Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Africa

Fall Break Adventures

Author: Gwyneth Hoeksema

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

This past week was our Fall Break, in which we did not have any classes. Therefore, I tried to busy myself with things to do in the community. The most interesting and enjoyable part of the week was when some of us students went on a hike at Daan Viljoen Nature Reserve and when we went to the Independence Avenue block party. I enjoyed both events immensely and both made me feel closer and more connected with the community in Windhoek.

At the nature reserve, we were joined by some of the staff, which made it all the more fun. Daan Viljoen is a private nature reserve in which people can go camping and hiking. We were fortunate enough to see some of the wildlife that the park holds, including giraffe and baboons, while we were driving into the park. However, on the hike itself, we only saw baboons in the distance. We chose to walk the nine-kilometer trail, which proved to be rather grueling but very invigorating! It was a mountainous and rocky terrain which, at times, made everyone out of breath. However, accomplishing the challenge made the struggle, and getting up at 6:30 in the morning, all worth it. The amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the city of Windhoek in the valley below also made the hike worth it. While it was amazing to see the city spread out below, I also noticed a haze of smog surrounding the urban area. Being in a mountain valley and having very little rain often contributes to excessive smog. As we have learned in our environment class, Windhoek is one of the first cities in the world to turn gray and black water back into drinking water. This water reclamation solution is a fantastic example of how the city is working towards being more sustainable. However, the presence of the smog emphasizes how the city has more work to do to lessen air pollution. A possible solution to this would be to build bike paths in every neighborhood of the city. I have noticed that many people walk on the sidewalks already, but adding bike paths would be a safer, faster, and more sustainable way to get to work. This idea was also emphasized during the block party, in which many children and adults took advantage of the closed road by biking all around it. Overall, I enjoyed my walk through Daan Viljoen, and I would definitely do it again, as long as there was cloud cover.

The block party on Independence Avenue on Saturday morning was also enjoyable. It was one of the first times in which I was truly comfortable being out and about in the city. I was more comfortable because the goal of the block party was to encourage a safe, neighborly space for children and families to enjoy. I thought that this was an interesting idea, and it sounded like community building has been difficult in the past, or people have not felt as safe as the city wants them to feel. I can see evidence of this in the lack of parks and open spaces for children to play in and around the city, which understandably limits the ability of families to go places. Events, like the block party, are also few and far between which decreases the ability of families to be present in the community. The block party was an example of how welcoming the city can be for families, holding the possibility of future developments that will be more family friendly. Some of the friendly and fun things to do included big bouncy castles, fun music and drummers, and many food and clothing vendors. There were also vendors passing out some free food, including some delicious smelling dumplings that I wish I had eaten. There were also adults and children riding bikes and scooters around and running up and down the closed off street. The many numbers of people biking up and down highlighted the fact that I have not seen any bike paths in the city. I realized how lucky I am to be able to bike up and down the sidewalks and nice flat bike paths of my hometown without fear of being hit by a car. The ability to exercise in a fun communal way is a blessing and a way to bring my family together, as we all like to go biking with each other. It seems as if the city has not spent very much on establishing safe spaces for families to use. One simple solution would be to establish bike paths that could also increase the city’s environmental sustainability by lessening the amount of cars on the road. As I mentioned before, when I went to Daan Viljoen, there was a slight haze of fog over the city. Bike paths are also a fantastic way to reduce toxic smog commonly found above big cities.

Although it was only one block of activities, it was very enjoyable, and I am glad I attended. Throughout my stay here, getting out in the community has been difficult because I have been nervous about safety. However, the hike through Daan Viljoen and especially the Independence Avenue block party made me feel much more comfortable with my surroundings. It was lovely to get out of the house and go see some children running around the city center. I have to repeat how I have not seen very many children around our house in Windhoek, or in the city center. It was a refreshing change of pace to see young families and brought the realization that the city does not have as many family friendly spaces as it should. If Windhoek were to build more parks, playgrounds, and open green spaces for kids to play it also might increase the safety of the city by making its residents feel more comfortable. I definitely think that the city should host another event like that soon.

