January 3, 2004: Headlines: COS - Namibia: PCVs in the Field - Namibia: Photography - Namibia: Training: Personal Web Site: Jonathan in Namibia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Namibia: Peace Corps Namibia : The Peace Corps in Namibia: January 3, 2004: Headlines: COS - Namibia: PCVs in the Field - Namibia: Photography - Namibia: Training: Personal Web Site: Jonathan in Namibia

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Jonathan in Namibia

Jonathan in Namibia

Jonathan in Namibia

For two years, I'm in Namibia with the United States Peace Corps working as a teacher trainer. I visit schools, observe teachers and present workshops, help operate an education resource center, and support HIV/AIDS education. And when the workday's finished, there's plenty of fun.

January 3, 2004

I met this group of forty-six on October 21 in Philadelphia. We suffered three days in a stuffy banquet room in the basement of the University Sheraton learning what not to do in the Peace Corps and imagining the dusty villages and big skies of Africa. We took two charter busses to New York City and flew out of JFK, over the Atlantic, into the southern hemisphere, through Jo’burg, and touched down in Windhoek.

For seven of the past twelve weeks, I’ve lived, worked, and socialized with this group. Five of the twelve weeks I lived with a host family and saw my colleagues less frequently. But for the other seven weeks, I’ve seen each person everyday, and spent almost every minute of everyday within speaking distance of someone (or within spitting distance, some days). My time alone has been limited to an hour or two at a stretch, during a long jog or while napping under a tree along the riverbed.

Some of the forty-six of us have left. (I must take a moment here to remember #47, Henry Fung, who never even made it to Philly. Are you out there, Henry?) Jack and Cindy are back in the Midwest somewhere, and Dani is back in Connecticut. Having learned more about the Peace Corps and Namibia, and maybe more about themselves, they decided this wasn’t the right place or time for them. Jessica went home to Colorado after a reaction to the malaria prophylaxis that most of us take. And Tricia went back when love called her home to Kentucky.

There are a few more women than men in our group. Most of us are in our twenties, a few are in their thirties, and there are six people who were old enough to vote when President Kennedy formed the Peace Corps in 1961. John and Jim, two of these older guys, served as Peace Corps Volunteers in the past. Before John left for Ethiopia in 1963, Kennedy himself spoke at the departure ceremony. Jim continues paying school fees for a child he meet during his service in Ghana several years ago.

Our group shows a sampling of America’s diversity. Erfan and Shahram, two of my roommates during training, were born in Iran. Kiwan’s family is from the Caribbean. Amona is African-American. Ravi, who’s asked me to join him as Elvis in the upcoming un-talent show, is part Indian. As far as I can tell, everyone else in our group marks the same racial categorization box as me.

What’s really impressive, though, is the number of states we represent. Washington, California, Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Florida, and New York are just a few. In these far apart places I find connections to my own life. Marie went to college a few blocks away from my father’s childhood home in Geneseo, New York. Jon lived in the same part of Kansas where my mother grew up. Jason was born just three hours’ north of where I was born, and just ten hours after me. Since all of us had the same Peace Corps/Namibia packing list as we prepared for this adventure, and we receive the same daily allowance while we’re here (N$50, about US$7.50), our economic backgrounds are obscured. We can’t use the usual material indicators to categorize each other. So in terms of social equality, we’re more American here than we would be if we were actually in the U.S.

Being in training is like standing in the doorway of Namibian culture before stepping inside. We’re shifting our digestive system into carnivore mode. We’re struggling to become conversational in either Afrikaans, Otji-Herero, or Damara/Nama (a click language). We speculate how our experiences in the American schools will help us work in Namibian schools. We hang out with our Namibian training staff and wonder if we’ll find people like them at our permanent sites. But we haven’t entirely left America. I’ve watched Fresno State (my hometown team!) beat UCLA in the Silicon Valley Football Classic on TV, I’ve improved my own ability to catch on over-the-shoulder pass, and I’ve sat in a circle of friends with drums and guitars singing Paul Simon songs into the night. I’ve never seen such a concentration of Nalgene water bottles in one place except for the shelves of REI stores, and never enjoyed watching CNN as much as when I’ve watched it with Erfan and Shahram, who are irreverent in voicing their opinions of the reporting on the Middle East.

With so much time together, you can imagine we venture into just about every conversation topic known. We speak carefully about “ETs” (people who “early terminate” their Peace Corps experience), and it seems we’re a little more reluctant to discuss certain personal issues than we would be if the group weren’t so contained. Occasionally we indulge in escapism, discussing what's great about where we came from, where we’re thinking of resettling after service, and what we’ll do when we finish our two years and suddenly find the $6,000 “readjustment allowance” in our bank accounts. Some are thinking of a pan-African vacation, a few are talking about biking across America, and I’m imagining a bus tour around the U.S. visiting fellow volunteers and reconnecting with family.

Spending so much time with this group for so long has had some hurdles. It can be difficult to always present an enthusiastic self, difficult to maintain an engaging conversation without being interrupted, and the path to romantic bliss looks much thornier with so many people on the sidelines. I knew that coming to Africa would help me to better live communally, but I didn’t think that experience would occur with a group of Americans. The most important lesson I’ve learned is that spending quality time alone is more about enjoying what I’m doing when I’m by myself than just distancing myself from other people. This will be important to keep in mind as I teach my over-energetic self how to relax in a place where time moves slowly.

