Sunday, December 24, 2006
In my Peace Corps service, I am regularly getting to face my demons. Sometimes they bring me down for a while, but in the end they are the ones going down town. As for right now, they are all mostly down town for the holidays. :-)
In just a few months, my parents are coming to visit me. I am very excited for their visit. I am excited to see them, and their reaction to Namibia and its people. I am hoping it will be a life changing event for them.
I am feeling more and more at home in my community, and I feel like I have many friends here. Now if I could just find some snow and a decorated Christmas tree.
Happy Holidays, and a Joyful New Year!
Sunday, September 03, 2006
I think I have put a better name to my ailment. It’s not the fear of intimacy that plagues me; rather, it is the fear of engulfment -- of being invaded, of being controlled, and then losing myself.
I guess this paragraph pretty well sums it all up -- I found it on the web:
“When we learn how to speak up for ourselves and not allow others to invade, smother, dominate and control us, we will no longer fear losing ourselves in a relationship. Many people, terrified of losing the other person, will give themselves up in the hope of controlling how the other person feels about them. They believe that if they comply with another's demands, the other will love them. Yet losing oneself is terrifying, so many people stay out of relationships due to this fear. If they were to learn to define their own worth and stand up for themselves, the fear would disappear.”
It is true, I am afraid of losing myself…I have just started to really like myself, and the thought of losing who I am that makes me quake in my boots; specially because it has happened to me a few times before.
I do not want to loose who I am becoming.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
More than a few times in my life, I have been asked the same question by different people. The question always disarmed me, and each time, it was asked I would frantically search inside myself for the answer. After a brief moment, I would carefully cloak myself in all the calmness I could muster, and answer “I’m not sure, I guess I like adventures”.
The question I dreaded being asked was: What are you searching for?
For a long time I have had a slow, strong, deep desire – a sort of warm longing for some unknown thing. For whatever reason, until today, I was unable to put a name to that desire.
I have found that Peace Corps service is amplifying my shortcomings, and through this amplification is providing me an opportunity to face those shortcomings head on (free from the many distractions found in the States).
Such service, being far from home, in another country, trying to understand another culture, trying to give meaningful help to others, trying to understand what making a difference really means, has given me many opportunities to look inside myself and face those things lurking there.
I have not written much in my blog much since arriving in Namibia, nor have I written much email back home to my family and friends. This has bothered me, and I have made many excuses to myself and others in an effort to explain away this shortcoming on my part. Just today, a series of events occurred which helped me to understand this shortcoming, and helped me put a name to what I have been searching for, for so long.
Today, during a discussion with a friend, I was forced to face my lack of discourse with those back home. I was frustrated with the questions and statements my friend made, and I was surprised by my frustration. My reaction forced me once again to search in myself in an effort to understand why such innocent questions by my friend would cause such a strong reaction in me.
Peace Corps service can bring about a certain clarity of mind, much like being a hermit or shepherd might provide. For the past couple of days, I have been experiencing a wonderful calmness and clarity of mind. It is my luck that this clarity occurred in conjunction with my unplanned inner search.
I began asking myself: What am I afraid of? Why am I avoiding interactions with those people that mean so much to me? A series of answers and questions moved through my thoughts. Seemingly unconnected thoughts and feelings began to connect. I could probably capture some of those connections in this blog entry, but those deep inner workings of my mind are difficult to write down in a comprehensible manner…so, I will cut to the chase.
- I have vividly realized the one thing I am searching for is: emotional intimacy.
- I have finally admitted to myself the one thing I am deathly afraid of is: emotional intimacy.
What an ironic thing, to be afraid of the one thing I want the most.
I have been spending all of my extra energy in Namibia meeting many new people. It is easy to meet new people here, because many people are curious to why I’m here. I guess it is one of the perks of being a stranger in a strange land.
The brief interactions I have with new people provide me a small portion of the intimacy I am searching for. There is for me, a wonderful feeling of warmth, the first time I exchange smiles with a new person. Each day, I am able to meet so many new people, that if I try hard enough, I am able to do a pretty good job of satisfying my need for intimacy. But, it is only an illusion – only a temporary fix.
This temporary fix, this far away, relatively unconnected place has given me the freedom to avoid that intimacy that I am so afraid of. It has also given me a temporary solution to my longing, through many warm, brief interactions with curious new people, but in the end it is a relatively empty self-medication.
