001_Travel to Namibia

Post Title: 001_Travel to Namibia
Written Date: 15/04/19
Posted Date: 15/04/26

Today is April 19, Sunday, and the first time I’ve had a good opportunity to sit down and write something that is more than a few random thoughts. The first several days it was almost impossible to find a few minutes to even drop a note onto the page. More on that later. But we only have internet access (at least for now) through an “internet café” in town that is only open certain limited times, NOT including any time on Sunday (today) which we found when we walked about 1.5 miles or so to get there. I’ll be able to measure the distance another time. SO… I’m sitting the the “dining hall” of the compound we are staying in the first week, writing this in Word to be able to post/blog it first time I have a chance to get on the internet. But it may be a few days.

I was widely requested before leaving to provide some structure of a travelogue of the trip over, so this first major post will be kind of dull for the most part. Cultural notes start in posting #2.

My extended family all drove me to Oakland Airport on Sat AM early to put me in the tender clutches of Southwest Airlines to Baltimore – uneventful – where I spent a couple days with two really good friends that split their time between Baltimore and Sausalito. It was delightful, and the first night there the owner of their favorite restaurant stopped by the table to chat. Xenos is a very interesting, charming, and thoughtful man who has known my hosts for over 30 years. And I am happy to say that I have an open invitation to stop by on my way back into the United States, whenever that happens, to swap stories and spend the afternoon and evening drinking too much in his bar! I consider his offer to be very genuine, and plan to take him up on it.

Monday morning my hosts drove me to Philadelphia because they were going to visit friends there. Turns out the time to get me to the train station, take the train, and then get transportation to the hotel would have taken about the same amount of time as them driving all the way, and I didn’t have to lug 100 lbs of luggage and a heavy backpack!! THANK YOU! And I hope you had a good visit in Philly.

At the hotel, the 31 of us in my Namibia Peace Corps contingent (Group 41), introduced ourselves to each other and got “official” at noon when we registered with the normal amount of paperwork. In the afternoon and early evening, we had a series of presentations on what we were signing up for, and what the Peace Corps was expecting from us. Overall, it was very well done. The presenter was the Desk Officer for three countries in Africa (but not Namibia), and it was her first SOLO facilitation of a staging program for a group. The guy with her said this was his FIFTIETH facilitation, and he is the desk officer for Namibia and two other countries in Africa. Again, it was very informative, well run, and these folks clearly knew what they were doing and what they were talking about.

Then we (the volunteers of Group 41) went out for dinner and caught as much sleep as possible before meeting in the lobby at 2:00 AM to check out and get on a bus! Most of us got 3-4 hours of sleep, or less.

Then a bus ride right through Manhattan to JFK Airport, several hours of sitting around before we could even check in, then several more hours before boarding.

Personal story – I was certain my cell phone had been lost disembarking from the bus in JFK. Oh well – just the first of unexpected events that are expected on a venture like this. It turned up, later, in my bags in an unexpected place found while I was madly searching for my passport, which I had also lost track of. Sigh…

My group of 31 people (was 32, but one person was unfortunately medically disqualified at the last minute – very disappointing!) is made up of 6-7 people 50+ (“older” volunteers, of which I am the oldest at 65), probably 10-12 in the 23-24 or less age range, and the remainder scattered through the age ranges. 13 of us are in the CED (Community and Economic Development) Sector (translate: business), and 18 are in the Health Sector. There are also Education Sector volunteers in Namibia, but none in our group.

Part of the program on Monday afternoon was designed to help us get to know each other, and it worked. With that, dinner, and the HOURS and HOURS waiting on the bus and for the flight, we got to know each other fairly well by the time the flight departed at noon(ish) on Tuesday from JFK.

South African airlines – 14+ hour flight, uneventful, and as comfortable as that kind of thing can be any more. Disembarked in Johannesburg, and the normal waiting for the flight to Namibia. A few of us decided to follow each other and cleared through passport control only to find that we didn’t need to, so had to go through security, and passport control, again! At least we already started filling up our passports! In and Out of South Africa in one hour! Cool. We all changed into “casual business” clothing, and sat around various cafes until the flight departed almost five hours later.

It was about a 2 hour gate to gate flight, landed in Windhoek, and that’s when the photo was taken of our group when we first arrived in Namibia! Then another bus ride (1.75 hours) to Okahandja (North East of Windhoek) with everybody staring out the windows looking for Giraffes! All we saw were a few wild monkeys, and half the bus fell asleep for the last half of the trip.

We were dropped off at a “compound” around a Lutheran Church where we are living, dormitory style, until Wed of next week when we move in with families in the area to learn the customs and languages. When we arrived at the church area, we were greeted by a row of Namibians singing – and these folks REALLY know how to sing! What a welcome – we felt Africa all around us! It was very moving.

OK, that gets us into Africa/Namibia, and concentrated on the facts.

All of us in the group have said we get emotional at time realizing we are actually in Namibia, in Africa, starting on a truly daunting venture! Those thoughts and experiences will be the subject of future blogs. Thanks for making it all the way through this “factual” recitation.

More in the next post!

Andy

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