Monday, January 17, 2011

and so it begins

I made it. I am sitting on my new bed, in my new house, with my new roommates, in my new city, Ogongo. So much “new”. New can be really exciting, but equally, if not more, overwhelming. I just finished my first day of school and am trying to take deep breaths to help me take in one thing at a time. I know I am supposed to be here, I am just having trouble stifling all of my fears and anxieties. I also know that this will pass with time, but time is too big a concept for me to accept right now. In order to alleviate some of the craziness going through my head, let me tell you about the past few days.

We left Windhoek on Sunday morning around 8:00. We were split by region so I was in a kombi (bus) with just two other girls going to the Omusati region. Throughout orientation, I was thinking that leaving the volunteer bubble would be no sweat. Wrong. Saying goodbye and leaving the comfort of like-minded people was way harder than I anticipated. Obviously we are all here to go outside of our comfort zones, but that is much easier said than done. After a long goodbye, we all parted ways and started the many hour journey north. Here is where it gets interesting.

The driver of our kombi was really nice and was driving very safely (almost too safe), but just fine after our previous kombi experiences. I was starting to perk up a bit and got even more excited when the driver turned music on. Just then, I got word that in another kombi headed north, the driver had gotten a speeding ticket for going 160 kph. I was terrified when our last driver was going 145 kph. You have to understand that the roads are very narrow and people are passing left and right. To be going 160 kph is just plain scary. I was very happy in our slow moving kombi, listening to pleasant music (I have to interject here that a cat just jumped through my window onto my bed with me. Yes, this too is new.) Next, our driver put in a CD since the radio was on commercial. The first song was Michael Jackson’s “Got to be Starting Something”. I really love that song and so do the other girls in the kombi. We showed our enthusiasm and starting singing along. I’m not sure if it was our enthusiasm, or if our driver just really loves the song too, but he put that song on repeat. Not just once. NINE times. NINE. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. That is a lot of “mama say mama sah”. Needless to say, we were dying with laughter and had to put our respective iPods in. Five times was my limit. After the 9th time, I get another text from another vehicle headed north that says their driver has pulled over to “take a nap”. This is the same driver who got the speeding ticket. Apparently it was siesta time, so he just pulled himself over to rest. Again, my slow moving, music repeating kombi was sounding just fine.

That was until we reached Tsumeb. In Tsumeb, we were gassing up and buying some snacks at the petrol station. When we get back to the vehicle, we find our driver is missing. We don’t see him for about 25 minutes. He literally went across the street to the grocery store and came back with four bags of groceries. He then proceeds to go through the bags and meticulously chose which items he wants with him in the front seat. This takes another good 10 minutes. Meanwhile, we are sweating like crazy in the back of the kombi. This experience is definitely a test of patience. Luckily, things like this make me chuckle, especially when I am with other people. What didn’t make me chuckle was getting moving in Tsumeb, only to stop again and pick up some friend of the driver. There is definitely a language barrier, so we weren’t sure what we were waiting for (for 15 minutes). Luckily she was cool, but we were sort of in the mood to get going. We found out that, even with a nap, we were two hours behind the other kombi heading north! I guess going 160 kph will get you a cushy lead.

Soon after, we crossed the Red Line. It separates the cattle in the north and south. The cattle in the north are completely free range and wandering just about everywhere (except south of the red line). Once you cross it, the terrain and the vibe really changes. It was hotter. There were more people walking around. There were more shabeens (bars). Things were more spread out.

After going a while in the north, our vehicle stops again. Apparently we were picking up another person. The three of us are hoping to get to our sites before dark so we have some kind of idea of where we are, so this time, it was less funny. Once we get the guy, we are really on our way…after we drop off the groceries our driver bought at his house in Oshakati. And after we stop at another gas station.

Long story short, it was quite the process to get to the north. An 11 hour process to be exact. They dropped us off one by one in what was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. You just drop off someone you have become really close with in the middle of nowhere. People say “middle of nowhere” all the time. I really mean it.

I was welcomed in my home by my principal and roommates. I was really hot, tired, and felt crazy. I was showed my room (which is really awesome) and a tour of the house. We have a large sitting room with nothing really in it, a kitchen, three bedrooms, and a bathroom with a separate shower. There are two cats hanging around (as I mentioned before), a chicken in the backyard, and donkeys hanging out between my house and school. I have definitely had several “what am I doing” moments. The worst part was trying to get organized in a new place and get ready to go to school in the morning. Too many things to think about. I want to write about the first day, but I must do it another time…this will already take forever to load!

Ok, hope to talk to you guys soon.

Love you much,



  1. Wow! That turned out to be a long trip. I'm glad you made it safely.

  2. aw, just like home! you'll still be going to all of the shabeens that are north on the Red Line!! i wonder if they'll have as much selection as the Hopleaf.
    love you.

  3. Wow -- totally different take on the "Red Line"! Hannah, this is exactly the sort of discombobulation you should be feeling at this time. A few months later, you'll feel so at home that combi rides like this will be frighteningly normal.

    Also, if you're wondering why I'm leaving so many damnned comments, we just got 20+ inches of snow in 24 hours. There's not a hell of a lot do in Chicago right now.