On January 9, forty-one of us will swear-in for two years as Peace Corps volunteers. I am excited about the professional challenge of helping teachers here. I wonder about the San (bushmen) communities, their plight as a marginalized culture, and how I can help the mobile schools that follow them in their migrations around this region. I’m envision the elephants and giraffes in Etosha National Park and trying to picture myself walking with new friends through the location in Tsumeb. Even with what I see on the horizon, I know that training will be a memorable part of my Peace Corps experience. As I prepare to begin my service, I am thankful for what I’ve already experienced, standing in the doorway between America and Nambia.

When this story was posted in February 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The Peace Corps Library Date: February 7 2005 No: 438 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in over 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related reference material in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can use the Main Index to find hundreds of stories about RPCVs who have your same interests, who served in your Country of Service, or who serve in your state.

Make a call for the Peace Corps Date: February 19 2005 No: 453 Make a call for the Peace Corps
PCOL is a strong supporter of the NPCA's National Day of Action and encourages every RPCV to spend ten minutes on Tuesday, March 1 making a call to your Representatives and ask them to support President Bush's budget proposal of $345 Million to expand the Peace Corps. Take our Poll: Click here to take our poll. We'll send out a reminder and have more details early next week.
Peace Corps Calendar:Tempest in a Teapot? Date: February 17 2005 No: 445 Peace Corps Calendar:Tempest in a Teapot?
Bulgarian writer Ognyan Georgiev has written a story which has made the front page of the newspaper "Telegraf" criticizing the photo selection for his country in the 2005 "Peace Corps Calendar" published by RPCVs of Madison, Wisconsin. RPCV Betsy Sergeant Snow, who submitted the photograph for the calendar, has published her reply. Read the stories and leave your comments.

February 19, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: February 19 2005 No: 449 February 19, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
NPCA Board positions are open for nomination 17 Feb
Mike Tidwell on trial for climate action protest 17 Feb
Katie Dyer is co-owner of Cadeaux du Monde 16 Feb
Cyclone misses Tonga and Samoa PCVs 16 Feb
Phil Hardberger in debate for Mayor of San Antonio 16 Feb
Edmund Hull is Princeton Diplomat-In-Residence 16 Feb
Bruce Greenlee is longtime friend of Latino community 15 Feb
Mike Honda new vice chairman at DNC 15 Feb
Jospeh Opala documents slave crossing from Sierra Leone 14 Feb
Dear Dr. Brothers: Aren't PCVs Hippies? 14 Feb
Joseph Lanning founded the World Education Fund 14 Feb
Stanley Levine draws Marine and Peace Corps similarities 14 Feb
Speaking Out: JFK envisioned millions of RPCVs 13 Feb
Chris Aquino visits mother's homeland of Vietnam 12 Feb
Is PCOL blocking users from posting messages? 12 Feb
JFK Library opens Sargent Shriver Collection 1 Feb
RPCV responds to Bulgaria Calendar concerns 28 Jan

WWII participants became RPCVs Date: February 13 2005 No: 442 WWII participants became RPCVs
Read about two RPCVs who participated in World War II in very different ways long before there was a Peace Corps. Retired Rear Adm. Francis J. Thomas (RPCV Fiji), a decorated hero of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, died Friday, Jan. 21, 2005 at 100. Mary Smeltzer (RPCV Botswana), 89, followed her Japanese students into WWII internment camps. We honor both RPCVs for their service.
Bush's FY06 Budget for the Peace Corps Date: February 7 2005 No: 436 Bush's FY06 Budget for the Peace Corps
The White House is proposing $345 Million for the Peace Corps for FY06 - a $27.7 Million (8.7%) increase that would allow at least two new posts and maintain the existing number of volunteers at approximately 7,700. Bush's 2002 proposal to double the Peace Corps to 14,000 volunteers appears to have been forgotten. The proposed budget still needs to be approved by Congress.
RPCVs mobilize support for Countries of Service Date: January 30 2005 No: 405 RPCVs mobilize support for Countries of Service
RPCV Groups mobilize to support their Countries of Service. Over 200 RPCVS have already applied to the Crisis Corps to provide Tsunami Recovery aid, RPCVs have written a letter urging President Bush and Congress to aid Democracy in Ukraine, and RPCVs are writing NBC about a recent episode of the "West Wing" and asking them to get their facts right about Turkey.
RPCVs contend for Academy Awards  Date: January 31 2005 No: 416 RPCVs contend for Academy Awards
Bolivia RPCV Taylor Hackford's film "Ray" is up for awards in six categories including best picture, best actor and best director. "Autism Is a World" co-produced by Sierra Leone RPCV Douglas Biklen and nominated for best Documentary Short Subject, seeks to increase awareness of developmental disabilities. Colombian film "El Rey," previously in the running for the foreign-language award, includes the urban legend that PCVs teamed up with El Rey to bring cocaine to U.S. soil.
Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Namibia; PCVs in the Field - Namibia; Photography - Namibia; Training


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