The Semester Begins

I’ve officially made it through the first two weeks of classes at UNAM!  For all of you who have been eagerly asking this question, my classes (modules as they are called here) are as follows:

  • Physical Chemistry III
    • Mostly elementary quantum chemistry with a little spectroscopy and statistical thermodynamics
    • 30-35 students in their 4th or 5th year (who were confused at first as to why I was there)
    • Meets for lecture 4 hours each week, plus a 1.5 hour tutorial on Wednesday evenings and 3 hour practical session (lab) on Thursdays for molecular modeling and computational chemistry
  • Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery/Development
    • Two “half modules” that are taught by a combination of faculty members (the same at the moment) each meet two hours a week with a practical session every two weeks
    • 25-30 students in their 2nd year
    • I have a group literature assignment coming up where I’ll be reading about the role of recombinant DNA technology in the Drug Discovery and Development process
  • Theories of Ethics and Moral Philosophy
    • Counts for my Philosophy requirement at PLU
    • 30-35 students in their 2nd year
    • Meets for lecture three hours a week with a short (one hour) written assignment each week

I’m also working on a research project with Dr. Renate Hans, an organic chemistry lecturer here who teaches the Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery classes. Her work primarily involves the chemistry of natural products, seeking to identify active compounds in medicinally used plants. This semester, I’ll be working with Peltophorum africanum, a deciduous tree native to southern Africa, extracting organic compounds from various plant samples, filtering, purifying, and then sending samples to be analyzed in South Africa where NMR spectra will be sent back to UNAM for characterization. In addition to that, it’s likely I’ll help out with other things from time to time depending on faculty needs. I’m looking forward to the experience learning some new techniques as well as learning my way around a new lab.

Now for some photos from earlier this month!

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This little guy seemed to enjoy visiting us on the boat (and eating fish...). There are around 2 million seals living on the Namibian coast!

This little guy seemed to enjoy visiting us on the boat (and eating fish…). There are around 2 million seals living on the Namibian coast!

Here’s my room at Emona… well the room I had before we left on our study tour. We moved to a larger building just before leaving, but my room is pretty similar. There’s no AC in the buildings, but they are mostly concrete I think, so they stay pretty cool relatively speaking- we still got fans for each room on our first supply trip. The nice thing with larger supplies (fans, fridges, water filters, etc.) is that anything that can be stored and used for next years group comes out of our supply budget, not out of our individual pockets. Like the rooms at PLU, they felt pretty unwelcoming at first, but they’re really not bad once you have things arranged and, if you’re me, posters up on the walls. Also, some pictures from our Walvis Bay boat tour way back during our second weekend here. I felt like a tourist for the first time since arriving, but it was nice to do something with all 10 of us that involved so little planning for most of a day. I also enjoyed exercising my french with a couple from Bretagne, France who were on holiday in Namibia. When we got back to the harbor, they got out their map and showed me all the places they’d been and where they were off to next. I hope they had a good end of their trip and are back home safely.

I posted a few pictures from skydiving in my last entry, but these are a few more. When we went skydiving, there was an option to have a photographer dive with you to take photos and film, but I took the cheaper “handy cam” option where the person who is strapped on  to you holds a camera while you fall. For being a bit cheaper, I was still happy with the quality and was still able to get some decent “photos” out of it with screen shots of the video. Enjoy!

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0131151645That was a pretty great weekend. Speaking of things that are pretty great… we had a pretty great study tour at the end of January. That’s supposed to be a joke. We actually had a really, really great time. I gave a quick synopsis in my last post, but here are some pictures to prove that we were actually did all those things.

Our first night was spent in Otjiwarango at a rather fancy place (see the dining room table to the right!). After a tasty dinner and good night’s sleep, we were up early to head out to the Cheetah Conservation Fund—a research facility, education center, veterinary clinic, museum, and model farm that seeks to “work with all stakeholders to develop best practices in research, education, and land use to benefit all species, including people” (CCF mission statement). We had a very informative and engaging tour of the facilities from the current operations manager as well meeting Dr. Laurie Marker, Oregon native, who moved to Namibia in 1991 to begin developing the program. What was most impressive to me was the extent to which the center works very much directly with the people whose actions they hope to influence.

