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Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Windhoek (page 2 of 13)


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.

Language Barriers

Author: Keith Nagel

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Any traveler will know that one of the biggest hurdles to cross in an unfamiliar place is a language barrier. It is difficult enough to travel around a new place, but to try and do it in a country that speaks many other languages that are different from your own can be challenging. I was lucky; English is the official language of Namibia. The official language could have just as easily been German or Africans but the new government following independence wanted to shed their colonial roots and adopt a new language. Because English is an official language on paper does not necessarily mean it is in practice, and sometimes communication can be difficult.

In South Africa for example it is regular for person to know around six languages. Namibia is similar with each of the ethnic groups having a distinct language. The English that is spoken in Namibia is even jokingly referred to as Namish because they incorporate many of their languages words while speaking English. I was confronted with this language barrier full force when I completed a rural homestay with a local Damara family on their farm. For context South Africa and Namibia have some of the most interesting languages in the world that involve clicks, and the Damara language incorporated four different clicks into their language. For some reason I picked up these different clicks pretty easily, but it is certainly not a natural thing for most people.

It was a joy to learn a little of their beautiful language and try to converse with the locals. They even gave me a name, “!Nombate”, with the ! signifiying a particular click. My name translates to English as ‘difficult’ so perhaps I wasn’t grasping the language quite as easily as I had thought. The beauty of their language didn’t compare to the beauty of the people themselves, who welcomed me with open arms and eagerly wanted to show me how the live. It is something I will never forget. ‘/Namsi ta gea Khorixas’.

Don’t Judge a Town by its Brochure

Author: Keith Nagel

Location: Windhoek, Namibia 

​My first few weeks in Africa were full of traveling around South Africa and traveling around Namibia. Mostly, I was getting a taste of my new home for the next three months. In most study abroad experiences, this phase is one in which you are in all intents and purposes a tourist. You usually dress like a tourist and any local can easily spot you in a crowd.

This phase is a great time to learn and to see new places as you begin to make the transition from a tourist to a student who is living in that country.  It took about two weeks after this traveling before I really felt like I was here to stay. Although I had a great time traveling and seeing the sights, it was only when I started classes that I was really able to critically reflect on some of my experiences. It is important to engage with your experiences on a deeper level than the surface, especially in countries like South Africa and Namibia, where history isn’t always clearly evident.

For me this realization hit home when we traveled to a small town on the Namibian coast called Lüderitz. Famous for its diamonds, this former German settlement is a popular tourist attraction for Europeans. Before learning about the legacy of German oppression and the subsequent apartheid system under the South Africans before Namibian Independence in class, I would have just thought Lüderitz was a quaint town little town with striking German influences. If you delve even further into the history of Lüderitz you will find that it was the location of the first concentration camp of the 20th century, 30 years prior to the Nazi regime in Germany. Germany only recently publically apologized for their genocide in Namibia, which targeted the Herero and Nama ethnic groups. Almost everything that the Nazis did in their concentration camps of WWII can be traced back to their concentration camps in their former colony of Namibia. The actual location of the camp in Lüderitz is now a local campsite and bears no memorial to those that died there. One of my tour guides even made a passing joke that the railroad that, in colonial times, took 11 months to build was just renovated over the period of 11 years. What our guide neglected to mention was that in colonial times slaves were used from the concentration camps and were worked to their deaths while building the rail lines.

My point in sharing this sad story is to show that you can visit and even study in a country without really knowing what you’re looking at. Even if you study or travel abroad in countries like Australia or Germany I would urge you to look deeper into their history, and you may find something you would never expect. I know that reflecting critically on my experiences has made them more meaningful. As a final encouragement, try not to be a tourist for too long, or you might miss out on being a true student in your country.

