Author: Rae Erickson
Location: Windhoek, Namibia
This morning, three letters from my friends arrived in my mail slot. While I knew that one was hopefully coming, I wasn’t sure if it would make it, so seeing three waiting for me was an absolutely beautiful surprise. Being abroad for the past few months has changed me significantly, but it also has brought me even closer to my roots of who I know that I am. Dealing with mental health struggles in another country is intimidating to say the least, and missing my friends and family has been extremely difficult, but amidst these struggles, I am forced to remember why I am here, everything I am learning, and how important the people are to me that I hold close to my heart when they cannot be close to me physically. My time here has transformed me so much that I have begun going by a new nickname, Rae, that suits me in a million different ways! Without being on another continent, and meeting the people I have, I can’t say I would be the person I feel myself becoming today. This past week was fall break in Windhoek, but it was also a kind of spring break, because of the reverse seasons!! A few friends and I journeyed to Victoria Falls in Zambia, where we swam next to beautiful rainbows and saw little pockets of God. Even though the waves of homesickness have been as great as the crashing rapids of the Zambezi River, I know that this is where I am meant to be. Being in this other worldly place was truly a wild contrast to the experience of the week prior, when we stayed in northern Namibia for our rural homestay! Being in Outapi was one of the hardest things that I have ever done, but it was also one of the most rewarding. Throughout my whole time in this country, I have realized over and over again how strong and lucky that I really am. Prior to my departure in August, I was terrified of what was to come. Every day that I am here, I know that my little vial of bravery is inching upwards. Every day that I am here, I become more educated about how the injustices of the world are often covered up, how much I really have, and where my passions are leading me.
In Outapi, my homestay family had five loving children and two welcoming parents. The father of the family was the Vice Head of the village, and we talked at length about his responsibilities, as well as the accessibility of healthcare in his village. Because health services are so available in the US, it was heartbreaking but also incredibly eye opening to see firsthand how not everywhere on the planet has this luxury at their fingertips. I will always remember the hugs and company of the two little girls in particular, Alina and Monika, when reflecting on this time of my journey here. Even though the littlest one did not speak a lot of English, she squeaked out the cutest “THANK YOU!” once I gave her the necklace I made her on my final day in their home. Sitting around the campfire and singing songs in Oshiwambo and English will be something I will hold with me throughout the rest of my life, forever and ever.
The last thing I want to touch on for this blog is my experience in Etosha National Park. We drove into the park and immediately saw thousands of zebras! Passat, the driver for CGEE, has a passion for game drives, and senses creatures coming out of the darkness like no one I have ever met. On our first night in the park, we stayed in a chalet, and visited a watering hole. There were tons of friends that came to visit, emerging timidly out of the night to drink while we all watched as quietly as possible. A giraffe, two rhinos, three zebras, and an entire herd of elephants joined the site, creating a moment charged with power, spirituality, and grace. The next night, we camped before embarking on our long journey back to Windhoek. The calm presence of the animals was exactly what we needed before returning back to CGEE’s home base!