The weekend was very enjoyable and full of lots of community-based activities. These activities increased my comfortability with my surroundings and made the city that I am in much more familiar. Before this past weekend, my opinion of the city has been that it is filled with twenty-year old’s and up. This is due to our house being right next to the Namibian University of Science and Technology, or NUST. I often see college students, but I almost never see families with their children. However, the high concentration of young people at the block party offered me a more realistic idea of the demographics of the city. It also made me understand that the reason I don’t see many young families is because there are not spaces that those demographics can enjoy, there are not many parks or recreation areas for children to safely play. I truly enjoyed the weekend, and hopefully the city hosts more events like this before I leave Namibia.

It’s Not Goodbye

Author: Alyssa (Aly) Brewer

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

One of the biggest chapters of my life is coming to an end. Reflecting on my experience here, there were some important moments I would like to share with you. These are moments that changed how I view the world and how I view myself. These are moments of pure joy and raw uncomfortability. These are moments of subtle grandeur.

5. Waking up to watch the sunrise in the Namib Desert.

In the middle of the Namib Desert, with no technology, no alarm clock, no lights, I woke up a little before sunrise. It was bitterly cold and calm- and oh so peaceful. I walked up one of the nearby sand dunes and watched the sun peak over the mountains. Gold, pink, blue. The sky looked like painting. In this moment, I felt content. I felt no need to check Facebook or Snapchat. Nothing on my phone could ever compare to the beauty before me. Moving forward, I hope to wake up for more sunrises and give myself time in the morning to do nothing. In a time when we are constantly fed information through social media and text messages, it felt good to just be alone with my thoughts. I encourage everyone to take a few hours of your day to just sit and be present.

4. Surfing with my best friend

Throughout this trip, I have been blessed with the opportunity to check so items off my bucket list- one of them being surfing. Brennen, who is also from Valpo, shared the experience with me. While the water was freezing and the waves were relentless, I was proud of us being able to overcome the challenge. It may have taken us three hours and a few accentual gulps of sea water to get there, but we eventually rode the Atlantic waves. I have shared many great moments with Brennen- this will be an experience neither of us will forget.

3. Balcony Party

One of my favorite aspects of my time living in Windhoek was meeting new people. Some friends we met at Karaoke night invited us over to their balcony party. It was a great night of laughter, dancing, and enjoying the city view. Local Namibians are so welcoming and friendly- even though we were strangers at the party, it didn’t feel that way. I hope to keep in contact with the people I met here- they have made my stay in Namibia all the worthwhile.

2. Interacting with CGEE staff

While I have talked a great deal about my experience with my study abroad friends and cohort, I often forget to mention the people that make this possible. I was blessed to be the student of Lamont Slater for Politics of Development, Albertina Shifotoka for History of Racism & Resistance in Southern Africa, Monika Shikongo for Environmentalism & Sustainability, and Alex Sikume for Internship Class. Throughout these classes, I learned about Namibia and South Africa’s rich history and its connection to the United States. Not only the professors, but the support staff impacted my journey as well as Evelin, Sara, Passat & Donna. They were always full of smiles and deep wisdom. I am thankful for everyone who made this experience possible.

1. Dedicating the garden

Throughout the semester, we students decided to create a garden. It was difficult- the dirt is dry and rocky- but it was so worth it. In addition to the garden, we decided to paint the posts above it- each with our own creative flare. Mine is Namibia’s mountain scenery with the phrase “Seek Discomfort” on it. I got inspired from my favorite Youtubers Yes Theory that wholeheartedly believe in the idea. Throughout my journey here, I have sought a lot of discomfort so this phrase stuck with me. Not only that, but the whole collaboration just shows how diverse and creative our group is. Each person has greatly contributed to this beautiful group dynamic and I am blessed to be surrounded by such incredible

Overall, I am grateful for my time in Southern Africa. I learned about topics never discussed in my classes in the states- such as apartheid. I overcame obstacles such as hiking up a rocky mountain to overlook the city. I embraced a culture both different and similar to my own. I made lifelong friends both in Namibia and throughout the cohort.

