Monday, February 7, 2011

Pretoria and Settling in to Windhoek

Week Two (24-30 January)
Authors: Siobhan Kelley, Amanda Major, Will Colan

After a whirlwind trip to Johannesburg, we drove to Pretoria for our final two days in South Africa. Our first day we went to the Voortrekker Monument, a massive granite monument built to commemorate the Voortrekkers (“pioneers”in Afrikaans) who migrated in the 1930s and 1940s from the Cape Colony to the interior of the country. A local historian explained that the monument symbolizes the triumph of the Voortrekkers over the Zulu, complete with depictions of bloody battles in marble statues inside the monument. It was interesting to see a different perspective from the history of colonization in South Africa, but it was also important to acknowledge that it was just one side to a story that could be viewed from multiple angles. Though there were many different opinions on what the monument symbolized, we all agreed that the view from the top was amazing. We even saw our first zebras from afar!

Next we went to Freedom Park, which was built to honor all the lives lost in South African history – from slavery, genocide and war to apartheid and the liberation struggle. It was created as a place to both appreciate the past as well as celebrate the future of the country built to honor democracy and human rights. The architecture was really beautiful and highlighted the diversity of the country from the 9 provinces and the 11 official languages. Isivivane was an especially compelling part of the Park; it is a place used to construct Lesaka, a burial ground where the spirits of the lives lost in South African history, surrounded by boulders from places of historical significance in each of the 9 provinces.

On Wednesday, we loaded up the vans early in the morning to head to the airport – finally we were on our way to Namibia! After a very short flight, we had arrived at Hosea Kutako Airport, just outside of Windhoek. The ~40 km drive into Windhoek was breathtaking; our first views of Namibia included giraffe and baboon sightings, and a winding drive through the hills surrounding the city. Long plains gave way to massive mountains in the distance, which are visible from all over Windhoek.

Everyone quickly made themselves comfortable while settling into our new home. It was a nice relief to finally unpack after living out of suitcases for ten days. We jumped right into Windhoek on the first full day with a tour of the many different areas starting in Klein Windhoek (German for Small Windhoek), which is a predominately white suburb. We made our way through a predominately Coloured region called Funkytown, and then into Windhoek’s largest township, Katutura. There were many similarities to Soweto, where we had our first home stay last week. Both Katutura and Soweto are very large townships just outside of a major city. They are a product of the Apartheid era, built specifically for black people. Since independence, both have seen a marked rise from strictly lower class into a burgeoning middle class.

The next day, we all embarked on our Katatura Quests. Separated into groups of three guided by young Namibians, we set out to find our assigned destinations. Among the different destinations were orphanages, churches and a radio station; all of the different locations brought a plethora of experiences and emotions as well as challenges to current ideologies. It was really awesome to get to spend time with local students our age. There viewpoints were very helpful, and their friendship was definitely appreciated. At the end of the quest, we debriefed and shared our experiences. The debrief was very eye-opening because it allowed us as Americans to realize that the exchange rate of our US dollars into Namibian money was much more complex than trying to divide everything by seven. It included thinking about how the average Namibian sees prices with the restraints of their salary.

To wrap this week up, students from the University of Namibia (UNAM) came to the CGE house to hang out and play games with us. Some of the CGE students went with the UNAM students to the Namibian women’s National soccer game against Angola. It down poured, but Namibia pulled through for the draw and win due to home team advantage. It was a really awesome experience to be engrossed by such intense Namibian pride. It is only the second week, and it has already amazed us in so many different aspects. Until next time, cheers!

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