by Georgia Arrindell
When people think of Africa, they think of a poor continent where people walk around with no clothes on, orphans are endless, and no one has anything to eat. The media has an effect on most everyone who sees it. What most Americans think of Africa is what they see on TV or read in magazines. Although some of these stereotypes may be true in places, what I have noticed is a totally different experience. Before I traveled across the Atlantic, I would tell people that I was going to Namibia and they would get confused and ask me questions like “Why would you want to study abroad in Africa?” These words made me doubt my decision to travel to Namibia, but after being in this country for just a few short weeks, I have already fallen in love.
Namibia was officially named a country 24 years ago after they were given independence from South Africa. There are thirteen regions in the country and many different types of cultures. While there is severe poverty and food insecurity in many places, most Namibians seem to be happy people. I had the opportunity to visit three of the native Namibian tribes while in country, the Topnaar, Damara, and Himba people. Though they live a simple life without most modern day technology, electricity and running water, they seem to genuinely enjoy life. Many of the people in these villages make crafts to sell for a source of income as well as work on their farms to provide food for their families. The children are sent to school in the morning and then come home to help with the daily activities in the afternoon. We asked Oma, a sweet old Topnaar woman “if you could have anything else in life, what would you choose?” She replied by saying that she has her family, a house and her goats and that’s all she could ever need.
I think that sometimes Americans take for granted the amount of materialistic items we have. Many times, even though we have everything to meet our basic needs, we keep wanting more. This experience has made me realize how unimportant material things are in the scheme of life. I know that before I came to Namibia, I was a little bit internet obsessed with all of my electronics and social media accounts. I constantly had to be in the know of everything that was going on with my hundreds of Facebook friends that I rarely talk to. I have realized by experiencing some of these Namibian cultures that what’s more important is family and getting to know people on a personal level, even if it means not being “Facebook popular.”
Experiencing all of these cultures has given me a new look on how I treat others and view stereotypes. I have learned that not everything that you hear about a culture is true. Namibia is certainly not a place full of orphans who are malnourished like you see on the TV ads about Africa. Sure, there are places that have these problems but not everything that you see in the media is the real situation. There’s so much more than meets the eye.