I guess I have always been running away from intimacy. I just never had the courage to do it well enough -- because I did not have a strong enough excuse, an excuse like Peace Corps service.
For all of you that I have been avoiding, please know that it is nothing you have done.
Please be happy, that the same service that has allowed me to withdraw for awhile has also helped me to acknowledge my biggest fear, my fear of intimacy. Know that I will be working hard to understand this fear because it is standing directly in the way of what I most desire.
Thank you to a friend, her father, and an email they shared, that was then shared with me.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
We walked to the natural spring that is by my flat. For a while, I sat on a dirt pile and watched children gather wood and water for their families. The children that gather wood and water can be very young. I saw two boys around the age of 5 carrying small metal axes to help them gather wood.
There was a small group of children at the spring. They kept waving and yelling to me. Whenever I would wave back, they would laugh and cheer. It was a happy little game that we played for a short time. The children would alternate who would wave at me. I think they were trying to see if they each, in turn, could get the same response from me. It is rare for white people to be in the Location, and even more rare for them to wave back at children.
After the group of children had gathered some water from the spring, they walked to a group of nearby trees and began throwing rocks up into the branches of the trees. I was thinking they must be trying to knock some sort of fruit down. I was wrong; they were trying to knock a certain type of dried pod down from the tree branches. I'm not sure what they were going to do with the pods. Up North, I know that people feed them to goats, but there are not many goats here. I have tried to burn the pods myself, and I can tell you that they don't burn very well.
I walked over to the children, and used my slingshot to help shoot some pods down. They did not know what to think of the strange white man, with two mismatched dogs, and a slingshot. At first, only one boy was standing by me (the others had retreated to a nearby tree). The brave boy quickly called the other children over to me, when he determined that I was safe.
Another boy pulled out his own, home-made slingshot, and together we shot down pods.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Here in Namibia, I think about my skin color many times each day.
Most often, my recognition of my own skin color, occurs when something unexpected happens during an interaction with another person. And then, in that first moment of unexpected-ness, this question leaps through my mind:
Did that just happen because I am white?Sometimes the situation is comical, sometimes its scary, and sometimes it just makes me mad. The good news is, I am slowly getting used to the whole idea, and now I mostly find the situations comical.
This does help me understand, if even only in a small way, what minorities in the States experience every day.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
The environment here in Namibia is very tough on computers: extreme heat, dust, extreme heat, dust, and more dust. Most of the volunteers in my Peace Corps group with laptops are experience one or more significant problems with their laptop.
Until just this past weekend, my laptop was randomly and routinely crashing. It especially crashed whenever I would try to use the mail application. This made it very difficult (and very frustrating) to send email.
Somehow, I stumbled upon a great piece of Mac software called "Carbon Copy Cloner" produced by Mike Bombich. The wonderful application is donation-ware. That means you can use it for free, and if you like it, you should donate money to the developer.
This software is so useful that it help fixed my computer, the computer of another Peace Corps volunteer, and there is yet another volunteer on deck to have her Mac fixed as soon as she can travel down to my place in Southern Namibia.
This post is an official "shout out" to Mike and his great program. You have been a tremendous help to Peace Corps volunteers in Namibia!
New Start centers are found in many Namibian cities. They provide low cost HIV/AIDS testing and counseling to anyone that walks through their doors. During the month of May, they offered free tests. I had been wanting to get tested for a long time, for two reasons:
- I was very curious about the process.
- I would find it hard to encourage others to be tested, if I had not gone through the process myself.
I have no reason to think I have HIV. I have been celibate for a long while now, and my last HIV test was more than 3-months after my last escapade (there is an initial 3-month window of time after infection when HIV tests will show negative even though HIV is present). Even so, I felt myself becoming nervous as I approached the Center. I kept thinking "What would happen next in my life, if I found out I had HIV".
As I entered the Center, I was greeted by an intake worker. She was very pleasant. I felt as though she was surprised to see me; and I wondered how many white people came to the Center. I told her that I would like to be tested for HIV.
In her office, she created a case file for me, and recorded a small amount of information about me. In order to protect my anonymity, she did not ask me for my real name; rather, she asked me for an alias. My real name was not used on any of the paperwork. When the paperwork was completed, she showed me to the waiting room.
