Blog Week 3 Caitlin, Jessica, and Lauren
Making Windhoek Home
Now that we have had the opportunity to make the White House our home, we spent this week and weekend making the city of Windhoek our home. Many of us have ventured out into the city to work with a variety of organizations for our internships and volunteer placements. We arrived at our internship sites with the words of Ivan Illich floating through our minds; he stated "you will not help anyone by your good intentions." Each of us needed to determine how, then, we would be most helpful to our organizations. Even though we were apprehensive about our first day at our internship, not exactly knowing what the day would bring, we went into the experience knowing that we were not the only ones who needed to adjust. Caitlin has been working in a classroom, assisting youth who are attempting to enter into third grade. While she is excited for the challenge ahead, it is definitely an adjustment for her and even more so for the children she is working with. While she has taught in a classroom before, the barer comes in remembering that English is a second language for these children and they did not grow up in her same culture. This immensely changes and shapes the way lessons are planned, what words Caitlin uses to construct sentences and the examples used to further teach.
Along with beginning our new internship experiences, classes also began. In our history class, titled "Racism and Resistance in Southern Africa and the United States," we discussed the importance of history and what it really is: "history is what we choose to remember about the past." We also discussed what role it plays for us living in Windhoek today. Romanus, our instructor, stated, "We use the past to understand the present. The past engages dialogue with the present." It is extremely important for us to know the past of Namibia and southern Africa because we are presently in this city; the history here will immensely shape our present experience. We visited the Owela Museum here in Windhoek and had the opportunity to expand our knowledge on native African tribes. For Jessica, this greatly shaped her understanding of her host family. Many of the cultural traditions of the Damara are present in her home stay. These can be challenging at times because the practices are unfamiliar due to her American cultural background. For example, Jessica is a vegetarian, and the family brought home a meat pizza and a "non-meat" pizza; the "non-meat" pizza in fact was a chili chicken pizza.
Jessica with her mom, Catherine and sisters, Tiaan and Kelley.
Our ten-day individual home stay was the final step in making Windhoek our home. We were warmly welcomed into everyone's households where they had a significant impact upon our lives as we did on theirs. In Lauren's home, she is sharing a bed with a 21-year old nursing student. Within the house, there is a limited supply of bed space and hot water. While living with this family, Lauren has learned that many families are very close, and as a result personal space is hard to come by. This is counterintuitive to American culture because personal space is a high commodity. As a result, Lauren feels like a burden to the family and this cultural difference is a stressor. As you can imagine, complete immersion into another culture is growing and learning experience for both the student and the family. There is adjustment to schedules, food, and other traditional practices. Overall, the home stay has truly shaped our time here in Windhoek and makes us feel more at home in the city.