Friday, December 9, 2011

Wake Up and Wrap Up

Stephanie and Mia

Week 14

We have finally reached week 14 out of just a 16-week program, and it feels strange to be here. We spent this week wrapping up each of our classes with nothing but our integrative projects left before we venture to Cape Town. Cleaning schedules for check-out are beginning to be posted and we have even started to think about the strange concepts of doing laundry and packing all of our things. The weirdest part about this week is that even though we are wrapping up, the program doesn’t feel over: and that’s because it really isn’t.

Wrap-up week was more eye-opening than I think many of us expected it to be. It really reiterated the importance of taking back all that we have learned to the states. The lessons we learned throughout our time here are not all specific to Namibia, but have opened our eyes to concepts that we should keep with us and apply back in the States and Guatemala.

One of the extremely interesting activities we participated in during the course of the week was the presentation of our poster projects in development class. The idea of the project was to take two seemingly different social issues and research and present how the two issues impact and affect each other. For example, two people in our groups chose HIV/AIDS and education and presented a poster on their finding of how HIV/AIDS impacts the education system and children going to school, alongside how going to school and getting an education impacts HIV/AIDS. We found, through the projects that the impact on one to the other is huge. Education policies on HIV/AIDS are moving forward, and becoming better. What really surprised us was how children having HIV/AIDS effects their education. The projects showed that children who are infected have a difficult time in the classroom because the teachers have a difficult time getting past the infection. They become hyper-paranoid about becoming infected and as a result become anxious, and go to less class. The cycle continues and the education of the children suffers as a result. In the end, education and HIV/AIDS are inexplicably linked, and in a way that betters the situation. We wonder what can break the cycle, if they both affect each other in negative ways. Do we move forward by “solving” HIV/AIDS or “solving” problems in education? Where do we begin? And where does the cycle end? . It is difficult to look at the issue from a foreign perspective because we don’t know what our role should be. It is hard to think about doing nothing but at the same time we have to wonder if it is our place to step in, and furthermore if there is anything that we could do that would make a positive aspect. All in all, the poster presentations were very informative and interesting in a way that we didn’t expect, and they made us think analytically about the effects that social issues have on Namibia, Southern Africa, and the world. Everyone chose really interesting topics and the group ended up getting so into the presentations that we used up all of our class time on this activity alone.

Completing the poster presentations allowed us to broaden our mind to how various topics, from global warming to gender to Pentecostalism and more, impact each other in more ways than one may realize. Many of the topics we discussed with each other allowed us to view a topic we had already known something about with the added chance of hearing about them through a new lens. It brought together many subjects and showed the interesting chains of how various social issues feed off of one another, or impact each other in a variety of additional ways.

We have learned so much through the course of the semester that even though wrap up week should be exciting, it’s a bit sad. This trip has broadened our minds in ways that none of us even expected, and has left us with a thirst for more. We have learned about so many issues facing Namibian society today, and now we have been shown how they all fit together. Our knowledge has circled back so that everything makes sense, and yet at the same time most of us are more confused than ever. We will continue to wonder what the long-term effects of colonization are and how to move forward. We continue to question what it means to want to help develop southern Africa and still not step past cultural boundaries. We continue to question what race and racism means in a place like Namibia, and even back home. But, fortunately, we have learned that being confused is okay; and that reaching this point simply means that we have successfully fought through the barriers of false assumptions and superficial understanding and opened up doors and our minds to more learning in the future. I think it’s fair to say that we will all be sure to take this newfound knowledge back to the States and continue to expand on it in the future.

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