Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Lesson in Serving Others

Often times I forget what it means to serve others. To truely serve someone, selflessly without any gain. Frequently when it comes to helping others out, I have the"I help you, you help me" attitude or I do it because it looks good or because I feel like its obligation. I'm a volunteer. Its part of my job description. Not only that, but God calls us to love one another and serve each other. Unfortunately, it's a lot easier said then done.

Since coming to Namibia, I have struggled A LOT with this. I'm not sure exactly why, but there is probably a long list of influencing factors that I do not care to get into right now. But regardless, it is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. It's very easy to become apathetic, especially when you do not have a set job or when you come up with ideas and people keep telling you they are fantastic, but they won't work or the community won't like it.

However, my heart was opened to what it meant to truely serve others by the means of a little girl named Stephanie.

It was a typical saturday afternoon and I was doing my laundry in the shower room. Now, doing laundry is quite a challenging task. It usually is a few hours process and it involves soaking, scrubbing, risning, more soaking...it just takes forever. And I'm not very good at it! So I was in the middle of this long process when this little girl, who is about 11 pops her head in to see what I was doing. She asks me how I was and then asked if she could help me.

I very enthusiastically agreed to let her help. Without hesistation, she sits down in front of my soapy laundry bucket and starts scrubbing away. I take charge of the rinsing and she starts telling me about her life. She is in grade 6 and lives with her grandma. Her parents and older brother died when she was very young and her grandmother struggles to make ends meet. She goes on to tell me how she can never pay for the full school fees and how she does her neighbors laundry for a little cash.

I think I can see where this is going. Being a foreigner, people frequently think I have a lot of money and constantly ask for it. I explain the best I can that I would love to help, and if I had something to give I would, but since I'm a volunteer I don't make any money and what what what. At the end of my little speech she just looks up at me and says "Miss! No no no I do not want anything. I just wanted to help, that's all!"

It broke my heart. Here is this girl who has hardly anything and all she wants to do is help someone out who clearly is struggling with her laundry. That's what serving people is all about. You want nothing back--you just want to help. Stephanie opened my mind and heart to this and it was a good (and much needed)  reminder to why I am here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

1 Month Down!

 Hi guys!
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I also am sorry I haven’t posted photos either. 1. Internet is slow and Im lazy. And 2. I haven’t taken any photos at site. Just haven’t really had the opportunity to. But I promise I will start taking photos and Ill post photos from training and such soon.
Anyways! I have been officially at site for exactly a month now. Isn’t that crazy!? It feels like I’ve been here longer. All in all, I like the town I live in a lot. It’s a bit hard to integrate into because it’s definitely pretty big by Nam standards, so but I’m hopin I’ll find my niche here soon!
I haven’t been doing a lot lately. I still don’t have a job, so I’ve made it my full time job to work on my community needs assessment packet for Peace Corps. It’s super helpful because it helps me figure out what the community needs, as well as helps me meet a bunch of people from different organizations in hopes to work with some of them in the next few years. While many people have different opinions on what the needs of the community are, there are some underlying themes that I keep hearing about in interviews. So here is what I have been learning from my assessment of the community thus far:

1. Alcoholism a huge problem in the community, and there really is not much support. Many people, in particular the youth, don’t have work or any activities for them to do. There seems to be a general sense of hopelessness amongst many of people, thus it drives them to drink. I’ve been learning too that the underage drinking laws are not really enforced here either. For example, most teenagers can go into a shebeen (kinda like a bar) say they are buying drinks for the parents, and the shebeen owners will sell to them.

2. Poverty and malnutrition. There really isn’t much work here in Mariental and so people do not have any money to take care of themselves or their family. What money they do get, they purchase pap (kinda like a porridge like substance) and meat because you can feed a lot of people for a little bit of money.

3. Lack of activity for the kids and youth: There are not really any after school programs, activities, etc for the kids and youth to do in the community, and so they get into trouble a lot. School drop out rates are high as well as teen pregnancy. I have seen many kids who instead of going to school, spend their days begging for money on the streets outside of Shoprite and other stores in the area.

4. TB and HIV: TB is a huge problem in the community. Many of the people in the location live in small, unventilated housing, which can make TB spread like crazy in an environment like that. People also do not adhere to the medication (it’s about a 6-9 months treatment), thus MDR TB (multiple drug resistant TB) can develop from that. Also, do the many of the things mentioned above, as well as things like multiple and concurrent partners (MCP), are huge drivers of the HIV epidemic in the community. While HIV is pretty low in comparison to other areas of Namibia, it is still a problem in the community.

