Friday, November 14, 2014

Week Seven: Namibia’s Struggle for Independence & National Identity

By: Kumari Lewis and Gaby Gretz

In history class on Tuesday, Professor Mburumba Kerina [1] came to speak to us about German colonization and early resistance in Namibia. We were all quite surprised to find out what this man had accomplished in his life: he was the first Namibian to study in the United States, he advocated for Namibian independence at the United Nations, he co-founded South West Africa’s People’s Organization (SWAPO), the currently major-ruling party, and he was the one to give Namibia its name. We were very honored to have the opportunity to speak with him. After reading articles and watching videos about colonization and resistance, it was nice having the chance to hear from someone who was in the presence and the making of the early resistance struggle in Namibia. Kerina started by telling us about Okahanja and how it was the former headquarters of the Herero people. When the Germans came to Okahanja, they told the Herero to move out. In 1904, the Germans initiated a five-year genocide against the Herero people; this is known as one of most vicious conflicts in Southern Africa. Concentration camps were set up all over the country, especially in Swakopmund. On Shark Island, prisoners who were considered too useless to work were thrown into the water to be eaten by sharks. Before this lesson, many of us had not known the dark history that Swakopmund had, and it was especially intriguing to listen knowing that we will be visiting the coastal town in the next coming days. Kerina told us that SWAPO was formed in 1957 in order to assure that the German’s would receive their punishment. However, ever since the genocide occurred, justice has not been served. He believes that the Herero should do as the Jews did after the holocaust by asking for a contribution of some type to help the Herero people get back on their feet, which doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Although, at the same time, I personally believe that nothing, especially money, can completely pay back the horrors lived through during the resistance struggle. And it is clear, even today, that the colonizer’s presence in Namibia will probably never disappear but there is some hope for an integrative society.

When googling Windhoek, one of the first photographs that is displayed is that of the German church prominently placed on top of a hill looking down on the rest of the city. My own photograph of the church is pictured here.

The German Lutheran Church has a relatively tiny congregation of about 200 in regular Sunday attendance, but seems to maintain itself as a central symbol of the city of Windhoek.

This is extremely redolent of the colonial relationship between Germany and Namibia. Although German colonial rule in Namibia has officially ended, Germans still hold a firm grasp on many aspects of Namibian society. Because of the pure nature of colonization this may not be shocking. But when considering that approximately only seven percent of the Namibian population is white while only two percent are German, it is extraordinary how much influence Germans have maintained while also holding onto much of the country’s wealth and controlling many businesses.

During our religion class this past week we met with Pastor Schmidt [2], the head of the congregation at the German Lutheran Church to discuss Christianity within Namibia and learn more specifically about his congregation. What I found particularly interesting is that the services are held solely in German and when asked whether Pastor Schmidt believed it to be a deterrent for Namibians he expressed that he did not believe so. As a group we found this very bizarre because the German language barrier is strongly based on racial lines and it is hard to comprehend how he could not see having the service in German acted as a racial impediment. He then went on to explain that the church did offer services in English for a six month period a few years ago but because there was little to no attendance of non-German speakers, they reverted back to German at all services. If missionaries had followed this example of only staying six months before returning home, it seems unlikely that there would be any Christians in Africa as it took about thirteen years for the first baptism to even occur. From the Namibian perspective, it is very understandable why they did not jump at the opportunity within the six-month period to attend a dominantly white Church service that just so happened to be offered in English instead of German. And while the pastor did verbally advocate for integration, it is saddening how few changes the congregation is making to do so. All in all it was an extremely informative experience and I am very glad that we had the opportunity to speak with the pastor because it is certainly interesting to hear from multiple perspectives regarding the still predominant segregation within Namibia. At this point we can only hope the congregation and the rest of Namibian society will do more to reach out and work toward a more equal and inclusive Namibia. 

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at


[1] Mburumba Kerinas; Conversation on 30 September 2014, Windhoek, Namibia. 
[2] Pastor Rudolf Schmidt; Conversation on 1 October 2014, Windhoek: Namibia. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week Six: Northern Namibia

By: Harry Summers & Freddy Lindekugel

Expectations were scattered amongst the group as we began our drive to the north. We had heard the term before, but it had no meaning without experience. The region seemed to clump together as one homogenous area. I suppose some of us imagined a vast, green land with people few and far between, acres of farmland and scattered settlements of people. I hoped to explore the identity of the country, one that seemed lost in the city of Windhoek. It felt as if whatever was authentic was drowned out by Western influence and presence.

