Stories from Namibia – An Aussie’s Experience
Adelaide’s Rudd family – Tanja and Matthew and children Lua Bela, 3, and Vida, almost 1 – are in Namibia for a year while Matthew pursues his dream to volunteer on an international community development project. They will be sharing their experiences with SALT magazine…
After deciding to move to Africa, Namibia to be more precise, my husband and our two daughters were able to spend 6 weeks in Johannesburg as part of our in-country orientation program…..it was during our stay there, that we were able to learn of the amazing and difficult history of South Africa and draw inspiration from the story of one of the most famous leaders of all time, Nelson Mandela.
We were part of a group of 8 volunteers, all sent here as part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development Program. We were the only family in this group…everyone thought we were crazy for deciding to move to Africa with two small children.
One day, instead of spending it with the group, we decided to do a family activity and search for a playground for our girls. On the way we stepped into a shopping centre to get something to eat. It was huge and soooo busy. Wherever we walked it was obvious people were talking about us…..I thought it was because of our three-year-old, who has bright red curly hair….so we were used to having people pointing, smiling and talking to her.
A little while later we realised it wasn’t just our daughter who was attracting all this attention – it was all of us! I looked at my clothes and checked my hair in the reflection of a shop window. No, I don’t have any stains or something on my face and my hair looked just fine. Only then did I start to actually look back at people, observe everyone around us and I realised that for the whole hour we spent there we didn’t spot one single white person.
Ha! It suddenly hit us that we were in Africa! Amazing! And now we were the odd ones out. We did not feel afraid or intimated but there is no doubt that being stared at is an unnerving sensation. It brings out a sense of feeling uneasy, paranoid maybe, uncomfortable certainly, and I have no doubt that this happens just as much in Australia. People stare, observe and follow your movements, but I think that most of the time it’s not about being black or white….it’s just about being DIFFERENT!
This feeling of insecurity was unlike anything I had felt before, and being by ourselves and not knowing anyone, made us feel incredibly lonely and unsure of ourselves and our actions. It’s amazing how looking different can make you feel but when we did talk to people in shops and on elevators, we found them all to be very friendly and welcoming.
Having felt the discomfort of being different in a strange place, as well as knowing the joy of being accepted, we just ask Australians of all colours, origins and backgrounds to remember – embrace the difference and take the first step to make newcomers feel welcome, I’m sure you will be pleasantly rewarded for taking the effort.
Beneath the armor of skin and bone and/mind, most of our colours are amazingly the same.
By Tanja Rudd