Monday, March 4, 2013

Week 7: A Week of Heroes and Homework

 Post by Jacob Rutz and Holly Palardy

We have reached the midpoint here at CGE in which we are contemplating the upcoming half of the year while looking back at the past half wondering where it all went. The first half has been filled with intense series of encounters with South Africans and Namibians, home stays and becoming friends in the CGE house. Academics, especially this past week, have been intense as we are all feeling the pressure of papers and staying on top of our readings. However, our speakers have been a point of inspiration for us all and have motivated us through the week.

Pauline Dempers from "Breaking the Wall of Silence"
Pauline Dempers is a member of the NGO “Breaking the Wall of Silence,” an organization that helps to raise awareness and bring reconciliation to those who were imprisoned, tortured or killed during the Namibian Independence Movement by the currently ruling political party, SWAPO. She was imprisoned for false allegations of treason to the revolutionary party (SWAPO) for 3 years in a dungeon in Angola. Her story to us informed us of a dark side to Namibian politics that we were previously unawares and it really speaks to the consequences of a successful social movement and what actions or events can be ignored on an international level.  Her tale reminds us to always inquire more deeply into all perspectives of movements and organizations to ensure the upholding of human rights permeates all aspects of these groups.

Heroes Acre overlooking Windhoek
The day after we spoke to Pauline we visited Heroes Acre, a monument/graveyard built to honor Namibian heroes and heroines. The space is outside the city, guarded 24 hours a day and requiring a payment to get in. Walking up the steps towards an obelisk and statue of a revolutionary Namibian, who may be Sam Nujoma (the first president), one can see the graves or grave-like monuments to Namibian greats overlooking a gorgeous view of Windhoek. The name of this monument begs the question of what a hero really is and who decides who is buried there.  After speaking with Pauline, our definition of a hero includes a much greater breadth of people who have suffered for their country, whether acknowledged or not.

The Khoekhoe class at its finest
During our concluding language class with our teacher Maria, or !Goupon in the language Khoekhoegowab, (the language we are learning to help us communicate with our host families in the north) we were treated to a session with her grade 10 language class from a local high school. We worked one-on-one with these students to master our clicks (four of them) and pronunciations. They also, at the request of Margeret, sang us a song in Khoekhoe. This was a fun and educational time for all, helping us build confidence when we were all feeling a little weak with the language. Becoming the students of these younger, native Namibian students reminded us of our role as learners but also in the sense of showing humility to help break barriers of racial and class boundaries. We were reminded that we are their guests in their home, even when we are in the CGE house due to the level of respect we felt for them for sharing their language with us.

As we prepare for the next three weeks of home stays and traveling, we are reminded by these speakers and influences that we must utilize every ounce of time here in Namibia to be present always. We feel calm but ready to take on these new experiences and journeys.

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