Students are currently hunkered down working on midterms on the coast of Namibia, and we will share more current updates soon. In the meantime, we wanted to share some thoughts from Meredith Nass, Global Studies and History teacher extraordinaire. Some this post overlaps with our previous one (content and photos) and it also goes further back into their time in Botswana.
Greetings, dear friends and family of TTS39!
I’m penning down this post from our trusty overland truck, fondly named Big Blue, which has become a cherished companion for our group. Outside, the Namib Desert whirls by with its mirage sparkling over white sand, and far out on the horizon, we are just catching a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean and the grey clouds looming above it.
We find ourselves on the final stretch of a two-day journey from Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek, heading towards Swakopmund, a German colonial city on the Skeleton Coast. Last night, we made a stop at a layover spot called Spittskop. Nestled close to a Himba village, rock formations reminiscent of the red-rock desert in Southeast Utah framed our campsite. Led by a Himba guide, we had the opportunity to hike to see Indigenous rock art dating back tens of thousands of years, created by the San people, believed to be some of the closest descendants to the first homosapiens. They have inhabited this region for over 100,000 years—woah!! The evening was made even more special as we watched the sun gracefully set, painting the African sky with stripes of pink and orange, a sight we are growing accustomed to as our nightly backdrop. Returning to our camp, we shared a communal dinner, held a study session by the crackling fire, and slumbered under a vast expanse of stars, with the Milky Way decorating the sky right above us.
The following morning greeted us with an equally stunning sunrise, as we jogged together along peaceful sandy trails, soaking in the beauty of the newly waning moon against the backdrop of massive rocks and cliffs.
The recent weeks, much like the rest of our program, have been nothing short of extraordinary. Transitioning from the initial third to the halfway mark, our group has evolved into a tight-knit community. No longer are we isolated planets spinning in solitary orbits; we have become a unified entity, supporting and caring for each other, utilizing every resource at our disposal to navigate this tapestry of new experiences. Indeed, students are loving on one another extra right now… special shout out to Ashelynn, who crafted lighthearted, personalized poems for each of her peers and wrote heartwarming letters to our Statistics students, providing them with an extra dose of encouragement as they tackle what can sometimes feel like an additional academic burden.
For me, this transformation also manifests in the extension of gratitude to our dedicated teachers. Today, I am particularly thankful for the appreciation being shared within and through the group. We’re all toiling collectively, and the sense of acknowledgment within our community is immensely fulfilling. This is a momentous juncture for our program; we have truly coalesced into a cohesive group, everyone is in good health, and I couldn’t be more delighted to share this journey with each of these exceptional individuals.
Now, I do believe this blog is meant to discuss classes and activities—so let’s delve into that!
We stayed our last couple of days in Botswana in a game reserve outside of a small town called Ghanzi. In our Global Studies and History classes there, we engaged in discussions about positionality and delved into the intricate dynamics of service and international aid, all in the context of the survival struggles of the San people. The apex of this experience was a bush walk with local San individuals who graciously shared insights into their traditional ways of life, encompassing traditional medicine and land use. The subsequent night, we were treated to a traditional San “trance” dance. Both encounters served as a dual opportunity for the San people to showcase their rich culture and generate income from tourism. These experiences were thought-provoking for many, prompting deep reflection on the kind of tourism they wish to engage in. This exploration culminated in a Socratic seminar in our Global Studies class where students shared their keen insights into some of the complexities of cultural exchange and tourism.
Speaking of… once in Windhoek, we had the privilege of engaging in another enriching cultural exchange during our visit to Penduka Village. A women-led NGO, Penduka supports local artisans in honing and promoting their artisanal crafts. Our students eagerly participated in a Batik-making workshop, each painting a unique piece of batik cloth to take home! The day was rounded off with a tour of their organic gardens, a glimpse into various other workshops, a delicious lunch, and a very sweet drum-based dance performance by the resident women.
Also in Windhoek, we immersed ourselves in the rich history of Namibia by visiting the Namibian Independence Museum, enjoying a grassy lunch by the parliament gardens, exploring the iconic Christchurch, and other explorations of the capitol city. These activities provided an opportunity to reflect on the enduring impacts of the apartheid regime in Namibia, with the city still bearing visible artifacts from its tumultuous history with colonialism.
Upon reaching Swakopmund, we had the chance to dip our toes into the Atlantic Ocean, explore the charming town, and spend two delightful evenings visiting a community connection in a nearby township that extends support in the form of food and education to children in need. Highlights for our students included playing soccer with smiling kiddos and bravely trying mopane worms (a very cheap staple food for many people living in areas like this) for the first time! Indeed this was yet another experience to complicate their understanding of this region of the world, and in many ways, themselves.
Our journey through Namibia has been nothing short of delightful and deep. As we approach the midpoint of our program, we stand not as individuals, but as a tightly-knit group, supporting each other amidst the backdrop of Africa’s awe-inspiring landscapes. The intricate threads of cultural exploration, academic learning, and personal growth have created an unforgettable couple of weeks… and I think we’re all feeling grateful for each other, the communities we’ve encountered, and really all of it so far. We eagerly embrace the winding path that continues to unfold and look forward to what is yet to come.
With much care!
The group at the Tropic of Capricorn!
Teacher team: Morgan, Arden, Meredith, and Leslie
A silly one…