Views From the Conservancy

Blogger: Keith Nagel

Location:  Namibia

Almost all study abroad experiences are filled with moments of awe, wonder, and excitement. Although the people of foreign countries are the greatest source for learning,there are other things have the potential to enrich the experience tremendously as well. My experience in Namibia was enriched by a visit to N/a’an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary. This privately owned nature conservancy plays an important role in taking in animals from a number of different unfortunate circumstances. In Namibia, community based resource management has been a huge success in maintaining and reviving threatened animal populations. It was an honor to see these animals in person, and I was lucky enough to get a few pictures to remember them by. Although the big cats had names like Shakira and Billy, they were still just as intimidating as one might expect. An interesting side note is that although lions weigh about 420 pounds, they appear about five times larger than I had expected. Cheetahs on the other hand only weigh about 80 pounds and were much smaller than I had expected. The presence that these big cats have is something that I have never experienced prior. Seeing these amazing animals up close was one of the highlights of my trip so far and a must see for anyone doing the program in the future.                                           


Living Your Childhood Dreams

Author: Keith Nagel

Location: Namibia

Childhood dreams are powerful things. From a young age people are encouraged to follow and embrace them, and yet the unfortunate reality is that few of those people ever have an opportunity to do so. Dreams like scaling the great pyramids or the slopes of Everest, catching a glimpse of a rare animal or flying across oceans far above the clouds often get thrown to the wayside. Soon the reality of the world kicks in, and ones realizes that perhaps being a captain of a pirate ship or wielding a sword in a medieval battle isn’t the most practical of occupations. For those lucky enough to live the life a younger self might have imagined, the world can be a wonderfully fulfilling place. I consider myself one of the dreamers lucky enough to pursue some of my childhood ambitions. At Valparaiso University I felt a freedom to pursue these dreams, through studying abroad in Southern Africa.

Growing up I always imagined Africa as a spectacularly beautiful place, full of amazing animals and cultures. And upon landing in South Africa, I knew that the image lived up to my imagination. On an outing to Addo Elephant National Park I saw Kudu, Warthogs, Buffalo, Zebras, Lions, and the amazing African Elephants. When I saw such amazing animals it didn’t even feel real; I was  in a zoo and somehow the animals were as tame as house pets. Luckily, I retained enough common sense to remain in the vehicle. To see these animals in their natural habitat without cages or behind glass was truly an amazing experience and one I will never forget.

It should be noted that there is a much less glamorous side to what I saw as well; gross economic inequality, pockets of extreme poverty, and families torn apart by HIV/AIDS. This is not the utopian image I had crafted as a kid, but never the less it is important that this reality also be shared to understand a true picture of the Southern African region. I’ve learned that to really travel far in Southern Africa you must travel light, and not just in the physical sense either. Especially in Southern Africa you must disregard any preconceived stereotypes, because despite its problems Southern Africa has amazing potential for social and economic growth in the coming decade.

It is truly an honor to begin my studies here in Namibia. I have fallen in love with this program and can’t wait for what adventures will come next.

Introducing the Bloggers: Keith

Blogger: Keith Nagel

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Major: International Relations and Geography

I chose to study abroad because I feel like the only way to truly understand foreign places is to go and experience them yourself. I am most excited about the amazing scenery that Namibia has to offer. With one of the most beautiful and desolate deserts in the world, I’m sure the views will not disappoint.

Spring Break Shenanigans

Blogger: Katie Karstensen

Program: Windhoek, Namibia

Twyfelfontein → Etosha National Park → Luderitz 


Have you ever had a day planned out so perfectly you feel assured it will go as planned? Our study abroad group thought so too, but getting to Twyfelfontein (try saying that five times fast) ended up being an adventure all in itself. Namibia has been in a drought for the past two years, but as soon as we arrived, there has been a sudden appearance of lots of rain. The day before we were supposed to go to Twyfelfontein, it rained and rained and rained. We began our travels as anticipated, but thirty minutes into our journey we came to a spot in the road covered in water to deep for our van to get through, so we turned around and went back into town. We planned to try again the next day, but when we called the lodge where we were supposed to have lunch, they said the food was already prepared, and we would have to come eat it. So we switched to plan B, and the directors of our program went around the grocery store asking if anyone knew of a different route to Twyfelfontein. A local told us about another route that would be a bit rougher, but assured us we would make it there. The van was shaking the entire time, and on some hills and in some valleys, the bottom of the van scraped the ground. For awhile the van made a noise that sounded exactly like when you’re in a roller coaster slowly being pulled uphill right before the big drop. We came to another spot in the road with a small river flowing across it and locals swimming in it, happy to see so much rain for the first time in so long. Our trusted driver went up the river farther to where it looked a tad more shallow, paused, clapped his hands together saying “Let’s try this!” and sped forward into the water, successfully making it across only to get stuck in the sand immediately after exiting the water. All the students exited the vehicle, and with the help of locals, we pushed the van out of the sand and back onto the main road. About five kilometers away from the Twyfelfontein lodge, at this point two and a half hours late to our scheduled lunch, we saw a sign for the lodge! And then came upon the largest body of water we had seen yet running across the road, with more people just swimming around in the water. Our tactic to go up the river farther to a shallower area was quickly defeated when we got stuck in more sand, cue more locals helping us push the van back onto the road. We accepted defeat in getting there by vehicle, so we grabbed our stuff and walked across the very, very muddy river and were picked up by vehicles from the lodge. We finally arrived only a few hours late to our delicious meal at the lodge with views that were worth the wait. The trip back contained far much less uncertainty, besides the minor hiccup of the van breaking down at a gas station five kilometers from where we were staying to top off the day.

