Olivia Jarrell ’19, Namibia –
I feel as though this final blog post is the equivalent to the inevitable “how was your trip” question that will be asked upon my arrival home: fascinating, frustrating, empowering, challenging… do you have an hour, maybe a few? Describing the past eight weeks in Omaruru is like the domino effect. The depiction of one aspect of life unavoidably triggers the need for an explanation of another; a web of answers weaves into a complex network of stories, characters, and places. We have started our week of lasts: final walks to the schools, goodbyes to teachers and students, and last stops in town. I can’t say that it feels like yesterday that we just arrived nor that it’s bittersweet to have these final moments. Eight weeks sounds about right. But, excitement is what I feel the most when parting with the partners we’ve made. We discuss the past successes and difficulties, talk about potentials for the next years. I envision a growth in the strength and richness of the connections, programs, and daily working here in Omaruru. These were the things that, at times, seemed to be part educated decision, part shot-in-the-dark to Camille and me.
This past week, I was a little all over Namibia. I traveled to Windhoek on Monday to leave for a three-day trip to the Sossusvlei dunes in the southern part of the Namib-Naukluft Desert. I spent five days traveling alone, a well-worth it experience to see one of the most visited places in the country. Through the hundreds of miles traveled on highways and dirt roads, the landscape would change from rocky mountain ranges protruding from the earth to towering banks of sand in shades of orange. Yet, one thing stayed consistent: there was rarely a person or building in sight. Someone could tell me I was traveling on the surface of another planet and I’d readily believe them. On Friday, I met Camille in Swakopmund for our final weekend before we travel back to the capital. Dinner conversations transformed into the “what I was actually thinking” game as we recapped the past two months. I truly don’t think there could have been anybody else I would want to have spent my time here with than Camille.
There are two words for goodbye in Otjiherrero, the language we’ve been learning the past two months in Namibia. The first one is “kaende nawa,” which translates to go well; one says this to a person leaving. “Kara nawa,” is what one would say to a person staying. I like the distinction between the two, a separateness between the different types of goodbyes. When you tell someone to go well, you are just parting with the person. Yet, when you are the one going, it’s not just the other person that you are leaving. It is the experiences, the surroundings, the moments that must be parted with as well. Camille and I head out from Omaruru on Saturday. Not only must we say goodbye to the people who have hosted us with such kindness. We leave the classrooms where students robotically moan-sing “Good morning Ma’am” in simultaneous tone and timing. Camille and I will then proceed to chide them: “just speak to us, regularly, in your own voice.” Speak for yourself; think for yourself. We part with the shebeen music dispersing down to each street corner, roosters crying in the morning, and the brawls between the dogs at night. I know there will be things that do not just stay here in Namibia as I leave. There are moments and sensations that I will carry with me home as well. I wonder what they will be.