Our first contact in the north came at the Nakambele Museum. It was amazing to see even the simplest tasks being performed throughout the day. To see the dwellings, sample the food, see their craft, and watch their games was exactly what we needed in order to better understand Namibia’s identity. This was their home. This was their type of grain. This was how they ground it to make porridge. This was how they wove baskets and other crafts. This was how they passed their time. This lens into daily life for the Owambo was instrumental in our enhanced understanding of Namibia’s identity.

Traditional Royal Grainery Scene at Uukwaluudhi Museum         
The Uukwaluudhi Museum provided a slightly different lens. It was very interesting to see a royal homestead.  Rather than delve into daily life and its tasks, this location provided a more comprehensive view of life in a kingdom, including the spaces allotted for certain activities and the roles of groups and individuals. For example, at the back of the homestead, we got to see an area that was meant for the storage of various grains. Individuals of the kingdom could access this area if there was ever a scarcity. We were not fortunate enough to meet the king but his insight would have been invaluable to further enhancing our understanding of the north. It was eye opening in the sense that what seemed traditional and outdated also served as modern. There was no difference. Tradition stood the test of time.

The Outapi War Museum showed us the history of Namibia and its most recent armed struggle, that for independence. The struggle left a significantly different result than past-militarized conflicts. The current ruling party, SWAPO, which stands for the South West Africa Peoples Organization, started as the guerilla group fighting for independence from the South African apartheid government. It was there that we realized some of the lasting impacts of the struggle.

What was apparent once we entered the northern sections of the country was that pride and support for the ruling party was very much alive here far more than in the capital city of Windhoek, apparent by the plethora of SWAPO flags and slogans all over Odangwa and some of the other cities and towns we passed through. The reasons for this near blind support stems from the liberation struggle and the impact this had on the particular part of the country. Entire villages were massacred, people tortured and the land scorched by over a decade of fighting. This legacy has allowed the ruling party to continuously rely on the support of the local populations in the north who still hold their role in the liberation as the defining factor in their political decisions. However, I wonder after twenty years if it is not time to start to look towards the new problems facing the nation. If SWAPO will not provide solutions that show true results to the real problems in Namibia, another party should be elected to office. For example, their proposed housing initiative does not currently take into consideration continued population growth, thus by the time it is finished there will still be even more Namibians without proper housing than there are today. Unfortunately, this may be a pipe dream as SWAPO has now integrated itself so deeply into the country’s very infrastructure that separating the two or the individual members of the party may be nearly impossible.  Corruption and zero accountability now make up the standard for Namibian politics at the higher echelons, shown by the $880 million dollars currently missing from the social security funds of mostly elderly Namibians. What will it take for true change to happen? It appears that the only thing that can truly bring a new future for Namibia is for the born free generation to take over the primary roles in government, to be the primary voting base and to elect officials who will be held accountable for their decisions.

The rich history and culture of Namibia was forged by a combination of tribal traditions, colonization, and bloodshed. The end result is a nation that appears to be divided on a regional basis. The north represents the old traditions and liberation struggle, while Windhoek embodies the westernization of Southern Africa. Going to the north was an experience that better shaped our concept of Namibia. Looking back, Windhoek fails to represent some of the major ethnic groups of Namibia. Windhoek represents modern Namibia, perhaps. It serves as the center of both commercialization and industrialization in the country. Windhoek provides economic promise for the future.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Week Five: A Classic Week In Windhoek

By: Nikala Pieroni and Margaret Prunty 

Doing homework on the Balcony and 
appreciating the view makes the work go by so much faster.

This week of classes provided an opportunity to settle into an average week in Windhoek. It was only our second full week of classes, so we were able to be more comfortable with the flow of the week. It was a busy week that provided a well rounded experience of the city, from class to atop the Skytop bar.

