Happy New Year! I hope everyone is feeling inspired and renewed as we begin another trip around the sun. From a smattering of social media posts, it appears that 2016 received very mixed reviews. We experienced loss and disappointment, but we also hit milestones and had incredible adventures. I, for one, thought it was a great year and while I didn’t make any drastic life changes, I made lots of new friends and Seattle became more of my home than ever.
But that’s about to change.
After the firework smoke settled and new years shenanigans wound down, I realized this is the year I move to a new continent. WHOA. It’s exciting, bittersweet, and scary – all at the same time. While I’m looking forward to making a major life change, so much will change back home while I’m in Namibia for 27 months.
So, this blog is meant to be a means of communication with all my people back home. Please don’t forget about me while I’m gone!
As I begin to tell people about my plans to join the Peace Corps, I’ve gotten your standard “what? when? where? why?” string of questions. Without further ado, I figured I’d field some of those questions here.
Q: What are you doing in the Peace Corps?
I’ve been chosen to serve as a Small Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Volunteer (that’s a mouthful) in the Community Economic Development sector.
Once I’m assigned to a town, I’ll get paired with an organization to work with during my time in the Peace Corps. As I begin to get more engrained in my community, I’ll propose projects that address needs specific to economic development and execute with the support from other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and the org. From what I can tell, the spectrum of potential projects is really broad and can range from working with the government to helping local craftsmen (or craftswomen) market their product to establishing HIV education and protocol in the workplace.
Q: When do you leave?
I leave April 9th for staging in Philidelphia which lasts two days. From there, my group of PCVs flies to Windhoek, Namibia to begin 2 months of training. During this time period, I’ll learn everything from local languages to risk mitigation and more. After training comes the ‘swearing in ceremony’, and from there each volunteer is assigned to their town and begins to fulfill the two-year commitment. The entire process is 27 months long, with one three-week break halfway through my service.
Q: Namibia? Where is that?
Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either. Namibia is on the southwest coast of Africa, and borders South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe (just barely), Zambia and Angola. While training takes place in Windhoek (capital of Namibia), volunteers get placed across the country during assignment and it’s likely that I’ll be the only or one of a few PCVs in my town.
Some fun facts I’ve learned about Namibia so far:
- Its land mass is the equivalent of Spain and Germany combined, but its population is 2 million – the same as Paris. It has one of the lowest population densities in the world, second only to Mongolia.
- Namibia is home to the world’s largest underground lake: Lake Otijkoto.
- It is home to the Namib Desert, the largest desert in the world which runs along it’s Atlantic Ocean coast. Within the Namib Desert is the highest sand dune in the world at 900 ft. tall.
- 80% of the entire country is desert (quite opposite of Seattle, huh?).
- It has the largest Cheetah population in the world – more than 2x that of South Africa.
- Namibia, along with South Africa, was colonized by the German and some towns like Windhoek and Luderitz still contain Germain-colonial era buildings. Because of this, the country was named “German South-West Africa” until 1990 when they became an independent country. Since independence, Namibia has successfully completed the transition from white minority apartheid rule to a democratic society and is considered to have a stable government.
- English is the official language of Namibia, although less than 2% of the population speak it. There are 5 main indigenous languages specific to different regions of the country.
If you’re interested in seeing some amazing pictures of Namibia, try:
Q: Why the Peace Corps? Why Namibia?
I’ve been interested in the Peace Corps for a long time. While it seems pretty far fetched from my current career path in digital marketing, pursuing a career abroad has been a long-time dream of mine and the reason I double majored in Marketing AND International Business. Not only does Western Washington University lead the nation in PCVs for its size, but many of my economics and IBUS professors were RPCVs and spoke very highly of the program.
I ended up applying my senior year in college but decided I should get some “real world” experience before taking off for two years, and I’m honestly glad I did. I’ve learned a lot in my current job and feel like I have a foundation to build upon both abroad and when I return to the US.
At 24 I feel like there couldn’t be a more opportune time. I have very few ties to Seattle and no obligations to fulfill. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE it here. It’s my home. But I feel that even a year from now would be too long to wait. Besides, what better time than the present?
Considering I had no idea where Namibia was, I did not list it as one of my top 3 countries. However, I put ‘wherever I am needed’ as my #3 choice and here we are (Timor-Leste and Peru were my #1 and #2). I was in no way off-put by the idea of moving to Africa but, like the majority Western civilization, was very uneducated about the continent as a whole. After being put under consideration for Namibia and preparing for my interview, I did some serious research, read countless blogs from RPVs that served there, and scoured Reddit for advice. All I found was incredible stories, beautiful pictures, and a supportive community of returned volunteers.
Three months and counting.
When it comes down it, I couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the #Namily (super cheesy hashtag but I love it). It may not have been somewhere I would have chosen for myself, but life has a funny way of getting you to where you need to be. And Namibia is just that.
So, here goes nothing. In three months I’ll be moving 10,000 miles (9,606 to be exact) from home to my new home in Namibia. Wish me luck!