As I told people that I’m going to Namibia this summer, I got many blank stares. I found myself explaining that Namibia is a real country and where it is located. The other issue I’ve faced is the “country versus continent” topic. Africa is a continent; Namibia is a country within Africa – not a state.
Africa is not frequently discussed or taught in the United States. In fact, I just learned that less than five percent of Americans have traveled to Africa. People know Nelson Mandela, Hotel Rwanda, Madagascar the movie, rioting in Egypt, and malaria, but that’s about it. Africa is so much more than that. It’s a continent with 54 countries and 11.7 million square miles, two thousand languages, and one billion people. Thinking about the size of this continent and the rich history it contains is mind blowing. There’s so much to learn and to experience.
Every country in Africa seems to have a rich and complex history of how it came to be. Namibia is a fairly young country, only gaining its independence from South Africa in 1990. Before the South African rule, there is a long history of German rule. This is extremely evident with the prevalence of European architecture, German speaking people, and an abundance of high quality chocolate in the grocery stores.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Namibia. But I’ve learned that it is approximately half the size of Alaska with a population density of only five people per square mile. Agriculture makes up only 5% of the GDP and the main products are livestock and meat products, crops, and forestry. Only 2% of the land in Namibia receives adequate water/rainfall. (And it looks a lot like west Texas!)
I feel that the more I learn about the history, the people, and the workings of a country, the better appreciation I have for my experiences. I gain more respect for the development work being done and the progress that has been made. I also become more aware of the luxuries of my life in America – my safety, connectivity, conveniences, and so many more things.
Traveling is always an eye opening experience, but it feels even more impactful in Africa. I have heard similar things from my classmates here as well. I just hope that we can help share our experiences and knowledge gained with everyone back in America!