8/13/12

Reflections from the Edge of my Bed

Cake

"I feel like if I can live and teach in a foreign country as the only outsider in a small rural village, what in the world can’t I do?"
When WorldTeach volunteer Michael Hart arrived in Namibia, he wasn't sure what he had gotten himself into. Now, as Michael prepares to depart Namibia, he can't imagine what his life would have been like had he not seized this opportunity abroad. Read on to discover what volunteering abroad meant to Michael and how the experience changed his outlook on life. Thanks for sharing, Michael!
My last night in Ongenga; I sit on the edge of my bed in my empty room again. The same way I started my journey here. Although the last time, I was on the verge of a breakdown as I had my first moment alone in my new house and knew there was no way I could live here for two months. On this day, I can’t get over how much I have grown and changed. If you had told me on that first day that I would be uneasy about leaving and actually wanting to stay even longer, I would’ve said you were crazy. I have come so far from counting the days left with excitement to actually counting the days down with a whirlwind of speed and hoping time would just slow down a bit in Ongenga.
The time here has absolutely flown by yet looking back on first days here seems like so long ago. I didn’t notice a huge change in myself because everything happened over time, but looking back I can’t get over what I have accomplished and what all I have done here. The most superficial change is in the way I was able to cope with my living situation. I literally looked around my house on the first day and had no idea how I could possibly live like this, let alone enjoy it at all. Now, I have gotten so used to everything that it has become a way of life.
Another drastic change is my attitude. My attitude about numerous concepts has morphed over time. The first and most obvious is just my outlook here. My first few weeks I tried to think positive but overall my attitude was just “get through another day, and you’re closer to being home again.” After I was able to make the full transition and really get comfortable in this environment, my entire mood changed. I no longer slept until the last possible minute each day, often times arriving to school late if I didn’t have to teach a class right away. I instead, became excited each morning and was usually the first to arrive.
I got to know my learners better and they kept me wanting to come back for more. During orientation another volunteer said “she expects to learn more here than she teaches.” She could not have been more right. Although I hope I imparted some computer knowledge to my learners, I am certain that what I have gained is far greater. I have a whole new sense of myself, others and the world around me. I am feeling more confident than ever. I pushed myself into an uncomfortable place and came out victorious. I feel like if I can live and teach in a foreign country as the only outsider in a small rural village, what in the world can’t I do?
I used to think everyday as I looked around that I can’t imagine living in this place for ever. I used to think, at least I get to go home to U.S. after this. I almost found myself pitying them. Now, I have a whole new outlook on these people. There are many times where I actually envy their lifestyle. They have reached a point of happiness that very few in the United States will ever see. It’s not all about material things and how much each person makes, but how you spend the time. They spend their time with the ones they love. They have some of the most unforgettable memories with nothing more than a small boombox and a flat sandy area. These people have mastered true happiness and I for one have learned a lifelong lesson from having the pleasure of spending a summer with them. Of course there were hardships along the way, but overall as I look back on my time here, I am filled with happiness and so appreciative of everyone who helped make it happen.
I couldn’t have selected a better way to spend my last day. I started the day with an email saying a late matching grant had been put in my WorldTeach account. Since I was in country already, the money can only be spent on a community or school project. With only one day to figure something out, I asked around. Ongenga J.S.S. has been trying to build a hall for a few years now where they can have school and community assemblies. They are in the fundraising stage so a little extra push would go a long way. I decided that would be the most good I could do with the money. I arranged for the donation to go to the Hall fund (and a little plug for it to be named the Mr. Mike Hall)
I rode into town with two teachers in order to go to an ATM to get the money out. The teachers had some errands to run as well. The whole morning was spent buying the necessary supplies for my surprise going away party as they tried to distract me as they purchased items. (My favorite was as they were ordering the cake and she brought it out for them to check it, one teacher just points to the far corner of the grocery store and says, “Look at those potatoes…they are so cheap”) I couldn’t help but laugh, because I knew exactly what they were up to, but I was so in awe of all the effort they were going to.
We returned and we had a little time to kill before they “needed me back at the school” Finally all the teachers returned to school and we had a blast. They had a full braii for me complete with chicken, beef and sausage. The traditional porridge, plenty of drinks and a huge cake that said “Tangi Mike” or “Thank You Mike” for those of you don’t speak Oshiwambo. We played music and danced the whole afternoon and into the evening. As I said it was the perfect way to say goodbye to the teachers.
Braii
DJ
Eating

Dance1
Dance2
After it started winding down about four other teachers and I went to a bar to have a few more drinks and say our last goodbyes. The principal and some other colleagues said some really nice things about my work here and it made me feel that much better about what I have accomplished. Eventually, I made it home and had to start the dreaded task of repacking my things. For how much stuff I got rid of, I still feel like I am bringing back a lot of things. Joseph stopped by to give me his address and I of course had lots of extra food items and miscellaneous things to give him.
All the goodbyes were hard today and I know that when the car pulls out of Ongenga I will have a hard time. I love it here, but realistically I am not sure I will ever make it back. I hope that is not the case and it will work out to at least visit this wonderful country again. I would love to share some of my experiences here with some loved ones first hand.
I am forever in debt to the country of Namibia and the village of Ongenga for making me a better person and helping me see exactly what I am capable of when I push myself. I am coming home someone I am truly proud of and that is something that no standard classroom can teach you.
If you're interested in volunteering abroad, consider applying to WorldTeach's Namibia program! For more information, visit this link. If you have further questions feel free to email us at info@worldteach.org or give us a call at 857.259.6646.

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