It’s late evening at the Gobabeb Training and Research Centre in Namibia. And, it’s chilly. No, it’s downright cold tonight, just like it’s been every night. Dinner is over, students discussed life lessons from this study abroad program. I hurry back to my room as I leave the lighted confines of the Gobabeb dining center. Soft guitar sounds and the mournful melodies of Tobin Redwine, Leighton Chachere, and Angela Flores fill the night air. I approach my room as the Cape Fox appears from the darkness. We both stop and stare at each other; neither one flinches. After several minutes, I retreat to my room. The Cape Fox slips back into the cold desert night. Only the Namib Desert persists.
Tomorrow is a new day. Our group travels to Swakopmund on the Atlantic Coast. It will be cold, again. The transition begins. New professors arrive. Rutherford and Bobbitt are “just now” in transit; Wingenbach and Redwine seek their return to Texas. Alas, warmth is assured for some! To our students, we bid you well; surely, warmer climes and much learning await you during the next two weeks. In the meantime, take time to recount what you’ve learned during the past two weeks.
What was learned from this desert? Simply stated, life is similar and different to what we know in Texas. Family values and stories, and their connectedness to all that is humans’ persistence, is evident in Texas as it is in Namibia. Land ownership, individual rights, and the greater good of society shape and influence our decisions about natural resources. Oh, we have learned that community-based natural resource issues are a very real and integral part of our lives. We’ve learned that communicating our stories through visual and narrative forms are the essence of persistence beyond the night.
We learned the Namib Desert is as harsh, as it is forgiving. It can be kind and cruel in the same day. Our recent forays into the great sand sea revealed beetles collecting early morning fog droplets onto their backs for a refreshing daily drink. Later, afternoon sun and scorching heat assured that the unprepared may perish. I thought about my water bottle, half-filled, sitting quietly in my room as I ascended the dune this evening. I thirst!
Alas, between learning about life in Namibia and conquering another sand dune, we interacted with the Topnaar community. We learned about food security and food preparation, which we also enjoyed.
We shared our love of dance!
And, we thought about the great sand dune.
We crossed cool sands in the late evening sun. We left our mark here and there, which will surely be erased by the midnight winds.
We conquered fears and the great sand dune itself. For some, it was a moment on top of the world. Truly, a shining moment in the sun, albeit a fading sun.
The Texas A&M Aggies shall return to Gobabeb, to the Namib Desert, to all that is new with every morning sunrise. Personally, I hope it is not another two-year absence before I have this opportunity anew.