The times we spent in classes this week was quite compelling. In our history class, we discussed matters regarding race. The most riveting part of the class was a video we watched called “The Color of Fear”. It was a documentary capturing the topic of racism as a group of men attended a retreat to discuss the matter. The group was made up of several different races and they sat in a circle together talking about race and racism. After introducing themselves and their diverse backgrounds, they discuss their experiences of being victims and contributors of racism. One man, Victor, felt very passionate about race and had many relevant points to contribute to the conversation. Victor and another man, David, were butting heads quite a bit during the film and it was a bit frustrating at times because David did not seem understanding at all. It was easy to  consider David to be insensitive, but later in the film, we learn about his upbringing. He was raised in a racist family, therefore become a racist adult by default. Although it was aggravating in the beginning to listen to David’s ideology, as viewers, we became slightly more understanding once we learned of how he was brought up. We were able to make a little more sense of what David had to say based on the stories he told of his childhood and the way he was raised. It was powerful to see him make an apology by the end of the conversation and to hear him say that he would make a conscious effort to do better. Overall, “The Color of Fear” was a very powerful film demonstrating race and understanding. In the beginning, the men came in with their conceptions on race, but as they conversed, they began to understand one another and were able to go their separate ways having learned from their discussions. All the men agreed that they would never forget their conversations they had with one another and that they would always remember each other for who they were. This was also impactful to the viewers to see how the men all found common ground within each other and transformed in a short time through meaningful discussions. 

When the weekend hit we had exciting plans. Saturday we spent the day casually shopping at Maerua, and experienced the nightlife atop the Hilton Skybar. These were certainly the locations of the privileged in Namibia. Although there were plenty of stores selling a wide variety of priced goods, I could not help but notice the more extravagant people that I was surrounded by. There was certainly a larger percentage of white people than we had ever seen in Namibia, and the outfits seemed more fashion forward than what we usually see on the street. I stopped by the entertainment store where my host sister from our stay in Katutura worked. It was Saturday, and she was working her 6th full day shift in a row, and I knew tomorrow would be the same. I wondered how many mall employees were also expected to work all seven days most weeks, compared to the US where most mall stores must give you at least two days off. It seemed to put my own busy school schedule into perspective. Sure, we had late night after late night this week finishing up assignments, but here I was on a beautiful weekend day with all the free time in the world.

A celebration on the Skytop bar of 
central Windhoek.
The Hilton was only a more extreme version of what we observed at Meurea mall. Walking into the entrance of the Hilton was like walking into a whole new world; nothing in Namibia even resembled the extravagant lights, beautiful tiling, and formal service. When we made it to the Skytop bar, I gazed dreamily at the happy swimmers in the heated pool, the people laughing on cozy wicker chairs, and the above all, the gorgeous view. We sat near the edge and gazed down on the city, it looked so peaceful; a sweet African city tucked into the mountains, with the occasional church steeple enhancing the sweet disposition. Everything was so comfy and easy up there in the sky. Although it was a fantastic experience, a few of us began to mention just how uncomfortably different it was from the rest of Namibia we had seen. We had of course been reminded many times of just how unequal the economy is in Namibia, but when you are so obviously living as part of this inequality, it becomes all the more real. The view felt like it stretched so far, and yet I could not make out one home of Katutura, let alone the informal homes that stretched across the mountains. I felt so grateful that I had the opportunity to see this side of the city, but it didn’t totally feel like real Windhoek after all the places we’d been. It was the perfect spot for a weeklong tourist, but not quite right for anyone who wanted to see the real day to day life of Namibians.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Friday, September 19, 2014

Week Four: Race In Today's Namibia

By: Harry Summers and Ben Williams            

Our fourth week here at CGE Namibia has been one full of learning opportunities and experiential exploration. After settling into Windhoek, we were ushered out into the local community. This week, all ten students participated in an urban home stay that placed us in a home with a family in the Windhoek, Namibia area for one week. I was lucky enough to be placed in a home that had a mom and two sons – both of whom were in their early twenties; twenty-one and twenty-three to be exact. I stayed in Khomasdal, the 'colored' section of Windhoek. My stay in this part of Windhoek afforded me a detailed look into the inner workings of a society still deeply enthralled by the racial question. Even though I understand the factual knowledge that Namibia liberated itself from apartheid's grip just twenty four short years ago, it was still riveting to experience living in an area that was partitioned off based solely on race. In Windhoek, there are multiple parts of town. This racial question is not just one that governs social structures; it defines political life as well. Politics in Namibia are based on racial and tribal affiliations.