Etosha National Park


Luderitz is one of the most remote areas of Namibia, which could be told by an hour flight with views of nothing but sand. It used to be one of Namibia’s main ports until Walvis Bay was discovered to be much better. After being in Luderitz for four days and not seeing a single cloud in the sky, we asked a taxi driver how often it rains. The response we got was, “It doesn’t.” It maybe rains in Luderitz once every ten years.

Luderitz is home to the Kolmanskop Ghost Town, originally a diamond mining town. Residents lived a life of luxury. Germans were searching for natural minerals. They made it across the desert and found millions of diamonds that could be picked up with their hands. Soon large groups of Germans settled down, and Kolmanskop was born. In the main hall, there was a restaurant, gymnastics and exercise room, the first library in Southern Africa, a champagne bar for ladies, and next door a cigar room for men. There was also a bowling alley and shopping mall frequented often by residents. During our tour, we visited the ice room where water from the sea was taken and frozen for residents’ ice boxes(refrigerators). Fresh water was only used for drinking and as a “final rinse” as it was expensively imported from Capetown. For a time the town tried a desalination process for sea water, but water ended up being the same price as beer, and people were not about it. There was a train that ran through all the streets of town every morning at 6AM bringing residents their complimentary half a block of ice, a few liters of lemonade, and a few liters of water. The shopkeeper of the town imported anything residents wanted from Germany: cheeses, bon bons, champagne, clothing, etc. The mining town would hire two hundred Namibians to help with diamond collection and production, and workers became creative in thinking of ways to sneak out diamonds. Workers would make extra compartments in their shoes or even sneak diamonds in their sandwiches right before they left and wait for them to work their way through the digestive system. The Germans installed a policy where 48 hours before any workers left they had to be in solitary confinement with a toilet that had a diamond filter and drink castor oil. Workers even began making small slits in their skin and holding a diamond to it until skin grew over it. This led Germans to purchase Southern Africa’s first x-ray machine.

When diamonds began more difficult to find, everyone up and left. Walking through the ghost town was definitely eerie. In some houses the original wallpaper was completely intact, and you could walk upstairs in some of the houses. In other buildings, a sand dune may be all that is holding a structure up. Hardly any windows still existed in the town, and sand was coming in some windows almost all the way to the top. A strange moment was walking through the old hospital’s hallway, and when looking around it appears like you’re in a building, but it feels like your feet are walking on a beach in the sand.


There is an International Windhoek Facebook group for people that are traveling through Windhoek from other countries. People usually post about travel details asking for companions, or help traveling from one place to another. I returned to Windhoek from Luderitz Tuesday night and saw that a group of women were heading to Sossusvlei for the next couple of days and still had one extra seat. I called to see if they were still looking and then met them at a car rental place Wednesday morning at 7AM. So two women from Germany, one from Holland, one from Switzerland, and one from the United States packed a rental car full and headed to the sand dunes at Sossusvlei. And during the journey we only received one traffic ticket for accidentally driving on the right side of the road as opposed to the left as is the law here in Namibia, which I would argue is pretty good for none of us having experience driving on the left side of the road before.