A few minutes went buy......a counselor came and collected me. Together we walked to a private counseling room. I was hoping she could not sense my nervousness.
We talked for about 15 minutes. She asked me to tell her what I knew about HIV, how it worked, and how it was contracted. I told her what I knew. She asked me a series of questions like: when I last had sex, and if I had used a condom. We talked some more about what I might do, and how I might feel if I found out today that I had HIV. She asked me who I was planning to share my results with. At one point, I had to sign a disclaimer using my thumb print (in order to preserve my anonymity). When the pretest counseling was finished, we walked to the small lab at the end of the hallway.
The HIV counselor calmly prepared the rapid test equipment. A constant stream of repeating dialogue cycled through my brain while she was preparing the equipment:
Don't be nervous; there is no way I can have HIV; talk calmly; make a little joke; I hope she doesn't think I am nervous; how would I feel if I were a young girl that had just had sex; don't be nervous; smile and say something intelligent...Rapid tests are wonderful, because they only take 15 minutes to process. A quick finger prick, some dabbing of blood, a little small talk, and I was released back into the waiting room.
About 15 minutes later, the same counselor came and retrieved me. Together we walked back to our counseling room. I was amazed at how well she was able to show no indication of my status during our walk.
Once we were in the room, we talked for a while -- surprisingly I don't remember what we talked about. My recollection of the discussion begins at the point of her telling me the results of my test. I was immediately relieved. After a brief discussion about the results, we talked about the things I should do, and not do, to stay HIV free.
This entire experience was very powerful, and now, I keep thinking of how hard this process must be for someone who is afraid they might have HIV. I am heart seer for those people.
Monday, June 12, 2006
All of the volunteers in Namibia (the volunteers from my group, and the volunteers from the two other groups still in Namibia) converged on Swakop. It was the first time many of us had seen each other. It was a joyful time for me, getting to see such wonderful people.
During one of the training sessions, we talked about the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. This scales is used to measure the relative amount of stress life changes can cause. Peace Corps service (and all that makes it up) resulted in a score of 320.
Here are some other relative scores for major life events:
Death of spouse 100
Marital separation 65
Detention in jail 63
As we know, being stressed can increase the chances of illness, see these crazy facts below:
Less than 150 --> 30% chance of developing a stress-related illness
150 - 299 --> 50% chance of illness
Over 300 --> 80% chance of illness
Ouch! That's a lot of stress!I felt a lot better after learning the above -- I had thought I was just weak before hearing it.
Sleep well, the moon is full in Africa tonight!
Thursday, May 25, 2006
- I will remember to be less.
- I will remember to be less judgmental of myself so that I am less judgmental of others.
- I will remember to not worry about the outcome so that I can enjoy the peace that follows.
- I will remember that I can have peace.
- I will remember that peace is every step.
- I will keep learning about myself so that I can be less of me, and more for the people I meet -- to be like a mirror reflecting to them their own brilliance.
- I will be patient with myself so that I can be more patient with the people I meet.
- I will remember that life is short.
- I will not look for success, rather I will help others to achieve it.
Think about someone you know that was in an oppressive relationship; and then think about how significantly that relationship affected them. For myself, I know that I am still trying to work out things from a relationship that only lasted four years.
Now imagine what can happen if such treatment goes on for generations.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Friday, March 31, 2006
The class lasts three nights, and is two hours each night. I advertise the class as a way to help people define their goals. Actually, the class is really a vehicle for building the self-esteem of learners (students).
Poverty, racism, colonialism, tribalism, alcohol abuse, and HIV/AIDS have decimated the self-esteem of way too many people here. I wonder if this is a common thread in third-world countries.
I am happy that I am here.
This is the place I wanted to be. I know that I can help -- I can share my enthusiasm and compassion, and even if its only for a brief moment, I can give them a little self-esteem.
I wish I could directly share with you, the emotions I experience when I interact with these wonderful people that have been taught to not value themselves.
so little self-esteem
that they were unable to raise their voice to a
with not even
other person they can go to for
because when I do, they flinch
and my soul sinks.
Yes Jen, the gremlins did get bored with me!
I just need to make sure I get enough good sleep.
Monday, March 13, 2006
I woke up with all of the positive energy drained out of me. Maybe there is some sort of energy draining gremlin sleeping peaceful (and well fed) under my bed.
