Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Final Firsts

By: R. Gail
It was a full week of getting into the rhythm of things. We finally started classes, had our first day of internships, got to explore Windhoek further than walking distance. We also had our first and only birthday celebration while we are together.
This week we set the tone for the rest of the semester with "community day;" we dove straight in talking about religion, sexual orientation, race, class, etc. What I loved about the community day was that the students didn’t just reflect on all these issues, but also the staff did too, who are mostly Namibian. Personally, I found it very informative to talk to the staff and see their views on these issues and how they compare to the Americans. It was a great platform to reflect and reaffirm my thoughts and beliefs on some of the subjects we touched on during the day. We played games to get to know each other a little better and got to teach the game Ninja to the rest of the staff. I was getting a bit worried when d (the housekeeper) was jumping around and almost falling on her pregnant belly! Thankfully, she did not.
The whole CGEE gang trying to figure out how the game of Ninja works.

Tuesday we went on a “Katutura Quest” with some young people that are from Katutura, a township that was created to forcibly moved Black people there during the Apartheid. Katutura has so much to offer from the amazing food of Kapana to the elder community we got to meet with during out “Katutura Quest.” For the quest we were split into two groups; one group went to an art center and my group went to the only old folk's home in the city. We talked to the man that ran the center and he told us that residents must be able to take care of themselves, have a low income, and be overall in a healthy condition; meaning that the residents were able to care for themselves and did not need constant medical attention. Usually, when I visit retirement centers or old folk homes I get quite sad, but at this one everyone, for the most part, was all smiles. We sat in on a bible study in what I assumed was the Afrikaans language. Since I could not understand the language the bible study was in, I observed the room and something dawned upon me: I was sitting in a room with Black and White people who grew up during the apartheid era. To think that they grew up separated by law, and now live together only a few years after the end of apartheid was amazing. We later found ourselves eating the most deliciously prepared meat: kapana, a cow that is very freshly cut and prepared with the richest spices and luscious fat on a grill. We ended the day by preparing for the first day of our internships (unfortunately I was MIA for this)!
Wednesday we all started our internships bright and early! My internship is with the Namibian Women’s Health Network which is a community-based organization that empowers people who are affected by HIV and AIDS in Namibia. This organization also seeks to provide educations, skills, and information to women who are living with HIV and AIDS in Namibia. What is currently happening now is we teach reading and writing in English and food preparation to women outside of the city of Windhoek. Most of what I have been doing is lesson plans to teach basic English literacy. The idea of this current program is to give the women the tools they need to be able to find a job or even create a small business of their own. I hope to teach as much as I can and learn more about and from these women throughout the time that I am with them.

(Jimmy & Alexis) Our first day of our politics class!
We couldn't be more excited!
Thursday we finally had our first day of classes! In our politics class and political development class, we had speakers come in and talk to us about what Pan Africanism is and how it was mostly for people who were outside of Africa to reconnect with their roots, but is now a uniting idea among all Africans. We also had someone come in a talk to us about the relationship Namibia has with China and North Korea. The two countries have great political relationships with Namibia because after the liberation struggle Namibia needed some help and reached out to other countries but only really received help from China and North Korea. Especially with the Chinese, the relationship was abused. The Chinese would build factories in Namibia to acquire cheap labor from the Namibian population. The Namibian government allowed the Chinese to overwork their workers, left them sick for the rest of their lives, and let them break the laws of the worker's rights of the Namibians. Namibia’s government overlooked these conditions because they were in great need for jobs at the time. I am already learning so much of Namibia’s history and how that has shaped Namibia today.
To wrap up this busy week we headed to the theaters to watch Black Panther, which lived up to the hype. We went out to dinner and got pizza with a very rude waiter, it was great. It was also Hal’s 21st birthday! We all bought him an inflatable shark for the pool (he has yet to take it into the pool though…). After he showered we pushed him into the pool in all his dry clothes. We went on a hike in search for a lion, thankfully we did not find one considering we were still in a city. Now that we are settling into our new home I am excited to see what these next few months will bring us here in Windhoek, Namibia.
I was just helping Hal jump into 21!
Till next time!

