Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Living Sustainably

By Adelina Alcarez
We started out the week by coming back from our Swakopmund stay, a touristy German town, and ended our week in NaDEET, a camp-like area on the Namib Reserve at which there was no wifi and mounds of sand, all kinds of creepy crawlies, and oryxes for miles around us. Needless to say, NaDEET was my favorite excursion of the week.
In between, we attended a couple of class on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Personally, I went to a couple of churches for my internship at an LGBTI human rights organization. A colleague of mine, Mickey, and I have been working on constructing a list of churches that are tolerant to the LGBTI community and measuring their tolerance. We do this by interviewing a leader of the church (if possible) and giving them a survey about their relationship with the LGBTI community. Thus far, most of the various places of worship have been a little apprehensive, yet welcoming and willing to talk with us. On Wednesday, we went to two churches. Both gave us a perplexing look when we first introduced ourselves. However, they were still willing to direct us to someone to talk to. I think that our experiences with churches may suggest that Namibia is ready to talk about LGBTI issues and even support their human rights, if well educated about them. What better place to start this conversation then with the system at which many members have shamed people for being part of the LGBTI community in the 16 century and many continue to make being LGBTI taboo today.
Description of the dry toilet system.
On Thursday, we left for NaDEET. NaDEET is a place to learn about sustainable eating, pooping, wasting, and cleaning. There is a dry, no-flush toilet. When dried, a person’s total amount of yearly poop can be just enough to fill a bucket. On top of that, there are dung beetles decomposing the poop at the very bottom, at least 6 feet underground. Their electricity was also powered by solar panels and food made mostly from solar cookers. Solar cookers look like large metal disks used to communicate with alien life, but they actually concentrate the sun's ray on the pot. They also had solar cooker in box form. There was a cup or bucket of water for the sinks and showers because there was no faucet; albeit, the shower did have a bucket attached to a shower head. I was astonished at how well the showers worked like a regular shower and how much water I could save by lowering the water pressure a little bit and not using water when I didn’t need it (like while I was washing and not rinsing). This tied in with the 17 sustainable development goals.
Surprisingly, the goals did not stop on issues directly associated with environment, but also social and economic issues like gender equality and poverty. On Friday, we went on a Dune Walk (which was more like a hike for me) and talked about the biodiversity of the Namib Desert. We encountered interesting creepy-crawlies like the Dancing Lady Spider and various fast pace beetles and a couple of oryxes. Something we also focused on was how connected each species is to each other; everyone’s actions can create a domino effect. For example, one year, there was a huge increase in the moth population. It is unknown why, but our guide Elias suspected it was because a predator to the moths was in low population. This created in influx of moth cocoons all over the desert. The oryxes mistook the cocoons for food. A moth infestation killed a large portion of the oryxe population that year.
Solar cookers. Not to be confused with alien
communication devices.

Later that day and weekend, we continued to learn about and live a more sustainable lifestyle. We watched a documentary about the NamibRand Nature reserve and NaDEET’s place within it. The reserve all started with one rich man who bought a lot of cheap land in Namibia to preserve it. It was rough in the beginning, but now it’s not only a place of animal preservation; it’s a place for research, a dark sky reserve, tourism, and environmental and sustainability education. I am so blessed to have been able to visit and learn from such an amazing place. I hope to put the education I learned here into practice and not only use less water and push for renewable energy, but also to educate myself about the environmental issues in the area I live in. This experience has changed my perspective on what role I play on this earth: to help protect it and protect the people who live in it. What a great week.
  


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Amidst the Stress and Sand

By Maddie Dilday
As we approach our last few weeks in Namibia, we are all doing our best to finish final papers, pull our integrative projects together, and still enjoy our time in this beautiful country. While this can be a very enjoyable experience, I think almost everyone is feeling some sort of stress. But in the middle of all this stress, comes our final group trip to NaDEET. NaDEET is short for Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust. Essentially, it is a small oasis in the middle of the Namib Desert Nature Preserve, where they teach about environmentally sustainable living, all while living out this life. And for a few short days we got to live it out with them.
 