Rural Homestay in Khorixas

Blogger: Katie Karstensen

Program: Windhoek, Namibia

I am incredibly grateful to my rural homestay family for welcoming me into their hearts and home for a week in Khorixas. My family consisted of only incredibly strong and empowering women. My grandma, or Ouma, was the Village Pastor, and I had two host sisters, one who had a three year old daughter. We also had many pets including five cats, one dog, three goats, one pig, doves, and chickens at our farm on Waterfal Post Three. My family came from the Herero tribe, and all spoke Herero and Damara on a daily basis, only my oldest host sister speaking English enough to translate most things for me. I was thankful my family treated as one of their own and allowed me to help with some daily tasks such as milking and herding the goats, hunting for wampani worms, serving Ouma food, and doing the dishes.

Though there were more differences than similarities in the lives we lead on a regular basis, being with a family reminded me a lot of my own home and family. Things that most reminded me of home were farm chores such as herding and feeding various types of animals, watering the garden(both their garden and my own having lots of sweet corn), being able to see a sky full of stars at night, and flat landscapes allowing you to view beautiful sunsets and the land going on for miles(though the flat landscape I’m used to is filled with corn instead of dirt and sand).

As my Ouma was the Village Pastor, religion was a large part of our daily routine. Ouma had no theological training through a certification program or through a university; she said she studied the bible everyday, which she did. Ouma said a prayer for us in the morning when we woke up to thank God for the day, for our meals to fill us, and a prayer in the evening for all of us before we went to sleep to keep us safe throughout the night. Her interpretation and preaching on the Bible came from a very literal interpretation of scripture. One afternoon, the other study abroad students being hosted on the same farm were brought over by their host siblings to our house, and they talked about their history and let us ask questions about their culture and beliefs. One point of confusion was Ouma’s belief of Jesus being white. She said in her bible there was a picture of Jesus depicting him as a white man, a very Westernized notion. From my interpretation of the conversation with Ouma, she took the Bible’s word as the whole truth directly from God, not as written by man. We held two different services while we were there. The first was in the evening at our farm sitting next to the campfire in rows of chairs, and Ouma sitting at the front. The message conveyed was meant solely for us, as it was us and a few host siblings in attendance. The service was spoken in Damara(a click language) and translated by our host siblings into English. Ouma reiterated how thankful she was to God for us being there. When they asked us our spiritual beliefs, it was not apparent they knew how to respond when one of the students said they grew up Jewish, but were happy to hear the rest of us grew up in Christian households. Ouma allowed time for us to ask questions, and she spent time later on in the week looking for scripture and asking me to look up the same scripture in an English bible so she could use scripture to answer other students questions later in the week. On Sunday, we also hosted a service. I enjoyed how personal the services were with such a small group of people, and it was reiterated for me how worship can be done everywhere, even sitting on chairs in a circle while chickens and cats are walking in between everyone’s legs. Ouma and my host sister practiced their faith more than during services, but were great examples of living out their faith through their actions.

The week as a whole for me was a very intense privilege check. At many times I felt like I was camping, and I felt comfortable. Then I did a lot of reflection on how my own family in the U.S. goes camping for fun often, leaving our luxuries at home for the weekend and enjoying ourselves. But the farm I stayed at in Khroixas as all the family has. I brought a few outfits to wear for the week, and my host sister rotated a few articles of clothing throughout the week as well. I had more articles of clothing I had left at the study abroad house, and even more clothes I left behind in the U.S. But the clothes my family wore were the only clothes they had. My house in the U.S. uses an unknown amount of electricity per day, and we depend on it very heavily, so much so we have a backup generator in case the power were ever to go out. My host family had a small machine they hooked up to a car battery, so they could plug the TV and their phone chargers in, and that was all the power they used. They’re content, and the lack of power usage is incredible for the harm they aren’t doing on the environment. There were many things I could think of that are a part of my daily life that would make their lives so much easier, but are not accessible to residents of Khorixas. Though much wasn’t accessible to them, it was exciting to see they were able to have a little electricity to keep up with politics, listen to music, and watch television (which is how my host sisters learned English, despite not going to school.) Their days are based around preparing meals, caring for the animals, and taking naps.