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An CCF Ambassador

Instead of just telling people how to farm differently, CCF runs a farm so that they can test out and modify the practices they hope to promote. They also recognize that in order to conserve cheetahs, they must seriously consider and balance with the needs of farmers, hunters, and other species. Namibia currently has the largest wild cheetah population in the world but most of these live on farmland creating a perceived conflict between farmers and the predators. While cheetahs are the most obvious matter of concern at the center, there is also an active and important program which works to place livestock guard dogs with sheep farmers which are effective in preventing most livestock kills by cheetahs and other predators.  The center focuses on keeping cheetahs out of captivity and in the wild (they are not at all interested in breeding captive cheetahs) but do provide homes for many non-releasable cheetahs who were rescued at a young age as orphans or with injuries (including the “ambassador” here). I could go on and on… we received a lot of information and were there for over three hours, but I encourage you to look them up or attend a presentation the next time Laurie is in the area as she comes fairly often to the US for fundraising. Here are a couple more photos of the site including the CCF goats which are used for milk, cheese, and ice cream as well as an example to farmers of how it is possible to thrive while allowing cheetahs to roam on their land. Also pictured here is the CCF Operations Manager, Brian, who gave us a fabulous tour of the site, shown here in front of a vegetable garden, a new addition intended to help feed staff and volunteers in a sustainable manner.

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Our next stop was Opuwo where we stayed for three nights and two days. While there, we took a day trip to Epupa Falls on the Angolan border (below) which was beautiful, but we were pretty worn out by the day of driving. Eating lunch near the water, we were all wishing for a swim, but crocodiles hiding beneath the murky water meant no wading allowed.

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Our lodgings in Opuwo, Namibia

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Epupa falls with northern Namibia to the right and southern Angola to the left

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Some nice rock near the falls

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Our van driver showing us the location of Epupa on the Namibia hand map

We also visited a mobile school and a rural homestead. While the “road” out to the school was rough to say the least, the drive was well worth it. We were able to visit three classes of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students. With each class, we introduced ourselves and observed a little of what they were working on. The 2nd graders were learning to write their names and 4th graders were working on story problems in math which Jan helped to teach a little. The highlight of our visit was asking both 3rd and 4th grade groups to sing for us. I’d seen or heard groups of rural African children singing before in, but hearing the energetic harmonies in person was absolutely, indescribably beautiful.

We were all a bit teary eyed after listening to the singing, but managed to return a decent rendition of “Amazing Grace,” albeit without any harmonies or foot movement. We also had fun with “The Hokey Pokey” first with the 4th grade group, then with the other two groups by popular demand. Along with us, we brought food supplies to leave with the school, but wished we could have brought more. Pencils and books were in short supply. As a mobile school, most of the classrooms were tents so that the school could move with rural groups that traditionally moved often. However, even traditionally mobile groups are becoming more stationary in order to remain closer to concentrations of goods and services in towns (as I understand it).  Thus, one of the classrooms we were in was a more permanent structure painted and built from cinderblocks (where Jan did a teaching demonstration). We took group photos with the classes as well to have sent back and the 10 of us took other photos, the children eager to see the results for themselves, before finally saying our goodbyes.

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On the same day, our driver also took us to visit the homestead where he grew up which was a meaningful experience, far off any tourist’s path. What I’ve enjoyed most so far about this program (and for that matter, my month in Martinique last January on another PLU trip) is the cultural immersion so adeptly orchestrated by our PLU faculty program director. The opportunity to study abroad is a enormous privilege and a uniquely valuable experience for those who are able (financially and otherwise) to take advantage of the various offerings. While international travel is no cheap ticket, I greatly recommend taking the leap while in school as opposed to (or in addition to) saving up for tourism and other travel in the future (if you have that choice to make).

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Rural homestead near Opuwo

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Our knowledgeable and good-humored driver along with one of the grandmothers at his homestead and the gifts we brought

Visiting this small, rural homestead is just one example of a part of Namibia that tourists are not often a part of, not only visiting the homestead as complete outsiders, but being introduced by our tour guide who grew up and had stories and insight to share about the relationship between rural and urban Namibia. Although Namibia has recently been classified as a “middle income country” by the United Nations, and there are some very wealthy people here, much of the country still lives in poverty and it can be argued that the classification does not accurately represent reality. At the same time, Namibia has a lot of great things going. Wildlife conservation related legislation here sets and example for Africa and the rest of the world. A policy was signed calling for 50% female representation in politics by this year. I could go on… Like any nation, Namibia has it’s strengths and its weaknesses which are important to learn about when visiting any new country.  The depth of understanding about Namibia that we have been able to gather in just our first month here is incomparable to anything reading or listening to media could hope to provide. I am so very grateful.