There are 3 major moments throughout the trip that I know will stay with me. The first of which is the dune walk that we took just outside of NaDEET. In total the hike was about 6 km, 3 both way, and we walked throughout the dunes outside of the NaDEET. On this walk we were able to see the amount of biodiversity that the dunes of Namibia hold. The majority of the diversity is on a small scale, specifically they have a large diversity in the types of bugs that the dunes hold. I found this fascinating as biodiversity is a topic that I have often heard about in class, but that I rarely have had the chance to see. Although the creepy crawlies were just that, creepy and crawly, the dune walk was an amazing experience that I am hoping to have the opportunity to do again once I am back in the United States.


Above is a picture of a Dancing White Lady Spider that was
seen on the dune walk. It received this name due to the
"drumming" patter it leaves in the sand in the morning.

The next activity on the itinerary for the weekend that blew my mind was the drive to a nearby mountain, as well as the hike up the mountain. The drive was gorgeous, it was one of those moments where you are stunned by the beauty that Earth holds, and you think about just how small you are, and how much of this beauty that you have yet to see. Having the opportunity to see the Namib Desert in this way is one of the highlights of my entire trip and I hope that I am one day able to return to this beautiful country.

 
The final activity that we had at NaDEET was by far my favorite. The entire group went out to the top of a near by dune, and we star gazed for about an hour. NamibRand is one of the few International Dark Sky reserves, and a top tier reserve at that. As an Astronomy major, having the chance to see the night sky with such clarity was out of this world. I wish I had been able to capture the view of the stars, galaxies and dust that could clearly be seen in the dark night sky, but unfortunately my phone's camera isn’t strong enough. But, it is an image that I will remember for the rest of my life.
This picture was taken on the drive to the mountain range.
This country's beauty just does not end.


Overall, NaDEET was a interesting and enjoyable break from the stress of the final papers that are piling up at the end of the semester. Although we only have 2 weeks left, I am sure that they will be packed with as many adventures as possible.



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Exploring waste management, Islam, and Swakopmund


By Michelle Andersen
 
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Windhoek waste management site
My week started with a visit to the waste management site with our environmental class. We got a talk from the leader of education, Estelle, and learned of her struggles as the only one in her department. The rest of her team and most of their resources were moved to a different government office, so she has issues getting educational materials about waste management to the local people. From what she told us, it seems as if the people do not know about the recycling program or the difference between the various types of waste bins. With a lack of resources, she is fighting an uphill battle. When we went to the waste site, the gorgeous backdrop of the mountains was covered by the piles of trash. They try to do some sorting of recyclable items on site but it can be a challenge. Most of the waste is simply flattened and covered with sand to keep it from blowing away. Waste management is a huge problem in Namibia with the lack of necessary infrastructure and education.

For religion class, we learned about one of Namibia’s minority religions, Islam. We discussed the five pillars; fasting, alms giving, praying five times a day, declaration of faith, and the pilgrimage to Mecca, if you can afford to. We got to visit the school that April, our Professor Lamont’s wife, is opening soon that is built on land that the mosque owns. April told us about her curriculum, values, and hopes for the school. The Sheikh Imam furthered our discussion by going into detail about the history behind the small Muslim population in Namibia, the effects of this, and Islamic beliefs. Islam is considered a way of life and should be reflected in a person’s every action. We ended with a tour around the mosque and seeing one of the daily prayers.
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Controversial monument depicting the German soldiers
who dies during the genocide

Additionally, this week we traveled to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay to learn about the historical and current issues there. Our tour guide was Laidlaw Peringanda, who is a Herero activist who is passionate about the Herero-Nama genocide by the Germans. In the town square, there is a monument to the German soldiers who died committing the genocide. The local Germans and their government are denying that there is a problem with this statue and refuse to take it down. Next, we went downtown to visit the cemetery,  where there is a large section of unmarked graves of those Herero and Nama people who were murdered during the genocides. The German government donated a plaque which refers to their deaths due to "mysterious circumstances," despite the heavy photographic and official documentation of a genocide order. There is even a wall surrounding the cemetery because people were building houses on graves. From Laidlaw’s tour we expanded what we learned in Lüderitz and saw again the lack of proper memorialization for the losses of the local people. 
 
