Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First day "on the job"

It’s Tuesday morning and the house is quiet.  The windows and doors open to catch the cool morning breezes. The birds have become quiet and I hear dogs barking and cars driving past the house.  Yesterday evening I wrote some notes about my first day “on the job.”  (That term takes on multiple meanings in my family.)

I knew that on Monday we would go to UNAM to take care of Visa and transportation matters.  In an email I received prior to leaving the US, my Namibian dean requested that I contact the director of Human Resources first thing on Monday.  I sent her an email around 7:00 AM and called at 9:00.  There don’t seem to be message machines and no one picked up the phone.  Since I hadn’t received an email reply, we decided to visit the local Mall to pick up phones and a few other items.  Rather than trying to navigate a local taxi, we called the transport company used by the hotel and PLU.  Gerry, who had driven for our students two years ago, picked us up.  As I climbed into the car, Olivia, the manager from Casa, told me I had a phone call from UNAM.  It was Emelda, the dean’s secretary told me that we needed to go to the University and talk with the Human Resources director as previously arranged.  We changed plans immediately!  I hadn’t interpreted the email correctly: clearly, “checking in” means in person and not via phone or email.

Our experience at HR was welcoming and left all three of us with a warm feeling.  The director Sophia was friendly and informative.  She was relieved to see that our passports had three-month tourist stamps. Not to worry, she said, and assured us that everything would work out.  She was also surprised that we hadn’t received our official visas because she had been involved in the process earlier. Sophia also gave Lindsey some ideas for different volunteer opportunities and even part time jobs.

  Emelda had instructed us to pick up the car keys after meeting with Sophia so we went upstairs and met Sarah, the assistant to the Director of External Relations.  She knew our names and her greetings felt so warm and welcoming.  I later learned that she had arranged our transportation from the airport to Casa. Sarah told us that she had to find out about the car, but if we went to the Education building in “X Block” she would relay the information to Emelda by the time we got there. I had met Emelda before and it was nice to see a familiar face. Emelda had received information that the car WASN’T ready, which was different than what she had said on the phone.  However, we had a good chat and she called a friend to drop us off at the mall so we could take care of securing cell phones. 

Our Mall experience was fine but I was SO ready to get home after two hours. We stopped at Mugg and Bean for coffee and a late breakfast.  Tony ordered a bacon and cheese omelet, and actually got a toasted cheese and bacon sandwich on brown bread. Standing in front of the kiosk at the MTC phone store and looking puzzled as to how to get a number to be served—the machine requested a mobile number in order to proceed. A woman who had just received her ticket came and asked if she could help.  I told her that we needed to purchase cell phones and she directed us to a local “variety” store, telling us that it would be less expensive that way. On her recommendation, we went to JeT and were helped by Hilena.  I know the spelling of her name because after she finished setting up our phones, she put her name and number in the contacts.  Everything seemed to take a while—even finding some little bits that were on our list—eye solution for Tony and anti-itch cream for Lindsey’s mosquito bites.
            After sending the information to all those who had requested my contact details, Lindsey and I decided we needed to chill around the pool.  The phone started ringing 10 minutes after I sent out the information—I  just have to get used to the phone—answering and messaging.  So we ended our day with a swim, lemonade and trail mix.
This is our pool.
We swam in the main pool while waiting for our filter to be switched on

Some final thoughts that were with me throughout the day…
For the last nine months, it was familiar and easy to say that I was going to Namibia on an 11-month Fulbright.  Now that I am here, that deep sense of familiarity is gone.  When I walked on the UNAM campus, I knew the buildings and offices.  I knew how to get from the administration building to the Education block.  But as I walked under the bridge on the way to the academic buildings, I felt the new person on the block.  The directions are familiar but I don’t yet have a sense of belonging.  At the same time, I realize that in two or three months, things will feel different. This place will become my workspace, my place of being comfortable.  Not felling settled is a new feeling for me.  I feel rooted in Washington—at PLU, around Lakewood, and in my house.  Here in Namibia, I am building something new.  It’s not the US—the pace, the customs, and the interactions are different.  People here are friendly and welcoming, and I know that navigating my new environment will be supported by the easy interactions I have already had with people.  I am not homesick for Washington; I just know that this is an adjustment period and I need time to put down roots and feel settled.
            One final note—many of you know that my biggest Namibian fear was driving and navigating my way around Windhoek.  When got our car in the evening, I drove about 1 foot into the driveway—baby steps.  Going to dinner last night, Tony drove and I was pleased to provide perfect directions to the Ocean Basket restaurant, probably 4 miles from the house.  It’s next to the Super Spar grocery store, so I have the directions to one location clear in my head!
Looking the part, but I only drove about 1 foot.

1 comment:

  1. Jan, Tony, Lindsey,
    What a neat experience you all are having! I look forward to reading your blogs and checking out all of the pictures.