I arrived back in the states yesterday, and as I struggle to explain my experience over the past 3 months, I have come across an interesting observation I want to share with you guys.
I realized when I was preparing for this trip I had made several references to “teaching in a developing country.” Now that I am back, I’m not sure that word correctly describes Namibia, in my opinion. I want to preface the following statements with….these are my opinions and perspectives based on my experiences over the past 3 months.
I think as a westerner, it’s easy to attach the word “developing” to any country not as advanced as the United States. Advanced by who’s standards? In many ways, Namibia has more commonalities than differences to the US. For example, they were colonized by Germany in the same way that we colonized the America’s. Their culture and history is very much influenced by Germany and the Dutch. Namibian’s listen to US music as well as there own local and South African house music. They have water purification plants, in addition to alternative energy plants. Their cars are the same, all the same companies are represented….Toyota, Honda, Gmc, Ford, and Volkswagon and many more. They have malls, salons, grocery stores, computers, real estate development, gas stations (albeit full service..it’s awesome, I haven’t seen those in the us in years!), modern medicine, hospitals, clinics, universities…the lists go on and on.
I find it interesting that we still call them a developing country. In my opinion, i think a more appropriate word is “country in transition.” I say this because of the development of the government. Namibia gained it’s independence on March 21 1990. They have been a fully functioning, growing and adapting country for decades. Like any other newly independent country, with the independence comes a newly formed government , governing body. This is where I find the country to be “transitional”. It’s an amazing country with a hardworking and dedicated government. But it is new! With that, you don’t find the established governmental programs that we have in the west. For example, currently there are not programs established to accommodate the homeless, the hungry or the emotionally or physically disadvantaged. That’s not to say these things aren’t coming, they just need the time and the money to work it all out. Kids go to school from 7am to 1pm. The government is not in a position to provide lunches for the children, so they must go home for lunch.
Many of the social programs we are use to in the states, do not yet exist in Namibia. I know that in time they will. I have so much respect and admiration for the people in this country. They are truly a citizen based democracy. They take a good hard look at what the people in their country need and address it the best they know how. They spend a lot of time preserving the different cultures that exist, while perpetuating education and advancement that will give them the edge they so desperately need to compete with the western cultures.
Their culture is definitely one that I have fallen in love with! For all that I have just said about transition, the one thing I hope they never lose is their culture and tradition. I’ve spent 3 months talking about all the different parts of their culture that I love, and how much of it I hope to apply to my own life. We westerners have a lot in terms of technology, education and infra-structure…but we lack a cohesive sense of community and unity as a nation (unless, we are faced with adversity). That’s something the western world could stand to learn from Namibia.
I hope that this final entry has in no way offended anyone in the US or Namibia. It was not my intention. As i said previously, it’s simply my opinion based on my short, but life changing experiences in Namibia.I love my country and I am so thankful to be raised in a country that has given me so many opportunities, including the one that allowed me to find my second home, in Namibia. There are great people everywhere you go, you only need to open your eyes and your heart to find them.
Are you ready to change your perspective on the world, or at least be challenged to think a little differently? Consider becoming a WorldTeach volunteer! We're looking for the next great group to head to Namibia this summer. Get more information here!