My visit in Windhoek- the capital of Namibia, and NUST university started on the 7th of September 2019 and ended on the 28th. Namibia welcomed me with desert weather, where the temperatures during the day reached above 30 degrees Celsius, and during the night dropped to 6-7 degrees. Also the scenery can be called a rocky desert one rather than any other. A closer look confirms this observation, sand and stones with rachitic plants cover most of the ground. The dryness of the area is magnified by the 3years long drought. Yet I was assured, that as soon as rain falls, the desert turns into a flourishing garden.
My trip started Saturday so I had some time to acclimatize. Prof. Alinah Segobye, the Dean of the Faculty of Human Sciences awaited me at the hotel. She has initiated my stay introducing me to various parts of Windhoek. I was admiring nice buildings of the city center but also visiting poor parts of the city, where people live in metal shacks only with communal tabs and no canalization.
This introduction revealed a complex character of Windhoek and Namibia, where the unusual and extreme meet. It is an interesting place, where with almost triple size of Poland there live only about 2.2 mln people. That gives around 3people/km vs 123(Poland). Despite this fact land and properties are very expensive what also causes the raise of informal settlement sites. This phenomenon is related to the presence of the UN Transitionary Assistance Group (UNTAG) just prior to independence.
Also, because of the deserts, certain parts if Nam are not habitable.
There are many interesting facts concerning Namibia and the lectures and seminars provided an occasion not only to exchange knowledge from the topics indicated in the exchange project, but also to discuss concrete matters concerning Namibia and Poland. The NUST selected several of the topics I have offered, but actually more were discussed on site. Students were active in the class especially the MA groups. MA groups was mostly composed of students who are already working in the field what made it even more beneficial for both parties participating in lectures. For example we have discussed the role of modern technological devices supporting their work. The role and tools of communication. Also the current situation in Namibia – concerning the upcoming election and media blackout (a strike resulting in the absence of broadcasting) was an interesting topic, especially in the light of incoming election in Poland.
On the side of attending classes and seminars I was invited to participate in meetings and conferences. One of the conference concerned the topics: Industry 4.0 and 4th Industrial Revolution and its impact on society and environment. There was also an unexpected guest – the president of Namibia, who apparently has a custom of sneaking in unnoticed and participate incognito in conferences and events.
Another conference was on the issue of heritage preservation and genocide. The conference was interesting, composed of various approaches like artistic, economical, educational, psychological etc. However there was also a disturbing trend visible, where a “colonist”, a “white man” and “European” was used interchangeably in respect to colonialism and genocide. I have explained, showing the Polish example, that some of European countries do not have history. On the contrary – the history of being attacked and partitioned is closer to the ones of African’s counties that other European ones. I was also participating in the discussion on the issue of genocide including concentration camps created by Germans in the African countries by presenting the history of extermination of Poles and other nations during the time of partition and wars. I have also learnt that Namibia is in the process of discussing retribution for that genocide and only return of the artifacts and human remains (the sculls were taken to Germany for examination due to a untypical structure) taken away at that time. So there is another area to cooperate between our countries.
A visit like that requires also some cultural activities and some food tasting. Namibia is not growing a lot, but is famous for its meats. I was able to test oryx, giraffe, springbok, local beef and many more. Also seafood is present. All tasted wonderful. Thank to my wonderful host Emily Brown I was also able to participate in the so called game drive, where a truck was carrying us around a park with wild animals for seeing, and sometimes interacting with them under the supervision of a local guide. The tour took place in Okapuka, around 30km from Windhoek.
To summarize Namibia is not a typical subequatorial African country – if there exist such a thing. German presence is strongly visible there in buildings and structures, surprisingly good roads, but a certain diminished openness too. The people who welcomed me the most (with one exception) came from other countries like Botswana or South Africa and some European countries, while the rest remained dormant in terms of contact. A stress on academic development is visible and since the academic society is still developing an internationalization is a necessity. Yet the lack of interest I have experienced may raise a question whether it is only a necessity and not a desire (although it could be an isolated case). Generally speaking Namibia is a wonderful place for social and other researches what is dictated by its small population and large territory, its climate, localization, economy, politics etc. It seems that countries like China, Germany but also other, are already conducting certain types of experiments introducing various programs. What kind of results it shall bring – we will see soon enough. For those, who want to start visiting Africa and do not mind high prices – I recommend Namibia as a starting point. Especially if You are lucky enough to meet my wonderful hosts like prof. Alinah Segobye, Ms. Emily Brown, dr. Stefan Shultz and others, who contributed to my great memories from there and getting ready for going back.