So, that is what I have been learning thus far. I do not exactly what to do with all of this information, because honestly it gets pretty overwhelming, but I keep trusting and hoping that somehow, someway I can figure out something to do from all of this.

I miss you all very very much. I love you and I promise to get better at updating!

Prayer requests: Some sort of direction, good relationships in the community, that I can learn to seek God in all things.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Site Visit!

Hello hello!

How is everyone!? I hope you guys are good! I’m missing America a lot today. Seriously, I’ve been having terrible food cravings! Taco bells, berries, mac and cheese, cesear salad—everything! Ahh food. If someone wants to send me mac and cheese, I will be perfectly okay with that.

Anyways, enough about that. So this past week I went to my permament site visit where I got to see where I’ll be staying and working for the next two years! I’ll be located south of the capital in a town called Mariental. It’s quiet little town with about 11,000 people in it. It is pretty developed and has all the amenities I need right there. I will be working for the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS). My supervisor is the head nurse for the primary health care and her name is Aletha Shaanika. I will be working closely with Patric Mbala (TB coordinator), Johana (rehabilitation director and on the infection control committee) and Joey (social worker). There are currently 3 other volunteers from previous groups in my town, 1 education volunteer, 1 IT and another health volunteer. Since I am also the major town for the area (Mariental District), I’m the “shopping town” for a few volunteers from my group and other groups, so I will be seeing people quite a bit. Needless to say I am excited.

My job

I honestly do not know my roll or where I fit into the MOHSS yet. I knew when signing up for the Peace Corps that I would need to be self motivated and would not necessarily have a defined role, however I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. To give you an idea on how undefined my job is, here is my conversation with my supervisor.

Me: So what are your expectations of me or things you would like me to work towards over the next few years?

Shaanika: Umm. I do not know, my dear. You just need to go into the community. You will see the problems .You can figure it out from there.

Me:…well can ya point me in the right direction?

Shaanika: Well. No. Just talk to people, you will see you will see.

Me:  Well, okay then!

So yes. My job is very unknown. I do not really have any idea where to begin either, except just doing what she says—getting to know people. My job when I get back to site the first few months will be just going around, meeting people from schools, NGO’s, churches—anyone and everyone who I think I could work with. Then, eventually, I’m hoping a project will somehow develop from that. When I first learned about how little (aka no) direction I had, I was very discouraged. But now I’m kind of excited! The nice thing with the ministry is that it’s super flexible, and they really give me free reign to do whatever I want. I can work with other nonprofits, schools, whatever! So I’m kind of excited to see what I discover


I’ll be staying in the nurse’s home (where MOHSS workers can stay if they want to). Basically I’ll be living in a room smaller than my dorm room and have to sleep, eat and cook there. Not sure how this is going to work, but it will. I’m definitely investing in fold up tables though to double as counters so I can cut things up to cook!


The first few months I’m required to stay with a host family. I’ll be staying with one of the nurses named Hilda Vanwyk. At first, I thought it was going to be me and Hilda. But it turns out it’s me plus 6-7 other people, depending on the day. It was quite a surprise! I like the family a lot, they are very very nice. It’s just a very different dynamic from what I am used to. So it will be me, the mom, dad, my older sister and her friend, her son, and my two younger sisters (15 and 20 years of age).

Story time!

So it was my third or fourth night into my site visit week and I’m getting some water in the kitchen. I hear my sister’s friend call my name and he walks in carrying a giant lamb carcass over his shoulder. It’s completely shaved, gutted and is fully intact minus the fact that it was missing it’s head and feet. He proceeds to just throw it on the kitchen table and goes and watches TV. So I’m sitting in the kitchen, dumbfounded at this giant piece of raw meat on our kitchen table. Then my little host nephew starts to pet the lamb and is grinning at me. I had no clue what to do, so I just sat there and laughed and laughed until finally my brother came and told me he was going to cut the meat now.

That is only a small story to my week of host stay .There are many more but this post is already insanely long. Anyways, I miss you all! Sorry if this doesn’t make sense or flow—it’s late and I am tired. I love you guys and hope you’re making good choices!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First few weeks!