Monday, March 12, 2018

From the Mother City to our Home City

By Hal W.

      We began this week in Cape Town, South Africa, and ended it in Windhoek, Namibia. We have set up shop here in Windhoek, where we will be staying for the next three months. I have the luxury of writing this with the comfort of A/C, something we all missed while we traveled around the Cape.

     We began this week by visiting the Slave Lodge Museum in downtown Cape Town. The tour began by meeting Lucy Campbell and her assistant Khadijah outside of the Castle of Good Hope. The fort was built by the Dutch East India Company between 1666 and 1679, it is the oldest standing colonial building in the whole country. It originally was used as a replenishment stations for British Ships sailing around the horn of Africa. Today it is a museum and historical site for tourists and memorialization of Cape Town’s brutal history.
      Lucy Campbell shared the history of the fort and how it impacted the native people of South Africa. She explained how colonization integrated new and often detrimental impacts onto the preexisting culture that existed here. From there we walked up Spin Street to the Slave Lodge Museum, making a brief stop at the Slave Tree memorial. This inconspicuous raised octagon is the site that slaves were sold during the economic and population boom of Cape Town. It feels overly modest, a plinth easily passed by without noticing its significance. The town was built by the men and women who were sold under that tree, and today it can be overpassed without a moment's thought. This place is worth stopping by to acknowledge on a historic remembrance of Cape Town, often forgotten.
     The Slave Lodge bustled with school trips and tourists gawking at the blinking lights of the eye-catching exhibits. We sat on the concrete floor as Campbell presented stories and trinkets traded during the Transcontinental slave trade. Ships stopped by Cape Town bringing tobacco and alcohol to suppress the health of the native tribes, for the sole intention of exploiting them for their land’s resources. The Slave Lodge was the physical space that the slaves were kept in decrepit conditions, with morality thrown out the barred windows.
     In the early 1800’s the building was modified to be used as government offices including the upper house of Parliament and the Cape Supreme Court. In the 1960’s it was again transformed into a museum of remembrance. “From human wrongs to human rights, exhibitions on the lower level of this museum explore the long history of slavery in South Africa”.
The original Parliament Hall. (Used during the Apartheid Regime)
     After lunch on Long Street we walked to the current Parliament facility for a discussion of the on-going political turmoil happening in South Africa. We were met by Andricus Pieter van der Westhuizen, a current member of the Democratic Alliance (DA) party in Parliament. He is currently appointed as the Shadow Deputy Minister of Labour, but his background is in education. We discussed how volatile the politics of South Africa have been since the turn of the country in the early 1990’s. We lucked upon a interesting time in South Africa’s politics. Jacob Zuma, the current president of South Africa, is being asked by his own party the African National Congress (ANC) to step down from his position. He has over 100 charges of corruption and is overwhelmingly disapproved of by the majority of the South African population. He is charged with using public funds for supposed “security” improvements for his estate including a pool and housing for his security team. Our meeting and tour of Parliament proved interesting and eye-opening.
      Tuesday morning we ate breakfast at St. Paul’s Guesthouse, our accommodation for our time in Cape Town, then went to the District Six Museum. This small, one building museum pays homage to the thousands of mixed race South Africans who were forcibly removed from their homes in the early 1900’s. District Six was a neighborhood of diversity and culture for laborers and merchants for decades before white colonists decided to bulldoze the area and force the residents into the surrounding areas known as the Cape Flats. The white government deemed District Six to be a destructive slum that bred vices like gambling and prostitution. They also declared under apartheid regime that mixed race communities were against the law. In 2003 the area began a reconstruction process. But of course true to the bureaucratic form it was executed with inadequate resources and labor. Today many of the homes lost remain rubble.

