It’s been a crazy couple of weeks – it’s been physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting
More on why later, but this morning, I had a conversation that made it all worth it, even just for a bit.
I’d become friends with a woman (let’s call her Victoria) shortly after arriving in Rundu, and although our friendship started off very surface level, and our conversations really only revolved around my American accent, what Boston is like, my perception of Namibian gender norms and culture, and why I think 65 degree weather is still pretty warm, she slowly (or maybe not so slowly) opened up to me about her marriage.
Her husband lives in Windhoek while she lives in Rundu, supporting her daughter Natalie and his daughter Mary.
Recently, she just found that that he had been sending money to another woman for reasons unknown – quite the sum of money, too.
She asked for my opinion — as she felt he was cheating her, but couldn’t do anything about it.
Commence a series of conversations, where I’d learn that when she lived with him in Windhoek, he’d cheated on her several times, beaten her on numerous occasions, forbade her from working, and limited her talk time with her family back home.
She was only able to convince him to let her move back to Rundu to come up with extra income when he couldn’t afford to send his daughter to school.
I was livid. Incredulous. Sad.
No one had ever told her that she deserved better.
No one had ever told her she could choose her safety and sanity over him.
So I did.
She’s financially independent, she’s doing well for herself at home, she’s young, bright, and beautiful, and there’s no reason for her to go back to be abused. He clearly didn’t trust her, and she had no reason to trust him.
Fast forward two weeks to this weekend – her husband had driven up from Windhoek to demand to speak to her. Trying everything from guilt-tripping her, to threatening her daughter and her family, and almost resorting to physical violence, he still failed to sway her.
She called her uncle, a police officer, and stood her ground.
In sharing her encounter with me, she beamed and said he’d yelled, “The American must have said something to you. You’ve never talked back to me before. Let me talk to her! How has she changed you?”
It wasn’t me, though. This incredible woman had the strength in her all along; she just needed someone to actually tell her.
In that moment, I felt like the last month, filled with what seems like a constant string of lows, was finally worth it.
I may have not directly made an impact, but something changed in Victoria, and beyond that, her (ex) husband was finally able to witness a Namibian woman stand her for herself, something that definitely doesn’t happen enough, especially in Rundu. That’s a pretty big win to me.
So thanks to Victoria, I think I’ve gotten another wind to keep fighting the good fight.
So. Why has my experience in Rundu been pretty poopy so far?
- I was homeless for about two weeks.
Someone was squatting in the house. Then I was threatened by said squatter to not try to take the house ‘for my own good’. I’m now in a freezing house with no real walls.
- Making friends is hard here.
The men who befriend me clearly have ulterior motives, and make it quite obvious, as well. Culturally, any favor or any encounter can be interpreted as a sign of reciprocation, so I’m constantly on guard. Women usually don’t make an effort to befriend me, and when they do, they immediately ask me to take them to America.
- I’m always Chinese.
Asian Americans apparently don’t exist in America. No one knows where Vietnam is.
- I’m isolated, and lonely, and the work I do is emotionally exhausting.
I did a talk for 400 girls this past Friday about being safe and staying in school, respecting their bodies and not having sex for money, or candy, or chips, and it’s disheartening how young these girls are that think they don’t have the ability to say no when they’re approached for sex, usually unsafe sex.
- My introvert self doesn’t want to go out.
My days are filled with give, give, give, so at night, I’d much rather stay in with a glass of wine, clean my ever dusty house, and read a book, so I’m not meeting that many people. Partially my fault, I suppose.
- I miss home.
I miss my family and friends and pad thai and sushi and lobster rolls and the Commons and Smorgasburg and being able to have conversations candidly and freely.
- America is making me sad.
&I wish I were there to play some part in everything that’s happening. #blacklivesmatter and #prayfordallas – being pro-black lives doesn’t mean I’m anti-cop. I’m really just pro-equality and pro-justice, and it pains me that America is so torn, especially with the elections coming up.
BUT! There’s light at the end of the tunnel (hopefully). Summer will come soon (no more freezing cold nights!). I’m having a friend come to do a talk with me at the end of July. My house is coming together so maybe I’ll make more of an effort to go out. I’ve started working out and running – happy body, happy Kimmi?
Long entry, but thanks for reading!
Til next time,