I have been struggling to make it through the day.
This job is wonderfully designed
to completely test those things in me
that I thought were the strongest.
The energy draining gremlins here have learned how to avoid my current armada of coping mechanisms, and render me completely overwhelmed. I must remember, this too is what I wanted.
This life is wonderfully designed
to completely test those things in me
that I thought were the strongest.
This too, is what I wanted,
for I was unsure of my metal,
and longed to feel my own frailty.
For in viewing what is truly weak in me,
I believe I will find a strength
that will help everyone I meet.
Monday, February 13, 2006
To get the ride with the pickup, I walked to the edge of town (about a 45 minute walk) and stood at the hiking point. The hiking point was near a road sign with a couple of big rocks under it. There were a number of other people waiting at the hiking point with me. I waited there for about 45 minutes until the small pickup pulled over. When cars drove by, I would stick out my arm, thumb pointed up, and rock my hand back and forth, indicating I was looking for a hike.
On the way back, I went to a gas station, and asked the service people if they could help me find a ride back home. They were very happy to help, and quickly found me a very nice ride back home (an air-conditioned small 4-door car). They even gave me a comfortable chair to sit on in the shade while I waited for them to find me a ride!
I like waiting on the side of the road better -- I think it is the way most Namibians hike. The gas station starting point seems to be the way privileged hikers hike. I am trying hard not to be a privileged person.
The way to Mariental cost me $20, and the way back cost me $40. I was told that a fair travel price was $30 -- I guess my average cost worked out then!
I spent most of the weekend working with another PCV to upgrade the PCs in her computer lab. I had a lot of fun, and we did get a lot accomplished.
Friday, February 10, 2006
It was both a fun and a hard week. I have really gotten to know the students in the classes, and I am having fun with them.
One of my students is working as a technical assistant for me. I am trying to teach her everything about computers that I can.
Today, I will try hiking for the first time. I am headed to Mariental for the weekend. I will leave after my last class and go wait at the hiking point (hitch-hiking that is). Mariental is about 3 hours away.
I am very excited about hiking, and can not wait to see how I get to meet!
In Mariental, I will be staying with some other Peace Corps volunteers, and helping them to fix their school's computers.
For the longest time, I was not fully with my self. I think I a big part of my was lagging in the past, while another smaller part of my self darted around in the future. The smallest, left-over part was where it should be, in the present.
Today, at this moment, I am feeling the most present I have felt in a very long time.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
This morning, Shoni cooked some great vanilla and cinnamon pancakes. I cooked some hash browns. After breakfast, I did the dishes, and went for a walk.
I think this will be an introspective naweek for me.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
I am still surprised on how hard it can be to communicate with other person even though we are both speaking English. Some conversations are peppered with alternating "What did you say?" from the American, and "Come again?" from the Namibian.
In Namibia, they have a form of English they call Nam-glish.
In Nam-glish, if you ask someone:
How are you?They might say:
Good, thank you. Otherwise?In this case, "otherwise" means --> "And, how about you?"
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
During the game we started to talk about movies. Our guests were confident that Rambo was a movie about real things, that is, the actions portrayed in the movie really happened.
We discussed a list of 12 other movies with them. All twelve were fictional movies that they had thought portrayed real events. Our guests believed that we had strange magic and wonder fighting powers in America, and that it would be nice to go to America and get some of that magic.
After we discussed the movies, one of our Namibian friends asked us if our fighting in Irag was real.
Friday, January 27, 2006
On last Friday, the director of the Youth Center asked me to help him create a presentation. He wanted to answer a "request for bids" from the Namibian Football Association, to host a soccer tournament in Keetmanshoop.
I spent the next five days (yes, both Saturday and Sunday) working closely with him, the Governor of the Karas region, the mayor of Keetmanshoop, Keetmanshoop council members, and soccer officers.
We created a PowerPoint presentation complete with a movie tour of the city. Yesterday five of us drove to Windhoek, and presented our bid to both the Football Association and the country's national newspaper (called The Namibian). Windhoek is around a 4 hour drive one way. It turned out to be a very long and very rewarding day.
We will hear on Tuesday if we get the bid! Receiving the bid could mean as much as a million dollars of unexpected revenue for the city.