Hello world!
Sorry I haven’t updated in a while. I didn’t have access to internet very much until today! Now I have a magical little device called a 3G stick so I can have 3G wherever I go. Or. If I don’t have 3G access, I can still get regular internet. I think I’m in love. You still have to pay for service (they pay per byte here), but between 1am-5am it’s free happy hour! So needless to say, on the one day a week I can sleep in, I’ll probably be online then to upload photos and such. Win!

Anyways! I am doing pretty good here in Namibia! We have mostly been doing language and other sessions each day. I now can greet, talk about my work (ek is a gesondheidsvrywilliger=I am a health volunteer) and talk about where Im from and go shopping in Afrikaans. I feel like a lot has happened since I’ve last updated so I’ll break it down into sections to make it easy.

Homestay: I finally moved in with my host mother a few weeks ago. Her name is Lorato and she lives in a bright green house in a little town called Veddersdal. She is a teacher at the high school here and has a 16 year old daughter in Windhoek. She is a hilarious woman who is very loud and loves to laugh and tell jokes. I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know her. She always laughs at me because I do not know how to cook, so tonight I made her grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup (neither required much cooking skills). At first, she was quite skeptical about the whole idea—she looked at me like I was crazy when I told her what it was. But she LOVED it. All she did tonight was talking about the grilled cheese. I got 9/10 stars. She took away one because she had to measure out the water for the soup because I didn’t know how much 850 ml was haha.

Culture day: Last Saturday we had our Namibian food culture day. Each language group had to cook different foods depending on the culture their language was from. Since ours was Afrikaans, we had a lot of braai meats (braai is just grilling), roosterbrood (grilled bread—best stuff ever) and some vegetable soup. It was all pretty good! The other groups did some more complicate stuff. For instance, some people had to kill, defeather and cook chickens. Another group cooked goat head. No really. They take the head of a goat and dry it out by the fire for a few hours. Then, you scrape the fur off with a knife and boil it until it gets so soft you can just pull it apart and you eat the whole thing. I scraped off some of the fur, which was rather interesting. There was also oryx, some yummy corn stuff, traditional spinach and amazing little thing called fat cakes (pretty much deep fried bread). That day I ate: goat head, goat brain (actually it wasn’t bad at all—tasted like a very mild meat), chicken intestines (mmm. I could avoid not having this again) and other things.

The Big Week: Next week is the week of two major things: our first LPI (language proficiency test) and our site announcements! I am SO excited/nervous/eager/everything to find out where I am going! Many groups can figure out the general region of where they will be judging by the language they are learning. However, Afrikaans is pretty widely spoken so I have not the slightest idea of where I will go. Needless to say—next Thursday cannot come fast enough! We also have our first LPI, which I am nervous about, but I think it will be okay.

So yeah! Those are the major things going on. Sorry I have been awful at keeping in touch with everyone. I haven’t had much time and when I do I do not have a lot of energy or means to keep in touch. But now it will be much easier. Miss you all and love you!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

PST So far!

Well, after many hours of traveling we finally arrived in Namibia last satuday! We are currently staying in a town called Okandja. It is a small town just north of Windhoek. My first impressions of Namibia: it]s VERY HOT. And it's not even the heat of the summer! I believe I've sweat more in these five days than I ever have in my life.

The first few days we did not do much--mostly hang around, talk, have an occasional lecture and do interviews for medical and site placement. But starting today, we are in full swing training mode.

Our days start bright and early with breakfast at 630 and usually end around 430. The first days or so of training was mostly just going over rules, regulations, etc etc. But tuesday was when exciting things started to happen! We first got our language assignments that we will be learning through PST (preservice training). I got assigned Afrikaans! I am so excited because this was my language of choice! We started learning the language today and let"s just say 4-5 of language classes each day is EXHAUSTING. We've just been covering basic sounds and informal greetings so far, but it's fun.

On tuesday we also met our host family. I will be living with two sisters (?) who are teachers named Lorieto and Sophie.  They both seem very nice and were very excited to finally meet me! I'm not sure exactly how this is working or if they are even sisters. A lot of the times, people will say that "This is my brother or that is my sister" but in reality, tehy arent related at all. Anyways, I BELIEVE they live on a family compound and I will be staying at Lorieto's house. I'm excited for the most part, but I'm nervous about the food to be honest. But I know I will be fine and it will teach me to try new things.

