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Kim Laufenberg
Adventure is out there. Look to the future, learn from the past, but live in the present and follow your dreams.
Adventure is out there. Look to the future, learn from the past, but live in the present and follow your dreams.
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Apart from a reflection, I think this will be one of my last blogs for my Peace Corps service. Currently, it’s a major roller coaster of emotion: preparing for the future in terms of COS (close of service) travels and job searching. Getting back into the corporate world sure is daunting. There’s a lot of excitement and happiness intertwined with that in finally seeing friends and family again. The holidays really hold a special meaning in my heart more so now than ever. Only the future knows what is next for me.

I wanted to reminisce of my service though through a keepsake list I’ve created of things that are simply “normal” here in Namibia, yet are just not in the USA. I hope you enjoy, I know creating and brainstorming it has given me lots of smiles and makes me recall crazy memories:

·         Hitching/’hiking’ to travel anywhere (the village especially)
·         Sending any random kid to fetch anything/anyone
·         Power outages (for only God knows how long)
·         Meat/dead animal hanging from a random tree to sell
·         Flies/ants/insects on everything
·         Farm animals roaming through your yard/house
·         Letting elders go first in line
·         Dangerous snakes/giant insects (camel spiders/millipedes)
·         Random strangers walking into your home to greet you
·         Bathing outside via a bucket
·         Sharing a meal on one plate with everyone
·         Naked kids running around
·         Sleeping with frozen water bottles in the summer because it’s so bloody hot
·         Greeting everyone when you walk into a room
·         Waiting in line (post office, bank, groceries, anywhere) for hours
·         Walking through the bush to pick leaves for relish and berries to eat
·         Everyone being family and related somehow
·         Street vendors on every corner selling produce
·         Fat cakes
·         Constantly being asked for money or food
·         Shabin music
·         Wearing a shatenge
·         4 hour church services (which is actually a shorter one)
·         Pap, five years, fish
·         “Can you hear me now?”… issues
·         Clapping to accept something
·         Being propose to or asked to have someone’s baby
·         Being 4 hours late to a meeting
·         Tea break
·         Finding redneck ways to fix and reuse everything
·         Fetching water and filtering it
·         Cultural dancing
·         Hand washing all laundry
·         Not going to town during pay week (20th)
·         Making only noises to answer a question (and understanding said noises)
·         Talking about runny tummy
·         Flexible time
·         Coming now…..does not mean now
·         Urinating in public
·         Sunsets/wild animals

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NEW POST!! For the past school holiday, most of May, I was able to do two phenominal hikes: Fish River Canyon and Namib/Naukluft Dessert. 13 days of backpacking, it was epic! Below is a link a fellow volunteer made of our journey through Fish River Canyon and a description of Namib/Naukluft. Both were so unique and such an epic experience with some truly epic people :)

Namib/Naukluft Dessert Description (8 days):

Day 1: Park Office to Putte Shelter
The first day of the trail starts off with an easy walk down a dry riverbed. Beautiful pool just a half hour into walking. However, this feeling of ease is soon dispelled as the trail turns to the right and leads steeply up the mountainside. It is a meandering and somehow challenging ascent. This first challenge is rewarded with some beautiful views over the area adjoining the Naukluft park. When you get to the large fig tree take a break and have lunch or a snack. Eventually the trail reaches a saddle and levels out to follow a contour until it turns into a kloof. The trail follows this kloof for some distance until it reaches a plateau and Putte shelter.
The shelter was in a windy area so the night was chilly, well okay every night was chilly. This one had a great old fashioned water pump about 40 metres away. Make sure you find the trail for the next day before the sun goes down so you don't waste a half hour looking for it like we did.

Day 2: Putter Shelter to Ubusis Hut
From Putte the trail leads along a jeep track for some distance. The going is relatively easy for most of the morning. Once you reach the windmill you get close to the real fun. You start the descent down through Ubusis kloof. There are snakes in this area so make sure to throw rocks ahead and make plenty of noise to scare them away. Have lunch at Cathedral fountain and make sure to twerk on the chains. The challenging part of climbing down the chains was not being able to see where your feet were going. Just remember the next day you will be going up them and it will be much easier and more fun. There were about 5 chains on this day and only 2 were exceptionally challenging. We emerged in an area with beautiful quiver trees and walked for quite a bit longer. After you finish the kloof and enter into a boulder strewn river bed there were zebra running around the cliffs and we eventually found the hut close to the windmill in the trees. The hut is amazing. Running water, sinks, bunk beds and terrible china shop mattresses.
Take a walk around and there are great views of the road leading to the hut just a few minutes from the hut.

