It has now been just over a week since returning home from Africa. Once again I am left with conflicting thoughts of the trip and what I left behind. There is not a day that passes where I don’t find myself thinking about the learners in Africa.
My main purpose of going on the trip to Namibia with the UW-Stevens Point School of Education was to become worldlier and to learn about a new culture, style of education and how to create less waste by reusing resources. However, it was also my dream to leave a lasting impression before leaving. Looking back at the three weeks I left everything I knew behind makes me smile knowing I accomplished all I wanted to and much more. My nervousness before the trip was due to the unknown of what was awaiting me in Africa. Now I know that the trip was successful, well worth the nerves, and definitely worth every penny I saved to make my dream come true.
My favorite part of the whole trip was the first day of driving up to the school for the vision impaired learners. I have never been given a warmer welcome than that day and every day that followed when arriving at the school. Watching from the bus as we rolled in the learners were gathered at the entrance outside, shouting and clapping, screaming and jumping, running to the bus when it stopped, and smothering us, the UWSP students, with hugs and smiles. It still melts my heart to think about these morning welcomes.
The memories of the learners at NICE never grow old. The morning assemblies always had a heartwarming message to share followed by songs of praise, joy and celebration of life. The classrooms were filled with love, not with fancy learning tools and novelty items but rather with the necessities to learn, mostly created from recycled materials. The teachers and staff showed more compassion for the learners than I could have ever imagined. The learners wanted to learn, wanted to be in school, and wanted to get to know each of us. Never have I ever felt so much unconditional love from children and staff.
The culture and landscape was much different than I had pictured in my mind before departing. The Namibians were all very kind and willing to help. I had feared the worst and prepared for that, but besides the occasional follower as you were walking down the street, there were no real dangers that ever presented themselves. The landscape which I had pictured to be flat desert lands filled with palm trees and thorn bushes was actually quite picturesque. Namibia is filled with mountains, hills, sand dunes, dried up river beds, many different kinds of trees, and lots of dry land. Long trips were easy to fall asleep during because there was not much change in the landscape. The best part of driving around was seeing the baboons, warthogs, and springbok along the roadside.
My experience was complete with going on a safari and seeing animals from the zoo in their natural habitats. I never imagined being so close to elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, etc. in their territory. These animals all seemed so much bigger in the wild than I had remembered seeing in a zoo. The weekend by the Atlantic coast was amazing as well. The sand dunes were a beautiful sight that offered many fun activities like sand sledding, climbing the second tallest sand dune in the world and ATVing through the dunes as well. Oh, and I will never forget the camel ride, what an experience that was.
It is incredibly difficult to sum up the trip to Africa in a word or phrase but what I keep telling everyone that asks is this: “It was amazing! Africa was the most awesome experience of my life thus far. My expectations were met and exceeded by great strides!”
If you ever find yourself walking through the halls of UWSP and staring at a poster that invites you to take a trip to Namibia, I encourage you to go to the informational meeting and see if it is something you could benefit from. I know I did and would highly recommend this trip to anyone with interest in learning from some of the most wonderful learners and staff in Africa!
If you wish to see photos from many of the participants that went on this trip please visit our Flickr.com account at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/97385574@N03/. Enjoy!
Rebecca Wagner, a junior majoring in early childhood education at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.