The drive back from Windhoek is always beautiful, especially during sunset. I can not wait until my father can come and see the sunset with me.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Last night I did not sleep very well. I kept waking up. When the sounds caused by the wind were not waking me, my hair was; sporadically blowing across my face and imitating the movement of a deadly bug.
Tomorrow we have a big planning meeting at work. I think we will be discussing our potential activities for 2006.
Monday, January 16, 2006
An unexpected free ride to town, especially during business hours, is a gift from heaven. In Namibia die son brand, and we are a 45 minute walk from town.
We were able to check our post office box, connect our laptops to the Internet at the local Internet cafe, and do our weekly grocery shopping. We were both so happy that we were officially giddy.
Shoni and I must walk to most places, and have to time things so that we are back before dark, because of safety concerns. We take a taxi when we we must, but work hard to avoid it because it would quickly eat up all of our Peace Corps allowance...a taxi ride into town costs $6 Namibian, or about a $1 USD...
As a point of reference, 30 minutes of Internet time at the cafe costs $20 Namibian.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
When I write home, I realize how much I miss my family and friends, and then I feel deeply heartseer. For the longest time, it was to hard to even thinking about writing home...Heartseer is an Afrikaans word that means deeply sad or heart-sore.
To my friends and family, thank you for being patient with me. I am getting better.
I spent much of the week organizing the Youth Center's computer lab. I restored the network and standardized the 5 PCs. After the lab was online, I worked with my Namibian counterpart to create a proposal to upgrade the lab. We submitted the proposal, and then were asked to acquire cost quotations for our recommendations! We gathered the quotations, and will be submitting them this coming week.
I met with a computer center near my house, and worked out an awesome deal with them. If I fix and then perform routine maintenance on their computers, they will give Shoni and I free Internet access! I hope to spend time on their four computers this week.
There is a great hunger for computer knowledge and support here in Namibia. I am constantly being asked to help people and organizations with their computers -- I love it!
Monday, January 09, 2006
They are attracted to the light, and enter the house in small groups of 3 or 4 (we have no screens on our windows). They run around on the floor like crazy looking for things. I was typing on my computer when I felt something tickling my foot. I looked down, and three of the little critters were zooming around under the arch of my foot (I was barefoot).
There is another set of bugs that have also arrived. They have wings that are about an inch long, and after they land in the house, their wings fall off. The bugs are pretty big; the good thing is they seem to disappear (to someplace I can't see) very quickly. The only reason I know they are here, is because I see their wings scattered about on the floor.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Before I left my host family's house, we opened the Christmas presents we gave each other. Before we opened presents, they gave me a most wonderful gift. The four family members that were at the house, sang a traditional Christmas song to me. They alternated, each singing loudly while the others sang background. It was so beautiful, all I could do was sit and smile while me eyes teared up.
I Jay Haase, pledge my service to the people of Namibia especially to those in the community to which I am assigned as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I will join my talents, creativity, and hard work with those of my Namibian colleagues to envision and pursue the goals of the secondary education project.
I will honor and value the personal relationships that I develop with my family, friends, and professional peers, and abide by the highest standards of professional conduct.
I pledge to serve and learn with the people of Namibia to the best of my ability.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
It so happened that one of my sisters was leaving for Windhoek via train. Her train was scheduled to leave around midnight, and consequently she needed an escort to the train station. I offered to be her escort, along with one of my other younger sisters. The three of us walked 15 minutes to the train station. When the train arrived, we helped our sister carry her bags onto the train, gave her hugs goodbye, and then left.
As we were walking away from the train station my younger sister grabbed my hand and we walked most of the way back holding hands. In Namibia, it is common to hold someone's hand -- be it the hand of another man or another woman. It is a warm act of friendship shared between opposite and same sex friends. It is even common for a handshake with a friend to last multiple minutes while the ttwo friends catch up on each others recent news.
After a little while of holding hands, I looked at my sister and said to her, "I bet you feel sad because your sister has left for Windhoek."
She said, "No, I feel better now because I am holding your hand."
I wish we felt more comfortable holding each others hands in America.
My little brother was in my room one day, and asked me about the towel. I explained to him that it helped me remember that I was a guest in their house. My little brother looked at me, and said: "You are not a guest here, you are part of our family." As he finished saying family, he gave me a big hug.