Day 3: Ubusis Hut to Adlerhorst Shelter
Return back the way you came through the river bed and past the quiver trees to the koof and climb up. This time was much more enjoyable and we were able to move through much faster. Once you reach the windmill the trail swings north and a steady, undulating walk in a valley leads to the next shelter. Back to roughing it at Adlerhorst shelter. We finished very fast this day which was perfect for us to use the clay rocks we picked up in the river beds earlier to paint our faces. The shelter was rotunda style and at night we were visited by a curious rhino.

Day 4: Adlerhorst Shelter to Tsams-Ost Shelter
Day four stats with an easy walk along a mountain track and we spotted a baby rhino with their mother following a mountain track close to us. We were advised to talk a lot amongst ourselves from days 2 to 5 so we did not surprise them and this was true until we actually saw one. Everyone fell silent and stopped and stared as the two trotted away from us. About an hour after the start the hiker reaches a split with the alternate route back to the park office. The main trail continues and soon enters Zebra kloof. After some time spent following the dry river bed the trail climbs steeply away up the side of the canyon until one reaches a vantage point with incredible views of the kloof and the surrounding mountains. After a short walk across the mountain top, the reason for the climb becomes apparent as the sheer rock face of a dry waterfall comes into view. The trail soon leaves the mountain tops and starts a difficult descent into the valley below. This section should be taken with precaution. At the bottom was an ideal spot for lunch and a few went to see the base of the waterfall which had a strangely beautiful black pool. The route down the kloof to Tsams Ost is much longer than one thinks, especially since the road leading to the shelter starts a few km before the shelter. At the end is Tsams Ost shelter which has a fantastic makeshift shower at the tap and sits in a wonderful area of trees but that means animals are also around. We saw a klipspringer walking around and many baboons as well. The end of day 4 meant our resupply as well which was a welcome sight!

Day 5: Tsams-Ost Shelter to Die Valle Shelter
The beginning of day 5 began with a climb. A big climb. From the top, beautiful views of the Tsams Ost valley are seen. The trail undulates for some considerable time before entering a long valley which one follows for the rest of the day. Beautiful panoramic views, this was a great time to stroll and take photos. Before the shelter there is a small man-made watering hole with a camera. The shelter is a kilometre further down the road with a fantastic entrance, tucked into the bush. The area was very windy but has amazing views.

Day 6: Die Valle Shelter to Tufa Tavern
From Die Valle Shelter one has a beautiful view up to the end of the canyon and the high waterfall at the end. After a short 1 km walk, the trail leaves the dry river bed and climbs steeply (mostly bouldering) up the mountainside for about 200m before a contour path is reached which takes the hiker into the kloof above the waterfall. This was phenomenal and passes right next to quiver trees. The kloof is then followed for some considerable distance, a chain again helps the hiker to overcome a difficult section. Slowly ascending up a path with lots of bouldering and vegetation. This is followed by an equally spectacular descent to Tufa shelter which is much much longer than we thought. Tufa Shelter is hidden near the riverbed and the water tape is across the riverbed.

Day 7: Tufa Tavern to Kapokvlakte Shelter
This epic day of the trail starts with an easy walk for about a kilometre to the entrance of Arbeid Adelt Kloof. As one progresses up the kloof the going gets progressively tougher with two chains for assistance getting through difficult sections until one finds themselves at the bottom of a 28m long piece of chain dangling down a near vertical dry waterfall. However, our experiences from the last 6 days prepared us for this obstacle and it was quickly completed by everyone in the group. This was when we sadly said goodbye to three of our number. They went ahead to reach the other shelter just after 10am then the end of the trail at 3pm. Perhaps a record, but probably not. We continued up the kloof for quite a while and eventually climbed out of the gorge to walk along the ridge of a mountain and enjoyed the panoramic views of the plains 500m below. We walked for some time battling the wind and finally reached the summit where we left our peace corps luggage tag with our names as a memento for such an amazing trip. The trail continued for some tie along the edge of an escarpment before eventually turning away to a green plateau area across the Kapokvlakte and the shelter was reached by lunchtime.

Day 8: Kapokvlakte Shelter to Park Office
The final day of the trail starts with a seemingly endless walk across the Kapokvlakte until we reached its end in another long and steep descent down a tributary of the Naukluft river. Here we came upon perennial water, lush vegetation and beautiful pools of clear water. Some of us decided to jump into the freezing water which was a wonderful end to such a great trail. A short while later after navigating the river we arrived back at the start of the trail.

