International travel is always an interesting experience. Nothing ever goes completely as planned, something unexpected occurs, plans change. Dr. Wingenbach specifically told each of us to “pack our flexibility” for those reasons. Without our flexibility and willingness to go with the flow, this trip would have been a completely different experience! The misunderstandings, misadventures, and unique experiences just enriched our trip a little bit further.
I definitely packed my flexibility and it was, in fact, the only thing of mine to arrive in Windhoek….it took four days for my luggage to arrive. Missing luggage was not the greatest start to the trip, but my amazing classmates stepped up and loaned me items until my things finally arrived.
While her luggage and all supplies made it safely to Namibia, Laura came with only half a sleeping bag…go figure, the tallest student on our trip accidentally bought a child size sleeping bag. Needless to say, many jokes and laughs were shared over her purchase and watching her demonstrate how short it was on her. Laura was also the one who thought to buy some entertainment – a soccer ball named Wilson. For seven college kids, we played with the ball a lot. Unfortunately, Wilson disappeared somewhere in Swakopmund (foul play by Dr. Wingenbach is suspected). Not to worry though, we bought seven more just for safe measure.
Darren, Executive Intern aka Tobin suffered his fair share of African mishaps as well. Darren has a habit of leaving important items – cameras, iPhone, sunglasses, and toiletries. You name it, Darren left it somewhere in Namibia. Luckily, he has eight sets of eyes watching his back! He also blew a few circuits, tripped over a pole, and did NOT make a group of tourists laugh at his interesting jokes and blues music. Darren struggled a bit at times.
The bus. Our trusty bus driver, Dennis, and our bus have been through the TAMU whirlwind as well. Luckily, Dennis is a really cool driver and could handle our rowdy group. We’ve had University of Namibia guards join our bus to provide security on a tour, our chef hitch a ride into town with us, roadside bathroom breaks, angry street vendors almost throwing rocks, and even two different (and smaller) replacement buses by the last week. The bus has even seen some decent wipeouts – Trotter just falling backwards during our Etosha safari and I happened to slide out of my seat during a nap. Oh the stories Dennis must be telling his family about our group and our bus time!
Our trip has been full of laughs, adventures, and amazing visits; however, one of them required our utmost flexibility to survive. Our Ogongo game farm walk (aka wake up a 6am, walk through the farm, and see zero animals). Not many bright-eyed students that morning! After the hundreds of animals we saw in Etosha, nothing else could possibly top it. (Picture thanks to Dr. Wingenbach).
We’ve shared many meals together on this trip and two things are very apparent: we are coffee addicts and we need to double-check the salt or sugar situation more thoroughly. Rarely has there been real coffee provided at meals, but instead we get imitation, powdered coffee packets. We’ve gone through bowls of powdered “coffee” every day and I’m pretty sure real coffee will be one of the first things all of us have when we return home. We’ve put salt in coffee and sugar on wrong foods too. Definitely learned that lesson the hard way!
Last, but not least, Africa time. The pace of life is much slower here and as Americans, I think that’s a hard concept to grasp at times. We run from place to place and hurry through life; well, Africa time doesn’t allow us to do that. Dinner takes three hours, Internet speeds are sloth-like, drive times are rough estimates, walking is slower, greetings and pleasantries longer. Africa time has been challenging at times, but the change of pace can also be a welcomed change.
Through the ups and downs of this trip, our spirit and drive kept us going. Though some moments were a bit stressful, the greater picture and the stories those moments created are far more important. Keeping our flexibility and sense of humor (bad puns and all) has made this trip spectacular. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so much in my life as I have while on this trip.
Our time in Namibia is coming to an end, but the memories will last a lifetime. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to travel and learn with this group, visit world famous locations, and contribute to respected organizations. Namibia and all the hospitable people we’ve met during the past three weeks have certainly left their mark in my life. My classmates, Laura, Trotter, Micah, Kelsey, Logan, and Tara, and instructors, Tobin and Dr. Wingenbach, are all remarkable people. It has been a hilarious, fun, beautiful journey to travel with them and bond with them. Namibia and the ALEC Study Abroad Group will forever be cherished memories and a true highlight to my Texas A&M experience.