But now as I am packing to leave, I remember this is not goodbye- it is see you later.

Catching Waves

Author: Alyssa (Aly) Brewer

Location: Swakopmund & Walvis Bay, Namibia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

So last weekend, we embarked on our last trip. Our last long bus ride. Our last places to visit–Swakopmund & Walvis Bay. While most people assume Namibia, and Africa in general, is quite hot, our visit to the coast proved otherwise. Because the hot dunes met directly with the cool ocean, there was a thick fog consistently overhead. The sun went MIA. The breeze from the ocean snuck into our jackets. Our sun-burnt bodies were not prepared for this level of cold. However, the views of the ocean made it all worthwhile.

One of our first stops included learning about the Namibian Dolphin Project- an organization dedicated to gathering data on the abundance, distribution, and habitat whales and dolphins use in Namibia. Not only that, but they perform sea rescues for stranded animals and educate the public on the importance of marine conservation. The speaker Becca also handed us a booklet full of information about what they do and the animals they research. The booklet even included facts about the infamous leatherback turtle!

Honestly, listening to Becca reminded me of when I was a little girl obsessed with the ocean. I would read as many
books about marine life as the library would let me check out. Sharks, dolphins, turtles, clownfish, whales- you name it. Throughout my studies at Valpo, my passion for the marine world fell out of view. However, being right beside the ocean reminded me of it all over again. The trip to the Namibian Dolphin Project was both rewarding and reinvigorating.

So after we gulped down our lunch, we visited a fish factory. To be honest, my stomach was not prepared for the experience. They suited us up in what seemed like a cross between lunch-lady material and a hazard-mat suit. The rest of the tour was cold, loud, and left me with a strange taste in my mouth. While the two educational visits were fascinating, the real fun was just about to start.

The rest of the weekend we were granted free time to explore the city and I took full advantage of this opportunity. First, some friends and I went to kayak with some baby seals. And yes, it was amazing. The pups are so curious and playful- they come right up next to your kayak and splash around. Also, they sound like sheep for some odd reason. I couldn’t stop laughing about it! For so long, I just saw seals as some big floppy blob on TV but being up close enlightened me to how cute
they are. They are just so cute. Seriously, like water puppies.

After a morning of being surrounded by the cutest creatures in existence, my friends and I set off for another adventure. Growing up near the ocean for the first few years of my life propelled a passion for anything aquatic. However, I never got the chance to surf…until now. Luckily, a surfer around our age took us out onto the open ocean to learn how. After three hours of failing, flopping, and tiring myself out, I finally got to catch that wave. My eyes were red from the salt water and my body numb from the cold, but it was worth it. I successfully surfed a wave- and hopefully this won’t be my last.

The next day, before we left, we decided to fulfill a study abroad tradition and hike up Dune 7 (named that way because it is 7km from Walvis Bay). While everyone climbed up the steep and quickest side, my roommates and I followed a longer and less strenuous route. However, it didn’t matter how we got up there, the view was worth it. The sun glistened off the dunes in a golden hue. Miles and miles of sand. It was a sight unlike any other. Sitting down and watching the sunset was
the peaceful ending needed to conclude our last adventure in Namibia.

How to Conserve Water

Author: Alyssa (Aly) Brewer

Location: NaDEET, Namibia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Namibia is a dry nation. Most if its rainwater evaporates before it reaches the ground. Wet clothes are ready to wear in an hour’s time. Lotion is a must. Chapstick your new best friend. That being said, water conservation is of the upmost importance. While living in this sunset-colored country, I have learned a few tricks or two on how to live “green.”

(Right to left Support Staff and wonderful friend Donna, me, Professor of History Albertina).

