Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Windhoek (page 1 of 13)

Internships Galore – Windhoek, Namibia

Author: Gwyneth Hoeksema

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

This semester, we have a couple students doing internships at some important organizations around Windhoek. The two organizations that I am going to discuss today have had a great impact on the community and continue to try and better the world for marginalized groups in Namibia. Two of our students are working at Out-Right Namibia while I am working at Sister Namibia. 

Out-Right Namibia works with members of the LGBTQ+ community in and around Windhoek, trying to provide necessary resources and support. Although this is not my internship, I find the work they are doing to be incredibly important for marginalized members of the community. They deserve to be discussed and recognized for their work helping members of the LGBTQ+ community in Namibia. Members of my cohort, Isaac, Hailey, Gillian, and I went to a community meeting hosted by ORN on Friday and we witnessed some of their work in action. The meeting was mainly to answer any pressing questions that community members had about how the organization was either helping or hurting them. I thought that this was an excellent opportunity to get informed as an outsider about local events, policies, and problems that are occurring in Windhoek. One problem that was addressed by community members was the lack of a community feeling when at ORN. However, ORN-lead staff emphasized that in the past, people have taken advantage of ORN’s open door policies, which is why there are stricter rules for being at the organization during hours of operation, like the requirement to schedule meetings. I think this is necessary in any business because in the end, if ORN is not somehwhat organized then they will not be able to get work done efficiently. Community members also complained that this has created a less welcoming environment with an increased focus on business. ORN-lead staff combated this by emphasizing that although ORN is a business, they are still committed to encouraging hospitality to the community. I think this is a tricky distinction, for one because ORN should want to be a safe space for their community members. But also, ORN is still required to get things done for those members. So, they have to be welcoming but they also have to keep working. After all, ORN is not a social club. I liked hearing about all of these things though, because I would like to work in a non-profit someday. Hearing about the do’s and don’ts of running a non-profit was very valuable to learn. The gathering was very personable and I felt that everyone got to ask the pressing questions that they came with. It was fantastic to see an organization actively trying to hear what the community had to say and trying to improve themselves. This meeting made me hopeful that the LGBTQ+ community in Namibia has people who are actively trying to make their lives better, which is incredibly important because Namibia does not have very accepting policies regarding their LGBTQ+ citizens. 

My organization is also impactful as it provides helpful information and encourages women to actively make their lives better. Sister Namibia is formally defined as a feminist organization, so they work to inform women about their bodies, mental health, what it means to be a woman, and much more. They produce a quarterly magazine that is distributed all throughout Namibia. My supervisor explained to me that feminism is a Western word that does not have a specific or one-word translation in most of the languages spoken in Namibia. This Western influence often turns people off to the organization because they don’t want Western thought to change or alter their African culture.  So, one of the things the organization does is try to define what feminism means in an African context. This can be a difficult process because defining feminism also means defining toxic masculinity. Which is another difficult explanation because you have to discuss regressive behavior, like whistling at a girl from your car, and why that is not appropriate and should not be tolerated. Specifically in Namibia, there is a rape problem in which men often take advantage of women to assert their dominance. Because of this toxic situation, Sister Namibia hosts events to discuss things like this on Saturdays. They have gone to universities and other organizations to try and break down those barriers. Talking with other women and girls, but also men, to educate them on these issues. I find all of this work so fantastic. If women are not educated to appreciate their ideas, thoughts, bodies, etc. then they will never be able to appreciate their wonderful lives.

Sister Namibia also focuses on other women’s issues, like discussions about pregnancy and how to prevent it, as well as other things like reminding women to associate positive thoughts with their menstrual cycle, instead of feeling ashamed of it. Sister Namibia has even produced and tries to distribute reusable pads, called SisterPADS, to prevent young girls from missing school because of their menstruation cycle. The reusability of the pads also helps low-income households because continually buying feminine products is very expensive. I have been incredibly impressed with the work that this organization does. This coming Saturday is a panel on women’s rights at the University of Namibia which I think will be meaningful to listen to. I appreciate being able to understand how women in Namibia think about feminism compared with how I think about it.

So far, I have also been given good work to do, which I appreciate even though I am a brand-new intern. I am working on a short opinion piece about my experience with mental health issues from an American college student’s perspective. I am excited to provide insight into how Valpo has addressed mental health among their students, and hopefully there will be women and other students who read it who can connect to it. Sister Namibia’s goals of forwarding women’s rights and educating the public on how women should be treated is fantastic. As a woman, I resonate with the message they are putting out to Namibian women and girls. Overall, both Out-Right and Sister Namibia are important organizations and I am dedicated to keeping up with both of them even after I leave because I think they are doing such good work!

