100 years ago, the first diamond in the south of Namibia was discovered near Luderitz by Zacharias Lewala. 100 years later, I’ll be heading there to find other diamonds.
Yesterday, we received our site placements for Peace Corps. And in one of those freak moments that only an odd and entertaining universe like ours can produce, I ended up exactly where I guessed I would go: Luderitz. When I first learned I was going to Namibia, Luderitz was the first city I learned about after the capitol, Windhoek. I immediately saw myself there – on the coast, by the bay, an ocean of water on one side and an ocean of sand on the other. I often find myself in worlds wedged between worlds.
As I read the site description and my job description, I couldn’t believe how perfect it all sounded. Luderitz is isolated, but it is an oasis, fueled by diamond mining, seafood, and light industry, it is a city situated in the midst of a massive expanse of sand and rock – if you look at it from google earth, I doubt you’ll be able to believe that anyone lives there. In fact, the entire Karas region in Namibia’s south is among the least densely populated areas in the world. It is something like ¾ the size of Utah, yet hosts a mere 76,000 people – 13,000 of whom live in Luderitz. This works out to just under .5 people per square kilometer.
To many this might sound anything but ideal, but I’ve always had a certain romance with the desert. Drought, distance, dryness, dust, and yet, in the midst of it all: life, seemingly sustained only by the lacustrine sky. The sun exaggerates her paintings in the desert, and the wind recreates the landscape at its whim. And with the rains come recrudescence.
I can hardly wait for all of this, and yet, there’s also sadness with any impending change. Over the past month, I’ve built some very strong friendships with the other Group 39ers, which I think we can objectively say is the best group of Peace Corps Namibia volunteers in history. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but in truth I feel this way. We’ve been very supportive of each other in a lot of ways, and now, we have only one month left with each other. Fortunately though, I think our ties will remain strong – and on the positive side, we now know we have friends all over the country to crash with when we travel!
I don’t want to write much more about Luderitz, as I’m trying my hardest not to create too many expectations until I’ve actually been there. The first 3 months of our placement we are advised to take things very slow, and I plan on it. My priorities will be in building relationships and ensuring that I’ve got my Afrikaans down in a solid way, and finding passionate youth leaders who can turn our projects into something powerful and sustainable.
But I will say that I am inspired by my new home and my new job. I will say that I expect to be challenged. And I will say that I hope to overcome these challenges, to collaborate with many of you, and with many counterparts in Namibia. And I will say that I hope to make you all proud.