The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach nor the Namibia Ministry of Education, but rather my personal views.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Big PACKdown!

I’m surprised I can still carry a year’s worth of my living needs (clothes, toiletries, quasi-essential electronics, books/professional supplies) all by myself (or with only a little assistance). When I studied abroad for 9-months in college, I simply had one super-large convertible backpack. That was 15 years ago. I have amassed a few more things since then.

For this journey to Namibia, I packed all of my things into a large internal frame backpack, a large suitcase, a small carry-on suitcase, and a small backpack. En route to Namibia and with my current load, I have a flight from Phoenix to NYC, NYC to Dulles(Va), Dulles to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Windhoek(Namibia), then from Windhoek to Khorixas; SO, I need to either be practical in packing or practice limping from the strain of the weight. There is some travel between my arrival in Windhoek and my arrival in Khorixas; but, I won’t have to carry all of my things with me during those few days. I think I did somewhat okay. Here are the contents of my luggage:

· Shoes (flip-flops, tennis shoes/sneakers, two pairs of sandals, a pair of dress shoes, hiking boots)
· Pants (jeans-2, cargo pants-2, khakis-1, slacks-1, gouchos-1)
· Skirts (1)
· Dresses (4)
· Suit (1)
· Blouses/Work Shirts (7)
· Casual/Sportwear (sweatsuit, t-shirts-5, shorts-3, bathing suit, sarong, tank tops-2)
· Pajamas(1)/Undergarments(20+)
· Jacket (1)
LINEN (Sleeping Bag, Travel Pillow, Twin Bedding Set, Towels-2, Washcloths-3)
ELECTRONICS (Camera, Laptop, DVDs, iPod/Speakers, Battery Charger, Batteries, Travel Radio, Digital Audio Recorder, Webcam, International Converter Kit, Phone, Electronics Cords/Accessories)
TOILETRIES/PERSONAL ITEMS (First-Aid Kit, Flashlight, Pocketknife, Solar Shower, Travel Scrabble, Uno, Sunscreen, Medication/Vitamins, Insect Repellant, Deodorant, Soap, Toothbrush/toothpaste, Snacks, Umbrella, Poncho)
GUIDES/LITERATURE (Country/Region Guides, Maps, Program Notebooks-2, Quasi-Pleasure Reading – 3)

In my next post, I’ll share more about my 14-hour flight to Johannesburg with 21 fellow WorldTeach Volunteers!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Change of Placement: Khorixas

A few weeks ago, I received notice that I would not be placed in Ongwediva because the Plato Center (which I would be coordinating) would not be up and running in time for my arrival. I was then reassigned to the Plato Center in Khorixas, which is located in the Kunene region (North-west Namibia). It was suggested that I could spend part of the year in Khorixas and move to Ongwediva when the Center there opens. Khorixas is considered the unofficial capital of Kunene and has shops and access by tar road to other parts of Namibia.

This morning, I received more details about the assignment. Here is an excerpt from the e-mail. I removed personal names.


"...the Plato Center is new in Khorixas so it seems that you will be one of the couple of people getting kids in there for the first time. I understand that they are going to also assign a Namibian teacher to be your counterpart or colleague. (The Namibia Ministry of Education liaison) said that mornings you will likely work with community members such as grade 10/12 failures who are trying to improve their skills and retake the exams. School groups from surrounding schools will also visit the center at times you determine with them. And there will likely be a need/opportunity for after school hours for kids to come by and use the software. I don't know if I told you, but in Keetmanshoop (the site of another Plato Center) there are sort of "drop in hours" after school. I imagine that you will have a big role in shaping the programming. Your work schedule will partly be determined by the programming you set in place (in terms of school appointments, morning and after school use, etc) but I imagine it will be a 8 am-5 pm type deal. My new contact says that you'll mainly be working with kids grades 8-12.

I spoke to the Deputy Director for the region today. He is the one sorting out housing. I understand that the housing they originally wanted might not work because only men are living there now. He's working something out, perhaps at a neighboring school. He assures me that he's working on it and I will continue to talk to him about it this week.

The closest volunteer to you will be (a volunteer) in Kamanjab, also Kunene Region. I'd estimate that she's about an hour or two north of you. Further north another two hours from Kamanjab will be three volunteers in the Opuwo area. I'll let you know about housing as soon as it's sorted.

Take care, (Namibia WorldTeach Program Field Director)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Undiva(Me) in Ongwediva

Here's where I'll be based for the 2009 year.

Ongwediva is not found on most maps, so don't hurt yourself looking (like I did). It is a small town, in between the larger and more commonly detailed/referenced towns of Oshakati and Ondangwa, in the north-central region of Oshana.

A 2001 report by Family Health International noted that Ongwediva is an educational centre that is home to 11,649 learners in 14 schools (including one private school) and colleges. Among these establishments are a Teacher Training College, a Vocational Training Centre, as well as a School for the Disabled.