Love to all back home! I’ll post a bit more about Etosha and our rural homestay in another few days here.

T I A

T I A, this is Africa, is a phrase we’ve learned here to express the way things happen here. For example, classes start tomorrow but our group isn’t completely registered yet. TIA. Things will get done when they will and it’s best not to worry too much about them. Adjusting to “Namibia time” has been an ongoing process for us coming from a university in the states where registration, for example, happens months in advance. Anyhow, I’ll be blogging and posting pictures from the past month as I am able, this is Africa, and it will get done eventually.

For our third weekend in Namibia, the 10 of us took a “town hopper” (a 12 person van that travels between towns at a reasonable rate) to Swakopmund, a town on the coast to the west of Namibia. We had a very lovely time. Jan suggested and booked our three nights at a self-catering accommodation, Bush Babies Inn- we essentially rented two small houses for the weekend for $75 US per person. On Friday, we took a touristy boat ride from Walvis Bay to see pelicans, seals, and dolphins. One highlight for me was meeting a French couple on our boat and chatting about Namibia, Oysters, and US education. The following morning, 7 of us went Skydiving!! I was much less nervous than I had expected to be and had a great time looking out over the desert and Namibian coastline from the plane. Once I jumped out, attached at the shoulder and hip to the professional person behind me, it didn’t even feel like falling. Everything below is so spread out and far away that it just felt like floating (albeit with more air than usual rushing at my body) and was really quite nice.

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We headed back to Emona early Sunday morning (a four hour trip) and prepared for the final week of our Namibian history class. I wrote my final paper connecting an article I read about the controversies of DNA testing with Native American populations to an article about human remains in Namibia (the gruesome and unethical means of collection in the early 1900s) and the controversies surrounding their repatriation and/or display. I also started and finished a couple applications for summer research programs back in the states. It was a busy week, but I got everything turned in by 9:45am on Saturday, just in time to pack for an 11am departure on our 10 day study tour up North.

I’ll give more details soon, but we had a fantastic time including an informative visit to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a day trip to Epupa Falls on the Angolan border, a visit to a mobile school and rural homestead, three days of driving in Etosha National Park (including but not limited to elephants, lions, rhinos, and more zebras than we could count), and a two night rural homestay. It was a fitting way to end our J-term course and have a bit of a change of pace before beginning the semester in earnest this week. I know some classes here don’t really get going until the third or fourth week, but I’m not sure what to expect with chemistry courses. I’m looking forward to having more of a schedule, meeting more students, and hopefully meeting with the faculty member that I’ll be doing research with this semester.

Sorry about the dearth of photos this time around. I have very many and will do my best to post them throughout the week.

Now to get some sleep!

Second Weekend

Still alive and well in Windhoek! So much has happened this past week- but I’ll do my best to catch you all up. As mentioned, the week before last, we had a series of engagements with people in Windhoek that Jan knows through her time here as a Fulbright Scholar. On Thursday, we had pizza and watermelon at a beautiful home in Ludwigsdorf , a posh neighborhood. Jan made the dough and a friend and colleague of hers fixed up a variety of toppings. The best part of that evening though, was watching the sunset from above the house. Many pictures were taken.

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Then, Friday night, we attended a braai with another of Jan’s friends and colleagues and their family who live very near UNAM, and also have a lovely home complete with a pool and a dog named Lucy. We very much enjoyed the water (a couple girls bought large squirt guns in preparation) and playing with the dog since many of us have been missing animals back at home.

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My favorite part of this outing was likely the food. Jan’s friend had emphasized that this would be a small braai, and we were all getting hungry from our exertions in the pool. Never to fear- once burgers (and veggi burgers!) got started, the toppings and side dishes kept appearing on the counter of the thatched-roof, outside cooking area that has a particular name beginning with an L that escapes me at the moment. Anyhow, between burgers, grilled pineapple, veggie kabobs, salad, and chocolate chip cookies (brought by Jan), we were all very happy campers. Both events also included a number of very friendly and welcoming individuals that I hope we interact with again throughout our time here.