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
people.

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.

The Untold Stories

Author: Alyssa (Aly) Brewer

Location: Outapi, Namibia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I distinctly remember before I left to study abroad in Southern Africa, my friend and I got  lunch together for an informal “see you later.” We talked about our lives, school work, and how  excited I was to travel to Namibia. I showed him a picture of Windhoek, the city I would be  living in. To his surprise, the photo displayed towering buildings, paved roads, and modern cars.  I am not telling this story to criticize his views, but to shed light on this mainstream idea of  “Africa.” Africa is a continent full of rich intertwining cultures. Every country, every area, every  city, is unique from the next. There is no blanket definition. Like in the United States, each family  has their own identity, ethnicity, and language. And all of this became quite apparent to me when I spent a week living with a family in rural Northern Namibia.

Before we left to Outapi, the instructors taught us basic greetings and how to ask for food, water, and the toilet in Oshiwambo, the local language. All of us were jittery with nerves. We stocked up on toilet paper, portable chargers, and exchanged ideas of how to properly bathe from a bucket. 

Surprisingly, the bucket shower became one of my favorite parts of the morning!

To be honest, I was holding in my anxiousness the whole 10 hour ride up there. As soon as we arrived and families started singing for us, my worries melted away. The families were as full of smiles as we were of exhaustion. But despite our heavy bodies, our spirits were up. We gathered around, greeted each other, and learned who we would be staying with for the week. My family welcomed me with open arms. I immediately felt loved by Meme Thusnelde and Tate Fillemon. (*Meme is the Oshiwambo equivalent of “M’am” as is Tate with “Sir”). Their daughter Margareth also welcomed and introduced me to her two year old son, Wofa (I never got the spelling but this is how it sounded). After the initial greeting, we were off! I climbed in the back of their pick-up truck and sighed my first breath of relief since we left Windhoek that morning.

While the instructors warned us countless times how hot it is in Northern Namibia, the heat still surprised us. It’s the kind of heat when you sweat, it evaporates before you can feel it. Hats are a necessity and sunscreen becomes your new best friend. Sleeping became a great challenge because my family’s tin house absorbed all the heat throughout the day. At night, I felt like I was sleeping in a microwave. Another surprising challenge was the food. While it was delicious and well-prepared, my body had a difficult time adjusting to it. But these minor inconveniences were drops in the ocean of this entire experience. My host sister and I laughed and danced with each other every evening. Her son and I chased each other around the farmstead. The stars every night speckled the sky is a brilliant hue. The fat chickens slept on tiny tree branches (which still makes me laugh just thinking about it). My host dad and I ran after a goat one night and planted a tree the next. My host mom hugged me warmly in the way only a mother can. While my body might have rejected the environment, my heart belonged in it.

There were dozens of fruit trees across the property. I was honored to help plant another!

I learned so much in my six days living with them. Greeting culture is the utmost importance. It took me until the end of the stay to fully get the sequence right.

  • “Walalapo Meme” (Good morning M’am)
  • “Walalapo” (Good morning response)
  • “Nawa?” (How are you?)
  • “Nawa, ehh?” (Good, and you?)
  • “Ehh” (Yes, good)

Even then, I do not know if that is completely correct. And the greeting changes depending on who you are speaking to and what time of day it is. It was difficult at first to get out of my American way of thinking. Here, you spend a whole five minutes greeting someone before you can carry on with your day. Back in the States I usually go for the classic Midwestern half-smile or “hey.” Here, you must face the person and acknowledge their presence- it is a form of respect. After practicing the greeting so often, it almost became second nature amongst us students. We even greeted each other that way at times. 

This journey has changed how I view life in multiple ways. For one, time is fluid here. There is never a rush. At first, my American “go go go” attitude became frustrated with the lackadaisical atmosphere. Now, I embrace it. In the States, we value time as money. Even when greeting someone we are short and to the point. Here, time is what you make it. My host family never rushed me to wake up, they never had a set schedule. We awoke when we got fed up with the rooster crowing. We made food when we got hungry. We talked when we wanted to and sat in silence when there was nothing to say. There was no pressure, just peace.

Important side note! The picture above is my host family’s field. Normally it would be towering with mahango plants at this time. Namibia is facing an extreme drought due to no rain in the rainy season causing crops and livestock to die at alarming rates. In a nation where 70% of the population relies on farming to sustain themselves, no rain is a crisis. We might not see climate change’s effects in the US, but here it is undeniable.

