Nathalie, Kelley, Maggie, Antonio
This week was divided between classes here in Windhoek and a travel seminar to southern Namibia. Early in the week, we were all busy preparing our creative presentations for History class which focused on identifying and comparing an aspect of the histories of racism and the resistance to racism in the U.S. and southern Africa. We were instructed to analyze the gap between the formal victories over apartheid and racist legislation and the economic, social, political, and psychological effects that are still lingering today. It was clear that everyone put in a great amount of effort and thought, and the projects did not disappoint! People chose several different interesting formats, including skits, photo exhibits, and interactive games and discussions. We also did an exercise that was intended to display the various backgrounds that people come from and the kind of privileges that we have grown up with. The exercise brought the discussion of race and discrimination to a much more personal level and left us all questioning some of our preconceived notions about the connection between privilege and race. I was personally impressed by Antonio, Martin and John’s presentation. Antonio played the role of a SWAPO party member, John was a preacher, and Martin was an Afrikaner. Their dialogue was very intense, for it touched on issues of Truth and Reconciliation, segregation and racism in the U.S and South Africa.
After history class, we all packed our bags and hopped into the CGE van for our final travel seminar of the semester (tear....). The weekend was focused on sustainable development and different types of tourism in Namibia. We spent our first night at a government-owned campsite at Hardap Dam in Mariental. Our night was full of delicious food, lots of games of Uno and Bananagrams, and group bonding time. The next morning we had a brief development class to discuss some of the themes that this trip was designed to focus on, including how we define sustainable development and the types of participation that take place. Next, we explored the dam a bit on our own and were impressed by how it was so well-integrated into its natural environment.
Then it was off to the rural town of Berseba to camp out for the night at a community-run campsite at the foot of the Brukkaros mountain. Upon our arrival, we met with the Community Campsite Committee and heard from Petrus Fleermuys, the chair of the Committee. They gave us some general background on the campsite and the various plans they have to overcome some of the challenges they have been facing. The campsite was started in hopes of attracting tourists to make money in order to fund community based projects that would improve the standard of living of Berseba. We were all struck by the beauty of the location and how much potential this site has, but couldn't help but notice some of the obstacles they will have to overcome in order to sustain this project. The main challenges seem to be that they are quite far from a bustling town center and are lacking easy access to water. We also were a little surprised at the fact that although this campsite is community-run, there were only 2 employees, which seems unfortunate. The next day, most of us woke up extra early to hike up the mountain. By the time we got back to the bottom, we were even more aware of the lack of shade, which was the reason for our project that morning: planting trees with students from the local secondary school. Although, most of us were quite skeptical of the success rate of the trees, considering water was very scarce; but we remained hopeful. After some hard work digging holes and planting the trees, we enjoyed a music-filled lunch at the school, where CGE divas John Rogers and Holland Hamilton displayed their musical talents and sang When You Believe by Whitney Houston, sending chills down all of our spines! The students also sang some very beautiful songs in their mother tongue, again, giving us all goosebumps!
After a nice day with the students, we headed back to Mariental to camp at the privately-owned Gondwana Kalahair Anib Lodge. That night, some of us enjoyed the luxury of having a pool, while others prepared a delicious chili dinner for the group. As this was our last night camping as a group, we all stayed up much past our bedtimes and hung out by the fire under the beautiful Namibian stars. The following morning, we heard from co-owner, Jaco. He discussed the three pillars of the company's philosophy: financial sustainability, social responsibility, and land conservation. We were all very impressed by the company's commitment to balancing their own success with the moral responsibility to better the community through their training and employment programs, which would in turn help fight poverty and hunger. They are also very dedicated to conserving the land and the wildlife, which is an area where Namibia has been quite well-respected.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable, relaxing, and informative weekend in the southern part of Namibia. We all came back with new perspectives on the different forms of tourism and sustainable development projects. It was a bittersweet bus ride home, knowing it was our last long drive in the kombi, but we are all looking forward to taking full advantage of our last three weeks here in Windhoek!