Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Week 8: Rural Homestay

Larry, Adil, Carlee, Jaclyn

While on our rural homestay near Khorixas , a small town in the North, we were given the chance to immerse ourselves in rural living by staying with individual families on communal farmland. While living on the farm we were welcomed as a member

of the family and took

part in daily activities, such as caring for the cows and goats, collecting water from the well, and cooking without any electricity.

Many students observed that most of the food that was prepared and consumed during the week was from the supplies that CGE provided, including loaves of bread, peanut butter, beans, and pasta. During the dry season the government provides food supplies to some of the vulnerable communities, and a few of the students participated in unloading the rations from the trucks that came during our stay. According to one of Carlee’s family members, the supply truck only comes once a year. While it provides food for a certain amount of time, it is not nearly enough food to sustain some families during the dry season, when food production is low. Larry asked his familyabout how long the government food lasted and they answered, “there are some times when we do not have food on our table.”

The observations we made during our homestays were put into context by the local organizations and speakers we visited. First, we were officially welcomed to Khorixas by the mayor.

Next, we visited with local high school students and compared the education system in rural Namibia with our experiences in the United States. We talked about some of the issues facing youth today, including drug use and teaching methods within school. Many of the students expressed the desire for most structured activities for themselves and their peers as a way to counter the draw towards drugs. We heard from numerous students that many teachers are lacking in qualifications, and since corporal punishment has been banned, many classrooms have struggled with the challenges of discipline. It was interesting for us to find many similarities between the Namibian students’ experiences and our own in the US, despite the differences in resources and infrastructure in the two countries. Many of us were challenged with thinking of solutions to educational problems even when the financial means are available.

We spent two out of the five days of our rural homestay exploring Khorixas as a group, then returned to our farms in the late afternoon for resting in the shade, cooking dinner over a fire, and counting the stars after the hot sun went down. We also visited with a member of the Community Development Center and discussed land reform and rural development. We received a brief tour of Khorixas, and heard from OYO, an organization working to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region. The issues of development that we have been discussing in class and in Windhoek took on a different quality when put into the context of the rural area surrounding Khorixas. Living in such a different environment challenged our assumptions about development and the needs of the community.

All in all, the time spent in and around Khorixas gave us a new perspective on life in rural Namibia. Much of the history that we have been learning about throughout the semester was brought alive by our firsthand experiences. The complexities of development were especially brought to light as we faced a lifestyle very different from our own. Although the families we stayed with did not have access to many of the resources that we are so accustomed to, we gained a lot from the personal relationships that were developed during the week.

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