Reflections from a Dusty Drive to Northern Namibia

As we landed in Namibia the afternoon of Thursday, March 23rd and prepared to depart for our safari adventure in Etosha National Park the morning of Friday, March 24th, our minds were spinning with all that we had seen so far and excitement about all the animals we were about to see.

The contrasts between our classroom learnings about Botswana and what we had seen on the ground were striking. We had heard going into this study tour experience that Botswana was stable, provided substantial education for their citizens, and was poised to take advantage of their strong relations with the diamond industry in order to expand and grow their economy. While this all may have been true, we left slightly confused — we had also seen a lot of bureaucracy, inefficiency, inadequate degrees, and huge class divides between the elite and the rural citizens of the country.

Luckily, we had a seven-hour bus ride ahead of us to the north of the country to consider all of these contrasts. Amidst the inevitable sleeping, card games, and snack stops, we found time for some reflections (which also helped distract us from the cramped quarters!). It was fascinating to hear from my colleagues how the different snippets of conversation led them to interpret different reasons why Botswana was the way it was — from a 5 minute chat with a farm worker to the visual impression the city of Gaborone had left on us, all of us picked out tiny pieces to try to form a cohesive narrative. At the same time, we tried to avoid imprinting our “Western” frameworks on a country that clearly operated so differently from what many of us Americans were used to.

One of the biggest things we had heard about both countries and were sad that we had failed to see in Botswana was the large rural population base. Accordingly, we were extra excited to witness a more rural area of Namibia first-hand. When we finally reached the end of our dusty journey, however, we were saddened to hear that the rain prevented us from going on our first game drive that afternoon. Accordingly, we improvised and took a walk to a beautiful — and buggy — watering hole nearby to watch our first Namibian sunset.

The view just before sunset of a watering hole in Etosha National Park, Namibia.

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