Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shaking hands with social justice and a trip to the coast...

So, as per usual, I am terribly sorry that I haven't updated this blog in so long. I have been really busy and doing a lot of different things, so I haven't had a whole lot of time to do it! Most of the really cool things that have had the opportunity to do have been through my classes! I'm taking a history class, politics class, development class, and an independent study on Namibian incarcerated mothers. I'll give you some highlights of some of the really cool things that I've been doing in them!

Politics class - We had a really really awesome chance to head to the Parliament Building last week to see how the government and where the government is run and works. Our tour started in the Constitution Room, which is the room where the Namibian constitution was first written in the post-independent period! It was in this room that we got to meet the actual Speaker of Parliament! He talked to us for about an hour. It was really amazing. Because Namibian is such a recently independent country, we have gotten the chance to meet with some awesome speakers, especially people high up in the government. This man talked to us very briefly, but had some cute anecdotes about the United States. It is interesting that almost every person in the government that we've talked to spent a large amount of time in the United States during apartheid in Namibia, so they all have pretty extensive knowledge about where we're from and what it is like in the States, and they love to talk about it. Very few of them were actually in the country fighting for liberation, which is just interesting because so much in terms of status and popularity relates to the amount of liberation credentials a person has.

History - We have had two really phenomenal opportunities recently through this class. One of my favorites was a woman from an organization called Behind the Wall of Silence, an organization that is working to recover the untold stories of women and men who were tortured by SWAPO (the ruling party in Namibia right now, the liberation party of apartheid, etc.) while in exile in Angola, Zimbabwe, etc. Because SWAPO is the ruling party now and was the liberation party, it is very rare that people speak against them. However, during apartheid, the now ruling parties in Southern Africa (for example, both SWAPO in Namibia and the ever popular ANC in South Africa), sometimes used really awful measures to ensure loyalty from even their own party members. For example, the woman who came to speak to us was imprisoned and tortured for almost three years in Angola, by her own party, SWAPO, not only to ensure her loyalty but to seek out spies and other non-loyal people. She had horrible stories to tell about rape, murder, torture, withholding of food...and the list goes on. At the end of her talk I was so moved and dumbfounded by hearing this other perspective that I immediately went up to her and asked if her organization needed any volunteers! I have some free time when I'm not in class and I am extremely interested in the issues of memory that they are dealing with, as well as telling the untold stories. Hopefully it will work out!

The second AWESOME opportunity that we had in history class in these past few weeks was going to a conference on the Southern African Genome Sequencing Project, which is a group of professors from all over the world (mainly the United States, Australia, and South Africa), who are testing the DNA of different residents of Southern Africa to trace their DNA and their history. And you will never guess who one of the speakers at the conference was....DESMOND TUTU! It was literally Desmond Tutu in the flesh!! The professors are actually tracing some of his DNA, so he got to stand up and talk about it. Here are a couple of really touching things that he said during his speech:

"Can you imagine what our world would become if we accepted that we are all family?"

"When I kill the enemy, I am killing my brother, my sister."

"Wake up. We are members of one family."

"Thank you for being my relatives."

Amazing. Basically, his speech came around the topics of the fact that these professors are attempting to prove: that we are all African, we all have the same origins and history, and that we are all one people, one family. It was so beautiful. He has this wonderful laughter and way about him also...it was a once in a lifetime experience. So, classes are going really well!

This past Sunday we returned from a four day trip to Swakopmund, Namibia, which is a town on the coast of Namibia. It was amazing because we were finally able to see the ocean, which we hadn't seen in months! The town is really beautiful, much cooler than Windhoek, and we got to visit some really cool organizations. For example, we got to visit a school, a township, some of the port and economic organizations that directly relate to the coastal issues, a fish factory...the list goes on! It was SO cool! I am actually going back for all of spring break I have decided, so that I can volunteer at this organization called Mondesa Youth Opportunities, which is an afterschool program for promising Namibian students, to help aid in their education because of the failing governmental school system. A few of us are going back to the coast to volunteer there, to get some more beach days in, to rest, and more! I am SO excited about it!

Anyway, that's pretty much what I've been doing! I hope all is going well in the states. I probably won't update again until late late March, because next Monday I am headed to the north with our group, for a 6 day rural homestay (challenges, here we come!), a trip to Etosha (SAFARI!), and some camping! Then we have spring break! I can't wait!!! I'll let you know how it goes when I get back!

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