Editor’s note: Jessica Witer, of Anna, left May 21 to spend the summer in Namibia, Africa, on a mission trip.
The 22-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 weekly.
OKAHANDJA, Namibia — Life on the farm: Every day, I wake up the first time at 4 a.m., when the rooster starts crowing. Then I wake up again at 5, 6 and 7 and actually get up at 7:30. I always thought roosters crowed a couple times when the sun came up, but this one goes for 15 minutes every hour from 4 to 8.
After I get up, I take a shower, which is freezing, so I can’t even stand in the water. We all meet inside the home for breakfast, which Meme (Mother) Maria and her daughters prepare for us. Sometimes it’s simple, like bread and butter, tea and coffee. Other times, they go all out with eggs and peppers, sausage and salsa. Occasionally, they just put out pap (editor’s note: a porridge made from corn), which is the worst thing I’ve ever eaten.
Because making meals for us is a huge gesture, we always eat 100 percent of what they put out. Mornings they serve pap, we all eat slowly while eyeing the huge pot, hoping someone else refills their bowl first. I do the dishes from breakfast, and then we go outside to join the kids.
In Africa, the rural parts are so large and so unpopulated that different homes, farms and communities can be hours apart. The parents can’t make that drive every day (many don’t even own cars), so kids will stay at the school the full week and go home on weekends.
Tati (Uncle) Paulis will spend an entire day driving aound Namibia, picking up or dropping off the students. The kids are ages 4 to 6, so we spend 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. playing games with them, singing songs for them and giving Meme Maria and Ericka, their teachers, a break.
Meme gives us a break at 10 a.m. for a snack (apples and rusks [editor’s note: a dry biscuit] to dip in Milo [editor’s note: a drink made from chocolate powder produced by the Nestle company]), and at noon for lunch. Sometimes the meat at lunch is chicken or sausage or beef, and other times, we all conclude it’s beef, but we all secretly know it isn’t. I don’t ask though, because I don’t want to find out.
After lunch, we deliver the kids to Ericka, who isn’t part of the the family but lives there because she’s the teacher.
After this is free time, which is filled with group devotions, chores, naps or trips Tati Paulus takes us on. Many evenings, we will fit 11 of us in his van (three in the front seat, four in the middle and four in the back, which is two benches facing each other rather than a row of seats facing forward). He takes us to visit church leaders, the owners of the farms or the workers of the farms.
The church leaders will let us sit and drink tea while they tell us excitedly of what’s been accomplished so far. The farm owners will have their help bring out a tray of tea and biscuits while they answer our questions about life in Namibia and we answer theirs about our trip. The farm workers are usually shy at first and, depending on the hour, will offer us a seat around a fire or will let us help them with their work or tell us about their faith and let us pray for them.
Tati Paulis will lead a service every single night all over the country, which he takes us to. Often, the men are openly drunk and the children are playing with trash.
After we get back home, we eat dinner, and I do the dishes again. Dishes are done behind the house in a bucket of water they heat over a fiare.
When we go to bed, we aren’t tired — we’re exhausted. When we get up, it’s barely light.
When we eat, we’re not hungry — we’re starving. Sometmes the wind stops, so they can’t pump water, and we all have to pray for wind that night so that we can have water again tomorrow.
Life here is so much more difficulat, because they need to do full days of work just to survive. Life here is so simple because there’s nothing to distract them from the present. I’ve never once heard a single one of them complain.