6/3/14

Work Hard, Play Harder. End-of-Term Break Traveling Experience from a WorldTeach Namibia Volunteer

World Teach volunteer Brian Park has been in Namibia for half a year now. Read on to hear about his end-of-term vacation where he took advantage of his free time and embarked on numerous adventures which included traveling through Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, and immersing himself in unique adventures after a long hard semester….









Exams and end-of-term were rough, I’ll admit. There was a lot of disorganization and confusion about creating our own examinations, proctoring, and marking. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty stressed, on top of the already-present burnout that I was going through before exams.

SIDE NOTE: Lessons learned during Term 1.

1. Don’t ask for permission, just go ahead and do it.
2. If you want to get something done, do it yourself.
3. Good meals heal all wounds.
4. Administration and classroom teaching are separate entities. Don’t take out your frustration on the kids.
5. Be blunt and direct all the time (this is the only way to get any straight answers), but do it with a smile on your face.
6. You won’t make a big impact, but you will have an impact, however small, just by being present at your school every day.

Thankfully, holiday came at the perfect time.

It was pretty awesome.

Windhoek

All the volunteers met in Windhoek for a three day training, which mostly consisted of swapping stories and catching up, and realizing that all of us are in similar situations, regardless of location. It was definitely gratifying to share our individual (but collective) horror stories, uplifting moments, and strategies we used to deal with problems, with regard to both teaching and life outside of it. We’re all very different people from radically different backgrounds, but being teachers in a country that’s so different from our homelands has shaped us into thick-skinned, adaptive, problem-solving beings. It just drove home the point that each person in this group of volunteers has the resilience to make it through the entire year. I've only made it this far, and will make it through the year, because of the other volunteers, who give moral support when times are tough, and most of all, provide friendship and a human connection to the familiar, when seemingly everything else is so unfamiliar.

After wrapping up mid service training with steak and game at Joe’s in Windhoek, Stanton, the other volunteers and I boarded a kombi, headed to the first destination on our holiday itinerary: Maun, Botswana.

Botswana

After passing through the border, we got a ride to town in the back of a police car. Yes, that’s right, nine of us and our big hiking backpacks all crammed into the back of a paddy wagon. It was some serious clown car stuff, with people stacked horizontally over each other. After hopping off at the town’s service station, we waited for a few hours before securing a ride with a very nice Botswana (Botswanian? Botswanese? Tswana?) couple, and had a very uneventful ride to the town of Ghanzi, about halfway to Maun.

After waiting in Ghanzi for a few more hours, who else but Stanton rolled up in a kombi that he had procured for us, and we were on our way to Maun, cruising down the long road at sunset, watching all the animals, and enjoying the spiritual wonders of Africa. At least, for two hours, until our kombi hit a bathtub-sized pothole and blew a tire. We ended up camping right there on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere in Botswana, under millions of stars and surrounded by seemingly millions of cows. Not the way we had envisioned starting off our trip, but a worthwhile experience anyway.

We managed to flag down a bus to Maun early next morning, and we finally reached Maun around noon, where we set up camp at our lodge and proceeded to start doing things.

After 2 days in Maun, we rode about 2 hours to Kasane, near the entrance to Chobe National Park, home of the “Big 5” African animals. The day after arriving in Kasane, we all did a boat safari on the Chobe river, spending three hours looking at the elephants, hippos, baboons, birds, crocodiles, water buffalo, and other living, breathing, Africa things, and in a cool moment, passed through the junction of three countries (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia).

After a few days of wildlife watching, Indian food eating and general relaxing, we broke camp and headed to our next stop: Zambia.

Zambia

Since Kasane is so close to the border of Zambia, we just hopped into a cab and arrived at the crossing in about fifteen minutes. The border between Botswana and Zambia is actually a body of water (we had no idea how big), so we had to take a ferry across, so with some trepidation, the nine of us boarded a tiny, precariously overloaded ferry (more like a canoe with an outboard).

Boat Captain: Good morning! My name is *Redacted and I'll be taking you to Zambia today!

10 seconds later

Boat Captain: Welcome to Zambia!

And that was that.

We five headed to Livingstone, which is the gateway town to Victoria Falls, Natural Wonder of the World. On the taxi drive to Livingstone, I spotted what looked like a small cloud maybe 20 km away, which was strangely hovering what seemed like inches above the earth (again, NEED PICTURES), only to be told that, that was actually Victoria Falls.

South Africa

Upon arriving in Durban, South Africa, we got our first taste of the least-African-looking African country. Durban’s a really diverse town. There was admittedly a significant amount of culture shock being thrust back into the world of suburbs and supermalls but our lodge was nice, and so were the beaches.

From Durban, we hopped on the Bazbus (a backpacker transport shuttle that goes along the Eastern Cape of South Africa), and embarked on a 16 hour bus ride to our next stop, Port Elizabeth.

Our final Bazbus trip took us from P.E. to Cape Town, a drive of about 15 hours. When in Africa, the last thing you expect to see are pine forests… but it was good to see them, along with the gorgeous vineyards and granite mountains. Again, another uneventful drive, until we were about an hour away from CT, and passed over the hump of the final mountain pass and were greeted by one of the most breathtaking panoramas I have ever seen. And then, we were in Cape Town.

I didn’t ever want to leave Cape Town.

Day 1: Rained in, spent the day sitting in the lounge area hanging out with the staff. Explored a bit, walked down to the waterfront.

Day 2: Robben Island. Took the ferry to the island, and embarked on a bus/walking tour of the prison, guided by a former prisoner. Heard some incredible stories about the brutality of the prison, and the resilience of the prisoners, and saw Mandela’s cell.

Day 3: Shark diving. Took a two hour shuttle to Gaansbei, had breakfast and orientation at the boathouse, and then rode out into the bay to get our adrenaline fix. It was surprising (and ominous) how close we were to the beach, but even that close to land the great whites came a runnin’ once the crew tossed chum (fish guts and blood) into the water and threw out a seal-shaped decoy to lure the sharks with. From there, it was just a matter of pulling on a wetsuit and hopping into the cage strapped to the side of the boat. Technically, it’s not diving, because you just hold your breath and push yourself down into the water whenever the mate yells “shark left/right/ahead!,” but it was still truly one of the most terrifying, and jaw-dropping experiences of my life. 10/10.

And that was that.

Early the next morning, Liz and I boarded the Intercape bus (a Christian bus-the crew leads a prayer at the beginning and end of each trip) to head to Windhoek. Again, it was a fairly uneventful ride until we reached the border of South Africa and Namibia.

Arriving in Windhoek, Liz and I had breakfast with Jordon, then the three of us parted ways-Liz to Omaruru, Jordon to Keetmanshoop, and myself to BPU (our home in Windhoek during orientation).

And that was that.

It’s weird but good to be back. Term 2 is the true test of willpower, but I feel completely refreshed and ready for it, thanks to the holiday that lots of people only have dreams about.

And after all that?

Plans for term 2?

Oh, nothing too serious.

Except kicking some serious butt.

- Brian Park, WorldTeach Namibia 2014


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