Another lazy weekend in Windhoek to do some catching up, writing, reading, and summer internship applications. I’ve been taking it easy this week with a cold but am on the mend. We’ve been spending the majority of our time at Emona in class, sleeping or napping, but had several social engagements towards the end of the week and have made some progress in the direction of class registration.
After taking a blog day at Emona on Saturday (last week) while others went in to town with Drayton and learned how to use the taxi system here, I came down with a sore throat on Sunday that has progressed to a drippy nose and frequent sneezing. That aside, still having a good time overall! On Saturday, once the group returned from town, Jan joined us for a Braai (BBQ) with chicken and corn (as a side note- the difference between a Braai and a BBQ according to Scobe is that while an American BBQ will have one type of meat and ten types of salad, a real Namibian Braai will have one type of salad and ten types of meat). We don’t have ovens in the hostels at Emona since they had problems with students unfamiliar with ovens that would then start fires. Thus, we created “oven-like conditions” for the chickens using some foil. Drayton joined us for the meal and we presented him with a PLU shirt in gratitude for being a great host the past week.
On Sunday we went for a short (3 Km) hike at Daan Viljden Game Park for a short hike. It was quite dry and a small lake held back by a dam was completely empty. Jan recalls their being more water when she was here at this time last year, but we’ve had some pretty hard rain, loud thunder, and lightning the last few days and hopefully that will continue to nourish the land and bring the temperature down a bit. We passed another informal settlement on the way to the park and got a bit closer photo, but keep in mind that it’s not a complete representation of Windhoek. I included a few photos of other parts of the city in my last post and will post more once I spend more time in other areas. There weren’t too many critters out in the heat of late morning on Sunday, but we did see many bird nests, a couple ostriches, lizards and some very interesting rocks. Fingers crossed for giraffes next time.
On Monday in class, we focused on the period of German colonization and I took a long nap afterwards. During the colonial period, some tribes had better relationships with the Germans than others due to varying local politics, but in 1904, a particular group of Hereros broke their protection treaty and attacked German soldiers. Lead by Samuel Maharero, the attack was largely influenced by land conflicts as Maharero was pressured by Germans to sell or bargain land that was already inhabited by the Herero. The Herero troops had little strategy and were brutally defeated, to the point of genocide, by Lother Von Trotha and his men who were brought in from Germany to deal with the Herero since the previous German officer’s tactics (Theodor Loitwein) of treaties and negotiation were deemed to be to “soft” by the German Kaiser. Although the Nama people under Hendrik Witbooi carried on the struggle 7 months after the first attack , the Germans effectively ended the war in 1908, opening the way for increased colonization and crushing any remaining opposition with one of the first instances of concentration camps.
On Tuesday some of us worked out at 6:30am with a personal trainer who leads a “boot camp” on UNAM campus during semesters. Lots of squats… very much leg-sore. In class, we focused on the Genocide that occurred during and after the 1904-1908 colonial war and on Wednesday we watched a well done BBC documentary on this period of Namibian History that I’d definitely recommend to anyone interested in the subject (Genocide and the Second Reich- I think the whole thing is on YouTube). We also talked about the collection of human remains that took place in Namibia for the sake of racial “science” which was pretty disturbing along with the controversy today as to how best to deal with these remains. Regarding remains still in Europe, it is not always known which country remains should be returned to and the cost of shipping is high. Furthermore, the display of collections in Europe and in Africa is controversial since such close respect must be paid to indigenous heritage. We also got into an interesting discussion about living museums, where tourists can pay to see native Namibians go about a traditional lifestyle. These can be problematic since they portray the lifestyle of a particular time period that does not adequately represent the way people live today and promotes the dominant stereotypes of “Africa” that many tourists expect to see. This was interesting to me as I realized that it’s not just non-African countries that struggle with how to respectfully portray Africa today.
For my sake, I’ve had a great overall impression of the country. While land management, wealth disparity, and other problems exist (as with each country, a unique set of difficulties), the welcome we have received as the first (if I understand correctly) group of American students of our size at UNAM, has been overwhelming. The end of our week has included multiple social engagements. On Thursday evening we had dinner with a friend of Jan and a few others at a beautiful home in Ludwigsdorf and on Friday we were invited to a pool party/dinner near UNAM at the home of another of Jan’s friends here. On Friday, we also had a series of meetings on campus with faculty at UNAM to meet various department heads and contacts at the University. Kalie and I spoke with the Chemistry department head and several other faculty members who were very pleased to receive molecular model kits as gifts from the PLU chemistry department. I also met the professor who I’ll be working with this semester for a research internship and she seems great.
In other news, lots of great sunsets here recently. Love to all back home!