Monday, April 2, 2012

Cara Gross & Samantha Vadakin

Week 9 Home stay & Etosha

Ofall the experiences in this program, the rural homestay in the North demanded
the most of us. We had to leave our
computers, toilets, running water and showers behind to spend a week eating,
bathing, and doing everything in between, outside. Wewere required to use Oshiwambo to
communicate with family members, some of whom spoke little to no English. We stayed with families who had us
participate in all aspects of the traditional lifestyle,from cooking to farming
to slaughtering animals.
some of these challenges that we’d face, needless to say it was an anxious
ten-hour car drive to get to Outapi. Our fears included being unable to
communicate with our families and feeling isolated as a result, not having
enough to eat, and having uncomfortable living arrangements—none of us had any
exposure to village life whatsoever, and we couldn’t even picture what our homes
would look like! We were amazed that
first night to witness our families’ homes structured out of sticks, with many
rooms and huts made out of sticks, tin, stones, and hay, for various functions
like cooking, storage and leisure. The
families had countless vines, trees, and plants growing within their homes as
well as in their vast fields and gardens where they grew primarily mahangu, a crop similar to corn that is
used to make meal.
the week we did a number of group trips which were fascinating. We witnessed two baobab trees, which are
hundreds of years old; one was so big that it contained a church within it! We
toured a fish farm, irrigation/agricultural center, and a traditional king’s
palace, and went to the Angolan border twice.
While all of these outings were very cool, by far our most learning took
place in the hours we spent with our families every morning and evening. For instance, both Sami and Cara experienced
how rewarding it is to forge friendship across the barrier of language: Sami
drew pictures and used hand gestures to communicate with her family’s house
worker, and Cara played hand games with her five-year-old sister. We realized that while language is one facet
of communication it is by no means an essential part. By the end of the week, Cara and her sister
were deeply attached to each other despite knowing only a few words in each
other’s’ languages.
experience that impacted me (Cara) immensely was working in the field with my
Tate(father). After teaching me how to
till, he took me around and showed me all the plants that his family
grows. I could feel his pride in his
work as he told me how wonderful he feels to grow his own food. I realized that my family knows what really
matters in life—food, family, and love—and they have cultivated these things
for themselves, and are fulfilled and happy.
raised a bunch of questions for me about how I live my own life and how I
conceptualize the world. Should poverty
really be defined in terms of access to electricity or water? Is quality of
life really improved by having more? I
was so happy to spend all day outside, to watch the sun rise and set each day,
to be away from my computer. I’m still
not entirely sure what the homestay will mean for me in the long run. I do know
that while it demanded the most of us, it also gave us the most—a fresh way to
view the world that we could not have acquired in any other context.
Sunday, our families hosted a goodbye party to celebrate the week of home
stays. Many of us, dressed in traditional African clothing, showed off what we
learned through traditional song and dance. Fillemon, Cara’s host father,
welcomed the group and thanked all the of the CGE students for the opportunity.
Emily then gave an equally heartfelt thank you to our host families, recounting
both personal and group challenges and opportunities that were experienced
throughout the week. The goodbye party was bittersweet. It dawned on us that
one of our most memorable weeks in Africa was coming to an end. We were all
walking away with new perspectives and understandings about the traditional
Oshiwambo culture. After the party, we returned to our respective home stays
for two more days with our families. Realizing what was soon to be over, I
(Sami) snapped mental pictures of every moment I could. I interacted with my
host brother, mother and father as much as possible, absorbing as much as I

came too soon and we departed from our families and headed for Etosha. 5 hours
later when we finally arrived, we stopped for a picnic lunch. After lunch, when
we piled back into the van, Mary and I joined Passat in the front seat. Passat,
the ultimate safari guide, quickly spotted giraffes in the distance. This was
the first of many sightings. Throughout our stay in Etosha ,we came across
elephants, giraffes, zebra, springbok, and impala among many other animals. One
sighting that was particularly intriguing was a pride of lions. We first
encountered the pride early Wednesday morning. In the afternoon, we returned to
the lion site only to find there was very little, if any, movement of the
pride. We again sat and watched their every move. It became quite clear to me
that the lions’ pace of life is much slower than mine, and most other people’s
I know for that matter. The encounter was breath taking and exciting, although
not the kind of entertainment you might expect. Rather than flashy lights,
catchy music and constant stimulation to hold our attention, we were left to
notice something as simple as a lion yawning or rolling over. Much to my
surprise, it was equally engaging. With every animal we saw, we watched their
movements carefully, anticipating their next move. For me, the safari was an
opportunity to slow down and appreciate my surroundings. I was able to reflect
on the importance of escaping technology and constant in-my-face entertainment.
Further, I began to grasp the importance of preserving nature. What I did
struggle with was if Etosha was actually a natural environment. I am curious
about the potential impact the safari vans and trucks make on the species
living there. If there are any negative impacts, I wonder if they would
outweigh the protection that this conservation gives to the animals. These are
questions to which I have yet to find answers to.

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