Thursday, December 30, 2010

planes, trains, and automobiles!

After a 2 hour flight to D.C., an 8 hour flight to Senegal, an 8.5 hour flight to South Africa, a 2 hour flight to Windhoek, and a 45 minute drive to our hostel, I have finally made it to Namibia. My ass will never be the same. I think part of it is still asleep. Phew. Luckily, all of my baggage arrived at the airport and nothing was tampered with (that I have noticed at least).

So, here I am, at a lovely little hostel in Windhoek with my new 11 friends. I am sleeping in the top bunk in a room with 2 other girls. This place is really great…there is a separate kitchen with open doors and windows that WorldTeach has stocked with food for us to make breakfast and lunch. I can’t describe how incredible it feels to be walking around in a skirt and sandals at the end of December. Thankfully, we missed the ungodly heat of last week and came just as the rains were beginning to cool things down. We got in late last night and basically just went to bed. The pre-orientation meeting and the flights here were much more fun because of the company of the other volunteers. It is all 20 somethings, trying to do something to contribute. It is definitely nice to have someone in the exact same shoes as me. I am thankful we have each other for the next few weeks before we are separated into our respective sites. Speaking of amazing people, I cannot say anything that will come close to expressing the brilliance and kindness of our field directors here. Both they and their Namibian husbands have done everything imaginable to make us feel comfortable and welcome in this crazy place. They are really some of the most incredible people I have ever met. They give me hope in the human spirit and the ability of humans to be kind and compassionate…it is kind of easy to give up on those ideals.

Anyway, after a very pitiful attempt at a night’s sleep, I awoke this morning to the sun shining and some very loud dogs barking. We had a few sessions on safety (mostly in Windhoek) and some basic expectations of us during this orientation process. Unfortunately, Windhoek is becoming an increasingly more dangerous city for tourists and residents alike. It is mostly petty theft, but definitely not something I want to get involved with. The field directors are amazing and are always ensuring that we are 100% safe. With some new information on our minds, we all went into town (in Windhoek) so we could pick up some of the bigger supplies items we might need. I got myself a pretty sweet cell phone (I have to say, Meg, the cheapest Namibian cell phone looks a little better than the jukeJ ) and a 3G modem so I can keep in touch with lovely people like you! I’ll get you the cell number in my next update…my box is all the way across the room and I am nice and settled on the top bunk (and yes, I am lazy). We also got to exchange some money for Namibian dollars and have a lovely lunch together. For about 9 of us to eat, it was $630 Namibian dollars…kind of hard to get used to a salad costing $42…obviously with the exchange rate it is only $6 US, but I think dividing by 7 will take some getting used to. Just like in America, the table sent the bill over to me and had me figure it out…some things never change J Walking around Windhoek was odd… obviously we all have an idea of what “Africa” is going to look like. Windhoek did NOT fit my picture. It is small, but still a pretty hoppin metropolis. Lots of people and stores…you can pretty much get anything you want. I will not be close to Windhoek in a few weeks (which I am excited about), but it is nice to have all of the amenities here for a while. After our urban excursion, we came back to our hostel and had one more session and then some Chinese food. It was a pretty awesome meal for me because I got to chat with, and practice my Oshindonga with, my field director’s husband, who happens to be one of my favorite Namibian artists, Black Door. After watching his music videos and listening to his tunes, it was really awesome to have a conversation with him. He is a really awesome guy…and his new CD drops next week!

After dinner, we all played some games…hearts, apples to apples, spoons, and drank some Windhoek lager. Pretty good stuff. I am trying to hit it early tonight since I am still jet lagged and must stay up until midnight tomorrow! We are having a braii (barbeque) and hopefully a dance party tomorrow evening to ring in the new year. Since I will be ringing it in 8 hours ahead of you guys, I’ll let you know if anything crazy happens. And yes, I am 8 hours ahead for those of you still confused on the time difference.

So there is my first update…nothing too exciting except for the fact that I am in freaking Namibia. Whew. I am doing ok, but really love love love getting emails/messages from you guys, so keep em coming!

Talk soon,


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays

Dearest friends and family,

Can you believe it is already Christmas week?? Yes, I like to have an entire week to celebrate Christmas. Especially this year since in exactly one week, I will be on a plane to Namibia. I can't really express all of the feelings going through my head right now, but I sure can say that I have some wonderful friends and a spectacular family. You might notice that I have removed the link that takes people to the page to give money. That is because with LOTS of help from you guys, my trip is paid for. I know this is extremely cheesy, but ya'll really helped me remember the generosity of everyday people. I am so lucky to know each and every one of you.