Saturday and Sunday were predominantly rest days for me (nearly over my cold now!!) but on Sunday evening, we had a lovely picnic dinner at Daan Viljoen Game Park and discovered that evening is a MUCH better time to try to see animals. Couldn’t quite catch everything on camera, but here’s a small piece. I also had some fun editing these with the new fancy phone (first smart device as a Christmas gift). We saw many animals this time around including wildebeest, zebra, oryx, red hartebeest, and kudu, but our highlight of the evening was our first giraffe, first a group of four and then one alone and very close to the road where we were driving.

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How many zebra do you see?

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Overall, it was a pretty chill weekend with some fantastic animals at the end. Sometimes walking on campus (especially when I was carrying a couple large boxes of recycling from Emona to large bins on campus on Wednesday) I tell myself that I’m a giraffe. They are tall and super bizarre looking, but they just mosey along gracefully and do their thing without a second thought as to whether anyone else things they look or walk funny (also relatively carefree at Daan Viljoen as there are no predators there…).

Anyhow, that’s all for the moment- I’ll write soon about my crazy week of REU applications, nurses starting clinicals (surprise!), not quite applying for classes, and a wonderful weekend on the coast.

Be giraffes!

A Warm Week of Welcome

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.

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Saturday Evening Braai

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.

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“Oven-like conditions”

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First Saturday Evening!

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.

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An Informal Settlement

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The Entrance to Daan Viljon Game Park

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Selfie!

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Weaver Bird Nests (all over the park)

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Critter Sighting!

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Cool looking rock!

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Seen in the Game Park

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Pride Rock

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.

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Eenduga, a fruit that grows on palm trees in Northern Namibia. You have to take off the dark outer shell (left) and then can eat the middle layer (right). It’s very dry and reminded me of bran, but a good source of fiber if you’re out in a rural area without other food.

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This critter (about the length of my foot) was found outside (thankfully) our building earlier this week.

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.

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Rain!

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The view from Emona

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Just another Namibian evening

In other news, lots of great sunsets here recently. Love to all back home!

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A Bit of History

Another catch-up day! Had trouble the other day connecting to wi-fi enough to post things- hoping that is due to the group watching a Seahawks game and not due to my laptop being old.

On Wednesday the 7th, our first full day here, we met with Jan and Martha, the head of the history department (along with a few other departments!) who will be leading our history/orientation course, to talk about what we will be doing and learning about this month. We’ve taken over the upstairs “wi-fi room” next door and have been using it as a sort of classroom/meeting room. Martha briefly outlined Namibia’s history which we will discuss in more detail over the next few weeks. Then on Thursday we had our first full four hours of class which, while on the long side with the heat, was very interesting for me especially because I haven’t taken a history course in such a long time and have never learned much about recent history in Africa. The race relations and mentality of Namibians is very diverse as different populations/locations have been differently affected by the various conflicts in recent history. So much change has occurred in just the past 50 years… it’s difficult to take everything in. I’ll do my best to summarize from the notes I’ve taken so far, but this may take a while.

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Our friend Plu

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Our view from the wi-fi room

While there were people living in the area now known as Namibia before colonization, this history has been recorded in ways that are more difficult to interpret today and our first discussion began with the European scramble for Africa in 1884.  Germany had only recently become an organized nation (1871) and thus had less manpower for colonization than other countries and  ended up with areas now known as Namibia, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Togo (although Germans only built settlements in Namibia because of its more favorable climate (and rumors of diamonds). German colonization in Namibia was made easier by the presence of German missionaries since the 1840s although resistance by local groups was common, in part due to differing ideas of ownership. After the First World War, Germany lost its colonies to the British and the French. Since Britain already had a presence in South Africa, Namibia (then known as South West Africa or Suid Wes Afrika in Afrikaans) became a mandate territory of the British.

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Genocide memorial at the National Museum of Namibia

During the period of colonial transition, little changed in Namibia until the 1920 native reserve policy separated people living in Namibia based on race and tribe. 1922 marked the first time in Africa that a community resistance effort was stopped with bombs from airplanes. However, between 1922 and 1930 there was still little South African activity in Namibia overall and while South African infrastructure developed, little similar development occurred in Namibia. Then in the 1930s, the Depression hit and 1940 marked the beginning of Apartheid in South Africa (and Namibia by extension). The systematic separation of people socially, economically, and geographically applied not only to divide whites and blacks, but also to divide blacks by 12 official tribes such that each person had paperwork indicating which group they belonged to and where they were allowed to live.