In our history class about racism and resistance, we visited the Owela Museum where we learned about some of the major tribes in Namibia. Included in this grouping were the Himba, San, Hererro and Nama amongst others. The museum provided a perspective on each of these group's lifestyles and histories, as well as some of their rituals and customs. Seeing these differing cultures allowed us to not only form a historical basis of understanding of Namibia's diverse group of people, but also to begin to understand why people view themselves as so different. Yes, it is important to understand similarities and difference between groups, but we must also consider how much of the differences amongst the groups are perceived differences as a result of "divide and conquer" policies of colonial agents. This policy sought to separate the natives from each other based on tribal identities. Colonial agents did this because it would be easier to take advantage of natives if they were separate and bickering rather than standing together on a united front.  In today's society, it is important to question whether this policy still affects the racial structure and how others interact with each other.

Racism does not adhere to national boarders. It is a universal truth that emanates from all corners of society, from all different types of people and from every socio-economic class. The United States of America and Namibia share a commonality in that racism has become an accepted institution bent on keeping those who have the power in control and those who do not in control. In our weekly Racism and Resistance in Southern Africa and the United States course we watched a film named "The Color of Fear" as well as heard a lecture from Tim Wise on white privilege. As a white man who has never experienced discrimination based on the color of my skin i found these films both fascinating and appalling. How can a country that deems itself 'the land of the free' be so set on practices that continuously alienate an entire part of the society, lessen its full potential by granting unequal educations and health care to minorities? What was the most striking was the massive amount of unawareness by the white community, the lack of recognition that racism and institutional racism were even still problems in 21st century America.  

Namibia experiences its own racism in the sense that the white minority holds the majority of the country's wealth and where a predominantly Black parliament has not moved to change this fact in over two decades. Instead we see a system of the few Black elite in power taking advantage of their newfound positions and filling their pockets with state funds while the majority of their country suffers. For example when he visited our class, a University of Namibia political science professor informed us that $880 million dollars is currently missing from the Parliamentary national coffers, mostly from social security funds of the working class who rely on these accounts for their retirement. This is not surprising given the amount of tribal racism in the country left over from old pre-colonial grievances. What is seen is an institutional racism between the different tribes, such as the Owambo people making up the majority of the South West Africa People’s Organization SWAPO, holding out positions for only those that come from the same heritage. What is to be done about Racism? How can humanity move forward and shed these old stereotypes that have plagued our species since we first developed organized societies? The answer is not obvious; the answer will not be discovered in the near future. All one can do is to continuously raise awareness, not let the issue become stale and keep the conversation going.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Week Three: The More I Learn, the More I Realize I Don't Know

By: Kumari Lewis and Margaret Prunty 

In our first full week in Namibia, we have enjoyed ourselves but are feeling the intensity of the semester as classes and internships begin. Although some days are busier than others for each and every one of us, we go to classes enthusiastically and enjoy our internships on days we are without class. Most students go to internships in the morning and return by lunchtime, however, I go after lunch and return just before dinner. It all depends on the organization that we work with. I work with Bernard Nordkamp Center (BNC), a center where children (grade 1-7) seek academic assistance after school. So far, I have worked with first and second graders, helping them with reading and on occasion, grammar. Students and I meet one-on-one and he/she reads to me. Education is not my college major and I have never taught anyone to read, which is more challenging than I anticipated. Some students have a strong start, making it through a fair amount of words without my help, whereas others need assistance with nearly every word. As an intern, I might also have the opportunity to work with other grade levels or provide math help. I have enjoyed teaching reading, but if the opportunity presents itself, I would enjoy working with another grade level or another subject.