Another thing I've noticed about Namibia is the the bugs are in steroids here. No really. They make any cockaroach I saw in South Africa look like a joke. So far we have seen what we have dubbed "bat moths" (aka moths the size of your hand), a centipede that was a good 6-8 inches long, and a giant grass hopper that was also about the size of my hand. We also saw a chameleon, which was pretty sweet!

So yes, that is my life so far! Friday I move in with my host family and we will go from there.

I miss you all very very much and I love you all!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane..."


I leave tomorrow.

At 5:40pm I will be boarding on an airplane and won't be back probably until April 2012.

UMMMMMM! Crazy much!?

Right now I am feeling a LOT of emotions. Honestly mostly sadness. It feels very. very real now. I love Arizona so much. I love my friends and family there. They have all truly blessed me. I love starbucks. I love Esmerelda (my car) even though she drives me nuts. I miss my doggies.

But I'm excited. My teammates seems awesome so far! A few of us went out to dinner tonight and chatted about everything over some Indian food and I feel like we will all get a long quite well. There are 30 of us going and come from all over the U.S. All of us are health volunteers. Most of us have no health experience. This should be interesting! Thank goodness for training!

So yes. These past few weeks have been a whirl wind of mixed emotions and very, very little sleep. My schedule through sunday:

8:30am check out of hotel
9am: shots! Ouch!
5:40pm: Fly to Jo-burg

Get in to Joburg that night

9:40am: flight to NAMIBIA!
Drive to Andres Training Center (its about 45 minutse away)
Sleep? Hopefully??

Hit the ground running with pretraining interviews.


We'll be moving in with our host family sometime next week. But in the mean time we'll be at the Andres Training Center.

So yes! My life. Or start of it. Wow.

I'm moving to Africa. To Namibia. I've always imagined this. Didn't think it'd ever become a reality. God is good. He's got plans way bigger than mine.

Anyways. I love you all. I miss you. I hope you are making good choices

Until then

Lauren Z.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DC Bound!

It’s crazy to think that a few months ago, I was at Sky Harbor Airport, saying good bye to my family and friends heading to Turkmenistan.

Funny how things change so quickly
After getting dumped by a Turkmenistan (seriously T-stan—the T-18ers were made of win, you give us a chance), spending some time in Phoenix, working at the Gap and hanging out, I’m back in that place again. At Sky Harbor Airport, saying good bye to my friends and family, only this time I’m headed to Namibia.
It’s crazy to think how I almost left the Peace Corps to go to Africa. I don’t know how I was going to do it—but I really wanted to.

I’m glad I didn’t!
I’m many emotions right now that it’s hard to summarize. The short version: I’m THRILLED to go back to one of the places I love most in the world. My heart hurts for leaving behind my family and friends. I’m excited to meet the other Namibia 31 group. I’m nervous/kinda scared for a new job, training, every other detail. What if I don’t like it there? What if they don’t like me? What if I can’t live up to the expectations the Peace Corps have for me? So many details. So much to think about.
But I’ll take it as I come.
I’m excited for this new adventure—this new chapter.
My last stint in AZ was a strange one for me. It was very up and down and a lot more rocky than was expected. I learned a lot about God and myself. To name a few:
I learned that I am human. I have flaws. Lots of them. Well. I already knew this—but I tend to hide them from others and myself. I like to put on a “I’m a pulled together Christian” mask
I’m not
Not even close
That it’s okay to make mistakes. And God expects me to.
I have the greatest friends and family ever. Okay. I already knew this. But these past few months confirmed it.
I need to not be so hard on myself—not put so much weight on myself.
That everything does work out for the greater good—as cliché as that sounds.
I care way too much about what people think of me. Way to much.
That there is a time and a season for everything.
I tend to believe in God easier when things are good, but the moment things get tough, I doubt. A lot.

It’s okay to ask for help.

Never, ever, ever, ever give up.
So yes. That is the short summery. It was a rough couple months. But I grew a lot from it. Eager to learn more.
I’m excited to see how God follows through with the things He started in my heart while in AZ these past few months.
And I’m ready to go back to one of the places I love most in the world—Africa.
I’ll miss Arizona a lot. A lot. I’ll miss my family and friends a lot. A lot. I already miss them already actually.

But I’m excited to make new friends, meet new people, and experience new things.

So with that said—bring it on Namibia! I’m ready for you!
Hopefully this time I’ll leave the U.S.
Sorry this is a short blog. And kinda vague. I promise I’ll be more detailed in my future ones.