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Namibian peoples memorial from the Germans referencing the
genocide as deaths due to "mysterious circumstances"
 We also took a tour of a fishing factory, which is a major part of the local economy. The factory is not running until Monday because no fishing is allowed during October to let the fish population to replenish. The ministry was late with announcing what each factory's new fishing maximum quota would be, which caused the delay. During October, the factory pays for employees to travel home as well as providing a bonus. There is competition from foreign boats who do not follow the same rules but they are not allowed to have a factory on-shore unless 51% of the employees are Namibians. From what our tour guide told us, it sounds like there are many regulations in place to try and create sustainable fishing as well as proper treatment for Namibians.

Later that day our group hiked the tallest dune in Namibia, Dune 7. It was a struggle to get up but the view was worth it. Overall, it was a great trip filled with discussions of social issues, the economy, and seeing the natural beauty in the area. This week covered a lot from environmental waste issues, Islam in Namibia, and the history in Swakopmund.
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Dune 7
 

From Ocean to Ocean

By Caroline Pratt
Appreciating the Durban skyline
Still recovering from the busy month of October, I was exhausted and excited about the last few trips of the semester. While all of the CGEE trips are great, some independent travel has made my study abroad experience so much more impactful. Last weekend I traveled to Durban, South Africa. One of the other students and I caught a plane after class on Friday and made our way to a city so different from Windhoek. Durban, a common tourist destination for South Africans, was like no other South African city we had visited so far. It was so diverse and full of surfers and beach goers. Walking around, I felt just like I was walking down the boardwalk of California. While we were just there for the weekend, we filled our time with people watching, eating the local cuisines like Bunny Chow (half a loaf of bread filled with curry, one of the most filling meals of my life), and spending time on the beautiful Indian ocean. We also visited the Moses Mabhida Stadium, constructed for the 2010 world cup, and the Ushaka Marine world, the largest aquarium in Africa. It was incredible to have the freedom the explore the city independently and see an entirely different part of South Africa, far different than what we had seen in Joburg, the Eastern Cape, or Cape Town.
 
Coming back on Monday, there was no time to waste with classes and internship Tuesday and Wednesday before the entire group left for Swakopmund. One of my highlights of the week though was visiting the local Mosque in religion. Being Catholic and never having the experience of going to a Mosque before, it was eye opening to see a place of worship that functioned very differently than my own. We spent most of the lecture learning about the history of Islam in Namibia and about the teachings of Islam. With the Muslim community making up such a small percentage of the Namibia population, it was cool to see how they functioned as a minority religion.
 

Becca and I enjoying the Swakopmund Atlantic Ocean
Come Thursday the group headed to Swakopmund, a coastal town on the Atlantic Ocean, known for its German architecture and beautiful beaches. On our first day, we took a tour around town where we saw the many lasting memorabilia to German colonialism. In the center of town, we saw a giant sculpture commemorating the fallen German soldiers and went to the glamourous German cemetery, located just next to the large resting place of the Herero and Nama that died during the genocide, with graves unmarked. In the very corner of the cemetery is the monument to the Hereros and Namas that was removed a few years prior because it ‘smelled’ and was moved back after it received some push back. We then saw the townships and where most of the population of Swakop lives. Laidlaw Peringanda, our tour guide and artists/activist, did a great job of providing a holistic view of Swakop and we saw it for what it was instead of the German tourist town that looks like it could be straight out of the German section of Epcot.
The second day of our trip we spent learning all about foreign investment in Namibia and conservation. We visited Sea Works, a Namibian run fishing factory. We learned about all of the laws and regulations put in place to ensure Namibia benefits from the industry such as 51% of all industry must be Namibian owned. Unfortunately, we went while the factory was closed because Namibia has a law that there can be no fishing done during the month of October. This was great though because it allowed time for employees to return home and still received compensation. Later that day we went to the Namibian Dolphin Project where the two employees were working to do research and help the local industries. 


Group photo during our ATV Dune trip in Swakopmund
On our free day, the entire team went ATVing all around the dunes and I spent the rest of the day enjoying life on the Atlantic. It was truly a week to remember, from the Indian ocean to the Atlantic in just seven days. Study abroad is something.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Life on the Farm

By Evan Carr
Following an amazing week with our families in the rural Khorixas area our homestay experiences for the semester are already over! While this is a sad realization I feel incredibly fortunate for the experience this past week, but also to be connected to three great families across the Southern Africa region. A huge thanks to Sarah, our Homestay Coordinator here in Namibia, and all of the staff for making this week a great success!



