Getting to Know Namibia

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie aren't the only ones traveling to Namibia. WorldTeach volunteers have the chance to live and work in this vast, beautiful country as well.

The cultural and topographical diversity of Namibia truly makes it a kaleidoscope country, rife with stellar hues, striking scenery, and endless possibilities for adventure. The Namib Deserts, vast expanses of red sand boasting the largest dunes in the world, swiftly descend to the Central Plateau, the hub of Namibian life and industry, eventually tapering off and giving way to the lush greenery of the Caprivi region in the east. With such diversity and so much to see, it is no wonder that Namibia boasts the highest rate of WorldTeach volunteers who extend their contracts to stay beyond the term of service. This photographer's paradise is the birthplace of not only Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, but also an original WorldTeach partnership that has lasted for more than 20 years.

Kaylan, a Namibia WorldTeach volunteer, describes not only the stunning geographical aspects of Namibia, but also the rich cultural landscape she has encountered.

Yesterday we drove from Windhoek to Tsumeb, a four hour drive through central Namibia. It actually felt more like two hours because I was so enchanted by the fact that at that moment, I was living my dream. Driving through rural Africa, passing Africans on the never ending roads and sifting through the never ending valleys. It was out of this world.

As we began the ride, some sort of mild disbelief set in that I was actually in Africa. That this was the soil that my ancestors walked on and ruled. I now see why people of African descent are so resilient and strong. This is the land that we came from? Where we actually originate? It makes me proud beyond belief. Namibia is so vast- just sprawling land and endless mountains for as far as the eye can see. Africa simply is. There is no one word or picture that can accurately praise its beauty.

Then there is the rich culture. The Northern part of Namibia is like something from another time, like something I once read about... mixed with the modernities of 2011. The 'old' is the elders. There the older women are called "kukus" (koo-koos), which means "grandmother" in the Oshiyambo language. They wear traditional clothing and have the most beautiful strength in their faces. They ooze wisdom. They are the spitting image of what I've imagined whenever I've wondered what my ancestors look like. I sometimes see little boys driving donkey carts with their kukus in the backseat. Just a taste of the everyday sightings here amaze me.

To me the new is the young people (around my age and below) who are die hard Lil Wayne fans. The young professionals around my age are very similar to African American and West Indians my age. The internet has boomed in Namibia the last three or four years. I've also had wonderful conversations with several middle aged Namibian adults about Barack Obama. I get questions about the reactions in the US when he won, how black people felt, and if he is living up to people's expectations.

Local people here are very friendly and open to getting to know newcomers. In Namibia, greeting is of the utmost importance; at work in the mornings, at shops throughout the day, and just walking down the road. The first thing you say before asking someone a questions should always be a "hello/good afternoon/how are you". While English is the official language, there is an intricate weft of local languages and respective dialects that are the real means of communication here.

Inspired by the cultural beauty of Namibia? Apply to be a WorldTeach volunteer! The application deadline is October 15, 2011. You can find more information here. 

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