Friday, January 06, 2006

Home Stay - Christmas

I did not spend Christmas eve with my host family. I returned to our training center eve of Christmas eve.

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.

My Pledge of Service

At our Peace Corps swearing in ceremony, I said the following pledge:
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

Home Stay - Train Station

In Namibia, people travel a lot during the holidays (Christmas time). It is also common for members of the same family to travel to different locations for the holidays. For example, one family member may go to their uncle's house in Windhoek, one to a older sister's house in Luderitz, and three other members to the family farm in the country.

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.

Home Stay - Guest Towel

I had my own bedroom during my stay with my host family. My room was large, had a small desk, chair, bed, and wardrobe. On the wardrobe I hung a small towel that had the word "Guest" woven into it. I had brought the towel to help me remember I was a guest in Namibia.

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.