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Former monument commemorating German colonial successes

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“Their blood waters our freedom”

The 1950s marked stages of early nationalism for Namibians, especially for men from the northern part of the country who worked as part of the migrant labor system enforced during Apartheid. Although this system was problematic in many ways, it exposed Namibians (predominantly men) to South African liberation politics and in 1959 the first Namibian liberation movement, South West Africa National Union (SWANU), was established. This movement was shortly followed by the formation of SWAPO, the SW Africa People’s Organization which achieved international recognition both from the African Union, AU (Organization of African Unity at the time) and from United Nations. Thus, the 1960s marked the beginning of a national struggle for liberty as opposed to individual, local struggles and conflicts previously. In 1971, the International Court of Justice (ICJ, a branch of the UN) voted that South Africa could incorporate Namibia as a 5th province. However, after years of brutal conflict, UN resolution 435 was passed in 1978 in support of Namibian independence, calling for a cease fire, evacuation of South African troops, and a democratic election. Despite this resolution, progress was stalled, in part due to international tensions during the Cold War, and it was not until 1988 that UN officials entered to oversee the country’s first democratic election. Independence was declared on March 21, 1990, making this year the nation’s 25th anniversary.

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Our kitchen/common area

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The view from my window

(I know these pictures don’t match my text… bear with me) Post-independence, the redistribution and use of land or “land management,” has been one of the larger problems the country is still working to solve. During colonial periods in most African countries, the best land was generally reserved for whites and local people were moved, often by force, to less-desirable land. To account for this, different countries have taken different approaches. In Zambia, many whites were forced to give up their land to have it more equally distributed. Namibia on the other hand follows a policy of “willing buyer, willing seller” where the government offers a price for land and the person who owns it can choose to sell or not. Interestingly, today Namibia is the 2nd most expensive place to purchase land (following Dubai, India). However, much of the land in Namibia is not privately owned but owned by the state. “Communal land” is land that the government owns but is managed by an individual. This was very difficult for us to understand since it’s so different from the way land works in the United States.  Also of interest are unwritten policies of reconciliation that differ between countries. After its independence, South Africa followed a policy of restorative justice (Desmond Tutu was involved with this process) where whites and blacks were encouraged to confess wrongdoings as a way to address what had happened and work past conflicts. In contrast, Namibia followed a policy of “blanket amnesty” which encouraged individuals to forgive and forget so to say.

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National Museum of Namibia

What we heard from Martha was supplemented by a tour of Windhoek and various townships within it with Scobe and Martha on Friday. It was helpful to hear some of the history for a second time but with a different perspective on some points. We started at the National Museum of Namibia in downtown Windhoek. The building is a former concentration camp from the early 1900s that now serves as a museum. We didn’t go inside the building but saw the Monument commemorating the individuals killed during the genocide that occurred during German colonization (pictured above) and the statue within the compound of a German on horseback that was, pre-independence, a monument to German successes during the colonial period.

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View from the Museum

From there, we drove through one of the more “posh” neighborhoods in Windhoek, Ludwigsdorf. The homes here were mostly stone (no earthquakes here) and, well, posh. Wealthier people live in these homes, but not necessarily white people. Today there are black business owners and government officials that live there as well.

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Seen in Ludwigsdorf

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Seen in Ludwigsdorf

Next, we made our way through town and stopped at the 1959 Heroes and Heroines Memorial Grave where individuals who lived in the surrounding neighborhood (“The Old Location”) but were forced to relocate during Apartheid are buried. A large grave near the entrance bares the inscription:

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“In memory of our heroes and heroines of 10th December 1959 martyrs of the Namibian Revolution”

“The Old Location Mass grave is a symbol of heroism and gallantry. The epitaph was erected in memory of the brave residents of the Old Location who were killed on 10 December 1959 by the brutal South African apartheid forces, for refusing to be relocated to the racially segregated township of Katutura. The Old Location uprising of 1959 is a rallying cry for Namibian independence never to be forgotten.”

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1959 Heroes and Heroines Memorial Grave

After pausing at the graveyard, we continued to Katutura, the township of Windhoek where people were forced to relocate during apartheid. Today, December 10th is a national holiday, Human Rights Day, in memory of those who died resisting apartheid forces. The word Katutura translates to “we have no permanent habitation” and roughly 7,000 individuals were relocated there between 1959 and 1962. Today, no one is forced to live in Katutura and it is not strictly segregated and monitored as it once was. People of varying income levels live there and some of our nursing students will be working in the Katutura Hospital starting in February.