During a get together with all of the study abroad students and their siblings, and my Ouma, they told us about some of the history they had been a part of. They said they were thankful we were there to visit them as there was a time when black and white people were not allowed to be in one another’s company, or even on the same property. They said there is a big difference between now and then, as now black and white people are allowed to visit and come into one another’s homes and continually learn from each other. We were also there during a time that rained more than it had in years. Ouma talked about how everyone used to have much more cattle, but because there was no rain and no food, they lost most of what they had. With recent rain, plants began growing again, and there were small patches of greenery everywhere. Ouma is very hopeful her garden will be successful, so they can add more variety to their diet. It sounded like they receive cornmeal from the government for their main source of food. When I asked about the flag flying on the roof of one of the houses, my Ouma told me it was the Namibian flag, though it was the Swapo political party’s flag. When I asked what her political views were, she said, with her fist held in the air, that Swapo was the Namibian political party, and they were doing good for the people, and that is as far as she was willing to elaborate on the subject.

When I was by myself with my family, I felt included and enjoyed their company. During the last day we were together at the family party with everyone from Waterfal Post Three, we were made out to be the guests of honor. Our families dressed us in their traditional dresses and covered our heads with scarves, and felt proud to have us wear their clothing. We were served first out of everyone and had our own special table with a tablecloth, place mats, and a bowl of candy. Everyone else sat around in chairs and ate on plates out of their laps while the kids sat on the ground and ate with their hands out of a bucket. We asked to help prepare the food and were given minimal tasks to do. We had to ask again to do more. It was uncomfortable to be a guest of honor, but I could tell the families were proud to show us their best and serve us.

Sossusvlei – An Impromptu Trip

Blogger: Katie Karstensen

Program: Windhoek, Namibia

There is an International Windhoek Facebook group for people that are traveling through Windhoek from other countries. People usually post about travel details asking for companions, or help traveling from one place to another. I returned to Windhoek from Luderitz Tuesday night and saw that a group of women were heading to Sossusvlei for the next couple of days and still had one extra seat. I called to see if they were still looking and then met them at a car rental place Wednesday morning at 7AM. So two women from Germany, one from Holland, one from Switzerland, and one from the United States packed a rental car full and headed to the sand dunes at Sossusvlei. And during the journey we only received one traffic ticket for accidentally driving on the right side of the road as opposed to the left as is the law here in Namibia, which I would argue is pretty good for none of us having experience driving on the left side of the road before.

Homestay at a Kindergarten

Blogger: Katie Karstensen

Program: Windhoek, Namibia

I had the privilege this past week to spend time with a family in Soweto, a neighborhood of urban Windhoek, at Pashukeni Kindergarten. My household consisted of “Meme,” the fantastic, inspirational, independent principal as well as matriarch of the family, and one older sister and brother. My host brother, at 24, is currently studying at University, and my sister helps with the kindergarten and has two children, one boy (age 8), and one daughter (age 2). Meme also took my youngest brother (age 7) into her home as an orphan when he was a young child. Besides the property holding a Kindergarten school, Meme rented out the other buildings for community members to live in, so I felt as if I were meeting new people every day. The setup of the property was interesting as I’m used to one central house and perhaps a garage as the only buildings. But there were many small buildings making up a collective of rooms with the yard almost acting as the living room or the main sitting room.

I had the blessing of being there for Meme’s birthday. We had her favorite meal, which happened to include a dish very similar to one of my favorite dishes from home. They didn’t have a name for it, but as soon as I tasted it, I started tearing up because it tasted almost exactly like my mom’s German potato salad, a dish we make every holiday, family reunion,  and  birthday. It is the food my mom makes for me to take to take back to school with me, so I eat well for the week. It was my favorite dinner while I was there.  The simple potato dish led to a conversation where I shared some of my own family’s traditions while Meme shared important traditions to her and her life story with me. Meme did not grow up with an extensive education, but she had a job at a primary school as a janitor. She said she would do her work, but she would always make time to play with the children. Her supervisor told her if she did not stop playing with the children and neglecting her cleaning duties, he would fire her, but Meme continued her work, visiting with the children as normal, but hid from her supervisor to not get in trouble or fired. Meme grew tired of the supervision at her place of work, so she told them she would be leaving to open her own Kindergarten school. The rest of the staff responded by laughing at her as she left, not believing she would be able to begin her own business, especially without an education, money, or even a place to begin such an establishment.