Prepare for the cold and wind. Layers of clothing, a mat, and a nice sleeping bag (below 30 degrees F) Afraid of heights? I was and I was able to conquer those fears quickly, mostly because that was the only way to finish and get home. By the end of the trail I wanted more chains and more climbing. Don't expect the restaurant at the park office to have french fries like they said they would. Expect the bloody baboons to steal your ramen and nutella. Be prepared for blisters. Rubbing in vaseline to the toes an feet helped as well as baby powder but not together. Break in those shoes at least months before hand to avoid blisters. Ropes were helpful for lowering/raising bags to help some conquer the chains. Do this trail!

Life in Gunkwe, Zambezi, Namibia. Crazy and chaotic as usual. It's funny how things just become the normal. From carrying water buckets on your head to naked kids (toddlers) running through the school grounds, I just don't think anything of it anymore. That's where I have to say I'm at, just living life. Not a whole lot of surprises, but lots of laughs. My experience here has really taught me to laugh more then stress out over the hard moments. Smiles versus cringe and just let it slide off your shoulders, because really you get through it all in time.

What I mainly want to focus on this time around is how luckily I am. Not just to have this opportunity, but to have those in my life that have helped me along the way.

I can't say my parents were happy when I first told them I would be moving to Namibia for two years. I mean what parent would be thrilled their daughter is moving to Africa into a great unknown? Yet, they respected my decision and have been my number one package and letter senders. The endless details on my mom's cruises, weather at home (thanks dad) or underwear and tampon supplies really shows me that love conquers all distances.

Many friends and other family members have been equally supportive sending me stickers for the kids I teach (Kate, Chantel), which they have gone crazy over! Or the many candy boxes which I devour with 12 hours typically (Curt, Matt/Kelly, Sally, Allie). Even a whole box of toothpaste and brushes (Charlie/Jennie). I can't even begin to list all those that have sent me letters and I have tried to respond to them all and am over 120 letters now sent for Namibia. The love you send me through packages and letters are a constant drive to push forward and finish my experience here.

Lastly, the friends I have gained in Namibia has shown me that no matter where you are, what your history, sex, culture is, you can make lifelong connections. Many Peace Corps volunteers, I feel like I will bonded to forever with all the ups, downs, complete failures, explosions and mountain climbs we had together. There are no words or values you can stamp on that. The neighbors in my village, William, Beauty and Noreen, have helped in ways I could never explain. They helped pick me up on my lowest of lows and are always the happy faces I can go to for a good laugh.

I couldn't have made it through this adventure without the support of all of you. You all enrich my life and make me feel so fortunate. I wish I could truly capture what you have done for me, but I hope "I love you" is enough. Thank you.

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My apologizes for the delay in updating the blog. In all honesty, that’s life no matter if you’re in America or Africa. More than anything I try to live in the present and stay connected to those I love miles and miles away through many letters, hence why you can lose track of other things sometimes. With over 100 letters written and sent, I feel as though I’m maintaining my friendships.

As for life in Namibia now, I excited to begin my final year. After talking to another volunteer, the best way to describe this year is learning the shift of responsibility. Year one, it was all about taking on the world and doing anything and everything to help my community. Now I realise what is in my control and what I need to just let go because I am only one person. Hence why the focus is on sustainability of the projects I’ve already implemented. This pertains to, first the school orchard which was planted last October for Arbour Day. Approximately 40 mango trees, along with a fence and pipeline were put in just next to the school. What a job that was! Unfortunately, it’s already been a rollercoaster in terms of maintenance for watering. I have hope that we can bounce back and bring a stable source of fruit for the community as they are the ones that need to be invested if they wish to harvest the food.

The other major undertaking I have had over the past year was the school library. From being non-existent to over 1000 books now, it’s been a huge success in terms of student utilization. As I’ll be teaching library skills again this year, I plan to drill the importance of using the library in my kids even if it is just to look at the pictures. The bigger hurdle to overcome is finding a teacher to maintain and manage the library after I leave. Work above and beyond the regular schedule for teachers is just typically not accomplished from my experience. That’s why I’ve attempted hard to get the community and learners invested in projects. Time will tell.

