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, 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?