District Six museum complete with a floor map
      After a pensive tour of the District Six museum we de-stressed by going to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The five square kilometer complex featured a tree canopy boardwalk and sculpture garden. It was a relaxing break from the onslaught of information about the destructive history of this town. My personal favorite was the fragrance garden, buzzing with exotic insects that were double the size of the critters we have back home.
     We ended our outing with a empowering discussion at the Sex Workers and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT). The goal of SWEAT is to decriminalize sex work in South Africa. They participate in rallies and demonstrations to bring media coverage and educate people about Sex Workers rights. They also offer resources to Sex Workers like medical aid and helpful connections. The discussion was positive and light-hearted, despite the rather blunt topic. The people that work there are fighting a noble battle.

Camryn and Lamont getting down
The next day we were given a tour of Langa and Gugulethu by Mrs. Laura. These two townships are primarily black and have had a troubled past. We stopped at the Dompas Museum in Langa for a tour of the history of passbooks in the apartheid regime. The Dompas or Passbooks were issued to all black laborers who traveled into Cape Town for work. Dompas translates to “dumb pass”, these books were used to restrict black movement throughout the city and give the police another reason to throw innocent people in jail. If someone was caught without their passbook or if it was out of order they were put in jail for a month. The museum resides in the same building that black people were kept against their will for not having this aforementioned “Dumb pass”. Afterwards we walked through Langa to a restaurant where we ate authentic South African food, served family style, and were serenaded by talented group of musicians. They even let us try their instruments!
A young Jimmy among the Pines
After lunch we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCCA) that lies on the waterfront of Cape Town. The exhibits depicted historic mediums brought into a contemporary light. Animal pelts, weapons, and traditional african garb decorated the six story building. It is a place worth visiting for art enthusiasts to anyone willing to experience history through modern and artistic means.

For dinner we went to an African cafe aptly named “The African Cafe”. The food was again served family style and we enjoyed the music of the staff dancing, singing, and drumming through the restaurant. Truly a sight to behold on your trip through Cape Town.
The next morning we woke up early to pile into the van to ship off to the airport. We made our way through customs and security and onto the plane. After a quick two hour plane ride we touched down in our home for the next three months. The drive to Windhoek offered a few sights to show us what was to come. I watched out my window as the desert brush zipped by us, the occasional baboon or boar poking out along the side of the road. We were all quite tired from the travels of the day so after a quick orientation session we all called it an early night.
Today we began to make ourselves acquainted with our new home with a walking tour of Windhoek. Our fearless R.A. Jamila showed us around town, we saw the local mall, club, ice cream shop, and cafe. Windhoek is a big town and a small city. The taxis are cheap and the streets are (mostly) safe. We were warned by Paul From the U.S. Embassy about the petty muggings and opportunity crime that stems from the lack of employment. The overall message though was that if you keep your wits about you this city is a fun and safe place to stay.
The next day we were all feeling much more at home in our air conditioned manor complete with pool and wifi. We continued our orientation with a driving tour of Windhoek and Katatura, the biggest township of Windhoek. Our guide Martin was friendly and showed us the ins and outs of Windhoek. We visited the Kapana market in Katatura where we had the traditional grilled meat dish for the first time. You pay the price you want to pay and they grill the meat right in front of you on a wood burning stove, we returned back as soon as we could.
So much awkward in just one photo. (Visiting a local Namibian dam)
     Windhoek has graciously welcomed us into their city. The people are friendly and the air is dry. It has only been free from the apartheid regime for less than thirty years so the town quiets down at night. The stars are beautiful.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Blown Away by the Community Spirit in the Windy City