I began teaching this next week. Mathematics 5th and 6th grade and Natural Science 6th grade are my subjects for the next 8 months. Nearly the same as last year apart from natural science which I’m quite excited about. It will be a challenge in terms of use of English skills (the kids just have a rough time with my accent along with the lack of understanding), but also fun to explore experiments and the environment another passion of mine. Pumped to use balloons to show static electricity or build a water wheel to demonstrate water energy! Nerdy, I know, but you have to love what you do.
My official COS (close of service) date is August 31st. It’s hard to fathom that it’s so close. I love my time just relaxing in my village right now. Yoga by candlelight in a hut just is something special or bucket bathing under the stars. A couple things I will certainly miss. More to come :)


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And more pictures from Kim received sometime in July 2015
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Why I joined the Peace Corps:
Before I had left nearly six months ago, I had been posed with the question above (at least a dozen times).  There is no simple answer for the question, but now I think I am ready to tackle the meaning of this experience for me.
I have had an amazing life thus far.  I have a family which I truly love and has supported me through many things.  There have been some crazy friends along the way who have taught me a lot and given me guidance when I have been in need of it.  I have had a great education and opportunity to explore other hobbies and interests along the way.
Yet in drawing a close to college, I felt stir crazy.  Not as in uncomfortable because you are graduating soon and entering the real world, but unsettled because I could feel deep in my bones that wasn't where I was meant to be.  I had a job offer as an engineer with a great company, but I knew if I accepted it, I would be letting myself down.  There was something more out there calling for me.
About two years before graduating, I started to look into the Peace Corps.  The instant I read their ID core expectations, I just thought, "That's exactly how I want to live my life."  But I was 22 and never had left the US.  Before, how would I ever be accepted?  One thing, I have definitely learned from the experience is:  Life just works out sometimes.
I wanted more than the corporate world.  I wanted a true challenge.  A challenge that wouldn't easily be overcome yet would be a trial nearly everyday.  I write this while eating a box of cookies to overcome a rough couple of weeks.  My days can be immensely hard.  Not in dealing with deadlines or report expectations but handling not having easy access to water for three days or being asked by students for food because they don't have any.  Simply making through a day, sometimes feels like a major accomplishment.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I value going through this.  Beyond the initial challenge, I also wanted to travel and explore more.  Explore not just in a physical sense, but also emotionally.  While I was in college for a while, I felt so rushed in deciding what I wanted to do potentially for the rest of my life.  I have so many interests, is there really just one thing meant for me?  I needed more time because ultimately I want to give any job 100%.  I want to truly enjoy what I'm doing and wake up everyday wanting to go to work.
I guess I really wanted to figure out what's next in my life and where I belong.  I know I'll always love to travel, but I've learned so much from my experience thus far and have only more to go.  Everyone paves their own path in life and has the ability to alter it in whichever direction they choose.  Currently my path takes me through Namibia where I have learned:
     - Patience (It gets you through long lines and allows you to communicate better with others especially in other languages)
     - Be flexible (now never means now and sometimes it's just good to go with the flow.)
     - Celebrate the little things (Just did all my laundry by hand. WIN!)
     - There's always tomorrow (AKA not everything has to be done today, except maybe dishes, because of the ants.)
   And lastly, but not leastly:
     - Believe in the good of things (Yes, bad things happen.  AKA I had friends robbed in Windhoek, but you can't let that define everyone or you'll miss out on small epic opportunities)

I hope this gives you a better gauge on my experience and why I joined the Peace Corps.  Until next time ...


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I have another letter from Kim postmarked 10/20/2014 that she would like to have viewed on the blog.  That is as follows:
"Mulumele! or Hello!  Officially sworn in and at site.  This is actually week three already.  I absolutely love it.  The hut life is certainly epic.  My hut actually has electricity ... mind blowing!  The Ministry of Education provided a stove, fridge, lawn table & chairs, wardrobe and a bed.  I couldn't ask for more.  Over my bed hangs a mosquito net thereby making it look like a canopy bed, haha.  The hut itself has mud walls and a thatched roof.  Chicken wire is stapled all around the roof to seal the gap between the mud walls and roof to keep out the critters.  I love it!  With a thatched roof versus zinc, it's never unbearably hot (though it's still hot).  Worse case, I freeze a bottle of water and cuddle it at night to keep cool.  : - )
I also have a Grade A quality pit lactrine.  I don't know how else to describe it.  It's sealed in cement with a toilet seat and is surrounded by reeds with a tin roof and door.  The engineer in me made me build a wooden shelf and clothes line from collected branches.  The wooden shelf holds my soap and rubber ducky.  For bathing, I have another reed enclosure behind my hut.  There, I bucket bathe which actually is enjoyable to me now.  There is a 5 foot opening though so public nudity does happen.  But that is normal in Africa; right?
The school itself is quite small (174 learners).  It is great though.  The teachers are so kind.  Right now, I am mainly shadowing teachers but I have taught a few classes as well.  Learners are so shy.   It is going to be a challenge to get them to participate but discipline shouldn't be as much of an issue.  The school has a water tap right next to it which is what I use.  So I have to walk approximately 500m from my hut to get water.  I fill my huge water jug once a week for dishes (washed in buckets) and then for bathing which I carry a bucket on my head!  When in Africa ....
The  area itself looks like what you would envision of Africa:  grassy savannah, scattered trees and lots of sand.  Yet, that will all change in two months.  Once the rainy season hits, the area becomes immensely green and lush.  Floods even occur.  But most exciting, all sorts of animals roam about!  I have already seen elephants and baboons.  I still keep up with my running schedule, even though I sweat buckets.  Yoga also is done everyday but now with a bunch of kids.
All in all, life is good.  Other volunteers in my area have truly become my second family.  I am excited to begin teaching and there are many more adventures to come!
Musiyale Hande
Kim Laufenberg

