Monday, April 23, 2018

A Home Away from Home

By: Camryn C.

Almost two months in and I feel although I have had a world wind of experiences already. I quickly realized this learning experience would not be one about adjusting but rather enjoying. Traveling all through South Africa to get to our final destination of Namibia where we would continue learning for the next three months.  A big part of our learning is being hands on, truly living as if Namibia was our home for good. As students we get the pleasure to live with a Namibian family for a week and experience with them their day to day life. I personally would like to believe that no other family could compare to mine. They were truly absolutely outstanding. I had three sisters, two older and one my age, two lovely nieces seven and nine years old, and of course an amazing mom and dad. During this week I continued classes and internship as scheduled during the day, until my host mom or dad picked me up at the CGEE house after work. The correlation of what was taking place in my classes and at home were unreal! I felt as if I would learn one thing in class and before I knew it was a topic at the dinner table.

Photo taken at local museum, exhibiting the San people's homes
In our history class we are studying the different ethnic backgrounds and population that make up Namibia. This week we attended a local museum studying the different populations, such as the San people and Oshiwambo. We learned about what made them who they are today and why they currently live the way they do.  This was super interesting especially because my family had come from a mixed ethnic background. My dad’s family are Oshiwambo and my mom’s family are Herero, besides language differences the greetings were also very different. As my mom felt it normal to step into a room and greet everyone as a whole, my dad only saw fit to greet everyone separately and personally. Albertina our history professor and CGEE staff member also comes from a background of Oshiwambo, and throughout the week as we do our check-in she will ask us all individually how we are feeling and what is going on, which lines up with her heritage of greeting as well.  Finding those connections between what I was learning and where my family came from really helped us to have good conversations and bond over the week.
I often spent a lot of time with my host mom and host sister who was my age, we were practically two peas in a pod. If we weren’t preparing dinner together then we were often listening to music together or I was getting taught Afrikaans which was a blast to learn.  It was really interesting to me to chat with my sister about our generational issues and what that looked like here in Namibia and also in the U.S. I quickly found that our generation didn’t care as much about where you came from or to which tribe you belonged, but more about similar interests. My sister and the majority of her friends can speak Afrikaans but prefer to speak English. They do not feel racial discrimination is as noticeable because in their minds things such as the Apartheid did not affect them directly. I take we had two women speakers come in from the University of Namibia who touched on this topic more, explaining that my generation has no problem living in harmony together, it is their parents who have difficulty accepting who their children are friends with. Some issues Namibia faces today in regards to division are present due to who has the political power, and since that still remains an older generation it is hard for any political turnover.

My host mom and I enjoying some great conversations at dinner together.
My mom could also recognize the generational gap, especially because of how her and her sisters grew up were separated not only by ethnic background but by race as well.  As we have traveled and learned more about Apartheid the three groups as classified were white, black, and colored. Today colored is a very offensive term and their were test done to see which category you would fall into, in the view of others being considered colored wasn’t as bad as being called black. So my aunt at only twelve years old had to go to Cape Town to a boarding school to pursue her education. Overall not only did I take away so much educationally, but I truly made lifelong connections with my family. Whether it was through conversations, watching African Soap Opera’s or the endless laughs at the dinner table, I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

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