By Alexis T.
Red Location Lodge, a former beer house that was transformed into
a bed and breakfast by Mama Africa and several other women.
The focuses of this week’s adventures were women’s empowerment, Black empowerment, and the idea of Ubuntu. Mama Africa told us her story about Red Location Lodge, a lodge in Port Elizabeth, South Africa former beer house that was transformed into a bed and breakfast by 15 women in 2008. These women worked their whole lives to destroy the beer house that distracted black children from their education. Instead of doing homework the children would carry liquor for individuals at the beer house. Mama Africa was one of the women who fought for equality for Blacks during apartheid to ensure that children would be able to get an education. She continued this mission by renovating the beer house into a bed and breakfast in which women could work to afford their children’s education.
The Ubuntu Centre, a center that provides educational, health, and
psychosocial resources for the local community
The Red Location Project was meant to better the community, both for the education of the children and to bring revenue through tourism. There are many organizations in South Africa that work through and with the community to improve the livelihoods of its inhabitants. The Ubuntu Centre is another community-based project that aims to educate children from “cradle to career” through the Ubuntu Pathways program, and provide health and psychosocial resources to the local community. The Red Location Project and Ubuntu Centre both employ the ubuntu ideals of altruism and sharing by being open to all individuals in the community. The Ubuntu Centre determines the needs of the community by working within and networking with the community. This inside-out approach ensures that the primary needs to the society are being attended to. The primary needs of the community are education, health, and psychosocial help. The Ubuntu Centre focuses on being open to all types of individuals, all desired career paths from music to science to technology, and giving back to the community through its sustainable design and educational programs.

The Ubuntu Centre, a center that provides educational, health, and
psychosocial resources for the local community

In another town called Victoria Mxhenge, the South African Homeless People’s Federation strives to improve the livelihoods of those in the community by providing free, stable housing. The organization went to great lengths to educate individuals on building techniques that allowed them to construct their own houses. Most of the houses were built by women and have been standing for 20 years despite developers claiming they would fall in 5 years. The program has provided housing for 136 families and the vocational education has provided the largely unemployed population with a skill set that makes them more employable. This organization speaks to the ideals of ubuntu and sharing by working within and providing the community with homes, skills, and stability resources. The organization continues to address the housing issue and has moved onto addressing unemployment, education, and the health of its citizens. The organization educates through a feminist lens that promotes women’s empowerment. Most of the individuals building houses with the organization were women and the organization promotes the importance of the women’s role in the house. This is extremely important in the town which has many single mothers. The skills taught to women are traditionally masculine skills, proving that women can do both the jobs traditionally associated with men and women. There is a similar feminist movement in the U.S. in which women take on the traditional masculine role of breadwinner or join masculine occupations such as engineering, proving that a woman can do anything a man does. The program also funds children’s education through bursaries that prepare students both for the university track and career path through vocational training. There are also programs to help children with homework and problems going on at home. The organization provides a safe space for the children where they can stay away from the influence of drugs and alcohol that can be found on the streets and focus on their schooling and wellbeing.
Members of the Victoria Mxhenge community and South African Homeless
People's Federation outside the Federation's center.
Community is an important concept in the South African culture which differs greatly from the culture of rugged individualism in the United States. Individuals learn to lean on each other for support as they did by building homes for each other, sharing resources and skill sets, and providing programs that uplift and provide opportunities for one another. In the United States, on the other hand, it is common to be closed off from the community and be self-sufficient. The organizations mentioned above were started by individuals who lived and grew up in the communities their projects are based in. This ensures that the needs of the individuals are met by having an inside view of what the community needs rather than an outsider’s assumption of the true problems. For the Red Location Project, it was destroying a beer house that promoted alcoholism and kept children away from school. This community has seen many improvements including paved roads, an increase in formal housing structures, and an influx of tourism which has provided jobs for more individuals. For the Ubuntu Centre it was ensuring that the community has access to health care, psychosocial care, and education. These three things can prepare children to enter the workforce instead of increasing the unemployment rate and provide physical and mental health stability for those living in undesirable conditions who cannot afford medical care. For the South African Homeless People’s Federation, it was teaching the largely unemployed community with a skill set of home building that allowed them to create their community from the ground up. This project not only educated but provided stability through their free housing program. The organization has also begun to provide educational and support programs for children to ensure that their needs are met in a safe environment away from the streets. At the heart of each of these projects is giving back to the community through the sharing of resources and knowledge, a quality that is not often exemplified in the individualistic United States.
The importance of community in South African culture creates a welcoming environment. It also shows how caring individuals are towards one another. This was shocking coming from the U.S. where the focus is more on growing individually rather than community building. The South African culture focuses on sharing and giving back to the community rather than self gain which is synonymous with American culture. I feel that this creates a more trusting community where each person knows that they can rely on another. It also creates a more sympathetic and caring community where one can be sure that those in their community are looking out for them.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Stepping Into A New World

