Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Day 4 - Travel

It's been a long trip. We started the day getting breakfast at a small dinner across the street at 5:30. After that, we headed to the click for various sticks, draws, and pills. It wasn't until 3:00 that we made it to the airport (after a 3 hour bus ride from Phili to New York).

The international terminal at JFK was really different. There were people from all over the world there, speaking different languages and wearing different clothes. The plane we got on was a huge Boeing 747, with eight seats across and two isles. Myrial traded me seats after overhearing me complain about being stuck in the middle with my long legs. I put up a very pathetic fight, after which I had a window seat the was very comfortable.

We had a stop in Dakar, where we sat for an hour while they loaded food and fuel. I got in three movies: Wedding crashers (funny), Bewitched (bad- didn't make it all the way through it), and The Island (alright). I also played at least an hour of chess against the computer and got through a good chunk of my Stephen King novel.

After a second, 7-hour leg of our trip to Johannesburg we stood in line at passport check, customs, and claims. We met up with our site supervisor who directed us to the hotel and gave me some juicy details.

He said that we will be getting western-style housing with electricity, showers, and toilets- Yeah!! He also said that most towns have internet, and some volunteers pay to have it in their homes!

I still have a group dinner tonight, then tomorrow we're off to Namibia, flying to Windhoek (pronounced vind-hook), then bussing to Omaruru: our home for the next week.


The excitement is finally starting to trickle in. More and more of us are starting to talk about the near future with a tinge of exuberance, replacing the gossipy malaise that seemed to fill the air in between the sharing of our lives with each other.

Shortly after meeting Waldo, our first official PeaceCorps employed Namibia native, and otherwise great man, the information started flowing like sweet wine. First we learned that western-style housing was a near standard for all education and most health volunteers in the southern regions (unlike our northern counterparts who often live in huts with limited electricity). Next we learned that electricity, plumbing and showers were standard. It seemed that elation would have peaked once he mentioned that Internet access would be easy to come by, but when the conversation drifted to the Namibian perceptions of Americans, we hit our high. Not only is the Namibian government a strong and committed partner with the PeaceCorps, sighting this partnership as center to its diplomatic interactions with the US, but the Namibian people have a good and friendly rapport with volunteers. He admitted that it’s the smaller towns that have the best relationships with PeaceCorps volunteers: the larger towns have groups of Namibians who work closely with the volunteers, but some don’t know about the program. Regardless, the news was all good.

Waldo let us know in no uncertain terms that we were going to have great experiences working in supportive communities with friendly people.

As if that weren’t enough to spike our interest and put us in a right mind, our first experience in Africa has been very positive. Our hotel is very nice, and everyone here has gone out of their way to get to know us and extend their friendship. I haven’t seen an instance of negativity since our arrival 12 hours ago! The weather is perfect- near 80 degrees in the evenings with mostly clear skies. The air feels fresh and alive with the plethora of opportunities that await travelers here.

To summarize, we are all in good spirits and excited. I can only imagine that over the next two months we will feed off each other’s positive energy and translate this awesome environment into a truly amazing experience. I can now finally say that I feel something- a moderate but definitive anticipation for what surely will be a great experience.

I want to extend my thanks and appreciation again to my family and friends who have supported me through this decision and experience. It is in the strength of my relationships with you that I am able to do this huge thing. And as life in the next two years starts coming into focus, getting bigger and more pronounced, I feel more ready for it each day. Like any great adventure, crossing into the unknown toward beautiful new horizons; all these journeys begin with one step, then one more after that. My steps are now placed more confidently, and their growing number has started a momentum that will carry me back home two years from now changed and renewed. I can’t wait.