Thursday, February 28, 2013

Week 6: Feeling the Ocean Air

Post by Emily Powers and Miranda Sprenger-Mahal

Boiling the nara fruit in the Topnaar community
This past weekend we went to the coast, the city of Swakopmund and the nearby city of Walvis Bay.  Surprisingly being at the coast was a nice break from the heat of Windhoek.  Even though we were not in our “normal” classroom setting we still learned so much over this travel seminar.  Over the weekend we had a tour of the township, visited a traditional Damara woman, and a local kindergarten sponsored by the tour group.  The next day we visited the Topnaar community, which is a community originating out in the desert.  There we went to a primary school and a local family’s house.  The school, even though it was a very long drive on an almost nonexistent road, had decent infrastructure that was provided by the government and outside donors; they were having trouble finding people to come work in an area so lacking in communication and resources.  After we left the school we stopped by a house to see someone who lived this nomadic lifestyle out in the desert.  The family picked and seeded these local fruits in order to sell the seeds.  It looked like a lot of work for such little seeds.  We also had a speaker from the Walvis Bay Export Processing Zone followed by a visit to Namport.  Both deal largely with the country’s economic growth and global dealings. 

An empty nara fruit used by the Topnaar community
Namport especially opened our eyes to the stark contrast between the two vastly different lifestyles in the coastal communities.  It is hard to describe what we saw in the rural areas because the geography of the area is so unlike what we have seen before, there really is nothing around.  Though the school was similar to others we have seen in our travels it faced very different struggles; struggles such as finding teachers and obtaining resources.  Although globalization has led to great strides in their academic ventures, they still were not reaping all the globalization that the country is developing.  The technology and facilities are not up to the same standards as other parts of the country.  In contrast, Namport was also a shock but in a different way.  In the conference room where we met, we were all amazed by its technology and suave furnishings.  Both places made us feel slightly out of place as if we did not belong. 

An oil rig being serviced at NamPort
Through visiting Namport and the Topnaar community we saw how, in our opinion, globalization in Namibia is superficial.  When going to a place like Namport one sees how much effort is going into the globalization of Namibia and making a name for itself in the global community.  For example they plan on expanding the port further into the ocean, and start searching for oil off Namibian shores.  Though this could reap many benefits, at what cost do they gain these things?  Yet when visiting the rural communities you do not see the results of this effort.  They were influenced by outside donors, who help keep their school running, but not necessarily moving forward.  The port was so technologically advanced and focused on future development, but the community focused more on day to day life and simply sustaining its existence.  At the school they were focused on keeping teachers on board as opposed to expanding and future plans.  Growth comes from looking ahead and planning for the future and the country as a whole is only partially doing this.  If the country wants to move forward as a whole the country needs to include every community and tribe in its forward motion.  Both the township and Swakopmund and the desert areas and industrial waterfront need to be part of it.  All areas need to be moving forward equally.  This is even seen in areas of Windhoek. 

Globalization does not exactly mean forced modernization.  What it should mean is equal opportunity.  Our development class has touched a lot on this topic.  A lot of research needs to be done in order to successfully help a nation in its growth opposed to just altering its way of life.  Different does not mean that something is better or worse, it just means they are not the same.  

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