Meme began with nothing but has now taught over one hundred children, and has multiple classrooms and teachers. Her business has been rapidly growing over the years, always with children as a priority in her life. Next year she plans to extend her Kindergarten into a pre-primary through fifth-grade school. She’s done a lot of hard work to get where she is today and received support from many people over the years. She returned to her original place of work to tell them about her kindergarten, and they again responded by laughing at her, not believing she could have done it. People ask her all the time how it’s happened, and who is the man of the household behind all of these operations. They accuse her of having a secret man or lover who gives her the money and land that she needs to continue her business, but it isn’t true. Meme told me if people have enough of a problem and keep bothering her about who this man is, she points to her oldest son. She says because he’s tall people seem to believe her and are satisfied. I’m honored to have been able to be in the presence of such a strong, independent woman. She is also very involved in the political system. While I was there for the week, I went with my host brother to pick up Meme from a SWAPO party meeting. She told us about how difficult it is to make all the much-needed changes that are happening in the country, but they’re doing what they can to solve them. At the end of the week, when Meme was showing me pictures from her life, she even shared a picture of her and the first president of Namibia, saying that they are good friends and were very close to one another for a time. I’m so thankful to have met Meme. When I left, she kept telling me never to forget her, to come back and visit whenever I’m able, and that I would always have a job as a teacher at her kindergarten.

I spent most of the week with my host brother. He is studying at University and currently doing an internship working on the newest skyscraper in Windhoek that can be seen right across from the Independence Museum. He is very intelligent and curious about the culture of the United States and my perceptions of that culture. Some of his pre-conceived notions about the United States were highly comical. When his family began hosting students, he was surprised to host a Chinese and black student, originally thinking everyone from the U.S. was white. He was also surprised when I braided my hair, telling me he thought white people didn’t know how to braid. My host brothers were also surprised at the concept of freckles, how you could see them on my arms, how you could see my mosquito bites, and how my skin reacted to being in the sun. They couldn’t believe I didn’t eat pop (cornmeal mixture we had with everything) with my meals and asked what I ate instead. They also found it odd that my family owned our own cows and that we did not slaughter our own cows but instead we bring our cows to a facility and pick up the meat a few days later.

My family was very open to whatever activities and conversations the week would bring. Every day the family would get together and asked about each other’s days, jobs, and classes. My religion class brought up a conversation with my host family. We shared in class a presentation about how our religion or faith had affected our self, family, community, country, and the world. My host brother asked to hear the presentation, which led into a conversation about my personal faith journey and, in turn, my host family’s relationship with religion. Meme spoke very critically of the church and some of the extreme actions they’ve been a proponent of over the years including prosperity gospel. On other occasions Meme would talk about being successful only by the grace of God, and being thankful to God for all he’s done with her, hoping God would keep me safe in His arms while I continued to travel around the world. On Sunday, I thought all of my family would go to church. Meme even told me what I should wear to church and approved my outfit to make sure it would be okay, but only two of my host brothers and I went to church. The three and half hour long service was a lot different than my home church, including all being in Oshiwambo, but thanks to Lutheran liturgy, I was able to guess what was going on for some parts of the service. It may have been one of the largest church services I’ve been to, with a congregation well above one thousand. It was the definitely the largest place that I’ve been in where I was the only white person. My younger host brother went to Sunday school during the service, and when it ended early, he came and found us in the congregation to sit with us. With such a big congregation, my older host brother asked how he was able to find us, and he simply replied, “Because of Katie, duh.” A woman mostly led the church service, and when I asked if it was the pastor, my brother said no. The only part led by a man was the pastor giving the sermon. Another interesting part of worship was a blessing ceremony for all the marriages that happened so far this year. Likius translated saying the blessing consisted of telling husbands to love their wives, and wives to respect their husbands. I asked why men weren’t told to respect their wives, and Likius replied, that they could if they wanted, but it wasn’t the same expectation as for women.

My homestay was filled with a lot of hospitality, family, and compassion. I felt very ill the last day of my homestay, and my family took care of me as one of their own, but it didn’t feel any different from the rest of the week. They gave me an opportunity to be a part of their family, and we shared a lot with one another. I feel like I have a lot more to learn from them, and already have plans to go back and visit my family and spend more time with them before I return to the U.S.

My host mother (on the right) with the President of Namibia (center).

Pashukeni Kindergarten

Traditional Oshiwambo skirt and necklace my host mother made for me

My host brother and cousin on our hiking trip

View from the side of a mountain in Windhoek

Meme (mom in Oshiwambo) and my oldest host brother

— Katie

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