By Kelsey Smith
After 3 flights that took us between 3 continents, 36 hours of traveling, and an accumulation of maybe 5 or 6 hours of sleep, we finally arrived at our destination at the Neudamm Campus of the University of Namibia. I have to say, getting there was probably the least stressful experience within the past week, mostly thanks to the people I will be surrounded with all day everyday for the next month. Bad jokes alongside the excitement that our adventure has finally begun continue to allow contageous smiles and laughter spread between each precious face of our newfound family. Preparing to leave the country and enter into an area that I did not have much knowledge about turned out to be the most challenging part this far. Taking care of things around the house, saying goodbye to friends and family, 2 a.m. trips to the Wal-Mart , poor packing skills, meeting for class and writing papers all seemed to creep up on me at the same time within about 72 hours of leaving the U.S. Getting to the airport, checking in, and going through security felt as if more than the 45 pounds that was my suitcase had been lifted off of my shoulders. I could begin to relax, get to know 6 of my 8 new family members better, and give my mom and brother one last call before boarding our first 10-hour flight.
The people that work for British Airways made the experience much more comfortable with their hospitality and to my excitement, REALLY cool British accents. It never got old hearing my sweet flight attendant repeatedly calling his passengers “love” while graciously serving us. When I began playing around with the touch screen that sits in the back of the headrest I was pleasantly surprised to find popular movies and TV shows along with a map that allowed us to track our flight’s location around the world. Sleeping on the plane was another story. Each time I would fall asleep it wasn’t long before I woke up to find that gravity had taken its toll yet again, bringing my head down in a position that my neck did not agree with. The airport in London was amazing. It felt as if we were in an enormous building that can’t decide whether it wants to be a mall or an airport. Our next flight to Johannesburg, South Africa was about the same, but it was a little bit easier to sleep because of how much we were overdue from the previous flight. Finally, the short flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek did each and every one of us in. At one point we were all passed out in unison, not affected by the shaking of the plane during taking off and landing, and sadly not even affected by eating (one of us… a.k.a. Tobin… literally fell asleep between each bite of food).
We reached Windhoek, Namibia to find the rest of our group. One unfortunately was told that her luggage had been lost (which has still not been discovered after more than 72 hours). This was one of those moments that Dr. Wingenbach’s advice to “pack our flexibilty” came into play. We loaded a bus, and took a short drive to the campus we would call home for the next 5 days. As I looked around I already felt at home with the scenery resembling the panhandle of Texas, or the countryside of New Mexico. The people that welcomed us to the campus are nicer and more accommodating than we could have asked for. Our meal that night was prepared by the cooks that continue to so graciously feed us breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the most selfless way.
We had the privilege of sitting in on a meeting with some of the University’s Directors, Deans, and other faculty members. They showed us a glimpse into the agriculture programs at their school and talked about how much progress they have made and continue to make at the University of Namibia. A few of their members attended Texas A&M during graduate studies, so we all loved hearing and relating to stories about their time in Aggieland.
After only 24 hours we already have so much gratitude because of the gracious people here at the Neudamm campus. They continue to go out of their way to selflessly serve, teach, laugh, and provide us with more than we expected. We will never be able to repay them, but I pray that our time, conversations, smiles, and laughter will express to them how much we appreciate their hard work.