I have only been at BNC for one week, and I understand how people are passionate about education. It’s endearing to work with children who are eager to learn and want to make improvements. From what my supervisor has told me, not all the BNC students are as interested as others, but for the most part, they are all there because they want to be. Working with children who want to learn is the best part of my internship, but leaves me in awe at the same time. I felt my mouth drop open when I learned that teachers sometimes hit the students with a branch or ruler and call them  “stupid” if they aren’t understanding. I couldn’t help but wonder how students could be enthusiastic about learning when they are punished for not understanding the material. Knowing this, BNC is truly a great place for students. They come after school, have a little bit of free time, eat, and learn. They are encouraged and taught with enthusiasm and respect, which is what they need. My supervisor, MaryBeth took over the organization and provides the students just that. She works hard to organize education for seven different grade levels and provide a safe, comforting, and encouraging educational environment. With Marybeth's hard work and dedication, the students seem to enjoy coming to BNC to learn and so do I. 

This past week we took a day off from class to travel just outside of central Windhoek to the Elisenheim Estate, a beautiful farm with guesthouses and animals on the edge of the mountains where we participated in a team building retreat. It is phenomenal how well we have come to know each other as a group in just a few short weeks, but as the activities revealed, there are still countless ways that we will continue to learn from each other. Every student and staff member here with CGE has a story to tell, and our retreat gave everyone an opportunity to share those stories and learn more about why and how each of us ended up here, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

CGE staff and students discussing topics surrounding
identity on our team building retreat . 
One of the first activities we did involved asking ourselves questions such as “this aspect of my life has had the most influence over my decisions…,”  “this aspect of my life is most new to me…,” “this is something about myself I would like to explore more…,” “this is what I am most proud of…,” and “this is what I would like to change most about myself…” We were given a set group of answers and had to choose from: gender, sexual orientation, political belief, spiritual belief, body image, family, and socioeconomic class. What I found most interesting was how I would have a gut reaction to certain questions, but I would also feel swayed by other people’s decisions. I was astounded that despite the fact that I feel extremely comfortable with this group of people, I still felt pressured as if there were certain ‘correct’ answers to these questions.

We broke off into discussion groups and spoke about how the fear of our answers being judged often made it difficult to give the answer we truly felt. And it is astounding how so many different students, professors, and staff can struggle with the same inner conflict despite being fantastically different ages and coming from greatly differing backgrounds.

The next activity that I found most impactful was one in which we formed groups and discussed how religion, race, socioeconomic class, and gender have personally influenced us. While it is one thing to say, yes being a woman has had a great influence on how I think and who I am today, it is quite different to elaborate and share with a group why I think so. Especially when that group is made up of people you met two weeks ago. If nothing else, these activities reinforced the importance of contemplation and the acknowledgement that many go through the same struggles regardless of gender, class, or race. We are one human race and while many of us look different and grow up with different values across the world, similarities can be found across all lines and boundaries.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Friday, September 5, 2014

Week Two: A Taste Of Southern Africa

By: Amy Delo & Celeste Erickson

The Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, South Africa
Leaving Johannesburg and our home stays, the CGE group headed north to the capitol of South Africa, Pretoria. Our first stop was the Voortrekker monument. This monument is dedicated to the Dutch colonizers who moved inland from the coast in the 19th century. The Dutch wanted to have their own area separate from the British, who also colonized this area.   In their quest to settle in their own area, the Voortrekkers (an Afrikaans word meaning roughly “first-movers”) inevitable came into conflict with, and displaced, many indigenous peoples. The monument is a complex which was created in the 1930's and 40's as a massive embodiment of Boer nationalism (Boer is an Afrikaans word for 'farmer'). Boer nationalism was fueled in response to the British winning the Anglo-Boer wars and taking control of what would become South Africa. 

A view of Pretoria from the top of the Voortrekker Monument
The monument includes a frieze with depictions of the journey undertaken by the Boers and their encounters with various tribes, as well as enormous statues of Boer national heroes, and a museum. This hyper-nationalism culminated in the creation of the apartheid policies.  The start of aparthied was around this same time that the Voortrekker monument was designed and constructed. It was uncomfortable being at a place designed to celebrate those who had caused so much pain to the black community in South Africa, especially just coming from our home stays in Soweto. The monument lies atop a hill in Pretoria, and looking down from the monument's observation balcony you could see all of Pretoria. Our guide pointed out the site we would finish the next day, the Freedom Park.
Students posing in front of
Freedom Park. 
The Freedom Park is a monument which was created in order to commemorate the liberation struggle of South Africa as well as other wars. This monument covers a sprawling landscape and includes a wall of names displaying those who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom, a museum, a spiritual area, and a winding path connecting them all in order to symbolize the journey to resolution. After the end of apartheid and installation of a new government the Freedom Park monument was commissioned in an open space, which happened to be overlooked by the Voortrekker monument. The blatant contradiction between these two monuments- one celebrating the perpetrators of apartheid, and one the victims- is troubling. It seems almost like a symbolic continuation of Afrikaner dominance in Southern Africa, them on the hill with access to everything and the rest of the population below. Being at Freedom Park was powerful and especially thought provoking while being in the shadow of the Voortrekker monument.