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Letter received on 03/02/15 shared to blog:
If you feel inclined to send me something, the following items would rock my world:
Tea (any kind)
Trail Mix
Pens (black or red)
Reading material (books, magazines, etc.)
Maple Syrup
Girl  Scout Cookies (IT  WOULD BE EPIC!)
Funny pictures
In all honesty though, letters are the best.  : > )
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Another letter received on September 8th from Kim to be posted on her blog:

U Cwani?  Ni Hande!  (How are you?)  (Fine!)  Just throwing a little of Silozi at you.  So it has been three weeks already!  Crazy to think it is only been that long.  I already have a routine here and feel soo connected to my fellow volunteers and host family.  It is so epic.  Even had a marriage proposal on the street.  Haha, I guess that is typical for female white volunteers.
Last week, I had an interesting situation.  My host mom wakes up at 5 am everybody because she is a chef and has to prep food and start cooking.  Therefore, I also wake up at 5 am as does everyone else in the household.  I waited a couple of days before I bathed just to meet the family more and prep myself.  So my third morning there, I planned on finally washing up.  I woke up to find a water main had burst and there was no water.  I felt unclean and had no means to fix it for the first time in my life.  It was certainly a learning experience.  Don't worry.  I had a huge bucket and used a water heater, normally used for tea/coffee to boil some water to heat the tap water.  It was still a very cold bath, but a well needed one.
I've also had power outages as well in which case I ended up teaching my host brother yoga by candlelight.  It is always wonderful.  In all honesty, everything I've seen thus far is way more developed than I expected.  WIFI exists in most cities.  Families have TVs and electricity and most people own cell phones.  Talk about mind blowing.
Language lessons are long but fun  My trainer, Momma Rosa is in her sixties and full of energy.  She continues to push me further to develop my language skills.  I find myself laughing nearly every class, plus she gives us chocolate occasionally!  mmm chocolate.
Last night all the volunteers got together for an ultimate frisbee game.  It was wonderful to run around and just have fun.  Deana and Keenan opted to seek out some ice cream during the game and ate it.  I very much appreciated them.  Next week we are having a movie night ... the Lion King of course.  I found out this week Hakuna Mata is Silozi (my language!) and it does mean no worries!
Every Monday and Friday morning, we sing the Namibian, US and Africian national anthems as well as some native songs.  It is wonderful, though I am likely not saying half of it correctly.  Oh well, I still love singing.  Today, there was a random dance party in between classes.  It was epic.  I learned new dance moves.
Some of the things I've learned about this week:  relationships in Namibia, HIV and corporate punishment.  The proper way to hug was demonstrated, which I found very funny and was smiling the whole sessions.  Basically, don't hug for too long and give a slight gap between the two people.  Also PDA (public displays of affection) are not acceptable.  In one of the tribes, it is not unusual for cousins (not first) to get married.  As for HIV, it is certainly a serious issue here and was nice to be made aware of and how many are shunned when it is found out they have HIV.  Lastly, corporal punishment is widely used both at home and in schools which will certainly be a challenge to overcome when I start teaching.
Namibia is a beautiful place and I am excited to see what's in store for me next.  Saturday, we have a cultural day full of cooking and trying native foods.  (I'm going to eat soo much).  The pictures that are being put up with this post include in random order:  random dance party, trip to Windhoek meat market and expo (like a county fair), hamburger night (US style), photo shoot with my host brother and friends with bubbles, my current home, school visit, board of funny/interesting occurrences that have happened to volunteers, Herdes Monument, my host family, pics of Okahanja, random volunteers, the travel over and more.
Many more adventures to come and please feel free to write me letters and I wish you all well.

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