By Jimmy D.  
Me at Freedom Park overlooking Pretoria
When I told my friends I was going abroad they were shocked at the fact that I chose Africa. They said “why don’t you go somewhere normal like Europe” and laughed at the fact that I needed to take anti-malaria pills. My reasoning is I believe it is important to see the world, and not only go to the developed areas of the world, but also look at the developing areas that have a history of oppression. Learning about history is very important in being able to pave the path for the future.  One amazing part of the Nation Building, Globalization and Decolonizing the Mind program offered by CGEE is that not only are you looking at very developed areas such as Sandton which is considered the richest square mile of properties in all of Africa; you also get to compare it to one of the poorest townships in Johannesburg, Alexandra. Even though some of these townships may be poor in terms of money, they are rich in culture and heritage. During these tours we learned why and how this happened, and the simplest answer is that it’s an after effect of the Apartheid Regime.
Apartheid started in 1948 when the white minority gained power under the guise of the National Party (NP). The Apartheid system was put in place to control social and economic factors in South Africa to favor the NP. The black majority was paid very little wages to create wealth for the white minority in power. This happened through cheap labor and exploitation of the land and the rights of people who inhabited the land. To explore this issue further we took a tour of Soweto, which has a lot of historical context of Apartheid. As a group we saw how the people of Soweto struggled during apartheid, by being forced to live in Townships, in small, run down hostels and one room shared houses. Our tour guide highlighted how the Apartheid Regime would create division amongst the people of Soweto by separating them into communities based off of similarities and pinning them against each other by promoting violence and alcoholism which destroyed these communities and helped the apartheid regime (The NP) control the black majority. Another impactful visit of Johannesburg was the Hector Pieterson Museum, created to highlight the events leading up to the June 16th anti-Afrikaans protests. Hector Pieterson was a young boy who was shot during the June 16th 1976 Soweto protests. What was so important about this event was that the photo below was released to the world and sparked international attention to the horrors of Apartheid. This event also shows the power of media and how important it is to have freedom of the press.
Antoinette Sithole, Hector Pieterson, and Mbuyisa Makhubo
 during the 1976 Soweto Uprisings
What South Africa is still struggling with is rebuilding after apartheid. 90% of the wealth is still held by the 8% white minority. Dale McKinley, one of our speakers and a former member of the South African Communist Party, spoke about how the African National Congress, (ANC) who took power after the apartheid regime fell, with Nelson Mandela as their leader, allowed for the white minority to stay in control of the economic “house”, while being able to take control of the social aspect of politics. The ANC believed it was important to fix the social aspect of politics to create equality and then later figure out how to redistribute the wealth, but as we see today unemployment is at an all time high and South Africa holds one of the worst Gini Coefficients. The Gini Coefficient determines wealth gap between the population within Nations. The ANC wasn’t wrong in what they did and I believe it was very important that they did whatever they had to do to reverse the apartheid era rules. As with any political action there must be a trade off, in this case it was social freedom and equality for all, while allowing the white minority to stay in control of the economic power. If this wasn’t done then the apartheid regime may of stayed longer than 1994. Also what is important to note is that it has only been 27 years since the apartheid regime came to an end and South Africa fully gained independence. I believe that South Africa has come a long way in the short time that has passed and that they have a bright future, especially with the determined people who work and live in South Africa.
Lastly, I would like to include a poem I wrote based off my observations while we drove through Johannesburg.
“Untitled” By: Jimmy DiGiulio
As the road winds in, the skyline comes into view,
Artwork littered around the streets, wall to wall
Trash lying beautifully on the ground as if it belonged,
Poverty is just as prevalent as the cars weaving in and out of the people,
Struggle and sacrifice unite those who reside.

One of the buildings in the Alexandra Township in Johannesburg

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
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.
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. 
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.
Dune 7