Casually, us twelve students hopped into the van for another 6-hour drive to another location- this time the Namib desert. We have become pros by now at handling long road trips. Once we arrived, there was sand, sand everywhere. For the remainder of the weekend we would find sand in a million and one places. I am still emptying out sand from pockets and backpacks. But oh, did that sand become so beautiful at sunrise and sunset. We would run it through our fingers and watch the rays illuminate it as it trickled down. Living in the desert posed its challenges, but it all became worth it at nighttime. Each sunset, we would climb the nearest dune and stare endlessly at the horizon.

Then, we would stay there waiting for the stars to appear. Orion, the Southern Cross, then Scorpio. Sometimes we made up our own constellations and told our own stories. It felt so natural to be immersed in the world around us. And yes, we took lots of pictures.

While watching sunsets and counting stars were great aspects of the trip to the Namib desert, they were not the real reason we traveled there. We stayed in cabins run by NaDEET (Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust) a conservation revolving around water preservation and sustainability. Each day the staff there taught us a new way to reduce our waste and conserve what we have. First, we learned about light pollution. NaDEET lives in a Dark Sky District which means they need to cover their lights sources as to not pollute the night sky. For example, in my cabin, a tin can covered the lightbulb so the light only directed downwards where we needed it. Most lights, especially streetlamps, project light out not down which contributes to light pollution. Even though I live in a relatively small city in the states, I still have never seen the milk way or more than a few stars at night. I had no idea how much nighttime lights affect the sky- but now I have the knowledge to change my habits to reduce pollution and increase efficiency. 1. Cover lights. 2. Get LEDS- they last longer and use less energy. 3. Turn them off when not in use.

Another fun activity we did was make pizza- but in a solar cooker! A solar cooker works by concentrating the sun’s rays (which the desert has lots of) and trapping them to heat up the food like an oven would. It was a delicious and energy efficient experiment.

Might I add that my group’s pizza was the best.

But of all the activities and all the experiments, the most crucial was water conservation. Each cabin competed to use the least amount of water. Some people were joking about not showering for the whole time… No one wanted to sit next to those people. But in all honesty, this was one of my favorite parts. We learned how to use the shower-bucket method which reduces the use of water. The energy from the solar panels heated up the water in a tank, you collected it in one bucket, poured it into the shower bucket which had a valve that could release the water by gravity when needed. Instead of using gallons of water for 20 minutes, I used only a few and was still able to get clean. Also, the trip to get the water was a deterrent for using too much- maybe it was laziness of contentiousness- but either way it worked.

In a country that is mostly desert and receives little rainfall- especially this year during the worst drought in generations- I have learned how to conserve as much water as I can. So here are a few environmentally friendly tricks I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Turn down the temp of your water heater. Often it is too hot anyway, so you must go back and forth between the cold and warm knobs to get it right. This technique saves energy, water, and money!
  2. Compost. It reduces the amount of waste thrown in landfills.
  3. Take showers over bathes. They use less water. Keep them short and turn off the water in between lathering and shampooing.
  4. Fill up the sink with soap and water to wash dishes rather than letting the tap run.
  5. Reusable water bottles. This reduces the use and waste of plastic.
  6. Fix leaking faucet! A single drip for a year can waste over 2,000 gallons of water. That’s quite a bit of money down the drain too.

As I reflected upon my experience at NaDEET, I realized not only how beautiful the Namib desert is but also how important it is to conserve as much as you can. I am forever blessed for having this experience-it has opened my eyes to a whole new world.

Picture Book Come to Life

Author: Alyssa (Aly) Brewer

Location: Etosha, Namibia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Conservation. What is it? Or more importantly, what does it do? Here in Namibia, 20% of the nation is designated for conservation- particularly for preserving the local wildlife, land, and livelihoods. Recently, I was blessed to visit one of Namibia’s most well-known conservations Etosha National Park.