I hope that whatever you do this holiday season is wonderful and that you get to spend some quality time with the people that matter most.

Happy holidays,

Sunday, December 12, 2010


hey ya'll,

i just wanted to thank the few of you who made it out to my house tonight to say farewell. i know you had to brave the weather and the sunday night blues, and i want you to know i really appreciate it.

so thanks.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

season's greetings!

Hey ya'll!

Happy almost Christmas! Hope everyone is getting in the spirit and not just getting pissed off that it is freezing cold and you practically need ice skates to get around. Just wanted to update everyone on the fundraising...I know it says $5,000 over to the right, but that is somewhat of a fallacy. I have gotten sooo many wonderful donations, but the $5,000 includes the money that I have put in towards the trip. I am obviously happy to do this, I just didn't want my total to deter anyone from giving!

If you have ever even thought about giving me a Christmas present this year, please please give in the form of a donation. I would appreciate it more than anything else, I promise :)

For those of you in the area, hopefully I will see you at my place on Sunday the 12th. If not, I will most likely be leaving Chicago in about one week, so let's see each other! I want to ice skate, see zoo lights, drink lots of holiday brews, and see some music before I go, so let's make it happen!

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and don your gayest possible apparel.


Monday, November 29, 2010

putting it on a map

Hello friends!

Over the past few months, I have answered a lot of questions about what I will be doing with my life for the next year. One question I have heard over and over is "Where is Namibia again?"

Since many of us have not taken geography in several years and Namibia is not a huge news maker, I decided to include a map here. The village I will be living in, Ogongo, is about 50 km northwest of Oshakati. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Oshakati is a much larger town where I can get just about anything I need.

As you can see, I will be pretty far north and have easy access to Angola and hopefully Botswana. I will not be too far from Etosha National Park (a popular safari destination) and will definitely make time to travel to Victoria Falls! Because of my placement, getting to South Africa is more of a trek, but definitely a possibility.

Facts and Figures about Ogongo, Namibia

About Ogongo, Namibia
Time zoneWest Africa Time
Time change from UTC*UTC+0100
A resident is a...Namibian
Geographic Information
Latitude (DMS)15° 17' 0'
Longitude (DMS)-17° -40' 0'
I believe the term 'city' is used loosely here...

Anyway, I hope this information gives you a better idea of where I will be geographically. I will have a mailing address (most likely the address of my school) that I will post as soon as I get the 'ok' I am waiting for.

It is now officially one month until my departure...please hang out with me. Call me. See me soon. 'Tis the season for giving so keep my fundraising going :)

Much love,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

where exactly are you going?

i can now answer the question above, and i must say, it feels nice. i was getting used to giving the canned, vague reply of "somewhere in namibia", but now i can give all the juicy details. instead of telling you each about my placement individually, i thought i would give some details here:

i will be working at Ogongo Combined School in the village of, you guessed it, Ogongo. Ogongo is located in north-central Namibia, in the Omusati Region, home to the Oshiwambo-speaking people. luckily, i have a wonderful connection here in chicago who has provided me with materials to help me learn at least a little bit of the local language before i leave. the school is called a "Combined School" because it teaches both primary and high school aged kids. this is a really cool feature since i couldn't really decide what age group i wanted to work with. the classes i will be teaching are subject to change, but will be something like this:

*math to grade 8 learners
*ICT (kind of like basic technology) to grades 5-12
*basic information science (library, reading, etc) to grades 1-7

obviously, the language used to describe classes is much different than what we are used to here and i will learn more about what these class titles really mean in the near future. there is a volunteer at the school currently who will be sending me a letter with some inside information on the school and the village. she was a volunteer in 08-09 and then decided to extend her stay another year to work for the school. she seems like she is really awesome and has done some amazing things for the school...i will have some massive shoes to fill!

a little more on the is about 10km from the main, or tar, road which means it is pretty remote. there are some shops in the village to get very basic items. most people in the area are subsistence farmers and don't really need to venture out of the area to survive. however, i will easily be able to find rides (or possibly purchase a bicycle) to the main road where there are more shops and taxis that will take me the 30 minutes to Oshakati. Oshakati is much larger and i will be able to get anything i need there.