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Returning from a trip into town.
Our schedule in the so-called “Damaraland” area allowed for plenty of time bonding with our families on the farms combined with ample opportunity to continue the learning process with our busy schedule during the day. Our homes for the week did not have plumbing or electricity so we quickly adapted to the local lifestyle of cooking over fire and open-air toilets, but we were also fortunate to experience stunning night skies thanks to zero light pollution. Daily activities on the farm ranged from playing with baby goats and donkey cart rides to games of Owela under the sun and hot cups of Rooibos tea around the campfire. Owela is a local game requiring strategy and wit that was traditionally played between chiefs to settle disputes in the community. Another highlight of my week was the opportunity to develop my Damara language skills. As my host grandmother, the head of my house, did not speak English it was important for me to pick up some phrases in order to connect with her. While mastering the four clicks used in Damara presented a significant challenge, I was able to hold very minimal conversation in Damara by the end of the week about things like how I slept or how hot the weather was. Our week on the farm wrapped up with a big party where all five homesteads on each farm came together to celebrate the week and eat delicious food to our heart’s content. We danced and the sang the night away as we exchanged American and Namibian songs and dances with our families.
 
While we ate breakfast and dinner and spent nights at the farms, we spent our days together as a CGEE family. Some highlights of the program included visits to Cornelius Goreseb High School and the traditional court of Khorixas. The traditional court operates under the jurisdiction of the local Damara clan and mainly deals with domestic issues and theft, while other matters are left to the municipal court. It was valuable to see how people in rural areas integrate their traditional community structures with those of the modern Republic of Namibia. We delved further into Damara culture with a visit to the Damara Living Museum. In order to preserve their culture, people working there run demonstrations on blacksmithing, natural medicine, and jewelry making. Our trip also included a visit to the Twyfelfontein UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is the site of many ancient rock art drawings, and to a petrified forest. These excursions helped us to put into context topics we’ve discussed in our History, Politics, Environment, Religion, and Development classes.

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My family for the week. Grandma Christa was the head of the house and the farm.

Following our week on farms in Khorixas we spent two days at Etosha National Park. This visit was capped by the sighting of a leopard that came right up to our van and let us follow it down the road for a few hundred feet. We were incredibly lucky to see such a rare animal (there are only about 600 in Namibia) at such a close range. We also saw lions, rhinos, many giraffes, zebras, springbok, and more! A visit to Etosha is a quintessential Namibian experience and it was great to get out there and see it with our group. I’m looking forward to our Fall Break next week and to catching up with everyone once we return to hear stories of their travels.
 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Not Windhoek, Inhoek

By Maddie Dilday
This week we took on the rural homestay at 2 different farms outside of Khorixas. The farm that I was staying on is known as Inhoek Pos. I had 2 host sisters who lived with us, one being 6 and one being 5. They were 2 amazing highlights of the stay! Whenever I was home, the girls were with me. We would play games, and run around the farm playing with the other children on the farm. The girls were my guide for the week! One of our favorite games on the farm was called Owella. We learned Owella on the very first night at the farm. Here we also learned how Damara chiefs used to use the game in order to solve conflict. The first game ended in a draw, but by the end of the week, Adelina had become a pro! I on the other hand am still in training.
The girls would also often visit “the dam”. This was where they got their water, swam, and provided water for their cattle. The dam also provided water for the wild animals of the area, specifically the elephants that would often visit. The dam was peaceful at times, especially when we would just be collecting water for the day. But the dam could also be lively! For example when the kids went swimming! They would climb into the dam and splash around, cooling off in the midday heat.
This is one of the open areas located within
Cornelius Goreseb school grounds.
When I wasn’t running around the farm with my host sisters, the students would be exploring and experiencing Khorixas. Of these experiences, the best was getting to speak with the students of Cornelius Goreseb High School. Having the chance to speak to students slightly closer to our own age was something different and interesting that many of us had not had the opportunity to do yet. The students were exactly like a high school student in the United States would be! They loved to hang out with their friends, liked missing class to talk, and were just beginning to realize how exciting their future can be. Many of our students were physical science focused students (In Namibia, in 10th grade you pick either hard sciences or social/historical courses to focus on and then continue on those specific courses until graduation and often times after.), which I found very encouraging as a current university science major. Aside from talking about classes, the students really just wanted to compare everyday life between here and the United States, which I think they found to be surprisingly similar. Overall, the exchange allowed us to have a new perspective when viewing Namibia, and the world around us. While personally, it made me think on the United States education system, and the differences, both good and bad. 
A picture of my host family during the end of the week party we had.
We all dressed up and had a great time.
My favorite part of the week was every night when the entire farm would come together. During these moments, the kids would calm down, and the adults would all come together as well. We would talk about the Damara culture, sing songs, tell scary stories, and share constellations in the beautifully clear night sky. These moments are the ones that will stay with me through the rest of my life, because these are the moments when we all actually felt like a family. Laughing, sharing, and having a great time together.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Week 6 - “Wildlife” and the Harmonious Ideal of Ubuntu

