Port of Call LAST UPDATE March 12, 2008
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February 15, 2008 Walvis Bay, Namibia – A Glimpse of Multiethnic Culture in Namibia
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The desolation of this township street illustrates the poverty in Africa today
On Valentine’s Day, the 60th Global Voyage for Peace made port in Walvis Bay, Namibia - a country of diverse ethnicities and cultures where different tribal languages and customs blend with European colonial influences. A colony under German and then South African rule until it gained independence in 1988, Namibia still bears the marks of segregation under apartheid. On the second day in port a group of participants joined a Study Tour to learn about the multiethnic identity of Namibian people. Astonished by the expansive barrenness of the stretching rust-colored deserts and striking seashore of the Namibian coast, Peace Boat participants were excited to see what life was like for people living in this exotic landscape.
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Women from the Damara and Herero tribes dressed in traditional garb to share stories about their tribes with Peace Boat participants

This Study Tour aimed to give participants an inside look at the structure of Namibian society and its many colorful ethnic groups, through visits to neighborhoods of varying economic development in Swakopmund, Namibia’s second largest city. Namibia’s cultural diversity is remarkably different from the relative homogeneity of Japan, and passengers got to see some of these differences first-hand by meeting local people and exchanging cultures. During a visit to one home, participants met women from the Herero and Damara tribes, and were surprised to learn that in addition to differing in dress, diet, and religion, some Namibian tribes permit polygamous marriage while others do not.
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Students at the Hanganeni Primary School look on as their classmates perform an Ovambo dance for Peace Boat participants
Some 300 smiling students greeted Peace Boat participants upon their arrival at Hanganeni Primary School in the Democratic Resettlement Community (DRC), and each grade performed a different dance, song, or skit in the schoolyard. After the performances, participants made origami cranes, took pictures, and played games with the energetic, bright-eyed students. Many participants were surprised by how happy the students seemed despite their disadvantaged situation, and in the end everyone had a difficult time saying their final good-byes. Participants on this tour brought school supplies that had been gathered before departure in Japan through the Peace Boat’s United People’s Alliance Project, and delivered them both to Hanganeni Primary School and to the DRC School Project and Community Center.
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A boy in the DRC plays with a homemade toy car, elaborately constructed from scrap wire and aluminum cans
The Namibian government established the Democratic Resettlement Community as a temporary low-income housing project about seven years ago. Of the 40,000 people living in the Swakopmund area, about two-thirds reside in townships like the DRC, in houses built largely of reclaimed garbage from the city landfill. Though townships like the DRC are meant to be temporary housing projects for people waiting to build or move into government subsidized housing in places like the nearby Mondesa Township, people find it difficult to move once their roots are planted. The experience of walking through this township, talking to its residents, and learning about the hardships of life there made the visit particularly poignant for Peace Boat participants, who had a chance to reflect on the staggering differences between lifestyles in the DRC and their own.
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Children at the Democratic Resettlement Community

Participants enjoyed a unique, traditional Namibian meal at a shebeen, or African Bar, in the Mondesa Township for lunch. In addition to unfamiliar nuts, fruits, vegetables, and Mahangu Porridge, participants were especially shocked when served grilled Mopane worms, a type of African caterpillar that many Namibian tribes consider a delicacy and valuable source of protein. After lunch, participants paid visits to craft shops in the township, where locals sell accessories made from reclaimed garbage and other materials. Thoughts about the vast economic disparity between lifestyles in the DRC and those in the upper-class neighborhoods of Swakopmund or Japan were on the minds of many participants, and many people purchased souvenirs to support the local economy.



To learn more about cultural tours in the Swakopmund Township, visit: www.culturalactivities.in.na