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There is no dirt here

There is no dirt here
29 -30 October 2002

Tuesday Night (Ongwediva)

What can I write? I am in Africa! Everything is so different here that I cannot for one moment forget where I am. But I still feel as though I am not really here; I am just looking at pictures out of a National Geographic magazine. On our eight hour bus ride from Windhoek (the capital) to  Ongwediva in the North, we saw ostriches, a baboon, lots of cows (on the road), and plenty of donkeys and goats. In our courtyard here at the training center, there is a giant millipede curled up like a snake. In the women’s bathroom we have a spider with a 7 cm. diameter. In our room, Zac and I have our very own pet spider. I make Zac tap on the wall whenever it gets too close to the bed-then it scurries back over to the door. We sleep under a mosquito net, so I tell myself that it protects me from the spiders as well.

There is no dirt here — only sand. I still can’t get used to seeing trees grow out of the sand. They have beautiful trees here. One kind is full of purple flowers and there are barely any leaves. The other that is exceptionally beautiful has bright green leaves and bright red flowers. These trees were brought up here from the south and planted — so they are only in landscaped areas — like around our compound or in parks.

On the bus ride up here, the main color that stood out was yellow. The grasses are all yellow. I’m not sure yet if it is just because I am new here so I am more aware of it, but it just seems that the land here is much more dominating. It seems to be a bigger part of life here. Perhaps because it is so flat and so vast and so little inhabited. When there are not buildings everywhere, the land seems so much more immense.

Wednesday Morning

I wake up to a bright blue sky with a few scattered clouds illuminated by the sun. Could it get any more beautiful here? I guess I should stop romancing the country and begin telling you some details.

Of the people here, I still know very little. We will move into our host family’s house on Friday, so I will tell you all about that in the next letter.

But here is what I do know:

Weather: So far it has been very pleasant. The mornings and nights are cool (60 to 70 F) and the days are hot (90-100 F.) But it is a really dry heat so if you are in the shade and/or there is a nice breeze (which there usually is) it is very comfortable. I think we are at the beginning of the rainy season, so they tell us, we are indeed enjoying nice weather–in other words, it will get much worse.

Roads & Transport: The roads here are very nice. Since it is an arid climate and the roads never freeze and they never put salt on them, I would imagine they don’t require much maintenance. We drove for 8 hours from Windhoek to Ongwediva on a well-paved road. There is virtually no traffic, and the drivers do not appear to be crazy. It actually seems fairly well organized. They drive on the left side of the road here. I asked Zac to describe the cars here, and he said the best description was “the cars are like the ones you’d see in a high school parking lot” that is — kind of junky and pretty small. There are some SUVs here, but they are actually used for off road travel — like on the Safaris.

Clothes: People here dress in the African version of western dress. Some have the more traditional dresses on, but then some of the younger girls look like they stepped out of a Britney Spears music video. People do tend to dress up more here, as it is a sign of status and respect. I have been wearing long skirts here everyday — and I feel like it is a big handicap. I can’t walk as fast if it is not loose at the bottom, I can’t climb over things, I have to sit “ladylike” and proper all the time. I think the oppression of women can all be traced back to their having to wear dresses and skirts. I’m sure I’ll get used to it though.

Our Daily Routine: We get up at 6:30 am and breakfast is at 7:00 am. We go to the dining hall where we eat toast, eggs, cereal, tomatoes, cream of wheat and other things like that. Since we are at the training center all our meals are prepared for us — and they make the food a little more Americanized for us. At 8:00 am our training session begins. We meet in the “conference room” which is just a big room with chairs in it. Right now we are mainly doing our medical training (“How Not to Die in Namibia 101”) and some cross-cultural training. We will begin our language and technical training next week. At 10 am we have a break for tea. Then resume training. 12:30 p.m. is lunch time. For lunch yesterday we had rice, corn, chicken, and red beets. Then we train again until dinner. Out training is done by Peace Corps staff in conjunction with the host country nationals. 6:30 p.m. is dinner. Last night we had spaghetti, breaded fish, peas and a cucumber and tomato salad. After dinner is free time.

This is all I’ll write for now because I need to go eat breakfast and they’re taking the mail in at 8:00 am.

 Love Sera

click here for photos from training at the Rural Development Center

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