Well, my friends, Amber and I have sadly reached the end of our incredible Namibia experience. After another 22 hour Intercape bus ride back to Cape Town and a few days of souvenir shopping, wine tasting, reflection writing, and running in one of my favourite places in the world, I began my journey back to Canada via Johannesburg, SA and London, England. Amber and Abi flew out a few hours after me, avoiding the Johannesburg detour and flying straight to London. We all enjoyed precious time catching up with our families and loved ones at home before getting back into the swing of things with our studies at U of T.
Personally, I feel as though this summer was packed so full of adventure, friendship, laughter, and life lessons learned that I sometimes struggle to reduce the magnitude of what this incredible opportunity meant to me into just a few sentences. As such, it’s also difficult to conclude this blog! However, Amber and I both thought that we would conclude our blog by sharing with you the concluding remarks Kate and I wrote and presented at our Final Forum held at UNAM on August 7, 2012. A special thank you goes out to Abi and Jordan for your input into the following!
Before we conclude today’s forum, we would like to say a few words on behalf of our fellow University of Toronto interns. We are now approaching the end of what was an incredible learning experience, an incredible life experience, an incredible journey. For us, this journey began back in January of this year, when we all learned we had been accepted into the program. Looking back now, the whole Namibian experience seemed very distant and surreal to us – I’m sure trudging through the snowy streets of Toronto didn’t help us visualize our summer ahead.
We began our weekly orientation sessions as strangers, learning about the history of Namibia, Namibian culture, social issues surrounding HIV, and of course, what to pack in our suitcases. These orientation sessions were so jam-packed with information, we hardly got a chance to get to know each other. Before we knew it, we were meeting again; however this time we were meeting in Cape Town, preparing ourselves for a 22-hour bus ride to Windhoek. Getting off the bus in Windhoek and being greeted by Aaron, Esther, and Kayla officially marked the beginning of our Namibian experience. Little did we know that we were embarking on a journey that was so much richer and deeper an experience than we had ever imagined.
Namibian culture we learned in the classroom, Namibian culture we experienced while here. We shared traditional Owambo meals (complete with mopane worms!) and enjoyed lunchtime kapana with co-workers. We watched amazing dancers perform at the UNAM Choir Show and we learned traditional dances with Sisi at the Omaleshe Dance Project in Oshakati. We cheered on local athletes in cycling races and some of us competed in local running races ourselves. We were in the stands as Namibia beat Kenya 1-0 in the FIFA World Cup Soccer Qualifier; some of us attended a traditional Owambo wedding. From learning basic Afrikaans to learning how to encourage ‘condomizing’ in Oshiwambo, we feel as though we’ve been able to embrace Namibian culture in the fullest extent.
Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of this adventure has been the chance to really see the beauty that is this vast and diverse country, Namibia. Climbing Dune 45 at sunrise in Sossusvlei took our breath away (in more ways than one!) as did a seaside jog in Swakopmund at sunset. We went hiking at the beautiful Waterberg Plateau Park, and we relaxed by the waterhole in Etosha, entranced by the majestic beauty of elephants, rhinos, and giraffes under the starry sky. Thanks to some excellent photographers in our group, all of these sites, along with the sandy plains of Oshakati and the mountainous terrain of Windhoek will be able to be remembered forever.
We feel so blessed to have been embraced by the community here. There was never a dull moment; there were always so many invitations and people to spend time with. You have invited us into your homes, shared meals with us, shared moments of laughter and celebrations. We experienced some profound and powerful moments with you, and with you we created some unforgettable, wonderful memories. This experience has enriched us not only as students, but also as people. We don’t feel as though it has been a typical internship experience where we arrive, do our work, and depart. We feel as though we’ve put down roots here and made lasting friendships.
With that being said, we are incredibly thankful to you all for being here today and helping make this experience an experience of a lifetime. Thank you to our program coordinators; Aaron Yarmoshuk, for introducing us to Namibia, and Dan Allman, for caring for us when we’ve been sick and injured and encouraging us to always stay vigilant. Thank you to Scholastika Iipinge for leading the internship on the UNAM side and providing us with a host institution while here. Thank you to our coworkers for your patience and enthusiasm throughout our internships. Thank you also to UNAM and the University of Toronto for making this internship program possible. Lastly, thank you to our newfound friends here; you will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Thank you very much; we will miss you!
Tangi unene; ohandi kekudjulukwa! (Oshiwambo)
Baie dankie; ons sal julle mis! (Afrikaans)
In addition to thanking the people mentioned in our concluding remarks above, Amber and I also thank the following people and organizations:
To Dr. Jillian Kohler, our supervisor at the Faculty of Pharmacy, thank you for all of your support and insight into our internship endeavours.
To Heather Bannerman and Priya Bansal, the 2011 interns, thank you for all the advice and encouragement you offered as we prepared for our experience!
To the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy’s Student Experience Fund, the Undergraduate Pharmacy Society’s Student Initiatives Fund, and the University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU) / University of Toronto International Health Program (UTIHP) Discovery Fund, thank you for helping make this experience financially possible for us.
To our wonderful colleagues at the Katutura Health Centre, thank you so much once again for being so welcoming towards us and for playing such a critical role in the making of our amazing experience in Namibia!
To YOU, thank you for following our blog – we hope you have enjoyed it!
Finally, to current and future pharmacy students at U of T: APPLY to the Namibia Internship Program and please don’t hesitate to ask us any questions! You can contact Amber at firstname.lastname@example.org or Erin at email@example.com.
Namibia, until we see you again: goodbye/totsiens/oshili nawa!