Reflecting on the experience so far, I am blessed to have met so many people from different cultural backgrounds in Southern Africa. Each of them has their own story to tell. Some are graduate students studying to be doctors. Some are musicians living off donations from passersby. Some, like my host family, are farmers in rural Namibia struggling to overcome the most devastating drought in their lifetime. Every person I meet paints a more colorful picture of what Africa truly is. It is not a single nationality, race, or language. It is a beautiful blend of people who each have a story to share- a story that needs to be heard.

My family and I took a photo together at the goodbye party. They provided me with a traditional Oshiwambo skirt and Ostrich egg shell necklace to wear. I will miss them dearly! (Right to left) Tate Fillemon, Wofa the baby, myself, the cab driver for the family, Margareth. *Meme Thusnelde was not able to attend the goodbye party due to work.

Time in Windhoek

Author: Maddie Morehead

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

It has now been a little over a month since setting foot into our home here in Windhoek, Namibia, and two months since our journey in Southern Africa began back in August. As I reflect on everything I have experienced already, I am amazed at all the ways I have been challenged and changed; from meeting so many amazing people, to learning new ideas and unlearning programmed ideologies, to settling into the lifestyle of the people of Windhoek. I think the moment I realized that I had become settled into the community is when I was able to give directions to someone looking for the Roman Catholic Hospital, or maybe when I was able to tell the taxi driver where my destination was when he had no idea where to go, or maybe when local Namibians joined me and my friend on stage while we belted “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce at karaoke night. However it may look, over the past month, Windhoek has become home.

With each passing week new people, new opportunities and new experiences are presented to us, and I have learned throughout my time here to keep an open mind, say yes more times than no, and to be ever present with every experience. This past week, these experiences included attending Mr. Gay Namibia, a prestigious pageant show held for Windhoek’s gay community; live music at an ice cream shop downtown; and a tour of my friend’s township just outside Windhoek.

On Tuesday, my history class headed to Out-Right Namibia, a human rights based organization that works towards equality for the LGBTIQ community in Namibia. Namibia has a history of discrimination towards the LGBTIQ communiy. The first president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma who was president from 1990 to 2005, often gave hate speeches about this community, stating that lesbians and gays have no place in his country. There is also a current law in Namibia that prohibits men from having sex with other men and therefore denoting that gay activity is not welcome in Namibia. At Out-Right, we talked to the most gentle and kind-spirited human who is an advocate for the LGBTIQ community in Namibia and spends his time providing a welcoming environment and spreading awareness of sexual health for the community’s members. It was here that we heard about the annual pageant show that was happening later that week, Mr. Gay Namibia. After our trip to Out-Right, we were able to speak to the first ever Mr. Gay Namibia of 2012 who shared his experience of coming out to his family and continuing to represent the LGBTIQ community in Namibia. It was incredible to see such a welcoming and supportive environment on Friday night for the men in Namibia who were brave enough to fully express themselves through fashion and their own sexual identity. It was also an amazing experience to be able to support this community at a local level.

I was able to make many comparisons with the U.S. when talking to others about attending Mr. Gay Namibia. Some were supportive, but said that they themselves would not attend while others thought the idea of the pageant show to be funny. Although I was somewhat surprised, when thinking about it, these reactions do not seem too far off from some reactions I would receive back home. As an ally for this community I was able to support and have conversations with others that really opened my mind to the importance of supporting and defending a community that I, myself may not identify with and confront any misinformed ideologies that I myself may hold about that community.

At Mr. Gay Namibia, my friend talked to one of the performers who invited us to one of her shows later that weekend at Cramer’s, a local ice cream shop in downtown Windhoek. The arts have been such a huge part of our experience since arriving in Windhoek. Almost everyone that we have met participates in some form of expression through art, whether it be through instruments, painting, sculpture, or song. As a musician myself I am able to really connect with people through their artistic expression. Music thrives in the young city of Windhoek, Namibia and it truly brings people together.

