Here’s an update from Jen White, a writer working with Peace Corps in Namibia. I hope what she says challenges you and causes to consider what you would do in her shoes.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin
Once a week or so I wander over to one of the light switches, lean absent mindedly against the wall and flip the switch a couple of times … just in case. Everything is, after all, wired and ready to go, and every week they say it will be here next week. Maybe they hooked up the electricity and forgot to mention it. I’ve heard that the definition of insanity is to repeat the same act and expect different results. So I wonder what the difference is between insanity and hope.
“I wonder what the difference is between insanity and hope”
April took her sweet time escorting me to May, but now I have finally arrived at the much needed school holiday. A month to go and to do whatever the wind and my whims might suggest. And a month to reevaluate what I deem to be success at the end of this year. So far, in these updates, I’ve tried to focus on Africa, Namibia and the kids. Rightly so. But in the meantime, Jen has sometimes struggled to keep it all together. This month, especially, was a challenge.
I couldn’t put my finger on one particular trigger – ha! That is, one particular cause of my discouragement, mild depression, and disinterest. There were the personal health concerns, the inconsiderate, selfish and weasly colleagues, the disheartening daily encounters, the disappointing Term 1 results and the departure of my closest friend back to the States all combined to make me a bit on edge.
Frankly, I was quite confident that I didn’t want to be here. There are many, many different African cultures (almost 10 alone in Namibia) and I look forward to encountering some of them during the upcoming vacation. The Oshiwambo culture of northern Namibia, however, is not easy to embrace. They are, as a rule, unaffectionate, unappreciative, distrusting, and discriminatory (toward tribes and races). I wish this weren’t my opinion as well as theirs. My sustenance is the exceptions to the daily affirmations of this unfortunate rule. Exceptions like many of my students, like the smiling, wise old woman whose kindness is unwavering, and like the man who gave me a ride to town and shocked me into speechlessness when he said “Thank you for coming here. Thank you for helping.”
“But I realize that is not a sustainable lifestyle.”
You see, I didn’t want to be here anymore and, being the young, impulsive, result-driven American that I am, when I don’t want to do something – I don’t. And vice-versa. But I realize that is not a sustainable lifestyle. I realize that to grow up I have to suck it up. Because, as I keep having to remind myself, this is not about me.
When my friend Dia had to return to the States, she was heartbroken. I was jealous. The hardest part for her, of course, was telling her students that she was leaving.
“Now we’re definitely going to fail!” a few cried.
“Who will teach us now?”
“But Miss, I don’t want another teacher this color,” one girl said, pointing to herself. “They’re all selfish!”
But, soon enough, they resigned to reality and returned to what they were doing.
“Really, they weren’t that upset,” my friend told me. “That’s the worst part. They’re used to disappointment.” When it comes down to it, I don’t want to be just another adult reinforcing this rule.
Anyway, I’m doing better now and I’ve regained my focus. I’ve also developed some coping mechanisms, like nightly jogs with Prudence through the vast fields of “mahangu” (which resembles corn), African dance class in town on Wednesdays, and writing every evening at the village shop rather than holed up in the house. As I spend the next month traveling across the continent to Tanzania, I’ll also have some time to clear my head before I get it back in the game.
I truly appreciate everyone on the other end of these messages. Thank you for being so supportive, I need it.
As my students say, Peace In.