Monday, October 6, 2014

Week Five: A Classic Week In Windhoek

By: Nikala Pieroni and Margaret Prunty 

Doing homework on the Balcony and 
appreciating the view makes the work go by so much faster.

This week of classes provided an opportunity to settle into an average week in Windhoek. It was only our second full week of classes, so we were able to be more comfortable with the flow of the week. It was a busy week that provided a well rounded experience of the city, from class to atop the Skytop bar.

The times we spent in classes this week was quite compelling. In our history class, we discussed matters regarding race. The most riveting part of the class was a video we watched called “The Color of Fear”. It was a documentary capturing the topic of racism as a group of men attended a retreat to discuss the matter. The group was made up of several different races and they sat in a circle together talking about race and racism. After introducing themselves and their diverse backgrounds, they discuss their experiences of being victims and contributors of racism. One man, Victor, felt very passionate about race and had many relevant points to contribute to the conversation. Victor and another man, David, were butting heads quite a bit during the film and it was a bit frustrating at times because David did not seem understanding at all. It was easy to  consider David to be insensitive, but later in the film, we learn about his upbringing. He was raised in a racist family, therefore become a racist adult by default. Although it was aggravating in the beginning to listen to David’s ideology, as viewers, we became slightly more understanding once we learned of how he was brought up. We were able to make a little more sense of what David had to say based on the stories he told of his childhood and the way he was raised. It was powerful to see him make an apology by the end of the conversation and to hear him say that he would make a conscious effort to do better. Overall, “The Color of Fear” was a very powerful film demonstrating race and understanding. In the beginning, the men came in with their conceptions on race, but as they conversed, they began to understand one another and were able to go their separate ways having learned from their discussions. All the men agreed that they would never forget their conversations they had with one another and that they would always remember each other for who they were. This was also impactful to the viewers to see how the men all found common ground within each other and transformed in a short time through meaningful discussions. 

When the weekend hit we had exciting plans. Saturday we spent the day casually shopping at Maerua, and experienced the nightlife atop the Hilton Skybar. These were certainly the locations of the privileged in Namibia. Although there were plenty of stores selling a wide variety of priced goods, I could not help but notice the more extravagant people that I was surrounded by. There was certainly a larger percentage of white people than we had ever seen in Namibia, and the outfits seemed more fashion forward than what we usually see on the street. I stopped by the entertainment store where my host sister from our stay in Katutura worked. It was Saturday, and she was working her 6th full day shift in a row, and I knew tomorrow would be the same. I wondered how many mall employees were also expected to work all seven days most weeks, compared to the US where most mall stores must give you at least two days off. It seemed to put my own busy school schedule into perspective. Sure, we had late night after late night this week finishing up assignments, but here I was on a beautiful weekend day with all the free time in the world.

A celebration on the Skytop bar of 
central Windhoek.
The Hilton was only a more extreme version of what we observed at Meurea mall. Walking into the entrance of the Hilton was like walking into a whole new world; nothing in Namibia even resembled the extravagant lights, beautiful tiling, and formal service. When we made it to the Skytop bar, I gazed dreamily at the happy swimmers in the heated pool, the people laughing on cozy wicker chairs, and the above all, the gorgeous view. We sat near the edge and gazed down on the city, it looked so peaceful; a sweet African city tucked into the mountains, with the occasional church steeple enhancing the sweet disposition. Everything was so comfy and easy up there in the sky. Although it was a fantastic experience, a few of us began to mention just how uncomfortably different it was from the rest of Namibia we had seen. We had of course been reminded many times of just how unequal the economy is in Namibia, but when you are so obviously living as part of this inequality, it becomes all the more real. The view felt like it stretched so far, and yet I could not make out one home of Katutura, let alone the informal homes that stretched across the mountains. I felt so grateful that I had the opportunity to see this side of the city, but it didn’t totally feel like real Windhoek after all the places we’d been. It was the perfect spot for a weeklong tourist, but not quite right for anyone who wanted to see the real day to day life of Namibians.

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