duties are, I will likely take on other projects while in Arandis. I will, of course, write more about this later.
After our assignments were revealed our trainers turned us loose early to allow for some much needed celebration. Many of us wound up at a local sabeen (bar) and had a few beers while chatting about our assignments. It was an exceptional day and evening, and one of the best I’ve had since coming to Namibia.
Today (Saturday) our trainers sponsored a “team building” event at a local spa called Gross Barman. It’s a hot springs made into a resort with cookout spots, pool and other amenities.
We had a blast!
Steaks, chicken, sausage, kabobs and more. We ate and played until we were full of it all. What a great way to end a great week.
Ok, getting tired and need to sleep. This really is an adventure.