Monday, December 8, 2008

Integrative Projects

By: Eppie Kyles, John Linstrom, Thomas Siburg, and Paul Theiss

Blog Week: 23-29 November 2008

It has been our last week in Windhoek, and the time was sad, exciting, busy, and disjointed. Integrative projects, Thanksgiving, and the many goodbyes we shared all collided in what may be considered a hectic but memorable week.

Throughout the semester we had been thinking of specific subject matters for our integrative projects, which incorporated different aspects from each of our classes, volunteer and internship experiences, and trips around Namibia. As individuals and small groups we put our heads together to think of creative ways to exhibit what we have learned and researched about certain topics of interest to us. Seeing the variety of topics we chose to focus our projects on just illustrated the diversity within our group and the different topics we are passionate about as well as the diversity of issues that are prevalent in Namibia. Some focused on political parties, music and poetry during the liberation struggle, German colonization, and the history of apartheid to name a few. These topics were presented through song, power point presentations, dramas, and creative writing pieces.

Paul, Brett, and I (Eppie) focused on the evolution of the education system in Namibia and portrayed our knowledge and research by creating a musical trio— !nona (which means “three” in Damara/Nama)—and writing and directing a music video entitled “You Can’t Ask for a Revolutionary Change Overnight.” We found it difficult to incorporate the different aspects concerning education from our classes into our song, but by having each member focus on either the past, present, or future, we were able to blend these aspects into our verses. Paul focused on the past Bantu education system which emphasized learning through corporal punishment, Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, and the church’s presence in the education system. Eppie’s verses were on the present day system and its improvement from the Bantu education system but still illustrated the flaws that exist. While Brett, modeling after Namibia’s Vision 2030 and using the present progress of what we have observed to make our own predictions, focused his verses on the future. We chose the title “You Can’t Ask for a Revolutionary Change Overnight” because we felt that the education system has made changes since the apartheid era, but still revolutionary changes need to happen to improve the type of education received by students, to improve the welfare of Namibians, to improve the Namibian economy, and to further Namibia’s development. Just as a revolutionary change is needed within the education system, the same is so for the country of Namibia. We have come to the conclusion after 3 ½ months here that You Can’t Ask for a Revolutionary Change Overnight for Namibia. To transform from a country divided by apartheid to a developed and thriving country takes time and cannot happen in 18 short years. Yes, progress has been made, but there is so much more to be made for this young promising nation.

Thanksgiving was a time of unusually familiar sounds and smells. A day that started like any other, with overcrowded bathrooms, coffee, and sleep-crusted eyes, quickly picked up into a festive flurry. Without knowing how it had happened, I (John) began to notice from behind my heavy but slowly opening eyelids a house covered with brown and beige balloons, hand-made signs, personalized hand turkeys, and other implements of nostalgic celebration. I found myself in the kitchen fighting sweet potatoes for several more hours than I had planned, and can testify to the miraculous way the CGE student family suddenly fell into the various familiar holiday roles. I guess, no matter where a person is, he or she will find times to recreate the old comforts of home.

I was admittedly somewhat conflicted about the feast idea at first, and still am in some respects. It wouldn’t have taken a very long taxi ride to get to the heart of the bitterest poverty in the city, and we were in Windhoek to gain a better understanding of the reality of that poverty so that we could become better global citizens. And there we were, modeling American overconsumption. Where was the responsible, global-village-inspired frugality?

Yet any ethic of frugality needs room for festivity. And as we sat together around a common table—students, professors, and staff laughing and remembering stories—I became convinced that this celebration could fit into the model of a “festive frugality.” And if the way the meal went wasn’t enough evidence of that, it became clear when professors and house staff began to stand up, one by one, and express their thanks for the food and for the great semester before their (often teary) goodbyes. And I realized that this wasn’t just blind consumption of huge mounds of food—this was ubuntu, the celebratory community reflective of the tight communities in Katutura from which we have learned so much.

Knowing that this was our last week in Namibia brought much emotion. We had to say goodbye to our home of the past three months, saying goodbye to all the CGE staff, new Namibian friends and soon, in another week, saying goodbye to all our new friends from the States, and—most importantly—saying goodbye to the life we have known. We have all been so thankful for being able to take part on this program, and the thought that it had come to an end was both exciting and terrifying. Many thoughts and concerns continue to float through our heads. The main focus for me (Thomas) was the thought that I will be going home, back to the United States. Namibia5 Simpson St., Windhoek – has been our home these many months and what we have learned and experienced has defined who we have become. This is the place that we “24 American Students” have come back to, grounding us together as one family, but the program is ending and we need to continue on this journey of life.

Travelling to Hosea Kutako International Airport was really taxing. As I sat, waiting in the airport before boarding the plane, I realized that this may be the last time I’m ever in Namibia. This was a sad thought. Realizing that I don’t know the journey ahead is rather terrifying. I began to think that if we weren’t about to spend a week in Cape Town, South Africa I would probably be feeling even worse. Subconsciously knowing that I’m only a country away from Namibia was comforting and easier to handle than having the Atlantic Ocean separating us. Many of us spent the final week, even up to this final morning, frequently tearfully visiting our homestay families, friends and our internship and volunteer sites. Soon we will be home with our families and friends in the States, but this doesn’t make leaving Namibia any easier.


1: Paul, Brett, and Eppie rehearsing !nona.

2: Brittany, Michelle, and Alana fast at work cooking Thanksgiving morning.

3: CGE staff and students coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving together.

4: Packing up for the long haul to the airport – one last goodbye to the staff and the house.

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