Introducing Namibia

Today, I have officially been in Namibia for two weeks, but it feels like so much longer and Windhoek is starting to feel like a second home. All 16 of us on the program are living and going to school in a large house situated about a 10 minute walk from downtown. We are all starting to get into more established routines, a nice change of pace from the frenzied touring we did on our weeklong orientation in South Africa. I have either a politics, history, or development class in the mornings, and then afternoons I take Oshiwambo language class, an internship class, or yoga. I have been placed at an internship with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare in their statistical research division. I go there from 8 to 5 on Mondays and from 8 to 1 on Wednesdays. So far it has been quite the eye opening experience. The Ministry does not get funds from the government until March which means that while they have money to operate, they do not have the means to implement any of their projects. In the meantime, most of the employees are taking Master’s classes and use the downtime to focus on their education. On the positive side, there is another intern who graduated from the University of Namibia and we have become friends. It has been interesting to hear with her experiences trying to find work post-graduation. Just as in the USA, college grads are having a hard time to find meaningful employment. In addition, all the other employees are eager to help me learn about the government, and even volunteered to set up meetings with other government officials if I want to create my own research project. So if anyone has any research suggestions, I am all ears. If the Ministry job is going to be on the slower side for the next few weeks, I am eager to take initiative of my own learning and figure out something fun to do with my time.
I’ve had a couple enjoyable weekend excursions around Windhoek. The first weekend, I walked all over Windhoek with a friend, this included visiting the breathtakingly beautiful Parliament Gardens, an old German Church that looks like a gingerbread house, and the top of the Hilton hotel which afforded panoramic views of the city. I wanted to upload pictures today, but the internet connection is too slow! Another weekend I went to a Young Achievers youth group meeting- the goal of the group is to empower youth to stay in school and achieve their “life visions.” I had a lot of fun and was impressed by the focus, dedication, and positive energy the Young Achievers had, a theme that has been prevalent in most of my interactions with Namibians…the chance to get an education is taken very seriously here. One night, all 16 of us took taxis out to Joe’s Beerhouse, a popular restaurant serving mostly game…I had small filets of ostritch, kudu (a kind of antelope), and springbok, all which were delicious. The only bad part of the meal was biting into a “green bean” only to find that it was a spicy green chile pepper! All in all, these past few weeks have been dedicated to adjusting to my new semi-permanent home… everything from crossing a busy street using “robots” (street lights) to buying “airtime” for my new cell phone, to getting caught in a surprise rainstorm has presented its small joys and challenges. I’m living with a host family this week, so get excited to hear stories and see pictures from that in a few weeks!

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