Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Urban Homestays


Elacsha, Kevin, Donald

This week we got to experience a taste of real life in Namibia during our urban

home-stay, some people loved it and some found it to be a challenge. All of our families stayed throughout Windhoek, particularly in Khomasdal and Katutura, two formally disadvantaged townships of Windhoek. During Apartheid, whites got big houses, coloreds got smaller houses, and blacks got even smaller homes with showers outside the house. Instead, they got little sheds with showers in the yard. Kevin says, "I stayed in an apartheid-era home in Katutura with a shower shed in the back yard. This was one of the most shocking and difficult moments in the semester so far. Finally being able to put faces to humans that were once thought so little of that they were not allowed to have showers in their house? But we cannot leave that too much in the past. While my family now has an indoor shower, I was outside in front of my house and a taxi started trying to get me to ride with him. He could not fathom why a white person would be in Katutura. While apartheid no longer exists, my home stay led me to believe Namibian society is as divided as ever" but the division in communities by race and class is also something that we struggle with in the U.S. For example Elacsha lives in Chicago and the population is over 2.8 million people. While Chicago is know for its diversity there are also a lot of different neighborhoods where you would find more of a particular race then others. Some examples in Chicago are Chinatown, Greek Town, Pilsen (predominately hispanics), South and West side (predominately African Americans), North and the Suburbs (predominately white). While the city is open to everyone somehow people still create systems and invisible lines of separation for them selves.

Kevin and host-family at dinner

A lot of different tribes exist in South Africa. Elacsha and Donald's urban home-stay parents are from the Herero tribe. The Hereros are a group of people known for cattle-herding. During the early 1900's the Germans came over to do business with our people. The Germans figured out quickly that the Africans were not as literate as them. The Germans used the Africans illiteracy against them and eventually persuaded them to sell their land and work for them. When verbal persuasion did not work they used other tactics like alcohol and violence. In 1904 the Africans rebelled against the Germans killing over a hundred of their people. In return the commander of the Germans decided to wipe out all of the Herero people. Day after day they killed hundreds of Herero people by using violence, denying them food and water, and weather conditions. The people that were left were used as slaves and lived in extreme conditions in five different concentration camps. One of the concentration camps we learned a lot about was in Swakopmund. The history of the Herero people is really important. I am very knowledgeable about the genocide on the Jewish community and slavery in the U.S., but I think Americans forget that slavery was taking place in Africa as well. In school we learn about our ancestors being transported against there will from Africa to the U.S. but we never learn about the people that remained in Africa and the triumphs and challenges they faced, this reminded me of the book Lies My Teacher Told Me that we read in History class. The book was about history and how important facts are left out of history or changed and taught differently to society. I am shocked that such a major part of my history was left out and I am only learning it now, when I go home and as I continue to write I will have to make sure that my people and everyone else is well informed about the apartheid system that took place here.

In addition to all of the things we learned at our home-stay about the history of our people Donald's family took him to one of the old concentration camp areas, Swakopmund which he described as an experience he will never forget. The game drive and the scenery were beautiful. However, what was particularly interesting to me was the learning experiences I encountered both while in Swakopmund and what I learned about the gruesome past in history class. While inSwakopmund it was pretty clear that even though its a vacation spot, the city was divided on racial lines. I remember thinking how beautiful all the houses near the beach were, but I was wondering why I wasn't seeing any Black people in those houses. However, when we went into the city of Swakopmund, the houses looked less luxurious and the white faces faded and the black faces multiplied. The most profound part of this trip however was when my host mom pointed to a restaurant and said "that is for whites only". My host day corrected her and told me that it used to be like that during apartheid, but I could still tell by my mom's face that the effect of apartheid is still very real to her. Our urban home stays was a very influential part to our learning and understanding of Namibia. We look forward to our rural home-stays and being able to greet our families in Oshindonga which is the native language spoken there.

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