Monday, November 20, 2017

Life on the Farm

By Evan Carr
Following an amazing week with our families in the rural Khorixas area our homestay experiences for the semester are already over! While this is a sad realization I feel incredibly fortunate for the experience this past week, but also to be connected to three great families across the Southern Africa region. A huge thanks to Sarah, our Homestay Coordinator here in Namibia, and all of the staff for making this week a great success!

Returning from a trip into town.
Our schedule in the so-called “Damaraland” area allowed for plenty of time bonding with our families on the farms combined with ample opportunity to continue the learning process with our busy schedule during the day. Our homes for the week did not have plumbing or electricity so we quickly adapted to the local lifestyle of cooking over fire and open-air toilets, but we were also fortunate to experience stunning night skies thanks to zero light pollution. Daily activities on the farm ranged from playing with baby goats and donkey cart rides to games of Owela under the sun and hot cups of Rooibos tea around the campfire. Owela is a local game requiring strategy and wit that was traditionally played between chiefs to settle disputes in the community. Another highlight of my week was the opportunity to develop my Damara language skills. As my host grandmother, the head of my house, did not speak English it was important for me to pick up some phrases in order to connect with her. While mastering the four clicks used in Damara presented a significant challenge, I was able to hold very minimal conversation in Damara by the end of the week about things like how I slept or how hot the weather was. Our week on the farm wrapped up with a big party where all five homesteads on each farm came together to celebrate the week and eat delicious food to our heart’s content. We danced and the sang the night away as we exchanged American and Namibian songs and dances with our families.
While we ate breakfast and dinner and spent nights at the farms, we spent our days together as a CGEE family. Some highlights of the program included visits to Cornelius Goreseb High School and the traditional court of Khorixas. The traditional court operates under the jurisdiction of the local Damara clan and mainly deals with domestic issues and theft, while other matters are left to the municipal court. It was valuable to see how people in rural areas integrate their traditional community structures with those of the modern Republic of Namibia. We delved further into Damara culture with a visit to the Damara Living Museum. In order to preserve their culture, people working there run demonstrations on blacksmithing, natural medicine, and jewelry making. Our trip also included a visit to the Twyfelfontein UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is the site of many ancient rock art drawings, and to a petrified forest. These excursions helped us to put into context topics we’ve discussed in our History, Politics, Environment, Religion, and Development classes.

My family for the week. Grandma Christa was the head of the house and the farm.

Following our week on farms in Khorixas we spent two days at Etosha National Park. This visit was capped by the sighting of a leopard that came right up to our van and let us follow it down the road for a few hundred feet. We were incredibly lucky to see such a rare animal (there are only about 600 in Namibia) at such a close range. We also saw lions, rhinos, many giraffes, zebras, springbok, and more! A visit to Etosha is a quintessential Namibian experience and it was great to get out there and see it with our group. I’m looking forward to our Fall Break next week and to catching up with everyone once we return to hear stories of their travels.

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