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!
Glad y’all are having a blast! Keep “Darren” and Dr. Wingenbach in line! Greetings from the G-A.
Very interesting and I appreciate the way you broke it down for those of us who didn’t know where Namibia was (or how to pronounce it!) Nice article.
Lynn Balinas says
Another interesting piece about Namibia. I can hardly understand why folks don’t know a country from a continent. Must be the same ones who claim Texxas is a country! Do you have to go through any repatriation exercises or discussions? When I worked in the international arena we always were concerned about this especially for those gone the longest. If I remember right the four areas of concern were practical, emotional, financial and family considerations. Since I know a continent from a country I am curious about other things. Cheers
Gary Briers says
Mmm, so, is Australia a continent or a country? Or is it both a country AND a continent. OR, is it just an ISLAND? What makes a continent a continent? Isn’t it just a WORD DEFINED by someone(s)? And, is it possible that the definition changes (by some other one or ones) over time?
Some of us are old enough to remember when Texas WAS, indeed, a COUNTRY. Others pine for a return to that state of being. Isn’t it true that TEXAS–when it joined the union (the first time)–kept an option to secede and become a country again?
On, and speaking of words and definitions and USES OF words, how ’bout this: I’m not from the city; I’m from the country. (Does that mean that I don’t know the difference in a state and a country and a continent?) Do only city people–not us country folks–know differences in words. Or, is it just possible that we simply use words to mean different things in different contexts and in different eras?
Wow, ain’t words fun?!?!