On Saturday, one of the friends I have made since coming to Windhoek invited me to his home in Katutura where he showed me his everyday life. Katutura is a large township of Windhoek with an interesting history behind it that might not be talked about in daily life. Katutura itself literally means ‘the place where people do not want to live’ in Herero, one of the native languages. In class we learned that many black people were forced out of their homes during the colonization period and placed in an underdeveloped, inaccessible part of Windhoek, further away from the center of the city. My classmates and I have heard many things about this specific township from the local people. People in Windhoek repeat a stereotype that Katutura is dangerous and that we should not go there. I have even heard people derogatorily refer to it as the ‘ghetto’, but as I spent time there with my friend I felt very safe and met many friendly people as he showed me around the town. We even stopped to buy hotdogs at a local hotdog place and I later got to meet the owner. Through my experiences, I have been able to establish my own perspective by spending time with local people and seeing how they live, and to me that is much more important than listening to another person’s interpretation of a place. If I had listened to others’ interpretations of specific places, such as many peoples’ interpretation of Africa from the United States perspective, I may not have decided to study abroad in Namibia and I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity. I have loved every second of my time here.

I believe that one of the most important things to do when studying abroad is establishing a home by building a community in the place where you will be staying for the next four months, and that is exactly what I have attempted to do during my time in Windhoek. Making friends with local people, spending time with them, and attending events held in town has really helped me to feel at home and gain a better understanding of what life in Windhoek, Namibia is like. It has also allowed me to expand my learning of what we have been discussing in the classroom and gain a ground view of Windhoek, and how the history of colonization and political progress from independence are still evident and having effect today. With a little over a month left of my study abroad experience, I am excited to continue to build relationships with people and experience new opportunities that will broaden my horizons even more and expand my interpretation of life as a part of the Windhoek community.

Riding the Homesick Falls

Author: Rae Erickson

Location: Windhoek, Namibia 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

This morning, three letters from my friends arrived in my mail slot. While I knew that one was hopefully coming, I wasn’t sure if it would make it, so seeing three waiting for me was an absolutely beautiful surprise. Being abroad for the past few months has changed me significantly, but it also has brought me even closer to my roots of who I know that I am. Dealing with mental health struggles in another country is intimidating to say the least, and missing my friends and family has been extremely difficult, but amidst these struggles, I am forced to remember why I am here, everything I am learning, and how important the people are to me that I hold close to my heart when they cannot be close to me physically. My time here has transformed me so much that I have begun going by a new nickname, Rae, that suits me in a million different ways! Without being on another continent, and meeting the people I have, I can’t say I would be the person I feel myself becoming today. This past week was fall break in Windhoek, but it was also a kind of spring break, because of the reverse seasons!! A few friends and I journeyed to Victoria Falls in Zambia, where we swam next to beautiful rainbows and saw little pockets of God. Even though the waves of homesickness have been as great as the crashing rapids of the Zambezi River, I know that this is where I am meant to be. Being in this other worldly place was truly a wild contrast to the experience of the week prior, when we stayed in northern Namibia for our rural homestay! Being in Outapi was one of the hardest things that I have ever done, but it was also one of the most rewarding. Throughout my whole time in this country, I have realized over and over again how strong and lucky that I really am. Prior to my departure in August, I was terrified of what was to come. Every day that I am here, I know that my little vial of bravery is inching upwards. Every day that I am here, I become more educated about how the injustices of the world are often covered up, how much I really have, and where my passions are leading me.

In Outapi, my homestay family had five loving children and two welcoming parents. The father of the family was the Vice Head of the village, and we talked at length about his responsibilities, as well as the accessibility of healthcare in his village. Because health services are so available in the US, it was heartbreaking but also incredibly eye opening to see firsthand how not everywhere on the planet has this luxury at their fingertips. I will always remember the hugs and company of the two little girls in particular, Alina and Monika, when reflecting on this time of my journey here. Even though the littlest one did not speak a lot of English, she squeaked out the cutest “THANK YOU!” once I gave her the necklace I made her on my final day in their home. Sitting around the campfire and singing songs in Oshiwambo and English will be something I will hold with me throughout the rest of my life, forever and ever.

 

The last thing I want to touch on for this blog is my experience in Etosha National Park. We drove into the park and immediately saw thousands of zebras! Passat, the driver for CGEE, has a passion for game drives, and senses creatures coming out of the darkness like no one I have ever met. On our first night in the park, we stayed in a chalet, and visited a watering hole. There were tons of friends that came to visit, emerging timidly out of the night to drink while we all watched as quietly as possible. A giraffe, two rhinos, three zebras, and an entire herd of elephants joined the site, creating a moment charged with power, spirituality, and grace. The next night, we camped before embarking on our long journey back to Windhoek. The calm presence of the animals was exactly what we needed before returning back to CGEE’s home base!

