Thursday, December 11, 2014

Week Fifteen: The Penultimate Week- Integrative Projects and Thanksgiving

By: Miranda Weinstein & Ben Williams

This week has been filled with a ton of emotions. It was the final week that we would have in Windhoek, and we wanted to fill it with as many things that we had been putting off, or had been unable to do, for the past three months. We went to various restaurants and continued to explore the town as much as we could. In addition to trying to exploring Windhoek, it was also time for our final presentations. Integrative projects are the finals that we have to take here at CGE. The integrative project accounts for approximately thirty percent of our grade, but we have to include material that we have learned in all of our classes. You might think that it is easy to incorporate material from five different classes, but to cram all that material into a twenty minute presentation is a challenge. My group decided to make a children’s book, but still address the issues that are still existing in present day southern Africa, but also addressing the history of Namibia and South Africa, especially addressing apartheid. We decided to make our children’s book revolve around the concept of animals, apartheid and politics, but still trying to keep it light for children in order for them to understand what is going on and the history of southern Africa, and Namibia.

It really was a challenge to incorporate everything we learned in the past three months into a twenty minute presentation, especially when my group had people from all classes. We had to include material from all five classes offered at CGE: Environment, History, Religion, Politics and Development. I still have difficulty wrapping my brain around everything I learned. So including as much from classes in our presentation as we could, took a lot of time. During our presentation, we talked a lot about politics and racial divides. Our presentation for the integrative projects was a children’s book, as I mentioned above. Our book was about an animal kingdom in which the lion had the obvious power. Towards the middle, the other animals take over control as they did not like how the lion was abusing its assumed power. After the coup, a new government was established by the other animals, where total democracy and complete equality occurred.
Miranda presenting her groups book, Equipose.

In our book, that we entitled Equipose, we decided to analyse a lot of the history of southern Africa and Namibia. We made the animals correlate with different races during the apartheid era. The lion represented the majority of the white population, the elephant represented the majority of the Indian population in South Africa, the zebra represented the majority of the coloured population in both states, and the warthog represented the black population. We thought that it would be important to correlate the races with different animals to invoke a lot more thinking in the minds of the children. We tried to make it relatively clear for people that might have understood the apartheid era, but not extremely explicit for the children in order to invoke that thought process. In addition to choosing animals to portray out main characters, we decided to approach the concept of democracy. After our animals had their coup de eta, they decided to create a democratic government. We decided to approach this type of government because we thought it would be the best way to plant the seed in the child’s brain. Furthermore, we were able to include all elements of our classes into the book and be able to relate everything we learned to a child and their desire to learn more. We were hoping that our book would be read to children in elementary school and would enable them to ask a lot more questions about the status of the world. We left the ending of the book up for interpretation because we were hopeful that the future of Namibia and South Africa would change a lot in the next 5 years, and so the child would be able to apply it to life, politics, race and power are in the future.

Another important part of the integrative project was the sense of community that arose from it. During the project presentations, we had people come and listen to what we were presenting that were not just from the academics of CGE. We had some friends come, as well as people from our internships, and some speakers from our classes. Having these individuals be there for the culmination of our semester was great because it made me feel as though we made a difference in how they viewed the world. The sense of community and family was very important for us because of how far away from our own communities and families at home and outside of Namibia. In addition to the sense of community that we felt from each other within the program as well as outside of the program, we also felt a great sense of community and family during Thanksgiving, which also happened during the week of Integrative Projects.

Even though our thanksgiving was not enjoyed in the United States, we still had a fantastic time cooking, being thankful and enjoying each other’s company. After finishing our integrative projects earlier in the week, we eagerly anticipated Turkey day. This day was unlike any other we shared throughout the semester. Instead of the staff preparing the day for the students, we prepared the entire day for the staff. We cooked, cleaned and prepped everything for the big dinner. We woke up early, some of us earlier than others, to begin prepping for the meal. Including staff and students, we had eighteen people to cook for. Luckily enough, every student spearheaded creating their own dish, while some others took on multiple projects. I made macaroni and cheese and candied yams, two staple Thanksgiving foods in my house. Besides those two, we had almost any other Thanksgiving food imaginable, from turkey to stuffing to the always sweet pumpkin pie. Once the meal was finally ready, student and staff sat down at the dinner table and broke bread together. While no one was with their biological family that night, I can speak for all of us when I say that it was still a family dinner. Our CGE Fall 2014 family was just a strong as any blood bonds. Forged together by shared experiences and a global outlook, we shared conversations about our semester activities. From rural and urban homestays to our spring break in Swakopmund, to game drives in Etosha, the entire span of our semester came up.  We shared wonderful stories of how our family came to be so just that, a family. In my family, on Thanksgiving, we each talk about the events and people in our lives that we are thankful for. While I did not have the opportunity to continue this tradition, it seemed that everyone was clearly thankful for the many opportunities and experiences we shared. 
Staff and students enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.

By the time dinner ended and when our bellies were full of scrumptious food, we recounted how lucky and grateful we were. Being in Namibia, we have been able to view much of the economic inequality that is spread throughout the country, in rural and urban areas. The large amount of food we had, our lovely house and the subsequent swim that happened after dinner made us all extremely conscious of our privilege. Once we recognized this privilege that we have, we can then take the next step to try to break it down, so that others without it can have the same opportunities that we are afforded. 

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