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Independence Avenue

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Many homes in Katutura have been refurbished since apartheid, bright colors and gardens are much more common today.

Our next stop, one of Scobe’s favorite places in Windhoek (and one of mine as well, so far), was the Habitat Research and Development Centre which, as I understand it, works to develop more efficient and resource conscious forms of low-cost housing with the goal of “promoting sustainable human settlements.” These would, ideally, provide alternatives to corrugated metal which is used for informal settlements today which are hot when it’s hot and cold when it’s cold. Many of the housing methods developed and on display there are not widely used due to high initial costs, but it is hopeful that this type of research is happening. Scrap materials were converted in to artwork, doorways, and buildings. Rainwater flows down corrugated metal roofs and is stored in columns. They also proudly display a solar cooking stove where sunlight reflects off a huge, shiny metal bowl which can adjust temperature based on the angle the bowl stands with respect to incoming rays (on sale for $700 Namibian dollars, a bit under $70 US).

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After leaving the research centre, we continued to an informal settlement, the low-income housing in Namibia. Today there are efforts to formalize the settlements with street names and numbers, but the corrugated metal buildings access water from particular points (not running to each home), and have little or no electricity. However, we were struck by the cleanliness of the people we saw going about their lives in clothing that would in no way identify them (at least to us), as being from an informal settlement. Scobe reminded us that poverty doesn’t necessarily mean that people are unhappy or dissatisfied with your living conditions, “you don’t know you’re poor until someone tells you.” However, with increased technology and spreading of information, more people are becoming interested in changing their living conditions.

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An Informal Settlement in Windhoek

Our last stop before returning to campus was Penduka craft shop in Katatura. Penduka (“wake up!” in Oshiwambo) is an organization that started in 1992 to provide employment for women in and around Windhoek, including women who are hearing and speaking impaired. There are women employed at the craft shop to embroider, create batik, and make beads from glass bottle shards, but women from farther away can send crafts to the store to sell as well. We didn’t buy anything this time, but will definitely be back.

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Overall, the tour gave us a better sense of the size and diversity/disparity within Windhoek, which , by area, is the 5th largest city in the world. The first few days have been busy, but we’ve mainly stuck to the Emona hostels so it was great to get out and see more of the city in addition to having a sense of context for talking with people here about different parts of town. All our meals so far (apart from pizza our first night) have been in the hostels and cooked by the girls in our group- so nothing too exotic yet! Salad, stir fry, chicken, and even peanut butter and jelly, have been common. Namibians tend to eat a lot of meat which will be an adjustment for me since I rarely eat meat at home, but we’ve been doing a lot of cooking for ourselves so far. Hope you are all doing well wherever you are reading from!

The Longest Day

Taking a pajama day today to catch up on processing through this first week and get moving on this whole blog thing while some of the group are exploring town (and learning to use the taxi system) with Drayton, a UNAM student who works at Emona Hostels (where we live) and has been a great first friend and resource to us on campus.

Now… let’s rewind a bit.

Seatac Airport

Seatac Airport

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Johannesburg Airport

We FINALLY arrived on UNAM campus Tuesday, January 6th at approximately 3pm local time (5am in WA) after nearly 36 hours of travel time, three flights, five complimentary meals, five or six  hours of sleep, and more available in-flight entertainment than anyone knows what to do with. During a six hour layover in London, we made the most of our time with a bus ride to Windsor Castle where we made the acquaintance of a friendly (a little drunk…) older gentleman who had a plethora of stories from his years growing up near the castle and made sure we knew where we were going and how to get back to the airport.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Decorated for the Holidays

Decorated for the Holidays

After taking a look at the castle (from the outside), we stopped for fish and chips before working our way (carry-on baggage in tow) back to our bus stop for the airport.  The castle was quite majestic and the fish was pretty tasty but I’ve had better in WA, but maybe we were just at the wrong fish and chips place. The short time out of the airport felt like a full day of activity (maybe due to dragging baggage…) and upon getting to our gate, I was ready to sit for another 11 hours. I watched a couple movies and I think my favorite was Tammy, a comedy with Melissa McCarty… although stifling laughter on a plane when you’re sitting next to strangers felt a little awkward.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

First Sunrise in Africa

First Sunrise in Africa

Seen in Jo-burg Airport

Seen in Jo-burg Airport

After a second long flight, we were all eager-verging-on-impatient to arrive in Windhoek and thankful that the layover in Johannesburg, South Africa (Jo-burg to those who are in the know) was a shorter one, only 4 hours. I explored the extensive “Out of Africa” gift shop before Jan treated us to Hagen-Daaz and we made a plan of action for our first afternoon in Namibia.

