Namibia: Baby Steps

The contents of this blog are mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Namibian Government

Someone once said that every great adventure starts with a step. I’m sure I’ve mangled the exact wording, but you should be able to understand the sentiment. Movement forward is progress. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far you move, but moving away from your current position in life is progress.

Progress is an interesting word, it denotes an advancement, a change in position that’s usually or at least anticipated to be positive. But moving forward does not always result in finding yourself in a better position. In fact, it could be pretty much the same as the spot you left, or a whole lot worse.

Joining the Peace Corps, coming to Namibia, and now approaching my first real day at work I find that the house that I’ll call home and the office from which I’ll work for the next two years are not very different than my home in Florida or the office I left when I retired. Just as my Florida house did and still does, my Namibian home needs work. My office offers a computer, phone, and the typical tools one uses to get the details of business done, just as my old office did.

It might seem that I’ve gone through months of training and travelled half way around the world to do and be exactly what I did and was before I started this journey. At least, it may seem so from a casual glance.

Namibia, and more succinctly, Arandis, needs the ideologies of business management and the technical support associated with such in order to grow. There is so much potential here, and a matching desire by the constituency to realize that potential. Everyone is eager for progress, but few know how to get things moving. That’s why the Peace Corps is here, it’s presumably why I’m here.

As I learn more about my intended role in aiding Arandis, I can’t help but feel more than a bit overwhelmed. Where do I start? How do I start? What makes sense and what doesn’t? And while something may make sense to me it may be completely counterintuitive to my hosts, partners, and supervisor.

If there’s one thing I learned in the nine weeks of Peace Corps training, it’s patience, not just with those around me, but also with myself. Our American culture rewards quickness, boldness and efficiency, and frowns on subtlety, measured movement, and the inclusion of all ideas. Here in Namibia progress is measured by consensus and by a holistic yardstick. Relationships are just as important as tasks. So, I must give myself time to observe, learn, and build the relationships I’ll need to get and sustain progress. Take it slow and easy. Baby steps.

To that point (and in an attempt to lightening this post), I made a trip to Swakopmund this passed Saturday. By all accounts it is a touristy seacoast town and what I saw validated those accounts. There are sizable dunes to the south and the cold Atlantic to the west. The architecture has heavy German influences and there are only an occasional reminders that you are in Africa and not some town on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Typical of the architecture in Swakopmund

 There are lots of shops, restaurants and plenty to see. Even the trip in town, which takes about 30 minutes by cab, was captivating.

The terrain in the western part of the Erongo Region is arid. Old mountains seem too tired to rise any further above a nearly barren landscape. Fog from the Atlantic hung thick and low, clinging to the old mountains like white fur stoles draping the sagging shoulders of old women. The combination and contrast of soft fog and harsh rock in the morning light was a photographer’s dream. Expect more photos from this area.

Rossing Mountain draped with fog

The fog also gave the coast a surreal quality.

Fog lifting from the coast

I didn’t get a chance to see the dunes, but then I have two years ahead of me to make that acquaintance.

There’s so much here. I’ll relay to you as much as I can, in baby steps.

Stay tuned.

Vern Seward

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