Olivia Jarrell ’19, Namibia —
I keep track of the days in the journal I write in each night. Most days were slow in their own way; the space of time between the ringlets of sunrise in the mornings and the apricot glow of a setting sun seemed to contain a week’s worth of hours in just a day. I knew our bodies felt it as well, both physically and mentally. Camille said to me the other day that she stayed up late the previous night. That “late” she was referring to was 11pm- a time that would be early by any college student’s standards, but fairly rare for us to see on our clocks here. Despite the lingering time and obligatory early bedtimes, today is day forty.
I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into when applying and accepting the CPS Fellowship. There was only a list of about ten or so areas of focus we may be involved with. Camille and I were the first Gettysburg students to travel to Namibia for this program. Many questions about my travels to Omaruru from family members were met with uncertainty; I would like to apologize to my parents now for the amount of times they’ve probably heard me say “I don’t know” about a trip that would has put me a twenty-hour plane ride away for two months. However, with this ambiguity came freedom. We could choose the classes we wanted to attend and pursue the opportunities that peaked our interests. This lead us to work with various levels of lifeskills lessons, observe the culture of a classroom, and lead small workshops after school for Si !Gobs students.
So we haven’t just been walking circles around Omaruru: great. Now what? As one of the volunteers we met from the Peace Corps said, “Sustainability’s a bitch.” Maybe put a little too bluntly, it rings true. This past week we’ve had to cancel the debate club at Ubasen Primary after several sessions that our contact teacher would not show up or assist us in organizing the after school program. Camille and I are neither extreme debate enthusiasts nor are we searching for something to fill up our time. What would be the point if after eight short weeks the expiration of the club would come with our departure. Similarly, we are working towards maintaining our connection with the Namibian Ministry of Youth; however, the man we were planning the secondary school workshops with has missed our meetings for the past two weeks. Camille and I await the text from him that comes approximately an hour before our meetings or workshops to tell us he cannot make it.
Despite these challenges, I see the foundation forming. Teachers have approached us asking to host students next year or wonder when we will be returning again; they will greet us as we pass on the streets or in the local grocery store. It is rare that I will walk five minutes in the location without hearing “Ms. Olivia” or “Ms. Camilla” from students that recognize us. I’ve even had gaggles of children just call me “America” in passing. In turn, I will promptly tell them my name is not in fact “America” and they can call me Olivia. We came to build relationships, with teachers, students and community leaders, to lay the groundwork. Now is the time to explore what worked and what didn’t, and there was plenty of both.
This past weekend, Camille and I were at Waterberg National Park, where we camped for the night then hiked to the plateau the next morning. Mike and Tjimanga dropped us off at our Waterberg Wilderness Campsite (emphasis on the wilderness part) later into the night. We had neither matches, a lighter, nor flint to start a fire that would cook the food we brought. At this point, Jeff Probst would be snuffing my torch to tell me I was not the next survivor. They made a fire for us, most likely out of pity. Shortly after they left, Camille and I spent a good fifteen minutes on top of our camp table as we heard an animal approach our site from the surrounding bush. In between the decision to hurdle ourselves onto the small bit of aluminum roofing or make a run for our tent, we went with the later. Fortunately, I live to tell the tale.