i will be living in a new teacher house across from the school that i will share with two other Namibian teachers. this will be really nice since i was worrying about living completely alone and isolated from the rest of the community. i will have my own room, but we will share a kitchen and other living spaces. it seems like this current volunteer has internet in her house so it is likely that i will as well. this will be amazing since i will be able to keep in touch regularly.

obviously, i am just soaking in all of this information and don't know every single detail yet, but i will share more as i know more. for now, i just wanted everyone to get a taste for where i will be and what i will be up to. for those of you keeping up with my fundraising progress, you might notice that i am kicking ass. every update i get about donations both excites me for my trip and gives me "heavy boots" about leaving all of you wonderful people for 11 months! all i can say over and over is thank you thank you thank you.

happy thanksgiving to everyone! more soon.

cheers for now,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

december 28

hey folks!

just wanted to let you all know that i have my official departure date: december 28. let's be sure to see each other before then! i will be getting my exact placement soon and will be sure to explain in detail in my next post. until then, get in touch with me and let's hang!

also, thank you thank you thank you for all of the donations that continue to trickle in. every single penny counts.

enjoy the sun!
cheers for now.

<3 h

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

happy november!

hey ya'll,

hope everyone had a nice halloween! i just wanted to say thanks again for all of the donations that are trickling in. i am trying to thank everyone individually, so if you have donated and haven't heard from me yet, it is likely that WorldTeach is still processing the order and hasn't updated my checklist yet. it usually takes at least 24 hours during the week and even longer if you gave on a weekend. as soon as i hear about your donation, i will definitely be thanking you personally since you rock! all of the donations so far have made it possible for me to make my november payment toward the trip. thank you from the bottom of my heart.

keep telling friends/family/interested people about this and i will keep keeping you informed!

cheers for now,
<3 h

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

many thanks

hey ya'll! i just wanted to thank those of you who have taken the time to read this and especially those of you who have contributed your hard earned cash to my cause. i am extremely humbled by so many friends and family doing what they can to help me. you guys rock. that being said, i am still far from my goal and need to keep up the forward momentum. if any of you know anyone you might be interested in helping out with something like this, please pass my information on. the more the word is spread, the better!

again, i thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for being amazingly supportive and generous. i am finishing up my last round of doc appointments, vaccinations, etc. so things are really starting to feel real!

cheers for now

p.s. become a follower of my blog to ensure you are always kept up to date on new postings, etc.

Monday, October 25, 2010

two months and counting!

howdy all! welcome to my blog! some of you may be familiar with my previous blog, "you don't know me but i'm your brother". no, it was not a michael mcdonald discussion board (as much as i might have wanted it to be - it is hard to find that many people who really want to talk mmd). that blog was for school. this new and improved blog that you have been invited to peruse is much more personal. as many of you know, i will be leaving for namibia at the end of december to complete one year of volunteer teaching service through the wonderful organization WorldTeach. this blog is a place to learn more about that organization as well as being a place for me to relay all of the amazing, hard, sucky, funny things that happen throughout that year. it will be a space for stories, pictures, videos, and anything else that i want to share with my loved ones (you guys) back home. that said, please please please try to read this once in a while and share thoughts and stories of your own!

so this may sound weird, but volunteering is EXPENSIVE! obviously i am more than happy to put my savings from teaching last year toward this experience, but since teachers aren't really rolling in cash, i need your help. i am looking to raise $6,000 to help cover my travel expenses as well as program fees that will allow me to start libraries, health clinics, sports teams, etc. i understand that not everyone is in the position to give money right now. i get that, and that is fine. however, if you can spare anything, i mean ANYTHING ($1, $5, $100), it would be put to good use! i must also tell you that every donation goes directly to WorldTeach and is 100% tax deductible.

HERE'S HOW TO DONATE: the easiest way to donate is by using your credit card via paypal. click on the link on the right hand side of the screen that says DONATE HERE and follow the instructions on that page. IMPORTANT: make sure you enter "Hannah Wilkinson - Namibia 2011" on the "Purpose" field to ensure your donation goes toward my program fee. if you are more comfortable donating directly to me, please contact me and we can work something out!

again, i realize that this is not a good time to be asking people for money. however, if you can spare anything, i will give you 1,000 hugs and promise to put the money to excellent use. if not, please keep checking in on this site to see what i am up to and let me know what you are up to!

thanks in advance. cheers for now.