Editor’s note: Jessica Witer, of Anna, left May 21 to spend the summer in Namibia, Africa, on a mission trip.
The 21-year-old, self-employed massage therapist is traveling with Experience Mission, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. As she is able and has access to the Internet, she will send tales of her experiences, which the Sidney Daily News will publish as they arrive.
NAMIBIA — Our leaders in Namibia needed to train us for living in our communities and get us used to the living conditions, but they also wanted us to have fun.
Because we gave up our summers to serve strangers, they wanted to start off our summer with activities we could actually get excited about. The first day, we walked around town so our group leader could familiarize us with the stores we’d be going to and introduce us to some locals who sold handmade souvenirs.
Our leader, Andy, also took us to the beach, where the coast of Namibia meets the Atlantic Ocean. We had some jet lag so we were all in bed by 8:30.
The next day, we got up to go to their surprise for us, which was about a 30-minute drive away. We arrived at Africa’s tallest sand dune and climbed it to the top. Once there, we had a mini photo shoot of each other with the dunes and desert behind us. We spent about two hours playing at the top, then rolled down.
Our next surprise was driving to a shallow lake where flamingoes gathered to eat. We took pictues, then left for our third and final surprise, which was riding camels. Camels are much taller than I realized. I had an easy time, but the girls who’ve never ridden horses before were scared and uncomfortable. It was on my bucket list to ride on camels, so I got to check somehting off without even trying.
Still struggling with jet lag, and having accomplished all of that by 2 p.m., we took a long nap before we made dinner together.
The two guys on my team and our leader stayed in a different house during training week than the girls, so after they left, all of us girls stayed up talking about ourselves and our lives and bonding over shared experiences.
The third day, we began our training. Our leader/teacher, Hein, spoke to us for hours of the history of Africa and the root of all its problems. After class, I swam in the ocean alone, because the other girls thought it was too cold. I didn’t get why the ocean was empty — and many of the locals stared as they passed — until I rememberd that it was winter in Africa, and they thought the 65-degree weather was cold.
The next two days, we trained during the day and walked around town in the evenings. We cooked and ate all of our meals together and spent time after dinner and before bed together.
One night, we all told each other our stories, and the other night, Andy got out his guitar and we all sang together. It was incredible learning so much about each other, realizing how the things they told us affected them as we knew them now and how alike we all were when we talked about our struggtles. By the time we finished training and left for our first communities, we’d been together for only two short weeks.
In that time, two things had happened that were almost unbelievable: One, we were closer with each other and more attached to each other than we were with people back home we’d known our whole lives. Two, we were already referring to hot showers, washing machines, pillows, even fruits and vegetables as “luxuries.”
Two weeks we’d been on our trip. We hadn’t even started camping, hadn’t even joined our communities. We’d even spent the first week in a dorm building in the U.S., and already, our perception of what was necessary and what was luxurious had changed.
Our trip is called “Immersion” for a reason. It isn’t that life is so different here that’s shocking, nor is it how quickly they forced us into it. We all talked together about how surprising it is to us how quickly we got used to it. When we sat down for our last dinner at training, which was a blowl of white rice, frozen peas and carrots and chicken, we all cheered for “our feast.”
I washed my clothes by hand in a bathtub and hung it on the line behind the house to dry. We don’t have a vacuum, a mop or paper towels, so we clean everything by hand with rags. There aren’t enough beds for the seven of us, so we rotate who sleeps in the bed and who sleeps on the ground. We don’t have WiFi, so we play card games, sing while Andy plays his guitar and walk around town together.
There are more hours in one day than I realized.