Roots

Author: Grace Erickson
Location: Windhoek, Namibia

 

In my colonized mind, I saw Africa as a whole continent. In my colonized mind, I saw everyone in Africa as totally different from me since they were coming from another culture. In my colonized mind, in my colonized mind, in my colonized mind… Traveling from South Africa, to Eastern Cape, to Cape Town, to (finally) Namibia has already changed who I am forever. While it has been difficult at times to realize how much growth I still have ahead of me, my experience thus far has also prompted me to better the world in ways that I had never even considered before. It is painful to have a greater awareness of the fact that not everyone on our lovely Earth is always being heard equally, but I now know that learning about the injustices of the world is the first step to changing them. The very best lessons and memories I have, have come from being pushed beyond my comfort zone. Amidst the challenging intellectual and emotional times here, there are sprinkled moments of beautiful serenity and friendship. One of my favorite moments from the cohort’s fieldtrips was Freedom Park in South Africa where there was a spiritual reflection space. It was a location that was meant to help you find your headspace to reflect on our ancestors whom had sacrificed everything during their tireless work to fight oppression. Sitting barefoot on the ground in front of the monument, I found myself sinking into my meditative state. I lost track of time as I was hugged by the whisper of spirits around me.

I found myself feeling exceptionally whole during my time in the mountains at Elundini. The fog drifted over the side of the mountain as dogs, chickens, cows, sheep, pigs, and goats galloped around us. I looked through the window while making homemade bread and felt one with the foggy froth of fog above us. To actually make your own bread, gather firewood from the forest, then actually bake it over a fire, is something I never would have made the time for in the US. The lack of any rush in daily life has been dreamlike after living somewhere that emphasizes the importance of making use of every moment.

During my homestay in Pimville, Soweto, my sweet friends Zama and Faith reiterated this by chiding us for walking too fast on the way to the grocery store, not packing a million activities into one day, and encouraging us to relax. Their spirit and friendship, both with each other and us, lives with me to this day. Our memory of simply going to the park is one that makes me glow with joy.

The last moment I would like to share from my first leg of this journey is from appreciating art. Once again, I found myself surprised at my own surprise that there were so many similarities to my own art, and that which I saw in a museum that is thousands of miles away from my home. While speaking with an art director at an art center in Katutura, he emphasized again and again the importance of knowing your roots. We may all come from different places, but we are the same material. The beauty and depth of many of the pieces empowered me to continue to look within myself for what I was meant to create in order to make my impact, both here, and eventually back where I came from.

The Long Road Home

Author: Keith Nagel
Location: Windhoek, Namibia

As I close out this semester with one final blog, I thought it would be an opportune time to talk about my long journey home. Today I will travel to three different continents, pass over great deserts and wide open oceans, and end up in my back yard playing fetch with my dog. From Windhoek Namibia, to Amsterdam, and finally across the United States to my home will take a full day of travel. Even though the travel seems rigorous, it was certainly not the hardest part about my trip home. For me, and many other people that study abroad, the hardest thing about leaving is saying goodbye to new friends and your home away from home. The final week is most likely going to be stressful with final projects and last minute souvenir shopping, so my advice is to try and get as much done in advance as you can.

 

Another thing that that is not often thought about is the need for re-integration into your own home culture. It seems odd to think that you need to be reminded about life back home, but it is important so you don’t end up having a culture shock in your own country. Coming from Namibia I anticipate having a bit of a culture shock with the amount of people in the United States, the relative wealth of America, and even driving on the right side of the road again. These societal differences will be different for each study abroad experience but one can expect that it might be hard at first to get back in the swing of things. This includes reconnecting with old friends after spending so much time with new ones you made while away. In these final days it is important to spend time with the people and places you most connect with on your study abroad experience. One day I hope to think of the amazing people I met long ago, and wonder what they will go on to see in worlds that I shall never know. Be conscious of the fact that you experienced a world that many of your friends will never know, and be reassured in that your study abroad friends will continue to experience the world in new ways you never will as well. It is important to look back on the memories you shared with friends, I have included a few memories of my own favorite moments in the images in this blog. A few final remarks: pursue your dreams, take as many pictures as you can, never trade the thrills of living for the security of existence, immerse yourself into what your learning, and never take your experience for granted. Goodbye Namibia, see you soon.

Living Off the Grid

Author: Keith Nagel

Location: Windhoek, Namibia 

 

Living off the grid isn’t just for doomsday preppers and Bond villains. For roughly a quarter of the worlds population living without access to electricity, it is an every day struggle. Although it is usually a novelty or unfortunate economic reality for many, living off the grid can actually be a good thing. This is one of the many realization I had while staying at the NaDEET desert camp in the Namib desert of Namibia. The camp’s focus was to educate us students on sustainable practices in almost every aspects of their lives.