Throughout the drive to the camping ground, we were able to spot dozens of different species including zebras, elephants, giraffes, and springbok!

Even though there is a misconception that all of Africa is like this, the percentage is quite small. Throughout my travels to the rural North, the coast, and the desert, this was the first and only time I saw these types of animals. Like the United States, most of Namibia is spotted by farmland and cities. However, it was still breathtaking to be so close to animals I have only seen in picture books. You had to be incredibly quiet in the van as to not startle them. Some of the animals even stared back at us in question. It made me wonder what it felt like to be observed all the time- to be gawked at by tourists while just wanting to get a drink. The unease I got from the realization reminded me of my distaste for zoos. But at least here the animals are in their natural habitat.

Once we arrived at the campsite, we all took a collective nap. We have been traveling on and off for the past two weeks and craved uninterrupted sleep. After settling in and relaxing, a few of us took to the watering hole. We sat upon a large wall of rock observing the elephants and hippos who bathed right in front of us. It was a sight unlike any other. The crowd was so hushed if one person dropped a pen, scowls followed them. I remember holding my breath at times as to not disturb the peace. The silence paid off because we were able to observe these natural behaviors without the disturbance of a moving van.

At one point in the night, a herd of elephants came to visit. They played with each other, splashing water, bumping sides, and dancing around the watering hole.

The experience reminded me of how incredibly amazing they are and how small I am. So often our society gets wrapped up in the significance of our own existence, we forget about other life. Here, dozens of tourists and students sat for hours just paying respect to the beauty of elephants. We are in their space after all. Even though this moment brought me peace, at the same time, it saddened me. I recently saw an article about how the giraffe has made its way to the endangered species list. I worry about future generations only knowing what one looks like through old photos. These native animals, and basically all animals around the world, are important to earth’s eco-system. Polar bears need ice. Turtles need reefs. And giraffes need grassland. The more I learn throughout my time here, the more environmentally conscience I am becoming. But what can I do? What can we do?

If you are asking these same questions, read my blog that dives deeper into this topic. It takes place in NaDEET (Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust) a conservation that practices sustainability in the heart of the Namibian desert. To be quite honest, it has been my favorite place we visited in Namibia so far.

Also, enjoy this National Geographic like picture I took in Etosha.



Part 1 in South Africa: Growing Pains

Author: Alyssa (Aly) Brewer 

Location: Johannesburg and Soweto

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Growth. Everyone and everything grows in its lifetime- physically, mentally, emotionally. I knew growing is a part of the process, but I underestimated how quickly and how powerfully it happens while studying abroad. So, I’m here! I am unapologetically growing, and I invite you to join me on this journey.

Week one was overwhelming to say the least. After 36 nonstop hours, 3 plane rides, and one dash through the airport, I finally made it to South Africa! It didn’t really hit me until we landed. The new sights, colors, smells shook me and all I could do was take it in. The culture shock came fast and hard but as soon as it arrived, it left. As a white person in the States, I am in the majority; I have never really felt eyes on me because of my skin until now. This new sensation
gave me a glimpse into what it feels like to be judged for one’s race- something hundreds of thousands of Americans face every day. Often locals would stare at me and some children even asked to touch my hair. I felt embarrassed for qualities I cannot control but this feeling eventually turned into understanding. I may look different, but we are the same underneath. Go on, stare- I’m not your average American tourist. This program is named Decolonizing the Mind for a reason after all. We really go all in- often with no Wi-Fi or electricity- we are just present. Even though Johannesburg’s senses felt sharp at first, the strong leafy smells and bright radiating colors eventually became soft and sweet. It is starting to feel like home. Despite the stark differences, I am falling in love with the environment and the culture a little more each day.

First morning at our guest house in Johannesburg, preparing for the day.

So after meeting everyone and settling into our temporary guest house, the next day we started our journey. The following days we visited the Hector Peter Museum, the Cradle of Humankind exhibit, the Apartheid Museum, the June 16th memorial, drove through the Soweto township, toured a cave, watched a play, and shopped around local malls.

