Well it is week five here in Namibia and as the summer flowers come into full bloom so do we. Of course I can only speak for myself but I feel that in many respects we have become well adjusted to living abroad and all that it entails. In the short time we have been here I feel that I have already learned so much about Namibia and the rich culture of this beautiful country. Much of this knowledge was gained very recently as we completed our urban homestays in Windhoek. I was placed with a lovely family of five with three children: two girls age 11 and 12 and a 4-year-old boy. I came into the situation assuming that the culture of a Namibian family would vastly differ from my own and that I would often be pushed out of my comfort zone, but to my surprise this was not the case in my experience.
With all of our study of traditional culture, history, and development I think we have in a sense been set up to expect all Namibians to strongly abide to these practices, but I found this to be largely untrue of the daily going-ons of my host family. While I did learn a lot about traditional African cooking and tradition and added a few excellent recipes to my repertoire I felt as if most of the week I was just staying with another family in the US. Everyone in my family was very inquisitive and intelligent and as much as I asked them questions about their life they asked about mine. But I think the most valuable lesson I gained was that even when you are on the other side of the world a family is a family.
Every night we ate dinner together and talked about our days, we watched popular TV shows and movies (which were usually American) and slept in on Sunday mornings. All of these things provided a lot of comfort to me and made me realize that all in all we are not so different. In spending time with my host brother and sisters I realized that middle school in Namibia is just as uncomfortable, insecure and awkward as many of us remember and that four-year-old boys have A LOT of energy no matter where you go.
Being in a different country you are conditioned to constantly observe the differences you see between your home culture and the new culture you are living in, but in doing so we often miss many of the similarities that bind us together as human beings. We all care about our families and coming home to a place filled with love and support. We all want what is best for those we care about and ultimately hope just to be happy. When you really think about it these similarities seem much more important to me than the differences, because aren’t all of these things what are really important anyway?