by Samantha Alvis
I’m excited to have the opportunity to share this country with my fellow students. I was lucky enough to travel to Namibia last summer and promptly fell in love with this country. With a landscape that reminds me of my native Arizona and wonderful, welcoming people, what’s not to love about Namibia?
When I opened the map in front of the group and traced our journey over our first 15 days, I think it’s safe to say that everyone was surprised by just how much of Namibia that we have seen in our time here.
Currently, we’re in a region I was lucky enough to visit in 2011. Three days ago, we arrived at the University of Namibia Ogongo Campus*, in the far north of the country. It’s quite the change from some of our earlier locations. We viewed the city life in Windhoek, the desert life at Gobabeb, experienced a bit of the seaside in Swakopmund and had a taste of tourism as we journeyed through Etosha National Park.
The north is different. Most of Namibia’s 2.1 million people live in the north. We began to notice this as we drove through towns like Ondangwa and Oshikati and experienced rush hour for the first time. We saw it the number of people enjoying a beverage at the 100s of tiny shabeens (bars), with names like New Paradise and New Life, that line the highways and towns.
A large majority of the north is communal lands, with a communal farming and ranching system. Namibia’s north country gives a new meaning to open range … we realized this as we stopped multiple times for cattle, goat and donkey to cross the highway.
And in these communal lands, you also see communal living. We stopped at the Nakambale Traditonal Homestead and Museum on our way to Ogongo to learn about life in a traditional homestead. In a homestead, you may find 3-4 generations of a family living together. Different family members have huts to sleep in, the kitchen is outdoors and at night, the livestock are brought in for safekeeping.
As you drive along the roads, you’ll find that many of the homesteads are in transition. Among the traditional thatch huts and wooden fences, you’ll find cinder block structures and aluminum fencing.
Tradition and transition – these are two common themes I see in this country I love. While Namibia is a young country (gaining independence from South Africa just 22 years ago), it is still a country rich in tradition. It’s also a country in transition, trying to set an example for the continent in how to manage lands, educate people and create opportunities for future generations.
*If you’re trying to follow us on a map, find the Angola-Namibia border and look for Ogongo along the C-46 highway between Outapi and Oshakati.