Chillin' in Jo-burg Airport

Chillin’ in Jo-burg Airport

Veggie Curry: Courtesy of British Airlines

Veggie Curry: Courtesy of British Airlines

The last leg of our travels was a short and chilly two hours from Jo-burg to Windhoek. A very turbulent last 10 minutes left us all a bit unsettled upon landing; however, I was able to catch a bit more shut-eye and take some photos out the window at the passing landscape (hearkening back to my geomorphology course this Fall) and had time for my stomach to settle before deplaning for the final time (for a few months that is).

Over South Africa

Over South Africa

Near the Windhoek Airport

Near the Windhoek Airport

Upon Arrival in Windhoek, we waited in line to get our fancy work/student visa stamps in our passports which went surprisingly smoothly. Jan had thought we would need to go to another office to finish the process but we were able to get everything done in the airport. Once we picked up luggage, we met Scobe, our “driver” while in Namibia. He works for a tour company and is friends with Jan so he is our designated driver any time all 11 of us need to go somewhere at once such as our study tours and a tour of Windhoek. He deftly loaded all 20+ suitcases (and the 10 of us) into a 14 person van pulling a small trailer and we set off for the university.

Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia

First view of Emona Hostels

First view of Emona Hostels

After picking up towels, blankets, pillows, and sheets, we finally rolled onto UNAM campus and reached the Emona Hostels, campus housing where we’ll be staying during the next five months. While we will be moving to a slightly newer building at the end of January, they all seem fairly similar from the outside. They are essentially what we would call dorms and are technically on UNAM property, but are owned by a separate company and are a few minutes’ walk from the buildings were courses are held. Each building has three floors that are only accessible from an outside stairwell. The floors have double rooms on each side (some with loft beds, and some with lowered beds) with a common kitchen area in the middle. Our current building has one bathroom we all share but the larger building will have a separate bathroom for each two rooms. Also living in our building is a UNAM PhD student of law from Nigeria who moved in the same day we did. Other than that, all other buildings are empty and/or under construction since classes don’t start until the 9th of February, the beginning of their semester 1 (fall semester… that is, the semester that comes after summer. Fall isn’t really a season here).

Emona Hostels

Emona Hostels

First Grocery Shopping

First Grocery Shopping

That first afternoon is a bit of a blur, but we met several of the people who work for the hostels, some of which live here as well including Drayton, a third year UNAM student who works for Emona, who’s been a great first friend and resource here the past few days. Apart from unpacking, we had to have our finger prints scanned next door in what I consider the admin building, where Drayton and a few others work during the day. They needed to add our finger prints to their computer system because the front door to each building as well as the door to exit the hostel gates is unlocked with fingerprint-access. You press your finger (middle finger in case of emergency) to a small pad near the door and, usually, the door unlocks (sometimes it takes a couple tries, but no system is perfect). We also asked many questions to a few people about wi-fi access to reach the solution that while wi-fi in the hostel buildings was still off for summer, we could use wifi in the upper floor of the admin building next door. After pizza for dinner, we settled in for our first official night in Namibia!

Welcome!

namibian flag

Namibian Flag

This January through May I am spending my semester on a PLU study away program for Nursing and Natural Science majors in Windhoek, Namibia, living with nine other PLU students on the University of Namibia (UNAM) campus. We are here with program director and PLU education faculty member, Jan Weiss who has lived in Windhoek the past year on a Fulbright Fellowship.  During the month of January, we will be taking an orientation/history course for the month of January (taught by UNAM history department head) and will be enrolled in UNAM courses for their fall semester (Feb-May). Between J-term and Fall Semester we will take a 10-day study tour of Northern Namibia and during our Easter/spring break, a second study tour to the coast, Namib-Nauklauft Desert and Damaraland. Over the next five months, I’ll do my best to keep you caught up with happenings here in Namiba- enjoy!

namibian coat of arms

Namibian Coat of Arms

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Namibia (in red)