How do I even begin to explain how the past ten days have been? Since stepping out from the airplane onto the land that will, for all intents and purposes, be my home for the next eleven months, every day has been a flurry of learning about Namibian geography, culture, people, and of course, how to be an effective teacher. During the days, it feels like we’ve been here a month with all the learning we’ve been doing, but every night, I still feel like I just emerged from the Airbus because every time I look up at the massive and breathtaking African sky, I’m reminded that I’m actually here, in this place I’ve always dreamed about, but pushed to the back of my mind because it was “over there.”
For me, Africa has always held this sort of mysterious beauty, at parts bleak and at parts breathtaking, and seeing it in the flesh nearly brings me to my knees because in so many ways, this continent, and specifically, this country, are so similar to and so different from how I’ve always imagined it. During our weeklong teaching practicum (that coincidentally ended today, more on the teaching part later), one of the group activities all the volunteers participated in was called “Spotlight”, during which each volunteer shared their story of how they came to find WorldTeach, along with their respective hopes and fears for the entire year. One of the other volunteers, Scott, said some words that resonated with me particularly: “I know that Namibia is the right place for me, right at this moment, because there isn’t anywhere else in the world that feels so ancient, yet so modern and hopeful at the same time.”
Myself and the eleven other volunteers, along with our field director (Bret) and teaching fellow (Rachel) stayed in the capital city of Windhoek (VIND-hook) for a week, and were treated to all the modern amenities that we find aplenty in the States: shopping malls, fast food, and functioning toilets and electricity. I’ll be somewhat honest and say that while it was nice to be able to transition slowly into Namibian life (with plenty of help from our fantastic FD and TF, along with WorldTeach), with brais (Namibian barbeques… delicious ones, at that), a fun new year’s celebration, and a lovely birthday spent with the other volunteers, all thrown in the mix, I’ve always had an aversion to cities in general and Windhoek was no exception.
However, this past Sunday, we traveled to a small former mining town to the west of Windhoek, called Uis, to practice teaching classes full of local learners. Upon arriving, we were treated to rundown, roach-filled facilities; shack-lined streets trod upon by donkey carts and strays; and a community of people who, despite having no reason to, still voluntarily flocked to our school (Petrus Ghaneb Secondary) despite it being a school break, for five straight days to help ten Americans and two Kiwis learn how to be teachers. I won’t fall into the pit of look-at-all-these-poor-people-who-need-our-help, but rather, I’ll wholeheartedly admit a bit naively that I don’t feel as nervous about building connections within a community anymore, especially not when I’m surrounded by people this welcoming and gracious.
Not that the teaching part was easy, because it sure wasn’t, but I made it through the week, with plenty of help from the other volunteers, including my teaching partner, Jordon (I’m pretty sure her angry voice shattered a window or two). Despite my relative inexperience, this week definitely boosted my confidence in managing a classroom for a year.
All in all, I feel good about everything. If I had any lingering doubts in my mind about whether I made a good decision or not, they were spirited away by the warm and comforting Namibian winds that blow through Uis every night, and remind me that while I somehow ended up halfway across the globe from everything I’m familiar with, the world is smaller now because of it.
-Brian Park, WorldTeach Namibia 2013-2014
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