It was discussed whether or not to tear down the Voortrekker monument. It was left standing, and at first I wondered why they hadn't torn it down since it is a symbol of apartheid. However, it was decided that the monument represented an integral part of South Africa's history which is needed to explain the liberation struggle and the circumstances that modern South Africa finds itself in. In order for people who were not alive during apartheid to really understand what was fought for, they need to be able to see the extreme forms of propaganda and nationalism that allowed apartheid policies to exist and thrive. As someone who did not live in this area during apartheid, or in that time period, the giant representation of the power of the colonizers was helpful in understanding the struggle against apartheid. Instead, as a way to bridge the conflict between these monuments it was decided to link them by a road called Reconciliation. It brings hope that these two groups will one day be able to move forward with a shared history.
On Wednesday morning, we finally arrived in Windhoek! From the moment we set off from the airport on the drive to our house, I think we all had a “wow” moment. The landscape even just on this short drive was breath-taking between the vast desert and the mountains. We finally made it! We quickly settled into the CGE house and on Thursday morning, loaded into the van for a windshield tour of Windhoek.  It was interesting to see the contrasts between Windhoek West and Katutura. On first observation, we saw a quaint and well-developed side of Windhoek, but as we traveled further into Katutura, the discrepancy between incomes in such a small geographic area become apparent. Similar to Johannesburg, as Namibia and South Africa were under the same apartheid rule, the townships that blacks were forced to move to during apartheid were still extremely present. 

The change that we saw between leaving the city and entering a township was not subtle. While in Katutura, we walked around a little and got to visit a formal market place. Vendors were selling anything from dried worms, to every part of the cow imaginable. The sights and smells were slightly overwhelming, yet it was extremely exciting to see this part of Namibian culture. We drove through some more informal settlements and discussed how difficult it is for many people to move away from poverty, as schools are often too far away to attend, therefore making it hard to become educated and employed. This reality was sad, as we were able to see the dismal living situation so much of the population must survive in. From here, to see an even starker contrast, we drove up to the neighborhood where the President’s house is located and passed multi-million dollar properties- something that would only be financially available to a small fraction of the population. Also similar to South Africa, most of the more expensive property is primarily owned by whites, though this is slowly changing. It felt unfair to see the way that so many people were forced to live, and the luxury that other people could live in within the same city limits. 

The students at the Parliament Gardens in Windhoek
during their first community meeting. 

Following our driving tour, we had the opportunity to split into groups of three or four and explore Windhoek on foot, which was fun to get a different taste of the city. On Friday, we had to the opportunity to get an exclusive look at Katutura with members of Young Achievers (YA), an organization founded by a former CGE director. This organization strives to engage Namibian youth in activities that encourage them to further their education and help them discover their potential. Some of these members of YA started a tour group that led our group around. It was really fun to get a chance to learn more about the lives of local youth and see what they’re doing to break trends in Katutura. Different groups had the opportunity to visit a church, an orphanage, an art school, and an old folks home as well as explore the area more. We spent the weekend navigating Windhoek and catching up on sleep in preparation for many of starting local internships on Monday!

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Week One: A Non-Communist, Post Apartheid, Manifesto.