By Michelle Andersen
This cheetah and her sister are tame and used to humans,
when they should have grown up in the wild

The week started out with a trip for Environmental Connections to N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary. It was established in 2006 by Dr. Rudie and Marlice van Vuuren to conserve wildlife, preserve landscape, and support local communities, specifically the indigenous San people. Their mission is to promote “conservation through innovation.” The animals there have been orphaned, injured, or otherwise had their safety threatened by humans. In class, we are learning about human-wildlife conflict, which was evident during our visit. The various animals have been saved from humans who shot them, touched them as cubs, or have had their habitats and lives threatened by humans in another manner. While it was incredible to see one of my favorite animals, the cheetah, up close, it was heart-breaking to see them interact with the guide. The cheetah would come right up to the fence and let the guide pet her. You could hear her and her sister purring loudly the whole time. Unfortunately, these animals are here because their mother was killed by a farmer and they could not survive on their own. They have been raised by humans, which makes it dangerous to return them to the wild for themselves and for the humans, whom they no longer fear. They are sentenced to a life imprisonment, due to the actions of humans. While the sanctuary is doing good work in order to save these animals, they are merely trying to compensate for decisions other people have made. Since these animals can no longer be released into the wild, they will never be able to live out their lives as intended.
A night out at a local restaurant
Later in the week, in our religion and social change class we had a speaker named Reverend Godriam join us to discuss the subject of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is defined in the dictionary as “a quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity.” In a paper by Faustin Ntamushobora, we read about the role ubuntu has played in African history. The concept was popularized by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and through him, Nelson Mandela, especially when it came to reconciliation. According to the article, reconciliation can be defined as “respect for a person’s dignity, irrespective of what that person has done.” Without ubuntu, one could refuse to forgive their enemies. Using the compassionate care of ubuntu instead, one would be able to create harmonious relationships. In a discussion I had with our professor, Lamont, we discuss how the concept of ubuntu is something to apply in our lives. If everyone cares for one another, then the world would be a happier, safer, more unified place. However, we had doubts about how this could be applied on a larger, macro scale. It is clear that one could apply the concept on a micro level with their inner circle. Yet, beyond that, it is hard to achieve this unity when people are asked to apply it to the whole world. It is impossible for every person to be open and available to other people all the time. However, if people can begin with their close friends to have harmonious and compassionate relationships, then perhaps this can be extended out to everyone they met, who will then also act with ubuntu. However, until that point is reached, it seems like a worthy ideal to strive for so that the world is still a nicer place, even if true ubuntu is never reached.
 
Based on this week’s experiences, I have deeper concepts to ponder and apply to my own life. It can be easy to get swept up into the excitement of an event, such as seeing wild animals at a sanctuary. However, it is important to take a step back and ask questions about how they got there, how they are being treated, and the purpose of the organization. Without this critical thinking, we may miss a chance to not only learn about but to improve a situation. Along with this, we must consider ideals that are above ourselves. Striving for harmonious, compassionate relationships through ubuntu can create a better world for those involved. If we do not try to promote these actions, then we are failing our world and each other. While it may seem impossible, it is not pointless to fight for these ideals, which can raise us to a higher standard.






Even in captivity, one can see the power the lion possesses