Memorial for students who marched against
the law that forced the colonist language
Afrikaans into schools as the medium of
instruction. Many innocent children lost their lives.

Cave where “Little Foot” was found. The bones discovered in this
cave gave rise to research into human evolution.

Exploring the Soweto township near the location
where the student march took place.

Each new location provided a wider understanding of the culture. The scenery was vast and colorful- we were in awe of the beauty here.

So instead of being stuck in a classroom listening to a professor lecture about the history for hours, we visited the places where it all began to see it for ourselves. There is something raw about exposing oneself not only to another culture- but to its history as well. We met people who lived through the apartheid regime and were personally affected by it.

Antoinette (bottom row, 2nd left) was just a high schooler participating in the march when she found out her younger brother had been killed by police bullets. The photo behind of her brother being carried away was an icon for rallying against the apartheid regime.

Thousands of innocent lives were taken while trying to combat this oppressive regime. Students were shot while peacefully protesting, leaders of underground movements were exiled and/or extinguished, and dozens of innocent children lay in streets after drive-by police shootings. Each museum and each tour we experienced created a deeper understanding of the reality that thousands of South Africans have faced for generations. The most raw part of it all is that the regime ended almost 25 years ago. The liberation is still so fresh and new and people are still affected by this history. Inequality is stifling. Just the other day we visited a gorgeous mall; our touristy selves came alive and we skipped around the stores and restaurants. But on the way there, we passed the poorest township in the region where clutter scattered the streets, people lived in car-sized tin houses provided by the government, and the smell of sewage radiated everywhere.

How can such poverty and such wealth live side by side? It struck me hard. I am only a visitor and soon I will leave. These people will not.

However, they are still full of life and love. I got to witness this beautiful side when I stayed with a host family here. Mamatzi welcomed me and another student, Netta, into her home with open  arms like we were lost daughters who finally returned. It was so easy to adjust to the new lifestyle. We cooked, watched TV, visited local hole in the wall shops, toured the town, and even ate McDonalds (which by the way, is way better here). Mamatzi talked about how she cared for 70 children who were discarded. She raised them like they were her own- providing clothes, food, shelter, education, etc. for generations! She is really a saint among women, and I felt blessed to be in her presence. Her daughter worked as a tour guide and was able to take us around and tell us all about the history here. Museums are wonderful, but there is something real about personally experiencing it all. One of my favorite parts was visiting a hole in the wall nail salon which seemed more like a girls club. The women laughed, danced, and joked around with each other. They welcomed us in like forgotten friends. I felt alive. Leaving the homestay was difficult, but I am blessed to have stayed for the time. Mamatsi and her family will always have a place in my heart.

While the locals in Soweto look bogged down by poverty to passersby, they are still very much awake. Entrepreneurship is gospel here- you can see homemade shops all around. It felt good to spend my money supporting these shops rather than the sparkling malls.

What I learned most from this first week is that despite the atrocities that unfolded here, people are resilient. 25 years may be a drop in the ocean of history but drops make ripples. South Africans will never stay silent and will keep fighting for equality. Growth is abundant here.

Netta (left), Me (center), Noxi one of children Mamatzi cares for (right) The homestay was definitely my favorite part of Johannesburg!

If you want to hear about mountain life, making homemade bread from scratch, shark diving, or other wild adventures, then stay tuned for my next blog: Part 2 in South Africa!

As always, keep on keepin’ on!

Morocco: A country more alike than you imagine

Author: Kayla Doyle

Location: Morocco, North Africa

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I went to Morocco the last weekend of January for the program excursion with eleven other students from my group. Going into the trip, I was nervous as there had been some violence in the news with tourists there only a few weeks earlier. But I did not feel scared one bit during the excursion. I experienced something that honestly has changed the way I look at the country, religion, and people. It was an experience that can only be had going to the country, talking to the natives, and forming relationships.