Throughout the year, I'll be working at the Ongwediva Teacher Resource Center supporting the promotion, teaching, and evaluation of Namibia's Plato Project, which aims to improve student and school performance in mathematics and science through the use of computers. There are four Teacher Resource Centers in the country.

I will share more details as they become available.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Getting Ready to Come Home

As I sit awake cuddled in my hotel room bed internet-surfing for lodging deals, I should note that preparation for my journey across the Atlantic includes an ambitious journey across the United States. I am currently in the midst of a leisurely cross-country drive with my mother, an aunt, and “Jessica” (that’s what my aunt has named the voice on my handy GPS device). In managing my storage needs and offering an SUV owner an opportunity to save on gas, I decided to personally deliver my better-gas-mileage-than-an-SUV car and its packed contents (including my mom but less my aunt) to my father in Arizona. And that’s not all I’m packing and delivering. On various Greyhound bus underbellies, there are about 24 boxes of my personal effects presently in route to my parents’ home. Many, many other items went from my former self-storage location to the donation bins of Goodwill of Greater Washington (DC).

One good friend who is comfortably employed in the private sector recently wondered (aloud) why I, rather than my “employer,” was packing and moving my stuff. I had to explain, a few times, that (1) I would be a volunteer, (2) my sponsoring organization is a non-profit, and (3) although my “employer” would be the Namibian Ministry of Education, I would be receiving neither a salary, nor any relocation allowance (I will, however, receive housing and a modest living stipend). I don’t know if I had the wherewithal, in the same conversation, to explain that I am actually “paying” fees to the sponsoring organization; I’ll save that for another time. I can understand the questions and confusions, though.

More than half of the respondents to the poll in my first post reported having worked or studied abroad. If I conducted a more comprehensive survey, I am sure that I would have found substantial diversity in the planning involved in each of our trips. A variety of factors impact the type of preparation needed for overseas travel. These factors include: destination, duration of stay in destination country/region, time since last trip to destination country/region, type of sponsoring organization, purpose of travel, and numerous personal circumstances, such as specialized health issues and housing status. Having studied abroad as a college student, worked for Peace Corps (a federal agency), and traveled through dozens of countries for pleasure, I am well-aware of just how different “getting ready to go” can look and feel for persons going abroad.

Preparation for my journey to Namibia as a WorldTeach volunteer has definitely been consuming. My shoulders and bank account can attest to the various vaccinations I have received (Hepatitis A and B, Yellow Fever, Influenza, Measles/Mumps/Rubella, and I am not done); fees for the travel shots I need are amounting to an estimated $700. In regards to professional readiness, I was required to complete 25 hours of teaching English as a second language; it was very rewarding, but tricky to pull off based on my living arrangements and pre-departure plans. Getting ready to go also involves getting ready to return. As such, I have already begun exploring options for work and study once my 12-month commitment ends, which has included attending on-campus graduate school open houses; the first stop on my cross-country drive was an 8-hour detour north to Boston to visit Harvard. As a final example of my preparation details and as mentioned above, I have needed to relocate the majority of my things and person; my back (from superwoman lifting) and wallet (from you know what) took a beating in this regard.

So What?! The main intent of this post was to share a little about what is required to make this journey a reality; inquiring minds have wanted to know. When getting into the discussion, it becomes clear that some programs/projects have pre-departure requirements that would make participation extremely difficult, if not impractical, for certain groups/individuals, who may not have the time or readily-available money to manage it on their own. As such, throughout my preparation process, I am also noting ways that the planning can be made easier, identifying supportive networks, formal partnerships, or streamlined communication channels, so that the programs can benefit from a diverse participant base.

Call for Comments:
What resources have you found useful or would you find useful in planning overseas travel?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Getting Ready to Go

Welcome to my Journey to Namibia.

As you know, I have spent the past 14 months living, working, and studying in New York and Minnesota as a graduate student and National Urban Fellow. I've earned my MPA and now, it's time for a new adventure.

In the next two months, I will begin a 12-month volunteer assignment as an educational coordinator with the WorldTeach program in the southern African country of Namibia. It is exciting to have the opportunity to apply and challenge my skills in public administration in the international arena. I also hope to observe and practice new methods of educating traditionally disadvantaged youth; Namibia is working hard to close the expansive achievement gaps caused by its past system of apartheid. Finally, I seek to promote awareness of our diverse and increasingly global society.

It is my hope that I can use this blog as a way to communicate with friends, family, and others who are interested in joining me on this journey.

I'll try to make the entries interesting, fun, and dynamic. We can discuss topics such as: overseas study/work, education reform, diversity in Southern Africa, how citizens in other countries view the U.S., and even pop-culture. Please send questions, comments, and references to help energize and inform the discovery.

I will share more about my host country and the work I'll be doing once the details are confirmed.

On a final note, this is my first time using a blog; so, be patient as I figure out just how this thing works.

Your Journey Guide and Companion,

For more about National Urban Fellows, visit: www.nuf.org
For more about WorldTeach, visit: www.worldteach.org