Friday, October 3, 2008

Coastal Connections

By: Lauren Blake, Adela Hoffman, & Liz White

After a few weeks of strenuous academics, challenging internships/volunteering, and enriching homestays, it was time for a well deserved trip away from the city. We journeyed to Swakopmund, a majestic city 175 miles west of Windhoek, where the sand dunes run directly into the Atlantic Ocean. When we started discussing our blog, we realized that each of us had had a different significant event we felt most attached to.

A moment that will forever be instilled in my (Liz’s) memory was when we drove through the DRC, an informal township in Swakopmund that is comprised of endless dirt roads covered with hundreds of tin shacks. I felt uncomfortable driving through there because I felt like we were staring out at these unfortunate people who were simply staring back at us most likely questioning why two vans of predominately white people would want to drive through this town. Furthermore, I felt uncomfortable knowing that we were warm and cozy in our vans and that they were cold sitting outside their shacks. To top it all off, I knew that within ten minutes we will have driven through the whole town and be back into our beautiful guest house by the shoreline never to see these people again.

I could envision them thinking that we as students have no idea what they have to endure every day to survive. I hated this moment because it still did not stop me from feeling superior to them, which I know is wrong, because I should never feel this way towards anyone. It was a very challenging situation to grapple with and I now continuously ponder what the United States would look like if people were allowed to build their own house wherever they could find land. Would these informal settlements spring up? One thing I try to remember is that perhaps these people are content within this community. Maybe this situation is better to them than roaming the streets during the day and having to find a homeless shelter, if that, to sleep in at night. Yet personally, I know I would feel safer having my own shack that I could call home surrounded by people who are in the same economic state.

For me (Adela), visiting the Rossing uranium mine on Thursday was the most memorable part of the trip. Obviously, the mine is creating a large number of jobs and is the largest industry in the community of Arandis, which lies in the outskirts of Swakopmund, but I felt very nervous when it came to thinking about the inevitable closing of the mine in the future. In about a decade the uranium supply within the mine is going to deplete and the mine itself will eventually have to close down permanently. Being the largest income generating industry in the town, the closing of the mine would create a lot of economic problems for the area. It is scary to think about Arandis not being self-sustainable without the mine. I felt that it was very unfair for the mine to advertise this idea of an economic self-sufficient community when in reality, it is not. While touring the mine, I realized that Rossing mine is a very sophisticated industry, much more so than the other smaller industries in Arandis. I feel as though this sophistication will cause trouble in the long run because the other local industries currently do not have the capability to absorb these newly unemployed workers into their own workforce and offer the same benefits and salaries previously held by the mine workers.

Brainteasing car rides between tours and speakers throughout the week kept us in high spirits and prepared us for the exciting Saturday we had ahead of us. Naturally, we tried just about every tourist related option available. I (Lauren) opted to go quad biking and sand boarding and loved every second the exciting adventure. Taking part in the predicted future main source of income for Walvis Bay, my pessimism left me questioning the controversies surrounding eco-tourism and its potentially deteriorating environmental effects. After cruising over dune after dune for miles in a seemingly endless mountain range of sand I thought about home. Our group is constantly suffering from this complex we refer to as F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) with friends and family back home and I determined that all my past memories were incomparable. Looking out as far as the eye could see one way was complete desert and massive sand dunes while simply turning around all you could see was the clear blue ocean with no sort of industry or human occupancy.

Partaking in activities of eco-tourism enabled me to turn a complete 180 and accept this municipal effort of industry as the most feasible response to balancing environmental conservation with sustainable economic growth. What other options does Walvis Bay have to create a sustainable economy? Any introduction of industrialization would blatantly impact the tourism market because of the tainting effects it would have of its pure and unique form. By taking advantage of the natural beauty of the region in a seemingly sustainable way, Walvis Bay is able to provide employment opportunity for its local inhabitants as well as maintaining its globally known ecological beauty.

Leaving the coast, we felt as though our initial expectations for that long weekend had been far exceeded. We did partake in a lot of typical tourist activities, but thanks to our program we were exposed to the oftentimes hidden side of the glamorous costal community. We were able to successfully connect this trip to the ever present themes of nation building, decolonization of mind, and globalization to our individual experiences here in Namibia.

Photo Captions:

1. Students face the fierce winds at the Lagoon.

2. Tin shacks in DRC, an informal township of Swakopmund.

3. The Rossing uranium mine.

4. Adela, Lauren, and Liz quad biking around the dunes!

1 comment:

Anastácio Soberbo said...

Hello, I like this blog.
Sorry not write more, but my English is not good.
A hug from Portugal