Monday, May 26, 2008

Language learning in Windhoek

Our last week has been about language and how to learn a new language. We have not spent the week learning the language for the town we are going to (that will come later once we get to Rundu) but of one of the many tribal languages spoken in Windhoek called Oshiherero. This is the language of the Herero tribe that was almost annihilated by the Germans. So we would spend our afternoons in the Katatura area (the slums outside of Windhoek) hanging out with them and eating their delicious fresh beef. The picture of the woman with the head piece is the traditional dress for a Herero woman. Whereas the picture of the naked women is the traditional dress for the Himba tribe (the difference between the two picture is that I had to pay big bucks to get pictures of the Himba and it was free to get pictures of the Herero!)

One morning we went to go visit Hanna-Lee and her family (3 daughters and a granddaughter) in the slums. She and her family are HIV positive, and she is a former prostitute. She was rejected by her family but has come to understand the love and grace of God and has given up prostitution and tries to encourage other women (as well as her daughters) to also give up selling themselves to men. We had the chance to hear her amazing story and Suzanne meets with this family weekly to offer help and counsel. She lives each day not knowing how to feed her family and although she lives in desperate conditions we were touched by her peaceful heart. Her road is not easy.

If you would like to see more pictures of our time in Windhoek then just click on this link:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


In our last entry we gave you a brief look into the history of Namibia and the racial tensions remaining today. Well, the biggest problem regardless of race is HIV infection.

Yesterday we had a woman come and share with us the latest statistics for Namibia in regards to this devastating disease. Namibia still remains the 2nd highest infection rate in the world although they have seen a slowing down of infection as the government is providing opportunities for people to receive free testing, treatment and counselling. The struggle is getting people to take the test, and then getting them to take the meds. There are so many social issures at hand.

First, men still carry so much power and for the most part it is acceptable for men to have many partners and or more than one wife. Women don't have enough power to demand that their partner use a condom. The areas in Namibia that have the highest percentage of HIV are those where there are army stations, truck stops and those with high volume traffic with huge amounts of prostitution.

The second major issue is the fatalistic attitude that prevails in Namibia. A lot of people believe that whether they get sick or not has nothing to do with their actions, but rather that their ancestors or someone else has willed it on them. Because people don't show any symptoms until many years later, people deny that actions from years earlier would affect them.

HIV still carries significant stigma so people just don't want to know out of fear. People are still ostracized from their friends and families. We had a woman who is HIV positive come and share her sad story with us as she struggles to mother her HIV positive son and foster child...yikes, our sense of 'trials and tribulations' is so different.

So we went to get HIV testing this morning. Mick wanted us to experience what it would be like so we could encourage others to go. It was amazing how nervous we all were about getting our results! For people that have virtually no chance of having it, it was a relief to hear we were negative. I can't even imagine how it would feel if you thought you may have been exposed.

The learning continues.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A sobering day.

We started our orientation Friday, but Saturday was truly a challenging day. This is a long post but an important one.

A man named Naf gave us an incredible first-hand history lesson on Namibia in the morning. The history of Namibia is truly a sad and depressing one, filled with colonialism, genocide, racism, concentration camps and apartheid, all which still deeply scars the people’s psyche to this day. Mick had told us the day before that while he grew up in Eastern Africa and has visited and lived in many African countries, and although the infrastructure here in Namibia is so nice, he said it has been the hardest country he has ever lived in.

In brief, Germany colonialized Namibia in 1884 (then known as German South West Africa) and held control until after WWI, in 1920. During that time, the German army attempted to eradicate the largest tribe, the Herero, eventually killing 80% of them. Naf is Herero and had many relatives slaughtered during that time. After 1920, South Africa took over control, instituting white minority rule as in South Africa (SA). In 1948 the policy of Apartheid began, and as in SA, blacks in Namibia where forced to live and work in black-only areas. Through out this time, when extreme atrocities were occurring, there were underlying tribal and political groups that began to fight for freedom and independance. Finally in 1990 they were granted independence from SA and formed a democratic republic and significant changes has occurred in the lives of its residents.

Naf’s personal story was deeply moving as he honestly and candidly shared his struggle to choose forgiveness toward white people. He spent his life learning to hate whites with such intensity and by the Grace of God he is now able to talk to us and to befriend us. We fought tears as we listened to his story. That afternoon he drove us all around Windhoek to the historical places, like “Heroes Acre” where history is celebrated and the many heroes of freedom are remembered (the caption under the statue writes "Glory to the fallen Heroes and Heroine of the motherland Namibia". We shared a delicious Herero lunch and then drove through the shanty-area know as Khatatura, where the blacks were forced to live. The conditions are still severe, with 10x10 tin shacks that sleep 20 people each.

Naf’s encouragement to us: to be people who will do our best to recognize the racial issues, to love the blacks and invite them into our lives, and to help integrate the blacks and whites. Even within “Christian” circles racial issues separated where love should unite. Naf encouraged us that if we can affect 3 people during the time we are here, perhaps it will only take 5 generations instead of 20 to see change. Healing will be slow and change will take time.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


We arrived in Windhoek on Thursday morning (a beautiful clear day at 25 degrees) and were met by our host and Field Director, Mick, who is married and has six children, three of their own and three beautiful adopted ones. We were very tired, but once we had showered up we were driven around to try and get cash (but none of the machines would accept our card due to a recent change with the banking system) and to buy SIM cards for our phones. We are doing orientation with two girls, Shelly (a nurse from Australia coming up to Rundu with us for 6 months) and Sara (a social worker from South Africa going to a different city for 2 months).

Here’s a crazy fact for you: Windhoek has been named the “cleanest city in Africa” for the last three years! And it really is sooo clean! The infrastructure in Namibia is very un-African, with the highways being near Autobahn-like in quality, so that driving in excess of 160 km/h is actually relatively safe.

Only four days in Africa, and we already got to pet a lion!
He was at the vet recovering from surgery, and was quite friendly until Daryl tried "speaking lion", at which point the lion became rather agitated and tried to get to Daryl through the bars.

(Watching "The Ghost and the Darkness" (about 2 man-eating lions in Africa) a few days before we arrived made us quite jumpy around this amazing creature.)

Daryl and Sabrina