By: Miranda Weinstein & Gaby Gretz 

We’ve had an amazing, busy, invigorating, educational, and eye-opening first week in Johannesburg. We did so much in only 168 hours (7 days). We have seen so many different things, ranging from an art exhibition on hair, speaking to a human rights advice center, driving around Soweto and seeing the hostels, going to different history museums, and much more. There were two events that stood out during our first week, and it is those that we thought we would share with you more so you could feel as though you were in Johannesburg yourself! The first is the politics of South Africa.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the non-discriminatory and equal democratic country of South Africa and the ending of the apartheid era. One motif that we kept seeing as we drove around Johannesburg was that while the segregation of the blacks and whites had ended, there is still a great amount of improvement in reintegrating the different ethnicities and cultures needed in order to make one cohesive country. In driving around the city, we have seen that the suburbs are still inhabited by the white community and the blacks still live in the townships. Another thing that stood out is the incredibly unequal distribution of wealth between the people. Since the end of the apartheid government, the income inequality has increased substantially. The people living in the townships are still being overlooked and their needs are not being addressed.

When we met with representatives of the different political parties, both representatives talked about the problem that South Africa is facing and how they plan on fixing it. We talked to Dale McKinley, a former member of the South African Communist Party, a representative of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) [1]. When talking with Dale, he kept stressing that South Africa has a long way to go before it can be considered the great country everyone wants it to be. He also kept stressing that even though the state of South Africa has the most socially progressive constitution in place, there is a serious flaw in the implementation of the constitution and the protection that it offers. Women still face inequality, as do homosexuals, even though the constitution states that all men and women should be created equally and that you should not be discriminated against based on your sexual orientation. This lack of implementation is seen in this economic inequality that many people face.

As Dale stated, even though the ANC has taken over the government, the inequality has gotten worse, land redistribution has not really occurred (only 15%), the intelligence and security forces are beginning to act like the old apartheid state. People are fed up with what the government is doing (or not doing), but they do not know where to turn. People either tend to vote for the ANC, or not vote. This is because they do not want to vote for the opposition party, the DA, because they are still perceived as the ‘white’ party.
The students after meeting with a representative
from the Democratic Alliance. 
During our meeting with the DA (which coincidentally happened right after our meeting with Dale), our representative kept stressing that the DA and the ANC have the same ideas on paper [2]. They both want the same thing for the country, but they tend to implement it differently. I think it was interesting to hear the different representatives talk and give their views on how the political situation is in South Africa, because without a balanced overview, we would have been very biased against the government. This being said, there is still a great deal of improvement that needs to happen in South Africa. There is a large amount of corruption in government, the income inequality is drastically rising, sanitation, health and education are often overlooked and the constitution is not followed. 

The other interesting aspect of our time in Johannesburg was our home stays in Soweto. Soweto stands for South West Township and is a suburb of Johannesburg made up of 34 townships. The home stay in Soweto was very relaxing. When Nikala and I (Gaby) arrived in front of their home on Friday evening, we received a warm welcome from our host family. As soon as we sat down in their living room, our host mother told us that we were part of the family and that we could come back to stay the next time we were in South Africa. She then offered us a blanket and some tea and biscuits. It did not take long for our host brother to cling on to us and invite us to play his video games.

I only noticed a few differences while staying with my host family. The one that was most striking was that our host mother was in the kitchen most of the time cooking, or doing other chores around the house. From what she told us it didn’t seem like she had much time to sit and relax during the weekend. Although our host family had big dining room table, they ate their meals in the living room in front of their large flat screen television. I noticed that when mealtime came around, our host father would be served his food on a tray, while everyone else had to dish up their own food. The first night for dinner, we were served pap, creamed spinach, gizzards, and chicken feet. Our host mother suggested that we go to the mall to buy some fried chicken from a restaurant equivalent to KFC, in case we didn’t like the chicken feet and gizzards. While we were waiting in line, I noticed how a lot of people were wearing their slippers. Our host mother told us that it’s common for people to go to the mall on Friday nights and order take out from fast food restaurants since they want to take a break from cooking.

On Saturday, we visited the Johannesburg Zoo, and on Sunday we visited a China Mall, following a soccer game at FNB stadium, which is were the opening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup was held. Later Sunday evening, we visited  parent’s house and her father spoke to us about what it was like growing up during apartheid. It was very intense listening to a personal experience and imagining what is like for him. It will be interesting hearing other people’s stories as well as we move forward this semester. 

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[1] Dale McKinley, political activist and theorists; Conversation on 20 August 2014, Johannesburg, South Africa. 
[2] Representative from the Democratic Alliance; Conversation on 20 August 2014, Johannesburg, South Africa.