During our stay at the camp, our food was cooked by the sun in solar ovens, our electricity was provided by solar panels, and our water was strictly monitored. The unfortunate reality is that for dry countries like Namibia, these practices may not just be a option but a means of survival in the near future. Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change, and Namibia is already struggling to provide enough water to its growing population.

While traveling in new places,​​​​ I have always thought that it is important to learn about the physical land itself. Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity to do so because chances are you’ll be learning in a completely new environment that welcomes some exploring. Living sustainability and off the grid in the Western world should not just be a way of life reserved for people who drive Prius’ and organically source their kale chips. Tech leaders like Elon Musk of Tesla are already planning of a world where a home’s roof tiles will power the family car and the rest of the house fully off any grid. This trip was so influential to me because it motivated me to take an honest reflection on my practices and understanding of global impacts. If we are one day able to realize the dream of tech geniuses and conservationists, the results may be just as magical as the stars in the light free Namibian night sky.

Don’t Forget to Have a Little Fun

Author: Keith Nagel

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

It’s not every day that you get to see flamingos, eat amazing food, take atv’s into the desert with a bunch of your friends, or sand board the tallest dunes in to world all in the same day, so when you get the chance to…you better take it. After the honeymoon phase is over at about 3/4 of the way through your study abroad experience things may start to plateau as you concentrate on essays, tests, and the rest. A little fun is a great way to break the monotony. I know one of the best decisions I have made on my time in Namibia has been to take advantage of every adventurous opportunity I can get my hands on. Because the Namibian program is so structured around travel, it wasn’t hard to find new fun each weekend. If you get the chance, take the long road trip to the coast, climb the tallest thing you can find (unless your studying in Nepal, in which case you should probably train a little before doing so), book a flight to a new country, or just take a walk around your new home. I guarantee it will change your life. It has certainly changed mine.

One of the best places to pursue these carpe diem adventures in Southern Africa is in Swakopmund, Namibia. This historically significant town on the Western coast promises thrill seekers and scenic travelers alike an experience they wont forget. Actress Angelina Jolie loved the town so much that she chose to give birth to her daughter at the local Swakopmund hospital. We had learned about the town in class, but it turned out to be far more than just the small coastal town we read about in books. It’s pointless for a student to paint scenes of a place in their mind when they can go outside and stand in it. We studied the lasting German colonial influence, the first genocide of the 21st century, the rich fishing industry, and the effect that growth has had on the marine populations. This made the extracurricular activities we did even more enriching because we felt like we really knew the town and it’s history far more than any tourist off the street. And we certainly had a good time as well.

Swakopmund sits at the edge of the skeleton coast, where the tallest dunes in the world meet the Atlantic Ocean in splendid fashion. What is even better is we were able to rent ATV’s and explore the dunes in all their glory. I think this trip was the programs best mix of academic and fun activities that we had all semester. It is so important to not forget to have a little fun on your study abroad experience. In a place like Namibia it seems like fun and adventure is around every corner. So get out there and explore as many as you can.

Mauritius

Author: Keith Nagel
Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Mark Twain once wrote, “Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius”. The small island country of Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar. Although it is technically located in Southern Africa, you would never know it. The country is a lush oasis of mountains, white beaches, and crystal blue water. The population was predominately of Indian decent from indentured labor under British rule, a realization that comes quickly as you drive past hindu temples in the hustle and bustle of the country’s roads. Mauritius is also the endemic home of the infamous Dodo bird, that would later be popularized by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was such a departure from where I was studying in Namibia that I thought it would make the perfect place to spend my fall break.

I traveled with two of my study abroad friends to the island to find what I would argue is the closest thing to jurassic park in the world. The following week would prove to be one of the best weeks of my life, with plenty of adventures I will never forget. We took our incredibly slow tin can of a rental car all around the island. These little road trips were filled with amazing beaches, towering waterfalls, and bustling city centers. After a few difficult days laying on the beach and sipping on coconut water I thought I might have a go at some island fun. The next morning at dawn I embarked on a deep sea fishing expedition in rough seas. I came away with a couple small tuna but who knows, maybe next time I’ll catch the big one. My favorite memory of the whole trip was swimming among dolphins in the wild. To see these amazing creatures move, talk, and play was something that not even the Planet Earth series can fully capture. Although I may never make it back to this tiny volcanic island on the other side of the world, I will forever treasure the memories and place that is Mauritius.

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