The first day, we had to travel across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain to Africa. We arrived in Tangier and walked around a local market with fresh spices, meat, and vegetables. Then we went on a visit to a women’s center where we had a tour of the building and learned about what the organization does for women in the community. After the tour, we lunch and a discussion with three college women about life in Morocco. My eyes were opened further after that talk about Muslim women and their role in the society. After the visit, we traveled to another city along the coast called Asila where we were able to ride camels on the beach. It was a lot harder than you would think! We continued traveling ending in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, to meet our host families and have dinner with them. I was humbled by their generosity and hospitality towards all of us even through the language barrier.

Looking at Africa for the first time!

Camel ride with Rachel

The next day we visited the mausoleum of the kings and ruins of an old mosque that was never finished. I was unaware that there was a king of Morocco and rumor has it he is one of the richest men in the world. Later that day we headed to a place that had Roman ruins that you could literally touch. Then we went to lunch with our host families and tried on traditional dresses. After lunch we went on a walk around the Medina with students from the University of Rabat to get a better understanding of Morocco through students’ perspectives our own age. They were all very nice and similar to us in their hobbies, studies, aspirations, and interests. Then we went to a hammam which is a public bath and we all enjoyed it more than we had expected to!

Ruins of a mosque

Roman ruins

Students from the University of Rabat

The third day we traveled four hours to the next stop, which was a village in the Ref mountains. We met a family and had a discussion about life in the mountains over lunch. Then we went on a hike to the top of the mountain, including mud, neighbors back yards, and crop fields. The view was breathtaking and worth the trek. Then we said our goodbyes and left for the most instagrammable city in Morocco: Chefchoan. We explored the city a bit and had a traditional Moroccan dinner of pastila. The next morning, we headed back to Spain.

Ref Mountains


After reflection of this experience I learned that Moroccans are not that different than us. Yes, they do have a different life and culture than us, but they all have the same dreams and aspirations as people from the US. They are a predominantly Muslim country but have the same core beliefs and values as most Americans. I was overwhelmed by their hospitality from my host family to every person I met. Women are treated almost the same there as they are in the US except it is harder for them to find jobs. This experience has changed my perspective and I would encourage anyone to go to Morocco and see first-hand the culture and caring people of the country.

The Road to a Decolonized Mind: A Deeper Reflection

Author: Rae Erickson

Location: Wolwedans

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

This is an excerpt form Rae’s last blog post that we felt could be addressed on its own.  

Before embarking on this journey, I felt passionate about creating equality for every person, but I was somewhat ill equipped with the tools that are necessary in order to truly advocate or stand up for marginalized populations. Although I understood that there is still a significant presence of racism that is prevalent today, I often struggled with how to identify it, or even successfully initiate a conversation around the unfair things that are happening around the world, especially to people of color. While I cannot pretend like I know all of the answers and solutions to this problem now, I feel infinitely better about how to critically analyze what happens around me. About four days ago, we traveled to NaDEET, a center that has the mission of educating youth and adults about how to live sustainably. During our time there, we also took an excursion to Wolwedans, another desert resort just a 45 minute drive away. What we saw there, however, left us with heavy hearts. One of the managers directed the tour, and left us all unsettled.

Unfortunately, Wolwedans exemplified many of the weaknesses that can occur in companies that are not regulated by the government. Even though nature conservation is a popular topic for many diverse groups of people, it is easy to forget that human rights violations can happen even amidst sustainable efforts. There was a significantly unequal distribution of money between the manager of the reserve and his workers, and there seemed also to be a lack of any kind of positive relationship between his employees and him as well. His attitude towards the people working there was poor at best, and his language often became extremely sexist and condescending. While this experience was upsetting and disturbing to many of the students, myself included, it was also somewhat rewarding and surprising to hear ourselves critically analyze the situation in the way we did, as our perceptions of the tour definitely would have been different had we never had this journey of going through the program and trying to decolonize our minds.

© 2024 Valpo Voyager

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