Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupying Our Last Weeks in Windhoek

Week 11
Dylan and Leah

After three weeks spent in the North and on various trips throughout Southern Africa, our first week back was a bit of a reality check for all of us. This was a rather slow week, with no big trips or events planned. This lull in activity, combined with a long stretch of being out of touch with friends, family, and current events left many of us feeling a bit homesick and isolated from all that is happening at home. For most of us, celebrating Halloween without the pumpkins, fall colors, enthusiasm of friends, and traditions from home, was a very different atmosphere. Similarly, missing out on important events such as the World Series, death of Gaddafi, presidential campaigns, and various other news stories made us realize just how much has been continuing on without us. Simultaneously, the individuals in CGE realized how little time they have left here in Windhoek. While the amount of time we have been here makes us miss our respective homes, it has also given us a new appreciation for the places, people and other details we have become accustomed to about the city in which we have spent the last 2 months.

Along with the various snippets of good and bad news received from friends and family, many of us have been very interested in the Occupy movement going on across the United States, and the world. For many of us, catching up on this movement created a strong sense of solidarity and an interesting new perspective on being an American abroad. Most of our studies here have investigated our role as foreigners in Namibia, and what responsibilities (if any) we have here. However, feelings of solidarity and excitement about the movement at home made many of us for the first time question what our role as Americans abroad ought to be. The discovery of a very small but growing “Occupy Namibia” movement presented an interesting fusion of the solidarity movement in the US and a movement based on issues specific to Namibia that we have been learning about all semester. While we are technically prevented from becoming politically engaged with local protests as CGE students, we have been able to see our role here through a new lens; we are proud of how this aspect of American culture has come to Namibia and simultaneously has remained uniquely Namibian.

For our history class this week, an American named Lily Asrat who has been working in Namibia for several years visited us and was able to provide an interesting perspective on the interconnectedness of American and Namibian history. Through a brief American history lesson, in which many of us were embarrassingly rusty, we discussed the parallels between slavery and Apartheid histories. From there, she was able to engage our class in a very open dialogue about race, racism and inequality in the United States. This discussion also allowed us to reflect on our role specifically as Americans abroad, rather than just as foreigners in Namibia. In many ways we were embarrassed by how fundamentally similar our histories were, and how difficult it is to criticize a system that not only parallels events in our own history, but also one that our government supported in the past. This week gave us the time to reflect on our role as Americans abroad, and to begin assessing how our comfort in this role has changed throughout our time here, with both proud and more shameful moments.

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